OF HER CONFIDENCE.
Printing-House Square, opposite City Hall.
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2010
THIS, dear brethren, is a sad meeting. We look around, and miss so many of our brethren with whom we took sweet counsel-some gone to their reward, others kept away by causes which threaten to undermine and destroy the most favored nation on this earth, and which have (I trust only for a short time) separated brethren who have long dwelt together in unity and peace. How different the scene presented to-day from that which filled every heart with joy and gladness at the last meeting of the General Council of the Church! It was one of the great festal days in her history. We met as brethren-members of the household of faith-without any distinction of country, or without any reference to the peculiarities of our social organization. Hundreds left their homes and their occupations to join in this happy meeting-to welcome brethren from the North and the South; and we think we can say with safety that there never was stronger evidence furnished that God was in his Church, as a Spirit of love and peace. Oh, we never can forget those happy [3/4] days of prayer and praise-those daily interchanges of christian affection-those zealous contentions for the faith as it is in Jesus--those glorious results in unitedly sending forth so many Chief Pastors, to gather into the fold of Christ his sheep which are scattered abroad-and, last of all, those fearful anxieties which oppressed our hearts when we separated, that it might possibly be the last meeting of a United General Convention!
This was the only dark shading' in the beautiful picture-drawn, I trust, by the pencil of divine love--of a happy, united, and holy Church. Alas! our anxieties have been fearfully realized-our brethren are not with us. We are in the midst of one of the most desolating revolutions that was ever written in the history of any nation on this earth. God has turned our joy into sorrow; He has permitted heavy judgments to fall upon us, and our once happy nation is: now torn with strife and contention.
My object to-day is to direct your attention--
First, to some of the causes which have turned away God's favor from us:
Secondly, to the duty of the Church at such a time;
Thirdly, to the ground of her confidence-"God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved."
With the political causes of this sad event I have nothing to do. God forbid that such discussions should ever find a place in the house of God. We consider [4/5] our troubles as the result of our sins. As a nation, we had been filled with pride and boastful pretensions. We had almost forgotten our accountability to God, and His right to rule over us; and as to the redemption wrought out for us by His beloved Son, and to which we are indebted for every blessing, it had scarcely a recognition by the public functionaries of our land. Even now, in the midst of our distress, and in our attempts to propitiate the favor of God, where do we find the name of Jesus? Not in our National or State proclamations. And yet we profess to be a Christian people! We have been placed by the side of infidels and deists, and all who deny the authority and divinity of Christ; and God has been robbed of His glory, by withholding the honor due to his Son. He has said--He will have all men honor the Son as they honor the Father. We need not, therefore, be surprised that He has made us feel our weakness, and fear the removal of our blessings!
In addition to this, we have rapidly imported the vices, habits, and customs of the old world. We have lost our simplicity and the freshness of a free and enlightened people, and imitated the folly and extravagance and vices of those who have long been practiced in the ways of sin. Hence, money has been the all-absorbing thought of men; end thousands have made haste to be rich, at the expense of their conscience and the peril and loss of their souls. The fountains of commercial intercourse have been poisoned, and have sent throughout our land their baneful and destructive stream. [5/6] Success has covered fraud and perjury and extortion; and men in all ranks of life, and in every branch of business, have adopted the fearful maxim, that the end justifies the means. Hence our good name, abroad and at home, has been tarnished, and we have lost the high reputation we once enjoyed for manly virtues and strict integrity.
Our land, also, has been filled with scoffers and infidels. In no country on the earth has infidelity found so strong a foothold. Every sort of religion of man's devising has taken, in a degree, the place of the pure and undefiled religion of Christ-and now thousands are asking the question, Who will show us any good?
Again the education and training of children have been accomplished by the neglect of all the moral restraints of the word of God, and they have grown up with enlarged capacities for evil, and with a contempt for the meek and humble virtues of the Christian character and life. The wisdom of man has been placed in opposition to the wisdom of God, and men have vainly taught that they could live and prosper without his sustaining hand.
As a consequence of such teaching, and of such influences, the domestic ties have been weakened, and at pleasure dissolved. The respect and obedience of children to parents have scarcely had a place in many households: and a race has now taken the place of the wise and the good, who know no law but the gratification of self and the advancement of their own personal interests. [6/7] God's holy day is openly desecrated; his holy name is hourly profaned; intemperance and debauchery are rapidly on the increase; and the young and the old follow the multitude to do evil.
We could scarcely conceive that so mighty and such a fearful change could have passed over any nation in so short a period. We fear not to say that, with all our boastful pretensions of religion and morality, of every man's right to do what seemeth good in his own eyes, we have, comparatively speaking, very little true piety among us: I mean, considering the many opportunities, which we as a people enjoy, of honouring and serving God.
The results, fearful as they are, and well calculated to overturn and destroy everything of lovely and good report in our land, I consider are only the natural fruits of that religion which consists in the rejection of the visible Order of Christ. I do not say that good men, who were good in spite of their fearful system, intended to bring about such sad results; but we think that the system itself has corrupted this whole nation. It would be out of place to notice, on an occasion like the present, its continued efforts of accommodation to the public mind and taste-its attempts to unite the religion of Jesus with the worldly policy and maxims of men-its substitution of human agencies and socities for the reformation of men, apaprt from the Church and gospel of Christ-its taunts and jeers at the slow and worn-out mode of God's way of purifying the heart, and of making men holy-its virtual rejection of the [7/8] sacraments and the authoritative character of the Priesthood-its want of reverence for holy things and holy days, and customs and services which have received the sanction of the wise and the good in the best and purest days of the Church. These things, and far more, have been the means of demoralizing this whole nation: our intellectual men have become refined religious philosophers, and the great mass have shaken off in a great degree, the restraints of an unreal and unsatisfying system. This has led to the unwarrantable exercise of private, judgment in the interpretation of the word of God-has made every man the judge not only of his own orthodoxy, but of his true condition in. the sight of God. Hence men have thought and believed that they have a perfect right to take or reject as much or as little of the word of God as may suit their own taste, or interfere the least with what they think to be right.
It is no wonder that, with such teaching and with such practices, the Christian world has been rent and torn asunder, and that God has brought His heavy judgments upon us, to vindicate His honor, and to make men recognize His right to rule over them. And that which is well calculated to excite our fears is, that there appears no lessening of the evil. The moral restraints which, in some degree, checked the outward exhibition of the unsanctified heart, and the effect of that teaching which makes men accountable only to their own consciences, are gradually losing their force. If we look over the community, we will find that the great majority have no law but their own will, and no motive but [8/9] the advancement of their selfish interests. Even corruption and fraud in high places fail to startle and alarm, and are only considered as a matter of course, and as falling in with the times in which we live. As might naturally be expected, all classes, from the highest to the lowest, are losing their sense of accountability to God, and are taking advantage of every opportunity to secure the things of the world, and make the most of even God's judgments upon this nation.
That there are many exceptions to this fearful state of things, none can deny. There are thousands mourning over these sad departures from the pure and holy teaching of God's word-who cry mightily to God that He would stay His hand, and turn away His wrath from us. But, with this acknowledgment, we must say they are a small number compared with those who follow the multitude to do evil.
We have already adverted to one of the great agents in bringing about such fearful results; I mean the false religion which has prevailed throughout this land. This lies at the foundation of all our difficulties, and has been the means of shaking this glorious land to its very center. It is busy now. There are hundreds in this land, professing to be the Ministers of Christ,--of the meek and lowly Saviour, and as authorized to preach His message to the world, of peace, and charity, and good will, who have for years desecrated His holy day by exciting every unholy passion in the hearts of men-stirring up strife, and contention, and discord, and thus weakening every moral restraint upon the conscience and lives of [9/10] men. Such teaching has reached the remote portions of our laud, and is passing over it as a scathing fire, destroying every bud of Christian promise, and every expectation of a. rich harvest of immortal souls. No one can fully estimate its desolating effects.
That any purifying influence can he exerted now by it means, daily experience fully disproves. Its spirit of accommodation to the spirit and maxims of the world has fully opened its doors to the latter; and the broad distinction which Christ has made between His kingdom and that of the prince of this world, cannot, now be discerned; and a fearful alliance has been made to extend the most destructive system of religion the world has ever known. We speak thus, because it has the greatest show of sanctity. It professes to change the heart by an instantaneous act, and often by a mere change of position in a religious assemblage. Its reliance is, in a great degree, upon human agencies to make the subjects of its influence holy, independent of the ordinances of Christ's house. It puts into the hands of its members the word of God as a stringed instrument to be tuned to suit their own taste, and teaches them to be accountable to no law but their own conscience. As a necessary result, it has become the parent of all the fearful heresies which have grown up among us, almost in a. night and now, families and communities are divided and torn asunder, and God's holy day becomes a witness to the wrath and strife and contention of the professed followers of Christ. And in thus speaking boldly and fearlessly for the cause of Christ, I by no means [10/11] denounce the many holy and devoted men who may be found hemmed in by this system, and who, in spite of it, exhibit the meekness and purity of the gospel of Christ; who see and recognize the evils which surround them; who have long lifted up their voices against the rapid departures from the old faith; and who now unitedly would bear their testimony to the causes which have brought the judgments of God upon us.
What, then, is the remedy for all these evils? I know of nothing but the Church of Christ and her holy teaching. God be praised, she has stood firm in all the fearful changes around her, and in all the temptations to draw her into alliance with the world. In the midst of the sad rebellion which marks the history of this nation, she has been true to the sacred trust which her Great King and Head has put into her hands. And she has been true and loyal to the powers that be, as ordained of God.
Among the first lessons she teachers her children, next to obeying God and keeping his commandments, is to honor and obey the civil authority. She daily prays that we may be preserved "from all sedition, conspiracy, and rebellion;" and at the present hour of our country's need, she comes to its aid in unitedly supplicating God that he would bless the means which are used (so far as they may be agreeable to His will) to bring back our erring brethren, and unite us again as a happy people, whose God is the Lord.
But in all these troubles she has stood aloof from all political entanglements. Her ministers (with the [11/12] fewest possible exceptions) have only redoubled their energies to preach the gospel of our blessed Lord, as the great curative agent to remove all the diseases of the heart-all the evils of our social organization, and for producing and securing harmony and brotherly affection in every part of our favored land. The Church has been made the peaceful home of her children, and she has invited all to come within her bosom, that here they can lay aside all malice, and wrath, and anger, and revenge, and learn the peaceful and purifying lessons of her Great Teacher and Head.
It is the only spot left where the passions of men are not inflamed-where unholy feelings are not called forth, and strife, and separation, and interference with the Providence of God are not made the subjects of pulpit disquisitions.
In the agitations and strife of the world the voice of God has been heard, telling of His judgments upon guilty nations-calling upon men to repent of their sins and turn to the Lord, as the means by which His wrath may be appeased and His favor procured. Men have been taught to look beyond mere secondary causes for the agents which have. disturbed our peace and are filling this once happy land with sorrow and lamentation. These are but the agents God uses to subdue the unruly wills of men, and to show them the folly of self-dependence and pride-the evil of sin and contempt of his authority.
And the influence of the Church in thus adhering to her divine mission, and in proclaiming the truth, apart [12/13] from all union with the maxims and the spirit of the world, has been felt in every portion of our country. We believe that, by the blessing of God, it long kept down the hand of rebellion against the authorities which God had placed over it. Its binding power of Christian love and affection was the last link severed in the chain which bound us together as a united people; and I have no doubt that this day there are many christian hearts, far away from us and ostensibly arrayed against us, yearning for union and communion with the Church and people of Christ. And we may ay-With safety, that thousands of prayers have been placed in the hands of our Great Mediator before the throne of God, from Christian hearts and tongues, that the influence and integrity of the Church may be preserved; that she may continue, as she has done, the faithful witness to the truth; and that no unhallowed or worldly interests may find tan entrance into her councils, but that God should be, in the midst of her, as a God of peace and love.
Now, this has been her mission. If she only continue faithful, it must, by the blessing of God, cure the evils which have desolated this land and brought the judgments of God upon us. Thus far she has, in some degree, preserved among us the truth. Her influence has been felt, and is now felt, among the wise and the good, even among those whose education and habits have separated them from us. In all parts of this land you will hear men and women thanking God that there is one Church in which peace can be found-where no [13/14] worldly or political harangue forms the subject of the teaching of the Lord's day, and where human rights and social and political equality are not urged as the great touchstone of sound religious belief, and the only sure ground of securing the favor of God. The Church has wisely left all such changes in the hands of God, and to be determined by His unerring will.
Her duty is clear. To follow closely in the path marked out by her Divine Head. To teach her children, and all who pan be brought under her influence, that this is the family through and by which men can be united to Christ. That human societies to cure and remedy the evils of the heart and of the world, are not of God, but of man. That they are only expedients to escape from the purity and holiness (through Christ) which form the only passport to His favor. That they have no promises, and no Holy Spirit to give success to effort. We believe that his Church is the place in which men are to be fitted for heaven, as well as made loyal to the Government under which the live, by obeying every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, and by respecting every right and interest of their neighbor, by the principle of holy love implanted in their hearts by the Holy Ghost. Any and every attempt to bring within her a spirit of accommodation, either to the world or to the perishing bodies around her, is high treason against her kin. She must stand fast in all her integrity, and teach her children and the world that there is but one body, as well as but one faith, one baptism, and one Lord and Father of all. Without such [14/15] teaching there can be no motive to induce men to come within her influence, and none to detach them from the errors which have led so many into grievous and damnable heresies.
And, to secure such results, and give force to her teaching, her Ministers must be men of pure hearts and holy lives. There never was a time in which they were called to live more closely with God, to catch the spirit of their divine Master, and to exhibit before the world the loveliness of His teaching and example. They must keep aloof front all secular engagements-from partaking of the spirit of the world, either in its pleasures or its gains. They must deny themselves many of the things of this life to advance the interests of the kingdom of Christ. They must be kind and courteous, seeking out the poor and the needy, and ever ready to direct poor sinners in the way of life. They must present Jesus in all simplicity, so that the poor and the unlearned may know and understand the truth; and so labor that the House of God may be kept in quietness and peace.
But the mission and influence of the Church must now, more than ever, reach her youngest members. They must be rescued from the contaminating influences of the world, by providing means for their moral training, as well as for their intellectual culture. The great effort of many professed religious teachers has been to divorce religion from the cultivation of the mind, and leave the moral powers untouched. This has led to many of the evils which I have noticed. It has [15/16] banished God from the heart. It has taught children to rely simply on their own judgment, and their sense of what is right in serving and honoring God. It has brought His word to no higher test than human judgment--our blessed Lord to be only a human being, and His teaching to be received or rejected as it may accord with the taste or spirit of the age.
The Church has too long neglected her duty in this respect. Many of her ministers and members have placed their children under such teaching and influence; and they have come into life, and entered upon its duties and cares, ignorant of the first principles of the Church of Christ, and often the bitter opponents of her holy teaching. We long for the day to arrive when every parish in the Church will have a parish school, and in which her ministers will commence the studies of each day with prayer to God; in which the catechism and the distinctive principles of the Church shall be faithfully and carefully taught.
In this way our children will be saved from the fearful effects of the religious systems of the present day, which recognize no creed, no specific faith, but place every form of religion on the same level, and as equally favored of God. It is high time that we should meet this subject, and save the thousands in our land who, without the influence and specific teaching of the Church, must fall either under the control of Rome, or be led astray by the religious philosophy of the day. The time is rapidly coming when the struggle will be between these two systems. It will be Rome or [16/17] infidelity. The former knows well the power of early religious training in the peculiarities of her faith. Hence, wherever there is a Church, there is a school. She is diligent and faithful in her care of her children. The children of the Church must be saved from these poisonous influences, or we will be called to endure even greater judgments than God has yet seen fit to send upon us. And in making these efforts the Church has the strongest motives for activity and encouragement. God is in the midst of her.
This, I notice, is the ground of her confidence. The promise of her Great Head to be with her to the end of the world, forms the great motive to stimulate her to the highest efforts. If the Church be the body of Christ, His Spirit dwells in it to give life and vigor to every part. He is with his ministers to purify their own hearts, to enlighten their minds to understand the truth, and to give it power in reaching-the hearts of sinners, and in building up His children in their most holy faith. He is with them in administering that holy ordinance which rescues children from the wrath of God and makes them the children of grace; which secures to them (all in entire reliance upon the merits of Christ) pardon for the effects of our first parents' disobedience, and makes them members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. It is present in the same ordinance to assure the penitent and believing adult, that his sins are remitted, and that he has received in his heart the gift of the Holy Ghost to begin and enable him to complete the divine life. And [17/18] in the Holy Eucharist it conveys the renowned influences of the favor of God, and enables him to feed spiritually upon the Body and Blood of his Lord.
With this aid, the continual abiding of the Lord in His holy Church, she can and ought to engage with renewed vigor in her holy work. There never was a time when her influence was more needed, and when a greater demand was made upon the energy and labor of her children. We believe that, the interests of this whole nation are involved in the efforts which she can and ought to make to save us from the just judgments of God. Thus far, she has kept alive pure and undefiled religion. She has kept away from her altars the panderers to public favor at the expense of the religion of Jesus. She has provided a peaceful home for her children, where the strife and contentions of the world cannot enter. And she stands this day before this whole nation as the great conservative body, not only to preserve in its purity the religion of our blessed Lord, but as one of the great means in the hands of God of turning aside His judgments, and in restoring peace and harmony to this afflicted land. All eyes are turned to this meeting of the Council of the Church with no little anxiety; and many prayers are ascending to the mercy-seat for the preservation of her purity; for her united efforts in the cause of God; and for her freedom from the introduction into her councils of any worldly or secular subject that might dim her beauty and lessen her influence in the world.
I trust, beloved brethren in the Lord, that the deep [18/19] responsibilities which now rest upon his Church will be felt in every heart, and that every attempt to reduce her to the level of those who have introduced discord and rebellion among us will be signally rebuked. Oh, I humbly pray, that God would touch our hearts and lips with a live coal from off his altar; that nothing shall dwell in the one, but love, to God and love to man; and nothing be uttered by the other, but words which will promote the honor and praise of her Great King! Then we can go to our work with renewed energy, and carry out the high mission of the Church, to bring the kingdoms and nations of the earth into sweet subjection to the kingdom of Jesus Christ.