To our well-beloved in Christ, the Clergy and Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America: Grace be unto you, and Peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
ONCE more it has been our privilege to meet with your representatives in the Triennial Convention of the Church. It closes with signal proofs of God's favour. His mercies have not been hindered by the shortcomings of its members or by their misuse of His grace. The bonds of brotherhood in Christ have been strengthened, our Missions have been enlarged, and, from statistics presented, we are able to record many gratifying evidences of the Church's edification within, and of the marked extension of its influence without.
We thankfully remember our revered fathers and brothers who have departed in the faith and fear of God's holy Name, and sadly miss some of our number, of whose wise counsels we have been deprived by age and infirmity. May our compassionate Lord minister to them grace and consolation in the days of their weakness and trial.
The altered conditions of the Church, due to its expanding life in the past century, have imposed upon this body two very grave and far-reaching tasks--the revision of the Book of Common Prayer, and the revision of the Constitution and Canons of the Church. The one was happily completed three years ago, and the other has made satisfactory progress during the session now closed. However much these labours and the immediate results of them may have taught us respecting past defects and present needs of the Church, they have given us a still more important lesson respecting the identity and continuity of the Church throughout the Christian ages. We know now, better than before these tasks were undertaken, what in the Church's polity and worship is unchangeable, and what in them can respond, under wise guidance, with a flexibility at once conservative and progressive, to the ever shifting environment of times, countries, and races. We have had, moreover, fresh and inspiring proofs of the transcendent value of the Catholic heritage committed to our keeping, together with a deepened sense of our obligation to spare no effort to enable all the faithful in Christ Jesus of every name to share its blessings. Our American fathers in the Faith builded well in their day and generation. It will be praise enough if our children in the coming century shall be able to say as much of us.
The state of the Church, so far as it is shown to us in the report of the House of Deputies, brings to our notice a serious defect in the most important department of our common work; namely, our Domestic and Foreign Missions. It is true, that through the effort of the Board of Managers, the debt which threatened to cripple our missionary efficiency has been paid. But the way in which it was done warns the members of the Church of a neglected duty. The large offerings of a few rich laymen, not more, perhaps, than their proportion of what ought to be the large sum given yearly for this great work, are utterly disproportionate, whether measured by the small amount given by the Church at large, or by the due distribution of giving by the whole body of the laity. It is right that the rich should give largely; it is not right that they should relieve any, even the poorest, of his privilege of giving in proportion to his ability. We can never hope to rise to the measure of our opportunities and of our obligations to meet them until every baptized man, woman, and child shall give freely, systematically, conscientiously, to the support of the Gospel and Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this connection, we note with grateful commendation the constantly growing work of that efficient and generous helper of the Church's Missions, the Woman's Auxiliary. Its triennial offering this year, though more than twofold larger than the previous one, is not of so much moment as the glowing and energetic love for Missions which it manifests. Would that this impressive example of zeal and liberality might plead, in this day of stinted and irregular giving, with every member of the Church, to ''go and do likewise."
Missions in China have recently suffered a great disaster. When least expecting it, the Church has been shocked by an outbreak of hostility and violence, which, in the world's estimation, has revived the question of the Church's right to be there at all. Devoted missionaries have sealed with their blood the Faith they were sent forth to teach. But this is no new experience of the Church in the fulfilment of its duty to carry the message of life to all nations. It has often confronted the same judgment of the world, and the same temper in the great world religions which it was set up to supplant. As in the ages past, so now, persecution will feed the fire of Christian zeal; violence will develop a more resolute courage; suffering even unto death will produce a more patient fortitude under trial, and stimulate the faithful to nobler ventures of self-sacrifice. The greater the blindness and hatred of heathen peoples toward the Gospel of Christ, the stronger will be the call upon the servants of Christ to endure hardness in the struggle to spread abroad His words of light and love. Such a crisis in missionary work will not be without its use and purpose, if, as like ones have done in the past, it brings to the front and sets in battle array a larger measure of the heroism always latent in the militant host of Christ. For the present, then, the moral of this calamity is--more, not fewer, men in the field, and larger offerings by the Church to sustain them.
The prosperity and growth of the Church are impressively shown by the consent given to the formation of five new Dioceses and two new Missionary Jurisdictions. The reports of our Domestic Missionary Bishops are full of encouragement. They illustrate and confirm the wise foresight which sent them forth to their respective fields, and abundantly assure the Church that it is taking no mean part in the great task of infusing the spirit of Christian institutions into the life of new communities, and into the laws of newly organized States. Our Bishops, as men of God, in those remoter parts of our country, are the best builders of civil empire to the full extent that they are Apostolic builders of the Kingdom of Christ. Not only will souls be saved and the Church be strengthened, but our beloved country in all the younger offspring of its life will be enriched and blessed by their labours. As they go forth to their far-off work, often almost single-handed, let us see that they do so with the encouragement of our sympathy, with evident tokens of our loving remembrance, and with the moral as well as ecclesiastical authority of our sanction.
The great question of Christian Unity continues to excite our earnest solicitude, though the prospect of any immediate and tangible result is not encouraging. The mind of the House of Bishops as set forth in the Declaration of 1886 is unchanged. Though that Declaration contained too much for some and too little for others, we are persuaded that, as a basis for discussion and conference, we could not hope to improve it, even with the added experience of the conflicting criticisms of recent years. We regret that its overtures have not as yet been accepted by those to whom they were addressed; but rejoice to know that many of the faithful of various ecclesiastical connections have resolved to continue the study of the conditions and principles of unity as exhibited in the once undivided Church. We desire to assure all such, however associated for the better accomplishment of their purpose, of our sympathy and approval, and, so far as may be proper or needful, of our counsel. This plan, for leavening the general Christian mind with the spirit of unity, is all the more worthy of encouragement, because attempts at formal conference with accredited representatives of the several Christian Communions concerned seem, for the present, to be ended. Denominational barriers, however rigidly maintained, cannot hinder the prayers or fetter the aspirations or suppress the inquiries of the common mind of Christendom. It is in this direction that we now turn with good hopes of substantial fruits in the near future. But however earnest and persistent our endeavour to keep alive this great movement and the deep yearnings which inspire it, we can imagine no circumstance that would induce us to consent to any departure from the ancient deposit of the Faith and Order committed to our keeping for the common benefit of mankind, or to the impairment of any truly Apostolic and Catholic tradition of the Church, or to any measures which, in bringing us nearer to post-Reformation Communions, would create any new obstacles to reunion with the old historic branches of the Catholic Church. Meanwhile we have an unshaken faith in the fulfilment of our Lord's prayer for the unity of His people. We believe that under Him, whatever the signs of the times to the contrary, the forces working for the restoration of such unity will, ere long, triumph over the forces working against it, and that modern individualism in religion will, in due time, be brought to recognize the fact that whatever in it may be needful to the wholesome spiritual progress of redeemed humanity can reach its proper development only as it shall be trained into harmony with the organic order of the Kingdom of Christ. In behalf of this great interest, we recommend that constant and earnest supplication be made to Almighty God, and that no effort be spared to diffuse a knowledge of the true principles of Church unity; and that the feast of Whitsunday be annually observed as a most appropriate time for such prayer and instruction.
We note only a slight change in the number of postulants and candidates for Holy Orders. This may mean much or little for the growth and efficiency of the Church. The training of candidates will be governed by the supposed needs of the Church. It is commonly assumed that the most urgent need is of men qualified to do the work of parish priests. To provide for this need is the chief, but it ought not to be the exclusive, aim of our Theological Schools. No candidate for the sacred Ministry should anywhere in the course of his preparation take it for granted that he will be appointed or called to the duties of a settled pastorate. Whatever may be said of the Church's duty to build up the life within it in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is certain that it is equally bound to offer that grace and knowledge to the life that is without. Its mission is to all that know not God, not less than to those who accept Him. Indeed, the body of Christ cannot be truly edified unless it offers its loving help to the nations and peoples of the earth that sit in darkness. It may need more men for the former; but that it needs some men for the latter task is certain. Now it is the fault of much of our training for the Ministry that it fails to produce the kind and number of Clergy demanded by the Church for its Missionary work at home and abroad. However it may be accounted for, it is painfully apparent that the self-sacrificing type of priestly service is, to say the least, not on the increase. Our young men may be intellectually well furnished, may be well grounded in dogmatic and practical theology, may have a fairly good average of personal energy and a sincere desire to serve the Master, if the service be not too exacting and burdensome; but if their training and outfit include nothing higher in motive, or more intense in conviction, or more positive in self-consecration, their ministry, in its daily contact with the world, will sooner or later drop from the dignity and fervour of a divine vocation to the loveless routine of an ordained professionalism. Better than an army of such, the few who indeed count all things loss for Christ--the few who, fresh from the hands laid upon them in ordination, and as if conscious of the awful gift of the Holy Ghost then received, come to the front with their lives in their hands, saying to those set over them in the Lord, "We are your servants for Christ's sake; send us whither ye will, even to the ends of the earth." These are the men for whom China, and Japan, and Africa, and the waste places of this land are waiting in their darkness and desolation. To call for such men, and to call in vain, is the bitterest experience that can befall the Church. Is this sort of poverty to be reckoned a part of the Church's humiliation at the close of the Nineteenth Century, now busy in rounding out the brilliant record of its achievements in all departments of the world's life? It may come to this, but not without words of warning and entreaty from us. If, under the pressure of a sore want, we are to plead for a return of that noblest characteristic of the Christian Ministry which seems to have so largely vanished, where could we hope to plead with such persuasive force as here in this great Northwest, the first pulsations of whose now gigantic life were made to beat in unison with the Gospel of Christ by the apostolic labours of James Lloyd Breck and his noble associates?
We should fail in our duty to a large part of that home field of which we have the oversight, did we not strive to impress upon all loyal citizens and loving Christians the vast importance in Church and State of that factor in our civilization known as the negro race. The increase of numbers and resources among them adds to the gravity of the problem how to assimilate these people to our national existence, and we are confronted with the truth that "either we must lift them up, or they will drag us down." We have made them citizens, and we must make them Christians, really and effectually, or we shall feel the harmful influence of millions, aggregating one-tenth of our entire population. We thankfully recognize the moral advance of an ever increasing number of this race during the past decade, but regret that their still imperfect ethical standard is so little aided by the ideas of religion most prevalent among them. The responsibility of this work belongs to no one section. To redeem and elevate these people is a demand which the American Church cannot safely or reasonably decline. We urge, therefore, upon our Clergy and congregations the need of large gifts and endowments for the successful prosecution of this work through the authorized channels of the Church.
We beg to call your attention to the Fund for the relief of disabled Clergymen and of the widows and orphans of those deceased. Merely to name this Fund ought to be enough to command for it the sympathy and help of all whom our words will reach. The existing provision for this purpose is sadly inadequate. To increase it to a suitable amount is a need so real and pressing that Churchmen cannot longer neglect it without a painful reflection upon their sense of obligation to those who, having borne the burden and heat of the day, are now struggling in loneliness and obscurity with undeserved want. Let the awakened heart of the Church prove its sorrow for this great wrong by prompt and earnest endeavours to repair it. The unfilled treasury of this hallowed Fund puts forth through us not only a pathetic appeal but a righteous demand for large and constant gifts. We earnestly recommend that stated offerings be made for this Fund annually, on Quinquagesima Sunday, or on the Sunday nearest thereto that may be convenient.
There are several important topics which, for lack of space, must be briefly treated. We look with deep concern upon the disturbed industrial and social relations of the time, and sympathize with every well-meant attempt to apply to them the principle of justice and love. The teachings of experience confirm and emphasize those of revelation; and the more we study the often misguided, and sometimes passionate, agitations of our time, the more we are convinced that whatever is wrong in those relations can find an adequate remedy only in the law of love as delivered to us by the word and example of Him Who revealed and for ever united the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.
Recent events in some parts of our country compel us to call your earnest attention to a widely spread and determined attack upon the use and purpose of the weekly day of rest, known from the beginning of the Christian era as the Lord's Day. It is declared in the law of God to be His own day, and by the Saviour of man to be "made for man." It is protected by a divine command and by the perpetual sanctity of a human right. Men may and ought to worship God every day; but for the greater assurance of this duty, one day in seven has, with the formal sanction of all Christian civilization, been set apart for its due observance. This order cannot be disturbed without grave evils to the individual and the family, to society and the state. It seems almost incredible that our modern life should be capable of bringing into play any powers of evil that could seriously threaten the existence of so divine and beneficent an institution. And yet the peril and disaster of such a menace confront Christian people in wide areas of the country. We exhort you, dear brethren, to meet this menace with unfaltering courage and resolute determination, and in no opportunity that may be presented to decline battle with the insatiate greed of the liquor traffic and the growing desire for popular pleasures and amusements, which with increasing boldness claim all days alike for their uses. In this connection the House of Bishops, in view of recent occurrences in several of our States, desires to express its hearty approval of the prompt and courageous application of the powers of civil government for the repression of barbarous, brutal, and indecent exhibitions and recreations of whatever sort.
By the tender mercies of our God, and the infinite compassion of our common Saviour, we beseech you, brethren, to remember in your prayers, and with your prompt and liberal help, that long suffering and downtrodden people of the ancient and faithful Church of Armenia. To wasting oppression and persecution extending far back into the past, has now been added, by the fanatical violence and hatred of Moslem power, the unspeakable atrocities of to-day. Such a cry for sympathy and aid has seldom been heard in all the ages of Christendom.
Beloved brethren, we, your Bishops, have recently addressed to you, and do now re-affirm, a Pastoral Letter, dealing chiefly with two of the great fundamental verities of the Christian Faith: the dwelling among us of the Word made flesh, "conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary," and the inspiration of the written Word of God, in which "the Holy Ghost speaks by the prophets"; two truths which underlie Christianity, and without which God has not been fully revealed to man.
We are left free, therefore, with no fear of seeming to disregard the incomparable value of "the Faith once for all delivered to the saints," to speak to you now about the expression of that Faith, in certain details of the public worship of the Church. Let us remember that it is of the essence of all acceptable worship (for God will only be worshipped "in spirit and in truth"), that it should rightly express the Catholic Faith. While it is true, in reason and in fact, that the Faith loses its hold upon the conscience if it be framed only in theological formularies, it is true also that false doctrine finds no readier medium for conveying its poison to the mind, than in unsound or unregulated forms of service. The hymn Te Deum and the constantly recited Creeds, the recurring cycle of the festivals of the Christian year, the Trinity in the Litany, the Incarnation on Christmas Day, the Resurrection at Easter, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit on Whitsunday, the intercession of the great High Priest in the ending of every prayer--these have kept bright and clear the Faith, when decrees of Councils and elaborate catechisms would have been forgotten. The Book of Common Prayer is the guide to a true worship, because, in every page and part of it, it is the guardian of the true Faith.
It is on this ground that we base our plea to the Clergy and congregations entrusted to our care, to stand loyally by and contend earnestly for pure doctrine, by submitting their public teaching and their public conduct of divine service to the spirit and the letter of the Prayer Book.
Nor are we contending for any narrow use or interpretation of the book. Neither of the two theories is true in any sweeping sense, that "omission is prohibition," or that "failure to forbid means freedom to introduce." On the one hand, the Prayer Book is not, and is not intended to be, a minute and detailed directory, entering accurately into the minutiae of every separate act. It was not compiled by a "congregation of rites," but it breathes the devotion of God's worshippers in all the centuries since He first revealed Himself to man. It is very easy to point out, here and there, deficiencies of direction as to vestments or postures. It is easier still to make too much of them, as excuses for individualism. On the other hand, the drift and intention of the Liturgy are unmistakably positive and plain. And to the loyal Churchman, the instinct will be to fill up what may seem to be lacking in clearness or distinctness, with only such ritual as may be in entire accord with the spirit of the Prayer Book, and to regard himself as clearly forbidden to introduce any act or service or word which violates its intention and purpose.
Before passing to any specification of warning or counsel, which the present condition of the Church seems to us to demand, there are two other principles which need to be plainly stated. Ours is a book of Common Prayer. It is intended to serve, first of all, the purpose of expressing the united devotions of a congregation of people. Congregations will be everywhere made up of varying temperaments and mixed characters; and it is unseemly and unbecoming, in the sanctuary or in the pews, to allow the excrescences of individual practice to thrust themselves into too great prominence. St. Paul's warning to the Corinthian Christians about the use of their extraordinary gifts in the public congregation is not without application here. At the same time, it is not to be denied that the greater rule of charity ought to forbid either the harsh criticism of personal practices, or the attempt to compel a dead level of absolute uniformity, where allowances should be made for really allowable differences of feeling and its expression. But postures and acts of reverence, perfectly natural to an individual, and perfectly proper in his private devotions, become improper and unnatural, if they are forced upon the attention of others to whom they are not only distasteful but distracting. Self-effacement and the promotion of reverence in the congregation should be the governing motives of the men who are set to lead the public worship of the Church; and the courtesy of mutual consideration ought to rule the worshippers themselves. It can hardly be necessary to dwell at any length upon two other practical considerations: First, the larger danger lies in exaggerating the importance of minor accessories. Valuable as they may be within the laws and limitations of the Church, they are not worth contending for, as though they were articles of the Christian Faith. The man who puts into his creed questions of ceremony is guilty of the sin of disproportion. It is far better to teach the truth persuasively, than to force it by practices which antagonize and annoy. And, secondly, it must be plain to any intelligent and earnest priest, that in villages and towns where there is but one congregation to which all members of this Church must go, he is far less free to press things, which though lawful may not be expedient, than if the people had a choice of going to other places of worship, where the ritual would be more helpful to their devotion.
Our attention is naturally directed first to the service of the Holy Communion. We rejoice to witness a growing appreciation of the privilege of the weekly Eucharist; but we regret that we are somehow in danger of falling into the error of disparaging all other worship, by the intense feeling of reverence for this Sacrament and by the increasing frequency of its celebration. The two great Sacraments stand upon the same high level of tremendous dignity, not only as instituted by Christ Himself, but as "generally necessary to salvation." Names are of consequence, because they become symbols and descriptions of things. The Church, undoubtedly, not denying grace and an outward sign to Confirmation and Ordination for instance, nor implying that they were not instituted by Christ Himself, by the use of the qualifying words, "generally necessary to salvation," shows that the two which are "generally necessary to salvation " are the two which she is content to call Sacraments. Of the other words which are sometimes used--"the sacrament of penance," while the Church knows only the gracious power of absolution; "the mass," which would be as harmless as it is unmeaning were it not for its indication of a desire to import the language of another Communion--it is enough to say that they involve the surrender of the manly independence of a Church rooted in the primitive soil of Christianity to a Church which has no claim upon the allegiance of the English-speaking race.
But we are far more concerned with the misusing of the Sacrament of the Holy Communion than with its misnaming, and this lies in three directions: the virtual introduction of what are called "solitary masses"; the advocacy and adoption (in few instances, it is true) of an unauthorized Office of Holy Communion adapted to this theory; and the reservation of the consecrated elements as objects towards which a special adoration is to be addressed.
The practice of celebrations at which the worshippers, to say the least, are discouraged from receiving the Sacrament grows out of two theories: first, the magnifying of the element of offering, which is half, and the first half, of the object of the institution; and, secondly, the overweening importance attached to the practice of fasting communions.
The Holy Communion is the great act of offering, the Christian sacrifice, "the unbloody sacrifice." But the teaching of the Holy Scriptures makes inseparable the union of the two appointed acts of the institution; "as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come"; and we have no right to separate that which God hath joined together. There is no need, in the reaction from the thought of a mere empty reminder of an absent person and a past event, or from the thought only of the personal benefit of eating and drinking nourishment for the soul, to pass to an unscriptural division of the Sacrament by separating the offering and the receiving, the Eucharist and the Communion.
The very title which this Church has chosen, with the authoritative expression of command, "the Order for the Administration of the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion," corrects and condemns this error. The whole construction of the Office so takes for granted the reception, so intertwines the thought of celebrating and making the memorial which Christ hath commanded us to make, with receiving the consecrated elements "according to His holy institution," that they cannot be separated without violating the whole teaching and purpose of the institution of our Lord. Indeed, it is plainly the consciousness of this fact which has led to the second wrong. Instead of recognizing the fact that a theory which makes inconsistent and impossible the use of the Church's required service is untenable, some have presumed to compile an office which, by omission and adaptation, shall bring the Church's teaching into conformity with their views. But clearly this is not "ministering the sacraments as the Lord hath commanded and as this Church hath received the same."
So far as the motive of this discouragement of communicants is the urging of people to receive fasting, we, your Bishops, desire to speak with due consideration of an ancient and prevalent custom in the Church. But the claim that it is a requirement of the Church is unwarranted and indefensible. Reverent in its intention, with the guarantee of long usage, and with the commendation of very saintly men, it is not to be elevated to the dignity of an ecclesiastical command. It has, of course, no warrant in the words or in the circumstances of the institution of the Sacrament. And there is no statement in the Prayer Book, as to the requirements for the right reception of the Holy Communion, which includes it or implies it. And therefore no Minister of this Church is justified in doing more than to commend it, where it may be safely used, to "such as can receive it." Between the alternatives of infrequent communion and fasting communion, there ought to be no question as to that choice which conforms most literally to our Lord's language and design. And we cannot but feel that the stress and urgency ought to be directed, first, to bring people to receive the Holy Communion; and secondly, to bring them with those three spiritual qualifications of repentance, faith, and charity, without which no man can worthily receive the Holy Eucharist.
We cannot leave the question of unauthorized methods of celebrating the Holy Communion, without rebuking the lawlessness which omits any part, or parts, of the appointed Office of the Holy Communion, other than those allowed by the rubrics in that Office to be so omitted. This unseemly practice destroys the whole value and object of the Book of Common Prayer, and is in every instance to be condemned.
The practice of reserving the Sacrament is not sanctioned by the law of this Church, though the Ordinary may, in cases of extreme necessity, authorize the reserved Sacrament to be carried to the sick. We are deeply pained to know that any among us adopt a use of the reserved elements such as the Article condemns as "not ordained of Christ."
Whatever theological motive or metaphysical meaning may be assigned to the rubric in the Communion Office, whatever historical colouring may be given to it, as a study of liturgics, no ingenuity of evasion can turn the plain "shall not be carried out of the Church," "shall reverently eat and drink the same," into an authorization of the use of the remaining elements for a service of benediction or for purposes of adoration. Most earnestly do we appeal to the Clergy to consider the wrong of such disobedience alike to the letter and the spirit of our ecclesiastical law.
We are pleading for loyalty to the Church; but there are deeper reasons and higher motives even than this. It must never be forgotten that our only relation to the Catholic Church is through our Communion with the National Church whose Ministers we are, and through our inheritance from the reformed Church of England. And this Church stands to-day claiming to be in America, in Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship, the fullest and fairest representative of the Church of the Holy Scriptures, of the Apostles, and of the first centuries. She believes that she has to offer to those who have retained primitive order, the Faith and the Worship of the primitive Church. She believes that she has to offer to those who have kept the Faith, at least pure from Tridentine and later Roman traditions, the primitive order and a form of worship in which the old Faith is and can be preserved unaltered. And she has offered, in most definite and official terms, the principles which express her desire and her plea for a reunited Christendom. But this broken front, these divided teachings, these divers customs among ourselves, distract the minds of those who, from outside, are looking for an accordant presentation of the Faith. There can be no question that the wide divergencies of ritual and service--far exceeding the broad limits of the Church's toleration--are scandals, "stumbling-blocks," to those whose feet tend toward the old paths, in which they long to stand fast and find rest for their souls. On the other hand, where the longing for reunion looks toward the Church of Rome, these here-and-there imitations of her corrupted worship, these now-and-then echoes of her modern teachings, either awake her scorn and contempt for the inconsistencies of those who pretend to have escaped them, or else strengthen her in the conviction that, by a bold maintenance of her modern position, she can win their allegiance to her claims.
We are indeed between two perilous tendencies. On the one hand there is a demand for concessions which will make it easy for members of the Christian bodies, not in communion with this Church, to enter her Ministry, to transfer themselves bodily as congregations, with faint and feeble guards of soundness in their forms of worship. On the other, there is a plea put forth by some to enter into negotiations with the Bishop of Rome with a view to reunion, which is now known to be possible only by absolute submission to his unscriptural and unlawful demands. It is a time of intense religious stir and thought. The very attacks upon the strongholds of our faith in God have not only directed the attention of the whole world to the Holy Scriptures, but have won for them a carefulness of study, a reverence of recognition, and an assured confidence in their authority and authenticity, which vindicates the abiding and unchanging traditional recognition of their inspired authority to which the Church has clung; sometimes with a critical foresight which anticipated the discoveries of modern scholarship, sometimes with an uncritical positiveness which has saved them in the past centuries from neglect and loss. The great and continuous growth of our Church in numbers and in influence, in broadened activities and deepened energies, has brought about a conviction in the popular mind, of her combination of adaptability to changing conditions of life, with fast hold upon the unchanging facts of history and revelation, which to-day puts her in a position of enormous responsibility to the Christian world, longing for rest and relief from the divisions and distractions of the spirit of sect.
What is the wise thing for us to do? Surely not to surrender the very essential elements of our attractive strength. Rome, which is willing enough to absorb us, would have no reminder left of the old traditional "evangelical truth and apostolic order," if we are to dally with her, by gradual assimilations to her errors as to the Faith. And the disorganized and unorganized protestantism will find nothing to seek in us, if we play fast and loose with the trust that we have received, not for to-day and ourselves, but for the human race in all time.
The wise thing for us to do now is to hold fast to our position; to be more and more at unity among ourselves; to "speak the truth in love"; "to love the truth and peace"; to be patient with differences while we are positive about distinctive truths; to be conscious rather of our own shortcomings than of the deficiencies of others; to dwell most upon the much there is in common among all "who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity"; to maintain the points of separation, with the clear conviction that only absolute faithfulness to truth compels their maintenance; to train our people in the "principles of the doctrine of Christ"; to "stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free"; to "pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and to watch thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints"; and above all things to "put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness."
And now, dear brethren, waiting for the Second Coming of our adorable Saviour, and commending you to God and to the Word of His grace, we pray that He will "make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."