Project Canterbury

The Bishop Paddock Lectures, 1892

The Sacramental System Considered as the Extension of the Incarnation

By Morgan Dix, D.C.L.,
Rector of Trinity Church, New York.

New York: Longmans, 1893.

Lecture VI.
The Outward Glory and the Inward Grace

Two things remain to be done before bringing these lectures to a close. We have traversed a field of great extent, in considering the Sacramental System as disclosed in Nature, in man, and in our religion. I wish to say some words, briefly, on its twofold manifestation, externally, in the worship of the Church, and internally, in the life of the soul, and on the development of the seed sown therein unto life eternal.

The Sacramental System rests, as we believe, on a basis in the natural world; to nature, then, may we look, on nature may we freely draw, for a supply of whatever is necessary to convey to us, through the senses, a due apprehension of the meaning and value of that system. Therefore it seems to be of the perpetual fitness of things that Religion should be symbolical in form; that it should wear a striking and appropriate garb, visible to the eye, and expressive of the spirit within. Such is indeed the fact, in the case of every religion which has proved its right to the name by the effects produced on its adherents; and the Catholic Religion is the most convincing and attractive instance of the general law. To the solemn and beautiful Ritual of the Church of Christ your thoughts shall now be directed; and under that term is included everything, small or great, employed by way of rite, ceremony, or symbol, to present to mankind the truth revealed by the Father of the universe and the Ruler of their life. How vast is this subject and how refreshing to one who is tired of the noise of the world and the strife of tongues! How satisfying to the soul which loves the good, the beautiful, and the true! Think of the worship of the Church; how deep the impress it has stamped upon the world; how often of old it subdued the wild barbarian by its awe and reverence; how it has melted the hearts of those who beheld it for the first time, or, after long absence, saw the solemn pageantry again; how it attracts and satisfies the devout, transforms the fierce and cruel, converts the sinner, and seems to open to the toilers in this world's night a gate into heaven. It is wonderful to note how the Church, with her ancient Creed and her equally ancient liturgical Use--in essentials the same all the world through--has held her place, surviving every empire of the earth, outliving assaults, falsifying each prediction of failure, and chanting her "De Profundis" over the graves of the enemies by whom she has been assailed from generation to generation! Nay, even when, under pressure and perhaps inadvertently, men have rejected and flung away their birthright in that grand traditional system of faith and worship, we fail not to find them growing more and more restless and uneasy, while trying to recover, if not the substance, at least the shadow of what once was theirs. It is, indeed, a touching sight to behold the children whose fathers repudiated the old and venerable forms of Christian worship, now groping their way back to the place of parting, to see if anything, and if so, what, could be recovered where so much was thrown away. What a wonderful story is told, by comparing the New England meeting-house of two hundred and fifty years ago--that depressing, barn-like structure, four-square, painted white, and having no semblance of a house of God--with one of those magnificent edifices, built in correct ecclesiastical style and externally faultless, in which the descendants of the ancient Puritans now assemble for their Sunday devotions! The principle on which symbolical and liturgical religion rests is deeply rooted in human nature; it is an instinct, a demand, implying universal need. The science of Christian Liturgies, based on those needs of mankind, stands eminent among all sciences; rich in material, congenial, attractive, satisfying. In Christianity, when sincerely and simply taught, will inevitably be found that quality referred to by John Mason Neale, in his preface to his translation of Durandus, which he calls SACRAMENTALITY. Types of Christianity occur, no doubt, in which this element seems wanting; but are they not corruptions of our religion? may they not be described as cases of emasculated or desiccated Christianity? True Christianity cannot be false to the general postulate on which religion is built; to the nature of man, to the design of God in making us what we are, to the drift of history from the beginning of the world to this day. The Sacramental System can be traced in the heavens above and in the earth beneath, in the Incarnate Word, and in ourselves; the science of Christian symbolism is its inseparable attendant; from pole to pole, and from the one sea to the other, it proclaims the unity of the works of God in nature and in grace.

By an ineradicable instinct, by a sense of fitness, and by a sensible need, men seek and find--whatever their religion--some means of giving outward expression to their faith. Let them believe what they will, be it right or wrong, false or true, they must announce it in visible sign or act. The more they believe, the more free will be their use of ritual and symbolical helps; the purer their faith, the more noble and affecting its expression. Conversely, as men lose their hold on a world beyond this, believing less and less, the more dry and dull must their worship become, till, when they reach the end, and believe nothing, acts of worship cease, because the motive to worship exists no more. I repeat it: all nations, people, and languages, without exception, so far as they have had any religion, have felt the need of means to convey religious ideas to themselves and to others. God, in choosing a people as His own, and making them His agents in keeping the light aflame in the darkness of the earth, instituted a full, minute, and splendid ritual system as an adjunct to that work. The Holy Church throughout the world, heir of the elder branch of the family, followed the indication of the Divine Will. For the "Origines Liturgicae" we go back to those days when the worship of the synagogue expanded into that of the Christian assemblies. What we now possess and enjoy may be traced to norms in the sub-apostolic age. The utmost importance attaches to these things; they make for help and encouragement, for accuracy in teaching, for precision in thought, for conservation of dogma, for edification of believers, for signs to faith, for reminders of duty, for object lessons in divine knowledge, for comfort and consolation in a world of care. Even the conflicts which have raged from time to time, and often with mob-fury and frenzy of fanatics, about the Ritual Question, attest its importance in the eye of mankind. We may count on a general consent to the proposition that Symbolism is valuable only for what it expresses, and that a ritual which means nothing is not worth keeping up. The men who built and decorated the great cathedrals, and developed in them the full glory of worship, did so, not for amusement or for the gratification of a dry and selfish jestheticism, but under an impulse which compelled them to make their loyalty and devotion known to the world, and to give due expression to the truths to which they were devoted, heart and soul; while, on the other hand, they who, roaring in the midst of the congregations, set fire to the holy places, brake down the carved work thereof with axes and hammers, and defiled the dwelling-place of God's Name, did so under the impression that they were doing Him service as reformers of abuses and exterminators of falsehood and error. On each side, by friend and foe alike, is witness borne to the power of ritual and its influence on the people. [Even Auguste Comte, having swept away the Christian religion, and substituted for it his system of philosophy, was fain to invent and contrive a religion and a ritual to match his new discoveries; he has his church, his hierarchy, and his pontiff; his mimicry of ecclesiastical rites and institutions, and his travesty of the Christian sacraments. We also learn that the recent school of sceptics, who inarch under the name and invocation of "Robert Elsmerc,"' have set up a church in London, wherein they carry on some kind of worship, the Lord knows what, after their own peculiar ideas. So even the most extreme among the enemies of the Faith attest the power of the principle which underlies our ritual and liturgical service of the True God.]

Let us think of this matter, first, from what may be termed an à priori point of view, and then in some of its historical and practical aspects.

Two things seem so clear that they need no argument to prove their truth; it is impossible to state the articles of any religion without the use of dogmatic terms; it is next to impossible to keep a system of doctrine intact without the help of symbols apt to represent and teach it.

"As thought cannot be expressed without language, or some outward sign and representation, either in science or religion, so it is an absolute necessity to employ signs, words, or symbols, to embody and teach the facts of both. If the mathematician cannot do without his signs and formula;, or the merchant without his figures and secret marks, so the religion of all antiquity could not do without its symbols. And it is difficult to know how any religion can be preserved in. its purity and integrity without symbols or exact and uniform expressions of truth, from which there shall be no variation. It is possible that, in the lapse of time, with the increase of wealth and luxury and the usual degeneracy of morals and decay of pure religion consequent upon such a state of things, the first symbols of a people might come to lose their significance or influence, and others of a more debased character be added to the list. And it is further possible that all symbols might be taken for the things or gods which they represented, at least among the ignorant and depraved, and among all such as were incapable of abstract thought, or were more under the influences of the senses than of faith or reason. But how to have a religion and worship for a people at large, without some kind of external form and expression, or how to preserve and transmit such religion and worship without symbols and records, it is next to impossible to say." ["Monumental Christianity, or the: Art and Symbolism of the Primitive Church as Witnesses and Teachers of the One Catholic Faith and Practice." By John P. Lundy, p. 4.]

The use of Symbolism is coeval with the human race; it is a result of the constitution of man's nature; the desire, the need, are implanted in the heart from the very beginning. [See C. O. Müller, quoted by Dr. Lundy, pp. 23, 24.] Divine truth is presented to man as a whole, and not to one department or function of his nature only; it has to do with us as we are, complete in body, soul, and spirit; every part is concerned in and affected by what God makes known. And therefore, unless religion has a visible, audible, palpable side, it cannot meet the entire man, much less the whole human brotherhood. Men need no commandment on that point; nature tells them what must be done; and just as soon as they perceive the existence of an object of worship, they seek and find a symbolical method of rendering homage; some sign, some form, is instantly appropriated to that purpose. On the instincts of humanity, on needs universally felt and admitted, rests the Liturgical system of the Church; nay, it is thus also with every system of worship at any time or in any place used among men.

But symbolism is not only indispensable to the expression of the faith, it is equally necessary to its preservation. Our thoughts are unstable and changeful; they are not an unerring guide; left to ourselves, without safeguard or check, we cannot be trusted from day to day; "the Lord knoweth the thoughts of man that they are vain." To steady them, we need visibles which endure. It would be tiresome to quote the "segnius irritant" of the bard of the Sabine farm; you know the lines, perhaps, by heart; and you know that the words are true. The value of Ritual consists in its aptness to teach, and its ability to preserve and transmit what it teaches. A ritual which means nothing is an anomaly, the melancholy shadow of something dead and gone. A meagre and defective ritual is helpless to prevent variation in doctrine. Truth may be held for a while, without this aid to our weakness, but not for long. Men of powerful intellect and strong convictions have now and then declined the help of rite and symbol, and set at naught whatever makes for exterior reverence and beauty in religion; but their temporary success was due to the movement of the tide of controversy; as the combative spirit lost power, and quietness and calm returned, disintegration in thought and belief followed. Reformers, inspired by a supreme conviction of the truth of some pet tenet, or a sense of responsibility and importance as guardians of a favorite line of doctrine, may go on for a time without the aid of those adjuncts which in general are necessary for the defence and maintenance of religion; but when the early zeal dies out, with the impulse which it gave, the descent into indifference is accelerated by the removal of the brakes from the wheel. And so with the Catholic Religion. While in its ritual and symbolism there is no value whatever apart from the truths which they enshrine and disclose in their characteristic way, it is impossible to see how that religion could be kept up in the world without their help; as matter of experience, it has not been kept up where the old and suitable forms and rites have been discarded. The Symbol, devoutly and intelligently used, becomes an agent in strengthening our intellectual apprehension. Attitudes expressive of awe and reverence develop those feelings, and become secondary causes thereof. Many persons say: "I make this sign, I use that ceremony, because I need them; if I did not, I might lose my faith." And they are right in their statement of the case; for we are imitative beings; we are helped by what we see; under the law of association, conduct and opinion are invariably influenced by acts, sights, sounds, subjected to the senses, and carrying an impression to the mind and heart. Many have owed their conversion to the eye and the car, engaged by some symbolical presentment of a vital truth, who would have been deaf to the most forcible appeal to the logical faculty; and this because they were men; not spirit and mind only, but body and senses also; and because idealism was not adequate to their need. How solemnly and earnestly is the case presented by the apostle in describing how the human race was brought to the right knowledge of God Himself! "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of Life, that declare we unto you." God did not reveal Himself to abstract thought; nor is the knowledge of Him and our relation to Him derivable from abstract thought. He came among us, and was seen and heard in the visible form of that human nature in which He dwelt; now we still see Him, in the religion of Sacramentality and Symbolism, which do for us what sight and touch and hearing did for those who were near Him in the clays of His flesh.

In accordance with these principles, the Catholic Church has presented, and still presents, the truth, through her solemn and beautiful ritual, to mankind. We believe, we must believe, we cannot but believe, in the truth and reality of what is constantly spoken of as the worship of nature. We gladly adopt the term, and assign to it a practical value; not using it as a rhetorical phrase but as the statement of a fact. The heavens declare the glory of God. The stars had a voice in the morning of the world, and still the entire firmament speaks His praise. Nature, through all her realms, knows how to express the gratitude and joy which come of existence according to her Creator's will. Could we but sec beneath the surface, we should, no doubt, find in everything that hath breath a power to praise the Lord and a good will thereto; if we could hear better than we do with these gross ears of ours, we should, no doubt, receive the harmonies of a grand anthem of gladness perpetually sung to God, through kingdom after kingdom of His worlds. Now the worship of the Catholic Church was meant to be, and is, a response to this inarticulate and--to us, but only to us--inaudible action of worship; and whatever of breadth, of splendor, of impressiveness, of melody are in the Versicle should appear in the Respond. [For some very interesting and valuable thoughts and statements on what has been called superhuman vision and the rhythmical movement in Nature, see Canon MacColl's "Christianity in Relation to Science and Morals," pp. 222-236. 13] The worship of nature is like an Antiphon, given out, full and clear, through earth and sky and sea; and then the psalm is taken up, with that Antiphon for its suggestive inspiration, and it rolls forth from the temples of the Lord, wherein lie dwells, and its sound goes out into all lands. Why should not His worship be as rich, as magnificent, as it can be made? Why should there not go into it as much of beauty, majesty, and refined culture as faithful souls and ardent minds and reverent and devoted spirits can contribute for an oblation to the Lord? What else can it be but visible and symbolical? We have seen that the whole system of the created universe is sacramental in its cast; that the sacramental principle is traceable everywhere in nature; that under visible forms spiritual and moral truths are made known to intelligent inhabitants of the world. So the whole material universe becomes tributary to God's Church, the constituted teacher of the nations, the witness and keeper of the truth. Since God has been pleased to appropriate certain elements of this world, and in particular the clement of water, the flour of wheat, the juice of the grape, the oil of the olive, and, sanctifying them to spiritual and supernatural uses, has lifted them to an unheard-of honor, is it not meet and right that nature should continue to contribute her choicest treasures for oblation in those places in which her own has thus already been glorified? The rock of the mountain side, the trees of the forest; frond and flower, the glory of Lebanon, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together; the gold, the silver, the precious stones; the products of the loom; color, lights, sweet sounds, all kinds of music; nay, everything whereby God can be praised and gratitude can be expressed, and everything apt to carry a meaning or present a truth, is here in place. That is a healthful instinct which bids us make our churches as beautiful as we can and our ritual attractive and impressive. It helps us to realize that God is one in nature and in the Church. It is a fatal error to divorce the worship of God in nature and the worship of God in the Church as if they had nothing in common; for if His worship in our Christian assemblies be allowed to sink into something so cold, so bald, so dull, so lifeless as we often see it, why should not men turn away from that unworthy and unsatisfying routine and get them to the open air, crying: "Give me the light, the color, the music; give me the blue of the sky, the brilliance of the flowers, the softness of the green sward; the reflection of the clouds in lake and stream, the songs and carols of the birds; these lift my soul, these warm my heart, these realize God to me as He never could be realized within four whitewashed walls, in prosy, unreal talk, in discordant droning of unmusical verse; the worship of nature is more true to the ideal than what you ask me to offer in your synagogue or auditorium." Let it ever be in your thoughts, this alliance between the ritual of nature and the ritual of Holy Church. Let us welcome the idea of the offering of her best, by nature, to the promotion of the greater glory of the Lord, and of our duty to accept that gift in good faith. It is of the fitness of things that this should be so; it is the expression of our conviction of the unity of God's works in nature and in grace; it is our protest against the spirit which thinks that we do honor to God by making His worship mean, slovenly, and contemptible. In fact, the whole system of ritual splendor and magnificence lies in germ in the institution of the two sacraments as necessary to salvation. The Church has responded to a suggestion which it was impossible to misunderstand. She has invested the simple act of baptism, the simple acts of breaking bread and blessing a cup, with a rich abundance of symbolical ceremonies, in order to stamp more deeply on the minds of her children the ideas connected with those sacraments, the truths which they enshrine, the benefits which they apply; she shows forth, by every agency adapted to the purpose, the exalted nature of our first grafting into Christ, the indescribable mystery of growth upward into Him and into eternal life, by feeding on His flesh and blood. These adjuncts are not essential to the validity of the sacraments, but they have a use and a fitness which place them beyond legitimate objection. [See Moehler's "Symbolism," vol. i. p. 311.]

But it is said that these things are for the vulgar only, and that men of a high order of intelligence do not need them. We are not careful to reply to that ancient, ill-tempered slur. What are contemptuously called the vulgar constitute, in point of fact, the great mass of mankind. To the poor the gospel was preached; "to this man will I look, saith the Lord, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit and trembleth at my word." Religion is for such as these, first of all; not for a coterie of self-opinionated philosophers, nor for any man, whosoever he be, who walks in pride of intellect or heart; and against the appeal of the poor in spirit, and the unerring instinct of the mass of mankind, rationalistic objections avail not. The rationalist may deny, he cannot affirm; he may pull down, he cannot build up; he never can invent a religion which will meet the want of the race. Our argument against that cold idealism which makes men iconoclasts is justified by common sense, and even more strongly by experience. "To confine religion entirely to spirituals," says an old author, "may perhaps have been the attempt of well-meaning men, but certainly of bad philosophers. They were unacquainted with human nature, and did not foresee that their attempt must terminate in perfect Quietism." As little do they perceive who throw away the Christian ritual and yet hope to keep Christian dogma, that the loss of the former involves the loss of the latter, and that he who discards the sign will ultimately be forced to part with the thing signified.

It was not without the highest authority that the Church of the latter days developed her ritual system. Almighty God was the author of that order which preceded it, and out of which it grew. His directions were comprehensive and minute, and the result was impressive and magnificent. Enough may be gathered from the Holy Scriptures and from external testimony to show that the service of the ancient Church must have been stately and profoundly impressive. To that, as to a norm, they looked, who had the ordering of Christian worship. Their reliance on symbolism, their appreciation of the fine arts in their various branches, are evident from the beginning. The pictures and symbols in the Catacombs, the palm branch, the Agnus Dei, the fish, the cross, are instances of the desire to give visible expression to faith. That Christian worship was, from the first, liturgical will only be denied by those who are influenced by a strong distaste for it. That the Christian converts began to adorn and decorate their places of worship as soon as they were relieved from the fear of persecution, is matter of history. More and more beautiful, more and more rich and splendid became the order of their worship, till it attained a culmination in the ages when the great cathedrals of the world were built. Glorious things, indeed, are spoken of thee, thou city of God!

Take the cathedral idea, as it lived in the mind of the men of old and was partially realized by their hands, and consider if anything be lacking to make it the most splendid conception of holy symbolism. Let us imagine ourselves before one of those superb objects which constitute the admiration and the despair of our colder and less religious clay. Here stands the sacred pile, every square foot teaching a lesson and expressing a truth; addressing intellect, heart, and senses together; showing man the glory of God, the mystery of his own being, the wonders of time and eternity. The western front faces a storm-swept world, as a barrier of rock the angry sea; figures of Archangel and Angel, Apostles, Saints, and Warriors seem to repel the powers of darkness; grotesque shapes here and there suggest the strange, incongruous elements so warded off lest they might disturb the peace of the Holy City. The western towers represent the Apostolic Ministry, firm and unshaken. The portals, enriched with leaf, flower, and fruit, and deeply cusped and shafted, welcome the approaching pilgrim, whom sweet and peaceful countenances also regard as he draws nigh. He sees the long sweep of the wall and roof line, the transepts, the flying buttresses, throwing their arms across the sky; and there, above, the spire rises, and melts away into the air, catching the first rays of the morning light, flushed by the sunset, and holding up the everlasting cross amidst the stars of night. Enter, and hushed now be soul and heart, for we are in another world. Who docs not know the impression produced on first standing inside the great cathedral doors? There are the calm of the deep green woods, the "stillness of the central sea." The arcades of the forest are before us; piers and columns stand to the right and left, like the monarchs of the grove; above is the roof for a sky; pictures, mosaics, colors, rainbow hues, make it "all glorious within." And then, the holy of holies beyond!

"Such trembling joy the soul o'erawes,
As nearer to Thy shrine she draws:
And now before the choir we pause.

"From each carved nook and fretted bend,
Cornice and gallery seem to send
Tones that with seraph hymns might blend.

"Three solemn parts together twine
In harmony's mysterious line,
Three solemn aisles approach the shrine."
[Christian Year: Trinity Sunday.]

Lesser altars, each with its ornaments, catch the eye, but it rests, finally, upon the central throne of the Presence of our Lord. And now, it may be, while eyes are full, and heart as though it could hold no more, shall come the sound of music, which, rolling in deep diapason, fills the air; and chants are heard like the voices of eternity and the songs of the New Jerusalem; and forth, in procession, with cross and banner, with cope and shining vestment, come figures, which approach, and ascend the grades of the choir and the altar steps, and show forth The Death, till He come, and make solemn memorial of His Passion, interceding for the sins of the world, praying for "the whole state of Christ's Church militant." This is the culmination, the triumph of Sacramentality and Symbolism; true to our nature; perfectly adapted to the law of our constitution; precious, not in itself nor for itself alone, but for the things which it teaches and for those spiritual realities which it thus presents to the understanding and the faith.

Bryant, in his "Thanatopsis," represents the universe as ministering to man in his death:

"The hills,
Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun--the vales
Stretching in pensive quietness between;
The venerable woods; rivers that move
In majesty, and the complaining brooks
That make the meadows green; and poured round all
Old ocean's gray and melancholy waste,
Are but the solemn decorations all
Of the great tomb of man."

The thought of the poet, exquisitely though it be disclosed, is depressing. There is another side to this; we may think of nature in another way; we may realize her as ministering to us in our life, as coming to us in shining garments rather than in mourning weeds; as chanting meanwhile a "Sursum Corda" rather than a "Requiem Æternam." Life, not death, is the message of the Gospel; beauty, not ugliness, the vesture of the King's Daughter; light, not darkness, the boon of nature to believing souls; and the rays derived from her mysterious shrine may better be used to kindle the sanctuary lamp before the altar, than to touch to flame the candles which flicker beside the trestles of the dead.

When, under some sinister influence or some wrong guidance, men, rejecting all this glory and beauty, turn away to their own devices, they leave-things which belong to their peace. They go into a chilly air, they begin a long descent; they lose, in losing the sign, those things which it signifies, the help which the symbol was intended to give. Less and less shall they know about worship; more and more hard and intellectual shall become their religion; the sanctities of the altar service shall be replaced by the attraction of listening to a set discourse; the gratification of the ear, the exercise of the critical faculty on some favorite orator's eloquent efforts, shall become the prominent motives to draw them to the place of meeting. Slowly, and step by step, come changes in this declining progress; men bow no longer at the Sacred Name; they kneel no longer; they sit, to praise, to pray; the more bare the edifice, the better it seems to its purpose; there is no font, no altar, no organ; there is no belief in regeneration or the real presence; there is no priesthood; there is no garb for officiant; there is no authority but that of private judgment and individual taste. So proceeds the evolution; and still, beyond, to more barren forms, when we come to the frigid silence of Quietists, who sit waiting for the Spirit to move them, and discard every external in religion. There is no farther step, save that of imperturbable agnosticism; which, when we reach, we are at the frigid pole, where the Solemn Ritual of the Catholic Church is replaced by an inarticulate cry addressed, none knows to what. True to theory and close to fact is the picture drawn by Mr. Mallock, of the logical end of the rejection of the symbolism of the sacramental Church. Paul will instruct Virginia in the solemn and unspeakably significant worship of the Positivism, which admits no God, no soul, no supernatural order, and, above all, no hell. He will show her what true religion and true worship are; he has an audible and a reasonable liturgy which gives utterance to the religion of exact thought.

'"Let us both join our voices,' he says, 'and let us croon at the moon.' The professor at once began a long, low howling. Virginia joined him until she was out of breath.

"'Oh, Paul,' she said at last, 'is this more rational than the Lord's Prayer?'

"'Yes,' said the professor, 'for we can analyze and comprehend that; but true religious feeling, as Professor Tyndall tells us, we can neither analyze nor comprehend. See how big nature is, and how little--ah, how little!--we know about it. Is it not solemn, and sublime, and awful? Come, let us howl again.'

"The professor's devotional fervor grew every moment. At last he put his hand to his mouth, and began hooting like an owl, till it seemed that all the island echoed to him." ["The New Paul and Virginia, or Positivism on an Island," by W. H. Mallock, pp. 124-129.]


We have long since passed the point at which the return to the old ways in our branch of the Church excited anger and provoked to iconoclastic rioting. The Oxford Movement began by the recovery of doctrine and dogma, obscured and all but lost in the age of latitudinarian and Protestant error; the ritual revival followed as its legitimate fruit. In some points it is open to criticism; we may regret, perhaps deplore, the line taken in the development in certain directions; but whatever mistakes have been made, the general course has been right and true. John Mason Neale's prediction, in his spirit-stirring lines, "The Good Old Times of England," has been fulfilled to the letter, and each day widens the range of that victorious progress. ["Hierologus," ch. IV. pp. 101-103.] Meanwhile, the work within our own borders has the sympathy and approval of multitudes of friends and lovers of God, in other folds than ours, who are following as fast as could be expected in the path on which we are pioneers. And often, watching these things, do men bow the head, and give God thanks for the day when the beauty and the glory are thus coming back, as if they could hear, in the air about them, the cadence of the prophet's words:

"Et aedificabunt deserta a seculo et ruinas antiquas erigent, et instaurabunt civitates desertas, clissipatas in generationem et generationem." [Isaiah lxi. 4.]

Only let this be said by way of cautel. What we most need, everywhere, to-day, is reality in religion; and yet, so strangely is temptation fitted to human weakness, that without suspecting it we may be powerfully drawn to unreality and untruth, like those who pursue a phantom and grasp at a shadow. It is a distinct temptation to have and to use things, without attaching a meaning to them; to retain creeds, and yet to put on the words whatever sense we please; to have forms, but to disclaim what they naturally convey to the eye and the ear; to use a ritual, but at the same time to say that it is without doctrinal signification. That is the instant danger of the hour; against that we must be ever on the watch; it is Satan's masterpiece to take what ought to make for stronger faith, deeper reverence, and more sensible apprehension of things unseen and invisible, and, having extracted the kernel and marrow, to leave us an empty shell, a worthless husk. Unreality in religion makes unreality in the daily life; God forbid that we be involved in the downfall to which it leads! God forbid that any one of us be found saying, or saying Amen to, prayers with which the conscience does not go along; reciting the Creed, yet inwardly muttering, "I do not really mean it;" making vows of obedience and conformity, with a mental reservation, bowing the knee in the house of God, yet saying secretly, "I do not believe in this," or "I do this only because I find it becoming, attractive, aesthetic." Better no religion than one which amounts to no more than a hollow form, a piece of decorative art, a cerement wrapped around the bones of a dead faith. Better no vows, than vows which a man intends to keep only so long as his views remain the same; better no plight of troth in marriage than one which is to stand good only till some new love supplants the old; better no words than words twisted into a falsehood and a lie; better no rites than rites which mean nothing.

And this leads me to my last word on the subject which has so long engaged our thoughts: the Sacramental System finds its inward manifestation in the life of the soul. Here we pass from symbols to what they signify, from the visible to the invisible; we enter a region of tender, shadowed, solemn thoughts, of personal experiences, of contacts with the spiritual world, where one walks trembling yet joyful in the presence of the Holy Ghost.

For it is the Spirit of God, the Lord and Life Giver, who acts on us through externals, to renew and restore the Divine Image within us and to make us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints. We hear of Christ so constantly, He is so perpetually talked about, that it reminds us of His own prediction: "They shall say, Lo, here is Christ; or, Lo, He is there; behold, He is in the deserts, or He is in the secret places." There be false Christs, and false prophets; almost as many Christs as there are persons who prate of Him and pretend to have fathomed the mystery of His being, His person, and His acts. But still, Christ is all in all; and to live His life and to have His image reflected in the heart is the conclusion of the whole matter. For the knowledge of our Lord we must trust to close study of such representation of Him as we have; His portrait is painted for us in many a psalm of the Old Testament, in many a prophecy; in His own Beatitudes, in words of Evangelist and Apostle; it is a picture of One who is with God, and in God, truly man also, humble, lowly, long-suffering, meek; poor in spirit, never doubting, never disputatious; leading a life divine, yet folded around in human garb, in perfect sympathy with everything that lives; known to the spirits of the lost, fenced around by legions of angels, familiar with the marvels of the invisible realm. It must be pronounced impossible to reproduce even any faint likeness of this consummate life, this superhuman character, unless the spirit of self-trust and self-will be laid aside; unless a man be clothed on with deep humility; unless he be imbued with ideas and impressions derived from faith in the invisible; unless he desires that which God doth promise; unless the saints and the angels and the spiritual world are as real to him as the tenants of the world in which we now live. It cannot be demanded of the rationalist, the agnostic, the sceptic, that they should turn out of their workshop an image absolutely foreign to their conception of what man should be. An invincible faith in things unseen; a realization of the supernatural realm with its marvellous contents; a constant tending towards God, in holding out the hand for Him, feeling after Him, seeking to be where He is, sure of nothing where He is not discerned, these are the factors of the re-creation in Christ, and these are in vital harmony and accord with the system displayed under holy sacraments and symbols apt to the work of the training of the soul, the renewal of the heart. The Christian dispensation, to judge of it from its description in the Holy Gospels and the New Testament writings, was intended to do a specific work among us. It was designed to act on the heart, to form a peculiar character, and to develop certain tendencies in man; to convince him of his own littleness and of the greatness of God; to bring him to God in perfect self-renunciation, and to make him very calm and strong in a strength not his by nature, nor in any way his own. The result, where the system has its way untrammelled, is that, to the disciple so instructed, the whole world becomes instinct with solemn mysteries and full of things divine; life is, in its experiences, a continual lesson in the dealings of our merciful Lord with us; things about us are more than they seem to be; visible objects stand for invisibles; there are meanings in every department of nature which the natural eye cannot take in; dreams, signs, visions, omens are not to be despised; stars and flowers and mountains, rivers, lakes, the ancient hills, the wide and wandering sea, all have, in truth and reality, a voice for the soul; the year has its divisions, the day its hours, through which the mystery of redemption is continually repeated; every duty rests on a law of the God of righteousness, every action should be done to His glory, every work begun, continued, and ended in Him. Under this tuition men acquire a readiness to admit the inexplicable, to credit the improbable, to believe--as St. Augustine expressed it in his noted paradox--the impossible. They are not confined within the bound of flesh and sense; they do not starve on the thin scrannel straw of Positivism; they are prepared for things most marvellous, most unaccountable; they apprehend an unfathomable mystery in their own life; they walk ringed about with mystery--not such mystery as leads to helpless, abject surrender of intellectual effort to sound it, but a mystery to which they know they have a key; everything that occurs has its meaning; everything works together for their good; the beyond is far more real than the present; the Bible is a wonder book in which every recorded miracle is gladly accepted; prayer has its answer; God is present; in the holy places He meets them and they are with Him; angels and ministers of grace surround them; departed souls commune with them; all live to God. They know that the human body is the temple of the Holy Ghost; that it contains a germ of the spiritual body that is to be; they know that the whole creation is interested in the destiny of man and is looking for the adoption, the redemption, of the body. Such are the convictions of the men of faith, and how can they be strengthened and confirmed so surely as under that system of which we have been meditating in these Lenten studies? Where faith is at a minimum, and reverence for the supernatural is deemed superstition, it must be impossible to develop such a character and spirit as have been now hurriedly sketched. Where it exists it will stamp its special mark on the form, the manner, and the features, according to the sincerity of its reception and the completeness of its rule. To what extent soever the Catholic religion acts upon us, to that extent it must transform us; if there be much of our own native infirmity and imperfection, its influence will be apparently diminished; if we give ourselves up to it without reserve and without fear, men will perceive the fact and confess that the unseen powers are with us of a truth; if we have made slow and very little progress here, we shall have the more to learn in that future state where our education is to be continued; if we have advanced rapidly in this lower school, the entrance shall be abundant into the courts above. The visible impress of holiness is the presage of immortality, the sign of the life with Christ in God, the assurance of a resurrection in the new and glorious body which is to be man's heavenly dress. More of these things shall we know as faith comes back; that faith which is the substance of our dreams, the evidence of the truth of our convictions; which is an anchor of the soul thrown into that within the veil and holding us fast to our moorings; which leads men to renounce the world, to despise its promises and defy its power, to seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Come, Holy Ghost, and lift the covering spread on the face of unbelief and lead us safely to those blessed seats, where we shall see face to face; where the signs and symbols now used shall be exchanged for the substance and reality, wherein shall be no further change forever and ever.


Project Canterbury