NEWARK, MAY, 29, 1834.
Rev. and Dear Sir,
In behalf of a large number of the Delegates attending the Convention now in session, the undersigned request a copy of the Sermon delivered by you yesterday, for publication.
This request is made for the purpose of giving circulation to the sound doctrines, and valuable sentiments, contained in the Sermon. With much respect and esteem, we subscribe ourselves your friends. E. E. Boudinot, Josiah Harrison, John J. Chetwood, Hanford Smith, Amos A. Harrison, D. I. Canfield, J. W. Hayes, T. D. James, Joel W. Condit, C. C. Stratton. Rev. Henry M. Mason.
MAY 29, 1834.
Assured, as I am, not only of the truth, but of the importance of the principles contained in the Sermon preached before the last Convention of our Diocese, and aware of the inadequate consideration which has been given them in our country, it is with great satisfaction that, in the hope of promoting, in some measure, the good of the Church, and the glory of her divine head, I comply with the wishes of those for whose characters and opinions I entertain so true a respect
I am, gentlemen, sincerely yours,
HENRY M. MASON.
E. E. Boudinot, John J. Chetwood, Amos A. Harrison. J. W. Hayes, Joel W. Condit, Josiah Harrison, Hanford Smith, D. I. Canfield, T. D. James, C. C. Stratton.
FOR reasons which will be appreciated, the following Sermon is given, in every sentiment, in every line, and in every word, as it was originally delivered. The notes which were to elucidate, or to sustain its different positions, have grown to a bulk too disproportioned to admit of their being published as an appendix. It is apprehended, however, that the leading doctrines here disclosed, are sufficiently upborne by authority of the Word of God; and that, at least, they are not obscured by any want of sincerity, or by any hesitancy in the author, as now, so always, with all-becoming boldness, to speak the truth.
"As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of Hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever."
The glories of the law were but the shadows of the Gospel. When the Israelite, obedient to the divine command, three times a year approached Jerusalem, her stately towers, her palace-crowned hills, her gorgeous temple decked with the spoils of Lebanon and sparkling with gold might well awaken the sense of national renown and of participation in the glory of those unmatched marvels, which had insulated his own from the rest of the human race. But from that spirit-stirring scene, would also spring within his pious heart, other and even loftier thoughts. That fair and goodly prospect might be marred. Those monuments of human grandeur, and structures of human art--those courts which he had come from far to tread--bulwark and battlement--turret and temple--dwelling-place and dome--the mountain of the Lord itself--might crumble to the plain; still would the heritage, ordained for the sons of faithful Abraham, remain; still would that city, not made with hands--of which the material Jerusalem was but the type--enlarge her nobler proportions, till her empire should cover the earth, and till time should be no longer; still in the past and present fulfilment of Jehovah's promises would the language of her prophet be justified--As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God: God shall establish her for ever--her dominion shall be unlimited, her duration shall be perpetual, and of both there shall be evidence in every age.
 In these sentiments have I already disclosed the subject of my discourse--the city of the Lord of hosts--the city of our God; and, at the same time, my leading topics:--I. The character of the city of God. II. Its promised perpetuity. III. The fulfilment of that promise among us.
I. The character of the city of God. The city of the Lord is of no recent origin. Its foundations were laid in Eden; and on that memorable day, when conscience-stricken man fled from the face of his maker. Then was its charter from the courts of Heaven confirmed to our fallen parents, in the promise of that seed of the woman who should bruise the serpent's head; and sealed in the blood of that Lamb slain from the foundation of the world--then was the Church established, under Christ, its author, at last to be its finisher--and then did guilty Adam become its first freeman, with the covenant of final and future salvation. Through all the changes of the human race--when, as a consequence of general idolatry, the covenant became confined to the person of Abraham, in whose seed all the families of the earth were to be blessed--when it became necessary to guard the sacred trust, by the mysterious ritual of the Mosaic law, by those sacrifices made year by year, by that veiled representation of the heavens, by that entrance of a high priest under the sanction of a bloody offering, by that mercy-seat covering the law and shadowed with the awful cherubim--still did the Church survive; till, in the fulness of time, forth from the bosom of the Father came its great king, to perfect the work he had undertaken to do, to renew its outward organization, to give a spiritual force and sanction to its laws, to re-establish its government, and to confirm those promises which, in him, from everlasting to everlasting, are yea and amen.
Thus primeval in its origin, thus adorned and reconstructed by its heavenly head--instituted, not by man, but by God, in behalf of man, and therefore no voluntary association, to which it is optional with any human being to join himself, the Church is a society capable of being known and recognized of all men. It is visible. Set up indeed in opposition to the kingdom of darkness, end having for the [6/7] object of its establishment, the restoration of. man from the dominion of sin, there is belonging to it a spiritual membership--a communion of saints, which unites in heart and spirits--the holy upon earth together, nor only so, but with the sacred band of the glorified heaven. But, the final determination of that membership, and that communion, can only be had in the day when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed. There is another, and all-important aspect, in which its divine author has presented it, as open to the cognizance and judgment of human beings, of beings who can neither penetrate the thoughts of the breast, nor pronounce on the holiness of the soul--an aspect disclosing an outward constitution under which it is to operate till all be fulfilled, till the chaff be separated from the wheat, till its earthly be lost in its heavenly and supernal characteristics. Does its predicted forerunner, the Baptist, sustained by the united testimony of the chosen twelve, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven--the Gospel dispensation--the reign of the Messiah on earth--the establishment of the Church, and peculiar family of Christ, was at hand? Its blessed Head himself defines the nature and character of that kingdom and that family; compares it to a net which gathered of every kind, separable from each other only at the end of time--to a field in which tares are mingled with the precious grain--to a marriage feast in which there are guests without the wedding garment of a holy heart. Nor is there, indeed, a passage in Sacred Writ where the Church is otherwise defined than as a visible society, having an outward form and constitution, under which, he who would be entitled to become its citizen in heaven, must have enrolled himself as such upon earth. To this representation of its character, tend all the declarations respecting it, and all to which it is compared. It is a family, of which the members bear some common relationship to each other--a city incorporated under some common laws--a kingdom possessed of a magistracy and form of government; and to all these similitudes will the Church, as a society, he found to correspond. To every society is it necessary there should be certain articles of association--certain principles to be recognized by all [7/8] the members--certain points of agreement and of common assent? Other foundation, saith an apostle, can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the Gospel. Contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other Gospel than that ye have received, let him be accursed. To every society is it necessary there should be officers to govern and direct its affairs, to commit to others a portion or the whole of their own authority, and having warrant verifiable of the validity of their own commission? Go ye, saith the divine head of the Church, not to all or any other of his commissioned disciples, but to the eleven alone, Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you; and your acts which are done in the kingdom of heaven below, shall be ratified in the kingdom of heaven above. To every society is it also necessary there should be some accredited sign and seal of admission, by which the members may mutually know and recognize each other, and without which there can be no title to the privileges of its charter, or the blessings of its covenant? Unless a man be born of water and the spirit--it is the sentence of our Lord himself--he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, he cannot be my accredited follower here, nor have a title to become my glorified subject hereafter. For, he that believeth--Oh, ye! who are regardless of the two-fold obligation, may the sentence not offend your car, but rather affect your heart--He that believeth, and is baptised, shall be saved.
Laid in the garden of Eden, and possessed of a visible and outward constitution, the Church is also in its character universal. Confined in its imperfect state for a time, and for the wisest purposes, to one family of the earth, no sooner had its Supreme and adorable head accomplished the object for which he had assumed that rank in the universe, than its diffusive properties are at once disclosed. The middle wall of partition, between the Jews, as the chosen people, and the rest of the world is broken down. The fulfilment of the prophecies respecting the kingdom of God [8/9] the Son, as incarnate, is commenced. I will give thee the Heathen for thine inheritance, the uttermost part of the earth for thy possession. All kings shall fall down before thee, all nations shall do thee service: and the enlarged commission is given to the stewards of the mysteries of grace--Go ye, and baptize all nations.
Nor is the universality of the Church to be ever separated from its unity. The Church is no confused multitude of societies distinct from one another, and held together by no common and indissoluble bonds. It is a family which, however separated by distance, must hold some acknowledged principles of union and of concord in all its parts. And although there is mention made in sacred story, of the Church in a certain city, and even in a certain house, yet are we all baptized into one body; yet is Christ head over all things, not to ally particular number of believers, but to His Church,--to the mass of those who are his from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same--to all who have one Lord, one faith, and one baptism,--to his CHURCH CATHOLIC--UNIVERSAL.
II. To this Church Catholic, universal, has he promised perpetuity. Ere yet the light of the Gospel had dawned upon the world--four hundred years before Zion had at the hands of her incarnate King put on her beautiful garments, a prophet had announced, under the representation of a mountain cut without hands, her indestructible and everduring existence. Her King comes to his own, and his own receive him not. Save the remnant which was left--save the little band of followers which owned him as the Messiah, and gathered around the steps of their divine Master, it might seem that he had vainly come to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then, when to human apprehension her dissolution was at hand, did the Church arise, fairer in its form, enlarged in its proportions, renewed in its strength: then, as when of old, the bird brought to that little household floating upon the waste of waters wild, the welcome emblem of security; did the promise of the Saviour give to his regenerated and new-born family, the assurance, that while time should be, they should not fail.
 The chiefest and the firmest among them, at a time, which respecting the confession of their faith must have tried their souls, declares his belief and acknowledges the offices and divinity, of his adorable Master. Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, is the reply; flesh and blood path not revealed this unto thee. Thou art Peter, and upon this rock, this true confession thou dost made, will I build any Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it--it shall know no decay--it shall never die--it shall not be destroyed.
But, it is a point which lies at the basis of all our inquiries, to ascertain what is the extent of that promise thus solemnly pledged. It is the nature of every corporate body, and we have seen it to be a property of the Church as such, that its existence remains, so long as its members are united together under common and original articles of association, and under an accredited and authorized government perpetuated by succession. If its charter be taken away--if its constitution be destroyed or lost--or if its officers cease to have any valid title to the exercise of their functions--it becomes by these very circumstances dissolved; in every dispassionate point of view, it is dead, it has ceased to exist. But of the society which Jesus Christ has established--of his Church--what are the necessary articles of association; what is her constitution; and what her accredited government, but her fundamental points of doctrine, and her fundamental points of discipline? If in either of these she fail--if by any combination of circumstances, or at any period they become lost, her glory has departed; the promise of her divine head has been rendered nugatory; as a man is no longer such without a spirit, she has become a carcass without a soul. In the promise, therefore, of her Redeemer and her King, that the gates of hell should not prevail against her, was confirmed to her a security that front the fundamentals of TRUTH and ORDER, she should never fall. Less than this preservation from destruction, would have been a promise without a boon. Nor was that promise solitary. As if to comfort and assure her, amid those fiery trials through which she was destined to pass, the Saviour, upon more than one occasion, renews his pledge. I will [10/11] pray, says he, the Father; and he shall give you another comforter; and he shall abide with you for ever, even the spirit truth. And when He, the spirit of treth, is come, he shall lead you into all truth. Nor was it enough, that he should thus pronounce that no doctrines necessary to the salvation of man would ever be wanting to his Church.But, for the ordinary preservation of those doctrines, to their keepers the stewards of the mysteries of grace, he guarantees the perpetuation of their line. On the eleven whom he had chosen, and on whom he had transferred the authority which his Father had given him over his kingdom on earth, he confers the essential and ever-during power of self-perpetuation. He breathes on them--in the words, Receive ye the Holy Ghost--bestows on them that gift of the eternal spirit which constituted their sacerdotal character; and seals the ever-during warrant of their office, to them and their successors, by the promise to be with them always even to the end of the world.
Jesus Christ, then, has, by an immutable pledge, given security to his Church, that in the fundamentals of truth and order, she shall never err. Fay did she fail in either, her existence as a society must of necessity he gone. But was that pledge restricted to any favoured portion of the believing world--or is it redeemed, if there should always he a number, however obscure or small, who shall retain the purity of the faith and of sacerdotal power? Where shall the humble and anxious inquirer after the verities of our holy religion, seek for that little number; or by what signals may it be recognized when found? Jerusalem, the mother Church, is a fallen star; and the sons of the Koran have floated the crescent on the site of the holy cross. Long since have the seven lamps of Asia ceased to burn, and of the various parts of the Christian world, many may have at some time or other fallen from the faith once delivered to the saints: but the great body of the Church, the mass of believers semper, ubique, ab omnibus, never. On the Church in her collective capacity--the Catholic--the Universal--and on her alone, has been conferred this principle of immortality--this indefectibility from the constitution [11/12] under which she was originally framed. She, like a gallant vessel, though lost in gliding down the stream of time to the dying generations of men, has never ceased to be.
But, in this aspect of the subject, it will doubtless be demanded; who shall be competent to judge, who to determine these fundamentals of truth and order? The only answer to be given is, the Church herself. Infallible in both, she is to determine what they arc; and perilous in the extreme, is the condition of him by whom her decision is despised. If She be not invested with the right of making this determination, it must be made in her behalf. By whom, or how? Is she to be arraigned before the tribunal of every individual, or is it not the dictate of common sense, as well as the voice of her Prophet, Priest, and King, that every individual should be brought for judgment before hers? "If he will not hear the Church, let him be unto thee, as an heathen man and a publican:--For the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth."
Is, then, the Scripture, the word of God, thus shorn of its glory, and brought down from that supreme and lofty rank which it should ever hold in the estimation of the Christian? Oh, no! That unerring and inspired volume, is still the rule of faith, the statute book to give law to the believing world; and on the prayerful study of its pages is still bestowed that unction of the Holy Spirit, to dissipate the two-fold darkness under which we were horn of sin and ignorance. to enlighten the mind, and to purify the heart. But it is in man to convert into poison even heavenly food; and who does not know, that from the inspired records, errors the most deadly and pestilential, have been asserted to be drawn? Therefore, has the divine author of those records, as a beacon to the way-faring man, "as a city set upon a hill which cannot be hid"--established a court of appeal, whose voice, in all those points which effect Salvation, in all those points which affect her own existence as a society, is decisive:--Having, in the language of our twentieth article "AUTHORITY IN CONTROVERSIES OF FAITH;" therefore authority, because it is her property, divinely given that on the essentials of faith she shall not err.
 But will it, as an objection, once more be urged, that the right of private judgment on subjects of faith is thus annulled? And what has private judgment on those subjects wrought for mankind, but error and delusion; what, but to lead them far astray front the teaching of God--what, but to scatter over Christendom the wildest heresies, whose torch of worldly science has served but to disclose the darkness of those chambers of spiritual death! As man cannot for himself invent a religion, so neither has he been left to decide on the grand tenets of the religion revealed. With respect to those tenets, it is the office of reason to lead him to the word of God; the word of God conducts him to the Church; and again the Church is guaranteed to preserve him in all necessary truth: for, in this, if in any thing, "have we heard in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God; God shall establish her for ever." And,
III. We have the evidences of that promised perpetuity among us. As we have heard, so have we seen. "The word that hath gone forth out of the mouth of the Lord, bath not returned unto him void, but hath accomplished that which he pleased, and bath prospered in the thing whereunto he sent it." Whatever is necessary to constitute and continue it a visible society, (and such we have ascertained to be its character,) not only has the Church never lost, but never failed to recognize. Examine all the records of the past; unfold the pages of ecclesiastical story, it will be found that in all time, she bath maintained the essentials of truth and order; from what she bath once pronounced to be such, she bath never departed. Here then, is the field for the legitimate exercise of private judgment. Nor is it necessary that any extraordinary power of acumen or arduous investigation should be employed in ascertaining the simple fact.--What bath the Church herself defined as the essentials of truth and order? On points of mere ecclesiastical polity, on subjects affecting only ceremonial and outward usages, she hath differed according to time, situation, and circumstances. As the human constitution may undergo in differing climes successive changes, without incurring dissolution; so bath the Church, in her progress over the earth, sustained [13/14] various and striking modifications, hath in some of heliports approached the line of extreme corruption: but the vital principle hath ever remained unscathed. Her beauty hath been marred, but never hath been lost that image of God originally stamped upon her.
And will it now be asked--the question is both natural and all-important--how and where, hath she defined these fundamentals of truth and order; what are essentials in her doctrine, and what essentials in her government?--And, happily, this question may, even for us of the present age, be briefly answered.
Whatever be that profession of faith without which the Church will receive no rational and accountable being to her membership, she must consider as essential, as being necessary to Salvation. But ere the waters of regeneration touch the forehead of him who through the door of baptism, would come into her bosom, she demands confession of that summary assigned to the Apostles, or of that which at Nice and Constantinople was framed by men, short only of being inspired. These summaries therefore, has she thus declared to contain the fundamentals of the truth. Whatever be that principle of government, by which she tests the valid administration of her laws and ordinances, and the execution of the offices within her pale, she of consequence esteems among the fundamentals of order, among things essential to her existence as a society. The unanimous consent of history, the aspect of Christendom at the present day, attest that the Church in her collective character, the Church Catholic, Universal, has refused to acknowledge--has denied the validity of all sacerdotal power, and of consequence the ordinary exercise of all sacerdotal acts not traceable by succession through that one divinely constituted order, generally styled in the sacred volume, Apostles, in the book of Revelation, Angels, and in all subsequent ages, Bishops. Exceptions indeed there are. Bodies even numerous, of professing Christians. have denied the essentials of faith, and others have contemned those of discipline and order. But that those bodies are exceptions, if the principles I have now advanced be true--is blushing evidence that the error is as [14/15] great as it is to be deplored. The Church still rests on the immutable bases of truth and order. The prediction and promise of her divine head respecting her indefectibility, is borne out by the evidence of trumpet-tongued and time-honoured facts. "As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God:--God shall establish her forever."
Let it not, my brethren of the Clergy and of the Laity, be thought, that the views which have now been opened, belong only to a vain and abstract speculation. They embrace, indeed, an ample field; but they are not the less important, or the less capable of being usefully and practically applied. The Christian world, even the Church which yet retains the essentials of truth and order, is unhappily defective in that fellowship which should unite its various parts. The bond of charity is broken, and harmony has bade, for a while, the temple of our God farewell. How shall that harmony again return--how shall they who are now at distance again combine together as a common brotherhood, but on those principles which all have confessed as fundamental--or how but on those very foundations of truth and order, which it has been my purpose this day to place before you?
Happy and glorious will dawn that day, when Jerusalem shall, in the communion of all her parts, be as a city, compact together! Thrice happy, and thrice glorious, that portion of Jacob, which shall be among many people as a dew from the Lord," which, without the sacrifice of principle, shall establish the covenant of peace, which shall open the door of reconciliation to the members of an unnecessarily divided family, and once more unite together the severed bonds of amity. And, lo! for that unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, provision is already made. Beauteous in form, glorious in apparel, her clothing of wrought gold, the fairest among the daughters of Zion, may one be seen, resting on those foundations which may not be moved, and holding forth from thence to her sister train, amid the billows of discord, the olive-branch of peace. It is deserving of the deepest gratitude, and of the most serious consideration, my [15/16] brethren, that the Church, of which I this day address a diocesan Convention--the Church in America, as a constituent and uncorrupted part of the Church Catholic, stands in that exalted attitude, singular in her position, and worthy of all admiration. By any act of her own, is she separated from no part of the Christian world retaining the fundamentals of truth and order. Others, at least the proudest and most corrupt of the Churches which have retained them, may have refused to extend to her the hand of friendship. The guilt and the schism, therefore, is their own. Once, and once only, in that parent land, from which our forefathers came, and in an hour of struggling apprehension, was this pure branch of the Universal Church, tempted to throw back the torch of discord, and to return excommunication to the Church which had unjustly barred her from communion. But that deed of disunion was never done; and, by a rare and pleasing combination, she now presents the strongest bulwarks to the faith and evidences of the most enlarged charity. To all is her communion open, which possess the Apostolic Creed, and have not voluntarily abandoned the Apostolic succession. But as the truths most essential to salvation, may be seriously prejudiced by erroneous notions respecting some of their dependencies, she bath aimed sufficiently to fence the former, by declaring in her liturgy and articles, her views respecting the latter. Guarded by her daily services against the danger of doctrinal innovation, even at the hands of her Clergy, she has, at the same time, provided, in the exercises of the pulpit, for the changes which may occur in the habits of society or the advancement of science. Nor let it be forgotten, among her claims to our regard, that she is above all other organized bodies of professing Christians, accommodated to the character of the American nation. Charged, as she has sometimes been with an adaptation to the exercise of tyranical power, she calls for the strictest scrutiny into her system at the hands of a free-born people. Is an equal representation of the people asked for? She presents it in her honoured Laity. Would you seek a body like that of the senate? It is in her Clergy. A power like that of the executive? It is in her [16/17] Bishop. I call then, with no ill-grounded confidence, upon you, citizens of these free and happy States, to respect, at least, the external organization of a Church so accommodated to your noble and enlightened institutions: and may you, in that city of God, at length become partakers of the true liberty wherewith Christ bath made you free. I call upon you, Christians, not to wander from those pastures, on which the Sun of Righteousness is pledged to shine; and may the Divine Shepherd lead you, as his lambs, through this, his earthly, into his heavenly fold. I call upon you, brethren, fellow-watchmen with me of that sacred tower which is high in the city of our God, to guard, with holy zeal, each precious stone set in her walls: may a constant accession to those who, through your fidelity, are safe within her gates, from that foot of pride which would cone nigh to hurt them, that hand of the ungodly which would cast them down--be your evidence, that as you have heard, so have you seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, that God shall establish her for ever; and, when our strength and our hearts shall fail, may the last emotions of our hearts correspond to the dying language of our lips, "God shall establish her for ever." "ESTO PERPETUA."