In all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and
I will bless thee. --Ex. 20:24
Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth. --Ps. 26:8
By its consecration a building is set apart for holy uses. Before its consecration it belongs to the natural order, and may be used for any secular purpose without desecration. Consecration changes its character. God takes our proffered gift out of our own hands into His own. He formally does this by His representative, the Bishop. Other ministers might come and say prayers, but the building would not be consecrated. For the Bishop is the spiritual head of all things spiritual and the source of all jurisdiction in his diocese. He comes and officially receives our gift and gathers it into the spiritual order. It then becomes one of the many covenanted media for the extension of the work of the Incarnate Son of God. God inscribes there His name. There He vouchsafes His presence. There He promises a blessing. "In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee."
Alone in deserts, in the mountain tops, in the woods, by the sea, man may listen to the Creator's voice articulate in nature's song of life, in the gladsome hum of insect life, or multitudinous laughter of the waves, or in the message-laden winds. But the Church is the covenanted meeting place of God with His people. From the time when Jacob poured the oil upon the pillar and it became a Bethel to the last consecrated Christian temple, God has vouchsafed His presence to certified holy places.
And right worthily does this building speak. By the solidity of its structure it points to the abiding character of God's last Revelation. By its localization in the midst of our homes it reminds us that He, the Incarnate God, is the Ever-near One. By its cruciform construction it tells of the Love that laid aside His Glory and humbled Himself to the death of the cross and sought us out. By its Baptistry it teaches our elevation through our incorporation into Christ, from our being God's offspring according to nature's order into that of being children of the new creation. By its Nave and Chancel it tells of the Church here in this world, buffeting with its waves, and yet at rest. By its Rood bearing the dear figure of the Crucified between Our Lady and St. John, of the Rod that gives us comfort when we pass the dark valley of death. By its division of Chancel into Choir and Sanctuary, of the two revealed modes by which God in every dispensation -- in paradise, under the patriarchs, under the Law, in glory -- would be worshiped, namely, by word of prayer and praise, and by sacrifice. By its Altar adorned with the Christian symbols of cross and lights, of the abiding presence of Him who is the world's true Light and our Resurrection Food.
No visible cloud may descend to-day upon this Church as upon the dedication of the Jewish Temple, witnessing to us of its acceptance. For the Holy Spirit, with lambent tongues of holy flame, once and for all descended upon the living temple of the Apostolic college and dwells within the Apostolic Church. There were visible signs of the Spirit's presence when the Gentiles were brought into the Christian Church. But the Spirit descended never to ascend. To seek for another Pentecost is as idle as to pray for another Nativity. He descended once for all, and abides in the holy Church, and in the calmness of an assured possession that Church bestows the gifts of the Spirit by the laying on of hands. The Church is thus a spiritual organism because it is filled with the Holy Ghost. In this organism Christ is present and can make Himself manifest in all its activities. Throughout this spiritual organism Christ continues to discharge His ever-abiding functions as our Prophet, Priest, and King. "He that heareth you heareth Me," it "stretches out His hand to heal." A living Christ dwells in a living Church.
To-day in answer to the prayers of faith, the sick are healed, calamities averted, blessings bestowed, mountains of difficulty are cast into the sea, angels guard the feet of Christ's people, the Saints have intercourse with God, the inner life of the Church is aglow with the radiance of heaven.
But greater works are done than when nature owned creation's Lord, and sea and wind obeyed him. Christ, the revelation of God to man, is also the revealed ascent through which man passes upward into God. Christ is the embodiment of Progress, Liberty, Reform. His Voice goes like morning over the earth. Tyrannies and superstitions flee away. Society gradually becomes elevated. The human brotherhood of the race is acknowledged. Government recognizes Christian principles. War's needful struggle becomes mitigated. The slave's shackles fall from his hands. Woman rises to her rightful equality. The spiritually blind receive their sight. The lame walk. The dead in sin are raised to life. In the midst of worldliness, men lead unworldly lives, and the true child of God is brought into such loving Communion with his heavenly Father, that like one speaking through a telephone, he recognizes His voice and receives reply, and knows with a divine certainty with whom he communes and in whom he puts his trust.
To-day by the act of His representative, the Bishop, He gathers this building into His accepted instrumentalities, and here He puts His Name, with the covenanted promise to meet and bless His people.
So, as the pious Hebrew loved the Temple with a devotion intensified
by his afflictive exile, loved it for all it represented of his nation's
struggle, and failures, and glory, and shame, loved it as a witness of
God's manifold and gracious dealings and covenanted promises, and as
the embodiment of the precious heritage of his great hope, loved it,
above all, because of the Ark with its Shekinah and Mercy Seat, shall
not we, Churchmen, seeing that, in spiritual value and significance and
Presence, our temples surpass that of the Jews, shall not we love thy
Church, O Lord, as the place where "Thine honor dwelleth." Oh,
my children, care for it, assemble in it, adorn it, endow it. Love it
as the place where we have met God and found His promises true, where
His word is spoken in blessing, and in absolution, and is given in the
Holy Food so precious to our souls; and on this day of jubilee learn
to love it more.
There is another and fuller view of the Temple not inappropriate to this day's solemnities, when we recall for what purpose this parish was founded and what it has stood for. Necessary in England at the beginning of the Tractarian movement, it is more necessary in New England now, to bring before Christians the true and almost lost conception of the Church. It has been thought of as a voluntary association of believers. It has been supposed to have no divinely given order. It has been recognized by some more correctly as a visible kingdom established by Christ. But to arrive at a full conception of it we must perceive that it is a living temple.
As Israel was called the "house of the Lord," so likewise is the Church called "The House of God," "The great house" wherein are vessels of gold and silver, "Christ's own house," " The temple of the Living God." This is one of the many metaphors like that of the "family," the "city," the "kingdom" -- which tell us that the Church is a visible organization, which declares that the gospel of Christ was not an abstract gospel, not a mere announcement of truth or proffer of pardon, that Christ's followers were not a mere voluntary aggregation of believers, but that the Gospel He proclaimed and founded was "the gospel of the kingdom." He did not will to cast His word loose among mankind, to let it float on amidst the stream of human life without the protection of a visible society. He did not leave its interpretation to be developed by the clash of scholarly opinion, but entrusted it to a church endowed with the Holy Ghost.
"The Apostolic writings," says Canon Bright, "are stultified by the hypothesis of a 'naturalistic' church, the result of the working of individuals to self-association, evolved under the laws of God's ordinary providential government. A 'church' of this kind might be called 'divinely organized,' just as all forms of cooperative activity are so from a benefit society to a parliament. The Church of those days does not present itself as a guild or company; to outsiders it may have seemed so, but its members believed it to be a divine incorporation, to have a unique mystery in its life, an unparalleled Presence in its working." And this is the real test. Not how it appeared to statesman, or historian, or critic, but what Christians declared it to be, and as the Epistle for the day shows they knew themselves to be members of a divinely ordered living organization which was the Temple of the Holy Ghost.
Our Lord's teaching throughout contains much concerning the formation of this Living Temple, and of that Church "which He loved" and for which He "gave Himself." Take two instances, one in the beginning and one at the end of His ministry. It is noticeable in the Sermon on the Mount, which has been called the charter of the Gospel, how that no sooner has the Lord progressively developed the ideal Christian character in the Beatitudes, than in the next section of His discourse He goes on to describe him as a Churchman. He belongs to a "city." He is a citizen. It is a city set on a hill. A city having its walls, and towers, and guards, and an organized government and Temple. And the succeeding illustrations, the salt heap beside the sacrifice, the light, the candlestick, the council of judgment, the altar and its gifts and offerings, are all connected with the Temple and its worship. We see by the continuity of the illustrations what was before the mind of Christ. Christ's ideal Christian is first of all a loyal Churchman. So also we find this truth shadowed forth in the Parable of the Good Shepherd. Christ comes to the ancient Jewish Church symbolized by the night fold, surrounded by its wooden palisade of which John the Baptist was the porter, and the porter recognizes His voice, and His sheep know His voice and follow Him. But He does not leave them to browse where they please, and unshepherded to follow at their own sweet will the speculations of their human fancy; nor are they to be unprotected or uncorralled, by being left without a fold. Only the temporary wooden night fold of the Jewish Church was to be replaced by the permanent walls of the great spiritual Temple of which Christ declares Himself to be the door. He says, "I am the Door," and He was the Door because there was the Living Temple behind it.
There are two traditional mistakes about Christianity we New Englanders have been led into. First, without giving thought to the matter, we assume that the whole of Christianity is to be found fully and explicitly stated in the four Gospels. Moreover, we are apt to think that the relation of those who followed Christ as there described is the same as that of the Christian to Him to-day. Some also go farther, and, picking out some favorite parable or act of Christ's mercy or the Sermon on the Mount, say, "That's Christianity good enough for me." It is a scandalously huge blunder which, persisted in, becomes profane.
We forget that Christ's revelation of Himself as recorded in the Gospels was chiefly to the few Apostles, and to them a very gradual one. One principle governing all His teachings was not to reveal it, save in the degree persons were prepared to receive it, lest by a hasty rejection of it they should become committed to unbelief and so fall into sin. Moreover, not until the whole work of Christ had been displayed in the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension, could the deep hidden significance of that completed work and its far-reaching consequences possibly be explained. All of Christ's teaching during His public ministry was therefore necessarily partial. To the common people it was chiefly to lead them to a belief in Himself. To the Apostles, by parable and miracle and personal intercourse, it was something more. But the religion He came to establish is only found partially revealed in the Gospels and only there in a preparatory stage. For so He expressly declared to the Apostles, at the end of His public ministry, saying, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." During the forty days after the Resurrection, when He had shut the world out, He indeed revealed something more of Himself and the Church to the Apostles, and spoke to them "of the things pertaining to the Kingdom." But it was not till the illumination gift at Pentecost of the Holy Ghost that the Apostles were led into all truth and could understand the previously hidden import of Christ's actions and words. Not till they were made Living stones of the Temple, could they understand the meaning. Not till the day of Pentecost were they themselves made complete Christians. Then He, though invisible, took up His abiding presence in the midst of the Church. He became the Sun of that new creation he was forming. Nay more. As God is immanent in the natural universe, so did the God-man, Jesus Christ, become present in the New Creation. He lives in it. His presence in this New Creation does not depend on man's recognition of it, any more than God's immanence in nature depends on human faith. Christ's presence in His Church and in His Sacraments is secured by His own act and word. Thus He guards, protects, and rules the Church. And He completed through St. Paul and St. John the revelation of His religion, and established His Church. Moreover, he made St. John a special organ of communication with His Church after the Ascension. The Book of Revelation maybe called the Gospel of the Ascension. So the Church is soon seen after the Pentecost at Jerusalem with its ordered apostolic hierarchy, its councils, general and diocesan, with the threefold order of ministry, its local presiding Bishop in the person of St. James, with its holy order of Presbyters and Deacons, with its discipline and its Baptismal Trinitarian Creed and its Sacraments and Eucharistic Offering, and growing Liturgy. Pentecost is the birthday of the Church, and it is as idle to expect its repetition as to look for another Nativity of Christ. Christianity began as a Church, and we read how the Lord added daily to the Church such as should be saved. Well, is it then, to remember that the four Gospels record Christianity only partially and in its primary stage, and that there was not even a complete Christian in existence till the day of Pentecost.
The other mistake we New Englanders have been led into is that in establishing the Christian religion, God overthrew His previously revealed principles of worship, and abolishing the Jewish Church, established a new religion without Church organization, without a priesthood, without a sacrifice. Yet Our Lord emphatically declared He did not come to set all this aside. He did not come to destroy the law but to fulfil it. He fulfilled it in two ways: First, in His Own Person, by an absolute and perfect obedience to all of its requirements; and secondly, by elevating, glorifying, and endowing it with a higher life. He changed the water in the jars of the old dispensation into the good wine of the new. He destroyed not the law, its feasts, its priesthood, its ordinances. They were bare figures or outlines of good things to come. The substance, the body which they shadowed forth, was Christ. So He came and filled these empty outlines full of Himself. The old feasts were transformed into Christian feasts. The Passover became Easter, Pentecost became Whitsunday. The Sabbath passed into the Lord's Day. The Jewish priesthood, propagated by a natural descent from Aaron, gave way to the priesthood spiritually propagated by prayer and laying on of Apostolic hands. "The priesthood being changed," not abolished, the order of Aaron is succeeded by that of Melchizedec. The eight functions of the Jewish priesthood passed over into the spiritual functions of the Christian. The prophecy of Isaiah, that under the greatest gospel of God, "I will take of the Gentiles for priests," is fulfilled. The worship of the Synagogue is continued in our choir office of Matins and Evensong; that of the Temple, in the worship of our Altar and Sanctuary. For as St. Paul declares, and our Prayer Book affirms, "we have an Altar," and we have a Priesthood. As all Israel was impressed with a royal and priestly character, so it is written of Christian Israel, "Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." The spiritual significance of the Jewish burnt offering, peace offering, sin and trespass offering, is summed up in our one Christian offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice of Christ's Body and Blood. Herein is the prophecy of Malachi fulfilled, "and in every place from the rising to the setting sun" is the "pure offering" of the gospel pleaded before God. The Christian Church is thus the unfolded flower of all which in the Jewish Church was in the bud. It is a higher stage of the same Temple rising on the four-square, or cross-formed foundations of the old. It is something more, for it is filled, as the old was not, with the Holy Spirit and enshrines the Presence of the God-Man Christ. In this Temple the prophecies of Christ are fulfilled. The hour is come, and now is, when the Father is worshiped everywhere in spirit and in truth. In spirit, for the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Church makes it a life-enshrining and life-transmitting organism. In truth, for the day of empty rites and mere signs has passed away, and that of realities and substance has come and its sacraments are effectual means of grace.
It is for this conception of the Church, its priesthood and sacraments and worship, that this Parish of the Advent has continually borne witness and flung open its doors to rich and poor alike, making no distinction of persons between the members of the Church family, the worshipers at the Altar of a common Lord. Alas! in contrast with all this, how meager is that view which regards Christ as the consummation of God's general immanence in nature, and which thus at bottom is only a theory of a "decorated Humanitarianism." How ignorant must he be of the Incarnation, who can say "seeing God has come visibly into creation, what does it matter how he came," for only by the absence of personal human parentage could the singleness of the personality of the God-Man be preserved and so an Incarnation in the flesh take place. How unsatisfying is that system which instead of an infallible Incarnate Son of God, presents us with a possibly fallible man-bearing Divinity. How imperfect is that conception of Christianity that regards it as a truth cast upon the stream of human thought, or a mere offer of pardon, presenting us only with an example, or furnishing us with persuasive motives, which regards the church as a mere human society, and its sacraments as empty of grace as Jewish ordinances. "And so," as Dr. Pusey has said, "there are afloat hundreds of Christianities. You have Christianity without Judaism, Christianity without facts, Christianity without doctrines, Christianity without anything supernatural, Christianity which shall only be an 'idea,' Christianity with fallible Apostles, fallible prophets, and (alas! that one must give utterance to the blasphemy) a fallible Christ!"
Happy is it, dear brethren, to turn to the blessed vision of the Church. Shrine of the Truth. Guardian of the Faith. Teacher of the Nations. Blessed home for the lonely. Refuge for the distressed. Ark for the perishing. Blessed Temple of living stones in which God is known, worshiped, and loved. Body of Christ in which He dwells, through which He acts. His present and eternal Bride. One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic. One by organic union of all its members with its Head. Holy, by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, and by its worship and means of grace. Apostolic, in its government and priesthood through its Apostolic fellowship and descent. Catholic, in its doctrine, which bears the marks of antiquity and common consent.
Marred she may be now. Union and communion between her estranged members may be interrupted, yet her organic unity cannot be destroyed. The gates of Hell may injure but cannot prevail. Like the mangled Body of her Lord all her bones may be out of joint, yet not a bone be broken. The dislocation existing between the East and West, between the Greek, Roman, and Anglican Communions, may yet be repaired. Meanwhile, we see how by these very divisions God keeps the Church from making any new ecumenically authorized dogmatic definitions and so falling into error. At the same time as each portion of organic Christendom proclaims the faith received from Her Divine Head, fenced by the Creeds, embalmed in the Liturgies, witnessed to by the Scriptures and Sacraments, She fulfils her prophetic office.
And not the least unworthy of our hearts' best love is our own Spiritual Mother, the Anglo-Catholic Church, whose authoritative utterance in her Prayer Book provides a clear and safe guide to all humble and reverent minds. "O Mother of Saints! School of the Wise! Nurse of the heroic. Of whom went forth, in whom have dwelt memorable names of old to spread the truth abroad or to cherish and nourish it at home! O thou from whom surrounding nations lit their lamps!" Once failing, but not given over. Falling as in Edward's time, but preserved. Nigh to perish through Puritan rebellion and assaults of heresies, but saved. How hast Thou arisen as from the dust! How has the reproach upon Thee "of a miscarrying womb and dry breasts" been done away. Marvel of marvels! "Miracle of repair!" The branch severed from the trunk perishes. Every schismatical body eventually loses the faith. But after the convulsion of the Reformation and the church's dual contest with the politics of Rome and the heresies of Geneva, after the bleak desolating winter of eighteenth century Erastianism, behold this second spring. The branch puts forth her leaves, and buds, and bears fruit a hundred fold. She has learnt something by her captivity. She has no quarrel with science, but regards it as an ally. For no accredited dogma of the church has been contravened by modern discovery. She regards all the baptized as Christians. A new enthusiasm for man as well as love of God fills her with fresh missionary zeal. She goes forth with the light of faith in her eyes and the grace of the Sacraments in her hands. She appeals to all that is good in man, and brings him the help which he spiritually and physically needs. What has marked the Anglican revival has not been a mere ecclesiasticism, but a quickened love of humanity and a practical benevolence. Orphanages, schools, hospitals, homes for the aged, asylums of every kind, have been its fruitful product. This has proved the Catholic vitality of the Anglican Communion. And its character has been marked by Christ's own sign manual of personal service. Her educated sons have gone down to live in the slums of great cities among the poor, to elevate them by their friendly intercourse. Her daughters have given themselves by hundreds to the religious life with its noble service. Her churches have been restored, and sanctity and charity become watchwords of her renewed life. Again is the Voice of the ancient Bishops and Fathers heard in the Pulpits. Again is the one sure and certain faith, Nicene, taught of old, proclaimed. Again the daily Sacrifice is offered on her altars. Again her Religious Orders tell of Christ's all-satisfying love to consecrated souls.
Everywhere fear and prejudice are being overcome and a more devotional service has been established. The truth of the old prophecy has been fulfilled
Again do long processions sweep through Lincoln's Minster pile;
Again do banner, cross and cope gleam thro' the incensed aisle;
And the faithful dead do claim their part in the Church's thankful prayer,
And the daily Sacrifice to God is duly offered there;
And many an earnest prayer ascends from many a hidden spot;
And England's Church is Catholic, though England's self be not.
It has been given to you, dear brethren of this honored parish, among whom by God's permission I so long labored (forgive the faults and shortcomings of my service), to bear your part in this Church revival.
It has been one marked in America and England by the mistakes, the errors, the shortsightedness, the faults of Christ's servants. As in all Church revivals, one aspect of the truth may by some of its adherents have been unduly pressed. There is always the danger, through seeing the importance of some forgotten truth, of not keeping the proportion of the faith. In some places the multiplication of ceremonial details of worship may have obscured the evangelical spirit. When ritualism concentrates our attention upon itself, it hinders our realization of the Divine Presence and so obstructs our worship. It is true disappointments have befallen us, and the Church has had to learn the lesson of all progress, that, as Burke said, "We buy our blessings at a price." Our position has been misunderstood, and consequently attacked by those within and those without our communion. "The church's time on earth," as Keble wrote, "is a time of crosses, not only of persecution and direct hostility, but of hopes frustrated and expectations unrealized." The movement had taught Churchmen the limits of the permitted toleration of the Prayer Book. It is not the extreme man who is the dangerous man, but he who is only extreme in one direction. The complete Churchman is the advanced man, the advanced man who has advanced in every direction until he has reached in all points the Prayer Book's circumference. We have met, we must still meet, with checks, for "our checks," as Dr. Pusey once said to me, "have been our greatest blessings." But because the movement was of God, it has gone on. Because it has a special message to New England, and to earnest thinkers and Christian workers of all bodies, we can be sure it has come to stay. When the unbelieving begin to taunt, "this sham of Christianity is breaking down," then the miracle of revival shows the Anglican Church to be full of the Resurrection power of her Lord. Naturalism may boast that grace and Sacraments are no longer needed, but no philosopher can supply the place of a living Temple and a living Christ. Church believers may at times become weary "with their toiling in rowing," but as it has ever been in the fourth watch of the night Christ is seen approaching on the waters. "When Israel was in the Brick Kiln then cometh Moses." May it not be that New England, having exhausted the spiritual resources of Calvinism and its natural reaction to Unitarianism, may now come under God's good providence to enjoy the Christian religion as enshrined by its Founder in the Living and Life-giving organism of the Church.
And so, dear brethren of this parish, as you look back this day and see through what God has led the Anglican Communion, look around upon your separated Christian brethren with charity, and look forward with confidence. You have entered into the sacrifice of others and are enjoying the fruits of their labor. Take heart of grace. Seek not your own salvation only. Live for humanity. Study the faith. Make known the faith. Live the faith. Fear nothing. Hope for everything. Meet all attacks with charity. Overcome all difficulties with prayer. No cause more noble, none that shall win a greater reward. "The Living and the dead but one communion make"; and the Apostles, the Doctors, and Confessors, and Saints, and those who have gone before are looking on, inspiring us by their presence, sustaining us by their prayers, and glorious in the assembly of the Saints is the radiant Person of our Blessed Lord, waiting to meet and bless with His fuller presence those who have here loved the habitation of His House and the place where His Honor dwelleth.
From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 8), edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914, pp. 379-397
Historical Note: The Church of the Advent, founded in 1844, celebrated the first mass in the partially completed current building at Mount Vernon and Brimmer Streets on Easter Sunday, 1879. Bishop Grafton (then Father Grafton) was rector from 1872-1888, leaving upon his election to the See of Fond du Lac. The building was completed in 1883, but it was not until 1894 that the mortgage was cancelled, allowing the consecration of the building to take place. The ceremony was performed on Saturday, December 1st, 1894, fifty years to the day from the first service on Merrimac Street, with Bishop Lawrence as celebrant, Bishop Grafton reading the Epistle and preaching this sermon, and Bishop Henry Adams Neily of Maine reading the Gospel.