PREACHED AT THE
Consecration of Christ Church,
NEW HAVEN, CT., JANUARY 6, 1854.
REV. THOMAS CLAP PITKIN
ASSISTANT RECTOR OF TRINITY CHURCH.
This Sermon, though local in its character, is printed at the request of the Committee appointed by the Vestry of Trinity Church "to build a Chapel on the corner of Maple and Park streets, and to prepare the same for Divine Service"—in the hope that it will increase the Spirit of enlarged benevolence which has so happily begun among us.
PSALM CIXXII: 8, 9.—Arise, O Lord, into thy resting-place, Thou and the ark of thy strength: Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness, and let thy saints sing with joyfulness.
THIS house is now consecrated. It is set apart from all unhallowed, worldly, and common uses, and devoted to the public worship of Almighty God. And we do not doubt that "the Eternal God, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain, yet who has been graciously pleased to promise His especial presence wherever two or three of His faithful servants shall assemble in His name," has accepted this offering at our hands.
Henceforth it is God's house;—it is Christ's Church;—and it bears that BLESSED NAME than which none other has been given Us whereby we may be saved. Here shall God's holy Word be read and preached, His holy sacraments be celebrated, and the sacrifice of prayer and thanksgiving be offered to His glorious majesty. It is our purpose—and this is the meaning of the service which we have performed to-day—that this building shall be used exclusively for such holy offices as shall tend to God's glory and to the furtherance of the happiness, both temporal and spiritual, of those who shall worship here.
And in appropriating this house to the exclusive purposes of religion, following the example of "devout and holy men, both under the law and under the gospel," and yielding to the common "sense of the natural decency of things," it is that "our minds may be filled with greater reverence for God's glorious majesty, and our hearts affected with more devotion and humility in his service."
 It is true that "the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof;" those houses which we call our own, and in which we dwell, belong to God; but, as God hallowed one day out of seven to Himself, although all days are His,„so does he approve our godly purpose of devoting houses to His glory, even-though the heavens declare His glory and the firmament showeth His handy work.
And, as the Sabbath is a Holy Day, not because it is permitted us to sin upon the other Six days of the week, but because upon the Sabbath day we must abstain from all our ordinary business, and engage in the proper acts of worship, so is this Church a holy place, not because God will suffer us in any place to do those things which are hateful in His sight, but because here, those necessary, occupations to which other places are devoted, must be laid aside, and nothing must be heard within these walls but the language of penitence and faith and love, ascending to God's throne, and those words of everlasting life whereby we are made wise unto salvation.
This house, therefore, is now consecrated, and every part of it devoted to a holy purpose. We have prayed that they who shall be dedicated to the Lord in Baptism at that font "may be sanctified by the Holy Ghost, delivered from His wrath and eternal death, and received as living members of Christ's Church:"
That they who at that chancel shall renew their vows and be confirmed, “may receive such a measure of the Holy Spirit, that they may be enabled faithfully to fulfil the same, and grow in grace until their lives' end:"
That they who from that altar "shall receive the blessed sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, may come to that holy ordinance with faith, charity, and true repentance, and may obtain remission of their sins and all other benefits of His passion:"
That by God's holy Word, read and preached, at this desk, and by the Holy Spirit grafting it inwardly in the heart, "the hearers thereof may know what things they ought to do, and may have power and strength to fulfil the same:"
That they who shall be joined together in this place in holy matrimony, "may faithfully perform and keep the vow and covenant [4/5] between them made, and may remain in perfect love together unto their lives' end:"
And that whosoever shall draw near to God, within these walls, in prayer and praise, "may do it with such steadiness of faith, and with such seriousness, affection, and devotion of mind, that He may accept their bounden duty and service, and vouchsafe to give whatever in His infinite wisdom He shall see to be most expedient for them."
To these most blessed uses is this house now set apart; and may the Lord "arise into His resting-place, He and the ark of His strength." May every priest ministering within these courts be "clothed with righteousness," and may God's saints here "sing with joyfulness." "This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
And first, my brethren, it becomes us to render thanks to Almighty God for that grace bestowed by the Holy Spirit upon those through whom we have this beautiful house of prayer. "Blessed be Thy name, O Lord, that it hath pleased Thee to put it into the hearts of Thy servants to appropriate and devote this house to Thy honor and worship; and grant that all who shall enjoy the benefit of this pious work, may show forth their thankfulness by making a right use of it, to the glory of Thy blessed name."
And next, we may congratulate the Churchmen of New Haven upon this addition to the Churches of our town. We rejoice as good citizens in the prosperity of New Haven. We see goodly dwellings, factories and store-houses constantly arising, and we regard these-as proofs of industry and thrift and growing wealth. And as Christians and Churchmen we should all rejoice to see the Gospel and the Church keeping even pace with our growing population; to see God's houses springing up among our other dwellings, to remind us that man liveth not by bread only— not by the product of his industry, nor by the fruit of his sagacious thrift, nor by his growing wealth—but that by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God doth man live. We rejoice, I say, to see God's houses springing up in every quarter of our growing [5/6] town, for they are proofs of a deeper interest m those great truths of revelation which not only teach us how to "use this world as not abusing it," but also how to "pass through things temporal" in such a manner that we shall not "lose the things eternal."
It is a subject of devout congratulation, that our Churches are thus multiplying, and that we have now six places set apart exclusively for God's worship, within our city limits, where five years ago we had but two; and though the four buildings last erected be not large, costly, or permanent buildings, yet they will gather in, by God's blessing on, our work if we be faithful, those who will be ready, when the place becomes too strait for them, to erect such houses as shall meet their wants.
And here I will say one word, in passing, which will show you why we consecrate this Church, although in the providence of God it is likely to give place, at no very distant day, to a larger and more enduring structure.
It is because this building, so long as its timbers hold together, is to be a house of God, in which God's worship, in accordance with our venerable ritual, is to be performed. It is never to be sold, it is never to be alienated, it is never to be merged in any other thing. If there be no occasion for it here, because another Church shall have supplied its place, then in some other portion of the city it is to continue its good work. But, wherever it may be, it is to be a consecrated house of God,—fragrant with the offerings of prayer and praise,—where young children may be brought to Christ,—where the young Christian may renew his vows to Christ,—where the hungry soul may feed by faith upon the body and the blood of Christ,—and where God's holy Word, the precious Gospel of our Saviour Christ, may be both read and preached. The Rectors, Wardens and Vestry of Trinity Parish who hold this Church in trust, are pledged to this, that the gift which has this day been made to God shall never be recalled.
I have congratulated the Churchmen of New Haven upon this addition to the number of our Churches; and there is this special cause for congratulation, that we know precisely what that service [6/7] is to which this Church is consecrated. Every new Church erected is an addition to our real strength, and nothing but the grossest ignorance or wickedness of men can hinder the saving efficacy of the truth. In this place the same service will be performed that is performed in all our other Churches in this city; the same that was performed one hundred years ago, when that faithful Missionary, Mr. Punderson, first gathered the few Churchmen of New Haven into the little building first erected in Church Street for the worship of our God and Saviour.
The same Creed, the same Articles, the same forms of Public Prayer, the same Sacraments, unite us with those men who laid the foundation of our spiritual walls. Our growth has been a real growth, and the Churchmen of New Haven are at this day a compact, united body, worshipping a common God and Saviour, through common venerable forms, pervaded by a common Christian life; and if we be not greatly wanting in the proper requisites for action, if we be not living far below the level of our Church position, we have a moral power which must be felt by this community. We are living at a time when Independency, which has been progressing year by year, is fast running out into utter anarchy and confusion; when every pastor in Connecticut is claiming independence for himself and congregation, or liberty to teach just what he pleases; without let or hindrance; and when every layman, following the example of his pastor, is claiming a separate independence on his own account, or the right to believe as much or as little as he chooses of his pastor's creed.
Now, as the inevitable consequence of this unhappy state of things, young children are not definitely taught what are the fundamental doctrines of the faith; young men and young women cannot give a reason for the hope that is in them; there are no common and well settled principles of religion.
The Episcopal Church, with its unity of faith, its unity of worship, its unity of discipline, affords that resting-place for which many earnest persons are inquiring. Our differences, great as they may seem to be, and exaggerated as they are by party spirit, do not touch the essencial doctrines of religion, and [7/8] (which is a point of special notice) they do not affect the common worship of the Church.
But here, happily, there are no differences of doctrine or, of practice. The Church Clergy of New Haven are a united body, preaching the same essential doctrines, even as by necessity we are most happily constrained to profess the same faith in precisely the same words, and to worship in the same venerable forms, which have come down to us as the most precious legacy of our fathers and the saints of old.
And we may take a wider view of this great subject. Every Church, wherever built, is a permanent addition to our spiritual strength. Whether it be a costly structure in one of our large cities, or the humblest building in the smallest village of the west; whether it be erected by our most zealous English brethren, in the frozen region of Prince Rupert's land, where a thousand Indians received the Holy Communion a few months since, on occasion of the ordination of one of their red brethren to the ministry; or by some rich Planter at the South, where white and black may meet together for united worship, and where I have known three hundred carefully instructed negroes to be baptized in one Church, on occasion of the visitation of the Bishop; whether it be a Mission Chapel on the coast of Africa or in China, or a Collegiate Institution in Australia, or a Cathedral in Calcutta, or an English Church erected on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the same faith is every where professed in the same venerable creeds; the same articles of religion are maintained; the same forms of Baptism, Confirmation and Communion are observed; and the same worship every where is offered in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Protestant Episcopal Church of England and America, widely extended now throughout the world, is the only Protestant body that is so united and compacted that it can impress its faith, its discipline, its worship, on the mass of men; or that can meet successfully that giant superstition of the Church of Rome, whose only hope of triumph in this country, and among Americans, arises from the lamentable want in the people of a definite faith. And the day may not be very distant when earnest and far [8/9] sighted men will see that it is only an organized and well compacted body that can preserve in their integrity the great essentials of the faith.
We rejoice therefore with a common joy as churchmen, that another house of God is opened for that worship which unites us to the throne of Grace, and for the utterance of those great truths which are related to our everlasting life.
This Church is a free Church. Its wide open-door will invite all passers-by to enter in. There will be no ownership of seats. All are made welcome of whatever name or creed who are willing to unite with us in our worship. High and low, rich and poor, old and young, may here fervently join in the prayers and praises of the Church, and listen to their duty—we trust with "honest hearts in order to practice it."
It is a Mission Church. It is begun, continued and ended in a Missionary spirit. The motive prompting to this work is a desire to enlarge the borders of the Church—to extend its privileges to a greater number, to give to those who are now careless "of religion, or who are not provided with accomodations in our other Churches, which are full and running over an opportunity of sharing with us in our spiritual blessings. It is the result of that same Christian love which inspired the breasts of the Apostles and the first Disciples, when the Holy Ghost was given from on high, and which led them to go out from Jerusalem and to begin planting Churches every where throughout Judea, and in Samaria, and in Asia Minor, and in Europe, in Spain and Gaul, yea, and in Britain. This day is the festival of the Epiphany, and we commemorate at this time the breaking down of the partition wall which separated Jew and Gentile—the giving of the Gospel to the heathen—the begining of that christian life which sought to develope and extend itself, and to make God's name great among the heathen.
And the way in which we keep this festival, affords a proof that that earnest zeal for Christ and his blessed cause which overleaped the barriers of the narrow system of the Jews, whose work was done, still lives within the Church.
 This structure, a free-will offering to God, with its open doors and open seats welcoming the stranger, is a proof of that loving, charitable, kindly spirit, which the Gospel of the blessed Jesus fosters in the hearts of those who yield themselves to its most blessed influence.
And as this work has been begun in such a spirit, I trust that in such a spirit it will be continued. Yea, I believe that the spirit which this whole undertaking has exhibited, will increase among us. I cannot think that any churchman will so far forget his duty and the honorable position which the Church has ever held, as to make this Mission Church a mere personal convenience, or will seek thereby to avoid his rightful share of pecuniary responsibility for the support of our Church services, especially if in doing so, he shall exclude those for whose special benefit this Church was built. I have confidence in the churchmen of New Haven who shall connect themselves permanently with this undertaking, that they will give to it their whole hearts; their prayers for its future success; their efforts in all regular and lawful channels; their pecuniary means as God has blessed them.
That the young children of this neighborhood will be gathered into this Sunday School; that zealous teachers will offer their services that the poor children will be clothed; that destitute families will be provided for, and that all those agencies will be begun by which religion shows its blessed influence in this life as well as in the life to come.
And I trust and I believe that the result of such efforts will be manifest in an accession to the tanks of churchmen from among the many who are now ignorant of, or prejudiced against us; that the power of the Gospel in the Church will he felt in this whole neighborhood, in awakening the careless, in reforming the vicious; in promoting peace and in elevating the whole tone of moral and religious feeling; in kindling faith and the love of Christ, and the hope of glory in many a heart; in guiding many feet into the strait and narrow path of everlasting life.
On such an occasion as this, it is well for us to look backward as well as forward, to see what God has done, and thus to confirm [10/11] our faith in the blessings yet in store for us, One hundred years ago, the few churchmen of New Haven with great effort, reared a small Church on the lower side of Church-st., south of Chapel-st., and for many years a little handful of as true and loyal servants as the Church ever had, met in that building, to unite in the service of the Church of England in America.
To a very plain, honest and laborious man, the Rev. Mr. Punderson, a native of New Haven, a descendant of one of the first settlers, who, though a Puritan in blood, became a churchman from conviction, we are indebted for our first foundation.
Under the long ministry of the Rev. Bela Hubbard, who carried the Church safely through the stormy period of the Revolution, and who lived to enjoy in his old age the fruits of his forty-five years of labor in this parish, in the attachment of his people such as few men ever have received, the Church gained a strong foothold here, and a respectable position, and strength enough to contemplate and, to prepare for the erection of the large stone Church upon the green, (Trinity,) which is no mean evidence of the spirit and the enlightened zeal of the churchmen of New Haven forty years ago. [The Rev. Bela Hubbard, D. D. was appointed Missionary at New Haven in 1767, and died in 1812. The present Rector, the Rev. Harry Croswell, D. D. officiated first in the old Trinity Church, on the 1st of January, 1815. His services have been continued with little interruption to the present time.]
We have with us to day the venerable Rector, under whose ministry Trinity Church was consecrated; who proposed the erection of St. Paul's, and carried out his plan when many of the most sagacious churchmen of New Haven thought it never could be filled; who has seen the Church steadily advancing during his long ministry of 39 years, and to whom we are especially indebted under God for our prosperity. If long years of patient labor, if rare skill and prudence, and a zeal that has never flagged, entitle one to gratitude and to all suitable expressions of it, then may he justly challenge, as I doubt not he receives, our heartfelt homage. Happy the man who can look back upon a long life of [11/12] honorable usefulness, in whose hands the work of the Lord has eminently prospered; whose spiritual children rise up and call him blessed.
As we look back on the past and contrast it with the future, we should not forget that man, a right in whom New Haven claims, who earned for himself the honorable name of the Father of Episcopacy in Connecticut. It was in New Haven, at a time when there was, not one churchman in this town, when the very name was odious, 130 years ago, that Samuel Johnson, then a Congregational Clergyman, declared himself a churchman from conviction, gave up his Ecclesiastical connection, received orders in the Church of England, and returned to plant the Church in this his native State, a soil as unpromising as could be found, in any quarter of the globe. He encountered opposition, ridicule, contempt and scorn, and though his character and his learning enabled him, especially in his last years, to rise above them, yet it is not easy for us to conceive the prejudice which he encountered or the opprobium which was for many years attached to his name; and now, in this day of the Church's strength, in our prosperity, it is right that his name should be mentioned here with honor. The Church in America has never had a more faithful son, a riper scholar, a more successful advocate than he.
We are building on the foundation which these early churchmen of New Haven laid. May we build well and wisely, a structure that shall be not unworthy of those massive stones with which they began one spiritual house.
We are reaping the same field where they sowed good seed. May we have boldness to enter upon their labor, to thrust in the sickle deep, for the harvest is plenteous, the fruit is ripe, and we may have a precious gathering of souls; and the Lord of the harvest may say to us, "well, done good and faithful servants;" when our work is done—yea, He may say, "enter into the joy of your Lord."