JOSEPH MASTERS, 78, NEW BOND STREET.
IT has been said, that one strong proof of the eternal fitness of Christianity for mankind lies in the extraordinary power of easy expansion which Christianity possesses: and that it has these powers by reason of its want of system. It is said, that the Divine Founder of the Church gave ideas, and not their forms; such ideas being universal and eternal, whereas all form is transient and variable. It is said again, that so soon as this Divine teaching came into contact with the handling of human instruments, it became at once more or less systematised, because it belongs to man's nature to form systems; that Christianity was thus cast into a mould, and intellectual propositions were formed around it, according to the genius of the individual teacher, whether that teacher were Apostle, Father, Schoolman, or Reformer; every such system, it is added, suited the time at which it was put forward, but when that time had passed, it had nothing to say to man, losing, when its time was gone by, all [3/4] movement of thought, all enthusiasm of feeling, all vital interest. [See "CHRIST in Modern Life," by the Rev. S. A. Brooke.] Such a statement, containing, as I doubt not, a very real truth, and pregnant with germs of very valuable thought, does, I am equally persuaded, need caution in its development, and in the deductions which might possibly be drawn from it. That in the fourfold narrative of our Blessed LORD'S Life and Teaching upon earth, ideas and not the forms in which those ideas should hereafter be clothed, constitute the main part of the Inspired Record, that it was His purpose by His own Divine Life and by the gracious Words that proceeded out of His mouth, to lay the foundation, not to build the superstructure, is only to say in other words that "the HOLY SPIRIT was not yet given, because that JESUS was not yet glorified." Hence that it would be vain to look, either for theological system, or for ecclesiastical organisation in the record of the Four Evangelists, is a mere commonplace in religious literature. We may go beyond this. We may allow fully, that theological system, in the modern use of the phrase, belongs to a period far later than that of S. Paul or S. John; that there is, in the language of Holy Scripture, when dealing with divine truth, an elasticity, a largeness, a freedom, and a depth, which later times lost, as a penalty for making their systems more definite and more formal. And, I suppose, there are few of us to whom the study of these systems has become in any way a habit, who have not again and again turned, in hours of weariness, to the freshness of the original fountains, and have [4/5] found a new life in the 14th chapter of S. John or the 8th chapter of the Romans, which we have looked for in vain in Calvin, or Aquinas, or the great Augustine himself. This is after all only saying, that Holy Scripture is essentially wider, deeper, more human in its truest sense than all else that is not Scripture. But here surely we must pause. Surely we must demur, if it is meant to say that in the record of the New Testament, we cannot find both theology and church order. And both of these, not as fragments of human systems, temporary and transient--forms full of life for one age, but hollow unrealities for their successors--but, rather, both in theology and in church organism truths eternal and permanent, the revelations of the Spirit, who knoweth all men's every need; not the idiosyncrasies of this or that individual teacher, but the heavenly guided constitutions of the twelve foundation stones of the Church of GOD.
Accordingly, as the instincts of every great father in successive ages have led them to turn to the Gospel of S. John, to the Epistles of S. Paul to the Romans or to the Hebrews, according to the theological requirements of their particular time: so have the Acts of the Apostles, and the Pastoral Epistles of S. Paul, been the sources to which the Church has ever turned when, either the Apostolic Order itself, or the qualifications for that order have been in question. And the Church has never doubted but what she could trace in those records, amid whatsoever absence of technical system, the intentions of our Divine Head for His body. True, the Apostles were themselves dealing with the things [5/6] of time, with men and churches, having their own requirements--their own weaknesses--their own peculiarities of circumstance. True, a council meeting in the first century under the presidency of S. James, would have to deal with matters of temporary expediency as well as with questions of eternal truth--with things strangled and with the eating of blood, as well as with the weighter matters of forbearance and of charity. But the vital and the eternal, underlay the transient and the indifferent; nay, these last ceased to be indifferent so soon as the principle of charity, either way, was involved. And it seems to have been always believed, that by the present indwelling power of the Spirit in each successive age, Christian men would be ever enabled to discriminate and separate, between what is universal and eternal, and that which was for time only. Such a discriminating power is ever recognized as vested in the individual Christian, in dealing with the counsels and the precepts, even of our LORD Himself. Such a discriminating power must exist for the community, for the Church at large. "He that is spiritual judgeth all things," is true of collective Christianity, of the Church, as well as of the enlightened conscience of the individual.
The existence of such an authority somewhere would appear to be a needful condition of the continuity of the Body of CHRIST: else must it needs be a slave to the letter instead of a living organism, walking in the liberty of the SPIRIT. Hence it has ever been recognised as a part of the prophetic office of the Church, to distinguish, in the written [6/7] Word, between the things of time and those of eternal obligation. Such a power, I need not say, historically the Church has ever exercised. Some institutions she has held herself at liberty to vary and modify; some she has counted permanent, unchangeable. And, remark, that the practice of such a continuous body as the Church is a higher witness than any written decrees: what she has invariably done is a weightier testimony in matters of order than what she has said. Such a witness, I think it may be shown, the Church has ever borne to her own belief, that there is an Order as well as a Faith, which is of Apostolic, permanent, institution. To continue fresh links of that order in the consecration of a Father in CHRIST within this our English branch, is the purpose of our gathering here this morning. The order of well-nigh two thousand years is one of those traditions from which our Church, to say the least, has never counted it lawful to depart. What the Church of England has affirmed in her formularies, what she has adhered to uniformly in her practice, will, I venture to think, stand the sifting even of these times in which no tradition is left unquestioned, no faith untried. The soberest and most careful modern investigation of this order with which I am acquainted has arrived, upon grounds of independent historical and literary criticism, at the same conclusion, as upon other grounds the Church herself has pronounced--the conclusion, I mean, that it is evident unto all men, that from the Apostles' time, there have been these three orders of ministers in CHRIST'S Church--Bishops, [7/8] Priests, and Deacons. [Dr. Lightfoot on the Epistle to the Philippians.] To nothing more than this is the English Church, explicitly, committed in her formularies: on nothing less, as I think, could she defend her position, or even maintain her existence.
While therefore in the pastoral directions of the great Apostle to those whom he had set over his own foundations in Ephesus and Crete, we shall read, as elsewhere in the volume of the New Testament, something which by its very nature is temporary and transient, fitted to local peculiarities, and personal idiosyncrasies of temperament, we shall also find much which has no such limits in its application or teaching. And among such we may surely reckon those words of caution, of support, of warning, of encouragement, to which ever and again those to whom the cure of souls has been committed, Priest and Bishop alike, have turned amid the burden of the warfare and the strife of tongues, through which the faithful pastor in all time, whether Priest or Bishop, must ever guide his course. Diocesan Episcopacy, in the exact form in which it has descended to us, after the modifications of well-nigh two thousand years, we may fail to trace in the New Testament--no wise man perhaps would look for it--but the principles upon which the overseer of souls, the true Episcopus of the LORD's house, is to rule his government, if he would look for a blessing on his work, these are not far to seek. May I be allowed to say, speaking in the presence of our Fathers in CHRIST, that the last words of my [8/9] text seem to me to contain the true secret of all Episcopal power in our own day. That secret is contained in two words--"Long-suffering and Doctrine."
"The good work," which according to the Apostle's view, is involved in the office of a Bishop, will no doubt require varied instruments of nature and of grace for its due fulfilment, as men and time and seasons change. We have ourselves' witnessed within the space of a lifetime a marked change in the means, whereby such a man may be made a reality. In. Church as well as in. our civil relations, government, authority, and prerogative, are different things to what even we once remember them. But if it be argued that because we have gone through such a change the position of a chief shepherd of the Church of England is less weighty, less powerful, less fraught with possibilities of good than it once was, I think we are at fault. More onerous than ever surely the office of a Bishop is, and we may thank GOD for it. But also I am persuaded that to one who enters upon the work with singleness of purpose, with largeness of view, with capacity for human sympathy, there is opening, even at this moment, a sphere for doing CHRIST'S work as wide, as powerful, as blessed, as any which this Church of England has ever known. If the changes of the last thirty years have revolutionized in great measure a Bishop's relations to those over whom he is placed, all revolutions, let us remember, are not for evil; nor are they found in the experience of life always to weaken that which at first sight they appear most critically to affect. Again, [9/10] may I say, Long-suffering and Doctrine are the two secrets of the pastor's power, specially of the Chief Pastor, the Shepherd of Shepherds: and if I may venture yet further to paraphrase the two words in this application, I would say that the one is to be sought as the necessary complement of the other. There may be a long-suffering which is the offspring of simple indifference to doctrine; there may be a vindication of dogma, self-asserting and zealous, which conceals beneath the garb of Christian earnestness a grave forgetfulness of Christian charity. The Church of all time has suffered from both evils. The Apostle groups together the two Christian graces which are the antidotes of either. Never surely was there a time when a divided and agitated Church, almost given over in some quarters to a spirit of lawlessness, needed in her chief rulers more sorely the combination which S. Paul desired--long-suffering, lest the fretting antagonism of self-sufficient men, opposing themselves to all constituted powers of government, develope on the side of authority a spirit of arbitrary and impatient self-assertion, containing within itself the seeds of everything which can minister to renewed strife; long-suffering as wide and as large in its forbearance and in its sympathies as is that Church of England with which we all, Bishop and Priest alike, profess to be in harmony; a long-suffering based in no sort upon carelessness as to doctrinal truth and doctrinal falsehood, but springing out of that larger power of view, which recognises that truth may have more than one side, and that larger power of sympathy which hopes sometimes even [10/11] against hope, that there may be a true accord in the midst of apparent difference: such a gift of longsuffering, not opposed to, but going side by side with, and having for its needful complement a firm grasp of a definite dogmatic creed, not merging or obliterating real differences with a view to a hollow unreal smoothness which is not unity, but for very love's sake asserting and maintaining the truth, asserting it all the more quietly in proportion to the strength with which it is grasped. Such a combination of long-suffering and doctrine the Church in our day may indeed pray for in those who are set to bear rule within her pale. It is one of the wisest, the largest, the rarest of the powers of grace. Verily, we need the twofold gift as sorely as ever did the Church of Ephesus in the day of Timothy and Paul.
My brethren, do such words as these sound in your ears as a mere tinkling cymbal,--as though I were painting an ideal picture, possible to realise, it may be, in the freshness of the first century, but hopeless in the decadence of the nineteenth? Did we indeed think it were so, we should altogether despair of the future of the English Church: bitter and sorrowful only would be the greeting wherewith we should meet one, called to so impossible an office as that of an English Bishop would be. Little guide to the feet, and little cheer to the heart would there be in such an outlook. Thank GOD the union of these two qualifications is no imaginary ideal.
On this day, and on this occasion it were indeed impossible, for some at least amongst us, not to [11/12] have vividly before our eyes the memory of an episcopate of well-nigh thirty years, whose aim at least, in times full of stir, in more than one crisis full of difficulty, was ever to maintain the claims of Christian dogmatic truth in harmony with the higher claims of Christian love. It were impossible, at least for myself, and for my dear brother now to be consecrated as a Father in the Church, to forget for even an hour the memory of him whose hand, had GOD so willed, would have been laid so gladly, so thankfully, so hopefully, upon the head of him, whom of all living men, he desired to see raised to the same office as himself.
Many an one, during the last few months, since the light of our eyes was taken from us, has asked what was the secret of that mighty power which moulded, and directed, and guided so wonderfully so many minds beside his own?
The answers have been various; the criticisms upon his life and his work have been as many as were the sides of that work and that character. They who knew him best and longest, who by reason of that very knowledge, can go a little deeper than they who judged of him from without--they have no doubt where the secret lay. Starting from the outset, with the fixed determination to be a Bishop, GOD helping him, not of a party, or a section, or a school of opinion, but of his whole diocese, although he was fully conscious that the carrying out into action such a resolve would surely expose him ever to the misinterpretation of the many, because its very greatness could only be apprehended by the few--such a purpose did he [12/13] carry out with a measure of patience and forbearance, with which nothing but the Divine Spirit could have endowed a temperament by nature restless and ardent: ever seeking amidst those who opposed themselves, to find out points of union and sympathy, not points of divergence and difference; enabled by his mighty intellectual parts and his marvellous quickness of perception, to put himself in the position of others, almost to see with their eyes and feel with their nerves: so bringing together, not merely into personal accord with himself, but greater still, into accord with each other, men apparently altogether diverse, he was enabled through the divine blessing to look back upon the twenty-four years of labour in the diocese with which his name will ever be specially connected, as a labour of cementing, of healing, of binding together,--a true labour of edification in the Church of GoD. This was his long-suffering; and this going along with, and springing from, no indifference to positive truth, nor from any want of perception of the real differences which truly exist amongst us; having its root not in any unworthy desire to become all things to all men for his own sake, but combined with a clear, distinct, intellectual and spiritual grasp of that which he believed to be the truth of GOD; only that he was able from the largeness of his views, to realise that the truth of GOD is wider, deeper, more catholic than inferior minds are able to apprehend. Craving earnestly for the sympathy of others,--in no sort indifferent to praise,--what truly great mind ever was. indifferent to these things?--he was yet perfectly [13/14] conscious from the outset that such blessings might be purchased at too high a price, and such a price he never consciously would give. Love of power, one so made for command might readily have found a snare, but the true secret of his real power the world with all its superficial criticisms has never read. The world has no standard wherewith to gauge such a spirit. "His judgment is with the LORD, and his work with his GOD."
And if indeed we may not hope to see one all in all like unto him again, we shall not I think be wrong in saying that as his work has raised throughout the whole land the standard of what episcopal work should be, so with those who have known and loved, there can never be any question as to his having shown also, what is the true secret of episcopal power, the true mainspring of all episcopal success.
With such an example before his eyes, and girt about with the same heavenly strength, will our dear brother, whom GOD'S providence has called to the like work, go forth to-day. Not surely without trembling and' misgiving, and yet as surely not without confidence and hope. In England, as at Ephesus, in the nineteenth century, as in the first, it is a "true saying, If a man desire the office of a Bishop, he desireth a good work." Emphatically a work. No man in these days would desire it for ease or for power. But the work itself will vary; and for all kind of work there is room. The world goes on ever faster; the phases of truth itself are ever varying.
"The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And GOD fulfils Himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world."
Never did we need more urgently wise, large-minded, and withal gentle guidance, lest in the decay of the ever-changing we lose sight of the eternal. No whither can we turn in human society without feeling what a call the Church of GOD has upon every gift and every power of each one of her children, especially of those who are set in her high places. Questions of all kinds in science, in morals, in social life, these are meeting us day by day, some of them problems hardly brooking of delay in their solution; all of them claiming an answer of the Church in the first instance. "And who is sufficient for these things?"
Gifts of all kinds, theological, philosophical, powers of government, all these we may earnestly crave in those set to rule over us. Each man cannot have them all; but the more excellent way each one may tread. Each one may realize the type, which S. Paul sets before us as his ideal of a chief Shepherd; each one may realize the pattern of firm adherence to truth, of patient longsuffering with error and opposition, of simple resolution to live for JESUS CHRIST, of indifference to any other judgment excepting His. These are spiritual gifts, all parts of the great gift of Love. To a Bishop perfected in these no work is hopeless, no victory impossible. With prayer for these gifts, above all else, will we speed forth upon his work our brother to-day, praying that he "may feed the [15/16] flock of GOD, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly. Neither as being lord over GOD'S heritage, but being an ensample to the flock; so that when the Chief Shepherd shall appear he may receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."