BY DIFFERENT CLERGYMEN.
POTT, YOUNG & CO.
 CHRISTIAN BRETHREN:
It is a great pleasure to speak with you face to face concerning truths which are very dear to every Christian heart.
We are living in eventful times. No age has offered more glorious opportunities for Christian work. There is no place where Christian men have greater responsibilities than here, where God is fusing the stocks of the old world into a new race. It is an age of intellectual activity, of generous sympathies, of open-handed beneficence, and of deep longings for a real brotherhood. It is an age of material development. Social, civil, and commercial bonds are uniting the world together in common interests. There is no land on earth whither we may not carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is a sad thought that at such a time as this, Christians are divided into rival churches. At home we have hamlets where there are representatives of a dozen sects. They love the Saviour; they long to do Christian work; they cannot employ a pastor; they cannot build the rudest chapel; they cannot found the simplest charity; they can only do what they are sure to do--wrangle among themselves.
In our cities the men of toil are drifting away from faith. In order to support so many rival churches, we adopt a pew system, which limits church privileges to those who can afford the luxury of public worship. Infidelity sneers at Christianity as an old superstition, and the modern Sadducee, more bold than his Jewish brothers, challenges the existence of God. Our foreign missions are dwarfed and feeble. They are not such as we ought to send out to conquer the world for Jesus Christ. To convert millions of heathen, we send forth a few men who represent as many different sects. The heathen cannot understand why Christians who believe in one God, who love one Saviour, who have one Bible, and who hope for one heaven, cannot live in one church. The awful fact stares us in the face that 1800 years after Christ died there are eight hundred millions of men who have never so much as heard that there is a Saviour. We apologize for our divisions; we defend our peculiarities, but we all know that this divided Christianity [3/4] cannot conquer the world. It will do no good to lay the blame at each other's door. It will heal no heart-burning to say who is at fault. If one has sinned by self-will, the other has sinned quite as deeply by a lack of charity and love. It is enough to know that these sad divisions are a wrong to Christ, and a wrong to the souls for whom he died. We all feel that brothers who kneel and say "Our Father," ought to belong to one household of faith. There are times when every Christian heart longs for the realization of Our Lord's Divine prayer, "that they all may be one, as then Father art in me and I in thee; that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me." The Lord's lesson is that "oneness in the Father and the Son" is the condition of evangelizing the world.
If the object of these lectures is simply that we may proclaim the peculiarities of our own creed and defend our isolated position, we had better have remained silent. If, however, the object is that we may state, in a frank and manly way, our convictions of truth, in order to show what there is in our position which is Catholic and which may be a ground of union for all who love Christ, then we may learn from one another our own mistakes, and these lectures may kindle deeper longings for a real unity. They may excite us to earnest prayer that where we are blind and know not the way, God may in His own time make the way for the re-union of His children in one fellowship. The one great question is this: "What body of Christians in America offers to other religious bodies the most reasonable ground of Christian unity?"
I shall speak frankly of the Catholic position of the Protestant Episcopal Church. I believe that all the drift and tendencies of the religious world are towards the position which she occupies and not away from it. I include in this not merely the Protestant churches of Europe and America, but all the older historic churches of the world. Of such tendencies I name:
1. That the great master minds of all Protestant churches are not busy with their sectarian opinions; they are all looking for deeper foundations. They are pondering the great central truth of the Incarnation of the Son of God. They are studying earnestly and deeply the fundamental truths of our holy religion, and are learning to separate questions of human opinion from matters of faith.
2. They are tending towards a liturgical worship, and are seeking their models from liturgies which have been used hundreds of years.
3. They are using Christian art as an aid to Christian [4/5] devotion, and are adopting Christian symbols to teach Christian truth.
4. They are, year by year, keeping the old Christian feasts which are connected with the life of our blessed Lord.
5. They are adopting the principle of Episcopal oversight by the employment of superintendents over their missionary and church work. Among the older historic churches, I need only mention that the Old Catholics of Europe, the Greek Church, and the Church of Sweden, have recognized the Church of England and the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States as sister churches, having the same historic lineage.
I believe that the Protestant Episcopal Church is a pure branch of the One Catholic and Apostolic Church. I shall speak frankly of her claims, but, God helping me, I will not speak one word which will grate harshly upon the ears of any Christian brother. We are living in times "when one word spoken in charity is better than ten thousand spoken with disdainful sharpness of wit." If I dwell upon the necessity of Christian unity, it is because I believe that all prophecy foretells that in the last day there shall be a unification of every form of unbelief in one kingdom under Satan, its king; and that in that day all who love Christ will be joined together, heart to heart and hand to hand, to do God's work in the last time.
I believe that the Church of reconciliation will be a historic and Catholic Church. It will be a unity with itself, in its ministry, its faith, its sacraments, and its work. It will inherit the divine promises of its Lord and Founder. It will preserve for Christianity all that is primitive, Catholic, and Divine. It will adopt and use all instrumentalities that may be found in any existing Christian organization, if they can aid it in doing the Lord's work. It will put away all that is individual, narrow, and sectarian. In a word, the test of Christian fellowship in that church will be that faith which rests upon "antiquity, universality, and consent;" "which has been held always, which has been held everywhere, and which has been held by all;" and it will concede to every member of that church all that freedom of opinion which is a part of the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free. Some of us may have thought that the new Jerusalem, which is to descend out of heaven as a bride adorned for her husband, would simply represent our views. We shall be cured of that and many other selfish dreams. Before that day comes we shall concede, each to the other, all that a Christian may concede and yet hold the Catholic faith pure and undefiled.
 I proceed to speak of the distinctive features of the Protestant Episcopal Church. If I speak with filial love of Our Mother, you must remember that the corner-stone of our faith is Jesus Christ. "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Without this the Church may be an audience chamber where men rehearse the shifting opinions of parties and schools; but Church of God it is not, unless Christ be first, Christ be last, Christ be everything.
THE EXISTENCE OF A VISIBLE CHURCH.
In all ages of the world there has been a visible Church. God originated it; He appointed the means of admission to its fellowship; He commissioned its officers; He ordained its mode of access to Himself. Man did not make the Church of God, and man has no authority to change it. In the earlier ages of the world, the head of the family was the Priest, and he had authority to offer the daily sacrifice. It pleased God to unite men into a closer bond of fellowship with Himself and with one another. He ordained the descendants of Abraham to be His covenanted people, and from the days of Moses to the coming of Jesus Christ that church consisted of the Jewish nation and strangers who had been adopted into it, and who had received the rite of circumcision. God appointed for this church a three-fold ministry--a High Priest, Priests, and Levites. He gave to it the law, the rites and ceremonies, and the sacrifices which pointed them to the mediation and atonement by the coming of His only begotten Son. There were many prophets whom God sent who were not of the lineage of Aaron, but to all such He gave the power to prove their commission by Divine miracles. In no case did God leave His people at the mercy of every impostor who claimed to minister in His name.
In the fullness of time the only begotten Son of God came to earth to redeem men from sin and death. He finished that work and fulfilled all the prophecies which for 4,000 years had pointed to His coming. He authorized His apostles to establish His Church. It was the Kingdom of God upon the earth, of which Jesus Christ is the King. He likened it to a field where the tares grew with the wheat until the harvest in the end of the world. He compared it to a net which was let down into the sea, and which gathered good and bad. It was a Kingdom which grew, as the grain of mustard-seed became a tree. He appointed the ministry of that Church. He [6/7] promised to that ministry the Holy Ghost, to guide them into all truth. He made the sacrament of baptism the mode of admission to His Church. He ordained the sacrament of His body and His blood to convey His grace to its members. He gave to that ministry the faith which they were to preach, and which was to be preserved forever. This Church was established in Jerusalem upon the day of Pentecost. Three thousand Jewish converts were on that day admitted to it by Holy Baptism. The three notes of this Church were:
1. The apostles' doctrine.
2. The apostles' fellowship.
3. The breaking of bread and the prayers.
This Church was extended to other cities. There was not one kind of church in Jerusalem and another in Corinth, and still another in Colosse, and another in Crete, and another in Ephesus. Nor did the apostles organize different and rival churches in the same city. The Church was one. It was described by St. Paul in these words: "There is One Body and One Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.--Eph. iv. 5. The Gospel which the apostles preached centred in a person. It was not a religious philosophy. It was not a system of doctrine. It was the Gospel of an Incarnate God. The apostles went everywhere "preaching the Kingdom of God." Our Lord remained on the earth forty days after His resurrection, "teaching His apostles the things which pertain to the Kingdom of God." He gave to them an authority greater and more far-reaching than any authority which had been conferred upon men. He said: "All power in heaven and in earth is committed unto me;" therefore, because I, the Son of man, am the Only begotten Son of God, "Go ye and teach all nations." Tell them the evangel of God's love. If they accept it, "Baptize them into the fellowship of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
Teach these baptized men "to observe all the things which I have commanded you;" and having clothed them with this Divine authority, He gave, as His last legacy to the world for which He died, His oath: "Lo, I am with you always to the end of all the days," "pasas hemeras."--We dare not limit the words of the Son of God. He declares that this ministry which He gave, (and of which He had said, "As my Father sent me, so send I you,") shall last until He who gave it shall come to receive it, as the judge of the quick and the dead. It is plain [7/8] that the Gospels were not given to tell men how to make a church. A generation of men had lived and died in the Church before a line of the Gospels was written. The Epistles were written to churches which already existed. They warn men against the guilt of schism. They expostulate against divisions. They set forth the Church as having oneness of organized life. It was one body with many members. It was one building fitly framed together. It was one temple, built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief corner-stone. You might have commenced at Jerusalem, the cradle of Christianity, and travelled to where Britain looks towards the setting sun, and the Church was one throughout the world.
This Church had the promise of perpetuity. "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Men die; the office lives; as officer after officer in the State dies, and yet the office lives, and will live until the State crumbles to dust; so also in the Church of God. The chain of God's authority will be handed on, and the last poor sinner received into the Church will find pardon and peace in Christ as truly as Mary Magdalen, who knelt at His feet. The Church is a Divine tree of the Lord's planting, whose seed is in itself. What Paul received from Christ he gave to Timothy and Titus; what they received from Paul they gave to others. The sacred line ran on unbroken.
Three hundred years after the Christian era we find one Church throughout the world. Was the Church changed during those centuries of persecution? Did the Church in Asia, in Africa, in Greece, in Rome, in Gaul, and in Britain agree to give up its primitive organization, and was there no one left to tell of the wrong which had been done to the body of Christ? Was there not one single voice in Christendom to protest against this change? Was there no one Church in all the world to plead for the Divine and primitive organization which apostles had planted with tears and watered with blood? If such change was made without a protest, the men of that day were made of different material from us. Christians throughout the world receive the testimony of this Church as to which are the books of Holy Scripture; we acknowledge its authority for the change of the Jewish Sabbath to the Lord's Day, for the baptism of infants, and for the receiving of women to the Lord's Supper. Is not the testimony of the Church equally good as to the form of her own existence? This Church was universal. As St. Paul carried it to Corinth, so it was extended throughout the world. The apostles were equals in [8/9] apostolic office. St. James presided in the first council at Jerusalem and gave the sentence. St. Paul withstood St. Peter face to face, because he was to be blamed. Each national Church was a branch of the one vine, and yet all had the oneness of an organized life. This Church was planted in Britain. Its ministry was received through intermediate links and by English hands transmitted to us. There is not a Church on earth whose record of descent from the primitive Church can be more clearly traced, or which has more jealously guarded a ministry which it believes is one of the marks of a historic Church. The reasons why we believe that the Church in England was planted in apostolic times are these:
1. The Druidic religion of Britain was more favorable than any religion known for the reception of Christianity in its teaching of the immortality of the soul, the need of an atonement, and the spiritual nature of God.
2. The Druidic and Christian religions were the only religions which were persecuted by the Romans.
3. All the Fathers assert that the Gospel was carried by the Apostles to the bounds of the west, which were known as the British Isles.
4. British Christians were known in Rome in St. Paul's time.
5. England had a Christian Queen when Augustine came in the year 596. He found there an ancient church and held a conference with its bishops, who maintained their independence of the church in Rome.
6. This ancient church sent bishops to the Council of Arles in the year 314.
7. It held a council at Verulam about the year 400 to condemn the heresy of Pelagius.
All great legal authorities agree with Blackstone and Lord Bacon that the Ancient British Church was independent of the Church of Rome, and was the last of the churches in the west to accept the Papal supremacy. The Church of England did accept, at the hands of the Church of Rome, doctrines which we do not find in Holy Scripture or in the Catholic creeds; and she acknowledged the Papal authority, which was unknown in the earlier ages of the Church. The subjection of the Saxon Church was completed by the Norman Conquest.--Our English tongue bears the evidence how completely the ancient Saxon was subject to his Norman masters. Nearly every word in the tongue which represents power is Norman, while every word which represents labor is Saxon. Earl, duke, judge are [9/10] Norman. Smith, serf are Saxon. While the animal was tended by the Saxon slave it had a Saxon name, but when the same animal was killed, it was sent to the castle and had a Norman name. Sheep is Saxon, mutton is Norman; ox is Saxon, beef is Norman; calf is Saxon, veal is Norman.
Sir Walter Scott gives a vivid picture in Ivanhoe of the complete state of servitude to which the Saxons had been reduced by their Norman conquerors. "How call you these granting brutes running about on their four legs?" demanded Wamba.--"Swine, fool! swine," said the herd, "every fool knows that." "And swine is good Saxon," said the jester. "But how call you the sow when she is flayed and drawn and quartered and hung up by the heels like a traitor?" "Pork," answered the swineherd. "I am glad every fool knows that, too," said Wamba, "and pork, I think, is good Norman French; and so while the brute lives and is in the charge of a Saxon slave, she goes by her Saxon name, but becomes a Norman and is called pork when she is carried to the castle hall to feast among the nobles." "Nay, I can tell you more," said Wamba; "there is old alderman ox continues to hold his Saxon epithet while he is under the charge of serfs and bondmen, such as thou, but becomes beef, a fiery French gallant, when he arrives before the worshipful jaws that are destined to consume him. Mynheer calf, too, becomes Monsieur de Veau in the like manner. He is Saxon when he requires tendance, and takes a Norman name when he becomes a matter of enjoyment."
"By St. Dunstan," answered Gurth, "thou speakest sad truths. Little is left us but the air we breathe, and that appears to have been reserved with much hesitation, solely for the purpose of enabling us to bear the burdens they lay upon our shoulders."
There were noble men through all these centuries who claimed for the Church in England its ancient heritage: At the Reformation it asserted its independence as a national church, and became Reformed, Catholic, and Free.
It has been well said that "the errors of the Church were not the Church herself; and in quitting them she did not quit herself, any more than a man changes his face when he washes it."
From her earliest existence her bishops were consecrated in England. The civil authority gave the warrant for the election; and the election and consecration according to primitive usage gave to each bishop the right of jurisdiction in his diocese. The claim of the Bishop of Rome to give or to withhold his consent did not affect the validity of the consecration.
 The Episcopal Church of the United States has received its Episcopate from the Church in England. We believe "that there have been from the Apostles' time these three orders of ministers in the Christian Church: Bishops, Priests, and Deacons." It is the bounden duty of the Church to preserve that ministry which she has received. She therefore says that "no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful bishop, priest or deacon in this Church, or permitted to exercise any of said functions, except he be called, tried, examined and admitted thereto according to the form which she has prescribed, or hath had Episcopal consecration or ordination." The Church simply declares, as does every other Christian body, who are duly authorized to minister at her altars. She has never in any council or decree passed judgment upon others. She gladly recognizes the fact that the Holy Ghost dwells in multitudes of hearts who are not members of our branch of the Church. In every service her prayer is that "all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth and hold the faith in unity of spirit and in the bond of peace." Her voice is ever pleading with her children that they may have that love which will say "Grace and peace be with all those who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity and truth."
The history of the Protestant Episcopal Church is full of evidences of the protection of God. It was the first Church planted in America. An English colony was established at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. They were members of the Church of England, and brought with them the Rev. Robert Hunt. They took possession of the country, and Mr. Hunt celebrated the Holy Communion according to the service of the English Church. The Puritans did not settle in Massachusetts until 1620. From time to time other Episcopal clergymen came to care for the scattered members of the Church of England. The Church was placed under such disabilities, it is almost a marvel that it did not perish. For nearly two hundred years it had no resident bishops, The Churches in America were under the care of the Bishop of London. Children grew up without confirmation, and those desiring to enter the ministry of the Church were compelled to cross the Atlantic to receive ordination. In New England, Churchmen were forbidden to hold public service, and were fined and imprisoned for keeping Christmas. In many instances the Church was despoiled of the valuable lands which had been given for its endowment, and its members compelled to support other forms of worship. Even after it had secured the Episcopate, the future was so [11/12] dark, one of her bishops wrote in sadness of heart: "I am willing to do all I can for the rest of my days, but there will be no such Church when I am gone." When William Meade, the late Bishop of Virginia, told Chief-Justice Marshall that he was about to take orders in the Episcopal Church, the Chief-Justice said, "Why, I did not know there was any such Church. I thought it had perished in the Revolution." Yet, at every period of her history God gave some token of his favor. The first prayer in an American Congress was by a clergyman of the Church. The one chosen of God to lead the nation through the stormy sea of revolution--George Washington--was a Churchman. No religion to-day in America can show a nobler list of great men. In theology, in law, in science, in letters, they have been among our foremost men. It is now 90 years since we first held our National Council. We have now 44 dioceses and 13 missionary districts; we have 55 Bishops and 3,140 clergy; we have five organized sisterhoods that have faithful women laboring among the poor, the sick, the helpless and sinful. They are to be found in the lanes and alleys of the city, in the fever-smitten hospital, and the far-off missions of the Missouri. We have 16 Church hospitals, 20 orphan asylums, 25 houses for the helpless, 53 incorporated Church schools and academies, 30 colleges. These statistics do not include parochial schools, temporary works of charity, or parish Church work. The number of actual communicants is about 300,000, and probably five times that number may be regarded as under the spiritual care of the Episcopal Church.
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CHURCH.
The government of the Protestant Episcopal Church is in harmony with the government of the United States. It is a representative government, with such carefully devised limitations of power as will prevent one order from tyrannizing over another. In the parish the Rector has the care of spiritual matters. The Wardens and Vestry, who are elected annually, have the cars of all temporalities. Each parish sends its pastor and lay delegates to the Diocesan Council. The clergy and the laity represent each their order, and both must agree upon separate votes in order to pass any law. Each Diocese is represented in the National Council by its bishop and four clergymen and four laymen. The bishops, the clergy, and the laity, all must agree in legislation. Each diocese has a standing committee of three clergymen and three laymen, who must approve [12/13] the papers of all bishops, priests and deacons, before they can receive ordination. No church guards more vigilantly the rights of all her members, to secure to them liberty under the protection of law.
The Protestant Episcopal Church makes a broad distinction, between those doctrines which must be received as "the Catholic Faith" and those doctrines which are matters of opinion. The Catholic Faith is a precious deposit of Divine truth which the Church has received from the beginning. Matters of opinion are those questions about which men have a right to differ. It is an impossibility that the opinions of one man, however wise, shall be the bond of union for all men. The moment that you articulate the faith into an elaborate confession which enters the domain of religious opinion, you compel men to separate into rival churches. Narrow, sharply defined, dogmatic opinions will for a time unite men, but only for a time. Thought will awake, and men will divide, and each new phase of opinion will create a new sect.
It is a sad truth that the one prolific cause of all schism in the body of Christ, is the desire to make private opinions a test of Christian fellowship. I do not recall a single division in Christendom since the last General Council in 680 (if we except the separation of the Eastern and Western Churches about the "filioque," which was largely due to other causes) that did not come from making human opinions a condition of Church fellowship. It is not the things which are necessary to be believed unto salvation, which divide the Church of God. It is our infallible self-will, our private interpretations of God's word, our opinions about things upon which men have a right to differ, which builds altar against altar, and sect against sect. The distinctive features of nearly every Christian body in America could be held as matters of opinion without separation or schism in the body of Christ. These sad divisions about immaterial questions which do not concern the Faith, are the cause of much of the unbelief of our day. They bewilder men--as if a man lost in one of our winter storms should come to a guide-board where he hoped to find a guide to lead him home. He finds not one, but many guide-boards--each has a pointing hand, and they are pointing in opposite directions, and all saying, "This is the way home." No marvel that he is bewildered, and that doubt settles into despair.
The world's remedy for this is to give up all definite faith. [13/14] It adopts the American proverb, "It matters not what a man believes, if he is honest." The loss of a well grounded faith is the loss of everything. I wonder how a man can accept such sophistry. Does it make no difference to a traveller lost on yonder prairie, where he goes, if he thinks he is right? Does it make no difference to the man famishing with thirst, whether yonder is a mirage with the picture of a fountain, or whether it is the bubbling spring which will quench his thirst? It is at the peril of our souls if we give up God's certainty for man's speculation. But what is this Catholic faith? Shall one man write the faith for his brother? Dares any man write out his own definitions and interpretations of Divine truth and bind them upon another man's conscience? A man might tremble at the thought of writing a creed which shall declare in the name of Almighty God the things which his brother must believe. You know that to proclaim the nature of God, to describe His attributes, to set forth in His Name His will and to teach this to others, if it be not strictly correct, is the most awful impiety. Men cannot and will not be satisfied by mere opinion. They cry out for God; they ask to know Him; who He is; what He has done for them. They ask for God's certainty and not man's fancies; while we stand perplexed, we hear a voice pealing forth through the lapse of centuries, springing up to heaven on the wings of thanksgiving, blended with the incense of daily worship--it is that old Catholic faith which is the heritage of the Christian Church. I thank God that--despite the narrowness of her children (for we, like others, are trying to make men think as we think and speak as we speak), the Protestant Episcopal Church is the broadest church in Christendom. She permits no Bishop, Priest, or Deacon to ask as a condition of admission to the Church more than this: "Dost thou believe all of the articles of the Christian Faith as contained in the Apostles' Creed?" The Episcopal Church did not write the Apostles' Creed. She has received it with the other Catholic creeds, and she bears witness that these are the symbols of "the Faith." The Church takes us back to the great Council at Nicea in the year 325. It was called by the Emperor Constantine. It met to consider the new Arian doctrines. The Church had suffered ten terrible persecutions. For 300 years the Christian had been a hunted outlaw. Those were the times when Christians wrote such letters as this: "I know that before the sun goes down I shall be ground by the teeth of the lions, but rejoice; I shall sup with Jesus in Paradise."
The world has never seen a nobler company of Christian [14/15] bishops. The older men carried upon their bodies the marks of their suffering for Jesus. They did not come together to make a faith. They came to bear witness to "the faith which was once delivered to the Saints." One by one they stated from whom they had received the Gospel. They bore their testimony to that simple form of faith which had been used through all these ages of persecution, and which was substantially the Apostles' Creed:
"I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth: and in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary; Suffered under Pontius Pilate; Was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell, The third day he rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
"I believe in the Holy Ghost; The holy Catholic Church, The Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body; And the life everlasting. Amen."
In order that no man might question what the Church meant by these words, they wrote the Nicene Creed, in which we say:
"I believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, And of all things visible and invisible:
"And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, Begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father, By whom all things were made; Who, for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man, And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered, and was buried; And the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures; And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father; And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life. Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets; And I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church; I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins; And I look for the Resurrection of the dead; And the life of the world to come. Amen."
This faith is the story of the Incarnation as it has been preserved by the Church. It is the great tradition of Christianity, [15/16] telling of an Incarnate Christ and Saviour. It was the abiding faith in the doctrine of Christ that made the great hearts of other days say of this dear old creed: "This is that Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved." For those who are the chosen teachers of the Church, she has written her articles, her rubrics, her laws, as their guide, but she has never bound any man to accept the interpretations of any school, and she does not demand as condition of fellowship more than the Apostles' Creed.
The Protestant Episcopal Church teaches that there are two sacraments which are ordained by Christ, viz.: Baptism and the Lord's Supper. They have two parts, an outward and visible sign, and an inward and spiritual grace. These sacraments are not mere forms. God does not mock men with forms. They are realities, because they bear the warrant of one who was as truly God as He was truly man. The Church does not explain what God has not explained, nor does she define what God has not defined. She sets forth these sacraments in the very words of the Son of God, and as they were held and used for 1000 years after our Lord's ascension into heaven. The language which the Church uses to-day was used 300 years ago by every religious body in Christendom. The Church asks no blind faith in outward things. She believes God. She accepts His Word. The moment that we reach a law in nature or in grace, we cannot go beyond it. It is one of the mysteries of the government of God that He uses an economy of second causes to accomplish his will. God causes the plants to grow, but he uses air, earth, sunshine and rain. God sustains in us the breath of life, but he uses food. If in His wisdom He has appointed Divine mysteries, we can do no less than accept them with a loving faith, not as causes, but as blessed means of grace which are provided by infinite love. I go and going find salvation. You do not cavil at civil institutions. There are in this goodly city men who came from foreign lands to become our fellow citizens. 'They go to yonder Court House; they pass through a simple form; they are no longer Swedes, Irish, and Germans; they are Americans. There is not a right which belongs to us, which does not also belong to them. Do we cavil at the form, the mode, the officer? No! we know that the nation is behind the form. These men might have given all that they had on earth, they could not buy citizenship. [16/17] They might have poured out their blood like water, they could not earn it. They became citizens in the nation's way. They may be unworthy of the boon; they may become traitors to the country, but the gift, the privilege, and the responsibility are theirs. Call it wise or foolish, I know of no place where I can reject the love of Christ, and not cast faith out of my heart.
THE CHURCH'S WORSHIP.
In public worship we use a liturgy. Much of it is in the very words of Holy Scripture. Many of its prayers and hymns and litanies have been going heavenward 1500 years. No church takes greater care to read to the people the word of God. The Christian year follows the life of our dear Lord, for the bride must ever be telling of the absent bridegroom. The warning cry of Advent, the joy of Christmas, the sadness of Good Friday, the hopes of Easter, the gladness of Whitsuntide, and the memories of the Apostles and sainted ones who have gone before, are blessed helps to Christian living.
It is a joy to us that, year by year, other Christians are keeping the same Christian times and seasons, and that their voices blend with ours in singing chants which were sung in God's temple 3,000 years ago. We are sure that whoever has made this service the language of his heart, will say with Adam Clarke, that next to the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer is the book of my understanding and my heart.
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.
The Protestant Episcopal Church teaches that the religion of Christ is a religion of growth and of progress, and therefore she makes it a religion of training. She cradles little children in
her arms, and makes them lambs of Jesus, because He said: "Of such is the Kingdom of God." With Catechisms and prayers and holy Scripture, she trains them for confirmation, for she retains the Apostolic custom of "laying on of hands" as one of the first principles of the doctrine of Christ. She then takes their oath of fealty, and blesses them in her Master's name; more teaching and more prayer, and then she calls them to the Lord's table to receive the children's bread; with benison and prayer she consecrates all joys and sorrows, until with "dust to dust," she lays them in the acre of God, to sleep until the Resurrection. In all her teachings the Church sets forth man's sinfulness and helplessness, and his need of Christ the [17/18] Saviour; she ever magnifies the office of God the Holy Ghost, who unites us to Christ, and renews and sanctifies our hearts. The discipline of the Church is for correction. She suspends the erring from the Holy Communion, that they may repent and be restored to her full fellowship.
The Church gives to her children a larger liberty than many other religious bodies, leaving the exercise of that liberty to the individual conscience and heart. Things which are forbidden by God's law are sinful in themselves--they are always sinful--they are sinful everywhere. The things which God has not forbidden may be sinful or not sinful as they are used. No arbitrary rule measures Christian obligations. The deepest principle of the heart must be entire consecration unto Christ, and everything must be surrendered which comes between us and that higher love. No man is judge of his brother's conscience.--"Every one of us shall give an account of himself unto God."
I have spoken frankly of the teaching of our branch of the Church. If I have said one word which I ought not, I crave forgiveness of God. I was not a home-born son of the Church. I came to it in my maturer years, and I have found it a sweet abiding-place and home. I love it, because I believe it is a pure branch of the Catholic Church. I love it for its primitive and apostolic ministry. I love its sacraments, which are the gift of the Saviour. I love its faith, because it bears the test of antiquity, universality and consent. I love its Christian year, because it brings to my burdened heart the sweetest memories of the Redemption. I love its liturgy, for its simple, fervent piety, for its majestic strains of poesy, for its humble devotion and its clear, outspoken declaration of Holy truth. I love it, because it breathes a spirit of tenderness for the erring, and kindles in my heart longings for Christian brotherhood in the family of God. I know of no liturgy which is broader in its spirit, more Scriptural in its teaching, or clearer in its statements of the truth as it is in Jesus.
As the years go by I find that my own theology grows more simple. I crave more and more the heart of a little child to sit at Jesus' feet and learn His lessons about Our Father. I know that I have deeper longings for Christian fellowship and for the re-union of all who love Jesus Christ. The way to that union looks hard and difficult. There are unkind words to be taken back--alienations to be healed, and heart-burnings to be forgiven. Some blessed truths may comfort us. Every branch of the Church admits the validity of the baptism of all who have been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the [18/19] Holy Ghost. Even Monsignor Capel, high dignitary of the Church of Rome, in a recent letter to Mr. Gladstone, speaking of certain clergymen of the Church of England, says:
"They rightly administer the Sacrament of Baptism and therefore add to the numbers of the true Church." It has always been taught that it is baptism which make us members of the Church; and as baptism cannot be repeated without sacrilege, it is plain that none can forfeit their birthright except through their own wilful rejection of the faith. There are still further grounds of hope in the fact that all Christians look for salvation through the atonement of Jesus Christ. We may still find further ground in the fact that no one branch of the Church is absolutely by itself, alone, the one Catholic and Apostolic Church, and therefore all branches of it must feel the need of a re-union in order to the completeness of the Church. In the words of Dr. Dollinger, we can say each to the other "As being baptized, we are all on either side brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all at bottom members of the universal Church. In this great garden of the Lord, let us shake hands over these confessional hedges, and let us break them down so as to be able to embrace one another altogether. These hedges are the doctrinal divisions about which either we or you are in error. If you are in the wrong, we do not hold you morally culpable, for your education, surroundings, knowledge, and training make your adhering to these doctrines excusable and even right. Let us examine, compare, and investigate the matter together, and we shall discover the precious pearl of religions peace and Church unity; and then let us join our hands in cultivating and cleansing the garden of the Lord, which is overgrown with weeds."
If, indeed, we are one as having been baptized into Christ, will not God punish us if we do not do all that in us lies to heal the sad divisions which mar the visible Church? Can we hope to bring in the glory of the latter day until the Lord's watchmen see eye to eye.
The questions which keep Christians apart are not the living questions which lie near the beating heart of humanity. The people care little whether we believe in Episcopacy or in Presbytery; or whether we hold Calvin's or Luther's creed. The question is not whether they shall accept your faith or mine, but it is whether they shall have any faith. There are thousands who are asking in doubt, in blindness, and some of them in despair, "Is there any guide? any revelation? is there a God?" These are questions which perplex men. They are [19/20] questions which touch every want of sinning and suffering humanity. They are the strong cries of men who are groping for relief. They have lost faith in their teachers. They have lost faith in a religion of mere dogmas. They have lost faith in the uncertain voices, which say, "Lo, here," and "Lo, there," and their doubt is ripening into unbelief. It will do no good to denounce these men; the cry of "infidel" has lost its terrors. They must be met on the platform of common humanity; brother must speak to brother through this darkness and doom. They must help one another back to the light. The real question is this--whether this thinking, fearing, loving, sinning humanity has an Almighty friend or not? Are the wants of every created thing provided for, and is man the only orphan in the universe? Is there nothing but inexorable law to grind such as I am to powder? When my soul revolts at the law of sin and death which I see all around me, and when in my own deeper spiritual nature I long to be something better, purer, and holier than I am, is it no more than the hopeless task of Sisyphus rolling the stone up the mountain? Is there no God who rules the world? no One to love, to trust, to serve? no tie which binds me to my suffering brother, who feels as I feel? Do you tell me with these yearnings and cries of myself that there is nothing but unalterable force? My whole nature revolts at the pitiless creed; every generous impulse of my soul cries out that you shall not thrust me into this black abyss. You wreck not only me, you wreck the world when you give to humanity, instead of an eternal law of right, that selfishness which makes might right, and which always sends the weak to the wall. If Christianity is no more than the wretched wrangling over religious opinions, I do not marvel that men call it only a civilized heathenism. It is more. It is an evangel, because it does reveal to man a real helper. It tells of the Son of man; One who knows us, who loves us, who feels for us, and who is the Son of God, and is able and will help and save us.
Philosophy cannot touch the want. It never has answered the questions which men ask, and it never can answer them. It may amuse the scholar, it may call out the best side of character in the refined and cultivated, but it brings no message to cheer the broken of heart, to heal the wrecked and wretched, and to lead the sinful to peace and safety. It offers to men no hand to grasp, no Saviour to trust, no God to love. The Gospel of Jesus Christ meets me. It tells of a person: He who was before all worlds became the Son of man. He took of the [20/21] Virgin Mary this very humanity and united it to His Divine nature. As truly as this body and soul make up one man, so truly were the human and the Divine nature in the one person of the God-man Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ reveals to me a God of love, an almighty, eternal Father. He unlocks for my longing heart the mysteries of creation. In every flower which God clothes with beauty, in every bird which God feeds from His bounty, I hear His voice speaking to me, "Will He not care for you, O ye of little faith." The first and the last lesson of Jesus is "Our Father." The brotherhood of man in the Fatherhood of God is, "Glad tidings of great joy to all people." It is "Peace on earth and good-will to men." As that heavenly vision of love dawns upon my darkened heart, my soul longs for this blessed sonship. I learn from Him that it is sin which brings to me sorrow; that the heart-ache, and gloom and shadow of death come from my wandering from God. I learn from Him that all that mars God's creation, that separates brothers, that breaks up blessed kinship, comes from a law of death, and so I look up to my Christ and king for help. I seek Him not as a Saviour who is 1800 years away, and whose words sound dimly through the long dreary centuries, but as a living Christ, an Almighty Saviour, One who hears every cry of my burdened soul; One who speaks to me in His word; One who meets me in His Church; One who hears me in prayer; One who day by day strengthens me by the Holy Spirit to fight the battle of life. There is a hungering for God among many who know Him not. There is a cry going up to heaven for this Gospel from every part of this sin-sick world. There is not a doubting man among you who does not need it. There is not a weary, wandering prodigal to whom it will not be a call home. There is not a widow, not an orphan, not a desolate heart to whom it will not be the "good news of God." The world is waiting for it; waiting as it waited for His coming, and it is for us, the followers of Him who came to save the lost, to carry it in His Spirit to all who need it. It is because that dear old Apostles' Creed tells of this Incarnate God and Saviour that I long to have all who love Him united in this faith, in one brotherhood in the family of God.
Our safety, brethren, in these troublous times is in hearty, believing work. This is no time to wrangle over the mint and anise of our private opinions. It is a time for great-hearted work. It is a day for deep brotherly sympathy, for warm hearts, and for outstretched hands. The whole world is [21/22] ringing in our ears its plea for help. What we need is faith in our Christ and King: faith to believe that He sends us with the Gospel of His Kingdom, and that that Gospel will do for our suffering brothers what it has done in all the ages which have passed away. In a day of unbelief we may find it hard to convince men of Christian doctrine, and they may even scoff at the Christ of history. But the living Christ, who dwells with you, who works with you, who sends you upon errands of mercy, none can gainsay or deny. And when the time comes again that heathen men shall say, "See how these Christians love one another," there will be no lack of proof of the Divine mission of the Church.
I heard in Egypt a story which points a moral for our time. A certain Pasha had for his treasurer a pious Jew--another Daniel. The nobles of the court hated him. They accused him to the Pasha as one who denied the Koran and was an infidel. The Pasha summoned his favorite officer and said to him, "Tell me which is the best religion." The Jew thought within himself, "If I say as I ought to say, the religion of Abraham, I shall lose my head; if I say the religion of Mahommed, I have denied my faith and shall receive the curse of God." He answered, "King, I will tell thee an Eastern story, and from that thou mayest judge which is the best religion." "There was in Cairo a jeweler who had three sons. He was wont to buy his goods in Damascus. On one of his visits an old merchant said to him, "Aben Hassan, I have a talismanic ring which I will give to thee. It was blessed by one of the genii. It will make its owner wise, truthful, pure and generous. Take it and wear it for my sake, and bequeath it to thy children." Aben Hassan accepted the gift. It happened as his friend had said; the people were wont to say as he passed along the street, "There goes Aben Hassan, the wise;" others said, "There is Aben Nassau, the truthful;" and others called him "Aben Hassan, the kind," or "Aben Hassan, the good."
When Aben Hassan waxed old, he said to himself, "If I give this ring to any of my sons, it will fill the others with envy. I will do this: I will make two rings exactly like this talismanic ring, so that no man can know the difference. He did so. As death drew near, Aben Hassan called his eldest son and gave him his portion of land and goods, and handed him a ring, saying, "Take this ring, my son; keep it for thy father's sake, and mayest then be wise and just, and truthful and kind." In like manner he gave to each of his other sons his portion of goods, and to each he gave a ring, charging each [22/23] not to wear it ostentatiously before his brothers, but carry it concealed in a pouch in his girdle. And so Aben Hassan died.
It happened that when the days of mourning were over, the younger brothers dined at the elder brother's house. After dinner he said, "Our father was a good father, but he loved me more than you. See, he gave me this talismanic ring." "No!" said the other, "he gave me the ring." "No!" said the other, "he gave me the ring." They examined the rings; no one could find any difference. Perplexed, they agreed to go to a wise rabbi and ask him to decide which was the real ring. The rabbi heard the story of the talismanic ring and said, "It will not be known until you die which has had the true ring. The man who has lived a pure, honest, truthful and generous life will be the one who has the real ring." So said the Jew, "O king, for reasons no wit of man can know, men in their blindness have many religions, and God in His pity overlooks their folly. But when these men stand before Him in judgment, that religion only will be true which has helped them to live a holy life." So, brethren, if for a time in our day there must be many kinds of religion, let us cry to God that we may believe only that which is true, and live only that which is pure, and do only that which is kind, that in the day of judgment we may find safety in Him who shall say, "Inasmuch as ye did it to the least of these, my brethren, ye did it unto me." Call no deed little if it be done from love. The bread broken to the hungry, the kind words spoken to the sinful and weary, the deeds of love done to the suffering; oh, this is the hand, the voice, the heart of Christ, dwelling with his people!