A sermon preached at the Opening Service of the General Synod of the Church of England in Canada in Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal, Wednesday, September 12, 1934.
"And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers."--ACTS II: 42.
"Watch ye, stand fast in the faith."--I CORINTHIANS 16: 13.
"Keep that which is committed to thy trust."--I TIMOTHY 6:20.
IT IS a great privilege to be here, at your kind invitation, at this opening service of your General Synod, and I know that I may give you the greetings not only of my own Diocese of New York but of our whole Church in the United States, with the assurance of our brotherly affection, our prayers, and our thankfulness for your steadfast witness to the Faith of our Lord and His Church. And may I say how truly we sympathize with you in the death of your honoured and beloved Primate. May light perpetual shine upon him, and may his faithfulness here in the Church on earth be an example to all of us.
The relation between the Church of England in Canada and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States could not be closer or more sacred than it is. Like you, we claim the Church of England as our spiritual Mother. We are one with you in Faith, and one in heart and hope and aim. As you [1/2] know, some of our noblest and most revered bishops and leaders in the American Episcopal Church have been Canadians trained in your household, and I like to remember, on the other hand, that one of my own predecessors in the Rectorship of Trinity Parish, New York, was Dr. Charles Inglis, who al though he was compelled by circumstances to leave New York somewhat abruptly, became, happily, the first Bishop of Nova Scotia and the first colonial Bishop of the Church of England.
At this meeting of your General Synod which represents the whole life of the Church of England in Canada let me express certain thoughts which I believe are in all our hearts and minds as to the call of this present time to the Anglican communion throughout the world.
The Anglican communion is a part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself to be the means, and the visible evidence, of His continued presence and work in this world. The Anglican communion holds and teaches the Catholic Religion. Its distinctive beliefs are those which were held and taught every where by the undivided Catholic Church from the Apostles' days. From New Testament times onward there have been three great marks of the Catholic Church, three visible links of its life and fellowship, the common Creed, the common Sacraments, and the Apostolic Ministry, and these are all held sacred in the Anglican communion. The Report on the Anglican Communion presented at the last Lambeth Conference says:
"We hold the Catholic Faith in its entirety: that is to [2/3] say, the truth of Christ, contained in Holy Scripture, stated in the Apostles' and Nicene Creed, and safeguarded by the historic threefold Order of the Ministry."
As the Archbishop of Canterbury has recently said:
"The Anglican communion throughout the world has a distinct heritage of Faith and Order which it cannot barter away even for the sake of unity, for it is a trust which it is bound to hold for itself and for the whole Body of Christ."
What then is the call which comes to your Church here in Canada, and to ours in the United States, and to the Anglican communion throughout the world, in these distracted and fateful days in which we are living?
First, and above all else, the Anglican communion must be true to her great spiritual heritage as a part of the Holy Catholic Church of Christ.
The Church is the one institution in this world today which has a sure message. We hold to the Catholic Religion because we believe in Jesus the Son of God. He can do the same things for us today that we see Him doing in His Church in the New Testament. Our faith in Jesus on the Throne of God carries with it all that we say about Him in the Creed, all that the Scriptures tell us of Him, all that is taught about Him in the Prayer Book, the Worship, and the Sacraments of the Church. If we believe in Jesus at the right hand of God this gives reality to all that we say and do in the Church. We hold to the Sacraments and the Ministry because in them we hear the word and feel the touch of Christ Himself. History shows us, and the religious [3/4] situation in the world today especially shows us, that when men lose hold of the Sacraments, and of the Church divinely founded, they tend toward loss of faith in the Godhead of Christ and in His Gospel as a Divine Revelation. We are seeing this only too plainly in the United States. And so in the Anglican communion we hold fast to our Catholic heritage, to the divinely instituted Church and Sacraments and Ministry, not merely because they are historical, or venerable, or dignified and orderly, but because they are from Christ Himself and, if we use them aright, they keep us near to Him. It is by continuing steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, by bearing our witness for the New Testament ideal of the Church in all its Divine truth and power, that we shall do our part for Christ our Lord and for the coming of His Kingdom in this world.
Second, The Anglican communion must stand for absolute loyalty to Truth from whatever source it may come to us. There is no authority higher than that of the Truth itself. In the faith of a Christian, reason must have its full place and its full rights. The Gospel of Christ is not the product of our reasoning and speculation. It is a revelation to us direct from God. It comes to us on the witness and authority of the Catholic Church from the beginning. But it is the truth of the Gospel which alone gives it power. We believe the truth revealed to us in Christ not because it is imposed upon us by authority but because it is the truth of God and of ourselves and speaks as such to our minds and souls. As Frederick Robertson said, "It is not true because the Church says so, the Church says so because it is true." And [4/5] there can be no real conflict between the truth revealed by Science and the truth revealed to us in Christ. As Christian believers we must welcome all truth and all new knowledge, in so far as it is knowledge and not mere theory or speculation. We hear much today about Modernism in the Church. If Modernism means that we are to be wholly loyal to Truth, that we are to accept and rejoice in all the fruits of modern knowledge and of scholarly research, and that the Holy Spirit is as ready to guide and lead us now as in the earlier ages of the Church, then we should all of us be in full accord with it. But if Modernism means, as in the hands of some of its exponents unhappily it does mean, the denial of the Christian Creed, and the undermining of belief in our Lord Jesus Christ as God, then it can have no rightful place in the Anglican communion, or in the Christian Church anywhere. Standing in the presence of Christ as the Church and the Scriptures show Him to us, we see in Him "all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," the very brightness of the Father's glory, "the express image of His Person," and there is no fact of modern science, there is no discovery of modern knowledge, there is no claim of truth or reason, which debars, or hinders, any sincere man or woman from accepting the Gospel of the Incarnate Son of God and kneeling in faith and prayer to the Lord Jesus.
Third, The situation which confronts us in the world today calls the Anglican communion, and the Christian Church everywhere, to awake to the full social message of Christ's Gospel.
The Church is not an institution merely for the [5/6] satisfying of our religious emotions; it is the Body of Christ Himself which is to continue His work and to bring in the reign of justice, brotherhood, and love, in all the world. It is not the function of the Church to formulate political programs, or economic systems, but it is the function of the Church to bring in the Kingdom of Christ, and His Kingdom is not reconcilable with war, or sweatshops, or slums, or racial prejudice, or with a blind and selfish national ism. We need today Christian statesmen who can think and feel for other countries as well as for their own. The One Holy, Catholic Church of Christ in its ideal, and in its very nature, stands against all barriers of caste, or race, or colour; against all injustice between man and man; against all that divides and separates men from God and from each other. The Holy, Catholic Church of Christ is to bind together in fellowship men and women of all races and all lands in one great family of God. And it is that Church in which we declare our belief, and claim our membership, every time we repeat our Creed. It is for us to let the world see that the Church is here not merely for the building up of an ecclesiastical organization but for the bringing in of the Kingdom of God. We cannot save this world by pacts and leagues and systems in which God does not figure. As Dr. Streeter has just reminded us the world cannot be reformed merely by machinery, the men who work the machinery must themselves be reformed. We need something far greater than what is called "the Social Gospel." There is only one Gospel which has power to save this world, the Gospel of the grace of God, the Gospel of the Lord [6/7] Jesus Himself who came, and who still comes, to change the hearts and lives of men and women.
It is this Gospel that the world now needs in all its fulness and in all its Divine power.
Fathers and Brethren of the Church of England in Canada--We who belong to the Anglican communion have a great heritage, and a great responsibility. We are members of a Church which has been identified with the whole history of the English speaking peoples from the beginning, a Church which is Evangelical and Apostolic, Catholic and Free, a Church which gives us the Apostolic Faith, the Apostolic Sacraments, the Apostolic Ministry, as these have come down to us from New Testament days.
What we need today in the Anglican communion, and in the whole Christian Church everywhere, is a great spiritual awakening, a great call to fuller and more personal faith in Christ. The Creed, the Sacraments, the Priesthood, the Church itself, are only means to an end. Their one purpose is to bring us to Christ. Sacred, essential, and divinely given, as these agencies are our faith is not in them, our faith is in Jesus the Son of God.
We are the preachers not merely of a doctrine, or of an ideal, but of a Person--a Person who is the Lord and Redeemer of the whole world.
And we are living in a day of spiritual and moral crisis. A new Paganism has arisen, an open and avowed anti-God propaganda is affecting opinion and conduct all over the world. No one who is familiar with our present day literature can be in any doubt as to this. The attack is directed especially [7/8] against the sacredness of marriage and the family, the standards of sexual purity, and those holy ideals of the relation between man and woman which Christ has given us. Large sections of society are definitely anti-Christian and actively hostile to the ideals of Christian morality. The question today is whether the new world order is to be built on crass materialism and force, or on those spiritual foundations which alone give man his freedom of soul and human life its true meaning.
It is time for the whole Church throughout the world to awake and for Christians in all Churches to bear their witness. The Anglican communion can do great things for Christ if it will, and if we are faithful to our spiritual and Catholic heritage we may help to give strength and courage to other Christian forces in the world. The conditions which face us cannot be met by a reduced or minimized Gospel, or by a merely nominal discipleship. The all important issue today is not between those Christians who are called Catholics and those who are called Protestants, but between those who believe in the Lord Jesus as the One "Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man," and those who do not so believe in Him.
At this critical time in the history of the world the Anglican communion is called to bear witness to a Catholicism which is wholly evangelical, which is not disproportionately concerned about externals, which stands for full intellectual and spiritual freedom, which has for its one aim the bringing of men [8/9] and women to Jesus Christ, and which presses for the fulfilment of the social teachings of the Gospel, a Catholicism which, in the words of that great Bishop, and great Christian, Charles Gore, is "scriptural, liberal spirited, and comprehensive, but always Catholic."
Let us keep before our minds the spiritual power and freedom, the life and joy and vigour, the start ling experiences, the fearless grappling with new situations, and the all conquering faith in the ascended and reigning Christ which we see in the Church as it is shown to us in the New Testament.
May grace be given to all of us to be more faithful far more faithful and fearless, in our witness for Christ, and to be true forever true to "that which is committed to our trust."