"But we desire to hear of thee what them thinkest; for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against. "--Acts xxviii., 32.
Reform and Revolution in theory are two entirely different elements in human history. I may remodel my dwelling, change its whole appearance, even make transformations of the chambers that it contains within, and yet leave the foundation wholly undisturbed. I may lop off the branches from my orchard whose fruit the curculio has stung, or where the caterpillars have woven their nests amid the blushing fruit, without tearing up the roots of the majestic tree out the soil in which they have been securely planted. So, precisely, it is very natural to believe that we can give new shape to ancient institutions--that we can remodel the State, that we can adapt the Church to the wants of human society in the age in which we live, without upheaving the foundations either of political or ecclesiastical security. It seems fair to reason that we may apply the pruning knife of Reform to the excrescences of error, and may touch the torch of truth to the nests where the writhing caterpillars of falsehood have made their home, and yet leave the roots of the Church untouched and undisturbed. But, brethren, practically, Reform and Revolution go hand in hand; and the reason for it, is one that is obvious to every man who studies the question attentively. For men's affections are very often like the ivy that clings to decayed and ruinous and dangerous walls, that need to be removed. There is no abuse of ecclesiastical prerogative so far-stretched in its assumptions--there is no claim of inherent power so monstrous in its character--there is no perversion of the Scriptures so contrary to the whole tenor of the Word of God--there is no multiplying of ceremonial so burdensome and yet so puerile--there are no traditions so utterly Godless that they make the word of God of none effect; there is no canon, or rubric, so created and moulded and directed for the very purpose of persecution, that it does not find its advocates and friends not only among those who are merely professing Christians, but even among those who are the real and true and lowly disciples of the Saviour. And hence the reformer, in the apprehension of most men, becomes a revolutionist. To many minds he who takes up the work of reform in the Church or in the State is a Vandal, laying unhallowed hands upon things that men for ages have held sacred. These errors that gradually insinuate themselves into the Church, fly to the sanctuary of prejudice deep in human hearts. Here they lay hold upon the horns of the altar and cry out piteously, "These that have turned the world upside down have come hither also." Such an experience was that of early Christianity. The text is but one testimony out of multitudes that I might have adduced, alike in the Bible and in profane history, that the Church of Christ, as it was originally planted on this earth, was everywhere spoken against. No man could justly charge the early-preachers of the truth that they subverted the principles of public morality. No man could honestly accuse the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, that they undermined the deep foundations of private purity of character. But they did touch much that men had long held sacred. The world rang with denunciations of that which they were doing.
When the Light Brigade at Balaclava pressed down into that gorge of death--
"Cannon to the right of them,
Cannon to the left of them,"--
when one sheet of flame burst upon the devoted ranks, the foremost man fell, sword in hand, crushed by the fragment of a bursting shell. Of those who followed close behind, but a little handful lived to tell the story of that day. And yet, one after another, six hundred soldiers rushed on to a fate that they knew was inevitable. The last of the column--the rearmost man--would have been a madman to expect a better fate than his comrades who had gone before. No man--no body of men who attempt to pursue the path of ecclesiastical reform need for one moment dream so wild a dream as that of exemption from being everywhere spoken against. "If they call the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household."
I am here to-night an avowed advocate of the Reformed Episcopal Church. My mind goes back along the track of time to the scene revealed by the context of the passage that I have read. In Rome, the great Capital of the world, and of the Empire in whose citizenship he gloried, Paul, the Apostle, a prisoner for Jesus' sake, had called together his Jewish brethren, resident in Rome, to explain the Christianity that he had adopted. With such auditors it was not an easy task to make his position apparent. When, out in mid-ocean, an island is to be formed, it is not enough that, age after age and century after century, the waves of the ocean bear the sea-weed to the spot, that the wrecks of vessels contribute their debris, and out of the mysterious depths the sands of the sea are evoked. There must first be given the jagged points of coral rock on which these accretions may accumulate. So, every teacher who tries to build up the strong foundations of apprehension of some great truth in the minds of those to whom he speaks, must pre-suppose some points that they already understand. But it is the marked fact in reference to this passage about which I am speaking to-night, that the congregation which met St. Paul at Rome, was a congregation that gave him only one point on which to build; and even that point was unfavorable to success. The only thing that they knew about Christianity was the fact that it was reviled. The only thing about which they were certain that they had ever heard in regard to this sect, was, "that it was everywhere spoken against."
The trailing arbutus, sweetest and most fragrant of the flowers of Spring, grows on the edge of some deep drift that has outlived the death of winter. It forsakes the sunny slopes that look away southward, blessed with the sunlight, breathed upon by genial
breezes--to blossom on the northern face of some bleak hill, swept by the wild winds of March. It was in this atmosphere of prejudice; it was on this frozen soil of ignorance of all that was good in Christianity, that St. Paul found blooming the flower of a real desire to know and understand the truth. "We desire to know of thee what thou thinkest, for, as concerning this sect, we know that it is everywhere spoken against."
To-night in this congregation there are many who will listen to the subject on which I have been announced to speak with a very different spirit from that in which Paul was greeted by the congregation of Jews at Rome. For fourteen years they have upheld every effort of their pastor to bring about a reform in the Protestant Episcopal Church. To such, this is the dawn for which they have watched with eagerness through a long night of persecution, and trial and bitter disappointment. On the other hand, there may be some here that only know in regard to this subject just what St. Paul's hearers knew in reference to the Gospel. They only know that the religious press has thundered forth its anathemas against us. They only know that the pulpit of the Episcopal Church has resounded with denunciations of our course. They only know that the proclamation of Protestant Bishops has been given to the world, declaring that null and void and utterly without effect, is everything that may be done by this band of "schismatics," who have allied themselves together, as they claim, "against the Church." Of such I have only one thing to ask, and that is as patient and candid a hearing as the circumstances will permit.
I.--LET US LOOK FIRST AT THE CAUSES THAT HAVE LED TO THE ORGANIZING OF THE REFORMED EPISCOPAL CHURCH.
In the sluggish waters of one of our western streams, a friend of mine found last year a wondrous water-lily. In its broad leaf, and in its perfect blossom, he recognized at a glance the lotus that Egyptian monarchs sculptured on their tombs. He naturally asked what brought it here? What strange causes could have conspired together to have taken from Egypt's torrid clime the symbol of a despotism that nourished five thousand years ago, and have transplanted it to our northern skies, to our modern civilization, and to our atmosphere of freedom and equality? So, to-day, if we have transplanted Episcopacy--Episcopacy that, I do not hesitate to say, has been, in every age since the Reformation, more or less, in proportion to the degree that the truth has been suppressed or developed--has been the symbol of despotic power and ecclesiastical arrogance--into the atmosphere of evangelical religion; if it is the same historic Church, and yet changed in its circumstances and relations, we naturally expect the question: "Why?" I do not shrink from meeting it. I answer, that reform in the Episcopal Church is the direct result in the first place of intellectual and spiritual growth. "Two nations are in thy womb---two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels," was God's declaration to Rebekah before the birth of Esau and Jacob. The same strange statement could have been made to the Episcopal Church from the very hour of the Reformation down to the present day. Two systems, the exact opposite of each other, have been struggling for supremacy within her. The Ptolemaic theory in regard to the movements of the planets around their centre, and that of Sir John Herschel, are not more utterly irreconcilable than these two systems of Theology. I stand here to-night, and I make the assertion without the fear of contradiction, that the gospel that my dear brother (who has said some hard things about me) preaches in Trinity Church, is as utterly irreconcilable with that which is preached in the cathedral on West Washington street, as these two systems of astronomy. They are utterly and wholly and radically different from each other. Now I can make discordant elements in chemistry blend together. I can take two substances that struggle in the crucible, and, by the mystic processes of the art I have learned, can make them combine in perfect peace. But here there is no possible accord. If the doctrine of justification by faith in the blood of Jesus, is the truth of God, then justification by sacraments is a lie, whose author is the Father of lies. There is no possible ground on which to stand between the two. If the one is true, the other is false. Like the Arve and the Rhone, like the Ottawa and the St. Lawrence, the same external boundaries may indeed contain them, but their waters refuse to mingle.
The theory of the High Church party, down at its very foundation, is that, while the Bible is indeed the inspired word of God, it is to be received by the people, only with the authoritative interpretation of the Church. In other words, if I believe that the Bible teaches me a certain truth, and yet my minister tells me that that truth is not in the Bible. I must accept the teaching of my pastor, because he is the representative of the Church, rather than the plain unvarnished statements of the Scripture that God inspired.
The theory of the Low Church party, on the other hand, has ever been that which Chillingworth announced long years ago--that the sole rule of faith and practice is the Bible and the Bible alone; that Scripture is to be interpreted to the Christian conscience, not by Churches, not by Councils, not by creeds, not by confessions of faith, not by doctrines of any human authority whatever, but by the Spirit of God sought in prayer.
Between these two systems there can be no harmony. To reconcile them is as impossible as to make truth and error a perfect unit But, if both these opposites had remained dormant, the work of Reform might have been indefinitely postponed.
You remember the place where, when a boy, you used to go out on the hillside and take from the chestnut tree, before the frost had come, the rough and prickly burr. Within, there are two chestnuts, perfect and complete. Now take the burr and put it where no moisture can permeate it, no sunshine smile upon it, no process of nature can reach it--and the twin seeds will live or die in peace. But bury it in the earth; give it the advantages that soil can afford; let God send His sunshine upon it, let the rain and the dews moisten the earth above it, and growth is the certain consequence. And, as they grow, the two chestnuts must press upon each other, and by and by that pressure will inevitably burst the shell that holds the two together. Now precisely thus it is with the two historic parties in this church of ours. There was a period of many years, during which the American Episcopal Church showed certainly no remarkable intellectual growth. The giant minds of Christianity--the men that went down and found the very bottom of the great problems that relate to human salvation--were not found among men who wore the lawn of the episcopate. The theology of America had for its exponents, Edwards, Dwight and Alexander. The grand preachers of American history--who swayed vast congregations, who persuaded the reason and brought the Gospel home to the hearts and consciences of men, were rarely they who laid claim to the Apostolic succession. The Episcopal Church for years was lacking in profound intellectual power, and hence the two germs slept peacefully together. But in the last twenty years there has been a great change in regard to this intellectual process. The Episcopal Church is filled with the restlessness of the age; it sympathizes with that spirit of freedom, of intellectual development that is characteristic of the time; the throbs of mental activity have started its sluggish pulses, and both parties have felt the effect. On the one side and on the other--I am not speaking of the Low-Church party, but of the High Church side, as well as of our own--thought has been evoked; and hence there has been a conflict. For, you observe, a man who thinks very little, will enter on a path, and sit down at its beginning, and never ask whither the path will lead him; but he who thinks, he who investigates, he who reasons, will inevitably inquire: "what is the other end of this road on which I have entered?" In other words, I mean that men who think, if they accept certain premises, will push those premises to their ultimate conclusions. The thinker who starts with putting an infallible interpretation of the Church upon the Scripture, will unquestionably go on to a more highly organized ecclesiastical system, because the Church greedily demands it. He must have a sacrificing priesthood, because that will give the Church more spiritual power. He must have the confessional, because that rivets that power upon the people. He must have the body and the blood of Christ present in the bread and in the wine, because that dogma elevates the doctrine of the Church above the word of God. He must teach that every baptized infant is regenerate in the hour that the drops of water are sprinkled upon its brow, because by that act, it is placed within the Church; and he wants to have it unmistakably taught that the act of regeneration is something of ecclesiastical rather than of divine accomplishment.
On the other hand, the thinker who starts with the Bible, and the Bible alone, as the foundation of all divine truth, inevitably will push on to his conclusions also; and he will discover that the divine authority of Bishops is the figment of human fancy. He will discover that rites and ceremonies may be multiplied to a point where they will become intolerable bondage. He will come on to feel that the teaching of the Gospel is above sacraments and symbols and rites and ceremonies. He will come to that point, above all things else, where he will feel that, as high above all ecclesiastical authority as heaven is higher than the earth, is the enlightened Christian conscience. And when men follow out these diverging paths because they think and investigate, and push their premises to their ultimate conclusions, they must burst the shell that holds them together.
Now, I might demonstrate also, in the same line of argument, from the religious growth of the Protestant Episcopal Church, that this reform had got to come. The days of chilling conservatism are over. There is downright devotion on the part of both parties in the Church. I tell you, dear friends, that these High Churchmen (and we have some of them here to-night), are in dead earnest. I honor them for it. I tell you there is not a more determined man; there is not a man with a more unswerving purpose on the footstool of his Creator, than Morgan Dix, the rector of Trinity church, New York. There is not a man of more self-sacrificing devotion to the great purpose to which he has given his life, than is James DeKoven. I honor these men. I honor them because, having believed certain principles, having laid them down as their foundation, they dare honestly and consistently to build upon them.
On the other hand, the Evangelical party has had equally for the last twenty years, a spirit of self-sacrificing zeal for the principles on which it bases its system of truth; and the result is obvious. The men whose religion is centered in the Church will strive to draw a deeper holiness and inspiration from the Church itself. Therefore they have their "processionals" and their "recessionals;" therefore it is that they multiply the robes the priests must wear, until the gaudy style of the Church of Rome has invaded multitudes of the sanctuaries of our land; therefore it is that incense fumes; therefore it is that masses are heard through the long drawn aisles of Churches whose prayer book bears upon its face the name of "Protestant Episcopal."
On the other hand, those who believe the Bible to be the only undefiled well of divine strength and blessing will study the Bible, and, studying the Bible, they will preach the simple Gospel; they will talk more about Jesus Christ than they do about ceremonies and symbols; they will dwell more upon the precious blood that cleanses from all sin, than they will upon the waters of baptism; they will exalt Jesus Christ to the throne he claims in the hearts of His people and crown Him (not the Church) Lord of all.
Moreover the growth of Ritualism is another element that has developed this reform. Last year I stood one day in front of Baliol College, in the city of Oxford. There in the street, just in front of that venerable building, buried amid the stone, yet perfectly perceptible, was an ancient iron cross laid down so as to form a portion of the pavement. What did it signify? What was it to you or me, or any other traveler that might chance to pass that way? It was everything to us, if we are Protestants. It marked the spot where Cranmer died. It was the place where the man who had once recanted the truth of God, thrust the hand that signed that recantation into the fire and let it burn, and said, "Unworthy hand! Unworthy hand!" It was a sacred spot to a Protestant; and yet for what did Cranmer die? For what died his companions who went equally up to glory from that place in a chariot of fire? They died rather than believe the essential errors of the Church of Rome. Life was worthless to them if the soul was to be in bondage to the Papal power. Has Rome changed since that day? Ah! she never changes. It is her boast that she never changes. If it was worth the sacrifice of life then, it is worth it to-day; and brethren, if not, Cranmer was a fool, Ridley was a madman, Latimer was a driveling idiot to give life away for a mere figment of the fancy.
Now, brethren, it might startle you, should I tell you that in the last twenty years every essential doctrine of the Romish Church has been taught either from the pulpits of the Church of England and the Protestant Episcopal Church in America, or has been (what is far more dangerous) scattered broadcast over the land in the form of the printed page. Does Rome claim that the Bible should be kept from the laity? The Ritualist holds that it is not safe to send out the Bible alone. Does Rome teach that the Lord's Supper is a sacrifice repeated every time that the priest offers it on what he calls the "altar"? You have only to visit Trinity church, New York; you have only to stand in the precincts of that little place of worship called "St. Albans," to behold the same doctrine taught ,in symbol, to hear that same doctrine preached in the utterances that come from the pulpit. Nay, you have only to go into churches on these avenues to find the doctrine of a sacrificing priesthood taught by the fact that men are instructed to bow with lowly genuflections before the place where a little bread and wine have been permeated with the presence of Jesus Christ by a word of the sacrificing priest. Does Rome teach that the humblest outward adoration should be rendered in order to do honor (I hesitate to repeat the blasphemy), to God as "He is enthroned upon the altar"? Does Rome do that? I hold in my hand to-night a little book, which, although it has a scarlet cover, did not come from the "Scarlet Woman," It is called "A Ceremonial for the Laity." Another name for it is "The worship of the Body." It is a book that Protestant Episcopal ministers have circulated among their people. I hesitate to detain you, and yet to prove what I have asserted, I want to read to you a word or two. Here are some rules for the guidance of communicants. It says:
"At the prayer of consecration commences the solemn part of the office. Up to this point [now listen] Christ is not objectively present, but at the words, 'this is my body--this is my blood'--Christ is really present upon the altar under the form of bread and wine. Then the faithful should bow in reverent adoration before their Lord. Remember, we are then in the immediate presence of our Lord, as truly present as He is in Heaven, only that then will He be seen without the sacramental veil."
Again: "In going up to communion, genuflect as you reach the level of the chancel. If then the rail is full, kneel on the floor until there is a vacant place."
Now hear. "It is unseemly to stand in the presence of the King of kings in the Sacrament. In taking your place at the rail, kneel on the appointed step or cushion, and upright. Receive the Lord's body on the palm of your right hand, crossed over your left, so as to make a kind of throne for it, and so reverently raise it to your mouth. Be careful to examine your hand lest any fragment remain therein, in which case you must take it up with your tongue, since every particle contains equally the whole body of your Lord, and as Saint Cyril says, 'how carefully oughtest thou to observe that not a crumb fall from thee of that which is more precious than gold and precious stones.' On receiving the Lord's blood, take the chalice from the priest in both hands, and raise it reverently to your lips. The priest will in all probability retain his hold of it, but it is almost impossible for him to communicate to you, unless you guide it with your hand also. As he announces the gift to you of your Lord's blessed Body and Blood, bow in devout and thankful adoration saying, 'Amen' at the close of the first portion of each sentence."
Dear friends, I owe you an apology for reading what would be truly ridiculous were it not for its utter perversion of the truth of God. I ask persons in this congregation--I ask High Churchmen, if there are such present here to-night, to remember that this is their book. It is not issued by a Romish bookseller; it is not published by any house that stamped upon it the name of the Roman Church; it is the utterance and instruction given to the "laity" by the "Anglo-Catholic Church," if anybody knows what that is.
So gradual has been this work, that we have failed to perceive it, and I doubt not that there are some here to-night who would not have believed a week ago that such doctrine was taught in the Protestant Episcopal Church, as that which I have read here this evening.
Does Rome hold that the grand crime of the Sixteenth Century was the Reformation? Why, in Christ church, in the city of New York, multitudes assembled only a few years ago to hear a Doctor of Divinity--an ordained Presbyter in the Protestant Church--preach a series of sermons, the object of which, as announced, was to prove that Protestantism was a failure.
The Bishop who "admonished" Stephen H. Tyng, Jr., for preaching the Gospel outside the territorial bounds of his parish, had no word of condemnation for the man who publicly reviled the Church in which he professed to be a minister. Here in the city of Chicago, an ordained minister of this same Protestant Episcopal Church,--a minister high in the favor of his Bishop--a minister who holds a lofty position, if that be a lofty position which consists in Episcopal favor--has publicly declared in a meeting of the clergy, that the object for which he and his brother ritualists were working, was the "unprotestantizing the Church." This in the city of Chicago! We have become used to this language. It is like the old fable of the camel that came to the Arab's tent upon the desert and thrust in his nose and begged for admission. His request was refused. But he pleaded that it was only his nose that he desired to insert between the folds that sheltered the dweller in the wilderness, and so the latter yielded; and by and by, the head followed the nose, and when the man objected that he was taking too much room, he pleaded still that it was only his head that was thrust in--"It does not take a great deal of room." And then the shoulders followed, and then the body, until at last the man who had before a home and a heritage beneath the shelter of that tent, found himself thrust forth because the introduction of the intruder had been so gradual and unperceived.
But, brethren, there have been some men in the Church who could not see these things without horror. They would not drink of Jezebel's cup of sorcery, and h nee a revolution was a foredoomed necessity. It could only be prevented in case, by trial and by persecution, by condemnation, by ecclesiastical courts, by deposition, or else by the very fact of their weariness of controversy, their longing for peace, evangelical men could be driven out of the fold in which some of them were born.
And then the growth of this very persecuting spirit, too, has tended to produce reform.
I met the other day upon the train that brought us on our westward way, a gentleman who told me that in a gorge in the mountains of Northern New York, that I have penetrated myself in other days, last July they found a great snow-bank lying unmelted by the heats of summer. It was strangely out of season; it was oddly out of place; it belonged to months that had fled; it belonged to a season that had departed. But what shall I say of the lingering of a spirit of persecution for conscience' sake in the noon-day glory of this nineteenth century, in the splendor of the sunshine of the Protestant Church, and in the full blaze of an unfettered Bible. It is the Church of Cranmer; it is the Church of Latimer; it is the Church of Ridley--men who died at the stake for God's truth--which, a few years ago, beheld a young man unequaled in his zeal and energy and devotion to the truth--unequalled in all those elements that make up the man to guide the hearts of men under the blessing of God's spirit into the paths of truth, publicly reprimanded and admonished because he dared to preach in Dr. Stubb's parish. It is the Church born amid the pangs of the Reformation, that not along ago arraigned and tried a presbyter for exchanging pulpits with a member of another evangelical denomination, and when they found their proceedings were in the teeth of the law--when they found that they were compelled by every obligation of fidelity to proof and to legal enactment, to acquit John P. Hubbard,--they went into the next General Convention and they passed a law so that no man could ever make such an exchange again. It is the Church of Griswold and Meade; it is the Church of Milnor and the elder Bedell that, as you well know, laid upon a Christian minister the heaviest sentence that the law of the Church allows; nay, went beyond that sentence, and imposed what they called a deposition, not merely from this Church, but "from the Church of God;" because he could not and would not utter a lie in solemn prayer to God. It is the Church that prays in her communion service "for all faithful people,"--the Church that gives the broad invitation, "All ye who do truly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbors," as the only qualifications for admission to the Table of the Lord--it is that Church, which, because a Bishop on the occasion of the Evangelical Alliance, joined with other Christians in celebrating the everlasting love of the Redeemer, persecuted him, and reviled him, and maligned him, until he was forced to take refuge in the movement that we have inaugurated--in the Reformed Episcopal Church.
I say that longer delay was morally impossible. I know that my excellent brother of Trinity church has said that Bishop Cummins should have waited--that he ought to have remained within the fold of the Church, and, like a brave man, fought the battle out upon that battle-field rather than desert his colors, and try to carry on the work outside. Ah! do you remember what our Lord said about the Pharisees of his days--that they were like children in the market-place calling out to one another: "We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread, nor drinking wine; and ye say, he hath a devil. The Son of Man is come eating and drinking, and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!" Either way, they were resolved not to be pleased. So these very men who claim that Bishop Cummins should have remained within the Protestant Episcopal Church, and fought out the battle there, though it might take years to do it--are the very men who claim that I and some like me are equally wrong because we were determined to fight the battle in the Church, and would suffer no man to put us out. (I ask only for your calm attention, dear friends, not for applause. I am trying to speak God's own truth.)
II.---I ASK YOU IN THE SECOND PLACE TO NOTICE THE CHARACTER OF THIS REFORMATION WHICH HAS BEEN INAUGURATED.
A glittering coin fresh from the mint attracts your interest. How natural it is to ask whose image or superscription hath it? To set before the Christianity of this nineteenth century a new religious organization, is certainly a very solemn step. But take up this coin--this Reformed Episcopal Church--and ask what is its character? I tell you the ring of its basis of principles, of its prayer book, of its simple rules,--is the ring of pure gold. Take it to the light, study it, look at it well, read the legend which is impressed upon it. Whose image and superscription hath it? Ah! it is that of "JESUS only."
I rejoice to know that this movement has been from its beginning baptized in prayer. More than that--it is itself God's own answer to prayer.
When, four years ago, the hand of ecclesiastical discipline was laid heavily upon your pastor, letters uncounted poured in upon him. Then it was, that I found to my amazement that all over this Church, in every diocese from one end of this land to the other, there were men, and women, too,--well known Christian men and women--whose names were a tower of strength to the cause--who were praying and imploring God that He would send to them a new Episcopal Church. And through these years in which men have taunted us because we would not forsake the Church of our fathers, we have been crying to God that we might not build up a new, but reform the old Church; not that we might go out of the Episcopal Church, but that we might have the Episcopal Church as it belonged to our fathers of the Reformation, and of the days that followed the revolution in America.
Now, it is a remarkable fact, that the very first characteristic of this movement is that it is a movement of the laity. Before Bishop Cummins had taken the first step in the course he has pursued, it was a band of laymen who gathered around him and begged him to take the initiative toward the reformation of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The gathered council that met in Association Hall, New York, had ten laymen to one minister. On our Executive Committee we placed more of the laity than we did of the clergy. I know it has been sneeringly said that the clergymen are remarkably few. I know that it has been sneeringly reiterated through the land from press and pulpit that only seven clergymen took part in our deliberations. I thank God for it. Suppose that fifty or a hundred had said, "we will cut loose from the Protestant Episcopal Church--we will withdraw from all connection with it and go forth empty-handed,"--where in the world could we have put them? What could we have done with them? How could we have provided for them? You know when the war began, there were regiments with their full complement of officers, but whose rank and file were miserably thin. In this movement it is the reverse of that. It is the common soldiers that have taken up the banner, and that are pressing forth to victory.
The grand feature of the Romish Church has been the elimination of its laity from all active participation in the work in which the Church is engaged, and our Church has too nearly followed the pattern that the Church of Rome has set. But the grand feature of this Reformed Episcopal Church is that the laity are the power within it. Just as our service is a responsive service, just as no man can enter an Episcopal Church and not feel that he has something there to do--a part to take in the public worship of God--so in the organization of this body we have made the laity to feel that their work is here, and that their place is here, and that their voice shall be heard here, and that their influence shall be felt here.
And again, it is an Episcopal movement. I saw at Stratford-on-Avon, in the old Shakspeare house, a painting that represented the wondrous man who read so well the secrets of the human heart. It was not a new painting; it was an old one. When it was first found, it represented some other face than that of Shakspeare, But when the outer surface that covered the canvas had been removed, they found under that, a cotemporary picture of Shakspeare, the most wonderful portrait of the great dramatist that has ever yet been discovered. And so, as we remove the daubing of a later generation, we find not a new Church. It is an Episcopal Church: it is the Episcopal Church as William White gave it to this country.
I think you all know how lightly I esteem the doctrine of the apostolic succession, and yet from the very fact of their education, and from the very fact that that education has been going on through a series of years, the persons who have longed the most for deliverance from the bondage under which they have been held in the Episcopal Church, are the persons who cannot be reached except by the Church that perpetuates the historic succession of the Bishops. The highest churchman in the land cannot deny the validity of the Episcopate of the Reformed Episcopal Church. Bishop Cummins was ordained by Bishop Hopkins, Bishop Hopkins by Bishop White, and Bishop White by the Archbishop of Canterbury; and if that fact is worth anything, it certainly ought to stand for what it is worth.
The argument is sometimes made (I have heard it repeatedly of late) that, by and by, Bishop Cummins will be deposed. Did you know that every Bishop in the Protestant Episcopal Church to-day derives his consecration through a line descended from Bishops of the English Church, every man of whom was not only either suspended or deposed at the time of the Reformation, but was actually excommunicated from the Church of God? If deposition can take away authority to-day, it could have taken it away then. More than that, no power in the Protestant Episcopal Church can depose a Bishop under less than six months. The law holds in check the thunderbolts of Episcopal wrath, and before that time, other Bishops will have been ordained to perpetuate this apostolic succession, if it is worth perpetuity. Still again, it is argued that Bishop Cummins stands alone, that no other Bishop is shoulder to shoulder with him in this great conflict. "Does it not require," we are told, "the concurrence of three Bishops to ordain another Bishop?" It is exceedingly unfortunate for the High Church party--they have my sincerest sympathy--that they could not foresee the course of events. They have already answered that question. The Old Catholic movement in Germany has appealed very strongly to the High Church sympathy in England and America. They felt that here were Catholics, and yet Catholics who did not obey the Pope, and therefore, because they themselves were rampant Catholics in everything but obedience to the Pope, they felt that they were one with those who, while clinging to the character and the name of "Catholics," have thrown off the papal authority in Europe. Consequently, when Bishop Reinkens, the only Bishop of the old Catholic movement in Germany, (they have but one,) was consecrated, it was by one Bishop only, "with the laying on of hands of the presbytery." Bishop Coxe, of the Diocese of Western New York--a man well known throughout this land for his eloquence, for his poetic genius, and for an adherence to what he believes to be the truth, that does him honor alike as a man and as a Bishop, and yet who is one of the most decided of High Churchmen in regard to this doctrine of the apostolic succession, wrote a letter to Bishop Reinkens, the German Bishop, recognizing the fact that his consecration by a single Bishop was perfectly valid, and carried with it the full claim to the historic episcopate. And then, as if that were not enough, the "Church Journal" has published to the world the fact that Bishop Reinkens is undoubtedly in the apostolic succession, because, though the canons of the Church of England may require three; one Bishop only is necessary to transmit whatever authority may be in this episcopal prerogative.
Now let this principle be clearly understood. We are an Episcopal Church. It is true we have begun a reform. Does that alter the fact? Beneath the forge in the blacksmith's shop, there is a little heap of metallic particles. We call them iron. But with the iron are particles of sand and dust. Just pass a magnet through the mass. Does the iron cease to be iron, because the particles under the influence of that magnetic power, associate themselves together? Do we cease to be an Episcopal Church because the magnet of reform has drawn us out from this anti-protestant association?
Again, yet more marked in the character of this reform is this feature--that it aims not at further separation of Protestant Christianity, but at uniting its elements together.
I went into one of the great elevators down at the mouth of the river a few months ago, and up in one of the chambers--I think, in the very topmost story--I saw an annunciator, like those that, in hotels, announce the rooms in which the bell has been rung; and when I asked the meaning of it, I was told that at every journal in all that building there was an arrangement of mercury that, expanding with the heat produced by friction, sent an electric flash up to that annunciator that rang a bell, and in the same instant indicated at which journal there was danger of fire from the heat produced by friction. Brethren, the alarm bell has struck in the heart of our modern Christianity. Along the wire of Christian conscience has flashed an electric current that tells just where the machinery of the Church is out of order. The Evangelical Alliance was a token that Christian hearts were burdened by the grievous sin of the infinite divisions of Protestant Christianity. "And now," say the enemies of this movement in which we have engaged, "the only remedy you offer for these divisions is to produce another; the only oil that you bring to lubricate this heated and creaking machinery is still another sect." God forbid! If this were only the addition of another narrow sect to Protestant Christianity, I would cut off my right hand rather than subscribe my name to it. But is it so? I tell you, beloved, no apple of discord that fell into the lap of the Christian Church has been like the teaching that no ministry has a valid ordination except it has been conferred by the hand of Bishops. No cause has kept a more perpetual irritation alive in the bosom of the Protestant Church than the denial of the validity of non-Episcopal orders.
Now, how has this Reformed Episcopal Church met and dealt with this question? I had some part in the forming of these rules that I intend reading to you, and I feel in my own heart thankful that I was privileged to be one of those who were engaged in framing them.
1. Ministers in good standing in other Churches shall he received into this Church on letters of dismission, without reordination, they sustaining a satisfactory examination on such points as may hereafter be determined, and subscribing to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of this Church.
All ordinations of Bishops and other ministers in this Church, shall be performed by one or more Bishops with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.
3. Communicants in good standing in other Evangelical Churches, shall be received on presentation of a letter of dismissal, or other satisfactory evidence.
I tell you, brethren, liturgical worship has a strong hold upon multitudes of people outside of the Protestant Episcopal Church. I appeal to the men and women here to-night who have been educated in Presbyterian, Congregational and Methodist churches--men and women, who week after week are found within the walls of our sanctuary--if they have not, in the use of our forms of prayer, come to feel that there was a peculiar devotion in these petitions, that was especially suited for the public worship of God? I know that ministers and members of other churches have longed for such a liturgy. But at the doors of the Protestant Episcopal Church we have met ministers with a demand of re-ordination. We have practically said that holy men--men whose ministry Christ recognized--men whom the Holy Ghost had honored by His blessing on their preaching--had no right whatsoever to call themselves ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Nay, more: we have met souls that longed to join with us, and said to them, "Yes, if you will be confirmed." I even now recall one, she is a saint in heaven now--one of God's own saints around the throne. I stood beside her coffin and looked upon her marble face to-day, and thought that its expression was that of an angel in its purity. I remember well how that Christian woman came to me years ago from a Presbyterian church. She had long been a believer; she had long been a member of the Church of Christ; she had publicly confessed her Lord again and again at His Table, and she desired to unite with this church. I was younger then than I am to-day, and I told her that if she would be confirmed, she could be admitted. It was equivalent to saying, "You never were a member of the Church of Christ before," and she went away sorrowful; and to the day of her death, though her name had been since placed upon our communion roll, she had never withdrawn from her old relations to the Presbyterian church.
III.---ONE CLOSING WORD IN REGARD TO THE PROSPECTS OF THIS REFORM.
I cannot forecast the future; I claim no prophetic power. Up in yonder heavens a planet appeared the other night when the sky was clear. For weeks it had been below the horizon; but now it reappeared. It took no prophet's vision to foretell the night that it would be seen. It was as certain as mathematical demonstration. So here, I have not to predict the future, I have not to count up the probabilities; I have God's word for it: "They that honor me I will honor." Never did any body of Christian men take such a stand before the world as the council of the Reformed Episcopal Church last week took in the city of New York, that God did not bless the movement by multiplying their numbers, and pouring out upon them his gracious benediction. Already the mails that come to me, are burdened with the letters of those who rejoice in the movement. Already ministers of other churches are coming to Bishop Cummins with a declaration of their intention at the earliest possible moment to unite in this movement. Are we few in number? Why, the Council that last week organized the Reformed Episcopal Church had more members than the first convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in this country. I go back further than that. Jesus, our Lord, had ascended into heaven. He had "gone up on high and carried captivity captive:" and when His disciples met together, and elected a successor to that apostle who had fallen, "the number of the names together was about one hundred and twenty." We are more than that. Within these weeks we have had every encouragement. Before many months, at furthest, there will be two organized churches of the Reformed Episcopal Church in Chicago. New York, Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut--all have sent their greetings to us. Every one of them has its germs that are to grow into churches.
Now, I have two pieces of counsel to two different classes of people in this assembly. I have no doubt that there are High Churchmen here to-night. I certainly have no words but those of welcome for them within these walls. Always are we glad to see them here; always do we desire that they too may enjoy the blessings of evangelical religion, and the preaching of a simple gospel. But while I have no words of bitterness, nothing in angry controversy to say to such as they, I have just one piece of counsel and advice. It is very old. More than eighteen hundred years ago, "Gamaliel, a doctor of the law," stood up in the Sanhedrim in the city of Jerusalem, and to men who were raging against a new sect that was "everywhere spoken against," he gave this advice: and I repeat it to every High Churchman who may be here to-night; I would repeat it to every Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church if my voice could reach him; I repeat it to those papers, secular or ecclesiastical, that revile or sneer at this movement toward reform:
"And now I say unto you, refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel and this work be of man, it will come to naught; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God."
I have also a word of advice to this people--to those who meet together here to-night around their pastor. This is our day of rejoicing and of gladness. You have seen your Rector dishonored and disgraced before the world. You have seen his name cast out as a vile thing. You have heard with pompous dignity the sentence pronounced upon him that consigned him to the uncovenanted mercies outside of the Church of God--and you only twined your arms--God bless you for it!--you only twined your arms around him the more tenderly, you only stood by him with a stronger determination. To-day God is bringing your reward. To-day you have an Episcopal Church; you have the liturgy of your fathers; you have the truth as it is in Jesus, in connection with all that was worth retaining of what is known as the Protestant Episcopal Church. Let us prayerfully and solemnly and decidedly act together.
Last year, one autumn afternoon, when the rain was falling upon the changing leaves of the forest, I stood upon a ruined battlement of the old castle of Heidelberg in Germany. Beneath the spot on which I found a temporary resting place, there lay a tower. It had been known as the "Strong Tower" in olden times. Two hundred years ago the soldiery of Louis XIV., of France, undermined that tower, placed the charge of powder beneath it, applied the slow match, and stepped back in order that they might be safe while the turret should be blown to atoms, and consigned to its original dust. The slow-match burned, the fire communicated, the explosion came, the upheaval was seen; but, though the tower was lifted from the old foundation on which it stood, and torn from the basis out of which its masonry had sprung, it fell again to earth with not one stone dislodged from its massive structure; and it stands to-day as perfect and entire as the old German architect originally conceived it. So let it be with this Church. They have placed beneath us the powder of ecclesiastical fulmination; they have applied the torch of persecution; they have lifted us off from the foundation of the Church in which many of us were born, in which all of us have found sweet communion with our God; and they shall find that, though rent from the Protestant Episcopal Church, and separated from some we love, we shall cling together, one and indivisible in Jesus, until God calls us home.
On Monday evening, December 8, 1873, a meeting of the congregation of Christ Church was held at the church, in response to a call from the Rector, Rev. Chas. E. Cheney, D. D., to consider the expediency of his accepting the office of Bishop, to which he had been unanimously elected by the Council of the "Reformed Episcopal Church."
The meeting was called to order by Dr. Aaron Gibbs.
On motion of Mr. B. Philpot, Mr. William Aldrich was called to the chair, and Mr. J. W. Oakley appointed Secretary.
The following preamble and resolution, offered by Mr. Gurdon S. Hubbard, were unanimously adopted:
WHEREAS, The Rev. Dr. Charles Edward Cheney has called this meeting of the congregation to consider the question of his acceptance of the position of Associate Bishop of the "Reformed Episcopal Church;" therefore,
Resolved, As an expression of the feeling of this people, that we regard it as the duty of the Rev. Dr. Cheney to accept the responsibilities of the Episcopate, provided it will not prevent his continuance in the exercise of his pastorate amongst us.
Upon motion of Mr. Peter Van Schaack, the chair was requested to appoint a committee of three, to ask of Dr. Cheney a copy of his sermon, delivered Sunday evening, December 7, for publication in connection with the proceedings of this meeting.
The chair appointed as such committee, Messrs. Peter Van Schaack, B. Philpot, and H. S. Monroe.
J. W. OAKLEY, Secretary.
In furnishing to the Committee, in compliance with the above resolution, a copy of the foregoing sermon, its author desires to state that he has been compelled to send it to press precisely as it was given to him by the stenographer, with all the manifest defects of extemporaneous speech.
The Rev. CHARLES EDWARD CHENEY, D.D., was consecrated a Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church, on Sunday morning, December 14, 1873, in Christ Church, in the city of Chicago. The edifice was densely crowded, long before the beginning of the services.
The Rt. Rev. George D. Cummins, D.D., Presiding Bishop, officiated as consecrator, and preached the sermon from the text, I. Peter, chapter v, verses i, 2, 3 and 4.
The other presbyters taking part in the service, were the Rev. Marshall B. Smith and the Rev. Mason Gallagher, of New Jersey: the Rev. Benjamin B. Leacock and the Rev. William V. Feltwell, of New York; and the Rev. Charles H. Tucker, of Illinois.
The Bishop-elect was presented by the Rev. Mason Gallagher and the Rev. Marshall B. Smith.
The certificate of election was read by Col. Benjamin Aycrigg, of New Jersey.
The Rev. Mason Gallagher read the required testimonials in regard to the qualifications of Dr. Cheney.
All the presbyters present united with Bishop Cummins in the laying on of hands.
The services of the morning closed with the administration by the two Bishops, of the Lord's Supper to a very large number of communicants.