THE ANNUAL CONVENTION
Of the Diocese of New York,
ON THE MORNING OF
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27TH, 1854,
A FEW DAYS SUBSEQUENT
REV. JOHN McVICKAR, D. D.
PUBLISHED BY REQUEST.
BRETHREN, beloved in the Lord!—we meet this day, in God's House, a chastened and heart-stricken people. A thunderbolt hath fallen on our Church's path, and we her sons look around and find ourselves orphans—orphans, I may say, by a double claim—with a yet living Father paralyzed—and now our only living hope—dead before us. "Of whom, then, may we seek for succor, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased?" To God's Word let us then turn, as Christian men should, amid our doubts, for counsel; under our sorrows, for consolation; and we shall there find, as the Christian ever does, in his darkest hour, both comfort and guidance, so long as he looks but to the actual duties to which God's providence is calling him. As a passage suited to our needs, and full of holy suggestion, I bring before you these heart-stirring words, which stricken Israel heard when their great leader was withdrawn from them—"Moses my servant is dead; now, therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, thou and all this people, unto the land which I do give to thee, even to the children of Israel."—Joshua i., 2.
My brethren of the clergy and laity, in Convention assembled, to you I speak these words, though I would that from other lips, with higher influences, and a more worthy preparation, you were this day to hear the word of brotherly exhortation; for never, sure but once before, in the history of [3/4] our Diocese, hath come over it, through death, a day of such sudden and overwhelming calamity; and never before has an occasion presented itself, wherein words of peace and holy counsel, rightly put and deepened by the weight of this universal sorrow, might be made more blest to the healing of the Church's half-closed wounds, and, under God, preparing it for new and greater triumphs, going forth in its renewed integrity, and with an unbroken front. But, brethren, under the pressure of sad thoughts, I had no heart to refuse and no choice but to obey the call, sudden and unexpected as it was, and to trust, as I now humbly do, to Christ's blessed promise, that even to His feeblest servant words will be given, if the heart be but right. Hear, then, I beseech you, even from my stammering lips, this word of exhortation, once spoken unto bereaved Israel, and now addressed unto our afflicted Church: "Moses my servant is dead." Yes! Moses is dead. But what follows? not despair, not despondency, not folding of the arms in sorrow; but Faith, and the high active courage which springs from Faith. "Arise," it says, "arise, thou afflicted one, from the earth; put off from thy head sackcloth and ashes; Moses has but passed before thee into the Heavenly Canaan." But, as for thee, bereavement is to awaken strength, and loss to be converted into gain, through that holy alchemy which Christ teaches to His suffering servants, and which can never be learned but through the religion of sorrow. So let it be with us, brethren. The staff on which we leaned is broken, and, in breaking, hath pierced both heart and hand; but it was broken only to plant our feet more firmly on the Rock whereon alone they safely rest. For it is when Death hath rent the vail; when gifts of nature, talent, learning, human guidance, are all withdrawn, or rather, as now, dashed to the ground, that we then see plainly the Heavenly hand that, unseen, was ever guiding human instrumentality. The shadows pass, the substance remains, and the awakened soul falls back, like a startled child, into the arms of its Father—"the Fountain of all wisdom," "the Giver of all good," "without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy," and "Who knoweth our necessities [4/5] before we ask, as well as our ignorance in asking." On that Rock, then, my afflicted brethren, let us this day stand; on that arm let us rest, but the more firmly, because our human props are removed. "When we are weak," saith St. Paul, "then are we strong;" and to that holy guidance let us this day look but the more trustfully and the more lovingly, because our eyes are blinded with human tears, and our hearts weighed down with earthly sorrow, for the friend and leader whom God's Hand hath taken from us. "Moses is dead," "Therefore," saith God's Word, "be strong." Note, brethren, that wondrous sequence in God's reasoning—"therefore"—the very opposite to all of man's conclusions. "Ye are weak," therefore be very courageous. "Ye are broken-hearted," therefore arise to new conquests. "Sursum Corda" is the Church's cry. "Lift up your hearts," and let every tongue this day answer, "We lift them up unto the Lord."
But what a lesson of humility does this day teach, in showing God's wisdom to be the very reverse of man's wisdom, and God's ways the contradictory of man's ways! While we, in our fond confidence, were this day preparing for our church a triumph, God in His wisdom was casting "dust and ashes" on its head. While man was guarding with care his chosen instrument, that it might last long and do its full work, God was breaking it as a thing of nought—His own chosen instrument, in the midst of its appointed task—pulling down what He himself had just built up, and clothing in garments of woe the Church of His love, which he had but just before bid go forth joyfully through our land "conquering and to conquer."
But thus it hath ever been. Moses, the chosen guide of His people Israel, was taken away while his "eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated;" and that at the very moment when, to human judgment, his presence and counsels were most needed: for Israel was now to "go up and possess the land" in the presence of seven hostile nations, each one greater and mightier than they; and thus was the perilous conquest of Canaan, the very end and aim of all their wanderings, left, in human eyes, to a new and untried Leader. And so, too, hath [5/6] it now pleased the Divine Master to baffle our presumptuous hopes of coming triumphs, through means of His own consecrated instrument and appointed Leader. That instrument here lies broken before us; that Leader has now fallen, though fallen as a Leader should fall, at his post of duty, with his armor on; but then, alas! in mid fight, leaving to untried hands his great work and mission but half done.
And when I say his mission, brethren, I mean more especially that task to which, alike by nature, by education and by grace, Bishop Wainwright seemed peculiarly fitted, as well as through Consecration destined; I mean that work of conciliation within our Diocese to which he devoted himself; a task, at the period of his consecration, specially demanded, after the long and anomalous interval wherein every man in our Israel did that which was "right in the sight of his own eyes." This was a task, I say, as congenial to his nature as it was prominent in his choice and open in his policy, and towards the attainment of which he was made, under God's blessing, eminently successful.
But he is gone; though it is a comforting thought that he was spared long enough to exhibit its fruits, though not to enjoy them, for repose was far from him; to human eyes he fell a martyr to a zeal that knew no limit of labor, no interval of rest, and scarce one thought of personal care,—the closing years of his life stamping upon his name, and upon the history of his too short Episcopate, a character not to be mistaken; and one that cannot be without its blessing to the Church at large, and more especially to those who follow him in his high vocation. "Happy the man," could even a heathen moralist exclaim (how much more truly then the Christian), "whom indulgent fortune thus permits to offer up, in voluntary sacrifice, the remnant of a life which envious death would other wise soon rob him of and to pay as a tribute to Virtue the debt that he owes to Fate."
But I need not press these thoughts; they rise unbidden, though I could not speak to you, brethren, without uttering them; and they will fill all hearts to overflowing when you [6/7] shall hear this day, from the lips of another,—alas! that I should say another,—the sad but glorious record that will speak to us as from the grave, of the unintermitted toils that brought our Leader down to it; and then, again, when we see the contrasted picture it exhibits of the fruits of those toils, the growth and prosperity, the peace and harmony spreading within our Church; divided hearts, through love of him, united, jarring interests reconciled, party words and feelings dropped and discarded; and wherever he went, and mainly through his influence, brighter prospects opening, and new plans forming for reconciling and Christianizing, through means of our beloved Church, the discordant and warring elements of society. Two leading thoughts, however, would I venture to urge upon you, my brethren, as you listen to this last heart-stirring record of him who now "rests from his labors,"—the one a holy vow, the other an earnest prayer. This, the vow—that amid all the exciting questions that may agitate this Convention, no word shall escape your lips to mar that blessed peace now begun, and on which Death hath set his consecrating seal; no word of strife to stir the once agitated waters over which Christ hath, by His angel, said, "Peace, be still!" Such the "vow." But what the "Prayer?" This, brethren,—that as with the Church of old in her bereavement, so with us in ours, God's guiding hand may lead us to some "Joshua" on whom rests the spirit of counsel and of might, that he may take up the fallen mantle, ere it be soiled or torn through the dirt and turmoil of party contention. Let it, I repeat, brethren, be taken up at once, pure as it fell from him who has now gone to his reward; and under that Holy Spirit's guidance, which we this morning prayed might preside in our present council, as He did in that of the Apostles at Jerusalem, and after the blessing on silent prayer, let us "arise" and go forward "with a good courage," as our text teaches, and fill up without delay, in the Lord's host, the place of him who has fallen, keeping our sacred ranks full, and our heavenly march onward, for thus alone can we keep step with Time, for whose flying moments we must render an account. "Onward," I say, over "this Jordan," [7/8] and every other obstacle that withstands our path towards the conquest of the "Canaan" given to us; the evangelizing, I mean, of every dark corner of our great and widespread Diocese.
In this matter, want of time, pleaded in delay, is want of FAITH. It doubts Christ's presence in His Church, it doubts His blessing on our counsels, it doubts the Holy Spirit's guidance. It is an argument that puts man for God in the government of His Church, while it debases into the worldly caucusing of the "ballot-box" the Church's ancient cry for a candidate, "He is worthy! He is worthy!" Against delay all things plead—reason, Scripture, the Church's polity, the Diocese's needs; and, above all, as a practical question, our own bitter experience. "What fruit," I might well ask with St. Paul, "had ye in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?" What fruit did delay then bring, save bitter and unchristian divisions, long felt, hardly healed? And what security have we that the same results will not follow now?
But, it will be said, such summary filling up of this high office, just vacant, would be inconsistent with the respect and reverence we owe and ever pay to the venerated dead; that a certain pause and delay is due to a memory yet fresh, and to tears yet flowing. This, brethren, I venture to call a worldly, and not a Christian plea. It runs on the false track of worldly sorrow, that death is the most sorrowful of all events. In the world it may be so—there, then, let the dead thus bury their dead, and mourn for them as if earth had been their home, and life were to them more than the duties of life, and keep vacant the seats of those that are gone, that men may miss them, and talk of them; but let the Church teach the higher and wiser lesson, that the dead in Christ are the BLEST, and he alone is to be mourned for who has fallen not in the path of his duty.
To hold, then, our Episcopate vacant even for a day, on this principle, were as inconsistent with a Christian's faith, as it is with a Churchman's duty; it would be sacrilege towards God and robbery towards man. Day by day the Church's well-ordered host [8/9] is moving onward and heavenward, and day by day does it supply to the ranks of the blest the good soldiers withdrawn from their warfare here, and therefore can it not afford to leave unfilled its own ranks which death hath thinned. And O, brethren, could we but put this question to him whom it is thus falsely sought to honor, can we doubt what would be his reply, now with his deeper knowledge, when we remember even on earth his most conclusive argument, against any Church of Christ working, nay, even existing, without its Bishop, "Ecclesia est in Episcopo?"
But to turn to more cheering thoughts. Among the brightening features of our Church in this Diocese, as exhibiting its recent maturer growth and greater inward strength, is the open fact that it has outgrown its late panic, as well as actual dangers of Romish influence; that dark cloud of mingled fright and error that hung for a time over our Church's path, confounding Catholic truth with Romish usurpation, is now and forever, we may trust, dissipated. It was the fruit of long ignorance, combined with late-acquired knowledge—presumptuous, therefore, and imperfectly gained; though no wonder perhaps was it that to the half-opened eye of a Church that had slumbered long, on first awakening to the claims of primitive Catholic truth, such mistake should have been made, at least by young, hasty, enthusiastic minds, bewildered at once by their own Church's silence and the bold assertions of an unscrupulous adversary; and no wonder, too, that many such, attracted, led on, or unkindly driven into open schism, at length passed that Rubicon, back from which some have, and many would now gladly retrace their steps. No wonder, I say, then—but to our American branch of the Church now, that flood has passed, that blindness is cured; and, as our Church, with open eye, again looks at the question, she sees herself to be Catholic, and Rome schismatic. The cloud-illusion that misled her sons has vanished from her sky; the false ideal that through the blinding mist awakened their admiration, has now come forth deformed and leprous, an apostolic yet fallen Church; while the true ideal that their heart longed after, they now find [9/10] enshrined in the purest form, we may boldly say, that the frailty of earth exhibits, in the polity, Liturgy, and sacraments of their own great and rapidly spreading branch of the Church Catholic. Let, then, brethren, this dark and brooding fear be dismissed for ever from your minds, and Ephraim no longer suspect Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim.
Three securities we now have, under God's mercy, that such question shall never again return to disturb our peace: we now know Rome as we then did not know her, and can never fall back into our former admiring ignorance; we now know ourselves better, and our Church's teaching, and recognize, with a fulness and freedom we then did not, the great Catholic truths on which we stand—"Catholic" our name of Baptism, "Protestant" but our surname in history; and, thirdly, we know better our own growing strength, and true position—not now, as then, too often regarded a sect among sects—a feeble, local, isolated communion—but as we see ourselves now, a wide and spreading branch of the great Christian tree, with roots running back into apostolic times, and with boughs that overshadow whole nations, encircling the earth with its missions of love, and planting the Cross wherever it plants its foot. Even humanly speaking, such noble lineage may neither be easily forgotten nor lightly changed. Only, my beloved brethren, let us live and work worthy of our high name and mission, and then, neither from East nor West, nor North nor South, can ever come a breath to stain the American Churchman's faith, to dampen his love, or to flutter his allegiance. Nor let this our well-founded confidence be shaken by casual exceptions, whether at home or abroad: here, as elsewhere, are wanderings over which reason has no control, and causes of alienation for which the Church is not answerable; as we see too often so painfully exhibited in our ancestral home, where the false claims of the State have sometimes driven the best of her sons unwillingly from the Church of their affections—tender consciences fleeing from a control that Christ hath not sanctioned, and which, God be thanked, we in this land of a free and unshackled Church, know nothing of. [10/11] In this matter, then, brethren, let us be just as well as thankful, and eliminate from our argument whatsoever touches not on our position. And, as a case in point, which even as I speak is bruited abroad, let not the recent refusal of an English Churchman [* Archdeacon Wilberforce.] to recognize in his Church an earthly head, be perverted into an argument of fear, lest American Churchmen should prefer the slavery of Rome to that liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.—But of this enough.
Turning to our text for guidance, we find its primary exhortation prompt action—"Arise," "go forth,"—in itself the strongest security for inward peace and union. Christians and Christian communities dispute because they do not work—quarrel about words, because their hands and hearts are not occupied with things—with the realities with which God hath surrounded them. Such zealots for the Faith begin with dressing up, as foes at hand, illusions but of opinion and fancy, and then waste in battling against them, the zeal and energy that would have sufficed, under God, to put down many a rampant enemy of Christ and his Church at their very doors; and end, perhaps, in self-complacent wondering that the world is not made Christian through their labors. Such laborers are not of the Church, nor such divisions of her spirit; they justify, on the contrary, the world's undiscriminating reproach of Christians, that, fellow-travellers as they are on life's rough road, they are ever quarrelling about their light, instead of using it—using it humbly and thankfully to guide them on their road to heaven. Not in this way is our Canaan to be conquered, but as of old—"arise, go over this Jordan," heart and hand united, "and possess the land."
To two points of reflection do the words of our text lead us: 1. The bounds of the Canaan we are to conquer. 2. The means and appliances given us, under grace, to effect it. The first a simple question, and admitting of a definite answer; the second complex, and opening up many varied suggestions:—
First, the Bounds.—As to ancient Israel was given the whole land of Canaan for an inheritance, so to spiritual Israel [11/12] now is the whole land given, whatever that extent be. To the Church at large the whole world is given as its field, no corner exempt from its duties, no creature beyond its cares. So, too, to each national branch of the Church Catholic is given, as to our Church in this Western Continent, "the whole land," and in like manner to each Diocese within its prescribed limits, with its circle of parishes exhausting those limits, "the whole land." Not, we mean, in contravention of the rights of others,—"to their own Master they stand or fall;" but we mean the land is ours, by an indefeasible obligation resting upon us. Other Christian bodies may, and mostly do, limit their care. We, as Churchmen, cannot. In theory as in title, in name as in claim, our Church covers the land, and therefore should there be within it no unnamed, no unappropriated territory, no portion excluded in word, or, so far as God's providence admits, in deed, from spiritual care and Episcopal control. Or do you stumble, brethren, at the impracticable faith demanded in thus parceling out a continent under our feeble charge? I turn you, in answer to the beautiful example of Faith exhibited by Joshua in our text, dividing to Israel, under God's command, their promised inheritance, even before he had set foot upon it. It was divided in FAITH while still in the enemies' hands; and, under God's blessing on that faith, step by step, it was occupied in fact by God's people, and God's enemies driven out. In their case, God's enemies were the seven wicked nations of Canaan; in ours, the seven deadly sins, thus here prefigured, as the early fathers teach, which war against the soul, keeping the Christian out of his heavenly inheritance.
Turning now to our second point—What, I ask, are our Church's special arms for this great conquest, and wherein, it may be, do they need fresh tempering? To this wide inquiry would I now turn your serious attention.
Among the first and greatest of those weapons of power stands, unquestionably, our noble, pure, and Evangelical Liturgy—the glory of our own branch of the Reformed Church of Christ, and the admiration or envy of all others. But I would here speak of it, not in words of general eulogium, but [12/13] rather as a peculiar instrument of power, to attract, persuade, and teach, through its varied and beautiful responsive services, such as no other Church in Christendom possesses—neither Roman, Greek, nor Protestant. But to one branch thus named, the Greek I mean, is due, as touching its Liturgies, distinctive praise, separating it widely from the Roman. The services of the Greek, or Eastern Church, are not solitary, but responsive, and not in an unknown tongue, but in the vernacular of the land; and in such tongue, whatever it be, are the Holy Scriptures freely given and freely read. The Greek Church, anchored on the Nicene Creed, boasts itself, and justly, ORTHODOX; but then claiming no infallibility, it sits in judgment on none, and knows not, except by suffering, the name of persecution. On these points, as well as in its married clergy and unmutilated Communion, the Eastern Church stands honorably distinguished from the Roman.
As touching our own Liturgy—I speak of it but comparatively—though not without a class (for it is formed upon the ancient Liturgies of the Church, the Roman among others), yet still is it without an existing rival; above all, as a practical instrument for training up the young. In this application it is as blessed in its influences as it is attractive in its use, building them up in the love of the Church, through the power of early habit, and the love of that Common Prayer which the Church alone supplies. Make it, then, I beseech you, brethren, wherever your influence extends, an Educational Book, in its responsive Versicles, its weekly Collects, its daily Psalms, its Chants and Hymns of Praise, and you will then not only train up your own children to love and reverence the Church of their baptism, but make them also, even in their innocent childhood, most persuasive missionaries in its cause; spreading from a thousand centres of schools and homes, through the touching sympathies of the young heart, and by ways that the cold wisdom of man knoweth not, the blessed influences of the Church their Mother. "The Church their Mother!" O blessed words! The Mother who hath loved them from the time she called them her own in holy Baptism, [13/14] and would gladly train them daily and hourly in the footsteps of her Divine Master, moulding them all to herself, and knitting them to each other in brotherly love, through the holy order and influence of her fasts and feasts, her doctrine and discipline, her prayers and sacraments, until their departure to join the Saints above.
So, too, would I urge it as the book of family devotion. Give to the Prayer-Book of the Church the preference over individual collections, however excellent; and here, too, let voice answer voice, in confession, in prayer, in praise, and your household will then feel that Family Prayer is no listless service, but the union of heart with heart, strengthening each for daily duty and comforting all under daily trials.
But as touching the public services of our Liturgy, there is doubtless one open question; may these not be made, it is often asked, an instrument of greater power, of higher attraction and wider influence, through a discretionary separation of its now united, but once separate parts?—thus giving variety and relief to services now open to the charge, made by many whom the Church would gladly win, of tediousness and monotony. I open not this question, brethren, as before a tribunal competent to determine it, but still as one of those questions now rife in the Church, and on which it is well that the mind of the Church should mature before it come up in its highest council for settlement. On this point I do not hesitate myself to express a favorable, though modified, judgment; more especially bearing on the use of the Litany, as being in itself (what it originally was) a distinct and complete office of devotion—having its own invocation and deprecation, its remembrance of Christ's life and sufferings, its intercession, supplication and giving of thanks and therefore adequately, though not necessarily, arranged for independent and separate use; a decision which may be equally applied in regard of the Communion service, with its Ante-Communion Office. And to this judgment I would add further, the great desirableness, under authority, if such can be had, of some shorter and modified form of worship, for meeting the case of Heathen or Home Missions [14/15] not in consecrated buildings, and addressing those who are as yet not of the Household of Faith—in Scripture language, not yet "brethren." Of the existence of such need in the Church's varied labors, there can be no question; the only doubt is the best means of supplying it, and the proper form that should be given to it. Should the subject ever be entertained, I would venture to urge as a safe, if not an authoritative, guide to such curtailed service, the "First Liturgy" set forth under Edward VI., which, beginning as it does with the Lord's Prayer, omits what the mind of the alien is not yet ready for, the "exhortation," "confession" and "absolution," all which presuppose the existence of Christian faith and a covenanted right to Christian privileges. Such suggestions, when they arise, as they here do, out of the recognized wants of the Church, the Church in her highest councils is bound to look at, to weigh, and in her wisdom meet; for to her "the whole land is given," and it would be simple infidelity in her to admit that she labors under any want which she may not remedy, that there is any creature she cannot reach, any hidden corner to which she may not go, any tongue of ignorance she cannot speak, or any human sin or sadness for which she has not, among her ample Divine stores, new and old, an appropriate and adequate remedy. But this suggests another and a greater question touching an acknowledged want, or rather a long neglect, within our Church, yet one that maketh her to halt in the race of winning souls unto Christ. It is one, therefore, to which I would especially beg your earnest attention.
To take hold on the masses of society, and bind them to her banners, is not now, nor for a long time has been, the distinctive mark of our Church, but rather, I may say, the reverse. Our Church has rather contented itself with its acknowledged triumph over the educated and reflecting mind; and to such her services have come home, awakening a manly and rational obedience, and winning in that race at least the palm of victory. The harmonizing of reason with revelation has been her argument, and is now her glory, beyond all competition of [15/16] whatever name in Christendom. But to the uneducated masses of society she has been comparatively a stranger, seen but at a distance, and therefore, as compared with her just claims, little known and little loved. Such, unquestionably, has been and is the general fact; and now the question arises, Why? I do not ask for the Church's justification; she can have none: for the whole land is hers, and for ALL is she equally accountable; but I ask why, instrumentally, in the light of cause, why has she failed? With her touching services and her holy prayers; with the learning and zeal of her thousand pastors and her hundred thousand sons; with the self-denying labors of her missionaries, why has she failed to enlist the sympathies of the million in her favor, and to impress on the masses of society her own Christian stamp?
To this humiliating and searching question there is, it seems to me, a clear and definite answer. The reason is this: She has lost, or rather forgotten, through disuse, her old Church instrument of power, and the only instrument through which the masses of society, in a free country at least, are now or ever have been widely and permanently operated upon in their social, political, or religious life; and that instrument is, in one word, ORGANIZATION—the power of organized action, awakening the many through sympathy—arousing energy, inspiring enthusiasm, giving unity to movement, taking away the curse and feebleness of isolation, and making each member, however feeble in himself, feel strong through the strength of the Body to which he belongs. This, we know, in civil life, to be the secret of success; nor there alone—it is so everywhere; it is the HAND OF POWER that alone executes, so far as human agency is concerned, all wide and great designs, whether in the material or moral world. As such universal instrument, it is to be judged evil or good, not by the user, but by its use, as all things instrumental are, and belongs to the Church freely and fully, inasmuch as it belongs to the reason of man; and we may reverently add, that, in the very founding of His Church, Christ Himself gave sanction to it, when He sent forth His disciples, not solitary, but "two by two," for mutual counsel, support and sympathy. [16/17] Now, our Church exhibits in practice no such organism—therefore is she feeble over the masses. That instrument of power was dropped from her hand at the period of the Reformation, more through carelessness than intention, in compliance at best with popular prejudice, awakened into passion through the Roman abuse of it; but its loss was regretted at the time, and has been felt and acknowledged ever since by the wisest and best of her rulers. Since then it has been from time to time partially resumed, yet always under suspicion of "irregularity," "enthusiasm," or "foreign leaning;" leading the Church of England, in an unfortunate hour, to the suicidal measure of driving into schism those who on principle exercised it—Wesley, I mean, with his companions and followers, who, in their stricter life and organized discipline, were but returning, in the exercise of their Christian liberty, to the models of a primitive age; true sons of the Church, till persecution drove them into schism. Nor was Wesley, as is commonly supposed, even their restorer; he was but following a beaten track. In the year 1699, a generation before Wesley, 39 organized societies, of a similar kind, are reported as existing in London and its suburbs alone, with large extension into other chief towns of England, as Nottingham, Gloster, &c., and also widely in Ireland. Nor were all the then rulers of the English Church equally blind to the Church's true interest and duty. Bishop Compton's (London) reply when urged to put them down, was, "God forbid that I should be against such excellent designs;" and among the patrons and favorers of these Disciplinary Associations, we find many Bishops and eminent men, and that of very opposite views in other matters, as for instance, Beveridge and Tillotson, Stillingfleet and Robert Nelson, Bishops Compton and Fowler, Drs. Horneck, Jekyl and Woodward, and not the least, Samuel Wesley, the father, a man of letters and eminent piety, and holding the rank of Convocation Proctor for the Diocese of Lincoln.
I have dilated on this point, brethren, in order to dispel the illusion which connects such discipline either with Rome or [17/18] Methodism, and to exhibit it a true heir-loom of the Church. Still, however, to this inheritance of prejudice, we as American Churchmen have succeeded, and under its influence now stand; but still, too, God be thanked, free and untrammelled, to reassume, as soon as we will, the instrument which Christ sanctioned and our fathers dropped, and use it wisely and well under Church authority as a means approved, by which to bind the Church unto society and society unto the Church. My utmost hope in this matter will be gained, brethren, if in some form or other the ice be broken, and recognition given but to the principle. That step of freedom once taken, the heart and hand of the Church will do the rest, and its felt needs will give the guidance. Thus, and thus alone, will the Church's work throughout the Church's field be carried out, not fragmentarily, not by fits and starts, but steadily and efficiently—bringing it home, through the mutual sympathies of membership, to the hearts and homes of all—to the poorest and feeblest of her children, as well as to the rich, the learned, and the powerful; and thus, too, under God, will our own members, now scattered and isolated, be gathered into one, made "living stones" in our spiritual temple—Churchmen in heart and deed as well as name, and thus become the Church's true army wherewith to make aggressive inroads on the domains that surround us of Sin, Satan, and Death.
Of the conservative and constructive power of such voluntary discipline, the differing result in the history of the two contemporaries, Wesley and Whitfield, affords a memorable example. Running for a time a parallel course over the same open field, Whitfield trusted all to Natural Enthusiasm—Wesley superadded an organized discipline. The result we know. Whitfield's triumph passed with his day—as a morning cloud. Wesley's became a conquest, a wide and comparatively solid structure—gathering whole generations within it. How essential, too, such discipline is for missions among the heathen, take the judgment of the late Bishop Middleton—"The progress of the Gospel in India," saith he, "is opposed by discipline [18/19] and system; and by discipline and system alone, with the Divine blessing, can it ever make its way."
As Churchmen, then, brethren, let us not fear to adopt what is thus sanctioned, but rather let us take shame to ourselves that we have allowed that sword of the Church's strength so long to rust in the scabbard; and as its first field of labor, let us give to it, so soon as we have an acting consecrated Head to order and arrange it, that living yet dead mass of heathen ignorance, wretchedness and vice lying here at our very doors in this great city—a sight that saddens and sickens the heart of the Churchman as he sees and feels the total inadequacy of the Church as she now stands to even meet and measure the evil, much less cope with and conquer it. Let, then, I say, bands of devoted men be organized under ministerial guidance and Episcopal supervision, with their own rules of voluntary discipline, under whatever name they may be known, and with whatever freedom of action the necessities of the case may need, and with them let the Church pass over "this Jordan" that so long has kept us back. In this matter let not fears paralyze us; let not suspicions bar; let not gold be wanting. Hear and believe the words of God to Joshua—"Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage. Be not afraid; neither be thou dismayed; only be thou strong and very courageous, for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest!" Let our only fear be, lest we be too late to cut off from ourselves and our Church that entail of curses which follows duties neglected, and a brother's blood crying unto heaven.
Of another question cognate to this, and now freely abroad in our Church, it would seem forgetful not here to speak, it being pointedly a means proposed for attaining the same end, namely: widening the Church's circuit, by absorbing within it, under special conditions, many of the differing religious communities around us.
Independent of the practical question which the "Memorial" referred to presents, it is very noticeable as one of the many signs of the times, pointing to the same great end, UNION—union among Christians. [19/20] It is a cry that has gone forth so widely and so earnestly, that we may well deem it a voice from the heart of humanity. As St. Paul speaks, "it is the whole creation groaning in pain"—feeling the curse of unholy divisions, and indicating, we know not when nor how, the approach of some prophetic period, when believers shall again be, as at first, "of one heart and one mind." Regarded in such light, this "Memorial" is to be looked at reverently, lovingly and trustfully; but still as a practical question, all the more cautiously, lest we rashly anticipate (as is so often done) God's designs, and disturb the foundations on which it is given as to work out that same blessing. Cautious, I say, lest, in our zeal for comprehension, we turn charity into indifference, and liberality into license. As a safe previous question, it is well to ask ourselves whether we are already fulfilling our own duty within our own limits, and carrying out the Church as it stands in its full integrity and attractiveness before the eyes of those without; for until then, who knows the limit of our present means of influence to win over gainsayers without compromise? Let us, then, I would urge, first place ourselves right on our own foundation, and having thus done what we could, we shall then, if need be, step beyond our ancient landmarks with a firmer foot and an easier conscience; but let us first take good heed, before we borrow of our neighbor's stock, that we have not ourselves some "buried talent wrapped up in a napkin."
Yet this I say, brethren, not in condemnation of what my heart approves, and my faith waits for—some deeper unity among Christian Churches than the world has yet seen, and in which it may be—our beloved Church—may be made, God grant it! the destined instrument for pacifying, reconciling, and eventually uniting the now discordant members of Christ's mystical body. It is the Church's daily prayer—an all-embracing communion growing out of an all-embracing love—and yet is this union, till God so wills, but an ideal picture; true in the heart, true in Christ's prophetic promise, but as yet practically beyond our grasp. But yet we may begin with that which is [20/21] attainable. I mean the "all-embracing love"—preparing our hearts to receive whatever of enlargement God's loving providence may design. And here permit me to suggest the solution of what many Churchmen hold an insoluble problem. Fidelity I mean to their own Apostolic Ministry, with a charitable brotherly estimate of those without it. This is their puzzle, demanding, as they conclude, the abandonment either of principle on the one hand, or of charity on the other. In answer, let them remember that the Gospel and its blessings is a spiritual, and not a logical, question. The Christian Creed is in all points dogmatic, and involves no inferences; therefore it may contain truths apparently contradictory—irreconcilable by man, not by God—problems given to man not to solve, but in humility to receive, and to walk under them in faith and love. Of this nature may this problem be, or rather doubtless is. But again, to reconcile him to such condition, is this, I ask, the only insoluble mystery that he must receive and cannot explain in his spiritual nature? What does he make of his own double will—what of the Christian law of liberty—free, yet bound—what of the contradictory supremacies of reason and faith? So far, then, from there being no apparently contradictory laws in God's government, they seem rather to be of its essence. Man daily walks under them just as the earth on which he treads is moved by them—the contradictory laws of attraction and repulsion—and yet harmony is their result. So, too, may and should it be in the spiritual world; and as we see, in the kingdom of nature, a universal law of gravity overriding and modifying all inferior forces which yet have their own fixed laws, so, too, may it be in the kingdom of grace, the transcendental law of LOVE overriding and modifying all other laws, without at the same time in the least diminishing their absolute obligation either over ourselves or others. Now in such category stand our sincere, though erring, co-religionists in their relation to us. Condemned, yet uncondemned—law against them, conscience for them; breaking the unity of Christ's Church, and answerable for it; yet as following faithfully their own dim light, "hidden," not through their own fault, [21/22] "under a bushel"—prejudices I mean of education, custom, and venerated example—to be viewed by us not only with a brother's sympathy, but with a Christian's approval—even by him who maintains most inflexibly the stringent obligations of "Evangelical Truth and Apostolic Order."
But to turn for a moment, ere closing, to a more practical question, and one to which the circumstances of our recent bereavement cannot fail to give both point and urgency. I allude to the oft-proposed division of our over large Diocese. Into this as a canonical question, embarrassed as it is by doubts, I do not enter. I look at it solely as a question of principle. Under the light of primitive authority there can be to it but one answer. Early Dioceses were many in number, and small in extent, or if at first large, yet subdivided freely as the Church grew in strength and increased in numbers. As a matter again of Church polity, it is equally clear: for it is Churchlike as well as wise to bring as close as may be the links that bind the Bishop to his clergy and laity, and the clergy and laity to their Bishop; and it is only through the familiar and frequent intercourse of a small Diocese that the parental character of the Episcopate, which is its primitive and most beautiful feature, can be either formed or exhibited, and the ancient discipline of the Church restored. If we look again at experience to guide us—such, too, is its approval—the Church life has been ever invigorated by concentration, and to this comes lastly the touching argument of life periled by our Bishops through an amount of labor neither necessary nor expedient to the Church, too exhausting to be long continued, and too perfunctory to be permanently influential.
But, brethren, I have detained you too long. The emergency of the occasion has allowed me no time for the concentration of thoughts and feelings uppermost in my heart and mind; but however immature in their outward expression, they are yet the ripened fruits of the experience of my life—a life through God's mercy prolonged almost to its full span. But such as they are, I know you will receive them in kindness, and allow them such weight as in your judgment they deserve. [22/23] But one feeling has dictated them—that which fills all our hearts—"love for the Church," awakened tenfold this day by the sense of our bereavement. One, too, has been my wish and longing in uttering them—that out of our sorrow would grow strength and holy union, and with all our past petty disputes and differences, standing here rebuked under God's chastising hand, we, like a band of brothers gathering around a fallen parental roof tree, should unite one and all, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, casting to the winds all selfish thoughts,—unite in building up what has fallen, and in strengthening whatsoever is found weak in that spiritual house, which is the home and hope of us all—that maternal home wherein we have been born, nourished, and daily fed, and within whose holy precincts we trust, when God call us, to lie down in peace, and be gathered unto our fathers.
Going forth, my beloved brethren, in this spirit with an unbroken front, and an undoubting faith in our Church's high mission, we shall find no obstacle in our path but will yield to Churchmen thus armed, thus disciplined, and, trusting to this day's action, I will add, thus led. Let us, sons of the Church, be but as free in action, and as generous in mutual trust, as we are holy in purpose and loving in heart, and we shall go on under God and the good Leader He will give us, through the length and breadth of our land, "conquering and to conquer." Thus, and thus alone, shall we rightly interpret the words of our text—"Moses my servant is dead; therefore arise, and go over this Jordan, thou and all his people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel." Amen.