The Reverend T. Jones.
Dear Mr. Jones, Many of those who heard your sermon yesterday were so well satisfied with its wholesome teaching, that we are empowered to express their wish as well as our own, when we ask you to publish it.
At the present time more especially, when, in this country, men are being moved to enquire into, and to interest themselves more fully in giving effect to the most admirable system of Christian Policy which we inherit from antiquity, it is well that we should be reminded by one of her most zealous Ministers what great privileges we possess in the communion of the Church. Your sermon, think, was an admirable contribution to the formation of opinion on this interesting topic, and we trust that it may extend its influence beyond the congregation to which it was more immediately addressed. We are, dear Mr. Jones, yours very truly,
(Signed) John Douglas, T. Vokes Dudgeon, Churchwardens.
As a letter has been placed in my hands containing a formal requisition from the church wardens, on behalf of some of the members of the congregation, that I would cause the sermon preached by me on Sunday morning, the 721st inst. to be printed, "that it may extend its influence beyond the congregation to which it was more immediately addressed," I have felt that at this important crisis of the Church's history in Queensland and in the Colonies generally, I could not consistently refuse if the sermon was calculated to serve any good purpose to the Church. I have, therefore, put it in the press just as it was delivered, convinced that if it has any merit, it is in its simplicity, and the earnest desire with which it was written and preached, that it might lead those of the congregation who call themselves Churchmen to take a greater interest in the welfare of their Church generally.
May 23rd, 1865.
Sufferings and Trials the Lot of the Church A sermon preached by the Rev. Thomas Jones, curate, on Sunday morning, May 21st., 1865. "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer."--Rev. 11, 10.
The Church in Smyrna, to whom these words of my text were addressed, was a persecuted, suffering church, and it was to the angel or bishop of that church as thus suffering that this epistle was written to assure her that He who walked amidst the seven golden candlesticks, which are the seven Churches, was not unmindful of her even though He allowed her to suffer; and so He tells her, "I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty;" and to persuade and encourage her to go on and endure, and still to suffer, and work, and wait, He exhorts her, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."
It was indeed a time of great trial to the Church of' Smyrna. Those terrible persecutions under the Roman Emperors were raging, of the dreadful sufferings and intensity of which contemporary historians have left the Church of God such faithful and stirring accounts. Jehovah, the one living true God, could only be worshipped in the dens and caves of the earth, or in the barren wilderness, away from the society of their fellow men, where alone, true religion can be nourished and fostered. Persecuting bands went from city to city (as Saul had done in his early years, and in the earliest days of the Church), to see if there were "any of that way," and to bring them bound to Rome or some other chief city. Then neither age nor sex were spared, but whole households were left desolate to mourn the cruel butchery (for the sake of their religious faith) of those most dear to them.
And now the fiercest persecutions raged around Smyrna, and Polycarp its venerable and saintly Bishop, an aged man of God, nursed it safely amidst all its dangers till another persecution rose against the Church and he, old with years, and ripe for his rest, was its noblest victim. His noble reply to the Roman Governor who tempted him to save his life by denying his Lord is well known, and it is a bitter reproach to our easy-going Christianity, namely, "that he could not thus renounce a Lord whom for eighty six years he had served, and during all this time received' nothing but good from Him."
The Church of Smyrna then, had ever been a suffering Church, and her present position among the Churches of Asia is only another proof how faithful is our God to His word, and how true He can be to promises such as those of my text, which are written for our comfort and encouragement.
Now, my brethren, suffering is ever a part of the dispensation of the good Providence of God, "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, " and that we must "through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of Heaven," seems to be stamped on the forefront of the Christian life, from Christ the Head, "who went not up to glory but first He suffered," to the new born babe, the weakest member of His Church. All in His Church must suffer, that, suffering now, she (the Church) and all her children being joined to their Lord in the bond of this holy communion and love, may be perfected with Him and presented with Him faultless and spotless before the throne of God at last.
But if we look upon the Church of Smyrna as a suffering Church, the message of my text as addressed to her will surely be the ground of much comfort and consolation to us who call ourselves Churchmen for the Church to--which we belong to be bidden by her Lord, "Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer," to know that if God has called her to suffer it is because He would make her "perfect through suffering" and everything in her past history encourages us to hope for such a glorious consummation of her labours, and that God will not forsake her, but bring her safely through all her perils and dangers, to reign triumphantly with Him in glory. For did she not suffer when Cranmer and Ridley, and Latimer and Taylor, and a host of other worthies lighted at the stake a light of truth which, all her enemies have not been able to put out, but which burns as strongly now as it did in the days of the Reformation, when men loved that Church (alas! better than men love her now), aye, loved her to death? Did she not suffer in the days of the Revolution, when men who loved the throne of their Sovereign were yet found to stand forward and confront that Sovereign and drive him from his throne because they loved the Church better? These champions are gone, but in the battles which they waged for our Church they made their country's greatness, and the result of their struggles is our gain and our blessing. And shall we leave no result of our labours for the Church to our posterity nothing but a name? I believe we shall; a Church which, for her struggles amidst the difficulties and dangers which now beset her, shall be dear to the affections of our children--a Church which, purified by her trials, shall be (as ever she has been) the noblest, simplest, purest representative of divine truth.
At the close of the last century, she recovered from her greatest danger--the indolence, the sloth, the carelessness of those who ought to have been her nursing fathers, and now she is doing a work at home and abroad in the world which bids us go on and "Fear none of these things thou shalt suffer," and proves to us that God's blessing is really and truly with her. Yea, my brethren, she has suffered, but never were such signal blessings with her, and we have no reason to doubt but that she will weather the storm. 0h! yes, she must suffer for it as true of her as it is of her children "that all they that live godly shall endure persecution," and if God has not sent us persecution unto death, yet He has told us plainly enough that her warfare is not accomplished, for now a "man's foes are they of his own household, " and the Church is in danger-if indeed she is in danger-from the coldness and the laxity, the wavering attachment of you who ought to be her best friends.
But, oh! my brethren, to seem zealous for that Church is counted bigotry amongst us. To do her own work, to leave those who differ from her to do theirs is branded as intolerance; but, as her minister, let me entreat you, let charity which never faileth be your motto towards all men, only be zealous for that Church, the blood of whose noblest sons has been shed at the stake to preserve to you and to us a form of faith, a purity of worship, a soundness of doctrine, a system of policy, which you profess to love, and which but for the Church, and her precious testimony for truth, would long ago have been swept away. If to be zealous for her, and charitable towards others is bigotry submit to be called bigoted, for it is in a good cause. Yes, my brethren, it is not from without our Church has to fear her dangers, it is from false friends within her own pale, from the little love those bear to her who ought to love her best.
Let me ask you what interest you are taking in the Church's work here in our very midst? How many among you know what engines for good are at work in this parish for relieving the sick and distressed? How many among you know whether or not your Sunday Schools are languishing for lack of teachers; whether there are not many to be brought into these Sunday Schools, wandering about your very homes, who ought to be there? How many of you know what the Church by her Missionary Societies, and other Societies (by which she has carried her work into all lands) is doing in the world? How many, I would say again, know anything of the Church's work in this place? And I have taken this view of my subject because in our own Legislature attempts are being made to sap the very foundations of that Church, and to alter the constitution which has been consecrated by the blood of so many noble martyrs, and which, for centuries, has been held dear by our forefathers and, for the consequences of all this innovation few of you, I fear, are careful.
But it becomes you well to look to your rights and privileges (for they are your birthright), if you do care for the ministration of her orders, and services, and sacraments for I believe that the Church might perish in your midst, and scarce a tear, from those who call themselves her members, reach her bier.
Truly, beloved brethren, we may be disappointed at the result of our efforts and labours to make a goodly number in that Church--so richly blest, so highly favoured in her means of grace--more prayerful, more Bible-loving, more devotional--to remove from her that imputation that she is neither hot nor cold; we may be wounded at heart by the coldness and desertion of those who ought to be our friends, and lovers, and most faithful champions and worshippers; but still there is the promise for us, "Lo I am with you always even unto the end of the world;" or that other, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it;" or, in the words of my text, to "Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer."
As we look back upon the past struggles of the Church we may take heart and hope, and believe that He who has done so much by her, and chosen her for such great work in the world, shall number her with all her infirmities among His brightest jewels at the last, in the kingdom of His redeemed. With His blessing with us why should we fear for the result so long as we are faithful? Surely "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put any confidences in princes." Yes, she will then, when "all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues are gathered before the throne, and before the Lamb" be found to have borne a most noble testimony for the Truth, of which her Lord and Saviour will not be unmindful. Nay, my brethren, she does it now, avoiding the extremes of Puritanism on the one hand and the errors of the Papacy on the other, she still does, as she has ever done, stand forward the noblest, the bravest, the truest champion for the simple truth as it is in Jesus, her Lord and Master-very God, yet very man. Shattered and beaten she may be but she shall arrive safely at the haven at the last. Others may live to outnumber her (numbers are no true sign of souls won to God), but it shall not be till the glory of her name has departed from the country she has nourished so well--the blessing which has gone with her heretofore shall not forsake her now. Only let her ministers, only let her children, be faithful to her, and she shall yet be the glory of many lands; yea, of this country in which we dwell, as of old, the tried and faithful nurse of that wholesome truth which has formed those noble characters who have made our land and nation what it is-of that wholesome truth which is our chief boast, our highest glory, and shall be until that fatal word "Ichabod" is written on her palaces, on her marts, on her homes, and on her temples. And so, my brethren, with ourselves, we too, must "through much tribulation enter the Kingdom of Heaven." There must be a cross to wean us from the world; bodily suffering, mental anguish; for those whom God loves best He often tries most; and every pang of suffering, every trial, leads them away from the world and closer to God, till they too (like His Church) are made perfect through suffering. But then comes the word of comfort, the blessed promise of my text, "Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer." "In this world ye shall have tribulation but in Me ye shall have peace." (Gospel for the day).
Oh! my brethren, it often seems marvellous to me the suffering which is heaped upon a man in the last few day of the last lingering illness of life, but I believe that we shall one day find that there was some fault that load of suffering was, as it were, to wash out; some secret feeling of uncharitableness, and repining, something that could not go with us beyond the grave, that protracted illness was to mortify and kill in us. And be sure there is not a pang of suffering which is not needed; not a pang of which He does not feel the bitterness. "I know their sorrows," was His message to the Church in Smyrna; "In all our afflictions He is afflicted, says the prophet. And indeed were not suffering a blessing in itself (in disguise, it is true), yet when God Himself calls us to suffering, and bids us "Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer," shall we not as St. Paul says, "glory in tribulation also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and Hope maketh not ashamed?" Oh! if we are Christians indeed, then may we take much comfort indeed from the words of my text, and go boldly on in the path of duty wherever it leads us. We are Christians indeed, for the fire which purifies the gold burns up the wood, and straw, and stubble; the searching trial which tests a Christian's life and faith makes a hypocrite's hope to perish.
"O may God the Blessed Spirit make us and keep us good Christians indeed; then it will be well with us, come what may if we walk through the fire, Jesus will be with us as He was with the three of old in the burning fiery furnace, and it shall not kindle upon us. If the wind and the storm beat upon the house, it shall not fall, because it is founded on the rock, and that rock is Christ.
And so, in all times of our tribulation, in all times of our wealth, in the hour of our death, and in the Day of Judgement, may it please Him to deliver us."