Sermon in Answer to Certain Reasons Assigned for the Organization of the "Reformed Episcopal Church."
BLOOMFIELD, January 30, 1875.
REVEREND AND DEAR SIR:
Having heard with pleasure, and we trust with profit, your sermon in answer to certain reasons assigned for the organization of the Reformed Episcopal Church, and believing that its publication would be the source of much good, and that a copy of it should be placed in the hands of each parishioner, we beg leave to have it published in pamphlet form, under your supervision. Wishing you Godspeed in your noble calling, we remain
Your affectionate Parishioners,
WM. G. WILLISTON,
A. G. McCOMB,
G. A. ZABRISKIE,
H. J. MILLS, and others.
To Rev. THOS. J. DANNER.
CHRIST CHURCH RECTORY,
February 4, 1875.
DEAR FRIENDS AND BRETHREN:
Your communication is received. After the delivery of the sermons referred to, several individual requests for their publication reached me. Certain considerations weighed with me in preferring a non-compliance. The existence, however, of the earnest desire indicated by your letter, seems to leave me no liberty to withhold the publication of the same. The matter shall receive my earliest attention. Thanking you for this expression of affectionate regard, I remain
Your friend and Pastor,
T. JEFFERSON DANNER.
To WM. G. WILLISTON, and others.
NOTE.--In throwing the two sermons into one, and in adapting some expressions to the eye of the reader which were only intended for the ear of the listener, I have taken the liberty of making some few changes, omissions and additions. But the sense remains unchanged throughout. The words of the Rev. Dr. Nicholson, quoted, were taken from his sermon as published in a daily Journal at the time. I am just in receipt of this sermon in pamphlet form. Some of the expressions differ a little, but the meaning is the same. The quotations, therefore, remain unchanged. T. J. D.
"And be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear." I. Peter, iii: 15.
Our hopes and our fears are closely associated with our beliefs and practices, on the one hand, and our disbeliefs and negligences, on the other. Our religious hopes, if I may so speak, are of necessity born of our religious faith. Hence the Apostle St. Peter, when exhorting his fellow Christians unto "Unity and love," and, amid all trials and persecutions, to be ever ready to give an answer to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that was in them, plainly meant to exhort them unto an intelligent declaration and profession of that religious faith upon which alone their hopes were based.
Their hope of a resurrection from the dead was based upon the fact of Christ's resurrection. Their hope of a blessed immortality was based upon His teachings and promises. So that, touching various points, in expressing their hope they professed their faith; or in professing their faith they expressed their hope. Thus, rendering the Apostle's words, "Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you," as equivalent to be ready always to intelligently declare and profess your religious faith, we are reminded, that in relation to the faith of our blessed Lord, this comprehends all matters pertaining to His Kingdom, as a visible organization or church, as well as those pertaining to the strictly spiritual realm; or to the faith as a conviction and affection of the mind and heart.
And, beloved, not from any special liking for controversy, nor in a hasty, captious spirit, but influenced by many questions which have been asked me; and in view of the false position in which I, as a Priest or Presbyter in this church, in common with others, have been placed, I would fain answer some of the reasons assigned for their course, by those who have recently abandoned the ministry of the Protestant Episcopal Church: and [3/4] thus also give "a reason of the hope that is in me, with meekness and fear."
And if, by the aid and direction of God's Holy Spirit, (for which I devoutly pray) I may be able to say a word that may tend to clear up a doubt or misunderstanding existing in the mind of any one; or to say a word that may tend to establish, more firmly, the heart of any one in love for, and fidelity to, the faith as this church hath received and doth hold it--I shall esteem myself blessed of God. At all events, believe me, I would speak naught but words of truth and soberness.
It is now a little over one year since what is called the "Reformed Episcopal Church" was organized. I might, to no little profit, dwell upon the outcroppings of human nature which manifest themselves here and there in this whole movement. But the simple task before me is to answer some of the reasons assigned for this new sundering of the Body of Christ.
And first, it is said, because the Episcopal Church holds and teaches the doctrine of the Apostolic Succession.
Now what is this doctrine? To clearly understand this matter, will necessitate a little looking into the system of redemption through the blood of Christ. The Bible teaches us that there are two opposing Kingdoms in. the world--the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of Satan; sin on the one hand, and holiness on the other; that an uncompromising warfare is being carried on, the battle-field being the minds and hearts of men; and the issue of which will be the fulfilment of the promise made, that "the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head," i. e., that Christ, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," shall destroy the kingdom of sin, Satan and death;--the sacrifice on the cross being typified by the first recorded sacrifice of the righteous Abel.
With the promise made in the Garden we begin to mark the dawn of this special kingdom of righteousness. And in Abraham is plainly indicated its design and scope. With Abraham God made a solemn covenant--that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. The kingdom of God assumed a visible form. A sign and seal of the covenant (circumcision) was imparted to all within this kingdom. All without the sign and seal were outside of the kingdom. So that all through the Patriarchal, [4/5] Mosaical and Prophetical ages, it was marked and distinct from all its surroundings. In all these ages, bloody sacrifices for sins characterized this kingdom: all typical of that awful sacrifice upon the Cross, as of a "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." The great Prophecies of the Old Testament found their fulfilment in the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ: in the promulgation of the gospel of reconciliation: and in the enlarging and spiritualizing of the kingdom of righteousness.
The Jewish dispensation being ended, the Church of Christ was fully established and ordered, and her laborers sent forth to do God's work in the world. There has been, there is, and there will be but one Church, the Patriarchal, the Jewish and the Christian being but the several dispensations or administrations of the one only Church of the Living God! In the first two, Christ was typified and foretold: in the last, He is in reality "Immanuel,"--"God with us!"
Now, every society or kingdom must have its distinctive laws and ordinances, and its several officers to administer the same; and these must be clothed with power to transmit, in some way or other, the authority which they have received unto their successors. The laws and ordinances, the officials, and the mode of perpetuating the same, being once established, they cannot be changed, unless, indeed, the distinctive features of the body politic be at any time abrogated by competent authority. This applies in its fullest extent to the Church of Christ. And if we clearly trace the continuance of the distinctive features of the body politic, which from the first characterized the Church of Christ, and nowhere find the same abrogated by competent authority, we must needs confess that in this matter what was primitive and catholic ( general or universal) should yet be held sacred and inviolable.
Let us examine this point. I have said that there can be but one Church of God: and that, as Christians, we are simply under one particular dispensation or administration of His Church or kingdom. Now under the Jewish dispensation, when the public worship of God advanced to so exalted a state, we know that all the arrangements and ordinances and officers of the Tabernacle and of the Temple were by direct appointment of God. Under this dispensation were the High Priests, Priests and Levites. With the temple worship all of Christ's earlier disciples were [5/6] familiar. Our Saviour Himself was wont to give attendance in the Temple. In it He taught. And it He called the House of Prayer.
When the new dispensation was fully inaugurated: when Christ had given the great commission to His Apostles, saying--"Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world:" when the Holy Spirit had been poured upon them on the day of Pentecost, and by virtue of the Divine guidance thus vouchsafed them, they had set in yet greater order the things pertaining to the Church; what is the character of the ministry plainly deducible from the written records of the Church? Manifestly, a ministry of a three-fold order. We read of the Apostles, the Elders or Presbyters called also Bishops, and the Deacons: three distinct orders with separate and distinct functions. After the death of the original Apostles, those who constituted the first or highest order assumed the exclusive title of Bishops, leaving, as an act of reverence, the distinctive term Apostle as applying to the original members of the Apostolic College. But under the name of Bishops they were clothed with and continued to exercise the same office and authority in the Church as the original twelve. To these, the Bishops, as the successors of the Apostles, was confined the power of ordaining and consecrating others to the sacred ministry. So, then, we hold that this ministry is of divine origin, and not the creation of man; and a ministry to be perpetuated through all the ages, or at least until it shall have been abrogated by competent authority; that competent authority being the voice of the Son of God, Himself, or the universal Church guided by God, the Holy Ghost.
Touching the words of the great commission itself, Christ could not be with the Apostles in the work of the ministry "even unto end of the world;" nor could they teach and baptize all nations, for the simple reason that the twelve were mortal. But He could be with them "unto the end of the world" in and through their successors in the same office and ministry, perpetuating from age to age the same "holy orders" and "faith." The very idea of the ministry, as it has been remarked, seems to carry with it [6/7] "the necessity of self-perpetuation." And this, coupled with the Master's promise of His abiding presence and co-operation through the Holy Ghost, is a strong tower of assurance unto the Christian Churchman.
It is objected that the New Testament does not formally and explicitly declare this three fold order" to be the sole prescribed character of the ministry. Neither does the New Testament formally and explicitly tell us to observe the first day of the week as the Christian Sabbath instead of the seventh. Nevertheless from the very first, after Christ's resurrection, the first day of the week was so observed in commemoration of that event; for we read, "then the same day at evening being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst of them." * "After eight days, again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them; then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst and said, Peace be unto you," the eight days signifying one beyond the Jewish Sabbath; or, in other words, the first day of the week. Thus we see that Christ Himself blessed with His presence their first day assemblies, and seemed to sanction (and for aught we know commanded them to continue) the observance of the first, instead of the seventh day. Now this is the same kind of scriptural evidence upon which we rest the order of the ministry. What though we do not read in so many words that this change was to be made? The Scripture record shows that it was made, and by competent authority. What though we do not read in so many words the Ministry shall be of a three-fold order? The Scripture record seems to convey no other idea of it.
And it is here to be borne in mind that the Church of Christ was fully organized long before the New Testament was written. The Church is the keeper of the Scriptures. They bear within themselves, indeed, an "internal evidence" of their inspiration, and yet it is by the Church that the Canon of Scripture is determined: deciding, from among the many writings, what is and what is not inspired. So that the polity of the Church is not in reality founded upon the written Word: the Scriptures do but witness to a polity already in existence, bearing witness to a three-fold order in the ministry of Christ's Holy, Apostolic Church. A [7/8] careful and unbiased study of the Scriptures relating to this question, and of the arguments set forth by the Church, establishes this fact, to my mind, beyond a peradventure.
And now, leaving Scripture, we find that the facts of history are fully in accord with our theory. I have but time and space to make a brief quotation: "We believe in the Apostolic Succession (carrying with it the ministry in its complete or threefold order) on the ground of historic evidence. Irenaeus says(A. D. 175) that 'they could enumerate those appointed Bishops by the Apostles and their successors, even to his day.' Tertullian (A. D. 200) says, that all orthodox Churches 'could show the series of their Bishops, so running down from the beginning, by successions from the first Bishops, as to be able to show that he was one of the Apostles, or Apostolic men.' Eusebius brings down the succession, in several Churches, to A. D. 305. From this date to St. Augustine, Archbishop of Canterbury, A. D. 596, a period of two hundred and ninety-one years, the Christian Church was every where Episcopal; as is admitted by every one. From the time of St. Augustine, the list of Archbishops is preserved by historians. The succession having been established in the beginning, and firmly guarded and secured, as we have seen, by express provision of Canon Law, the lists of that succession exist, not in one Church, only, but in various Churches, down to modern times." So that to-day, in this our branch of the Church Catholic, the Bishops may trace back the authority committed to them even to the foundation of the Apostolate.
But it is asked, "is not the Episcopal Church in this country, a branch of the English?" We answer, yes! "Was not the English Church originated in the time of Henry VIII; and what then of an unbroken line of succession?" We answer, no! The Church of England was then only Reformed; she, then, freed herself from the corruptions of Rome. She had a goodly heritage, as the Old British Church, long before Roman influences overshadowed her. She had the Word, the Sacraments and the Ministry in its three-fold order; her Bishops claiming direct succession from the Apostles.
Augustine, sent into Britain by the Bishop of Rome in the year 596, found this pure branch of the Church existing. But gradually she fell a prey to Papal usurpation. "In 1213, King [8/9] John surrendered his crown to the Bishop of Rome;" and the British Church became in time wholly Romanized and her line of succession merged into the Roman. But yet, it is not necessary for her, or the American branch of the Church, to look to Rome for a continuance of this succession. "It is susceptible of proof that the Ancient British Bishops never lost successors in the English Church: and Augustine, Archbishop of Canterbury, was consecrated by the Archbishop of Arles, in Gaul, whose orders were derived through Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, the disciple of St. John." When, however, that mighty movement convulsed the religious world in the 16th century, the Church of England entered upon a system of reform,--a reformation in answer to the prayers of the weary, burdened ages. On the Continent, this movement assumed a revolutionary rather than a reformatory character, and this evidently against the mind of the leaders. Not content with casting aside the false doctrines and superstitious practices which the Church of Rome had heaped upon the Christian world, they cut loose from the old order of the ministry existing from the beginning, and prevailing throughout Christendom; and from many other inestimably good things, simply because Rome held them also. Not so, however, with the great body of Reformers in the Church of England. Errors and corruptions alone were cast aside. They held fast to the precious heritage of the past. Not only the Bible and the Sacraments were precious to them, but an Apostolic ministry and a Liturgical form of worship also. These they sought to hold pure and simple. Nor sought they to create a schism by a violent separation from Rome. But in 1569 the Pope issued his bull of excommunication against Queen Elizabeth, absolved her subjects from their allegiance and pronounced sentence of ex-communication upon all who adhered to her authority. And finally, through the adherence of a small body to Papal authority and by establishing separate Churches in England, Rome herself became the schismatic! The majority of the English Clergy and Laity favored this Reformation, and the Apostolic Succession was continued. So that in thus being freed from Papal dominion, the Church of England, in no sense of the word, became a newly organized Church, but only a Reformed Church--the old Catholic Church of England once more in possession of that independence and right of which Papal usurpation had deprived her!
 From this brief survey of the matter, it will be seen that those bodies of Christians who abandoned a liturgical form of worship, and an Apostolic ministry and founded and continued a Presbyterian system, or a ministry in one order, cannot rightly look to the English Church, as they often do, for a justification of their course. The Church of England, by her own act, never created a schism--Rome did this. She reformed herself in doctrine and discipline, but never gave up the principles of an Apostolic Ministry. I see, indeed, that a seceding Rector from one of our neighboring City Parishes, in explaining his reasons for leaving this Church, is reported to have said, that the present order of the Church in regard to Episcopal ordination "was put in the Prayer Book by the commissioners under Charles II--that up to that time the Church did not re-ordain those who came from the Presbyterians and others." Now this declaration carries with it the assertion that the Church of England then virtually abandoned "one of the fundamental principles of Apostolic organization,"--an assertion yet to be demonstrated! That some expressions of some of the leading Reformers may possibly give color to this idea; and that there were instances in which non-Episcopally ordained ministers were admitted into the pulpits of the English Church, we can readily admit. Touching this latter fact, it is recorded that Archbishop Grindal was suspended for permitting just that very thing. Irregularities, indeed, there were. But these irregularities, forsooth, are not to be put down as the mind and practice of the Church!
Let it be borne in mind that these were days of turmoil, of strife, of persecution, of war and of blood. Rome in the ascendancy during one reign, Puritanism during the next, and the Church of England at the mercy of contending factions. Let all this, I say, be borne in mind, and we shall then understand that it was no easy or speedy task to re-adjust all the affairs of the Church upon a true, primitive and Apostolic foundation. This "act of uniformity," referred to, simply settled a question about which the troublous times alone caused any diversity of opinion. The effect of this act was the ejectment of some two thousand ministers who refused to conform to the law. A new Hall has just been erected in London in memory of this event;--designed to be a reminder of "the tale of 1662." Now, I wonder if the tale of 1642-62 is [10/11] wholly forgotten--when the Bishops were imprisoned in the "Tower," on idle charges of treason;--the Church Clergy every where subjected to cruelties; and between "six and seven thousand' ejected from their positions, and the same filled by these Non-Conformists of 1662. These were sad and troublous times, indeed. But let us have both sides of the picture. And so, taking into full account these irregularities, and the added fact that at various times the advice and learning of Non-Episcopalians were sought during the compilation of the Prayer Book, yet these facts do not constitute a shadow of proof that the Church of England, as a Church, departed from the principles of an Apostolic ministry.
Again, in this same connection it has been asked "how can such a thing be true?" "Had Christ meant that there should be an Apostolic ministry, He would hardly have blessed the Non-Episcopal ministers as He has done"--in this expression following out, in the main, the language of Bishop Cummins. Now I answer, that this can be true; and I believe it to be true, upon ample Scriptural, and historical evidence;--some points of which we have already briefly alluded to. And if we look at the several divisions under which Christians are classified, we shall find that those holding this doctrine of an Apostolic Succession do not constitute so small a fraction of Christendom, as Bishop Cummins would seem to intimate. Taking the estimate in round numbers, there are some two hundred millions of Christians in the world;--of these about one hundred and eighty millions are under the Episcopal form of Church government, and holding this form, not from mere taste or fancy, but as the duly constituted order.
Now, beloved, we all hold that the wonderful preservation of the Bible, amid all the chances and changes of the ages, constitutes one of the strongest evidences of its inspiration. And why not account the wonderful preservation of this form of Church government to so vast a majority of Christendom, as an evidence of its Apostolic origin and Scriptural force and sanction? We admit, indeed, the Roman Church to be a corrupt branch of the Church: and, in this age, she seems to be wandering even farther from truth and soberness. W e admit the Greek Church to be a slumbering Church, and but little removed, perhaps, from Roman superstition. But the fact that an Apostolic Church has corrupted [11/12] the faith is no argument against the validity of her ministerial orders. We should not reject Episcopacy or seem to undervalue it on such a ground. Rome has used the Bible to suit her own purposes--yet we would not therefore reject this Holy Word of God. And just here let me refer to a point attempted to be made by Bishop Cummins in his review of the late General Convention. In high sounding words he seemed to hold up to public gaze, the amazing insult offered by this body, in a matter of intended courtesy towards certain Clergy of the Greek Church, with never a mention of "the Christ-like work of the denominations around us." Now, the way this is put is simply uncandid, unfair, though perhaps not thus intended.
What are the facts? The General Convention was convened for the due legislative work of the Episcopal Church in this land, and not for comparing notes with others, however meritorious. On the first day of the Session, a resolution was passed extending a welcome to a Bishop and several other clergymen of the Church of England. At the same time, a clerical member of the Lower House offered a resolution to extend the courtesy of the Convention to any Priests or officers of the Greek Church who might be in the city. Whereupon, another member, rather ironically, suggested that such invitation be extended to the Bishops and other clergy of the Roman Church. The former member explained his intention thus:--the passage of such a resolution "would not endorse it (the doctrine of the Greek Church,) it would not commit our branch of the Church to anything; it would simply be a recognition that they are Clergy of a Church towards which we hope in the Providence of God, we may be drawn in love without a sacrifice of doctrine." Now, sirs, does that sound like endorsing, "in toto," the doctrines of the Greek Church? Was there any just reason for flaunting such a passing incident before the world as an insult to the Christian community around us? But capital, I suppose, must be made out of everything now-a-days. The Greek Church is a comparative stranger on our shores. The Romish Church we know full well. She excommunicates and anathematizes us all. The different Christian denominations we have ever with us towards whom we are at all times hoping to be drawn in love and unity without too great a sacrifice of the principles underlying our existence. And, indeed, it is but a few [12/13] years since, that our Church put forth an earnest effort to bring back to her early home the great and goodly Methodist communion. I say her early home; and her true home, too. For John Wesley never intended that the Societies which he organized should leave the Church of England. He, himself, writes in his Journal--"We believe that the three-fold order of Ministers is not only authorized by the Apostolic Institutions, but also by the written word." And, by the way, I was asked a few days ago, by a good Methodist Brother, if "John Wesley was not a Bishop? And if he did not consecrate Bishops for the Methodists in this country?" I, of course, answered no! But, let John Wesley answer for himself. About two years before his death, he wrote a letter of Expostulation to Dr. Coke and Mr. Asbury, whom he had sent to America as Superintendents of the Societies here, but who had assumed the title of Bishop. He writes:--"One instance of your greatness has given me great concern. How can you, how dare you suffer yourself to be called Bishop? I shudder, I start at the very thought! Men may call me knave or fool, but they shall never, by my consent, call me Bishop. For my sake, for God's sake, for Christ's sake put a full end to this! Let the Presbyterians do what they please, but let Methodists know their calling." No uncertain sound, this! He may have laid his hands on Dr. Coke, thus setting him apart for a special work among the Methodists here, but as for making him a Bishop, his own words forbid the holding of such an idea. And never having been consecrated to that Holy office himself, he could not consecrate a Bishop, in the sense intended, even if he had desired to do so.
But pardon this digression. In what I have thus far said, I have endeavored to set forth the doctrine of the Apostolic Succession in its fullest meaning:--Bishops consecrating Bishops in one unbroken line from the first, through whom are transmitted power and authority to minister in Christ's Holy Church. Three Bishops, according to an ancient Canon, were required to consecrate, so that at each consecration there might be three distinct channels created through which to trace back the line of succession. And if we stop to think a moment of the great multiplication of these channels in the course of any one generation, we may almost realize the impossibility of a loss of that succession, unless, indeed, Episcopacy should at any time be wholly abandoned. Therefore, [13/14] the burden of proof lies upon the objector, to show when and where this line has been broken--where any one link has been lost. This has been attempted often, but never yet accomplished. Yet further, one school of Presbyterians holds to the "Divine right of Presbytery as the one system of Church Government authorized by the Word of God." So that we alone are not chargable with exclusive ideas of a Succession, the difference being, that with us authority to ordain and consecrate is vested in the Bishops, as successors of the Apostles. With them this authority is vested in the Presbytery.
In our own communion, there are differing views among the Clergy and Laity in relation to Episcopacy itself. Some esteem it as necessary for the being of the Church, others as necessary for its well-being or perfection, and yet others, perhaps, simply esteem it desirable as an "Ancient form of Church polity." Here, as in other matters, the Church is comprehensive. As also in the letter and spirit of her Prayer Book. This latter fact no one seemed to appreciate more highly than Dr. Cummins himself, as expressed in that very beautiful and now celebrated sermon of his on the Prayer Book, and to which I will draw your attention by and by. I say, within her comprehensive fold, the Church knits together those of differing minds, tastes and possibilities: and to the earnest inquirer she says--take the Bible and any of my standard works; take the Church's massed testimony of facts, dates and attendant circumstances--read, with a mind unbiassed and unprejudiced, and judge for yourself!
There is another point, in this connection, to which I would briefly refer. Dr. Cummins attempts to cast odium upon the'Church when he irreverently says--that each Bishop in the act of consecration "gives the other the Holy Ghost, through the medium of a human hand." This is a late day for one who, leaving the Methodist Communion and ministry, received ordination and consecration as Deacon, Priest and Bishop, according to the form and manner used in this Church, and who in turn used them in ordaining others, and doubtless assisted in consecrations--to now stand horrified, as it were, at the awful presumption of the Church in using the Holy Words of Scripture, where, if in any place, they should be used. Now when a Bishop of this Church in ordaining or consecrating, uses these words:--"Receive the Holy Ghost (for the [14/15] office and work of a Priest or Bishop, in the Church of God) "he uses them, I opine, to the same purpose and intent that less Scriptural words are used among most denominations of Christians when setting apart those who are to minister among them. Wrote a holy Bishop:--"When Christ ordained His Apostles ministers of the Gospel, He said unto them, 'Receive the Holy Ghost.' Which words, because they contain the principal duty of a minister, and do signify that God doth pour His Holy Spirit upon those whom He calleth to that function, are most aptly, also, used by the Bishop, who is God's instrument in the ordaining of others to the holy ministry." The flippant expression of Dr. Cummins would almost leave the impression on the common mind that this Church believes in a real, visible, tangible conveyance of the Holy Spirit in the act of consecration.
Yet again, Dr. Cummins declares that "the Apostolic office was never intended to be continued," and intimates that it is an impiety to call Bishops the successors of the Apostles. Now, we remember that the distinctive title Apostle is reverently reserved unto those first called, and who saw the Lord face to face. To them was given miraculous power, whereby they might attest their authority in first promulgating the Gospel, and in establishing the Church. The claim to any succession or participation in these miraculous powers would, indeed, be an impiety. But to them was also committed the authority to send others into the Master's vineyard. They ordained all, and set all things in order in the Church, confirming those who had been baptized from time to time. So that in the succession to, and continuance of this work--of this office, it is not only not an impiety to call the Bishops successors of the Apostles--but Scripture and History we humbly submit, bear testimony to the piety of so doing, and to the fact that they are their successors.
As to the expression, before quoted, "that Christ would hardly have blessed the non Episcopal ministers as He has done, had He intended that there should be an Apostolic ministry "--I would simply say that mere success in any work is not proof of the correctness of the manner of any procedure. And in this case, what is more, the very fact that great blessings have attended the work of such, is a strong argument in the opposite direction, and against this new movement, causing, as it does, another division [15/16] among professing Christians. If this measure of good is accomplished amid divisions and distractions, what untold good would be done if all were in unity and concord?--if in spirit and in letter all Christians lived up to the declaration--"There is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism?" I know that it is a favorite cry with the multitude, that these divisions are all the better for Christianity; that amid this diversity the different tastes and dispositions of men are looked after and provided for. This is a poor argument for the existence of a divided Christendom. And the greatest obstacle in the way of overcoming the alarming growth of Infidelity, is this very matter of division in the body of Christ. Even the heathen tribes in distant lands will tell your missionaries to go home and first settle among themselves what is truth, and them come and teach them. O, let us get rid of this idea that sects and divisions are the right thing! Let us find out what are the first principles and foundation and order of the faith and kingdom of Christ. Let us see what is primitive and catholic. Let us away with the many standards bearing as many different names and devices. And let us rear the one standard bearing this inscription--"Jesus Christ and Him crucified:" and underneath--"The Church of the living God--the pillar and ground of the Truth!"
Yet one other question remains to be considered, and that a practical question. Is not the position held by the Church an arrogant and uncharitable position? By no means. We are not of the Church of Rome which seems to deny salvation to all outside of her pale. We do not hold, as Bishop Cummins intimates we do in common with the Church of Rome, that "the Protestant denominations are in no sense a part of the Church of Christ, because they have not the Holy Ghost in the Apostolic Succession." Now, Baptism is the door of admission into Christ's Church, and the Protestant Episcopal Church does not require those to be re-baptized who were baptized in other communions. Some of our Bishops and other clergy were not baptized by Episcopally ordained ministers. And the clergy of the Church are not wont indiscriminately to repel persons coming to the "Lord's Table," if at all. Nevertheless, the distinctive features of the Church remain. And touching the ministry, as, in the language of the preface to the Ordinal, "It is evident unto all [16/17] men diligently reading Holy Scriptures and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these orders of Ministers in Christ's Church,--Bishops, Priests, and Deacons," we hold fast to these changeless orders, leaving others to make good their own position. Many, united to us by the closest ties of family and affection, are not joined with us in this faith and practice; but yet the names of the Redeemed "are all written in the Lamb's book of life!" We all aim for the better life beyond the grave, and long to be at rest with the Lord. Yet, whilst one may say, "I care not whether the Lord has appointed a ministry of His own, or required Unity and perfectness in His Church or not, so I only get to heaven;--we dare not, for ourselves, adopt any such notions." Patiently abiding God's own good time and pleasure, we pray that all might hold fast "with us in all Evangelical truth and Apostolic order, as Cornelius and Apollos were brought to do." O, call us not unfeeling! Call us not Christless! And yet unfeeling and Christless we needs must be if this incessant charge of uncharitableness has any foundation in fact. Charity, which is love, is of the heart and not of the head. I know, with some, there is a flippant, contemptuous way of speaking about the religious bodies around us. But this is not the spirit of Christ. And, however much those of other communions may misunderstand, and even revile us, yet the true, loyal Churchman, with his mind convinced upon Scriptural and historical evidence, adheres to this "changeless faith and order;" at the same time, in his very heart of hearts, being knit together with all who name the name of Christ; with all whose names "are written in the Lamb's book of life;"--and who "live by the faith of the Son of God."
The second special reason assigned as a justification of this new movement, is the Church's doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration. Emphatically, the Church does hold this doctrine; but not in the particular sense attributed to her. This is a vastly important question; and a question around which many a theological battle has been fought--and simply, it seems to me, owing to the possession on the part of some, of a superabundance of theological acumen, and the lack of a little Saxon common sense. With one breath we are asked to throw aside mere technicalities,--to throw aside theological weapons, and rest upon simple Scriptural [17/18] ground. And yet in the very next breath we find the same individuals treating such nice points in Theology,--manifesting such an acuteness, as really to almost perplex wiser heads than yours or mine. But, in considering this point I shall keep in mind the general train of thought and expression presented by the Rev. Dr. already referred to, in explaining his action and describing "the shipwrecking state into which he was driven in his life-long effort to retain his hold on the Church of his first love." It strikes me that his whole position in this Church, by his own showing, had been one of doubt, of uncertainty and of instability. A wholesome Apostolic injunction reads:--"Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." Furthermore, he declared, "that he had no ill words to throw back at those with whom he had been associated." 'This is well! Neither have I any ill words to express. And nothing but an absolute conviction of duty, in the position I hold, would influence me to have anything to say in this whole matter--especially, when I have to deal with the words of those more gifted than myself. Ill words, indeed, are out of the question. But, when it is subsequently declared that "the Regeneration of the Prayer Book dishonors the work of the Spirit and destroys the souls of men, by leading them to believe that they were members with God because they had been baptized," coupled with the fact that this is an assigned reason for leaving the Church, constitutes a charge tenfold more cutting than the expression of mere unkind or ill words would be. It is this, and kindred charges, against which we protest. For they place you and me in the position of holding fast to a Book, which teaches deadly errors! Now I have not the time, nor the inclination minutely to argue the several points here involved. Suffice it to mention the five or six theories which the Rev. Dr. attempted to settle upon, but was compelled to abandon, one after the other, "in his life-long struggle." First, he attempted to hold the theory that the Prayer Book Baptismal service for Infants, taught that "the child was simply incorporated into the visible Church." Another theory, "that Baptism washed away original sin." Another, "that in Baptism a germ of Christian life was planted in the child, which grew or died, as the child was properly or improperly cared for." Another, "that Regeneration meant only a sign of Regeneration." Another, "that he might [18/19] charitably take it for granted that the prayers of the parents in bringing the child to baptism were answered." And yet another theory--"that Regeneration was only representatively affirmed of the child; and that the faith and repentance required of the child were represented by that of the parents."
Now all these theories, we are told, were abandoned as untenable, and, to use his own words--"Nothing remained but to plant himself on the literal meaning of the word, and, with his views of the Gospel, it was impossible to stand by the Prayer Book." And why? Because "in his life-long struggle" with theological niceties, and taking the literal meaning of the word according to a modern use instead of its literal meaning in connection with its Scriptural bearing, he makes out that the Prayer Book teaches that which "dishonors the work of the Spirit and destroys the souls of men." Beloved, the only redeeming feature in this whole matter is, that it took "a life-long struggle" to come to so sad and so erroneous a conclusion. However, as I have said, I will not argue the several points here involved. But, God helping me, I will endeavor to set forth the Church's teaching on Baptismal Regeneration.
In relation to the subject matter before us, it is to be borne in mind that there are two distinct kingdoms--"the Natural and the Spiritual--the Kingdom of Nature and the Kingdom of Grace. The entrance into the one is by generation; the entrance into the other is by regeneration. We are born into the former, we are born again into the latter. In the one are the appointed means for physical and intellectual growth; in the other, the covenanted provisions for moral and spiritual advancement. By birth we are introduced into the world; by a new birth we are incorporated into the Church. Here, then, is a great and evident change of state, and the appointed means of effecting it, is the Sacrament of Baptism, the 'laver of regeneration,'" as St. Paul terms it. This is a plain statement of the doctrine in question. The whole difficulty with the objector is in using the word regeneration as meaning one and the same thing as conversion or renovation: and in rendering the word as a new living instead of a new birth. Conversion, renovation or sanctification is not necessarily implied in Baptismal Regeneration, though generally attendant upon the same in true adult baptism. But, let us examine the Scriptural [19/20] bearing of the word. And in this connection, I would freely quote from a short article just fallen under my notice. The word occurs (in the original) but twice in the New Testament. In St. Matt. 19: 28, * * "in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory," &c.--referring to the second coming of Christ. And again, it occurs in St. Paul's Epistle to Titus (5: 3)--"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost," evidently referring to Baptism. The word here translated 'washing' is 'loutron,' laver, and is the same word which is used by St. Paul (Ephesians 5: 25, 26,)--' Even as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word.' Literally 'that He may sanctify, having cleansed it in the bath or laver of water by the Word.' Here cleansing in water comes first, sanctifying afterwards. Thus it appears that in the two texts of Scripture in which the word regeneration occurs, one plainly refers to washing with water; and in the two texts where 'loutron' or bath' occurs, both refer to cleansing by water. The use of water, therefore, is in both cases connected with regeneration and Spiritual cleansing." This same connection is expressed in many other passages of Scripture. Take for instance our Saviour's words to Nicodemus, * * "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." St. Paul, after his wonderful conversion, was exhorted--"Be baptized and wash away thy sins." And so of other passages. Take "the testimony of the Church from the earliest ages." For one quotation only have I space: "Justin Martyr, A. D. 110, thus describes the manner of receiving converts: 'Then they are led by us to the place where water is, and they are regenerated in the same manner of regeneration in which we ourselves have been regenerated.'" Take the testimony, also, of all the leading Reformers, whether in England or on the Continent. Take the great body of Divines of every age; and we most assuredly find that regeneration or the "new-birth," as taught by this Church, stands connected with the Baptism of water.
Seeing, then, that this is the true bearing or connection of the word, I hasten to consider its actual meaning. As before remarked, the ground of objection rests upon the fact of accounting 20/21 Regeneration in baptism, the same as "Conversion" or "a change of heart." Now I hold that, that condition of mind and heart which is commonly called "Conversion," may either precede or follow what the Church means by Baptismal Regeneration. And here I do not know how better to illustrate my meaning than by giving a chapter from personal experience. I do not, indeed, believe much in "Experience Meetings"; I do not believe much in opening out the soul's inner wrestlings with the Spirit of God; but there are times and occurrences which often move us to go out of ourselves, as it were; yea, to speak in plainest, simplest language. And, my friends, I confess that there are many circumstances connected with this so-called "reform movement" which have stirred my soul to its inmost depths. And I shrink not from even touching upon, to me, most delicately sacred ground, if thereby, I may the better illustrate my meaning--and all the better "give a reason of the hope that is in me." But to the point!
I oft look back upon the years gone by, and gratefully contemplate the pathway that led me into this city of our God. Up to the verge of manhood I was brought up amid teachings, associations and influences, strictly and solidly Presbyterian. We Presbyterians were called a "stiff-necked people"; but I used to think that of all "stiff-necked, exclusive people, none could compare with Episcopalians. Why, year in and year out, from early childhood, I had passed right by the very doors of the old Episcopal Church on my way to our place of worship or to Sunday School, with never a thought of entering therein, so exclusive did I consider them. And as for the "Prayer Book," I never so much as looked into one! True, I never found in the Presbyterian form of worship what, at times, I had an indefinite longing for. With devout attention I, indeed, listened to the Minister's prayer. And apprehending his meaning by dint of close attention, and a constant mental process, I could say Amen, and thus make his petitions my own, or not, just as they agreed or disagreed with my thoughts and needs. I could join heartily in singing the old Psalms and Hymns; but, after all, the sum of going to Church seemed to be to listen to a good, pleasing sermon. My inclination for Church attendance frequently led me to the services of other bodies of Christians. Now all this time I was unbaptized--being from some cause or other, the only one of the family not baptized [21/22] in infancy. This fact, not unfrequently, caused me some thought and anxiety. By and by, apparently by mere accident, in company with a friend I for the first time attended an Episcopal service. I shall never forget the impression then made upon my mind. In the possession of a Prayer Book, I soon became a frequent attendant upon the services. A new life seemed to be opening out upon my vision. Longings and aspirations of many years seemed to be fulfilling. Here was a system of worship pure, simple, ennobling: all that a devout heart could desire. Circumstances called me from my native city to dwell in another. Thither the same services and the same Prayer Book followed me--exercising a powerful influence upon my life. Within a twelvemonth I sundered my business engagements, returned to my home, and in partial retirement, with Bible in one hand and Prayer Book in the other, I determined to work out this problem even unto the end. There came a season, (not an instant, not a moment of time, but a season,) when, with new tastes, impulses and desires; with a moral courage to do many things which before I would have shrunk from doing; with a faith fixed and a hope most cheering, it would have been little short of "sinning against the Holy Ghost," to have doubted that that state or condition of mind and heart constituted what is commonly called "Conversion," and which some of our good Christian brethren tell us must be sought through loud and public demonstrations. Who believes in "justification by faith "? So do I! Who believes that a "change of heart," in one sense, constitutes a "new-birth"? So do I! And yet amid all that I have just expressed, I felt as though I were yet a stranger and an alien! And why? Because I perceived that the "faith of the Son of God" was not a mere sentiment or feeling. Because I perceived that His "faith and kingdom" comprised an outward as well as an inward state,--as a conviction and affection of mind and heart, and as a visible organism. Because I perceived that the Scriptures bore testimony to the fact that this visible Church was duly officered and appointed under Divine guidance; there being therein certain officers to administer certain ordinances and perform certain functions. Because I perceived that Christ had said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." Because I perceived that this being born of water was [22/23] connected with the Sacrament of Baptism. And so, whatever had been my spiritual experience, I could not but feel that I was, in one sense, still an alien to this household of faith, because I was unbaptized. Methinks I hear the contemner of the Sacraments exclaim, Why any anxiety or thought about Baptism, if there was a full assurance of "justification by faith"! I don't know, my good friend, that it is given us to know the why and wherefore of all God's dealings with His creatures. But I do know, that from the same source whence came the assurance of that justification, came, also, the suggestion to respect and receive the Master's commanded Sacraments. You will remember that even St. Paul, after so great and wonderful a conversion and experience, and to whom Ananias was sent by the Lord Himself; even he "arose and was baptized."
And yet the Rev. Dr. before referred to, rather facetiously exclaims:--"Just fancy St. Paul as believing Sacramental Regeneration! He who said, 'I thank God that I baptized none of you.'" These words seem not only to array St. Paul against this doctrine, but also to represent him as lightly esteeming baptism itself. Now, St. Paul wrote:--"I thank God that I baptized none of you--but Crispus and Gaius." (I Cor. 1:14). So, then, he did baptize some of them! And immediately he adds:--"I baptized also the household of Stephanas; besides I know not whether I baptised any others." But if we turn to Acts 16: 14, 15, 31, we shall find that he (much more likely than his companion Silas) baptized "Lydia" and "her household," and "the Jailer" "and all his"--children and adults. Moreover, as the reason for saying that be thanked God he had baptized none of his Corinthian brethren, "but Crispus and Gaius," he adds--"Lest any should say I had baptized in my own name:"--for even then party-spirit and divisions existed--some saying "I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ." And yet further, in saying that he was "sent not to baptize but to preach," he surely never intended to undervalue the Sacrament of Baptism,--a Sacrament of Christ's own institution. As a Hebrew, he was a man "of much learning;" and, wonderfully converted and endowed with every spiritual grace, he was specially fitted to preach the Gospel with power and effect. The baptizing of those to be admitted into the Church could be done just as well by [23/24] others in the sacred orders. That is about what he meant! St Paul was not wont to despise Christ's own ordained Sacraments. Fancy, indeed! Verily, St. Paul is the last Scripture Worthy whose words or actions I should think of quoting as placing a light estimation upon baptism--or against Baptismal Regeneration.
But to resume. In view of the facts and circumstances just related, my first step was to be baptized. And although in the reception of that Holy Sacrament, there was no mighty demonstration, no tangible effect, yet, in all its fulness, I realize that then and there I was the subject of what the Church teaches as Baptismal Regeneration, or "the New-Birth:"--The ingrafting into the body of Christ's Church, with all the Covenanted aids and promises of the Lord and giver of life. For, whereas, by the process of generation I was born into the "kingdom of nature" so now by re-generation I was "born again," and incorporated into the "kingdom of Grace." The point, my friends, which I thus endeavor to bring out, you will perceive, is, that what is commonly known as "a change of heart" is not necessarily, mark the words, is not necessarily implied in Baptismal Regeneration. For, as I think it has been demonstrated that it may precede, so may it follow the administration of the Sacrament of Baptism. Take an example: A person sorrowing for past sins, earnestly believing God's promises, and yet conscious of no actual "change of heart and life"--with no sense of a full "justification" in the sight of God,--seeing that Baptism is the appointed mode of entrance into Christ's Kingdom wherein are the covenanted aids and graces, humbly receives that Holy Sacrament. By a faithful performance of his "part" and duty, God "will most surely keep and perform" His "promise." So that through daily renovation and Sanctification we behold that change of heart and life which constitutes the true member of "Christ's mystical body." We may, indeed, often be called to mourn the fact that the after life of the baptized is not always above reproach. Still, this is no argument against humbly accepting Christ's own appointed Covenant of promise. The life of the child of God does, indeed, require daily renewing. And here I may add, that it is a strange charge (often made) that this Church does not teach the necessity of "a change of heart," when our whole system of worship is one continued witness to the need of casting aside the works of the devil and "the putting [24/25] on of the new man"--the "creation of the soul in righteousness and true holiness:" those who are baptized are ever taught to pray for "new and contrite hearts."
I may further add, that this doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration is to be found in the standards of the Reformed Dutch Church, the Presbyterian and others. "The Congregational and Presbyterian 'Larger Catechism,' under question 165, What is Baptism? has this answer (and to the same effect in the Shorter Catechism, also)--Baptism is a Sacrament of the New Testament wherein Christ hath ordained the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to be a sign and seal of ingrafting into Himself; of remission of sins by His blood, and regeneration by His Spirit; of adoption and resurrection unto eternal life; and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible Church." Under Question 177, Baptism is declared to be a "sign and seal of our Regeneration and ingrafting into Christ and that even to Infants." Elsewhere it is declared that "the efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost to such, whether of age, or infants, as that grace belongeth unto."
And yet, in seeking to bring reproach upon this Church, it is constantly asked, How dare we say, after the baptism of an infant, "that this child is regenerate and grafted into the body of Christ's Church;" and return thanks to God "that it has pleased (Him) to regenerate this infant with (His) Holy Spirit," &c., in view of the fact that according to the Catechism "the inward and spiritual grace" in the Sacrament of baptism, is "a death unto sin and a new-birth unto righteousness"? Does not "a death unto sin and a new-birth unto righteousness" imply a "moral change"? And will you say a "moral change" takes place in an infant when baptized?
Now in answer to all this--in saying that a "moral change" does not take place in the infant is declaring a simple truism. And the latter clause of the answer in the Catechism, it seems to me, explains the former, and is in full harmony with all we have said: * * "For being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath,--born into the "kingdom of nature"--we are hereby made [25/26] the children of God, "new-born" into the "kingdom of grace;"--this being "a death unto sin and a new-birth unto righteousness," as here intended. For let us bear in mind the difference between birth and living. "A 'new-birth' is not a change of heart; a beginning to live is not a change of life, nor is it a 'continuance of life.' A child is born, but it will not live and grow unless a judicious use is made of the proper and natural means of sustenance. Yet, should it die, you would not, therefore, say it had no birth? As in the "kingdom of nature," so in the "kingdom of Grace." The "new-birth" (the ingrafting into Christ's Church, with all the aids and graces covenanted therein) constitutes the germ to he developed into a daily life of righteousness by these Spiritual aids and graces being constantly and judiciously used. That germ of grace may end in Spiritual death, or fruit unto a glorious immortality. So, then, the fact of baptism alone is no assurance of final salvation.
And in relation to Infant Baptism, in view of the taint of "original sin," in view of the fact that from the first, the heart is prone unto evil--"it is surely not contrary to reason that there should be some means provided by a gracious God, in the use of which we should receive a something to counteract this evil. And it seems reasonable, that the use of this means should not be deferred, till we are of an age to know what we receive; but that we should receive some seed of Good, in the same state of infancy, in which we have received the seed of evil. The evil was not withheld till we knew what we received: why should the remedy be deferred until we can know what we received?"
Do I, then, believe that Regeneration or the "new-birth" is inseparably connected with Baptism? Yea, verily--(meaning, not "conversion," but the ingrafting into the body of Christ's Church with the Covenanted aids and graces.) for Christ hath said "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Do I believe, then, that there is absolutely no salvation to the unbaptized? My words do not so declare. The "Kingdom of God" here evidently means "the state of the Church under the Gospel, or the kingdom of the Messiah, wherein great spiritual blessings and privileges" are bestowed. Christ has appointed the Sacrament of Baptism as the mode of entrance into this "visible Church, which is [26/27] heavenly, and prepares for the Kingdom of Glory." And the Catechism declares that this is one of the two Sacraments "generally necessary to salvation." Outside of this His own appointed covenant, and mode of operation, I presume not to go. Do I believe that "Conversion" is a "new-birth" unto righteousness? Yes, and it may either precede or follow Baptismal Regeneration. And we may rest assured that the Church, in retaining this word in her baptismal offices, manifests her wisdom in thus holding fast to Scriptural words and phrases. And, beloved, thus teaching Baptismal Regeneration, as the Church holds this doctrine, I have no fear, that when we all come to stand before the judgment seat of Christ, I shall stand condemned for having taught that which dishonored of the work of the Spirit of God," or "destroyed the souls of men."
But again another reason assigned for this movement, is the use of the words "Priest," "Altar" and "Sacrifice," in the Prayer Book. The ground of objection to these words proceeds upon the assumption that they necessarily involve, or lead to, all that clusters around them as used and understood in the Roman Communion. Now I do not purpose to discuss the various points here suggested in relation to the Ritualistic tendencies of the day, which are declared to be essentially Rome-ward. This is too wide a field to enter upon now. I would simply endeavor to show that in the Church's use of her Prayer Book through all these years, and in her authoritative teaching, these words do not involve Romish errors. And if we do this,--this assigned reason falls to the ground. And first: The word "Priest" is equivalent to "Presbyter" or "Elder." It is indeed a contraction of the word Presbyter. In the Church of Rome, the Priest, every time he celebrates the Holy Eucharist, offers Christ anew, as a true, propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of "the living and the dead." In relation to this he is, especially, termed a Priest. Now these Romish Sacrifices of Masses, the 31st article of Religion pronounces to be "blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits." And yet the word Priest is retained in our Prayer Book, and in relation to the celebration of the Holy Communion, it may be so used in viewing the latter as a Commemorative sacrifice of the one, only sacrifice upon the cross.
But there is a sense, and, perhaps, the prevailing one in the [27/28] Church, in which this word has a more extended bearing. St. Peter writes: "Ye, also, as lively stones are built up, a spiritual house--an holy Priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God, by Jesus Christ." And St. John, in the Book of Revelation, writes:" And hath made us Kings and Priests unto God and His Father." Thus all Christ's people constitute a Royal Priesthood,--Himself the "Great High Priest." Now, as His people--as Kings and Priests, we constitute a kingdom,--His Church--a Church visible and invisible. In this visible Church we are commanded not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together for holy worship. And we read: that at an early period "the whole of Divine worship was distinguished by the title Sacrificium, or Sacrifice. This name was given to the prayers and praises, to preaching and to devotion of body and soul to Christ,. in the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. * * The Ministers officiating were also endowed with the corresponding title of "Priests" (Sacerdotes) and Bishops had the appellation of "Summi Sacerdotes," (Chief Priests). And these names were given, not with relation solely to the administration of the Eucharist, but to the exercise of their prerogative in the various acts of Divine Worship."
Touching the word "Altar," the terms. Holy Table, Communion table, and Lord's table, are sometimes substituted for the word altar." The prevailing opposition to the word altar arises from the supposition that an Altar invariably implies the "offering of a victim in sacrifice. But the word does not always imply "the offering of a victim in sacrifice." Even in the Jewish Temple, there was the "Altar of incense;" and the Altar whereon was laid the offering of' the fruits of the earth. Now St. Paul says "we have an Altar whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle, plainly alluding to the table of the Christian Sacrifice of Thanksgiving,"--Altar and table being used interchangeably. It is evident that "for a period of three hundred years after Christ, the term Altar was universally used in the Church"--which fact would seem to indicate that it came from Apostolic and "inspired lips."
As to the word "Sacrifice," perhaps sufficient has been intimated in what has been said in reference to "Priest" and "Altar." As before remarked, the Romish doctrine of the Mass, wherein Christ [28/29] is offered for the "quick and the dead," is condemned by the 31st Article of Religion. But the word sacrifice may be used in the Church without involving this Romish doctrine. The word Eucharist itself, signifies "Thanksgiving;" hence we have the "Sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving"--a memorial with gifts and oblations, offered to the Divine Majesty, of the 'full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice' once offered on the cross." This Sacrament of the Lord's Supper may be termed the Commemorative sacrifice of the one, only sacrifice on the cross; and aside from the general view held in the Church of its being a simple Commemorative feast of Christ's passion and death: evident it is, however, that view these words, "Priest," "Altar" and "Sacrifice," in what light we may, they have been used from the very first. And although there may be teachings and practices in the Church to-day which seem to involve. false doctrine--some teachings and practices which I am far from subscribing to--yet this is no reasonable cause for abandoning the Church. Extreme views and interpretations, on the one hand and on the other, will always strive for expression. And of "Eucharistical Adoration," the House of Bishops in their Pastoral Letter of 1871 wisely declares that--"to argue that the Spiritual presence of our dear Lord in the Holy Communion, for the nurture of the faithful, is such a presence as allows worship to Him thus and there present, is, to say the very least, to be wise above that which is written in God's Holy Word."
In regard to habitual, Auricular Confession, commonly so called, the teaching and practice of which, on the part of some, seems to be another reason assigned for the abandonment of the Church, the same Pastoral Letter adds: The Church "permits and offers to her children the opening of their griefs in private to some Minister of God's Word. * * To make this seeking of comfort and counsel not exceptional, but customary; not free, but enforced (if not by actual law, at least by moral obligation and spiritual necessities), is to rob Christ's provision of its mercy and to change it into an engine of oppression and a source of corruption." To all of which I heartily subscribe. This, however, is essentially a Lay question; and how far the Laity of this Church are ready to practice habitual, private confession, you can judge for yourselves.
I should like to answer the point that "the action or non-action [29/30] of the late General Convention afforded a justification of the "reform movement." This would necessitate a review of the same, for which we have not time. I would simply say that neither in spirit nor letter did it, to my mind, afford any justification of this schism.
And now, as I draw my words to a conclusion, I would add a few extracts from the utterances of some of those with whom Dr. Cummins was most intimately associated in the work of the Church, and with whose theological views he was in agreement. What says Dr. Tyng, Sr.? "My race is now almost run, and I find the Protestant Episcopal Church now just what it was when I was received into its Ministry fifty years ago. I deemed its doctrinal standards true then, and I find them true after a ministry of half a century. And whatever individuals in the Church may have done, there has been no change required, or by law imposed. I have no taste for changes, and none have been demanded of me. I see no defects in the Church now, which I did not see in the commencement of my work. And there are defects in all organizations." He condemns this new movement and declares that Dr. Cummins has acted unwisely "in attempting to construct a new sect, of which there were now too many, and which in time would be found to be imperfect, and from which others would see reason to secede."
From Bishop Alfred Lee's "Open Letter," I have space for but two or three brief extracts. Bishop Lee conferred Holy Orders upon Dr. Cummins, and the closest friendship at all times existed between them. In relation to his vow or pledge at consecration, he writes: * * "Has there been the smallest authorized change since you gave that pledge? Has there been an iota added to or taken from the Standards of the Church? Are not her Articles and Liturgy the same, verbatim et literatim? If you could then with good conscience utter that vow, are you now justified in repudiating so solemn an engagement?" In regard to his participating in a Communion service among the Presbyterians, the Bishop writes: "If' fully persuaded in your own mind (of the propriety of the act), why should you be greatly affected by unfavorable comments? * * A meeting of the Bishops took place within a few days after in the city of New York, from which you absented yourself; but nothing whatever was said upon this [30/31] subject." He further adds: "The portion of your letter which occasioned me the deepest pain and solicitude, was that in which you seem to intimate a purpose of starting a new sect. Can it be possible! Is disunion to be the issue of your aspirations for closer unity? Will you add another to the unhappy divisions of Protestant Christendom; and when the Church of Christ is already so broken up, increase the number of fragmentary bodies?"
I would, also, add a short extract from the letter of the venerable Bishop Johns, of Virginia, in reply to the letter of one of his seceding Presbyters. After answering the letter in detail, he adds: "This is my clear conclusion after a careful consideration of the reasons you assign for your 'withdrawal,' not one of which, so far as I am capable of judging, furnishes any justification of your act. * * You know how fully our theological views harmonize. * * The Scriptural example, which you adduce to support your policy of withdrawal, I readily accept, and fervently hope it will have your entire conformity: Paul and Barnabas had 'sharp contention' and they 'departed asunder one from the other'--sought separate spheres of service, that was all: neither of them withdrew from the Church. If, however, you think you must make the experiment, I trust you will only depart for a season, that we may receive you forever a brother 'beloved.'" And now whilst we are extracting such sound words, let us see what Bishop Cummins himself thought of our un-reformed Prayer Book several years ago.
I have before me a sermon "In defence of the Prayer Book," preached by Dr. Cummins in 1861; and again in 1867, as Assistant Bishop of Kentucky, he preached the same sermon before the Convention of that Diocese. He says: "My theme is the fitness of the Book of Common Prayer to be the bond of unity, the manual of worship for all the confessions which divide Protestant Christendom, the golden chain to restore the ancient unity of the kingdom of the Redeemer. And first, the special fitness of the Prayer Book to fulfil this office arises from the fact that it embodies, as no other uninspired volume does, the ancient and primitive catholic faith of Christ's Church; not catholic in any corrupt or perverted, or exclusive sense, but catholic in the sense of the once universal, unadulterated faith of Scripture--the faith of the Church, when its heart was yet warm with its first, fresh love, ere [31/32] philosophy, falsely so called, had defiled the pure well-spring of sacred truth. And this old and undefiled faith, the Prayer Book embodies. * * This goodly robe of the bride of Christ is wrought out of the purest gold of Divine truth; its warp and its woof are alike Holy Scripture." Again, he says: The Book of Common Prayer is the fairest and most beauteous child of the great Reformation." And yet again: "We claim this high position for the Prayer Book because it is committed to no human system of theology, but is broad enough and comprehensive enough to embrace men who differ widely in their interpretations and definitions of Scriptural truth. * * It bears upon its very fore-front Augustine's motto: 'In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.' They who trained the Liturgy recognized the truth that their work was not for a day, but for all time; not for a nation or a denomination, but for a great catholic Church. which in God's good time, might be co-extensive with the earth. Hence, they were careful that its doctrinal teachings should be set forth only as the Bible sets them forth, and as they were embodied in ancient creeds and liturgies purified from all errors which were the growth of a later and darker age. * * It is not Lutheranism, nor Calvinism, nor Arminianism; but better than all, it embraces all that is precious and of vital truth in each of these systems, yet committing itself to none; and a disciple of each of these schools may find in it that which gives 'rest to his soul.' * * Are not these facts evidence that the system of the Prayer Book is the system of the Bible? This is the boast, this is the honor of our Church. Let her willingly submit to the ignorant reproach that men of every creed can find in her something to favor their views, whilst she shares this reproach with the Word of God. It is this which fits her for universality; in this fact is found her chief power." And so I might go on quoting sentence after sentence from this goodly sermon. According to it one might say that the Prayer Book is fit for men or angels to use. Now this book remains just as it was when those words were uttered. Who, which, or what has changed?
Bear with me, my friends, one moment longer. As I have already said, nothing but an absolute sense of duty has induced me to utter these words. The assertions made, and the title [32/33] assumed by the originators of this new movement, leaves the consistent Churchman no other course than to defend himself against the charges of error.
They call it the "Reformed Episcopal Church;" with a reformed Prayer Book! What then is this Church which they have abandoned? What is this Prayer Book which they have mutilated? By a natural course of reasoning, this Church must be a corrupt Church; this Prayer Book, a corrupt Prayer Book! and those who love this Church and Book must needs be in error and corruption! This is but the logical position in which those assertions and actions seem to place us. When the great Reformation took place in the 16th century, there was ground and reason for that. The Romish Church had, indeed, become corrupt, and forced her corruptions upon the greater part of Christendom as matters of faith to be believed as necessary to salvation. Recently, when the Old Catholic movement took shape and form in Europe, there seemed to be ground and reason for that. The Romish Church has imposed upon her children, as an article of faith, the Infallibility of the Pope, and those who cannot, as a matter of conscience, accept this dogma, she excommunicates and curses. The Old Catholics were forced into their present position. But, will you tell me that this Church intends to do anything like that? Her Prayer Book and Standards have been bequeathed unto us by those who bravely met the martyr's death, in the contest with Rome. The Prayer Book, just as it is, with not a word added nor a line erased, Bishop Cummins himself has told us "is the fairest and most beauteous child of the great Reformation:"--"Its warp and its woof are alike Holy Scripture." Now it remains the same broad and comprehensive book, which be declared to be "the boast" and "the honor of our Church." When the Church alters this book, when she changes, or adds to the faith, then will it be time enough for you or me, or any other member of this Scriptural and primitive Church, to seriously take into consideration the bitter extremity of abandoning her.
I stand not in judgment upon any Bishop, Priest, Deacon or Layman in following in this matter what appears to him to be an absolute conviction of conscience. But I do protest against the arrogation of the entire realm of conscience. I do not [33/34] believe that all conscientious conviction, all honesty of purpose, and all spirituality of life have departed from this Church and been lodged in the "Reformed Episcopal Church!"
And as we look out upon a divided Christendom, and remember how Satan is ever busy in sowing the seeds of discord, even where the Spirit's work is most apparent, is it not manifest that in these discords and divisions we behold one of the devices of this Enemy of the souls of men to retard the work of the Church upon earth?
But enough! I do not know what may be your idea or conception of the Church of Christ. I du not know what may be the extent of your appreciation of the Book of Common Prayer. But I do know what is my conception of the one, and my appreciation of the other. And for both, I thank the good Lord of all.
As the Body for which Christ poured out His most precious blood, His Church is, to me, as precious as life itself. For her I would toil in sunshine or in storm, in prosperity or adversity: nor feel that I am thus exalting the Church above her head--Jesus our Saviour. Nay, they are inseparable. What "God bath joined together let, no man put asunder."--"Jesus Christ and Him crucified," and "the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the Truth!"
And words cannot express my appreciation of the "Book of Common Prayer;"--a book second only to the word of God itself. We do not say that it is absolutely perfect: but it is all that a devout soul need wish for, as,--
Amid circling rounds of "fasts and feasts,"
It keeps us in the love and faith
Of Christ the Crucified!
Yet the same lips which sung its highest praise, now sound the words of highest censure, and tell us that "its warp and its woof are alike," forsooth, "deadly error." Now, man may possibly put wrong interpretations upon it here and there, on the one side and on the other, just as be does upon portions of the Bible: yet the book remains pure and comprehensive,--as I trust it will ever remain. And should I be spared unto a "silvery age," I only [34/35] pray that I shall be found loving with as intense and holy a love, as I now do, this "fairest and most beauteous child of the great Reformation;" because I believe that it embodies and teaches that which is Apostolic--Scriptural--Primitive--and Catholic.
Yea, an handmaid this, most faithful, true,
To that All-Holy "Book of Books"
Which e'er shall be for all mankind,
As a "lamp" to the wayward feet,
A "light" amid life's deepening gloom,
And the promise of Eternal rest and joy--
From God, the Father!