BISHOP OF THE PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN THE DIOCESE OF MISSISSIPPI.
CONSECRATED, THE STANDING COMMITTEE OF MISS., AND OTHER CLERGYMEN PRESENT.
STANFORD AND SWORDS, 137, BROADWAY.
VICKSBURG, MISS., Feb. 25th, 1850.
TO THE RT. REV. JAMES H. OTEY, D.D.
DEAR SIR.--Believing that the publication of the Sermon preached by you on the occasion of the Consecration of the Bishop elect of Mississippi, will promote the interests of truth, we respectfully request you to place a copy of it at our disposal.
LEONIDAS POLK, Bp. of La.
NICH. H. COBBS, Bp. of Ala.
GEO. W. FREEMAN, Bp. of Arks. and Texas.
WM. M. GREEN, Bp. of Miss.
G. S. YERGER,
WM. C. SMEDES, St. Com of Miss.
D. C. PAGE, Presbyter of Tenn.
W. P. C. JOHNSON, Presbyter of Miss.
B. M. MILLER, Do. of "
DAVID KERR, Do. of "
E. H. DOWNING, Do. of "
C. S. HEDGES, Do. of La.
"This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying Grace, grace unto it."
A FEW preliminary and explanatory remarks are necessary, in order to the proper understanding of this passage of Holy Scripture, and of the use which I design to make of it.
The Kingdom of Judah had been overthrown about 600 years before the coming of Christ, by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. At the same time, the magnificent temple erected by Solomon at Jerusalem, was destroyed, and the Jews carried away into captivity by the conqueror. Seventy years afterwards, the Babylonian power having been subverted, and the Medo-Persian empire erected on its ruins, the Jews were permitted by Cyrus to return to their own country. In the proclamation granting [5/6] them this liberty, express mention is made of a building to be erected at Jerusalem, and designated as the "House of the Lord God of Israel." The permission to return to their own land extended to all the Jews scattered throughout the 120 provinces of the Persian empire. They were encouraged to do so, not only by the proclamation of the king assuring them' protection and assistance, but they were also exhorted to it by the patriotic appeals made to them by their own chief men and prophets. And it must have been a moving spectacle to behold these people, whose history is so full of details of the interventions of Divine Providence in their behalf--a people for whom the waters of the Red Sea opened a passage--for whom the Heavens rained down food--for whom the hard and flinty rock gushed out with refreshing streams--before whom the walls of Jericho fell prostrate--for whom time stayed his march, the sun standing still on Gibeon, and the moon in the valley of Ajalon, at the passage of Joshua, that he might complete his victory over their enemies--to see them now gathering together again in their families, to take up the line of a long and painful march through unfriendly tribes, and over sultry sand plains, to reach once more the heritage of their fathers--was, I say, a moving and impressive sight. We may well suppose that they were humbled by affliction--broken in spirit--that they shrunk instinctively from the perils of the long and wearisome journey before them, and that the prospect of beholding the walls of Jerusalem rising again in strength, [6/7] and their beloved temple reared in beauty from its blackened and smouldering ruins was dark and cheerless.
But there were endearing associations clinging around their father-land--memory called up the touching events and scenes of early life--before the mind's eye of the aged arose images of loved friends, most of them gone to the spirit-world--and affection still lingered about their native mountains [Note]--mementos, and striking ones by their unchangeableness, of eternity--rising in all the attractive beauty and magnificence of that loveliness and grandeur which God's own hand had impressed upon them, there they stand yet--the sacred mountains of Palestine--and will continue to stand, towering towards heaven, till the same hand that reared their rocky battlements and capped their rugged summits shall overturn and consume them in the fires of the last conflagration--and there too was inhaled the sweet breath of heaven, and flowery meads diffused their fragrance, and purling streams murmured soft music, and with it all was connected the remembrance of the solemn assembly for worship--for sacrifice--the feast--the psalm of praise--the prayer--the blessing.
[Note: "Where is thy favored haunt, eternal voice,
The region of thy choice,
Where undisturb'd by sin and earth, the soul
Owns thy entire control?
Tis on the mountain's summit dark and high,
When storms are hurrying by:
'Tis 'mid the strong foundations of the earth,
Where torrents have their birth." Keble's Christian Year.]
And there were proud recollections too, connected with the memorable events of their past history, never to be forgotten; and above all, there were predictions yet to be fulfilled respecting the glory of their nation, and the triumphs of their Messiah, which animated their drooping courage and nerved them with strength to undergo any toil and to meet any difficulty which might lie between them and the fulfilment of hopes so inspiring. The long and wearisome line of travel from the plains of Shinar to the vine-clad hills of Judea is at length traversed--the ransomed captive, the toil-worn traveller, returns home. All nature is represented as raising a song of exultation at his coming--"the floods clap their hands"--"the hills rejoice," and all the trees of the wood bow their heads as if to salute the wanderer, and welcome the exile's return. And now restored to his country, to the land where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob dwelt, the first thought of his heart is to "find an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob."
Adversity and affliction had, in one thing, thoroughly done their work upon the Jews. Their love of idolatry was effectually cured: they had witnessed its hideous forms, as well as its debasing effects in the land of their captivity, till their souls were weary of it. We read no more of their setting up idols to worship. We hear no longer of the prophets of Baal--of the groves, and of the high places. Impoverished and dispirited, their natural pride humbled, their vanity [8/9] mortified, feeble and few in numbers, they laid the foundation- of the second temple. But it was done, we are told, in the midst of shouts and lamentations mingled together. "Many of the Priests and Levites, and chiefs of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice, and many shouted aloud for joy: so that the people could not discern the voice of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off." [Ezra iii. 12, 13.]
This second temple, which was to form a central point of unity among the Jews, and by its services to give form and consistency to their worship, and to adumbrate the great events of yet unfulfilled prophecy in the future history of their nation, and of the world, was begun under the superintendence of Zerubbabel, the Governor of the Jews, and as some say, Prince Royal of the seed of David. He was certainly a type of Christ in his kingly character, and in his present undertaking he was assisted by Joshua, the High Priest.
The work of building had not been prosecuted to any great extent before it was interrupted by the adversaries of the Jews. The Samaritans and others being refused permission by Zerubbabel, to participate in the work of rebuilding the temple, made such representations to Artaxerxes, the king of Persia, respecting the alleged objects of the Jews, as to procure [9/10] from him an order to stop their proceedings. It was in the midst of these difficulties and untoward interruptions, that Zerubbabel is encouraged by the prophet Zechariah to persevere, and to prosecute his labors in reliance upon the Divine protection and help.
A singular vision is presented to the contemplation of the prophet: viz., a golden candlestick with its seven lamps, and a bowl for oil on the top, with seven pipes conducting from the bowl to the seven lamps. [Zech. iv. 1, 2, 3.] On the right and left of the bowl are seen two olive trees, which supply oil in an imperceptible and mysterious manner to the bowl from which the lamps are fed. The golden candlestick is the emblem of the Church of Christ giving light to the whole world--the seven lamps denote his ministers, seven being an indefinite number, put for completeness, fulness or efficiency, and indicating in this place the visible agency or instrumentality by which the light is dispensed. "He," (Christ,) "is the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world." [St. John i. 9.] "I am the light of the world;" [St John viii. 12.] said Christ, and "ye are the light of the world," said He to his disciples. [St. Matt. v. 14.] How wondrously do the types and anti-types of the Scriptures answer to each other! The two olive trees, on the right and left of the bowl, represent the two sacred persons in the Jewish Church, anti-types of Messiah in his Princely and Priestly character. Thus Zerubbabel was the type of Christ as a King--Joshua his type as a Priest.
 At no period of the Jewish history do we read of a Priest of Aaron's line uniting in himself this double character of Priest and King. The sceptre--the kingly power, belongs to Judah, and "of this tribe--Moses spake nothing concerning the Priesthood." [Heb. vii. 14.] At a time long antecedent to the appointment of the Levitical Priesthood, we find mention made of a wonderful and mysterious person, who was, at the same time, king of Salem, (Peace) and Priest of the most high God. But this very unity of dignity, tin the combination of a Royal and sacerdotal character, pointed him out as belonging to an order entirely distinct from that of Aaron's priesthood, and as a type of one who was to arise after Aaron: for he was foretold by David while Aaron's priesthood was yet established, and was not only called after the order of Aaron--that is, by express, divine designation--but was also to supercede that order. It is manifest that He was intended to whom the Lord sware, "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedeck." [Ps. cx. 4.] He whom St. Paul long afterwards designates as "the wisdom of God and the power of God." [1 Cor. i. 24.] It was He, in short, who united in himself the offices of Priest and King--even Jesus the High Priest, and king of the Christian profession, the Redeemer and Lord of His people.
The instruction conveyed to the mind of the prophet, by the vision, was simply this, that notwithstanding the discouraging circumstances which attended the effort to build again the walls of [11/12] Jerusalem and to re-edify the temple, still there was a power at hand secret and unseen, but powerful in operation, that could remove all obstacles and carry foward the enterprise to a happy and triumphant conclusion; that it was "not by might, nor by power;" not by the employment of such agencies as the wisdom and sagacity of man might suggest, that God's purposes were to be accomplished, "but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts." And then by a transition as rapid, as the work would be easy under the control of such a power, the attention is directed, first, to the difficulty presented to contemplation under the figure of a "great mountain"--a very common symbol in Scripture of formidable opposition, or antagonist principles to the propagation of divine truth--next, to its removal or becoming a plain before Zerubbabel. The ease and rapidity with which the divine power accomplishes its purposes are most significantly marked in this passage by the original language of the Scriptures. "Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel, a plain." It is not, "thou shalt become a plain," as our translation has it, but it is simply, "a plain." Lastly, our thoughts are turned to the triumphant conclusion of the work then in progress, strongly expressed by the beautiful language of exultation at the glorious completion, the headstone being brought forth with shoutings, "crying, Grace, grace unto it."
"This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit saith the Lord of Hosts. Who art thou, O great [12/13] mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: she shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it."
These words suggest to our minds many trains of profitable reflection: many considerations of most impressive and solemn character in the application of the truth they convey, as shown in the past dealings of God with his people, and in the bearing which they have upon the purposes and objects for which we have met together. Your preacher, brethren, feels to-day, almost overwhelmed, by the emotions, to which past recollections, as well as attending circumstances, so naturally give rise. [The writer trusts he may be pardoned for appending a note explanatory, and in justification, of this remark. Of the three at. Rev. Brethren present and assisting in the consecration of the Rev. Dr. Green, one, the Rt. Rev Bp. Polk of Louisiana, was once my pupil--afterwards my companion and fellow laborer in the same field of spiritual husbandry--my unfailing supporter under many burdens of official and private care--my comforter in many sorrows never to be forgotten--the sharer with me in many joys, and whom it was my privilege, with others, to assist in consecrating at Cincinnati, in 1838, to that service in the Church of God to which his life is now devoted. The presence of another, the Rt. Rev. Bp. Cobbs of Alabama, very naturally recalled some of the most touching recollections of my early years. He was born in the same county of Va. with myself--had breathed the air of the same pure and bright skies--had gazed on the same cloud-capped mountains--had wandered by the same living streams--had mingled in the same inspiring scenes, and had stood as a minister of consolation by the dying beds, as well as the graves of my nearest and dearest kindred. / Bishop Freeman, too, was intimately and tenderly associated with the past. He had toiled in the same field and in the same laborious occupation with myself--had become acquainted with the Church about the same time and under very similar circumstances, and was admitted to its membership and orders under the same ministry with myself. At his consecration and that of Bp. Cobbs, Bp. Polk and myself were present and assisting, in 1844. It was a singular, and to myself an affecting circumstance, that we four should so unexpectedly meet at so remote a spot in the great valley of the Mississippi--a spot which a few years ago was an almost untrodden wilderness--and for the special purpose which had brought us together.] But I may not dwell [13/14] upon them farther than to make one personal allusion. I find before me a brother well-beloved, whom the events of the past, as Tar back as the joyous days of college life, as well as the serious employments of mature years, have endeared to the heart's best love--one who more than twenty-five years ago poured on my head the waters of baptism; who presented me "to the Bishop to be confirmed by him;" and again to be- made a deacon and then to be ordained a priest; and here we come to-day to clothe him with the spiritual authority requisite for the orderly discharge of those high duties and functions to which God, by the voice of his Church, has called him. Who feels not oppressed by a sense of the importance, when he realizes the awful magnitude of the interests involved in the work of setting apart to the office of a Bishop in the Church of God, a creature like ourselves, compassed with infirmity, and upon whose zeal, fidelity, devotion, diligence, faith, perseverance, courage, humility, firmness and charity, quickened and sustained by divine grace, depends the life of the thousands who are to constitute the [14/15] spiritual fold over which he is called to watch; depend, to the full measure of his personal and official influence, the purity in doctrine and incorruptibility in' faith of the Church; depend the faithfulness and obedience, and so far, the usefulness of the ministry who shall be co-workers with him in building up among you the walls of the spiritual Zion; and depends finally, the account which he himself has to give in hereafter to God the Judge of all? Well might he, well might we all, under a feeling of conscious weakness, shrink from the might of so heavy a burden of care, anxiety, labor and responsibility, if personal considerations might prevail to be heard in such a case. But it is too late now to draw back. We are committed to the cause of God and his Church, under every circumstance of weal or woe, that may attend us in this world. Though a sea of trouble intercept our way, we are enrolled with the sacramental hosts of the true Israel of God, and have but to obey the voice of the Angel of the Covenant which bids us go "forward." Though opposition arise from the people of the land among whom we dwell, and they weaken our hands by withholding that which the king our master hath commanded to be given us, that we may build the house of the Lord, still we must rest upon the promise of divine support; still remember that it is "not by might, nor by power, but by the spirit of the Lord of Hosts," that the great mountains of opposing difficulties "shall become a plain." Come what may, we are never to "cease our care and diligence, till we have done air that lieth in us [15/16] according to our bounden duty, to bring all that are committed to our care, to that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, that there be no place left among us either for error in religion or for viciousness of life." [Exhortation in the Ordering of Priests.]
In meeting, then, the appointment of this day, I would fain preach to myself, as well as to others, and while endeavoring to stir you up to zeal and faithfulness, be myself stirred up to realize the full measure of that responsibility which devolves on us as chief-watchmen on the walls, of Zion, and yet servants to all, yea, to the humblest "that names the name of Christ."
In the further prosecution of the duty before me, I shall endeavor to illustrate and enforce the great principle set forth in the text: namely, a simple dependence upon God, for success in the work to which he calls us. "This is the ward of the Lord to Zerubbabel, saying, not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." However necessary the use of means may be to the accomplishment of every work--and we intend not to deny that means, worldly means if you please, are indispensable,--for God is pleased himself to work by means,--still reliance upon them is not to be so had or placed, as to shut out of view that superior and controlling power which God invisibly exerts in the government of his Church, which is the prime origin and the only sure guarantee of success, and which [16/17] we are commanded to look to, and exhorted to seek, in all our doings and under every possible contingency of human condition.
When we review the history of God's Church, under the various dispensations in which it is presented to our notice, it would appear, that God had always so over-ruled all affairs and events, that his wisdom and power might stand forth conspicuously displayed as the only sure elements of success, and that a simple and confiding trust in Him constituted the test of faith and obedience on the part of all those who were called to His service. To the correctness of this remark we have only to look for confirmation, to what is recorded of the fortunes of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As the scheme of divine wisdom, developed in each successive age the mysterious plan of redemption, and brought its various elements more prominently into notice, the exhibitions of the divine power are made more clearly manifest. The history of Moses and his legation furnishes us with a detail of events forcibly illustrative of this truth. Every circumstance connected with his early life--his origin from a proscribed and doomed race--his education in the court of Pharaoh, tending naturally to blunt his sympathies for the enslaved and suffering Israelites, and to merge any patriotic interest which he felt in their welfare, into the more prevalent sense of selfishness and personal security--the act by which he did manifest some fellow feeling for their hardships and unjust oppression, but which endangered his own life and drove [17/18] him a fugitive and exile to the deserts of Arabiahis long sojourn in that wild and desolate land, prolonged through an interval of time sufficient to obliterate from the minds of his countrymen, all remembrance of the existence even of such a person, all these circumstances however well adapted by the wisdom t.f God to qualify him through such a course of discipline, for the precise work to which he was destined, nevertheless, to human foresight and judgment seemed altogether untoward and adverse to the accomplishment of that very deliverance which he was commissioned to effect. What human probability, we may ask, was there, that the enslaved and degraded children of Israel would listen to the appeals of a forty years' 'fugitive from the wilds of Midian? What likelihood that they would believe him to be the messenger of that God of whom they themselves seem to have been grossly ignorant? Every thing in external appearances forbade the hope of success: every thing seemed to call for divine interference. And let us never forget, brethren, that this is the precise condition under which God acts in our behalf. Man's extremity is God's opportunity. When the believer feels and acknowledges his weakness, and betakes himself to God, in humble reliance and undoubting trust upon divine wisdom and power for help, the exact crisis has come, at which God will hear prayer, and make bare his aria as an Almighty deliverer. O that we might, in all our ways and especially in the work of our ministry, act upon the ready recognition and heartfelt conviction of this [18/19] truth! This was the great lesson which Moses had learned by the strange vicissitudes of a discipline extending through the long period of eighty years. We do not read of his arming his countrymen with sword and shield--with spear and helmet--to fight the battles of freedom. It is not by might, in the gathered array of armies, nor by power, in the resistless force of human eloquence, that he fulfils his trust. His appeal is, evermore, to that awful and mysterious Being who appeared to him, in a flame of fire, in the deep solitude of the wilderness, and proclaimed himself by the awe-inspiring name, "I AM, THAT I AM." Confident in this strength, he fears not the frown of Egypt's monarch. Armed only with his potent and mysterious rod--the visible token of human weakness--he is more than a match for all the cunning of her magicians, and all the diablery of her gods. He confounds their might, compels them to acknowledge the superiority of the God of the Hebrews, extorts confessions and submission from the impious and heart-hardened king, smites tips whole land with plagues, and finally, by one signal and divinely executed act of retributive vengeance, in the destruction of the first-born, he teaches all Egypt and all Israel, that none may resist God's will, or withstand His power.
Very strikingly is this same truth, that man's necessity is God's time to help, illustrated through the whole subsequent history of the children of Israel. To mention in detail the events which prove this, would be little else than a narrative, running through [19/20] the whole period of their journeyings in the wilderness, their settlement in Canaan, their continuance there, their removal to Babylon, and their return. We instance only one of their most remarkable deliverances. Thrust out of Egypt in haste and taking their journey towards the Red Sea, we presently find them reduced to extremities of distress, from which nothing but divine interposition can relieve them. They are shut in by the wilderness on the one hand and by impassable mountains on the other; a sea is in front, and armed hosts are pressing on their rear. The help of man is vain. God only can deliver. A renewal of their slavery or inevitable destruction seemed to be the only alternative. At this juncture of danger, dismay and helplessness, God interposes for their rescue. The cloudy pillar--that mysterious symbol of the divine presence--is seen to rise from its ordinary position in the van of the armies of Israel--for a moment it seems to overshadow them, and then settles down between them and the hosts of Egypt. "Speak to the children of Israel that they go forward!" [Ex. xiv. 16.] is the mandate of Heaven's king. The vast multitude is moved as by one impulse--rank after rank presses onward to the sea-girt shore--the hand of Moses is stretched out over the troubled waters--the sea is divided--the chosen people pass in safety, while their enemies being overwhelmed by the waves perish in their sight. Hungry, they are fed with manna or bread from heaven--thirsty, the flinty rock gushes forth with refreshing waters to slake their [20/21] thirst--assailed by enemies, the Lord fights for them, discomfits their foes, and at length settles them triumphantly, in the land promised to their fathers. To the well-informed and reflecting mind of the Christian, there will doubtless occur many other remarkable instances illustrative of the truth we have stated, but time does not allow us to dwell upon their consideration.
We remark, again, that not only in God's dealings with communities, is this great principle manifest; it is also clearly exhibited in the fortunes of individuals. We can but glance at a few striking examples. We have already referred to Moses, a man chosen of God to accomplish a great work with what appeared to human views very inadequate means. Yet, in simple reliance on the power of God, he never failed in any emergency, and achieved the most wonderful national deliverance that is recorded on the pages of the world's history.
The principal events of David's life, replete as it is with remarkable incidents and strange vicissitudes, teach the same lesson. His repeated deliverances from the hand of Saul, his overthrow of his enemies, and his firm establishment on the throne of Israel, are all referable to the agency of Him who "ruleth in the armies of heaven, and doeth all his pleasure among the inhabitants of the earth." They all impressed the mind of Israel's king with this sublime sentiment, expressed in his own beautiful language: "We have heard with our ears, O God! our fathers have told us what thou hast done in their time of [21/22] old. How thou hast driven out the heathen with thy hand and planted them in; how thou hast destroyed the nations and cast them out. For they gat not the land in their possession through their own sword, neither was it their own arm that helped them; but thy right hand, and thine arm and the light of thy countenance; because thou hadst a favor unto them. I will not trust in my bow; it is not my sword that shall help me. But it is thou that savest us from our enemies and puttest them to confusion that hate us." [Ps. xliv. 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, of the Psalter.]
Most wonderfully is the same dependence on God seen in the lives of all the Prophets. Commissioned to execute important works, they appear often to stand almost alone, each the solitary witness for God and his truth, in the midst of a wicked and God-forgetting world. Rejected, denied, and driven not unfrequently into the deserts and dens of the earth; seeking refuge in the caves of the mountains to escape death, they are set forth as examples of patience under suffering, as well as of trust in God. In short, the lesson to be learned from almost every page of the Bible is, that the condition of eminent usefulness in the service of God, is a preparation for it by eminent sufferings and trials. "First the Cross, then the Crown, Christ entered not in glory until he had first suffered."
When was it indeed, that Christianity vindicated most triumphantly her claim to a heavenly origin? her kindredship with the skies? When did she manifest a power altogether resistless in its energies, [22/23] rising superior to all the rage and malice of her foes? When did she appear before the admiring gaze of a world, most glorious in the beauty of holiness? It was, when the arm of earthly power was put forth in all its strength, to arrest her progress; it was when the storm of persecution beat most pitilessly; it was in the midst of fires and dungeons, and instruments of torture and death in their most direful forms, where the spirit of philosophy would have died, and the hope of superstition would have perished, that she acquired new vigor and new life, conquered her enemies by endurance, won friends by her charity, and found support and consolation in the ever present help and unfailing love of her God. Her holiest and most precious fruits will not flourish in a soil watered by the streams of worldly prosperity. And he, whose personal history furnishes no contribution to the story of those trials and sufferings which usually mark the life of a faithful Christian in this world, may well doubt whether he has made the attainments which qualify a believer for the enjoyment of eternal life. For, it is as true now, as when first spoken by the blessed apostle St. Paul, that "through much tribulation, we must enter into the kingdom of God." [Acts xiv. 22.] And it may be well for some of us to remember, if we have not already been taught it by experience, that this is emphatically true of the ministry. We have especially to prove "ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in affliction, in necessities, [23/24] in distress .... in labors, in watehings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by [24/25] the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers and yet true; as unknown and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened and not killed; as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing and yet having all things." [2 Cor. Iv. 4-10. Happily we are under no necessity to say with the Apostles--in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults." Thanks to the wisdom of our fathers, who have given to us a form of government, which secures to all men the rights of conscience, freedom in the choice of our religious associations, and protection in the worship of Almighty God. Most nations in the formation of their governments have made religion the basis of their political institutions, and have considered a religious creed as necessarily in alliance with their civil regulations. The framers of our constitution did not, because they believed that religion was most successful and most influential when left free and untrammeled to make its way by the force of truth, not only being tolerated by the state, but enjoying full protection in the performance of its worship and the administration of its rites or sacraments. And it may be mentioned as a proof of the value of our institutions, that there is here a more open and manly avowal of the truths of religion, however they may be understood, than is to be found in any other country in the world. What a contrast is thus presented to serious and reflecting minds, between the United States and many other lands--especially those under Romish ecclesiastical rule! It is because religion is here left to the unconstrained and voluntary support of a free people, who have free access to the Bible. Christianity asks of the government protection only. Let the strong and far-reaching arm of the civil power be extended over it for this one purpose, and it is more than a match for all the civil principles that oppose its onward progress to the attainment of a universal dominion over the understandings and , hearts of men. It is pleasant, let us add, to think that the religion of the Bible has a mighty hold upon the great American family in this Union--a hold too firm we trust, ever to suffer us to sunder the ties that bind us together as one people. It proved its worth in the perilous hours of our national conflict for freedom--in the dark and stormy days of the Revolution--in "the times which tried the souls" of good and brave men--in the solemn deliberations of the council chambers, when patriots were reminded, that while they deliberated for the safety of their country, halters were prepared for their necks--and in the desperate onslaughts of the battlefield. Yes, the land we inhabit is consecrated by the tears and prayers of pious men, and was watered by the purest revolutionary blood that tyranny ever caused to flow. And if that dreaded day shall ever come, when this mighty Republic shall be dismembered and torn to pieces, and the strong hand of despotism shall gather its scattered fragments and sway the sceptre of power over this wide and rich domain--where brother shall meet brother in mortal conflict, and the thunder of battle reverberate along our hill-tops, and peaceful vales, it will be after the national sense of the value of religion has decayed--the national sentiment been corrupted, and infidelity shall have enthroned itself in the affections of our people.] In the contemplation of such labors, trials and sufferings, to the discipline of which God appoints those who are charged with the message of reconciliation to a fallen world, and who are thus made heirs of salvation, we may well propound to our dying fellow-men, the awakening interrogatory of the Apostle: "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear." [1 St. Peter iv. 8.] Nor must we forget that all those who have thus been distinguished for great [25/26] and extraordinary works in carrying forward God's plan for the redemption and renovation of a fallen world, were mere instruments in the hands of a superior power; agents of Him "who proceeding from the Father and the Son," quickeneth, enlighteneth and sanctifieth all the people of God. The discipline to which divine wisdom thus subjects men, teaches them to look away from themselves, and to cast all their care and place all their reliance upon the power and grace of Him in whose service they engage: and when this is once thoroughly learned; when they feel their own weakness--then, are they "strong in the Lord and in the power of his might," [Philippians vi. 13.] then can they "do all things through Christ strengthening them." [Eph. vi. 10.] This distrust of self, this putting away of confidence in an arm of flesh; this looking to the Lord to guide, and for grace to support, shine out conspicuously in the language and deportment of the Apostles of Christ. All preceding dispensations but shadowed forth some important event or doctrine connected with Him who was the centre of all predictions and the end of all ceremonies. In Him and in His work are found the substantial realities which the law prefigured, which the Prophets foretold, and in anticipation of which the righteous of past ages broke forth into songs of exultation and praise.
And never, since the world began, did men undertake a work under greater discouragements, in all external circumstances, to dishearten them, than did [26/27] the apostles of Christ. Never did cause, to human apprehension, appear more desperate than that of propagating his religion. Himself had been executed as a malefactor, and under every conceivable circumstance of degradation, derision, and insult. His followers were timid and illiterate men, drawn from the humblest occupations in life, without influence of any kind to secure to them even a hearing from those to whom they had been sent. The doctrines of his religion were opposed to every sentiment of national pride, which the Jew indulged in cherishing the faith in which he had been nurtured, while they were equally despised and misunderstood by the learned Greek and haughty Roman. Yet, they went forth in the confidence inspired by the promise of their Lord and Saviour that they should triumph "over all the power of the enemy"--unfurled the broad flag of the Gospel, bearing on all its ample and waving folds the declaration, "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good-will toward men;"--and witnessing the power of Christ's resurrection by the holiness of their lives, they laid prostrate the great Dragon of infidelity--levelled the mighty fabric of heathenish superstition--overturned the altars and shrines of the 30,000 gods of antiquity, and removed from an abject and groaning world the yoke of ghostly bondage. It was not by the might of numbers marshalled in consolidated strength--nor by the power of ,any worldly-wise political combination, enlisting the interests, the prejudices, and the passions of mankind that they succeeded; but by the controlling influence [27/28] of truth applied by the Spirit of the living God to the understandings and hearts of men. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." Here was the secret of their mysterious and overpowering influence in the preaching of the Gospel. The same vivifying spirit that brooded over the rude and undigested mass of an unformed world, evolving out of it the harmonious proportions of a fair and beautiful creation, was with them, clothing their words with power, moving upon the great deep of man's heart, subduing his understanding to truth, purifying his thoughts, elevating his affections, and inspiring him with love.
But at this point of our discourse, let us not lose sight of Him, who is "head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all:" [Eph. i. 23.] it is He who "loved the Church and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word:" [Eph. v. 25-26.] it is He who still rules and governs it by the ministry of his word and Holy Spirit, and who having "sent forth his apostles and teachers, and by their labors gathered a great company out of all parts of the world," [Ordination of Priests.] continues yet by the same Holy Spirit to raise up and qualify men for the work of the ministry; and he has promised to be "with them always, even unto the end of the world." [St. Matt. xxviii. 20.] And if, at any time, a feeling of despondency come over any of us who are [28/29] set apart to this work, by reason of the great mountains of difficulty that may arise before us, let us take courage from the words of my text: "before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain;" let us, as the apostle exhorts, "consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest we be wearied and faint in our minds." [Heb. xii. 3.]
In all the circumstances of our blessed Redeemer's birth, his infancy, his childhood, and his early manhood, we discover but few and slight intimations of the peculiar and stupendous work he came to accomplish. Look at the poverty of his earthly condition; a condition so humble that he describes himself as "not having a place where to lay his head." [St. Matt. viii. 20.] Witness the contempt with which he was treated; the contradiction of sinners which he endured; the reproaches of his kinsmen; the blasphemous revilings of those who were the wisest and most exalted in the world's esteem. We can discern in all this, consummated as it was by the agony of the garden, the bitter anguish and death-struggles of the cross of Calvary, just such a preparation as everywhere distinguishes God's mysterious plan of redemption. It is dark, inscrutable, and overpowering in all its outward lineaments to the reason of man. Suffering, humiliation, and death, were, it seems, to constitute its chief and visible elements, and through these was to be carried forward that mighty work of grace, by which Satan was to be vanquished, his power broken, man redeemed, and God glorified. We can discern [29/30] through the thick volumes of that cloud which lowers over Gethsemane and Calvary, glimpses of the future triumphs of Him who was foretold as a conqueror "coming from Edom, glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength." [Isa. lxiii. 1.] The incarnate Redeemer, typified by Zerubbabel, in the midst of difficulty, and opposition, and conflict, was thus laying broad and deep the foundations of a work of love: thus was he in the face of them all, and by means of them all, carrying forward the designs of unspeakable wisdom, and accomplishing a work, the praises of which are to form a part of the employments of the redeemed and sanctified through the endless ages of eternity.
In the continual progress of this work of the Redeemer toward its completion, and which by his gracious providence has come down to our age, it is an inspiring thought to reflect, that we may bear a part, and may be honored as co-workers with him in the increase and extension of his Church. All the branches of the one Holy Catholic Church scattered throughout the world, and all the members of it who are the subjects of his quickening grace, are brought together and united in one spiritual body of which He is the head. All are united to Him by faith, and constituting the fulness of Him that filleth all in all, are united to each other in Him. "Of his fulness they all receive," and from Him the head, each member derives all spiritual strength, grace, consolation, and joy. No matter how widely [30/31] separated in time, or divided from each other by seas or lands, no matter how diverse from each other in language and manners; in modes of thought and habits of life, though bound together by no ties of blood, by no common sympathies or interests in the relations of government, yet are they all one in Christ Jesus; "they are builded together in Him for an habitation of God through the Spirit;" [Eph. ii. 22.] they are sanctified by that one Spirit; they have communion with one another in the unconscious mingling of their prayers at the same mercy-seat, for the same graces and blessings; they have "one Lord, one faith, one baptism;" [Eph. iv. 6.] they are heirs of the same eternal and glorious inheritance beyond the grave, and in their journey through the weary and howling wilderness of this world, their souls are refreshed with the same living waters that flowed from the same spiritual rock that followed the ancient Israel in all his wanderings, and is yet to be found, with its life-giving streams, in every part of the earth where there is a Church holding communion with the body of Christ, or an humble and faithful believer to call on the name of the Lord Jesus in love, "in spirit and in truth."
And it is delightful to look abroad on the wide surface of this world's population, groaning as it does, under the desolating ravages of sin, and "travailing in pain," with the fierce contests of the selfish and untamed passions of men, and contemplate it, under a different aspect, as the field, in which the precious seed of life is sown, and where the great harvest of God's glory is ultimately to be reaped: It is animating, to hear of the triumphs of the gospel, extending to the utmost bounds of the earth and the distant islands of the sea, and gathering in the heirs of salvation, out of all nations, and tongues, and kindreds, and people; so that even now there is scarcely a living language under heaven in which the praises of Jesus have not been sung, and the wonders of redeeming love not been proclaimed.
"The signs of the times" lead us to hope that the period is drawing. near, when, in the sublime language of the prophet, "the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it." [Isa. ii. 2.] The north has given up her sons to God, and the south has not held back; the east has caught a glimpse of the brightening beams of the sun of righteousness soon to arise in full glory, and the wild man of the west has exulted in the liberty wherewith Christ makes his people free. Thousands and tens of thousands, under the whole heavens, have been quickened by the grace of the Spirit, from the death of sin, and have turned from the worship of idols to serve the living God. They are first fruits, the gracious earnests of the full and universal harvest which is to crown the labors of Christ's spiritual husbandry. In his hands the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper, until every stone of the glorious building, which He is engaged in erecting, shall be raised and fitted to its place; and the [32/33] temple of the Lord shall rise, in all its ample, and beautiful, and grand proportions, and He shall bring forth the head-stone thereof with shoutings; a multitude, which no man can number, crying "Grace, grace unto it."
In the prosecution of this mighty and glorious work, Christ, the builder of his Church, is invested with unlimited power. "All power is given unto Me in heaven and earth," was the soul-inspiring declaration which He made to His apostles when He commanded them to go forth and teach or make disciples of all nations, assuring them that He would be "with them always even to the end of the world." Encouraged and sustained by this assurance, they began their work--a work unequalled in the moral grandeur of its design when viewed as to the visible agents of its accomplishment; unsurpassed in its ennobling and elevating effects by any enterprise that has ever engaged the thoughts of man, when contemplated in its gracious results.
The dominion of Christ has respect both to the Church and to the world. As it respects the Church, He rules his people as willing and loving subjects. His service is to them perfect freedom. It is their happiness to know and to feel that they are not their own, but that they have been bought with a price; ransomed from the slavery of sin and from death, its wages, with the precious blood of the Lamb of God. Their hearty desire is to glorify him in their bodies and in their spirits, which are his; their highest and most fervent aspirations here, are, to have every [33/34] thought of their hearts brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and to reign with him hereafter.
The submission which: the world yields to Christ, though less willing is not the less absolute. In all the complicated machinery of conflicting events as they transpire in rapid succession before us; in all the grand movements which overthrow empires, subvert kingdoms, erect thrones upon their ruins, or remodel human establishments, there is not one change great or small, which is not subject to his righteous and sovereign control. Even the winds and the sea obeyed him while he was upon earth; and that troubled and tempestuous sea of the world's mad and distempered passions, and busy schemings, and eventful changes, subsides at once into "a great calm," if he but speak the words "peace, be still!" or it lashes itself into fury again, and rolls its troubled waves, if so, it may better help forward the accomplishment of his wise and gracious purposes. "He ruleth in the kingdom of men: he stilleth the raging of the sea; and the noise of its waves, and the madness of the people." The counsels of the wise and the efforts of the mighty, are not only powerless against him; are not only all bending in humble and prostrate submission, to work his will in the convulsions of nations; the rise and fall of empires; the setting up and overthrow of dynasties, but are ordained and overruled for the establishment and final triumph of his kingdom.
The declaration or assurance of the text that the work of building Christ's Church (typified by the temple in the progress of erection by Zerubbabel) [34/35] should be brought to a happy completion, is full of encouragement to all those more directly and immediately interested in the welfare and prosperity of this diocese, and more especially to you, my beloved Brother, who are about to be invested, as its first Bishop, with its spiritual charge and oversight. Doubtless, mountains of difficulty have risen, before you in the serious contemplation of the work now to be committed to your hands. You have pondered it by day and you have considered it in the silent night-watches, when no one was privy to the thoughts that weighed upon your heart, and drove slumber from your eyes, or even suspected the deep musings of soul, that disquieted the inner man, save that God who has watched over you all your life, and now says to you by the voice of his Church, "Feed my sheep!" "Go, build my house!" "Go, labor in my vineyard!" And every view you have taken of this subject, every train of reflection which its consideration has called up, has brought you to this one conclusion: "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." [cxxvii Ps. v. 1 and 2.] God grant it may be so! God grant that you may deeply feel, that you are shut up to the simple reliance of faith in the power and love of Christ to apply his truth to the hearts of sinners by the grace of his Holy Spirit! That is the very state of dependence that God would have you realize as an indispensable condition of usefulness and success in his service. In the exercise of that [35/36] unlimited and uncontrollable dominion which he possesses as "head over all things to his Church," he addresses that Church, with an inexpressible combination of tenderness and majesty: "I have put my words in thy mouth, I have covered thee with the shadow of my hand: that I may plant the Heavens and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion thou art my people." [Isa. li. 16.] This is the never failing resource upon which every minister, and especially every Bishop of the Church, must cast himself, in the midst of all difficulties and trials. When cares, anxieties, and troubles thicken around him; when there are fightings without and fears within," then let him stay himself upon God, and remember that his deliverance must come, "not by might, nor by power, but by the spirit of the Lord of hosts."
In the multitude of difficulties which encompass a Bishop in the performance of his peculiar duties, no one presents itself of more serious magnitude than that which arises from the relation which he sustains towards the Church, as having the oversight and government of the Clergy. To counsel, to admonish, to "rebuke, to exhort with all long suffering and authority," is no light labor in a country where the habits and thoughts of the people, moulded and shaped by their religious institutions, naturally lead men to withhold deference from official station, and where office itself is regarded as a creation which the popular will may set aside or alter at pleasure. [Under the limitations of our constitutional and canon law, this is true to a certain extent in our Church government, which conforms more nearly to the civil government than that of any religious denomination in the country. The cardinal principle of representation prevails through our whole system. Every congregation on Easter Monday in each year elects its vestry or trustees for one year. These again elect delegates to the diocesan or annual convention, composed of clergymen and laymen; and this chooses representatives to the general or triennial convention--composed of the House of Bishops and the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies, and is the highest legislative council of the Church.] [36/37] Add to this, that the difficulty of exercising discipline is, in all cases, not a little increased by the multitude of sects around, all claiming to be genuine branches of the true vine, all pretending to have authority to admit members into, or exclude them from the visible fold of Christ, and ever ready to sit in judgment upon the justice and righteousness of each ecclesiastical sentence. There is no remedy for this condition of things which we can apply for its correction, other than by diffusing as widely as we may the truth of God's holy word, as held and witnessed by the primitive Christians. But we may derive some benefit from it by considering, that whatever be the extent of ministerial authority in the original grant to the Apostles, and derived from them by transmission, its influence, in our age and country, is limited by the estimate which mankind form of the moral worth and personal piety of him who exercises it. Hence, we cannot but feel the force of the Apostle's exhortation to Timothy, when he tells him, "be thou an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, [37/38] in purity." [1 Tim. iv. 12, 13.] But when in the spirit of kind and fraternal feeling, or in the tenderness of paternal love, advice is tendered, or remonstrance is urged, or admonition is given, and it is received coldly, or heard with impatience, or rejected ungraciously, then comes the sorrow of heart which, it is to be hoped, but few men feel, and which few, but Bishops, can properly appreciate--then presses the burden of official station which they only, perhaps, feel to be almost intolerable. And, yet, I must forewarn you--not that the warning is called for specially, from considering the character of the clergy in this diocese; on the contrary, the intercourse of years past, with them all, assures me, that you will find most of them dutiful and affectionate sons--but, from the. very nature of your office, encompassed by the adventitious circumstances to which I have adverted, I feel bound to warn you, that the difficulty named will constitute a prime element, in that hardness which you will be called on to endure, as a faithful soldier of Jesus Christ; this will make up a large part of the weight which you must bear, as a Bishop of the Church.
Besides this, you will have to watch every part of the building, with the erection and superintendence of which you are charged. You will have to see that none of your assistants use untempered mortar--or stones unshapen and unprepared by the plummet of the sanctuary. You will have to reconcile differences between ministers and their congregations to judge upon appeals in cases of discipline--to [38/39] open a hearing ear to the complaints of the aggrieved, and to be patient with the querulous--to watch the beginnings of strife, and to pluck up roots of bitterness--to apply a gentle but steady hand to close up the wounds which indiscretion or thoughtlessness may have inflicted, and to become the ready defender and protector of those who may be wantonly maligned or unjustly assailed. In these times, especially, to use all diligence and watchfulness in preserving the ancient landmarks which the wisdom and care of our forefathers set up to guard the precious deposit of Gospel faith and order, of which the Church is both the witness and keeper, from the insidious approaches of Romanism on the one hand .and the arrogant assumption of Ultra-protestantism on the other. [In our humble judgment the Church is fully competent to this duty without the aid of irresponsible and self-constituted associations: e. g. The E. K. Society and the Order or Brotherhood of the Holy Cross! "par nobile fratrum!!"] To do all these things, and do them as becometh the gospel of Christ, is far more difficult than to encounter the wearisome days of travel to which your duties will call you--the "perils by land and perils by water" that will lie in your way--the discomfort of sleepless nights--long separations from your family--the pains of sickness consequent upon exposure in a sickly clime--the fatigue of preaching day after day, prolonged sometimes through a succession of weeks and even months, with scarcely any intermission--the annoyance of inquiries founded in a pretended desire to learn the truth, but propounded in reality [39/40] to provoke controversy; these things, and many, very many others of a kindred character, we could cheerfully meet and brave for the sake of our Master, and for the privilege of preaching His gospel, and feel them to be no very great hardship, if we might be rid of the former. But they are all inseparable from our office and calling, and sooner or later will enforce on us practically, the necessity of giving heed to the earnest exhortation of St. Paul in his parting charge to Timothy: "Watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an Evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry." Again we exhort you to a simple and unreserved dependence on the arm of the Lord--to have abidingly impressed on your heart and memory the assurance, "not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit saith the Lord of hosts."
And when obstacles present themselves before you, which baffle human wisdom; when faith is tried and proved, even in the fires; when the blossom of hope is withered by the want of visible success; when disappointment casts its shadow over your prospects or worldly policy thwarts your plans; when your clergy are weakened by sickness, disheartened by poverty, or cut off by death; when your people turn aside from the simplicity of their walk with God, or relapse in worldly-mindedness, or fall into the sins of heresy and schism, or through pride are ensnared by the devil; when iniquity shall abound, and the love of many wax cold; when the Tatnais and Shetharboznais of the land shall try to intimidate you by proud looks [40/41] and haughty threats, speaking contemptuously of your work, then be it your comfort and your privilege to know that Christ sits and rules upon his throne, and that at his bidding the great mountains of difficulty shall become a plain before Zerubbabel; even before "the man of the Lord's right hand whom he hath chosen and made so strong for himself." [Ps. lxxx. 17.]
Cordially do I rejoice, my beloved brother, that you have come to a diocese so united in all its elements; ready to strive together "with one mind and in one spirit for the faith of the gospel;" [Ph. i. 27.] ready to contribute liberally of its worldly substance to forward all your plans for the increase of its strength and stability, and for the extension of the knowledge of Christ through the instrumentality of his Church, to its remotest borders; ready to welcome you as its chief pastor and ruler and to "wish you good luck in the name of the Lord." And with equal sincerity and cordiality do I congratulate this diocese, to which I feel bound by many and tender ties, upon having one to take charge of their interests, who has been proved by many afflictions, and shown to be faithful by an experience and trial of thirty years service, in the cause of Christ. May the remembrance of those days, when it was our privilege to sit at the feet of that venerated, honest, and brave old man; venerated for his primitive piety, for his honesty to the souls of men, for his bravery in the cause of his master, I mean Bishop Ravenscroft; (clarum et venerabile nomen;) when we heard the burning words that fell from his [41/42] lips, as though they had been touched by fire from the altar, consuming the opposing thoughts of those who would reject the counsel of God against their own souls; when we listened to that ringing appeal that fell like the voice of an angel startling the conscience of the sinner, alarming the fears of the careless, and rousing the concern of the thoughtless; may the remembrance of those days stir us up to renewed zeal and diligence in the same holy warfare in which he fell, with his armor on, his eyes raised toward heaven, his front to the foe, that we too may rejoice in the holy peace which shed its sacred influence over his departing hour!
But the most honored of those who have labored in this glorious cause, and in whom we pre-eminently glorify God for the grace bestowed upon them, from the cherished names of White, Hobart, and Ravenscroft down to the gentle and affectionate Giles; [Rev. Wm. Mason Giles, late rector of Trinity Church, Natchez.] whose last hours were breathed in prayers for the Church at whose altars he served; would all unite, in one mind and with one voice, in putting away the honor from the earthen vessel and referring all to the grace of Him whom they served with their spirits in the gospel; even Him who is the builder of His Church, and who at the completion of his transcendantly glorious work, when the last enemy shall have been subdued; when the last sigh of penitence shall have been breathed; the last tear for sin have fallen, and the last prayer of his people shall have been preferred, will bring forth the headstone with shoutings, and the [42/43] mighty multitude which no man can number, out of all nations, and tongues, and kindreds, and people, that stand before the throne, shall with one acclaim, cry, "Grace, grace unto it."
Then all the crowns in Heaven shall be cast at the feet of our most holy and adorable Redeemer; every eye shall see him and gaze upon him with ineffable delight and wonder; every redeemed sinner in the enjoyment of a full salvation will give all the glory of it to the Saviour, and ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of angels will unite their songs with ours, saying, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing." [Rev. v. 12. 13.] Amen! Amen!!