The Church of Christ

The Church of Christ

Appointment of twelve Apostles.

(The Gospel History, Section 42)

And it came to pass in these days that he went out into the mountain to pray, and he continued all night in prayer to God.

The Church of Christ

(The Saviour of the World, Vol II Book III Poem XXVII)

The Adoration of the Lamb by Jan Van Eyck[1]

The Founder of our Faith a place had reached
Where roads divide, and He must choose His way;
No longer should He go in casual wise
Hither and thither as the cities urged:
Henceforth—though He should walk the plains, and preach
In synagogue on Sabbath days, and heal,—
To do these things no longer His chief care:
From out that nebulous crowd that followed Him,
Changing alway, as clouds in windy sky,
Behoved Him to carve out those solid blocks
Shaped duly and laid truly, should support
An Edifice—wide as the world and high
As heaven; roof held on multitudinous piers;
Arches of fretted beauty; windows, broad
To light the soul, and high for aspiration;
Wide-reaching aisles to gather in all folk;
And lowly door meek pilgrims to admit
Who come, in one long stream adown the years
To kneel before the Altar of the Lamb!
Ah, concept vast, immeasurable thought,
Embracing kings and peoples, all poor souls,
Including ages and each present hour,
Pregnant with health, hope, healing for mankind,—
The Church of Christ!

But, who a dome conceives—

How vast be its proportions, high-pitched, roof,—
His first care, the foundations; these must spread,
Must outline compass of the mighty whole,
Must rest secure and strong to bear the weight
Of the slow-rising pile, to pinnacle—
Fair-lettered word on the blue sky writ up!

His time was come: and, as the architect
Figures on parchment the great pile he means,
So Christ, the Church—in all its breadth and height;
Chapels of curious variety,
Each rich in tracery of human thought;
Buttresses to defy ravage of time,—
Attacks of foes and facile arts of friends
Who fain would mould to meet the passing mood
Of each succeeding age its stubborn build:—
Seeing the whole, with urgency on Him
Was pressed the imminent occasion
To give it definite shape by His own act;
Henceforth, to set Himself to work on plan,
Eternal in the heavens, of the Church of God!

Like a wise builder, His foundations first
Must He prepare; and, that no block unsound
Should jeopardy the Church to rest on it,
Behold, Christ prays, ere choosing His Twelve Stones!

There is a mountain with two several peaks;
Between the two, a little grassy plain,—
The cradle of the infant Church, men hold,
Though not with certainty; else, surely there,
On that lone mountain, Koroün Hattin,
Memorial high as Babel’s tower should rise,
Than Solomon’s temple, more magnificent!

Thither came Christ to pray; He clomb the height
Of stone-strewn peak, and saw from summit all
That Galilee He loved. Foreseeing thought—
Embracing Galilee and all the parts
Of Judah, all the countries round about,
Regions remote, and time to time’s last verge,—
Saw never anywhere in all the world
But, lo, His Church is there to cherish men!
All night He prayed as no man ever prayed;
To no man were such awful issues shown
As saw the Saviour of the World that night;
A world to save through ages of endeavour;
And, all the instrument to be employed,
The Church, that on the morrow He should found!
(Lord Jesus, give us grace to know our part!)

First, for the Twelve he prayed—each man came forth
And passed before the Saviour; each disclosed
All that was in Him to the searching thought
Of Him who is our Judge:—ambition, zeal,
Fiery impatience, generosity, greed,
Love, fortitude, devotion, avarice, hate,—
Were open to Him on that lonely night:
What then? The Master would not choose to raise
Upon cohort of seraphs Church for men;
These know not man—how great he is, how small!
Better were men with men’s infirmities
But loyal to their Lord; this, the one test:
For the rest, would He not pray for them and save,
Would teach them day by day and every day,
And train them to the following of His Way!
Did one block yield a hollower sound when tried?
E’en that was fit for use, so it would yield
To mallet, chisel, grinding stone, should shape:
And, lo, beneath the twelve, sustaining all,
Christ and His Cross—Foundation, shapes the whole:
The Master Builder’s prayer, as each passed by,—
That his faith fail him not!

Foundations laid

In thought of Him who edified the Church,
Such institutions, impalpable,
As evermore should sever Church from world,—
Should safeguard weak disciple, be a lamp
His feet should go by, rule to try his thoughts,
And mark him other than all other men
Though punctual rite, broad hem, be not for him,—
These next devised our Founder, evermore
Opening His ear to hear the Father’s word—
“Of mine own Self I nothing do”—He saith!
That night of prayer, had one been there to tell
What words Christ spake, what counsels He implored,
What help through all the ages for His Church—
Then might that Church take heart nor fret at all,
Though she were least among the thousand tribes!

St. Luke vi. 12;
St. Mark. iii. 13

[1] The Adoration of the Lamb, by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck

The picture is an illustration of the following passages from St. John’s Apocalypse: “I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Sion, and with Him an hundred and forty and four thousand, having His Father’s name written in their foreheads. … These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. … These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” … About the altar itself on every side flowers burst into joyful bloom—violets and pansies, cowslips, daisies, and lilies of the valley all in their fairest colours. Behind are purple flags, lilies, roses and vines in fullest strength of life and glow of blossom; no stricken bud, no blighted leaf, no withered flower amongst them all, for they grow in the soil of Paradise, where there is no decay. Even the stones in the brook are jewels, and the water of life washes them. Those who have already arrived are grouped in adoration on either side of the altar. Ranged in front are the apostles, fourteen in number, including Paul and Mathias; behind are popes, bishops, and a body of the faithful. Over against them are the ancient prophets, those of the Jews in front, those of the Gentiles (including Homer, Plato, and Aristotle) ranked behind, all alike inspired by the rays of spiritual illumination which fall from the hovering dove. The fountain of life is placed in front, and the water of it flows through the ages along its jewelled bed. Behind, amongst the rose bushes, are the holy martyrs with palm branches in their hands; amongst the lilies opposite to them are the martyred virgins led by Barbara, Agnes, Catherine and Dorothy. Angels with gorgeous rainbow-coloured wings kneel round about the altar. … As the keynote to the whole composition the painter has written along the front of the altar, this text. … “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the World!”

Early Flemish Artists By William and Castin Conway.