THERE is an old life, and there is a new life; a natural birth and a new birth; the old man and the new man; the state of nature, and the state of grace; the old creation and the new creation. The difference and the distance between them are eternal. By no ingenuity can they be obliterated. Other valleys may be filled, and other mountains levelled. But this bottomless chasm, and these measureless heights, which separate a dead from a living world, will forever mark the unchangeable boundaries.
The times, by many unhappy necessities, oblige us to declare this, with new earnestness, for special reasons, and with perfect understanding of what that life is, or rather from whence it comes. A life as an example is one thing. Life as a vitalizing power is quite another. This is, to the race of man, what the vital principle is to nature. This last is beyond human skill to discover, and beyond human power to create. Science has eagerly attempted the subtle mystery. The heat and the moisture, sun and rain, with all the magic resources of chemistry, have been invoked to generate it. But in vain. Sea and land refuse to give one sign by any process of human creation. It is God's secret. Spiritual life is yet farther removed from human possibilities. No theories can originate it. Bring into the laboratory of your experiments all fine sentiments, wisdom, ethics, and teachings, call to your aid all means of mental and moral husbandry, the light and heat of human culture, but you cannot generate spiritual life in a dead race, as you could not create natural life in a dead world, if by some universal catastrophe, the vital principle had been extinguished throughout its entire dominion. The sun might shine, the rains fall, and the [3/4] clouds drop down the dew, but the vine would not yield her fruit, nor the earth bring forth her increase, till the lost life should be restored. So must the vital mystery be restored to a dead race. And precisely is it the fundamental fact of our religion that the Incarnation is just this. This is the well-spring of the new life. By it, the Eternal SON is so allied with our flesh and blood, that the deep fountain of His nature, sends the living currents along the dried up channels of ours. It is He who said "I am the life." Out of this transcendent reality, all like Scriptures have their meaning. "Your life is hid with CHRIST." "This life is in His SON." "The last Adam was made a quickening spirit. By it divine fruits grow again in the barren soil of nature, water-springs appear in dry ground, streams break out in the desert, and souls live as willows by the water courses. It is not a thought but a life, not an idea but a vitality, and this life now fills His own living Body, the ever growing, deathless vine of the world.
Nevertheless all the deadly antagonisms of the old creation remain. And one appalling fact, which deserves very special attention, is, that the powers of the old life now borrow so much strength from the new. By themselves they carry their own repulsions, and give their own warnings. All men may see and know their open and avowed enemies. But when they put on beautiful disguises and conceal their nature under the appearance of truth, when good names are given to bad things, when they make bad things good, and good things bad, then are they at once, mightiest to allure, and mightiest to destroy. It is the old life arrayed in the charms of the new--the old life in its glory. The hosts thereof go forth to conquests without opposition, and with unceasing applause. Difficulties disappear, and new zeal comes from success, as the armies of the false prophet were inflamed by their victories, when thrones and dominions fell before them. It is a change of tactics, to suit the altered conditions of the times. In earlier days the onset was often by violence, and saints went to Paradise through blood and flames. But the genius of evil powers is wary enough to discern that the old weapons are out of use. The slaughter of martyrs will not do any more. Nothing would be surer to defeat their purpose, as they have learned by experience. They must now "preach the Gospel." They can slay more with sermons than they can with swords. It is more for their interests to be pious [4/5] than to be cruel. More is to be gained by corrupting the Faith, than by denouncing it. The dart can be sent with a deadlier aim when it is steadied by a feather from the wing of truth. Directly you are to know that there are no more antagonisms between the old and the new creation. Former misunderstandings are happily cleared up, and all are really on one side. The great conflicts of the ages have been nothing but unfortunate battles in the night, where mutual allies have been slaying one another without knowing it. This is only that the banners of the new life are carried in the interests of the old. Christian soldiers by the means are half weakened into a surrender, and the weapons of their warfare fall from their nerveless hands. Destroy them through the truth, is the present wily strategy of the enemy.
We must know then that there is a false spirituality. It is a tremendous fact. To walk in it is not to walk in newness of life, but in the most deceitful dangers of the old. Many are the forms of it, one of which, by a strange contradiction, will have nothing supernatural, and yet pretends to some kind of spiritual ideas. Naturalism would be a name for it. But it is naturalism without even the gods. It has not a nymph for the woods, a naiad for the streams, or a nereid for the sea. It is a new condition, and one to which heathen races never descended--one to which indeed none can descend, but those who fall from faith. As there is nothing higher to fall from, there is nothing deeper to fall into. And if such was intended to be the true state of man on earth, what belated divinity, may we suppose, has reserved his wise counsels till this distant day. Has he been asleep and just waked up, or on a journey and just got home? It is a very late beginning. Such spirituality, if by any complacence it can be called so, is only the complete triumph of the old life, the last degradation of human beings.
Above this, by several grades, is the spirituality of the infidel. We use the word with theological precision. He is the man who does not believe in the CHRIST of the Creed, without whom there is no newness. Yet with an inconsistency as confounding as it is confident, he speaks continually of a higher life. Does he know what he asks? It was all announced in the first great deception, "Ye shall be as gods to know evil." It is the higher life of the old creation, and we believe that nothing can so well express it as [5/6] words borrowed from the new. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things" which are prepared for him. It will be the higher experiences of sin's eternal power. He shall be bidden to come up higher in the progress of its awful transformations. There are miracles of the old life as there are miracles of the new. Great is the mystery of iniquity as well as the mystery of godliness. There are sacraments of death as well as of life. And he shall be born again into the knowledge of unutterable secrets, into the hidden power of those awful words, "Trodden under foot the SON of God," born again into the perfected state of the old creation. He shall finally sit down in the highest room.
But this side of his spirituality may be quite hidden in the manner of his present life. He has indeed put the CHRIST of the Catholic Faith out of his heart, but he has put another Christ into it. It is around this frightful unreality that all charms and accomplishments are often set. Every beautiful Scripture, every sweet thing and hope of our holy religion, words which express the great verities of the Faith, thoughts which breathe the fervor of saints, fruits of the SPIRIT which adorn their lives, are all appropriated to the uses of this attractive, but powerless, nothing. Men of a busy world are in too great haste, and too easily misled, to mark the difference. The words are the same, why is not the thing the same? Herein lies the danger of this charming falseness. With its delightful philanthropies, sweet benevolence, unselfish deeds, and the constant use of the magic Name of CHRIST, it seems to offer what human hearts desire. But it only supplies a beautiful casket for the dead and sends a whole green-house of pretty sentiments for the funeral. It garnishes the sepulchre in which the old nature lies buried. It is a vain attempt to restore vitality by natural means. It trains unregenerate nature in its old barrenness, and piously perfects men in their sins. It can never do any more. You cannot extinguish the power of evil with lovely expressions. You cannot change the spots of the leopard with words. You cannot whiten the skin of the Ethiopian with snow-water. Neither can you raise the dead with fine precepts.
But so manifold and diverse are the forms of false spirituality, that we must describe the rest as a common whole, more or less varied, but always with chief characteristics the same. There was [6/7] early brought to this country, we know, a religion which was not the religion of our forefathers, nor of any forefathers. It was new and hitherto unknown among mankind. It was an alien religion. It was foreign to the English race. It did not speak the English language. Upon only a very few has it the least hold now, and we do not wish to disturb its departure from the world. We only refer to it to make plainer what we wish to say. It brought here a type of spirituality formed in surroundings and by influences, where all true knowledge of the nature of CHRIST'S living Body had perished. That greatest reality of the world was replaced with mere opinions, beliefs and unbeliefs, words and figures of speech,--with a religion which, before all things, was an affair of emotions, moods of mind, and states of feeling. The whole theory of the spiritual life had to be in accord therewith. Henceforth, to depreciate the Sacraments and ministries of the new life was a necessity, and the highest spirituality must go with a gospel of empty powers. CHRIST in the heart, must be the Antaganoist of His own instrumentalities, by which alone His virtues are perfected there, as if there could be nothing spiritual but to reject, nothing sweet but to decry, nothing holy but to rebel, and nothing saintly but to despise, till, in time, the final and consistent result was reached when the fraternity of Friends appeared. With a show of reason they might very well conclude, that if Sacraments of the new life had been discovered to be such empty things, they might lay claim to the better discovery that they were not worth using at all. And so it came to pass, that where Moses would have put off his shoes, a Quaker very properly put on his hat. By the same consistent necessity, the Hour GHOST, whose blessed office in the ministrations of the new life is to take of the mysteries of the Incarnate SON and show them unto us, must be especially concerned to lead us away from them. He must be thought the inward light of George Fox when he denounced the Church, and of Hicks when he renounced the Christ, of Boccold when he reigned over the saints in Munster, and of Swedenborg when he made a new Gospel, of all men, and all religions which may choose to back their contradictions by an appeal to His witness. And yet to believe this of Him would be to commit an awful sin against Him. And if to defend Christianity we were obliged to defend all this, we know it could not stand one day more. But they have all had success. That success is taken for evidence of truth. An [7/8] inference so shallow ought to impose on no one. That it does impose on many, is one of the sorry experiences of human weakness. A sufficient answer would be, that these very bodies concerned, have themselves been declaring the untruthfulness of their own gospels. In the late deliberations of one of the largest in the land, a distinguished member said of its Creed, that "he did not believe it expressed the true teachings of the Bible. It was not the word of GOD "--we quote his words. But it has prospered all the same.
It requires but little knowledge of human nature to account for human aberrations without any help from heaven. There is always the passion for novelty. In our time it is great in all things, but mightiest in religions. Men of certain temperaments tire of an old truth, as they do of other old things, and very much sooner than they do of their old iniquities. Deeply as a truth may concern them, a change is recklessly welcome. It is out of the old track at any rate, and a new sensation is a pleasant variation. Cities on the land and ships on the sea are common sights; but a mirage, which discloses cities in the clouds, and ships in the sky, is a spectacle as attractive as it is unreal. As unreal may be a religion, but it is immensely entertaining to see spiritual ideas turn summersets, and a religion which can supply the amusement may be sure of a following. Conscience is pleaded. A true conscience never led anyone from the kingdom of Gov. One that does is a dangerous possession. It is a conscience made out of false surroundings. It is the conscience of an ignorant passion. It is the conscience of those people, who have given their lives for their own mistaken ideas, but whom God never numbered in the noble army of martyrs. When therefore a man urges conscience as a reason for departing from the Faith, we may be sure he is going to do what he can never justify; as when Cromwell began to talk of being especially moved by the LORD, you might be sure he was going to commit some new abomination. Then also, is the love of notoriety. In no way can it be more cheaply earned. The honest mechanic who builds a house, must have the skill and know the principles of his art. But a new religion may, perhaps, require nothing of a man but that he shall be able to shout. Burke could hold as with a spell, the illustrious assemblage which sat in Westminster Hall at the impeachment of Hastings. But he would have made a poor show beside a field preacher, who put [8/9] multitudes into a frenzy, and defied the king's English with his rhapsodies. In short, when we know the passions of mankind, how thoroughly most are creatures of the hour--how they are carried by prevailing currents--how many go by wind like the grist mills of Holland--what irresponsible notions may possess them--what blind fanaticism can do--how "sound fills up the mighty void of sense"--how the motives of self-interest are roused--how many have the voice of Jacob, but the hands of Esau--what importance is given to immediate results--what part personal characters and characteristics play--how skilled men are in the ignoble arts of self-seeking--how infallible in their errors, and how useless to refute them--when we know how many are honestly deceived, how many are deceivers and dupes of their own pretensions--when we know what weapons are used, and what delusions are glorified, surely no great Christian philosophy is needed to account for the success of new religions, nor is it wonderful that meanwhile there should be multitudes, like those historic warriors, who fought neither for country, home nor faith, but for the side that paid best. They have success, and it is this which surprises, and misleads, as if nothing evil ever succeeded. It was the puzzle which distressed David. "I do see the ungodly in such prosperity." But he knew the explanation, when he saw the end of them. That is the explanation we have to offer. You have not seen the end. Wait till you do, before you ever take any degree of success, for a few short years, as an evidence of truth.
With a false spirituality, goes a false Catholicity, equally misleading, dangerous to the new life, and remote from its holy ways. Where the one appears the other must, in the Church or out of it. If our limits would permit, perhaps we could not do a better service than to present one fair view of a Catholicity which has not one note of true Catholicity in it. But at least, we can say, it is that consummation of unreality, which enters so deeply into the nature of sin. And as it has received so many enlargements, with variations from the peculiar circumstances of our day, we may call it the new Catholicity. It quickens affiliations with all manner of falseness, exalts opinions over facts, words over Gore's institutions, and leaves men to act out of what, for the time, happens to be in them. This, however, was not altogether the character of false Catholicity, even a few years since, and [9/10] before it took on its present type. Then religious bodies, which have no past and can therefore have no future, with more truthfulness than they ever seemed to appreciate, repudiated the charmed word with expressions of the deepest aversion. We always respected their consistent aversion. Bodies entirely local, with the peculiarities, ways, manners, language, ideas, customs, and sympathies of a limited existence, could put forth no honest claim to the birthright of the ages. But now, with a disingenuousness, worthy of no man's regard, after the true meaning has been taken out of the mighty name of Catholicity, it is received back as a happy device to obliterate the difference between truth and error. It is not the faithful watch on the walls to keep the enemy out, but the treacherous sentinel at the gate to let the enemy in. Not a benign and blessed power to recover men from their errors, but a faithless complacence to content them in their errors. It is to remove the bounds which Gob bath set to the sea, and let the deluge over the earth. We are not attempting all the characteristics of false Catholicity, as we have intimated, but we submit two more, sufficiently expressive signs of it--both very telling on the interests of the new life. The one as it has affected the history, prosperity, and profoundly confused the position of the Church in this land. The other is the blind hate of the Christian past.
As a part of the Catholic Church of the ages, the Church of the Anglo-Saxon race had a name and nature in common with the one whole, and has continually spoken out both in the great symbols of her august inheritance. By what unhappy misconceptions, or for what unaccountable reasons, any human beings ever ventured to give another to this small portion, in this then far off western world, without a shadow of right or authority, we do not know, and do not think we wish to know. But the name we bear speaks for itself that it was taken out of the circumstances of the hour. Imagine the whole Catholic Church to have been doing the like from the beginning down to this day--adding a new name from every event and crisis of her history. There would have been, by this time, the holy anti-Gnostic, anti-Sabellian, anti-Novatian, anti-Arian, anti-Pelagian, anti-Nestorian, anti-Eutychian, anti-Goth, anti-Vandal, anti-Mahomedan, anti-Jews, Turks, infidels, and heretics Church. And if she had outlived her suffocation of names, we should have had to dig deeper below the surface, to find out her true character, and with greater [10/11] toil than it costs to get down to the pavement on which Caesar walked. And were we to keep on according to this beginning in the land, we might arrive at some future age, with as many titles as an heir apparent at the Font, whose ancestors from Adam have to be remembered in a name. The one royal name Catholic in the Creed dispels them all. Any other name is a bar-sinister on the royal escutcheon. It is as the cloud before the sun that hides his shining. It lets fall on us the shadow of the old life. It is the charmed lock cut from the head of Samson. It is an expression for weakness. It has obscured her nature. It has maimed her worship. It has weakened her power. It has dimmed her glory. Churchmen of a century hence will wonder what manner of men we could be, to permit ourselves to be so misrepresented. But all in time will be glad to be rid of it when they have come to understand themselves sufficiently to be ashamed of it. And that we shall be rid of it, is as certain as that Catholic principles are stronger than men.
But perhaps nothing is more characteristic of false Catholicity, than its antagonism to the Christian past. It is God's past. And it was David who said, "I have considered the days of old, and the years that are past." It is the Litany which says after him: "O God, we have heard with our ears, and our fathers have declared unto us, the noble works that Thou didst in their days, and in the old time before them." Do we preach the worth of time to men, and is it nothing worth for the purposes of the LORD'S kingdom? Is the history of states of profound importance and interest, and are the fortunes of heavenly counsels so empty? You would not miss a chapter from Herodotus, nor a leaf from the magnificent Thucydides. You would give fortunes for the lost books of Tacitus. You would dig the foundations of the earth to rescue a buried secret from the ruins of Nineveh, or the gigantic desolations of Luxor. You hold the bequests of Greek and Roman genius in never tiring admiration. But are the wonders of the new life among men, the triumphs of grace in human hearts, and the garnered harvests of saintliness through the ages, only worthy to be forgotten or covered with reproaches? It falls in with the interests of false Catholicity, to represent the barbarism of the swarming destroyers, who overturned the Empire, as something which the Church herself created. In truth, it was one of the sublimest witnesses of her indestructible nature. The [11/12] fury of those oppressors she alone could withstand. Amidst the ruins of principalities and powers, and just where the works of human trust showed their utter impotence, where the lamps of the old world's wisdom and genius went out, she alone stood the light and hope of the world, the incarnation of the new and imperishable life of man. But it is to no one era that we look. We speak of the Christian past. Great sins indeed are there. Great sins are here. Great sins there will be in all the future of man on earth. But there appear the graces of the new life, in all the unconscious charms of reality, there the divinity of self oblation, the nobleness of holy obedience, the perfect patience of suffering, the gentleness of the meek, the heavenly temper of the poor in spirit, the blessedness of the pure in heart--there the calm steady glow of never dying devotion, the agonies of martyrs, the constancy of love and the victories of faith--there the associations and memories of the myriads in Paradise--there, if ever on this earth, the inexpressible loveliness of that type of character, which was never formed, but after CHRIST'S likeness by His own moulding means, in His own appointed ways,--there the beatitudes translated into saintly lives,--there the beauties of holiness, illuminated Scriptures written not in word, but in the deeds and perfections of the sons and daughters of the Faith, who walked in newness of life. The worth of such holy triumphs, examples and associations, to inspire the faithful now, to rebuke that self-satisfied pretension and boastfulness, so fatally at variance with all that is saintly, no one can measure. It is, beside, the verdict of time on that first, grand, fearless issue, if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught. But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it." Who then, or what is most deeply concerned in depreciating the power and worth of the Christian past?
Is it not the cunning craftiness of the powers of the old life. It is in their way. The infidel can dispute argument; but he can't create centuries, and he can't take down the stars from the sky. And we believe that a human being can never appear so small to higher intelligences as when, in the august presence of the ages, he attempts to outface GOD'S handiworks of the new creation. Herein we have an advantage, even over Apostles. Their "eyes had not seen the things which we see, nor their ears heard the things which we hear." They had not seen the Church defy the armies of the old life, for almost two thousand years. They had [12/13] not seen the broken weapons which lie scattered under her immortal battlements. They had not seen the graves of heresies and schisms, whose names have vanished out of all remembrance. But we see them. And we see our holy religion in that past, the first and best beloved possession of princes and peoples, a joy of rich and poor, the one unbroken bond between them,--we see her as she sheds the sweetness of gentle charity through human life with all its violence, we see faith and love when they show the grandeur of their nature and conceptions, in cathedrals and abbeys, in minsters and basilicas, and from under their lofty arches pour out a worship of uplifting power to the BLESSED TRINITY. On the other hand, we see the meagre and conflicting creations of mortals take the place of that divine inheritance in the following of many people, who nevertheless can show by every act, that they hold these very creations as the cheapest things on the face of the earth. It is then that a catholicity appears, which has not one note of true Catholicity in it. Then it appears in all the littleness, unreality, and untruthfulness of local meanings and uses. Then is "the bed shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it, and the covering narrower than that a man can wrap himself in it." And will not men see the delusive counterfeit, till for them, it has put the Church out of the world, CHRIST out of their lives, and GOD out of His universe!
True Catholicity is the way of the new life. It is the genius of truth, the witness against all falseness, the light, not the darkness. It is the characteristic greatness of the Incarnation, meant for all the world, for the first man and for the last man, whereby in His ever-living body the Church, CHRIST is here the contemporary of all ages, the ever present source of new life to men. It is something not to be known only in written books, as the LORD Himself is not a Being to be known only in print. He is the living LORD. So is Catholicity the living, reigning power of His universal nature in the Church. It could never have come of man. It is out of the reach of man. It is above the lifetime of man. It has characteristics which belong to it, and to nothing else. It is beyond the changes and chances of this mortal life. Only He who lives forever, can measure it, as He only can direct the august purposes of it. It is His order for the spiritual destiny of a race, as steadfast as the universe for nature's well being.
 GOD set the sun and moon for signs
The Church His signs doth know.
The Arcturus and Orion now over our heads are the same Arcturus and Orion which Job and Abraham looked upon. So shine with steady glow, the fixed stars of the new creation, wherein the stupendous facts, the power, the gifts, the riches, the possessions of the new life are here kept, and its wonders enacted among men, and by which alone can mortals walk in its newness.
But there are, and ever have been heresies. Yes, they are the never ceasing activities of the old life, forever threatening dangers and destruction to the new. They are the "wandering stars, the clouds without water carried with a tempest, trees whose fruit withereth, raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame." They are in the Church, what those soldiers were in a Roman army,, whose general feared them more than he did the enemy. But they present that contrast, by which GOD in derision of their purposes makes the truth more manifest, and for this reason they deserve our special thoughtfulness. Have heresies weakened the reverence for things which are from heaven, by a ready confidence in all things which are of men--have they undermined the highest motives for holy fear, by wicked self assurances in contempt of GOD's commandments--have they put the treasures of the Faith under the feet of poor dead humanities, the eternal facts of Catholicity are only made more conspicuous, by the glories of unchanging truthfulness. Have heresies been fertile in expedients to reinstate men by natural forces, as Milton's Satan proposed to the fallen angels, Catholicity holds Gov's secret, that as there never was but one human nature, so was there never but one way of restoring new life to it. Have heresies taken men with conceits, that spiritual life is, and is here to be a series of experiments, and that redemption is to be the drift of opinion caught from the varying, conditions of human lot, Catholicity puts the unhallowed imagination to shame, with the certainty that if men are not settled, the salvation of GOD for this world, long has been settled. Have heresies reproduced their distortions in the spiritual natures of men, and, brought forth unnatural and barbarous growths, Catholicity as the expression of GOD's ways and culture, is the highest civilization of the divine life wherein are the conditions for the virtues of the new creation to reach their highest perfection. [14/15] Have heresies come bearing the names of their authors--their infallible and fatal sign always--they are confronted by the sublime fact, that you can no more give a man's name to Catholicity than you can stain the light of day, and that you cannot give a man's name to the Catholic Church as you cannot give a man's name to the sun. Have heresies in our time so taken the native sense out of our honest Saxon tongue, to suit religious perversions, that even the mighty names of the Incarnate LORD and the Church, have ceased to convey even a distant suggestion of their true meaning, Catholicity keeps them in their imperishable integrity, and unspeakable significance. Have heresies boasted their power to live, Catholicity has seen the beginning of them all, and will see the end of them all. They never continue in one stay. In the midst of life they are in death. Their own natures declare it. "They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure: they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed; but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail." Catholicity is the mastery over ages and events, over peoples and tongues. Nations of the day when Augustus held the sceptre of the world are dead, their languages are dead. Nations then unborn, and languages which had never fallen from human lips, now possess the earth. But the universal heir of all time is here, and "we do hear in our tongues the wonderful works of GOD." It is the real presence of the new, the immortal life. It is the calm, majestic assurance to all generations. Before it, the barriers of national isolations, often like walls built up to heaven, have broken down. By it, however differing in speech, peoples and races have learned the one only dialect spoken in heaven and on earth which all hearts can understand, and that is the language of love. By it, mortals have been taken out of the feebleness and thraldoms of individualism, and endowed with the strength and freedom of a kingly birthright. By its holy charm, the magnet of the spiritual life has been kept true to the pole, and by it believers kept in their great inheritance. By it, comes that omnipotence in defence of the Church, against which the gates of hell can never prevail. Before it, the wrangles and debates of the hour, the vagaries of individuals are, in themselves, of as little account as the frays of the Aborigines, or the battles of the early Britons of which history takes no notice. "That which was from the beginning, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our [15/16] hands have handled," is our certainty of its abiding presence and endless power.
It is a glorious attribute. It is a splendid possession, and one of the blessed services which true men, can do to this generation, is to wake some deeper sense of the transcendent meaning of Catholicity, to strengthen believers with its strength, to help them see how entirely it enters into their spiritual life, how it alone supplies the conditions of a Christian character that does not take its coloring from the peculiarities of a day, the narrowness of a locality, nor receive a taint from the unreality of artificial creations, but the likeness wrought by the hand of the Master, through His own means and ways, in which are the repose, the loveliness, the truth of His own image, and the beauty of the new life. So are believers lifted out of the isolation of place, into the fellowship of those saints, who belong to no time, people, or country, but upon whom are the dews and freshness of immortality.
We have now to regret, that time will not permit us to speak of the Sacraments, rites and instrumentalities of the new life. But we venture to choose one for at least a brief consideration, and that is holy worship. Whoever reads in Holy Scripture, the description of the worship which God appointed for His people to offer, and which alone He would receive, may surely know with what significant splendors He would then be adored, with what rites He would be propitiated, with what holy reverence He would have those ordinances observed, which carried in them all virtues, and not those of mortals, which carried in them nothing. By every circumstance, all was ordered to impress worshippers with a sense of the majesty, holiness, dominion, and glory of the Almighty. That worship was to announce the great Sacrifice for the world, the coming power of the Cross. It was the worship of sacrifice. There was reason why everything should be just what it was and nothing else. In tabernacle and temple, truth spoke to the eye from form and structure, from altar and golden candlesticks, from the jewels of the holy vessels, from the magnificence of priestly vestments, from mystic colors and symbols, from the grandeur of ritual, from everything in all the holy surroundings God's mind in cedar and gold and precious stones, to show forth the riches of His gift to men, in the sacrifice of the Cross, and the only way in which He could or would be approached henceforth, after the illustrious Victim should shed His Blood, die, and rise [16/17] again. In divine accord herewith, the foundation of Christian worship, is the Sacred Canon, the adorable Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist, the LORD'S unspeakable dowry to His Church. Whatever is in harmony with it, is true, whatever is not, is false to God, and the spiritual needs of men. Such a worship there never was before on this earth. Such another there never can be. None can create it, as none can create the Incarnation out of which it springs. It comprehends the all-prevailing Sacrifice of the Cross. It is the reality of all praises, the highway of all thanksgivings. It is the means, by which we present ourselves, souls and bodies, to be a holy and living sacrifice, and by which the Christian life becomes a perpetual oblation. By it, we lift up our hearts. By it, we are ourselves uplifted and upborne, that we dash not our foot against a stone. By it, we are put into communion and favor, with the everlasting FATHER. By it, we are exalted into the adorations of angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven. It is that voice, as of many waters within hearing, the innumerable throng in sight. After the nature of these inward wonders, therefore, outward expression is to translate them into the hearts and lives of worshippers. And if what announced the CHRIST, was so glorious, how should not the worship of His presence be glorious? "If," said the Apostle," the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness, exceed in glory." By the genius of all things in heaven and earth, which make known to us the heart of God, the Church should understand, with the quickness of divine instincts, what herein is pleasing and acceptable in His sight. The heavens declare the glory of God, it is for worship to declare the glory of the new creation--to express to the eye the riches of CHRIST, and the greatness of our salvation, the starry splendors of the Faith, the blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, due unto Him, that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever--to fill us with a sense of David's words, "Out of Sion hath God appeared in perfect beauty." Such is the Liturgy of the new life. It has power to win, power to teach, power to move, power to hold. It is something infinitely beyond argument, which may convince and hold men by their heads. That is the wood, but no fire under. By a more subtle power, it takes the affections, which, is a first object of our religion. What the eye sees, and the ear hears, which at the same time moves the depths of one's nature, as with heavenly minstrelsy, is [17/18] like the inspiration which moves the Angels, not because they think, but because they love. That can true Christian worship do, beyond the arts of cold reason for old or young. Let a child's first conception of his religion be this--let this be the charm which first makes his wonder and love--let this be the vision to be forever associated with earliest remembrances, and by all the power of happy association, it will keep its hold like a mother's love, and though he were to become a prodigal, perhaps bring him back. So much wiser are the affections of the heart than the wisdom of the head. "Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, FATHER." It comes to them before tedious teaching. It takes them before lessons. It is said of Montaigne, that by his father's provision, and out of his ideas of the way, in which the classic tongues should be acquired, he was surrounded by those who spoke the purest Latin, and spoke no other language in his presence. At the age of six years, "without book, grammar, precept, or a tear" he had such command of it, that distinguished scholars were afraid of his facility and elegance. So let holy worship possess the heart of youth, and this shall be to you for a sign--that is the worship divinely meant for human needs, which can take the love of youth, and infinitely surpass the aspirations of the highest genius, while it does for multitudes in a moment, what sermons can never describe. Conceive, then, the violence done to the spiritual nature, by any worship, which is not the outgrowth of the Holy Canon, but a fresh creation independent of it, without one sympathy with it, without one inspiration from it, and alien to the spirit of it. How much of the irreligion of the land is due to it ! Let facts speak to you. Multitudes have fled, multitudes more will fly from a worship of that description, yet will not always heed any words of ours. The truth is, they cannot. Something has gone out of them. A blight is on those instincts which are so strong to keep, but when perverted are so strong to lead astray--those instincts, of whose worth and power for the new life, we have no words to express our sense. They are in spiritual interests, what some other endowments are in human affairs, or what that marvellous something is, which GOD has hidden in the nature of inferior creatures, by which all do the purpose of their being. It is a very familiar fact in literary history, that Greek bards, in the days of Homer, recited their poems at [18/19] gatherings of the common people, who without rules, without knowledge of the poetic art, and with no other help than the experience of their surroundings, could yet detect a lame foot or a false accent, with the certainty of the most accomplished critics. For that reason they must have been quite as effective guardians of literary taste as the learned few. Far more powerful are spiritual tastes for good, and just so much greater is the wickedness of depraving them. It is to confuse, and often to confound, a protecting power. It is to take from one a good angel of destiny. Great, therefore, is the loss, when spiritual instincts are put out of their uses, and we submit nothing can do it more effectively, than a worship which has no connection with, and no inspirations from, the great worship of the ages--which before all things bears in it the Sacrifice of the Cross--a worship which has no understanding of the heights and depths of its spiritualities, its inexpressible efficacies, heavenly meanings, holy beauties, inward graces and outward signs, sweet ways and devout reverences, moulding might, and prevailing power--a worship which, in its blindness, casts away the wealth of the Christian year, the witness of its festivals, the blessedness of its penitentials--a worship without a memory, and without an association,--a worship which burns with no fires of devotion from the old altars of the Faith--with no blessed remembrances of the dead--a worship which, solitary and alone, undertakes to make out of the utterances of a feeble mortal, for the moment, a fit offering to take the place of the all-prevailing Canon of the LORD. Is it not rather, one of the thousand unsuspected forms, under which, the spirit of the old creation despoils the riches and attractions of the new. Spiritual tastes are to be directed and matured, and if you would mould them to the divine, and inspire them with the truthfulness, the loveliness, and grandeur of the divine, place before them the divine. They must not be misled by false models. You would not adorn the walls of your houses with daubs, you would not fill your libraries with dime literature. Yon take art into your confidence to make your surroundings beautiful. It is civilization. Objects tell. Good forms are kept in sight, and bad forms out of sight--as Joshua cautioned the LORD's people--"that ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you, neither make mention of the name of their gods." The public conscience is weakened by the sight and utterances of what is false. There is nothing bad, that does not cease [19/20] to seem so bad, by familiarity. It is custom only that has reconciled multitudes to things, which their true spiritual instincts would resent, if they had not been so long abused. Do you imagine that the old masters would have expressed devotion and holy reverence by a figure in the attitude of a man addressing an assemblage? No, and the artist who should do it now, would have to explain his intention. Why then, can it not be seen, that living spectacles of the same, deprave spiritual tastes? How should it not be a spiritual injury, when even truthful art rejects the false conception? When therefore, we know the repulsions and dreariness of a barren worship, how it shocks holy affections and freezes devotion, how it deadens a sense of the presence and majesty of GOD, how utterly weak and insufficient it is--and when, on the other hand, we know what secrets are hidden in the Liturgy of the Holy Canon, what power it has to kindle affections, quicken love, stir the heart, nerve the arm, and refresh the weary, how it moves soul and body to holy adoration, how it puts gladness into life, how it gives the Church all the advantage of her native charms, beauties, and possessions in her conflicts with evil, how it prevails with GOD, for the welfare of men, through the merits of the great Sacrifice, is it not one of our first interests that this instrumentality be used in the fulness of its divinity to draw men into the ways of the new life, and hold them there. Our daily experience is proving it to be desired, where it might least have been expected. The only opposing interests consciously, or unconsciously, have their motives from nowhere else but the old creation. Then, while the faithful are to know and walk in the ways and uses of this ordained instrument of spiritual destiny, while they live and grow are renewed, upheld, and exalted in GOD's love, by its supernatural virtues, can the Church do a more blessed service in our day, than to restore the lost knowledge of what Christian worship is, and do her utmost to recall starving millions in this land, to one of the mightiest powers of the new life?
So are all its instrumentalities charged with spiritual might. Ours is not a gospel of words. We are surrounded by no empty ceremonials. We offer no husks to the needs of men. Every one has a virtue. Every one has a purpose. The use of every one is the touch of His garment. We stand amidst the vitalities of the new creation. But of these we cannot now speak, as we have already said. There is however one weapon of the old life, in [20/21] telling use, which ought not to go unnoticed. It is that the intellectual strength of the time is against the Faith. We confess, it is with a sense of humiliation that we descend to say one word upon such a sentiment. But while it deserves not the least regard for what it is in itself, we see in our daily experience, the prodigious effect which so foolish a presumption can have on many people.
If we might speak for ourself only, we have entirely changed our tactics with infidels of all sorts and conditions, and those, who, by travesties on the Faith, make infidelity more deadly, by making it popular. Living, as they do, in the presence of a witness, which they will not believe and cannot refute--such a living witness as only GOD could give--yet resisting everything, restrained by nothing, we say to them henceforth, and out of real regard for their spiritual welfare, if you must go and feed swine, live and eat with them, do it by all means. It may, in time, wring out of something left in you, the hopeful anguish of the prodigal, "How many hired servants of my father, have bread enough, and to spare, and I perish with hunger"--or bring to remembrance what the blessed LORD said to those for whom He could do no more, "Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the LORD." But where do people see evidence of that intellectual power? Is it that the rot of a fourth-century heresy, has been made a prominent religion in this Commonwealth? Is it that sort of infallible wisdom which is at the back doors of Christians, begging all questions, and soon begging again to make corrections? Is it that men who pretend even to preach Gospel, revile the LORD'S kingdom? What is intellectual power? By some obliquity in human nature, a destroyer has for many minds a strange fascination, and he is their ideal of them that excel in strength. Yet no character requires so little genius. The battle-axe of a Goth, or a thrust of his spear, may spoil in a moment what only the chisel of a Praxiteles, or the brush of Apelles could create. A creature, who perhaps, might spell his way through a chapter of Holy Scripture, can yet with infinite jest, turn its profoundest facts into ridicule. Indeed, we suspect that, in assaults upon the Faith, the depths of some latent perverseness in human nature, are stirred for the discredit of holy things, as the revellers at Belshazzar's feast, felt a new sensation in drinking from the holy [21/22] vessels of the temple, or as men who have committed all vices, are tired of their sameness, and long for the sensation of a new one. To associate intellectual power with infidelity, therefore, is just as unreasonable as to associate it with bad morals. They have indeed often appeared together, but they have no connection. Without the least greatness of soul for good, one may yet be capable of the greatest evil. Such is the devil himself, in intellect far surpassing the sons of men. He has always been the enemy of the Faith. It is just so much in its favor that he has. He would never oppose a lie. A man may live by the baseness of housebreaking, and yet he can create a spectacle of surpassing sublimity by firing a structure, which it has cost marvels of skill, years, and untold wealth to build. It is just this sort of vulgar advantage that destroyers of faith, of all descriptions, have and always will have. But the Catholic Faith has now possessed the most distinguished portions of the human race, for many generations. And it is men fashioned by its genius, who have enriched the world with the wealth of an immortal literature, men who have achieved miracles of art, before which we stand in reverent admiration, and hopeless rivalry, philosophers who have set the wheels of human progress in motion, men whose learning, and splendid accomplishments have conferred imperishable honors and dignities on human life, men of state, who, out of confusion and violence, have brought forth creations, beautiful with the blessings of order and happiness, men great in themselves, greater in their saintliness, and knowledge of heavenly things, who through faith have subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, won dominions by and for the Cross, and left their names, thoughts, and deeds, an eternal inheritance, not for the Church alone, but for the common pride of mankind. These have lived children of the Faith, have reverently bowed before her Altars, rejoiced in her possessions, and benedictions, and died her defenders. Then there is the Bible. That's the Book of the new creation. Much of it infidels do not believe. Very well, take it for literature. And when will they write a book, to furnish thoughts, the best and greatest among men, to be read and quoted for wisdom, the delight and comfort of human hearts for thirty centuries? If these do not represent intellectual power, nothing does. And to a man who lives much among these nobles of the race, how tame, stale, and unendurable must always seem these solons, who sit in the seat of the scornful, [22/23] and do what they can to turn learning, the natural handmaid of religion, , into her deadly foe. And must this grand array of immortals, who have made themselves known by their fruits, stand abashed before a few barren men, who have done their work when they have put out the light of faith in their own poor souls, and souls of others, or sowed tares of doubt and distrust, where the sweet confidence of hope, was the only courage to meet the sorrows of this sorrowful life. Whatever stands for human welfare, must do something for human welfare. When a benefactor, by some happy discovery, gives a relief to mortal needs, or creates a new ministry to the common happiness, when a hero gives liberty to a state, or some enduring lustre is added to literature, there is reason for our homage to the genius that does it. But when a man has succeeded in the discovery, that he is a black sheep and would have all mankind the same color, why need he be mistaken for an intellectual paragon? Infidelity cannot build. It cannot create. It is not a life. It is a death. It can only destroy. But many are imposed upon by striking show, and measure intellectual force, by its violence. And it is, without doubt, capable of manifesting an awful strength. It is the earthquake and the whirlwind, but the earthquake and the whirlwind in which the LORD is not. Indeed, these formidable energies of the Prophet's description, may very well he taken, not for the benign endowments of true genius, but for the destructive forces of the old life, roused into activity in a human soul. But there may very reverently be thought some resemblance, .between the small voice, and the subtle spell of genius, which can sway, subdue, and inspire without crying in the streets, or vaunting on the housetops--a distant likeness of that power, which, in the majesty of creative strength, could say, "Let there be light." Let us not, therefore, look for a true type of it, in the raging of wild beasts, which devour, break in pieces, and stamp the residue with their feet, but in that unearthly superiority, expressed in the child who shall lead the lion and the leopard, and put his hand on the cockatrice's den.
But that there should ever be men of such destructive ability, and that the LORD should suffer them, is quite unaccountable to some earnest souls, and they are greatly disturbed by it. It is a faithless unrest, a foolish unrest. We know why there was a Pharaoh. It was for the LORD to give a victory to His people, that He could not give without him. It was of him that He said. "In very deed [23/24] for this cause, have I raised thee up, for to show in thee, my power." It is so the LORD first prepares victories. It is our firm conviction that He is preparing another now. And to make it more signal by delay, He is giving enemies time, and ample means, to make their election sure. Meanwhile, confident in the chariots and horsemen, of intellectual prowess, counting on conquests which they have not yet won, they are only marching straight into the open sea. And when the LORD shall look unto them, in the morning of His sleepless watch, their chariots will drive heavily, the waters will cover them, and ye shall see them no more forever. Some future Miriam may take her timbrel in her hand, and strike it to the chords of the old hymn, "Sing ye to the LORD, for He hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea."
This might be seen from things of infinitely less importance. The literature which takes its form and spirit from the passing sentiment of a locality, bears the perishable in the nature of it. Of things written a century ago for a special atmosphere, all either have, or are disappearing from sight. Their interest, substance, and spirit die together. They bear no sign of Immortality. Like the plants of a hot-house, they will not flourish out of it. They are limited by a time, and they must perish with the time. So unbeliefs, scepticisms, and religious teachings, which take their spirit and hue from the incidents of a day, will go to a tomb from which there is no resurrection. From their birth, they are stamped for an existence, which will have no remembrance. All may therefore know beforehand, if they will, that whatever of all they say and do, that is to be rescued out of their own lives, or from the wreck of a world, will be only those thoughts and deeds, which are in accord with God's eternal harmonies of truth, expressed in the great Catholic symbols of the ages.
There is little room left, to speak of those excellencies of character, which are at once, the fruits and the evidence of the new life. They are the fulfilment of our obligations to walk in it, the manifestations of it in good living, and without which professions are the leaven of unreality. They are not the virtues of natural morals, which, unpardonably seem to some to be one and the same. They are not the virtues of ethical culture, which lend attractions to character, while they conceal the whole dead world of the old creation behind them. These cannot make the heirs of [24/25] life, as you could not make angels out of the winged lions of Babylon. Be not deceived. GOD is not mocked. We are not now to bring forth the fruits of Cato and Aurelius. These are Christian virtues and no other. They have characteristics as distinct as their origin. They all bear the sign of the Cross. Their motives and deeds, draw their inspirations only from Him by whom they live at all. They will flourish nowhere but in the soil of the new earth, warmed by the sun, and watered by the showers of the new heavens. Nothing that ever grew here, has any right to a comparison with them, as nothing that ever grew here, was ever so precious as the harvests which God has gathered from the fair dominions of the new life in human hearts.
The conditions under which these virtues are matured in this mortal state, vary, of course, with changing times and ages. Some are far more fortunate, and some far less. But under any and all conditions, unseen and unknown to the, world, hidden graces of regenerate nature, have been growing in the Church always, as flowers which no eye ever sees, but whose sweetness God gathers for Himself. They come not with observation. They are the silent transformations of the earthy into the heavenly--calm, sweet, steady walking in the holy ways of the Faith. Yet is it also true, that the Christian life is and always must be a warfare. A soldier in full armor is a rightful symbol of it, and the Cross in holy Baptism, is the token that we shall fight manfully. We are here to fight, as the Duke of Wellington said at Waterloo, and the conditions of our day may very well give to the characteristic excellencies of believers, the distinct cast of the heroic. They not unnaturally recall times like those, when the commanders of Israel told cowards to go home, lest the contagion of their faint heartedness, should spread through all the camp. It is not indeed expected, that all the good and true shall be martyrs, but it is necessary that they should very often be heroes, certainly in the unimagined surroundings, which have fallen to our lot. We are not now hurried before governors, and proconsuls, but we are in the presence of a public opinion, which in all affairs of the Faith, knows as little what it does, as the public opinion which confronted the martyrs of Decius and Diocletian. It is a disordered mightiness, which may not always concern spiritual affairs, but temporal interests as well. The like of it, has in other ages crushed the heroes of their country. It is a threatening danger of our own, [25/26] that men, who would be true and hate falseness, yet under the pressure of a reigning sentiment, as perverted as it is powerful, dare not act their honest convictions. Justice and judgment may tremble in the balance, but their own interests are stronger than principle, and that very wickedness triumphs which they despise with an honest scorn. The like temper in the Church, is infinitely more disastrous. Here is the last refuge of courageous faith and love. If they cannot be expected here, they are not to be looked for anywhere. And depend upon it, the virtues of the new life can never thrive by the treacheries of a calculating self. The nobleness and reality of true manhood and womanhood in the Church are not the productions of craven submissions and mean regards to the world, though with a divine interest for it, that nothing can extinguish. Nor are the beauty and truthfulness of the one ever mistaken in God's sight for the imitations of the other. If therefore the faint heart dare only live by compromises with the old man, that heart ought certainly to be able to understand, how far it is from the brave earnestness, and nobility of the new man, and at the same time to know, that it shall have precisely what it bids for. It shall have its reward. Think first of yourself, and like the false love of Samson and Solomon, it will do for you what that did for them. Surrender to the old creation, and you may be sure of its friendship, though it be enmity with God. We read of days when the vices of men were their certain protection, while distinguished virtues were as sure to single them out for destruction. The early martyrs could at any time have saved their life by offering a few grains of incense to Jupiter, but they would have saved it only to lose it. Burn incense to the flesh, and it will burn incense to you. Preach beasts and feathered fowls to epicures, license to libertines, heresies to heretics, and you may put the world into an uproar of approbation. There may also be peace, but it will not be the peace of God. When the devil shuts the temple of Janus, it is not because you have gained a victory, but because he has. Then is the accepted time, when the LORD of the faithful gives those opportunities to prove them, such as He gave to S. Philip, and waits to see what they will do--those opportunities which reveal men to themselves, and by which they may find out what is in them, and know for a certainty, whether they are capable of almost nothing, or are able to rise to that height of faith and love, which wins His sure and waiting favor. [26/27] Out of such times and conditions, their hour and power come. It is easy to be true where all are true, but it is most like Him to be true when a world is false. Of this kind are the virtues most needed now, not disputes over first principles, which mere children ought to know, but these more perfected manifestations of the realities of the new life, in the sons and daughters of the Church.
Then let that love abound which is all the Christian virtues in one, as light blends the many colors of the day,--that love which only requires the prism of daily practice, to bring out the hidden hues of all excellence--that love which moves the will, and fires the heart to good works--that love, which like the tree bearing the twelve manner of fruits, is so manifold in its outgrowths--that love which wearies not in well doing--that love which loves the Cross, and reigns by suffering--which loves where there is nothing lovely, but where miseries and wickedness repel it--the love that is not afraid of publicans and sinners, but the more abounds where sin abounds--that love which arms one with the power of miracles to heal the sick and cleanse the leper--that love which gives soul and body to the LORD in holy consecration--that love which puts gladness, gentleness, and sweetness into human life--that love which inspires the undaunted loyalty to the Faith, given to noble natures, and which the royal man, once the Rector of this Church, on whose grave to this day, such tears fall as never honored the sepulchres of kings, glorified in his immortal verse,
What is that, mother?
The eagle, boy,--
Proudly careering his course of joy:
Firm on his mountain vigor relying,
Breasting the dark storm, the red bolt defying;
His wing on the wind, his eye on the sun,
He swerves not a hair, but bears onward right on.
Boy! may the eagle's flight ever be thine
Onward and upward true to the line.
--that love whose touch turns earthy possessions into the gold of heavenly treasures--that love which can again break from the prosy uses of wealth, in houses and lands, and lawns, horses and chariots, man-servants and maid-servants, and recall the chivalry of a distant age when the king and his nobles, at the laying of the corner-stone of a great Church, cast more gold and jewels upon [27/28] the foundation than would have raised the whole superstructure, that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the service of the day, "I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires, and I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones"--that love which is the grand distinction of the believer, the power of his faith, the strength of his hope, the surety of his peace, the light of his joy, and the worth of all his doings. Even so, we also should walk in newness of life. Amen.