PREACHED AT THE OPENING
THIRD GENERAL COUNCIL
Reformed Episcopal Church,
In Christ Church, Chicago, Illinois.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 12, 1875.
BY BISHOP GEORGE D. CUMMINS, D.D.
PRINTED BY ORDER OF THE COUNCIL.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and everything that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.--2 Corinthians x, 4, 5.
There is a morbid dread of controversy and agitation in the Church of God, which is the parent of innumerable evils. Not to disturb things which are quiet, not to remove the ancient landmarks; to avoid dissension at any cost, even of truth itself, and to "heal the wound of the daughter of Zion lightly, crying peace, peace, when there is no peace," this is the teaching which has found eager reception in all ages.
How utterly does it mistake the true mission of the Gospel! Its very normal condition is one of antagonism and conflict. The first promise of a Redeemer, given in the Garden of Eden, embodied this thought. Only by conflict could deliverance come—by "enmity " between the serpent and the woman's seed. And when in the fullness of time He entered on His work, He recognized most clearly this fact. The strong man armed, who held his palace and his goods in peace, was Satan; his spoil the human soul. Christ was the stronger than he, who was to overcome him and take from him all his armor, wherein he trusted, and rescue his captives. Hence He could say, with profoundest meaning, “I came not to send peace (peace only, that is), but a sword." How, can it be otherwise? The Gospel is God's truth, and' it must needs be in continual conflict with all error. It is God's righteousness, and must be forever at war with all wrong. Therefore it was that it sent the sword, for three centuries, throughout the whole civilized world. The Roman [3/4] Empire never persecuted any faith but that of Christ. It could welcome the idols of all other nations into its Pantheon. With the Gospel it waged perpetual war.
This was the warfare of which St. Paul speaks. The strongholds or fastnesses which the first Christians assailed were the gigantic systems of Paganism and Polytheism, so firmly entrenched in popular prejudice, and buttressed by the power of the State; the elaborate and formidable false philosophies of the East, exalting themselves against the true knowledge of God; the "imaginations " and "reasonings;" the high things to be humbled before the Cross of Jesus. And by no carnal weapons, by no worldly power, no human strength. The simple truth as it is in Jesus, the preaching of Christ crucified, the story of God's unfathomed love in Christ, these were to be the weapons, "mighty through God" to the pulling down of strongholds. Was it vain boasting?
Brethren beloved, I would call you to-day to note the characteristics of this work of Reform, as depicted in these words of St. Paul. Like the Gospel at first, it is a warfare against strongholds, mighty fastnesses, in which error has so formidably entrenched itself in the visible Church of God. The weapons of its warfare are not "carnal," not worldly, but Spiritual, not human, but Divine. And its crowning glory is intense and supreme loyalty to Jesus; it aims to bring every thought into captivity to obedience to Christ.
I. What, then, are the strongholds, the fastnesses of error, against which our warfare is waged?
1. The chief and most formidable is the dogma of the Divine right of Bishops. A gigantic structure indeed, whose foundations were laid more than fifteen centuries ago; and on which every successive generation has builded, until it rises before us a colossal fabric,, hoary with age and seemingly impregnable.
(2.) It claims that the Divine authority and supernatural power conferred by Christ upon His Apostles has been transferred by them to their successors, the Bishops.
(2.) That by Divine appointment, Bishops succeed the Apostles [4/5] in the Apostleship, and are invested with all the rights and prerogatives of that office, save only the power of working miracles.
(3.) That Bishops are, by virtue of their office, the sole rulers of the Church of God, and that to hear and obey them, is to hear and obey Christ.
(4.) That they possess the power of communicating the Holy Ghost in Ordination—the grace which empowers men to impart pardon, healing and life to the soul, through Sacraments.
(5.) That this mysterious power is transmitted through an unbroken chain, by a tactual succession of prelates.
(6.) That any break in this line would interrupt or cut off the flow of the power, even as the breaking of a water pipe would interrupt the flow of the water.
(7.) That Bishops are such necessary channels of Divine grace, that it may be truly said—Ecclesia est in Episcopo—the Church is contained in the Bishop.
(8.) That only those who have received the Holy Ghost at their hands are lawful ministers of Christ.
(9.) That all who separate from this Divine Order are Schismatics, and have no part in the Church of Christ.
A stronghold indeed, having its foundations in the very depths of the unrenewed human heart; ministering to the ambition and pride of the Order, which it elevates into a caste; ministering to the indolence which would escape all personal responsibility to God by surrendering itself blindly to authority.
Against this dogma our Reformed Church is a protest and a revolt. And against a system so widespread and hoary with age, we lift up but one weapon—God's precious truth—the pure Nord of God. “Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches."
(1.) The dogma finds no warrant in Holy Scripture. It has not a single sanction in the teaching of Christ or of His Apostles. It is an "imagination" of the human heart, "a high thing exalting itself against the knowledge of God." Had the Divine Founder of the Church instituted an Order of men by whom alone the Church [5/6] was to be governed and the Faith conserved, and through whom alone His grace should be conveyed, would He not have left full and minute prescriptions concerning it. It was so when the priesthood was established, in the old dispensation, to be limited to the Succession in a single family, and jealously guarded from all intrusion of others not within the Divinely appointed line. But how profound is the silence of Scripture concerning such an order in the Christian Church! We demand, and have a right to demand, a Divine command, a distinct and authoritative direction of our Lord, or His Apostles, before we are prepared to submit to such high claims. But in vain do we seek it. Our Lord himself gave no such command. His Apostles left no such direction. Had it been a vital, essential principle, without which the Church of Christ could not exist, that Bishops should rule jure Divino, that Bishops should alone convey the Holy Ghost to make men valid ministers, that Bishops should be necessary channels of Divine Grace, how would St. Paul have exalted this truth, and left all future ages in no uncertainty concerning it! All other great cardinal doctrines of the Gospel receive from him the most elaborate exposition. About this dogma, the very keystone of the arch, as it is claimed, St. Paul has not a word to utter.
(2.) This dogma is utterly without foundation, because, from its very nature, the Apostolate could not be perpetuated.
To be an Apostle, one must have seen the Lord Jesus; must have been an eye witness of His Majesty. So St. Paul teaches, "Am I not an Apostle! Have I not seen the Lord Jesus." Even Christ, after His ascension, must appear to him, to give him the great commission. To the Apostles were committed powers never to be transmitted. To them alone could it be said, "whosesoever sins ye forgive they are forgiven, and whosesoever sins ye retain they arc retained." They stand forever and apart from all men in their high office, their names inscribed upon the twelve foundations of the heavenly city of our God.
(3.) And if Apostolic Succession exists in the Church, in the [6/7] order of Bishops, it has lost all that made the Apostolic office precious, the Divinely-appointed safeguard of the Faith. It lends itself to error as readily as to truth. It gives its sanction to the foulest errors that darken and pollute the visible Church.
No advocate of this dogma denies the claim of the Church of Rome to possess this Succession. And then we are brought to the admission that for ages the Bishops of that Church, succeeding the Apostles in their office, and receiving the Holy Ghost by virtue of this Succession, have taught and held dogmas which pervert and destroy the faith once delivered to the Saints. Then seven hundred Bishops, in solemn council, each of them possessing the Apostleship, and in whom the Holy Ghost abided to guide them into all truth, according to the promise of the Master, invested a frail weak mortal with an attribute of Almighty God—Infallibility. To such a result does this dogma lead us.
(4.) Moreover, if this claim be valid, then, for the past three hundred years, all that is purest, noblest, most elevating, has been found without this gift. Then all Reformed Christendom, with its sublime record of work for Christ, its great lives, its grand characters, its undying names, its fruits of the Spirit, its ceaseless conversion of souls, its ever-multiplying charities, its missions to the heathen, has been cut off from the Divine fountain of all grace and life, because it lacked the necessary channel through which that grace can be conveyed.
For one thousand years all Christendom was ruled by Bishops alone, claiming to be the Successors of the Apostles, and those years were the ages of Spiritual darkness, desolation and death. What a terrible condemnation does history write of this " high thing " that exalteth itself against the Gospel, as it tells the story of the ambition, pride, arrogance, worldly pomp and state, and cruelty of those who have claimed to rule the Church by Divine right. And in the Reformed Church of England how pernicious has been the influence of this system! It has been the disturbing element which has, by its exclusive claims, separated the Churches [7/8] of the Reformation. For almost a century the Church of England greeted the Continental Churches as "dear Sister Churches," though they laid no claim to Apostolic Succession. It was this dogma which separated the Church of England from all Reformed Christendom; molded the spirit and teaching of that Church under the influence of Archbishop Laud, and in the next reign devised the famous Act of Uniformity, whose pernicious influence has not yet ceased to be felt. Hear the testimony of a great, and wise, and loving son of the Church of England—Archdeacon Hare. "A strange voice passed through England, a voice which spoke of unity; but it was soon stifled by the tumultuous cries of opposite parties, clamoring, in rivalry, for uniformity. And ere long all hope was blasted by that second, most disastrous, most tyrannical and schismatical Act of Uniformity, the authors of which were not seeking unity, but division. This straight waistcoat for men's consciences could scarcely have been devised except by persons themselves of seared consciences and hard hearts. Verily, when I think of that calamitous and unprincipled Act; of the men by whom it was enacted, Charles II, and the aristocracy and gentry of his reign; of the holy men against whom it was enacted; it seems almost like a prologue to the profligacy and infidelity which followed closely upon it. But what were its direst effects with regard to the unity of the Church? It bore the name of uniformity on its forehead; can there have been any who persuaded themselves that a uniformity so enforced could be a means to unity. The only unity that could have ensued from it would have been that of a dead level; and full of woe as have been the consequences of this Act in its failure, they would have been still more terrible had it succeeded. Therefore, ever, even we, who love and revere our national Church above every earthly institution, may bless God that it did not succeed. We may bless God that He has given such grace and power to weak, frail, human hearts, that meek and humble men were strengthened by His Spirit not to be driven out of the path in which their conscience commanded them to walk, by the [8/9] leagued forces of King, and Parliament, and Convocation, by the severest penal enactments, or even by the bitter pang of having to leave their loved flocks. Yes, we may join in giving God thanks for the work He wrought in such men, for they are the true salt of the earth.
"Yet how grievous was the wound of the Church at the time! how grievous is it still, at this day, in its enduring effects! Some two thousand ministers, comprising the chief part of the most faithful and zealous in the land, were silenced, in one day, were severed, in one day, from their flocks, were cast, in one day, out of our Church, for the sake of maintaining uniformity. On that, our English St. Bartholomew's day, the eye wandered over England, and in every fifth parish saw the people scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd."
Equally disastrous has this dogma proved to Christian Union in this land. It has leavened the spirit and controlled the legislation of the Church of our fathers, until it has placed her in a state of isolation from all other Protestant Churches around her. She stands proudly aloof from all co-operation with those Churches, claiming to possess the only valid ministry of Christ, by virtue of the Apostolic Succession in her Bishops. She forbids, by canon law, the officiating of any minister of Christ in her pulpits who has not received ordination from Bishops, and requires obedience to it from each of her own ministers, by the threat of ecclesiastical pains and penalties. She visits with reproach and censure one of her own sons who ventures to sit down at the table of the Lord with Non-Episcopal clergymen, and recognize their right to administer the Sacraments of the Lord's ordaining. She formally deposes, and thus follows with punishment, the minister, who, in obedience to Christ and his conscience, leaves her ranks for another fold of Christ's Church, where he can find freedom from the thraldom which her unchurching dogma binds upon him. She reaches out her hand, for recognition and inter-communion, to the corrupt Churches of the East—Churches which hold to Tradition, to [9/10] Transubstantiation, to Mariolatry, to Saint Worship, to the Confessional--and holds it back from the great Protestant Communions which hold the faith of the Gospel pure and undefiled.
And all this the fruit of one dogma, the claim of Bishops to rule jure Divino, to be lords over God's heritage, to be lineal successors of the Apostles, through whose hands alone the Holy Ghost can be imparted to constitute a valid ministry.
It is against this stronghold of error that the Reformed Episcopal Church wages warfare. It has driven us from the Church of our Fathers, as it drove out the two thousand Divines of the Church of England on St. Bartholomew's Day, 1662. It is the great disturber of the peace of Protestant Christendom. And there can be no union of Protestantism until this fastness is demolished.
The true Apostolic Succession is continuance in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship (Acts ii, 41, 42); Succession in the truth and in the life of the Gospel—so taught St. Paul. Departure from Apostolical doctrine and teaching is, with him, a ground of rejection of all teachers. He warns the Galatians, not against unaccredited teachers, but against those who would pervert the Gospel. “If we, or an angel from heaven, preach unto you any other Gospel than that which we have preached, let him be accursed." So also St. John pronounces every spirit which teaches false doctrine to be Antichrist; " Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." In proceeding to give a test whereby these false prophets might be distinguished from the true, St. John says nothing about Succession. Strange omission, if real apostolicity consist in regular succession! Unaccountable neglect in an inspired Apostle, if the true mission of a Christian teacher consist in the character of his ordination. St. John's test of a true minister of Christ is the truth or not truth of the doctrine he teaches. Every teacher who departs from the true Gospel is pronounced to be of Antichrist. And the judges of this teaching are not the councils of the teachers themselves, but the hearers, the faithful in [10/11] Christ Jesus. “Beloved," he exclaims to these, “try the spirits, whether they are of God." How perfect the harmony of this teaching with the inspired commendation of the Bereans, who searched the Scriptures to ascertain whether the preaching, even of Apostles, was in accordance with the Word of God.
True Apostolic Succession is in continuance in the Apostles' fellowship, as well as in their doctrine; that is, in sharing their fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. They who have been made new creatures in Christ Jesus, they who have received the life of Christ by the renewing of the Holy Ghost, they who are living members of the living Body, living branches in the Heavenly Vine, they only are in the fellowship of the Apostles.
The uncorrupted Gospel, the union with Christ by a living faith; these are the tests of true Apostolic Succession. “Where these are found, the true Church of Christ is found; for the want of these no outward Succession can compensate, no pretence to authority, no claims to infallibility, not even the presence, if it existed, of supernatural gifts and miracles. The wicked one, who shall eventually be destroyed by the brightness of the Lord's coming, shall in the meantime prosper, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness. There would be no deceivableness about an open enemy; but this wicked one is predicted as a proposed friend. He comes in the boasted Apostolic Succession, saying ‘Lord, Lord,' while he makes void the commandments of the Lord. It is as Christ in Nomine Domini that he comes. And it is most significant that where the grossest corruptions abound, there the high exclusive pretension to Apostolicity is most vauntingly arrogated."
II. From this one seminal error, this (proton pseudos) spring most of the corruptions that defile nominal Christendom. Foremost among these is Sacerdotalism, “a fitting structure raised on a fitting basis."
The dogma of the Divine right of Bishops invests them with the [11/12] power of conferring the Holy Ghost, to constitute men priests in the Church of Christ.
(I.) It claims that as in the old dispensation there was a threefold order, so in Christianity, the Bishop succeeds the High Priest, the Presbyter the Priest, and the Deacon the Levite.
(2.) That at ordination, men receive a mysterious gift, creating them a Sacerdotal Order.
(3.) That as priests, their office is to negotiate between God and man, the Saviour and the Sinner; that they become divinely-appointed channels for the grace of God through the Sacraments.
(4.) That their intervention is necessary for the forgiveness of sins; that Justification and Regeneration are imparted in Baptism, the nutriment of the soul in the Lord's Supper.
(5.) That as priests, they have somewhat to offer, and that offering is the Body and Blood of Christ, presented anew to the Father, even as Jesus presents Himself in heaven before the throne, a Lamb slain.
(6.) That to them has been committed the power of absolution, of forgiving or retaining sins. A gigantic stronghold of error! For twelve hundred years it held. its fastness undisturbed. The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century demolished a portion of its defences, and shattered its power in a part of Christendom. Alas! in our Northern Church of England the work was only half completed. The very citadel of its strength, the very hiding of its power, was left undisturbed in the formula of Ordination—”Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Priest in the Church of God; whosesoever sins ye forgive they are forgiven, whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained." For three centuries this leaven of corruption has been doing its work in the Anglican Communion, until well nigh the whole body has been leavened. Priest, Altar, and Sacrifice in the Church of Christ, are, to the majority, the most cherished truths. So profoundly has the Sacerdotal theory moulded and fashioned the thinking of the Church, that the most earnest efforts to have the word "priest" simply interpreted in the [12/13] Formularies to signify only a Presbyter, has been almost contemptuously resisted and frustrated in the Councils of that Church. The Sacerdotal theory controls the legislation, orders the Ritual, inspires the teaching of pulpit and press, and reigns supreme and undisturbed in the heart of that Church. The altar, cast out of all Churches by the Edwardean Reformers, again supplants the Table of the Lord; the Priest usurps the office of the Pastor of Souls; and, fitting companion, the Confessional is revived, and boldly and openly reinstated.
Against this system this Reformation wages stern and unrelenting warfare. We lift against it the simple teaching of the Gospel.
(1.) The New Testament knows nothing of an order of human priests in the Church of Christ, teaches nothing that would in any wise sanction it. The name of priest is never ascribed to the minister of the Gospel. The offices of a Priest are never attributed to him. When Christ ascended to the throne of the Father, “He gave some Apostles, and some Prophets, and some Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers." The priesthood He retained alone within His own person, a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, with none to share in its sublime dignity. To claim the priesthood for men, under the Gospel dispensation, is to dishonor the finished work of Jesus, and His " one Sacrifice for sins forever;" it is to intrude within the sphere of His sacred office; it is to take the crown from His brow, and place it upon the head of frail, sinful men.
How destructive is this Sacerdotalism of the true freedom of the believer in Jesus, to the filial confidence of those who have been brought nigh to God by the new and living way of access through the blood of Jesus! The whole system of priesthood is founded on unbelief in the power of truth to make itself manifest to human minds, unbelief in the power of the Holy Spirit to make His presence felt in human hearts without the agency of physical media; unbelief in the immediate access of the soul to Christ. But to believe that there is a Spiritual authority between the soul and Christ, divinely-appointed to be the negotiator, the mediator between the [13/14] Sinner and the Saviour, through whose offices alone grace, life and healing can flow, gifted with the tremendous power of communicating the Body and Blood of the Son of God, of imparting or withholding Spiritual life—to believe this, is to part with all that constitutes the dignity, the blessedness, the glory, the joy of a freeman in Christ Jesus, to lay down the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.
"Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches,” “Ye are all the children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus.” “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood.” “Ye have the mind of Christ.” “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things.” “Ye judge all things, while ye yourselves are judged of no man." "All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, all arc yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." And we, “not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy, for by faith ye stand."
III. From all complicity with these errors, from all part and lot in the system that upholds them, Brethren of the Reformed Episcopal Church, we stand to-day, through God's great goodness, delivered. “With a great price we have purchased this freedom," but it is worth far more than it has cost us. With what agony of soul each of us has been led, conscience-bound, to leave the roof which has been the abode of a lifetime, to sever associations cemented by long years of friendship, He only knows who searcheth the heart. But none the less do we thank God for our freedom—freedom from obedience to Canons which required us to deny the validity of the ministry which had not received the mysterious power imparted by Bishops as Successors of the Apostles; freedom from the use of formularies which recognized a priest, a sacrifice, and an altar in the Christian Church; freedom from the intolerable burden of declaring to Almighty God at the baptism of every infant, that He had regenerated it with His Holy Spirit, when we were persuaded that the Word of God gave no countenance to such teaching; freedom from perpetual violation of our Ordination [14/15] vows to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's Word, when in the use of the offices for administering Baptism and the Lord's Supper we were consciously inculcating error; freedom from sharing the uncharitableness of the unchurching dogma, which denies a part in Christ's true Church to all who are not under the government of Prelates; freedom from giving our service, talents, strength, labor and means to build up an Ecclesiastical system which is steadily drifting away from the simplicity that is in Christ.
It is because we believe that the very Gospel itself is imperiled--that the priceless truth as it is in Jesus is at stake, that we are enlisted in this warfare. And how strikingly alike are the features of this struggle to those of all the past conflicts of the truth. What seemed more hopeless than the assault of the Gospel upon the fastnesses of heathendom. An obscure faction of Judaism, a sect of the Nazarenes entering the lists with the principalities and powers of the world's mightiest dominion. What to human judgment appeared more reckless folly than the act of a single monk of Wittenberg throwing down the gauntlet to a dominion mightier than that even of the Caesars! What an utter failure seemed the life and work of William Tyndale, when, after long weary years of effort to give the Bible to England in her own tongue, years of exile and persecution, hunted like a partridge upon the mountains, his body was at last cruelly consumed by the flames, amid the mockery of his foes! How contemptible in human eyes the first efforts of the little club of Oxford students, in the reign of George II, to reform the Church and to reinstate Christ in the hearts of the nation!
Weak in all human resources, they were strong only in the truth of God, and with this weapon alone they went forth to demolish strongholds.
"Mighty through God," was the watchword of the Apostles, as they preached Jesus, and Jesus only, at Jerusalem before the Sanhedrim, at Ephesus under the shadow of the great Temple of Diana, at Athens in the presence of philosophers, at Rome amidst all the [15/16] power and glory of the Roman Empire. “Mighty through God," was the cry of Luther, as he lifted up a standard on which was inscribed the one legend, “The just shall live by faith.” “Mighty through God," was Tyndale's response, as he sent forth for the first time, through the homes of England, God's pure Word, to be their inheritance for all generations. “Mighty through God," was the only hope of Wesley and his fellow laborers, as with burning words they told anew to the neglected masses of their countrymen the Gospel, God's special gift to the poor.
We, too, have been stripped of all human supports, that we might be taught that our strength is in God. All carnal weapons have been taken out of our hands, that we may wield only " the sword of the Spirit." All worldly resources have been withheld from us wealth, rank, the prestige of great names, the mighty power of numbers. We have gone forth without the camp, bearing His reproach, leaning only on the arm of the Beloved. Oh! if it be only on His arm that we do lean, this Church shall come up from the wilderness "clear as the sun, fair as the moon, and terrible as an army with banners."
We claim as the chief characteristic of this Reform, intense, fervent loyalty to Jesus. It is zeal for His glory, jealousy of His honor, love for His truth, which have prompted our efforts. We have seen the honor due to Him alone given to another, to the mother of His humanity, to His Church, to a human priesthood, and it is zeal for Him that has made us count all things but loss to restore to His head the "many crowns." We exalt Him as the only Head of His Church. We hail Him as the only Priest of the Sanctuary, which the Lord reared, and not man. We acknowledge Him as the only sacrifice, “full, perfect and sufficient" for human guilt. We recognize His Cross as the only altar in heaven and in earth. We proclaim Him as the only mediator, only intercessor. His hand the only touch that can heal, His voice the only voice to loose the bands of guilt.
Therefore we commit our cause confidently to Him. “They [16/17] that honor me I will honor, they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed."
Thirty years ago all Germany rang with the jubilant notes of a new Reformation; a fresh revolt against the corruptions of the Papacy. The Archbishop of Treves had sent forth a proclamation claiming that he had in his possession the seamless coat of Christ, for which the Roman soldiers had cast lots at the foot of the Cross, and inviting the people of Europe to come and venerate the relic. Vast multitudes flocked to Treves, from all portions of the Continent, to pay idolatrous reverence to the pretended Holy Coat of Christ. Aroused by the sad spectacle to a lofty indignation, a Silesian priest, Ronge, issued a protest and an appeal to his countrymen, which sounded like the echo of Luther's Theses against the Church door of Wittenberg, calling the people to come out of a Church which sanctioned such idolatrous practices. The response was wondrous. Everywhere men responded. A German Catholic Church was founded, independent of the Papacy, and before three years had elapsed, it numbered three hundred congregations, and one hundred thousand adherents. Where is it to-day? Alas! the very memory of it has passed away from the minds of most men. It has miserably perished. And why? It died from decay within, from disloyalty to Christ. Its leader and his co-workers abandoned faith in the Deity of Christ, in the Inspiration of Holy Scripture, in the vicarious atonement of the Redeemer, in all that makes the faith precious, and the fair promise of a great Reformation was blasted by the deadly blight of Rationalism.
How striking the contrast presented in this Reformed Church! "Bringing every thought into captivity to obedience to Christ," is its lofty watchword. Christ the sole and supreme Head of the Church, to whom obedience alone is due; Christ the only infallible teacher, to whom we are to go for the words of Eternal life; Christ the exclusive Priest of humanity, admitting no sharers in His work of intervention between God and man; Christ the only sacrifice for human guilt; Christ the substitute for a world of sinners, enduring [17/18] for them the full penalty of the violated law; Christ ever accessible to each soul of man—with none to come between Him and His redeemed—this is the foundation on which we build, elect, sure, and precious. Building here, we build an edifice that no fire can consume, no tempest shake.
Brethren of this Council, this is the work to which you are now called. Great indeed is the responsibility under which you assemble. You are to answer the question which all Christendom asks of you, “Who commanded you to build this house and to make up these walls?" Let your work be the answer; the gold, silver and precious stones inwrought into a building which shall stand the test of the day of the Lord. Already, by the good hand of our God upon us, you have builded wisely and well. You have completed a work which has been left unfinished for three centuries. You have taken up the task which the Reformers and Martyrs of England were unable to complete by reason of cruel persecution, and have given to Christendom, for the first time, a thoroughly revised and purified Prayer-book. You have met a want which has been felt by unnumbered hearts among the Churches of the Reformation; the want of a Service Book retaining all that was venerable and precious as a legacy of the past, yet eliminated of all the errors which obscure and defile the brightness and purity of the simple Gospel. You present to the world such a Church as under God would have united the Reformers of England, under Edward V, and the Reformers of the Continent in one great family; a Church such as would have prevented the long and bitter strifes, feuds and bloodshed among the Protestants of England; a Church which would have retained the two thousand Divines ejected on St. Bartholomew's Day 1662, and thereby saved England from the divisions and conflicts of two hundred years; a Church holding to such an Episcopacy as Calvin and Knox would not have rejected, such as was the ideal of the saintly Leighton, such as Evangelical men in the Church of our Fathers have ever claimed to be most in harmony with the Word of God, an office and not an ORDER in the ministry, a [18/19] human and not a Divine arrangement, not essential to the being, but desirable for the well-being of the Church.
See to it that your work be completed after the same Scriptural pattern. Let every stone be fashioned after a Divine rule. Let the posts of the doors be inscribed " Holiness to the Lord." Let column and arch, pillar and capital, buttress and architrave be radiant with the light of one name—Jesus, JESUS only.