Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2010
The Appendix to this piece, containing the Second Annual Report of The Executive Committee of the Church Union [pages 18-23] along with its Constitution, Code of Organisation and Operation, and Rules of Order [pages 24-30] have been omitted from this transcription.
The entire PDF is available from the transcriber.
EPHESIANS iv. 13.
TILL WE ALL COME IN THE UNITY OF THE FAITH, AND OF THE
KNOWLEDGE OF THE SON OF GOD, UNTO A PERFECT MAN,
UNTO THE MEASURE OF THE STATURE OF THE FULNESS OF CHRIST.
THE Apostle's thought, rightly understood, is a commanding one. I say, "rightly understood," because the words are easily capable of a misconstruction, which cruelly distorts and dwarfs the sense. Supposing, for instance, we alter one short word, and let the verse run thus, 'Till we each of us come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man.' By this slight change in the language, a change that the mind of a reader, swayed by its previous education, might almost unconsciously make, the real thought of the passage would be hopelessly obscured. St. Paul never meant to tell the Ephesian Christians that every one of them might, by the grace of God, become a counterpart of the Saviour; might, in his own individual person, attain "to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." He meant, on the contrary, to show the impossibility of just this thing. It was his purpose to bring out the truth that the whole family of faithful men taken collectively, not any one member of that family taken singly, is the reflex of the perfect Christ.
 When we speak of the perfection of our Lord, and of the perfection each one of his disciples is taught to seek, we mean, or ought to mean, two very different things. The disciple's perfection is a moral perfection, a perfection that comes of an entire obedience to God's law. Christ's perfection is this, but it is also vastly more than this, it is a perfection of nature. Let me explain. Humanity, as we know it among ourselves, is partial, not perfect, in its nature. One man has one gift, another has another. Our minds and hearts are moulded, like our faces, after a law of boundless variety. No single individual, however versatile or multiform his abilities, can claim, with any show of reason, to reflect the race. We talk of "representative men," but, they are only the representatives of classes or nationalities. There is but one truly representative man, the man Christ Jesus. Philosophers, artists, statesmen, poets, captains, kings,--we call them great, but what one of them was ever great enough to fill out our ideal of a perfect manhood? In every one of them a thousand possibilities have remained unrealized, the nature was limited and partial. Not thus with Christ. "It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell." [Col. i. 19.] He is the mirror of humanity in its entireness. The nature that he wears gathers up into itself all the conceivable attributes, faculties, and powers of sinless man. We are estranged from one another, more or less, by differences of calling, differences of education, differences of climate, differences of temperament. This is because our little horizons are so narrow. But Christ, raised far above the petty inequalities that hide us from each other, sweeps with his glance the whole broad field of our humanity.
Keeping these thoughts in mind, let us observe their bearing on the language of the text. Although no one [4/5] individual can dream of attaining that perfection of nature which belongs only to the Son of God, yet it is conceivable that out of the whole world, with all its tribes, and families, and kindreds, and peoples, there might be gathered and united a body of men capable of reflecting the fulness of the Lord, and worthy to be called his bride. The race, as a whole, cannot reflect Christ, because the race is tainted and defiled with sin. But out of the race, we can imagine God electing or selecting a company of men, a chosen people, to be indeed a Holy temple, a mystical body for his Spirit to inhabit. Moreover, we can imagine this process of evolution going on and on, till we all, all that are truly Christ's, "till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." [See Note A at the end of the piece]
Pause a moment. Is this Pantheism? No, it is the truth of which pantheism is the caricature. Pantheism denies that a real Christ exists. Pantheism makes no distinction between the holy and the unholy. The "colossal man" of pantheism is a Polyphemus, not a Christ. The truth I have been setting forth is the very most effectual weapon by which pantheism can be fought. It is the truth Apostles preached, and in witness whereof martyrs died. It is the glorious conception of that holy, catholic Church in which we all say that we believe. It is the ideal, after which the heart of Christendom, in spite of repeated failure and disappointment, still passionately longs.
Thus much for the catholic principle in its pure and abstract form. Let us pass to the application of this principle to our own national wants as Americans. A true catholicism, as distinguished from individualism on [5/6] the one hand, and from popery on the other, was never more imperatively needed than now and here. Never, it may be added, was there a grander opportunity to profit by the errors of the past in building for the future. We are entering upon a period of reconstruction in the State; God grant that it may also be a period of reconstruction in the Church.
In venturing to approach the problem of American catholicity, I am not blind to the profound difficulties that encompass it. Indeed, I believe with the German critic when he says, in language that sounds almost like despair, "The divisions of Christendom, only God can heal." And yet, for the very reason that I thus believe, I am bold to speak. Grant that it is little a young man can do in such a work,--but remember it is also little an old man can do. It rests with God. Let every one who feels deeply in the matter, be he young or old, do what be can by speaking out his thought honestly and plainly, and the fruit will ripen in due time.
I shall not waste words in combating the popular notion that real unity of spirit is perfectly consistent with our present sectarian condition. This is an hypothesis that never would have been thought of, except for the sake of making a bad condition of things seem like a good one. Real unity always seeks its expression in visible unity. The public events of the last four years, have been teaching us, with emphasis, how childish it is to scoff at visible unity as a thing of small importance. A million lives have not been given for a chimera. The visible is the symbol of the invisible, and symbolism we must have, wherever there is government and law. If we are prepared to take the ground that the Christian Church was never intended, by its Founder, to be an organized power, a true society, then indeed, visible unity becomes a thing of small importance.
 But if, on the contrary, the Church was meant, as nine tenths of the Christians of America believe, to have an actual and tangible existence, its unity must be of a character to be seen and recognized of men. Without pausing, therefore, to debate this point at length, let us go on to inquire what ought to be the characteristics of a truly National Church, a Church that should deserve the title of the Church of America.
First then, such a Church ought to be in hearty sympathy with all that is best and noblest in the national character. The Church of America must be thoroughly American. The idea of a National church is that it embodies the regenerate national life. Now the life of every nation has a typical character of its own, a character not obliterated by the action of God's Spirit in renewing it. British traits, as such, survive the conversion of the British people from Druidism to Christianity, Clearly, then, any one National Church has its distinctive character as distinguished from other National Churches. It is the particular nation plus the Gospel. It is the grafting of the olive branch of Palestine upon a native stock. If then we would build up a Church of America, it must be with an intelligent comprehension of American character, its capabilities and its deficiencies, its strong points and its weak. It must be kept in mind, for instance, that we are a republic, and yet that we are a republic deliberately organized by a people bred up to monarchy, and very tenacious of the ideas of loyalty and law. Further, it must be remembered that we enjoy a privilege not elsewhere known in Christendom since Constantine, the privilege of perfect religious independence of the State. Add to these considerations the further one that, every part of western and central Europe has contributed its quota to our population, and it is manifest that the problem given to the Christian people of this land [7/8] to solve, is not one to be treated hastily or lightly. [See Note B.] And now, without running into detail, which is here manifestly impossible, allow me to suggest the three prominent characteristics by which a truly National Church in this country would be known. Let us term them the conditions of American catholicity. They are three; a simple creed; a varied worship; a generous polity.
I. A simple creed. A Church without a creed is a palpable absurdity. On the other hand it is an absurdity to suppose that our people, with all their variety of education and training, could ever be brought to agree upon any elaborate system of divinity, whether that system were allied to Trent or to Geneva. The Church of America must plant herself, without hesitancy or reserve, on the grand facts of the incarnation. It is there the battle of the next half-century is to be fought. Henceforth the struggle is to lie, not between the school of Paul and the school of Apollos, but between the school of Christ and the school of Anti-Christ. The Church of America, therefore, will not commit herself to either Calvin, or Arminius. She will not make herself responsible for any adjustment of science and revelation which the next discovery in either field may upset, nor for any theory of inspiration that is dependent on the dominant philosophy of the day. She will accept the Bible as the spoken Word of a living God. She will make the primitive creeds, which are the condensation of that Word of God, her citadel. And on Peter's rock, "Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God," she will set up her gates. Upon such a basis, unity of faith may be attained. On any narrower foundation, we need not hope to build. Do you complain that this is giving up too much? It is giving [8/9] up no more than the Church was willing to give up during the first three centuries of her life, centuries certainly as honorable to her as any that have since elapsed. It is giving up no more than an army gives up, when it forsakes a few straggling outposts in order to close ranks for the last decisive charge. We can afford the little we surrender, in view of the immensity we gain.
II. A varied worship. Let me not be misunderstood. I yield to no one in love and admiration of the Book of Common Prayer. It satisfies my mind, it warms my heart, it feeds my spirit. And yet I cannot help seeing the egregious fallacy of making liturgical worship a condition precedent of ecclesiastical unity. We cannot afford to keep men out of the fold of Christ on pathetic grounds; and the form of worship, where the creed is right, is purely an aesthetic question. I have faith to believe that, in due time, the taste of the community will have been so far educated that nothing less than that liturgy which is the natural inheritance of the Anglo Saxon race will satisfy it. Meanwhile, why might we not have in the Church of America congregations worshipping, by their own choice, liturgically, and congregations worshipping, by their own choice, otherwise. There are many cases where to allow liberty is the best way to secure conformity. [See Note C.] I believe the case under consideration to be one of these. Human nature, even when regenerate, is more easily led than driven,--especially in things religious. The moment you give your neighbor to understand that you believe your worship to be more acceptable to God because it is in better taste, that moment you alienate and embitter him. He falls back, with justice, upon first principles, and makes the story of the Pharisee and the Publican his own.
 III. The third condition of American catholicity was defined to be a generous polity. One feature of such a polity would be the recognition, at the outset, of all the baptized as making up the body of the National Church. Let it be understood that baptism admits to the ecclesiastical privileges, just as naturalization admits to the civil privileges of the land.
Another mark of a generous polity would be a willingness to sanction a great variety of methods in doing our Lord's work. [Brotherhoods, Sisterhoods, Cottage lectures, District visiting, Church Unions, Church Hospitals, and the Like. We want the sign of the cross on every form of benevolent enterprise that earnest and pure-minded men may wish to start. A consecrated philanthropy is our best barrier against socialism. Contrast Brook Farm and St. Johnland. ] Ye are apt to treat superciliously, or, at least, with a contemptuous toleration, such forms of Christian activity and devotion as are alien to our own tastes and habits. We blame one man because he is a quietist, too much given to introspection and retirement. We find fault with another because he is an enthusiast, and desires to work and pray in ways less orderly than we could wish. But we must remember what was said in the beginning about a diversity of gifts. As it takes all sorts of people to make a world, so it takes all sorts of Christians to make a truly catholic Church. If we wish our Church of America to contain only the proper, and quiet, and cultivated members of society, well and good; only do not let us presume to call it a catholic Church, for a catholic Church, under such circumstances, it could not be. The Church of Rome, notwithstanding her craving after an iron conformity, has understood this all along, and in this regard, her polity has been a generous one. She has ever found room, under her broad roof, for all the legitimate forms devotion can assume. She has welcomed the metaphysical theologian, the ardent mystic, the [10/11] sad ascetic, the enthusiastic zealot. Study, for example, the rise and growth of the mendicant orders in the middle ages. It is evident that the founders of them, St. Dominic and St. Francis, were the Whitefields and Wesleys of those days. It was a movement almost precisely parallel to the Methodism of five centuries later. But how different the two policies of the Church of Rome and the Church of England. Rome kept her Dominic and Francis; made saints of them; and secured all the devotion and ardor of their followers. England felt that the dignity of her Establishment was lowered by those passionate preachers of the fields, and so she drove them from her arms, only, as it has turned out, to her own loss, discredit and chagrin. Why might not a generous polity secure the harmonious cooperation, in one National Church, of all the five great religious bodies among which the Protestant Christians of this country are distributed? This would be something analogous to the religious orders of the old Church; it would be fitted to conciliate prejudice, and would wonderfully diminish friction. Protestant sects have been often blamed for calling themselves after their founders' names. But if men will only consent to keep the unity of the faith, and to acknowledge one common government, we need not quarrel about names. Under such circumstances, it would be no more schismatical for a body of believers to call themselves Wesleyans or Calvinists, than it was for the old friars to call themselves Dominicans and Franciscans. But just here lies our rock of difficulty. What is that one common government, under which these various orders, with their several systems of operation, would be willing to range themselves? I cannot conceive of visible unity apart from unity of government, and I ask myself again and again where such unity is to be sought, unless we find it under that system which is both old and new, conservative and [11/12] progressive, catholic and reformed, the system of republican episcopacy. For this reason I feel that a weighty responsibility rests upon us Churchmen to take the initiative in the work of Christian reunion. It is quite true that our Church, in her present posture, and with her present abilities, would only make herself ridiculous by arrogating the title of the Church of America. And yet it seems to me equally true that we offer the only basis upon which a truly National Church can be built up. Men cannot start a Church. Our Lord Jesus Christ did that once for all. It is idle to prate about the Church of the future, unless you can find for it some point of historical attachment to the Church of the past. Just this "missing link" the Protestant Episcopal Church in these United States supplies, a Church that traces her lineage all the way back to the first century, while, at the same time, she is in her constitution, perfectly conformed to the structure of the civil government under which we live. Are the people of America wise, if they scoffingly set this claim aside as being the idiosyncrasy of a sect, as being the one thing we Churchmen ought to surrender as our contribution to the cause of Christian unity? Beset, as we are, by the forces of superstition on the one hand, and of a false liberalism on the other, what better refuge for us than a polity alike Apostolic and republican, equally opposed to tyranny and to lawlessness? [See Note D.]
And having spoken at such length of catholicity and of our national want of it, allow me, before we separate, to say one word touching the temper and spirit in which catholicity is to be sought. I have said that a simple creed, a varied worship, a generous polity will distinguish our National Church when it is reared. Let me add now that faith and love alone can rear that Church. [12/13] To draw unity out of discord is God's work. It is he that maketh men to be of one mind in an house. The person of the Saviour is the real centre of Christian union. Only by rallying around him, as the soldiers of a broken army rally around their chief, only thus can we catch the inspiration that is to make us one again. Along with faith comes love. We want a cordial and kindly feeling among ourselves, a willingness to understand one another's difficulties and predilections, a disposition to make all reasonable concessions, a desire to find points of agreement, rather than points of difference. The Jews were quite right in their quarrel with the Samaritans, so far as the merits of the argument were concerned, and yet they pressed their claim in a spirit that made the worship of Zion as unacceptable to God as that of Gerizim. Let us beware of arguing for victory. Let us put away all malice, and be very careful how we sneer. Remember it is peace we want. Only by speaking the truth in love, patiently and honestly weighing the arguments of those who differ with us, gently smoothing away prejudice, and gracefully conceding, where it is possible to concede, can we hope for a shadow of success. May the God of Peace send us a new Pentecost that these things may come to pass.
Note A. p. 5
ELECTION AND SELECTION.
It has passed into a proverb that a widely accepted error is most commonly the distortion of an important truth. A good illustration of this is afforded by the latest form the development theory has taken on, the so-called "law of natural selection." So far as the alleged facts with regard to the transmutation of species are concerned, the friends of the new doctrine may safely be left to the judgment of their scientific peers. The desire to trace our common origin to the "Simian family" is not so general that we need have much to fear from such a reference. What I would point out is simply this, that the apparent sacrifice of the interests of the greater number to the interests of the few, which is a cardinal point in the selection theory, is a mystery of the divine government by no means recently observed. It is a mystery that has troubled the minds and hearts of men ever since they began to think. Natural selection is only the atheistic name for that of which the right name is divine choice. It is election with one letter added, but with the important element of God's conscious will left out. No one seriously pondering nature,
Her secret meaning in her deeds,
And finding that, of fifty seeds
She often brings but one to bear,"
is surprised upon opening his Bible to find that the same mystery is encountered there, and that the called, the chosen, the elect of God are represented as being only a portion of the race. The temperate and careful Christian thinker will not, therefore, quarrel with the law of divine election simply because it fails to strike his fancy. In the spirit of a sound philosophy he will accept the [14/15] fact, but at the same time be very careful how he draws invidious inferences from it. It is when we take upon ourselves authoritatively to interpret God's providence in the case of individuals that the doctrine of election runs into a practical fatalism, and becomes "a most dangerous downfall." In speaking of the building up of the visible Church catholic, to say that one believes in election, is no more than to say that he believes there is a God in history.
Note B. p. 8.
The statement that the Church of America ought to be thoroughly American, needs to be guarded. I do not of course mean that the American Church ought to reflect all American traits, be they good or bad, and that whereas we, as a people, are somewhat notorious abroad for a spirit of boastfulness and self-complacency, our National Church should be similarly distinguished from other parts of the catholic world. What I mean is simply this, that it will not do to import an ecclesiastical system, in its totality, from a foreign country and expect it to answer all our purposes without change or adjustment. It seems clear that since we are mainly English in our origin, use the English tongue, and inherit most of the traditions of English life and manners, we ought to expect our National Church to bear a strong resemblance to the English Church. But when we go beyond this and say that the Church of America shall embody pure Anglicanism, neither more nor less, we are guilty of a blunder that is fatal. I do not mean to deny that pure Anglicanism would always have a considerable number of adherents among the educated and refined classes of this country. I do deny that a Church pledged to that system would ever secure anything like even the limited unanimity the Establishment secures in England. It is quite easy to understand worthy people becoming so enamored of Anglicanism, in its more favorable aspects, as to be quite blind to the necessity of modifying it to meet cis-Atlantic requirements. Let us imagine, for instance, a zealous young candidate for orders making a pilgrimage to that paradise of English Churchmen, the quiet little village [* Hursley near Winchester.] in Hampshire where John Keble works and prays and sings. He arrives of a sweet morning in June. The Church bell [15/16] is calling in the villagers to daily prayer as a preparation for their homely toil. All is as calmly beautiful as a poem in the Christian Year. Presently the service is over. The children of the parish school patter dawn the paved aisle, and go to their places in the school-room. Our pilgrim, after studying awhile the well-designed symbolism of the building, the inscriptions and the blazoned windows, goes out too, and finds his way, through a maze of shrubbery bursting into bloom, and vocal with the music of singing birds, to the deeply shaded vicarage. Here he is hospitably welcomed, and has an hour of delightful communion with one of the best of men and holiest of priests. With the memory of all this fresh in his mind, the young man returns to his American home and is ordained. He is appointed, we will suppose, to missionary work in a Massachusetts, or New Hampshire town, where some violent sectarian quarrel has made a timely opening for the Prayer Book. "Now," he says to himself, "is my opportunity. I will show these Yankees the beauty of holiness. I will make this place a Hursley. I will have real ivy and choral worship and a parish school. I am the Rector; here are the peasantry," And so with the best possible intentions, but, at the same time, with a lamentable lack of common sense, he goes to work to compass--an impossibility. It is an Anglo-, not an Anglified, Americanism we are to seek.
Note C. p. 9.
THE PRINCIPLE OF ALTERNATIVES.
An admirable illustration of the way in which liberty sometimes secures conformity may be found in the rubric of the baptismal service, which permits the omission of the sign of the cross when those who present the child desire it. Were this liberty to be refused, the old Puritan scruple would revive at once. On the other hand, the result of allowing the alternative has been that nobody, or, at least, not one person in a thousand, ever avails himself of it. The permitted substitution in the Apostles' Creed is a similar instance. It is very unusual to hear the words, "He went into the place of departed spirits." And yet it is, no doubt, a great relief to many Churchmen to know that they might say them if they chose. In both these points we have a better practical conformity than any canon, however stringent, could secure. [16/17] It is worth thinking of, whether this principle might not be still further applied to the rubrics of the Common Prayer with advantage.
Note D. p. 12.
THE VIA MEDIA
An accomplished foreign critic, in commenting on the phenomena of our national life, has ventured the prediction, "that our posterity will tend more and more to a single division into two parts, some relinquishing Christianity entirely, and others returning to the bosom of the Church of Rome." [* Democracy in America, Bk. II. Chap. vi. Reeve’s trans.] The prophecy has been often repeated, and is probably largely believed by those who quote it. A brilliant generalization always wins disciples, simply because it is brilliant. But we must remember that M. De Tocqueville was a Frenchman and, a Romanist, in either capacity very liable to be caught by "the falsehood of extremes." It is not impossible that our real future may lie midway between the two alternatives he offers us.
But a recent English apologist for Romanism has taken the same ground, and assures us, with most persuasive logic, that any via media is utterly untenable. To him it is enough to answer that the great bulk of the educated and devout people of his own country, a country that bears the palm, the world over, for common sense, has settled down upon that very via media he so vehemently denounces.
"But, dearest Mother, (what these miss)
The mean thy praise and glory is,
And long may be.
Blessed be God, whose love it was
To double-moat thee with his grace,
And none but thee."
[George Herbert. The British Church.]
England will not be won back to Popery by any fine spun argument about the Monophysites, or by any qualms of conscience over the matter of the Jerusalem bishopric. It is just possible that we of English stock may settle down upon the same conclusion that satisfied our fathers.