THE FUNCTION AND GRACE OF THE
PREACHED IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY,
ON ST. BARTHOLOMEW'S DAY, AUGUST 24, 1874,
ON THE OCCASION OF THE CONSECRATION OF
THE RT. REV. W. BASIL JONES, M.A.,
RT. REV. EDWARD STEERE, LL.D.,
THE REV. ANTHONY W. THOROLD, M.A.,
PUBLISHED BY REQUEST.
2 TIMOTHY ii. 12.
“Thou therefore my son be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."
FEW words in all the Bible give a better illustration than these do of the unbroken continuity of the Church's life. For a moment, indeed, a wide gulf rises up--between us here this day, in this venerable shrine, and Timothy, as we may well fancy him, going forth from the crowded streets of Pagan Ephesus, to some leafy dell in the adjacent mountain--there on his knees to spread out before God the last letter that Paul the aged would ever write. But, as we ponder them, the blessed assurance steals on us that Christ our Head still reigns, and the Church, His Body, still lives; in all essential things, one and indivisible from the Church of the primitive time. The office held by Timothy is practically identical with that Episcopal function to which our brethren here today, strengthened [5/6] by your prayers, are to be solemnly set apart. With us, as with St. Paul, quite the first qualification for so lofty an office is a plentiful endowment of the Holy Ghost. The one unchanging and unchangeable object of a succession of faithful men is the succession of the faith. The first duty of a Bishop--paramount in the obligations it imposes, in the prudence it compels, in the intercessions it invites--is the choosing of fit persons to preach the Kingdom of God. No doubt, since that early time, a bishop's life has seen vast changes in many of its outside features; and a bishop's office has occasionally been stained with innocent blood, compromised by worldly ambition, polluted by hideous wickedness. But it has also been dignified by statesmanship, ennobled by sacrifice, and hallowed by martyrdom; and among English bishops, Anselm and William of Wykeham, Parker and Beveridge, Ken and Wilson have been worthy to rank among the benefactors of their age. And there are bishops still, with a great work in front of them. Nay, it may almost be said, that never since the seven bishops went to the Tower has the Episcopal office stirred more interest, excited more hostility, or compelled more attention than at the present moment; and though it is the fashion to talk in a loose way of the English Church rapidly losing hold of the affections of the English nation; as a rule, men do not trouble themselves to attack what they despise, or to improve [6/7] what they intend to destroy. When Parliament distinctly, unwaveringly, almost eagerly resolved to arm the bishops with sufficient authority for maintaining the law, two things at least became plain. One, the distinct expression of public opinion, that the Church was worth preserving on the condition of her being faithful to the trust for which her martyrs died. The other, that this Church of England, in the person of her bishops, is once more conspicuously on her trial. It is quite true that a certain portion of the public, studiously ignorant of Church history, and almost contemptuously sceptical of Church claims, coldly waits to see the issue of the crisis, and answers not a word when invited to take a share in the defence of the Gospel. But it is quite as true, that the great mass of God-fearing people throughout the land is resolutely determined that England shall be Protestant; and if the Church consents to keep her Protestant, they will not suffer her to be touched by one hostile finger; and it is now in the power of the bishops, supported as they are, to a far greater extent than they suppose, by the loyal respect both of clergy and laity, to win for themselves, and their office, and the Church of which they are the honoured chiefs, a supreme and permanent place in the affections of their countrymen.
Two simple but suggestive ideas exhaust the teaching of the text. One the function: the other, the [7/8] grace. The function is thus indicated: "The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." What was supremely important to the Apostle's mind at that moment was the maintenance of sound doctrine, through persons qualified to preach it undefiled and unimpaired. The details of Church government, the methods of Church organization did not then even occur to the mind of the Apostle, so bent was he on one thing--preserving the Gospel to the world. Other things might wait, this could not. Other things might promote her usefulness and perfect her beauty; this touched her life. And to put it simply, three chief things are included in this function--ordaining, governing, promoting. Ordaining, which perpetuates the succession; governing, which administers the Body; promoting, which ensures the truth. Hardly a sentence can be needed either to explain or enforce the vast importance of a bishop's greatest function in ordaining ministers for the Church of God; nor how too much pains cannot be taken by previous enquiry, personal interview, careful examination, solemn prayer, before the young and untried hand is put to the plough that should never be taken off again until the harvest comes. One who goes forth from these walls to-day, a bishop of the Church of God, for thirteen years past, has had a fuller experience than most men of what such work [8/9] should be; and his friend, who all that time has been so fortunate as to have a humble share in his labours, has at least had an opportunity of seeing how thoroughly such a work can be done. We have heard a good deal lately of a bishop's fatherliness; and a great master of sarcasm has reasonably complained of the difficulty of acting like a father to those who decline to be sons. But at ordination, as on the one side, fatherliness can never be more reasonable or opportune; so, on the other side, a Bishop's counsel is listened to, and his sympathy valued, and his prayers cherished by young hearts, singularly susceptible of kindness, and readily fertilized by grave and holy words dropped into a prepared soil. Oh, it is the young men, so rapidly and so steadily coming up after us, who need, yes, who value, kindly notice, and discreet counsel. If it is the young men, to whose rash, yet often well-meant zeal some of these deplorable innovations are no doubt owing, it is by the grand self-denial of young men also that much of the rough work of evangelizing the masses is being really done. And were it but possible for the curates as well as for the dons of a diocese, to have occasional opportunities of that personal conference with their chief, of which they of all men stand most in need, and which they most surely would not be the last to appreciate, it might easily happen that where a bishop's authority failed, a bishop's kindness would win: and that nature [9/10] would be stronger than law. But the committing the Apostolic tradition to faithful men practically includes not only the initiatory act of admitting into holy orders, but also those cognate functions that plainly spring from the very nature of the office, the discipline of episcopal government, the method of episcopal life.
The office of an English Bishop, whether in the eminence of its position, the variety of its functions, the grandeur of its opportunities, or the vastness of its influence, has perhaps nothing quite like it in Europe. With an income sufficient for refined and even opulent comfort, with a seat in the Legislature, and a social position of the first rank among the laity of his own diocese; welcome, and more than welcome, into every parsonage, sure wherever he preaches of a large and attentive congregation, and to many persons on certain subjects an authority without appeal; with valuable preferment to confer directly, and a good deal more to distribute indirectly, a bishop even of our own time indisputably occupies a place of commanding power. But when you add to all this the incalculable good a holy bishop may do by his life and example, by his preaching and speaking, by his preferments and administration; how he can stir piety, inspire munificence, shame laziness, and reward merit; how his boldness can rebuke scandal, his meekness disarm jealousy, his justice prevent disappointment, his kindliness cheer [10/11] sorrow: yes, and how by at once the most effective and least offensive way, he can checkmate the attacks of jaundiced and implacable enemies, not so much by pedantic arguments on questions that the bulk of Englishmen cannot enter into, but by evidencing in his own person, that Episcopacy is as good for the nineteenth century as the first, for Englishmen now, as for Greeks and Hebrews then; it is impossible not to feel what a grand career is open to such a man; with our apostle, we may almost be pardoned for magnifying the office.
Yet we can well understand how any one who holds the office, far better than those who look at it from a distance, out of a full and long experience, might be constrained to answer, “Who is sufficient for these things?"
The Anglican clergy are perhaps the most independent set of men on the face of the earth. Their English blood makes them jealous of interference. Their early training has taught them to be free. Their secluded lives narrow the scope of their energies. The perhaps too exclusive study of one subject gives them an almost Hebrew tenaciousness both of temper and mind. The question is, how to guide those who think for themselves, and oversee those who act for themselves, without rousing their jealousy, or cramping their freedom.
Self-respect suggests humility; and thought, toleration; and work, sympathy; and merit, reward. A great [11/12] English bishop once said that "manners makyth the man." So they do, so they must, and always; for, in a most real sense, manners are the man. A person of sense, ought not indeed to be liable to a weak or vulgar elation, because one of the accidents of his sacred calling is a life-peerage. A true servant of Christ, who, yesterday it may be, was quietly living in some secluded parsonage, should be in no danger of forgetting that a bishop is still a clergyman; that a palace is also a parsonage; that though his Master's will and his Sovereign's favour have called him to be a bishop, there are probably half-a-dozen men in his diocese his superiors, a dozen his equals, several surpassing him in something or other; that, if he has hard work, others too have hard work, with much less credit for it; that many all round him he would do well himself to imitate for the devoutness and self-sacrifice of their lives. So his first prayer will be that he may be clothed with humility; and that, instead of being a lord over God's heritage, he may be an example to the flock.
But thought compels toleration; and while there must be some limit to toleration, or what meaning can there be in the solemn question to be put this morning "Are you ready with all faithful diligence to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's Word," let men say what they please, our Anglican system must be accepted as a compromise, and [12/13] not only intentionally, but justifiably recognizes within its elastic boundaries the Protestant instincts of Cranmer, the stately Catholicism of Hooker, and the massive liberalism of Cudworth. It is not that a bishop may not, like other men, have the courage of his opinions, if only those opinions are sufficiently supported by the Word of God, and the English formularies, and his individual conscience; all that is asked is, that in matters intentionally left open to private judgment English clergymen shall move and think as freely as he himself does; and that he is careful to give the liberty that he has a right to take.
And work demands sympathy. How a hard-working clergyman, often solitary and disheartened, rejoices to know that his bishop's eye is upon him, and his bishop's heart with him, it need not be hard to suppose. But great is the encouragement, and cheering the recognition when a bishop can make time to converse in a friendly intimacy about a clergyman's work and cares, face to face with him; a cordial hospitality linking the two human natures into a genial fellowship, and solemn prayer together finishing and sanctifying the whole.
And merit asks for justice. On the question of promotion I have but two things to say; but I presume to say them with a very deep conviction of their truth. First, that a bishop in the distribution of the patronage attached to his see is a trustee of public, and not an [13/14] owner of private, property; that it is therefore his clear duty to distribute it, not as he would be quite justified in doing, if it were his own, solely to men of his own way of thinking, but to good men of all schools of thought, who, by hard work, and holy living, and soundness in the faith, have actually earned it. Then, that it is a bishop's duty in the making of his appointments, not to consider the claims of the clergy before the interests of the laity; and that, if for any special post, a thoroughly qualified person cannot be found within his own boundaries, it is his plain duty manfully to disregard any momentary resentment that may be stirred by it, and to search the country through for the man who will best serve Church and State in a post that God bids him fill.
Such is the function; and the grace needful for it in the secret that describes it, is union with Christ the Lord: in the one word that defines it is Power. How continually and inflexibly the Bible insists on Power! To Joshua for his captainship over Israel, the Divine command was, “Only be thou strong and very courageous;" and to Daniel for his prophetic office, "Be strong, yea, be strong;" and to the Ephesians for their conflict with the world, "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” “Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ." There are all sorts of power: and while some are essential, all are useful; and each [14/15] must take what God has given him, and without envying his neighbour make the most of his own. There is the real and legitimate power that comes with an accurate and varied erudition, which fertilizes the memory, refines the taste, mellows the judgment, and expands the reason; kindling the fancy with great possibilities of the future out of the history of the past, and firing the heart with the noble memories of an august inheritance, of which he who has just come into it must try not to be unworthy. There is the power of massive logical thought, of a clear statesmanlike judgment, calmly superior to those mischievous panics, which too often carry us away with them, so dishonouring to God, and so humbling to man; of a will that abides immoveably in its own decisions; of a brain that organizes plans, and masters details; of a sagacious penetration that reads character--the eye of a king of men, who can see as well as rule. If in addition to all this, or rather, some of this (for who can be expected to possess it all?) there is the facile elocution that can attract great masses, the charm of a genial presence that can lay aside the autocracy of a personal government for familiar though not undignified discussion; the wealth of modern culture that makes a Bishop's voice in society as well as in the pulpit an indirect defender of the faith, and a holy persuasiveness in declaring the glad tidings of the Gospel--here [15/16] are elements of power, which in a country like ours have a vast, though often an unseen influence: may a parish priest be pardoned for thinking that never in all these real forces was the English Episcopate wealthier than now.
But there is one element of power which I have purposely kept to the last, without which the force of the keenest intellect is morally powerless, and the glow of the kindliest temper but as a winter sunbeam, and the most accomplished learning but as chips out of a sawpit; I mean that moral and spiritual strength which, springing from union with an indwelling Lord, and assimilating to itself those other qualities of power blessedly impregnates them with its own Divine vitality, and consecrates them to the use of Him from whom first they came. To walk with God as a man with his friend, in all true humbleness and meek joyfulness, and honest self-surrender and trustful simplicity; in embarrassing interviews to realize His Presence; in the tedious weariness of a multitude of petty duties to brace the temper by doing all to Him; in the sadness that occasionally depresses even a robust nature at being misrepresented or misunderstood; in the solitariness that every really lofty nature must sometimes experience as the inevitable penalty of leaving the world to follow Christ; in the humbling consciousness of shortcoming and imperfection; in the felt lack of gifts that might have been so useful; nay, [16/17] as life goes on, of bodily strength unequal to the burdens of the day--at such times quietly to rest on God, and to commit the life's way to Him; to turn each day's occupation into an unbroken obedience, to steep each hour's atmosphere in a spirit of prayerthis is possible: some here know it to be possible; it is possible, and it is blessed. The peace of God rules in the heart where God is trusted; and they that wait upon the Lord renew their strength.
With three last thoughts I would conclude. When St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians "to give no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed," he uttered an admonition that may well be thought seasonable for all ranks of the Christian clergy. English people give in various ways a good deal to their bishops, but then they expect a great deal in return. An exalted position, and important duties are somewhat heavily weighted by an exacting public opinion; and our countrymen, on the whole generous and just, are still apt to be terribly hard on the errors of great churchmen, and punish certain faults that are peculiarly distasteful to them with a biting censure that scars till the grave. Possibly we have partly ourselves to thank for this, through a fault both of mind and manner--I mean a certain shy stiffness and cold formality with our lay brethren, whose opinions might be of immense value to us, whose general culture is sometimes far more extensive than our own, [17/18] whose society need not make us worldly, unless we are worldly to begin with, and whose common sense and experience would often save us from great mistakes. But if we avoid them, or only see them when we want to use them; if we treat them as if they had everything to learn and nothing to teach; if, worst of all, we are perilously indifferent to the opinions and convictions of the present time, society will take its revenge, and the Church will suffer loss; and not only shall we have no sort of influence with our educated people, but when we err, as sometimes we must, they will censure our faults almost as if they were grave vices; and the indiscreet actions of learned and pious men will be a mockery and a scandal to the world.
But there is not only the uncompromising and sometimes capricious tribunal of public opinion, before which all of us stand day by day to be judged; there is also the cloud of witnesses--the spiritual and ancient ancestry, which one at least of our brethren, from this day forward, may claim as his own: with their errors to warn him, and their example to encourage him; what they have left undone for him to finish; what they have done already, for him to hold fast to the end. Among previous occupants of this ancient see of St. David's, Chicheley, Laud, Bull were among the prominent members of the English hierarchy; last of all, the [18/19] yet living Thirlwall, whose vast erudition, gleaming with a refined and varied culture, is but worthy of his luminous and comprehensive intellect; a bishop whose charges were theological treatises; a statesman whose speeches were state papers; an author, whose history justly claims a place in every public library in Europe; a Divine, who thirty years ago anticipated and discussed some of the most important innovations in English theology, with a knowledge that most may envy, a courage that all will respect, though with conclusions to which some must demur. To his successor he has left a legacy, not of emolument but of anxiety, in that exquisite Cathedral, now slowly rising out of its ruins, on which more than 23,000l. has already been incurred; a shrine conceived in the purest style of mediaeval architecture; on its lofty promontory offering the Christian welcome of England to her kinsmen on the other side of the Atlantic; and declaring with the voice of her silent though decayed beauty the imperishable vitality of the Church of God.
The Dean of this great Abbey readily sanctions the application of the offertory to-day to the restoration of St. David's Cathedral. Will you not send to his distant see her new Bishop, with his hands filled with your free-will offerings, for a work that Englishmen at least need not grudge them; and which every native of the Principality should gladly aid?
 Finally--there is for them, for us all, the Presence of Christ--that ever embracing, in-dwelling atmosphere of the Infinite Redeeming Love, which He promised to His Apostles before He left them, which He has never denied His Church in her coldest and darkest hours, which for all of us here this day, with our homelier conflicts and duties, should be the blessed reality of our lives. Christ dwelling in us is our Salvation. Christ formed in us is our Holiness. But Christ realized by us is our power. Whoever we are, we need a more entire self surrender to the Divine Will; a more simple faith in God's readiness to give us all the blessings of His kingdom; to believe that a greater holiness is as much. His promise as our duty; to see clearly, that it is not new creeds, new systems, new doctrines we need; but more life and power in the old.
So, in our final greeting to our friends and brethren, we would linger on but one thoughtthe unspeakable nobleness of the duties to which their Master calls them. We remind them of but one promise: that all things are Christ's; and that all that is Christ's is for His people. We utter but one prayer: that in all things they may know God's will, and at all times be ready to fulfil it. We repeat but one assurance--"My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest."