JAMES A. MOORE, 1222 & 1224 SANSOM STREET.
"For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." Romans xiv, 17.
The lapse of time has an influence like the days of Indian summer. Just as the forests are glorified by the Autumn's banners of crimson and gold flung out from every tree-top, just as the rugged outline of the hills is mellowed and softened by the veil of smoky-vapor which the looms of October weave, so does the flight of time cast over historic events an atmosphere at once beautiful, and deceptive.
The principle is illustrated most strikingly in the feeling with which we are apt to look upon the earlier days of the Church of Christ on earth. There was a time, we say, alas! forever fled, when Christianity was as pure in practice as in precept. We compare it to the stream just bubbling forth beneath the moss-grown rocks, unpolluted except by the muddy waters of tributary torrents. Then, there was but one heart and one mind among them that believed. The very heathen, as they waged war upon them, and fanned the sparks of hate to the flames of persecution, were yet compelled to confess, "How these Christians love one another!"
We become disheartened as we hang that picture of the primitive Church side by side with an honest and faithful portraiture of our modem Christianity. How rent and torn by conflicts of opinion is the existing Church of Christ! How separated into camps hostile to each others' teaching, and jealous of each others' progress! How does the subtle venom of controversy poison the pure fountains of brotherly love!
 Brethren, are we sure that we do not allow the haze of distance to obscure the real colors in which the pencil of the Holy Ghost painted the picture of Apostolic Christianity?
It should never be forgotten that the early Church was, like that of every succeeding age, composed not of angels, but of men. Into it, as into our modern religious societies, unconverted men found means to enter. And, although from the very circumstances of the case, the proportion of unworthy members was doubtless smaller than in later times, yet no gift and no authority derived from Apostolic Inspiration was ever able wholly to uproot the tares from among the wheat. It needs only a careful study of the New Testament to convince us that in one respect, at least the Church it delineates did not so widely differ from Christian communities of to-day. Controversies manifestly existed in the life-time of the Apostles. There was not a city or a province of the Roman Empire, where dissensions did not choke the growth of the Gospel seed.
The elements composing the first Christian organizations were of the most various and heterogeneous character. The Apostolic Church was a crucible red-hot with a divine zeal; but it did not easily fuse into perfect harmony such widely different ingredients. Around certain points alike of doctrine and practice the billows of polemic strife gathered their seething flood.
How far was the Mosaic law to be regarded by the Christian?
Ought Gentile believers to submit to the rite of circumcision?
Were the feasts and fasts of the Jewish economy to be embodied in the Christian Calendar?
Was it right for one whom Christ had called to holiness, to eat of the food remaining from heathen sacrifices? It was this last question which convulsed the Church from centre to circumference. How wisely, with what fidelity to truth, and yet what consummate tact, the Apostles met this inquiry, every student of the Acts and Epistles knows. The text is the seed-thought, the germinal principle, of St. Paul's settlement of the question.
The lace makers of Brussels make rare plants to unfold their [4/5] delicate leaves, and bloom with loveliest flowers, upon their gossamer tissue. But for every change of figure there must be a shifting of the pins upon the cushion. So would some men weave the fabric of a Christian character. There must be fixed rules planted in the conscience, around which every thread of character must be woven. New commands must be enjoined for every conceivable circumstance in life.
Every age has had its religious natures so produced. Like the trees which adorned the stately gardens of the Middle Ages, they have been, clipped here and pruned there, till they only thrust out the branches of character just so far as the keen-edged knife of the Law will permit.
Not so do God's cedars grow on Lebanon's breezy heights. Not so where God's free winds bore the pine trees' seeds to the scanty soil of the Sierra.
The teaching of this text is that true Christianity is a living principle, not a code of laws to meet the varying emergencies of outward conduct. "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
I am well aware that the context in which this passage is embedded, like a diamond in its setting, clearly shows that it relates to an individual, and not to a corporate Christianity. It refers to a kingdom whose subjects are all the faculties and characteristics and qualities of the heart. It suggests the picture of our King enthroned in the bosom of a sinner saved by grace. But after all, what is the true Church of God? What is that "Holy Catholic Church--the Communion of saints," of whose membership it is written, "The Lord knoweth them that are His?"
Is it not the aggregation of these spiritual units? The tiniest petal of a fern-leaf is a miniature of the whole. A crystal of spar is made up of smaller crystals, every one of which is the perfect image (even with microscopic scrutiny) of that which it helps to compose. So perfect is the resemblance between the saved believer and the Spiritual Church that the one is a microcosm of the [5/6] other. Hence, what St. Paul here affirms of the individual child of God is equally a representation of the blessed company of all faithful people. The essential characteristics of the true Church are a spotless righteousness, a perfect peace with God, and a joy of which the world knows nothing.
To this heavenly kingdom our visible Churches can only imperfectly approximate. Commingled as are the true and false among those who profess Christ's name, we only aim, in any external and organic society of Christians, to comprehend the largest number possible of those already members of Christ by faith. Unable to discern infallibly the tares, we seek to have our field bring forth the more abundantly of wheat. From our varying stand-points we form different view of the peculiar excellencies that would bring a visible Church into the most perfect accord with the divine and spiritual model.
The Romanist has his ideal of the outward Church. The so-called Anglo-Catholic has his. Both differ widely from that of the Protestant believer. I ask your attention at the outset of this discussion to--
I. THE EVANGELICAL IDEAL OF AN ORGANIC AND VISIBLE CHURCH.
An ideal may be perfectly conceived, when its actual attainment is far from realization. For three hundred years a wooden derrick has stretched out its gaunt arms on one of the towers of Cologne Cathedral. Its timbers have decayed, and been replaced. Its iron work has been devoured by rust, and again renewed. Employed by those who reared the massive masonry, it has been to generation after generation the token and evidence of an unfinished work. But the design of that tower was formed, even to its details, six centuries ago. Incomplete as it stands to-day, the conception was in the mind of an architect whose very name the lapse of time has obliterated. Even thus we may have a clear conception of what constitutes the most perfect visible society of Christians.
No human hand has ever made a diamond, and stored it with sunbeams. Yet every man of science knows the constituent [6/7] elements which make the lustrous gem the sanctuary of the light. So there are certain essential characteristics which all Evangelical believers concur in regarding as necessary to a visible Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(a) The ideal Church of the Evangelical Christian recognizes no authority as co-ordinate with the written Word of God.
When George Whitfield, in the height of his influence and the plenitude of his Gospel power, came to Edinburgh, Dr. Guthrie tells us that he was startled by the sound that swept through the church when, in quoting a passage of Scripture, he gave the book and chapter and verse. His hearers were wont to verify such references to authority so sacred, and the leaves of two thousand Bibles rustled like the wind among the trees. It was the exercise of the Christian's most precious privilege, to test every doctrine by the touchstone of the Inspired Word.
Those Scottish believers had a distinguished precedent. For precisely such searching of the Scriptures--"to know whether these things were so"--the Holy Ghost conferred upon the Berean hearers of St. Paul a divine patent of nobility: For, beloved, the whole business of a Christian Church is with those questions and those considerations where men need to be certain. Its work is for eternity. Its subjects are not the bodies, but the souls of men. Just in proportion to the magnitude of the interests at stake, must be the demand for certainty in the action proposed.
When the mathematician, in his most abstruse calculations, has reached an axiom, he is like the builder who has struck the bedrock in his search for a foundation. There Doubt is an impossibility. He knows his foundation. Now with the Christian, the declarations of the Bible are to religious truth what the axiom is to mathematical truth. Hence it is that a society whose grand business it is to deal with men at those crises of their history, and to present to men those supreme questions, where absolute certainty is imperatively required, must put nothing between the soul and the unqualified statements of divine Truth.
 How manifestly does it appear, in the light of this thought, that the authority of Tradition cannot for a moment be admitted in the ideal Church of the Evangelical believer. The Church must have certainties. Tradition is, of all sources of human information, the least worthy of our trust. He who drinks the muddy water of the lower Mississippi can never tell whether he fills his cup with the melted snows of Minnesota, or with drops that distilled from the roots of the Alleghenies, or from the streams that the Missouri drew from the remotest canyons of the Rocky Mountains. Even so uncertain is the turbid current of Tradition. And for this want of certitude, a Church must ever come short of the Evangelical ideal which bases an essential doctrine upon "the Scripture and ancient authors."
It is sometimes urged that the Church of Christ existed before the Gospels, and that therefore the traditions of the Church are to be accepted as authoritative interpreters of the New Testament. So did the tradition to which St. John refers at the close of his Gospel, that Christ had declared that the beloved "disciple should not die," exist before the Gospel which corrected it. But for that very reason was that part of St. John's Evangel written, that it might contradict, upon the authority of inspiration, the errors of ecclesiastical tradition, and brand the previous belief of the Church as a lie that no Christian was to accept.
Equally opposed to the Evangelical ideal of the Church is the acceptance of either Church tradition or the decrees of ecclesiastical Councils as authoritative interpreters of the Word of God. It matters little whether I give my own ship over to a pilot's hands, resign to him the vessel's full control, and make his authority unlimited on board the bark to which my life has been entrusted, or whether I abandon my own ship to go on board the pilot's boat. In either case my fate depends on him. So little does it matter whether I give up the Bible for Tradition, or take Tradition to be the Scriptures' infallible interpreter.
The moment a Church accepts the authority of uninspired men [8/9] as infallible interpreters of God's Word, it becomes like the trees which Agassiz tells us abound on the tropic shores of the Amazon, whose life is smothered by the parasitic vines which cover them.
Well has Jeremy Taylor said,--"The writers of the ancient dispensation were such as those should be who were looking onward to the bright day of Gospel splendor; while the early Christian fathers were just such as one might expect to find in those who were looking on to the deep night of superstition which covered Europe during the Middle Ages. The dawn gleams upon the forehead of the one class. A sullen gloom overshadows the brows of the other."
(b) The ideal Church of the Evangelical believer makes the preaching of the Gospel superior to every other ordinance.
There is only one thing in the world which can produce the needed polish on the multiform facets of the diamond. It is the dust of other diamonds. Seemingly a like principle holds good in God's dealings with the human family. He uses men as His instruments in saving men. It is the Gospel of His Son, leaping from lips touched by His Spirit's power, that He has made the grand instrumentality of human salvation. If this proposition be a true one, then it undeniably follows that that visible Church is nearest to its heavenly model which sets the preaching of the Gospel above every treasure it possesses. If this be the Promethean fire which can impart life to dead souls, then the true Church is that which guards its flame, though all lesser fires die out upon her altars.
Let me be distinctly understood. The Gospel which gives life, is the truth whose central sun is the precious blood-shedding of a Divine yet Human Redeemer. It is the Gospel which (whatever else it may in due proportion teach) sets forth Jesus in His death and sacrifice, His Eternal High priesthood sprinkling the mercy-seat with His blood--it is this Gospel alone which the Holy Ghost employs in the quickening of dead souls to spiritual life. Do I need to prove this assertion by the Bible? From Christ's own declaration "He that heareth my word and believeth on Him that sent me hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but [9/10] is passed from death unto life"--down through the whole catena of the Apostolic utterances--the unvarying testimony to the Gospel as the channel of spiritual life is that which St. Peter sums up when he describes the believer as "Born again," not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, even of the word of God which liveth and abideth forever." What ordinance, what forms of organic life, what rites and ceremonies, can hold an equal place, in the estimation of the ideal Church, with the "holding forth of the Word of Life?" The grand characteristic of the true Apostle is that of the true Church, "Christ sent me not to baptise, but to preach the Gospel."
Well would it have been for the Protestant Episcopal Church if the wise words of Bishop McIlvaine had found an echo in the hearts of her ministers. In his noble "Charge to the Clergy of the Diocese of Ohio," in 1863, he says--"The strictly substitutionary character of Christ's sacrifice for our sins I consider of the most vital importance to be clearly taught, if we would satisfy the language of Scripture, or do our duty to God and man. 'He was made sin for us,' by which I understand that He stood for us under the Law, by imputation of our sins--bearing all our sins, and as perfectly identified and charged with them as it was possible for one 'who knew no sin' in Himself; to be."
And in thus making the proclamation of the central truth of Scripture the "vital" principle of the Church, that beloved man of God only echoed the teaching of the 19th Article of Religion, that the first mark by which the true Church can be distinguished is, that in it "the pure Word of God is preached."
But my definition of the ideal Church would be incomplete did I not add another of its characteristic features:
(c) The ideal Church will manifest the spirit of Christian love.
As you pass through one of those great galleries where Europe has garnered her rich harvest from the fields of Art, it requires education to tell at a glance the work of some great master. Only the experience and training which comparatively few possess enables a man to say with instantaneous accuracy, "That is the work [10/11] of Raphael;" "Michael Angelo's hand is apparent in that fresco;" "Only Leonardo Da Vinci could have achieved that triumph in the world of Art." But any man can recognize the hand of Christ in a society of believers. He who said of Himself "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends," also said "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, that ye love one another." There is no mistaking the hand of the Great Master on the living canvas of a visible Church. The spirit of love is the spirit of Jesus.
Such love will show itself in tenderness towards men's intellectual apprehensions of the truth.
Through a painted window the sunlight fell upon the Psalter in which you were praising God, or the Litany in which you cried for mercy. But one worshipper read its words in light as crimson as the sunset. Another beheld the page all gilded with a yellow radiance. Because a purple flush fell upon my book shall I say to my neighbor, "Brother, you did not get a ray of Heaven's sunshine to-day. Purple is the hue of the true sunlight."
The same divine truth will be more or less colored by the individual peculiarities of him who holds it. The same light from heaven must pass through the colored windows of differing intellectual apprehension. Christ-like love will lead the Church to large charity for individual perceptions of even essential truth.
Still more will the ideal Church deal tenderly with moral difficulties, in which the conscience is involved. Every Church, like every other society, is compelled to enact rules, to prescribe forms, and to impose obligations on its members. They have no root of necessity in the soil of the Scripture. They may be as little like God's laws as the stars which they paint in leaf of gold upon the roof of some decorated church are like the stars of heaven. So long as they do not conflict with Scripture they may serve a useful end. But whensoever God's dear children are offended at them, when the tender conscience of the believer is wounded in the effort to obey them, then the Church that attempts to impose them, has [11/12] forgotten that the one feature which Christ would see reflected in His people is His love, which will not "break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax." What are rubrics, and canons, and robes, and ceremonies of man's ordaining, that they should crush beneath an iron heel the conscience of a child of God? What are all ecclesiastical arrangements patterned after another model than that which God showed in the mount, that they should separate and keep asunder those agreed in all the truths of God's revelation?
The Esquimaux dare not kindle in his hut greater fire than that of his seal-oil lamp. It would melt the walls of his dwelling. The ideal Church is one that never fears that its love to all Christ's children shall be too powerful. If its walls be melted down by love, it is because, like those of the Esquimaux's hovel, they were of ice.
I come now to the inquiry (peculiarly pertinent to this occasion),
II. WHAT HAS THE REFORMED EPISCOPAL CHURCH DONE TO APPROACH THIS IDEAL?
I say, "approach." We do not claim to have attained to our ideal. The fact only proves that we have set before us a lofty conception of what a visible Church should be. We have endeavored to draw that ideal wholly from the Word of God. No marvel if our attempts to follow with halting feet in the path which the Holy Ghost has traced, should still leave us far behind our ideal Church. It is easy for the Mussulman to reach the standard of the Koran. There need be no difficulty in the path of the Mormon who aims at full consistency with the teachings of his pseudo-prophet.
But the most unanswerable proof of the Divine character of the Bible is in the fact that human nature falls so far short of its heavenly standard.
We have seen that the ideal Church must plant itself upon the only foundation of the revealed Word of God. Has this principle been the guiding star of our movement toward reform in the Episcopal Church?
When, five months ago, in the fear of God, and with unceasing supplication for His Spirit's guidance, we laid the foundations of the [12/13] Reformed Episcopal Church, our first act after declaring our solemn determination of fidelity to the Bible, was to formally express our adherence "to Episcopacy, not as of divine right but as a very ancient and desirable form of Church polity."
So marked a departure from what has ordinarily been regarded a inseparably associated with the idea of Episcopacy, was a step to which we were impelled only by the profoundest convictions of Duty. The Bible was our sole authority. We could not be faithful to its teachings and hold the theory which was unquestionably the overwhelmingly prevalent one in the Protestant Episcopal Church in reference to the office of a Bishop.
The group of services in the Prayer Book of that Church, which comprises the ordinal, is prefaced by a declaration, solemn in its language and far-reaching in its scope: "It is evident unto all men, diligently reading Holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church--Bishops, Priests, and Deacons."
It is clear from these words that two points were intended to be definitely and dogmatically stated: 1st, that Bishops constitute a separate order from the Presbyters, instead of being Presbyters chosen to preside over their brethren. 2d, that this view of the Episcopate rests at least in part upon the testimony of the Scripture.
But vainly have we searched the word of God for the proof of this declaration. Some of us have painfully tried to believe that there was no inconsistency between the assertion of the ordinal and the results of our Scripture study. But driven from one stronghold after another, each has proved a failure, and as honest men we were compelled to admit that nowhere in the Bible could we find even a trace of distinction in order between the bishop and the presbyter. We find the New Testament full of passages where the bishops and presbyters are manifestly the same. The salutations addressed to "the bishops" of a single Church, indicating that they were many-- the fact that even the apostle Peter speaks of himself as a "co-presbyter"--the constant application of the title "bishop" and [13/14] "presbyter," indiscriminately to the same individual--all these are utterly inconsistent with the notion of a separate order in the office of the Episcopate. Even the highest advocates of Episcopal authority have been forced to admit this extraordinary fad of these two titles being used to designate the same minister. Says Bishop Onderdonk--"The name 'bishop,' which now designates the highest grade in the ministry, is not appropriated to this office in the Scripture. That name is given to the middle order, or presbyters; and all that we read in the New Testament concerning 'bishops,' is to be regarded as pertaining to this middle grade."
And yet the same defender of the prelatical position of a bishop, has distinctly accepted the situation, and makes this admission in another portion of his argument:--"The claim of Episcopacy to be of Divine institution, and therefore obligatory on the Church, rests fundamentally on the one question, has it the authority of Scripture? If it has not, it is not necessarily binding."
On the basis of this principle, admitted even by such advocates of High-Church views as Bishop Onderdonk, we have conducted our investigation. Painfully and slowly, fighting for every inch we were compelled to resign, like men contending for their birthright-- we were left face to face with the conviction tint if the separate order of the Episcopate could be proved from "ancient authors," it must rest on that foundation only. It was not "evident unto all men diligently reading Holy Scripture." We might have been content to let this unscriptural claim fo a Divine authority for an hierarchical Episcopacy remain unchallenged at the threshold of our ordination service, if it were not a noxious plant that, like the thistle, bore winged seeds. In its train followed consequences fraught with ruin alike to the Church and to the individual soul. It became, what that wise and venerable man, Dr. Wm. Sparrow, well described it--"The tap-root of the whole sacerdotal system." It suggested that assumption of a Divine authority which found expression in those awful words with which a bishop laid his hands upon the head of the candidate for the presbyter's ministry--"Receive the Holy [14/15] Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained."
It bloomed in the full flower of a theory of Apostolic Succession which made the Bishops the sole reservoir into whose guardianship had flowed all the treasures of Divine grace. Bishop Doane deliberately writes--"The Bishops of the Church are Apostles." "They stand," says one of the "Tracts for the Times," "they stand in the place of the Apostles, and whatever we ought to do, had we lived in the days of the Apostles, the same ought we to do for the Bishops." "The Bishop rules the whole Church below, as Christ rules it above."
Step by step has this doctrine come to be that of nine-tenths of the clergy of the Protestant Episcopal Church. We tried to stay the flood of error in the fold that was dearer to many of us than our own lives. Vain effort! The ordination services were a perpetual "crevasse" in the dykes we reared. It was the effort to stop with a breath the rushing of the floods through the levees of the Mississippi. But one course remained for us. It was to forsake Cyprian for St. Paul. It was to leave the writings of Irenaeus for the Acts of the Apostles. It was to step from the sand of "ancient authors," upon the rock of God's sure Word. "Here stand we. We cannot otherwise. God be our Helper!"
Inseparably interwoven with an unscriptural theory of the Episcopate, is an equally unscriptural theory of the office of the presbyter. By it the minister of Jesus has ceased to be simply an authorized teacher of precious truth. He is the steward of the mysterious presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Supper of the Lord. He can give, he can withhold "the spiritual nutriment of the Christian." [Dix and De Koven's Catechism.] His office is one of which the heart and core is the producing the mysterious change by which, in the language of a well known manual, of the sacramentarian school, "Christ veils both [15/16] His Godhead and Manhood under the mean and common forms of bread and wine." [The Worship of the Body.]
Why is it that such a theory, repugnant to the first principles of Protestantism, and for rejecting which the fathers of the English Reformation died amidst the fires of Smithfield, should to-day permeate the whole Episcopal Church with its subtle virus? Why is it that the two most able exponents of the doctrine should stand to-day before the world as those whom the Church delights to honor--the one at the head of the most powerful ecclesiastical corporation on this continent, the other as the chosen candidate of the clergy for their Bishop in a diocese where once such a doctrine would have only awakened abhorrence?
What means it, that in churches where the idea of a local presence of Christ is not taught openly from the pulpit, it is taught by the sacredness given to the table styled "the altar," and in the reverence paid to the part of the building where it is placed?
To all these questions there is one reply. It is not for want of opposition. The noble testimony of the late Bishop of the Diocese of Ohio was like the utterance of some Brutus or Cato amidst the universal corruption of the later emperors of Rome. There are bishops and parish ministers in the Protestant Episcopal Church who have battled for years with the theory of a priesthood in the Christian ministry, only to know that their places are certain to be filled with men who make that theory the central sun of their religious system.
Opposition has been utterly in vain to check its insidious advances. And the reason is in the obvious fact that a Church which accepts the Scripture as the sole Rule of Faith has, from one end to the other of her Prayer Book, retained an unscriptural idea. With an open Bible declaring that under the Gospel there is no priest but Jesus our Great High Priest who has passed through the veil, the Prayer Book applies that name to the Christian ministry. It has fostered the sacerdotal theory on its every page.
 The Reformed Episcopal Church here again plants itself upon the Bible only. Christ is its only priest. It obliterates the idea of a human priesthood by removing the name that suggests it. From the constellation of its nomenclature it is to be blotted out, like the lost Pleiad, to be restored no more forever.
The same resolve to know no other standard of truth than the revealed Word of God, lies back of our whole work. Whether it be in expunging Baptismal Regeneration from our Prayer Book, or limiting our Bishops by barriers they may not pass, or making our laity as well as our clergy amenable to wise discipline, yet vested with a just share in ecclesiastical authority, we know no guide but the one which, like the Pillar before Israel's feet, never can lead astray.
"Sire," said an American Engineer to the Czar of Russia, "your projected railway must needs deflect from the direct line to avoid that chain of mountains here, and to touch that important district there." The Emperor pointed out the termini upon the map, and drawing a straight line between them, said--"Build there."
The pencil of God's Word has marked the path for us. We cannot, we dare not build on any other line.
Has our Reformed Episcopal Church approached the ideal Church of the Evangelical believer, in its high estimate of the preaching of the Gospel?
When Michael Angelo, in the quarries of Carrara, himself cut out the block in which he was to find his wonderful statue of David, he used peculiar means to separate it from the parent rock. No blast of powder scattered the fragments like sparks flying from the forge. No coarse bars of iron were driven in the spotless stone. But instruments of rare delicacy were used in the separation. The very means employed to cleave the marble showed what was its future destiny.
Is it not even so when God separates a portion of His people from old relations? The very causes which produced the sundering of strongest ties, the very means by which God worked in detaching [17/18] them from dear associations, often indicate their future history. It is yet too early to foretell how faithful to the preaching of the truth the Reformed Episcopal Church will be. Five months cover the whole history of our distinct organization. But the instrument God used in the separation foreshadows the future of the Church. That instrument was a yearning for greater freedom in the preaching of Jesus Christ. Not one of those who have united in this measure of Reform, who has not felt that a preacher of the Gospel burning to use every opportunity to unfold the preciousness of salvation through the blood of Jesus, was hampered and restricted in the Protestant Episcopal Church. The prevalent spirit of that Church is to depreciate preaching. He who in its ministry gives his strength to pulpit preparation, and makes it the study of his life how to present Jesus most clearly to dying sinners, may be loved by his own flock, and honored by Christians of other names, but will find himself isolated among his brethren and out of sympathy with the general drift of the clerical opinion of his church.
As men seek a distant and perhaps forbidding shore for freedom to worship God, so have we sought, in this reform, freedom to preach Jesus Christ. This has, more than all other causes, led to the movement we rejoice in. We have carried this spirit into all our work, thus far.
Our proposed laws lay no embarrassing restrictions on the preacher's work. Brethren of the clergy, does it not now seem like recalling the vision of nightmare to remember the days when the Twentieth Canon put its hand upon your mouth? Have you forgotten that it demanded that the whole service should preface every sermon and lecture, and invariably be used "on all other occasions of public worship?" No wonder that Dr. Muhlenburg characterized it as "a piece of legislation unparalleled in the Christian Church." The hands of the Gospel sower might be full of the precious seed. But the Twentieth Canon put handcuffs on his wrists. The feet of him who proclaimed glad tidings might be beautiful upon the mountains. But on those feet were the iron fetters of the Twentieth Canon.
 Thank God, the shackles are broken! The Constitution of the Reformed Episcopal Church stands like a protector with drawn sword between the faithful preacher of Christ and such monstrous legislation. "No Canon," says the Eighth Article of that Constitution, "shall make the use of the Liturgy imperative on all occasions."
The Protestant Episcopal Church circumscribed its ministers with territorial restrictions. No one of us who was not in constant apprehension of overstepping some imaginary bound, and trespassing upon the sacred precincts of another's parish. The doors of a Methodist or Presbyterian Church might be flung open wide in welcome. Vast congregations might ask the privilege of hearing of Christ from Episcopalian lips. But if the crowded sanctuary were the other side of the boundary line, the saddened heart must silently bear its burden, or brave the terrors of ecclesiastical tribunals.
Have we not taken a long stride toward the ideal Church, when we declare that in this fold we know nothing of territorial divisions? The preacher of Christ is free as the wind of heaven.
And lastly, have we, in this reform within the Church, made any approach to that spirit of love which is the essential element of the Evangelical ideal? it would be strange, indeed, if we had not.
In a European gallery is a famous portrait of a child, by an old Italian master. The face is like the gladness of the summer morning. The merry eyes are wells of sunshine. The laughing mouth suggests the light. The golden hair has caught the glinting of the daybeams. No wonder! It is the picture of one born under Italy's cloudless skies. The face reflects the sunshine of its birthplace.
Strange would it be if this Church we love were not radiant with the sunlight of Christian charity. It was born amidst the warmth, and radiance, and summer gladness of the Evangelical Alliance. False would it be to the light that beamed upon its birth, should it fall to warm, with loving tenderness, all hearts on which it shines.
 We lay our corner-stone in love to all who name the name of Jesus. We sit down to the same Communion Table with believers of every name. We open our doors to members of other folds, without demanding that a Bishop's hands shall have been laid upon their heads in Confirmation. We claim no right, we have no desire, to re-ordain those once solemnly admitted to the ministry by "the laying on of hands of the Presbytery."
We open our pulpits in exchange with ministers who are faithful to the Gospel message. It is our earnest prayer that by conciliation and gentleness we may heal some of those wounds that have rent the bosom of the Church.
We have separated ourselves from old associations. But in no spirit of bitterness or wrath. It has been our ceaseless aim to manifest the meekness of our Master, toward those whom we leave in the Church we have loved and labored to extend. We have no answer to make to harsh personal accusations. We fling back no aspersions on the motives of our beloved brethren in the Protestant Episcopal Church. We pray that by patience and silence under undeserved reviling, we may win them, not to our fold, but to such views of Christ as shall make all mere ecclesiasticism dwindle into utter insignificance.
Beloved brethren of the clergy and laity of the Reformed Episcopal Church, let us to-day lift our hearts in thanksgiving for what God hath already wrought.
That was a magnificent answer of William the Silent, to a friend who wrote to him with anxious heart, in the darkest days of the Spanish persecution of the Netherlands. "You ask me," writes the great Prince of Orange, "if in this undertaking to give freedom of conscience to the Low Countries, I have formed a treaty and firm alliance with any of the kings and potentates of Europe? I answer that before I entered on the work, I did make a firm treaty and alliance with the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and what I have committed to His keeping, I am assured He never will forsake."
 Are we few in number? Are we feeble in pecuniary strength? Are foes everywhere around us? Oh, dear brethren, not in numbers, not in the power of wealth, not in the favor of the world, is the hope of a living Church.
In front of Baliol College, Oxford, is a spot sacred to every Protestant. There died, at the stake, three hundred years ago, Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, and Nicholas Ridley. On that memorable day, in March, 1556, where was the Church of Christ--where was the Kingdom of God in that realm of England? The world said it was where the bloody Queen bowed before the image of the Virgin and Gardiner and Bonner with reeking hands held up the mass for the adoration of a courtly throng. There, surely, was the historic Church--there the Church of Apostolical Succession--there the Church recognized and established by the law.
But God and His angels saw another Church. It was where Ridley and Latimer praised God amidst the fires, and Cranmer, soon to follow them to martyrdom, prayed that they might be supported to the last.
From the far echoes of Patmos there comes a voice like to that of the Son of Man,--"Behold I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it."