Chapter XIV. Extracts from the Bishop's Triennial Charges to Clergy, 1871-1877--Calamitous Fire in St. John--Bishop's Sermon
AT the triennial visitation of the clergy on the 4th July, 1871, the charge of the Bishop embraced subjects of peculiar interest to the Church. The following extracts will be highly valued:
You may expect me to say something on two important changes in which we are all deeply interested--the revision of the Lectionary, and the revision of the English version of the Bible. Bearing in mind the eminent scholars and divines who are engaged in these revisions, and the worthy motives by which they have been influenced, I shall nevertheless venture to express my own opinions freely, and leave you to form your own judgment, according to the best information you can obtain from myself or from others.
St. James informs us that "Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day;" in other words, that appointed portions of the Pentateuch (and as we learn from St. Paul's address in 13th chapter of the Acts), of the Prophets also, were read on the Jewish Sabbath-days before the people. The fourth chapter of St. Luke supplies us with such a reading by our Lord himself. Following this godly custom of the Jews, the Christian Church in like manner ordered to be read select portions of the Old and New Testament. In the time of Archbishop Parker, Tables of Proper Lessons were introduced, which were nearly identical with those in our present Prayer Book, and they were settled in their present form in 1661. The Cycle of Proper Lessons seems to have been formed on two very wise principles. First, it was desired to set before us the creation, the fall, and the consequences of that fall; the steps taken by God to procure our redemption; the election of a peculiar people to preserve true religion in the earth, and to prepare the way for the Incarnation; and the conduct of that people, their apostasy, and their punishment, as illustrations of God's dealings both with churches and with individuals in Christian times. A second object in the selection of lessons was to fix in the minds of the worshippers the chief truths of the Christian religion in due order, whether by prophecy, as during Advent and Epiphany, and on Whitsunday; or by type, as on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Trinity Sunday; or by history, as in the lessons in Holy Week. Further, it is provided that the Old Testament should be read once, and the New Testament three times in the daily course throughout the year.
All will agree in the wisdom of these general principles, and in the value of the continual instruction thus given to the people at large. The chief thing to be regretted is, that both clergy and laity have so little availed themselves of the inestimable privilege; the Bible being to the great mass of our congregations, a sealed book from Sunday to Sunday, and the priest teaching his flock by daily example, that the church is the only place where, during the week, prayer is never wont to be made; and this while we vainly boast of an open Bible and an incomparable Liturgy. If we loved either the one or the other as we think we do, we should undoubtedly make much more frequent use of both. In towns especially, there can be no sufficient reason why this should not be done. Now the very fact of a selection of passages from the Bible, proves that we consider the Church authorized to consider some portions of the Bible as more instructive to a mixed congregation than others. And even those who cling the most closely to the divine authority of every syllable can hardly refuse to admit that there are chapters which we would not willingly hear publicly read; and that there are others, mere lists of names (I do not refer to the two genealogies of our Lord, the public reading of which is defensible on other grounds), which could serve no good purpose in being publicly recited.
But if there be a selection at all, the Church has clearly a right to improve upon that selection, unless it can be shown to be incapable of amendment. The need of improvement rests, I believe, on the following grounds: Some lessons are read, especially in the daily service, which it is desirable to omit; not merely chapters, but whole Books of Scripture, are in the present Lectionary for no valid reason omitted. Among these is especially to be noted the Book of Revelation, which in its obscurest parts is no more obscure than some of the prophetical books, and can be no darker to us than their own prophecies were to the Jews. The selection of chapters to be read on Saints' Days is, on many occasions most unsuitable, there being no apparent reason why the chapters selected should be read rather than any other. Certain of the chapters selected from the Apocrypha are unwisely chosen; and lastly, the lessons are (in many instances) too long, and break in on the unity of a history, or a parable, or an exhortation, by various other matters which fail to leave a distinct impression on the mind. I feel compelled to admit the reasonableness of many if not all these objections, whilst at the same time one cannot help making the following (I think) not unimportant observations! The Bible is remarkable not only in the Old Testament but in the New, for its distinct mention and its plain condemnation of sins, the very name of which is painful. The spirit of the age leads men to hush up all such matters, but to act in secret the vile things which it is afraid to speak of, and to hear condemned. As in this respect the Bible and the world are clearly at variance, nothing can be more dangerous to public morality than to refuse to read what the sacred writer has evidently recorded for the general good, and which will be in all probability unheeded in private, when the lesson is considered unfit for public reading. A clergyman who would close the book or substitute another chapter, when the chastity of Joseph is recorded for instruction, if he would be consistent must cease to read the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans; and where are we to stop? I should regard this closing of the Scriptures as trifling with the Word of God, a kind of Protestant concealment of which a Romanist might be ashamed. A remark may also be made on the Apocryphal lessons. Admitting that there are a few parts of the Apocryphal Books which many will gladly see removed from the Lectionary, a very large portion of the rest contains lessons of the deepest wisdom; and on comparing the Apocrypha with the Books of the New Testament, it is very remarkable that the sacred writers often make direct quotations from the Apocrypha; or it seems that the description or exhortation given by the New Testament writer was first sketched out by the ancient Jewish authors. For instance, the conclusion of the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is taken from the Book of Wisdom; the description of the heavenly city in the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation, from the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Tobit; and the very striking account of "the multitude that no man can number, clothed in white robes, with palms in their hands," is adapted from the second Book of Esdras. The lesson in St. James' Epistle, against God tempting us to evil, is taken from the fifteenth of Ecclesiasticus; and the "one day with the Lord is as a thousand years," the being "swift to hear," the "weeping with those that weep," the "revealing of mysteries to the meek," from the same Book, besides many turns of thought, and parts of sentences, which reappear in the New Testament; and I make no question, that had the second chapter of the Book of Wisdom been found in the Prophet Isaiah, it would have been considered as perfect a prophecy of the conduct of the Jews towards our blessed Lord, as the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is justly considered at present. It may therefore be a question whether the new Lectionary will not be found to have removed too much, rather than too little of those venerable books, which, though they never formed part of the Canon of Scripture, were highly esteemed by the Jews, and largely quoted and adopted by the writers of the New Testament. In the new Lectionary, the change in the Sunday lessons is not so great as at first sight might be supposed, especially from Advent Sunday to Trinity Sunday; and the general principles to which I have before adverted are still strictly observed. After Trinity Sunday the greatest change in the lessons occurs. But we have obviously a great gain in the insertion of lessons from the Book of Revelation, the Book of Job, and the Books of Chronicles, hitherto kept almost out of sight in public reading. It may be an objection, and a reasonable one, that some of the lessons will be found too short. It seems to me, that if the object were to shorten the time of the services, that object would have been much more profitably attained by abridging the great number of State prayers by which our Prayer Book is burdened, or by a fresh arrangement of the services, or by shortening the sermon, than by lessening the number of verses of Holy Scripture which are read. If the Lord's Prayer is repeated rather too frequently, much more unnecessary is the continual repetition of State Prayers, one of which would be amply sufficient for a single service, but which now occur four or five times on a single morning. And considering the very few opportunities which the poor, and indeed many others who are not poor, have of reading or hearing the Word of God, I think they will much miss their accustomed portion of the Sacred Word. Probably in other particulars too little time has been given to the subject, and the Church at large has been less consulted than is desirable. However, if the bill becomes law, I fear we shall have no choice but to submit, as the new Lectionary will be inserted in all new Prayer Books, and it will soon become impossible to procure the old. I should advise the clergy diligently to study the new Lectionary on its first appearance, carefully to observe when a discretion is given them of choosing new lessons, and when it is withheld, and to be very particular in reading, that they begin and end with the right verses, as in the new selection the lesson often begins in the middle or end of one chapter and ends in the middle of another. If this is not read very carefully, the sense of the lesson will be lost. This is the first of the changes made; I cannot say it is the last that will be attempted in our Prayer Book, and the prospect before us is a very serious one. We see too plainly that all changes must pass through the ordeal of assemblies consisting in some part of unbelievers, and ill great part of men hostile or indifferent to our services; and that a great number of legislators defer rather to what is popular than what is right; and that we are supposed to accept as much or as little, as they in their collective wisdom think proper to leave us. If this yoke is to be made yet more heavy, and their little fingers are to be thicker than our fathers' loins; if the voice of the Church is not to be heard, and the very foundations of the faith are to be tampered with, subscription to the Formularies and Articles of the Church will become a matter for very serious consideration with every man who has hitherto believed in the connection of the Church of England with the past, and in her succession not only of holy orders, but of holy doctrine. "Sufficient, however, unto the day is the evil thereof;" when the trouble comes we must pray for Divine light to see the right course to take, and for courage to take it.
I may now call your attention to another equally important matter, the proposed revision of our English translation of the Bible. I suppose few persons who have long read and loved their Bible--as I trust we all have--and have made it the subject of their daily study, can think without serious misgivings of the necessity for revision, and of the probable or possible consequences of revision. Our English translation is a household god (so to speak) among us. Its idiomatic felicity of expression, its true ring of sterling Saxon English, its charming rhythm, its memories which recall our youthful lessons, and suggest our holiest prayers, and linger on our lips as the last words we utter to those dearest to us when we bid farewell to earth, have given it a standing in our minds which approaches the idolatry of the letter. We forget that these are not the very words which our Lord and the inspired authors uttered. They are only an attempt, in all good faith, but an imperfect attempt, to reproduce their glory in a foreign--and to the original writer--a barbarian tongue. God has indeed signally blessed that attempt, but He has not been pleased to exempt the authors of our translation from the infirmities to which all men are liable. The Holy Spirit (I doubt not) blessed and assisted our translators as we may suppose he blessed the authors of the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament; but he no more made our translators good Greek scholars than he gave to the Alexandrian Jews good Hebrew manuscripts. And as our blessed Lord and His Apostles read, and used, and quoted from a translation which, when compared with the Hebrew, is extremely imperfect, and yet it would be absurd to suppose that this translation was intended to preclude all further improvement; so we have done well to use our (in many respects) faithful translation; but the time may come when amendment is clearly practicable, and if practicable, is a positive duty. It is not generally recollected, or perhaps generally known, that the present translation is the fifth, not the first, of such attempts in the English tongue; and if we owe much to the idiomatic version of Tyndale, in some places we have departed from his rendering, to the injury rather than the improvement of the sense. Be this as it may, let it be remembered that the history of English translations is a history of attempts to do well and to do bettor, rather than one sudden and permanent effort. It is a history which rather points the way to future improvement than bars the road by au absolutely perfect success. The very fact that our translators adopted alternative renderings, some of which are in the margin and some in the text of our Bibles, and the better rendering is often that which is not read to the people, would lead us to the conclusion that we may lawfully revise both, if a still more accurate rendering can be found. But our duty to God must manifestly supersede all other considerations. The Bible, like the Christian religion, is a trust consigned to us for the benefit of mankind; and we are as much bound to fidelity in our version as to the extension of the Christian religion; and fidelity is rightly shown when we allow the light which God gives us to be reflected on the version and on the text of the Holy Scriptures.
There can be no doubt that many of our translators were accomplished Hebrew scholars; and in difficult passages it is evident that they generally leaned to the opinions of learned Jews, as may be seen by any one who reads either the Commentary of Pococke or Rosenmuller. But it would be affectation to deny that great light has been thrown on various texts by the researches of modern commentators; and that in the Books of Job, of Solomon's Song, and of the minor Prophets, our translation is capable of a much clearer sense. In respect of the New Testament, not only is the Greek language more studied and more critically known than in the time of our translators, but much light has been thrown on the peculiar phraseology of the Macedonian Greek in which the Apostles spoke and wrote, and the niceties and turns of thought are now more distinctly apprehended. Those who hold to the verbal inspiration of every syllable of the New Testament are bound to reproduce the same in English, as far as is possible: and those who think that such verbal inspiration was not the object aimed at by the control and assistance of the Holy Spirit, must be no less anxious not to lose a particle of what our Lord said and the Apostles wrote, but to reproduce it as correctly as a version in a different tongue can ever do; though be it remembered, a perfectly exact reproduction of the original in another language is not possible in the most faithful translation in all cases.
It is doubtless a great convenience, and it is considered a paramount advantage to have one English Bible for the whole English-speaking race; but it may be doubted whether this advantage, great as it is, has not been overrated. The unity of the volume has not preserved us in unity of faith and practice. We appeal to the same texts, and to the same version of them, to support our respective differences; and scholars in the several communions in their arguments with each other, are never satisfied to abide by the translation even while they commend it, but invariably appeal to the original as superior, and to their own version as the best; so that even if a revised version should lead to other like attempts, which is not certain, that which Time proves to be the best will supersede the others, and Aaron's rod will swallow up their rods. These, however, are only possible or probable consequences. Duty is the first point; and fidelity to the text and to the version demands that we should make both as perfect as we can. Should it be still objected, that on this principle the version of the Bible may always be changing to the end of time, it may be answered that this is the history of the Bible from the beginning, as soon as the languages in which it is written ceased to be spoken and generally understood. A dead language can only be understood in a version. The present square Hebrew letter, with its accompanying vowel points, is a sort of version of the original character, in order to retain as much as possible the ancient traditional pronunciation and the use of the words. The Septuagint version was an attempt in a wider direction to reproduce the original in a foreign language. The earliest known version of the New Testament was in Syriac, made as early as the second century probably; but this was succeeded by others in the same tongue. Both Greek, Syriac and Hebrew being dead languages to the Latin race, the Versio Itala was made, the origin of which is lost in antiquity; and it seems uncertain whether it was made in Rome or in the African provinces, as the first converts at Rome probably spoke Greek. Be this as it may, that version, though widely dispersed, popularly used, and considered by St. Augustine as the best, was not the only Latin version. There were, it would appear, several others, which have long since disappeared. The greatest step in advance, and in the way of wholesome progress, was made by St. Jerome, the most learned of the Fathers, when he undertook to produce a version of the entire Scriptures from Hebrew and Greek into the Latin tongue. It was expressly written in Latin in order that it might be more generally understood; the Latin language being in the fifth century more widely diffused (in Europe at least, for which he wrote) than any other. So successful was his attempt that this translation rapidly took the place of every other; and having at length received the sanction of two Popes was, with some emendations or alterations, adopted by the Roman Church as the one correct translation; and in consequence of the sway of the Papal power (being called the Vulgate originally from its popular character) was received and used, and is the present version of the whole Roman Church. No possessor of our English translation ought to forget the debt of gratitude he owes to St. Jerome for this version; for without it, it is probable that inferior materials would have produced an inferior English translation; and had no translation been made directly from the Hebrew, we might possibly have been still dependent on a translation from the Greek of the Septuagint. It is certainly very remarkable, and reassuring to those who are alarmed at the consequences of a revision, to find so great a mind as is that of St. Augustine--greater in depth and original power than any of the Fathers, but deficient in scholarship and entirely ignorant of Hebrew--thoroughly shaken by the prospect of a revised translation, and most strenuously opposed to it, so little did that eminent man understand the advantages which would flow to all posterity from having recourse to the fountain head of all sacred learning, the Hebrew verity. Strange indeed it seems to us, that whilst he must have known the advantage of reading St. Paul's thoughts in the language in which the Apostle wrote them, he should not have applied the same test to the writings of Moses and the Prophets. We see, therefore, from this hasty and imperfect glance at the history of translations, that we have no cause to be alarmed at an improved English version. We are not now (as St. Jerome) proposing an entire new translation from the Hebrew; that has already been done. Nor is there any desire for an entirely new translation of any part of the Bible. The only purpose of the revisors is to correct those errors which all scholars must admit to be numerous and important; in the words of that able scholar, Canon Lightfoot, "to substitute an amended for a faulty text; to remove artificial distinctions which do not exist in the Greek; to restore real distinctions existing in the original, which were overlooked by our translators; to correct errors of grammar and errors of lexicography; to revise the treatment of proper names and technical terms; and to remove a few ambiguous or faulty expressions, besides inaccuracies of editorship in the English. All this may be done without altering the character of the version; and if the language of our English Bible is not the language of the age in which our translators lived, but in its grand simplicity stands out in contrast with the ornate and often affected diction of the literature of that time," (as we may see by comparing our Bible with the sermons of Bishop Andrews and Dr. Donne), "we may well believe that if a better model was possible in the seventeenth century, it is quite as possible in the nineteenth."
So much I have deemed it right to say, to allay needless alarm in the minds of any of yourselves or of your flocks, as to the future of our English version. Still I am bound to admit, that the project has been taken up with more haste, and pressed with less consideration for the feelings and interests of English-speaking people living out of England, than was desirable. Whether it be that all real scholarship is supposed to be centred in men nurtured in the English Universities, or that as the present translation was made by English divines, it is thought the duty of the world at large to accept without reluctance or hesitation, the decisions of English scholars; or whatever be the real cause, it is certain in my opinion, that the excellent bishops and divines who originated this movement, have been somewhat inattentive to the circumstances and feelings of the times. It is impossible to overrate the difference between the days of James the First, when our translation was made, and of Queen Victoria. In the first instance, great power was centred in the royal will, great power was exercised by the bishops; all the scholarship of England was united in a few minds easily directed to a common end; the England of those days was bounded by the circumference of the little island, and the rest of the world was occupied for the most part by the Roman Communion, to whom our tongue was as foreign as our religion. How is it now? The tongue of the islands is spread abroad through the whole earth, but their political institutions have (in vast regions) ceased to hold their sway, and the influence of England is moral, rather than politically dominant and exclusive.
I have made no allusion, as you must have perceived in this address, to some of the controversies of the day, of which, if a man does not know already enough, he must be both blind and deaf. In their legal aspects, I do not feel sure that they apply to us at all; and in other ways we are not much affected by them, our danger at present lying in another direction; and I do not feel inclined to take up stones to cast at brethren, who, whatever may be their errors of judgment, are remarkable examples of self-sacrifice and continual devotion to their holy work, and from whom many who rail at them might learn much if they would.
Whoever reads the past history of our Church with candour, must sec that excessive carelessness rather than excessive ritualism, has been the prevailing error, and that a hundred instances of slovenly irreverence have been passed over without notice, whilst a vast outcry is made against a single extreme in an opposite direction. Inasmuch then as the difficulty has ever been even to bring men up to the plain, positive, undeniable directions of the Prayer Book, I deem it wholly superfluous to speak at length on ritualism. Ritual of some kind we must have, for no assembled congregation of worshippers ever met together without it. The only question is what Ritual is most conducive to life, reverence and devotion. But the absence of any specific directions on the subject in the New Testament, whilst the most minute ceremonial is laid down in the old, would seem to indicate that greater variety of practice would be allowed in a freer dispensation, and that each church would be left to frame its own directions on the subject, provided all be done decently and in order. The stringent rules of the Act of Uniformity have confessedly proved an entire failure; and whilst general directions are observed, some allowance, I think, must be given to individual priests, acting, as would be desirable, in harmony with their congregations. But I think we have far more to fear from the dead level of cold worldliness, which eschews all reverence, and sees no reality in the Church and its sacraments, and reduces the whole act of worship to a meagre performance by a minister, than we have from any excesses of ritualism. Mere outward show, for show's sake, is certainly to be avoided in divine worship; but our Lord reserves for his severest displeasure the lifeless church, which He will "spue out of his mouth," the cold lukewarmness of respectable and fashionable worldliness.
I desire also to call your attention to the necessity of making due annual returns to the Society for Propagation of the Gospel, on the state of your parishes. I am well aware how difficult it is to make such reports interesting to others without entering into details which seem ridiculous when printed in the report and circulated among one's neighbours. The Society, however, complains that fuller accounts are constantly sent from other Dioceses, and the impression gains ground at home, that negligence and indolence prevent the reports being duly forwarded.
The general state of the Diocese is, I hope, progressive. Since we last met, twelve hundred and seventy-five persons have been confirmed, a considerable number of whom received holy communion at the time of confirmation. It is of the utmost importance to press upon all such persons the duty of steady and consistent membership. If these young people were all, as they should be, firm supporters of our Church, regular attendants, and devout and constant communicants, how great would be our gain! how valuable their assistance! During the same period, seven priests and four deacons have been ordained, and there is plainly an increasing desire that churches should be made more worthy of the service of God, and the sacraments administered with more reverence and devotion. One instance deserves special mention. In rebuilding the Church of St. Paul's, Portland, the parishioners have given at the offertory $9,073, besides $3,400 on the day when the church was consecrated, and $4,800 given by themselves and various friends towards the memorial windows in the church. No bazaars have been held to procure this sum. All has been offered to God. In my last confirmation tour I was everywhere encouraged by signs of increasing spiritual life and activity; and the manner in which churchmen throughout the Diocese have responded to the fresh calls made upon them by the Church Society, under the direction of the Schedule Committee, is very gratifying, and exceeds my expectations. We have no doubt a great trial to pass through for some years to come, but with increasing earnestness, and in dependence on the Divine blessing, I trust we shall surmount all our difficulties.
I would also call your attention to the desirableness of pressing on your parishioners the general observance of such days as Good Friday and Ascension Day, not merely that the day itself may be observed, but that the great truths of Christianity specially taught on those days may be fixed in the heart. There is, I fear, an increasing wish to make Good Friday a mere day of worldly festivity, and totally to disregard the Feast of the Ascension, which is a plain proof how low the faith of many Christians has fallen, and how cold is our love for a crucified but risen Lord. Imagine what even John Wesley would have said of keeping Good Friday as a feast, and of revellings and banquetings at the hour of our Lord's last agony. With a view to induce a better attendance during Lent, to interest men's minds in what otherwise has no special characteristic service to draw them together, I drew up a special service, taken either from Holy Scripture, our own Prayer Book, and similar sources, bearing especially on the sins for which we need forgiveness, and the graces we desire most to be imparted.
Wherever this service was used, it met with acceptance among the people, and appeared to be a help to reverence and devotion. In doing so I only pursued the plan universally adopted in all primitive churches, and partially and frequently pursued in our own Church in England, and amongst ourselves, that on special occasions the bishop of each church is authorized by his office to assist the devotions of the faithful by special prayers. This is a truly catholic principle, which I am not prepared to surrender. If it had not been recognized everywhere we should have had no Liturgy at all, and specially no Litany. On every occasion of general humiliation or general thanksgiving, I have drawn up similar forms of prayer, which have been used in all our churches without hesitation, though neither ratified by our Statutes nor found in our Prayer Book, and the objection comes too late. The practice has already grown into a usage, and that usage is universal; for in England every bishop draws up similar prayers on special occasions, and not only does-every bishop use a form of consecration not recognized by the Act of Uniformity, nor found in the Book of Common Prayer, but every bishop uses his own special form by virtue of the Apostolic power inherent in his office. I am aware that a Statute of this Province has been appealed to, which inflicts the grave penalty of deprivation on all who use any other service than that found in the Prayer Book. But it is no disrespect to the framers of the Statute who adopted the clauses from the Act of Uniformity to say that it was made when no bishop had been consecrated here or was contemplated, and that it never could have been intended to deprive the Church of those privileges which the possession of a bishop confers upon the people at large.
In those very early days confirmations were hardly to be obtained, consecrations of churches were hardly known, church assemblies could not be expected, and the only notion that prevailed was to restrain men by severe penalties from falling into entire anarchy. Now that we have a regular order of Church government, the construction of such Statutes must not be pressed too closely. For there is 'not a church in the Province (and they are more than a hundred in number), nor in any of the other provinces., which has not been consecrated in the teeth of the Statute; the service used "is not provided for by the Prayer Book; has proper Psalms, Lessons and Collects of its own; and as you have all taken part in such services, and some of you will be again calling for them, you ought all at this moment to have been deprived, and be as if you were dead. My wonder is, that intelligent persons who desire that all possible life and vigour should be imparted to the Church, consistently with an orderly manner of devotion, should not see that an occasional departure from the one fixed order, at a special time and for a special purpose only, and in harmony with the principles of our Prayer Book, and under the direction of the Chief Pastor of the Church, rather tends to increase our reverence for our usual form of prayer than to diminish it.
One more matter I may very briefly mention, and it alludes to the occasional offices, viz., that all the baptisms, burials mid marriages in your parishes be regularly entered in a suitable register book, recognized as the property of the parish. There has been a custom into which some clergymen have fallen, of making such entries in a private book of their own, mixed up with private memorandums of their own affairs. Great public inconvenience and injury have resulted from such a practice, and as it is much to be blamed, I desire that you will all entirely and for ever abandon it. I trust also, that you will be very careful to institute inquiries of those who come to be married, in reference to their consanguinity and whatever else is needful to be inquired into, especially if they come from another parish or Diocese. I speak advisedly on this point, for not only have there been rumours of persons being married in our Church within the prohibited degrees, but two cases have occurred within my knowledge, in which I do not mean to throw the blame on the clergy, of open sin, one of which has brought ruin and misery on an innocent family. I cannot but think if due care were taken, and all persons were married as the Church directs, that such guilty people would shrink from the danger of public exposure in the Church.
And now, dear brethren, before I dismiss you, bear with me, if as briefly as the subject admits, I venture to give you some fatherly advice, which in my judgment is profitable for your soul's health. Many of you have met often in visitation. We have seen our brethren, one by one, called to the dread presence of our God, and the account of their life's labours on earth summed up and closed for ever. We have a little longer to remain, but the lines of our hand-breadth are visibly shortening; the things that are seen will soon be the shadows that are past, and the things that are not seen, the lights of the eternal world.
Once more, then, I press upon you Progress.
Progress in your spiritual life. Not only be more earnest in prayer and more frequent in prayer, but let the stamp on your character be that of heavenly intercourse. As the face of Moses shone with a heavenly radiance, when he came down from the mount, so let it be seen that you have drawn nigh to God by the increasing reverence, humility, sincerity and simplicity of your character, and by that tender devotion in sacred things, which it is impossible for the worldly-minded pastor to imitate, and that thoroughly single mind without which the most ostentatious piety is but darkness; and "how great is that darkness?"
Progress in your Pastoral work. Let this be proved by the earnestness and life of your discourses; by your throwing yourselves into the spirit and marrow of Scripture, rather than in making broad your phylacteries by mere repetitions of the letter of Scripture; by your faithful, affectionate, hearty, and painstaking intercourse with your flocks; encouraging the weak, warning the unruly, teaching the young children, stopping the mouths of the profane and dissolute, and building up, not destroying, the foundations of the Faith for all.
Progress in your acquirements of learning, for the Gospel's sake. That you may know what the difficulties of the times are, and may be able to encounter them manfully and solidly; that you may gain some new learning every year; giving attendance to reading, to meditation, till the Lord come; remembering that you cannot be innocently ignorant of what a layman need not know; and that if your office binds you to explain the Scripture to others, your duty is to master its sense, and to search it as for hid treasure, not to be continually repeating truths of an elementary character.
Progress in your Parishes. That in the midst of all the irreligion which abounds, many may be seen clinging to your side, and with you, fearing not to believe the faith and practice it; that your churches may be more frequently, and in town parishes, daily open for prayer; the sacraments more frequently and more reverently administered, and your people not slumbering in the prejudices of the past; not longing for the shadows that have departed, but active to supply the present needs of the Church, and helping themselves and you by a faithful, honest, manly and energetic piety.
Once more, I exhort you to reverence, that grace the most wanting in an age of real or fancied light. Reverence in all your sacred offices will never be lost sight of, when the pastor lives, and works, and prays, as in the presence of God; and without this constant sense of the Divine presence, the very handling of the Divine Mysteries begets irreverence; and the intelligent and devout layman witnesses with disgust slovenly reading, careless manner, unpunctual attendance, and above all, the unworthy celebration of the Lord's Supper, as if anything were good enough for that blessed feast, and the more slovenly the manner, the more spiritual the action. If the rubrics of our Church are carefully observed, their spirit is so reverent, that irreverence in the priest would seem impossible; but such neglect is by no means an unusual error. Thus children learn irreverence from their youth; their elders set them no example, and the offices of the Church are not done unto God as acts of worship, but are done unto man as ceremonies which lend dignity to those who condescend to patronize them. Remember the words which were once said over you, and to which time only adds a fuller, deeper meaning--"Receive the Holy Ghost, for the office and work of a priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands." These words are living truths, not dead formalities; and it were better for us never to have heard them than by the actions of our life and ministry to deny them; and there can be none who ought to pray to be delivered from the unpardonable sin more than the clergy, for of them to whom God has "committed so much," he will surely "ask the more."
Once more, I exhort you to unity and Charity. I do not mean that you, more than any other body or men, can be absolutely united in judgment on every point; but a good deal may be done to promote this end by those who strive for unity, and who do not factiously separate from their brethren, or secretly cabal against them. "The same spirit," into which (as the Apostle says) "we were all baptized," is freely given to us all. We have the same Scriptures, the same Creeds; we were born within the same Church, and have declared that the whole Prayer Book we use is agreeable to the Word of God. If we were thoroughly taught by the Blessed Spirit of God, there is no doubt that we should all be, as the denizens of heaven are, in all things one. But as by the imperfection of our nature this cannot be at present, at least let us believe the best we can of each other; and not only practice the usual courtesies of life, but use no terms which imply that other clergy neither believe nor understand the Gospel, neither pray for, nor are taught by the Spirit of God. In the free discussion of our Synod, we shall have much need of charity. There will be of necessity, as there was in the first Council, "much disputing," but there need be no breach of unity. And let us learn wisdom from other quarters, to keep our discussions to ourselves, and not expose our weakness to the outside world. We are weak enough already; we do not need to excite the contemptuous pity of others, by taking the whole community into confession. Whenever we have mastered the principles and adopted the practice of the thirteenth chapter of St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, we shall be a strong Church; strong in our unselfish and forbearing love; strong in our untiring and spiritual devotion.
It has pleased God to allow me for more than twenty-six years to preside over you, and during that long period I have to bless His goodness for an unusual measure of health, and to thank you, and many of the laity, for cheerful and ready hospitality in my journeys, and for many other kind offices of love. Unlike the blessed Apostle, I have not gone from place to place knowing that "bonds and afflictions await me," but rather encouragement and respect, and though occasionally hard things have been said and unjust suspicions entertained of me, I have, I hope, outlived many of them, and I wish their authors no worse than a wider grasp of truth and a less contracted vision. I have also much reason to rejoice that I cannot recall a single act of discourtesy and unkind-ness from the members of any other religious body. On the contrary, I thankfully acknowledge from some, who do not belong to our communion, acts of sympathy and kindness, and general respect to my office from many more; and if a nearer, dearer fellowship is hardly to be expected on earth, may we at last meet where a true understanding will be given us of the points on which we have differed, and there will be "no room left among us either for error in religion, or for viciousness in life."
The Bishop addressed his clergy as follows in his charge delivered at the Cathedral in 1877:
I must ask your indulgence for too hurriedly setting before you some topics of counsel and encouragement, having had little leisure for writing, amidst the perplexity and distraction which the late terrible calamity has brought upon us. [The calamitous fire in St. John.]
Some portion of the work in which I have been engaged, on behalf of the Church, has been as follows: In the year 1874, I confirmed one hundred and eighty-five persons, ordained five priests and two deacons, consecrated two churches and one burial ground, and travelled three thousand four hundred and fifty-eight miles. Many visits were made to different parts of the Diocese; and in September, in company with the clerical and lay delegates chosen by our Synod, I attended, for the first time, the Provincial Synod of the several Dioceses of Canada. We were received with the greatest cordiality; and I have reason to believe that our presence was considered of advantage to our Canadian brethren.
I ought not to omit that at the Provincial Synod, we were all cheered by the presence and animating words of my dear and honoured brother, the Bishop of Lichfield, who, after the Synod, travelled one thousand five hundred miles in order to fulfil a promise that he would visit Fredericton; and on the 4th of October preached twice in our Cathedral, and addressed our Sunday scholars with such good effect, that of their own accord, they proposed to contribute to the education of one of the Melanesian scholars at Norfolk Island. Ten pounds sterling has been raised by them annually, for this good purpose.
The intercession services were held as usual this year, and a lively interest created in the Diocese of Algoma.
In the year 1876, I visited a large portion of the Diocese, and confirmed nine hundred persons, ordained one priest and three deacons, consecrated one church, and travelled two thousand three hundred and seventy-three miles. It is very satisfactory to find that in the confirmations, the number of those who communicate on the same day, or on the next Sunday, has largely increased; in many parishes nearly all communicating, in others the great majority; though I have still to deplore the existence of backward parishes, in which those who made promises failed to fulfil their engagements, and appeared to be totally ignorant of the spiritual loss they sustained. Parents are, I fear, greatly responsible for this neglect of duty, and seem to be much hindered by a foolish notion, to which the Church gives no sanction, that it is improper to have their children confirmed before they are fifteen or sixteen years of age. By their delay it often happens, that this duty is postponed till the young people are easily led away by wrong impressions; become independent and most difficult to be convinced; and are led to believe that they can receive no benefit from the ordinance, unless they can declare themselves converted, not after the manner of the Bible, but after the manner of human invention.
Having been taken suddenly unwell before the close of this visitation, I was thankful to avail myself of the services of my valued friend and brother, the Bishop of Maine, who promptly and most kindly confirmed in several country missions for me.
In the year 1876, I visited the North Shore and other parts of the Diocese, and confirmed four hundred and three persons, ordained four priests and three deacons, consecrated two churches and two burial grounds, and travelled three thousand two hundred and sixty-one miles.
Early in the summer I had the great satisfaction of receiving into our Church, through the kind assistance of Rev. L. A. Hoyt, the whole colony of Danish emigrants, two hundred in number; and of ordaining, after due examination, one of their number, who had been a school-teacher, the Rev. N. M. Hansen. As Mr. Hansen speaks both Danish and English, and read the Gospel in both languages in the Cathedral, he is well qualified to lead the devotions of the people in their own tongue, and to help those who are desirous to acquire the English language. I procured one hundred prayer books, for the use of the settlers, in the Danish language. They have already begun to build a small church, and I should feel greatly obliged, on their behalf, by any donations sent to me for that purpose, as assistance is much needed. Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Wales, has kindly sent a donation of twenty pounds sterling.
This year was to me a sorrowful one, being marked by the death of three old and valued friends. The first, my dear fellow-worker in the Vineyard, four years my senior, Bishop of the Diocese of Newfoundland. Few bishops have presided over a harder field of labour, or have worked more faithfully or successfully in it. He left fifty-two clergy, where he found only twelve; a college endowed with £7,500; two orphanages; a clergy widows' fund; churches doubled in number; and a Cathedral partly completed, which requires only a dignified chancel to make it a very noble and striking church. His was a mind of no common order. An accomplished scholar; a well-read theologian; exact and punctilious in his requirements of duty, if stern to others, sterner to himself; playful as a child, and full of genial humour; flinching from no difficulty, and ever ready to expose himself to the severest hardships; bountiful to the Church; a true friend in need and sickness,--he shortened his days by exposure to the storms of winter in assisting a sick clergyman. He died in a portion of his Diocese at present deprived of all Episcopal supervision, and left only one wish ungratified,--to be buried under the shadow of the Cathedral he had built, and in which he had so long ministered.
Another friend, if less distinguished, was no less dear to me,--the Rev. James Ford, a brother Prebendary of Exeter Cathedral; a ripe and elegant scholar, translator of Dante, and versed in Spanish and Italian literature. His practical commentary on Scripture is well known to the younger clergy of this Diocese by his liberal presents, and I was often enabled to give assistance in quarters where it was required, by his generosity. He died in Christian faith and tranquillity, in his eightieth year, at Bath.
A third valued friend and benefactor to this Diocese, who assisted me in my first effort in church building, in the year 1841, has also been called away--W. Gibbs, Esq., of Tyntesfield, near Bristol. His name will long be remembered in England from his munificent charities; and in 1868, I had the happiness of consecrating, at the request of my former Diocesan, the late Bishop of Exeter, the noble church he built and endowed at an expense of £28,000, in the city of Exeter. "Unto their assembly may my soul be united,"
"In the blest kingdoms meek of joy and love."
With regard to the financial position and prospects of the Diocese, though we may expect this year to be a year of considerable trial and difficulty, we have reason to be encouraged, looking at the matter from the course of several years. I am informed by a churchman who has devoted much time and labour to the interests of the Church, that if we allow $9,000 as a fair estimate of contributions to the Church Society, and parish payments in aided parishes about the year 1888, that it Is probable that under the Board of Home Missions, nearly $30,000 has been raised from that time to the present, over and above what might have been expected under the old system; and the Board have been enabled to raise the average stipend, about $100, besides maintaining several new posts. Our inability to raise the stipend of the missionaries to a more reasonable amount is only prevented by the backwardness of a few parishes, which hold back, and refuse to contribute with their brethren. No equitable reason can be given to show that gentlemen, living in quiet country parishes, should refuse to contribute less in proportion to their means than their neighbours, or should call on those who live in town parishes to make up their deficiencies; and in many cases, the subscriptions to the Church Society ill accord with the known wealth of the donors. Wealthy persons still receive aid contentedly, when they could afford to do without it, and should be ashamed to take it. The present visitation, which has consumed property by thousands, is doubtless intended to remind many that what has been irrecoverably lost might have been laid up in the book of God's remembrance, where none of it would have perished.
It must not, however, be forgotten that contributions which we see in print do not include the numerous instances in which improvements have, been effected in our churches, and loving gifts have been bestowed on the poor and needy. It is pleasant also to see that whereas for many years no offerings were made for missions beyond the borders of our own Province, that during the last year more than $2,000 was contributed through various channels for this good purpose, independently of what has been given in clothing to the inmates of the Shingwauk Home, and the large contributions which have been sent from different parts of the Province to the sufferers by the fire.
Nor do I mention such gifts as the only or ns the chief tokens of spiritual life. They are only proofs of faith and love within the soul. But where they are wholly absent, we fear that the love of God has never taken root.
The growth of sin, and the general deterioration of public morality in many important matters, is indeed an alarming feature of our times. We see indications of self-will in general dislike and contempt of authority, unbelief openly avowed, exceeding selfishness, enormous waste and needless luxury; a scarcely disavowed Universalism taints the faith of thousands; and flagrant dishonesty occurs in public and in private accounts; a general distrust is felt in large classes of the community; in great calamities, multitudes resort to plunder and robbery with an eagerness which betrays an entire absence of all moral principle, of all kind and humane feelings; a frantic desire is prevalent to hear the sensational, without regard to the seriousness of the speaker or the truth of what is said; so that what is misnamed charity is sometimes no more than unbelief in any distinctive Christian doctrine, under the pretence that all teaching is equally good, or alike indifferent. Such are some of the terrible evils we have to encounter. But it would be unjust to society at large, and to Providence, not to acknowledge with thankfulness the tokens we daily witness of holy, reverent fear of God, humble self-denial, patient endurance of sickness and losses, daily charitable efforts to do good, purity of life, constant sobriety, honesty and uprightness in all the transactions of business, unswerving loyalty to our Church even under the most unfavourable circumstances, and regular attendance at the ordinances of our Church, with a perceptible increase of devout communicants. When the tares and the wheat so plainly grow side by side in the same field, we cannot fail to ask ourselves with fear and trembling, has the enemy sowed those tares while we slept?
I am bound, indeed, more than any other person, to thank you all for the courtesy, hospitality, and good feeling with which you have welcomed my coining amongst you, and for the unvarying support you have rendered me, both in the Church Society, and as president of the Synod. The laity also have given as freely and abundantly of their valuable time and experience, and have been as brothers to us in every good work. And not only in financial matters, but in giving form to the discipline of our Church, we owe much to their patient and assiduous labour. The busiest among them have often worked the hardest, and I hope the time will come when there will not be a layman in the Diocese, who does not think it an honour to spend and be spent in the work of the Church.
The other subject on which I desire to say a word, is the spiritual result we should endeavour to draw from this calamitous fire, and the means which may, under God, contribute to this result. Whilst we ought to be especially thankful for the great charity which has been shown in all quarters towards the sufferers, that is, after all, only an alleviation of our temporal wants. The good effect must, under the Divine blessing, come from within, not from without. A general reformation, we can hardly, I fear, expect to witness. It seems as hopeless, as to "force the course of a river." But no doubt, many will be led to own, that God has spiritual blessings in store for them, under the guise of temporal evils, and will obtain from their sorrows lasting good.
We wish to see a deep humiliation of soul under the mighty hand of God. We wish men to acknowledge that it is a judgment, not a mere accident; in which the innocent indeed may suffer with the guilty, but in which we dare not fix on individuals as the cause of the evil, but must share with them in the effects. We pray that this suffering may not only load them to rebuild their houses, but to improve their lives. We desire to see more plain living, and high thinking. We wish no longer to find young men and women indulging in expenses far exceeding their income, and in consequence, tempted to rush into wild speculations, or dishonest dealings with their employers; but incurring no debts which they cannot afford to pay, and free from the kindred vices of gambling, intemperance, fraud, and licentiousness. Above all, we would wish to see them such Christians as the Apostle describes, living temples of the Holy Ghost, pure in conversation, honest in business, full of undissembled love, "abhorring what is evil, cleaving to what is good, patient towards all men, not wise in their own conceits, of the same mind one toward another, and overcoming evil with good." And when we hear the wish uttered, that the City of St. John may rise from her ashes grander and richer than ever, we would proclaim in men's ears, Righteousness is the true riches, which never makes to itself wings and flies away.
It is for us, my brethren, to set an example of this Christian spirit; to take care that our families be models of purity, simplicity and prudence; to live in debt to no man; to aim at the highest standard of truth, that our example may shed lustre on our profession, and crown an humble and laborious life with a peaceful, Christian, and most blessed end.
In the foregoing extracts allusion is made to one of the greatest calamities by which the Province had ever been visited. On the 20th June, 1877, a fire broke out by which a large portion of the City of St. John was reduced to ashes. The loss to merchants and others engaged in business was enormous, amounting at a moderate estimate to $20,000,000.
Generous gifts and kind sympathy helped to allay, in some degree, the more immediate wants of the sufferers. The many years which have since elapsed, with all the energy and determination so largely displayed, have failed to make good many an irreparable loss. As always in seasons of trouble and distress, the Bishop was ready with substantial aid, warmest sympathy, and fatherly counsel. Soon after the fire he preached in the stricken city, at St. John's church. His text was taken from St. Luke xiii. 2, 3: "And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish":
What are the lessons, my brethren, which God intends us to learn from the great and unexpected calamity which has befallen us? The text implies that all such evils are permitted by God, but it shows a clear distinction between the Providence of God and the agency of man.... Even when a special punishment was foretold by the prophets of old, for some special national sin, the righteous suffered with the wicked.
Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel went into captivity, and lost all they possessed, together with the guilty Israelites, who had neglected and mocked at their predictions. Thus, the chief caution of the passage is a warning against self-righteousness; and we are reminded that our duty lies in doing all in our power to mitigate the evil under which others are suffering without attempting to penetrate into the counsels of the Almighty, or to pronounce judgment, individually, on our fellow-creatures.
...Our first lesson is one of deep humility. "We brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." Even if we admit that we cannot carry our possessions with us, we feel confident of being able to bequeath them. But God steps in and shows us, that not even this is always permitted. When the sense of possession is strongest; when the produce of our labour in our silver and gold is multiplied; when our houses are enriched with costly ornaments; when banks are laden with our accumulations; when private citizens and corporations spend as if there were no end to riches, and the world lay at their feet; when men cry "peace and safety," then "sudden destruction cometh upon them "and there is no escape. All is levelled to the ground.....
What a terrible reflection comes home to us, that we shall have to give a strict account of all these riches which are gone, and which we are not now permitted to enjoy! A humble submission to the will of God will do much to mitigate the loss and soften the blow. There is much suffering, but the great hope remains. If we face this great sorrow manfully and resolutely, God may yet raise our city from the dust. Industry and perseverance will do much to restore our walls, but humility will do more; it will promote our moral and religious improvement; it will teach us lessons of good, which communities in general are too slow to learn......
Now is the time for plainer living and higher thinking; for contracting no debts we cannot in reason hope to pay. Till Christians come to understand that debts ill-contracted and undischarged are ill-disguised robbery, they have not learned the elements of the religion they profess. Their prayers, their alms, their communion, are of no value in the sight of God.......
But to our comfort under this calamity, we may remember that punishment is always intended by God as a remedy. The sinful heart of man requires to be taught by pain. Unchecked prosperity corrupts and enfeebles the mind, as surely as a constantly hot climate enervates the body. Sin needs to be burned out, and grace to be burned into the soul, and we are braced and invigorated by chastisement...........
Think of the readiness with which you have been assisted from all quarters; the spirit of Christian charity which has been called forth; the union of many hearts and hands in untiring and unselfish labour; the eager desire to benefit without hope of return; the happy forgetfulness of rivalries, all folded together in the embrace of a universal charity, and you will see that, probably, more zeal and substantial good may result, than if the evil had never been permitted.
Oh! the blessing of heavenly contentment in every station in which God has placed us; the blessing of imparting to the honest poor, what is in our power to give; of not hastening to be rich. Of being able to lie down in peace and safety!
Soon I shall have nothing but a shroud, my coverlet will be a narrow bed of earth; therefore, oh my God, make me satisfied with the portion Thou allottest me; give me a calm and thankful heart; religious and reasonable desires, honesty, prudence and simplicity; a guileless soul; a quiet, trusting spirit, that I may find all I need, desire and hope for, in Thee!