Logical Impossibility of Any Compromise between the Church and the Sects. A Sermon preached on the Sunday after Ascension, May 24, 1868.
By the Rev. Ferdinand C. Ewer, S.T.D.
IT is the popular impression that the Church, whose services we have joined in this evening, took Her rise about three hundred years ago, in the days of King Henry the Eighth. She is believed to have been a creature of the Reformation, and is therefore regarded as one of the great sisterhood of the Protestant sects. She is looked upon as agreeing with those sects in all fundamental respects, and differing merely on subordinate points. It is supposed that, to a Protestant foundation, She merely superadds such matters of taste as written prayers instead of extemporaneous, the observance of certain festivals and fasts, the use of clerical garments, a preference for Gothic architecture, and for a ministry in the three orders of Bishop, Priest, and Deacon. To the inquiry, How the Church differs from the Protestant denominations about her? such points as the above-mentioned would be specified in reply. It is not at all imagined that fundamentally we are not with the Protestant, "but with the great Catholic world. It is not at all imagined that the difference between us and all Protestant bodies is not superficial, but radical and irreconcileable.
But, Brethren, there are certain signs of the times that are very noteworthy. Why is it that, as the Protestant denominations are mutually drawing together, and seeking coalesence in union meetings and the interchange of pulpits, our Church stands aloof from the movement? Why is it, that if any of our Clergy, however few, coquet with the movement, the great body of our communicants, both lay and cleric, rise in indignation? Why is it, too, that as this mutual gravitation is taking place among the systems of Protestantism, there is, on the other hand, a counter-movement springing up in each of the three great parts of the Catholic world--Greek, Anglican, and Roman--under which they are looking with kindlier eye upon each other, if not actually drawing into closer sympathy? That there are these two mighty clusterings it were folly to ignore. How shall we account for them? Is it not possible that, as the storm of the Reformation is subsiding, natural sympathies, springing out of fundamental agreement, are rising to resume their sway?
At any rate, here are two popular misapprehensions touching our Church, viz.:--first, as to Her origin, and secondly, as to Her position relatively to the Protestant denominations. It is to these two points that I shall direct my remarks this evening. In all fundamental , respects our Church is neither recent, nor is She Protestant in the popular acceptation of that term. I do not, of course, deny that She protests against certain grievous errors that have grown up in a territorial portion of the great Catholic tody of which She is a part; hut what I mainly propose to show is, not in what respect She differs from Rome, but in what respect She differs from all the Protestant denominations taken together: and, furthermore, to show that the difference between Her and them is so radical, that any compromise between the two is a logical impossibility. I suppose, young gentlemen, that this occasion of the Annual Sermon before your Association may have drawn up hither some persons who are not of our Household of the Faith; and it may be proper for me to state that it is not my purpose to speak in a controversial spirit, still less to say anything that shall be offensive, or, I trust, in the least degree disagreeable, to any member of any denomination. But I simply design to present the differences between our Church Catholic and Protestantism, under as clear a light as I can, in order that the plain man may know what they are. In the last three hundred years theological matters have become confused by a mass of doctrinal detail; and it is not at all strange that, in the confusion, the ordinary mind should lose sight of the few main points that, after all, really cause us to part asunder. It is well, therefore, to withdraw at times into a calm distance where the details shall disappear from the vision, and the main distinctions come boldly out to view. However those of other religious bodies who are present may differ, or decide to continue differing with us, nevertheless, let us, Churchmen and Protestants, at least to-night, withdraw hand-in-hand to that quiet distance of which I speak, and, together, look calmly upon the diverse aspects of our two religious systems. Permit me, Beloved, for the sake of brevity, to call the system to which we adhere by the name under which it is known among us, viz.: "The Church;" and to call the bodies collectively, who agree with us in so far as we protest against Romish errors, but who differ with us in so far as we Churchmen hold with Rome to the great underlying truths of the Catholic Church, by the title of "The Denominations," or "The Protestant Sects."
Before I proceed to our first head, namely, The Origin of the Church, let me ask you to recall sundry matters which are patent to the eye, in which the Church differs from the Denominations; for instance, the internal structure of our houses of worship, the arrangement of our chancels, so different from the ordinary Protestant plan of pulpit, with sofa behind and Communion Table below, the constitution of our ministry in three orders, the fact that we have no revivals, etc. And to ask you whether all this, and more, ought not at least to raise a suspicion, before we commence, that there must be, underneath, some radical variance between the two systems. Can it be that two systems, so differing to the eye, are fundamentally at one with each other? Let us see. I proceed then to strike the clear, distinguishing note of the Church.
I. When did the Church arise? In order to see that She did not take Her origin at the same time with the sects, in the days of King Henry VIII., permit me to give a brief history of the Church Catholic from the first.
The Holy Apostles did not separate and go forth to plant the Church in all the world immediately after the Ascension of our Lord. The popular impression is that they did. But if you will turn to your New Testament, you will find that the Twelve remained residing at Jerusalem for twenty years after that event. During this period they preached to Jews, not to Gentiles. The Grecians spoken of in the sixth chapter of the Acts, were not Gentiles; they were Jews who spoke the Greek tongue. During this long period of twenty years, the adherents of Christ continued to be members of the Jewish Church, superadding Christian observances in their own gatherings. Meantime, a model form of the Christian Church grew up in Jerusalem under the combined hands of the Apostles, with Ministry, the Sacraments, the Faith, and a regular Form of Worship. The Liturgy was not committed to writing, but was memorized.
Some years after the Ascension, the conversion of S. Paul occurred; and it was toward the latter part of the above-mentioned period of twenty years, that he went forth into Asia Minor, and preached not only to Jews resident there, but also to Gentiles. This .gathering of Gentiles as well as Jews into Christianity, precipitated a crisis, both in the action of the Apostles and in the career of the Church; for in the new bodies of converts which S. Paul gathered, there speedily arose a contention. The Jewish converts insisted that the Gentile converts, in addition to their Christian duties, should comply with the requirements of the Mosaic ritual law. It was held that that law had been given in all its minutiae by God himself, and that all who believed in the true God must, of course, obey it. At last S. Paul goes down to Jerusalem, where the other Apostles were living, that this question (which, you will observe, was one of the gravest importance) might be settled by them. The Council of Jerusalem, an account of which is in the XVth Chapter of the Acts, met, and decided the matter. The virtual conclusion reached was this, viz.: that the whole Jewish form of the Church had, after all, been fulfilled by the Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord; that it no longer had any real existence; and that the Christian form of the Church had taken its place. This occurred about the year 50 or 52. Thus, it was not till twenty years after the Ascension that the Apostles, arousing to their newly-seen responsibilities, separated, and went forth to their great work of planting the Church Catholic in all the world.
The Church which they planted was identical everywhere, from Spain and England in the West, to Syria in the East;--identical in its Ministry, its Form of Government, its Sacraments, its Faith, and Liturgical mode of Worship. It is to be borne in mind that the Apostles, having once separated to this work, never afterwards met together again for consultation. And yet such was the Church they planted. At the end of the first century, and in the beginning of the second, it rears itself everywhere before us as a vast visible body. Everywhere it has its Bishops, Priests, and Deacons; its Liturgies, its Creed, its Chancels, its Altars, its Festivals and Fasts, and its Sacraments. [It should be noted that the Apostles did not leave only one form of Liturgy behind them in the Universal Church, nor yet twelve different forms; but, strange to say, four forms. These forms contained nearly identical parts, but differed in the arrangement of those parts; one arrangement prevailing in Syria and the East, the second in Egypt and Northeastern Africa, the third in Italy and North-western Africa, and the fourth in Asia Minor, Gaul, and Britain.] Everywhere its Bishops are the only persons empowered to ordain to the Ministry. How happens it that the Apostles, who never afterwards met together, should yet have planted a Church identical in every main point all over Europe, Civilized Asia, and Africa? The fact is, they each and all carried away in their minds the model form which had during twenty years grown up under their combined hands in Jerusalem; and that they, each and all, planted the Church Catholic everywhere in general accordance with that model form.
But what, furthermore, was the condition of this Church Catholic? Everywhere it was One; but the Church in each nation was independent of the Church in any other nation; could ordain or discipline Her own clergy; could make Her own Canon Laws and arrange Her Liturgy in the vernacular of Her own people. When a man moved from Italy to Spain, or from Egypt to Greece or to England, he only moved out of one National Branch into another of the same Church Catholic. Thus like some vast banyan tree the Church was one organism, but with an independent trunk in each country. Her condition was analagous indeed to that of the United States. Rhode Island, for instance, is independent of New York. It can make its own laws and elect its own officers without dictation from the Governor and Legislature of New York; and yet both States are a part of one Country. There are local peculiarities in each, but the same general characteristics.
Now, Apostles and apostolic men planted the Church Catholic in Rome, in Thessaly, in Gaul, in Egypt, in Britain. The National Branch of the Catholic Church planted in Britain in the First Century, was independent of the National Branch of the Church Catholic that was in Rome, and was its peer; less in wealth, less in influence, less in the mental ability of its Clergy perhaps, but endowed with the self-same rights. [When Gregory I., Bishop of Rome A. D. 506, sent Augustine to England, the latter sought to bring the British Bishops into subjection to the Bishop of Rome. A Conference was at length held, at which Dunod, a Bishop, speaking in behalf of his brethren, returned the following reply to S. Augustine, viz.: "We are bound to serve the Church of God; and the Bishop of Rome, and every godly Christian, as far as helping them in offices of love and charity, this service we are ready to pay; but more than this I do not know to be due to him or any other. We have a Primate of our own, who is to oversee us under God, and to keep us in the way of spiritual life."] This mutual independence of the National parts of the Catholic Church lasted for centuries after the Apostolic days. But at last, about the seventh century, the National Branch of the Church in Rome began to usurp power over its neighbors in the West of Europe, to take away their independence, to fix its own laws, worship, customs, and officers upon them. Novel doctrines began also to grow up in Rome, superadding themselves to Her Catholic system. And in due time She spread those doctrines also through the National Branches She had subjugated. She threw Her yoke upon the Catholic Church in England. She tried to throw Her yoke also upon the numerous National Branches in the Eastern part of Europe; but never succeeded in this attempt. In England, however, as I have said, after a "brave struggle on the part of the British Bishops, She succeeded; and for several centuries the Catholic Church in England, though of right independent, autonomic, was in the same position under Rome that Rhode Island would be, if for a while its large, wealthy and powerful neighbor, New York, should reduce it to dependency, give it its laws, its judges, and other officers.
But in Henry the Eighth's time the National Branch of the Catholic Church in England succeeded in throwing off the yoke of Rome, and stood once more independent, reinstated in Her original position, rehabilitated with the rights which, a few centuries before, She had lost. It is immaterial whether the motives of Henry were conscientious or not; God maketh the wrath of the wicked to praise Him, and Henry's quarrel with Clement was the subjugated Church's opportunity in England.
Using Her regained rights, Her clergy and laity pruned and translated Her liturgy, reformed Her customs, and abolished from Her the novel and Romish doctrines that had been temporarily added to Her Catholic system. She remained still the same old National Branch of the Church that had come down in England from the Apostles' days; She had simply removed from Her Catholic structure the incrustations of Romish errors. Suppose a free man had, at one period of his life, been enslaved by a powerful neighbor, and had subsequently thrown off the yoke, why one might as well say that that man is not the same individual through it all, but that he only began to exist from the moment he regained his freedom, as to say that the Catholic Church in England took the origin of Her existence at the time of Henry the Eighth.
Understand, that it is one thing utterly to destroy the National Branch of the Church Catholic in a country and construct a new Christian organism in its place; but it is another and a very different thing to take the same old Church Catholic that is found in a nation, and purge it of such novel doctrines and improper customs as may have grown up within it, or been forced upon it. The former is what was done on the Continent; the latter is what was done in England. Thus the Continental and the English Reformations were each conducted on a different principle from the other. The one was destructive of Catholic truth and the Catholic Church, the other was preservative of both.
In the old colonial times of our country, the English branch of the old Catholic Church, acting according to the law of Catholic growth, put forth a branch into this country. And when, as the result of the American Revolution, England and America became independent nations, the Church in this country became, ipso facto, a national and independent trunk of the one Catholic Church in all the world.
Alas, that the fifteen or twenty gentlemen who met in the General Convention immediately after the Revolution and at the opening of the independence of the American Catholic Church, should have left us as a heritage that unfortunate title "Protestant Episcopal." For, what does the word "Protestant" indicate to the popular mind 'i Why, in general terms a violent opposition to all that is Catholic. The word does not express, therefore, our attitude. For we adhere to, we cherish with undying fondness much that is in the Romish Church which Protestanism hates and has abolished. We simply protest against certain of Her features, so that the title "Protestant," as applied to us, does not mean the same as when applied to the Denominations, and the popular mind is misled in regard to us. Again, the term "Episcopal" simply refers to our Church Government. Thus the whole title "Protestant Episcopal" selects only two out of very many of our characteristics, (and those two by no means the most important), and elevates them into the prominence of an exhaustive designation for the whole. Why, brethren, you might as well call Rhode Island an "Anti-Mormon Gubernatorial State," and fancy that you have thoroughly defined your Commonwealth, as to dream for an instant that the title "Protestant Episcopal" is, ever was, or ever could be a befitting name to the great American fraction of the One Holy Catholic Church in all the world. But, thank God, the fifteen or twenty wise gentlemen who, in the eighteenth century, took such action as has resulted in foisting this heritage of "Protestant Episcopal" as a title upon nearly forty vast dioceses in the nineteenth century, were not permitted by the Catholic Church elsewhere to carry out their intentions of laying violent hands upon the Creed itself. Thank God that that Creed does not read "I believe in the Holy P. E. Church of the U. S. A." Thank God that it still reads as of old, "I believe One Catholic and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the Resurrection of the dead, and the Life of the world to come."
Thus the English Catholic Church, known as the Church of England, did not with the sects take Her origin in the Reformation. She merely succeeded in disenthralling Herself at that stormy period. She is an ancient Branch of the Church Catholic, having a continuous life running down from the apostolic days to the, present time; preserving, all along, Catholic features of the Apostolic Church visible, Her Ministry, Her Faith, Her Sacraments, Her Seasons, Her Liturgical Worship; free during the first six centuries, then enslaved by Rome for a while, then striking for and regaining her freedom again, which She has enjoyed now for the last three centuries. She still agrees with the Roman, the Greek, the Armenian and other parts of the Church in all fundamental Catholic respects, and differs from the Roman part in respect of certain errors, which added themselves to Her Catholic system in the latter part of the middle ages and in the year 1854.
Thus the Church, instead of being fundamentally Protestant, that is to say, constructed on Protestant notions, and merely bearing a little about her on her surface that looks like the "visible," the "priestly," the "Sacramental," and the "Catholic," is on the other hand fundamentally, and has been continuously, Catholic, (I do not mean, of course, Romish), while such Protestantism as She has is a temporary expression, which She has been forced to put on at this period of Her long career, in censure of errors into which a portion, (numerically a half, perhaps), of the great Body of which She is a part, has fallen, as She trusts only temporarily. Thus you will see that, after all, the cause and the main object of Her existence is not to protest against those temporary errors, (although she does that by the way), but it is the rather to continue to hold and to spread, as formerly, so now and to all future time, the great principles of the Church Visible, of Catholic Truth and Apostolic Order.
She belongs to the great Catholic Sisterhood. One erring sister has brought grief to the household. But She looks upon that sister and as She marks the familiar lineaments of the family, She cannot hate her; She grieves over the errors. She looks within herself, and finds that all is not perfect even there; She prays for her prodigal Sister, and She is beginning to pray for herself also. Far be it from Her ever to abandon the family of which She is a member, and take up Her portion beneath the fleeting tents of a hard, a hostile and a wayward tribe. God speed the day when all the fair Sisters, Greek, Roman, Armenian, English, Russian and American, shall abandon such mistakes as either may have fallen into, shall learn that no fraction can be the whole body, and shall stand, with arms intertwined, a one harmonious Catholic family once more.
When the two great clusterings, Protestant and Catholic, shall have completed themselves, the one organic, like an army, the other disintegrated, like a mob, and the shock between the two shall take place, can any one doubt the issue?
II. I come now to the second point, viz.: The Church being regarded by the popular mind as fundamentally one of the Protestant sects. Let me recall to you what I said above, namely: that it is my object to set forth wherein it is that the Church differs in fundamental doctrine from all the Denominations taken together. Is there the radical difference I speak of? If so, does it lie in the mere question of written or extemporaneous prayers, of baptism by pouring or by submersion, of whether or not it is Scriptural to baptise infants, of Church Government? O no. These are all questions of some importance, but they are superficial in the comparison. Can we or can we not go down beneath these to some one point where, to start with, the difference between the Church and the sects is so radical, that, after all, any subsequent compromise between the two, at least until that one point is reconciled, is a delusion and a snare to both? If there be such a point, the plain man, who has little or no time to study into numerous and nice superficial theological distinctions, would like, of course, to know what it is, that he may be settled in his main religious position. All these differences between the Church and the Denominations which are apparent to the eye, for instance, as to Church Government, forms of worship, observance or non-observance of Feasts and Fasts, Infant Baptism, etc., are, if I may so express it, bewildering branches, and twigs in which the plain man finds himself entangled. My point is, that these branches and twigs, in fact all the peculiarities of the Church, spring out of the answer to a prior question. If that question be decided one way, we are carried into the entire Churchly set of branches in doctrine and practice; if the other way, we are carried into the Protestant set of branches. Surely it is an important point gained towards clearing up the complicated matter to our minds, and virtually disposing of a hundred-and-one subordinate questions, if we can go down from the branches to the two great trunks, the Churchly and the Protestant, and then get back to the root, and see, if possible, exactly where and why it is that the two great trunks themselves part company.
Now, the great question which in itself alone divides us from all Protestant sects, is the all important question, What is Election? This lies down under the surface; but this is it. I beg, young gentlemen, that you will not anticipate that I am about to entangle myself and you in the perplexities of "fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute;" finding, like Milton's fallen spirits, "no end in wandering mazes lost." But I desire to direct your attention to this, viz.: that as we give one or the other answer to this question, What is Election? so do we consistently decide one or the other way on all subsequent questions.
Now, the Protestant idea is that Election is of individuals directly to life eternal. Thus with Protestants "the elect are identical with the finally saved." Protestant Denominations may differ among themselves as to the extent of Election, as to the limitation or universality of the Atonement as a potential means of salvation; they may differ as to the distinctness of the boundaries between the elect and all others; they may differ very much as to the causality of Election in the Divine Mind, that is to say, whether persons are elected by God's absolute and irrespective sovereignty, or whether (as the Methodists say), their election was, so to speak, influenced in the Divine Mind by their foreseen personal actions as free beings, (God's Fore-knowledge not affecting their acts, any more than one man's observing another's falling caused his fall); they may differ as to whether God has reprobated the non-elect or not; but they all agree as to the ideality of election; that is to say, that it is of individuals, and that its immediate design is eternal life. And if you would test this, ask any Methodist, or Calvinistic Baptist, or Free-Will Baptist, or Orthodox Congregationalist, or Presbyterian, (New School or Old School, Supra-lapsarian or Sub-lapsarian,) "Will any of the elect be lost and damned?" And, unless I mistake very much, they will one and all say, "No! It were dreadful to imagine such a thing for an instant!"
But the view of the Church, as expressed in Her prayers and offices, and homilies, and in Her XVIIth Article, is radically different from all this. And Her view gives to Her whole theology a different character. By reflex light it shines back upon Christ and upon God, and shows Them under a very different aspect to the world. It gives to Her whole presentment of Christianity a different cast, and it leads Her into a vastly different treatment of the sinner. Do you ask why it is that we have no revivals? The answer is, because of our view of Election; they are foreign to our whole system; nay, destructive of it. Do you ask, Why we baptise infants? The answer is, because of our view of Election. Do you ask, Why we have a ministry in three orders, Why we have a ritualistic form of worship, Why our Altars and not our pulpits are the prominent objects in our churches? The answer is, because of our view of Election. What is that view? I will give it to you.
The Church holds that "Christ came to introduce a new state of things on earth, a Kingdom of God; that He came not merely to found a religion; not merely to make an Atonement for individual sinners, but to establish a Kingdom of which He was to be the King. And it was to be more than a Kingdom. It was to be the Church; a company of men not only believing in Him but also baptised into His Body. And these persons, so blessed, were not merely to be under Him as their King, or instructed by Him as their Prophet, or reconciled through Him as their Priest, or individually to apprehend Him as their Sacrifice; but over and above all these things they were to be supernaturally joined to Him by a union so intimate, so entire and real, that it could only be illustrated by the union that subsists between the limbs of a human body and its head, or between a vine and the branches that form a part of it;" a union, I say, which, though supernatural, is yet real and not merely abstract; a union, not like that which subsists between two consenting Mends, but a rather analagous to that which subsists between Adam, and all who have derived their nature from him. [The writer has taken liberties with the above extract from Adler, in the way of adding to the language for greater fulness of expression, not in the way of altering the sense.] So that Christ's Body Natural, grows out as it were, by the addition of those who are thus made one with Him, and becomes His Body Mystical, Christ and His Church Catholic are all one; we are the branches and He is the whole Vine. Christ is that Stone, spoken of by Daniel, "Cut out without hands .... that became a great mountain and filled the whole earth." The Church holds that the means by which God unites separate men to this great Body Mystical of Christ, so that they are buried in Christ, is Baptism. [The Holy Spirit, on the Day of Pentecost, fell not on individuals as such, but on the Body of the Church. This indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit makes the Church something different from a mere company of men; makes It to be an object of faith. "We do not simply believe that there are persons who call themselves Christians; this is a fact which even the heathen know. We believe beyond this that all members of the Holy Catholic Church are joined together in one unseen Body by the Presence of the Holy Ghost," this Body being one with Christ, being His own Body Mystical.] Baptism is with Her no mere form but an amazing reality. She holds, therefore, that Election is into the Body Mystical, is into high ecclesiastical privileges on earth, which, if they are used rightly, will enable a man to reach life eternal hereafter; but which, on the other hand, if they are not used rightly, will not ensure him salvation. While, therefore, the Protestant idea is that the elect are identical with the finally saved, the Church's idea is that "the elect are identical with the baptised;" that Election has, therefore, only mediate and not immediate reference to everlasting salvation, since some of the Baptized will be saved and some will not.
For we claim that God's great Church is one and continuous, not merely from Christ, but from the Fall itself down to the present time; that it was first Patriarchal in form, then Jewish, and finally Christian; that the scheme of Election (if I may be permitted to use such a phrase), was adopted at the Call of Abraham; that the Jews were God's elect people, some of them making their calling and election sure by using their high ecclesiastical privileges and helps aright, while others failed to do so, and failed, therefore, of the ultimate, though not immediate end of their election. We claim that when God changed the form of His church visible, from Jewish to Christian, from National to Catholic, that He did not change His idea of Election. The Aaronic ministry as changed to the Apostolic; the bloody features of the Church's Altar were stricken out, leaving only the bread and wine, "the meat offering and the drink offering;" circumcision was changed to baptism; but God's Elect were still the members of His church, good, bad and indifferent. We claim that, as in Jewish times, so now, God calls upon his Elect, each and all, to make their Election sure by using their privileges and divinely given helps in the Church aright; we claim that as the Jews, good, bad and indifferent, were addressed as the Elect, so likewise the Apostles addressed all the members of the Ephesian, the Corinthian, the Roman, the Philippian and the Colossian Church, good, bad, and indifferent, as the Elect; and furthermore, that the Bible warns us, that every individual branch in Christ that beareth not fruit, although in Christ, although baptised into His body, although of the Elect, will be cut off eventually and not attain to salvation. [The altar became a new power under the hand of Christ, for He gave to it His Real Presence, with which it had never been endowed before.] We claim, therefore, that the Church, the great Catholic Body Mystical, the divinely-given means of assistance, is a most important factor, bearing upon the salvation of souls; important because to be grafted into it by baptism is to be grafted into Christ; important, from the aids it renders the sinner by its Rites, Ordinances, Ministry and Sacraments, as he toils along his hard way toward salvation. With us, therefore, Election is generic. ["Furthermore," says the XVIIth Article, "we must receive God's promises in such wise as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture." Generally, i. e. not, " For the most part," but, as opposed to particularly or individually; not usually, but universally, or better, generically; that is to say, as concerning classes of persons. The word employed in the Latin form of the Article is generaliter, not plerumque.] The Election is the body of the Church Catholic; with the Protestant sects Election is individual.
You sometimes, fellow students, hear the phrase, "No church without a Bishop." I do not mean to deny this. But I would direct your attention away from this as a superficial point, and beneath it to this question of Election, as after all the Articulus Ecclesial stantis vel cadentis.
Now, whichever side is right--and I do not propose to discuss this point--you cannot fail to perceive at once that here is a very radical difference between the two; a difference in accordance with which a hundred and one subsequent questions are decided--the question of the ministry, the question of the sacraments, the entire question of the Church Visible. For if Election be of separate individuals to life eternal, irrespective of any ecclesiastical means, what do you want of a great Visible Church Catholic on earth, with its regular Apostolic Ministry, with its. Rites, with its identical Life running all the way through time, God-given and Divine? That Church disappears at once from your necessities. She is no longer needed with Her baptism as a medium of union between the Sinner and Christ, and Her Eucharist as a life-nourisher. But, on the contrary, the idea of a Church invisible, consisting of all holy persons in all denominations, and even out of them, takes Her place. I say "out of them"; for Holy Baptism is either what I have designated it, an amazing reality, or else it is nothing. Under the Protestant idea of Election it becomes immaterial to the individual, except from policy or taste's sake, what the form of Church organization he adopts. For, at any rate, he is elected, aside from any earthly appliances, directly to salvation. If the Methodists deny this, then with them Election amounts to nothing at all; there is no such thing as Election. But alas for this; the whole Bible, Old and New Testament, is full of an Election, a selection of some kind. While to us the whole earthly appliance of the Church is no mere matter of taste, but is divinely given as the best possible means for man's assistance and is therefore sacred; to the Protestant a visible form of the Church becomes a matter of mere human propriety. In his intense individualism, all organizations as Protestant corporate bodies are logically unnecessary. It becomes immaterial whether he has the Apostolic line of ministerial succession or not. All .that is really wanted is for some one, whether ordained at all or not makes no difference, to tell the sinner "to come to Christ" in some indefinite way. If he is elect he will be saved; if he is not elect, all the Church Catholics, and all the divinely-given Ministries and Sacraments in the world will not mend the matter a whit for him. Thus the whole Protestant system of individualism, with its destruction of the Church and Her Ministry and Rites and Ways, takes the place of the great Catholic idea of the organic Church, as a part of God's plan wrought out in Christ to help the sinner in making his calling and election sure. With us the Church comes in as a medium of union with Christ; with the Protestant as an interference.
For fifteen hundred years after Christ there had been four factors in the scheme of salvation, viz: God, the God-man Christ, His Body Mystical or Church, and the sinner. The sinner was, by baptism, grafted into the Body Mystical or Church, and thus made one with Christ; and by the Holy Eucharist fed with Him; and being one with the Son, was made one with the Father also. For first, Father and Son are one; second, God and Man are one in Christ; third, Christ and His Church are one; and lastly, the Sinner becomes one with the whole by the uniting element of baptism. But at the Reformation, Protestantism, consistent with its idea of individual Election to eternal life, struck out the Church; and this was exactly what our Church did not do. With that third factor gone, there was at once a gap between the sinner and Christ. How, now, was the sinner to be made one with Christ? Why, Protestantism substituted the process of individual experiencing of religion with the whole revival system; and so sought to bridge the gap between each separate individual and Christ. And when, without the actual sacramental bands, he falls away, they are forced to bring to bear the machinery again for "a revival of religion in his heart."
Now the question is not before us, whether the sinner can gain by that process, the real, the actual, though supernatural, union with Christ, whereby "the twain became one flesh"; or whether it is only that abstract union of consent, which exists between friend and friend. Better the latter, than nothing at all. But there is another very important point which is before us, and that is the logical effect of this system upon sacraments. For if the individual can either make himself, or become one with Christ under that process, you will see that the importance of baptism at once sinks away; because the main work of uniting the sinner to Christ, has all been done without it, and prior to it; and baptism, as a subsequent rite, sinks to a mere form, simply to mark distinction between one set of men and another; a form, which the highly logical society of Quakers get along very well without. Again, if the individual can bridge the gap and become one with Christ, regardless of the Body Mystical, what does he want of the Holy Communion as a visible means to supply him with the strengthening sustenance of Christ's nature? He can feed directly upon Christ, all in the way of immediation, all in the way of nature, not of mediation; all in the way of Rationalism, not of Christianity. For I do not desire, in these solemn and vital questions, to disguise what I mean. Strike out the Sacraments, strike out the Church Catholic as Christ's Body Mystical, as the outward means of conveying Inward Graces; strike out the Apostolic Ministry, and you have struck a fatal blow at the whole doctrine of Mediation between man and God. You have sounded the trumpet for Immediation. You do not, as some excellent people fancy, start an issue between Catholic Christianity and a merely spiritual kind of Christianity. Your issue is nothing short of the life or eventual death of Christianity itself. What does the man want, I repeat, of the Holy Eucharist, except as a mere memorial to quicken a memory of a past tragedy on Calvary? A result which preaching, or even his own meditations before a picture, or better, a crucifix, could do as well. The fact is, with the striking out of the Church, you have even such relics of what is churchly as are retained by Protestantism, to wit, its sacraments reduced to mere ordinances--to forms of not very much importance after all, and you have any specified line of ministry to administer those sacraments, a mere impertinence between the sinner and God. Away with your Apostolic Ministry then! says Protestantism; it is no more valid than any other! And Protestantism is entirely logical, too, when it says so. Away with your altars, says the great preacher of Brooklyn; the private Christian layman can set up bread and wine before him in his closet, and gazing upon it can make as valid a Eucharist! and the great preacher is logical and loyal to the principles of Protestantism when he says so. Away with ministerial baptism, say the Se-Baptists; let the laymen apply the water to himself, and it is as valid a baptism!
But, did Christ solemnly ordain rites of comparative unimportance, and found a ministry, promising to be with it to the end of the world, the breaking up or continuance of which was a matter of small moment? If not, then there must be something wrong in the point that lies behind and below, that involves all such subsequent destruction. Once restore, however, the lost factor of the Church Catholic, as God's appointed outward Means of inward graces, and sacraments and ministry all naturally take their places as valuable, nay, as indispensable gifts to mankind.
Now, simply in itself considered, what indeed is the difference whether we have a ministry in three orders or in one? It would seem to be a very small affair either way. And the Church, which stands stiffly for Her Bishops, and refuses to recognize other lines of ministry, would appear to be making a vast deal out of a very unessential matter. But when we consider that there is something beneath this question of the Ministry, which is really, in itself, of vast importance, and that out of it the question of the Apostolic Ministry grows, then the fact whether or not we are to preserve that ministry, mounts logically into vast importance. Election, and whether it is of the individual to eternal life, or whether it is of the individual into a great system arranged by God Himself, to be, on the whole, the best possible aid to free mortals in straggling toward salvation, is a matter of the utmost importance to dying souls. It is nothing short of two different modes of salvation through Christ, which are presented to the world; the one the individual mode, leaping over the Church, the other the churchly mode; two different modes, each logically destructive of the other. It is nothing short of two different Christs, one with a Body Mystical, on earth, the other without it, and finally, two different Gods that are presented to the world. For in its last result the Protestant God is essentially the God of the Sabellian Heresy.
Thus the Apostolic Ministry, as a vital part of that system arranged by God, as the best help for the sinner in striving to make his calling and election sure, is grounded and rooted in the doctrine of Election. You cannot pull up a tree without tearing the earth all around it. The ministry, considered merely in itself, may be nothing; the sacraments, and whether they are administered by a divinely authorized set of men or not, may be nothing in themselves; but in their vital connection with Election, with that subject which gives a differing aspect to the whole Christianity which is preached, the ministry and sacraments, mount, I repeat, into questions of the gravest importance. It is not strange, it is entirely logical and consistent, that the Protestant sects, with their view of individual Election, should set lightly by any given line of ministry, and be perfectly willing to interchange pulpits indiscriminately. But those among us who tamper with the ministry and sacraments of the Church, who set lightly by them, are tampering with, nay, they are upheaving and tearing to pieces the whole ground, and altering the entire aspect of Christianity as presented to the sinner and to the world, by the Church.
You will perceive then, young gentlemen, that which ever view is right, the Protestant view of Election is, at any rate, absolutely destructive of the whole Church system to which we hold; that as we hold to the other view, it naturally carries us into different conclusions from the Protestant, touching the ministry, the sacraments, all the rites and ways, nay the very existence itself of the Church visible; and that, while all the sects, however differing among themselves on unessential points, are fundamentally at one among themselves, we are separated from them all at the very start by a gulf, not only enormously wide, but enormously deep, and logically incapable of being bridged.
However we may agree with the sects in protesting against certain errors peculiar to Rome, we hold that at any rate, that fact is not the test by which we should be classified. For we still maintain, that notwithstanding the unfortunate name of "Protestant Episcopal," fixed upon us as an incubus by the notion of a dozen or two gentlemen (to whom indeed, we are indebted under God, for very much, for which we are thankful) about the beginning of this century, when the Church in America was marvelously small, we still maintain, I say, that notwithstanding this, we are not one of the sects, that we never have left the great body of the Catholic Church, and that, God helping us, we never will. But that ever, as in the past so in the future, the voice of the Churchman shall be raised in the Creed, "I BELIEVE ONE CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH."
Even at the risk of exhausting your patience, I ask, young gentlemen, a few more moments of your attention for a word of warning and of counsel, which I trust will not be regarded as officious.
It takes no prophetic eye to see that the long night which closed upon the world at the sixteenth century, the long night of mere religious negation is about over, and that the dawn of religious affirmation, of positive assertion, is breaking again upon the world. Earnest men, tired of being longer told what they shall protest against, what they shall not believe, are rising by thousands with the demand upon their lips, "Tell me what shall I believe!" We have reached the opening of a tremendous religious crisis in America. A new type of man is coming up with demands other than those born of the mountains of Switzerland and Scotland. We are beginning to feel all round beneath us, as a people, the ripplings of a mighty tidal wave, which, lifting us, is about to tear our anchors up from the ground of Protestantism, and if we are not careful, to sweep us en masse into Romanism. The reaction has already begun in Boston. How kindly they are beginning to look upon Rome at the spot where all great movements of American mind begin. If you would know which way the storm is going to blow, look at the straws in Boston. The fact is, the position of Protestantism is thoroughly underminded all round about us, and the wary old man of the Vatican knows it. Those two articles in the Atlantic Monthly, breathe inconsciously the spirit of prophecy. How has all this come to pass? Thus: for nearly a century, now, the cry that has been going up from the laity of all denominations to the pulpits is, " Give us no doctrinal sermons; we simply want practical sermons, sermons that will touch the heart." And what has been the result? Why, throughout this broad land, the people everywhere are left to-day without a positive faith of any kind. Seventy years ago men still believed something; you would not have found then, an orthodox Congregationalist exchanging pulpits with a Unitarian, nor a Presbyterian with a Methodist. Fifty years ago you would not have found a Baptist coquetting with a Unitarian. Nay, twenty years ago the high Unitarian even shut his pulpit door against the Parkerite. But tempora mutantur. For the want of positive doctrinal teaching (and Protestantism is in its essence destructive of it, it has all come naturally to pass) positive Christian faith is banished from the land. The faith of America to-day is summed up in this one article, "I believe it is not necessary to believe anything definite." Now you may hold the mind of man in the mass at that point for a while, but not long. It is, after all, the nature of the human mind to crave something positive. It will at last react, with a violence of oscillation proportioned to the distance and height to which you have drawn it away.
How stands then our beloved country to-day? why thus: first, without any definite faith and unequipped with an argument why it should not believe this theological point, and why it should believe that; and secondly, with simply a violent prejudice against anything that is Romish. Now, when Rome makes a convert, she teaches that convert what to believe and why to believe it. And when against American Protestantism, thus emptied of positive faith, unsupplied with theological arguments, and shielded only with brittle prejudices, you bring to bear the positive faith and arguments of Rome, it is like smiting a hollow globe of glass with a boulder of rock. It is the easiest of all things, to break down mere uninformed prejudice.
Now this land, I take it, does not want Romish errors, but it is rising hungry for a positive faith. Christian union meetings, to make headway against Rome, are not the cure of the great disease of the day. It can only be met by a positive faith.
Our Church, as a national branch of the great Church Catholic, is not founded upon negations. She is founded upon affirmations. She, as well as Rome, has a positive faith, and not only positive but clear of any Romish errors. And unless we rouse to the dangers of the day, and with our positive faith go forth to take this land, nothing will save it from Roman Catholicism. Said that remarkable seer, De Tocqueville, years ago, of us, America will, sooner or later, lie prostrate, the easy captive of Rome; because regulars always beat the militia.
Young gentlemen, our duty as loyal children of the Church is plain. We have no need, as we move among the denominations, to apologize for our Fair Mother. Too much of this, alas, already! Too much of the obsequious to our inferiors! "He who excuses, accuses," and but confirms disesteem, instead of commanding respect. We are not almost like the denominations, and therefore to be tolerated by them in our peculiarities of written prayers, and vested clergy. We are Catholic and fundamentally different. As you go forth then to plant the Church, sound no uncertain trumpet, but let your motto be, I BELIEVE IN ONE HOLY, CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH.