Project Canterbury


The Kingdom of God, a Grain of Mustard Seed.






Church of the Holy Innocents,












REV. AND DEAR SIR:--Our object in addressing you, is to ask a copy of the Address delivered by you at the opening of the Chapel of the Holy Innocents. We are of the opinion that its circulation among our friends will aid in increasing the interest already manifested toward us, and at the same time supply them with the best exposition of the object and aims of our work.


May 2d, 1853.

To Messrs. C. R. GILMMAN, M. D., GEO. DRAPER, &c.

GENTLEMEN--In reply to your note requesting the publication of the Address delivered at the opening services of the Chapel of the Holy Innocents, I have only to say, that as you judge it will aid the good work in which we all are engaged, I place it at your disposal.

For, the times render it expedient that, in taking a new stand-point for the extension of the Gospel, as we have done in a district where it is so much needed, we state in plain and direct words what the principles are on which we proceed. I think you have rightly judged that it is expedient, even in our humble enterprise, to let it he known that, in heart and soul attached to our Prayer Book, as the faithful expounder of the Gospel, and the full exponent of Apostolic Christian worship, we are resolved, with the help of God, to endeavor neither to go beyond, nor fall short of every one of its requirements, or implied recommendations. On this foundation we stand or fail. But if it should please God to prosper our labours, it may be that the little pamphlet for which you ask will, in years to come, be a pleasing souvenir of a beginning so humble. And perhaps, too, if we should be so favored, it may leave a footprint full of cheer to some other who shall come after in the same good path, showing that the work of faith, though it he as the grain of mustard-seed, will not always remain the smallest seed.

I am, gentlemen and brethren,

faithfully yours in Christ,


May 6th, 1853.


ST. MATTHEW, xiii., 31.

"The kingdom of God is like a grain of mustard-seed, which a man took and sowed in his field."

THE kingdom of God a grain of mustard-seed! How cheeringly do these words fall upon our ears to-day, when we meet to place in the earth that little seed, looking trustfully to Him who shall send down upon it His dews, and warmth, and light, which shall nurture it until it shall become a great tree, a shelter for the weary in soul, as the shadow of a great rock in a parched and desert land. God shall surely foster it till it shall become a tree, where the birds of the air, the wanderer and the desolate, shall lodge, and men shall sing in years to come, the "sparrow hath found her an house and the swallow a nest, where she may lay her young, even Thy Altars, O Lord of Hosts, my King and my God."

The kingdom of God "a little seed," yet bearing a mighty principle of life and power! How do our thoughts to-day go back to the time when the foundations of that kingdom were laid; to Mary, the humble and meek, the espoused of the carpenter, yet mother of the Lord! How do our thoughts go back to the Babe in the manger, in whose name we to-day begin our work, whose name we inscribe on our banner, rejoicing that it is our Saviour, whose kingdom we spread. In that manger lay the germ [5/66 of that kingdom; the world had no room for it in its inhospitable inn; yet before the inmate of the stable, the charge of the carpenter, the lowly Nazarene, kings are bowing, and pouring forth their treasures, for He is the King of Kings. Daniel's prophetic words are true, and in the days of those kings, the God of heaven hath "set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed."

Let the great trample that seed under foot. Let them cry "Nazarene, Nazarene!" "Away with the seed of Nazareth from the earth." Let them in their blind madness destroy it and lay it in the tomb, and fancy that they shall never see it again. A voice hath spoken, "Except a seed fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit;" ere three days have passed, the grave is rent, the first fruits of the new creation arise in immortal bloom. Such was the foundation of the kingdom of God.

And how lowly they who next succeed as Christ's agents in doing His work. They come, ignorant and rude, from their nets and their places of trade, to hear His voice, saying, "I appoint unto you a kingdom." How strange and void those words might sound. They a kingdom! Where are the subjects? Where are their crown and sceptre? Where the wealth and pomp of kings? Where their throne of ivory and gold? Hardly are the words spoken ere these princes are flying, they know not whither, from the horror of their King's last hour. And He, the dispenser of thrones, is crowned with thorns, His sceptre a reed, His subjects blaspheming soldiers, His throne the Cross. Truly "the kingdom of God cometh not with observation." The seed grows by night, and ere men are aware it is majestic in strength, and the rage of the storm and the axe of violence cannot move it. A few days more, one hundred and twenty [6/7] are in an upper room; but the Spirit of Life is there, and the seed is already germinating and bursting forth. Ere that day's close three thousand are baptized into Christ. Presently there are five thousand; then "multitudes" are added, both of men and women; "a great company of the priests are obedient to the faith;" like the palm, the more its enemies burden it down, the more this great tree spreads wide its branches, and men fly like doves in clouds to the shelter.

Ere many centuries have passed, the emperor of Rome, the ruler of the world, the passionate but religious Theodosius, has laid aside his crown, to kneel a humble penitent before St. Ambrose the Bishop, confessing his sins, and acknowledging himself only a subject in a greater kingdom than his.

And they who were the chosen means to accomplish all this, were not men of great talents, eloquence, cunning or power. The mysteries of the truth were "hid from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes." The Christians, says St. Paul, "saw that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble were called." And all this was done, that none might glory in man; that the seed might grow up by a plain and visible miracle, by an unseen power greater than man, which nurtured it by night and by day, so that all who would might know, that it was not the kingdom of man but of God, which went forth to conquer.

And, Christian friends, who have met here to-day for the first time, we bid you welcome at the planting a. branch of that spreading tree whose boughs now overshadow the whole earth. We have met together to-day to sow in faith that seed which we have trust in God He will water, and enliven, and nourish, till it shall grow and be a blessing to many souls. In His name, without [7/8] whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy, we begin our work; assured, that if we should now sow even in tears, there shall be those who shall reap in joy; whether he that soweth and he that reapeth shall rejoice together, or we shall sow what others shall reap. Can we, dare we believe, that He with whom is all power, will leave a good work, begun in His own appointed way, without His promised aid? We cannot, we dare not think so. It is no seed of tares we sow; it is His own seed; sown in His own way, by His authority, bearing His own holy name, that this our Church may at all times, and in all manners, set forth that Holy Saviour, as the King, the pattern, the blessing for all men.

Not in any rash or boastful spirit, not expecting a miracle different from God's ordinary workings, walking uprightly and devoutly as a Christian Society, even with all the honest rules which would become a Christian man; yet confiding not in man but in God, and in the good cause which He has sworn shall prosper, we must, we shall see our work go on in His good time. For Him we wait; to Him we look; we lean only upon His matchless strength; and in our deepest heart we feel that He who bought us with His precious blood, is worthy of a life of labor and toil in His service.

We will not seek to please you with fine words; not with the eloquence which man's wisdom teacheth. They who seek to hear smooth sayings, which shall fall like soft music upon their ear, and reach no further, we ask not to kneel humbly with us here; but to the weary and sick at heart, with the toil, or care, or sin, or sorrow of this world, we would offer a quiet resting-place near the altar of God, where the din and strife of the world may not reach. When the heart is bowed down with heavy sorrow, we would that it should find the balm of Gilead [8/9] here to heal every wound. When the soul has wandered, confused amid a multitude of counsellors, hearing on every side, "Lo, here is Christ," or Lo, he is there," when bewildered, amid a hundred conflicting creeds, it has almost learned to doubt whether there be anything fixed and true, to which the soul can cling in the night and the storm, here we would show it a light and a guide, a staff to-lean upon, surer than its own weak understanding or self-formed judgment, a rock on which the feet may securely stand amid the waves of the world's stormy ocean. Here, when the poor, and the laboring man find a little rest from toil, may they kneel ever freely to offer their prayer to the God who is the one Father of all His creatures, that so there may be one place at least, the house of God, where worldly pride and selfishness dare not intrude, and we may learn to call every man who bears our Master's image, brother, and give him a brother's warm hand of welcome and kindly interest.

To you, Christian friends, whose homes lie around this place of prayer, to you I say it again, the minister of Christ does not come among you to entertain you with pleasing words for an hour on Sundays. To proclaim the glorious Gospel in words of his own, is one part of his work; but it is not that which brings him nearest to you. It is in many other things beside preaching that he is doing his Master's work. He comes among you as the pastor and friend, the ambassador of God, bringing His mercies to you, and raising you up to God.

When, fond mother, you clasp your little one to your breast, to a mother's warm heart, then let the minister of Christ take your darling, and present him to the Saviour, to be made His and called His child. When your boy has learned to speak those childish tones so dear to a parent's heart, let the pastor tune his [9/10] voice to speak prayers to God, and teach him the way to save his soul; the way to be worthy of himself, of his parents, his country, and his religion here on earth, and the way to be heir of a better country in the skies. When the bridegroom and the bride in the bloom of their youth vow their lives to one another, let God's priest be there, blessing them, and binding their vows before God, that a blessing may rest upon them and theirs for ever. When trouble comes, as come it must to all, let the pastor be the friend and counsellor, the first to be sought, the soonest trusted. When sorrows bring the thoughts of past sins to remembrance, let it be his part to pour the balm of Gilead upon the wounded heart. Let him pray by your bedside in sickness, watching beside it, bringing you the Word and the Bread of Life. When your last hour draws near, and the shadows deepen, and the damp night of death is coming on, and there are voices of mourning, and friends tread lightly, and whisper low, let the ambassador of God be by your side to smooth your pillow, and pour heavenly consolation into your ear. And when you are called to sleep with those who have gone before, to lie down in their quiet resting-place under the green grass, let it be his part to say, "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust." So the shadow of God's Holy Church shall fall on all your path from the cradle to the grave, your whole life become a holy thing, and holy influences spring up around you and your loved ones, to guard you and yours from evil, to make trouble light, and sorrow even a blessing.

I say again, not in man's eloquence, not in vain arts which lead astray unstable souls, can we, as members of Christ's Church, place our strength and reliance. We have a better hope; our strength lies in the principles [10/11] we advocate, in the help and power of Him whose work we do.

And does any one here ask what those principles are? What is our work? We answer, it is to set forth in word and in power the Gospel, the whole Gospel of our Lord and Saviour: His Word our only rule of faith: His Church its only interpreter: our Prayer Book, so full of the spirit of God's Holy Word, sanctified by the blood of martyrs, who testified to its truths in the earliest ages, sanctified by those holy men who purified it at the Reformation from the vain additions of unfaithful times; our Prayer Book, our guide in prayer, and in every form of worship; our Prayer Book in all its completeness; we ask for no more; we will have no less. If in its wisdom it denies us aught, we will humbly submit; whatever privilege it bestows upon us, as members of Christ's body, we will rejoice to accept. The time has come for plain words, and I will speak plainly. Names abused to party strife and division we will not endure; but, following Christ, we will rejoice to be called Christians; members of the Church, our highest joy to spend life and fortune for her, we will deem it an honour to be called churchmen; setting forth always, at all times, and in every manner, the Gospel doctrine and practice, our work shall be truly Evangelical; built upon the Apostolic and Primitive practice of the Church, holding those truths, and those forms which have been held and taught and practised everywhere, at all times, and by all Christians, we will not be ashamed of the name of CATHOLIC, which we profess in our creed to be ours. Adopting the Bible as our only rule of faith and practice, we shall have no fear of that vain perversion of the Gospel, which makes articles of the faith from its own misguided dreams. Forsaking [11/12] all our own self-willed opinions, and the traditions of men, to cleave with heart and soul to that one interpretation of the one rule which comes from our appointed guide, the Reformed Church, and is embodied in the Prayer Book, we shall have a strength that no human system as no humanly devised scheme can know. We shall utter no prayers to saints or angels, but to the one Lord our only Mediator and Saviour. When we bring the bodies of our departed friends to lay them before the altar, and shed holy Christian tears of mingled joy and pain over their lifeless remains, our hearts shall take comfort, because they are in no pains of Purgatory, but if they died "in the Lord," are resting from their labours with the blessed dead. When we kneel to feast at our Father's table, while we see our Lord there, and feast upon His body and blood shed for us, we shall not be perplexed and weakened in our spiritual sense by any carnal dream of transubstantiation, defining and explaining what God hath not defined nor explained, reducing a most sacred mystery to the fleshly level of our feeble comprehension.

And holding too, faithfully and right heartily, by our Reformed and Evangelical and Catholic Prayer Book, we shall not fear to embrace every privilege God and His Church bath given us. If the Christians of the Apostolic age continued "steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers;" if they were "daily in the temple, praising God;" if, whenever they came together on the first day of the week, it was "to break bread," we will not let our Prayer Book speak in vain of an "Order of Daily Morning Prayer," but morning and evening let the sacrifice of prayer and thanksgiving ascend; when, if the world will not permit many, at least a few faithful [12/13] souls shall join with God's minister in interceding for their brethren and the whole Church. Let the Prayer Book not vainly speak of an order of Holy Communion when there is no communion, but let the Holy Table with each returning Lord's Day be spread with His rich banquet. Knowing who has said, "Do this in remembrance of Me," you will not be willing that your Saviour's table shall be dishonoured by unfaithfully turning away when He draws so near. Remembering who has given you all things; that all you are and all you have belong to Him; that from Him is your strength, your skill, your wealth; how can you keep back the choicest and best, while you offer that which costs you nothing? How can you be content that your own home should be adorned, that all which your taste and your money can procure should be lavished there, while the House of God is not so beautiful as your own? Rather you will worship God in the "beauty of holiness;" pouring out at His feet the choicest and the best. Those, the wise and kings of the earth, who brought their choicest gifts to the Saviour, will be to you no unmeaning fable, but the example of a whole-souled devotion which is not of the lips, nor of form merely, but has consecrated all, heart, and mind, and imagination, and life, and worldly means, to Him who bought all by the sacrifice of Himself.

Jesus came to preach the Gospel to the poor; and since we seek to do His work, here may the poor and the humble, the weary and sick at heart, the widow and the fatherless, find comfort and a shelter from the blasts of the world's rough tempests. Here, since we bear the name of those holy innocents who suffered for Christ's sake, here may the Christian child be nurtured in his holy faith, sanctifying the studies of every day by [13/14] joining in the prayers of the Church; learning, day by day, as he grows in knowledge, which shall fit him to do manfully his appointed work for his family, for society and his country, that there is a higher and better knowledge, which shall make him a better son, a better father, a better citizen; learning, by the example of every day, that religion is not for one day in seven, but for all the week; that as it is the ruling principle and guide of his studies in school-boy days, so it must be through all his life, if his soul is ever to be saved.

We will not love party names; wherever we see our Master's image we will hail it with joy, and call that man brother, though in God's dispensation he is not yet of our Master's fold. While no fear of man, or of the world's sneer or Vile slanders shall hinder us of any privilege which our Gospel and our Prayer Book give, we will show true Christian charity to all. To all we say, to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, peace and God's mercy be with you. Kneel with us here to worship the one Father of us all; draw near with faith to partake His blessings. Of nothing which you now hold would we deprive you. Every truth, every blessed privilege of our holy religion which you now enjoy, you shall find here, and, perchance, some richer blessing beside. And to every member of Christ's Church we say, with true Christian, brotherly feeling: "whereunto we have attained, let us be of one mind, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same things; and if in anything ye be otherwise minded," only walk humbly, devoutly, charitably, and God "will reveal even this unto you."

And now to you, brethren, beloved in the Lord, you whose hearts have been warmed by the fire of the Spirit to do your part in bearing the Gospel to this section of [14/15] this vast capital of the Western world, companions of my hopes and aims, and, in your degree, and according to your ability, of my labours also; to you who have begun this work for Christ's sake, and in love to Him, what can I say? Your hearts have answered to what has been said to-day; and while I say, go on; be strong in the might of Him who has redeemed you; ye have well begun; continue the same good work; I must also bless you in God's name that ye have undertaken this, not for yourselves, but for the sheep of Christ scattered in this evil world. God shall prosper the work and you: in years to come, and when you lie down to sleep in Christ, it may be a consoling, happy thought; perchance, the remembrance may come as an angel of heaven and mercy then, that though your house joined not hard to this synagogue of Christ, although you had no worldly end to gain, you made here a pure offering of time, and interest, and earthly means, to Him who gave you all.

And to you, Christian friends, who have come from this neighbourhood, one word. Strangers heretofore in the world, let us no longer be so; let the minister of Christ be among you, as I have said he ought to be, the friend and pastor of all, of every station; let him be called to the sick chamber, at least as soon as the physician of your bodies; let him receive your little ones into the Master's fold; let him bring to you in trouble the consolations of God; let him offer with you and for you in this place the prayers which Christ will hear; and when in God's good providence you are called hence, let the minister of Christ go with you to the dark vale to commend you into the hands of his Master; then let him lay your body down in the grave, in hope of a joyful resurrection. Once more I say, let him be the friend of you all; let your children learn to know and [15/16] love the minister of religion, until their tender hearts shall pass from him up to his Heavenly Master. Others have begun for you a good work; let it be yours to aid them in every way; so shall we all remember this day as one of the bright spots in earth's wilderness, and in years to come its anniversary shall be kept as one worthy of the best regards of Christian men.

Finally, brethren, let me remind you, that the Apostolic Church, and the Apostolic worship, to you personally are void, or worse, are only a curse, unless you also be filled with Apostolic charity and devotion.

For our services are a spiritual sacrifice for spiritual men; no unmeaning, void, lifeless forms, but full of the Spirit of the everliving God; and unless your hearts move responsive to them, ye can only be like him who was numbered with the faithful, but heard that awful condemnation, "Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter, for thy heart is not right in the sight of God." O what misery and despair! To go out from the presence of light and blessing to darkness and a curse; to have lived under the very shadow of the Gospel; to have heard again and again the words of life; to have been brought near the gates of heaven, and then to fail of all, to be numbered with the unfaithful when there is no more hope. O let us learn to realize that every blessing brings with it a heavy responsibility also.

And what will it avail to make our worship here like that of the Apostolic age, unless such charity as theirs be ours also. They who were so frequent in prayers and communions, kept no lifeless service then, for their hearts and hands were ready for every good work. Ransomed from death, they could call nothing their own, but had all things as common for the needs of all; their Master has gone away, yet they saw Him in His poor, [16/17] and sanctified every prayer and communion by some deed of mercy. Be it ours to emulate their holy zeal. This is no time to rest; this is no time to grovel in sensual pleasures; this is no time to set all the thoughts of an immortal soul upon the transitory gains of this world. O let us now work while it is day, for the night cometh when no man can work; and who can say how soon darkness, the thick darkness of the grave, may fall upon you or me.

The opening services of the Church of the Holy Innocents were held in a room temporarily fitted up for the purpose in Broadway, between 35th and 36th streets. The day appointed, the fourth Sunday after Easter, proved to be very inclement; nevertheless, a congregation of some 50 or 60 assembled, chiefly friends of the enterprise. Morning Prayer was said by the Rev. J. A. Spencer, D. D.; the Ante-Communion by the Rev. S. R. Johnson, D. D. After the preceding Address, about twenty of the congregation communed, along with the gentlemen who had begun this missionary work. The chapel had been fitted up, chiefly through the Christian liberality of one gentleman; the offertory in aid of the same object amounted to $21.00.

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