MISSION HOUSE OF ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST
44 TEMPLE STREET.
THIS ADDRESS was given to the writers own congregation in Boston, that they might have an intelligent knowledge of the General Convention and its work. It is now written out hastily from memory, with the aid of brief notes and two newspaper reports.
This has been done at the request of several gentlemen who heard it, one of whom bears the expense of publication, and who thought it would be useful both to inform Churchmen and others upon the general subject, and also to allay some disquietude caused by the recent utterances of a few persons within and without the Church.
The circumstances under which it has been written out, chiefly in the intervals between the services of a Ten Days' Mission in which the writer is taking part, must be the excuse for any faults and the want of literary merit which it displays.
Ottawa, Can., Nov. 14, 1886.
ADDRESS. "The Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."--1 Tim. iii. 15.
I HAVE chosen these words, not as a text from which to preach a sermon, but because they give us a definition, a definition in the words of Holy Scripture, of that of which I am to speak to you to-day,--the Church of the living God.
For I am to speak of the work of the General Convention of our Church. It seems only right that something should be said, some explanation given, of the General Convention, of the nature of its work-, and of the result of that work upon the Church at large, to those who were not able to be present, and have only followed its deliberations, very imperfectly, in the columns of the daily papers. I should have spoken of it last Sunday, but the full report was not at hand giving the work of the closing days.
The General Convention of the Church, what is it?
First, I would say, it is a body to be spoken of, and treated, with the utmost respect. I say this, because it is not uncommon to hear it mentioned slightingly, almost with contempt.
The General Convention demands our respect because of its representative character. Some of you are aware of its constitution. Every parish of the Church elects representatives to the convention of the diocese; each diocesan convention elects eight delegates, or deputies as they are more generally called,--four clergymen and four laymen,--to the General Convention; each missionary jurisdiction sending two others, who have a right to speak, but not to vote. These deputies, now nearly four hundred [5/6] in number, meet and form one house; and the bishops of the Church form the other. The two houses sit apart for their deliberations, only coming together when they meet as a board of missions; and all legislation must have the approval of both. Whatever is introduced into the lower House, and voted upon, must be sent up to the House of Bishops for approval, before it becomes law; and whatever the House of Bishops may pass must be, in the same way, accepted by the lower House. The General Convention is thus a representative body of the Church of God,--the Church herself in council,--and as such is entitled to respect.
And, further, it claims our respect because of its legislative character. The Convention does not simply meet and talk things over, but it enacts laws; and these laws are binding upon us. Every loyal Churchman must accept and obey, fully and heartily, the decisions of that Convention. The vote of the General Convention expresses to us the mind of God for our Church for the time being, and as such we must respect it.
Again, it may be permitted to one who has had the privilege of being present at the greater part of its recent session, though not himself a member, to say that the General Convention demands our respect because of the personal character of its members. No one could sit and look round on those four hundred men, chosen with care from all the dioceses of the Church, and note their faces, not only marked by intellectual power, but bearing the stamp of high and earnest purpose and holiness of life, and not feel himself stirred as he looked, and be moved to say, "Here is a body of men of whom the Church need not be ashamed; nay, whom we can and must respect."
I may remind you, also, that day by day in this church, and in many others, there went up a prayer for the presence of the Holy Spirit at the deliberations of this council; and we believe that in answer to that prayer He was there, guiding and over-ruling for good. Let us reverence that for which we have so prayed.
The General Convention thus constituted has a double function. It is its duty to watch over and conserve the faith and interests of the Church, and for that purpose to make laws for her government, and for the direction of her worship; and then it has its duty to extend the Church, to endeavor to spread the gospel [6/7] throughout our land and throughout the world. The Convention is therefore conservative and legislative, and also missionary, in its character, objects, and work.
Let us now turn to the recent meeting at Chicago.
We have all been looking forward to it for a long time; we have talked of it, prayed for it, and discussed among ourselves what was likely to be done. There has been great interest everywhere in this last Convention, for we knew that questions were coming up before it equal in importance to any which have been raised in our own time.
First in the minds of all was the Prayer Book of the Church. All have heard so much of this, that they could not but feel anxious as to what would be done.
Then many of us knew that there would be an earnest effort to revise the Judicial System of the Church, and to create some form of courts of appeal.
The question of Church Unity was in the air, and it was expected that the Convention would say something about it.
Then, too, we knew that there was a committee to report on the great question of Marriage and Divorce; and those who feel the tremendous urgency of this matter looked with anxiety for some distinct utterance upon it.
Besides these things, some great changes were expected with regard to the Church's Missionary work; and, as a part of that, her relation to the Church in Mexico.
Last, but by no means least in importance, we expected that the question of changing the Name of the Church would be brought up in some form; and we eagerly anticipated the discussion that would follow.
These were the principal things that were in hearts and minds of Churchmen as they watched, or thought of, the gathering of the deputies at Chicago.
And now what has the Convention done?
Can we look back at the work of those three weeks and thank [7/8] God, or must we hide our faces with something of shame and confusion? Most assuredly can we thank God. No loyal Churchman can have watched the debates, or followed them in the papers, without feeling his heart stirred within him with thankfulness, both for what has been done, and I may say also for what has been left undone.
It is quite true that it may seem as if little had been accomplished; but there was a manifestation of the Catholicity of the Church, and of her persuasion of her own Apostolic character, far stronger, greater, and higher than we expected, and such as to fill us with wonderful hope for her future.
It is sometimes hard for us, living here in Puritan New England, to realize what the Church really is. It has often been hard, especially for one who, like myself, came from England with her grand Church filling the land, backed up by all her glorious traditions, believing fully, from one end of the country to the other, in her apostolic descent and apostolic life,--it has been especially hard to work in New England and in the city of Boston, where the Church seemed hardly known, where she was overshadowed on every hand by the various sects around with their splendid structures and great wealth and position. It was sometimes hard to believe, when one saw these things and added to them the very small knowledge which Church-people here have of the true life and character of their Mother,--educated in misbelief and latitudinarianism, as so many of them have been,--that we are indeed the true Church of the living God in this country. But I am reminded of the words of one of our bishops, who went over to England to attend the Lambeth Conference, and came back feeling, he said, twice the man he was before, and stronger far in his faith in God and in the Church, for the baptism of that conference. And I can truly say that I have come back from the Convention at Chicago, cheered and strengthened beyond measure, and confirmed in the assurance of my faith in our Church, full of hope for her future, and assured, if I had ever doubted,--which, thank God, I never did,--that whatever the Church may seem here, however she may be overshadowed by sects and heresies, whatever we her ministers may appear to be to others, I am indeed a Catholic priest of the Church of the living God!
Now let us endeavor to answer the question, What has the [8/9] Convention done? What will be the result of its work upon the life and work of the Church?
1. I told you that the work of the Convention is partly of a Missionary character: let me speak briefly of this first. You may have noticed that nearly one-third of the time of Convention was taken up with missionary reports and deliberations on missionary work. You must not think that this was wasted time. It was right that the time should be so spent. The Church is charged with a mission to preach the gospel to every creature, to stretch out her arms to bring them into the fold; and not one moment of the time given to this work was wasted. As a result of these deliberations, the whole plan of missionary work has been changed and re-organized, and a great missionary council has been formed. We may well believe that the result of this will be an increased power and energy on the part of the Church, and the gathering into her arms of multitudes who have never yet heard the name of Jesus Christ.
In this connection we may be devoutly thankful that what has been so long known as the Mexican scandal has ceased to exist. Our Church will no longer be a party to a scheme which seemed to have its only possible result in the building up of an heretical schism in that unhappy country. For this let us thank Almighty God.
2. Next I must speak of that which has been perhaps the most prominent thing in the minds of most of us,--the revision of the Prayer Book of the Church.
You are aware that there has been before the Church for the past three years a book called the "Book Annexed," so named because it was annexed to the report of a commission presented to the General Convention three years ago. There has been much anxiety about this, and some fear lest the book should be accepted to take the place of our present Prayer Book. But we can thank God that this has not been done. The "Book Annexed" has not been accepted.
But there have been some changes made; and we have got more liberty in the services of Church,--a liberty all have been desiring, and which some, in anticipation of the coming permission, have already been using.
It may seem to some that comparatively little has been [9/10] accomplished, that the changes and gains are few when we consider the time that has been spent over them. But there is a reason for this. Nowhere more clearly than in the deliberations upon the Prayer Book was manifested the conservative and also the Catholic character of the Church. Every word proposed was most carefully weighed and scrutinized. Nothing should be inserted that came from the mere fancy of a man, nothing introduced that was not consistent with this Catholic character. [The word "Catholic" is used here and elsewhere in this address, not altogether in the sense of "universal," but rather with the more limited meaning in which it came into use after the Council of Nicaea, as indicating the Catholic and orthodox party in the Church, as distinct from the Arian and heretical.]
We have, therefore, not got very much, but over that which we have we may rejoice. Let me point out to you what the changes are.
First, and chief of all, we have restored to us the Gospel Canticles,--Magnificat, or the Song of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Nunc Dimittis, or the Song of Simeon; and the whole of Benedictus, the Song of Zacharias. A hundred years ago these were dropped out of our Prayer Book, because in those days some thought that they had but a local and temporary signification; that, however beautiful these songs may have been on the lips of those who first sung them, they had no meaning for the Church now. And there was, beside, a mistaken thought that there was something in the use of these Canticles which made our Church unduly like the Church of Rome. It seemed to some as if to sing Maguificat, the glorious canticle of the Incarnation, was the same thing as worshipping her from whose lips it came. But we have learnt better now; and tonight there will go up in their proper place in the service of this church these beautiful songs of praise to God which have gone up daily in the Church for centuries before the Church of God was known in our land of America.
Another restoration is the word "again" in the Apostles' Creed; so that we shall say, "The third day He rose again from the dead," as the Creed has been recited by every English-speaking branch of the Church except our own ever since it was first translated.
Permission has been given to shorten the Evening Service on any week-day by omitting the exhortation, "Dearly- beloved brethren," the confession and absolution following, and the concluding prayers.
 A new prayer for the President of the United States, and all those in authority, has been inserted in the Evening Prayer; and the Collect for deliverance from all perils restored to its original form, beginning with the words, "Lighten our darkness."
The Ten Commandments may be omitted at the early celebration of Holy Communion, when there are two celebrations on the same day; and the Longer Exhortation need only be used once in each month.
There are some minor alterations, especially in the Calendar and in the occasional offices; but these are all that are of real importance to us now.
Beside these changes, there is a further list which does not come into force until after the approval of the next Convention. The most important of the changes in this list are the shortening of Morning Prayer on a week-day, and on any day when the Holy Communion is to follow; the appointment of additional sentences for use at Morning and Evening Prayer; some rules as to the recitation of the Litany and Creed of the Church; and the insertion of the Feast of the Transfiguration, to be observed on Aug. 6.
A number of other alterations have been proposed; but time did not allow of their consideration, and they will come up again at the next Convention, awaiting final action at the end of six years from now.
The Prayer Book of our Church will thus gradually grow into its new shape, the time of growth allowing also for the education of our people; so that we shall in the end have a book cordially accepted by all, fuller and richer in provision for Catholic worship than could have been made with any hope of immediate acceptance by any committee of the Church, however skilful and however learned.
We shall also, in all probability, have, in addition to the Common Prayer, another Book of Offices for various occasions, to supply a need much felt in the Church.
3. Leaving the Prayer Book, we come next to the proposed change of the Name of the Church.
I. First, we may note that no name was proposed in place of that which we bear. The motion was made by a distinguished lay deputy [Mr. Corning Judd of Chicago.] to strike out the words "Protestant Episcopal" from our [11/12] laws and formularies; leaving the title simply the "Church in the United States of America," until such time as it should seem well that another name should be adopted. In the course of the discussion other names were suggested, as "The American Church," "The Church in America," "The Anglican Catholic Church in America;" but none of these came up before Convention for discussion: the motion was simply to strike out the former title.
The motion was lost; and, in fact, no one had any hope or even wish that it could be carried at this time. But the feeling has been growing for a long time, that a change must he made; and it was hoped that such progress would be made, that next Convention, or perhaps in six years from now, the name already doomed may be swept away. [Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in a report of a committee of the House of Bishops made three years ago. This remarkable document says: "Among ourselves we are 'the American Church:' even Bishop white constantly employs this term; and, under stood as it is, esoterically, it should give offence to nobody In the opinion of your committee, there is a higher view of the matter. 'The original tokens of Divine providence which have marked the whole course of this apostolic teed in America forbid us to believe that the Hand Divine is not to be discerned in the award of a name which is temporarily a trial to faith and patience, but not less a note of the kingdom which cometh not with observation. It reminds us of Him, who for thirty years was content to be known as the Carpenter's son, and whose obscurity was entailed upon his mystical body so long identified with him as the sect of the Nazarenes.' ... No impeachment of our Catholicity can be fairly based upon the mere label of our Prayer Book, provided the book itself is Catholic in all its component parts."]
The name ought to be changed; for it is;--
(a) An untrue name. It is untrue because it seems to suggest that the Church was organized for one thing, and one thing only,--to protest; and this is not true.
It is quite true that by her title the Church does protest, on the one hand by the word Protestant against the Church of Rome, and on the other by the word Episcopal against the heretical sects around her; but this is not the purpose of her existence. The Church of God existed long before the name of Protestant was invented, or, at least, used in the sense usually given to it.
And the name is also untrue because in our day the name "Protestant" and "Protestant religion" have come to signify a system of theology and religious opinion which make a man's salvation a future thing, which deny baptismal regeneration, and base a man's hope and peace with God upon his own inner consciousness and personal experience; and this is not the system of that Catholic Church to which we belong.
 (b) The name is also misleading. It must be so if it is untrue.
Think of the many who come to us from England, Ireland, Scandinavia. They ask for their Church, perhaps for the Church of England; and they are told it is not here, you are in America; and then if they are pointed to the Protestant Episcopal Church,-how are they to distinguish it by its name from any heresy man ever invented? They go astray and are lost to the Church.
And it is not only those who come from other countries, but even in our midst. People are getting tired of the numerous sects and schisms, and churches and denominations,--I believe there are about one hundred in America,--they are tired of having to say, or having it said of them, that they belong to this man's church or the other man's church; and they are looking for a church which shall be comprehensive enough to take in all, and which shall declare by its name, as well as by its doctrine, that it has a right to speak with authority. At present it seems as if the only Church which did so was that of Rome; for when they turn to us they find us labelled with a name by which we cannot be distinguished from any denomination of Christians. For the sake of the multitude throughout the nation, who are looking to us, we need to sweep away the name that stands between us and the full declaration and recognition that we are in America the Church of the living God.
(c) And those who know tell us that the name we bear is a real hinderance in missionary work.
Our missionaries go forth to preach the gospel of salvation, and lead men into the Church of God. But when they have won a soul, and he comes to ask about the Church, or to take up a Prayer Book, then must be explained to him this name, and what it means; and all the divisions of Christendom, and nil the various denominations arise before his mind. How shall he know that we are any better than the rest? how shall he know that we have any authority? how shall he trust us more than others? He looked for a wide and loving Church, which should come with authority in the Father's name to tell of his love, and with power to bring him to the Father's arms; and lo! he is met by the "Protestant Episcopal denomination." He is chilled, repelled. 'There is a tremendous responsibility upon us, if we, by retaining a name we could change, hinder any souls from finding their way into the Church of the living God.
 In speaking thus, I am not speaking simply of such, as the Chinaman, or the heathen in foreign lands; but scattered throughout our Western country, how many thousands who know no religion, who know not or heed not the name of God. Why should we go to them with a name which conveys nothing to their minds, which it is not necessary they should know, instead of simply leading to the cross of Jesus Christ in the name and power of the Church of God.
(d) And, lastly, this unfortunate label weakens our position as against the Church of Rome.
There is a daily growing number of persons around, who feel more and more the burden of the Church of Rome. They cannot any longer accept the faith which she has corrupted, nor live under her rule,--I had almost said her tyranny. They want liberty of conscience, and seek a purer faith and practice. But when they try to shake themselves free, where are they to go? They do not want to become mere Protestant dissenters: they want a Church that holds the ancient faith, that teaches a pure life, and that comes with the ancient and apostolic authority. And they look to us. They know that we claim to be a true branch of the Catholic Church, and to have the apostolic succession, and a true faith and sacramental life; they know that we are the only Church that dares say to the Church of Rome, "We are a church as much as you."
They come to us in growing numbers, asking what we really are, and seeking a home among us. But how can we win them? how can we bid them come and find with us a pure faith, a true doctrine, a pure life, freedom of worship, and rest for their souls in the Catholic Church of the living God, if we stamp ourselves at the outset with the word "Protestant"?
So it is, then, that we desire that this name be stricken out, this label be taken off, that we may stand before men and angels as the Church of God. We have a right to the name, for we have in our Church that in essence and substance which others lack; and we thereby declare our apostolic origin and character, sustained and energized by that apostolic succession which is absolutely essential to the integrity of the Church's existence, so much so that we must deny the name of church to all bodies that do not have our apostolic order.
 II. But there are objections to the removing of the name. These may be gathered under three heads.
(a) There are, first, what we may call sentimental reasons against the change.
It is said that the Church in this country has been known as the Protestant Episcopal Church for a hundred years, and that its traditions and memories all cling about this name. The name that satisfied our fathers and grandfathers may well satisfy us; it has become sacred to us.
No doubt there are many tender associations connected with this name, which has now endured for a century among us, and of such we can speak with gentleness and respect; but this plea of age would suffice, if it suffices here, to perpetuate every abuse and anomaly the world has ever seen. It might have been urged with equal force in England three hundred years ago, that there should be no Reformation, since the fathers and grandfathers had endured the errors and abases then complained of all through their lives.
And it is to be remembered, that, if this word is old, the word Church is older still. We should be but putting away a modern name for one which has centuries to back it,--a name by which, indeed, our Church was known in America a century before the modern one was invented.
(b) The second group of reasons against change gather round the fact that we are few in number. It is argued that it would be presumptuous in us to claim to be in any especial way the Church of God, when we rank only seventh or eighth among the religious bodies of America.
But surely this is not a test to he applied to the truth and to a true Church. When the little company gathered in the upper chamber, small and unknown as they were, they were neither afraid nor ashamed to own themselves that which they knew they were. When St. Paul stood alone on Mars hill in the City of Athens, lie was not afraid to believe that he belonged to the Church of God; nay, more! that the Church of God in that city was enshrined in his single person. The Church of God will always at first, and perhaps for many years, be in the minority, in antagonism to the world. It may grow and take possession of the land; but, when it has become great in numbers, history does not show that it becomes purer and holier.
 We are a small number, especially here in New England; westward we grow and spread. But, whether, small or large, we need not be afraid to declare, at least by our name, that we are the Church of the living God.
(c) The strongest reason against the change of name is that it is not expedient at this present time. It was this that caused the motion to be lost, and to this I think we shall all agree.
It is without doubt the fact that the Church as a whole is not prepared for the change; and that if the change had been made now, by a narrow majority, many hearts would have been grieved, and there might have been much division among us. We can be very thankful that the matter has been laid over for the time, and that we must live on yet a while under that name, which, as our bishops say, is "a trial of our faith and patience."
But we can also be thankful for the signs of progress made in the minds of Churchmen in this matter. You may remember, that nine years ago, when the Convention met in Boston, and the change of name was first asked,--Boston has at least this boast, that though not by a Massachusetts man, yet the change was first asked in this city,--then there were but three who voted for it. At the last Convention the number was over seventy, and this year it reached one hundred and twelve. What a growth in nine years! Many more might he added to this number, who voted against the motion on the ground that it was not now expedient. We can be glad and wait. Now, if passed, it would have come to many simply as a matter of force: in time it will come by the mere growth of sentiment and opinion in its favor, and then will be heartily welcomed by all. [The question came up twice during the session, once as above, and again on a motion to strike the words Protestant Episcopal from the titlepage of the Prayer Book, leaving it elsewhere. The figures show a marked and striking growth of opinion even during the session. Thus counting the vote by dioceses and orders, 17 clerical ayes grew to thirty, and 11 lay ayes grew to fifteen; on the second motion, the clerical vote had a large majority, but it was not carried because the laity did not concur.]
4. The next thing calling for some words of explanation is the subject of courts of appeal.
It is probable that very few persons, except the clergy and the deputies to Convention, know what the position of a clergyman is, if for any reason he is brought to trial, whether it is on a charge of teaching erroneous doctrine, or for questions affecting the [16/17] discipline of the Church, or morality of life. It is such that it is hardly possible for him to get a fair trial; and after trial, whether fair or not, he has no higher court to which he can appeal.
For years the clergy of the Church have been asking for relief in this matter, and it seems surpassingly strange that it is so hard to get it.
We know how in different dioceses, and in different parts of the country, a different tone and sentiment prevails; and what is perfectly right and lawful in one place may be held as a grievous breach of ecclesiastical law in another. [Instances were given of clergymen brought to trial for such things as surpliced choirs in church, and flowers upon the altar; both of which are in ordinary use, and may be seen at the opening services of General Convention itself.] We know, too, how strongly party feeling runs, especially in religious questions; how almost impossible, when such things are at stake, it is for one man to see fairly another's point of view. It is because of this, that in all civil matters no man who is interested is allowed to be the judge in a cause; nor would any man be allowed to be on the jury, who was known to have already, by public or private utterances, prejudged the case, and declared what he was going to do or say.
But, with regard to the clergy, the matter is practically this. Each of our forty-nine dioceses arranges its own method in which a clergyman shall be tried, and in fact declares what the offences are for which he shall be liable to trial. The bishop, who is, or may be, his accuser, is also the judge. Men who live near him, and have entered the complaint against him, may sit in the court that tries him. The court is composed of local clergymen, exposed to all local influences that can be brought to bear upon them. And, further, it has happened again and again, that the very men who were to compose the court have publicly declared their intention of bringing about the condemnation of the accused presbyter before the trial has begun, or the evidence has been heard.
Such courts and such methods of trial can command no respect, nor give any assurance of justice. Yet from them there is not in any diocese, with one exception, an appeal. It is true that there is a power vested in the bishop to suspend the sentence of the court, but we know enough to know how very rarely the bishop would stand by his presbyter against the court of the diocese; nor is it fair or right that such a responsibility should be thrown upon [17/18] the bishop alone, who is himself but a man, and as liable to be moved by prejudice or party feeling as any other.
In no church or religious denomination is there such a state of things. In the Church of Rome there is right of appeal from one court to another, and even to Rome itself. In every sect around us there is provision for fair trial, and for right and lawful appeal. But we have nothing. Any one of our clergy may he complained of by some small clique, brought to trial for that which in another diocese would not be an offence at all, tried by a packed court, condemned, and without chance of fair hearing or appeal sent out into the world disgraced, his character taken away, and his means of earning bread for himself or his family gone. From this state of things we ask relief.
Two methods of relief have been proposed: the first, that the General Convention shall provide some method of trial for the whole Church, and shall appoint also a court of appeal. It is thought by many that this would prove too cumbersome, and would also interfere with the rights of dioceses. There was, therefore, a second plan suggested in a minority report, that every diocese should be urged to provide courts of appeal, as well as methods of trial, which in their constitution and character should command respect, and as far as possible should secure that justice be done. Neither of these propositions was carried. It was, however, voted that a reform in the laws for trying priests and deacons of the Church is needed; and later in the session a committee was appointed to consider the subject, and report when Convention meets again in 1889.
We have, therefore, gained something, and can be hopeful about the future.
These that I have spoken of were the chief matters that came before Convention, but there were several others of minor importance.
Besides these, two other great questions were not considered, for want of time, and will come up early at the next session. They are Marriage and Divorce, and Christian Unity.
1. It is not possible to exaggerate the importance of the former of these questions. The state of things in our country with regard [18/19] to our marriage laws, and still more with regard to divorce, is enough to fill any one with alarm. The whole stability of the family life of the nation is shaken at its foundation; and with the loss of stability there, the whole nation is in peril. It is a matter for thankfulness that the Church of God has waked up to a realization of our condition, and is endeavoring to rouse both her own children and the nation at large.
Three years ago the General Convention appointed a committee, and the report of that committee is a document which every man should read; for clearness of statement of the evil and its causes, and of the only remedy, as well as of the teaching of Holy Scripture and the Church, that report has not been surpassed. It is one of greatest interest, and will make every man feel that we are face to face with an evil that must be dealt with.
There are two points brought out and emphasized. Let me tell them. First, Holy Scripture and the Church of God allow divorce for one cause, and one cause only, and that is ADULTERY. No other cause can be recognized by any Christian man true to God, his Word, and the Church. There may be reasons why people must live apart, but no other cause than this breaks the marriage bond.
The second point is this, the guilty one in a divorce for this cause can never marry again during the lifetime of the other.
These are the two points round which the whole struggle with regard to the law of divorce will gather, and the two which are to be most jealously guarded. We should watch this most anxiously, and anticipate in earnest prayer the action of the next Convention of the Church.
A word as to the remedies proposed. The committee have rightly seen that these do not lie so much in a reform of the divorce laws, as in a truer and higher teaching of the nature of marriage and of the marriage relation. Marriage must be surrounded with safeguards; it must not be entered into so lightly and easily as it is. Give marriage more dignity and solemnity, and the whole relation will become higher and more stable. [The principal suggestions of the committee are: consent of parents or guardians for all under full age; public notice of sufficient length for friends to know (at present the marriage is often consummated before the notice appears, and in some States no notice is required at all); the presence of known and trustworthy witnesses; declaration on oath as to the truth of facts stated by applicants for marriage; heavy penalties on magistrate or minister breaking the law; heavy punishment on those contracting unlawful marriage, or cohabiting without marriage; a license always to be obtained; marriage to be in church; publication of banns for members of the congregation; teaching that marriage lacks its full grace unless performed by a clergyman, and receiving the benediction of the Church. A National and not a State law is imperative.] The [19/20] whole question-will, as I have said, come up early in next session, in accordance with the following most emphatic resolution passed just before the session ended,--
Resolved, "Toward the restoration of American civilization decaying at its roots, for the promotion of stability in Church and State, for the protection of social purity and order, for the sake of good morals, in advancement of the glory of our Lord JESUS CHRIST, who is Head over all things in his body which is the Church,--that this House will not abandon the subject of marriage and divorce, until legislation upon it be effected in full accordance with the law of God, as set forth and revealed in the Word; and that a committee of three presbyters, of whom the president shall be one, and two laymen, be appointed to sit during the next three years, and take into consideration the whole subject, and report to the next General Convention as early as possible in its session."
Meanwhile, the Pastoral Letter of the House of Bishops sets before the clergy and laity of the Church their duty, the opinion they should hold, the rule by which they should live, and the opinion they should endeavor to create around them. It says,
"Separation in any form should be regarded, and is regarded by the Church, as a last and dreadful expedient, only to be justified by the gravest considerations, and, as it were, conceded to the unfortunate beings whose position constrains the grant of such relief. But no separation carries with it the right to seek another alliance, nor except in one case can a subsequent marriage be permitted. After parties have been lawfully joined together according to the will of God, divorce, with permission to marry again, is not conceded by the Church, unless the ground or divorce be adultery; and in that case the guilty party is absolutely excluded from marrying again during the lifetime of the other, and to the innocent party only is permission conceded to contract another marriage."
Let me commend the whole matter to your prayers.
2. The subject of Christian Unity brought before Convention by many memorials, and by the report of a committee to whom all [20/21] memorials were referred, is a subject to be most jealously watched and scrutinized in all its bearings.
We all desire Christian unity, and long for a time when the various divisions of Christendom shall be healed; but let us understand exactly what we mean by "Christian unity" or "the organic unity of Christian churches."
For many years there has been a desire for this, and an association was formed thirty years ago to promote it. [The prayer of the association for promoting the unity of Christendom: "O Lord Jesus Christ, who saidst unto thine apostles, Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you, regard not our sins, but the faith of Thy Church, and grant her that peace and unity which is agreeable to Thy will, who liven and reignest for ever and ever. Amen."] But by that unity we understood a bringing together of the various branches of Christ's Church,--the Anglican, the Roman, and the Eastern,--that some way might be found so that there might again be one fold and one Shepherd, and that all other persons should be brought into that fold and be saved. For this unity we can still pray and work.
But in these later days the matter has taken a new shape. Now there are those who desire that all the sects and religious bodies outside the Church shall be recognized as true churches, or as true branches of the one Church, and that some scheme may be devised by which they can all be brought together under some general head or general law for co-operative action in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and spreading His Church throughout the world.
Here, I say, there is need of watchfulness. The Church of the living God stretches out her arms with the utmost wideness, and calls and invites others to come into her fold. She refuses none. But we must be very careful how we say or do any thing that shall seem to obscure or make light of her apostolic privilege, that shall seem to admit that the sects around have the gifts and powers that come from the apostolic life and apostolic succession as much as we ourselves.
There are various plans proposed. Some would have us break down all dividing lines, remove all hedges and ancient landmarks, and accept all as equal. They would have our clergy preach in the pulpits of all the denominations, and their preachers preach in ours. They would have them all freely admitted to the Sacraments [21/22] of the Church, and we in turn partake of their religious rites. In fact they would have it brought about that every heretical sect, and every man who chooses to call himself a Christian, shall be regarded as an integral part of the Catholic Church of God.
We need not fear these; for, whatever individuals may desire and work for, there is no possibility that this should ever come to pass while the Church of God lasts.
But there are others, who understand the true character of the Church, and are coming before us with other thoughts. They seem to wish to carry out some plan by which these different religious bodies shall receive holy orders and the apostolic succession from the hands of our own bishops, and yet retain their own names, organization, and government, retain their independence of life and action, while having a valid ministry and valid sacraments. It is difficult to believe that this is seriously proposed, and impossible to understand how it could be carried out.
If we understand rightly the minds of its proposers, the result would be that we should have a Methodist Catholic Church, a Presbyterian Catholic Church, a Baptist Catholic Church, and so on, in addition to the Anglican Catholic Church to which we belong; each with its own Bishop, Priests, and Deacons exercising their office and jurisdiction over the same territorial limits. Where would be unity then?
I cannot enter more fully into these things; but, as I have said, this whole question of the organic unity- of Christendom must be most jealously watched, every step must be carefully scrutinized, and no action be permitted until it is clearly seen whither it will lead us.
Here we can be thankful for the tone of the General Convention. It is true that no vote was taken on this of which I am speaking; but from beginning to end of the session it was clear that the deputies present knew what the Church is, knew what the vital questions concerning her origin, history, and life are, and were not willing for one moment to listen to any thing that should seem to abate her privileges or obscure her Divine character, or slight her apostolic authority founded on her apostolic succession. [This was clearly seen when a deputy from Massachusetts offered a resolution of greeting to the so-called Congregational Church; then bolding an assembly in Chicago. It was pointed out that the terms of the resolution were such as could only be rightly used in addressing a branch of the Catholic Church. The House refused to pass it, and accepted a colorless substitute addressed to "our Congregational brethren." This substitute was rejected by the House of Bishops, and no greeting was sent.]
 We can, therefore, be quiet and calm amid all the surgings of thought around us. The Church of God will not be overthrown or hurt by the strivings of men. The signs of the times may be full of anxiety, but they are also full of comfort and hope.
And nothing can give us more quietness and assurance that all will be well than the utterances that came from the House of Bishops at Chicago. They have published for the teaching and comfort of the faithful a report upon Christian unity, of which I must quote to you a portion:--
"But, furthermore, we do hereby affirm that the Christian unity, now so earnestly desired by the memorialists, can be restored only by the return of all Christian communions to the principles of unity exemplified by the undivided Catholic Church during the first ages pf its existence; which principles we believe to be the substantial deposit of the Christian faith and order, committed by Christ and His apostles to the Church unto the end of the world, and therefore incapable of compromise or surrender by those who have been ordained to be their stewards and trustees for the common and equal benefit of all men.
"As inherent parts of this sacred deposit, and therefore essential to the restoration of unity among the divided branches of Christendom, we account the following, to wit:
"I. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the revealed Word of God.
"II. The Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
"III. The two sacraments--baptism and the supper of the Lord--ministered with unfailing use of Christ's words of institution, and of the elements ordained by him.
"IV. The historic episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of his Church."
Not less clear and emphatic are the words of the Pastoral Letter.
In this our Fathers in God and His Church remind the faithful,
"For this unity the Church has never ceased to labor and to pray; and now, especially, she is called upon to stand with open [23/24] arms and earnest pleading, ready to yield to the utmost in any matter of human ordering or any choice of human will, so that she may join heart to heart with all who desire to stand upon the unchanging basis,--without which no external unity is possible, and with which, amid great diversities, unity is founded as on a rock,--that is, the unchangeable faith as expressed in the creed of Nicaea, the two Divine sacraments, the open Bible, and that apostolic order which is the witness and keeper of these to the end of time.
"These things are the deposit committed to the Church of God, not for her own sake, but for the sake of all men. For all men she holds them in trust; and, in these latter days, pleads anew, in deep love and all humility, that all who name themselves with the name of Christ would draw near and see, and with one mouth pray for that apostolic unity and peace which is found alone in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and rests secure upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone."
We can, then, I say, be very quiet and calm and gentle. We may hear many things said which may trouble and disturb our minds; but they cannot unsettle our faith, nor give us any fear for the future of our Church. We can in this trust our bishops; and we know that the true faith, the true sacraments, and the apostolic ministry will be maintained; we are sure that, however unity may be accomplished, it will not be by the sacrifice of these things.
Looking back upon the General Convention, we can be very thankful. Looking around, we can be very glad that the true character of our Church has been and is so manifested; that the great doctrines of her apostolic origin and the apostolic succession of her ministry, which had been for a while obscured, are most clearly asserted before men and angels, that all may clearly understand her claim to be the Church of the living God.
Looking forward, we can be full of hope and assurance that the Church of Jesus Christ, into which we have been called by his mercy, will continue to be, and year by year will be more fully recognized as, indeed the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.