Sermon IV. Address in Lambeth Chapel, at the First Session of the Lambeth Conference, July 3, 1888
Most reverend and right reverend brethren: No assembly is fraught with such awful responsibility to God, as a council of the Bishops of His Church. Since the Holy Spirit presided in the first council of Jerusalem, faithful souls have looked with deep interest to the deliberations of those whom Christ has made the shepherds of His flock, and to whom he gave His promise, "Lo, I am with you always to the end of the world." The responsibility is greater when division has marred the beauty of the Lamb's Bride. Our words and acts will surely hasten or (which God forbid) retard the reunion of Christendom. Feeling the grave responsibility which is imposed on me to-day, my heart cries out as did the prophet's, "I am a child and cannot speak." Pray for me, venerable brethren, that God may help me to obey His word--"Whatsoever I command, that shalt thou speak." I would kneel with you at our Master's feet and pray that "the Holy Spirit may guide us into all truth." We meet as the representatives of national Churches; each with its own peculiar responsibility to God for the souls intrusted to its care; each with all the rights of a national Church, to adapt itself to the varying conditions of human society; and each bound to preserve the order, the faith, the sacraments, and the worship of the Catholic Church, for which it is a trustee. As we kneel by the table of our common Lord we remember separated brothers. Division has multiplied division until infidelity sneers at Christianity as an effete superstition, and the modern Sadducee, more bold than his Jewish brother, denies the existence of God. Millions for whom Christ died have not so much as heard that there is a Saviour. It will heal no divisions to say, Who is at fault? The sin of schism does not lie at one door. If one has sinned by self-will, the other has sinned as deeply by lack of charity and love. The way to reunion looks difficult. To man it is impossible. No human eirenicon can bridge the gulf of separation. There are unkind words to be taken back, alienations to be healed, and heartburnings to be forgiven. Where we are blind, God can make a way. When "the God of Peace" rules in all Christian hearts, our Lord's prayer will be answered--"That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they all may be one in Us, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me." No one branch of the Church is absolutely by itself alone the Catholic Church; all branches need reunion in order to the completeness of the Church. There are blessed signs that the Holy Spirit is quickening Christian hearts to seek for unity. We all know that this divided Christianity cannot conquer the world. At a time when every form of error and sin is banded together to oppose the kingdom of Christ, the world needs the witness of a united Church. Men must hear again the voice which peals through the lapse of centuries bearing witness to the "faith once delivered to the saints," or else for many souls there will be only rationalism and unbelief--while this sad, weary world, so full of sin and sorrow, is pleading for help, it is a wrong to Christ and to the souls for whom He died that His children should be separated in rival folds. As baptised into Christ we are brothers. Notwithstanding the hedges of human opinions which men have builded in the garden of the Lord, all who look for salvation alone through faith in Jesus Christ do hold the great verities of Divine faith. The opinions which separate us are not necessary to be believed in order to salvation. The truths in which we agree are parts of the Catholic faith. The Holy Spirit has passed over these human barriers, and set his seal to the labors of separated brethren in Christ, and rewarded them in the salvation of many precious souls. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the renewing and sanctifying influences of the Holy Ghost are the same in the peasant in the cottage, and in the emperor on the throne. They share with us in the long line of confessors and martyrs for Christ. We would not rob them of one sheaf which they have gathered in the garner of the Lord. We rejoice that Churches with a like historic lineage with us are seeking reunion. Churches whose faith has been dimmed by coldness or clouded by error are being quickened into new life from the Incarnate Son of God.
Our hearts go out in loving sympathy to the Old Catholics of Europe and America, whose names always will be linked with Selwyn, Wilberforce, and Wordsworth, Whittingham, Kerfoot, and Brown, in defence of the faith. It is with deep sorrow that we remember that the Church of Rome has separated herself from the teaching of the primitive Church by additions to the faith once delivered to the saints, and by claiming for its Bishop prerogatives which belong only to the Divine Head of the Church While we honor the devotion and zeal of her missionary heroes, and rejoice at the good works of multitudes of her children, we lament that lack of charity which anathematizes disciples of Christ who have carried the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
We bless God's Holy Name for the fraternal work which has been carried on under the guidance of the see of Canterbury, and which we trust will lead ancient Churches to a deeper personal faith in Jesus Christ.
We are sad that some of our kinsmen in Christ, children of one mother, have forsaken her ways. God can over-rule even this sorrow, so that it shall fall out to the furtherance of the Gospel. They must take with them precious memories of the love and the faith of the mother whom they have forsaken, and of the liberty wherewith the truth in Christ has made her children free--under God these may be a link in the chain of His providence to the restoration of unity. It is a singular providence that at this period of the world's history, when marvellous discoveries have united the people of divers tongues in common interests, He has placed the Anglo-Saxon race in the forefront of the nations. They are carrying civilization to the ends of the earth. They are bringing liberty to the oppressed, elevating the down-trodden, and are giving to all these divers tongues and kindreds their customs, traditions, and laws. I reverently believe that the Anglo-Saxon Church has been preserved by God's Providence (if her children will accept this Mission) to heal the divisions of Christendom, and lead on in His work to be done in the eventide of the world. She holds the truths which underlie the possibility of reunion, the validity of all Christian baptism in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. She ministers the two sacraments of Christ as of perpetual obligation, and makes faith in Jesus Christ, as contained in the Catholic Creeds, a condition of Christian fellowship. The Anglo-Saxon Church does not perplex men with theories and shibboleths which many a poor Ephraimite cannot speak--she believes in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, three Persons and one God, but she does not weaken faith in the Triune God by human speculations about the Trinity in Unity. She believes that the sacred Scriptures were written by inspiration of God, but she has no theory about inspiration. She holds up the Atonement of Christ as the only hope of a lost world; but she has no philosophy about the Atonement. She teaches that it is through the Holy Ghost that men are united to Christ. She ministers the sacraments appointed by Christ as His channels of grace; but she has no theory to explain the manner of Christ's presence to penitent believing souls. She does not explain what God has explained, but celebrates these Divine mysteries, as they were held and celebrated for one thousand years after our Lord ascended into heaven, before there was any East or West arrayed against each other in the Church of God. Surely we may and ought to be first to hold up the olive branch of peace over strife, and say, "Sirs, ye are brethren."
In so grave a matter as the restoration of organic unity, we may not surrender anything which is of Divine authority, or accept terms of communion which are contrary to God's Word. We cannot recognize any usurpation of the rights and prerogatives of national Churches which have a common ancestry, lest we heal "the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly," and say "peace, where there is no peace;" but we do say that all which is temporary and of human choice or preference we will forego, from our love to our own kinsmen in Christ.
The Church of the Reconciliation will be an historical and Catholic Church in its ministry, its faith, and its sacraments. It will inherit the promises of its Divine Lord. It will preserve all which is catholic and Divine. It will adopt and use all instrumentalities of any existing organization which will aid it in doing the Lord's work. It will put away all which is individual, narrow, and sectarian. It will concede to all who hold the faith all the liberty wherewith Christ hath made His children free.
Missions.--In the presence of brethren who bear in their bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus, I hardly know how to clothe in words my thoughts as I speak of Missions. The providence of God has broken down impenetrable barriers--the doors of hermit nations have been opened; commerce has bound men in common interests, and so prepared "a highway for our God"--Japan, India, China, Africa, Polynesia, amid the solitudes of icy north, and in the lands of tropic suns, world-wide there are signs of the coming of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. The veil which has so long blinded the eyes of the ancient people, our Lord's kinsmen according to the flesh, is being taken away. We bless God for the good example of martyrs like Patteson, Mackenzie, Parker, Hannington, and others, who have laid down their lives for the Lord Jesus. We rejoice that our branch of the Church has been counted worthy to add to the names of those who "came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." "A great and effectual door is opened." There is no country on the earth where we may not carry the Gospel. The wealth of the world is largely in Christian hands. The Church only needs faith to grasp the opportunity to do the work.
In the presence of fields so white for the harvest, we must ask, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?"
1. There must be unceasing, prevailing intercessory prayer for those whom we send out to heathen lands. The hearts of all Christian nations were turned with anxious solicitude to that brave servant of God and His country in Khartoum. Shall we feel less for the servants of Christ who have given up home and country to suffer and it may be to die for Him? Some of us remember that when Missions were destroyed, when clouds were all around us, and the very ground drifting from under our feet, that we were made brave to work and wait for the salvation of God by the prayers which went up to God for us. When "prayers were made without ceasing of the Church unto God," the fast-closed doors of the prison were opened for the Apostles. It will be so again.
2. There must be the entire consecration of all unto Christ. The wisdom of Paul and the eloquence of Apollos may plant, but "God alone giveth the increase." If success comes, if "the rod of the priesthood bud and blossom and bear fruit," it must be "laid up in the ark of God." He will not give His glory to another. The work is Christ's. "We are ambassadors for Him." "I have chosen you and ordained you that ye should go and bring forth fruit."
3. They who would win souls must have a ripe knowledge of the sacred Scriptures. "They were written by inspiration of God. . . . that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." Our orders may be unquestioned, our doctrine perfect in every line and feature, but we shall not reach the hearts of men unless we preach Christ out of an experimental knowledge of the truths of Divine Revelation. There is but one Book which can bring light to homes of sorrow, one light to scatter clouds and darkness, one message to lead wandering folk unto God. This blessed Book will be to every soldier and lonely missionary what it was to Livingstone dying alone in Africa, or to Captain Gardiner dead on the desolate shores of Patagonia, whose finger pointed to the words, "The Blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin."
4. We must love all whom Christ loves. We may have the gift of teaching, we may understand all mysteries, we may have all knowledge, we may bestow all our goods to the poor, we may even give our bodies to be burned, but without that love which comes alone from Christ, we shall be "as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal." With St. Paul we must say, "Whereinsoever Christ is preached I do rejoice, and will rejoice."
5. Above all gifts we need the baptism of the Holy Ghost. When this consecration comes there will be no cry of an empty treasury. We shall no longer be weary with the bleating of lost sheep, to whom we have to say, I have no means and no shepherd to send you.
Christian Work--We rejoice at every sign that Christians realize that wealth is a sacred trust, for which they shall give an account. We rejoice more that they are giving that personal service which is a law of His kingdom. Men and women of culture and gentle birth are going into the abodes of sickness and sorrow to comfort stricken homes and lead sinful folk to the Saviour. Brotherhoods, Sisterhoods, and deaconesses are multiplying. Never was there greater need for their holy work. Many of our own baptized children have drifted away from all faith. To thousands God is a name, the Bible a tradition, faith an opinion, and heaven and hell fables. But that which gives us the deepest sadness and makes all Christian work more difficult is that so many of those to whom the people look for example have given up the Bible, the Lord's Day, the house of God, and Christian faith. Alas! they are telling these weary toilers whose lives are clouded by anxiety and sorrow that there is no hereafter. "They know not what they do." They are sowing to the wind and will reap the whirlwind. May God show them the danger before if is too late! The loss of faith is the loss of everything; without it morality becomes prudence or imprudence. When the tie which binds man to God is broken all other ties snap asunder. No nation has survived the loss of its religion. We are appalled at the mad cry of anarchy which tramples all which we hold dear for time and eternity under its feet. We cannot look into its face without seeing the lineaments of that man of sin who "opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God and worshipped." Antichrist is he who usurps the place of Christ. "He is antichrist who denieth the Father and the Son." Our hearts go out in pity for those whose mechanical ideas of the universe may be a revolt from a mechanical theology which has lost sight of the Fatherhood of God. We stand where two ways meet. We shall take care of the people or the people will take care of us. The people are the rulers; the power of the future is in their hands. Limit their horizon to this life, let penury, sickness, and sorrow change the man to a wolf, let him know no God and Father Who hears his cry, no Saviour to help, no brother to bind up his wounds, let there be on the one side wealth and luxury and wanton waste, and on the other side poverty, misery, and despair, and there will be, as there has been, a cry for blood. We wonder why men pass by the Church to found clubs and brotherhoods and orders. They will have them, and they ought to have them, until the Church is in its Divine love what its Founder designed it to be--the brotherhood in Christ of the children of our God and Father. What the world needs to-day is not alms, not hospitals, not homes of mercy alone. It needs the spirit and the power of the love of Christ. It needs the voice, the ear, the hand, and the heart of Christ seen in and working in His children. No powers of government, no prestige of social position, no prerogatives of Churchly authority can meet the issues of this hour; we have waited already too long. Brotherhood men will have, and it will be the brotherhood of the commune, or brotherhood in Christ as the children of our God and Father. Infidelity answers no questions, heals no wounds, fulfils no hopes. The Gospel will do, is doing, to-day what it has done through all the ages: leading men out of sin and darkness and despair to the liberty of sons of God.
In a day of division and unrest there will be many questions which perplex earnest souls. Some will dwell on the subjective side of the faith, others will think most of its manifestations in the life. These questions will affect organization for Christian work, public worship, and find expression in the ritual of the Church. There is no room for differences if Christ be first, Christ be last, and Christ in everything. The ritual of the Church must be the expression of her life. It must symbolize her faith; it must be subject to her authority. As the years go by worship will be more beautiful. The "garments of the king's daughter may be of wrought gold," and she "clothed in raiment of needlework," but "she will have a name that she liveth and is dead," unless her "fine linen is the righteousness of the saints." Lastly, to none is this council so dear as to those whose lives are spent in the darkness of heathenism, or who have gone out to new lands to lay foundations for the work of the Church of God. In loneliness, with deferred hope, neglected by brethren, your only refuge to cry as a child to God, it is a joy for you to feel the beating of a brother's heart, and hear the music of a brother's voice, and kneel with brothers at the dear old trysting-place, the table of our Lord. Let us consecrate all we have and are to Him, let us remember loved ones far away, let us gather all the work we have so long garnered in our hearts and lay it at his feet. We shall not have met in vain if out of the love learned of Him we give each to the other, and to all fellow-laborers for Him, a brother's love, a brother's sympathy, and a brother's prayers. I do not know how to clothe in words the thronging memories which cluster around us in this holy place, what searchings of heart, what cries to God, what communions with Christ, what consolations of the Holy Spirit have been witnessed in this sacred place. I cannot call over the long roll of saints, confessors, and martyrs, whose "name are written in the Lamb's Book of Life." Two names will be remembered to-day by us all. One, that gentle Archbishop Longley, who in the greatness of his love saw with a prophet's eye the Mission of the Church and planned these conferences that our hearts might beat as one in the battle of the last time. The other, the wisest of counsellors and the most loving of brethren, the great-hearted Archbishop Tait, whose dying legacy to his brethren was "love one another." They have finished their course and entered into rest. A little more work, a few more trials, and we, too, shall finish our course. We are not two companies, the militant and triumphant are one. We are the advance and rear of one host travelling to the Canaan of God's rest. God grant that we, too, may so follow Christ that we may have an abundant entrance to His eternal kingdom.