Three Guardians of Supernatural Religion
by the Reverend Morgan Dix
New York: Edwin S. Gorham, 1901
OUR subject carries us to-day to a consideration of the next of those three agents by which God has ordered that the truth concerning the supernatural order shall be kept in the mind and heart of manthe Church, the Kingdom not of this world, One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, noted as the witness and keeper of the Faith, and the Mother of the Redeemed. Of her, GLORIOSISSIMA CIVITAS DEI, may I have grace to speak as I ought to speak.
The Bible is not a book like other books.
The Church is not a society like other societies.
If it were possible by dint of criticism to eliminate the supernatural element from our sacred Scriptures, their sanctity would depart from them, as the Shekinah departed from the Temple; and the Book, as we now receive it, would be lost as completely as the books which Tarquin rejected and the Sibyl burnt before his careless eyes. Let us consider what would become of the Church if the supernatural element should be eliminated from her system, and she were brought into the line of natural power and influence; if, instead of a divinely organized and conducted institution she were, or proved to be, after all, a society of human origin, carried on for secular uses, and managed by men only, without commission or authority from above this world.
To speak first of the reason why; to account for the existence of the Church. The language used by our Lord in speaking of the Sabbath may be applied to the Church. We say that the Church was made for man, and not man for the Church. To man, when first fitted for the knowledge and enjoyment of God, was proposed a supernatural end. That is the beginning of theology. And the Church is an organization founded for the purpose of keeping that end always before him, and enabling him to attain it, and so complete his destiny as an immortal being.
Therefore the Church idea, pure and simple, excludes temporal ends and objects, and dealing with the spiritual and supersensual, is concerned primarily about the things of God.
It is not the object of the Church to teach men anything which can be learned by the use of their natural powers; therefore the Church is not a school of philosophy or science, nor was it intended that she should interfere with the work of science and philosophy within their legitimate spheres.
It is not the object of the Church to modify or change social conditions, to advance civilization, nor to help men to the attainment of physical comfort, temporal advantages, wealth, health, or material prosperity. These things, relating to our natural state, are outside the range of Church existence. They are proper objects of pursuit, and men who have been enlightened and elevated by the spiritual forces of the Kingdom will be the better qualified for success and prosperity in the world while yet they sojourn here; but the Church does not propose them as objects of pursuit under her guidance; nay, though destitute of all these things, and poor in everything but faith and love, men may be rich and abounding in the fulness of the Kingdom. The Church has no direct concern with men except as the heirs of an immortal life, and pilgrims who seek a country beyond that from which they have been led forth. Everything in her polity, principles, and practical working refers to and aims at trans-terrestrial, supra-mundane ends; all begins, proceeds, terminates on parallels and meridians drawn about and running up to the throne of the Heavenly King. If this primary truth had been kept in mind from the beginning, the aspect of Christendom would have been very different from that which it presents to-day,
"By schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed."
I know with what disgust these statements will be received wherever it is held that the Church should leave her proper field, and enter those of politics, social reform, and domestic economy; that her mission is mainly that of a mutual benefit society, a school of ethical culture, or a motor in the work of the elevation of the lower classes. But it must be held for truth that wherever the leaders in the Church sink her spiritual character, wholly or in part, and direct her energies towards temporal and secular ends, however valuable and attractive, they undermine her health and enfeeble the circulation of her heart. They are rewarded with none of those fruits which they might have reaped in the field which is the world. They see, as the result of their labors, neither the conversion of the individual soul nor the prosperity of society.
The Lord, best qualified to speak correctly of His position and institutions, said, "My kingdom is not of this world." That is its true, its only true description: it is the "Kingdom of Heaven." Charities, benefits, helps, improvements in man's condition will follow and cluster around it, as the proselytes and Gentiles were admitted to an outer court or two in the Temple; but these are not of the essence of the Church's life. All the evils that have come upon herand sore and heavy they areare the outcome of forgetfulness of the primal truth about her nature, of confusing the two kingdoms, of making the Kingdom of Heaven a kingdom of this world. Sometimes her rulers have assumed the state and splendor of temporal princes, and immersed themselves in secular concerns, for which sad blunder there may have been the excuse that they were forced into it by civil revolution and changes in governments, by incursion of foreign foes hostile to Christianity, or by the decline and downfall of the powers which once kept the world in order and stayed the hand of violence and crime; but the final result was corruption in doctrine, discipline, and life. Such unhappy developments occurred in the days of the long ago. To-day we see the same blunder repeated, though in a modern fashion, in the proposal of temporal advantages and worldly betterment and prosperity as the chief concern of men, and dubbing philanthropic schemes with the title of an improved religion; of which inexcusable error follow in their course a growing indifference to the Gospel, a denial of the value of heavenly rewards, a rejection of the Kingdom and the King, and a loud cry for something new of which the description shall read, as the ringer of Anti-Christ writes it large and clear, "My kingdom is only of this world."
To develop this subject and bring out clearly the relation of the Church to the supernatural order, we must consider these four things in her: the doctrine, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers. It is a venerable and an apostolic summary, and sufficient for our purpose. Under every head the supernatural is implied, and this in each is held, defended, and realized to us, and to so much of society as will hear and follow. The dogmatic faith of the Church, the government of the Church, the sacramental rites of our religion, and the Liturgy represent, assert, contain, impart powers and riches not of this world, but of the world to come. And it seems to me that it should be accounted an unspeakable privilege and honor to be in trust with things such as these and to be set apart to present them to the age in which we live.
First, of the Doctrine. It is contained in the Creedsthose Creeds which have been for ages in use everywhere throughout the Christian world. The first word in each is the word "CREDO." It is understood, if not formally repeated, before every separate affirmation in the venerable formularies, "I believe." How great the import of that word! It is as much as to say, "I do not see, I do not understand." Of what can such a word be used, except of things beyond the range of sight, beyond the process of man's understandingin short, beyond the natural order?
Hope is implied here also, and love; so that to say, "I believe," is like saying, "I assent to the mystery of God, and as I hope for salvation, I do so confess; and I love to have it so. I love the truth, whatever it be, which I know as yet by faith only, because it is hidden from my eyes." The statements, to every one of which in order that powerful and suggestive word is prefixed, cannot be affirmations on subjects which men could have studied out and learned for themselves, nor yet to any proposition which can be proved by logic or mathematics, or subjected to verification by any means available for the purpose in our laboratories or workshops; but they are statements of facts communicated to us, because it was for our highest interests to know them, and because we should never have known them if left to ourselves. If the supernatural element could be strained out of the Creeds, there would be nothing left to which the words, "I believe," could be applied; they would become mere verbiage, of a very objectionable order; a string of propositions, composed by men, out of their own heads, liable to revision, correction, modification, or cancellation, like the current information of the day, and yet pronounced in pompous style, as one might use the catchwords of a charlatan, or utter obsolete phrases for such pleasure as may be derived from listening to their antiquated ring.
And here we come upon a topic vital to the timesthe widespread distrust of Creeds; the very name is distasteful to the public ear. What does this mean? At the great Missionary Conference held in the city of New York in the spring of the year 1900, a minister of repute harangued the audience, at a crowded meeting, in a furious invective against Creeds, with the cry, ''Sweep them away! They obscure the truth and hide Christ from the world." The sudden and lamented death of that infatuated gentleman very soon afterwards confirmed a suspicion that he spoke under abnormal cerebral excitement, which carried him beyond the bounds of responsible speech; but the tone and temper were characteristic of these times.
What does this mean? What light does it cast on the effort to drive Supernatural Religion out of the world? How shall we explain the angry sarcasm, the scoffing contempt with which the men of the earth, and even those of whom better might be expected, refer to Christian dogma and Catholic theology? Is it the result of an impression that there is no certitude in articles of faith, no clear knowledge on the points mentioned in the Creed, and that in religion everything ought to be left at loose ends? What is meant by a dogma that the word should thus excite to anger and disgust? I doubt if another could be mentioned so offensive to modern ears. And yet a dogma is simply a statement of fact, certified by competent authority, and proposed for application wherever needed. Every science has its dogmas. That in a right-angled triangle the square of the hypothenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides is a fact announced by the geometrician, and accepted on his authority by us, who, though our lives depended on it, would be unable to demonstrate the proposition. And so of other sciences.
Are there, then, no similar propositions in religion, no facts declared by authority, and to be accepted whether we can demonstrate them or no? Let us take, as the one supreme illustration, our Divine Master, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. One day, while here on earth, He proposed a question about Himself: "Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am?" And St. Peter made answer in language which is nothing if not dogmatic, "Thou art the Anointed, the Messiah, of prophecy, the Christ, the Son of the living God."1 It was a plain answer to a plain question. It included the Prophetic element, the Priesthood, the Royalty of Christ, the relation of the Son of God to God His Father, the Almighty and Eternal I AM.
Does the world ever ask questions about the same inscrutable Person now? And if so, are we obliged to sit in silence and make no answer, or go off into glittering generalities about influences and sympathies and altruism, and Christs that are to be? I affirm that the Christ of Catholic dogma, the Christ of theology, is the only true Christ; and in saying so I assume that it is possible and necessary to give a description of Him in simple language, and that without such description we cannot know Him in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life. If by the word "Christ" is meant a thought, a sentiment, but not a personal being; an idea only, but not a being with a history and annals; no more than an inspiring motive, a character sketch which it were well to appreciate and study; a formless power floating about somewhere in the atmosphere, and acting on the springs of conduct as warmth on the body or light on the eyes, then, of course, Christ cannot be the Christ of dogma. It is impossible to express in personal terms such things as sentiments, aspirations, and influences, felt, as the air is felt, or constraining as the law of gravitation constrains, productive of holy desires and good counsels, but exclusive of personal relationships.
But if by Christ we mean One like unto us, it must be possible to give a description of Him, which description to be intelligible must take the form of dogmatic propositions; that is to say, of statements of ascertained facts concerning Him. Moreover, if Christ be not man only, but more than man, the description must include the differences between Him and us; and if there be aught peculiar or unusual in His being, nature, origin, birth, conditions of existence, and acts, it must be possible to give an account of Him which will cover these points so far as they relate to our fortunes and destiny. The items of such a description are what we call dogmas, and the entire description makes up dogmatic theology, and the Christ so described is the real Christ, and none other is true.
For our protection, also, is dogma needed. We have been assured that in the latter days there are to be many Christs, false Christs, Anti-Christs; pretenders, untrue images and reflections, shining like parahelia about the sun. It is contrary to reason that we should have been warned against such fallacious phantoms and counterfeits, but left destitute of means to discriminate between the false and the true; and so again we need dogma for our defence against errors so specious that they might deceive the very elect. The knowledge of Christ, and the ability to discern between Him and imitators of Him, depend on our possession of clear and distinct information about Him, somewhat such as we possess about ourselves.
Yet simple as these principles seem to be, there is violent objection to our claim that we have such information, and to the terms in which it is conveyed. Again I ask, why should this be? And how are we to account for the contemptuous tone in which men speak of the Christ of the Catholic Creed? The explanation is clear. The age will brook no authority; it wishes to get rid of God and His Church, and to be free to worship its own gods. And so the Christ whom we worship and adore as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, must be evaporated into a subjective impression in thought and an impersonal moral influence, included among the products of evolution and development, and so detached from His hold on the soul and spirit of man. The attempt will not succeed. The mock suns may shine a while, but they will disappear and fade away. The True Sun of Righteousness will remain in its place; and in terms of dogmatic faith He shall be confessed from generation to generation, as that One Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, Begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made; being of One Substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; and that He, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven; that He was Incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary; and was made Man; that He was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures, and that He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and that He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead; and that His kingdom shall have no end. This is the Christ of theology; of Catholic, not sectarian or partisan theology; and this is the true God and eternal Life.
Thus the Creed secures two points necessary to the life of man; that we are saved by faith, which is the evidence of things not seen; and that we are able to give a clear account of what we profess, and put it into words intelligible to all men, though carrying in them meanings beyond the comprehension of the finite mind; and, finally, that our religion keeps us among personal Beings. There is not in all the Creed a sentiment, a formless aspiration, a subjective impression. There are Persons in the Creed, and Persons only, and it consists of definition of them, their Being, and their Acts, and what they have installed and ordained for the aid and blessing of men. This is the dogma which the modern mind abhors; yet if this practical teaching could be silenced the world would roll backward into darkness, and the sun in man's heaven, the Sun of Light and Life, would pass under eclipse, and there remain, until men came to their senses, and the obscurity should pass away. The supernatural is safe-guarded for us in the Creed as set forth by authority in the undisputed General Councils. That Creed is received by us as of the most true warrant of God. We have but one, in substance: it cannot be revised, it cannot be changed. It contains, not the opinion of men, or the peculiar notions of any time or any people. It is the expression of the truth which, like God Himself, is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.
Thus the Creed presents the truth to the intellect, and guards it from loss, by clear crisp statement and definition. And next we have to consider the Sacramental system, and here we touch the point at which God, the Spirit, Lord and Life Giver, comes to the heart and spirit of man. The Holy Sacraments manifest and apply the powers of the world to come. They are, to use the incomparable definition, "outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace given to us, ordained by Christ Himself, as the means whereby we receive the same and pledges to assure us thereof." They are not inventions or contrivances of ours; they are instituted by God. Earthly and common ordinances were taken, to serve a higher purpose; natural actions were transformed to serve supernatural ends. Baptism by water putteth away the filth of the flesh; but Holy Baptism conveys the remission of sins; it regenerates the soul and makes the child of nature a child of grace. Some have held the dreadful idea of an absolute and unconditional decree, predestinating some to a heaven that they did not merit, and some to an eternal reprobation that they could not possibly escape. There is no trace of that dark and terrible theology in the assertion of the Word regarding this august Sacrament. Its recipients are elected, undoubtedly; but their election is to life, and sonship in the Lord, and citizenship in the Kingdom; and all the baptized are made thereby children of God, members of Christ, inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.
Is this a natural process? Every word of the Baptismal offices implies supernatural powers, aims, and ends. The solemn rite is not an introduction to worldly advantages or temporal success; it leads to nothing whatever on the secular line; no more to social promotion or improvement than to enjoyment of the pomps and vanities of the world or the sinful desires of the flesh. The objects proposed lie far away beyond the temporal horizon: the baptized are thenceforth citizens of a spiritual kingdom, rescued from the power of Satan, the Prince of this world, and brought to an innumerable company of angels and the general assembly and church of the first-born which are written in heaven, buried with Christ in Baptism, and risen with Him therein. This is the first, the initiatory rite of our religion; its character cannot be misunderstood. It might be represented as a mere form without supernatural import, an initiatory ceremony, a religious demonstration in the sight of spectators; it is possible to go so far as to sayit has actually been saidthat there is nothing more mysterious in Christian Baptism than in washing one's face of a morning. But what the Church understands by that Sacrament, drawing her inspiration from her sacred Books, is something essentially diverse from the actions of common life and the affairs of time. God touches man herein by the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Life Giver, and lifts him up, and, showing him his immortal destiny, confers on him the grace to ensure the same, and to follow the Ascended Christ and live near Him for ever.
Look next at Confirmation; Holy Confirmation, as it may be suitably styled, the adjective denoting a character and a stamp of the divine. Therein also is expressed the wonderworking power of the Lord. It is the office of the Holy Ghost; it carries the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit; it supplements and adds to the earlier grace. There is nothing of the secular and worldly here. It is a putting forth of saving power in a critical stage in a life which constitutes a progress forward beyond these earthly places, ever forward, ever onward, until we come to the end. "Defend, O Lord, this Thy child with Thy heavenly grace, that he may continue Thine for ever, and daily increase in Thy Holy Spirit more and more until he come unto Thy everlasting kingdom." What a sweet, unworldly prayer! What a significant invocation! How clear a statement of the purpose of the Father towards His children, their relationship to Him, and the object of their calling to be His! Yet what faintest trace is here of the processes of nature, or motives acting on man as a denizen of a transitory state?
I pass to another rite in which the contrast between the natural and the supernatural is clearthe Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, marriage is, first, a natural contract. But Marriage when solemnized by the Church is a very different thing. It receives a distinct religious character; it is a natural union, sublimated by Divine Grace. And therefore "it is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, discreetly, soberly, advisedly, and in the fear of God." Marriage as a contract is recognized by the state and regulated by law. But for Christians it is much more than a contract of that lower nature. It is solemnized; the contractors exchange reciprocal vows to be broken by death only; they are joined together, not so much by man as by God; and this is Christian Marriage, or, as it is called, Holy Matrimony. "Those whom God has joined together let no man put asunder." Who does not at once perceive what has occurred, how the supernatural has come upon the natural and lifted the transaction to a higher plane? The Church in holding this union between one man and one woman exclusive of all others to be a union for the whole life, and not so terminable as to permit new and repeated alliances at pleasure, and being well aware of the weakness of human nature, also holds that the union which she blesses is sacramental in its character, that the parties to the contract need a grace to enable them to fulfil it, and that such is given to those who are good and true of heart. It is a beautiful instance of the exaltation of natural things by divine power; one man and one woman united for an eternal union by a power which imparts a strength to keep their troth; these are they who are married in the Lord. And when these high relations are overlooked and forgotten; when man and woman marry for some lower motive having to do with the worldfor money, for title, for social position, for the gratification of carnal desire, for a whim, a pique; without one prayer to God; without one thought save this, that they shall be as free, or more free, after marriage than before, and that if things go well the State law can dissolve the union and speed the way to a repetition of this reckless action in some new alliancewhen this is the popular notion about the contract, its obligation, and the easiness of nullifying it, as bad temper, or jealousy, or weariness, or caprice, may dictate, who does not read here as elsewhere the denial of reverence for supernatural obligations, and the determination not to move from the natural plane? That flood of adulteries, fornications, defilements, envies, hatreds, divorces, and consecutive polygamy by which the land is poisoned; with the communistic corollaries that married people are hardly ever happy and satisfied together, and that the system should be abolished, and men and women should live in common, the resultant offspring being appropriated as its property by the Statethis is the proper and legitimate outcome of the banishment of the supernatural from thought in this direction, the denial of the sanctity of the marriage relation, and its reduction to a business contract, dissoluble by either party at will. Happy are we who are protected from such a downfall by our faith and the order under which we live. And what clearer illustration of the force and simplicity of the Apostle's explanation of the case when he says of the Gentiles, the pagan forefathers of their progeny of our own day, "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient."
Of Holy Communion it is hardly necessary to repeat what has been said already of Holy Baptism and Confirmation. It is the sacramental means by which we are kept in that eternal life which was communicated to us in the former sacrament and afterwards confirmed and strengthened. It is a super-substantial bread. It is that Bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die. "For then we eat the flesh of Jesus Christ and drink His blood; we are one with Him and He with us." "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread which I give is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world." We draw near with faith, with awe, with love, with full hearts, and with the devotion of tears, humbled in our own sight, prostrate before Him whom devils dread and angels adore. Considering this holy mystery, its purport, connections, and place in the life of faith, how clearly does the truth of the Gospel come forth upon the sight! The universal inevitable fact of sin; the atoning sacrifice by which it was done away; the need of a living faith to appropriate Christ's work as done for each of us sinners as if none other needed it but he; the resolve often renewed to live according to that which we believe; the timid offering of substance and self, body, soul, and spirit, to Him who gave Himself for us; what interests of this world, what care for earthly things, comport with such acts, desires, professions? O God! what are we, and what is our mortal life, that we should be thus held and drawn and led, step by step, until we come to our true home, and are clothed upon with our house which is from heaven!
I shrink from profaning these Holy Mysteries by a reference to the last utterance of unbelief concerning them. Yet let it be remembered, incredible though it may sound, that men have said, and now repeat, their wretched allegation that Christ did not intend that the Last Supper should be commemorated or continued beyond the hour at which it occurred; that to make of it a perpetual observance in the Church was an after-thought; that it is therefore practically an interpolation, the invention of man; that there is no specific difference between it and those feedings of multitudes on the hills of Galilee, or the domestic passover feasts among the Jews. I only mention these modern notions because my intention is to show how clearly the Church witnesses to that supernatural grace and glory to which the world as strenuously denies any place in a system regulated, as it considers, by natural laws, and by those alone.
I have spoken of the sacramental system; the transition must now be made to the liturgical witness to the supernatural truth. At the Holy Communion we take our point of departure for that purpose, since it is not only sacrament, but also sacrifice. In all religions sacrifice has been the leading feature; it was so in the religion of Israel; it is so in the religion of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. By the liturgy is meant, to speak strictly, the office for Holy Communion. In the liturgy of the Church as anciently arranged, and now celebrated in the churches which have a genealogy, and a root in the past traceable in history, the supernatural is brought before the world in scenic and dramatic form, somewhat as the story of Christ's Passion is represented at Oberammergau among the cross-crowned hills of the Bavarian Tyrol. Call it by what name you willthe Divine Liturgy, the Mass, the Eucharistthis is the showing forth of the death of Christ till He come. Study our own "Order for the Administration of the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion," for the possession of which treasure our hearts may well overflow with gratitude, and you will find there a presentation of the principles and truths of supernatural religion. At first the Liturgythe Divine Liturgy, as they rightly styled itwas not celebrated in the sight of unbelievers. Now they are admitted to behold, and taught the dignity of religion and the beauty of worship. What is chiefly aimed at here but to give glory to God after the order prescribed as most acceptable to Himself? Here are confession, petition, intercession, praise, all made, offered, presented to the Most High. These acts on the part of man make up the substance of divine worship, and in every one we strike across the bounds of time and the limits of nature and penetrate another realm. With surpassing impressive-ness is the other world disclosed, as step by step the solemn order advances. We hear the sobbing of the Kyrie Eleison:
Lord, have mercy upon us
Christ, have mercy upon us,
Lord, have mercy upon us.
In the Agnus Dei is admitted that terrible fact, the sin of man, with the confession of the one, the only, hope of our deliverance from it; strong crying, with tears to Him that is able to save:
O Lord God, Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Then also breaks forth upon the air that thrilling, uplifting note, the Sursum Corda:
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up unto the Lord.
Up, indeed, heavenward, above the heights of the clouds, to that serene place where they enjoy the beatific vision and bow before the throne. And then in the Ter Sanctus, it seems almost as if we poor pilgrims through this land of clouds had caught in their parting rift a sight of that vision; the heavens open, angels and archangels are seen around, above, and forth rolls the glorious song, echoed and reechoed from the outward courts, up and through the Temple and inner Temple:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. Glory be to Thee, O Lord Most High!
These are the preludes to the grand action of all, in which the priest makes the memorial before Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, relating the acts of Christ, repeating them in the breaking of the bread and taking it up into his hands; calling to remembrance Christ's blessed passion and precious death, His mighty resurrection and glorious ascension; making oblation, invoking the presence and power of the Holy Ghost, and then repeating the intercessory prayer for all the whole Church, militant here on earth, expectant in the world beyond. This is the showing forth the Lord's death until He come; the representation in dramatic form of the story of our redemption; this is the highest act of worship ever performed among men, of which the ancient liturgies are the carefully studied and constructed framework, to which the fine arts have made their contribution for adornment, embellishment, emphasis, by painting, sculpture, music, poetry; with vestments, lights, processions, incense, and whatever is apt to impress the mind and move the imagination. Through this pure, unbloody, spiritual Sacrifice the supernatural throbs, burns, glows; the oblation is made to the Almighty Father, through Christ, His eternal, only begotten Son, by the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth the people of God. And herein is conferred on man the bread of angels, the food that feedeth unto eternal life, and by faith Christ dwelleth in us and we in Him. What tongue can utter, what words express, things summed up, contained, conferred here? Sacrifice and sacrament together; God's sacrifice for us represented to the eye of faith; our sacrifice to God of substance and person; of body, soul, and spirit, Godward; the confession of absolute and entire faith in the Redeemer of the world; manward, the strengthening, refreshing, cleansing. O God! what are we to whom such things have been granted! And what return are we making to Thee in these our poor unworthy lives, while the corruptible body presses down the soul and the earthly tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things! For one who takes this in and believes it all, the inner cry, heard under the joy and trustful love, must be for pity and mercy; for pity for the infirmity which belies our profession; for that in us which clogs our steps and holds us back from full surrender to God's Holy Will.
I have one more item to mention in the list of those attesting the unworldly character of our religion. We have thought of the doctrine, the sacraments, the liturgy. I must speak, though very briefly, of the Ministry. Holy Order takes its place among the notes of the kingdom. As the Bible is not a book like other books, as the Church is not a society like other societies, so the ministry is not like other ministries. It must not be confused with human professions; its powers are not human powers; its commission is not from the people, but to the people. The Ordinal speaks, in its province, a language as plain, as distinct, as that of the liturgy. The laying on of hands is by lawful authority, and by lawful authority is understood to be Episcopal authority; no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful bishop, priest, or deacon among us, or suffered to execute any function of the ministry unless he be duly called, tried, examined, and admitted thereto, and has had episcopal consecration and ordination. The laying on of hands confers authority; it conveys the Holy Ghost; wonderful language is heard when the priesthood is conferred.
"Receive the Holy Ghost, for the office and work of a priest in the Church of God, committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained."
Are these the words in which a temporal office is conferred, or do they exclude, ex vi termini, the human calling, the secular character? What shall we think of men described as ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God? As ambassadors of Christ, as though God did beseech us by them? As having the ministry of reconciliation? As called, appointed, set apart for a divine work, a dignity, a weighty office and charge, higher and more weighty than any dignity, office, or charge in the kingdom of this world. "No man taketh this honor to himself.'' The statement implies a supernatural calling, gift, and mission, a character stamped upon the man by invisible, potent hands. It implies that these men are links between the natural order and a higher realm; that they do not receive their ministry from man by election of a congregation, or call from a society, or other like transaction, nor yet from themselves by an inward impression that they have a right to undertake the office because they feel as if they ought to.
Priests of the Lord are called in none of these ways, but as was Aaron. They are themselves persons of a sacramental quality, mediators between heaven and earth, conveying grace, pardon, peace, in absolution, benediction; teaching, guiding, leading towards God. This is the ministry to which we have been called; accepted deliberately; ratified by solemn oath; binding each of us to a certain line of witness and action by vows which it is treason to break; invested with a character which can never be effaced.
I have thus spoken of the system of the Church as a witness throughout to supernatural religion. Our Book of Common Prayer is the ablest and most successful missionary in the land. Studying it dispassionately, and without prejudice, no one can help but see that it teaches of supernatural things, invites to a supernatural life, and applies the grace needed to the attainment of that which it propounds and enjoins. It is an expansion and application of the line of truths contained in the Holy Scriptures; the miraculous is also here and everywhere, wonders wrought by the power of the Spirit. Think them over with profound awe and gratitudethe regeneration of the human soul, the consecration of this mortal body, the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Ghost; the food that feedeth unto immortal life; the knitting men and women together by irrevocable vows, so as to become one flesh, and heirs together of everlasting life; the calling some of our members to an unworldly ministry, and all this said and done without one appeal to natural desire, one promise of temporal successes and advantages, one reference to food, raiment, lodging, or any want or need of this life, one hint of earthly honors or duties to the passing age other than such as result from the calling of a Christian man; this whole system, in design, method, appliances, breathes of somewhat above and beyond the course of this world. The life led conscientiously within it is not a worldly life; it is of another and specifically different character; a life of faith, of charity, of hope of things eternal; a life hidden with Christ in God.
I might proceed at great length, enlarging on my theme, and drawing from the Minor Offices of the Prayer Book, the Kalendar, the Collects, the Litany, the Rules and Precepts of the Church additional illustrations in proof of the completeness of the testimony borne to the everlasting Gospel. But this is hardly necessary, and the time is far spent. A few words shall be added, however, by way of conclusion.
I have called your attention to the contrast between the Transcendence and Immanence of God as absolutely distinct from His universe in substance, yet closely and intimately related to it by His power and grace. So it is with Our LordGod and Man in One Personand, therefore, as God, essentially distinct from and above the world; as Man, living in the world, and giving to all life and breath and all things. So, finally, is it with the Church, which, as the Body of Christ, shares Christ's double relation to mankind, and has also a transcendence and an immanence among us. Note how clearly this is brought out in Holy Scripture. Christ said of His disciples, " They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." But He also said, " I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world." Of our Master it is written: "Christ is God, over all, blessed for evermore." It is also written that "Christ is in us the hope of glory." It is He "whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things"; and yet He is herewith us all the days, even unto the end of the world. Not until the corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, shall the victory of Christ be complete; and yet we are already partakers of the Divine Nature and seated with Him in heavenly places.
This strange contrast runs everywhere through the Christian religion; it is found in the Church, transcendent in the faith which she teaches, the spiritual powers which she exercises, and the objects she holds up for pursuit; immanent in her close relation to man in the flesh, to the society in which he lives, to all legitimate needs in his time. These are not contradictions, as the flippant, worldly mind might suggest, but distinctions rooted in true science and philosophy, and attested by the inner consciousness of thoughtful men. Let us keep them ever before us, as supplementing each other. If we were to think of God in His transcendence only, our conception would be that of a solitary being, far away, and indifferent to our fate. If, revolting from that dreary vision, we were to think of Him only as immanent in the universe, we must run into the error of identifying Him with His creatures, and existing only in them. So of Christ. Consider Him as God only, and you cut Him off from men, and make the Gospel a fable; consider Him as Man only, and you slide down to the level of humanitarianism, and the divine element in religion is lost. And so of the Church. Regard her as having a mission for time only, and a purpose directed towards transitory ends, and you lose the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Ecclesia Docens, the seat of a holy law for all nations, the foundation of spiritual life; nor is anything left but a respectable society, professing no faith, making no demand on conscience, concerned solely with the affairs of this life and the temporal and transient interests of man. But combine here as elsewhere the transcendent and the immanent, and you have our own religion, first of all, heaven-born, divine, and equally practical and efficient for all our needs. God is the Lord of the universe, yet He has His habitation among the sons of men. Christ is God, over all, blessed for evermore. By Him all things were made; and never, as God, did He or could He part with aught that belonged to Him as God, as, for example, His omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence; and yet was He Very Man, one with us in everything except our sin; the Second Adam, the Way, the Truth, the Life. And His Church is the Mother of the Prophets, the House of the Priests, the Palace of the King; teaching, revealing, building up, working miracles; and yet, at the same time, the home of the spiritual man, the refuge of the poor, the storehouse of charity, the fountain of all blessings corporal and spiritual, the agent of true advance, the conservator of social order, the defender of the faith, the light of the ages as they move on and pass away.