PREACHED AT THE
FREE CHURCH OF THE HOLY COMMUNION,
CHICAGO, FEBRUARY 6, 1859.
BY H. B. WHIPPLE
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2012
"Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."—I SAMUEL, 7:12.
LESS than two years ago, one of our city clergy met five laymen in a private parlor in this city, to found a Free Church. They had not strength enough to make a vestry, and two members of St. James' Church joined them in the organization. They were all young men, without means, and their work was a work of faith. One of that number to whom this Free Church owes its origin, had long felt that such a Church was needed; nay, more, he believed it was the Gospel plan. He reasoned rightly that if the Free Church was needed, God would prepare the way, and so, nothing doubting, he went to work. I was called to be the rector, and I felt sure that such an effort would have the blessing of God. It was a sore trial to leave a well ordered parish, with its loving hearts, and come to this untried field. The city was full of men for whom Christ died, and there was work to make the hands heavy and the heart faint. But where could I begin—how catch the ear of men who lived in the tumult of the street? We began our services; the little flock never seemed so small as on that first Sunday in Metropolitan Hall. We had hardly commenced, when those terrible financial troubles came. And the streets were full of anxious faces; when men said, "in the morning would [3/4] God it were even, and in the even would God it were morning." Our warmest friends were crippled, and all looked dark. In our perplexity, the parish of St. James kindly offered us the use of their old church, and we accepted it. We had one week of homelike comfort in a church, and it was burned. It was the gloomiest Sunday I ever knew. My little flock were full of fears, for none of us had faith to see that God would build us a better home. The way was too long for us to look on and see this dear church, with its cross-capped spire. One year ago this day, and we were homeless, without a place of worship. Was there one of our warmest friends who believed that a year would give us such a church?
The building of a church in times like these, was work to try our faith. And yet, the first brother before whom I laid our plans, gave me such a "God speed" I was sure that the church would be built. Every gift has been so kindly given, and often with such loving words, that it made me remember our Master's saying, "it is more blessed to give than to receive." Even where they failed to give, it often seemed that it was a heavier sorrow to them than to me. Two gentlemen gave five hundred dollars each, and they selected the sentences inscribed upon these walls. A friend of our work generously gave us a lot in another portion of the city, to be used as the vestry may direct. Two others gave two hundred and fifty dollars each. One, two hundred dollars. Twenty gave one hundred dollars each. Thirteen gave fifty dollars each. Fourteen gave us twenty-five dollars each. Five gave us twenty dollars each. One gave fifteen dollars, and four gave ten dollars each. [4/5] Materials for building, from three laymen, two hundred dollars. The lettering of these panels was the gift of the clergyman who presided at the organization of the Parish, and who has been from first to last a tried and trusted friend. The Bishop's chair and altar was the gift of one who gave $200 to the church. The chancel window was a thank offering from another of our vestry, who also gave us one hundred and fifty dollars. The Service Books for the chancel were the offering of a lady who has proved herself a generous friend. The communion service and linen were each gifts from loving friends.
The church has been paid for, and cost, with the windows and gas fixtures,—$4,200
The lease of the lot to the first of May,—$200
The heating and the furnishing of the church,—$750
The dwelling in the rear of the church will be repaired for a Parsonage, at a cost of—$600
The church, furniture, and parsonage, will cost in the aggregate about—$5,500
Is there one of this Church who sees what God has done for us, that does not feel to raise his voice and say, "hitherto the Lord has helped us"? To God be all the praise for the generous thoughts His Spirit put in so many hearts. May he reward you all for such abounding love. I believe that when you and I stand at the end of life's journey, one of its sweetest memories will be the thoughts connected with the building of this Free Church.
Some work the Church has already done. Thirty persons, many of whom were adults, have been by baptism made members of Christ. Forty have reaffirmed their baptismal vows in confirmation. Our [5/6] communicants have increased from ten to eighty. There have been four marriages, and twenty-one burials. The alms of the congregation have been, for missionary purposes, $170. Communion alms, mostly for Christ's poor, $475. For Parish purposes, $3,988.81. Making, with the gifts of others to help us build this church, $9,883.81. There have been held three hundred and forty-eight services, and the Holy Communion has been administered thirty times. Only one member of my Parish has been called away by death.
For all this love—such rich reward of feeble faith—our hearts should swell with gratitude and our lips be open to speak God's praise. We enter to-day this beautiful house of prayer, made holy as an offering to God, and doubly dear for the love which gave it.
1. Ours is a Free Church. We believe that the hearing should be as free as the invitations of the Gospel. This was pledged to be a Free Church by the earnest hearts who founded it, and that pledge has been repeated by every gift towards this house of worship. Its open door will welcome all who desire to hear the Gospel, and I trust the day is nigh at hand when it shall be opened for daily prayer, and here the incense of loving hearts go up as a perpetual offering to God. The only difficulty in doing God's work, is our slow hearts, and when we learn to walk in the ways of the Primitive Church, we shall see the fruits of the Primitive Church. It is because our sinful eyes are blinded, and we do not believe that "where two or three are gathered in Christ's name, there He is in the midst of them;" that we [6/7] feel lonely without the Sunday crowd of worshippers. It is our lack of faith in Christ's own brotherhood that makes us talk of these Free Churches as an experiment. If Heaven was as near our hearts as the earth, there would never be the need of making our means the measure of our privileges in the house of God. It may be that such words sound over strong to some of you, and that you feel that beautiful as the ideal of a Free Church is, it is not expedient in these money-loving days. If it is right, it is expedient. In the economy of grace, if our will is consecrated unto God, His hand will provide the way.
There are two sentences in yonder windows which will always preach a Free Church sermon. "Make not my Father's house an house of merchandise;" "Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people." This church was not built to provide a pleasant place of worship for those who are able to give freely, and procure sittings where they will. It was built to reach the wanderer; to gather in the young; to give the stranger a home; to provide for Christ's poor, and most of all, to set before the world that great truth, that the richest Christian is the poor man's brother before God, and to teach him to live by this great lesson of our Redeemer, who for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich. An earnest brother of this Church told me that one of the most blessed lessons he learned with every Free Church service, is that the poor man is indeed a brother.
2. This Church will be supported on the Lord's plan. Hear what God has taught, using the temple [7/8] service to enforce it: "Do ye not know that they who minister about holy things, live of the sacrifice, and they who wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel." We would have you who worship here learn the Apostolic lesson, "On the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has blessed him." "He that soweth little shall reap little, and he that soweth plenteously shall reap also plenteously. Let every man do according as he is disposed in his heart, not grudgingly, or of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver." If this church shall be thronged by such men as Jesus loved—if the poor man, the laborer, the artisan, and the young man, make it their home—if it is indeed a Free Church, the prosperous must give generously to provide for his poorer brother. The calls on those who give are always great. The man who sees Christ's image in a suffering brother, will give. It is a hollow mockery to tell a man to have faith in God, and be warmed and fed, when he needs bread. The poor have bodies as well as souls. The outstretched arms who ask for help will touch the Christian heart. At first it will be weary work, but it will grow blessed. You are placing something beyond chance or change; you can look on, and by faith hear the music of the words, "Inasmuch as ye did it to the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me." There is only one way to avoid these calls of mercy—refuse—make self the end of life. You will add store to store, and then—you will buy a coffin and a shroud.
3.  This Free Church has a work to do. All around us are men for whom Christ died, and yet many only use that name to swear by. In sorrow and sickness, in pollution and sin, there are men who live as though they thought they could die like oxen in the stall. Our Master's work is our work. "The poor ye have always with you, and when ye will ye may do them good." Will the day ever come when our eyes shall be opened to believe with all our hearts in the brotherhood of Jesus? when we shall see the name of the Lamb written on the poor man's forehead? Beloved, it is not alms alone that he needs; he needs a brother's hand and a brother's heart—cheerful words to make him braver in his sorrow—wise planning to lift him out of trouble—a God speed—a welcome; these, with alms, are blessed: without this, alms to-day needs alms to-morrow, and the poor sink deeper in poverty and woe. This city has thousands of young men: a stranger notices this as he walks the street. The clear eye and commanding step, the young man hopeful of the future, are with us. They have no homes. To many the Sunday comes without a thought of God. If they were sought after, this would be their home; for, beloved, there are few young men who do not remember a mother, and when at unlooked-for times they catch the tones of that mother's voice, they feel that they ought to go where that voice would lead them, and become Christian men. This city is full of craftsmen, those workers in wood and iron, men of strong frames and busy brains—they are the very life of the nation. On every railway, in every shop, on our inland seas—they meet us everywhere. They have [9/10] warm hearts, and are generous to a fault; they are men of the very best intellects; they belong to the thinkers of the age—quick to grasp a truth and ready to fulfill. Why are they not the Sons of the Church? The fault is not in the invitation. Read the sentence on these walls: "The Spirit and the Bride," which is the Church of Christ, "say come; and let him that heareth, say come; and let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him come and drink of the water of life freely." The fault is ours. There is only one place to learn how to do this work. It is at the foot of the Cross. Kneel there to consecrate all, and then God will find the way. When you know not, you will heal wounded hearts, and your loving words be angel voices to the weary, and your deeds of love be such work as endureth to eternal life. The world is full of work, and we need not be afraid to venture, for it is God's work. I dare not tell you now, of all the day dreams which fill my heart connected with this Free Church—when it shall have its parish school, its widow and orphan's home, its hospital for the sick, and daily prayer and alms go up as a memorial before God. It may be that I speak to some one who is yet to help me lay the foundation for such a work. Brother, it will not die. When your houses are crumbled to dust, when your name is forgotten, when not a being on earth shall know that you have ever lived, such work for Christ will go on and on, ever widening, ever moulding and blessing other hearts until the morning of the Resurrection. Is it not something to have lived for, to found a charity which will not die?
4.  Beloved, to-day we begin a new history for ourselves. I must say a word of our relations. I am your pastor and you the sheep my Master gave me. If we came to this parish church to while away an hour in pleasant pastime, then graces in oratory and skill in rhetoric would be the seal of a minister of Christ. But when I know that you must live forever, that we are all sinful and dying men, that we shall be saved or lost as we accept and obey a crucified Saviour, there is only one thought that fills my heart, to tell you as I would tell a child of the way to heaven. You are all weary men. You need faith in God. It will help you to bear trials more bravely, to see that the Father in the sunshine is the Father in the storm. It will make this a new world, when through Christ you look up to say "Our Father," and he helps you to be better men. The Gospel is God's rule for this life. It offers us forgiveness for the past and grace to help us for the future. Whoever will, may take it for his own. And they who use it, who try to live by Jesus' laws, will be led out of every difficulty to a heavenly home. Your heart may now be hard, your faith be weak, your repentance only too little. Never fear if your face is only heavenward. These cold hearts shall be warm with Jesus' love. Repentance shall deepen. Faith shall strengthen. You shall grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ; and then it will matter little who of us is called away, whether I or you, for the Master's call shall bring us home.
5.  In preaching to you the riches of the Cross, I shall tell you of the Church; its blessed faith; its order, and its Sacraments of love. Not to speak unkindly of those not of its fold; not to make you disciples of a party, but to teach you to love, with all the earnestness of a forgiven heart, the gifts which come to you from a crucified Saviour. It is the fashion of the times to have no settled faith. Thousands have severed the last link of faith. They are going, in darkness, and doubt, and despair, to death. A faithless people will be a Godless people. They may be Christians in name, but they are infidels at heart. You may multiply Bibles and scatter them broadcast among such a people; it may be in every huckster's shop and on every man's shelf, but unless there is a well-grounded faith, it has lost its hold upon the heart. It will be prized for its elegant editions and gay binding, and not because it is the revelation of Almighty God. These are not the times to tamper with our faith. We must place our feet firmly on the testimony of God, and confess "the faith once delivered to the Saints."
It is for lack of a simple, earnest faith in Christ that men turn aside to follow the bewildering superstitions of the Church of Rome, or wander after the delusions which infidelity scatters broadcast. The one in losing sight of the great truth that faith is taking Christ at his word, reaches out for other mediators, and ladens the simplicity of the Cross with error. The other severs the last link of Faith, to go in darkness to the grave. I thank God that our branch of Christ's Holy Church has never added [12/13] to or taken from the faith. We demand of the candidate for baptism, a belief in the Apostles' Creed. You can write it on your hand, that creed as explained by the Council of Nice and reaffirmed by every General Council in the Catholic Faith. There is not a doctrine wherein our Church differs from any disciple of Jesus, which is not a mere matter of opinion not necessary for salvation. There is not a dogma where we differ from the Church of Rome which is not a doctrine of man, made a matter of faith. The Church gives us perfect freedom under the guidance of eternal law. I do not believe that Christian charity ever demands a compromise of truth or asks that we turn aside for the shallow plea of expediency. Every man respects a frank avowal of faith, if that faith is seen in a holy life. The Church is the gift of our Lord; its ministry was appointed by him; its faith came from Apostles; its sacraments are bound on the conscience of every man with all the force of the words of One who was as truly God as He was truly man. In the communion of this branch of the Catholic Church, in the confidence of this certain faith, in the comfort of a reasonable, religious and holy hope, in favor with God and in perfect charity with the world, may you all live for Jesus Christ's sake. While I shall ever pray that God may help me to be loyal to Him who has redeemed me, and serve him in the ways of His Church, I know that this loyalty and love will help me to be more kind, more gentle and more loving to those beyond its pale.
 Beloved, I am your pastor and you the flock which the Lord has given me. Let us ever be a united Parish, "bearing one another's burdens, and so fulfilling the law of Christ." Trials will come, difficulties beset us, but none too great if we only lean on Christ. If Christ is our teacher, these ties of love shall bind us closer as we go down the way of life; and though we shall go out one by one to sleep in the churchyard, the Parish will be reunited in heaven.