Whole church

Daily Reading for July 27 • William Reed Huntington, Priest, 1909

Experience has shown it to be possible for men to live peaceably together within the same national limits and under the same flag who differ very widely in political opinions—so widely, in fact, that in old times the notion of including such discordant elements within a single civil framework would have been scouted as an “iridescent dream.” . . . God forbid that I should commend to your confidence that thin and sickly caricature of Catholicity which would bring men into one Church by bidding them first divest themselves of whatever is especially characteristic of their present and past belongings! That sort of thing is sometimes commended to us under the name of “unsectarian religion,” and a very insipid nostrum it is. I distrust the forestry which under the pretext of unifying the trees of the wood begins by commanding the birch to denude itself of its peculiar bark, the oak to cast away its distinctive leaf, and the cedar to shed its cones. What should we have left but a totally uninteresting collection of bare poles?

The question to be propounded to the various groups of believers into which our American Christendom is broken up is not, Of how much are you willing to bereave yourselves for harmony’s sake? but this: Of how much stand you possessed which you consider worth contributing to the common fund? The author of the popular rhyme, “No Sect in Heaven,” meant well, and moreover hit upon a felicitous title; for it is as certain that there will be no sect there as it is that there will be no night there; but is it so certain that the unity of the heavenly Church is to follow, as effect from cause, upon the casting away as rubbish of whatever can be shown to have distinguished one portion of Christ’s flock from another here on earth? I cannot think it. I do not believe that it will be made a condition of entrance at those open gates, that the Methodist shall discard Charles Wesley’s hymns, or the Catholic unlearn his Te Deum. . . . Yes, depend upon it, unity by contribution is a better thing than unity by subtraction. Great changes await both man and his dwelling-place, but God will not suffer anything that is intrinsically precious to be lost: all the wheat is destined for his barn into his treasury, every coin that has the right stamp and the true ring shall fall at last.

From “Whole Church: A Plea for the Four Temperaments” by William Reed Huntington, D.D. (New York: James Pott & Co., 1895); found at http://anglicanhistory.org/usa/wrh/whole1895.html

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