Chapter XXI. Failing Strength--Instances of Kindness to those in Affliction--Last Attendance at the Synod--Last Sermon
AT the triennial period in 1889 the Bishop felt unable to deliver a Charge to the clergy. His son Charles was then hopelessly ill, and had sent to the Synod his resignation of the office of secretary. In a brief address, the Bishop most feelingly alluded to his great affliction in words expressive of meek resignation. He seemed to appreciate very fully the deep sympathy on the part of the members of the Synod, and their kind and affectionate message sent to the sufferer.
The Bishop failed to recover from the effect of his son's death. Of this he spoke himself. It was noticed that his memory began to fail, though in other respects his health was good. In the winter of 1889 he slipped on a bit of ice at the steps of the post office. By the fall he injured his wrist and right hand, which induced for a time a good deal of suffering. "With characteristic energy, he at once set to work to learn to write with the uninjured hand. He got so far on, that he sent this message to the present writer: "Tell him I can write more plainly now with my left hand than he does with his right." In the course of a few months he wholly recovered from the effects of this injury.
From the time now referred to, the Bishop felt unequal to extended journeys. He was able to administer the rite of confirmation occasionally. His time was mostly passed in his home at Bishopscote. He was constantly present at the daily services of the Cathedral, always reading at least one of the lessons. There was, at this time, something very attractive in his calm cheerfulness.
Allusion has been made before to the Bishop's kindness in visiting and caring for those who were in affliction or want. This continued as long as his strength permitted. Two instances here given will serve to illustrate his thoughtfulness. In Fredericton the Presbyterians were numerous. For many years the Rev. Dr. Brook was their pastor. He was on terms of intimate friendship with the Bishop. Among his own people Dr. Brook was greatly beloved, and he had justly won the respect and regard of the whole community. His wife, a most worthy helpmeet, had, after a period of great suffering, lost her eyesight. Soon after this occurrence Dr. Brook himself, by reason of a stroke of illness from which there was no hope of recovery, was obliged to resign his charge. The Bishop was most constant in acts of kindness and sympathy. His visits were frequent, and his ministrations most heartily appreciated. After the death of Dr. Brook the same kind attention was shown to his blind widow till her death.
Another instance, in another class of life. There lived a widow, advanced in years and of limited means, some distance from the Cathedral. She was a good woman and a constant communicant. No want of a temporal kind was left unsupplied from the Bishop's hand. At regular intervals he sent a conveyance to enable her to be at the Cathedral to receive the holy communion. The day was to be spent at Bishopscote, and then the poor widow was taken back to her home.
The Bishop was present for the last time at the meeting of the Synod and Church Society in St. John July 6th, 1892. The Coadjutor presided. At the opening of the Synod the Bishop read the prayers. His voice was quite distinct. During the session he came in now and then, and seemed to listen with attention to what was going on. At the anniversary service in Trinity church he was unable to join in the procession. He came in from the vestry and took his seat in the sanctuary, and he pronounced the benediction at the conclusion of the service. This was the final parting from his assembled clergy. From his seat in the chancel he was assisted by the Coadjutor to the vestry.
The Bishop remained in St. John the two Sundays following. He depended now, more than ever, upon the loving and untiring care of his devoted wife. She seldom left his side. With her he visited several old friends. He was, it was said, "so like his old self, only perhaps more cheerful."
The Bishop, on Sunday, the 10th, attended two of the churches in the city and took part in the services. In a sermon preached the Sunday after the Bishop's death, by the priest in charge of the Mission Chapel, he said: "Not many days ago, on a Sunday, and at evensong, an aged Prelate came up this aisle, stood in yonder chancel, spake the great words of absolving grace, gave us his blessing, and went on his way, to serve no more within these walls; and soon to exchange the life of wondrous labor for the life of rest and peace in the Paradise of God."
On the Sunday following, the 17th July, the Bishop was present in the morning at St. Paul's Church. He took little part in the service, and appeared very feeble. He was again present in the evening and was much stronger. On this occasion he preached a most touching and impressive sermon, and was heard distinctly in all parts of the church. The sermon is subjoined in full. Allusion has been made above to the comparatively brief interruption in the general feeling of affection and regard for the Bishop on the part of the members of St. Paul's Church. Only his long extended kindness and benevolence were remembered now. No feeling had a place but that of the greatest reverence and affection for one whose oft-repeated messages from the Blessed Master would be heard in that house of God no more.
Sermon at St. Paul's Church, July 17th, 1892.
"Quench not the spirit."--1 Thess. 5, r. 19.
Two things are spoken of in this text:
1st. The greatness of the gift itself. It is the Spirit which is given.
2nd. The possibility of losing the gift by negligence, indifference or positive sin. We may "quench the Spirit." To have lost the favour of a tyrant who never loved us, would not be a thousand-part so miserable as to have lost the presence of a loving, tender, ever-present friend, a wise counsellor, an unerring guide, who pleads within us that He may be allowed to save us.
The greatness of the gift of the Holy Spirit is seen, if we remember that the Spirit is God.
When Ananias lied to the Holy Ghost, he lied (we are told) "Not unto men, but unto God." And as the Holy Spirit is divine by nature, so is He equally divine by the personal relation He bears to the Father and to the Son. When God made man, He said, "Let us make man in our image." When God would make man anew the Son of God said to Nicodemus, "Man must be newborn of water and the Spirit," if he would become an heir of God's kingdom.
When our Lord before His ascension into heaven issued His first command, He bid His Apostles go everywhere and baptize in the one, yet three-fold name, of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Baptism in His name, signifies consecration to Him who is God, adoption into the service of God, a new birth into the family of God, a new gift to the presence of God.
When our Lord would instruct His Apostles on the deepest of fundamental articles of the Christian Faith, He dwelt especially on the divinity and personality of the Holy Spirit, who was to abide with us for ever. The gift of the Spirit was to be the fruit of Christ's going to the Father, and the answer to His prayers. He was to represent Christ on earth invisibly but most truly. He was to proceed from the Father and to be sent by the Son. He was to know the Son as the Son knew the Father. He was to take of what belongs to the Son, i. e., of all that the Father had, His knowledge, His power, His love, and apply them to the good of man.. As the Lord Jesus was directed by the Father what He should say and what He should do, so the Holy Spirit should represent to the world the thoughts and actions of the Divine Saviour. "Whatsoever He shall hear that shall He speak." He was to be the Comforter and the Advocate, the Friend and yet the Judge--the Spirit of Truth and Purity, of Wisdom and Consolation, of Unity and Love. As all the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Christ bodily,. so all the fulness of the Godhead dwells in the Spirit, the Father and the Son spiritually, truly and essentially. "For in this Trinity none is afore or after other" in object of time, "none is greater or less than another" in respect of essence, but the three persons in one Godhead are co-eternal and co-equal, and this is the Catholic Faith, which it is most perilous to our souls to deny, for it is proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture, and we are put in trust with it by God. This Holy and Divine Spirit is our Advocate, not as Christ is our Advocate, by presenting perpetually before the-Father the merit of His passion and obedience unto death, but as-coming into our hearts. He teaches us what to ask for, and how to ask; He puts the right meaning into our words. He sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts, causing unspeakable, silent yearnings after God, dove-like moanings of the heart pleading within us, warning, cheering, quickening, stirring the embers of spiritual life, supplying us with the oil of the anointing, the holy fire that burns within the breast. As parents teach their little children and pray with them, before the children can understand the meaning of the prayer, so the Holy Ghost is ever teaching us, His children, in prayers and holy hymns, in parables and summaries of belief, in inspired words and Christian exhortation, in holy sacraments and godly books, in everything that ministers to our spiritual strength and comfort and fruitfulness in good works, to our patience under suffering and resistance of sin, and perseverance in duty, and hope of the world to come. The two great means He is pleased to use are the Bible and the Church. The Church came before the Bible. Many ages before a word of Holy Scripture was committed to writing the Church of God existed ou earth. Enoch was one of its prophets, and Noah too walked with God. "Then began men to call on the name of the Lord." Abraham had no Bible, no-written revelation to guide him, yet he was the pattern of believers-and the friend of God.
Thus the Holy Spirit strove with men of old and dwelt in them guiding them to the truth, though His grace was not given in the fulness which was manifested after our Lord ascended into Heaven. In process of time the book of the law was written by Moses and the writers of the History of Israel, and the Psalmists and the Prophets followed at great intervals after, adding by degrees to the inspired books of Holy Scripture, and last came the writings of the New Testament, not written all at once, but during a course of about fifty years, during which time the Church was growing everywhere, built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, "Jesus Christ himself being its chief corner stone."
The world was not converted to Christianity by scattering vast numbers of Bibles about the world. It was not a book that converted men, for the book, as a whole did not exist. It was not even written, much less printed. Men were converted by the living ministry of Apostolic teachers, guided by the power of the indwelling Spirit, proving their doctrine by miracles, and by the prophecies of the Old Testament to which they constantly referred and appealed. This appears plainly from St. Peter's first sermon on the day of Pentecost, and from the fact that St. Paul addresses his Epistle to the Romans, to Roman Christians "called to be saints," though they would have had very little, if any, of the New Testament in their possession. Those who first brought to the Romans, the glad tidings of salvation through Christ were probably the strangers of Rome, whether Jews or proselytes, of whom mention is-made in the Second Chapter of the Acts, as moved by the Holy Ghost to declare "in their own tongue the wonderful works of God."
Our great privilege is to have the whole Bible and the Church together. The Holy Bible is now complete. As it is the inspired word of God we can neither take from it, nor add to it. It is closed to the end of time. But the truth that comes to us in the Bible is given to us by the living voice of the Church. We learn Spiritual truth in the same way that we learn Natural Science. We are taught it as children, we learn it as young men, not by picking and choosing little bits of religion out of the Bible as our fancy please, but by the ordinary teaching of the Church, i, e., of those commissioned to instruct us whether they be our natural parents, or our appointed ministers, or the Church at large by her daily course of instruction, her sacraments, her creeds, her large extracts from Holy Scripture, her whole body of Truth.
Neither of these two gifts supersedes the other. The Church cannot teach us, as necessary to salvation, anything which cannot be proved and concluded from the Bible, and the Bible sends us for a sound interpretation of its words to the testimony of the Church in all ages, received' and professed by the general voice of all Christians, recorded in her Creeds, quoted in her Liturgies, and proclaimed in her public assemblies.
Both those high and noble gifts are the work of one and the same Spirit of God. We are not to receive one and reject the other, our duty is to receive and be thankful for both, and to use each of them in the order, and in the way that the Holy Spirit has provided, humbly receiving, as children, mysteries beyond our knowledge, advancing in the unity of the faith towards perfect manhood, and to our dying day learning more and more, both from the Bible and the Church, of what is the Way, the Truth, and the Life which leads to everlasting salvation. Such is the gift of the Spirit for which we thankfully bless God.
But the text also conveys a solemn warning to which every one should give heed: Quench NOT the Spirit. This direction is a witness to the great and awful truth of our trial and probation. The Holy Spirit is not given to us (as some teach) irresistibly--in such a manner that when we have once received it we can never lose it. Our Lord's parables point in the contrary direction. The ten Virgins all had lamps given them, and oil to feed their lamps and keep the light burning. In the parable of the pounds and the talents the receiver was to trade with them and render the gift more valuable. Those who had the good seed were to receive it in an honest and good heart that it might bring forth abundant fruit. So the Apostle's words imply that we have it in our power to quench the Spirit, to put out the light, by unbelief and disobedience.
Fire was the symbol of the Holy Spirit's descent at Pentecost and it stood upon each of them. Even Judas Iscariot had his commission to heal miraculously like the rest, but he threw the gift away and became the traitor.
Observe them now, all the attributes of the Holy Spirit seem to give point and significance to the warning.
1st. He is the Spirit of Truth. Therefore hypocritical ways, false witness, the habit of lying and equivocation, the wilful denial of Truth, the being ashamed of it, and refusing to own it, in order to gain popularity, the listening to sceptical objections without honest searching after Truth, the habit of slothful indifference to Truth, the mockery of jesting over the Bible, as if it were only half true and half false, the irreverence which listens to the Bible with a sneer, and never prays for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to make it profitable to the soul. All these come of evil and lead to evil. Therefore "Quench not the Spirit."
2nd. He is the Spirit of Purity. Therefore the indulgence of uncleanness in thought, word, or deed, the telling of filthy stories, the reading obscene books, making a hero of the adulterer and the fornicator, the making light of un chastity before marriage, and generally speaking the words and deeds of an impure and corrupt life, these are of evil and lead to worse. Therefore "Quench not the Spirit."
3rd. He is the Spirit of obedience. Disobedient children grow up to be wilful, headstrong, unruly, self-conceited young men and young women, and disobedient habits grow into hardness of heart, so that the Holy Scripture is a snare and a stumbling block rather than a guide, and the disobedient temper disdains humility, but loves pride and scorning, extravagance and dissipation and self-indulgence, and hates lowly self-denying ways which are well pleasing to God. Therefore "Quench not the Spirit."
4th. He is the Spirit of Unity and Love. Therefore shun the quarrelsome, litigious temper, masterful, easily offended when no offence is meant, vindictive, thinking evil of others, rejoicing when harm happens to them, too independent to submit to the rules of the Church and to follow the pattern of the Saints, following after many teachers with itching ears and frivolous hearts, striving for wars and not for peace, "puffed up and behaving itself unseemly," and arrogantly boasting of knowledge but really ignorant of all saving Truth. This too cometh of evil and leads to evil. Therefore "Quench not the Spirit."
5th. He is also the Spirit of Consolation, known by this gracious title, and so named by the Lord Jesus Himself. Seek not comfort then in avaricious ways, in ostentatious display of riches or of dress, for these things are a mockery of joy. They breed discomfort in the hour of sickness and extremity of pain, in sudden and unexpected losses, when the wealth of the world cannot buy an hour's respite, when sight is dim and memory failing and friends are helpless to assist us. Seek comfort in the light that shines brightest in adversity, in the support and strength ever given to the weak and friendless and desponding, in the hope that looks to the shining ones beyond the river, in the pure stream that makes glad the city of God, on the treasured promises that are "an anchor sure and steadfast" in the last extremity. All these blessings you may need sooner than you expect. It is the Spirit of God that seals them and makes them sure to the day of your redemption. Therefore "Quench not the Spirit"--the Spirit of Truth, of Purity, of Obedience, of Love, and of Eternal Consolation. Amen.