Project Canterbury


Parish of St. Edward-the-Martyr


MARCH 18, 1888, BY THE
Founder and Rector of the Parish.







Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2013

[3] The Rev. Edward Wallace-Neil, Sc.D.

Beloved Rector:

The undersigned having listened with rapt attention to your masterly discourse commemorative of the 5th anniversary of the founding of the Parish of S. Edward-the-Martyr, earnestly ask that you will furnish them a copy of the same for publication.

Affectionately yours,
New York, Passion Sunday, 1888.

[4] Messrs. Millard, Mollan, Abell and others

I am in receipt of your kind note of this date, in which you request a copy of my sermon of this morning for publication. I thank you for your words of encouragement and send you herewith a copy of the sermon.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
The Oratory, Feast of S. Edward-the-Martyr, 1888.


"And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."—Genesis iii, 5th verse.

ON the banks of the Nile, hidden away down by the roots of the tall reeds and the bulrushes, there is a basket and in the basket a young infant lies asleep; the child of a proscribed and hated race, a child of Hebrew parentage, the offspring of a people whom Pharaoh of Egypt inwardly feared and desired to keep under. In the helplessness of his tender age this child seems no more than the ordinary child, and yet at that very moment, even while he lay there in all his childlike weakness, without a soul in the world apparently to care for him, I say at that very moment Almighty God had called that young life into His service, God had consecrated that helpless infant to be the leader and the defender and the guide of His down-trodden people. I need scarcely dwell on the subsequent development of the life of this wonderful child, for the facts are household tales. Found by the king's daughter and adopted by her, leading a life of ease in the [5/6] palace of Pharaoh, and finally refusing to be called the son of the king's daughter, choosing rather, as St. Paul says: "to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." And then we find him where the text mentions, in the land of Midian, near the Mount of Horeb. The child has grown into manhood and has married.

He has been obliged to flee from Egypt, and he now follows the lowly vocation of a shepherd, tending the flock of his father-in-law as it feeds on the plain. And while thus engaged, his attention is attracted by a singular phenomenon, for right before him on the desert a mysterious flame of fire bursts from a bush, and when in wonder he goes towards it to see what it means, the voice of God speaks to him out of the midst of the fiery bush and says: "Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." And from that hour deliverance had come to the wretched captive people of God. The black night of their Egyptian bondage had come to an end, and the bright sun of hope had begun to rise and to scatter the dark shadows which had so long rested upon Israel's unhappy race.

Five years ago this morning, the parish of Saint Edward the Martyr began its existence in weakness [6/7] and obscurity, similar to that of Moses of old. Called of God, as was that patriarch, from the day of its birth, nurtured and sustained by the same All Powerful Hand, surrounded with blessings of every kind, prospered beyond the ordinary lot of religious undertakings in similar localities.

Days of adversity, of course, it has had, dark and almost hopeless they appeared at the time. Days of persecution it has endured, persecution cruel and relentless, persecution all the harder to bear because the persecutors were those of the household of faith, those from whom we should have expected words of cheer and kindness, those to whom we would have most naturally turned for advice and council. These took quite the contrary course, and sought to crush out of existence the young parish, then struggling for its very life. Even the warmest friends of the parish have grown fainthearted at times and have strongly urged the founder to abandon a work which entailed so much labor and personal sacrifice, and which produced so little immediate result. But a work born of God cannot be destroyed by man, my beloved. The parish prospered; a plot of ground was purchased; the present humble building was erected; friends arose in unexpected quarters; the people worked and prayed, and so to-day, [7/8] our 5th anniversary finds us well on the road to success. Owning a lot, church, fixtures and furniture, the market value of which is not far from $20,000, on which there is but $4,000 mortgage, and no other debt.

We have a united, earnest and devoted congregation, nearly 350 communicants, a large and encouraging Sunday-school constantly growing. There are no factions among us, we have one common cause, the people are ever willing to do and to give and to work for the advancement of the welfare of Christ's Kingdom upon earth, which is His Holy Church. Under such circumstances, my beloved, your rector congratulates you all and himself on this, the anniversary of the five years we have spent together. But an anniversary occasion like this, while it brings joy and gladdens our hearts and stirs us on to work even harder in the future, still, interwoven with it all there is a strain of sadness, for while we rejoice and thank God to-day for the prosperity He has vouchsafed to us, His humble servants, yet we cannot but remember this morning those who are not with us, those whom we have loved and lost awhile, those who labored and prayed with us for the building up of this parish, but to whom it was not vouchsafed to rejoice with us to-day.

Over 125 times during the past five years has your [8/9] rector pronounced the solemn words "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust" over some member of this parish. Some of these had reached mature years and hailed death as the means whereby they were brought nearer to God; others again were young, very young some of them, who had just commenced to wind the cords of their affection around the hearts of those most near to them, so that when they were taken hence the sorrowing ones felt they could scarcely submit to the will of Him who rules all things. These are some of the thoughts which mingle with those of joy and thanksgiving to-day as we recall the past and look forward to the future.

"O, Almighty God, with whom do live the spirits of just men made perfect, and who makest infants to glorify Thee by their deaths, grant unto all these Thy servants gone before a place of rest and joy in Paradise the blest."

"And lo, the bush burned with fire." That bush, my beloved, is a type of the Church of God which burns with the fervent fire of the Holy Ghost, by whose divine power the sacred flame of Christian zeal is enkindled in the hearts of God's people, stirring them to deeds of charity, putting into their minds the earnest desire to build up the Church which their Lord founded here [9/10] upon earth; making them liberal in their offerings for the proper maintenance of that Church; making them love that Church better than all else on earth, because it is the one only means through which the effects of the atonement are applied to the souls of men. A Church to be what Our Blessed Lord intended it must be, a burning Church; a Church filled through and through with sacred fire. Our Blessed Lord condemned the ancient Church of Laodicea because it was neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. A Church to be the successful means of preparing souls for eternity must be a united Church; says Our Lord in St. Luke's Gospel: "A house divided against a house falleth."

A Church to fulfil its Christian obligations must be a working Church; there must be no drones in the hive, each and every one must do his or her part for the furtherance of the sacred cause in which we each of us have our part.

A Church to win blessings from God and to gain the respect of those about must show its true colors. Who wants to have anything to do with a Church which is neither one thing nor the other? God grant that this may ever be a Church which shall never be afraid to put forth before the world what it believes and then to stand by that belief, let the consequences be what they may. [10/11] If it is right to adorn the House of God and to make His praise glorious, if it is right to bring into the worship of God every thing that will rejoice the eye and gladden the heart, then let us have all these and let the world talk as it may. A Church to be a blessing to itself and to all who are brought within its influence, must be a sacramental Church, a Church on whose altar is offered continually the Most August Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ in remembrance of His meritorious Cross and Passion, whereby alone we obtain remission of our sins, and are made partakers of the Kingdom of Heaven.

We have reached our fifth Anniversary to-day, my beloved; five short years, and yet see what God has done for us in that time. Take the same ratio of prosperity for ten, for twenty, yes, for fifty years and picture to your minds what the parish of Saint Edward the Martyr will be.

Jacob slept, and in his sleep "he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven." And Jacob said: "How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the House of God, and this is the Gate of Heaven."

Lo! a vision like that of Jacob's comes before me, like that of Jacob's and yet grander far, and I look out [11/12] into the future and behold close by where we are assembled to-day stands in place of this humble chapel, surrounded by parish buildings of every sort, a church stately and grand, a church equipped and supplied with everything needful for the proper carrying out of the Church's system. Methinks it is the hour of Matin prayer, the long line of worshippers have entered, rich and poor together, the children from St. Edward's Orphanage are going in under the care of the Sisters of Mercy; from another direction, escorted by two Priests, I see a number of half-grown lads from St. Edward's Refuge for wayward boys; these reverently enter, the sweet chimes cease, the grand organ swells out its notes of harmony and the procession enters, the service begins. All are strangers to me, but surely not, for that middle-aged man, the Rector of the parish, surely I know him, for once he was my choir-boy in days gone by. I listen as he reads the notices of the meetings of the numerous Guilds and Confraternities of the parish, he invites all the young men of the neighborhood to the free Reading Room and the young women to the Girls' Friendly Society, he tells of the improvements made to the boy's gymnasium, he tells of the chapel for colored folk, and of another for Germans close by under the fostering care of the parish. He tells of the ever [12/13] increasing prosperity of the parish and of its ever increasing works of charity. What wonders hath the Almighty wrought here! I am constrained to exclaim.

And where are you and I, my beloved, then? At rest in Paradise; we are all gone and others have come to fill our places. But our names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life, and opposite each name is recorded the fact that in the building up of this parish we had each done all that we could do; and more than this, every soul saved by the means of this parish forever is kept account of and will be remembered to our credit in the great Day of days.

Visionary man, I think I hear some one say. Visionary, yes, perhaps so. There have been visionary men, hundreds of them, before me. Those twelve unlearned men sent forth by their Master to evangelize the world, must have been most visionary mortals, one dozen unlettered men against the whole world, philosophical Rome and cultured Athens.

Dr. Muhlenberg was a visionary man when he started St. Luke's Hospital with only thirty dollars in his pocket. Go to 54th street and 5th avenue and see the result of that beginning, then go to St. Johnsland, where Dr. Muhlenberg sleeps, and see that grand village of charities. Visionary? yes, perhaps, wait and see, [13/14] and in the meanwhile work, work every one, aged and young, rich and poor, men and women. Give of whatever you have freely to Christ for the extension of His glorious, never-ending Kingdom. Have you money? Give of that gladly. Have you time? Devote it to the building up of this parish, by visiting, by helping to look after the poor and the sick and the dying, by gathering in those who have no religious home. Are you but a child? Even you can help to extend the influence of this work. Bring your little playmates here that they may learn of God and prepare their souls for Heaven.

My beloved, young and old, one and all, shall this work which God has allowed us to begin, go on and on until my vision be realized? For after all it remains with you to decide. Earnestness and devotion alone can accomplish this result. Be earnest, be devoted, my brother, my sister, and God will give the increase.


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