BEING AN ADDRESS FOR ORDINANDS
BY THE VERY REV.
W. H. HUTTON, D.D.
WITH FOREWORD BY
THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
First published, October, 1928.
I do not doubt that all who read these words, written by a veteran in the Church's ministry, will find them at once searching and stimulating. Alike to those of us who have been for years in Holy Orders and to those who tremblingly hope to embark on that great adventure, they make a grave appeal. They compel us to face the difficulty and the danger as well as the wonder and the glory of the great vocation. I commend them to the earnest and thoughtful attention of all those who in these days are concerned with whole-time service in the Kingdom of God.
A NOTE OF PREFACE.
IT is more than forty years since I was ordained, more than forty years since at Cuddesdon I learnt the best lessons I have ever learnt in life. My teachers of those days are dead: the friends of those years have, many of them, passed beyond our sight. But the lessons remain, and, through many failures to carry them out, I still believe them, learn from them, and long more than anything else to hand them on to others. In these words, spoken this year at S. Mark's College, Chelsea, to some who were beginning their ministry in Christ's Church, I tried to hand on some of the lessons I learnt. These are a few only: but behind them, I believe, is the strength of God's Holy Spirit, given in the Sacraments of the Church. The ministers of Christ must seek and find Him continually where His disciples were with Him in the upper chamber, in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper. We shall never forget, if we are in any degree among the faithful, that it is the Sacrament of Unity, in East and West, in "Catholic" and "Evangelical," in old and young, in rich and poor.
"And so we come; O draw us to Thy feet,
Most patient Saviour, Who canst love us still;
And by this food, so awful and so sweet,
Deliver us from every touch of ill."
Thus we come to know God. That knowledge, if we are to be truly the ministers of our Lord, must be ever in our hearts. So only shall we be His disciples. With that thought I have tried to put together these lessons from many years lived falteringly but still hopefully in the service of one Lord and one faith, through which we come to one God and Father of us all.
W. H. H.
S. Swithun, 1928.
SUFFICIENT AS MINISTERS
DEAR sons--soon, I hope, I may call you brothers, as we shall, many of us, work in the same diocese--at the end of the week in which you have been engaged in the practical side of the preparation for your ministry in the Church of God, I think you will feel it to be something of a relief and a refreshment to have been kneeling together in God's Presence and submitting to Him all your efforts and all your hopes. For everything you think and everything you do, every preparation and every energy, are--be quite sure of that--utterly worthless unless they are inspired by the Spirit of God, offered to the Lord Jesus Christ, blessed by the Almighty Father. Let us turn away our thoughts from everything else and fix them, these few minutes we spend together, entirely upon God.
To direct us in what we think together, and as we pray, I will give you four texts (or three if you like to call them so).
"Who is sufficient for these things?"
"Our sufficiency is of God."
"Be clothed with humility."
"Overcome evil with good."
The first, I am quite sure, must come into your minds now, as I think it will--indeed it should do--every day of your ministry. You are appalled--I know I am--at all the matters you have to know, to understand, to teach: and the list seems to grow every day. The Bible: much more than the work [1/2] of a life-time. The Old Testament, where scholars have set before us the last thirty years almost a new revelation. The New Testament, where new theories of origin, authorship, criticism, beset us every day. Christian Theology--that vast and magnificent science, without which the minister of God is like a sailor without a compass on a great ocean. The economic problems of the day, which we are of necessity confronted with and expected (often quite unreasonably I think) to deal with. The puzzles and confusions in men's souls, the terrible pains and diseases in men's bodies: down to the so much smaller matter of how to teach (a difficult science that cannot be picked up in a moment), even how to sing, (a most desperate and deplorable effort on the part of those who have no ear and no taste--and this applies to many of the clergy): how to be abreast of the knowledge, the literature, the science, the politics, of the day: and then, most of all, how to pray and how to live in the faith and fear and love of God. Every day, surely, you will feel, "Who is sufficient for these things?" Every day, I tell you, when we think of all we ought to do and to know and how very little we do or know, we tremble: every minister of God has hours of terror and distress. But you know that there is an answer to the terror and distress, a support to the trembling hands and the feeble knees. For "our sufficiency is of God." That is a glorious text. Ordination, in a succession which goes back, as we believe, to the Apostles and to our Lord Himself--do not think that there is anything mechanical about that, for it is a spiritual transmission of spiritual office, spiritual gifts, spiritual powers. Ordination brings something beyond a new position and new duties. The Church [2/3] which you are to serve says to you, "Receive the Holy Ghost." You go forth "with new power from on high." "Take authority," is said to you, and that you take because you receive the Holy Ghost. No one who feels that he is utterly insufficient for all the things I have spoken of dare undertake the ministry of God unless he knew this: unless he felt himself to be truly called, unless he knew that he was endued with power from on high.
Now I am quite sure that there is nothing we need to learn so carefully as this--that God really gives us the power to do everything that He wills us to do. There is nothing too hard for the Lord: nothing--not even to warm our cold hearts and give us the strength to go forth from Him and try His works to do. We sometimes think that Mrs. Alexander's beautiful hymn should read try His work to do, but really she meant more than that--not only His work to which we are called, but His actual works, the bringing of souls to God, healing their spiritual diseases, teaching them to become as little children, giving them His very Body and Blood, forgiving them their sins. All this is through His power, not in any way ours--for "our sufficiency, for all these things, is of God."
I said we need to learn this carefully: I mean that though this is a most glorious text, yet I sometimes think it is an even more alarming one. All those dreadful disasters in the history of the Church that come from what men call priestcraft, from priestly arrogance and priestly intolerance, spring from a misreading, a mishandling, of that thought, the sufficiency of God. Nothing is more dreadful than a dictatorial, or a "managing," or an ambitious, or an ostentatious, minister of God. Pride in a priest [3/4] is a truly awful thing: it is the very contradiction to our Pattern Himself: for what we are called to, when all these duties are laid upon us, is most of all the Imitation of Christ. You know that wonderful book, let me say in passing; it should be the minister's mirror. I am sure you cannot do anything more useful than read a chapter of it every day, yes, until you know it by heart, and, more than that, in your heart.
When you support yourself by the sure knowledge of God, remember that this should bring you, each day, one thought with it: one word, gratitude. I believe that on the day of your Ordination you will have one chief thought: gratitude. Who am I that the Lord should have called me to this work of such great dignity and of such great difficulty: and shown me that it is not my work at all, it is His work: they are not my works, the preaching, the kneeling beside the death-bed, the speaking firmly, yet how lovingly, to the sinners, the blessing of happy married folk, the teaching of little children--(you say, as our Lord said--suffer them to come to me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven--ah, yes, and when you are teaching them you often are drawing nigh to heaven too)? Who am I? Yet He has called me. You are simply bowed to the earth with gratitude that you are called to the greatest work that man on earth can possibly do. Now pray every day that this gratitude may never leave you: as long as ever you live, that your thought every day may be "Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift," His tremendous charge to me: His trust. God trusts me.
Gratitude. So when we buoy ourselves up with the inspiring words "Our sufficiency is of God," our [4/5] deep gratitude brings us to another text. That was our secure acceptance of the call: this is God's eternal message to us--to tell us how to rely on His sufficiency, how to do the works He gives us to do, how to avoid the temptations by which, from the day the devil tempted Christ, he has always tempted those who are called to the work of preaching the Gospel. This text is "Be clothed with humility."
Be quite sure of this: you can never be a true minister of God unless you are clothed with humility, unless you are wrapped round with it, like a cloak, a cloak that protects you from all harm, keeps the chilling air of criticism from you, maybe, but still more, keeps out the frost of self-sufficiency, the icy insolence of pride. The kingdom of God, in its warmth and glow, is within you, where the Spirit speaks to your conscience and your heart.
I think that if you do not cease to be grateful for God's gift you will always be humble in the use of it. Every day of our Lord's life on earth was a lesson of humility. When you are called to imitate Him it is not His stupendous greatness of soul that you can aspire to, but it is His humility that you can copy, Who for our sakes became poor that through His poverty we might become rich. And so it is with you: you can only make your people rich in the things of God, by yourself being poor in spirit: being clothed with humility.
Perhaps you will feel that there are many things in the ministry to make you proud. So there are, if you do not know how to use them--the living among high thoughts, the doing really great things--for it is a great thing to minister to the sick, to teach the people, to give to men the sacraments of God: the respect which (at least outwardly) people even [5/6] now-a-days generally show you, the way they often listen to you without contradicting you, the way they restrain their tongues in your presence, the way they expect you to advise honestly, even wisely, to keep up a high standard of truth, and purity, and honour. These are things through which the devil tempts you to be proud. And then that pitiable trap into which so many good men fall, because sometimes it looks as if it were a sacred gift--ambition.
"Cromwell, I charge thee fling away ambition,
By that sin fell the angels. How can man, then,
The image of his maker, hope to win by it?"
I do not know that there is any more despicable character than an ambitious man who is a minister of Christ.
Ah, yes, but there are other words of Shakespeare's which come to you with warning too. When you are tempted to pride, or ambition, or self-sufficiency, or security, and when men seem to honour and respect you, remember that you are always on the edge of disgrace--often (I pray God it may be with you always) quite undeserved, but still waiting for you round every corner of your life. Suspicion, slander, distrust. Hamlet says it to her he loves best: "Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny." I think God says it to us. It is a very dreadful thing, but I think it is entirely true--that there is not one minister of God against whom, sooner or later, some foul creature does not wag a slanderous tongue.
It may be that you never know it--and God be thanked for that: but there it is, and secretly, through it, the devil is working to spoil the work you do for God. But here I can bid you take courage, for God will keep you in that dreadful danger, if [6/7] only you have clung close to Him in all temptations, as well as in all trials: and your word to yourself, through Him, shall be:--
"Love thyself last: cherish those hearts that hate thee,
Corruption wins not more than honesty."
Now all through what I have been saying there has been a chain of safeguards. We are unworthy of, unequal to, our high calling: but then, our sufficiency is of God: that is our safeguard. Then the dignity of the position we thus hold from God and His call; and the danger of that. But then two safeguards: on God's side our gratitude to Him, on man's side the atmosphere of criticism, just or unjust, in which we live.
And now my last text, which is also a safeguard. How are we to meet the slanders against us, or the laughter at our eccentricities (how dreadfully eccentric some clergymen are: I think it is usually because they are also so conceited!): how are we to do our work for God, as soldiers of Christ, trying to clothe ourselves in the whole armour of God?
"Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Evil--all these things I have spoken of--is very often nearly beating you down: Apollyon, in that splendid scene of the Pilgrim's Progress, is very nigh to conquering Christian with his mighty blows and his poisoned darts; but Pilgrim wins in the end. Why? Because he counters in the strength of Christ. Every minister of God has the Church's rules to keep: he has also, if he is an honest man, rules which he makes for himself. Some make too much of rules, but many make too little. Behind the rules which the Church makes for us or we make for ourselves is this principle of God from the beginning: [7/8] the Christian must abhor the evil, but, not only that,--he must overcome the evil with good: that is our Lord's lesson to His servants. Remember S. Paul: whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are of good report--all the list of noble ideas--think on these things. Not to beat down lust and treachery and anger and evil-speaking, lying and slandering--which are just as common among Christians to-day as they were when S. Paul wrote to the Romans, where vice was rampant--not to beat sin down by anger and evil-speaking--do not take a leaf out of the devil's book--do not try to conquer evil by anything which in the remotest way is evil too--be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good: by your prayers, by your communions, in which you are made one with Christ, and Christ becomes one with you--by your love of man and God.
Let me end with words of Charles Wesley's, which may well remain with you as a memory of your week of training and prayer.
"A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky;
To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfil;
Oh, may it all my powers engage
To do my Master's will.
Arm me with jealous care,
As in Thy sight to live;
And oh, Thy servant, Lord, prepare
A good account to give."
 And I will ask you to let us end with this prayer: [* This is taken, with slight alterations, from The Priest’s Book of Private Devotion, by permission of Mowbray & Co.]
Almighty God, the Giver of every good gift, Who hast appointed divers Orders in Thy Church, mercifully look upon us, Thy most unworthy servants, whom, of Thy divine providence, Thou hast called to the holy office of the priesthood; and vouchsafe us, we beseech Thee, all those gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, which may enable us faithfully to perform the duties of our calling, and to discharge aright the great trust committed to us in it. Give us, O Lord, the spirit of knowledge and understanding, that we may be apt to teach, and skilful to direct and bring up, all those who are under our care, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Give us the spirit of wisdom and counsel, that we may instruct with meekness, admonish with prudence, rebuke with authority, and minister suitable assistance to their several necessities.
Make us diligent, O Lord, in all parts of our sacred function, that we may give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine: that we may meditate on these things, and give ourselves entirely to them. Possess our minds with a just and tender regard for the precious souls committed to our charge, that we may watch over them faithfully as those that must give account. And, because the form of godliness without the power will be profitable neither to us nor to those that hear us, grant us Thy grace that we may take heed to ourselves as well as to our instructions, that, while we teach others, we ourselves may be not castaways. Enable us to show ourselves patterns of good works, examples to our flocks in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Grant this, we beseech Thee, for the sake of Thy Son our Lord.