The Sacramental System Coextensive with the Life and Experience of Mankind
IN the first lecture of this course your attention was directed to what are deemed to be the real foundations of the Sacramental System. Every structure stands upon a basement of some sort; and it appeared to me that the first thing to be done, in the defence and vindication of a system so misunderstood as this, was to show that we have something to allege in its behalf more weighty than considerations of convenience or the perception of a general agreement with things in the world. The Cathedral, the Capitol, the Chambers of Justice, and whatever other edifices there be, stand on substructures; the larger the edifice, the broader spread the courses of masonry below. What shall be said of the Sacramental System, whose maker and builder is God, which is ample enough to gather in the nations; in whose successive stories, as they rise upward, room and place are provided for all people, tongues, and languages of the redeemed?
Must not a structure such as this have a foundation commensurate with its proportions and adequate to its design? That is what I have already suggested for your consideration, alleging that a system so large and grand may be regarded as undoubtedly anchored somewhere in the roots and bases of the universe itself. Nor does it make against this view of the case, that men protest their inability to see any such foundation, and challenge us to describe it accurately, and to explain how it was laid. Who sees the foundation of any building, large or small? What architects call the Footings are not seen, nor were they meant to be seen. With care and close calculation are they laid, and then they are at once hidden away; none knows exactly their dimensions or arrangement but the man who set them in their place; basement, story, and stage after stage tower up in the air, but these are not the foundations; and but for those footings, they would collapse and crumble away. So is it with the works of God in nature and in grace; we see the upper stages, we do not see that underneath from which they spring and on which they rest. I have sought to indicate, by way of suggestion, the direction in which we must look for the footings of the Sacramental System; and this, in order to lift the subject at once from the place of expediencies, conveniences, and utilitarian considerations, and to place it where it belongs, among things supernatural. Having done so, the way is open for a passage to the simpler and more intelligible aspects of our subject. As a practical arrangement it has other claims on confidence. Questions about fitness, adaptation, congruity, correspondence to our state and constitution, have their importance and interest; but however the system may be commended on these accounts, it must be remembered that they are not of the foundation, and that to study them belongs to a secondary department in theology. For this reason it seemed necessary, before speaking particularly of such rites as Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, of Confirmation, of Holy Matrimony, of Holy Order, of Absolution, and Unction, to waive for the time the question of the intent, the value, and the effect of each, and to try and find the mysterious and recondite cause which makes them what they are, and connects them with worlds above and worlds below. There, in fact, must the line be drawn--if we are to think and speak as reverent students of Catholic theology--between the conception of sacraments as mere signs and forms, of value in the using, but devoid of intrinsic virtue, and sacraments regarded as powers of the world to come, and holding within them something of that mystery which surrounds man on every hand. And it is the more important to begin at that starting-point, because of the intense aversion of the popular mind to the thing which makes the Sacramental System a reality and a truth. For we may at once admit, and frankly, that to the conception of the system as it has been presented to you, the spirit of the age is decidedly and strongly averse. Men will take anything from us so long as we make no draft on their faith; but as soon as it comes to marvels and miracles, and results transcending the natural powers of the understanding, there is an end of their respect for our intelligence or their confidence in us as guides. There would be no objection to sacraments considered as outward forms, pictorial representations, or symbolic acts; just as there is no objection to a creed if every man is permitted to put on it what sense he pleases, or to ritual so long as it means nothing; but when we speak of sacraments as channels of grace, and supernatural agencies in the process of man's salvation, good-by at once to trust, to respect, and even to the use of polite language. Sacraments, if that is what they mean, are mummery and magic; soul-destroying, Christ-concealing inventions; a snare, a delusion, an offence to the simple; and the teachers of sacramental religion are mediaeval formalists, deceived and being deceived. Baptism, for example, is well enough as a ceremony of initiation, or a sign of profession and mark of difference; nay, as such, and as performed in a particular manner, it is the badge of a sect numbering in 'these United States some three millions of adherents; but it cannot be an instrument of regeneration, seeing that--as the objector states it--regeneration may take place before or after the reception of baptism, but cannot by any possibility occur at the moment of the administration; while in the case of the Lord's Supper the only thing to be strenuously asserted is that "this is not His Body," and that "this is not His Blood."
An opposition so widespread and so inveterate cannot be successfully dealt with as a mere prejudice, which in time may pass away; it is the result of fundamental error on the subject of the sacraments. In such cases nothing comes of playing about the edges of the question; we must go to the root of the matter. The intense hostility to sacramental doctrine which characterizes the Protestant mind appears to be the result of long and persistent inculcation of the principles of philosophic idealism and exaggerated spiritualism, by teachers misinformed on the origin, constitution, and destiny of man, and his relations to the universe; and until people are set right on those points they cannot see, and ought not to be expected to see, what the doctrine of the Church means and how vitally it touches us. Wherever the constitution of man, his place in the material universe, and his future destiny, bodily and spiritually, are not rightly understood; wherever he is regarded as an intelligence temporarily served by a material organism which is an encumbrance, and of which it were advantageous to be vid forever; wherever the permanence of the body in spiritual and glorified conditions is denied; where God is regarded as cutting Himself off from the universe and looking on, indifferent and isolated, while things grind along machine-like, without oversight or interference on His part; where it is forgotten that God is still a creator, and ever working as such within the world, in operations personally directed by Himself; wherever mind is exalted above heart, and man is lauded as all but a deity, and regarded as sufficient to himself without the need of outside aid; wherever it is taught that purity in religion depends on detaching one's self from the visible and palpable, and trusting to inner light, intuitions, rational processes, and subjective impressions--there, of course, man must reject the Catholic teaching on the sacraments, for it flatly contradicts every one of those cherished ideas of the natural heart. It needs no other schooling than that received from this ideal philosophy to lead a man to reject the visible and institutional in religion; to affect severe simplicity in worship; to make him suspicious of form, symbolism, and whatever addresses the senses and the imagination; to look askance and with unfriendly eye on liturgical order, exterior magnificence in worship, the visible beauty of color, ceremonial, sight, and sound, as belonging to a rudimental and unspiritual religion, and deserving no consideration from one who, as he boasts, has outgrown babyhood and come to the full stature of the intelligent and rational man. That these and the like are the serious convictions of the impugners of the teaching of the Church on the sacraments of the Gospel cannot be doubted, when we consider with what supercilious confidence they conduct themselves towards us, and how high an estimate they set on their alleged emancipation from superstition. It is a race which worldly philosophy has engendered in its womb, and nurtures at its cold, unsympathetic breast.
What can be done for men thus wandering afar from the things belonging to their peace, under the control of prejudices such as have been described, it is hard to say: but as the trouble lies at the base of all their thoughts, it seemed necessary, in treating of the sacraments of the Gospel, to begin at the beginning. For that reason I spoke to you of nature, as the handiwork of God; of creation, as originally very good; of the place of man in nature, and his intimate relations to "the creature," as St. Paul, in our version, calls it; of the development and future of man and nature, on lines trending in the same direction; of the summing up of all things in the Incarnate Word, who is called "the first-born of every creature." And having thus reminded you that "all things are ours, and that we are Christ's, and that Christ is God's," it was suggested as natural and reasonable to suppose that indications of the relationship between man and nature may be traceable; that practical purposes may be served, by the ministration of natural elements to man in his supernatural life; that through objects sanctified to a higher use, strength and grace may flow from Christ to men; that simple, natural elements may be transmuted for a strange and mystical ministry to us both in body and soul; that such transformation and exaltation of the creature carries in it the prophecy of even greater things than these; that as man, complete in a recovered body and a ransomed soul, is destined to live on in a higher state than this, so the whole creation, guided by a divine instinct, is looking out anxiously and hopefully for some benediction and help as coincident with "the redemption of our body," that great event towards which all moves and on which all converges. Godet, in his "Studies on the Old Testament," has well and eloquently traced a progress and development through creation, which surely has not yet reached its final mark.
"On the theatre of nature unconscious life has been exercised, a slave to the senses. On the stage of history the human soul has displayed the riches of life, self-conscious and free. In the Church (understanding this word in its most spiritual sense) there grew up, and has since developed itself, a new thing--the life of holy love, realized in Jesus Christ, and by Him communicated to us. Finally, in that supreme abode which we call heaven, this perfect life, divine in its essence, human in its form, will expand and radiate through matter then glorified." ["Studies on the Old Testament," p. 63.]
Thus does the material world minister to its terrestrial head; thus do material elements receive a present glorification and change for transcendental use; thus does man draw along with him the whole order in which he has his place, while advancing towards completed redemption; and here we find the meaning of a divine arrangement which extends the Incarnation through the ages, and links us to Christ, and, in Christ, to God. Such are the more recondite aspects in which this teaching challenges our faith and cheers us in the darkness of our present life.
But now, having completed the first part of our work, we may proceed to study more closely that which rises on this foundation. The bases are, indeed, mysterious, obscure, and hidden from the sight; but it is easy to study the superstructure, and note the general arrangement of the edifice, its adaptation to its purposes, and its perfect correspondence with the order of the visible world and the plan according to which we and all things about us live and move and act. The region thus far traversed may be, and doubtless will be, regarded by many as a place of speculation and dreamery. Studies such as these do not commend themselves to every mind; and if, in saying what has been said, we had spoken our last word on the subject, it would have been said to no purpose in the ears of the children of this generation. But there is much more to come. Catholic theology is broad and deep; it fails us not, wherever we need its help. Profound though it be, it is no less practical. It has its commonplace side, on which it meets the commonplace mind, and challenges the attention of that class, who, disliking abstract study, want to know precisely what a thing is worth, and are not interested until it is presented in a business shape, under conditions in which they can set to with square, line, and scales, with tables of figures and a schedule of prices, and bring it down to a calculation and a commercial result. Even so the Sacramental System may challenge study and will reward it; for we hold that it is in no sense a theory, a speculation, or an invention of romantic enthusiasts, but a very plain, simple, and practical thing, by the help of which a man may live to the glory of God and the good of his fellows, if he knows the obligations which it imposes and fulfils the duties which it enjoins. Let us then proceed to consider it under some lower points of view.
To one brought up in the Anglican Church, the first thing thought of when a sacrament is mentioned is this, that it is a Sign.
"What meanest thou by this word sacrament?"
"I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace."
"How many parts are there in a sacrament?"
"Two; the outward visible sign, and the inward and spiritual grace."
Here we strike a line on which the aptness of these ordinances to the wants of man comes into view. For the use of signs is so extensive that there is no part of the visible creation with which we are acquainted in which they are not employed; they are the familiar and necessary conditions to individual intercourse and combination for social action. The sign system is as high as heaven, as far spread as to the ends of the earth; all-pervading, and everywhere in use for the purposes of personal and social life.
What is a sign? Something which stands for something else; something or other, exterior, visible, palpable, audible, which signifies, and usually or always conceals, something invisible, intangible, interior. This is the meaning of the word, and if sacraments are signs, then by a sacramental system is meant a system of such signs. Now we assert, and challenge a denial of the assertion, that such a system surrounds and hems in the entire life of man. Look on the universe of which we form a part. We are on the old ground again, but now we are studying the subject from a different point of view; not meditating of matters occult and hidden in the secret working of the Almighty Creator, but taking note of the common facts of daily life; it is not now the deep mystery of nature which calls our attention, but the peculiar mode on which it has been organized and in which things present themselves for inspection.
I. God's works in nature constitute a series of products of creative power, throughout which may be discerned the two parts of the sacrament, a visible form and an invisible life. It is a universe of signs and sacraments; nature, throughout, is sacramental. The things about us, amidst which we live, move, and have our being, are subject to observation by the senses; we can explore, investigate, experiment, but full early a point is reached at which further investigation would prove useless. Elementary substances, limited and few in number, take innumerable forms. But each of these forms is a mere exterior wrapper; each veils what we call life, and what life is no man can tell.
"Life! Who understands it? Who has seen it? It is like the goddess Isis, whose veil may never be lifted by mortal hand. We take life as a fact; we ascertain its beginning, development, end, but we cannot explain it."
So writes a serious author. But is he right in asserting that we ascertain its beginning? Not so, except that it begins with God, and that God is life eternal. We know very little about life. One thing we know; it is impossible to point to any satisfactory experimental proof that life can be developed save from demonstrable antecedent life; that the conditions under which matter assumes the properties we call vital have never yet been artificially brought together. ["Winds of Doctrine: being an examination of the modern theories of Automatism and Evolution." By Charles Elam, M.D., pp. 78, 79, 94, 109.] It is a settled conviction that life in its essence is something beyond any combination of physical forces; in short, that life has no physical correlate. In vain have philosophers of a certain school endeavored to establish the proposition that the earliest organisms were the natural product of the interactions of ordinary inorganic matter and force. Neither observation, experiment, nor reason gives any testimony in favor of such a view; on the contrary, the conclusion is an irresistible one, that life is in all cases due either to antecedent life or to a power and force from without that is not identical nor correlated with the ordinary physical forces.
"Supposing," says Canon Mason, "that the whole fabric of inorganic matter, with its wonders of light and heat and electricity, with its planetary systems, with the beauties of water, air, and earth, were the result of an accidental play of atoms, yet life, so far as we can see, cannot he accounted for in the same way. It is as nearly certain as anything can be that the conditions of matter were at one time such--the solar system consisting of matter at a white heat--that no kind of organic life such as we are acquainted with was possible in it. Organic life, then, has had a beginning in the world even if matter and force have not. Flow did it begin? Experimental evidence cannot establish a negative, but the researches of men unprejudiced and competent confirm us in supposing that there is no such thing as spontaneous generation. Science knows of no life which had not a living parent, and science teaches that once there were no living parents on earth to produce a life. Yet here life is. The chasm between the noblest form of inorganic being and the lowest form of organic--a crystal, for instance, and a cell of protoplasm--is so great that no connecting link can be found. So far as we see, no evolution works gradually up to life. It is a sudden, startling phenomenon, which uses matter and force for its own purposes, but which is not derived from them. Whence was the first life introduced into a world which had once been incapable of harboring it, and which seems forever incapable of producing it?" ["Faith of the Gospel," pp. 8, 9.]
Beneath the form, then, is an inner, unseen principle which evades search and defies comprehension. It comes downward into these forms; it is never spontaneously generated; that only which has life can give life. What it is, no one can tell us. The outspread heavens, the myriad orbs of night, the solar system, earth, dry land, seas, valley and hill, the mineral, floral, and animal kingdoms all keep the secret close. What and whence is life? Matter has form, shape, and extension; it is subject to quantitative and qualitative analysis, but it is "informed," indwelt, by something else invisible, immaterial, inexplicable, which no one can describe or explain. What is life? No one knows.
Whence is life? Let us hear the conclusion of a great student of nature. Charles Darwin says: "I infer from analogy that probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one form into which life was first breathed by the Creator." If that inference as to the origin of life be just, we have all that we need for the point in hand. Creation is one vast Sacramental System; an endless and overwhelming variety of outward and visible forms or signs, quickened by an invisible and incomprehensible vital force. Life is in everything; in everything it is concealed; it comes not from any natural source; it is a gift of the Creator who alone hath life in Himself. What we hold to be true of the sacraments of the Gospel is, in fact, no more than what we trace everywhere throughout creation; and to object to our claim and declaration that, although visible and material in form, they contain and convey an inward and spiritual grace and power, is as unreasonable as to deny what we certainly know to be true of everything about us which hath the breath of life; of the creatures which have a material organism, and within it a quickening principle originally derived from some region outside the bounds of the natural universe.
II. A striking illustration of this universal arrangement of God's universe is seen in man. He is, emphatically, a sacrament, and a sacrament of a very wonderful order. He has a material body, an animal soul, an immaterial and immortal spirit. His body is the sign; made of the same elements which, otherwise combined, form the brute, the plant, the rock; within this frame is a principle of animal life, which gives him his place with the other orders of created beings; there also reside the principle of intelligence, which lifts him to a higher plane, and the spark of divine fire which carries him almost up to the place of the angels, and makes him an heir of immortal life. What then is this creature but a sacrament? What is his existence but a sacramental existence? Eye, tongue, hand, look, speech, are agents apt to reveal what is going on within. Who has ever seen a man? What we come in contact with is an outward and visible sign; eye answers to eye, hand clasps hand, voices ask and answer questions: but where or what is the real, the invisible, being, who thinks and speaks and is and lives?
III. In a universe sacramental throughout stands man, himself, also, a sacrament. He lives, moreover, a sacramental life; his existence is prolonged and continued in a manner suited to his state. The elements supply what is necessary to that visible frame which contains the immaterial soul and the immortal spirit; he cannot do without their help. His daily food is a sacrament; it is not meat and drink, in their accidents, which support our life, but some principle, which, disengaged by the digestive process, goes to make up the waste of muscular tissue and nerve force, maintains the vital heat, insures the circulation of the blood, and, for a time, wards off death. Even the daily meal is, in its lower way, sacramental; man doth not live by bread alone; but God, through the use of the bread, keeps man alive and well. And so of all the actions of men; the same principle holds good, whatever we think or do or say. Speech is a sacrament of thought; an audible sign to the hearer, conveying what is in the mind. The eye has power to express or interpret hope, fear, passion, love. Books and letters are sacraments; the alphabet is a sign, conveying meaning to the reader; business transactions would be impossible without commercial and negotiable paper; fleets and armies move on signals from the chief. Man thus leads a sacramental life. It is thus with him also on the religious side; signs and forms are needed there, as everywhere else; he cannot state his faith without words, terms, and phrases proper to that use; by visible acts he holds communion with the powers above him; prayer and praise, the attitude of supplication, the sign of the cross, are appropriate to his condition; his soul is fed through agencies adapted to his state. To say that these things are unnecessary and out of place; that the use of signs and sacraments, elsewhere universal, must cease when it comes to our religious life, is to contradict common experience, and to make confusion where everything else is plain and clear.
IV. For it is not only a flat denial of the faith of the Church, but also a contradiction of our common sense to tell us that we, on our Godward side, are left, and ought to be left, without sign, symbol, visible agency, or sensible means of communication with God and access to Him. God is a spirit, without body, parts, or passions. But it is not thus that man knows Him, nor could He ever have been known to us as we need to know Him, had He remained apart from us in that eternal and incomprehensible state. The highest illustration of the Sacramental System is presented in the story of redemption.
God, to save man, descends from heaven; He humbles Himself to our plane; He adapts Himself to that constitution which He has given us; He also is become as one of us, and wills to lead the sacramental life. Man is immortal; in knowledge of God standeth that immortality; that knowledge is brought to him through the material and the visible. Some knowledge of God may be had by study of nature, which is a visible sign, a system of signs, disclosing the eternal power and godhead. But to the end that the knowledge might be clear and full, a more intelligible revelation was employed. That revelation came on the same lines on which other knowledge comes; in a mode according with the analogies of the universe, our own constitution, and our relations toward everything that surrounds us. A sacrament is, first of all, a visible sign. Did God need such signs to make Himself known to man? Why need he use them? He is a spirit, and "there is a spirit in man." f Might He not--to please the idealists and transcendentalists--have limited Himself to spiritual communications, made directly, without sign or medium of any sort, and so disclosed to us whatever He pleased? It is not a question what the Almighty could or could not have done, but of what He did. He has not communicated with us in that abstract way. To have done so would have been a violation of the order of the universe, an inexplicable and embarrassing anomaly. He used the sign method and the sign language. He became a Sign and a Sacrament Himself. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." "God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh." "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law." He came in such wise that men could see Him with the bodily eye, and touch and handle Him. "That which was from the beginning," saith St. John, "we have heard, we have seen with our eyes, we have looked upon, and our hands have handled." In the mystery of His holy Incarnation God set His seal, once more and finally, to the sacramental principle, and gave it universal application and everlasting permanence. God in Christ was and is the sacrament of sacraments. In Him are the outward and visible sign and the inward part or thing signified. The sign is a humanity, constituted complete in body, flesh, bones, spirit, and soul, like ours. The inward part or thing signified is the divine nature, united to the human in the person of the Son of God. Here are the sacramentum and the res. And the inward and spiritual grace is that power which, through the Holy Ghost, flows out by many a visible sign and sacrament, from Him to us. Virtue goes forth now, as it did when the blind saw at His touch, and the lame walked, and the lepers were cleansed at His spoken word. He, as "the image of the invisible God," the first-born of the whole creation, is the most perfect instance of a sacrament that the imagination can conceive; and in condescending to take that position in His universe He tells us, distinctly, the truth, that the principle is a universal one, and runs up and down and everywhere, throughout the entire compass of the world. [See "Pearson on the Creed," Art. II., cited by Bishop Wordsworth on Col. i. 15. 5]
The argument from analogy and experience, to which your attention has now been called, may be supplemented by another, from correspondence and congruity. Man, as we know, has a dual nature; it is therefore meet and fitting that the means of his enlightenment and elevation should be adapted to his twofold condition. There is a singular propriety and fitness in the Sacramental System, when we consider to whom it is applied; indeed, it is not readily conceivable how man, being in the body, could have been reached excepting through the body; nor would a religion which declined to take note of the body and made no provision for its demands deserve consideration, as a religion fit for us in our present state. I shall not dwell on this view of the subject. Some have trusted to it, as the strongest thing that could be said for our case. In fact, it is the least important in the order of arguments. It has its place, but that place is not the first, but the last. And the same remark may be made of certain philological considerations, apparently used in recommendation of the system, but really tending to restrict it. True it is that sacraments are signs, not only to the worthy receiver, but also to the outside world; as true that they have their use as seals and pledges; but these matters, compared with others, are of secondary importance. Such conceptions of the use and value of sacraments are derived from the old classical meaning of the word. The "sacramentum" was, as you know, the soldier's oath of allegiance and loyalty; a formula of great importance in the military service, announcing the intention and resolve to be true to the standard and obedient to command, and to do, in general, a soldier's duty. Such use is also in sacraments, regarded simply from the human side. In their administration and reception we note the ideas of promise, pledge, and vow, made by or for us, confirmed and ratified, and periodically reaffirmed. In them we find also, considering the publicity of their administration, a value as signs to bystanders, intimating purpose, announcing intention, inviting sympathy, and suggesting imitation. But these uses of sacraments are the lowest and last of all; important in their own place, they yield the precedence to higher considerations of the wonder-working power of God, we think first; later, of the dispositions and concurrence of man.
The first division of my work is completed. Going back to the origin of things, we have sought a foundation for the Sacramental System in the eternal counsels and plans of the Almighty, in the relation of the creature to the Creator, through the foreseen Incarnation of the eternal Son of God. We have found the system to be in accord with the constitution of the visible universe, and the nature of mankind; we have discovered its most beautiful illustration in the union of the lower and the higher natures in Jesus Christ. It is in complete accord with us, in our present state; it is necessarily and inevitably in accord with us; so that a religion which was not sacramental could not have met the wants of mankind. We find it, moreover, to be of practical value, in identifying our place among our fellow-beings, as confessors of one holy faith, and in stamping us with a peculiar impress, known and read of all men. We realize the fact that it establishes and maintains a connection between us and the supernatural order; as giving us grace, and assuring us that it has been conferred; as moving us, under a sense of awful obligation, to the consecration of heart, mind, and will to the service of God. It exercises a strong influence so long as conscience lives and acts, constraining us to the punctual discharge of assumed obligiitions, and maintaining that sense of dependence on the higher powers which is the characteristic of the Catholic mind. The whole field of human need and human experience seems to be covered, where the system holds sway. The believer, in his reverent acceptance of sacramental gifts from God, is, though he never may have realized it, in touch with powers and forces which broaden outward and upward, till the universe is swept by them; and this fleeting hour, with its issues of life and death to the souls of men, is, in sequence, one with the beginning wherein all things were made. No doubt there are forces at work among us with which we are not yet acquainted. It has been surmised, by some reverent, though perhaps enthusiastic souls, that the time may come when we shall discover a particular force, long active in the world, which has been applied to the bodies and souls of the redeemed in Christ, through the sacraments of the Church, precisely as other forces, well known to us to-day, are working in the physical order.
Such is the Sacramental System, in the broadest light under which it can be presented to the mind. It were vain to hope, at this day, for a general acceptance of the facts concerning this grace of God; "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." The name of sacraments may be retained, and their use may continue, where the life has gone out of them; and the life does so go out, as soon as the outward and inward are divided, for then the outward remains a dead and lifeless sign, while the inward evaporates into a volatile vapor of sentiment. The principle of rationalism, applied to these mystical and beneficent rites, leaves them to us as mere memorials, emblems of absent things, or occasions on which we are to perform something for our own advantage, instead of receiving the "unspeakable gift" of God. In the narrowness of sectarian religious temper and the poverty and timidity of modern thought, men have lost hold of what they ought to have held fast forever. Some reject the sacraments altogether; some retain them under a protest that they mean nothing and confer nothing; in submitting to baptism or receiving the Lord's Supper they have no thought beyond doing something for their neighbors to look at, or signifying the vitality of what they style their faith, or announcing their personal religious convictions, or stirring up a tender recollection. The supernatural clement dies out of these degraded rites; "ordinances" only are left, which neither convey grace nor link man and God together; which are commended solely on grounds of convenience or expediency; which serve a utilitarian purpose as badges of respectability, but in themselves are nothing. It is a striking feature of the times in which we live, that the broadest and deepest views in theology are popularly considered to be narrow, while the narrowest are denominated broad. So, in the days of Isaiah, men called evil good and good evil; they put darkness for light and light for darkness, bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. The men who hold the most advanced sacramental doctrine are reviled as narrow and exclusive. It docs not occur to any to ask what these so-called narrow men believe, how far the application of their faith extends, or how exceedingly narrow in contrast are the ideas of their opponents. For, really, the man who denies the Sacramental System, who says of baptism that it is a mere outward washing, or a rite of initiation, and confers no inward and spiritual grace, and that the Lord's Supper, if it were intended to continue in use, is, after all, no more than a memorial meal, and has no power but that of affecting our feelings and deepening our sympathies with Him who so ate before He died; this man is not really broad at all, but the narrowest of the narrow, though he should call all the world to come and sit down to meat with him, and accept everybody to his fellowship without regard to initiatory lavation or particular statement of faith. On the other hand, that man who intelligently holds the belief of the Church and the fathers on these great themes is the real broad churchman, though he maintain, as he ought to, that mysteries so sacred as these should not be open to any rash foot, but must be defended from profanation and reserved for those who have the signed and certified pass and order to admit them to the presence of the King.
A few words in conclusion of this branch of my subject. The destruction of the Sacramental System, as a wonder-working power of the world to come, is at once effected by separating the sign from the thing signified and leaving a bare sign and nothing more. Happily we, as a Church, are protected from that error by the clearest declarations in our standards.
"Sacraments ordained of Christ," says Article XXV., "be not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses and effectual signs of grace and God's good will towards us, by the which He doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken but strengthen and confirm our faith in Him."
And so of Holy Baptism, it is declared in Article XXVII. to be "not only a sign of profession and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of regeneration or new birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive baptism rightly are grafted into the Church "
And elsewhere we read:
"Thus much we must be sure to hold, that in the Supper of the Lord there is no vain ceremony, no bare sign, no untrue figure of a thing absent. But, as the Scripture saith, the table of the Lord, the bread and cup of the Lord, the memory of Christ, the annunciation of His death, yea, the communion of the Body and Blood of the Lord, in a marvellous incorporation, which by the operation of the Holy Ghost (the very bond of our conjunction with Christ) is through faith wrought in the souls of the faithful, whereby not only their souls live to eternal life, but they surely trust to win to their bodies a resurrection to immortality." ["An Homily of the Worthy Receiving and Reverent Esteeming of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ." Part I.]
The Zwinglian theory, that sacraments are nothing but memorials of Christ, and badges of a Christian profession, is that one which can by no possible jugglery with the English tongue be reconciled with the formularies of our Church; the principle is contradicted by the entire cast of our sacramental offices, and by every word in them which can convey an idea of their meaning. It is well for us that this is the case; for the Zwinglian theory is simply rationalism in a religious dress; and it should be held as a matter of obligation and a point of honor to maintain that we, as a Church, have neither art nor part therein. Nor need it cause anxiety, however painful the discovery, to find men among us infected with the views of the Swiss reformer, and even carried so far by admiration for him as to make their compliments to him as "the clear-headed and intrepid Zwingle." After all, such persons deceive no one but themselves; not only within the Church, but outside it also, her position is understood; and I take occasion to acknowledge our obligation to a learned and eminent Presbyterian divine, lately deceased, the Rev. Henry I. Van Dyke, for the good service rendered us in his free dissection of a much-admired dignitary of the Anglican Church, Dean Stanley, whose views about the Holy Communion he describes as "the ripest and bitterest fruit of rationalizing about the Lord's Supper." ["The Church; her Ministry and Sacraments." The Stone Lectures at Princeton, 1890. by Henry I. Van Dyke, D.D., Pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn (A. D. F. Randolph, New York), pp. 175, 176. The whole passage here referred to will be found in the Appended Notes, No. II.] It is perfectly true, as Dr. Van Dyke goes on to say, that the sign theory of the sacraments is "the symbol of rationalism in its bald and naked shape." That theory, however strongly it may commend itself to individuals here and there, is foreign to the standards of the Church. It flourishes as faith in the supernatural grows weak; it dies when that faith revives. The voice of Catholic Christendom, as duly and clearly heard in our Offices and Articles, reproves and rebukes it; and of late, our hold on the higher truth and the deeper mysteries has strengthened, under observation of the result of giving away the treasure committed to our keeping. The words of Bishop Harold Browne may be adopted as expressive of the judgment and belief of the Church from which we have our Orders, that "the sacraments of the Gospel not only promise Christ, but to those who receive them in faith they are means whereby God gives Christ to the soul." ["Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles," Vol. II. p. 382.]