Project Canterbury


Thanksgiving-Day Sermon,




Saint John's Church,









NOVEMBER 27TH, 1868.

REV. SIDNEY CORBETT, B.D., Dear Sir: We listened to your sermon on Thanksgiving Day with great pleasure, and we trust the future will show, with profit. The positions it presents and sustains with so much ability, are of general interest, and are worthy of a wider diffusion than the audience room of a single Parish can give them. We therefore request a copy for publication.

A number of your Parishioners who could not attend our Thanksgivings services, have expressed a desire to hear the sermon. You would gratify them, as well as ourselves, by naming a day when you will repeat it.

Very truly yours,



GENTLEMEN: Your kind and complimentary letter, embodying a request that I repeat my Thanksgiving-Day Sermon, and then give you the manuscript for publication, was duly received. The sermon in question was not written for the press, and consequently was prepared with no more care than any of my Sunday preachments. I simply sought to show on Thanksgiving Day (and by history) that Papacy is in its dotage. I am convinced that the great enemy of Christianity in our day is what is styled "Free-thinking," not Papacy. When I came here to minister, "I determined to know nothing amongst you, but Jesus Christ and Him crucified." To adhere to that resolution has been my constant endeavor. If then, any words of mine, spoken or printed, will do good, I dare not withhold them. Acquiescing in your requests, and thanking you once again for your courtesy,

I remain

Your Friend and Rector,




"Fear ye not. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord." Ex. 14. 13.

God has always had what may be called a church, i.e. He has always had legitimate worshippers. There has never been a time that he has left Himself without a witness. Men with finite capacity have not always realized this, and hence we catch the dejected voice of Elijah telling God that, "he only of all his people, is left to serve Him." God, however, showed the mournful prophet his mistake; showed him that there were seven thousand touching him on every hand just as worshipful of the true God as he. So, too, in our day, men cherish the egregious mistake that because Papacy once shackled England, that at that epoch, there was no true worship [5/6] there. The very fact that men overthrew the superstition of Rome is evidence of life--of true worshippers. At the darkest hour in England's history were Protestants, i. e. men protesting against the irregularity, and arrogance and usurpation of Rome. This morning I desire to speak of the Church of the Redeemed on earth. This "Church of the Redeemed" dates from the fall of man in Eden. This is plain,-because before man fell he did not need to be redeemed. The meaning of the word redeemed is being bought back again. If a man is not sold, no one would have occasion to buy him back. But man was sold-sold to God's adversary by Adam. Yet God was merciful and kind, even to being anxious to ransom man, and hardly had Adam closed the bargain of selling himself and his posterity to the evil one, before the air was filled with the sweet cadences of a Messianic prophecy speaking of Redemption-speaking of [6/7] our coming home to our father's house, as did the prodigal. That first promise of Redemption has never died away,-it has never lost itself in an echo, but like martial music that comes to us from the far-off distance, so faint at first that we can not distinguish whether it is the mournful music of the dirge, or the joyous notes of victory, but, coming to us clearer and clearer, with every advancing footfall, till at last, we hear it in all its symphonic fullness, and recognize it as the token of familiar and joyous music. Just so with the prophecy of Redemption. Hardly had man sold himself,--hardly had he sinned, before God offered to restore him,-yet, the voice of promise at first seemed faint and far off, but as time roll ed on, the Prophets spoke God's word to fallen man, clearer and clearer, until finally, like the approaching martial music, it came so nigh and so clear, that we distinguished it as the unmistakable voice of our Heavenly Father, saying [7/8] "Come back,"--"come home,"--"come without money and without price." "I have paid thy ransom,"--"I have given the world a Redeemer,"--"a Redeemer for once and for always." "A Redeemer for every human being who will consent to be redeemed." From the time of the utterance of that first, faint, far-off promise, God has been overturning-and overturning, and overturning, that when He comes whose right it is He may give it him. God's Church has never gone backwards. On its ensign is the talismanic word "onward," and when one standard-bearer faints and falls, another strong arm reaches itself forth and holds the symbol up, and the great phalanx of "the Church Redeemed," catching sight of that, take heart and pass onward with majestic step. Moses dies, within sight of "the promised land," but Joshua takes up the march, and leads on the conquering host. Elisha goes up in a chariot of fire, but Elijah stands ready to catch [8/9] his mantle,--a Judas becomes an apostate,--but a Paul becomes a star of the first magnitude and sheds a spiritual light that will extend itself to the remotest time, and no matter who falls in the onward march, one thing is sure, "the Ark"--"the Church"--will be carried forward, for underneath are God's everlasting arms.

This "Church of the Redeemed," of which we to-day speak, has passed through fiery ordeals, and had it been of man, ages ago it would have come to nought; but, inasmuch as it is of God ye cannot overthrow it. This church divides its experiences into epochs, and may be stated as follows:

The first period of the church dates from the triumph of Satan, and the promise of a Redeemer.

The second commences with the little family church of Noah, in the Ark.

The third, with Abraham's call.

The fourth, with the experiences of the Jewish Church.

[10] The fifth, with the division of that Jewish Church.

The sixth, with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Through all these periods; through all the past unnumbered ages, "the Church of the Redeemed" has gone through fiery conflicts; and yet, like gold tried in the crucible, it has come forth each time more and more purified, more and more Christ-like; and, in all its coming conflicts, it will be the same. It will purge itself through tribulation, from time to time, of the dross of this world, until, at last, it will stand forth in all its Imperial perfectness, "without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." Men think it requires a great outlay of faith to believe all of this; and so it does. To believe in God, has always required faith. Take a retrospective glance. When God told Noah to build an Ark, and warn the people of the coming flood, he was ridiculed. Men [10/11] laughed at him, and at his Ark. They made sport of his faith in God. What was the result? All men, save Noah and his family, were drowned. "The Church of the Redeemed on earth," at that time, was reduced to eight souls. Again: When God called Abraham, Re told him be should become a great people, and that through him all the nations of the earth should be blessed. At the time of that promise, Abraham was childless, and 75 years old. What a stretch of faith was required! and yet, in that particular, God's word was verified--Abraham's seed became as the sea sands for multitude. Again: Turn to our text and its context. God's chosen people were enduring every hardship in Egypt; even "making brick without straw," and, thus to labor in Egypt under the blaze of its ardent sun, means more than they who have not traveled there sum pose. In the midst of such trials and discouragements, Moses, as God's instrument, stepped [11/12] forth and offered to lead them out; offered to lead them through a wilderness barren and desolate; offered to pilot them through the Red Sea, and thence to a land rich in nature's bounties. Was this done? Yes. How? God punished Pharaoh, King of Egypt, in a variety of ways; and yet that ruler would not permit the chosen people to go. At last, God slew all of "the first born of the land," touched the Egyptian heart, and then Moses was suffered to march out his people in triumph. And, what a triumph! After the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea, the Egyptians followed them; and then came that fearful tragedy. What a great Oriental tableau now presents itself--Moses marshalling his people around him on that sea shore, and commanding them to stand still and see "the salvation of God." Whilst they there stood, the persecuting Egyptians came near, but when midway in the sea, the Great Leader stretched forth his hand, and the [12/13] same waters that had opened for him and the church of God to "pass over dry shod," came suddenly together, and swallowed up the entire Egyptian host. Besides all this, God placed in the heavens a peculiar phenomenon, as a guide to them. 'Twas "a pillar of fire by night," and "a pillar of cloud by day," and, in the fulfillment of promise, forty years afterwards the Israelites in triumph took possession of the land so long before promised them. "The Church of the Redeemed" bas suffered persecution in every age-in every land. In poverty and with unlettered teachers, she has been called to combat wealth, and prejudice, and philosophy, and yet "the banner of the Cross" has never been seen in the retreat, but steadily pushing forwards. The religion of the Cross was regarded as foolishness by the Greeks, but Paul visited the Agora at Athens-the home of Attic deities-and there told the worshippers that they were too superstitious-[13/14] that they had too many gods. The consequence was that the church there gained new trophies. Since then, as aforetime, men have become faithless, and seem to suppose that God has forsaken, or will forsake, his own. Such a desertion is impossible. The Redemption of our race cost too much for that, and in this day of liberalism and free thinking, or, more properly speaking, in this day of license, it behooves the ministers of Christ to ask their people, as did Moses his, to "stand still and see the salvation of God"--see His care of His church-See His presence in His church. We cannot point you to a Red Sea engulphing as did the Great Law Giver; we cannot point you to a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, to guide your footsteps as did he his people; but we can ask you to-day, with hearts of thanksgiving, to stop and read "the signs of the times; and if you do this, you will be forced to see "the salvation of the Lord." Leaving out [14/15] of discussion the wounds that the church has sustained by men in the days of primitive Christianity, touching "the origin of the world," and "image worship," and paintings," and the "one nature of Christ," leaving them all out, we find that the great fear for some twelve hundred years has been the same that to-day exists-the fear of Papacy, and yet Papacy has well-nigh waned itself away. We grant that at first sight there seem grounds for misgiving, but an investigation-a reading of history-a regarding "the signs of the times"-will but bring out plainer to view "the salvation of God." At the commencement of the Apostolic college, all Bishops were on an equality. Of course, Rome was treated with great deference, on account of her high and exalted position; but she had no right, nor did she assume any right, to superiority. Gregory, confessedly one of the most eminent Roman Bishops, wrote to the emperor at Constantinople and stated, [15/16] "Whoever adopts, or affects the title of, universal Bishop, has the pride of, and character of, Anti-Christ;" and yet, within a single score of yearn, Boniface III. accepted and wore just such a title, having received it from the bloody bands of the wicked Phocas. From that time till now, each succeeding Roman Bishop has arrogated to himself the title of "Universal Bishop." But, what Phocas conferred in the seventh century, was only spiritual power. It remained for Pepin and Charlemaigne, in the eighth century, to make the Pope of Rome almost an earthly monarch. So eaten up with ambition were the self "Vice gerents of Christ," as to forget his words, "My Kingdom is not of this world;" and in the eleventh century the Monk Hildebrand, in put ting on the Papal tiara, claimed supreme dominion over all the governments of the world, an sought to put all kings, and other earthly rulers under his authority as mere vassals, or slaves.

[17] Since then Rome has ruled with a high hand. She has made and unmade kings; she has set at nought regularly consecrated Bishops, and though from time to time she has been checkmated, still anon she has recovered herself and resumed the reins of temporal and spiritual power. Her great wealth--her offices--her patronage--have given her influence that has been truly wonderful. At one time we find her humiliating the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa by causing him to lend the Pope's mule through the streets of Venice in open day; at other times anathematizing sovereigns of various countries, and forbidding to them the fealty of their subjects. Anon we see the Emperor Henry IV. standing barefooted for three days, in mid-winter, in the palace court yard waiting the pleasure of Pope Gregory VII. to absolve him, and give back his Empire. Again, we hear of the tortures of the inquisition-of the martyrdom of some of' the noblest of [17/18] mankind-of massacres in Europe until the streets ran blood: of banishment; of unjust tribute money from weak governments; of interdicts that closed the churches of an entire country, and left the dead unburied. We find her oppressing and confining the Jews in a cold, damp quarter of the city, forbidding them to transact business; extorting by cruelest methods large sums of money, and humiliating them in an hundred ways.

Stand still, now, ye who fear the thralldom of Roman supremacy, and "see the salvation of God." The world moves. Where is Rome's strength to Has not God shorn her of it? Where is the king to-day so servile as to lead a Pope's mule through the streets of Venice? Where an emperor who will stand in mid-winter barefooted for three days at a Pope's palace asking for the privilege of ruling his own people? What sovereign to-day so weak upon his throne as to regard more [18/19] than the idle wind the interdict or anathema of the sick old man at the Vatican? Did not King Victor Emanuel receive an anathema a few years since, and did not he, and his subjects, deride it and its author? Where the country so debased that a Pope could influence its people from paying fealty to its ruler? What country is there where the "inquisition" could now be set up? How much does Rome to-day dare to do towards increasing the honorable roll of religious martyrs! From whom save her superstitious devotees can she exact tribute money? And do not the Jews of our day live where they choose, and as they choose? Do they not engage in every sort of lawful occupation, occupy the highest positions in the gift of their respective governments, and, with perfect freedom, worship the God of their fathers? Is not the sting-the fang taken out of Papacy? Is not the Papal church throughout the world on its good behavior, as well as in its decline? Has [19/20] it not learned lessons of humility? Are not her landed estates already reduced to Rome, and its environs? Does any one who regards "the signs of the times" suppose that the college of cardinals will ever elect another Pope to have temporal power? Would Pius IX. be where he is to-day save and except through the force of French soldiers? Is there not a seedy, a worn-out appearance, in all the paraphernalia of her fetes? Is she not the mere ghost of her former self? Beloved! I have no fears that Papacy will thrive in this nineteenth century. The masses have become readers; have become observant; have become reasoners. Prudential reasons (if no others could be found) would uproot Papacy. Every country in this age is reaching out for commercial prosperity. This cannot be had under Papal domination. In Roman Catholic countries is always found ignorance and superstition. In Roman Catholic countries there is lack of thrift [20/21]--lack of commerce--lack of inventive power. In Protestant countries things are exactly opposite. For instance, take sunny, genial, but Papal Italy, festering with ignorance and poverty, and priestcraft, and contrast it with the ungenial climate of Protestant England, with her boundless wealth, and her innumerable beneficent institutions. Take Austria with its Papal oppression, a country rich in mines and abounding in natural wealth, contrast it in its perfect penury and despotism with the increasing prosperity of Prussia. Take poor, decrepid old Spain, deep-furrowed with Papal rule, with its exiled Queen, its bankrupt exchequer, and contrast it with the intellectual and commercial prosperity of Protestant Scotland. And nearer and clearer to all, take Roman Catholic Mexico, with its rapine and oppression, and set it over against our own Protestant country, abounding in wealth--in untold privileges--in inventive power--in learning--in [21/22] freedom. Papacy crucifies civilization; Protestantism developes it. Papacy will bankrupt any country; Protestantism will uplift and enrich any country, for God has said it. "Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin a is a reproach to any people."

There was a day when one man thought for the multitude. Now the multitude thinks for itself. Mankind has out grown many of the childish notions of Papacy. No longer will an enlightened man take his horses and his asses annually to the front of a church to have them blessed with "holy water"(?). No longer will men betake themselves to church, to witness the pageantry of baptizing a chime of bells. Not much longer will intelligent ladies for penance prostrate themselves in church at full length before "the stations," and kiss the pavement as an interlade between each prayer. The world moves! Mankind now asks for the religion as originally given, [22/23] "pure and undefiled. The world now asks for the religion that refines, elevates, ennobles and civilizes, and not for a religion that degenerates and stultifies. The Roman Catholic Church has the ministry; has the Scriptures; but she has suffered "the true faith" within her to become so shrouded by a rank growth of human inventions, that the beams of "the Sun of Righteousness" cannot penetrate and vivify her; and consequently she is blighted, is mildewed. It is where church and state are wedded that Papacy best flourishes. Give liberty to a country, and Papacy becomes uprooted or downtrodden. "Regard the signs of the times" and you will be convinced of this.

Italy, like its own Vesuvius, is a volcano, liable at any time to burst forth, and the fire below, that is causing all this significant muttering, is Protestantism. Men protesting against the arrogance of the Papal hierarchy.

When Garibaldi landed at Naples, and there [23/24] unfurled the flag of liberty, the first Book that was sold, and read, and cried through the streets as we cry newspapers, was "the Bible." The first grant that Garibaldi made whilst dictator there, was a grant of government land whereon to build an English church.

When the Austrians extorted more of liberty from Francis Joseph, that emperor in turn caught the infection, and claimed the nullifying of some of his Papal obligations. The recent birth-note of revolutionary Spain was "liberty of conscience."

Beloved! the strong-hold of Papacy to-day, is America. The next great war that our nation engages in, will be a religious war; and then that war takes place, all the disintegrated Protestants will fuse, and the "Church Redeemed," in one solid phalanx, will go forth and battle and conquer "the Church corrupted."

I have not one single misgiving about the future of our church. I have faith in my Savior, [24/25] who said, "I will be with you (my church) always. Even unto the end of the world."

Papacy cannot thrive here. Papacy is not indigenous. It is an exotic, and will not bear transplanting to this free land. America is not within the habitat of Papacy. For Papacy to thrive here, will necessitate the pushing backward the hand upon the dial of time. For Papacy to reign here, will necessitate the eclipsing the American intellect. The great bulk of Papists in this country is from abroad. It is not a home growth.

The only real strength that Rome now has in this country, is "the undivided instruction of her youth;" her benevolent enterprises, and her constant catering to man's aesthetic nature. In these matters we need to emulate her. So soon as we graft upon our church those scions that yield so fruitfully; so soon as we, without prejudice, are alive to these things; so soon as we make our church edifices and our music attractive; so soon [25/26] as we add the beautiful to our worship, and as God desires, "make the place of his feet glorious;" so soon as we abandon the ignoble idea that a crude worship is the only Protestant worship, just so soon shall we sap Papacy of her strength, and Papal propagandism will be a thing of the past.

Beloved! have no fear of Papal supremacy here. Our railroads are civilizers; nay, they are missionary highways that God, in his Providence, has thrown up whereby to extend His Kingdom. Soon the great Pacific Railroad will be completed, and will accomplish a great missionary work for the church. "The Bride"--"the Lamb's Wife"--will journey all along the line of that road, and dot every hamlet and town with churches, and the voice of prayer and praise will vocalise them. From the shores of the Pacific, "Religion, pure and undefiled," will be borne across the waters to where it was cradled, and the "Church Redeemed," lengthening her cords and [26/27] strengthening her stakes, until she girdles the earth, will burst forth in unison in the grand old anthem "hallelujah! for the Lord, God, Omnipotent reigneth!"

Beloved! this is the fourth Thanksgiving-Day that I have been with you. During this period it has been my wont, on every return of this festival, to present some different blessing for which we should thank God. On one of these joyous occasions we thanked Him that our civil war had ended. last year we took note and rejoiced for what the Agriculturalist had done for us. To-day, we come (and I trust with sincerest gratitude) to thank Him for His Church and His presence therein. Oh! who of us can do aught without the Church of Christ? She is our comfort in prosperity, and emphatically is she so in our days of adversity. When trials overtake us; when friends stand aloof; when we are persecuted and cast out as evil by men, than (O thank God for [27/28] it) then is it our Mother; the church stretches out her sheltering arms, and as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, so she gathers us within her embrace and hides us from every harm. "This Church Redeemed on earth" is known as the church Militant, and it is it that must people the Church Triumphant in Heaven. Let us then at this time cause to well up in our hearts the profoundest emotions of gratitude, for though we may to-day miss some loved ones around our festive board--some who in times past helped us keep this feast--yet, anon, in this same Church Triumphant in Heaven we may make an unbroken family, and join in thanksgivings and hosannas to Him who has Redeemed us with His Blood.

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