Category Archives: Sermons

Reflections given as sermons or homilies at a public service. Members of our community take it in turns to preach to the whole community.

The struggle against homelessness

At noon this coming Tuesday, a small group of people will meet on Trinity Square just outside the south door of the church to remember all the people who have died homeless on the streets of our city. We will light candles, read the names of those who have died in the past month, hear remembrances from people who knew them, observe a short period of silence, read a poem, listen to a song, share announcements of events related to the struggle against homelessness and perhaps express some frustration at our inability to effect change. Then we will come inside the church for lunch.

On other days when the church is open to the public, homeless people will come and go. Some will sleep for hours on couches at the back of the church. Some will use the phone. Some will chat with the People Presence volunteer or with the caretaker on duty. Most will be quiet and respectful of the space. A few will be loud and disruptive. By virtue of their humanity, all will challenge us to treat them with dignity and respect. And, by their very presence, each one of them will challenge us to question what we can do, what we are doing, to make a real difference in their lives.

There is no question that the thing they need most is a home. There is no question that Holy Trinity has a role to play, and has long played a key role, in advocating for more affordable housing. There is no question that the work of advocacy is intense, that it consumes a lot of time and energy, and that those who are deeply involved in it have little time to respond in more immediate ways.

There is also no question that social change takes time and that, even when the public will to act is strong, houses are not built overnight. So as the behind the scenes advocacy work is going on ­ and just how much of that is going on at Holy Trinity right now? ­ the need remains for Holy Trinity to offer some level of hospitality to the homeless people who come here. Is it enough to let them sleep at the back of the church when the doors are open, give them an occasional cup of coffee and share our Sunday lunch with them? Could we be doing more, should we be doing more, to bring a measure of comfort and dignity to their lives right now?

Some people at Holy Trinity think we should and they are willing to take the lead in doing it. At a congregational meeting after the service next Sunday (January 13) they will be sharing a proposal and asking for the support of others. Please come and listen to what they have to say. Even if what they propose is not what you believe most needs to be done, please give them your attention and offer them your gratitude for the care for the homeless that they are expressing on behalf of this church. Let’s receive their proposal as a call to consider what Holy Trinity’s response to homelessness ought to be at this particular moment in its history and given that, by their very presence in our church, homeless people require a response from us.

Every one is expected. Everyone is included.

Church of the Holy Trinity – March 6, 2005 Homily
by Marilyn Dolmage

It’s been interesting for me to learn more about how worship is planned and shared at Holy Trinity – from this chance to participate. Susie invited a group of us to take part in Lenten worship and we all commented on how much we enjoyed the participatory nature of worship at HT and then had to get busy participating. But that contribution is wonderful.
And I greatly appreciate the support I have received from others in the Lenten worship series – Ian’s offer to coordinate; and meeting with Ian and Malcolm and my friend Betty; with Becca for the music; and Sara checking if I am okay. Continue reading Every one is expected. Everyone is included.

The Necessary Means of Salvation – Advent 1868


“the word of god” and “the church of god” the NfiCKSSARV


St. John, XV, 5.

” I am the Vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in Me and I in him,
the Bame bringeth forth much fruit, for without Me yc can do nothing.”

I have lately expressed, with such clearness of thought
and diction as I am able to command, my own conviction,
that there is little real practical readiness amongst us for
the coming of the Lord — that though He may be at hand,
even at the door, the whole tone of our devotion is miser-
ably low — that there is p, terrible spirit of utter worldliness
rife around us — that we shrink painfully from the thought
self-denial and entire consecration to the service of our Lord ;
that any nnusual earnestness and devotedness of life when
it is met with, tends to excite ridicule, when it does not


call forth censure and opposition. For now well nigh
thirty years I have been brought into close ■ ontact with
the ordinary mind in sacred things, and the conclusion is
often forced upon me that there is something in the whole
tone of popular Christianity so unlike its primitive pattern —
60 different from that literal representation of it which we
find in Holy Scripture, that the two are hardly to be
recognized as being the same even in many of their leading

When, on all sides, instead of living as brethren in the
same blessed household of faith — instead of dwelling to-
gether in unity, and with one mind and one mouth glorifying
God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we find bit-
ter strife and heartburnings, rife among the professed fol-
lowers of thePrince of Peace, separations and divisions of the
most aggravated character, growing out of causes the most
trivial and insignificant, controversies and j anglings about
opinions drawn by private interpretation from the Scrip-
tures—opinions which are diametrically the opposites ot
each other, and which being absolutely beyond the possi-
bility of reconciliation, cannot possibly be true. When I
say this spectacle is everywhere, and every day to be met
with, I confess that to me it is no great wonder that many
sincere people begin to doubt, whether Christianity (as they
see and understand it) is really the divine and blessed thing
which it is said to be. And I am ready further to acknow-
ledge, that my sorrow has been greater than my surprise
when, in going from door to door in this town, I have been
told by intelligent men, generally of the artizan class, (a class
who, though they may not have the opportunity of gaining
large views on such subjects, exercise a considerable amount ot
independent tlio..ght) to be told, I say, by such men, that be-
fore I undertook to instruct them in the truths of the Bible,
it would be well to assemble the teachers of the eighteen or

<0 twenty ” denominations ” into whicli christians are here di- ivided, each holding opinions conflicting with all the othersi and when as the result of our conference we had come to a un- animous agreement as to what the Bible meant, tJien it would be time enough to commence the work of their instruction. And what is this but the perfectly legitimate result of the Hcentious exercise of incompetent private opinion, leading to the reception or formation of those traditions, i.e.^ those ex- planations of the Word of God, which make it of none effect, either by obscuring its meaning or utterly explaining away its true and literal sense. Now, (as on Sunday last I sought to show) this conflict of opinion, destroying as it does all cer- tainty as regards truth, grows naturally and inevitably from the fact, that men, popularly speaking, have gradually lost all idea of the continued, outward, visible existence of that divine and spiritual kingdom which the God of Heaven was to set up on earth, and which should never be de- Btroved. The true vine — of which our Lord is the root — — ^His body mystical, the church — the trunk, and we who by holy baptism have been grafted into it — the branches — the Church of the living God, which is the pillar and ground of the truth. They have substituted for it, societies of their own formation, whose origin features, history and fate prove them to be purely human, and not divine : The ” Churches ” of men, but not ” t?ie Church of the living God.’* With this wide-spread loss of all scriptural notion of the Church, there necessarily follows the loss of all idea of her oflice as the keeper, the witness, and the divinely-appointed inter- preter of Holy writj and the result is that men, trying to understand the Bible by their own unaided power have to a great extent failed to do so, and have put almost as many different and conflicting meanings upon it as there are different minds. They have attempted to attain a most n of important end, but they have left out one element which is essentially necessary to the success of their attempt. The truth which Almighty God revealed by His blessed Son — the Faith which was once for all delivered to the saints — and by the heartfelt reception and practice of which we are to have our Lord come among us by a spiritual ad- vent, and so to incorporate His strength with our weakness, as to help us against our own sins and wickedness, was to be preserved pure, unadulterated, and unchanged by the proper and perpetual use of two of God’s most precious gifts to us — firet, the “Word of God, kept and explained by the other great gift, viz., the Church of God. Men in their self-suf- ficiency have chosen to make the foolish and futile attempt of securing this great end by the use of one of these means only, and the result is, the confusion, uncertainty and con- tradiction ; the alienation and bitterness of spirit which now BO painfully distinguishes popular Christianity. When Almighty God has ordained two mean’s, both of which are, by His appointment, essential to the attainment of any specific end, whether temporal or spiritual, and men either in ignorance or self-sufficiency choose to use only one, then they have no one but themselves to blame for any unhappy conspquences which may arise, because it is clearly the fruit of their own voluntary action. Our bodily life, e.ff., is supported by two means — food and drink. Both of these, in due proportion and combination, are es- sential to our healthy existence. If we used one of them only, then, irrespective of the evil consequences following directly from the loss of the other, the one of which we did partake, and which was intended to promote our welfare would produce, from want of combination with the other, results of the most distressing and fatal character. Scien- tific men can easily prove to us that the air we breathe and which is so proverbially necessary to our life, is com- * •>


pounded chiefly of two ingredients, which arc easily separ-
able. If we were to breathe one only of the elements of
which it is composed, suffering and death would be the
consequence. It is only when the two are properly com-
bined that tho end is secured, viz.. the maintenance of life.

Now it has pleased God that our spiritual life should also
be supported by the combination of two divine ingredients,
viz., the Word of God and the Church of God. If we
separate the two — if we destroy their combination by using
them in a manner which God did not intend, then from
the use ot one, however honestly or devoutly used, we shall
not obtain, and it is vain for us to expect to obtain, those
beneficial results which would flow from the right use of
both in combination.

This is not a mere theory, but a fact which really admits
of no question.

For the proof of it, look first to the large and numerous
Non-conformist bodies who have forsaken the ancient and
historic Church, and set up the various organizations which
they, in the exercise of their private judgement think,
strangely enough, to be more in accordance with the mind
of Christ than the Church founded by Himself. They
take one of the two elements necessary for our salvation,
viz., the Word of God ; and no one, unless lost to all sense
of christian candour, can doubt the earnestness, honesty and
deep devotedness with which it is used by multitudes am®ng
them ; but the aggregate result of their attempts to inter-
pret the Word of God without the Church of God, is that
almost infinite diversity of conflicting views which has
been referred to, and which is producing in many minds
very grave doubts as to the truth of christianit}’- itself. Look
now at the Roman branch of the Church. She professes great
reverence for the Word of God, but practically she has
taken it away from the people, and thus they, having to a.

great oxtont only the Chur;!li of God, suffer the inevitable
consequence of separating what God has joined together in
those assumptions, corruptions and novelties which at this
moment form the greatest obstacle to the re-union of
Ohristondom, on the principles of the Primitive and Catholic
Faith. • ,. • … •’

And now let us see where we have got to. A sound
faith, even that faith which was delivered to the saints, is
essential to a holy life ; but this faith, as far as we can see,
could not possibly have been maintained amidst this evil
world without ” the Word of God.” But even the Word
of God would not answer its purpose, unless its inie 7}uaning
was preserved, and, therefore, for this purpose, the Church
of God was constituted its authorized interpreter, an office
she discharges in the manner and under the limitations and
condition* which I endeavored to explain on Sunday even-
ing last.

Some persons who have not thought much on these sub-
jec^i, and who, without thought, are willing to accept as
correct any crude theory which may happen to prevail
around tliem, may perhaps be shocked to hear it said that
anything is needful for our spiritual welfare but the Bible,
ai. ^ the Bible alone. “Are not the Scriptures,” such people
say, ” able to make us wise unto salvation, through faith,
in Christ Jesus, and what can we want more than that ?
Does not Christ dwell in the heart by faith, which is the
gift of God, and if so, why thus attempt to magnify the
office of the Church ? ” The reply to these questions is
very simple, and it is this : that the Bible itself, human
experience and common sense combined, serve to shew, that
without the Church of God, the Word of God could not be
obeyed. “Wlio, that has any trace of christian earnestness
within him, but knows and feels that we arc sore let and

Jiindcred in running the race that is set before us, by reason


of oar own sirva and wickedness ? Who lias not been dis-
tressed and cast down by the sense of his own weakness to
overcome what is evil, produced by the breaking of his
Btrongest resolutions against it ? Who is insensible to his
own coldness and deadness in prayer, and to his want ot
deep, conscious, constraining love to Christ ? Now who
can save us from ourselves but Him, and Ijow is He to do
it unless Ho raises up Ilia power and comes among us —
yea, into us — and with great might sucours us^? And how
is that succour given but by union with Him ; by His mak-
ing: Himself one with us, so that we’ who, severed from Him
can do nothing, may be enabled to do all things through
Christ, that stre;igthenetli us ? Now, if the Holy Scriptures
teach us anything distinctly, it is that this union is brought
about by the instrumentality of those means of grace which
Christ Himself appointed for this very end, and which are
administered only in and by His Church. How were the
first believers added to the church ? How grafted into the
True Vine, from Whom alone they could derive the spiritual
life which was to makt them fruitful in holiness — how but
by being baptized into Christ, and thus, as St. Paul says,
” putting on Christ.” And how is the union, or incorpora-
tion thus effected to be maintained or kept up, but by
worthy and continual participation in that heavenly food
which makes or keeps us one with Christ — ” He that eateth
My flesh and drinketh My blood dwelleth in Me and I in
him.” Our Lord in Holy Scripture commands us to ob-
serve these His ordinances ; but to obey these precepts of
” the Word of God ” we must have ” the Church of God,”
for nowhere else can we be sure of finding either baptism
or the supper of the Lord, both “of which are generally
necessary to salvation. It will not do to say that ftiith
alone will suffice, for a faith which does not.|lead to obedi-
ence is a dead faith. The faith of the 3,000 converted by


St. Peter led them immediately to be baptized, and so with
all those of whom we read in the Holy Scriptures. But this
could not have been, unless there had been the duly com-
missioned officers of the Church, authorized to baptize them,
and afterwards to break to them the bread of life in the
Holy Eucharist. Is anyone allowed to do these things ‘<
surely not. Only those whom our Lord sent, and com-
missioned to send others, saying ” Go ye and baptize — go
YE and teach.” As long, my christian brethren, as the
Bible lasts, it will be a vain attempt to ignore the Church,
and suppose that any half dozen people who choose to as-
semble together can, if they please, constitute themselves
into a society for the administration of God’s sacraments.
Men could just as easily make a new Bible as a new Church.
She is not of human, but of heavenly workmanship. She is
as a ship sailing over the sea of this evil, stormy world,
amid whose wild waves of sin and unbelief the souls of men
are perishing. Christ, by His ministei*s within the ship,
throws — so to speak — the rope of His ordinances to those
struggling in the waters, in hope of saving them. Faith is
the hand by which they lay hold upon this rope : a: id thus
we see why it is that without faith we cannot be saved, for
without it we can no more be drawn to Christ than a
drowning man could, without hands, grasp the rope thrown
to him in the waters. Christ is our only Saviour. We,
notwithstanding all our provocations, are the sinners who,
at the price of His most precious blood, He vouchsafes to
save, and the means or instruments by which it pleases
Him to save us are those ordinances which He has appoint-
ed in His church for this very end. iJe might, if He had
BO pleased, have appointed a thousand other means of bring-
ing us into union with Himself; but He in His love and
wisdom, has not seen fit to do so, and it will not do for us
to neglect His ways for others of our own devising. God’s


Word and God’s Church are the means appointed for our sal-
vation, and it is by the loving, trusting, reverent and de-
vout use of both that we are alone warranted in believing
that we shall really be ready for the judgment of the great
dav. It is because we fail to understand and to use both?
that Christianity displays the melancholy spectacle which it
now exhibits, and that the standard of our spiritual life is
so wretchedly low and stunted.

We, who through God’s great mercy have been led to a
fuller, firmer grasp of these truths, have a high mission to
fulfil, though its nature is often grotesquely misunderstood.
People look at our love for the decencies of divine worship,
at our efforts to adorn the house of prayer, or to bear our-
selves devoutly in the presence of the Most High, and they
think and say that these outward things are all we care for-
They seem incapable of comprehending +hat these things
are but the outermost fringe of our inner life, the mere
trivial external indications of our having, through God’s
grace, been awakened to the unspeakable importance of an
awfully forgotten part of God’s eternal Truth. The great
mission which has been divinely committed to us is to
make men recoajnize the srreat fact that the means bv
which we are to be brought into union, and kept in real close
living communion with the Lord, is through the instrument-
ality of His Body the Church. Men at this day profess to value
the Word of God ; but losing, as they have done, its true
meaning, they begin to doubt its authority, and it is our
work to make them see that in the Church of God we have a
divinely authorized inter} ncter of the Word of God, and that
by the combined action of both we are to be saved from error
of doctrine, and viciousness of life, and made ready for
the day of judgment. We shall be (as we are) denounced
and suspected, feared, and calumniated, as was our
Master of old, but we sJmU succeed as surely as truth gains



the victory in its conflict with error ; as certainly as the
brightness of the day banishes the obscurity of night. And
now one word only to those who sympathize with us in oar
work. Let not your sympathy be a merely intellectual one.
Let us by our spirit, our life, our actions, show beyond all dis-
pute, that this movement is deeply, truly, earnestly religious.
Oh, I dread, in my own case, and in the case ot others, a
mere assent, a mere mental recognition of the truth, that our
loving Lord is yet among us by His Mystical Body, and that
it should have no effect on our hearts and conduct. O ye,
who know that you are bronchos in the True Vine, see that
ye so abide in Him, that ye bring forth much fruit. Let
your love for His church lead you to prove its sincerity, by
following the holy footsteps of His life Who is Her Head and
Lord ; and thus shall we hasten the blessed day, when
t’nere shall be one Fold and one Shepherd, and when Zion
shall be built as a city that is at unity in itself.

The Reasonableness of Accepting the Other’s Interpretation of Holy Scriptures – Advent 1868



I Timothy, III, 15.
” The Church, which is the pillar and ground of tho tmth.*

The teachings of the Advent season are perhaps the clear-
est and most definite in the Prayer Book. The thought of
the coming judgment, kept up by the constant repetition of
the collect for the first Sunday, pervades all the services like
a solemn undertone. On the second Sunday, the “Word of
God, and on this, the third Sunday, the Church of God are
then set before us as the Divinely appointed means of pre-
paring for that judgment ; while on the concluding Sunday
the result which ought to flow from the proper use of these
means is suggested to us, viz : the bringing each of us into
closer communion with our Lord so that by His strength
we may gain the victory over those evils which hinder us
in running the race set before us, even our own sins and

On Sunday morning last I spoke of the Holy Scriptures and
endeavored to show how men are at the present day mak-
ing them of none effect by their traditions, i. e., their explana-
tions of the Word of God, which, instead of interpreting it,
really explain away and neutralize its true meaning. Now
we must remember that the true meaning of Scripture
is Scripture, but the great difficulty is — on the theory on
which men in the present day generally proceed — to find out
what that true meaning is ; and that difficulty arises in a
great measure because people have explained away such a
passage as that contained in the text. They havo lost all



I i


idea of the Church as a living body-, the body of Christ. They
have made the Scripture doctrine concerning it of none
effect by their tradition.

The popular idea, widely prevalent at present, is that God
revealed Himself to mankind by means of a book, viz., the
Bible — that those who wrote it, under the influence of the
Holy Spirit, had not much more to do with it than the pens
by which it was written ; that being thus written it became
the duty of every man to read this book and to form his
own faith from it ; that having done so, they were to assem-
ble and form a church in agreement with their idea of its
directions, and to receive its doctrines and precepts as they
severally understood them. Each person is to interpret
the Book for himself, and the theory in the minds of most
men among us at the present day, is that that we do, in
some way, think for ourselves in religion with the Bible only
as our authority. It is not true — it is a mere fallacy which
people practice upon themselves, but they like to fancy that
it is so. The fact is, and it is one for which we should
be deeply thankful, that the majority of earnest persons —
whether they are conscious of it or not — accept the Bible
very much in the sense which the church gives it — reading
it in the only rational way, viz : in the light of the creeds,
catechism ajid liturgy of the Church which Holy Scripture
says is the Pillar and Ground of the truth.

Now let us look for a moment at this theory which is in
such high favor with the multitude, and at some of the
results flowing from it. According to it, every man is to
interpret the Bible for himself. I will not dwell on the
very important fact of the impossibility of every man being
able to prove satisfactorily that what we call the Bible is
really such. There is no doubt that it is so, but it is impos-
sible for every man tojp7’ove it by his own unaided powers
and reason. But, supposing that point is granted, how is



it. They
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every man to ascertain and decide upon its true meaning I
” Oh,” people say, ” you have only to read it carefully and
pray for guidance and you will be sure to be led to the
truth.” That is easily said, but is it true ? If it is, how are
we to account for the indisputable fact that men of honesty,
learning and devoutness differ so widely? Churchmen, Ro-
man Catholics, Presbyterians, Quakers, Baptists, Congrega-
tionalists, Unitarians, ITniversalists, and many more, read it
earnestly, and pray over it devoutly, and yet they come to
conclusions as to its meaning which are utterly and abso-
lutely irreconcileable. In point of fact it is a Book which is,
and (if it is what we hold it to be) must be, very deep and
difficult. It is not, whatever men may say, to be treated
” like any other book,” and its difficulty andmysteriousness is
evident from the one undeniable fact of the variety ol interpre.
tation, of which it is the subject. If there was no difficulty
in understanding it ; if ” every man ” is competent to do so,
there would be no difference of opinion regarding its mean-
ing. In fact, as you remember, St. Peter says expressly
that it is difficult, and because of this difficulty it is also
dangerous, unless properly used. He says that in some parts
are ” things hard to be understood.” Here is the acknow-
ledgment of the difficulty, and these difficult passages, he
adds, ” they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they
also the other Scriptures do to their own destruction,”
which is surely a sufficiently alarming statement con-
cerning the danger of the misuse of the Word of God.
This, I repeat, is what St. Peter, speaking by the Holy Ghost,
distinctly asserts — but I shall not be in the least surprised
to hear next week that, as the penalty of quoting his words,
I am charged with stating publicly that it is a highly dan-
gerous thing for the people generally to read the Bible,
which, of course, is exactly contrary both to what I think
and what I say. But though this is the statement of St,


I !

Peter, few men now-a-days, however, unlearned or unstable,
hesitate to set themselves up as the final judges — each, in his
own case — of what is scriptural or unscriptural, and hence
what one man declares to bo in accordance with the “Word
of God, the next asserts to be rank heresy ; and, if one of
these be equal to the other in general intelligence and hon-
esty of purpose, it is very difficult to see why, upon the pop-
ular theory of every man being his own interpreter — one is
not just as likely to be right as the other.

A great stir has of late years been made by the publica-
tions of Dr. Colenso. lie is a man whose native powers of
intellect are undoubtedly great. His attainments in some
branches of science arc conspicuous, and his general acquire-
ments far above the average. He must also be a sincere
and bold man or he Avould never, for the sake of his convic-
tions, have ventured to place himself in such a position or
have incurred such a storm of opposition as he has volun-
tarily done. But it is hard to see why — on the popular the-
ory, raind^ie should be so denounced. He has only done
what that theory loudly declares is a right thing to do.
He has examined the Scriptures for himself and formed his
own opinions of them and from them. You think his opinions
wrong. / am certain they are heretical ; but on what do
we base this conviction ? Are we better able to interpret
Scripture than he is ? , Are we so superior to him in powers
and attainments that our views must be right and his wrong ?
Have we given any greater evidence of sincerity than he
has done ? and, if not, if on the contrary, in all these par-
ticulars, we, as individuals, stand far below him, why should
not HE be more likely to be right than w^e are, i. ower8 of
\ in some
a, sincere
8 convic-
sition or
as volun-
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rmed liis
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prevailing theory requires as a right thing to do — is a wrong
thing ; a thing that God never intended that we should do, and
I assert that the Holy Scriptures should be devoutly read, but
with quite another purpose than that of each one manufac-
turing from them a system of opinion and doctrine for himself.

For example, I have no manner of doubt or question that
the writer who has been referred to is a heretic in the Scrip •
ture sense of the term ; that he has assaulted the very foun-
dations of Christianity, and that he has done what in him
lies to take the very heart out of the Gospel ; but the absolute
firmness of this conclusion could not possibly arise from any
idea of equality ,with much less superiority to the writer allud-
ed to, either in original mental power or in those attainments
which fit us for the investigation of difficult subjects. On
the contrary, there is no comparison to be made in the case,
but that fact does not in the least degree disturb the abso-
lute rest with which I entertain my convictions, because I
base them not on anything so utterly weak and worthless
as my individual powers of settling such questions, but on
the immoveable foundation of the decisions of the whole
Church of the living God — that Church which the Scripture
says is the Pillar and Ground of the truth.

Now, let me try to show you why we hold it to be a most
reasonable thing thus to rest upon the decisions of the
Church of God. That our Heavenly Father revealed Him-
self to mankind by means of a book is simply not true. He
never has done what (on the popular theory referred to)
many well meaning people suppose Him to have done. Pie
revealed Himself to us, the Scripture says, by His Son—
” God, who at sunJiry times and in divers manners, spake
unto the fathers by the Prophets, hath in these last days
spoken unto us by His Son.” That Blessed Son Who is
Himself the Truth, and by Whom grace and truth eame,com-
mitted the deposit of the faith to those chosen men whom

, ,,,




i i




He had chosen, and whom alone He appointed and com-
missioned to build up, rule and teach His Church. ” Go
TB,” He said, ” and make disciples of all nations. Go ye
and baptize them. Go te and teach them to observe all
things that I have commanded you, and lo I am with you
(and with you only) always, even unto the end of the world.”
They obeyed this Divine command — they organized, devel-
oped and governed His Church, which i& the pillar and
ground of the truth. The truth at that time could have no
other possible ground or pillar, for the world was lying in
darkness. By the instrumentality ot those whom our Lord
appointed, multitudes ^^ ere brought into it, trained in the
ways of holiness, and fitted for the hour of death and for
the Day of Judgment, who never saw one word of the New
Testament, for the best of all reasons, that not one word of
it was written. Yet inasmuch as they were taught by those
who were commissioned by our Lord and inspired by His
Spirit, no one, I suppose, doubts that they held the faith in
its purity and completeness. But since the fallibility ot
man was likely to corrupt the faith, it became necessary in
course of time, that the history of our Lord’s life should be
written, and certain epistles, growing out of various exig-
encies of the time, were, in the course of years, addressed
by the Apostles to several branches of the one Church
which they had founded and instructed in the faith. These
writings were eventually declared by the Church to be in-
spired by the Holy Ghost and to set forth Divine proof and
evidence of those truths which she was commissioned to tea ^h.
It never entered the mind of any primitive christian that he
was to take these writings and form from them his own creed,
irrespective of the teachings and authority of the Church
which placed them in his hands. St. Luke, you remember,
expressly says that having had perfect understanding of all
things from the yeiy beginning, he had undertaken to set them


id com-
. “Go


lerve all

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have no

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that he

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let them

forth in his Gospel. “Why ? That those to whom he wrote
might know the certainty of those things wherein they had
BEEN instructed, i, e. had been instructed by the already exist-
ing Church long before the Gospel had been written. If any
one had taken these writings (as so many in later years have
done) and worked out from them a sense altogether different
from that in which the disciples had been previously instruct-
ed, it must necessarily have been a wrong sense. It might, by
some specious and ingenious wresting of the words, be made
to looh as if it was supported by Scripture, but it could not
be so, for those who by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost
had taught the disciples before the Scriptures were written,
could not, by the inspiration of the same Spirit, have in-
structed them in a different and conflicting set of truths in the:
Kew Testament. The real meaning of Scripture (which
alone is Scripture) must have been known to those to whom
it was originally addressed,^ecause they were fully instructed
by those by whom it was written, and therefore we are safe
only when we receive it and understand it in the sense in.
which it is held by the Church of the Living God, which is
the pillar and ground of the truth. And now, although I
must trespass somewhat on your patience by detainiiig you
a little longer than it is our custom to do, I am unwilling,
to leave my argument incomplete, which would neces-
sarily be the case if I was to stop now. The subject is im-
portant, and ought not to be without interest, seeing that it
refers to a matter which has been a source of perpJexity to
many honest minded persons. Any one who has followed
the train of reasoning which I am endcavoiing to set forth,
will probably say,’ that after all, the difficulty has been re-
moved only one step further off, but has met with no solu-
tion. The question was how shall we know the true mean-
ing of Holy Scripture ? and we are told that we are to un-
derstand it in the sense held by the Church^ But how are


I tin!


we to be certain what that sense is, and which of the con-
flicting branches of the Church we are to obey ? The Ori-
ental or Greek Church, by refusing to accept certain words
in the Kicene creed, seems to deny that the Holy Ghost
proceeds from the Son as well as from the Father — the Ro-
man Church imposes on its members the new dogma of the
Imacculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin ; the Anglican
Church sets forth much that many pi ous nonconfonnists reject.
A so-called (Ecumenical Council is next year to be held in
Rome, and judging from the past, it may set forth some new
article of faith which was never heard of before. Are people
to accept that, too, as the true sense of Scripture? These
are perfectly reasonable questions, and the answer to them
is contained in the famous rule of Tertullian, a writer of the
second century, which is this : ” Whatever is lirst is true,
whatever is later is adulterate.” Since the Church of the
living God has by man’s sins been rent into three parts, the
Greek, Roman and Anglican, she has lost her voice, (so to
speak), or if she speaks she has not the assurance which she
once possessed of speaking rightly. The promise of being
led into all truth cannot be justly claimed by any one part
of the Church, because it was given to the whole and not
to any particular section of it. It is only those inter-
pretations of the Holy Scriptures therefore which she gave
when she was one and undivided, that are of unquestionable
authority. When in God’s good time she shall again be one,Qh.e
will be enabled once more to speak with a voice unhesitat-
ing and irresistible, but not before. But thank God we do
not need any fresh definitions of the faith. It was once
for all delivered to the Saints long before Holy Scripture
was written ; and in her undivided days the Church, the
pillar and ground of truth, told us what that faith was with
perfect distinctness and appeals to the Word of God to prove
the certainty of those tilings in which she instructs us. She


has spoken in the ancient Catholic creeds, in her liturgies, for-
mularies, sacraments and rites, and from these we may, if we
will, readily and certainly learn her decisions on all the great
articles of the faith. This is the doctrine of the Church of
England on the subject,as every one may see who will examine
the XXth Art.,wherein it is said that the Church is the keeper
or guardian of Holy Scripture— tlie witness to its true meaning
and is of authority in controversies of faith: i.e.she has author-
ity to decide them, and yet that it re not lawful for her be-
cause it would be a violation of her special office, to ordain
anything that is contrary to God’s Word written, or so to
expound one place of Scripture as to be repugnant to an-
other. But, how, it will be asked, does she exert this au-
thority and express her decision on controverted points ?
That is a question not hard to answer. There is e. g.: a
long standing controversy about the government of the
Church by Bishops, Priests and Deacons. She decides the
point for us with no hesitating voice. She says : ” It is evi-
dent unto all men, diligently reading Holy Scripture and
ancient authors that from the Apostles times there have been
these orders ofministers in Christ’s Church, Bishops, Priests
and Deacons.” (pref to ordinal in the Prayer Book.) There is
another controversy about infant baptism. She gives her in-
terpretation of Holy Scripture on the point by ordering that
her people shall not delay the baptism of their children longer
than the first or second Sunday after their birth. There is
another dispute about the eifect of baptism ; but her de-
cision is most clear and difinite for she requires her minis-
ters, after the baptism of every child, to thank God that He
hath been pleased to regenerate that child by His Holy
Spirit. There is another controversy about the benefits of
the Holy Communion and the reality of Christ’s presence.
She decides the controversy by saying that we spiritually
eat the flesh of Christ and drink His blood, which she fur-


tlier asserts are verily cmd indeed taken and received by the,
faithful in the Lord’s Supper. So with the Calvinist, the.
Unitarian and Universalist controversies. She speaks on
those subjects with a clear and delinite voice, and these de-
cisions are not those of the Church ot England only, but of
the whole Catliolic Church. They were unquestioned with-
in her vast and undivided communion for 1 ,500 years. Chris-
tians from the beginning had been instructed in them by
the Church, and Holy Scripture was afterwards written that,
they might know the certainty of those things in which,
they had been previously instructed. A few men arose some.
1500 years after Christ and set themselves to deny the teach-
ings of the Primitive Church on these points and drew from
the Holy Scripture a new sense which had never been heard
of before, and which, being new, must consequently be false.
Against the presumption of such a proceeding, the English
branch of the Catholic Church emphatically protests. She.
warns her clergy that they teach nothing but what is in .
agreement with the doctrine of “the ancient fathers and
Catholic doctors (i. e., teachers) of the Church,” for she
holds it to be a monstrous supposition that the Church of
the living God, which is the pillar and ground of the truth?
should everywhere have been wrong for 1500 years, and that
Christ should, contrary to His own promise, have allowed
the gates of Hell to prevail against it, which would have
been the case had she been allowed to deny the faith.

The reply to all this is a very natural one, and is doubt-
less present at this moment in the minds of many of those
who have taken the trouble to follow the argument which
has been set before them. It is this : how can all this bo
so plain and definite as you endeavor to make out, when it
is a fact which is notorious that many, even among the clergy
themselves, hold the most opposite opinions on many of these
points ? That is simply the result of men prefelring their


I by the.
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g their

own private interpretations to the teaching and theory of
the Church, and this leads me to conclude with one piece of
plain, practical advice. “When a clergyman is officiating in
the reading desk, at the font, or at tha altar, his voice is
the voice of the Church ; for he is allowed to add nothing of
his own to her creeds, offices or liturgy ; but in private con-
versation, or in the pulpit, it is his own voice and therefore
you have no security against error, unless his words are in
agreement with those of the Church, because he may choose
to put his own private interpretation upon the Holy Scrip-
ture instead of taking her explanation of it. Therefore it is
a safe rule always to believe him when in the desk, or else-
where, he uses the Divine offices, and always disbelieye him
when in the pulpit he contradicts what he had uttered
when speaking as the mouth-piece of the Church.

Such things unhappily do happen. A clergyman will, at
the font, thank God that it hath pleased God to regenerate
some child whom he has just baptised, and in the pulpit will
immediately afterwards declare that to suppose that children
are necessarily regenerated in baptism is “a soul destroy-
ing heresy.” JBoth cannot possibly be right. Which is
most likely to be so — the whole Church of the living God,
in all time and in every place — the Church which St. Paul
says is the pillar and ground of the truth, or the individual
clergyman who, on the strength of his own personal infalli-
bility, undertakes to pronounce her wrong ?

My sermon has been a long chain of dry and, perhaps to
some, rather hard reasoning, and I have now no time and
you can have no patience for exhortation or what is called
” practical application.” I hope, however, on Sunday morn-
ing next, D. Y., to point out (if I shall find the time for the
necessary preparation) what ought to be the effect upon our
souls, of a due, reverent and reasonable use of the Word of
God and of the Church of God. I have endeavored to b©


as clear and explicit as possible. I set forth these views in
no spirit of dogmatism ; I simply state them as conclusions
to which honest thought and such poor reading as a busy
life permits, has brought the mind of one who has not
been insensible to the doubts and difficulties which
encompass so important a subject, and I pray God that they
may be instrumental in leading others to the same restfulness
of mind, which they have conferred upon myself. The
Word of God is the sheet anchor of our hopes in these
dangerous days, but its value depends upon our understand-
ing it rightly. Take away from us its blessed light, or
misinterpret its holy teachings, and we are left without
comfort in this life and without hope tor the life to come.

God’s Word Made of None Effect by Man’s Tradition – Advent 1868


god’s word made of none effect by man’s tradition.

St. Mark VII, 13.

•’ Making the word of God of none effect through your traditions.”

The Saviour’s rebuke to the Pharisees, which this text
contains, arose from the fact that Avhile Almighty God, by
the mouth of His servant Moses, had distinctly commanded
His people to honour their parents, a traditional explanation
of this law made it without effect, by leading the people to
suppose that they were complying with the Divine Will,
at the very moment when they were openly disobeying the
plain letter of the word of God. Now on this Sunday, the
Church, by her services, leads us to consider the Holy
Scriptures as a means of preparing for the second advent of
our Lord — and doubtless one great reason why there is so
little readiness for that event is, that though pro.
fessing a great regard for Scripture, we do really to a
very fearful extent make it of no effect by our traditions.
The Bible speaks with great distinctness of a coming day.
when the last fearful struggle shall take place between faith
and unbelief, between Christ and Anti-Christ, and it seems
to me, hardly possible to doubt, that this last strife is rapidly




IS so

approacliing. It is clear from Holy Scripture that Anti-Christ
is to be a great infidel power, and not any form of Christianity
however corrupt we may esteem it to be. It may be thought
strange that an injldel Anti-Christ should arise in a Christian
country, or stranger still, that if he should do iso he should
find the multitudes to follow him which Scripture predicts.
But we must bear in mind that the ultimate development of
this great infidel power, will be only the completion of a
system of unbelief, for which there has been a long preparation.
That preparation is going on now. It is making great pro-
gress not only among those who are consciously laboring for
this «^nd, but among those who would be utterly shocked at
the idea of infidelity. Now one of the most alarming signs of
this state of things is apparent in the way in which Holy
Scripture is treated by many of the educated and intellectual
classes, and the manner in which it is made of none effect by
corrupt traditions prevailing among the masses of the people.
The tendencies of the former class have of late years become
very definite and pronounced. They have found their most
distinct utterances in the heretical publications of the deposed
Bishop c^ Natal, Dr. Colenso, who pronounces the Old
Testamc > be ” unhistorical,” i. e. unworthy of belief,
and who eliminates from, or drops out of the New Testa-
ment, those special doctrines of grace, which form the only
hope and comfort of sinful men like ourselves.

He finds a large amount of sympathy and support among
men. of that school of thought, who are known as Broad
Churchmen; men who in the celebrated “Essays andReviews”
gave such a specimen of what they called ^\free handling^” oi
the Word of God as shocked every one who devoutly believes
the Bible to be a revelation from heaven. It is much to be
lamented, that the opinions of these persons are more or
less adopted by many of the scientific men of the day, and
by many of the younger members of the educated classes.

‘ i


But the same evil tendency is manifesting itself every-
where, and (though in a more latent and insidious form) is
making itself apparent among people who profess the most
unbounded regard for the Bible, and claim to be distinctively
and specially religious. The peculiar form in which this
unbelieving spirit shews itself in the latter class, is in making
the Word of God of none effect, becausb they do not take
it just as it stands, but insist on understanding it, not ac-
cording to its plain literal meaning, but according to
tradition, i. e. to some erroneous explanation devised by
some individual or party, and handed down as the true inter-
pretation. Pert,ons who accept these traditions,can sometimes
be forced to acknowledge that Scripture does say things
which are very contrary to their opinions, but they at once
get out of the difficulty by falling back on their tradition
which proves, (to them at least) that it does not mean what
it says. Thus the authority of the Holy Scripture is being
rapidly undermined, the force of its teachings is neutralized
and the way prepared for the denial of its inspiration. Now
the secret ot this strong tendency, to make the Bible speak,
not according to its own tenor, but in conformity with
what we think it ought to say, is owing to weakness of faith,
to a spirit of latent unbelief, and to the strong inclination,
everywhere apparent, to judge of the credibility of its state-
njents by the test of our reason. Prompted by these
influences, we adopt a tradition or devise an explanation,
which relieves us from the difficulties which we find in
Holy Scriptures by explaining them away, and this applies
both to doctrines and duties.

Take for example, the fact, that the Bible speaks constantly
of something which it calls, ” the Kingdom of Heaven”^ and
” the Kingdom of God.”” Now what can this expression
mean? It cannot (in a multitude of places) mean the King-
dom of Glory on High, for this simple reason that it is des-

irm) i3
le most
sli this
>t take
not ac-
ing to
sed by
e inter-
at once
m what
3 being

} speak,
;y Avitli
Df faith,
ts state-



find in


^n” and
e King-
it i& dea-


cribed as being made” up of good and bad. We are therefore
forced to the conclusion that it must mean the Church of
Christ on Earth. N’ow what does Holy Scripture say about
this Kingdom. It says that it is like a net in which there
are good fi,:h and bad — like a field in which there are wheat
and tares — like a vine with dead branches and living ones —
like a company of ten virgins of ^\ horn five were wise and five
were foolish — like a threshimx floor whereon is Iving wheat
and chaff” — it it> a body, of which our Lord is the Head — a
bride of whom lie is the Sponse — a Kingdom of which he
is the King, and this Kingdom was built up upon the foun-
dation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself,
being the head corner stone. Therefore as the foundations
of a building are its beginning, so this Kingdom must have
had its commencement with those who were its founders, and
it could not possibly have had any subsequent beginning —
and the Kingdom thus begun was to have no End, but was
to last for ever.

1^0 w from these statements of Holy Scripture what in-
ferences can be drawn but that the Church is one. Why
Because our Lord likens it to things that are one. He says
it is like a field — a net — a threshing floor — a vine &c., &c.
Kext we must infer that it must be visible : why ? because
He says that it is lihe things which can be seen. Again it
is clear that it must be made up of good and evil, for He says
it is like a field with wheat and tares — a net with good fish
and bad. It is further manifest that this one visible
kingdom was begun by our Lord, in Judea, 1800 years ago,
and the express promise of Holy Scriptures is that it should
never be destroyed but that He should be with it always
even unto the end of the world. Now as you all know, this
is what Holy Scriptures says, but do the bulk of the people
among us, who profess to prize the Scriptures, believe it ?
By no ineans. They scoff at it — they denounce it — they are


bitterly set against it: why? because they, unconsciously,
make the Word of God of none effect by a most untenable
tradition. They are indeed compelled by the force of Scrip-
ture to admit, though, in a sense altogether different from
that of Holy Scripture that the kingdom of heaven, i. e. the
Church of Christ on earth is one, but instead of being, as our
Lord says it is, like something that can be seen, they hold it
to be invisible. Instead of being made up of good and bad —
wheat and tares, as our Lord calls them ; they teach that
this invisible church of their own devising, is made up of the
good only ; that its outward form is left to the mere will and
inclination of men, that it may be rent into a thousand sepa-
rate and complicating atoms, which may take their rise at any
time or place, and through the instrumentality of any person,
and then may pass away, to be reproduced again in some
other form. The great doctrine of the unity of the Church,
which is the Body of Christ, of which the Scripture em-
phatically says, that there is but “one body,” is made utterly
without effect, by this most preposterous tradition. The
practical result is, that we have multitudes of what are called
” Churches” which were not founded by Christ, which did
not originate in Judea, and which instead of dating back for
more than 1800 years are but of yesterday. The consequence
is that the Saviour’s dying prayer is not fulfilled. We are
not one^ and therefore the world does not believe that He
came to be its Redeemer.

The very same thing can be conclusively proved witli
reference to the doctrines of Holy Baptism, Holy Com-
munion and many others. The Scriptures speak clearly,
positively, distinctly, but men stumble at its hard sayings and
make them of none effect, through their corrupt traditions.

As it is with doctrines so it is with duties, but time will
not allow me to dwell upon them. I shall refer only to one.
M!any able and earnest men have shown, as I believe, con-


clusively that Holy Scripture demands from Christians the
tenth of all their increase for the honor ot God, and I am
aware of only one work in which this view of the subject has
been attempted, to be formally disproved. That work has
been answered over aiul over again ; but do the bulk of
those V ho are ever lauding the Holy Scriptures, believe
what they say on this subject, and endeavour to practice
the pr3cepts which tliey confessedly contain ? On the con-
trary, the notion of such obedience rather tends to excite
the merriment of those who are exhorted to it and the “Word
of God, in this, as so in many other points, is made of none
effect through human tradition. And as with doctrines and
duties, so with sins. For example, though the Bible says
that there should be no division amongst us, that there should
be no schism in the Body of Christ, that we should be perfect-
ly joined together in the same mind and in the same judg-
ment, that divisions are a great sin, the sign 6f a weak, carnal,
sensual state and that those who cause them should be avoid-
ed ; though the Bible says this and much more than this, do
people really believe it ? Not at all my Brethren, they laugh
at or resent as bigotry the idea of regarding schism as a
sin, and thus they make the Word of God of none effect
by their tradition.

Now, my Christian Brethren, let me impress upon you
that this is not only a great but it is a growing evil. These
are not the only doctrines which are being undermined and
denied in consequence of corrupt tradition. The doctrines
of the Eternity of punishment, of the ever blessed Trinity,
of the Atonement and Divinity of our Lord are being ex-
posed to the same influences, and those who are trying to
lead the popular mind in this direction will not be satisfied
until they banish from the minds of their followers the
idea that there is anything supernatural in Christianity,
and if that be the case it is not worth contending for.


Take away the truth of the Bible, either by direct atisault or
by corrupt tradition, and you leave us upon the dark and
stormy sea of this life without compass to steer by, or rudder
to direct us. We cannot then be ready for the judgment
for we know not whether there is to be a judgment at all,
nor can wo be sure even of the existence of another life.
I’here caa be no hope for us amidst our sins, no comfort in
our sorrow^, no peace amid the manifold perturbations ot
this uneasy life, because all assurance of future pardon, and
rest and glory would then be taken away. As then we
value all the inestimable blessings which our Holy Faith
confei*s, as we hope for calmness on the bed of death and
a holy boldness on the day of judgment, let us hold fast
to every tittle of the Word of God. Let us beware how
we venture to explain away its explicit language under the
influence of popular and erroneous tradition, and when
doubt, — real, honest, anxious doubt as to what our Lord’s
will is, arises in our mind, let us remember that the Church
of Christ is the keeper of Holy Writ and the witness as to
Hs true meaning, and that she is of authority in controver-
sies of faith. How it is that she gives her decision on con-
troverted points, and the reasonableness and safety of
yielding to her authority may perhaps engage our attention
upon Sunday evening next.