The Work of Christ’s Living Body
PREACHED BEFORE THE CONVENTION
PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CHURCH,
DIOCESE OF MARYLAND
MAY 31st, 1843.
RECTOR OF ST. PETER’S CHURCH, BALTIMORE, AND
PUBLISHED BY REQUEST OF SAID CONVENTION.
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2012
THE WORK OF CHRIST’S LIVING BODY.
CONVENTION SERMON, 1843.
EPHESIANS, CHAPTER IV. VERSES 15, 16.
“But speaking the truth in love may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ; from whom the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
THE circumstances in which I stand before you now, my beloved brethren of this Convention, are, to me, peculiarly interesting and solemn. It is probably the last occasion on which I shall be permitted to meet with you as a member of this ecclesiastical council; and, in addressing you at the request of him who is over us in the LORD, I could wish, not only to speak some thing worthy of being heard, but, if it please GOD so to enable me, to utter weighty truths which may produce a permanent impression, and be reviewed with pleasure when we shall meet again, in the great day of the Church’s triumph and admission to the joy of her LORD. What themes can be more appropriate to our present circumstances than those presented in the text relating to CHRIST and his Church?
We live in an eventful age. Some of us can remember how our childish ears tingled at the tales of horror connected with that outbreak of hell, the French Revolution, and how our own country trembled under the convulsive throes of that fearful earthquake. We have witnessed the waxing and waning of many political parties in this free republic; and watched the conflicts, bloody and savage, attendant upon the revolutions and civil wars so rapidly following each other in the southern section of this continent. We have gazed upon the momentous changes in states [3/4] and kingdoms produced by the whirlwind course of the mightiest war-genius the world ever saw—who, having ascended to the zenith of power as in a chariot of fire,—sunk more rapidly than he had risen, till he whom the world was hardly large enough to contain died in captivity and weakness upon a lonely rock of the ocean. We have gazed with wonder upon the developments of science and the progress of the arts, annihilating as it were, time and space, by facilities of intercourse, and making almost every thing subservient to the interest and comfort of man. We have witnessed the rise and progress of benevolent associations, for the instruction of the ignorant and the reformation of the vicious, for the circulation of the Scriptures and tracts, and the sending forth of missionaries of the cross, whose influence has been felt not only throughout Christendom, but amidst the teeming millions of idolatrous Asia, and the savage tribes of more degraded Africa. But none of the wondrous events of the age, to which we have adverted, are invested with so deep an interest in the mind of the Christian observer, as that extraordinary movement in the religious world in which we are not only spectators but actors.
We behold in the moral world something like the spectacle which was exhibited in the natural, when in the morning of creation the Spirit moved upon the face of the waters. There is something like the breaking up of the fountains of the great deep. Life and movement are discovered amidst decrepid and decaying forms of superstition. Heresy and schism are well nigh self destroyed by the strife which they have originated. The spirit of inquiry is abroad moving over the face of chaos. A contest is going on, not only between liberty and absolute power, in the political,—but also between the wildest license and fixed authority, in the theological world. There is a conflict for the ascendancy between human reason and divine inspiration as guides in matters of religion. In this state of excitement, when men are tossed upon agitated waters and longing for a sure resting place;—[4/5] when, abandoning exploded theories, they are searching for old and stable principles, there is danger of falling into one or the other of two fatal extremes. Some, in attempting to escape from a cold, naked, rationalistic and comfortless scheme, are liable to be driven under the iron yoke of the follower of the Fisherman who sitteth on the seven hills and weareth the triple crown. While others, from dread of a fixed and showy formality, are in danger of falling back from the middle and safe ground upon a system which is not only formless but unstable, jejune, bleak, barren and spiritless. But, if the barque of truth be wrecked, of what importance is it whether it be upon the quicksand or the rock-bound shore? Her only place of safety is the midway channel, where, under the guidance of the Heavenly Pilot, she pursues her course to the haven of security and rest.
In a time of such interest and peril, every member of the Church should desire to know his proper position and duty; and with a hope of aiding you in this matter, I have selected the words of the text, “But speaking the truth in love may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ; from whom the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
If I have properly annalysed the text, the important lessons it conveys may be brought out and enforced by a discussion of these three points which we deduce from it. 1. The nature of the Christian Church as a body. 2. The union and communion, between its ministers and members and their divine Head. 3. The means to be employed for its extension and growth.
I. The nature of the Christian Church as a body. The word Church, used in various senses in the Holy Scriptures, has a far greater variety of meanings attached to it in theological writings and the ordinary language of the religious world. With [5/6] the different interpretations of which the word is susceptible in the popular usage of modern times, we have no concern on the present occasion. We know that it is often used in Holy Scripture without reference to the assemblies of Christian worshippers that met in particular houses, or that belonged to separate cities and countries:—as the Churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome or Ephesus, but including the whole body of faithful people, whatever might be the place of their abode. Thus, when it is said “the LORD added to the Church daily of such as should be saved” “CHRIST loved the Church, and gave himself for it” “the Church of the living GOD which is the pillar and ground of the truth:” these passages and others which might be quoted, do not remind us of any particular community of believers residing in one city or country, but of that great aggregate society of followers of CHRIST wherever they may dwell, who, receiving the faith, have been baptized into the name of JESUS, and walk in “the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
No one would ever draw from the inspired pages the modern notion of the Church as composed of various self-originated societies, with conflicting creeds, diverse government and discipline, with changeful worship and ordinances, adapted to the taste or humour of their capricious founders. No. The Church presented in the Bible is like Jerusalem, “a city which is at unity in itself.” There is “one LORD, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all,” even the eternal and glorious, Trinity, who as Father is “over all,” as Son “through all,” and as Spirit “in all.”
The Church, is not only a society having common interests, a city with a general charter, a kingdom having one Sovereign. These comparisons do not sufficiently illustrate its unity:—but it is one body, under the direction of one Head, animated by one vital spirit. “We, being many, are one body in CHRIST, and every one members one of another.” “We are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones.” “By one Spirit we are all baptized into [6/7] one body.” These passages of Scripture relate to the “blessed company of all faithful people;” that which is called in the Apostles’ creed “the Holy Catholic Church.” To this universal Church the inspired writers refer when they speak of the body of CHRIST. For as in the human body there are many members; so is it in this spiritual body. The Christian communities planted by Apostles and Apostolic men in the early ages in different and distant countries, and the Churches existing in modern times, holding the one faith, the one Baptism, the one communion, whether in Europe, Asia, or America, are but different members of the same great body. And, all faithful individuals belonging to these different branches, are not only members of the body but also enjoy spiritual union with its living Head.
A question of deep interest and much agitated in our day is, whether the ministry which CHRIST instituted, is a part of His Church, and essential to its being—or only something superadded to it, as important to its perfection? The decision of this question, as it appears to me, should be governed entirely by the facts connected with the institution and early history of the Church of CHRIST. If the Church was originally established, and existed for any length of time, without a ministry, then it may do so now—and a ministry of divine appointment is no essential part of its constitution. If, however, a ministry was instituted from the beginning, and through its instrumentality the Church was planted and propagated, and believers added to the LORD, then the ministry must be essential to the being of a church, since without it there could be no admission to membership in the body of CHRIST. Now what is the historical fact? Our LORD JESUS CHRIST called the twelve Apostles not only to be attendants upon his ministry, but to be the founders and propagators of His Church. None could be admitted to the Church but by holy Baptism, and there was no Christian Baptism until our LORD commissioned the Apostles, saying “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature; Go, make disciples of [7/8] all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” They were the holy seed, from whence has sprung the harvest of the universal Church. They preached the word, sinners were converted, the converts and their households were added to the Church by baptism—and thus by ministerial intervention has the Church been propagated from that day to the present. How can the flock be protected and fed without pastors? How can the edifice rise without builders? How can the Church continue to exist, whether in a perfect or defective state, without that order of men which is essential to its extension and growth? On this point St. Paul speaks in no equivocal language when he says—“GOD hath set in the Church—first, Apostles; secondarily, Prophets; and thirdly, teachers; (1 Cor. xii. 28.) or in this chapter, when he says, “He” (Christ,) “gave some, Apostles; and some, Prophets; and some, Evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of CHRIST.”
In the divinely instituted ministry we behold the representatives of CHRIST acting in His name; and by delegated authority from Him; their official acts are sanctioned by his confirmation, and rendered, by his blessing, instrumental in the salvation of souls and the edifying of His Church. But while we firmly adhere to this principle, as essential to a right appreciation of the sacerdotal office, we must no less firmly resist the impious pretensions of that proud prelate, who, in utter contempt of the equality which CHRIST established in the Apostolic college, tramples upon the heaven-derived rights of his brethren—“and sitting in the temple of GOD—showing himself as if he were GOD,” assumes the honor of CHRIST’S vicegerent upon earth, and demands homage as visible head of the Church Catholic. Against these arrogant pretensions—under which so many abominable superstitions and heresies find shelter, we should never cease to protest with the fearless honesty and boldness becoming Christian [8/9] men, jealous of the honor of “Him who is head over all things to the Church—which is His Body.” HIM alone we acknowledge and adore as Head of the Church. Head, not only as its founder and original teacher, but as the fountain of authority, by whose will it is controlled, as the limbs of the body are governed by the head—as its ever-present, animating guide—as the unfailing source of that gracious influence and blessing upon which it is dependent for its prosperity and vigor.
As in the human body there are various limbs and senses, all having their appropriate uses and all essential to the perfection of our physical frame, yet some more honorable in station and performing more important services than others, so is it in the Church. There are not only officers and members, but various grades of office, yet all important in their places, and essential to the perfection of the body. There may be in the human body a deaf ear, a blind eye, or a paralised hand,—yet presenting the appearance of life, and holding its appropriate station in the body, but not performing its proper office, because not deriving vital power from the head. So there may be officers or members in the Church who contribute not to its edification or growth, and are perfectly useless and lifeless;—because destitute of vital union with its Spiritual Head. As by means of the nerves and veins and arteries, the joints and sinews and muscles, the life, which has its chief seat in the head and heart, is diffused through all the limbs of the human system, so by means of faith, and love, and prayer, through the word and sacraments, the influence of spiritual life, which originates in CHRIST, infuses strength and nourishment and growth into every part of his mystical body. Let none of us be content with visible membership in the Church of CHRIST, but strive in addition to this, to maintain living union and spiritual communion with its glorious and adorable Head. To this point we now briefly advert.
II. The union and communion between the Ministers and members of the Church and its Divine Head. Many of us, [9/10] my brethren, hold official stations in the Church of CHRIST. GOD has highly honored us in calling us to the work of the ministry. Who are we, and what our father’s house, that we should be made ambassadors for CHRIST and stewards of the mysteries of GOD! But shall we be content with bearing that high commission which would even add dignity to angels—which authorises us to treat with our fellow men upon the great concern of reconciliation with their offended Maker—and to affix those divine seals which confirm and assure the promises of his covenant of grace to repentant and believing souls! Shall we be content to be used as instruments of conveying grace to others, while we remain strangers to that grace ourselves? To be builders with GOD while we form no part of the spiritual edifice! To be outwardly appointed to office, while destitute of that inward anointing which is needful to make us wise and faithful ministers of the New Testament! The outward commission, indeed, gives validity to our official acts, as it did to those of Judas—but something more than ordination is essential to a living and efficient ministry. “Wo be to the man who takes the vows of ministerial dedication but has no reason to trust that he is inwardly moved by the HOLY GHOST to take upon him the work and office of the ministry!” Wo be unto him who undertakes to guide others in the path to Heaven while not walking in that path himself! It is not enough to satisfy my conscience, that CHRIST’S presence and blessing are promised to the ministry at large. I must enjoy his presence in my own soul, by faith, and ensure by fervent prayer his blessing upon my individual labours. Would I be instrumental, like St. Paul, in quickening others to newness of life, I must myself be partaker of the blessing, and be able to say like him, “I am crucified with CHRIST, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but CHRIST liveth in me; and the life which I live in the flesh, is by the faith of the Son of GOD, who hath loved me and given himself for me.” Or with St. John, “what our eyes have seen, and our ears have heard, and [10/11] our hands have handled of the word of life, the same declare we unto you; that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son JESUS CHRIST.” We must not only be united to CHRIST by the chain of Apostolical succession, thus insuring validity to our official acts—but we must also be united to Him by the bond of faith and holy communion, so that all our official acts may not only be sanctioned by his authority, but begun, continued and ended in him, accompanied by the blessing of his grace and the power of his Holy Spirit. Thus in leading the devotions of the people—we should “pray with the spirit and with the understanding also.” In preaching the word, we should preach in demonstration of the spirit and of power; and in the discharge of all our duties show that we live by the Spirit and in the Spirit. Thus united to CHRIST our living Head—habitually dependent on his grace, and feeling that without him we can do nothing—we shall receive out of his fulness grace to help in every time of need. We shall realize that He who dwells in and animates the Church, as the soul does the body, dwells in our hearts by faith; that he fulfils to us the promise, Lo! I am with you always—not only by sanctioning our official acts, but by accompanying them with unction and efficacy. O brethren, let us never forget that it is only by CHRIST living in us and working through us, that we are made able and successful ministers of the New Testament.
2. As Ministers of the Gospel should not rest content with an outward official commission unaccompanied by an inward anointing from the Holy One—nor be satisfied with the regular perfunctory discharge of sacerdotal acts without realizing the spiritual presence of the Master in their own Souls, and his blessing resting upon their labours to give them efficacy,—so neither should members of the Church suppose that their ecclesiastical privileges, their sacramental union with the body of the Redeemer, will, of itself, insure all the great ends of their high calling. They must not only be baptized into the one Body, but [11/12] be quickened, renewed, animated by the one Spirit which pervades it. To what purpose is it that we belong to the Holy Catholic Church, if we partake not in the Communion of saints? We are to be saved not in virtue of our membership in that Church which is compared to a net in which good and bad fishes are alike drawn to the shore—and to a field in which the wheat and tares are growing together for the harvest; but as spiritual members of the Church, united to its divine Head, by a living faith, which works by love, purifies the heart, and overcomes the world. Christians are saved not in their aggregate and associated, but in their individual capacity, as penitent believers in the Lord Jesus Christ; for whatever be our professions and privileges, except we repent we must perish, and he that believeth not, shall be damned. We may be thankful indeed for the “washing of regeneration,” but what will it avail if we have not “the renewing of the Holy Ghost?” For, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away, and behold all things have become new,” and “except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.” To what purpose is it that we approach the altar and receive the consecrated symbols, if we have not faith to discern the Lord’s Body, to feed upon Him in our hearts with thanksgiving, and to realise that highest of Christian privileges, that “He dwells in us and we in Him!” Ah! friends and brethren, rest not, I beseech you, in the form, without the power of godliness; be not content with a name to live, while spiritually dead. Think of the fearful condition of those who though branches of the vine, are decayed and sapless; who though limbs of the body, are paralised and dead. Rest not without union to the living Head by a living faith. Think of that day when the redeemed shall come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God, but some of the children of the kingdom shall be cast into outer darkness. [12/13] Think of the astounding repulse that will be addressed to mere nominal professors. “When once the Master of the house is risen up and shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without and knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us—and he shall say, depart from me, I never knew you. Then shall ye begin to say, hast Thou not taught in our streets, have we not ate and drank in thy presence,—have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name done many wonderful works, but he shall say depart from me, 1 never knew you ye workers of iniquity.”
III. Having thus considered the Church as one body, of which JESUS CHRIST is the Head, and shown how unspeakably important it is that its ministers and members should be individually united to the Head by a living faith, and sanctified by the same Spirit by which the whole body is animated and governed, we pass on to speak of the means by which the growth and extension of the Church are promoted.
Like the human body, to which it is compared, the Church of CHRIST does not attain its growth at once, but passes through infancy and childhood to the full vigour and maturity of manhood. “It must grow up into Him in all things, who is the Head, even Christ.” Under the Divine blessing, “the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, to the edifying of itself in love.” Here it is evidently implied that all the living members of the Church, in the exercise of their appropriate functions, contribute to the growth of the entire body. The ordinances and the ministry have a special agency in this work. They are given “for the edifying of the Body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of GOD, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of CHRIST.”
Various figures are employed in the New Testament to illustrate the growth and extension of the Church of GOD. “It is like [13/14] leaven which a woman hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” “It is like a grain of mustard seed—which when it is sown in the earth, is the least of all seeds, but afterwards becomes a great tree, so that the fowls of the air lodge in its branches.” It is like a temple, whose foundation was laid by the Apostles, and ever since the edifice has been rising by the addition to it of “lively spiritual stones,” and it will progress, till “the top stone is brought forth with shoutings of grace, grace unto it!”
The growth of the Church consists not only in the advancement of its own members in faith, holiness, and love, but also in its aggressive movements upon the world, the conversion of sinners through its instrumentality, and the adding unto it of such as shall be saved. CHRIST gave Himself a ransom for all.—He has commanded that the Gospel should be preached to every creature. We must go into all the world and claim the redeemed inhabitants of the nations as the purchased inheritance of the Son of GOD:—and never will the true theory of the Church Catholic be realised, till all kindreds and tribes are comprehended in its wide embrace, and the Redeemer’s kingdom shall extend from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.
The work of conversion is the work of GOD, and the Church is extended only as GOD dwells in and works through her, by the agency of the Holy Ghost. But He works not by miracle and direct interposition, but through the instrumentality of his own appointment. The army of the cross under the guidance of the captain of our salvation is to achieve the subjection of the dominion of darkness; and the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through GOD to the pulling down of strong holds.
How then are we, my brethren in the ministry, to effect our part in the edification of the Church and the conversion of the world? All the duties of our high function have a tendency to these glorious ends:—but pre-eminent among them, as if including all others, and giving to them all their efficacy, is that specially noticed in the text—”speaking the truth in love.”
 It is by the sincere milk of the word that infants in grace are nourished to maturity and vigour, and the disciples of CHRIST are sanctified by the truth, and grow in grace as they grow in the knowledge of their LORD and SAVIOUR. By “the word of truth GOD begets men anew according to his own will.” It is the incorruptible seed by which sinners are born again. The wonders accomplished in the Apostolic age, in confounding the speculations of philosophy, subverting the temples of idolatry, planting the cross in Jerusalem, in Antioch, in Ephesus, bearing it onward in defiance of all opposition, till it waved in triumph upon the palaces of the Caesars, were so many illustrations of the power of truth: the disciples went every where, preaching the word, and the LORD went with them, confirming the word by signs following.
In this day, when there is a disposition on the part of some to depreciate the ordinance of preaching, under the pretext of exalting the sacraments, we must bear in mind that they both rest on the same foundation, and emanate from the same authority. He who commanded us to baptise, commanded us also to preach the Gospel; and the sacraments do but illustrate and apply, the same word of truth which is proclaimed by the living teachers, and without that teaching, they would be alike unmeaning and powerless. “We preach CHRIST crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but to them that are called, whether Jews or Greeks, CHRIST the power of GOD and the wisdom of GOD.” And whatever may be the idle speculations of men, it remains an infallible truth that “by the foolishness of preaching GOD saves them that believe.”
But if we would preach effectually, we must preach “the truth in love.” And what is the truth? In answer to this question, I need not go through the Holy Scriptures—for the purpose of analyzing their contents and presenting in appropriate order the great truths which they reveal. The Church—”the pillar and ground of the truth”—[15/16] has done this to our hand, and we verily believe that the doctrines which she inculcates in her Liturgy, creeds, articles and homilies, are faithfully deduced from the sacred volume, and are but the echo of its infallible teachings. Those doctrines are adapted to humble the sinner, exalt the Saviour, and promote holiness in the world. With regard to man’s condition as a sinner, we must teach that “original sin is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man, whereby he is very far gone from original righteousness—and that in every man born into the world it deserveth GOD’S wrath and damnation.” With regard to the great and interesting point of justification, we must teach that men “are accounted righteous before GOD only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST, by faith, and not for our own works and deservings; wherefore that we are justified by faith only is a very wholesome doctrine—and full of comfort.” With regard to good works that, “although they have no merit of themselves to put away sin—nor endure the severity of GOD’s wrath, yet they do necessarily spring out of a true and lively faith—so that by them faith is ascertained as a tree is known by its fruits.” These doctrines, which are of the essence of Christian truth, and lie at the foundation of the Gospel scheme, are all connected with the cross of CHRIST, and entered into the view of the Apostle when he said, “I determined to know nothing among you save JESUS CHRIST and him crucified.” Thee we must preach, or we preach not the Gospel; these men must know, or they cannot be saved. These we must inculcate as they stand opposed to the merit mongering of the Papists—the proud presumption of Pelagians, and the bold licentiousness of Antinomians. But is it enough that we hold forth the divine Redeemer in the riches of His condescension and grace, in the merit of His atonement, the perfection of His righteousness—as the only foundation of hope—the only author of salvation to fallen man? No. This is not the whole truth. Not only is man so guilty that he can never be justified except it be “freely by GOD’s grace, [16/17] through the redemption that is in CHRIST JESUS.” But he is also polluted and helpless—so that “he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own efforts or good works to faith and calling upon GOD—we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to GOD, without the grace of GOD by CHRIST preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will.” [Articles of Religion from 9th to 12th.]
It is an essential, but too much neglected, part of the teaching of truth to proclaim the grace of the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver of life. To dwell upon His gracious office in convincing of sin, subduing the enmity of the heart, renewing it after the divine likeness and image—giving strength for the duties and conflicts of the Christian life—blessing to us all the means of grace, and thus making us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
Such is a brief epitome of the truth as it is in JESUS—these doctrines of grace are written as with a sun-beam in the formularies of the Church—and taught so plainly in the Bible that he who runs may read. These are the doctrines which, preached by the lips of Apostles,—proved mighty through GOD, to the conversion of Jews and Gentiles. These are the doctrines, which proclaimed with trumpet tongues by the Reformers—waked up a slumbering world. These are the doctrines which have ever been cherished as the seeds of life by the Church Catholic—and vindicate her claim to that high distinction she bears as “the pillar and ground of the truth.”
The truth of GOD must ever be held in connexion with the Church of GOD. It is at once her support and her adornment. She is the tree of life, which bears those leaves of truth that are for the healing of the nations. Isolated truths may be found, scattered here and there, in a state of disconnexion with the Church, but they have been stolen from her—and stripped from the living tree, they soon lose their vitality and their sanitary [17/18] power. But truth in all its beauty, integrity, and fair proportions, is found only in union with the Church.
“But Truth is absolute and whole, one heart,
One soul, one spirit, all in every part.
Her vesture Truth divides not; she bestows
All on her votaries, nothing on her foes.
Plunderers! for favorite truths who spoil Truth’s stem!
Alas for you—those truths—alas, for them!
Torn from the tree, ere long they lose their bloom,
Poor faded chaplets on the spoiler’s tomb;
And of their leaves decaying or decayed,
The poison draughts of future times are made.”
The doctrine and the fellowship of the Apostles should go together now, as they did in primitive days. Both are parts of the same revealed truth; both are inculcated by the same Divine authority. I protest against the unhallowed attempts, now made in different quarters, to place the evangelical system and the church system in a state of separation and antagonism. Men might as well attempt to separate the soul and the body, and represent them as incapable of united existence. They might as well undertake to demonstrate that the love and enjoyment of freedom are inconsistent with those fixed rules and salutary provisions of constitutional law by which our civil liberties are secured. Without the evangelical system, the church system would not be worthy of preservation—and without the church system, the evangelical system cannot be preserved in its integrity and purity.
What! separate Truth and the Church! represent them as being independent of, and even opposed to each other! Is not GOD the Author of the Church as well as of the Gospel? Did He not appoint the former to be the keeper and the witness of the latter? To be the candlestick in which the light of truth should ever shine, that it might thus prove the instrument of illumination to the world? “What GOD hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” In this age of latitudinarianism and excitement, when superstition and tyranny on the one hand, and false doctrine and schism on the other, [18/19] are contending for the mastery of the human mind—we are especially called upon to maintain, against the fierce opposers which assail us on either hand—the Church of CHRIST in her primitive purity and integrity, with her sound faith, her authorized ministry, her pure worship, her effectual sacraments, as the ark provided for shipwrecked souls—the Divinely appointed instrument for the enlightenment and conversion of the world.
This Gospel of GOD, protected, preserved, proclaimed, in and by the Church of GOD, is the truth which we have been ordained to preach. But what is to be the spirit of our teaching? The manner of our teaching is scarcely less important than the matter of it. We must not only inculcate the truth as it is in JESUS, but do it in the spirit of JESUS, which was the spirit of love. “Teaching the truth in love.” Do we aim at that which is the paramount end of all preaching, the conversion of sinners? Our entreaties, warnings and appeals, must go forth like a burning stream from the warm fountain of a loving heart, to melt down their obstinacy and rebellion. By harsh reproaches and untender threatenings of wrath, we only increase their obduracy;—but resistance gives way when we proclaim in their ears the grace of redemption and the offers of pardon, in the same spirit which glowed in the bosom of the Master, when weeping over the guilty city, he exclaimed, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen doth gather her chickens under her wings!” Would we convince gainsayers, and reclaim them from their errors? This end is not to be compassed, by returning railing accusations, and harshly censuring their faults, but in tenderness for our erring brethren, we must “in meekness reason with those that oppose themselves, if GOD, peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth, that they may be saved.”
The cause of the Church is to be promoted—not by the proud spirit of boastfulness, with its ceaseless cry, “The temple of the [19/20] Lord—the temple of the Lord are we,”—but by the effective exhibition of meekness, benevolence, and other graces of the Spirit. Opponents are to be won over not by harsh and censorious condemnation of their errors, and by ringing the changes upon the talismanic words “Anti-Christ, schism, heresy, fanaticism,”—but by the fascination of a holy life—or by the skilful use of the fair weapons of truth, wielded by the hand of charity.
The Church needs not men of cold and unfeeling natures who, with the keen and bitter spirit of controversy, will defend the established dogmas of ancient orthodoxy; but men warmed with the love of CHRIST and of souls, who will enforce upon the conscience and the heart no less than the understanding, the living principles of energetic evangelism.
The warfare in which she is engaged requires not only leaders and officers, who can plan a campaign, and accurately define the appropriate station and duties of every regiment and company, but men of warm hearts and bold hands, who will fall upon the motley ranks of the enemy, and carry forward the banner of the cross conquering and to conquer.
And if love be so important in the advocacy of truth, as it has a bearing upon the extension of the Church among those that are without, in the conducting of her aggressive movements; how much more important is it to the wholesome internal growth, “the edifying of itself in love?” If the divisions in the Christian world at large prove a most serious obstacle to the extension of our holy religion, so I am persuaded there is no impediment to the growth of our branch of the Christian Church, at all comparable to that which arises from dissensions among ourselves. And dissensions about what? About matters of principle, fundamental doctrines of faith? No. We devoutly bless GOD, that with regard to these there is and must be a substantial agreement. For, we all assent to the same articles, repeat the same venerable creeds, use the same Liturgy, and are bound together by the same sacraments, ministry and discipline.
 Our differences are about matters of opinion rather than doctrine, about inferences rather than principles; inferences too, from acknowledged principles, which have a bearing upon others rather than ourselves; opinions, about which there may exist wide latitude, without any breach of charity, or any diversity of faith.
Have we not too much of the spirit which St. Paul so severely reproved in the Church of Corinth, when one said, “I am of Paul, and another, I of Apollos, and a third, I of Cephas?” Do we not boast ourselves of party names, and flaunt in party livery? One says, “I am a low Churchman,” and another, “I am a high Churchman,” a third, “I am a Catholic,” and a fourth, “I am a Protestant.” Is CHRIST divided? Were we baptised into any of these names? Is it not enough that we call and profess ourselves Christians and Churchmen? Are we not too prone to indulge a censorious spirit, and to judge our brethren? Is it not too common for some to say of a brother who is faithful to the great principles of evangelical truth, zealous for the conversion of sinners, and diligently using, in season and out of season, means which he believes the Church allows for the extension of her borders—”He may be a very good man, and a successful minister, but he is no Churchman?” And on the other hand, are there not others who are too prone to say of a brother who attaches much importance to the constitution, forms, and sacraments of the Church—”He may be a good Churchman, but he preaches not the doctrines of the Gospel, and if not a mere formalist in religion, is half a Papist?” May GOD of his infinite mercy, forgive all our past errors and sins, and henceforth incline us as children of the same family, members of the same household, to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace!
We have no time to spend in domestic broils, no energies to waste in family quarrels. All our time belongs to GOD, all our energies should be consecrated to the edifying of the Church and the conversion of the world.
The recent death of a brother, faithful and beloved—who has been removed from successful labor to blissful reward, reminds us that we must soon give account of our stewardship. May we, like him, be found watchful—holding the truth in love; that we may render our account with joy and not with grief. [The Rev. Wm. F. Chesley.]
And while the clergy, as a band of brothers, thus strive together for the faith of the Gospel—Let our brethren of the laity remember, that, as members of the mystical body of the Redeemer, they also must do their part for its growth and extension. By your fervent prayers, by the regular contribution of a portion of your wealth, by your cordial support and encouragement of those who are over you in the LORD, and by the cultivation of holiness in heart and life, you may be efficient co-workers with us and with GOD in the great concern of human salvation.
In taking leave of this Diocese to enter upon the distant field and higher ministry to which it has pleased GOD to call me, “my heart’s desire and prayer for you is,” that you may be preserved in faith, holiness, and unity. “Only let your conversation be as becometh the Gospel of CHRIST, that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel.”
O! how blessed and glorious will that day be, when all shall feel and act, that, as partakers of the same holy communion, we are one fold, one loaf, and one bread! It will prove to the unbelieving world, like life from the dead. It will be followed by a fulfilment of our Master’s prayer, “THAT THEY ALL MAY BE ONE, AS WE ARE ONE, THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT THOU HAST SENT ME.”