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The Church, a Brotherhood.

A Sermon preached in the Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul, Chicago, by Bishop Welles.

At the Consecration of the Right Reverend William E. McLaren,
Bishop of Illinois. December 8, 1875.

Chicago: Culver, Page, Hoyne and Co., 1876.

"Henceforth know we no man after the flesh."--II Cor., v. part of the 16th verse.

In the verses immediately preceding the text, St. Paul has spoken of the general judgment of mankind and of the Christian hope of immortality. In this connection he introduces the consideration of the solemn and responsible nature of the ministerial office, and, as an ambassador of Christ, he unfolds the blessed doctrine of reconciliation to God, and the new relation in which the death of Christ placed the human family, not only as regards their Father in Heaven, but also their brothers upon earth. And his conclusion is, that the true ground of human brotherhood and kinship, of all freedom and right and equality among men, is that fact--mightier and more universal than any human theory--that Jesus of Nazareth died for all mankind.

Not only by what He taught, but by what He suffered, did the Son of God accomplish His work on earth, and establish His eternal, universal kingdom--that living, organic body based upon His teachings, permeated and sanctified by His presence, continuing to do and to teach that among men which He began to do and to teach, that, in the end, it may overturn and destroy all the strongholds of human selfishness and strife and tyranny and sin, and bring all the nations of the world into a holy brotherhood.

It is a power on the earth; yet not of the earth, for it is the will and gift of God. Its source is His holy revelation. Its foundations are in the eternal promises. Its interpreters and witnesses, an ordained priesthood--an unbroken lineage--"a class which, in as far as it fulfills its calling and is indeed a priesthood, is above all rank, and below all rank, and knows no man after the flesh, but only on the ground of his birthright in that kingdom, which is the heritage of all."

"Unto us," writes the apostle, "hath God committed the word of reconciliation. We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us We pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." In this apostolic recognition of the Christian ministry as the class ordained by God's appointment to unite and consolidate all other classes on earth, is the plain avowal of that blessed truth which, in these latter days, men are tempted to overlook. That the kingdom in which this consecrated priesthood ministers--the Church of Christ--was, in its divine organization, a human priesthood, a Catholic Society, in that neither time nor nation, class nor condition, could limit its work or its fitness. It was for man as man, for there could be neither rank nor worth in it, but that of which the common germ is the gift and grace of God in Holy Baptism. "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." "As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."

Of man's spiritual regeneration we find in the Mosaic record of creation a type and a prophecy. When a world was called into being, it was the voice of God that commanded light to shine out of darkness. It was His Spirit that moved upon the face of the waters. It was His word and will that changed that which was without form and void, into the rich luxuriance which we call nature. Then the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy, and the anthem of creation's choir was, "God made us all for good." But when, through sinfulness, man had marred this blest accord, in the fullness of time God interposed, and by an act of love surpassing all conception, in the fulfilment of His ancient promise, provided for the re-creation of man's spiritual nature by the incarnation of the Eternal Word, and then, as at creation's dawn, angelic hosts sang to us of earth the glory and the goodness of God.

With the regeneration of man's spiritual nature we note the advent of that perfect liberty wherewith Christ has made us free--the consummation of that everlasting covenant with Him who is our King; who has bought for us the rights of sons of God; who has given unto all men, without respect of persons, the only perfect rule of charity, of freedom, of fraternity; "One who is our Master, even Christ, who sits at the right hand of God, and, in Him, we all are brothers." No philosophy of earth had ever taught this to men; in no kingdom of earth had it been a reality. Even the true Israel of old saw through a glass, darkly, and, as a people, the Judean nation despised the gift of God, and "trampled under foot His Gospel, at the very moment that they were asserting their exclusive right to His care, and denying His all-embracing love."

And how was it in the heathen world?

At the time chosen by the Son of God for His birth among men, the four-fold philosophy of Athens was the controlling element in the civilization of the pagan world. Its temples, its oracles, its rites were a portion of the imperial majesty of Rome. It had grown, like a column of state, into the full importance of a mighty political element. Its theories and teachings were woven into the literature which we call classic. Its schools were in every metropolitan city. The most generous youth of the empire devoted years to the cultivation of the learning there inculcated, and the study of the religious doctrines there taught by the wisest sages of antiquity. Poetry and the arts brought their treasures to the shrine of the common mythology, and added their contributions to the graver results of history and philosophy.

But with all these educational aids and supports; with all this contributed wealth of human intellect; with all this molding and disciplining of the human mind, what must be the answer of paganism when the issue is fairly and unmistakably made between its great resources and its good works? Had this system been practical and beneficent in the world, the educator of the people, the ministering friend of the poor and the suffering? Did the philosopher seek his disciples from the lane, the highway, the fishing-boat? Or, were not the grove of Aristotle in earlier and the school of Hypatia in later years, alike, the resort of only the educated, the wealthy, the refined? Men may sneer at the simplicity of the Gospel, and tell us of the better way of pagan civilization; but, "looking back on the long-buried world of hopeless Roman philosophy, they cannot, if they would, clear the lava of ages from porch or academy--the moral Herculaneum or Pompeii of that ancient world. It is all a sepulchre, and there is a chill as we pass among the excavations of heathen virtue struck dead in all its pomp. We find nothing but cold and useless dogmas, and vainly do the liberal teachers of our day lay them bare to the light of day and the breath of heaven." "During the first half century from the birth of Christ, we may learn heathenism in its highest estate from the philosopher Seneca, in whom we have, perhaps, the fairest type of the old stoic formed by the best of the Alexandrian school. Wise, calm, magnanimous, and overflowing with noble sentiments, he had charge of the future ruler of the nations. We find him, however, powerless for good as we watch his career. He was unable to touch either his imperial pupil, or the court around him, or the people beneath. The facts are even proverbial."

No student of the records of the organized infidelity of the Roman Empire--for such was the pagan philosophy of the Saviour's day--can close his eyes to the portentous truth, that in the separation of religion and morals in human life were involved problems of which natural society could find no solution. And what are all schemes and projects of reform, divorced from Christianity and separate from the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, but a reproduction of the barren philosophies of heathen antiquity?

That much reforming work is needed in this sad, sinful world, we all know full well. Truly the "floods of sin lift up their voice; the floods lift up their waves; but the Lord on High is mightier than many waters." "He sitteth between the cherubim, be the earth never so unquiet." By the revelation of His Incarnate Son, He manifested life and immortality. In the Bible He directs, by His Church He guides, mankind into the way of peace and happiness. Christ, the brightness of God's glory and the express image of His person, manifested Himself, and drew clearly and distinctly, by His life and teachings, the line between that selfishness that rules the world and that unselfish love which must be the token of Christian discipleship. And that divine life of love and sacrifice; the Church, the pillar and ground of the truth; the appointed keeper of the oracles of God; with her priesthood, her services, her sacraments, must live among men.

"As my Father sent Me, so send I you," was the Saviour's commission to His chosen ministers; and from His presence, and with His blessing, they went forth, an universal priesthood, for all ages and for all nations, conformed to the likeness of Him in whose death God had reconciled us to Himself; whose life had taught those to whom the ministry of reconciliation was given, that they are the true priests of God, who, knowing no man after the flesh, are priests of the people without respect of persons. The motto of the banner under which they marched was from the holy gospel of St. John: "Christ laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."

Nothing could have been more startling to the world about them than their own lives, as Christian disciples, measured by the world's standards: That men should conquer self; with calm and trustful hearts, put aside the valued honors and the coveted pleasures of life because it was God's good pleasure, that they might give themselves unselfishly, in duty and devotion, to Him, by loving all for whom He died. It was something marvelous in the eyes of men. It was, it is true, for ages "a sect everywhere spoken against;" but from the "upper chamber" it went forth a consecrated brotherhood, and this, under God, was the strength which, in the end, beat down the selfish philosophy of man, with its weapons of earthly wisdom and its contempt for the Nazarene.

Was there not a real brotherhood on earth when "the Roman lady and the negro slave partook together at the same table of the bread and wine, and sat together, as disciples, at the feet of the Syrian tent-maker?'' And take any era in history from the days of St. Paul to our own time, and whenever the Church of Christ has realized her brotherhood in Christ, and fairly and honestly lived her convictions among men, she has been rich and powerful in the world, and so invincible; for all opposition must give way when her treasures are the hearts of men and her power the might of God.

Was not the Church of Christ a brotherhood when mediaeval prelates, as Christ's ministers, stood between the baron and his serfs, and rich and poor alike knew that, in Christ's stead, the Church was the friend of man as man?--when in monastic homes, as centres of mission work, the clergy, in poverty and self-denial, realized spiritual democracy--the utter nothingness of all earthly rank and estimate, and the enduring nobleness of all effort or excellence which results from sincere devotion, zeal and self-sacrifice--when the Primate and Bishops of England went to the Tower, suffering because they would not, at the behest of a recreant monarch, betray the people, and gave their blessings to the thousands who crowded about the prison walls, recognizing in England's Church a brotherhood of loyal, loving hearts?

And if the Church to-day, in this great city--in this imperial State--in all this mighty Northwest--was, in her membership, a Christian brotherhood in deed and truth, would we need to tell men, in books and treatises, that we traced our descent from the Apostolic Church? Christian work, supplementing the Catholic faith and order of the Church, would testify of our lineage, that we are the body of Him whose Name is love, and whose life is the very ideal of unselfish devotion to the good of others. All about us, in these great States, so rich, for the future, in the fertility of prairie, the magnificence of forest, the abundance of metal and mineral, is an active, busy life, full of energy and reality--and, with it all, an awful reality of unbelief and misbelief.

In ministering to these vast communities and States, is the church so doing her work that men feel the reality of her life, and recognize in her a Christian brotherhood?

When the first Bishop of this Diocese began at Jubilee, in noble heroism, a work like that for which he had so labored and prayed at Kenyon, the State of Illinois contained, I suppose, not more than half the number of inhabitants that to-day makes up the population of Chicago. Northward and westward the Apostolic Kemper was laying foundations in the vast territorial domains of the Republic. Bishops are here to-day whose dioceses were "unexplored lands" on the maps which they, as school boys, studied then.

And into what a heritage does he enter who to-day, in his own Cathedral--God be thanked--takes up the pastoral staff which those godly and learned men, the first Bishops of this diocese, have borne before him. This great city is the heart and centre of a wonderfully expanding life, busy with the problems of an age that can hardly estimate its material wealth and profitable resources. The development of natural advantages which is going on all around us is surely a colaboring with God, if not in the highest sense, yet in a very high and noble one. It may attune the heart to reverence in view of God's abounding and munificent love, and make the hand which He has filled with wealth ready in gifts and charities for His sake and to His glory. We know, however, there is great danger; that in a growth and prosperity such as ours, the moral outworking which accompanies material progress may not be favorable to national or individual character. In the marvelous inventions and discoveries which are unveiling manifold mysteries of nature, lightening manual toil, and diffusing so generally the means of comfort and happiness, we find the spring of influences which are moulding character among us. We see it in men whose habits of life and thought are intensely mechanical; they are striving to walk by sight and not by faith, though the path is leading into the mysteries of the spiritual world. And it is not one man here and one there. Among hosts of men, in crowded cities and in rural hamlets, the want is conspicuously, unmistakably, sadly apparent, for something by which they may be led to feel and to yield to the influences of an earnest religious faith. And surely the church--a teacher and a guide, whose lessons are the experiences of eighteen centuries, with whose philosophy is inwoven the living truth, who in her heritage of catholic dogma and tradition has a protest against the manifold vagaries of unbelief and infidelity, who can witness for faith when wild speculation seems threatening to palsy it, because she holds and teaches the faith once delivered to the saints--the church should know the needs of the age and be strong to meet them in the strength which God supplies, and in the way which He points out. Taking no partial, narrow ground, pleading not for caste or rank, yielding to no temptation to bigotry or bitterness, but basing all her teachings upon that fact which underlies all moral, social and political right--that Jesus of Nazareth died for all men, should she not in her Master's name and spirit perfect all the aims and objects of love, union, philanthropy and brotherhood among men, by teaching loyalty to Him whose body, whose bride, whose fold she is? Not teaching it in a form mainly polemic and intellectual, but with that added, wondrous power which all men feel, of faithful, earnest work for Christ and His brethren. The church in her fullness--the church of the Apostles--the church as she came from the hands of her Divine Master, was to be the daily teacher and comforter of the people in all circumstances and conditions of life. And whenever a house which men have builded for God is consecrated to His glory and for His service, it is a house of prayer for all the people; daily should its doors be open that the children of His love may consecrate by daily offices of prayer the cares and pleasures, the sorrows and the joys of each succeeding day; freely, at all times, should its doors be open, that every one born of the new birth of Holy Baptism, or desiring in penitence and faith so to become God's child--whether rich or poor, high or low--may feel that in his Father's house he has a place and right, not through the courtesy of man, but because of the abounding love of Jesus, the first among many brethren; and, because there is his Father's table with the children's bread; and there, to minister in priestly offices, the sacred lineage whose calling is of God, and who are to know no man after the flesh. In these days of religious unrest and wild speculation, the church's strength is by deepening her spiritual life and multiplying her works of love and charity; to set forth the reality of her life in Christ, her Divine Head, and to teach all men that, through her, He ministers to the souls and bodies of men. He cares for little children, for the afflicted, the suffering, the homeless. How is the church caring for her baptized children? The day may not be far distant when every parent in the land will have to meet a question full of serious and perplexing problems as regards the system of public education. Subject now to the scrutiny of popular opinion, we can foresee the day when theory and plan may be brought to the test of the ballot-box. Is the church as ready for the result which then may be as if she had builded in every parish a school house, and was striving to fulfill the church's ultimate obligation in the pastoral care of the lambs of the flock, and in the recognition of the Bible and the Catholic faith as the basis of all instruction, "making the unchanging covenant of the faith a reality, and providing that God's children by adoption and grace may learn as a part of a true education the nature and responsibility of baptismal vows and promises?"

How is the church of our day and generation making up her record as regards her offices and ministries of love to the least, His brethren, in the homes and houses of mercy which she has builded for gentle Christian charities? making up the record against that day when He shall come to receive, as His own, a glorious church? We may with just cause and devout feeling praise God's holy name for all that He has inspired faithful hearts in His church to do, within the last thirty years, in devoting wealth to the end of Christian charity; in consecrating lives in patient, devoted service to the afflicted and the outcast; in walking, though ever so feebly, in the footsteps of Him whose life was one of self-denial, of unwearied service, of continuing sacrifice.

But dare we say, beloved, that the church hath done all that she can? Place upon the one hand the sum of all the wealth of which the baptized children of the church are God's stewards in this land; consider well their social position, their means of influence, their advantages of education, their opportunities for doing good, and then write over against all this the record of our work for Christ--our churches and chapels, our hospitals and homes, our schools and colleges, our endowments and trusts, our sisterhoods and guilds, our gifts and charities--and is it a record which will abide His coming and His test, in that day when He shall take account, who is ever saying to His church and to every individual disciple, "Occupy till I come?"

It is earnest, faithful love that guides us, one and all, in the way which is Christ, that makes us more unselfish, that checks weariness and impatience, that makes us more thoughtful of the unseen realities, more given to prayer and acts of self-discipline, more mindful of our regeneration in Holy Baptism, and "more inclined to communion with God and communion with His saints in the sacrament of the Body and Blood of His cleansing," and so, the readier for a life of real, living brotherhood in Christ; and, when we pray God "Increase our faith," let us beseech Him likewise to warm our love.

My brother beloved in the Lord:

From this day on you will be led to feel with an ever-deepening sense of responsibility the awful trust our Lord committed to His church in doctrine and discipline, in order and life; for, put in charge to-day by solemn consecration of the high and holy duties of a Bishop in the church of God, you will come to realize how much there is to do that the Body of Christ may accomplish His will upon earth, and fulfill her own divine calling as a holy brotherhood. Called to be a father in that household of disciples, you are set apart to bear many burdens for the Lord's sake; to be, in self-denying love, a leader of God's host; to plan and labor, and encourage and exhort, however others may fail and grow weary; to gather up the raveled ends of failures here and there through the diocese, and begin again in hopefulness the work; to see golden opportunities passing before you, and yet have not the means to make them glorious advantages for the church of Christ; these, and such as these, are the trials of a Bishop's life. Time and again from your burdened heart will be forced the sad, weary cry, Who is sufficient for these things?

But, looking up in prayer and faith to Him who, in this, His own good way, calls you to holy fellowship with Himself in patient, suffering, self-denying service, strength will be vouchsafed, and such a measure of blessedness as only He can give. For who can count the blessings that go with the faithful Bishop and missionary who lives a life conformed to the life of the Divine Pastor, unwearied in offices of gentleness and love, hopeful in days of darkness and distrust, fearless for the truth, and ever building on that rock which is Christ?

Loving hearts have prayed and waited for this day. All through this noble, patient diocese, they await your coming and your blessing. In all that pertains to missionary zeal, to wise and fatherly counsel, to unshaken loyalty to the church's faith and discipline, you have eminent examples in the lives of the godly men into whose labors you enter; that great-hearted pioneer of the church, so apostolic in character and works, the first Bishop of Illinois; and that fearless, learned prelate, whose vacant chair, becomes, to-day, your seat; who, with a calm, Athanasian courage, and unwavering loyalty to conscience and conviction, was for nearly five and twenty years, through good report and ill, a true and loyal Bishop in the church of God.

Your cathedral city is the centre of an ever-widening influence, the seat of a mighty power for good in the entire Northwest. May the men of this great city and this rich State be many, who shall gather about you, bringing the experience gained in years of active life, the wealth God has given them, and wills consecrated to His service, to be the glad and loyal fellow-workers of yourself and your clergy.

When that great prelate, whose name and memory are embalmed in the hearts of American churchmen, began the work whose living influences like a steady stream are ever flowing forth from the metropolitan city of the East, when Bishop Hobart crossed the threshold of his glorious Episcopal career, he was the champion of "Evangelic truth and Apostolic order." "The first half of his undying motto was the result of a glance at the spiritual needs around him; he caught the other from the clear-toned voices of the past."

How nobly and loyally for twenty years he bore that banner at the head of the church's host, "through the noise of the waters and the tumult of the people, through favor and through fear, through good report and through evil,'' and all throughout the land in lives of truest devotion his spirit lives and works to-day. May God give you grace, my brother, as a ruler in Israel, to witness for evangelic truth in a faithless, doubting age; to manifest the order of an Apostolic church in the midst of clashing and contending systems, that the church may animate and attract the wandering and bewildered, the perishing and outcast into the Divinely ordered Home and Refuge of eternal rest--God's brotherhood of love.

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