BY FRANCIS LYNDE STETSON
CHAPEL OF THE INTERCESSION
APRIL 11, 1912
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2011
[Transcriber’s note: Francis Lynde Stetson was a prominent New York lawyer and layman in the Diocese of New York. He was also J. P. Morgan’s personal attorney.]
THE Forty-third Triennial General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America has been appointed to meet in this City on Wednesday, the eighth day of October, 1913.
In anticipation of this event, I have been asked for a statement concerning the legislative procedure in our Church and our supreme legislature, the General Convention.
Such a statement would seem to be desirable for the churchmen of this city on several grounds. Not the least important is the wish to elicit for the Convention an interest no less real and cordial than that which in its last five sessions has manifested itself in the gracious and abundant hospitality of the good people of Baltimore in 1892, of Minneapolis in 1895, of Washington in 1898, of San Francisco in 1901, of Boston in 1904, of Richmond in 1907, and of Cincinnati in 1910. Naturally enough, many of us feel a proper anxiety that this metropolis, the largest and the wealthiest of the dioceses, shall not allow the multiplicity or the variety of its outside and general activities to divert from this great and historic gathering of our Church in our own city the attention that it deserves and will repay.
We cannot doubt that the churchmen in this community will appreciate and will avail of this opportunity to show the hospitality of New York.
As a representative body and within its jurisdiction, the General Convention, like the Congress of [1/2] the United States, is our supreme legislature. As the constitutional acts of Congress are the supreme law of the land, so the constitutional acts of the General Convention are the supreme law of our Church within our land; it being understood always that no such law shall contain anything "contrary to the Word of God, or to sound doctrine, or which a godly man may not with a good conscience use and submit unto."
In the method of its constitution, the General Convention, though a representative body, differs widely from our national Congress, made up of senators chosen severally and respectively by State legislatures, and of representatives chosen by the voters in the several congressional districts. No member of any parish votes directly for any member of the General Convention, but, nevertheless, no member of the General Convention has been or can be chosen except in pursuance of the votes of the electors in the several parishes.
The explanation and the procedure are as follows:
At the annual election in each parish, the regular attendants and the communicants as voters designate a prescribed number of laymen, who, with the rector, constitute the vestry of the parish and its governing board. The several vestries annually select a prescribed number of laymen, who, together with the clergy canonically resident in the diocese, and with the bishops, constitute the Diocesan Convention, which is the legislature of the diocese. The bishop has no vote other than as a member of the Convention. Some think that in view of the special function of his office, in a church essentially and emphatically Episcopal, the bishop of the diocese should be entitled to a veto upon diocesan legislation, either final or subject to a reversal only by a two-thirds vote, like the veto of the Governor of the State. The subject deserves serious consideration. The Diocesan Convention, by the concurrent votes of a majority of the clergy and a majority of the parishes represented by the lay delegates, from time to time, as occasion arises, chooses the bishop, and once in every three years [2/3] chooses four clerical deputies and four lay deputies to the General Convention.
The General Convention thus is made up of members of whom every one, in every order, whether bishop, presbyter, or layman, derives his authority in part from vestries controlled absolutely by the laity, and from diocesan conventions controlled equally by the clergy and the laity. Such a participation by the laity undoubtedly was novel when adopted in this country, though, as observed by Dean Stanley, the early councils of the Church, composed of bishops only, involved a lay representation, as the bishops were elected by universal suffrage.
This summary is sufficient to indicate the absolutely representative character of our General Convention, though it is constituted, like the Senate of the United States, by the votes of other legislatures, and not, like the national House of Representatives, by the direct votes of the people.
Upon the morning of the first day of the Convention will gather, in imposing procession, before a great concourse of keenly interested men and women of the Church, for service in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, approximately one hundred and ten bishops, three hundred clerical deputies and delegates, and three hundred lay deputies and delegates, representing about one million communicants. They will come from sixty-eight dioceses and twenty-three missionary districts, besides our foreign jurisdictions, and will constitute a representation of this entire country more evenly distributed and more highly organized than any other body, civil or ecclesiastical, to be found anywhere. In the houses of Congress the representation is smaller, and in no other ecclesiastical assembly is the official organization drawn from every section of this entire country to anything like the same extent as is that of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Therefore it may be observed as a primary feature of the General Convention that, beyond comparison, it is characteristically an American gathering.
This national aspect of the General Convention [3/4] is due largely to the fact that, with the final establishment of American independence in 1783, it became necessary not only to organize our federal government but also to reconstitute our Church, which, like the colonies themselves, and alone among Christian communions in America, had been dependent upon England. Our Book of Common Prayer was the prayer-book of the Church of England, containing prayers for the English king and none for our own civil rulers, and it could be changed only by the authority of a national church which now was unorganized and was without either a bishop or episcopal supervision. Accordingly, our work of civil and ecclesiastical reorganization proceeded contemporaneously. The federal system was in the making from the peace of 1783 until the action of the Convention which in 1787 met in Philadelphia on May 14 and adjourned September 17, having framed our wonderful Constitution, made effective upon April 6, 1789, by the election of George Washington as President and John Adams as Vice-President.
With the creation of our new government no one was more sympathetic than the Rev. William White, rector of Christ Church, Philadelphia, chaplain of the Continental Congress, brother-in-law of Robert Morris (the financier of the Revolution), and bishop of the American Church from its foundation until July 17, 1836, an episcopate of forty-nine years, during most of which he was the presiding bishop. He was not only our Nestor but our Herodotus also, writing the history of our Church from the beginning until April, 1836, three months before his death. It is impossible to overestimate the value to this Church of the character and long-enduring influence of this patriotic and godly bishop, William White.
On March 29, 1784, Dr. White assembled at his rectory in Philadelphia the small meeting of clergy and laity which in due course was followed by the organizing of the Convention of 1786, the consecration of Dr. White and Dr. Provoost (rector of Trinity Church, New York) as bishops at Lambeth on February 4, 1787, and the first General or Triennial Convention in July, 1789, at Philadelphia.
 Thus, during the years from October, 1784, until August, 1789, the reconstitution of our Church was following, and was conforming closely to, the organization of our federal government.
Accordingly and naturally, the representation in the General Convention of the Church, as we have seen, like that in the national Congress, spoke and acted for the Church in each of the several States, the rights of the Church in each State, with respect to its own local management, being jealously reserved. These local prerogatives have been recognized down to the present day in many particulars, such as the exclusive right of each diocese to provide and to prescribe the rules for the election of its bishops and its deputies, and for the trial of its own clergy. The idea of a diocese less in extent than a State received no countenance until 1839, when the exactions upon the Bishop of New York compelled the setting apart of the diocese of Western New York, followed later by three other divisions of our Empire State. It may be regretted that instead of such a setting off of new dioceses wholly independent, the State might not have been constituted a province with interrelated dioceses.
Originally it was proposed that the General Convention should sit as a single body, composed in equal numbers of the clergy and of laymen, but voting separately whenever so desired by either order. This introduction of the laity as an integral part of a council of the Church, as already observed, was a novelty, but it has proved of tremendous importance. It was contemplated likewise that the bishops, as clergymen, also should sit in this single house, but this intended arrangement was abandoned in order to obtain the accession of Bishop Seabury of Connecticut, the first of American bishops who had been consecrated in the Scotch succession at Aberdeen, November 14, 1784. Accordingly, the House of Bishops organized with the three bishops sitting separately and in secret conclave, each of the two houses having a veto on the other. This arrangement has continued until now, when, as already observed, there are one hundred and eight bishops.
 The General Convention, thus organized, is supported by a tax upon each diocese of three dollars for each bishop, presbyter, and deacon canonically resident therein, amounting in the diocese of New York to about $1,250.
The primary object of the General Convention is to make laws for the government of our national Church, to some extent in the form of constitutional provisions, requiring action by two successive conventions, but generally in the form of resolutions adopted by each convention for itself, and in the terminology of ecclesiastical law known as canons; the diocesan conventions also having power to enact diocesan canons.
Now undoubtedly such legislating may seem a dry and dreary procedure, and not unnaturally has led to the somewhat disrespectful description of the General Convention as a "canon-tinkering" body. But before proceeding to consider the other purposes and consequences of the convention tending to refute any such derogatory imputation, it may not be undesirable briefly to consider some aspects of the canon law of the Christian Church, and more especially its historical implications.
A little reflection will justify the observation of Dean Stanley in his eloquent and illuminating History of the Eastern Church, that no history is more intensely interesting than that of the Christian Church and its institutions.
In the first place, ecclesiastical history is the most venerable of continuous chronicles, coming down through many so-called oecumenical councils, beginning with the Council of Nice, called by the Emperor Constantine in 325. The twentieth and the latest of the councils so called was that held in 1869 at the Vatican, under the call of Pope Pius IX.
In the next place, ecclesiastical history covers not merely one country or race, but all of Christendom.
Again, in one way or another, it brings before us, in their periods of intense activity, a long line of Christian potentates—princes, prelates, philosophers, and politicians, Such as the emperors Constantine and Charlemagne, Henry VII and Charles V; [6/7] the saints Chrysostom, Augustine, and Jerome; the popes Innocent III (who humbled three sovereigns—Philip Augustus of France, John of England, and Otho I of Germany), Innocent IV, Hildebrand, Leo X; the kings Henry II, St. Louis IX of France, Henry VIII, Francis I, Henry IV, Gustavus Adolphus, Louis XIV; the ministers Langton, Wolsey, More, and Sully; the scholars St. Thomas Aquinas, Wyclif, Erasmus, and Melanchthon; the militant leaders Luther and Loyola; and countless other personalities brilliant in their flaming controversies in the furtherance or the defence of the beliefs and institutions dearest to their hearts.
It may be observed, also, that, more than in the narratives of battles, the real character and interests of the peoples of Christendom for more than a millennium are to be learned through the attentive consideration of the struggles for the establishment of their religious beliefs and organizations. To the common people the councils of the Church spoke with the voice of God; and in the Oriental jurisdictions, as Dean Stanley observes,
"even illiterate peasants . . . are well aware that their Church reposes on the basis of the Seven Councils, and retain a hope that they may yet live to see an Eighth General Council in which the evils of the time will be set straight. The Nicene Creed is still recited in its original tongue by the peasants of Greece. Its recitation is still the culminating point of the service in the Church of Russia. The great bell of the Kremlin tower sounds during the whole time that its words are chanted. It is repeated aloud in the presence of the assembled people by the Czar at his coronation. It is worked in pearls on the robes of the highest dignitaries of Moscow."
Finally, a present worth attaches to this study as illuminating the meaning of our own service.
"Figure to yourselves," again says Dean Stanley, "as you read any creeds or confessions, the lips by which they were first uttered, the hands by which they were first written. Hear the Apostles' Creed as it summed up in its few simple sentences the belief of the Roman Martyrs. . . . The Prayer Book [7/8] as it stands is a long gallery of ecclesiastical history which, to be understood and enjoyed thoroughly, absolutely compels a knowledge of the greatest events and names of all periods of the Christian Church. To Ambrose we owe the present form of our Te Deum; Charlemagne breaks the silence of our ordination prayers by the Veni, Creator Spiritus. The Persecutions have given us one creed, and the Empire another. The name of the first great Patriarch of the Byzantine Church, St. Chrysostom, closes our daily service; the Litany is the bequest of the first great Patriarch of the Latin Church, amidst the terrors of the Roman pestilence; our collects are the joint productions of the Fathers, the Popes, and the Reformers; our Communion Service bears the traces of every fluctuation of the Reformation. The repetition of the conjunctive 'and' in our Gloria Patri—'To the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost'—is antiquity's condensed asseveration of the Trinity in unity."
In our times, and to the ears of the present generation, the voice of history and the call of tradition appeal less forcibly than in the days when our country and our Church were in the making. But, nevertheless, this digression has seemed necessary to suggest the importance which Bishop White and his associates naturally attached to the continuity of Christian thought and the regularity of ecclesiastical procedure.
The oecumenical councils are of the past, but there still survive the national Synods, to which class belongs our General Convention, legislating by canons for the national Church. From the days of the apostles their utterances and those of their successors concerning the government of the Church have been preserved and studied and collected and arranged under the name of the Canon Law. The extent and depth of the research in this branch of the law pass the bounds of present consideration. The accumulated canons of nineteen centuries under the Papacy are now in process of codification, pursuant to a decree issued on March 19, 1904, by Pope Pius X.
It is sufficient here to observe that canon law is divided into public law and private law; the former being concerned with the relation between the [8/9] Church and other bodies, religious and civil; the latter, with the internal discipline of the ecclesiastical body and its members. In our country of religious toleration the civil rights of the Church as a civil corporation are fixed by civil statutes and are adjudicated by the civil courts, which studiously refrain from encroaching upon or interfering with the internal management of the Church as an ecclesiastical body. This, as well as the direction and discipline of ministers and members, is prescribed by the private canon law of the church for itself, and the decisions thereon by the several ecclesiastical courts are accepted by the civil courts as finally controlling the ecclesiastical question.
In our American branch of the Church, as we have seen, the canons are of twofold origin—the several Diocesan Conventions and the General Convention.
Inasmuch as in this diocese every parish exists as a civil corporation of the State, either under general laws dating back to 1784, or under prior special charters like that of Trinity Corporation, granted in 1697, our twenty-five diocesan canons are simple in form and relate only to ecclesiastical organization and procedure. The Convention, meeting for two days once in each year, always is hurried, and too little opportunity is afforded for deliberate discussion and action with reference to diocesan interests, particularly in the extra-urban parishes. I think the session should be extended to three days. In every diocese there is a standing committee—that in New York consisting of four clergymen and four laymen appointed by the Convention. The standing committee has no legislative power, but in the intervals between conventions it acts as a council of advice to the bishop, if there be one, and if not, as the ecclesiastical authority of the diocese.
In the General Convention, holding sessions during three weeks in every third year, different conditions obtain. The membership has been largely continuous in the two houses, and absolutely so in the committees, where membership as well as precedence has been determined by length of previous service. In the House of Deputies there are [9/10] fourteen standing committees appointed by the president—always a clergyman—subject to the limitation that each of the eight missionary departments (into which the Church within the United States is distributed) must be represented. This rule was adopted in 1910 in furtherance of the so-called progressive tendencies which just now are affecting the Church as well as the State. It is a fact not to be ignored that the great dioceses of the Northeast, always denied representation at all proportionate to the numbers of their communicants, are regarded by our brethren from the West and Southwest as entitled to special consideration as suitable sources from which to draw financial supply, New York alone during the years 1909-10 raising, for extra-diocesan missions, $700,000 out of the $2,800,000 from the entire Church; or twenty-five per cent, as compared with its ten per cent of communicants. The totals for all purposes were respectively $8,000,000 for New York and $54,000,000 for the entire Church. But, as all of us are engaged in advancing the greatest of causes, such minor considerations are not of serious importance.
Besides the fourteen standing committees of the two houses, there are thirty-four joint committees and commissions sitting between conventions, whose activities embrace subjects so wide and various as to deserve summary statement. Eight committees and commissions were appointed to consider ecclesiastical relations and activities with other communions, religions, and peoples; six to revise our own services of prayer and praise and visitation; four to provide for the education of our clergy; four others to look after the better care and support of the clergy; one to provide for them an ultimate court of appeals; one to report upon the question of provinces; five for our great missions of help,—to the seamen, the blind, the deaf, and the foreign-born; and, finally, the Social Service Commission, including as members the Rev. Mr. Mellish and Mr. Gifford Pinchot. Is not this mere enumeration sufficient to suggest the reach and scope of the Convention and its activities? There is hardly any subject of ecclesiastical, religious, or philanthropic interest for which a hearing may not be obtained [10/11] before these committees and commissions, and, upon their report, by the Convention.
Action by the House of Deputies upon any of these questions, if desired by any diocese, must be taken by dioceses and by orders voting separately, and by a majority of the votes in each order in a majority of all dioceses at the time of the vote, a quorum being present. Thus, as observed by Bishop White, "measures may be adopted by a majority according to the constitution, but dissented from by an acknowledged majority of our Episcopal population." Such a result was approximated in 1910, when the proposition to expunge the name "Protestant Episcopal" from the title-page of the prayer-book failed of adoption by only one vote, although unacceptable to the laity in the seventeen Atlantic and Gulf Coast dioceses from Massachusetts to Texas, constituting an element of strength in the Church greatly in excess of that indicated by the adverse vote. An amusing illustration occurred in Boston in 1904, when a measure for which a large majority voted was about to fail for lack of vote by a majority of all the dioceses. Thereupon a negative vote was cast by a deputy from a diocese not previously answering. This negative vote was sufficient to establish the quorum and to carry the measure against which this saving vote was cast. Similar incongruities may be found in our national Senate and in our State legislatures. Though theoretically unjustifiable, in few cases have they actually resulted in serious harm.
In view of the difficulties of increasing legislation and widening jurisdiction, calling for more consideration than could be given in the triennial session of the General Convention, an expedient suggested as possible by Bishop White in 1836, and incorporated in the Constitution in 1898, permits the creation of provinces including two or more dioceses or missionary districts under such conditions and with such powers as shall be provided by canon. But as no diocese can be thus included without its own consent, no provinces have yet been formed. They are, however, in course of national development out of the eight missionary departments, which gradually are assuming functions [11/12] beyond their apparent titular limitations. In my opinion, the councils of these missionary departments are likely to become legislatures intermediate the Diocesan Convention and the General Convention, as in the Presbyterian Church the Synod intervenes between the Presbytery and the General Assembly, covering wider interest than the first and allowing the longer consideration and the better preparation of measures for consideration and action in the highest body.
But for the present as well as for the immediate future we must look to the General Convention as the one important representative organization of the Church not included within or limited to any diocese; the bishops, except when sitting as a House of the General Convention, having no general legislative power.
Consequently and naturally, the sessions of the General Convention have become the occasions for the meetings of the cognate organizations of interest to the Church. Of these, of course, the first in importance is the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, established in 1820 and considered as comprehending all persons who are members of the Church. This society, in 1910, reorganized in eight departments, is governed by a board of forty-eight members, consisting equally of bishops, of clergy, and of laymen, and meeting in the intervals between the triennial sessions of the Convention. But during the three Convention weeks the society itself holds frequent meetings, which very properly displace the sessions of the Convention itself. These meetings, addressed in turn by the missionary bishops from all the districts, elicit great interest and attract the attention and support of crowded and enthusiastic congregations. No one who has failed to witness and to share in the spirit of these stimulating gatherings can be said to appreciate the great and permanent value of the missions of our Church. The intrinsic merit of a religious organization may be fairly measured by its interest in missions, foreign as well as domestic. Thus estimated, our Church is a growing church. Its mission gifts for the three years ending in 1910 [12/13] were about $5,000,000, being largely in excess of those for the preceding three years.
Of this sum total, $250,000 was contributed by the Woman's Auxiliary, whose enthusiastic sessions, held at the same time and place with those of the General Convention, add greatly to the interest, and bring into appreciative acquaintanceship the godly women of our Church from all parts of the country.
In addition to all these are the meetings of the many special societies and commissions of the Church, such as the Church Building Fund, the Clergy Endowment Fund, the Sunday School Commission, etc. Without further particularization, it is sufficient now to remark that all of these meetings are well worth attention, and will attract church people from the entire country. For their hospitable reception and entertainment within our city, our own parishes and people have given pledge through the invitation extended in their behalf. In acceptance of this invitation the Convention, during the greater part of October, 1913, will hold its sessions in the new and splendid Synod Hall to be erected on the cathedral grounds by the generosity of Mr. Morgan and of Mr. Bayard Cutting and his family. We deeply deplore Mr. Cutting's untimely death.
How different are these conditions from those under which the first General Convention met at Nicaea, A.D. 325! Those in attendance there travelled from all parts of the empire in public carriages and on horses, asses, and mules, provided for riders and for baggage and furnished by the Emperor Constantine. The great lines of communication were like railroads, straight as arrows from one extremity of the empire to the other. Between Bordeaux and Constantinople, a journey of forty-five days, were ninety-one inns and two hundred post-stations. The Council, as we have seen, consisted only of bishops, three hundred and eighteen in all, but each was attended by two presbyters and three slaves, so that in all, nearly two thousand persons were present. They were various in appearance and experience, and are described by Dean Stanley in vivid words well worth quotation:
"There were present the learned and the illiterate, courtiers and peasants, old and young, aged bishops on the verge of the grave, beardless deacons just entering on their office; and it was an assembly in which the difference between age and youth was of more than ordinary significance, for it coincided with a marked transition in the history of the world. The new generation had been brought up in peace and quiet. They could remember the joy diffused through the Christian communities by the edict of toleration published in their boyhood; but they had themselves suffered nothing. Not so the older and by far the larger part of the assembly. They had lived through the last and worst of the persecutions, and they now came like a regiment out of some frightful siege or battle, decimated and mutilated by the tortures or the hardships they had undergone. There must have been some of the aged inhabitants of Nicaea who remembered the death of the two martyrs Typhon and Respicius, who in the reign of Decius had been dragged through the streets of the city, bleeding from their wounds, in the depth of winter. There must be some who retained from their grandfathers the recollection of that still earlier and more celebrated persecution in Bithynia recorded by Pliny in his letters to Trajan. Most of the older members must have lost a friend or a brother. Many still bore the marks of their sufferings. Some uncovered their sides and backs to show the wounds inflicted by the instruments of torture. On others were the traces of that peculiar cruelty which distinguished the last persecution, the loss of a right ear, or the searing of the sinews of the leg to prevent their escape from working in the mines. Both at the time and afterwards, it was on their character as an army of confessors and martyrs, quite as much as on their character as an Oecumenical Council, that their authority reposed. In this respect no other Council could approach them, and in the whole proceedings of the assembly the voice of an old confessor was received almost as an oracle."
In contemplation of this "noble army of martyrs" into whose heritage we have entered, we may well recall the words of the noble hymn of Bishop How:
"For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blessed. Alleluia."
All this may seem far away and long ago, but the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church [14/15] whose privileges we now enjoy and whose care now rests upon us. Largely because of the forethought and legislation of these fathers, the Church exists to-day in this city and for us, though the churches which flourished formerly in Arabia and Egypt and Carthage have lost their power. By common consent that which we know as civilization is coterminous with Christendom, the scene and the result of the mighty efforts and organizing power of these fathers and canonists. Deficient as may have been their learning, defective as may have been their methods, nevertheless, through and by them has been handed down to us "the faith once delivered to the saints." Nothing that concerns them or the Church to which they devoted themselves, can be alien to us.
But their itinerary, far-reaching though it was, must seem limited compared with those of our missionary jurisdictions, stretching from the Arctic almost to the Antarctic, and from the Occident each way to the Orient. Here will come Rowe from Alaska, Aves from Mexico, Kinsolving from Brazil, Restarick from Hawaii, McKim from Japan, Graves and Root from China, Brent from the Philippines, countries of whose existence, much less their names, there was no knowledge in those ancient Mediterranean settlements, the source and the fount of religions and theologies. Our later-day envoys will bring back with them for recitation narratives in many ways more wonderful, though, thanks to the advance of the Prince of Peace, less woful than were those of the bishops gathering at Nicaea.
But our gratitude to the fathers of the Church is to show itself not merely in sentimental reverence. Their work is our work, though, thanks to them, under conditions widely different from their own. The poor for whom they labored; the down-trodden whom they raised up; the suffering for whom they founded hospitals; the outcasts for whose recovery they gave themselves; the benighted in the remote corners of the earth, whom they sought out and succored—all have their successors now and here. To these in our time we are bound to carry the same message of mercy and justice and truth that ever has issued from the [15/16] Church of Jesus Christ, nourished and preserved by their long care. To-day's moral uprising and insistence upon a broader and deeper sense of social obligation may seem to be wholly of our time, but in truth they are the fruition of the seed sown by Jesus Christ himself, nourished by his saints, and through two millenniums cared for by the Christian Church. Socialism represents a just craving for social justice, but its special insistence upon class consciousness or class hatred foredooms its destruction. Love, and not hate, is the universal solvent. Love is the doctrine of Jesus Christ, proclaimed and commanded continuously in our highest sacramental office. For the maintenance and the dissemination of this gospel of love in its highest form and widest extension the Christian Church, and our branch of the Christian Church, exist. It is because, and to the extent that, they contribute to the efficiency and the perpetuity of a Christian Church designed and fitted to rescue and to save not only individual men, but mankind, that the laws and institutions of the Christian Church deserve and should receive our attention and our support.
To this end only have I ventured this morning to consider the history of the Church and of our branch of the Church, and to ask you to prepare to receive, and hospitably to welcome in your hearts and your homes, its chief legislature, the General Convention, in October, 1913. It will stand for, and will seek to advance, a cause which is from everlasting to everlasting, and which clutches the very soul of man and mankind when once its tremendous significance is fully apprehended.
The cause is that of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. Its distinctive emblem is the cross which Christian faith lifted from the gloom and the outcasts of Calvary to become the chief ornament of every temple of Christian worship. Throughout the Christian era and throughout Christendom there has been no talisman like the cross. Tradition ascribes to Constantine its exaltation to become the labarum or standard of his army from the noonday hour when he forced the Milvian Bridge across the Tiber, and overcame Maxentius and paganism, upon [16/17] the 28th of October in the year 312. There appeared to him, says the legend, "a bright cross in the heavens, just above the sun, with this inscription, 'By this conquer.' " Whatever the reality of the vision, it was stupendously real and important in its consequences. The Roman world, the civilized world, and our world throbbed and throb in response to the profound emotion of Constantine, then the one and the only emperor on earth. To this day the light that streams from the cross of Jesus Christ is the only sufficient illuminant of history, just as it is the only light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. But as the brightest light leaves opportunity for the deepest shadows, so the self-will of men, and the pride of men, and the lust of conquest have left room for deeds of deepest darkness on the part of some bearing the cross and professing to follow Him who died thereon. History cannot be rewritten, nor the facts of history be altered to exclude such unworthy intrusions. But we control the present day and the future and this Church of Jesus Christ, and you and I, as members of Jesus Christ, can learn and relive and retell the story and the teaching of the cross—the story of a complete and completely self-denying sacrifice—so that every son of man may know that thereby also he is a son of God. In the cross and on the cross is to be found the interpretation of human history and the prophecy of human destiny—in the cross of Jesus Christ,
"Towering o'er the wrecks of time,
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime."