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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : I. SERMON AT THE OPENING SERVICES OF THE GENERAL CONVENTION, OCTOBER 2, 1889.

Five Sermons by H.B. Whipple

I. SERMON AT THE OPENING SERVICES OF THE GENERAL CONVENTION, OCTOBER 2, 1889.

|We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work Thou didst their days, in the times of old.| -- PSALM xliv. I.

Brethren: I shall take it for granted that there is a visible Church; that it was founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ, and has His promise that the gates of hell shall never prevail against it. We believe that ours is a pure branch of the apostolic Church; that it has a threefold ministry; that its two sacraments -- Baptism and the Supper of the Lord -- are of perpetual obligation, and are divine channels of grace; that the faith once delivered to the saints is contained in the Catholic creeds, and has the warrant of Holy Scripture which was written by inspiration of God. On this centennial day I shall speak of the history and mission of this branch of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It was a singular providence that this continent, laden with the bounty of God, was unoccupied by civilization for thousands of years. America was discovered by a devout son of the Latin Church, whose name -- Christopher, Christ-bearer, and Columbus, the dove -- ought to have been the prophecy that he would bear the Gospel to the New World. It was at a time when Savonarola, with the zeal of a prophet of God and the eloquence of a Chrysostom, was laboring to awaken the Church to a new life. No nation ever had a nobler mission than Spain. That mission was forfeited by unholy greed and untold cruelty. It was lost forever. Other nations claimed the continent for their own. In the providence of God; this last of the nations was founded by the English-speaking race. I reverently believe that it was because they recognize as no other people the two truths which underlie the possibility of constitutional government, i.e., the inalienable rights of the individual citizen, and loyalty to government as a delegated trust from God, who alone has the right to govern. These lessons are intertwined with two thousand years of history. They reach back to the days when the savage Briton came in contact with Roman civilization and Roman law, and have been deepened by centuries of Christian influences which have changed our savage fathers into truth-speaking, liberty-loving Christian men.

More marvellous are the providences intertwined with the history of the Church. It was planted by apostolic men, and numbered heroes like St. Patrick and St. Alban before the missionary Augustine came to Canterbury. Through all of its history it has been the Church of the English-speaking race. The liturgy contains the purest English of any book, except the English Bible, which was translated by her sons. The ritual which Augustine found in England came from the East; and the liturgy which he introduced was, by the advice of Gregory, taken from many national Churches. The Venerable Hooker said: |Our liturgy was must be acknowledged as the singular work of the providence of God.| In its services it represents the Church of the English-speaking race. The exhortation to pray for the child to be baptized, the direction to put pure water into the font at each baptism, the sign of the cross, the words of the reception of the baptized, the joining of hands in holy matrimony, the |dust to dust| of the burial, -- are peculiar to the offices of the English-speaking people. In the Holy Communion, the rubric found in all western Churches, commanding the priest, after consecration, to kneel and worship the elements, never found a place in any service-book of the Church of England. The Book of Common Prayer has preserved for us Catholic faith and Catholic worship.

The first English missionary priest in America of whose services we have record was Master Wolfall, who celebrated the Holy Communion in 1578 for the crews of Martin Forbisher on the shores of Hudson Bay, amid whose solitudes Bishop Horden has won whole heathen tribes to Jesus Christ. At about the same time the Rev. Martin Fletcher, the chaplain of Sir Francis Drake, celebrated the Holy Communion in the bay of San Francisco, a prophecy that these distant shores should become our inheritance. A few years later (1583), divine service was held in the bay of St. John's, Newfoundland, for Sir Humphrey Gilbert, and when his ill-fated ship foundered at sea, the last words of the hero-admiral were, |We are as near heaven by sea as by land.| The mantle of Gilbert fell on Sir Walter Raleigh, who was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth to bear the evangel of God's love to the New World. The faith behind the adventures of these men is seen in a woodcut of Raleigh's vessels at anchor; a pinnace, with a man at the mast-head bearing a cross, approaching the shore with the message of the Gospel. To some of us whose hearts have been touched with pity for the red men, its is a beautiful incident that the first baptism on these shores was that of an Indian chief, Mateo, on the banks of the Roanoke. In May, 1607, the first services on the shore of New England were held by the Rev. Richard Seymour. Missionary services in the wilderness were not unlike those of our pioneer bishops. |We did hang an awning to the trees to shield us from the sun, our walls were rails of wood, our seats unhewed trees, our pulpit a bar of wood -- this was our 'church.'| It was in this church that the Rev. Robert Hunt celebrated the first communion in Virginia, June 21, 1607. The missionary spirit of the times is seen when Lord De la Warr and his companions went in procession to the Temple Church in London to receive the Holy Communion. The Rev. Richard Crashaw said in his sermon: |Go forward in the strength of the Lord, look not for wealth, look only for the things of the kingdom of God -- you go to win the heathen to the Gospel. Practise it yourselves. Make the name of Christ honorable. What blessings any nation has had by Christ must be given to all the nations of the earth.| The first act of Governor De la Warr, on landing in Virginia, was to kneel in silent prayer, and then, with the whole people, they went to church, where the services were conducted by the Rev. Richard Burke. In 1611 the saintly Alexander Whittaker baptized Pocahontas. Disease and death often blighted the colonies, and yet the old battle cry rang out -- |God will found the State and build the Church.| The work was marred by immoral adventurers, and it was not until these were repressed with a strong hand by Sir Thomas Dale that a new life dawned in Virginia.

The first elective assembly of the New World met in 1619. It was opened by prayer. Its first enactment was to protect the Indians from oppression. Its next was to found a university. In the first legislative assembly which met in the choir of the Church in Jamestown, more than one year before the Mayflower left the shores of England, was the foundation of popular government in America. Time would fail me to tell the story inwrought in the lives of men like Rev. William Clayton of Philadelphia, the Rev. Atkin Williamson of South Carolina, and the Rev. John Wesley and the Rev. George Whitefield, also sons of the Church in Georgia.

The Church of England had no rights in the English colony of Massachusetts. The Rev. William Blaxton, the Rev. Richard Gibson, and the Rev. Robert Jordan endured privation and suffering, and were accused |as addicted to the hierarchy of the Church of England,| |guilty of offence against the Commonwealth by baptizing children on the Lord's Day,| and |the more heinous sin of provoking the people to revolt by questioning the divine right of the New England theocracy.| An new life dawned on the Church in America when, in 1701, there was organized in England |The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.| It awakened a new missionary spirit. Princess Anne, afterward Queen of England, became its lifelong patron. The blessed work among the Mohawks was largely due to her, and when these Indians were removed to Canada and left sheperdless, their chief, Joseph Brant, officiated as lay reader for twenty years. The men sent out by the society -- the Rev. Samuel Thomas, the Rev. George Keith, the Rev. Patrick Gordon, the Rev. John Talbot, and others -- were Christian heroes. No fact in the history of the colonial Church had so marked influence as the conversion of Timothy Cutler, James Wetmore, Samuel Johnson, and Daniel Brown to the Church. Puritans mourned that the |gold had become dim.| Churchmen rejoiced that some of the foremost scholars in Connecticut had returned to the Church. I pass over the trials of the Church in the eighteenth century, to the meeting of the Continental Congress in 1774. It was proposed to open Congress with prayer. Objections were made on account of the religious differences of the delegates. Old Samuel Adams arose, with his white hair streaming on his shoulders, -- the same earnest Puritan who, in 1768, had written to England: |We hope in God that no such establishment as the Protestant episcopate shall ever take place in America,| -- and said: |Gentlemen, shall it be said that it is possible that there can be any religious differences which will prevent men from crying to that God who alone can save them? I move that the Rev. Dr. Duche`, minister of Christ Church in this city, be asked to open this Congress with prayer.| John Adams, writing to his wife, said: |Never can I forget that scene. There were twenty Quakers standing by my side, and we were all bathed in tears.| When the Psalms for the day were read, it seemed as if Heaven was pleading for the oppressed: |O Lord, fight thou against them that fight against me.| |Lord, who is like Thee to defend the poor and the needy?| |Avenge thou my cause, my Lord, my God.| On the 4th of July 1776, Congress published to the world that these colonies were, and of right ought to be, free. We believe that a majority of those who signed this declaration were sons of the Church. The American colonists were not rebels; they were loyal, God-fearing men. The first appeal that Congress made to the colonies was |for the whole people to keep one and the same day as a day of fasting and prayer for the restoration of the invaded rights of America, and reconciliation with the parent State.| They stood for their inalienable rights, guaranteed to them by the Magna Charta, which nobles, headed by Bishop Stephen Langton, had wrung from King John. The English clergy had at ordination taken an oath of allegiance to the British Crown. Many who sympathized with their oppressed country felt bound to pray for King George until another government was permanently established. Others, like Dr. Provost, retired to private life. For two hundred years an Episcopal Church had no resident Bishop. No child of the Church received confirmation. No one could take orders without crossing the Atlantic, where one man in five lost his life by disease or shipwreck. At one time the Rev. William White was the only clergyman of the Church in Pennsylvania. Even after we had received the episcopate, the outlook was so hopeless that one of her bishops said, |I am willing to do all I can for the rest of my days, but there will be no such Church when I am gone.| When William Meade told Chief Justice Marshall that he was to take orders in the Episcopal Church, the Chief Justice said, |I thought that this Church had perished in the Revolution.| Of the less than two hundred clergy, many had returned to England or retired to private life. In some of the colonies the endowments of the Church had been confiscated. There was no discipline for clergy or laity, and it did seem as if the vine of the Lord's planting was to perish out of the land.

On the Feast of the Annunciation, 1783, ten of the clergy of Connecticut met in the glebe house at Woodbury to elect a bishop. They met privately, for the Church was under the ban of civil authority, and they feared the revival of bitter opposition to an American episcopate which might alarm the English bishops and defeat their efforts. They did not come to make a creed, or frame a liturgy, or found a Church. They met to secure that which was lacking for the complete organization of the Church, and thus perpetuate for their country that ministry whose continuity was witnessed through all the ages in a living body, which is the body of Christ. I know of no greater heroism than that which sent Samuel Seabury to ask of the bishops of the Church of England the episcopate for the scattered flock of Christ. You remember the fourteen months' weary waiting, and when his prayer was refused in England, God led him to the persecuted Church of Scotland. Now go with me to Aberdeen; it is an upper room, a congregation of clergy and laity are present. The bishops and Robert Kilgour, Bishop of Aberdeen, Arthur Petrie, Bishop of Moray, and John Skinner, Coadjutor Bishop of Aberdeen, who preached the sermon. The prayers were ended; Samuel Seabury, a kingly man, kneels for the imposition of apostolic hands, and, according to the godly usage of the Catholic Church, is consecrated bishop, and made the first apostle for the New World. None can tell what, under God, we owe to those venerable men. They signed a concordat binding themselves and successors to use the Prayer of Invocation in the Scottish Communion Office, which sets forth that truth which is inwrought in all the teachings of our blessed Lord and His apostles, that the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ is limited to the worthy receiver of this blessed sacrament. The consecration of Seabury touched the heart of the English Church.

In 1783 the Church of England did not have one bishop beyond its shores. There are to-day fifteen bishops in Africa, six in China and Japan, and twenty-three in Australia and the Pacific Islands, ten in India, seven in the West Indies, and eighty-five in British North America and the United States. Every colony of the British Empire and every State and Territory of the United States has its own bishop, except the Territory of Alaska.

On February 4th, 1787, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Provost, D.D., were consecrated bishops in Lambeth Chapel, by John Moore, Archbishop of Canterbury, William Markham, Archbishop of York, Charles Moss, Bishop of Bath and Wells, and John Hinchcliffe, Bishop of Peterborough. The sermon was preached by the chaplain of the primate. Our minister to England, Hon. John Adams, urged the application of Drs. Provost and White, and in after years wrote: |There is no part of my life I look back with more satisfaction than the part I took -- daring and hazardous as it was to myself and mine -- in the introduction of episcopacy to America.| Samuel Provost was a devoted patriot and one of the ripest scholars of America. In the convention which elected him Bishop of New York were John Jay, Washington's chief justice, Marinus Willet, one of Washington's favorite generals, James Duane, John Alsop, R.R. Livingston, and William Duer, members of the Continental Congress, and David Brooks, commissary-general of the Revolution, and personal friend of Washington. If less prominent in his episcopal administration, Bishop Provost's name as a patriot was a tower of strength to the infant Church.

Of Bishop White we can say, as John Adams said of Roger Sherman, |He was pure as an angel and firm as Mount Atlas.| He was beloved and reverenced by all Christian people. When Congress declared the colonies independent States in 1776, he at once took the oath of allegiance to the new government. When a friend warned him that he had put his neck in a halter, he replied: |I know the danger; the cause is just; I have put my faith in God.| In 1777 he was elected chaplain of Congress, and held the office (except when Congress met in New York) until the capital was removed to Washington. Francis Hopkinson, a distinguished signer of the Declaration of Independence, and other loyal sons of the country, were among those who elected him Bishop of Pennsylvania.

One hundred years ago today the representatives of the Church in the different States met to adopt a constitution. There had been tentative efforts to effect an organization and adopt a Book of Common Prayer, all of which were overruled by the good providence of God. Many not of our fold desired a liturgy. Benjamin Franklin published at his own expense a revised copy of the English liturgy. The House of Bishops was composed of Bishop Seabury and Bishop White. Bishop Provost was absent. In the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies were the Rev. Abraham Jarvis, the Rev. Robert Smith, and the Rev. Samuel Parker, who became bishops. They met to show the world that the charter of the Church is perpetual, and that the Church has the power to adapt herself to all the conditions of human society. They met to consolidate the scattered fragments of the Church in the thirteen colonies into a national Church, and secure for themselves and children Catholic faith and worship in the Book of Common Prayer. They builded wiser than they knew. They secured for the Church self-government, free from all secular control. They preserved the traditions of the past, and yet every feature of executive, legislative, and judicial administration was in harmony with the Constitution of the Republic. They gave the laity a voice in the council of the Church; they provided that bishops and clergy should be tried by their peers, and that the clergy and laity of each diocese should elect their own bishop subject to the approval of the whole Church. There was the most delightful fraternal intercourse between the two bishops. In the words of our Presiding Bishop, |The blessed results of that convention were due, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to the steadfast gentleness of Bishop White and the gentle steadfast -- of Bishop Seabury.| A century has passed. The Church which was then everywhere spoken against is everywhere known and respected; the mantle of Seabury, White, Hobart, Ravenscroft, Eliot, De Lancey, and Kemper has fallen on others, and her sons are in the forefront of that mighty movement which will people this land with millions of souls. While we say with grateful hearts, |What hath God wrought!| we also say, |Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Nave give the praise.| Surely, an awful responsibility rests upon a Church whose history is so full of the mercy of God. We are living in the great missionary age of the Church. There is no nation on the earth to whom we may not carry the Gospel. More than eight hundred millions of souls for whom Christ died have not heard that there is a Saviour. One of the hinderances to the speedy evangelization of the world is the division among Christians, -- alas! both within and without the Church. Our Saviour said: |By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.| Christians have been separated in hostile camps, and often divisions have ripened into hatred. The saddest of all is that the things which separate us are not necessary for salvation. The truths in which we agree are part of the Catholic faith. In the words of Dr. Dollinger, |we can say each to the other as baptized, we are on either side, brothers and sisters in Christ. In the great garden of the Lord, let us shake hands over these confessional hedges, and let us break them down, so as to be able to embrace one another altogether. These hedges are doctrinal divisions about which either we or you are in error. If you are in the wrong, we do not hold you morally culpable; for your education, surroundings, knowledge, and training made the adherence to these doctrines excusable and even right. Let us examine, compare, and investigate the matter together, and we shall discover the precious pearl of peace and unity; and then let us join hands together in cultivating and cleansing the garden of the Lord, which is overgrown with weeds.| There are blessed signs that the Holy Spirit is deepening the spiritual life of widely separated brothers. Historical Churches are feeling the pulsation of a new life from the Incarnate God. All Christian folk see that the Holy Spirit has passed over these human barriers and set His seal to the labors of separated brethren in Christ. The ever-blessed Comforter is quickening in Christian hearts the divine spirit of charity. Christians are learning more and more the theology which centres in the person of Jesus Christ. It is this which worldwide is creating a holy enthusiasm to stay the flood of intemperance, impurity, and sin at home, and gather lost heathen folk into the fold of Christ. In our age every branch of the Church can call over the roll of its confessors and martyr, and so link its history to the purest ages of the Church. We would not rob them of one sheaf they have gathered into the garner of the Lord. We share in every victory and we rejoice in every triumph. There is not one of that great company who have washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb, who is not our kinsman in Christ. Brothers in Christ of every name, shall we not pray for the healing of the wounds of the body of Christ, that the world may believe in him?

We are perplexed by the unbelief and sin of our time. The Christian faith is assailed not only with scoffs of old as Celsus and Julian, but also with the keenest intellectual criticism of Divine revelation, the opposition of alleged scientific facts, and a Corinthian worldliness whose motto is |Eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.| In many places Christian homes are dying out. Crime and impurity are coming in as a flood, and anarchy raises its hated form in a land where all men are equal before the law. The lines between the Church and the world are dim. Never did greater problems confront a council of the Church. An Apostolic Church has a graver work than discussion about its name or the amending of its canons and rubrics. I fear that some of this unbelief is a revolt from a caricature of God. These mechanical ideas about the universe are the outcome of a mechanical theology which has lost sight of the Fatherhood of God. There is much honest unbelief. In these yearnings of humanity, in its clubs, brotherhoods, and orders, in their readiness to share all things with their brothers, I see unconscious prophecies of the brotherhood of all men as the children of one God and Father. Denunciation will not silence unbelief. The name infidel has lost its terrors. There in only one remedy. It is in the spirit, the power, and the love of Jesus Christ. Philosophy cannot touch the want. It offers no hand to grasp, no Saviour to trust, no God to save. When men see in us the hand, the heart, and the love of Christ, they will believe in the brotherhood of men and the Fatherhood of God.

There was nothing which impressed your bishops in the late visit to England more than the service in the cathedral at Durham. The church, with its thousand years of history was thronged. The chants were sung by two thousand choristers in surplices. The sermon was preached by the Bishop of Western New York. This grand service was to set apart some Bible readers and lay-preachers to go into the collieries to tell these toilers of the love of Jesus Christ. The same awful problems stare us in the face, -- the centralization of swarms of souls in the cities; the wealth of the nation in fewer hands; competition making a life-and-death struggle for bread; the poorest sinking into hopeless despair; and the richest often forgetting that Lazarus at his gate is a child of the same God and Father. We, too, must send our best men and women wherever there is sin, sorrow, and death, to work and suffer, and, if need be, die for Christ.

We are living in the eventide of the world, when all things point toward the second coming of our King. God has placed the English-speaking people in the fore-part of the nations. They number one-tenth of the human family, and I believe God calls them to do the work of the last time. The wealth of the world is largely in Christian hands. There never have been such opportunities for Christian work. Never such a harvest awaited the husbandman.

You may tell me of difficulties and dangers. We have only one answer. Sin, sorrow, and death are not the inventions of a Christian priest. |There is only one Name under heaven whereby any man can be saved.| We have nothing to do with results. It is ours to work and pray, and pray and work and die. So falls the seed into the earth, and so God gives the harvest. When the Church sends out embassies commensurate with the dignity of our King, it will be time to talk of failure. Is the kingdom of Christ the only kingdom which has not the right to lay tribute on its citizens? The only failure is the failure to do God's work. Was it failure when Dr. Hill of blessed memory laid the foundation for that Christian school which the wisest statesmen say is the chief factor in the regeneration of Greece? Was it failure when James Lloyd Breck, our apostle of the wilderness, carried the Gospel to the Indians? Did Williams, Selwyn, and Patteson fail in Polynesia? Was it failure when Hoffman and Auer died for Christ in Africa? Have your great-hearted sons failed who have followed in the footsteps of the saintly Kemper, and laid with tears and prayers foundations for Christian schools which are the glory of the West? Has the Gospel failed in Japan, where a nation is awakening into the life of Christian civilization? Never has God given His Church more blessed rewards. The century which has passed is only our school of preparation. The voice of God's Providence says: |Speak to the children of Israel that they go forward.| We have some problems peculiar to ourselves. Twenty-five years ago four millions of slaves received American citizenship. The nation owes them a debt of gratitude. During all the horrors of our civil war they were the protectors of Southern women and children. Knowing the failure of their masters would be the guarantee of the freedom, there was not one act that master or slave might wish to blot. We ought not to forget it, and God will not. To-day there are eight millions. They are here to stay. They will not be disfranchised. Through them Africa can be redeemed. They ought to be our fellow-citizens in the kingdom of God. In a great crisis of missions the Holy Ghost sent Philip on a long journey to preach Christ to one man of Ethiopia. The same blessed Spirit of God calls us in the love of Christ to carry the Gospel in the Church to the millions of colored citizens of the United States.

Brethren, the time is short. Since our last council nine of our noblest bishops have died. Since I was consecrated, fifty-four bishops have entered into the rest if the people of God. It is eventide. A little more work, a few more toils and prayers, and we who have lived and loved and worked together shall have a harvest in heaven.

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