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(PUBLISHED BY REQUEST.)
REV. AND DEAR SIR:--
Believing that the Sermon which you preached at the opening of the recent Diocesan Council, would, if distributed in pamphlet form, not only be read with much satisfaction and profit by many who were prevented from listening to its delivery, but contribute to a clearer and fuller understanding of the true position of the Church in these "troublous times," we respectfully request a copy for publication.
JNO. BLOUNT CHESHIRE,
W. C. HUNTER,
A. J. DEROSSET,
P. E. SMITH.
REV. A. A. WATSON,
Wilmington, N. C. Monday Evening, May 18, 1863.
WILMINGTON, June 4, 1863.
I have just received (upon my return from a short absence) your note of May 18th, requesting for publication a copy of my Sermon before the Diocesan Council. With thanks for your kind expressions with regard to it, I place it at your service; hoping that as it was prepared with a view to the good of the Church, it may by its publication conduce to the same end.
ALFRED A. WATSON.
TO RT. REV. THOS. ATKINSON, D. D.,
REV. JOS. BLOUNT CHESHIRE, D. D.,
REV. EDWIN GEER,
REV. DANIEL MORRELLE
REV. W. C. HUNTER,
REV. ISRAEL HARDING,
MESSRS. A. J. DEROSSET, M. D.,
P. E. SMITH.
Not only new, but old things also; not bending his diligence only to amuse "itching ears" and Athenian searchers after "some new thing," but producing old truths, and thus laying a firm foundation; building up with those massive principles which know no change.
Yet not only old things, but new also; adapting himself to the times--so as to make the old fundamental truths practical guides to present conduct, and in present circumstances-- erecting upon the fixed and unchangeable foundations, a superstructure to suit the season--teaching not only the great principles of the Truth, but also the lessons of the Hour.
Such was our Saviour's estimate of a wise Scribe. The Scribes were the appointed Teachers of the Church. They represented the Church, in that department of her work.
We may generalize the text and apply it to the Church and her Teachers now.
When, as on this day, our Saviour ascended up on high, it is recorded by S. Paul (2nd evening lesson: Eph. IV) that he "gave gifts unto men." When the King of Glory entered the eternal gates and took possession of His throne, He distributed largess to his subjects.
And what gift was worthy of such a King and of such an occasion? Not gold, dug from the dirty mine; nor jewels; bright daughters though they be of base earth; but, beyond all gold or rubies, the means of heavenly wisdom for His Church--the agencies of sanctification and pardon and Eternal Salvation. It is written, "He gave some, Apostles; and some, Prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."*** "That we henceforth be no
more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive."
Thus when Christ would bestow upon His people a gift worthy of Himself, He gave them Teachers. And, that their instruction might be thorough and reliable, He made their teaching two fold; giving them, first, a permanent code of instruction, in the Holy Scriptures; wherein to represent and hold, as it were, in stereotype, the great fixed, unchanging, principles of His Truth and Law--a teacher impersonal, inanimate, of necessity as ignorant of all of us now present upon earth, however accurately meeting our cases by analogy, as were the Stone tables of the earlier Law, but infallible, and always and everywhere essentially the same: secondly, His Church--fallible, as made up of men--liable to change and to some degree of error, but endued with the advantage of being living--able to take cognizance of present circumstances, however peculiar, and to adapt her instructions to the necessities of individual, or local, or temporary cases--to bring forth things new as well as old--able, therefore, to teach, the lessons of the Hour--enabled to do so, by teaching through a living ministry who, dwelling in the hour themselves, can see what are its lessons.
And the Church is bound to teach "the Lessons of the Hour." Else is she no faithful guide to her children; else are her watchmen, like those rebuked by Isaiah, "dumb dogs that cannot bark." But not with frivolous haste: perpetually hunting novelties, and degrading the dignity of the pulpit, and seeking to catch the attention of a giddy world to its solemn lessons, by weaving into their fabric all the petty excitements of the day. Nor yet with laggard indifference, or stiff disregard of the actual, daily, moral and spiritual necessities of her hearers--with a dry and dull propriety, handling only universally recognized truths, and old facts--walking the ramparts of Zion in formal round--making no sallies upon the actual, present assailants. Adopting neither of these modes, but teaching with the dignity and yet the earnestness becoming the Bride of Christ--refusing, on the one hand, to turn aside to "vain janglings," or to make her pulpits the show places of all the straw floating by upon the human current;
but on the other hand, teaching the Lessons of the Hour; dwelling in living sympathy with her children; helping them grapple with their local trials; in their sunshine, warning them against the seductions of the Tempter; and when dark clouds gather over them, and their path becomes dim and perilous, guiding them through the gloom, and comforting and strengthening them for the moment of distress and danger.
And how shall the Church now guide her children aright, if she looks not around her at the actual horizon; if she perceives not the circle of lurid flame that engirdles her; if she sees not the heavens black and still gathering blackness; if she feels not the earth as it rocks to the tread of armies and the roll of artillery; if she sees not the burning homes and trampled harvests of her children; or her widows and helpless infants and aged women, driven forth at one moment with a view to swell the supposed ravages of famine, and at another compelled by the invaders to remain as a breastwork for themselves; if she hears not the groans of the wounded and dying or the moans of the widow and fatherless, as, not one by one, but in great sheaves, the dread mower reaps down on the red field of battle, husband and father and brother and son? How shall God's Church teach faithfully the lessons of the hour, if she fails to see that War is in the land--or, seeing it, thinks it beneath her dignity to take notice of it in her pulpits? Far be it from her to sound the dread tocsin; to excite war, or stimulate bloodthirstiness. We may congratulate ourselves that in the South, at least, this war has not been brought on by harangues from the pulpit; nor when it burst, was the emblem of secular power permitted to shroud the sacred desk or flaunt from the spires of God's house. The Church of the South has not attempted to declare war, or lash on the hesitating politician to his bloody work; nor have her great religious conclaves, of various names, been degraded into arenas for denunciation, or the venting of bitterness towards those she hopes to conquer. It is a condition of things which she cannot help. I do not mean to intimate that on such questions the Church must surrender her conscience, or do implicitly the bidding of the State. I do not hesitate to say that were this war both unjust and offensive upon our part, we could as Christians
have nothing whatever to do with it. No earthly authority would have the right to force us into it. The Church would be bound so far as she could do so, to thunder her denunciations; and though the consequences were imprisonment or a felon's death, there would be no choice for us, as Christians, between such a fate, and the enormous crime of carrying fire and sword into the territory of an innocent neighbor.
But happily we are placed in no such alternative. The Church of the South can with a clear conscience, take her stand by the side of her battling children. She can send her soldier to the field, as to a part of God's work for him, in this present strait; she can teach him his duties there-- the duties of subordination and discipline--of temperance and regularity; she can teach him to restrain his temper from outbursts of animal ferocity--to be chivalrous as well as brave--while he wars with the armed man, to respect the aged, the woman and the child--to endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. And she can teach him true courage and rational confidence; she can point his faith to an Almighty Protector, who is with him as truly in all the terrible storm of the battle-field, as in the quiet of his home. She can remind him that even to escape death in battle is not to escape it long, but that, in fact, he is "immortal till his work is done"--that he is immortal even in death--that for the Christian, death upon an honorable battle-field is but one great pathway to eternal glory. And though she draw not the sword herself, nor descend to the dust of the field of strife, yet can she take her stand with God upon the Mountain, and by prayer uphold her warrior's hands.
And she has lessons of the hour for the citizen also; lessons of caution, lest led by avarice, he forget his duty to his country and his kind, and fatten himself upon his neighbor's wasting flesh, to his own life-long, his eternal infamy--lessons of hospitality, which, due at all times, from the Christian, is now specially due from those whom a kind Providence has thus far permitted to remain under their own vines and fig trees, towards brethren who have lost their all to the enemy and so in the common cause. How sad their lot! Exiles from the homes of their fathers, they have wandered forth, too often to be inhospitably
repelled by their own brethren. Cut off from the temples of their childhood and from the worship of their reason and of their affections--by distant waters, they "weep when they remember Zion."
But the Hour has its lessons not only for individuals and individual interests, but for communities also--lessons not only to circumscribed localities, but for the Church throughout the world, and to the world itself--lessons which are peculiarly and emphatically, the great lessons of the hour, taught by the Providence of God, and with a force unattainable without that special Providence, which makes them the Lessons of the Hour.
It is a momentous hour for the Church;--an hour of rampant fanaticism--of forgetfulness of first principles and of the most familiar and fundamental truths--of bitterness of feeling obliterating principle and overruling conscience --an hour of division--an hour of depressed finances--of zeal cooled down--of forgotten work--of the smoking embers of many a neglected or trampled religious enterprise. God is teaching us some things with peculiar emphasis;-- vindicating His Church and His truth by a broad and bloody experience--warning that Church of some unexpected dangers, and establishing for her some new and most important responsibilities. And these lessons He expects her to teach her children--like the well-instructed scribe, bringing forth from her treasury, things new and old.
Among the lessons of the hour, and especially appropriate to this occasion, is the testimony, which God in His providence is giving to the adaptation of the Church, as we understand and define it, to the work of God and the wants of men.
Let me not be misunderstood. I bear cheerful testimony to the personal piety and excellence of many who differ from us as to the nature of the Church. They may be much better men than I am. But neither my membership of any religious body, nor my father's before me, nor my neighbor's, can determine its claims as God's appointed instrument for His own work or for the greatest good to men. In our human fallibility, we and all ours, may for generations have been connected with an incomplete, erroneous, or even injurious system. The true question is not
one of persons, or one in which our feelings should be allowed to influence us. It is a question of systems. So let us regard it.
The national contest in which we are involved, is in great part a religious war; and that, both as to its origin, and as respects the persons who are our principal enemies. We need not deny, that other and great political causes have been at work. The vast extent of our territory, and the conflict of interests, commercial, manufacturing and agricultural, thereby resulting, had doubtless done much to unsettle us. But fanaticism--religious fanaticism--was the lever. Abolitionism was the LEVER used by those who drove us into the conflict. And abolitionism found--certainly at the first--no fulcrum in the Episcopal Church, either North or South.
True, her congregations and her Clergy at the North have yielded to the pressure, and have sided with our enemies, to a degree mortifying to us. They have suffered themselves to be upheaved with the rest. But they constituted no appreciable part of the upheaving influence. Abolitionists there were within her ranks; we know them well. But we could almost have counted them upon our fingers. That noxious plant found in her no genial soil. Year after year she repelled the question from her Conventions, both Diocesan and General; and that by immense, overwhelming majorities. And so far as the Northern Dioceses have arrayed themselves against us, it has not been primarily through the power or influence of fanaticism, but because of the disposition of the Church to uphold the powers that be--the civil government under which she dwells. This was characteristic of her course in the revolutionary war, and while constituting, perhaps, a guaranty for her stability and conservatism, is for that very reason, no evidence--but to the contrary--of any liability to the influence of fanaticism.
I do not say how far this war may or may not abolitionize her Northern Dioceses, or may or may not have done so already. What I say is this:--that her part in the war was not, in the first instance, due to any sympathy felt by her for the fanatics who built their circles of fire around us, and drove us into the dissolution of our union with them. The Northern Episcopal Dioceses had nothing to
do with bringing about this contest. They accepted it as a fact--joined more zealously than we could have wished with our enemies; but did so, we maintain, actuated by a notion--a false one we think it--but still a notion of loyalty, and not by fanaticism.
And even since that whirlwind at the North has arisen in its fury, and gathered into its tempestuous movement all things and nearly all men, how has the action of the Episcopal Conventions there, both Diocesan and General, contrasted with that of some other religious bodies!* Where else at the North will you find the comparative moderation which has marked her assemblies? And where, in all her assemblies, will you find the counterpart of such a meeting as was held in Democratic New York, in April, and reported in our papers--tumultuously affirming the incompatibility of slavery with Christianity; and where professed ministers of Jesus Christ proposed to treat those who among themselves were of opponent politics, by hanging them, or by stamping them under their heels?
*There can be no better exponent of the Northern Episcopal Church, than its General Convention, held at New York in October, 1862. In Art. VI. of the January No. of the Christian Remembrancer--an English Quarterly of high rank, published at London--there is a review of the proceedings of the Convention, from which I extract the following statements:
The opening services were marked by a sermon by Bp. McCoskry, of Michigan, containing an earnest appeal against meddling with secular politics.
In the House of Clerical and Lay Delegates:--
After "shelving" various resolutions condemnatory of the South, the whole subject was committed to a Committee of 9, who introduced a report, expressing a "deep sense of the wrong inflicted by the rebellion;" but recommending abstinence from terms of condemnation or reproach.
This document, says the Remembrancer, was about as decided a rebuke to the spirit of the Lincoln Government, as was Mr. Seymour's subsequent election.
Whe Judge Hoffman, of New York, introduced resolutions more strongly condemnatory, they were voted down by 14 Dioceses to 7 among the Clergy, and by 14 to 2 among the Laity. On the other hand, when Dr. Mason, of Maryland, moved to lay the whole subject upon the table, he was defeated by only 11 to 9 Dioceses among the Clergy, and 10 to 7 among the Laity--the Clergy of N. Y., Western N. Y., and N. J., and the Laity of N. J., sustaining him.
The Clergy of California, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Western New York; and the Laity of Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, and Vermont, sustained a resolution by Rev. Mr. McAlister, of California, against all political pronunciamentos.
In the House of Bishops:--
An address to Mr. Lincoln, moved by Bp. Potter, of Pennsylvania, was voted down.
The pastoral letter was first prepared by Bp. Hopkins, of Vermont, as Chairman of the Committee. It avoided denunciations of the South, and was at first adopted by the whole Committee. Afterwards, Bishop McIllvaine, of Ohio, introduced one of his own, which, after considerable manoeuvering, was adopted instead of the first. At its reading to the Church, however, it was observed, that the seat of Bp. Hopkins, the presiding Bishop, was vacant.
The Remembrancer thus sums up its notice of the Convention: "Bating the
"Episcopal laches, the Convention very unmistakably, refused to lend itself to
"the war-at-all-price party. Abolitionism was ignored, even to a fault.***If we take into account the large and weighty minority of the lower house, who voted against any resolutions (condemnatory) we are led to the conclusion, that with all its vacillation of conduct, the representative Church of the Northern and border States, is, so far as the Presbyters and Laity go, on the side of peace, though the misfortunes of the time, and their own want of firm standing ground, have driven them to clothe their feelings in the language of the Northern Democratic "platform. Is it past hoping, that in the march of public opinion, the Church,
"recovering more of self-respect and self-confidence than it now shows itself mistress
of, will be an influential agency towards that inevitable and blessed result,
"the recognition of the Southern Confederacy."
I venture to think that, when this war is over and the
truth is discoverable, it will be ascertained, that among our strongest friends and allies have been many of the Churchmen of the North; and further, that the main body of Churchmen will be found to have been either averse to this war altogether, or in favor of a moderate mode of conducting it. That they support the government under which they live, and condemn our secession, may be true. But they have not been possessed, as have many others, with the demon of ferocity, and the desire of our extermination or subjugation.
Many of them, I am persuaded, have never been willing to support the war at all. Even while condemning, perhaps, our secession, they have not wished to put the question to the bloody issues of the sword.
In all this I may, of course, be measurably mistaken. But that will not invalidate my assertion that the Episcopal Church, throughout this country, had been comparatively free from the fanaticism which has brought the war and all these sorrows upon us, and, that had she been the prevailing Church of the country, there would have been comparatively no soil wherein for that pernicious plant of abolitionism to grow--there would have been no need of secession--no cause of war, at least on that account. Whatever
evils other and political differences might have precipitated upon us in time, this war has been brought upon us by fanaticism which knew no footing in the Church to which we belong.
But there are other religious bodies at the North, who, like ourselves, have comparatively kept out, or kept down this moral miasm, though, excepting the Church of Rome, not, we think, so fully as among ourselves. All honor to them. And if we can detect the common principle, which has been for us all so great a prophylactic, we will assuredly have learned one of the most important lessons of the hour.
I am persuaded that, aside from the divine character which we claim for the Church, the great secret--philosophically speaking--has been in the traditional character of her belief and teachings. She accepts no novelties in religion. She admits novel applications of old truths; things thus new and old she has among her treasures. But the truth, or the principle, is always an old one; and so far as circumstances remain the same, the application is the old one also. What was the truth, whether of principle or of application, to the first Christians, she believes to be the truth now. What was the meaning of the Gospel, when St. Paul wrote the Epistle to Philemon, or when St. Paul or St. Peter in the flesh, commanded servants to be obedient to their masters, she believes to be its meaning now.
If slavery were wrong now, and to be condemned, she believes it would have been wrong then, and would have been condemned then. She accepts no new Gospel, according to Garrison, or Phillips, or Beecher, or anybody else. She remembers that immediately after enforcing upon Timothy to teach obedience to servants, St. Paul adds: "If any man teach otherwise and consent not unto wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, he is proud--or, as in the margin, he is a fool--knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth." She takes the old Gospel, with its old traditional interpretation.-- And so long as she is faithful to this rule, no fanaticism can creep in. And you will find that the exemption of other religious bodies, at the North, from the taint of abolitionism,
has been in direct proportion to the prevalence among them of this same traditional principle;* while just in proportion to its abandonment has the door been opened for new notions, new translations, new interpretations, heresies, schisms, fanaticisms..
And I believe that one great lesson which God is teaching us at this dark hour, is the value of a traditional religious system. It is the only safe system. It is the only system which gives us any security for the religious belief of our neighbors or of our descendants--the only system which can secure us against agrarianism, abolitionism, or any other heresy, which, like them, may uproot the social compact, or our religious faith.
But, because traditions have been forged or abused, and because our Saviour condemned those "traditions of the elders," which contravened the law of God, and because Rome has brought in many unfounded doctrines, under the name of tradition, multitudes of superficial thinkers have gone on to condemn all traditions--forgetful of St. Paul's express injunction to the Thessalonians--(2. Thess. ii: 15) to hold the traditions they had been taught, and (iii: 6,) "to withdraw themselves from every brother, walking not after the tradition received of the Apostles." Traditions were doctrines or practices handed down. Of these some were inspired and good; others were human and bad. The bad were to be rejected; the good were to be preserved. But the Gospel system was to be traditional. And the great principle of the traditional system, such as our Church maintains, is that of holding nothing as revealed truth, or as the sound interpretation of revealed truth, which we have not received from the Apostles, and which was not received by the first Christians from the Apostles. We reject all new Revelations or developments of Revelation; and upon points of practice, in common to us with the first Christians, all new interpretations of Revelation. And so we exclude in the mass, both Romanism and Neology--all the modern developments of Romanism on the one hand, and all the still more modern inventions of Puritanism and Neology on the other.
As the first Christians were not Abolitionists, so neither can we be, so long as our system remains traditional.
And I maintain, that the importance of a traditional system of Faith and Interpretation is one of the great Lessons of the Hour, which God is teaching us.
But I have said more than this. I have said that I think God is also teaching us the value of our own Zion, as the maintainer and champion of a sound traditional faith-- teaching the whole Country and the world her value--her peculiar adaptation to the work of God and the wants of man.
It is true, that other religious bodies, at the North, have shared with us, our exemption from the fanaticism of the abolitionist, who, nevertheless, reject our doctrine of tradition. But what security have we that they will continue thus exempt? Their freedom thus far has been owing to the fact, that their faith and practice have been in reality traditional, even while they themselves have condemned the principle of tradition in theory. But the theory will in time eat out the principle, and their safeguard will be gone. This seems to be rapidly coming to pass at the North. Here, at the South, our circumstances have well nigh compelled us all to be of accord thus far upon the great disturbing question of the day. But how can we feel assured, that without this traditional principle, it will so continue? --that Southern sects will not arise? It is not many years, since an abolishing clause with respect to slavery existed in the Discipline of one of the largest and most respectable religious bodies of the South. It has, I believe, been expunged. But what security have we against its reappearance, if the traditional interpretation of the word of God be rejected--as rejected it is by all who reject Episcopacy? I would not be understood, in what I am saying, to speak with bitterness; or in a mere spirit of controversy; or with any vain estimate of our own personal piety or personal superiority in any respect. I would have it a question of systems, not of persons. Nor would I forget, how in this great national struggle, we are all, of every religious name, standing shoulder to shoulder in a common cause.-- I desire to consider this question one of common interest-- one, in which we are all, in reality, interested upon the same side. In the interest of Presbyterians, and Methodists,
and Baptists, and others, as well as of Episcopalians. I desire to discuss the comparative benefits and practical working of the systems we have tried; and to inquire, with perfect impartiality, so far as that is possible, whether of all these is the true Church for our country--which of them is best adapted to the preservation of its peace, and the exclusion of fanaticism. I put the claims of our Church, of course, upon far higher grounds. But I am content, at present, to urge her claim in that, while Protestant, she is a traditional Church--that she is the Church for the Country.
Nor do I forget the Abolitionism of our brethren of the Church in England.
It has been one of the riddles of the day; but I think it may be read by the light of several considerations, as: 1st., An ignorance of the system of slavery as it exists among us-- an ignorance sustained by the enormously false representations of some writers of our own: 2nd., a strong leaven of puritanism still extant there; 3rd., erroneous ideas of Christian unity, which forget that the very force of the Apostle's illustration is due to the fact, that the slave, while still remaining a slave, is one in Christ with his master.
Other solutions may be offered, but the one important fact for us is, that in this country where we live, and where our interests are to be secured, if at all--that here the Episcopal Church, North as well as South, has by virtue of her traditionary faith, kept herself free from that gigantic fanaticism from whose effects we are now suffering. Henry Clay is reported to have said that she was one of the three great conservative agencies of the Country. We think that History has justified the wisdom of the remark; and we further believe, that God is, by the history of the last few years, and by the fiery light of this war, teaching this whole nation, that she is His true Church--the Church for this Country. It is one of the great Lessons of the Hour.
Whenever we are in danger of forgetting great principles, they become thereby--Lessons of the Hour. That which is specially endangered must be specially defended. And, therefore, this seems to me a time for specially asserting the Church's Independence.
Both at the North and at the South this principle has been endangered. At the North by actual assault. Things
have occurred there within two years, which, if predicted three years ago, would have been scouted as the dreams of an alarmist, or the notions of a Neapolitan despot. Steeple and desk and pulpit and altar have been compelled to wear the secular livery; while organs attuned for the praise of God, have been made to peal forth the war notes of a wicked invasion. In portions of the South, which have fallen under the Federal power, the temples of the Most High have been forcibly closed, or as forcibly opened at the order of some petty military tyrant. Prayers have been dictated to the priesthood; and on their refusal to bow the neck to such outrageous tyranny, armed men have been intruded into the Sacred Presence, and the priest of God has been dragged by foul hands from the very altar--all surpliced, as he was, to some military guard-house. Numbers of the Clergy have been imprisoned or exiled. The Missionary Bishop of the Southwest was placed in confinement and that confessedly without provocation on his part.
Thank God that no such scenes * have characterized the South. Yet in the South also, has the independence of the Church been specially endangered: not by assault, or opposition, but by her own forgetfulness, and because she has no quarrel with the State: endangered because--and so much the more because--we believe the State in which we live, to be right in her present action--because we go heart and hand with her in the war she is maintaining for the defence of our firesides and all we hold dear. The Church of the South, I say, is in danger of voluntarily abandoning her own independence and allowing her own action to be too hastily determined by that of the State.
But she should not forget her own royalty--that she is a nation and a kingdom of herself--THE nation of the Earth --the Kingdom of the King of kings--the government of the Lord of the whole Earth. Earthly monarchs are among her subjects. Invincible, except by her own fault--liable to no foreign conquest--to no possibility of final decay--the universe her dominion--all time her history.
But the weapons of her power are not carnal, but spiritual. And it is only in her own department that she rightfully governs at all. Except by moral influence, she interferes not with the secular government; nor in secular affairs, disturbs the earthly nations within whose borders she dwells. Rome forgot these principles, when with ban and interdict she broke in upon the quarrels of princes, or, with the sword, attempted to open the way for her doctrines into the hearts of unbelievers; or to brand them in with the fagot and the stake. Puritanism forgot this when she set up the Kingdom of God, as she called it, in the English commonwealth. And the Church forgets it whenever she attempts to grasp the secular sceptre, or by bodily penalties to enforce her doctrines. She cannot now, as in the days of the Jewish Theocracy, "bind Kings with chains, and nobles with fetters of iron." Such honor have not now the saints. In secular matters she obeys, and teaches her children to obey, the civil Ruler. She upholds his arm. In her own domain she is a Queen, whom none may despise or resist, without despising or resisting God. For she has been crowned by God Himself as the Bride--the Lamb' s wife--"the fulness of Him that filleth all in all."
"He that will not hear the Church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican," is the decree of Christ, the King. As she cannot rightfully interfere with the secular ruler in his department, so neither may he interfere with her. He has no right, without her consent, to divide her Dioceses, or interfere with her councils, or control her worship, except so far as she first abandons her own province and intrudes into his. If he does, he must answer for it to the Great King, upon that day, when provost marshals and generals and presidents and kings will stand in helpless weakness before His bar.
And so in our present strait, it has been for the Church herself and not for the State, or for human beings outside the Church, to decide whether, here at the South, she should secede from her sister Dioceses at the North. I do not question the propriety of the general decision to which the Church has come. On the contrary, all my feelings and my judgment go with it. We could not have remained in present legislative union with the Northern portion of the Church after what has occurred. And the preface
to our Book of Common Prayer, declaring our ipso facto separation from the Church of England, by virtue of our severance from the English Government, left open, as it seems to me, a formal door for our departure now. No decree from the Confederate Congress at Richmond, or the Federal at Washington, could by itself have effected the separation. Only by the Church's own action or provision could it be accomplished. But it may be a fair question, whether the provision in the preface of the Prayer Book, to which I have referred, is itself strictly consistent with the true doctrine of the Church's independence and unity.
The hour requires the warning: lest in the heat of this war, we forget the high doctrine of the independent Sovereignty of the Church.
And so also, it is a time especially demanding the reassertion of the Church's Unity and Brotherhood. It may seem to some, as, precisely, not the time. But I think it is. If that Unity and Brotherhood be, as we hold, one of the fundamental doctrines of Revelation, than which none has been more earnestly taught, by both our Lord and His Apostles, then no storm of human passion has the right to suspend it, or cloud its shining light. That doctrine, as set forth in the New Testament, is, that all Christians are baptized into One Body--made members of one great Family of God--that the Church in all nations, whether Jew or Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, bond, or free, is itself at last one great nation, having no national or continental boundaries--the one kingdom of the one God, the God of the whole earth--beyond the authority, therefore, of any earthly ruler or earthly government to divide her--with provinces territorially, limited, yet as a whole, indivisible-- in that she is divinely one, far more indivisible than any free masonic or other human organization can be--one by the will of Christ--one by the decree of God--one, therefore, in the face of all human decrees and all human struggles to the contrary--one, not only over all the present world, but one, through all time also--not only one in fact, but bound to acknowledge her own Unity. A doctrine so cardinal, that it is set as one of the Articles of the Apostles' Creed--The Holy Catholic Church.
When the Cæsars lived, and the Apostles wrote, Rome and her enemies had but one Christian brotherhood or
Church. In those days, when Princes made war upon their own caprice, without consulting their subjects, and with little or no reference to their feelings or wishes, it was easily true that two nations might be at war, while yet the portions of the Church in both might be at peace, preserving undisturbed their unity and brotherly love. But now and with us, it is the people themselves--the members of the Church themselves--which make war, and, therefore, make war upon each other.
Thus national alienation now produces individual and ecclesiastical alienation, and so, the Unity of the Church, at such times, seems unavoidably broken. And yet, our experience in this is not entirely new. The Psalmist was constrained sadly to write of his enemies: "It is not an open enemy, that hath done me this dishonor; for then I could have borne it: neither was it mine adversary, that did magnify himself against me; for then peradventure I would have hid myself from him; but it was even thou, my companion, my guide, and mine own familiar friend. We took sweet counsel together, and walked in the house of God as friends."
Such contentions are deep wounds, severing the sacred flesh of Christ's mystical body. And yet, the parts are still one; and, however deep the wound, may hope for reunion. I speak not of civil re-union. That I regard as forever impossible. The feeling of abhorrence and detestation, with which the South regards this invasion, is so deep, and is daily so deepened by the ferocity with which the war is waged upon the Federal side, and by the atrocities which mark its progress, that it will take long generations to obliterate it. But I speak of the re-union of the Church. Nor even of that, in the way in which it has heretofore existed; but only, so as it may exist between us and the mother Church in England. Such a re-union of the now bleeding portions of the Church, we may look for. Proud flesh may rise--much may be sloughed away--but if the true life be there, the re-union of its parts, so far as to make them parts of one great body again, will ultimately take place. Wars like the present, raise momentous problems respecting the Church's Unity. It will be difficult, if not impossible, ever to feel as we felt before, towards those who have so bitterly, so wantonly, so cruelly,
assailed us. Yet should the Church at such a time be specially careful, how she forgets the great doctrine of her own Unity. Nor must her children forget that she is Christ's kingdom, and, therefore, far above all human interference. Human governments, as individuals, are subject to Christ; and were all the kings on earth and were all their parliaments--were all forms of earthly government-- were all mankind with one voice and consent--were even the Church herself in Council to repeal God's law of the Church's Unity, their action would be void; only of effect, as it would be treason against their Almighty King, and would subject the guilty upon the last day, to the eternal penalties of treason.
We cannot repeal that law. But the difficulty we feel, in our present circumstances, in realizing this principle of the Church's Unity, as still prevailing, makes it one of the great Lessons of the Hour for us.
The next Lesson of the Hour, to which I will refer, is that which teaches us that, more than heretofore, we are thrown upon our own resources, in the maintenance of all religious enterprises; and the need of greater exertions than ever heretofore, in order to keep in full action the machinery of beneficence and education in our midst. Henceforth we must organize our own missions, and maintain them. We must erect our own Theological Seminaries, and support them. We must establish colleges and schools for ourselves. We must prepare school books. Our whole system of education, and training, must be within ourselves. It will be impossible, at least for some time to come, consistently with self-respect--consistently with our maintenance of healthful truth--consistently with our responsibilities to our children, and those under our charge --consistently with our duty to our country, to resort to schools or colleges Northward of our own line. So far as mere pecuniary outlay is concerned, this will, perhaps, cost us no great struggle. But something else will be needed-- personal care, personal exertion; the consistent refusal to resort to any institutions but our own, no matter how great their seeming advantages; the patriotic, and sometimes self-sacrificing determination, to sustain exclusively, the educational institutions of the South, as well as use exclusively Southern educational books.
Among these objects, as commending itself more especially to the attention of a body like that I address, is prominent, the necessity for Theological Seminaries of our own, whether Diocesan or General. To a remarkable extent, hitherto, the North has supplied the ministry of the South. This cannot well continue. The means of training must be provided here. And, what is of equal importance, the supply of living material should be found at home. Let this hour of separation and of cutting off from old resources, teach our young men the lesson, that the Lord has need of more of them to do His work. Let us hope, that the perils of the battle-field and its narrow escapes, the many conspicuous mercies of a soldier's life, will not be without effect upon the minds of our young men. And let parents be more willing than they have been, to devote their sons to the service of the Lord. What strange inconsistency for a professed follower of Christ, to be ashamed or unwilling to have his son become Christ's minister! While seeking for him all earthly honor, to despise or reject the honor of being the ambassador of the King of Kings! The harvest-field will be large, but where are the laborers?
Pray the Lord of the harvest, to send his laborers in; but while praying thus, be not so inconsistent as to withhold your own sons from the noble work. And that the young men of our country may be more encouraged to undertake it, strive to surround it with all suitable secular advantages. Degrade it not, in the eyes of your children, by withholding its proper honor, or its proper support. Nor doubt for one moment, that all you do in this direction, will redound to your own advantage both here and hereafter.
It is a time, brethren, for special exertion, and special zeal, and special contributions of the means which God has allowed you. And unless you render all these, you will not have learned the Lessons of the Hour. With many of our best contributing parishes cut off, and with what remains of the Church's income depreciated immensely in value, the work of the Church must stagger, and her standard-bearers come nigh to fainting, if there kindle not within those who remain, a warmer zeal, a more earnest action. It is the hour of darkness, and want, and suffering, to very many. Let it be, also, the hour of self-denial,
and liberality, and flaming enthusiasm, for Christ and His Church. She is the Church for the future. We believe it. God is teaching it. His hand is writing it in letters of fire and blood, since otherwise we have refused to learn it. The little one will become a thousand. Give her honor then as the Bride of Christ, the mother of human souls; maintain her independence; keep firm her unity; sustain her institutions.
These are God's lessons of the hour for us.
And when did ever any hour teach, with such sad emphasis, the lesson of religious consolation, and the power of holy Hope?
When our blessed Lord as on this day ascended; and His bereaved followers gazed after Him with aching hearts, and no doubt with weeping eyes, God sent His angel to comfort them, with the assurance that as He had gone, so should He one day come again. And so, as one by one, our loved ones, the young, the noble, and the brave, are lost to sight--as they are swept from us in this fearful war --it is God's lesson of faith to us, with respect to many of them, that when Christ comes again, "them that sleep in Jesus, will God bring with Him. As in a just cause, the Christian may find his Master's work upon the field of battle; so in an honorable death there, he may find the gate to Paradise. Beyond this life there bursts a brighter one upon the vision of the dying Christian soldier. In that brighter world, he will meet his blessed Master, Who as on this day took up His journey thither; that going on before, He might prepare a place for him, and welcome to his Father's house of many mansions, each faithful soul, as it might be released from the confinement of the flesh.
And now, in our hour of mourning for a great Captain, whom God had invested with qualities which had won him a nation's love and reverence, and whom in the hour of victory, he has taken from us, perhaps because we trusted too much in him and too little in God--what a comfort, to know that he died in faith! How it lightens the grief which weighs our hearts, and makes us feel that we would rather have lost a battle-field than to have lost him; how it lightens that grief, to regard him as but gone on to glory. And when the day comes at last, for us to join that bright assembly round the Throne, how trivial will seem
all earthly trials. Loss of property--hardships--defeats even--subjugation itself--their horrors will all fade out, on that day when in the blaze of Heaven, all earthly interests will pale away. Let us do our duty here and now, as citizens, as soldiers, as churchmen. Let us strive to learn the Lessons of the Hour, and put them into practice. So may we hope to make part of that glorious triumphal procession, one day to follow the footsteps of our ascended Lord. Let us set our affections on things above, that, "when Christ our Life shall appear, we may also appear with Him in glory."