Four our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake."—1 Thessalonians, i, 5.
That was a memorable morning in the history of Christianity and of mankind, when St. Paul awoke from his slumbers at Troas, and looked out upon the Hellespont. He stood at the dividing waters between Asia and Europe, with all the Western World before him. In a vision of the preceding night, he had seen a Macedonian, a man of the nearest European province, who said to him, "Come over and help us." From such a divine warning, he and his companions assuredly gathered that the Lord had called them to preach there the Gospel; and so, loosing from Troas, they came with a straight course to Samothracia, to Neapolis, to Phillipi. Thence, amid conversions and persecutions, they passed on to other Macedonian cities, to Amphipolis and Apollonia, and then to Thessalonica, where their Gospel came to many, "not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance." These were the recollections of St. Paul when he wrote from Athens to the Church of the Thessalonians, and such remembrances may have been with him when, from his bonds at Rome, he addressed his affectionate, rejoicing epistle to the steadfast believers at Philippi. He had preached the Gospel at Athens and at Rome also; through that passage from Troas into Macedonia it had entered the ancient and the modern West; and as he looked back over such a path of spiritual triumphs, he could but still say to the Thessalonian Christians, "What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?" and to those of Philipi, "My brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved."
Without degrading a history like that of the first victorious march of the Gospel by any comparison with inferior events, we may yet remember, on such an occasion as the present, that these things also happened unto them for examples, and were written for our learning. In this foremost temple of the great mart and metropolis of this new Western World, we are assembled for a work which can not be without fruit in distant days and in distant regions. From this spot, and from the act which we are now to accomplish, the course, if Providence favors it, is straight to the golden gate which opens towards Eastern Asia. He who shall enter there as the first Protestant Bishop, will see before him the land which is the treasure house of this republic. Behind it are the vales and rivers and snowy mountains, which are to our Far West the Farther West, and amidst them lie the seats of that abominable and sensual impiety, the cry of which goes up to heaven, like that of Sodom and Gomorrah from the valley of the Dead Salt Sea. Still beyond spread the deserts which divide, but will not long divide the Christians of this continent. Upon the edge of this vast field he will stand when he shall place his foot on the shore of the Pacific. There he is to labor, and there, in the common course of Providence, are to be his lifelong abode and his grave. There he is to be occupied in laying the foundations of a Church which must be a pillar and ground of the truth for wide lands and for unborn millions. While it retains and upholds the doctrine and the discipline of the apostles, it must pre-eminently shine as a city set on an hill, and as a light of the world. Few of the issues can he live to witness. But, in the years to come, if years are given him, he must recall the prospects which opened upon him in this hour, and again when he saw the coast of that Western Ocean. May he but be able, then, as he contemplates those amongst whom he has served, to take up the grateful record of St. Paul: "for my Gospel come not unto you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance, as ye know what manner of man I was among you, for your sake!"
That with which every minister of Christ is entrusted, is simply the Gospel. There is no higher stewardship or costlier treasure amidst all the much more than episcopal responsibilities of the apostleship of St. Paul, and when the care of all the churches was heaviest upon him, he seemed to lose all the rest in this; that a dispensation of the Gospel was committed unto him: he seemed to speak even of the sacraments themselves as an inferior trust, since Christ sent him not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel; and he seemed to hold it the crowning grace of all which had been heaped upon him, that he could preach the unsearchable riches of Christ amongst the Gentiles. Had the glad tidings of the redeeming love of God in his dear Son been withheld, the Church, the sacraments and all the blessings of the new covenant, and all which distinguishes even those who are greatest in the kingdom of the Lord on earth, would have no significance, and indeed no being. To spread the Gospel, to instil the Gospel, to enforce the Gospel, to explain the Gospel, to fix the Gospel in the heart, to fulfill there the work of the Gospel, all these exist; and every ecclesiastical institution, from its foundation to its topmost stone, should proclaim the Gospel, and so far as it does not is worthless. "There are differences of administration, but the same Lord;" and whether we read publicly the word, or preach, or teach, or administer the sacrament, or lay our hands upon believers in blessing, or consecrate the house of God to its holy uses, or preside in the councils of his people, or train up or ordain the future ministers of Christ, or watch over those who are already His ministers, or reprove, or rebuke, or exhort, or advise, or encourage, each or all of them, it is all for the sake of the Gospel and its work and triumph. That God the Father is a reconciled Father to men; that God the Son has redeemed the world; that God the Holy Ghost regenerates and sanctifies all who come to" the Father through the Son; this is the Gospel of salvation. Many and dazzling are the heights of this Gospel; many and profound its depths; many and precious its instruments; many and blessed its results; but it must enter in and take possession of the soul; or else in vain for that soul the sanctuary and the altar, the priestly robe and the priestly office, apostolic order and apostolic fellowship, all means of grace and even all grace which has been received in vain.
This Gospel must come, not in word only. It comes in Word wherever the Bible is read, and wherever the simplest instruction is given in the doctrines of Christianity. It comes very distinctly in word wherever the Common Prayer of our Church is heard, till the memory is replenished with the sober sweetness of its holy eloquence. It may be said, too, to come emphatically in word, when to these are added the attractions of "enticing words of man's wisdom," and when admiring congregations listen, as if to "one who can play well upon an instrument." But are these your reliance?
Can they not become, in corrupt or careless times, a dead machinery? Of those who fasted and prayed to be seen of men, our Savior said, "they have their reward." It is as true of those who bring the Gospel in word only, that such as is the labor such is the recompence. Words yield but words; forms produce forms; ecclesiastical machinery, when it is lifeless from the first, has no efficacy to animate the dead in trespasses and sins. There are few pages in the history of Christianity so gloomy as those which relate how all which God had ordained for the outward preservation, government and operation of the Church, has so often remained, while through the guilt of man, the Gospel has been there in word only, and the machinery has but moved on and on, with a continual decline of all the light of Christian knowledge, and the life of Christian godliness.
No: not in word only, but in power, must that Gospel come, which, as at Thessalonica, shall work effectually in those that believe, and make them followers of apostles and of their Lord. We have heard, and our fathers have told us, how it came in their days, and in the old time before them; in every age which has had its burning and shining lights, its great company of preachers, its holy bishops, its victorious missionaries, its founders of churches, or its bands of martyrs. Simple and clear has been, then, the word which was so powerful; but like a rushing, mighty wind, it has borne the souls of men onward. It was powerful, because they heard in it the voice of God, now, as in the thunders from Mount Sinai, and now as in the song of the angels over the hills of Bethlehem, "Repent ye for the kingdom of heaven is at hand:" "Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden;" "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels;" "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of thy Lord." What power is locked up in the simplicity of sayings like these; and in the parables of the Lord Jesus; and in the history of His agony and His cross; and in those brief discourses of the apostles, under which men were cut to the heart! The three thousand converts of the day of Pentecost; the treasures laid at the apostles' feet; the great company of the priests that were obedient to the faith; the people of Samaria with one accord giving heed to Philip; the Ephesians burning their costly books of magic; Felix trembling on his seat of judgment; these are pictures of that power flashing from soul to soul like the lightning from heaven. There are less startling scenes which prove not less its reality and its presence. "Wherever a Mary sits at the feet of her Lord, choosing the better part; or a Barnabas, goes forth, "a good man full of faith and of good works," or a Dorcas lies dead, surrounded by the widows whom her own hands have clothed; or the lowliest and most unknown saint lives a godly, righteous and sober life, there is the Gospel in its power; there the word, the Church, the sacraments, the lesser ordinances, have, one and all, been mighty.
This power is only where the Gospel comes in the Holy Ghost. The word of God is the sword of the spirit; and therefore it prevails; and it is only through that inward and spiritual grace that any outward and visible sign can have any efficacy of high value. It is the doctrine of the Scriptures as well as of the Church, that the Holy Ghost is with the word and the ordinance of Christ; yet so, that faith must ask and receive, or the gift of God is fruitless. It is the Holy Ghost, who through the word, arouses the conscience, and reproves the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment, and yet the word falls idle by the wayside, and sinks not into the stony ground, and is choked among the thorns. We know that by one Spirit we are baptized into one body; and yet millions of the baptized and the unbaptized are utterly undistinguishable. We doubt, not that the Holy Ghost makes us overseers over the flock of Christ; and yet there are faithless shepherds, and blind leaders of the blind. We hesitate not, clinging to the original charge and word of our Lord, to say, "Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Bishop in the church of God;" and yet, if he who is consecrated to that work, fail to "stir up the grace of God which is given him by the imposition of our hands," others who believe and pray may have heavenly blessings through his ministrations, while he himself may follow that one of the twelve who was both an apostle and a betrayer. The Gospel comes never without the Holy Ghost: the gifts are always there ready to be sought and found; but when it comes not merely with but in the Holy Ghost, these gifts are received indeed; the heart lays hold upon the divine hope which is set before it; man is a new creature in Christ Jesus; he lives in the spirit, he walks in the spirit; and all the fruits of the spirit, love, joy and peace, and all righteousness and holiness, are seen in the individual believer and in the blessed company of faithful people.
Then it is that the Gospel comes in much assurance. The minister of Christ has then the testimony of his own conscience. The conscience of them that hear him bear witness. When it is God and not man who speaks, the soul which God created answers. As the stream reflects the sunbeam, as the tree bends before the wind, so to the power and grace of the Gospel, our inmost nature yields a willing or unwilling homage. If it were not so, vain were the foolishness of preaching, and desperate the reliance of the Church, in the midst of unbelievers. Not such is the applause which brilliant eloquence may have won; not such the imaginative awe which solemn temples and an imposing ceremonial may inspire; not such even the convictions built up by well-ordered arguments, to which reason bows with a pleased assent; the assurance in which the Gospel comes is something far deeper and not to. be mistaken. You feel it when your hear the word of the Lord Jesus. It arises within you when you are permitted to see the secret soul of one who loves the Lord. It is strong when you commune with your own hearts, in your chambers, and are still. As you approach the gate of the eternal world, that assurance of the reality and power of the Gospel mounts into all the certainty of sight. My brethren, when we have to meet the unbelief of this age, let it not be chiefly with reasonings, though the spirit of a sound mind must eminently be ours; nor with attempts to enlist the imagination on the side of Heaven, though even these are not to be quite disregarded; but let it be chiefly with that which is the power of God and the wisdom of God unto salvation; with the blessed truth as it is in Jesus, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Let us speak it boldly, affectionately, fervently, tenderly; and it will come in much assurance; and when it has so entered the soul, doubt and unbelief and despair will flee like the mists before the morning sun.
When the Apostle Paul thus reminded the Thessalonians how his Gospel had come to them, he added that noble appeal which none may more fitly ponder than the Christian Bishop. "Ye know what manner of men we were among you, for your sake." For the sake of the Church and the people of God, for the sake of the souls of men, such an one is to live. His character is not his own: he exists officially to be their example and their leader. "Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! A double woe must rest upon that pastor who leads his flock astray by his own sins! a threefold woe upon that Bishop whose unrestrained passions, whose love of the world, whose pride, whose covetousness, or whose deceitful-ness, shall poison, as far as maybe in his power, the holiest hope of multitudes. Oh, what is a Church without godliness! "What is a Priest who is not a righteous man! What is the worth of all ecclesiastical zeal or order, even though the world should be compassed to make proselytes, if the beginning and the end be hypocrisy! It is hypocrisy if we are not striving to walk in the way of God's commandments; and let it not be deemed needless to say that the danger from Rome or from Rationalism is far less to be feared than the danger from "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life."
"What manner of men we were among you," says the Apostle Paul, "ye know;" "for our exhortation was not of deceit, nor uncleanness, nor in guile:" "neither at any time used we flattering words, nor a cloak of covetousness, God is witness, nor of men sought we glory;" "ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe;" "how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory." The exhortation and the example went down together into the hearts of the Thessalonians, and the result in them was their "work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope." Well might he who could thus appeal to their remembrance, recall the success of his toils, and say "for yourselves, brethren, know our entrance unto you, that it was not in vain;" it could not be in vain.
What manner of man a Bishop should now be, the same Apostle has described in words which the Church places before the eyes of every Bishop in its office of consecration. It is an enumeration of qualities higher than learning, or eloquence, or energy. "A Bishop must be blameless, vigilant, sober, of good behavior; given to hospitality, apt to teach, not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre, patient, not a brawler, not covetous, one that ruleth well his own house, not a novice, lifted up with pride; and he must have a good report of those which are without, lest he fall into reproach, and the snare of the devil." Such is the man whom, whether he watch for a single congregation only, or for many, God gives in love to the souls of men, and rewards with some portion of that joy which was set before the Savior, the joy of winning those who were to shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Blessed be the mercy which permits us to recognize the resemblance in many who have been or are amongst us, from every order of the ministry. Through such as these, the Church is strong, so far as its strength rests in any human arm, and only such as these can do its good work well. Humbly and constantly, let us ask the increase of these from the Lord of the harvest; that by them the Gospel may come to all the world, not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance!
And now, my dear brother, now, more than ever before, this work is to be made yours, with the highest responsibilities, the largest sphere, the most various tasks, and, I will not refrain from adding, the most peculiar perils. It is not the Episcopate alone, nor the Missionary Episcopate alone. It is an Episcopate to be exercised where fellow laborers are still to be gathered; where seminaries are yet to be founded; where congregations are mostly to be begun. There is no past on which you can much lean; and it is more than possible that around you will be little of that support which we need and find among the incitements and encouragements of well-established Christian communities. The minister of Christ, whose charge is remote and lonely, must walk with God, or sink into spiritual slumber; for no mortal aid will fan continually the flame upon his inward altar. You go where thirst for gold, impatience of restraint, the vices of adventurers, and all the ills of unavoidable lawlessness, have been before you; where the softening and instructive influences of old age and of childhood, can, as yet, be little known, and where female piety throws but a small measure of its familiar light over the surface and the heart of society. A lover of the world, a pleaser of men, a reed shaken by the wind, has nowhere his place among the standard-bearers of Christ; bat least of all, on such an outpost, beleagured by such temptations. But of the scene of your labors you will soon know much more than any of us now understand from afar. There is one armor and but one, which will prepare you both to defend your own soul, and to carry forward the banner of Christ and of his Church. Many prayers ascend for you in this hour; they can ask for you nothing so needful and so precious as an humble, steadfast, upright heart in every change; for, simplicity and godly sincerity will bear you through all safe and successful. Of all things which are at war with these, I say to you, in the name of the Church which sends you, and in the words of an apostle to an ancient Bishop, "O man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I give thee charge in the sight of God, and before Christ Jesus, that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ." We shall part at the table of our Savior, we who are assembled here from such various and distant portions of his vineyard. My dear brother, when the whole length and breadth of our vast country shall lie between you and some who are nearest to your heart; when it shall seem to you almost as if the grave had separated you from those to whom you have so long ministered; feel that you are beloved; feel that you are remembered in daily and nightly prayers; feel that the whole Church accompanies you with its eager hopes; and be strong and watch over your deeds and words and thoughts; that through the grace of the Holy Spirit, you may be blameless and faithful to the end, and that the word of God may have free course and be glorified. And when all saints shall be gathered at last, to set down with apostles and with patriarchs in the kingdom of heaven, may we, and many for whom we labor, be numbered among those who shall come thither from the East and from the West!
APPENDIX. CONSECRATION OF THE BISHOP OF CALIFORNIA. [From the Church Journal.]
This consecration took place, at Trinity Church, on the morning of S. Simon and S. Jude's Day, October 23. At 10 o'clock, the procession, consisting of four deacons, twelve presbyters, besides the Bishop-elect, and eight Bishops, entered and took their places: the Bishops in the Sanctuary, the Presbyters in the Choir, and the Deacons in the Nave. The Bishop-elect sat in the middle of the Choir, facing the Altar, the two Presbyters who robed him being on either side.
Prayer was said by the Rev. Dr. Berrian, and the Rev. Dr. Van Kleeck, the 1st Lesson (Ezek. xxxiii, 1-10) being read by the venerable Archdeacon Trew, of Nassau, West Indies, and the 2d Lesson (2 John, x, 1-19) by the Rev. Edmund Hobhouse, of Merton College, Oxford. After Morning Prayer, the 108th Selection was sung, to the tune of S. Ann's. The Ante-Communion Office was begun by the Provisional Bishop of New-York; the Epistle being read by the Bishop of Illinois, and the Gospel by Bishop Boone, of China. An Anthem, was then sung (I Thess. i, 5).
The Sermon was preached by the Bishop of Maine (brother-in-law to the Bishop-elect), from the text: "For our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake."
The Sermon being ended, the Bishop-elect, vested in his Rochet, was presented to the Presiding Bishop (Bishop Kemper, of Wisconsin), by the Bishop of Indiana and the Provisional Bishop of New-York. The testimonials of his election by the General Convention, were read by the Rev. Dr. Balch, Secretary of the House of Bishops. The Bishop-elect then took the oath of conformity and obedience. The call to prayer was made by the Bishop Presiding. The Litany, with its special suffrage, was said by the Bishop of Arkansas. The interrogatories were addressed by the Bishop Presiding, who also pronounced the invocation of strength and power.
The Bishop-elect was then robed with the rest of the Episcopal habit by the Rev. Messrs. Geer and Starkie. Then, kneeling down, the Bishops present all stood close about him, and the Veni Creator Spiritus was said over him. The prayer for grace was said by the Bishop Presiding, who also gave the laying on of hands, in which all the other Bishops present united. The newly consecrated Bishop, on rising, entered within the Rail, and took his place with the rest of the Bishops.
The Offertory was then read by the Bishop of Delaware, the alms being collected from the congregation by the Deacons, and received by Bishop Wainwright, in the splendid English Alms-bason of gold (given to the American Jubilee Delegation, at Oxford); in which they were laid upon the Altar. The Consecration Prayer was said by Bishop Kemper, and some sixty or seventy of the clergy, and a large number of the faithful laity received. The Post Communion Office was said by the Bishop of Indiana, the Bishop Presiding saying the final prayer for the new Bishop, and dismissing the Congregation with the Benediction.
After the Service, in the Sacristy, the Letter of Consecration was signed and sealed by all the Bishops present, viz., Bishop Kemper (Presiding,) and Bishops Lee, Boone, Freeman, Burgess, Upfold, Whitehouse and Wainwright.
The music deserves a special mention. Dr. Hodges presided at the organ. The service was Hodges in F, and was given with spirit and good effect. The anthem was the latter portion of the same which was first sung in Trinity Church on the occasion of the Jubilee celebration. The words were from the 96th Psalm, and the stirring chorus, Tell it out among the heathen that the Lord is King, is one of those striking movements which, once heard, will not easily be forgotten, and always gives increasing pleasure at each repetition. The Gloria in Excelsis in the Communion Office was sung without the organ, Bishop Wainwright, as at the opening service of General Convention, leading the congregation, from his place in the Sanctuary.
The Alms at the offertory, were devoted to the California Mission.
The weather was exceedingly unpleasant during the early part of the morning, which made the congregation by no means as large as it would otherwise have been. But after the consecration of the Bishop, and as the Communion Office was proceeding, the clouds broke away, and a gleam of tinted sunshine fell upon the altar and lighted up the Sanctuary. This was beautifully illustrative of the history of the Church in California. Her beginnings have long been overcast with storms and clouds, overhung with darkness and gloom. But now that a Bishop has been consecrated for her, and clergy will flock with him to labor in the desolate places of that spiritual wilderness, we doubt not but that the clouds will ere long break, and roll away, and the All-glorious Sun of Righteousness will shine cheeringly upon a land abundantly bringing forth her increase.