In January, 1870, Henry Montgomery prepared for holy orders under Dr. Vaughan, Master of the Temple. It was an unique experience. In 1921 Henry preached the sermon and presided at the annual meeting of the "Doves," as Dr. Vaughan's men were called. In this sermon he tried to place on record something of what they all owed to their great teacher. Dr. Vaughan's teaching was confined almost exclusively to three or four fundamental doctrines, and these clustered round personal religion, our sinfulness, and our Saviour. Henry's childhood's convictions were deepened. "I believe," he writes in his sermon, "the best kind of churchman is likely to be one who began as an Evangelical and went on afterwards to the truths about the Church and the sacramental life." Another lesson all his men learnt from Dr. Vaughan was to read the services reverently, to realise the possibility of finding in the Prayer Book all that was needed for the spiritual life. Deep sacramental teaching came in due time from other masters--Lightfoot, Westcott, Hort, Swete, Dean Church. The tie between Dr. Vaughan and his men was fashioned in the quiet morning hours, as he unfolded the riches of the sacred Word and taught them that the message of forgiveness was the miracle of the Christian Gospel.
Henry Montgomery was ordained deacon at Trinity, 1871, in Chichester Cathedral. In the examination he was equal first with another man. Ordinations in those days were very different from what they are now. Little notice was taken of the candidates, and they received no spiritual help. The day before Trinity Sunday Sir Robert Montgomery came down. He asked his son to kneel with him whilst he prayed, having composed a special prayer for the occasion.
Henry's first curacy was at Hurstpierpoint under Canon Borrer, whose son Arthur, still living, became one of Henry's great friends. There followed two and a half years of happy life and very hard work. His fellow curate was E. A. Browne, who had been with him at Harrow and Cambridge, and under Dr. Vaughan.
The two took their work seriously. They gave twenty-four hours' work to every sermon. They visited hard, started cottage lectures, and taught daily in the schools. Another fellow-curate was James Hannington, while Awdrey was headmaster of Hurstpierpoint School. "How we should have laughed," writes Henry later, "had we been told that we should all three become missionary bishops--Uganda, Japan, Tasmania."
After two and a half years Henry left Hurstpierpoint. His wise father said to him, "Go and travel now. Here are £150. Go where you like and come back when you have spent it." To this Henry added £100, a legacy from his godfather, General Hutchinson, and went. His diary, Four Months in the East, is in print. He came back in May, 1894, and went at once to a curacy at Christ Church, Blackfriars Road, under Mr. Desborough. Here he worked so hard that his health nearly broke down. The day started with swimming lessons in Lambeth Baths at 6.45 a.m., and ended with visiting till 10 p.m. Henry taught scores of boys to swim. He never allowed ducking or intimidation. Twenty-five years later in Tasmania he was delighted to receive a letter from one of his old boys saying that six of them, all married, still met and bathed regularly in the same baths.
There were two curates. The rector was delicate, and the curates divided the parish between them. Each had seven thousand people. Montgomery taught daily in the schools; he tried outdoor preaching in a court by the waterside, but decided it was not his job; ran temperance meetings and men's classes. On Mondays his unfailing remedy for the awful fatigue was to go to Putney Common and sleep for hours under a furze bush. When Dr. Desborough resigned, the new rector said to Montgomery, "I thought at one time of asking you to stay on, but I want a man who will 'work'." Montgomery looked at him with curiosity!
In 1876 Dr. Farrar came from Marlborough, where he was headmaster, to St. Margaret's, Westminster, and Dr. Vaughan recommended Montgomery to him as curate. It is not easy to give a summary of those two and a half years, so packed with events. Montgomery found himself curate to a church crowded to the doors when the rector preached. People who could not get in had to go to the Abbey. Similarly, when Canon Farrar preached in the Abbey on Sunday evenings, the notice "Abbey full" sent an overflow congregation to St. Margaret's. Canon Farrar proceeded at once to restore St. Margaret's, which was hideous with galleries and three-decker pulpit. He got the loan of the Abbey chapter house for services during the restoration. Money poured in, and the result was wonderful.
Montgomery and his fellow-curate soon begged the rector not to trouble himself personally about the parish. He was quite new to such work; they knew all about it, and they left him to do the great work for which he was so eminently fitted. St. Margaret's parish was small in area, but contained then some of the wickedest streets in London, full of thieves and other evil-doers. There is a story that the thieves wished once to give a dinner. They obtained their meat by sending one of their number, dressed as a butcher's assistant, round to the residents' houses. "The wrong joint had been sent by mistake, would they return it?"
It was during his curacy at St. Margaret's that Montgomery formed one of the most wonderful friendships of his life. A note was brought one day to his lodgings from the Deanery asking him if he would go for a walk with the writer. The writing was illegible, the name could only be guessed at. In amazement and trepidation Montgomery went and walked with Dean Stanley. Apparently he gave satisfaction and comfort. Lady Augusta Stanley had died that year, and the dean turned to Montgomery for companionship. With the rector's warm approval he became Dean Stanley's secretary. The rector said that so remarkable an affection of an old man for a young one must not be baulked. Montgomery must walk with the dean, dine with him when invited, etc. So Montgomery became like a son of the house. He went daily to the deanery at n a.m. to write letters. Intellectually it was like being in a forcing-house. He met continually every prominent literary Englishman. Several times he went with Dean Stanley to visit Thomas Carlyle. In 1880 Montgomery went with the dean on a tour to the Pyrenees, Northern Spain, and the Cevennes. They visited scores of historic scenes, and one can imagine how full of interest the dean's sayings were.
In 1879 Henry became engaged to Maud, third daughter of Dr. Farrar. There were five daughters, four of whom married their father's curates. Dean Stanley took the greatest interest in the approaching marriage. They must be married in the Abbey by himself. He declared that no Henry and Maud had ever been married in the Abbey since King Henry and Queen Maud, and he insisted that Montgomery should drop his second name of Hutchinson. He also said that he should read the Beatitudes in place of the address in the Prayer Book. Alas! he died a week before the wedding, and they were married in Henry VIIth's Chapel by Archbishop Tait, on July 28th, 1881.
In the same year, 1879, Montgomery was appointed to the living of St. Mark's, Kennington. It was an awful wrench to leave Westminster. Dean Stanley was almost beside himself with grief. He begged Montgomery not to leave him, saying that he would get the Queen later to give him a good Crown living. But at thirty-one he was offered one of the most important livings in South London, with sixteen thousand people, and how could he refuse such a sphere of usefulness? When the dean realised this he burst into tears, saying, "I feel like Abraham; oh! my son, my only son!" At his death, two years later, Montgomery was one of those who sat up with him and was by his bedside when he died.
So ended Henry Montgomery's three curacies--the beautiful country parish, the dense London slums, the wonderful influences of Westminster. All through his early life he had been influenced by great men: Dr. Butler, Dean Vaughan, Dean Stanley, Dr. Farrar (who became later the most affectionate and generous of fathers-in-law), Archbishop Tait. All these left their impress on his life and character.