Lecture I. The Basis of the Sacramental System
ON a Saturday afternoon, in the midsummer of last year, I found myself by chance on the southern shore of Otsego Lake, looking northward on a scene which for quiet and soothing beauty can hardly be surpassed. Before me lay the mirror of the Glimmerglass; warm lights threw a flush upon the skies; the clay was going away; the omens of the evening were already in the clouds; a breeze, scarcely strong enough to ruffle the water, came from the western hills; the woods were reflected in their native colors along the silent shore. But below was more than what met the eye. Through and under this exterior beauty, voices could be heard, speaking of the mystery of the natural world. It has been said of the study of nature, "that it is hardly profane to characterize it as a means of grace to man." [See an article in Garden and Forest, August 12, 1891.]
The words are words of truth; in nature is a tonic for mind and heart. Here are depths which no man has yet sounded, not philosopher nor poet; here is a mystery which thus far defies our search--whence, and how, came this wondrous, beautiful world; when it was made; and why it was made "subject to vanity;" how long, before man appeared on the earth, his destiny and doom were foreshadowed there; how he, in his fortunes, is linked to what he calls "nature"; by what bond and to what extent it is so related to him as to sympathize with him in his sorrows, and partake of his hope--what poet, what philosopher, what theologian has told us the whole truth on these points? Of them might one readily be led to muse, while looking upon the lake, confronted by forests and hills, and the perspective of point, bluff, and mountain; for at such times and in such places men become aware of some unspeakable strangeness in their life, and, keeping silence before mysterious and dimly indicated presences, they know that it must be possible to draw its hidden meaning from God's world, from hill and plain, from deep, still waters and shadowy woods, from the currents of the evening breeze and the outstretched shadows of ebbing day.
Hard by that lake stands an old church, shaded by tall pines and other trees, and keeping watch and ward over the surrounding resting-places of the dead in Christ. On the following morning I found myself at the early celebration in that venerable fane. Here another mystery confronted us, like the other, too deep to search out; the mystery of the Coming of our Lord, in Holy Communion. The church also, like the lake, was held in the stillness of a holy peace. The voice of the priest, as he recited the office, was the only sound that broke upon the ear; the words of Christ were repeated; and then, to the eye of faith, "came Jesus and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you." Both the mysteries of which I have been speaking were of God; one in the order of nature, the other in the order of grace. And at that time it occurred to me--remembering an accepted invitation to speak to you on some sacred theme--that the subject had been assigned, on the shore of the lake in the evening, and in the church in that consecrated morning hour. Is there not a parallelism, a correlation, between these two mysteries? May there not be, to other, larger eyes than ours, points at which they touch or interpenetrate? May not the mystery in nature pass onward and upward to the mystery in grace? And may not the mystery in grace be more deeply felt when interpreted by the mystery in nature? Can this be, that the natural world holds some relation to man in his life, which is realized to him in that profoundest of all wonders, the Sacrament of the Altar? May not the same Hand which beckons to us through the veil of nature be laid upon us to bless as we kneel in adoration before "those holy mysteries"? The inspired writers ascribe personality to tree and mountain and hill, calling on them to clap their hands, to sing, to show forth God's praise. Our own poets represent the inanimate world as if it had voices and a mission to men. Is this mere metaphor? Is there no truth in it? The light natural and the light supernatural; the beauty of the material world and the beauty of the Kingdom of Heaven: come they not both of God? And are there not relationships between them more intimate than we suppose, too subtile for us to comprehend? On that line would I lead you this evening, as we think of the treasures of our inheritance in the holy Church of Jesus Christ.
It is a high honor and privilege to lecture before this Seminary. The series delivered on this "Bishop Paddock Foundation" a year ago had for its subject the Incarnation. I propose, as my theme this year, the Sacramental System. There is, I trust, a fitness in this order. "The fathers," says Bishop Jeremy Taylor, "by an elegant expression, call the blessed sacrament the extension of the incarnation." The idea was, no doubt, derived by them from what St. Paul said about those "joints and bands" by which grace is ministered to us, and through which the whole body "increaseth with the increase of God." (Col. iii. 19; Eph. iv. 16.) And so, in accord with "Holy Scripture, and Ancient Authors," our own Richard Hooker, in the fifth book of the Ecclesiastical Polity, lays the foundation of his teaching on the holy sacraments in that full, minute, and incomparable statement of the Catholic doctrine of the Incarnation, with which you are no doubt familiar. To follow up the lectures of last year on the Incarnation by a course on the Sacraments seems, therefore, in order; and to this, in reliance on divine aid, I now proceed.
Of sacramental doctrine this may be truly said, that it is coextensive with historic Christianity. Of this there is no reasonable doubt, as regards the very ancient days, of which St. Chrysostom's treatise on the priesthood and St. Cyril's catechetical lectures may be taken as characteristic documents. Nor was it otherwise with the more conservative of the reformed bodies in the sixteenth century. Martin Luther's catechism, the Augsburg, and later the Westminster, confessions are strongly sacramental in their tone, putting to shame the degenerate followers of the men who compiled them. What is the basis of a system obviously coextensive with Christianity? There are those who, while holding sacramental doctrine, take their starting-point in a correspondence with the twofold constitution of man's nature, a congruity with the practical experience of our everyday life. But surely there is a point of departure much more remote than these; we may go beyond the lower range of simile, fitness, and happy adaptation to circumstances, and trace its origin far back of such obvious considerations. Nay, it were well to do so, in the interests of humanity, for who can tell how many objectors would be silenced, how many unhappy doubters convinced, could they but see the subject in its' fulness and depth?
The Sacramental System claims, even on philosophical grounds, the attention of the closest students of nature and the best thinkers of the age; and where it is lightly esteemed, the reason may be that it has been presented in a dry and lifeless way, and commended to regard on no higher grounds than those of expediency or convenience; so that it offers nothing to touch the soul, excite the imagination, or challenge faith. The Sacramental System has been given away in exchange for the lucubrations of rationalism, or degraded to the level of empty ceremonies, bald signs, and forms without life. To quote from Robert Isaac Wilberforce, referring to the low and partial estimate of sacraments:
"It rests their use on our act only, not on that of God; it is merely subjective, human, tentative, and though useful as a direction to ourselves, falls far short of the sublime views which Scripture opens respecting these 'holy mysteries.' It is a conception such as a Socinian might entertain, but with which the Christian mind could never be satisfied." ["Doctrine of the Incarnation," ch. xiii. p. 405.]
Far different is the Sacramental System when presented to devout consideration as included in the eternal purpose of God; effectuated through an alliance between God and His material, moral, and spiritual creation; having relations of some kind to all the kingdoms of nature, and probably extending in its influence beyond the limits of the terrestrial sphere.
The system which we are about to consider has two sides, a practical and almost commonplace side, and an ideal and mystical side. In the latter relation it is proposed to treat of it in this lecture. I do not intend to make an argument in logical form, but simply to present a series of considerations which seem to bear with cogency upon the subject. That nature is neither self-existing nor independent, but the work of God, and constantly ruled by God; that man is a summary of nature; that there is between the natural world and ourselves an intimate connection; that the disorders observable in the natural world have something to do with the trouble in us men, so that relief to us carries with it benefit of some sort to the world outside of us; that through the Incarnation God has Himself, in person, taken a unique place in the natural world, as man: these are the points which shall first be presented to your thoughts. And next it will be suggested, as a just inference, that in the work of repairing and reconstructing humanity, by the extension of the Incarnation to individual souls, the natural world may be drawn upon for help, and its elements put to use as instrumental means whereby that race shall be aided, in whose recovery nature herself has an interest and a direct concern. Here may be found a basis for the Sacramental System deeper than that of congruity, adaptation, or convenience. The employment of such a system is not to be regarded merely as a happy thought, a lucky hit, an appropriate idea, but it comes in because things are as they are, because nature is summed up in man; because all things work together for good to them that love God; because "the creature" itself is bound up in our fortunes, and may very fitly be employed in the process of our extrication from present evils. Such thoughts, if they prove to be true and in harmony with the Catholic faith, must place the subject beyond the reach of frivolous objection and lift it to the height which it seems, for some sufficient reason, to have held through all past ages of the Church.
Let us enter, with reverence and circumspection, a path rendered more attractive by the mysteries with which it is encompassed on the right hand and on the left. And, first, to speak of nature.
"To him who, in the love of nature, holds Communion with her visible forms, she speaks A various language."
So sings a poet of our own land. But what, after all our study, do we know of nature? What is meant by the word? And what progress has been made in interpreting her secrets? There are two great heresies relating to the natural world; one cuts it off from Almighty God, the other confounds it substantially with Him. To some nature is a vast, godless phenomenon, the outcome of a blind movement, directed by no intelligent ruler or governor. Such persons make it a stupendous fetich; they ascribe to it personality, they talk of nature's laws and nature's designs and nature's acts as if nature were as God to us. In their anxious interest men have run into innumerable conjectures. The Manichean says that matter is essentially evil; the gnostic conceives of the natural world as the work of a malevolent demiurge, the rival and ancient foe of God. To some, as they speculate on the universe, its existence appears a necessity; God is constrained to be always a creator; He can never have been without a manifestation exterior to Himself. To the pantheist, nature and God are the same--one universal and all-pervading substance; nature is God taking form and shape; God evolving and developing; God sleeping in the rock, moving in the lower creation, coming to thought and self-knowledge in man. The transcendentalist runs into unintelligible talk, telling us that "Nature is the incarnation of a thought, and turns to a thought again, as ice becomes water and gas; that the world is mind precipitated, and that the volatile essence is forever escaping again into the state of free thought." [See Emerson's essay on "Nature."] Such are instances of the efforts of man to get at the secret of "the rounded world, nine times folded in mystery." But a Catholic Christian is protected by his faith from such erroneous and wild opinions; he does not know all; he does not pretend to know much; but he knows something, and what he knows is worth knowing. To him nature is not a self-existing phenomenon, nor the result of chance, nor yet
"A hollow form with empty hands."
In the creed of the Catholic Church he has light on this subject; that light comes in the sublime declaration of the existence of "One God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;" it comes in the further statement that God, having created the heavens and the earth, "saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good." Here, at all events, are starting-points; lines on which to move with some confidence in our study of the mystery; first principles to save us from the blank hollowness of intuitive religionism and the unintelligible utterances of the ideal philosopher. Even the materialist renders us a not unimportant service at this point of our studies. Of dogmatic materialism it has been well said, that
"It is the twin brother of atheism. It may well be called the gospel of the flesh; it is the absolute deification of matter and of the creature. The materialists are the most dangerous enemies of progress that the world has ever seen." [Christlieb, "Modern Doubt and Christian Belief," Lecture III. ii.]
The charge is true of materialism, as a philosophic system pretending to explain all, and to account for man in his entire state. But materialism has its uses and serves a good purpose to the Catholic faith. As Dr. Liddon remarks:
"Materialism has done valuable service in correcting the exaggeration of a one-sided spiritualism. It is common but erroneous to speak of man's body as being related to his spirit only as is the casket to the jewel which it contains. But, as a matter of fact, the personal spirit of man strikes its roots far and deep into the encompassing frame of sense, with which, from the first moment of its existence, it has been so intimately associated. The spirit can indeed exist independently of the body, but this independent existence is not its emancipation from a prison-house of matter and sense, it is a temporary and abnormal divorce from the companion whose presence is needed to complete its life."
The mystery of creation is not to be solved by the materialist, the pantheist, the transcendentalist, or the ideal philosopher. In their methods they confuse matter and mind; they sacrifice the flesh to the spirit or the spirit to the flesh; they confound the Creator and the creature; they let go the real to chase a phantom; they deny the evidence of the senses or the facts of human experience. There is no escape from their errors save in the acceptance of these cardinal principles of Catholic doctrine:
(a) That God alone is uncreate and eternal.
(b) That He made all things by the word of His power, not of His own substance, but of elements created by Him for their purpose.
(c) That He made all things good.
(d) That He rules and governs all.
These statements constitute the formal contradiction of gnostic, Manichean, and pantheistic errors, and of materialistic and idealistic speculations. They begin by asserting the essential distinction between God and nature, the supernatural order and the visible universe, the material and intelligent creations. They affirm that matter, the physical basis of all visible things, is God's handiwork; that it is essentially good and not evil; that the world came into being through Him; that it was the product of His wisdom and love; that it deserves our reverent study as a manifestation of the divine Creator; and that by study of the wonders of the universe we can come to the knowledge of ourselves and God.
And here let me remark, in passing, on the failure of recent attempts to discredit the evidential argument from nature in proof of the truths of religion. What St. Paul said nearly nineteen hundred years ago is as true to-day as then, that the invisible things of God may be understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and godhead. Against the denial of this fact, based on supposed scientific discoveries, a reaction has already set in; it is admitted that those discoveries, instead of weakening, have strengthened that branch of the evidences of natural religion. God is more clearly revealed in His intelligence, power, and love, the more closely we study His works. To quote Mr. Gore, in his recently published "Bampton Lectures:"
"If Charles Darwin and the scientific world whom he represents have materially altered, yet they have not fundamentally impaired the evidences in nature of divine purpose or design, nor have they touched the argument (to many minds the irresistible argument) from the beauty of nature to the spirituality of the Being which it reveals."--Lecture II.
Creation is the work of an almighty and benevolent God; a mirror which reveals Him. As we look into that mirror we are held to it by a strange fascination. What is the secret of that fascination? It arises, unquestionably, from the perception of a relationship between nature and ourselves. What is the place of man in the universe of wonders? Let us proceed to consider this point.
It is a striking remark of Emerson, that "the roots of all things are in Man." To Catholics this is a familiar thought. It is said that man, in his progress from obscure embryonic rudiments to the state in which he emerges from the womb into the outer world, passes through many a stage of lower life. And nowhere is Catholic theology more bold or more masterful than in its account of man in this relation to the universe. Let us hear the words of a great teacher on this point:
"God, in creating the heavens and the earth, created two worlds in one: a world invisible and celestial, the city of spirits; and a world terrestrial and visible, the country of material bodies. Until man appeared on the earth, there were sensitive life and vegetative life, but there was no intelligent life.... In creating man, God joined together spirit and body in the unity of a single being, in such a way that the being of the soul is also the being of the body; and in consequence, in this marvellous creature, the spirit has a corporal being and a corporal life, while the body receives a spiritual being and a spiritual life; the intelligence has, as it were, a material personality, while the material is elevated to a species of intelligent personality; so that in man we find this material body of ours speaking and acting as the spirit speaks and acts, to which the lower is united substantially without confusion. Matter and body are associated with spirit in man, for the worship of God and for the service of religion." ["La Raison Philosophiqne et la Raison Catholique: Conferences by Father Ventura de Raulica." Paris, Gaume Frères, 1854.]
This is man; the minor mundus, as he has been called; matter and spirit in one person; representing and including two worlds; having the entire created universe summed up in him. According to St. Thomas Aquinas:
"Man is not only in touch with the intellectual order by way of his intelligence, and with the material order through his senses; but also, being both spirit and body, he is in himself a summary of the conditions of all bodies and of all spirits. Like God, he is independent of every other created being; he is intelligent, like the angels, and at the same time he has the sensitive life of the brute, the vegetative life of the plant, the augmentative life of the mineral, the inert existence of inorganic beings; and thus, uniting in himself the elements of all beings, the forces of all lives in creation, he produces all the effects thereof and embraces all its harmonies; he is, in short, the world in small, the summary, the abridgment of the world, 'mundi summa et compendium.' "
Such is man, and this is his place in the universe. And here we come to that stupendous fact in the history of creation which consigns to relative insignificance the questions so much discussed, about the mode of creation, the age of the world, protoplasm, evolution, and the like. The fact referred to is that of the Incarnation. The Creator has come into His own universe, and has taken it bodily into Himself, in assuming our humanity. We assert, as Catholics, while repudiating pantheistic ideas of consubstantiation, commingling, or identification, that God, the personal Creator, by whom all things were made and do consist, was pleased to unite and join together in His person two natures, absolutely diverse and distinct; and that, of these two, one was substantially a summary of the created universe. "Homo factus est." You know that it was human nature, and not a human person, through which the Incarnation was effected. Jesus Christ was not an individual of our race, one in number of Adam's line, born in the natural order, and, subsequently to such birth, united to God. That would not have been incarnation at all in the Catholic sense of the word. But a nature, and not a person, was joined to the Godhead, alethos, teleos, adiairetos, asugchutos. And therefore, whatever relation man sustains towards the other orders of creation and the kingdoms of nature, the same does Christ, as man, sustain to them. He, being perfect man, is related to the visible and material creation as truly as to the intellectual and spiritual world. He also may be called the microcosm, the minor mundus, mundi summa et compendium. And to think of Christ as now an abstract and incorporeal spiritual essence would be the same error as to strike out the body from the description of a man, and to represent him as essentially like to the angels.
In the Catholic doctrine this relation of the world to God and of God to the world is presented to our faith. To say that one man of our race, born after the manner common to us all, was taken up into unity with God, would be to throw away a glorious truth, and drop to a lame and impotent conclusion. If Jesus Christ had been the son of Joseph and Mary, whatever might have been done for Him at any period of His life would have affected Him and Him only. There is an element of the ludicrous and fantastical in the idea of such an exaltation and glorifying of one particular man out of all that ever lived, for no assignable reason unless "pour encourager les autres;" nor could we, on such a poverty-stricken hypothesis, come to that magnificent conception of the alliance between the universe and its Creator. Not to one human person, not to one exceptionally favored individual of Adam's line, not to a man like Moses or Gautama or Socrates, were divine honor and the dignity of exaltation to equality with God awarded. What God assumed was human nature, and not a human person. He who is ever with His creation, entered into His own world in a new way; He became man; and thus a new relationship was formed between Him and that creation which owed its existence to Him, and which, from the beginning, He had governed and controlled.
Let us advance a step. Why did God the Son become incarnate? And how far do the benefits of the Incarnation extend? In answering the first of these questions we are brought face to face with the trouble and sorrow in the world. It is unnecessary to discuss the question whether the Incarnation would have taken place, though man had not fallen; it suffices to take facts as they are, and to note that the work had a remedial and restorative effect. It applied, first, to mankind in a state of depression and decline; and secondly, to the whole creation, of which we are told that it is disastrously affected by the condition of man, its head. Let us take up, next, the statements of Holy Scripture on this mysterious subject.
The late Bishop of Edinburgh, in a work entitled "Does Science aid Faith in regard to Creation?" says:
"There is one part of the Christian faith on the subject of creation to which I think sufficient attention has never been given by theologians. And, instructive as it is in itself, as connected with our faith on redemption, it has become in modern times specially important in its relation to the progress of science; and it is one in which, perhaps, more than in any other direction whatever, science has proved itself the serviceable handmaid of faith instead of being its rival and adversary. I refer to the view of creation which St. Paul sets forth in the eighth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, in which chapter he brings to its climax and glorious consummation the argument which he had commenced in the fifth chapter of that epistle, as to the victory through Christ of righteousness over sin, grace over wrath and condemnation, and life over death." (p. 82.)
The subject, in the passage thus referred to, is the creation, in the Greek ktisis, in the Latin creatura, in King James' version the creature, in the Revised version (and correctly), the creation. As Bishop Cotterill says: "The word is here used in its ordinary sense, and includes all the material creation, animate and inanimate; it answers as nearly as possible to nature in our modern use of the word." Now as to the ktisis, creation, or nature, St. Paul affirms that something in it is wrong. It was "made subject to vanity," not of its own will, as in the case of Adam when he fell; but by the will of the Creator, who with a purpose, and in pursuance of a design, "subjected the same to vanity." It is the result of that subjection that "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." Yet through that state of depression runs the golden thread of hope: "the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God." The universe, with which we are connected and to which, through the Incarnation, God is allied and personally united, is in trouble, in long and serious trouble, in some strange distress imposed on it in the far-off past; it is expectant; it has a hope; it is looking forward to something; it is waiting for "the redemption of our body." Some strange, close, and intimate relationship exists between man and what he calls Nature. And this seems to be the reason why, as the Bishop of Durham has observed, the old fathers of the Church so often led their pupils to that lofty and divine and most lovely study of the visible world, and found a basis for their teachings in a rational feeling for the vast grandeur of the external order, "the sacred economy of the universe," as St. Gregory calls it. ["Essays in the Religious Thought of the West:" by Brooke Foss Westcott, D.D., D.C.L., p. 215.] True, there is disorder in that universe; its sacred harmonies are marred by discords; there is sorrow on land and sea, and weather casts of trouble are in the skies above us. But relief is expected; it has been promised; it shall surely come. It is coming through the redemption of our body and along with the manifestation of the sons of God. But redemption and sonship in God are gifts to man through the Incarnation of the Eternal Son; so that His work acts beyond us, and finds a field for its beneficent exercise below the circle of His intelligent creation. Christ's work cannot be limited to the human race; it cannot be exhausted in rescuing us from sin and death; there are ranges beyond where He worketh, though in ways not revealed to us; and believing this, we are brought very close to the object of our quest; we have reached the point at which we may confidently look for the basis of the Sacramental System, and find out how the material elements have been made to minister to us in our spiritual and moral life.
For, if man be the summary of creation; if Christ be truly man, and, as such, related to the material universe, through His humanity, as we are to it through ours; if the "creature" is in trouble, not through its own fault, but as if it were bearing our trouble, and subject to vanity on our account and for our sakes; if Christ is really come, and is standing in His place, summing up in His person all the power and forces of the universe, and bringing them to bear on us men for our salvation; if our rescue and redemption are helping creation already, and are to help it still more in ways not yet apparent nor fully understood; if creation be deeply interested and concerned in the "redemption of that body" by which man touches the material universe as in his intelligence he touches the spiritual realm; if all these things are so, why, we may ask, should it be deemed incredible--why might it not be expected as a matter of course--that in the work of man's redemption and deliverance some powers, some elements, of the natural order should be used as instruments for that purpose? In connection with that silent and inarticulate sympathy with man, why should not nature proffer such help as she may be able to give? Why should not Christ, the great deliverer, use the elements of this world in bringing about spiritual effects? He asserted His lordship over earth, air, fire, and water, while here; He calmed the angry sea; He made clay an instrument of opening the eyes of the blind; He-scattered to the winds the powers of darkness; in His remedial processes He drew upon the pharmacy of nature. Was this only for convenience' sake, or for the purposes of a barren symbolism? Was there a deeper meaning in it? Nature, in her normal condition, offers medicines for the healing of the body; vegetable and mineral helps, tonics, febrifuges, anodynes. Why should not the Holy Ghost, through natural elements, exalted to a supernatural efficacy, minister to the diseases of the soul? Why should not earth, air, fire, and water be made to help us? The element of water, by which three-fourths of the globe is covered, of which great part of the human body is made up, why should it not be "sanctified to the washing away of sin "? The corn, which groweth up out of the earth, and is bruised and ground in the mortar, and baked in the fire; the grape, which ripens in the sunshine; why should not these be used for spiritual purposes, as instrumental means of sancti-fication and holy gifts, to purify, feed, and hallow human life? What is there strained or repellent in the idea of such ministration of the natural elements to Him who, though the head and crown of nature, needs all the help that can be given from heaven and earth? The application of material agents to spiritual uses through a consecration such as the divine power knows how to effect, is not only a simple idea, it is the sequel to that act of the Eternal Son of God in assuming a mortal body and a human soul. Sacramental religion may accordingly be considered as the purest and simplest of all religions. It follows the line on which our redemption proceeds; on which the release of the creation from vanity is now proceeding.
And then comes another question: How far do the benefits of the Incarnation extend? Who can say? Who can limit the work of God the Son? Who can draw a line, and tell us how much it may take in before the end; how deeply it strikes into the frame of nature; how comprehensive it may prove, when we see the full extent of the mystery, as we shall by and by? Are there inhabitants in the spheres about us? Have they intelligence, and a moral nature? Is this earth the only orb, in the myriads and myriads of the universe, where living, thinking, speaking creatures are to be found? Sooner than be content with a narrow theory on these points, let us give the thoughts and the imagination free play; let us appropriate the language of the old Breviary hymn, in which the benefits of the atonement are boldly and thrillingly extended to all kingdoms of the earth and to other worlds than this:
"Terra, pontus, astra, mundus,
Quo lavantur flumine."
[Happily, we have this noble lyric in our new Hymnal; the lines are thus rendered:
["Whence, to cleanse the whole creation,
Streams of blood and water flow."]
Such thoughts as these, or such dreams, if you like that word better, are at all events in accord with the Catholic faith, and the mind of the Church. In proof of this statement, reference may be made to the fathers and saints, who from time to time have felt and expressed intense sympathy with nature, and even professed a sense of brotherhood with beings of the lower orders of creation. If one of the enlightened, highly cultured and eminently practical people of our own day were to be asked which of all the legends of the saints he thought the silliest, he would probably mention that of St. Anthony of Padua, who preached to the fishes, or that of St. Francis of Assisi, calling the birds of the air about him, and bidding them and other creatures unite with him in praising their Lord and ours. But is there not a truth here which we ought to discern? Is not this one application of the doctrine of St. Paul? Who knows that birds and beasts, the fowl that fly in the firmament, and all that move in the waters, may not in their own way be more religious than man? What soul so dull and cold as to find no meaning in the pleasant sounds of morning and noonday, of evening and night, while the swift earth rolls on her course, and suns and stars rise and set, and moons wax and wane, and many a plaintive voice seems chanting to God; the shrill cicada uttering its cry, and the cricket practising its cheerful song? Few pictures are more delightful than that of the holy man who so dearly loved the lower creation, and was gentle and tender to all that hath breath; whom Mrs. Jameson has charmingly described as
"wandering over those beautiful Umbrian mountains, from Assisi to Gubbio, singing with a loud voice hymns (alla Francese, as the old legend expresses it, whatever that may mean), and praising God for all things--for the sun which shone above; for the day and for the night; for his mother the earth, and for his sister the moon; for the winds which blew in his face; for the pure, precious water, and for the jocund fire; for the flowers under his feet, and for the stars above his head--saluting and blessing all creatures, whether animate or inanimate, as his brethren and sisters in the Lord. ["Legends of the Monastic Orders," p. 241.]
Do you ask an explanation of the influence exerted over man by the aspect and phenomena of the natural world? Find it in the fact of an intimate relationship between us and it; as, through our material constitution, part and parcel thereof; as having joint interests, and a community in pain and hope. And in that relationship find also the justification of that Sacramental System, to which such persistent objections are made where the conditions of human existence are imperfectly understood. No other system addresses us with such force; none offers so much as this. On other grounds also it makes appeal to the enlightened reason; but we shall not feel it for all that it is, till we have gone to the heart and centre of things created; to that depth and that height at which man touches the material and immaterial orders at once; until we see God taking creation, summed up in human nature, into alliance with His eternal and infinite Being, in a unity in which they are to continue and abide henceforth and forever. [See Art. II. "The Godhead and Manhood were joined together in One Person, never to be divided." ] In the person of the Son of God, the Godhead and Manhood were joined together, never to be divided. But man is the crown of creation; and through him God draws His own work lovingly to Himself.
I shall call your attention in the next lecture to some other aspects of the Sacramental System in which it is commended to our confidence and faith. But, in conclusion, let me speak briefly on two points which come in here, in the discussion of our subject.
Through the mortal body is established the connection between man and the material creation. But the body is an integral part of us, not less necessary to our perfection and completeness than the intelligence, the spirit, and the soul. "Perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.... The reasonable soul and flesh is one man." [Symbol called Quicunque vult.] A reasonable soul without human flesh is not perfect man; a man without a body would not be a man. The permanence of the body and the flesh, accordingly, is a truth of the Catholic religion. The body is to live forever, as well as the soul; with the soul it is co-heir of immortality; and therefore, in preparation for its higher destiny, it is now the subject of refining, purifying, and restorative processes, intended to cleanse, to feed, to maintain it in strength and health, and to insure its rescue from the rude and awful shock of death. It is to be redeemed, raised up, and made (to use St. Paul's description), aphtharton, dunaton, pneumatikon, incorruptible, powerful, glorious. The human body is not a mere shell, which the exultant spirit is to burst some day, glad to be rid of its old companion; it is not an empty sign, to disappear by and by forever; it is the permanent and necessary equipment of man as man. In the sight of a Christian the body is a sacred thing. The Holy Ghost makes it His temple; to profane it is sacrilege. It is to be offered as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Man's service is, first, last, and always, a bodily service. Corporal and spiritual works of mercy go on together. Grace is given to the body, as well as to the soul; our sinful bodies are made clean by the touch of the Body of the Lord in Holy Communion. The Sacramental System accords with this conception of the place and destiny of the human body; and wherever that system is rejected, we may expect to find conceptions and notions of our nature and our state better befitting a pagan than a Christian; perhaps a disbelief in the resurrection of that Blessed Body in which our salvation was wrought out; perhaps, if not certainly, disbelief in the resurrection of our own. Philosophic idealism, presumptuous spiritualism, are the inevitable refuge of him who misconceives the constitution of human nature, and denies to the body its place and rights. That man, in his death, is instantly to pass into the condition of abstract and incorporeal spirit, and so to remain, glad and content, forever, is an idea which rests on no good evidence, and brings no comfort; it is little less disquieting and alarming than the thought that man must
"drop from out this universal frame,
Into that shapeless, scopeless, blank abyss,
That utter nothingness from which he came."
["Dream of Gerontius."]
From such terrifying dreams we are saved by faith in the Sacramental System, in its principles and application. It deals with us, not as pure spirits caged for a while in deleterious bodies, but as real and true men; it gives us credit for all that we are; it asserts the worth and dignity of the body; declares it to be a sharer with the soul in redemption; predicts its survival and future development in a higher state; draws on the material world for help; and uses as instrumental means for spiritual ends, things below the intellectual order. There is a fitness here which can hardly be denied.
By one more consideration is this view of the Sacramental System supported. In Holy Scripture, we find the positive assertion of the retention of some of those things with which we are now connected, and their continuance hereafter under new conditions and in new forms. It is a consoling and tranquillizing thought. Consider this beautiful and wonderful universe; the revealer of the glory of the Lord, the teacher, the prophet, the treasure-house of mystic symbolism; this home of wayfaring men, so dear, so pleasant; why should its doom be, like that of the wicked, complete destruction and perpetual disuse and darkness? Is there really any ground for the statement that annihilation, non-existence, is to be the end of these works of His hands? Are we not told the very reverse? Why should not nature, though full of disorder and distress, be hereafter purified, restored, and brought back to the state in which the Voice proclaimed it good? Are there not, in the Old Testament and in the New, words to that effect? The intimations are not obscure; we look for a work of reparation and renewal, as among the final purposes of the Lord. "The earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat." But is this to be the end? Nay, it says: "We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." Prophets of old testified to the same effect. "Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth," saith the Spirit by the mouth of Isaiah." And I saw new heavens and a new earth" responds the Evangelist, in his vision, by the same Spirit. Such statements present no difficulty to a believer in the Incarnation. It seems reasonable to him, that as man is to be raised from death and made glorious, powerful, and incorruptible, so the creation of which he is the sum and crown may also arise, glorious and beautiful, out of the flames of future burnings; that this whole creation, which now groaneth and travaileth in pain together, may hereafter rejoice and give thanks as when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy. [Job, xxxviii. 7.] The creature looketh for the redemption of the body; why, unless perceiving, through some inexplicable consciousness, that its own redemption is bound up in ours? It'would not be, I think, profane to surmise, that as God is preparing mankind for life and everlasting felicity, so He may be employing other sacramental means, unknown to us, by which, in other departments of nature, a work is even now in progress, the results of which are hereafter to appear--results which may overwhelm our narrow and selfish thinkers with complete confusion.
"What is this creation? "asks St. Chrysostom, in commenting on the words of St. Paul. "Not thyself alone, but that also which is thy inferior, and partaketh not of reason or sense, this, too, shall be a sharer in thy blessings. For it shall be freed, he says, from the bondage of corruption; that is, it shall no longer be corruptible, but shall go along with the beauty given to thy body; just as when this became corruptible that became corruptible also; so, now it is made incorruptible, that also shall follow it too.... Thou art suffering for thyself; the creation for thee. As men, when a son is to appear at his coming to a dignity, clothe even the servants with a brighter garment, to the glory of the son, so will God also clothe the creature with incorruption for the glorious liberty of the children ..."
And, elsewhere, the father adds:
"He partially exposes to thy view the things to come, setting before thee the change of thy body, and along with it the change of the whole creation." [St. Chrys., Hom. xiv. on Rom. viii. 21-23.]
It is time to bring these remarks to a close. They are mere suggestions or hints on a subject so wide and so full of wonder and mystery that a volume would hardly suffice for its full discussion. They are left to you, for reflection, before we proceed to some considerations of an inferior, but, perhaps, a more popular and practical character. Let me close what has been said thus far, by quoting the words of Godet:
"As in our present body we see the two systems, animal and vegetable, which are around us, converging, and in them nature, as it is on earth, in its entirety: so will the future body be the centre of a nature renewed and glorified, freed from the law of vanity and death. The ideal, after which are instinctively yearning, not men only, but, as St. Paul says, all creatures, will be realized." ["Studies on the Old Testament," ii. p. 62.]
And to these words let me add others of a doctor and teacher of our own Church, and a professor emeritus of this seminary, commending to your attention the entire passage of which they form a part:
"The work of redemption closely corresponded to that of creation, and therefore is properly a new creation, whether we regard it in its effects upon individual men, upon the whole company of the redeemed, or upon all the creation of which man was the crown. It will not reach its destined end till the creation that has been darkened and ruined by sin shall be restored to its original beauty and perfection." [Professor Buel: "Treatise of Dogmatic Theology," Vol. I, ch. VI., of Creation and Providence: see whole passage, pp. 250-253.]