ON MAY 20, 21, 22, 1861, BEING THE FIRST THREE DAYS
OF EMBER WEEK.
and the Officers of the College.
THERE have been two occasions upon which the hearts of those concerned must have been wrought up to the utmost intensity of earnest expectation. The first, when the Redeemer of the world was on the point of being manifested. Transfer yourselves for a moment in imagination to the stable at Bethlehem. How unutterable must have been the thoughts, how rapt the expectations of the Virgin-mother as the time was accomplishing that she should be delivered! The heir of David was about to be ushered into the world--the child not of man to be born. She herself bore within her that holy thing which should be called the Son of God. What was going to happen? what would she see in that dread birth-hour? what form would she embrace when her ineffable travail was past? We scarce [3/4] venture to surmise the musings of those pure souls as they prepared the manger-bed and made ready the swaddling clothes. Depths were around them on every side. They were the sole human depositaries of the very secret of the Lord. In a little time they would know: meanwhile how guarded we think would they be in every word and work, as they waited for the Lord to come unto them.
And scarcely less intense must have been the emotions with which the apostles on the eve of Pentecost awaited in Jerusalem the advent of the Comforter. The period between the ascension of Christ and the descent of the Holy Ghost must have been to the disciples much as the lingering hours of the first Christmas eve to Joseph and Mary. To them too would occur the question, "What was He that was to come? Who was the majestic Being whose presence would more than counterbalance the loss of their dear Lord? In what shape would He appear? Would He be revealed, like Christ, in the similitude of a man, or would some radiant form burst upon their sight, and dazzle the eyes of the children of earth with the beauty of heaven? How would He teach them all things? How would He communicate with them?" They had been bidden [4/5] not to depart from Jerusalem; and so they tarried in the Holy City, that little company of apostles and disciples, musing on the past, expecting the future. She too was there, we read, Mary the mother of Jesus, united with them in their solemn vigil, watching as once before for the Messenger of Heaven. And again we say, how absorbed must have been their souls, how guarded their conduct! How rapt every heart from the outer world, how filled to overflowing with what had been, and what had yet to be!
Now in this position of the apostles we find an image of our own during this Ember-week. What the unction of the Holy Ghost was to the first preachers of Christ, that is the gift of Holy Orders to us. Some of you, like them, even now are waiting to be endued with power from on high. Why they were made to wait ten days for the descent of the Spirit we are left to conjecture. It may have been intended as a yet further probation, to see if any would again, as after the Resurrection, return to the fishing-boat and the net. Or it may have been to sever them more completely from their former self, interposing a solemn pause between the old life and the new, and so to bring out more clearly [5/6] the essentially spiritual nature of the ministry which they were to exercise. We would join ourselves to them in heart, as in the Holy City they expect the promise of the Father. The command of Christ to them will afford scope for useful meditation to us at this season, upon our office as stewards of His mysteries and upon the way in which we may best qualify ourselves for it:--"Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high."
I. What is the light thrown by these words upon the office of the Christian ministry?
Now it must be observed that the institution of the apostles to their high office as stewards of the mysteries of God took place on the night of the Resurrection. Then our blessed Lord gave them their commission as the key-bearers of His spiritual kingdom, in the mysterious words which have been since incorporated into the Ordination Service, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained." But it appears that in spite of this, the eleven were still to wait in Jerusalem ten days after their Lord's departure before they proceeded to exercise the powers with which they had been entrusted. What more then did they receive at [6/7] Pentecost than they already had? Now, passing by the miraculous gift, of tongues, which qualified them not so much for their ministry in Judaea as for an universal apostleship, it has often been remarked that the descent of the Holy Ghost appears to have been the source of a remarkable illumination of the apostles' own minds. Then, and not till then, did they understand thoroughly how it behoved Christ to suffer, and recognise the purely spiritual nature of His kingdom. The sermon of St. Peter on the day of Pentecost could not have been delivered by him before the Comforter had descended and led him into all truth. The command to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature had been previously given; the power to accomplish it was vouchsafed when the Holy Ghost came down. Then was given to him the tongue of the learned, that he might know to speak a word in season to them that were weary: then his own heart was instructed, that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth might speak.
Now it is a most important truth which here is arrived at. We are not to go forth to our work trusting in the possession of Holy Orders alone. The gift of Orders and the gift of power to execute the functions of Orders are two things. [7/8] St. Peter had the first on the night of Easter; he had not the latter until the Pentecostal morning. If he had attempted to preach the Gospel before he had received the inward illumination, his preaching (as far as we are taught) would not have issued in the conversion of the hearers. Just as the execution of sacerdotal functions without the apostolical commission is an act of presumption, which (although it may occasionally be the beginning of reformation, for God is wondrously wise and gracious in bringing good out of evil,) must on the whole end in weakness and confusion; so, on the other hand, the discharge of ministerial functions in the mere strength of a valid ordination, by one whose own heart has not been visited by the Holy One, is sure to be a feeble and ineffective thing. It will resemble an unhealthy plant, putting forth here and there a scanty blossom by the force of the divine law of vegetation, but from the secret blight within able to abound neither in foliage no' in fruit.
Now let us dwell a little while upon this.
Whatever God does upon earth He does by intermediate agency. None of the powers which work upon us are purely divine; in all there is an admixture of a lower element. This is perhaps [8/9] the distinction between earth and heaven intended to be set forth in such passages as the following:--"And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; and God set them in the firmament to give light upon the earth." Here is the manner of the illumination of our present dwelling-place. And now mark the contrast between what is, and what shall be:--"And there shall be no light there: and they need no candle, neither light of the sun, for the Lord God giveth them light." That which here we get mediately, hereafter we are to receive direct from the Face of God! There is an exact fulfilment of this principle in regard to the teaching and building up of the Christian Church. God is pleased to employ the ministry of men to draw the world to Himself: hence our office as priests and deacons is an office essentially divine. Our power and our authority to teach, rebuke, exhort, to baptize and to distribute the bread of life, is not of any human origin. The solemn proclamation still holds good of us as of him who first enunciated it, "Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father." We repudiate the notion that the clergyman is the State's officer of morality, and assert him to [9/10] be the key-bearer of eternity, the minister of Christ, the steward of the mysteries of God: and yet, while maintaining resolutely the divinity of our office, there is another aspect of this truth equally to be borne in mind. It is this. God does not, in using us as the media of His own operations upon the souls of men, use our agency independently of our character. He does not annihilate the living agent into a mere machine, but rather takes the consciousness of the individual, and helps it to perform His pleasure. You cannot but observe how St. Paul, St. James, and St. John have in their actions and their writings each a distinct individuality. Through the independent character of each, independent truths and principles have been wonderfully asserted and preserved. And so now. The success of our ministry depends mainly upon what we are ourselves. The more we realize the spiritual nature of our office, the more clear comes out the importance of personal character. The spiritual office can only be effectively discharged by spiritual men. We may fancy that it is easy to speak eloquently of the great doctrines of the Gospel, the great ordinances of Christ, from natural powers of speech, from the knowledge that is acquired by theological study. Indeed, it may be possible to [10/11] speak eloquently, but it is not possible to speak effectively. A congregation will very soon discover how far they are being taught from the heart, how much from the head. If ye would teach efficiently the duty of sell-denial, then must you shew yourselves often foregoing innocent amusement for the sake of duty; curtailing lawful pleasures that you may have more money and more time to throw into your work. If ye would lead on your people to deeper, loftier views of the blessed Sacrament, oh, it will not be done by using the strongest language to describe the mysterious Presence which for awhile makes the village sanctuary God's throne, but by sheaving that the handling holy things, the serving the altar, is a bond upon your own souls, a check upon all levity of word and act, a golden chain drawing your whole life more and more under the shadow of the Unseen. It is often remarked how very much the religious faith of a parish depends upon the personality of the clergyman; so that a change in the man often produces, we had almost said, a change in the creed of the people. Doubtless there is a great evil here, doubtless it is most desirable that the Christian life of the parish should be grounded upon a surer foundation than individual influence; but the [11/12] fact that so it is cannot be disputed: and it strongly forces home the truth upon which we are dwelling, that he who would be a light to others must himself have been illumined by the Holy One; that we can only propagate God's truth so far as we have practically known it; that we can only recommend Christ's love so far as we have felt it. Hence for all the purposes of an efficient ministry is it requisite that we should first study and watch and cherish our own inner life. And so the vow which lies at the bottom of all the other vows of Ordination, is the vow to live more closely unto God; to be separated from even the lawful amusements of our worldly station, in order to cultivate more than others those powers of selfcontemplation and devotion which are latent in the human soul, and to develope that spiritual sight which makes the unseen present and visible. It is a terrible mistake to imagine that the Ordination vow only pledges us to add certain specific duties to the ordinary occupations of an upright life, to do something more without being anything more. Far otherwise. It first binds us to feelings more heavenly, and ambitions more unearthly, and desires more sanctified, to a life, in short, more withdrawn from the life of men; and [12/13] then in the power of this higher life sends us forth to battle with the evil without us and around us, bidding us bring to bear upon others all that we have ourselves become. "Until ye be endued with power from on high." Oh, it is a solemn warning which I seem to hear in these divine utterances! Not, oh man, until the power of the Holy One be felt in the depths of thine own spirit mayest thou venture to speak to others the ineffable Name. Not for the careless and light-hearted, not for the possessor of mere human eloquence, is it to describe the operations of the Eternal, to trace out to others the coming and going of the Lord and Giver of life, the paths that are on the deep waters, the footsteps that are not known, but for those who have put off from their souls the garniture of earth, and resolved to array not the body of flesh, but the spirit within, in the vestments of a diviner life. "Until ye be endued with power from on high!" So holds He back (the universal Bishop of souls) from touching His ark all who have not consecrated themselves, their own souls and bodies, to be a chosen generation, a peculiar people unto Him.
II. But we have not yet exhausted our Lord's teaching:--"Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem [13/14] until ye be endued with power from on high." There is something very affecting in this charge to the founders of the new spiritual kingdom to tarry still in the high places of the dispensation which was just passing away. They were about to go forth to establish a system of faith and worship which should absorb into itself and, by fulfilling, destroy temple and sacrifice. Yet must they await the divine power which was to qualify them for their task in the midst of those things which by themselves were about to be shaken. So we read, "they continued with one accord in the temple." The old wells of salvation ministered still the strength which they required. The courts which the Lord had long sanctified with His presence, in them was moulded the character of the master-builders of the new. Notwithstanding the perils which beset their abode in Jerusalem, they must not depart. Notwithstanding its corruptions, it must not be forsaken. It was still the holy city; the seat of the house of David; the place which God had chosen to set His name there; the metropolis of grace; and in it they must look for that manifestation of the Spirit which would transform them from Jewish labourers into teachers and masters of a new and universal Israel.
There is a great lesson here. Where is the [14/15] source of that higher spirituality of life and character which is the first essential of a minister of Christ? Doubtless its fountain-head is the throne of God and of the Lamb, but the intermediate channel through which it reaches us is the service and the ordinances of the sanctuary. What the city of Jerusalem was to the apostles, that is his own church to the parish priest? It is within the walls warm with the prayers of centuries that his soul is to be chastened, and purified, and inflamed. At the altar where the Cloud of the Presence has rested for generations, he is to drink in the draught that cleanses and sanctifies the thoughts of the heart. And here we are brought across a truth which is in collision with a prevailing error. The clergyman is too apt to get into the way of feeling that he is the sayer of services for others. This especially holds with regard to the daily morning and evening prayer. Hence the careful watching the number of the daily congregation; the habit of talking about the success of the daily service; meaning thereby the amount of attendance at it. The truth is, that these services are designed first and foremost not for the laity, but for the clergyman himself. This is very clearly brought out in the rubric, which enjoins that every priest and deacon shall say daily the [15/16] morning and evening prayer; this, wherever he may be: but secondarily, if the be at home he shall say it in the church or chapel to which he belongs, that the people may come to hear God's Word and to pray with him.
The grand object of this perpetual repetition of the sacred offices is to create and maintain a higher spiritual life and a distinctly professional character in the clergy. The very idea of a priest is that he should be a more frequent as well as a more devout worshipper, possessed of greater powers of concentrating his thoughts and realizing God's presence, than they who are distracted with the cares of worldly business. His is to be a life in the sanctuary. The usual order, as we too often see it, should be reversed. The clergyman is not to lead the life of a layman for six days and on the seventh day to assume his vestments, and therewith perform a work which has no relation to his occupations during the week. But living through the week a peculiar life, a life busied day by day in the church and at the altar, engaged, even when none are by, in keeping the lamp before the ark of God burning, he is, in the strength of a character hereby engendered, to welcome at the gates, which to him are never shut, the great congregation of the Lord's day.
 We are indeed persuaded that there is no greater mistake than that of counting the time lost which is spent in reciting the daily services. Any person who has adopted the practice will bear witness how great is their effect in setting a limit upon social visiting, and detaining a man in his own parish. This especially holds good in country parishes, where the daily morning service obliges the clergyman always to return home at night, and so at once prevents that loss of a day which ensues when he is induced to "sleep out." Again, the custom of saying daily morning and evening prayer tends above everything else to save time, by establishing certain fixed points in the twenty-four hours at which a man must he in a particular place doing a specified act, and so introducing order and method into the day. But, after all, the main use of such services lies in their power to mould and to attemper the clergyman himself, in their tendency to mark him off from the laity, by making his ministrations daily instead of weekly, yea, by winning for his own soul, through the channel of unwearied prayer, more abundant supplies of divine grace for the discharge of his work in the world.
And the same may be said of the occasional services--baptisms, churchings, funerals which we [17/18] are called upon to celebrate. Never consider these as interruptions, as engagements which absorb time which might be better spent. Rather take them as solemn opportunities for the highest act the creature can perform, the holding communion with the Creator. Rather use them and value them as gracious occasions of cultivating engagedness of heart in drawing near unto God.:Devoutly performed, these offices have a sure reflex action upon ourselves; their very frequency unsecularizes our lives, and weaves the shadows of the Eternal more completely around us. He who tarries in Jerusalem, not he who occasionally visits there; who with Samuel lies down before the Ark; who with Anna departeth not from the temple; who with the apostles is continually there, uttering prayers and praises, not as the mouthpiece of others, but for himself; this is the man who, when he goes forth to reprove the backsliding, to instruct the young, to cheer the dying, will find his words fraught with an unsuspected force, who in the trying emergencies of his ministerial life will feel himself (how, at the moment, he knows not, but really by that unwearied tarrying in the city of God) verily endued with power from on high.
Here, then, is the first principle which we [18/19] would impress upon you and upon ourselves, to endeavour to raise the standard of our own individual character, to recognise in the system of our Church a machinery, first, for elevating the tone of the priest's life, secondarily and mediately, for drawing out and fostering the religion of the people. That apostleship will come to nought which starts upon its work without a personal character sanctified and chastened by a continued, hearty, loving sojourn where saints and doctors of old time drew their holiest inspirations, at the altar of the Lord, in the city of our God.
LECTURE II. STRENGTH OF WILL. HAGGAI ii. 3, 4.
Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? Is it not is your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, with the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and WORK.
WE spoke to you last night of that inner spiritual life of the individual man which must needs precede and be the basis of ministerial activity and success. And we shewed how the Church starts with prescribing to all priests and deacons a system of devotion greater in degree than that prescribed to the laity, for the very purpose of creating and fostering a peculiar tone of character. Such, we argued, is the origin of the law of a daily service,--as also of the rubric at the end of the Communion Service, which directs that in cathedral and collegiate churches where there are many priests and deacons, they shall receive the Holy Communion every week at [20/21] least. We perhaps do not sufficiently notice how much provision is made by the Prayer-book for the purification of the heart, and the exalting the divine life of the individual members of the clerical order.
We propose to-night to dwell upon a mental quality, which, when we pass from the innermost region of the man's own personal sanctification, first presents itself as an element in every great character, a necessary condition of success. We mean "STRENGTH OF WILL." It is observable in profane history to how large an extent a determined purpose supplies the place of other qualities, and how often, especially among the rulers of mankind, the very highest gifts of eloquence and forethought, the most commanding powers of intellect, are rendered useless by the lack of one firm purpose. Instances of a public career broken and shattered by the absence of will will readily occur. The great catastrophes which have been the result of infirmity of purpose are easy to mention; but it is possible that we hardly estimate adequately the multitude of men, who with kind and gracious feelings, with a desire to please God and to serve their generation, fall asleep without having left their mark upon the narrowest circle, simply from want of this strength [21/22] of will; whose existence from this cause, like a boat without a helm, drifts hither and thither, making to no end, arriving at no goal. Let us, then, examine for awhile the bearing of this quality upon a ministerial course. The verses from the Prophet Haggai which have just been read will give scope for doing this. It is the great value of the Old Testament, as a book of moral teaching, that it gives us in a condensed form the history of a civil and religious community in all the several periods of national existence. We have the picture of a Church and kingdom in its infancy, its maturity, its decline; we see a commonwealth rising, reconstructed, finally destroyed. And while in all these various phases of Eastern story, the colouring is quite different from what could obtain among ourselves, the grand features of human character, the feelings of the human heart, its trials and tendencies, its weaknesses and its strength, stand out one and the same with our own. We may well, therefore, go back to the days of Ezra and Zerubbabel to illustrate our own difficulties and the requirements, at the present epoch, of our own Church.
1. Now there is perhaps no single cause which to so wide an extent interferes with ministerial success as the want of a firm purpose. When [22/23] a man enters upon an office with a single and determined resolution to do something, he may commit errors; the very intensity of his purpose will have a tendency to make him overlook some points and misconceive others; but he will at any rate leave his mark behind him. It is, however, just here that many of us fail. A man receives Holy Orders; he goes to an appointed sphere of duty; he finds a certain routine established, certain definite things assigned him to do; he proceeds to his task; falls into his place; carries on a system, scrupulously and conscientiously; but with all this, he has little notion of producing by his ministry any marked result. If at first, in the excitement of commencing a new profession, he looks out for an effect of his labours, yet soon he awakens to the difficulties of his task. The slowness of apprehension, the dulness of mind, the deep-rooted prejudices of even the better sort of his parishioners, the inexorable power of tradition, the unyielding claims of poverty upon the time and thought of the mass of people; all these lets and hindrances force themselves upon his notice. For awhile he struggles like a strong man iu the toils,--gradually his enthusiasm abates, his hopes of success diminish; he assumes that it is vain to think of effecting any considerable [23/24] change for the better, and resolves not to harass his mind with the thought of impossibilities, but to content himself with doing (as it is called) his own duty. He goes through with increasing coldness the perfunctory part of his office; and gradually (for this is the sure result) adopts a lower standard of what this office is, and becomes imperceptibly absorbed back into the secular life from which at the outset he had comparatively severed himself.
Such is, we believe, the history of many a parochial clergyman; and if it be a true process, observe what lies at the root of the decline,--it is the want of a "strong will." The man either enters upon his career without a determination in some degree (be it great or small) to leave the imprint of his steps upon the shifting life which toils and burns around him, or he permits himself to be turned aside from his purpose by the difficulties which he encounters. It may he profitable, then, to examine into the secret sources of that weakness of will which is so fatal, as much to the clerical as to any other career.
I. The first cause of infirmity of will is, we believe, the absence of a single purpose. There is perhaps no profession which is undertaken from such a mixture of motives as that of a priest. [24/25] Other occupations are engaged in confessedly for the sake of a livelihood, or for objects of ambition, or, as in the case of scientific pursuits, from simple love of the employment. It is rarely that the merchant, or the soldier, or the lawyer can delude himself as to why he is what he is. There is, at least, very seldom any religious element in the motives under which he acts. Divers circumstances may combine to fix his lot, but they are, at any rate, worldly circumstances. But it is different with regard to us. Of course we are aware that there are still some (although, thank God, the number is diminishing) who offer themselves as candidates for Holy Orders from motives essentially drawn from this world; perhaps in the worst even of these instances there is still a secret idea (faint and feeble though it be) of doing some good, with which the voice of conscience, when from its hidden throne it pleads against the profanation of holiest vows, is in a measure stifled: but passing over these extreme cases, the motives are usually many and mixed which draw a man to the altar to receive the laying on of hands. There is the necessity of doing something, coupled with a disinclination for any other profession, and a certain liking for taking part in the public service of the sanctuary; or, it may be, an interest in [25/26] education, or a benevolent pleasure in administering to the wants of the poor: and then running through all these lower motives is a deeper feeling, --that the clerical life is the safest, the most free from temptation; the life in which it is easiest to serve God, and, when the hour comes, to fall asleep in Jesus. And under these mingled influences, the irrevocable vow is spoken, the indelible character received, and the young man finds himself standing in the office and invested with the powers which in elder times stirred the heart of the world. And what, do you ask, is the evil of these mixed motives?--Why, just that on which we are dwelling. It is the complication of motives which produces infirmity of purpose. When a man acts from a variety of impulses, his conduct is sure to be unstable. It is like the trying to serve many masters. And not only this, but wherever there is not one high, overwhelming, instigating principle, the lower and more selfish motive will gradually rise to the surface, and assume the lead. The man who is ordained, partly from worldly interest and partly from a desire to serve God, will find that the worldly interest imperceptibly becomes predominant. And therefore do we put foremost among the sources of "strength of will," the entering upon our ministerial life [26/27] with one single object, and that "to do God's work in the world." That which is done from the mere natural liking to do it, will soon was wearisome; it is the "serving Christ" which alone as a motive preserves an eternal youth. We may grow tired of visiting the sick, tired of teaching children, tired of reciting the services of the sanctuary,--and when we are tired of these things we shall be sure to perform them coldly and ineffectively,--but the man who goes forth to his work with a single eye to the Lord God as his Master, to labour for Him and unto Him; accepting indeed thankfully the pleasantness with which his occupations are surrounded as a gracious gift to help him on his way, from the same God who cast earth and heaven, the stars that burn and the flowers that shine, in a mould of surpassing beauty to cheer our dwelling-place, but still lifting up the eye of his soul unto the hills, and recognising himself as the conscious agent of the Invisible God, speaking for Him, witnessing for Him,--the man who (seeing in the Christian ministry the divine agency for making the kingdoms of the world the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ, for levelling the mountains, and making the rough places smooth for His return, for working out that mysterious [27/28] peconomy whose final issue is to be the Personal Apocalypse of God,) enrols himself in that ministry simply to have his share in hastening the mighty consummation, this is the man who, amid discouragements and failures, amid the sluggishness that comes with increasing years, will still answer true-heartedly to the adjuration, "Be strong and work."
II. But there is a second source of infirmity of purpose; and that is the "consciousness of our own private character not being up to the level of our public teaching." You recollect that solemn catechising in the Book of Job, "Are the consolations of God small with thee?" and then as though, before the answer could be uttered, the cause of the non-appreciation of God's promises flashed across the inquirer's mind, "Is there any secret thing with thee?" Now just as the consciousness of secret sin takes the life from a man's prayers and communions, so that which drains the vigour out of a clergyman's ministry is the felt conviction that he is not himself walking along the path which he points out to others; that while he speaks of unworldliness, be is himself thirsting for promotion; that while he dilates upon the blessedness of God's Presence in the Holy Eucharist, lie has himself no sense of the [28/29] Divine nearness. It is not hard to perceive how this comes about. The feeling of hypocrisy is of all feelings the most intolerable to any man not utterly depraved: and we are not speaking of such. The moment, therefore, that a clergyman becomes conscious to himself of an inconsistency between his public preaching and his own life and feelings, there grows up in him that sensation which we have said is intolerable, the sense of being a hypocrite;--and when this feeling has arisen, there are but two courses for him to pursue: he must either raise up himself to the standard of his teaching, or he will inevitably (whether he intends it or not) bring down his outer ministerial life to the level of his inner individual life. Hence the importance of the second rule for maintaining a "strong will" and a "firm purpose;" viz. to watch ourselves, to note our own faith in God, our own patience under provocation; to measure at short intervals our own progress in holiness by the rule of our external appearance. Are we the same to the eye of men and to the eye of God? Are the whisperings of our own souls in tune with the majestic harmonies of the city of God, of which we are set to lead the strain? If not, indeed, indeed no man can always wear a mask. The stream that has [29/30] been artificially raised has a perpetual tendency to recede to its old level. The earnestness of the Driest must sooner or later find its level with the earnestness of the man.
III. And once more, if we would be strong in heart and will to the end, then must we admit no misgiving as to the adequateness of the instrumentality with which we have to work. Lack of faith in the Church to which we belong, and its competency to meet the requirements of the age, will palsy the hand and unnerve the will. Now in saying this, I do not mean to allude to disbelief in the Church of England being a true and living member of the Church Catholic. Short of this distrust in her vitality there is a distrust in her efficiency to grapple with the unbelief and heathenism that surges up to the altar-side. And it is necessary, if we are to be strong of heart in our work, that we should work hopefully. If a man begins to argue that although the Church possess still Orders and Sacraments, yet she has been so crippled by her isolation from Christendom, so hampered by her entanglement with the State of England, as to be no longer an effective weapon in her Lord's hand, there is at once an end to a vigorous ministry. From this cause again will spring up gradually a despair of [30/31] effecting good, then a perfunctory discharge of necessary professional duties, and a resumption, in whole or part, of a layman's habits. It is here that the text has a special application: "Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? Is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?" Very solemnly do these words ring up from the depths of ages. True it is that the Church of Christ (the Church, be it remembered, not in this country only, but throughout Western Christendom) has declined much from the glory of its first estate; true that the crown of her unity has been broken, that her hold upon the peoples has decayed. Vainly do we sigh for the days when the invisible oneness which is the result of the one Baptism and the one Bread, was represented by the visible intercommunion of the Churches of all lands; and the preacher in the market, and the ascetic in the wilderness, and the doctor in the schools, all uttered the same voice; and the divided paganism shrank before the heavenly kingdom as it advanced in the majesty of a yet unbroken unity. "Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, . . . and be strong, O Joshua, the son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, [31/32] saith the Lord, and work." Our glance back upon the past is not to discourage us for action now, but rather to kindle in us a fresh zeal to build up what has been broken down, and to reunite what has been shaken asunder. There is not one amongst us who may not do something to repair the breaches of the wall, for every parish reclaimed in a degree from ignorance and vice, and every congregation built up into the faith of Christ, is a step towards the reconstruction of the whole mystic edifice. The presence of difficulties is to a noble mind the sharpest spur to enterprise. It is when the work of ages nods to its fall and the shapely stones lie disjointed around, that the true-hearted will gird themselves most earnestly to their work. The perils to be surmounted are to them but the measure of the devotion to be applied to their task. And so the times in which we live are no warrant for despondency, but are rather in their very perplexities and difficulties God's own voice exhorting us to be strong, and work.
Strength of will, built up on singleness of purpose, reality of character, faith in God's Church as His recognised instrument, is that at which we should aim. "Man goeth forth to his work [32/33] and to his labour until the evening." Let us go forth at our Master's call in His Name alone, resolved by His grace so to labour, that when the shadows lengthen and the darkness closes over us we may not have lived in vain!
LECTURE III. THE PARISH PRIEST A RULER. TITUS ii. 15. Let no man despise thee.
THESE words, few and simple as they are, come down to us under circumstances which may well lead us to look in them for teaching of no little depth and value. It is not only that they are the utterances of the great Paul, when his marvellous career of ministerial activity and supernatural visitation was hastening to a dose; it is rather that he has incorporated them into his epistles both to Timothy and Titus, thereby suggesting the idea that they have respect not to the personal character or the local circumstances of this or that individual, but that they contain a charge of general application.
It is indeed a remarkable providence by which we have presented to us in the New Testament a picture of two apostolical Churches thoroughly constituted, and these two Churches differing as widely as possible in all the accidents of their position. It seems the very finger of God pointing [34/35] out what rules of ecclesiastical discipline and pastoral government are independent of time and place, equally binding under circumstances the most opposite, and amongst races the most distinct. Contrast for a moment Ephesus and Crete. The former was, we know, a flourishing city, the centre of commerce, the metropolis of a highly cultivated district. It was, moreover, the seat of an ancient and elaborate superstition, bolstered up with all the resources of wealth and art, frequented, we are told, by "all Asia and the world" for idol-worship. The Christian congregation there gathered out from among the heathen, would appear to have been taught in a more than common degree in the doctrines of the faith. St. Paul, influenced doubtless by the importance of the district, had himself resided there for nearly three years, a longer personal ministry than he is recorded to have bestowed upon any other place; and the result seems to have been, that the Christians of Ephesus had been lifted to a higher point than usual of knowledge and spirituality. Hence we find the apostle addressing to them an epistle dealing with the profoundest mysteries, and hence too, perhaps, it was that in the bosom of this Ephesian Church, thus highly gifted, the beloved disciple chose himself to lire and die, as the [35/36] community in which his own divine soul might meet with most sympathy and fellowship. Here, then, was the episcopal throne of Timothy, and we can at once see how suitably St. Paul may have addressed to him, placed while the dew of his youth was yet fresh upon him over so advanced a Church, the words, "Take heed that no man despise thee."
But now change the scene. We are no longer in the great Asian city, under the shadow of the world's wonder. We pass from the abode of wealth and refinement to the comparatively barbarian island of Crete. How Crete first received Christianity is untold. We know that Cretans were present at the Feast of Pentecost, and the first evangelists of the far-off isle may have been the hearers of St. Peter's sermon. It has been thought by some that during his three years' abode at Ephesus St. Paul himself contrived to visit the place, and that it was during his voyage to or from Crete that he met with one of the shipwrecks to which he alludes, but of which no record has been preserved. This, then, was the country in which Titus was appointed to rule in its unconverted state a marked contrast to Ephesus, as a Church, without the advantages, and probably without the high tone, of the [36/37] Ephesian Christians. Yet Titus the Greek, a man apparently of larger experience than Timothy, placed among a people to whom he may well be supposed to have been superior, receives from the great apostle precisely the same warning. "These things," writes St. Paul to him, "teach and exhort with all authority. Let no man despise thee." "Let no man despise thee:" what is the lesson thus so carefully revealed by the divine Spirit to these two ancient rulers of the Church of God, equally necessary and applicable to both, notwithstanding the diversity of their position in the household of faith?
We have on the two former occasions dwelt upon the personal character which lies at the root of all pastoral success, and upon the temper of mind with which the candidate for Holy Orders should go to the altar to receive them. We desire to-night to speak of the clergyman as a ruler. We pass now from the outset of the ministerial career to a later period, when the man who has accepted the great commission to feed the flock of Christ finds himself placed over a parish; and we do not propose to dwell so much upon his ministry in the sanctuary and by the sick bed, as upon his government of the portion of Christ's vineyard given to his charge. The parish priest [37/38] (especially in a country parish) is in the position of a ruler. He will often find himself at the head of the society of the place; he will be appealed to upon questions not always connected with religion; he will be expected to take the lead in social and material improvements. If disputes arise, he is the natural mediator between the contending parties; it will be his to modify conditions, to reconcile difficulties, to facilitate combined and harmonious action, in short, to play the part of a governor. Now if this be so, it must be very desirable that we should set it clearly before ourselves as a recognised part of cur duty, and that we should pay some attention to the art of government. For be it remembered that ruling men is a science, not a thing which can be done without thought and reflection; and that the rules of wise government are the same, whether they have to be applied to few or to many, to a large sphere or a small. It is a grievous mistake, and one which more than aught else produces discord in a parish, and scandal in the whole Church, to overlook this. Hence men fail in carrying out their designs; hence disunion instead of concord, opposition instead of acquiescence, because often they who have given all sober thought and prayer to ascertain [38/39] what they ought to do, have never studied as a science the way of doing it.
Nor is this all. The parish priest has not merely to do his own work wisely and heartily, but to keep others up to their work. And here we are brought across one of the most delicate portions of his task. If it is not easy for even a conscientious man to guard himself against the stealthy advance of lethargy and coldness, it is at least as hard to fan the flame of another's zeal, to cherish the loving devotion of another's soul; yet is this burden likewise cast upon us. "Government (it has been said) implies a protection and encouragement of the persons under it in the discharge of their duty, coercion and animadversion upon the neglectful." We need not consume time in enlarging upon the necessity which exists, that this should be done with tenderness and firmness, with watchfulness and discretion. When it is best to overlook a fault, when to notice it, when to interfere with warning, when to let a man be his own monitor, when to go before and prevent him from stumbling, when to let him learn greater caution by committing an error, how far to leave a subordinate to act for himself, how far to dictate and guide,--these are some of the essentials of wise government, equally [39/40] to be practised by the master of a kingdom and the pastor of a parish. Again, it is one of the highest arts of government to act through others, to use the zeal and the endowments of those around us in promoting the cause we have at heart. We have often thought that the looking out for a few persons of more than common promise, cherishing their faith and love to the highest point, and then using them as agents to convert others, maybe detected as having been a favourite plan of St. Paul himself. In the case of Timothy, we seem to have a young man in whom the great apostle discerned the germ of extraordinary spiritual gifts, and whom therefore he at once seized upon as his peculiar charge; casting around him the net of intense personal affection, stimulating him by association in his own lofty career, and so drawing him on from one degree of Christian heroism to another. There is something very significative of this special fostering of Timothy's latent graces, in the touching language in which he, that man of many revelations, who had heard while yet in the flesh the voices of eternity, and on whom pressed daily the care of all the Churches, speaks of that young disciple as his workfellow, his brother, his own son, or in which he mingles instruction as to the highest duties [40/41] with allusions to his bodily infirmities. It is as if the mighty teacher of nations threw the whole weight of his character upon the child of promise, in order to mould amongst many converts one saint; and through him to double his own work.
And this we would put forth as being now also a great point of ministerial skill. Indeed, many a doctrine will be more effectively enforced by another than by ourselves. But here arises the need that the parish priest should be a judge of character, so as to select wisely his instruments and turn to the best account the knowledge and zeal of his people. How many a man who has been stirred by God's spirit to realize the great end of life, and whose heart has been touched with the desire to do something in his generation for Christ's sake, has been lost to the Church, simply because the spiritual governor set over him had not the wisdom to discern the latent desire, and the skill to find for it a lawful field of action.
These, then, are a few of the points which enter into the thorough discharge of the pastorate of the flock. And you will at once see from thence the pregnancy of the Apostle's words,--words equally applicable to Timothy, learned in the Scriptures [41/42] from his youth, amid the refinement and civilization of Ephesus, and to Titus the Greek, amid the barbarism of Crete. "Take heed that no man despise thee." So act in all the varied departments of thy spiritual rule, that thou mayest be a power upon the lowly and the exalted, that whilst the untaught hang upon thy speech, those of loftiest endowments may give weight to thy utterances.
Now as last night we considered what were the causes of infirmity of purpose, the characteristic opposed to strength of will, the quality which we were enforcing, so now for a few minutes let us touch upon some of the more common impediments in the way of a man acquiring that general respect of which the Apostle speaks.
I. And here the first hindrance we would mention is, "a superficial acquaintance with our position and its duties." Ignorance is ever the source of contempt. What then, it will be said, must a man be possessed of great acquirements, of profound learning, in order that authority may attach to his directions? How few, then, can hope to fulfil the ministerial office! But indeed this is not so. What is demanded is simply this, that a clergyman have clear and defined notions of the doctrines and discipline of the Church of [42/43] which he is the minister; of its relation to the sects by which it is surrounded; of what really and incontrovertibly falls within his own province to do and say, so that when appealed unto he may speak and act decisively and consistently, at once maintaining his own, yet giving to every other his due. Take as an illustration what we have mentioned, the position of Dissent: it will make all the difference whether the parish priest has thought out this question, or has only vague, general ideas, of the evil attending it; whether he cannot treat it tenderly in individuals without losing sight of its hollowness as a system; or whether he cannot condemn it as a system, without condemning also those who under its teaching have yet shewn (as we can hardly doubt to have been the case) the fruits of the Spirit. The soundness of his action upon this point will manifestly depend upon the precision of his opinions. And according to the soundness of his own action with regard to Dissent, will be .his power to counteract its influence. And not only so. But if he is led to take up untenable ground, to make assertions which the best instincts of his people reject, he will have sorely compromised his authority, not upon this single subject only, but upon all; for men will at once reason up from [43/44] the one error which they have detected to the persuasion of his general shallowness. We might multiply examples, all tending to the same conclusion, that not varied but accurate knowledge in the minister of Christ lies at the root of public respect. It does not diminish the weight of a person's authority to confess ignorance of a subject, (unless it be a matter essentially pertaining to his office,) but it is fatal to his influence to utter counsel and warning, or to lay down principles, and to be convicted of error.
II. We pass on to another fertile source of contempt; it is this: the acting in our public capacity from personal feeling, instead of upon calm, dispassionate principle.
Now there are a multitude of ways in which the clergyman is exposed to this error. In the first place there will always be in a parish some who from tone, or thought, and manners, attract his regards to a greater extent than others, in whose society he will experience more pleasure, whom he will be more disposed to identify with himself. Here is at once a case where he must remember his position not as a man but as an office-bearer in Christ's everlasting kingdom, a ruler of men. History is full of the miserable results issuing from the partiality of kings, from [44/45] their being influenced by personal affection; and what we want to urge is, that all which holds good of the governors of millions, holds good also of him who is set over hundreds. The moment the clergyman is observed to act, not upon broad grounds of right and wrong, true and false, but from private prejudice, the golden sceptre of his rule is broken. Even uneducated persons are very acute in detecting the presence of personal feelings in our own conduct. As it is a resolute, tenacious adherence to well-chosen principles that adds glory to greatness, and makes the face of a governor shine in the eyes of those that see and examine his actions, so is it the introduction of individual partialities under colour of principle which shakes confidence and undermines authority. And therefore here comes out a most important lesson. We are very apt to deceive ourselves as to what is principle, and what is our own individual liking. Hence the necessity for perpetually watching ourselves, neither through fear of man to compromise God's truth, nor from self-love to offend man. We may be burning incense to our own net, and sacrificing to our own drag, when we fancy we are standing up for the truth of Christ.
III. There is a third error, which more than [45/46] anything else undermines the authority of the clergyman as the rector of the parish in things spiritual, and destroys the deference which men are still even in this age ready to pay to his office, and that is, the habit of losing sight of his own character, forgetting at times the severance from the world which is the foundation of his calling, and the seeking to identify himself with the society in which for the moment he is thrown.
It is a very wonderful gift which God has given to man, the power of assimilating himself with his brethren. We all carry about with us the dislike of singularity. It may arise perhaps from the great truth thus strongly borne witness unto in these latter days, that God bath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell upon the face of the whole earth. It is the source of good and of evil. "He that walketh with wise men," saith Solomon, "shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed." Hence the power of God's saints to draw others after them; hence, too, the power of the wicked to corrupt the weak. Now when a. clergyman goes into general society, there is often, especially with young men, an inclination to get rid as far as possible of the distinctive habits of a clergyman, to sink professional subjects, to throw himself into the stream as it flows [46/47] by. But what we would suggest is, that if by so doing we succeed in commending ourselves to any one, it is but as the companions of the social hour, not as the physicians of souls, not as the teachers of mysteries, not as the guides of eternity. We do not by thus permitting men to forget that we are not as they are, pave the way for getting them to yield to our guidance in things spiritual. Far from it. When the layman feels, however often he meets us, upon whatsoever occasion, that while we can sympathize with him in his mirth, there is still about us a special tone and character, then is it we have most chance of establishing ourselves in his respect as the overseers of the Church of God. We cannot (this is the point) unite the two things. If we would be deferred to as spiritual pastors and masters, if we would have the people seek the law at our mouths, then must we shew that we ourselves never forget that we have been with God apart in the cloud, and received the tables of the Law from His hand. Just as the earthly sovereign can never safely lose sight of his dignity without endangering his authority, so neither can we even for an hour forget our priesthood without perilling our influence over those whom we claim to lead.
We suggest, then, to-night that you should [47/48] contemplate the office of the priesthood as that which involves the notion of a ruler. Study the principles of government. Mark in history what has undermined the strongest thrones; how, on the contrary, consistency has given weight to the slenderest intellects. Contemplate a ruler on the largest canvas, and transfer the features to the smaller field of your own action. "Take heed that no man despise thee." Take heed! Ah, how often has an idle speech, an argument maintained for talking's sake, struck down the respect which months have been slowly creating. "Take heed that no man despise thee." We may not have the acute mind, and the ready tongue to bow great intellects to our bidding, but we may all practise such prudence, such disinterestedness, such holy consistency that our words shall drop with power upon all. Yea, there is a deeper note in the apostolic warning. The contempt which in this world is the sure portion of the careless, heartless clergyman, is the precursor of yet bitterer shame; for of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed when He cometh in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels.