Project Canterbury

Expansion by Inclusion: The Sermon Preached before the General Convention Assembled in Trinity Church, Boston

By William Croswell Doane

Boston: Printed for the Convention, 1904.


Not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, nor shall any of the cords thereof be broken.—ISAIAH xxxiii. 20.

Spare not, lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes.—ISAIAH liv. 2.

WE have a live object-lesson here to-day of strong stakes and long cords in the welcome presence of the beloved Archbishop of Canterbury. Welcome in his own personality to most of the bishops who have known him and loved him for many years; welcome as the representative of the old Church of England, mother once, to whom, as in all family life, the child has grown to be sister, and to whom, as the preface to our Book of Common: Prayer most justly says, "this Church is indebted under God for its first foundation and for long continuance of nursing care and protection"; welcome as the President of the Venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, which sent out and sustained the first missions to America, foreign to England then, but then, as now, of the same household of God; welcome as the chief Bishop of a great Missionary Church which has kept the trumpet of the Gospel sounding clear and loud alongside of the drumbeat of her worldwide civilization, never silent "from the rising of the sun till the going down of the same"; welcome as setting forth the truth of the unbroken unity and the unlost continuity of faith and order, while the cords have lengthened and the curtains been stretched forth till they have girdled the continents and circled the round world; welcome with a thousandfold more hearty welcome since these last thirty days, by a sort of spiritual naturalization have so adapted him to America that America has adopted him as her own. It is no fault of mine that I must speak for you of him, and not he instead of me to you this morning.

[4] "Not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, nor shall any of the cords thereof be broken."

"Spare not, lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes."

This is Isaiah's picture, Isaiah's promise, Isaiah's prophecy of the Church of God. "Zion the city of our solemnities, Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down." It is the picture of the Church's peace, and the promise of the Church's perpetuity. We have the right to dwell upon its ideal beauty, and to depend upon the assurance of its reality. Down underneath the tossing and troubled surface of the ocean are unfathomed depths of serene, unmoved tranquillity. Who shall say that the surface and not the depth is the sea? So there is unquiet in our Jerusalem, threatened overthrow of the tabernacle, but the Church, its Head being on the throne, its myriad numbers in the peace of Paradise, its earthly membership true to the Holy Scriptures, the Holy Sacraments, the old worship and the ancient creeds, is at rest—Saevis tranquilla in undis.

But the prophet calls us from the confidence of this contemplation, lest we be lulled into the insecurity of unwatchfulness or indolence, to another cry, of duty. "Lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes." In the very confidence that these cords shall not be broken in their lengthening, and to secure by that strengthening the promise that the stakes shall not be broken, Isaiah, as the heading of the fifty-fourth chapter has it, "prophesieth the amplitude of the Church." "Enlarge the place of thy tent; let them stretch forth the curtains of thy habitation. Spare not, lengthen thy cords, strengthen thy stakes, for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left, and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles." There is more here, it seems to me, than the foretelling of the purpose of God that the narrowness of a single nationality in the Church of the chosen people was to break out into the catholicity of the Holy Church Universal. And it seems to me, men, brethren and fathers, that it contains fit thought for our meditation this morning, as we gather for our corporate Communion which may, we hope, fit us and furnish us for the counsel we are to take together here. Strengthening stakes and lengthening cords, neither one without the other, for the one would tend to stagnation unless it were done for the sake of enlargement, [4/5] and the other would tend to looseness and loss, if it were not held fast by enforcement. Strengthening stakes and lengthening cords. Surely they stand, corrective each of the other, for tenacity and extension, for holding fast and pressing forward, for changelessness and progress, for conservatism and advance, for the maintenance of the old and the assimilation of the new.

Somehow this passage has the same lesson in it which the Master taught by the Lake of Gennesaret, when He entered into Simon's ship; first, "thrust out a little from the land"; then, "launch out into the deep for a draught." The quietness and closeness of the boat at first, with the dear Master in it teaching those on the land and on the sea; and then the sudden command, and the rush and flurry, and the broken net and the sinking ship, and the frightened fishermen and the great catch of fish. It is the peace and quiet of the first vision of Zion, the city of solemnities, the quiet habitation, followed by the command for the larger tent and the stretched forth curtains and the lengthened cords and the strengthened stakes; and in both instances, Jehovah speaking to Israel, and Jesus to Simon, there is a sense of terror, a consciousness of danger--"Fear not." "Spare not." So, turning from prophecy and marvel, to the facts of which these were figures, the words speak to us, "Spare not, enlarge the place of thy tent, stretch forth the curtains of thy habitation, lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes, for not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords be broken."

Is there not here a word of urgency as to the Church's duty to the world? We are confronting new conditions within and without. Always, in every century and in every country, the Church is confronting new conditions. And we should face them, I think, in the order in which they are set forth here, with the courage and confidence that it implies. Danger there is, of course, but danger to be faced and not feared. Danger there is, of course, but danger to be met in the combination which God through Isaiah commands. The world is talking much and doing much about expansion. England to Thibet, Germany to South America, Japan to Korea, Russia to Manchuria and America to the Philippines, and the world is doing it, men say, because of "land hunger." You may condemn the motive in the matter of earthly [5/6] expansion, but it is the true motive for Church extension--hunger for the winning of the lands to Christ, and longing to help on God's purpose in making the kingdoms of the world the Kingdoms of the Lord and of His Christ. We must stretch forth the curtains of our habitation and we must lengthen our cords. Somehow it seems to me that the spirit which colors our teaching and controls our practice is too much the opposite of this; exclusion and not inclusiveness is too much the temper of the Church. Take some of the dominant issues, the so-called burning questions of to-day. To the Church of God in the Christian dispensation are committed, as to the Church of old, the oracles of God, ours in richer fulness, the older Scriptures and the New Testament. They are to be "searched," which is the strongest possible phrase of critical study; searched with the lamplight of silent and scholarly meditation, searched with the lamplight of intense and crucial investigation. We must enlarge the curtains of our habitation to take in every sort of student critic. We must lengthen our cords and reach out to the farthest limit of advancing discoveries. Holding fast to the Apostolic assertion that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God," and to the translation of that truth into the language of the Creed, "the Holy Ghost spake by the prophets," we dare not shut down a curtain or shorten a cord by any hard and fast theory of inspiration, verbal, mechanical, dynamic. We must let the Word of God have free course," in the confidence that so it will "be glorified." If one is amazed at the temerity. of some utterances, one is still more ashamed at the timidity of others. "God will be justified in His saying," and clear when He is judged. That is to say, the final outcome will vindicate the truth; and the Church, holding the Bible open, wide open, for all to read and study and search, is fearless, therefore, of the result. More and more what is needed is thoroughness. The danger of to-day, barring of course irreverence, the spirit of destruction, the malevolent eagerness to detect errors, to invent, rather than to discover, difficulties and contradictions, the avowed purpose not only, to disbelieve but to discredit the Scriptures, the ghoulish joy over a difference of versions or of manuscripts, barring all this, which is unworthy of the spirit of true scholarship and unworthy of this sublime object of study, the danger of to-day is in a [6/7] hasty acceptance of crude and superficial assumptions. And the safety of to-day is not to call on men to stop, but to call on men to push further on and deeper down and find the truth. These fifty years, in which the labors of the critics have come into such prominence in the world have, on the whole, left the situation; it seems to me, with the discovery of more mistakes made by the critics than of errors found by them in the text; and while the ground of conflict has shifted, as it must in all great battles, from one to another book, and from one to another division of the Book, the outcome. in the long run has been a steady advance of certainty and a wide increase of assurance as to the great verities of the revelation.

Preaching the other day before the British Association in Great St. Mary's, Cambridge, Dr. Bonney said:

"I remember that not so long since the New Testament Scriptures were pronounced with much confidence and display of learning to be no better than collections of myths which had grown up rather rapidly within the century following the death of Christ. So completely has more careful study dissipated this phantom of a critical cloudland that scholars, not under too grave a suspicion of orthodoxy, now assign the Gospels to the latter part of the first century, place the Acts of the Apostles, even when they regard the book as a compilation, at the very beginning of the second century, and hold St. Paul to have been beyond all question the author of the Epistles to the Romans, Galatians and Corinthians, most probably also of that to the Philippians, that to Philemon and the first to the Thessalonians." More and more the searched Scriptures testify of Christ.

Is there not a call to us in these words for another phase of comprehensiveness? It is the common and careless habit of census makers and newspaper men to divide the Christianity of America under two headings, Catholics and Protestants. It is inaccurate, insufficient and incorrect in its distributive terms. Unfortunately there are no two titles that will cover "the unhappy divisions of Christendom." Fortunately in classifying this Church, we must include it under both terms, since we are Catholic and we are also Protestant. And while, if we believe this, it gives us a position of unimagined possibilities, it gives us also [7/8] a position of incalculable responsibility. Put in two phrases, it means that if we believed what we say; and practised what we believe, we should set ourselves to win the Roman back to catholicity by persuading him to renounce his additions to the faith, his subtraction from one Sacrament and his confusion of order (for the threefold ministry is quite as much disturbed by the papacy as by Presbyterianism); and to win the other Protestants back to catholicity, by persuading them that they protest too much in their variations of belief, their voidance, doctrinally, of the grace of Sacraments and their confusion of order. How are we to deal with these conditions? The new wine of the Reformation vintage cannot be put into the old wine skins of mediaeval manufacture. Perhaps it is truer to say that the old wine of the Catholic vintage cannot be kept clear in the musty and clouded vessels of Isidorean decretals or Tridentine decrees. The suggested submission to the supremacy of a single bishop, which is Rome's only term, would not mend matters, for it would only swell the number of those who have cut themselves off from the old Vincentian hallmark of truth and order. Nor can the proposal be seriously considered, to surrender at discretion certain fundamental features of the English Reformation which mark it off from the continental movement.

What then is to be our attitude, since we are not to be swallowed whole by the Church of the Roman obedience, which is the Church of the Catholic disobedience; not to play spider and fly with the great Protestant bodies outside of ourselves nor to content ourselves with counting the gain of here and there a convert from Rome or a proselyte from Protestantism? What are we to do? We are to insist more and more on the spirit of comprehensiveness, which is the synonym and sine qua non of catholicity. We are to think and teach and work and pray and live in the spirit of conciliation, which is not compromise. We are to look for and reach after the actual places of contact and the possible points of assimilation. We are to court consultation rather than controversy. I am free to confess that there seems to me more hope in the direction of the churches of the Reformation than of the Church of Rome; chiefly because of this fundamental difference between the two conditions of relationship, that we have [8/9] to plead with the Roman to acknowledge the error of new doctrines, to give up what has been solemnly and with an anathema pronounced as conditions of communion, to dethrone the Queen of Heaven, and to unseat the Vicar of Jesus Christ, who has been substituted for His only Vicar (if even He can be so rightly called), namely, God the Holy Ghost, the "other Advocate" proceeding from the Father by the Son, In the other case, the plea is not to surrender, but to supplement; not to destroy, but to fulfil; not a kenosis, but a plerosis; not to. give up, but to complete, Be this as it may, it becomes us, I think, to enlarge the place of our tent and stretch forth the curtains of our habitation in the matter of at least recognizing a wider meaning and a broader use of our ecclesiastical and theological terminology, Underneath all must be the conviction that the organic unity of Christendom, however its functional unity may be disturbed, consists In the facts that the Church of Jesus Christ to-day in its final analysis is the great company of believing men baptized with water, into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; that even if there, be many folds, there is but one flock; that to forbid men who are casting out devils in the Master's name; because they are not with us, is to forget the Master's word, “He that is not against us is for us”; that to doubt the presence and the power of the Holy Ghost in the message and the ministry of men who deny our orders, or of men whose orders are not according to our liturgical and canonical law, is false to all experience and all evidence of religion and Christianity.

What shall be our relation and our attitude to these other workers for Christ? The spirit of it, the motive of it, the key to it, must be along the line of going back, behind the days of separation to the great facts and the great truths which we have held in common; of trying to detect the element of truth which there always is in error; of getting at the original substance to which something has been added, or from which something has been taken, and dwelling, but not controversially, upon that. If we can only find the place where the ways parted, is it not possible to find the place where they may meet again? Just as an illustration of the thought it would be well, it seems to me, that while utterly unable to accept any thought of supremacy or of any Petrine [9/10] episcopate in Rome or any Petrine successor in any bishop of Rome, it is easy to acknowledge a primacy, because of the antiquity of the Roman See and because of its splendid service in the early days, in maintaining the faith and the order of the Church. Or again, there is no need to push our protest against the teaching which destroys the reality of the Incarnation and disturbs the one mediatorship of the Incarnate Son, into a forgetfulness of the fact that the Virgin Mother is "the Blessed among women" to whom the angel message gave this title, because God had chosen her to be the bringer-forth of His Son. Denying the "Roma locuta, causa finita," does not mean that the Catholic Church of all time and of all the world, speaking "with consentient voice, hath not authority in controversies of faith as one of the three great witnesses to the truth, revelation, reason, authority. Rejecting a definition of the Eucharistic mystery which combines poor metaphysics with pure materialism, we are the freer to insist upon the reality of our Lord's "Body given, taken and eaten after an heavenly and spiritual manner" in the Holy Communion. We neither need nor dare to deny to the priest, nor take away from any burdened soul, the power and the privilege conveyed in our Lord's words to the Apostles, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whosesoever sins ye remit they are remitted,” because this has been exaggerated into the evils of compulsory confession and priestly direction, to the dulling and deadening of the individual consciences of men. Surely these are ways of "lengthening and spreading" that may make possible approaches to agreement with those who hold the truth, though it be in the distortedness of exaggeration.

In the same way we may deal with the later Protestant position, reaching out toward it to find and dwell on points that are held in common among us all, the individual responsibility of every man's conscience in matters of religious opinion; the final authority of Holy Scriptures as "containing all things necessary to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ"; the divine derivation of authority for a valid ministry whose "honor no man taketh to himself"; justification by faith as meaning not the imputation, but the imparting of the righteousness of Christ to the penitent sinner, who partakes, through the use of the appointed means, of the very life of the Divine Master; the Atonement as meaning [10/11] not the appeasing of the wrath of God against man by the sacrifice of an innocent victim, but the appealing, by this token of the great love of the Father and of the Son for sinners, to men to be reconciled to Him whose death upon the cross is the witness to the divine hatefulness of sin and to the divine love and longing for sinners. In a word, it seems to me that the seeking after and the insisting upon starting-points of agreement is wiser than the seeking after and denouncing the parting points of difference. Above all let us remember that St. Paul's exhortation not only warns us against the error of saying "I am of Apollos," who being the man mighty in the Scriptures, may stand perhaps for one who calls himself a Bible Christian; and against the error of saying "I am of Cephas," who, being Peter, may stand perhaps for the arrogant exclusiveness of the Roman claim; but also warns us against the error of claiming that we Anglican Christians, Protestant Episcopalians, are all and only, without fault of excess or defect, by saying "I am of Christ."

While we are widening and lengthening and spreading for inclusiveness let us remember that the safety of all this depends on strengthened stakes. There are essential verities in the Catholic faith which one might say in a sense are independent of the Holy Scriptures, by which I mean that their tradition and their truth antedated the written Word. It is a trite truth, and true because of its triteness, as a well-worn coin distinguishes currency from counterfeit, that the Catholic faith is not a syllabus of doctrines, but a symbol, that is to say, a throwing together of facts from the beginning to the end; a personal Father, the Creator; an Eternal Son, begotten of the Father before all worlds, incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, really born of His mother's substance, really living, really dying, really rising, really ascended; the Holy Ghost, God; the Church, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. You may call these dogmas if you please, but they are first facts, known, taught, held, lived by, died for, before one word of the New Testament was written. And the closing articles of the Creed, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, are their inevitable sequence. These are the stakes driven deep in solid ground, immovable, unchangeable, undeniable, to be [11/12] strengthened by insistence, by repetition, by reiteration, without which we should have no cords to lengthen, for they would have been rent to threads, no curtains to stretch forth, for they would have been torn to tatters, no tent to enlarge, for it would have been carried away by the blasts of vain doctrine. Strengthen in order to lengthen. Lengthen because we have strengthened.

The Catholic faith, as set forth in the two creeds, as sung in the Te Deum, as pictured in the panorama of the Christian year, as set like a jewel in the Sacramental Offices and in the Ordinal of the Book of Common Prayer, as simplified for the mouths of children and the minds of maturest saints in the Catechism—these are the very stakes, deep driven into the accumulated soil of centuries of utterance and confession, and from them we may reach out, fling out, stretch ant, launch out, because the tent cords are fast, the flag is nailed to the mast, the curtains of the habitation are secured, the ship is anchored with a cable that holds, or afloat with sails that belly with the wind which is the symbol of the Holy Ghost. We have gained something in the way of enlargement, at least in the subjects of our modern controversy, if controversy there must be. It is no longer a discussion of black or white in the pulpit, of flowers in the church, of the material or the shape of the altar, whether it shall be stone or wood, whether it shall be a table, with legs or without, of a cross outside or inside of the church, of candles lighted or unlighted, or whether "say" means "sing" or "read" excludes intoning—we have at least outgrown these. We have gone past the issues of my early manhood to even larger things. It is no longer necessary to insist that the new birth of baptism is not conversion, even if some people will miscall conversion regeneration; no longer necessary to deny that the Holy Ghost is given in the laying-on of hands, because, as the very token of the divine Fatherhood, He gives the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him; no longer necessary to explain that the language of the Ordinal that "no man may be counted a lawful bishop, priest or deacon in this Church," does not invalidate for other people the ministries of their appointment according to their order and rule, and so on, because by the clearing of the air and as a result of the old contentions, these are no longer questions of the day. And I believe we are coming to the time when men [12/13] will think more about frequent and fervent than about fasting communions; when men will incline rather to broaden than to narrow terms of communion, by reading the mind of Christ and of the Church in the shorter exhortation in the Communion Office, rather than in the rubric in the Confirmation Office, which holds for am own people and deals with the question of formal admission to, rather than of occasional administration of, the Holy Communion. The earnest contentions of to-day, thank God, are for higher and deeper and broader things--the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God, the Virgin birth, the reality of the resurrection of the Lord Christ, the monotheism of the Trinity as against the Tritheism of Calvin or the vain imagining of a God who is Love, and yet could have none to love, until He created man; the correlation of reason with authority and revelation, and so on. And while these contentions draw broad and deep lines between the Christian Church and the unbeliever, the misbeliever or the agnostic, they draw together in defence of the common faith Christians of every name, till tents are enlarged and curtains stretched forth and cords lengthened to comprehend, to include, to draw together all devout believers who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity, against the enemies of the faith.

But there is a farther cry than this, in this great voice, enlarge, stretch forth, lengthen, for "thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles." This is the end, the aim, the purpose of the Church of God on earth. And some one says, Missions, missions, always missions. Yes; always missions, because they are the life-blood, the heart-beat, the lungs' breath of the body of Jesus Christ. If one is tempted to fall back upon the selfishness of seeking individual salvation, or upon the silliness of some narrow horizon of parish or diocese or country, then the argument is, that, unexercised by the unobstructed effort and energy of extension, of expansion, of circulation, the life dwindles and dies out. Just for one's own soul's sake, to keep its life alive, there must be this movement outward, else comes stagnation, stupor, death. But in religious things one may not appeal to selfishness even against itself. The appeal is to the Lord Christ. What is His will? What was His way'? What is to be His work? His will, that all men should be saved and [13/14] come to the knowledge of the truth; His way, to seek until He find, lost sheep, lost coin, lost boy, no wilderness too large, no house too small, no country too far off; His work, to disciple all nations, to go and to stay and to be with His Church unto the end of the world, unto the ends of the earth. And we are to go in His way, to fulfil His will, to be workers together with Him. There is no room, there ought to be no need for argument. Where there was ever narrowness in the arrangements of Almighty God, it was the narrowness of protection and preservation for the one object of what Isaiah calls "breaking forth." God never made acorn or egg or kernel of corn, but for the single purpose of holding and hiding and hoarding against loss and harm, a hidden life, till it was all alive; and then, its breaking forth, to tree, to song, to waving grain. And that old narrowed limit of isolation, the limitation to the single nation of the Jews, while the whole world lay in darkness, kept, in progressive development and in perspective revelation, the truth and the promise, in order that, "when the fulness of the time was come," it should have acquired, by very condensation, like the stored force of water in a reservoir, power to overflow all narrowness and irrigate the world. So it is true of individual souls or of favored nations. They are but power-houses, places for the generation of this mysterious and mighty energy, with the life in it of the Holy Ghost, irrepressible, incontinent, which confinement makes dangerous and destructive, while its breaking forth illuminates and moves the world. This is our vocation, our calling. Distrust the selfishness of that empty argument that Confucianism is good enough for China, and Buddhism, in its mitigated and modified form, for Japan, and that the great black spaces of the dark continents have light enough in them for the needs and safety of their tribes. Doubt all suggestion of the pressing and preventing need for the conversion of our practical paganism in the godlessness of our own social life, whether in its palaces or in its slums. Deny the falseness of the appeal, that the heathen are safe enough because they will not be damned for their heathenism, Remember that the purpose of God is not only final salvation, but the bringing of men to "the knowledge of the truth." Realize that Christianity is not merely or mainly the question of the eternal life in heaven [14/15] hereafter, but of the heavenly life on earth and now. And recognize that the danger of condemnation is not so much to them as to us who, by our spiritual selfishness, "eating," as Job denounced it, "our morsel of the Bread of Life alone," are suffering already the "poena damni,” the punishment of the loss of the inestimable privilege of helping and hastening the coming of the Kingdom; are compelling the Master to delay His coming; are failing to minister Him to those to whom He came; and failing to minister to Him in the persons of those hungry and sick and naked and imprisoned, to whom if we would bring the Bread of Life, the healing power of the hem of His garment, the clothing of His righteousness, the liberty which He preaches to the captives, we should be ministering to Him, because to have done it unto one of the least of these His brethren, is to have done it unto Him.

Brethren and fathers, I know that we are gathered here to mend and to make canons, to deal with questions of order and discipline, to consider in the smallest sense of the word "the constitution" of this Church, and we may not dispute or belittle the value of legislation, which keeps machinery in order, but all these are means and not ends or aims. Their only purpose and their only value is to equip us for the work which God has given us to do, and if we merely play with cords and stakes and curtains, to twist the cords and polish the stakes and decorate the curtains, we are forgetting their only use, of lengthening and strengthening and enlarging, of reaching out, of going after, of bringing in, of breaking forth on the right hand and on the left, until the desire of the dear Lord is granted, and He hath "the heathen for His inheritance"; until "the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of the Lord and of His Christ; until "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."

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