Project Canterbury



The Church's Evangelical Safeguard











Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith:

"Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."--ST. MATTHEW, v. 19







Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2007







In the two preceding Charges which I have been permitted to deliver, I have brought to your consideration certain topics connected with The Holy Scriptures and The Holy Ghost. I propose in this, my Third Triennial Charge, to discuss, with GOD's blessing, some points bearing on The Holy Church, the Temple of the Holy Ghost.

[4] My subject is,


I shall present my thoughts on this subject with profound respect for the official character and position of all the Reverend members of my spiritual jurisdiction, to whom I speak primarily in this Canonical Address, but at the same time I shall speak in view of the responsible office laid upon me by Christ, and with all the earnestness of personal love for the entire flock entrusted to my spiritual oversight.

The Church of Christ, of which we are members and officers, is a divine organism for the glory of the Triune God in the redemption and salvation of men. Its founder is the incarnate Son of God; its mission is to witness to Him and His salvation until He shall come again; its appliances are the Word, the Faith, the Sacraments; its living power is the Holy Ghost, and its means of self-defence against Satan in all his forms is godly Discipline.

The sacred depositum of the Evangelical Revelation, involving as it does God's glory and man's salvation, was entrusted by the Lord Jesus Christ to no one man, but to a corporate Body, with divine authority to perpetuate and protect itself.

[5] The great moral struggle which the history of Christianity records, is the controversy between self-will and this divine organism, for the possession of the Faith once for all delivered to the saints. The history of heresy, of schism, of false doctrine within the Church's pale, is in every case the history of the lawlessness of self-will rebelling against the authoritative law of the divine corporation. Whether the law be the royal law of Charity; or the immutable law of personal holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord; or the Canon Law, which guards the tranquility of the City of God, and the mutual rights of the citizens thereof, in each and every case the chief source of discord and division is the conflict between self-will and the evangelically appointed Canon or rule of the divine organism--the Body of Christ.

The philosophy of schism is to be found in self-will; the effort, whether sincere or not, to array one man's will against the united decisions of his equals in all that is personal, and his superiors as a corporation.

The sin of the Fall of man, as recorded in the first book of the Bible, is reproduced at every stage of man's history; and it comes out, in its culmination of satanic opposition, in the mysterious revelations of the last book in the Bible--the sin of self-will, arraying [5/6] itself in matters appertaining to God's glory and man's salvation, against the will of God embodied in law.

The law of God was given to our first parents--"Thou shalt not eat of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil." Self-will, instigated by the enemy of God and man, could see neither reason, benevolence, nor comfort in such a law. The tree was pleasant to the eye; its fruit good for food; and wisdom seemed to be identified with eating it.

Self-will triumphed over law, and God's glory and man's salvation were jeoparded.

On the day of the Fall the Church, in its essence, was founded; and from that day to this, the avowed purpose of God in every form of His election, Patriarchal, Levitical, or Christian, has been, and is, to resist self-will by the presentation of His will in the form of Law, and to protect it by the most stringent safeguards.

It is this principle that lies at the basis of the divine corporation, the Christian Church. To protect the will of God, in its final and glorious revelation to man, and to enable man to fulfil it against all the adverse promptings of self-will, the incarnate Son of God originated His Apostolate, and committed to its members, and through them to those who should be duly commissioned, the Word and Means of Grace. To [6/7] them He gave power to perpetuate the mystical Body thus originated by Himself; and to guard it from internal foes by the authority to bind and loose; as well as by the enactment of those evangelical provisions of discipline included in the phrase--Canon Law.

It is not my intention in this Charge to go into a historical disquisition on the details of the Canon Law, Catholic, Provincial, or Diocesan; neither is it necessary to the object I have in view, which is to bring to your attention the Evangelical basis on which all Canon Law rests, and to claim for its due observance all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth. From the fact that Canon Law deals in some of its departments with minute matters of order, discipline and form, it might seem to some that it has no vital relation to Evangelical principle; and it is against this error that I desire to guard you in this Charge.

From the first law, given by God to our first parents in Paradise, down to the last Canon enacted by the Christian Church, the apparent triviality of the statute has been an occasion of disobedience and sin.

Forgetting that the will of God, which is embodied in law, gives dignity to the least as well as to the loftiest statute, the self-will of man ventures to resist, [7/8] and, unless saved by the mercy of God, falls into the sin of Lawlessness.

That function of the Church which developes itself in the making and executing of law, is as evangelical in its origin, aims and results as any other function. It is derived from Christ; it aims to guard unimpaired His divinely appointed agencies for the promotion of God's glory and the salvation of men; and it results in the peace, order and efficiency of the Church, the charity of the members of the Church, and the diffusion of quietness and love among all Christian people.

The Canon Law is enacted by corporate authority, and, therefore, restrains self-will; thus tending to protect the depositum of the Faith. The fact that law and not self-will rules, is promotive of peace and order among the members of the Church. And as the Church of Christ has ever longed with a mother's love for those separate from her, no matter by what cause or occasion, her Canon Law, even in its sternest phases of discipline, has been filled with the truest charity. Its observance therefore will, in the end, secure the largest amount of love and peace between the members of the Church and all Christian people.

Self-will never promoted peace in Heaven or on earth. It was the sin of the fallen angels. It was [8/9] the sin of Adam. It has been the sin of every disturber of the peace of the Churches of Christendom since the beginning of the Gospel and Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

The sin of Antichrist is lawlessness, and it is with unaffected apprehension that I look at the tendency toward that ultimate form of evil, which seems to be increasing in the world, and even in the Church. I charge you, then, my Reverend Brethren, to avoid the first approaches of this subtle but malignant temptation of the Devil. If the Canon Law of the Church of Christ has ruled a point, whether it appertain to the Apostolic Ministry, the Worship of the Church, or matters of Diocesan and Parochial interest, I charge you observe the law for Christ's sake, and by your teaching and example animate the Laity of the Church to regard the Canon as no mere tithing of "mint, and anise and cummin," but as an Evangelical safeguard against the anti-Christian lawlessness of self-will.

Do not be moved from your Evangelical principles by any discussions as to the subject matter of the Canon Law in any of its particulars. The only point for your consideration is what is the law, and knowing that, to obey it as the loving disciples of Jesus and the loyal members of His mystical Body. Neither does it matter that severe penalties for the infraction [9/10] of the law may not be administered by the Church on the unevangelical offenders. The Church, like her divine Lord, is at times forsaken of all; let this be an additional argument for the exhibition of your Evangelical principles, and obey for conscience' sake, and defend, by your influence, the principle of obedience as a duty to Christ, the ever-present Head of the Church. He who gave authority to His Apostles, and through them to their successors to the end of the world, to govern the Church, to bind and to loose, to enact and enforce the Canon Law, fortified His commissioned Chief Pastors with the words, "Whosoever receiveth you receiveth Me, and whosoever despiseth you despiseth Me."

It is not, therefore, a controversy between man and man, when disobedience to the Canon Law is attempted by any one, but it is a controversy between man and God. The ordinance is God's; the administrator of law is God's representative; and the disobedience, no matter how ingeniously defended, and earthly discipline avoided or defied, must be accounted for to the real Head of the Church, in that day when He shall come to judge the Clergy as well as the Laity--when judgment shall begin at the House of God.

In conclusion, I charge you, my Reverend Brethren, avoid this sin of lawlessness as you would the most [10/11] malevolent form of anti-Christian resistance to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the source of discord in the Church; it is the promoter of sin in the world without. If the members of the Christian Church, and most especially the Ministers of the Christian Church, shall esteem it a mark of Evangelical independence rather than a sure token of satanic influence, to exercise their individual self-will in matters ruled by the Canon Law of the Church of Christ:--if in Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship, the law of the Church is decried or defied, and the binding obligation of Canonical oaths jeoparded; the sanctity of oaths in all departments of life--in the family--in the State--between man and man--in social life and in business transactions, and between corporations, will be depreciated, and iniquity will abound to the destruction of the peace of individuals and the welfare of the community.

I am very earnest in charging you to uphold the sanctity of law, and the Evangelical character of the Canonical obligations by which, in Ordination, the Ministers of the Church bind themselves to Canonical obedience. There is a growing tendency to argue the abstract merits of the provisions of the law, instead of a glad and ready submission on the ground of Evangelical duty. And I believe that the disregard of [11/12] oaths is a growing crime and sin, which any tokens of disobedience to the Canon Law by the members and ministry of the Church will foster. It must not be taken for granted that the Ministers of the Christian Church are beyond the temptations of Satan, so long as there is on record the prediction of Christ that His Church shall always be subjected to the assaults of the Gates of Hell; so long as the history of Canonical discipline remains; and so long as the warning of the Great Head of the Church sounds forth from the Evangelical pages, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from me ye that work iniquity;" or, as it is in the original, anomian--Lawlessness.

Oh, how the solemn warning of Him who will judge us at the last day foretells the possibility of self-deception in the matter of working wonders which catch the eye and win the applause of men!

Do you not know that even Satan can clothe himself with the robes of an angel of light, and utter the burning words of inspired Scripture? Was not that a magnificent piece of satanic preaching, which wrestled in argument with the incarnate Son of God Himself [12/13] saying: "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down; for it is written, 'He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee, and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone'?"

Be not deceived, Ministers of Christ; Satan can preach, can persuade, can argue, can work wonders which may almost sweep away the steadfastness of the very elect; but there is one thing that Satan cannot do--"OBEY THE LAW OF GOD." This is the infallible test of the presence and power of the Devil, that he is always, everywhere, and under all circumstances, "THE LAWLESS ONE."

What the divine Master asks of us is OBEDIENCE. As disciples, obedience to His moral law; as ministers, obedience to His Canon Law. The disciple of Jesus, who does not make good his profession of faith and love, in an obedient Christian life, is deceived by Satan. The Minister of Christ, who does not make good his Canonical vows of Ordination, in obedience to the Canon Law, is deceived by Satan.

I speak these words of warning that I may guard you, my Reverend Brethren, from any influences that may impair your efficiency, your peace, and the harmony of the faithful Laity, and that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

[14] Beware of self-will in matters ruled by the Canon Law of the Church. Resist it on strictly Evangelical grounds as the exhibition of Antichrist. Whosoever knowingly disobeys the law, and defends disobedience on grounds of self-will, or assumed Evangelical liberty, is contradicting the first principles of Evangelical truth, jeoparding his own soul, introducing discord into the Church of Christ, and marring peace, charity and good will among all Christian people.

The Gospel of Christ, the History of the Church, the Ordination obligations under which Holy Orders were received, all affirm that prompt, cheerful and conscientious obedience to the Canon Law is the Evangelical Safeguard against the Lawlessness of Self-will, and the Evangelical channel of quietness and love to the Church of Christ. The words of the old Hebrew prophet, to the royal but self-willed shepherd of Israel, are for all in authority who would please God--"Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."

I close my Charge in the well-known words of the judicious Hooker, in the 16th chapter of his first book:

"Of Law there can be no less acknowledged, than that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the [14/15] harmony of the world: all things in Heaven and earth do her homage, the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from her power: both angels and men and creatures of what condition soever, though each in different sort and manner, yet all with uniform consent, admiring her as the Mother of their peace and joy."

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