This Sermon was preached at the Commencement of the Philadelphia Divinity School, Thursday, June the sixth, 1895, was printed in THE CHURCH STANDARD, and is now reprinted by the courtesy of that journal.
W. R. H.
NEW YORK, July 2d, 1895.
A STRIKING phrase this--"host of the whole Church." Gaius must have been a man of unusual type, imaginative and sympathetic to a high degree, as well as large-minded and discerning, or Paul never would have described him in such terms. The Apostle in another place thanks God that he had baptized no one at Corinth except this same Gaius and a second convert whom he mentions. He had his reasons for that feeling; and yet I fancy that down in his heart Paul was glad that he had baptized Gaius, at any rate; for there certainly was good cause why he should rejoice at having been instrumental in grafting into the body of Christ's Church one who in point of catholicity of temper so intimately resembled his Christian self. Paul had indeed known in early life what it meant to be a rigorist; but long before he baptized Gaius be had been himself baptized of the Holy Ghost, and had learned the secret of that charity which, just because of its bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, and enduring all things, fails not and [1/2] can never fail. Gaius was of that stamp, and Paul loved him for it, as well he might. Hospitality is a winsome grace, and those who understand dispensing it, whether in the region of the heart or of the mind, are sure of appreciative guests.
"Whole Church"--alas! how little we hear about it! "High Church" we know, and "Low Church," and "Broad Church," but it is seldom indeed that anybody speaks to us of "Whole Church." The Prayer Book, it is true, is eloquent of the thought. How superbly it sounds out from the Te Deum!--"The holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge Thee." How plainly writ it stands upon the countenance of the Creed!--"I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints." How fervently it utters itself in the prayer for the unity of God's people, in which we supplicate the King, the Father of the Prince, that as there is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity! Language like this leaves nothing to be desired! We can imagine the glow of honest satisfaction that would have mantled the face of Gaius, host of the whole Church, had he been given the opportunity of using it. But then, how few people, comparatively speaking, are acquainted with the Book of Common Prayer! And even among those who do know and love it, some there may be who scarcely do justice to the splendid catholicity, the generous comprehensiveness, the large reach of human sympathy, which are its best characteristics and constitute its true glory--so easy is it to mistake the voice of many waters heard afar for the near-at-hand gurgle of the mill-stream which is grinding out our own particular and petty grist.
I have been attracted to this topic of Whole Church, not only because we are here to witness the graduation of young men who are expecting early admission to the sacred ministry, and for whom, on that very account, nothing is to be more deprecated than that they should learn to breathe, either in. or out, that least sacred of all forms of afflatus, the spirit of partisanship; not for that only, but also because this Whitsuntide which we are keeping has been especially set apart by the consenting wish of Christians of many names for meditation upon and inquiry into the subject of a closer unity among [2/3] believers. Either one of these considerations would of itself alone suffice to justify me in choosing out Gaius this morning, from among all the New Testament men, as the one to whom we may the most profitably give heed.
The thesis which I propose maintaining is this--that "Whole Church" can never be realized, never become actual, until we learn to recognize and acknowledge the possibility of our living together under one roof, while yet disagreeing upon many points about which we should be glad to agree if we could. Nothing breaks family peace so quickly or so effectively or so permanently as the conviction on the part of each member of the household that it is his or her bounden duty to set every other member right upon whatsoever subject may happen to turn up in the table-talk of the day. Not otherwise is it in that larger family of which God is the Father and his dear Son our Elder Brother--that household into which we are regenerate by water and the Holy Ghost: here, also, much unhappiness has been and is occasioned by insisting too strenuously upon absolute unanimity of sentiment and opinion. Of course, there are bounds to what people can endure under the same roof. Wherever there is what the physicists call tension, there must also be the limit of tension--that is to say, the breaking or the bursting-point. I do not dispute, neither do I desire to cloud, that fact. There are a number of perfectly definite propositions that underlie and underpin family tranquillity. Knock out a single one of these and the family must go to pieces. Even so there are "Church principles," if you please, which cannot be unsettled without bringing the whole fabric about our ears. All I venture to maintain is that the number of these necessary agreements may possibly have been exaggerated, and that it might be a good thing if the coming generation, the pioneers of the twentieth century, were to take for a special task the effort to discriminate more carefully than has hitherto been done between those articles which are really the articles of "a standing or falling Church" and those that may have been mistaken for such in the past.
Experience has shown it to be possible for men to live peaceably together within the same national limits and under the same flag who differ very widely in political opinions--so widely, in fact, that [3/4] in old times the notion of including such discordant elements within a single civil framework would have been scouted as an "iridescent dream." It does not follow from this that communists and anarchists ought, for consistency's sake, to be straightway admitted into fellowship. Neither need it necessarily follow, from the recognition and adoption of a more generous policy of inclusiveness with respect to the Church of Christ than Anglicans have commonly thought feasible, that chaos would come again.
God forbid that I should commend to your confidence that thin and sickly caricature of Catholicity which would bring men into one Church by bidding them first divest themselves of whatever is especially characteristic of their present and past belongings! That sort of thing is sometimes commended to us under the name of "unsectarian religion," and a very insipid nostrum it is. I distrust the forestry which under the pretext of unifying the trees of the wood begins by commanding the birch to denude itself of its peculiar bark, the oak to cast away its distinctive leaf, and the cedar to shed its cones. What should we have left but a totally uninteresting collection of bare poles? The question to be propounded to the various groups of believers into which our American Christendom is broken up is not, Of how much are you willing to bereave yourselves for harmony's sake? but this: Of how much stand you possessed which you consider worth contributing to the common fund? The author of the popular rhyme, "No Sect in Heaven," meant well, and moreover hit upon a felicitous title; for it is as certain that there will be no sect there as it is that there will be no night there; but is it so certain that the unity of the heavenly Church is to follow, as effect from cause, upon the casting away as rubbish of whatever can be shown to have distinguished one portion of Christ's flock from another here on earth? I cannot think it. I do not believe that it will be made a condition of entrance at those open gates, that the Methodist shall discard Charles Wesley's hymns, or the Catholic unlearn his Te Deum. "The kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it." But if the kings, why not the priests and the poets, the seers, the singers, and the preachers their glory and honor, too? Yes, depend upon it, unity by contribution is a better thing than unity by subtraction. Great changes await both man [4/5] and his dwelling-place, but God will not suffer anything that is intrinsically precious to be lost: all the wheat is destined for his barn into his treasury every coin that has the right stamp and the true ring shall fall at last.
The variety which characterizes men's attitudes in religion is perhaps mainly due to diverse methods of training. We think thus or so about creeds, sacraments, prayers, maxims of conduct and the like, because we are brought up to think thus or so about them. But allowance must also be made for that mysterious background of every man's life which we know as his natural temperament. The ancient physicians went very deeply into this matter, or thought that they did, for they not only classified men according to their temperaments, but they held that the temperaments themselves were occasioned by certain humors fluent throughout the body and by their presence there determining that one man should be sanguine, another choleric, or another melancholy, as the case might be. This theory has been long dead, though the nomenclature of it survives in the usages of common speech, and yet the doctrine of the four humors or temperaments may be said to have something that answers to it in the permanent constitution of human nature. As a matter of fact, there are four predominant ways of looking at things, four moods or tempers that always have prevailed and doubtless always will prevail to color the intercourse of man with man. There are born conservatives and born liberals; nay, more than this, there are born liberal-conservatives and born conservative-liberals.
These are the four temperaments. Get together any considerable number of people and set them to discussing any question that touches upon human conduct, whether in the political or the social or the religious sphere, and you shall find every one of these several ways of looking at things present and self-assertive. Under the names of "right" and "left," " right centre" and "left centre," these distinctive phases of thought and feeling figure continually in the political life of contemporary Europe. But although the names are modern, the things for which they stand are not. The fourfold classification is something more than a convenience: it points to differences rooted in the nature of things. To a mind of the conservative cast, only such measures approve themselves as have been tried [5/6] and tested. What is venerable is, because venerable, authentic. Newness is its own condemnation. "Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." In tones so eloquent as this and so persuasive can Conservatism speak.
But Liberalism is not less ready. "Faith" is its watchword. Those, it reminds us, have been the heroes and leaders of mankind who have had eyes given them to discern the undiscovered continents of truth, who have cut loose from precedent and prescription, and have struck out, courageously forgetful of the past and deaf to all oldtime traditions, in the confident belief that safety lay in motion and that immobility meant death. Moreover, Liberalism can quote Scripture, too. Are we not, it confidently asks, the children of a God who declares that He makes "all things new," and is not our best handbook of religion a New Testament?
But over and above the minds distinctively conservative and the minds distinctively liberal there are other minds so constituted that it is impossible for them not to recognize truth on both sides. They feel the charm, they admit the power, they know the value of maturity, but, at the same time, they recognize all about them evidence incontrovertible that man can and does better himself in a thousand ways by waiting upon the untried and thrusting out gallantly into the deep. Of this intermediate multitude one-half, let us say, grafts its faith in the new upon its confidence in the old, while the other half grafts its respect for the old upon its enthusiasm for the new. To the liberal-conservative the old is his standby, the new is his half-grudging concession. To the conservative-liberal the new is his heart's desire, while the old is something which he has learned that it is dangerous to leave out of the account. These are the four temperaments of man, and of these is the whole earth overspread. What I have been describing is no accident of the passing century, no special characteristic of one race or people rather than another, it is a law of variation inbred in humanity as such. We are born so.
Turn we now to the Church of Christ, that we may get a clear understanding as to the subject-matter with which it deals, see how its territory is mapped out, and consider in what ways these [6/7] several temperaments are likely to stand affected towards it. The three great territorial possessions of the Church, if we may so speak of them, are her doctrine, her governance, and her worship. She is here on earth to teach, to shepherd, and to pray. The soul of man needs to be instructed, it needs to be sympathized with, it needs to be uplifted. Upon the Church's shoulders rests the duty of meeting this threefold need: she must make disciples, she must gather these disciples into a flock, she must lead the flock in the green pastures of devotion, the happy meadow-lands of prayer and praise. Do you ask for visible symbols, concrete emblems of this triple ministry? I give you the pulpit, the pastoral staff, the altar; these may help us to understand and appreciate those more prosaic words, doctrine, discipline, and worship.
But the point I wish especially to emphasize is this--that when the four temperaments of man are brought into contact and connection with the three forms of the Church's activity, there ensue combinations so various and so intricate that the futility as well as the injustice of our current partisan vocabulary is made manifest at once. Take doctrine, for instance, and consider how delicately shaded off, one into another, are the differences that divide us in the Church.
The conservative is all for the "faith once delivered," "the sacred deposit," "the Catholic Creed." He insists, and insists rightly, that Christianity is what it is in virtue of certain disclosures made to man at definite epochs in history. He maintains, and maintains justly, that unless Christ's religion brings us a clearly articulated message with respect to subjects about which we should otherwise have remained ignorant till the end of time, we are no better off than the heathen, who may, if they choose, guess at truth as well as we.
On the other hand, the liberal makes much of a certain prophetic succession which is, to his mind, quite as important as any Apostolic succession possibly can be to any other minds. Why should we believe, he asks, that progress in the attainment of spiritual knowledge stopped short at the close of the first century, or, if not so soon as that, then on the day of the adjournment of the last of "the undisputed general councils"? Did not Christ promise his [7/8] disciples the assistance of an ever-present spiritual Revealer who should guide them, little by little, into all the truth? So, then, the fresher any man's theology, and the more nearly "up to date," the better. But "Stop! Stop!" cries the conservative-liberal. "This will never do. I grant you that ships are given sails in order that they may stand out to sea, trusting themselves to the winds of God; but they are also equipped with anchors; and while I am willing and glad to start off with you on your voyage of discovery, I refuse to step on board until you show me some evidence of your having made provision against gales." While--last and wisest of them all--the liberal-conservative insists that neither is " fixity of interpretation" nor yet laxity of interpretation really of the essence of the Creed, but that what is of its essence is a certain marvellous adaptability, whereby it comes to pass that the articles of the faith are never negatived, but only given a fuller, deeper, and more satisfying signification, the faster the great Father of Lights lets more light be poured down into this dim world of his. Copernicus did not annul the first paragraph of the Creed by what he proved, Newton laid no violent hand upon the second, Lavoisier caused no hiatus in the third; but the words "Maker of heaven and earth," the words "He ascended into heaven," and the words "the resurrection of the body" have meant more to intelligent believers since these three men made their discoveries than they meant before. That is what the liberal-conservative has to say about it--the man who believes in the past, but not so stupidly as to keep his eyes fast shut to anything that God may be revealing in the present.
It would weary you were I to go on and minutely apply my doctrine of the four temperaments to the conditions that prevail in the regions of ecclesiastical polity and of divine service. Each ore of us can readily do this for himself, if so inclined. It is easy to see that in the field of governance the conservative will naturally favor whatever makes for continuity of control, for regularity in the transmission of authority, and in general for what we know as legitimacy; that the liberal, on the other hand, will smile approvingly on new methods of administration, and, so that men make full proof of their ministry by showing themselves successful in the conversion of souls to God, will deprecate too close a scrutiny of [8/9] ecclesiastical pedigrees; that the conservative-liberal will say: "Oh yes, I like this spiritual freedom; but wouldn't it be prudent to draw the line somewhere?" and that the liberal-conservative will respond: "Yes, certainly, the line must be drawn; but let us make it just as inclusive as ever we conscientiously can. The one sin which God Almighty will never forgive to any portion of his Church is the sin of want of sympathy."
And then, again, there is worship--for you see that I cannot quite resist the temptation measurably to exhaust the subject while I am about it--there is worship. We can have little doubt as to how the men of the different temperaments will stand affected towards that. With the conservative it will be the rubric, the whole rubric, and nothing but the rubric; with the liberal it will be Gordius his sword. The conservative-liberal will declare that he loves a simple, unaffected, and as it were spontaneous rendering of divine service, while yet he does not see why it should not be enriched a little and made dignified by the old traditional methods; while the liberal-conservative will argue that, supposing those who are attached to the old ways in all their oldness are not only allowed to have them, but are given guarantees that they shall never be molested in their enjoyment of them, he cannot, for the life of him, understand why Church-fellowship should be refused to congregations of Christian folk who are ready for our polity, but not yet quite ready for our liturgy.
It might at first sight appear, from what has now been said, as if Churchmen might all be classified--if classified they must be--under twelve heads, answering--if one be superstitious about symbolical numbers--to the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve Apostles of the New Covenant, and the twelve manner of fruit; but no, the thing is far from being so simple as all this, seeing that various cross combinations are possible, conservatism itself seeming to one conservative to demand that he differ with his brother conservative in matters of worship while agreeing with him in questions of polity, and that he agree with another on points of polity while differing with him widely in his view of dogma.
Instead, therefore, of only twelve varieties of Churchmanship, there may conceivably be, I dare not say how many. And what is [9/10] the just inference from such a conclusion? Is it not this--that since all these manifold types of character do, as a matter of fact, already coexist amicably enough within the limits of a single historic Church, there is no reason, in the nature of things, why that Church should not become far more truly an American Church than it can truthfully boast of being now?
Already Anglican religion is in theory hospitable and inclusive; it remains for us of this New World, acting under the guidance and blessing of Him who, doubtless for cause, led our fathers hither--it remains for us to see whether we cannot translate theory into fact.
We are about entering, as a Church, upon an era of constitutional revision. Precisely what is to come of it no man can foretell, but our best wisdom will be to assume that something wonderfully good is coming of it. At the same time, let us school ourselves to patience. Revision movements, as we have known them in the Church, have not been rapid: our freedom has broadened very slowly down; and that is well. "Raw haste, half-sister to delay," is a blind guide and lands her pilgrims in the ditch. But let us hope that when the Constitution does finally emerge from the fires of reconstruction a finished thing, it may prove of such sort as shall further the uplifting of a United Church of the United States on lines generous and sightly. No cottage will serve our purpose, nor any structure at all likely to be mistaken for the club of an ecclesiastical coterie; "the house that is to be builded for the Lord must be exceedingly magnifical," known and read of all men as the spiritual home of a great and happy people. So shall "Whole Church"--so far, at least, as one nation is concerned--be realized.
Gentlemen of the graduating class, you go forth from this school of prophecy to a glad and sacred work. Enter upon that work, I pray you, with open minds valiant for the truth, ready, if need be, to fight for your convictions, afraid of nothing save of falsehood and wrong, and yet mindful all the while that, of the eight Beatitudes, none is more fervently to be desired than that promised to the peacemakers. See to it that no single drop of the virus of partisanship finds its way into your veins. Love goodness wherever you light upon it. Be accurate in your discerning of spirits, and never say, "He hath a devil" of any one who opens the eyes of the blind. [10/11] Read the books that widen and warm the sympathies as well as those that feed the intellect, for so shall you learn to know what is in man. Be more covetous of your people's gratitude than of their admiration. In one word, do justice to your calling, and be sure that, as the years increase, your calling will become to you its own exceeding great reward.