A few of the notices which have appeared of the life and the work of the late Vicar of St. Andrew's are reprinted in accordance with the wish expressed by many to possess them in a collected form. Sermons and extracts from sermons are added; and warm thanks are tendered to the respective preachers, who have kindly allowed them to be published.
IT is with very deep regret that we announce the death of the Rev. Prebendary Webb, Vicar of St. Andrew's, Wells Street, which took place on Friday night, 27th inst. Although the sad event took Churchmen generally by surprise, it appears that for some months past the health of Mr. Webb had been failing. On Sunday, November 15, he celebrated and preached as usual, but was very unwell during the service. On the Friday in that week he went to Brighton, hoping, by change of air, to recover from the great weakness from which he was suffering. Deriving no benefit by the change, but rather the contrary, he returned home on Monday, November 23, being greatly fatigued by the journey. Grave fears now for the first time began to be entertained as to his condition, and although he was somewhat better on the Thursday, on the Friday morning, after a bad night, all hope seemed gone, and he rapidly sank to rest, breathing his last within one hour of completing his 66th year. . . .
The sad intelligence cast a gloom over the usual brightness of St. Andrew's Day at this church, and the festivities in connexion with the Dedication Festival had one and all to be abandoned. The sermon on the Eve was preached by the Rev. Berdmore Compton, of All Saints', Margaret Street, to a crowded congregation, on the sad event. . . .
Prebendary Benjamin Webb, . . . . twenty-three years ago, was nominated by Viscount Palmerston to St. Andrew's, Wells Street, where he has worked laboriously ever since. He has developed larger parochial institutions and given more support to general Church objects (home and foreign) than almost any clergyman--a fact not nearly so well known as the splendid musical services of the church.
The DEAN of St. PAUL'S, the Very Reverend R. W. CHURCH, preaching in the Cathedral on the First Sunday in Advent, I885, on St. Luke xix. 44, 'The Time of Visitation,' concluded his sermon with these words:
One word more. Without frightening ourselves with fears and fancies, which in the shape in which we dwell on them will probably never be realized, it is likely that we shall all of us have to meet [3/4] trouble in some way or other. Now, then, if it is now with us a time of peace and quiet, now is the time to fit ourselves to meet trouble, if it should come; not by foolishly vexing ourselves about it, but by arming ourselves with that faith and trust in God, those steady, regular habits of relying on Him and committing ourselves to His hands, which will alone keep us up when the weather changes and the storms begin to rise. It is not when we are sick that we can expect to learn how to bear sickness. It is not when death darkens our doors that we can hope to be taught at once how to behave in that awful and incomprehensible presence, and what are the thoughts and feelings which help a Christian to endure that which no one understands till the moment and the blow has come. Here, in this place, once more, as so often of late, we have to think of death in reality, and not in talk. Yesterday morning, with all its other news, brought the tidings, so strange and unexpected, that one of our brethren in the work and service of God in this Cathedral, one of the foremost of the clergy of London, one of the most learned, most modest, most indefatigable among us, to whom the whole English Church owes a deep debt of gratitude--Mr. Webb, of St. Andrew's, Wells Street--had, after a few days of doubtful warning, a few hours' serious alarm, been called away to his Master. Only a month ago he was standing where I am standing now; he was not strong, but no one thought of death. What, in himself, what in those who loved him and leaned upon him, could meet such a call as this, but the steady, unconscious preparation for it in the quiet days of routine, in the use made of times of tranquillity and peace to raise thought and hope to their true objects? It is those who have learned beforehand to believe in God who are able to put forth their belief when the moment comes that it is wanted. My brethren, let us indeed be persuaded of it. Now is the time given us to gain this firm, quiet, serious trust in God. Now, it may be, nothing disturbs you. Now, you have no pain to take off your thoughts, to weaken your body, to cloud your faculties. Now, you have no bitterness of sorrow to fill up your heart. You have time to think, to learn, to consider, to give calm attention to what most concerns your peace. If anything strikes you, you can turn it over in your mind, undistracted, undepressed, till you have become accustomed to it, and it has made itself part of your very self. The soldier must learn his exercise in time of peace, and now is your time of peace and learning. If this is your lot, if this is the manner of your visitation, see that you recognize it; see that you do not waste it and idle it away. If trial comes, it is your fault if it surprises you. See that with so much goodness and mercy appointed for your portion in life, blessed with so much, and spared so much, with all that the Gospel has to give offered you, but given, so far, without the sacrifices and sufferings imposed on our elder brethren in Christ, and which still have to be endured by so many now alive--with all this loving-kindness and peace appointed for your lot, with your trial made so easy and so light, instead of being hard and painful--see that you do not mistake the significance of God's purpose towards you; see that you do not [4/5] fail to discern and acknowledge, as it passes over you, 'the time of your visitation.' 'Try me, O God, and seek the ground of my heart; prove me, and examine my thoughts. Look well if there be any way of wickedness in me; and lead me in the way everlasting.'
THE FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT.
On the Sunday following Mr. Webb's death there was no sermon at the late Celebration. But at the second Evensong, Mr. Berdmore Compton, Vicar of All Saints', Margaret Street, preached on a verse from the znd lesson,--'The Master is here, and calleth thee.' He first pointed out that there are various callings of God to men--calls (I) to be saints and to fellowship of His Son; calls (2) to intimacy with God in Christ; calls (3) to service, general and lifelong, as to be apostles and pastors, as St. Andrew and St. Paul, or to special temporary service, as the disobedient prophet or Cyrus; calls (4) to rest and service in Paradise; and calls (5) to glory and service in the New Jerusalem. He proceeded to shew that these callings were often subdivided, repeated, and progressive; that St. Andrew was called first to fellowship and intimacy, secondly to apostleship; Abraham was called first out of Chaldaea, secondly out of Haran; Saul, called first on the way to Damascus, secondly at Antioch, secretly; and Mary of Bethany, called to intimacy when she sat at Jesus' feet, and then, in the text, called secretly, by Martha's whisper, to come where He was waiting for her for a special manifestation of His power. Then, applying the text as an Advent call of God, he insisted on the great truth that saintly love consists in an earnest attitude of listening for these progressive callings, and in an instant, willing obedience to them; faithful servants being trustfully obedient to a faithful Master; because, 'Faithful is He that calleth you, who will also do it '--namely, that which He calleth you to do. Taking the text again as the voice of the Dedication Festival, on the eve of which he was preaching, he explained the festival to be a festival of callings, such as the Apostle St. Andrew's were, specially to intimacy with God, to service, and to pastoral work. The present is a festival of peculiar solemnity, as being marked by the further call to rest and service in Paradise of our dear friend the vicar of this church, after twenty-three years of obedience to his Master's call to be the pastor of this parish. We are mourning over the loss of one eminent in the whole Church for ecclesiastical learning and for literary skill, and singularly competent to organize great parochial works and magnificent services in the worship of God; one who was specially eminent for steadfast devotion to the local duties of his parish, and for quiet adherence to all that was solid and good, desiring neither to attract by novelties nor to court publicity by advertising his work; one who was always ready to give his valuable support to his neighbours and friends, of which the preacher could himself speak [5/6] with thankfulness; and one, lastly, who was pre-eminent in private pastoral ministrations to his flock. Though worn with the cares of administration, he sought no rest here: he laboured to the last, obedient to his Master's call to labour. But he needed rest, and the Master called him to the rest of Paradise, where the service of the saints is free from toil and care. And he is at rest, and we remain in a singular turmoil of attack on the Church; and the labourers of the Master are wearied with gigantic efforts to which He has called them. But 'the time is short,' or rather, shortened, in merciful consideration to our feebleness. If we are faint, we know that we must be pursuing. The Coming One cannot be far off, and we must look for His appearing lovingly and patiently. Anyhow, our individual call to rest is near. Let us therefore labour on as our kind friend laboured to the last. To each of us as to him soon will be whispered, 'The Master is here, and calleth thee.'
On St. Andrew's Day, the Rev. Dr. Paget was the preacher at St. Andrew's.
Ps. xliii. 3.--'O send out Thy light and Thy truth, that they may lead me: and bring me unto Thy holy hill, and to Thy dwelling.'
MANY of us may have known what it is to revisit again and again some dear and familiar scene in moods of thought and feeling most widely different. And we may have learnt how wonderfully out of the very sameness and steadfastness of nature, out of its very insensibility to the changes of our hearts, there yet comes, if we will have it so, a message of most delicate and tender sympathy even with all the details of our sorrow or weariness or joy. As the colours of nature always harmonize one with another, so the beauty, the freedom, the gladness of nature never clashes, never jars with any pure and true emotion of a reverent and loving soul. We may go our favourite walk on a day when our hearts are full of sheer delight and thankfulness for some new blessing which has startled us with a fresh discovery of the love of God; and the trees look conscious of our happiness, and the whisper of their branches seems like the quiet telling of good news, and the light shadows play with all the simple gladness of childhood. We may go again when the weary weight, the bewildering complexity of life, the miseries and wrongs and follies of the world are heavy on us; and then the calm unwearied grace, the constant charm, the unhurried gentleness of the scene soothes us as faultless music, or as a soft loving hand laid upon a feverish forehead. And, again, we may go in bitterness of soul, in the very anguish of a wounded heart, when we could hardly bear that anyone should speak to us; and even if there be at first a touch of added pain at the unclouded happiness of nature, if the tears start afresh to our eyes as we stand and watch the leaves quivering in the light and all the brightness of a life that has no sense of sorrow or of sin: still [6/7] that is but for a while; and presently out of all that gladness there comes a healing and assuaging message of trust and hope, and the soreness passes away from our grief, and a kind of consecration comes upon our pain and sadness. And yet it is the self-same scene that seemed so congenial to our brightest happiness. It is as though the beauty and the grace of nature were but the veil of His presence, the token of His care and love, to whom all hearts are open, who understandeth our thoughts long before.
So is it, dear people, only far more helpfully, far more blessedly, with all the joy and beauty that are linked with the splendour of the Church's worship and the order of the Christian year. The gladness of heaven has a harmony for every pure tone on earth. Just in proportion as our own sorrows and anxieties and hopes and joys are faithful and unselfish we shall find a recognition, a sense of sympathy for them all, even in those moments, those commemorations in the Christian year which might seem at first most alien and most distant. The sorrow that shrinks and hides itself from the touch of human condolence--the bitterness with which none can intermeddle--may yet find nothing that jars or wounds in all the notes of happiness that sound in the very brightest of festal worship. No; rather would it be true to say that we only come to know what festivals really mean as, through the varied experience of life, we explore and discover and take home to ourselves the manifold sympathy and the rich variety and fulness of that which they commemorate. Christmas, Easter, the Ascension, Pentecost, our Dedication Festivals--surely year by year they unfold for us new aspects as we come to them with new thoughts and needs and longings in our hearts. You know how sometimes a word, a phrase which we have used ever since we were children, startles us almost by suddenly seeming new to us--suddenly putting on a look, conveying an inner meaning which it never had to us before. Even so, it may be that while under the providence of God we move through all that course of discipline and teaching, through all those tracts of light and shade, which train the soul from childhood to maturity, and make great words grow real to us, we shall be continually finding out new depths of sympathy and power, new stores of secret glory and unuttered wisdom in the steadfast order and the great days of joy and sorrow with which the Church marks out the years. And it may be only right at the end of our life, or perhaps in the heaviest hours of sadness and loneliness that we have ever had to bear, that we may touch at last the innermost shrine of light and truth in the triumphant happiness of Christmas or of Easter.
And so, brethren, we come today to our Dedication Festival. We could not hesitate to keep it, to honour it, to give God thanks for it. He who is in all our hearts to-day, in our thanksgivings and our prayers, he surely taught us this, prominently even among all those many lessons of his which, by God's grace, will never leave us, never lose their strong and dear control over us--that all that is private, all that is personal, must ever be held in steady subordination and deference to the great public acts and duties of the Church; that we must forget and lose ourselves in the service of Almighty [7/8] God. It was a part of his true and faithful strength, his robust and resolute dutifulness, that he would let nothing come across the stately order, the exact observance of the Church's worship. And so we are sure that we are doing what he would have told us to do, when we lift up our hearts, with all the load of sorrow, all the sense of an incalculable loss, all the wonder, it may be, how we can get on without him, lift them up unto the Lord, and give Him thanks and praise to-day for twelve months more of blessed access to the means of grace in this dear church, and for all the strength and peace and joy and love which He has granted us within these walls. Yea, O Lord, even in the darkest hours may we lift up our hearts to Thee, for 'The darkness is no darkness with Thee, but the night is as clear as the day; the darkness and light to Thee are both alike.'
'O send out Thy light and Thy truth, that they may lead me.' The prayer was first uttered by one in exile from the City of God, and the great centre of His worship. From the hills on the eastern side of the Jordan the Psalmist looks with longing, loving gaze towards the western horizon, and his heart is full of all the joy and gladness, all the help and strength that he has known beside the Altar of God. His soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the Living God; and as the roar of the mountain-stream sounds around him it seems like the echo of the tumult and trouble of his own inner life; and out of the heaviness and disquietude of his soul, out of the midst of his deceitful and wicked enemies, he cries to God, the God of his strength; he longs that from that sacred awful Presence there may come a power which shall deliver him from all the darkness and bewilderment of his lot, and bring him out into the clearness and gladness of the peace of God. 'O send out Thy light and Thy truth, that they may lead me, and bring me unto Thy holy hill, and to Thy dwelling.'
'O send out Thy light and Thy truth that they may lead me.' Surely, my brethren, it is a prayer that has a special meaning and a special use for us; a prayer that may well be often on our lips in the present day. We cannot, I think, be wrong in believing that there is in our generation a peculiar difficulty for many of us in judging rightly, in seeing our way quite clearly before us, in choosing always wisely and happily. The complexity of life, the entanglement of good and evil, seems to increase with every year we live. Movements that seem to make for good are mixed with so much that is plainly wilful, or ignorant, or foolish; error and even wrong-doing have learnt to speak so fairly and to disguise themselves so speciously, that sometimes we hardly know how to deal with them; and all around us is the strife of tongues; and those who should be trustworthy speak uncertainly, or with irreconcilable differences. Men seem almost to have lost the fixed points of principle which were clear and sure for our forefathers; and lines are blurred, and sharp distinctions are thought unkind and antiquated; and great questions and untried difficulties loom before us in the future, and we can trust no one to tell us quite clearly whither we are drifting and for what we should be getting ready. It is with us almost as with God's people of old: 'We see not our tokens, there is not one prophet more; no, not one is there among us [8/9] that understandeth any more.' Whom can we trust to guide us? How shall we, as the years go on, as the confusion grows thicker, and our steps falter--how shall we keep our course? how shall we be sure of our way? Everything seems shaken, or indistinct, or threatened; there is a bewildering clamour of voices, all positive, all different; aye, it may even be that our feet are almost gone; our treadings have well-nigh slipped; wherefore, O God of our strength, now, even now 'send out Thy light and Thy truth, that they may lead us.' Oh! blessed be His Name! He does indeed send out His light and His truth; even that Uncreated Light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness cornprehendeth it not; even that Eternal and Incarnate Truth who alone can make us free. Yes, indeed it is so; His grace is sufficient for us, even in the utmost complexity of our days; we shall not go wrong, or blunder, or be misled, so long as trustfully and faithfully we commit our way to Him and look to Him to lead us. For a while, perhaps, sometimes we may be like His servants of old, astonished and confused; we may feel as though we were walking by a way that we knew not; but He does not leave us so; He leads us forth in His truth; He who comes to us in the Holy Eucharist, He, our souls' most welcome guest, He does guide us step by step and keep us in the narrow way. There is a strange power of seeing clearly, and judging steadily, and acting wisely that seems to grow quite surely in a life, a character that reverently and sincerely rests on sacramental grace. However simple we may be, however timid and anxious and inexperienced, His Presence, faithfully received and watchfully cherished in our souls, will keep us from the mistakes, the false steps and disastrous wanderings of far cleverer and more courageous people. The world may get more and more hopelessly confused, and its greatest authorities more hazy and contradictory than ever; but for those who simply wish to know God's will, who are simply glad to feel His Grace growing in their hearts, there is a clue sent out through all the maze and mist and tumult; a guiding Ray of Truth and Light sent forth to be for ever with them: for, 'them that arc meek shall He guide in judgment; and such as are gentle, them shall He learn His way.' Even as He Himself' has promised: 'He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.'
'O send out Thy light and Thy truth, that they may lead me; and bring me unto Thy holy hill, and to Thy dwelling.' It is indeed an especial skill and bounty of His grace, an especial efficacy, I believe, of His sacramental Presence here vouchsafed to us, so to give us wisdom, so to keep us straight and clear and fearless in His service. So did He strengthen and sanctify all those great powers of intellect with which He had endued His servant whom on Friday last He called away from the troubles and difficulties of this world into the clear brightness and untroubled rest of Paradise. It was not only the vigour and sagacity and keenness and learning of a most rare mind that made us always turn to him with the sure and thankful confidence that he would know what should be done; it was because we felt, perhaps almost instinctively, that all those wonderful and delightful gifts of his were enkindled and pervaded by a light, a [9/10] wisdom not of this world, that they were ever held in steadfast submission to the guidance of his Incarnate Lord, and that through all the perils and the troubles of this life there went with him that selfsame Presence, Who for His servants of old assuaged the flames of fire. God had indeed sent out His light and His truth that they might lead him, that they might bring him straight unto the holy hill, and to the dwelling of the Most High. But he granted to him even something more than that; and we have something more to seek from the ministry of grace and the Eucharistic Presence of our Lord, something more for which to praise Him on our dedication festivals. For as He leads us so He also changes us; as His grace enlightens and informs our minds, so also it purifies and renews our hearts, it fashions our characters with the all-quickening and all-hallowing power of love. 'If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.' We may get puzzled and confused sometimes, not only about the world around us, but about ourselves. We are surprised by our own inconsistencies; uncertain even about the lines and tendencies of our own growth; we are not sure how far, how freely we ought to welcome and foster certain traits and powers and qualities of our character. We think that it might be possible for us to mistake temptations for opportunities and opportunities for temptations, and there comes, it may be, sometimes a panic dread that, without noticing it we are growing worse. Oh then, then above all, O Lord, send forth Thy light and Thy truth that they may lead us. We know not what we should pray for as we ought; alone in our blindness we shall only misunderstand ourselves; and we are blind and lame and weak, and sin has troubled our judgment, and he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. Lead us by Thy light; let Thine own Presence go with us; let our hearts burn within us while 'Thou talkest with us by the way; and so, abiding ever with us, fashion our characters after Thine own image and likeness; take care of us, and mould us by that strong, transforming power of Thy Presence, even by Thy grace of love. Was it not this, brethren, above all else that gave to him, who has been parted from us for a while, the rich force, the inner energy, the beauty of character that never disappointed; this, that all his strength of will, all his vividness and firmness of intellect, all his incisive rapidity and exactness of criticism, all his astonishing insight and practical ability, all his learning, all his vast powers of work, were less, far less to him than that which wielded and informed them all, even God's supreme, surpassing gift of a great and growing love? a love for young and old, for rich and poor, for ignorant and learned, alike--the love that can only come forth from the presence of the Incarnate Love Himself? Yes, just in proportion as we really knew him, as we had found out the secrets of his strength, the true motives of his life, we know today that we have lost for a while not only a most resolute and courageous will, not only a most penetrating and wide-reaching judgment, but, above all, best and highest and most divine of all, an intensely loving heart.
 I have not idly touched your griefs, not idly or without a practical purpose talked so much of him. This has been in my mind all through, that there is nothing more precious in the ministry of the Word and Sacrament, nothing which should be higher in our thanksgiving for the blessings of this church, than the assurance that here, through the means of grace, we may continually grow in wisdom and in love--in wisdom, which will lead us through all complexities and troubles of this world; in love, which will ever purify and form our characters. God be praised for this above all else! God lead us all by His own light and truth that we may never falter from the path, until He gathers us into the unutterable joy and peace where He Himself refreshes and illuminates the souls of the righteous. Dear people, He will not fail us. No, O Lord;
So long Thy power hath blest us, sure it still
Will lead us on,
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night be gone,
And with the dawn those angel faces smile
Which we have loved long since and lost awhile.
The funeral of the Rev. Benjamin Webb was celebrated on the evening of Wednesday, December 2, and on Thursday, December 3, in St. Andrew's Church, Wells Street. His body was taken on Wednesday evening from his residence in Chandos Street to the Church, and at the west door was met by the Clergy, and the Confraternity choir, assisted by several boys of the regular choir, who preceded it up the nave, singing the hymn, 'When our heads are bowed with woe.' The coffin, in a covered bier surmounted with a velvet pall, was placed before the chancel gates, with three mortuary lights on either side of it. Upon it were two crosses and a wreath of choice flowers, the offering of the three Confraternities of the church. The entire chancel screen was hung with crosses and wreaths of costly flowers, which friends and parishioners of all classes had sent, and the Vicar's stall was draped in black crape.
The church was thronged from end to end by a congregation of working people, who are habitual worshippers at St. Andrew's. Their presence bore a remarkable testimony to the reality of the Vicar's work, and to the love his people had for him; and was also a striking proof that St. Andrew's is not, as so many think and say, a church for the rich, but emphatically a church of the poor.
Evensong was sung, and a sermon preached by the Rev. T. O. Reay, Vicar of Prittlewell, Essex, formerly an Assistant-Curate, who gave an account of the prosperous growth of the parochial institutions since the day Mr. Webb entered upon the charge of the parish. After the 'Dead March,' the large congregation dispersed, and relays of friends watched the body during the night.
On Thursday morning there were celebrations of the Holy Eucharist at six, seven, and eight o'clock, at which there was a very large number of communicants, including the members of the Confraternities and [11/12] many of the working classes. Mattins was sung at a quarter before ten, the anthem being Beethoven's 'Blest are the faithful whose strife is ended,' and the hymn (written by Mr. Webb himself) 'Ye angel hosts above.' At eleven the first part of the Burial Office was sung--the opening sentences to Croft's music, and the 90th Psalm to a chant by Felton. Before the Lesson, which was read by Canon W. Cooke, the Dies Irae was sung, and the Holy Eucharist was then celebrated. The Introit was Spohr's 'Blessed for ever are they that die trusting in the Lord;' and the Kyrie, Creed, Sanctus, and Gloria in Excelsis were sung to music of the Greek Liturgy, now in use in the Greek Church. The Celebrant was Canon Paget; the Epistoler the Rev. T. Wade, a former Assistant-Curate; and the Gospeller the Rev. H. White, Chaplain of the Savoy. The mourners only communicated. The pall-bearers were the Rev. W. Greenwood, Senior Assistant-Curate, who carried the banner of St. Andrew, the Rev. Kenneth F. Gibbs, the Rev. T. O. Reay, and the Rev. H. L. Paget, all formerly Assistant-Curates; Mr. A. C. Eddis, and Mr. H. F. Nicholl. After the celebration the choir went in procession to the west door, singing Bishop Wordsworth's hymn 'Hark! the sound of holy voices;' and then, falling back, stood while the body of the late Vicar was borne through their midst away from the Church which he had beautified to God's glory and loved so well, and from his mourning flock, whom he had taught both by word and good example to serve God in the beauty of holiness. Among the clergy present in choir were the Revs. C. G. Griffinhoofe, T. F: K. Underwood, Assistant-Curates, Canon Barker, E. Heriz Smith, G. Greenwood, J. Baden Powell, F. Brindley, G. Williamson, Canon IV. Cooke, H. Walsh, and J. Longden. And among the congregation were Mr. Beresford-Hope, M.P., Major Ross, M.P., Judge Eddis, Q.C., Mr. Knight Watson, F. J. Nicholl, the Bishop of Colchester, the Rev. J. Llewellyn Davies, J. Young, and F. Stapley.
The body was carried in a hearse to Aldenham, Hefts; and at the Lych-gate was met by the choir and clergy of St. Andrew's and a large number of other clergymen, who preceded it to the grave, lined with moss and flowers, in the churchyard to the east of the chancel. The sentences were sung to the music of Goss and Purcell, and the Rev. K. F. Gibbs, Vicar of Aldenham, said the committal prayers. Before the benediction the hymn 'Brief life is here our portion' was sung; and thus, amid every tribute of affection and esteem, the body of the Vicar of St. Andrew's was laid to rest to await the dawning of the Resurrection morn.
Remember unto him, O our God, for good, all that he has done for this people. Remember unto him, O our God, concerning this, and wipe not out his good deeds that he has done for the House of his God, and for the observances thereof. Remember him, O our God, for good.
The following sermon was preached in St. Andrew's, Wells Street, [12/13] on the morning of December 13, 1885, by the Rev. J. LLEWELLYN DAVIES, Rural Dean of St. Mary-le-bone.
I Corinthians iv. 2.--'It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.'
THIS is now the third Sunday since it pleased God to sever the tie which bound this congregation to him who ministered to it in spiritual things. The shock caused by the almost sudden removal of one to whom so many looked, and on whom so much depended, may have to some degree abated. Even the grief which at first seemed inconsolable finds itself gradually dulled by time. But I have little doubt that the sense of your loss, instead of declining, has grown deeper and more disturbing as you have wondered how the place thus left vacant can be filled.
It is to be regretted that we do not now use the word Curate in its old and proper sense. It is in his character as Curate, as having the cure, or care, or charge of souls, that you who meet here chiefly think of Mr. Webb; and it is this character which is specially brought before us on the third Sunday in Advent. I know well that Mr. Webb was a faithful steward in the discharge of his duties as a parish priest, labouring earnestly to carry the ministrations of the Gospel, with all subsidiary kindnesses, to those residing within his district, whether they came to church or not; but I know also, as everyone knows, that the congregation of St. Andrew's is an exceptional one, drawn from many church districts, and that the Vicar of St. Andrew's was in the most effective sense your pastor. The tie between a true Curate of the Church of England and those who worship with him and learn from him is a close and sacred one. Where there are personal claims to reverence and confidence, like those of Mr. Webb, it is peculiarly so; but I venture to say that in more ordinary cases the relation between the clergyman and his people is one of the most precious and exalting of those vital influences on which the growth and health of the social body depend. To a Roman Catholic I can understand that the reverence felt for the English clergyman by those who do not give up their souls into his hands may seem weak and poor; he may say that we do not even pretend to give to our laity such spiritual help as the Church of Rome offers through its Sacraments. My answer would be that in the Church of England the relation between priest and people has the advantage of breathing the healthier and more vital air of reality and openness. I know what the feeling of the clergyman on his side is; I can imagine how your late vicar felt towards you; how he carried you continually on his heart; how he was drawn to you by the sense of a general as well as of a more definite responsibility; how the highest powers of his mind were exercised on your behalf; how he was touched by your responsive kindness; how grateful he was for every act and word which seemed to show that his ministrations were not in vain. And every clergyman comes to know something of what his office, and the well-meant--however inadequate--discharge of its duties, can do to draw out the affections of his parishioners and [13/14] congregation. It is not for nothing that you see and hear, day after day, year after year, during your most serious hours, him whom you recognize as ordained for you in things pertaining to God to offer up worship at your head, and who says the old things which have divinely-given power to reach the conscience and the heart. It is humbling to a clergyman to learn from time to time through what a magnifying mist of reverence young souls have been regarding him; and for their sakes at all events he can rejoice that it should be so. We are all of us the better for being reminded of the ideals of our respective callings. That you should see with the bodily eye no more one who has ministered for nearly a quarter of a century as the Curate of this church and its people, and who has done so with such exemplary faithfulness and such high qualifications as Mr. Webb, must be felt to be a great, an irreparable, loss.
It is assumed by our Church that the office of its curates is described in these words of St. Paul, 'Let a man so account of us, as of ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.' We can see on considering them that the words do instructively describe the office of the clergy, and in particular as they are charged with the cure of souls. But St. Paul did not write them as sentences of a technical treatise: they form part of an earnest remonstrance. It is very seldom that St. Paul's words are not alive with emotion. One of the evils prevailing in the Christian community at Corinth was the spirit of faction, party-spirit. It was a temper much developed in Greece. Political parties were eager and violent in the Greek cities, and each party had its leader of the hour. In the higher education, the study of philosophy, the same spirit manifested itself. A teacher formed a party of followers, and those who attached themselves to each philosopher were emulous in exalting his talents and attractions. It was not wonderful that this indigenous spirit of party invaded the Christian Church. It was carnal and human, and therefore natural and to be expected. The Corinthians, when they confessed Christ, did not entirely leave behind them their eagerness, their ostentatious cleverness, their combativeness. They began to form parties in the Church, and these parties took the names of leaders to distinguish them. We owe to this fact some interesting knowledge of the tendencies then at work in the Church. There were contentions at Corinth, so St. Paul was informed by some members of the Church who visited him at Ephesus: one said, 'I am of Paul'; another, 'I am of Apollos'; a third, 'I am of Cephas, or Peter'; a fourth, 'I am of Christ.' We can easily suppose St. Paul, Apollos, St. Peter, to have represented different lines of opinion and interest, different schools of thought in the infant Church. Possibly those who reckoned themselves as partisans of Christ only did so to distinguish themselves from the followers of Paul, of Apollos, of Cephas. But that the Church should be thus dividing itself into rival sections seemed to St. Paul to be contrary to its whole nature and calling. The Christians were not followers of some new philosophy. The Apostle had not himself come to Corinth to expound some system and advocate it with ingenuity and eloquence. He had declined to receive maintenance there, very much to prevent his being [14/15] confused with the popular philosophical teachers. He had come with a message, with a call. He had been sent to announce that in Jesus Christ who had died and risen again God was reconciling mankind to Himself, and to entreat all who would hear him to be reconciled to God. The Church consisted of those who believed the message and accepted the reconciliation. After their acceptance of the grace of God they were taught and guided by Paul himself, and others whom Christ sent, as God's reconciled children. Where, then, was there room for parties and partisanship, for the exalting of this teacher or that above rival teachers? The glory and blessing of the Church was that it had been called by Christ, called to the Father. Those through whom the calling had come were but His instruments; they were channels only, not sources. The word of the Gospel, the gifts of the Spirit, had come to the Corinthians through Paul, through Apollos, through any other, but from Christ and the Father. 'Let a man so account of us, as of ministers of Christ, subordinate agents whom Christ employs, and stewards or dispensers of mysteries of God.' In one sense St. Paul is lowering himself. 'What am I, that I am set up as the head of a party? I am nothing. It was not I that called or converted you, or endowed you with spiritual gifts. In myself I am nothing. I am the merest mouthpiece, an employed labourer.' Yes, but who employed him? What was the work which he was employed to do? The answers to these questions exalted him as much as he had before lowered himself. An instrument only, but an instrument of Christ, the heavenly Redeemer of mankind. A dispenser of what was not his own; but the stores which he dispensed were mysteries of God.
St. Paul himself, in another Epistle, that to the Ephesians, gives us a comment on this title 'steward or dispenser of mysteries of God.' 'Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which from all ages hath been hid in God, who created all things; to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord; in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through our faith in Him.' The mysteries were God's purposes, which had existed in secret from all eternity, but had been disclosed in Christ; the purpose to create one body of men in Christ, to break down the separation between Jew and Gentile, to invite every man to come to God in hope and trust as a member of his family, to train all men with all necessary gifts to be his blameless children. Every herald of Christ who had any perception of the great things that were implied in Christ was a dispenser of mysteries of God. The mysteries were only dispensed by being disclosed. They remained indeed wonderful, as God's love is wonderful, and His manifold wisdom is wonderful. The riches of Christ were unsearchable. But the glorious purposes and ways of God were shown in Christ and declared by those who preached Him, so that all who were [15/16] willing to believe might know something of them and might grow continually in the knowledge of them.
It is assumed, I said, that the clergy of the Church of England may now describe their office as St. Paul described his: 'Let a man so account of us, as of ministers of Christ, and stewards of mysteries of God.' Is this to put forward high pretensions? Very high, assuredly; yet such as ought to humble us. What higher grace could mortal man receive than this,--to be employed by the Son of God in making known to other men the glorious purposes of the Father? But if we are thus employed, we are bound to take care that we do not put ourselves between those to whom we minister and God; to let them see, as far as we can compass it, that we are instruments, mouthpieces; to use our utmost and constant endeavours that through us they may come to a real knowledge of the living God and be enabled to approach Him with confidence, and have fellowship with Him, and rejoice in hope of His glory. 'Not that we have lordship over your faith, but are helpers of your joy; for by faith ye stand.' 'It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.' Be sure that St. Paul said that to himself with awe; and what could strike deeper awe into our minds than the remembrance that such a task is entrusted to our integrity and diligence? It is faithfulness that is required: not greater powers than our Employer has given us, not superhuman energy; but the endeavour to do, with the simplest fidelity and with the least of self in the work, what the Father designs to do through us for the teaching and training of His children.
It was the existence of parties at Corinth that led St. Paul to these thoughts. How were the Corinthians to be guarded from making themselves partisans of Paul, of Apollos, of Peter? The best security would be found in their looking through these honoured teachers to Christ. They would thus attain to the appointed unity; Christ could be trusted to draw together those who looked to Him. May we not take this as the specific commended to the Church by St. Paul against the disease of party-spirit? Count men as instruments; look through them to the One Lord who uses them; it is only in a secondary and subordinate degree that you have to do with men: you are God's husbandry, God's building.
In some way, it pleased God to preserve the friend whom we are solemnly remembering from party-spirit. May it not, must it not, have been that he had taken into his heart this teaching of St. Paul? It was not my privilege to know him intimately; many of you knew him much better than I did. The proofs you have seen in his daily work and intercourse of his loyal fidelity to his Master were such as enable you to count with confidence upon the supreme verdict, 'Well done, good and faithful servant!' But it was well understood by his brother clergy, as it must have been evident to his congregation, that Mr. Webb of St. Andrew's did not give to party the service that was due to Christ. I do not think St. Paul would have held that there ought to be no variety of thought and aims in the Church. He was accustomed to associate variety with freedom and life and the Divine Spirit. Schools of thought may exist in the Church, I take it, [16/17] unrebuked by any apostolic censure. Christians may be diversely minded, waiting till God shall reveal the whole truth to them. Perhaps it may be permitted me to say that Mr. Webb and I were not supposed to belong to the same school in the Church. His name was well known to me from Cambridge days, and I always regarded him as a High Churchman. We became incumbents in this same parish of St. Mary-le-bone. His attainments, his character, the influence he acquired, made him one of the neighbours whom I most respected. When we were thrown together I found him a most friendly brother clergyman. But it was when, a few years ago, I was appointed Rural Dean that his generous and cordial recognition made me his grateful debtor. I began to learn how much we were in sympathy. And so a friendship was growing between us--rooted, I may say, in his loyalty to the Church of England, and to the Divine Lord of whom the Church of England bears witness--which has been brought too soon to an earthly close.
I desire to offer my heartfelt acknowledgments for the kindness which has invited me, as having had this relation in our local church order to your late Vicar, to speak from his pulpit, and has given me the opportunity to pay my respectful tribute to his memory. Suffer me to join myself with you, the clerical colleagues who knew him as a wise and considerate elder brother, the people whom he taught and exhorted and consoled, those nearer and nearest to him in the narrowing circles of intimacy, in thanking God for what was given you in him and in the faithful service of his life. You are praying now that a fit successor may be appointed to carry on a part at least of the work which he was enabled to do. Varied qualifications must be looked for in such a man, but you will do most honour to him whom you have lost if you set your desires and prayers most earnestly on the faithfulness which is required in a steward. A death which removes from our side one whom we have loved and on whom we have leaned is like the opening of a window into the unseen world, the world beyond the grave; and it should give us a revived consciousness of being in the presence of the Eternal God, to whom we are all responsible, who is the strength and life of us all. It is good for the clergy that the people should regard them in no lower character than that of servants of Christ, and should apply to their conduct-and the discharge of their duties an exacting ideal. And you, my brethren, are stewards also as well as we of the clergy. In every stewardship it is required that a man be found faithful. For all that you possess, for all your endowments, for all your spiritual privileges, for all your opportunities, you will have to render an account. It is a very small thing for each one of us what the judgment of his human neighbours upon him may be, whether he be successful or unsuccessful as the world understands success; but it is of the last importance--so death constrains us to acknowledge--what judgment the Supreme Employer of us all passes upon his fidelity of service. It is by what we have wished and tried to do, rather than by what we have visibly done, that we shall be judged in the final Court. We can hide nothing from Him before whose eyes all things [17/18] are naked and laid open. Let us of our own accord unlock our hearts and inward lives to the light which may cleanse and renew them. We must deem ourselves at the best unprofitable servants; but He has promised to accept any genuine service of ours for Christ's sake as a sacrifice with which He is well pleased.
[From the GUARDIAN, Dec. 2, 1885.]
ON Friday, November 27, an hour before he would have completed his sixty-sixth year, there passed away a clergyman whose solid and enduring work for the Church had long deserved some more conspicuous recognition than the Prebend of St. Paul's in these late years bestowed upon him by Bishop Jackson. Benjamin Webb passed to Trinity College, Cambridge, from St. Paul's School in October 1838, at a time when the echoes of the Tractarian revival, then all aglow under the mighty influence of Newman's leadership, were heard distant but clear in the sister University. Here he soon made the acquaintance of a brother. Trinity man, two years his senior, John Mason Neale, and the two discovered that they had a mission to help the Church revival on the side where Oxford left it weakest, that of religious art, notably architecture, and of worship treated in reciprocal dependence. Their college tutor, the genial Archdeacon Thorp, gave them his countenance, and they fired with a like enthusiasm so notable a body of young men, some of whom have lived to make themselves heard of, that they were able to found that which by a somewhat haphazard title was termed the Cambridge Camden Society. We have no hesitation in saying that to this organization, and in particular to its two founders, is primarily due that thorough revolution in the fabrics and worship of our churches which is a marvel of the last half-century, and which has so profoundly affected the habits and the phraseology not merely of the more devout, but of general society. It is no part of our present task to chronicle the ups and downs of the Cambridge Camden Society, its squabbles with University authorities, its great achievement of rebuilding St. Sepulchre's Church, or the consequent stone-altar suit. In 1846 it had become apparent that its work was not done, but that Cambridge was no longer the fitting seat of its operations; so it moved to London, changed its name to the Ecclesiological Society, having already enriched the language with the new term ecclesiology to define the science which it had created, and reinforced its ranks with Oxford men. In its new locale and under its new title the society subsisted till 1868, Mr. Webb continuing all through its career to act as secretary.
In the meanwhile he was ordained deacon and priest by Bishop Monk, of Gloucester and Bristol, to the title of Kemerton in Gloucestershire, the living of his old tutor, Archdeacon Thorp. From thence he proceeded to the curacy of Brasted, in Kent, belonging to that illustrious theologian, Dr. Mill, who had shown himself a generous [18/19] supporter of the Cambridge Camden Society in its darkest days, and then, in 1846, he contracted a singularly happy alliance with Miss Mill, only dissolved by his decease. He was for a short time curate to Mr. Dodsworth at Christ Church, Albany Street, and he then returned to Brasted, from which he was called away at the close of 1851 to become, on the presentation of his old friend Mr. Beresford-Hope, perpetual curate of Sheen, a little upland parish in the wild and beautiful moorlands of Staffordshire.
More than ten quiet years were spent in moulding into a model parish that which had once been a proverb of reproach for the scandalous neglect of religious ordinances, till in the beginning of 1862 Mr. Webb was called to that which proved to be his final scene of labour. The warm-hearted Irishman who had succeeded to St. Andrew's, Wells Street, after the very brief incumbency of its first perpetual curate, Mr. Fallow, was peremptorily ordered, from failing health, to seek some country work, and he had entered into communication with Mr. Webb as to an exchange when he was struck down. The fact was brought before Lord Palmerston, and he presented the survivor to St. Andrew's, the alternate presentation of this, the very earliest Peel district, resting in the Crown. The church had been built by the devoted exertions of that early nursing father of the Church movement, Dr. Chandler, Dean of Chichester, and rector of All Souls', Langham Place, and it had, during the greater portion of Mr. Murray's incumbency, been a pioneer of good things. Latterly his failure of strength was making itself felt, and Mr. Webb succeeded at the critical moment for its future. The mastery of the situation which he asserted was conspicuous and instantaneous, while the completeness of the institution of which he was the virtual creator was one of its most remarkable features. Some parishes strive by their services and some by their organization. St. Andrew's was famous for the incessant round of deeply devotional celebrations and other services, while the magnificent musical rendering of the worship attracted the outside public; but those who looked a little further were conscious of schools for every class, confraternities of men and women, boys and girls, lay-helpers overflowing in numbers and stintless in work--in fact, of every kind of spiritual machinery brought to the sharpest perfection. It was for such objects, and not merely for the luxuries of worship, that the offertory flowed in so exuberant a stream, for the givers knew in what a soil they sowed their seed. At the same time, true to his old ecclesiological associations, Mr. Webb devoted himself to the beautifying of his church, which, built when it was, and not perhaps by the best hand, was rather good in intention than performance. The storied reredos, designed by Street and executed by Redfern, Street's chancel, and Clayton and Bell's painted glass and painted gallery fronts are his most conspicuous decorations, while the congregations were combined of the poor and middle-class parishioners attracted to such a home, and of outsiders, many of them conspicuous for talent, professional or literary, for influence and for social standing, and all of them owning the personal power of the vicar--a man of singularly wise and equable judgment, acute insight, [19/20] gifts of organization, painstaking patience, and abundant charity. It should not be concealed that the policy which Mr. Webb adopted in his ritual has been a good deal criticised, but with him it was the result not of timidity but of deliberate judgment. His aim was to make magnificence of worship popular where he was, not by the rejection or condemnation of certain specialities, but by the recognition of them as inopportune. Of the eastward position he was the unflinching advocate and preacher, and was the main hand in working the very successful Purchas Remonstrance.
In private life Mr. Webb was a delightful companion, and his literary powers as well as his scholarship, including the Oriental languages, were considerable. His Continental Ecclesiology, published in 1846, early taught Englishmen what foreign Churches were like, and he has been a frequent contributor to conspicuous journals. For the last six years he was the editor of the Church Quarterly Review.
The chronic persistence with which Mr. Webb's claims to preferment were treated with neglect was a source of much surprise and disappointment to many Churchmen, and most so to those who were most familiar with his career, and who had the means of knowing that ignorance of his personality and claims could not, for many years at all events, have been alleged as the cause.
He first felt his strength fail this last summer during the brief annual holiday which he allowed himself, and on his return to London he complained much of weakness. Still nothing seemed to presage danger till acute blood-poisoning manifested itself, and death was the work of a few hours.
A. J. B. H.
[From the SATURDAY REVIEW, Dec. 12, 1885.]
A MAN has just died, highly valued by a large and varied body of friends, though in the course of a quiet life curiously influential, and one who has been in one of the most remarkable revolutions of the age--that which has recreated the worship and architecture of the Church of England. Mr. Webb's twenty-three years' indefatigable service at St. Andrew's Church. Wells Street, has, we make no doubt, somewhat eclipsed his early reputation as one of the founders of the Cambridge Camden Society; but the incidents of that episode in the Church movement are well worthy of being revived, while there are still contemporary actors to tell the story. It was a bold enterprise on the part of two undergraduates of Trinity College, Cambridge--John Mason Neale, in his third year, and Benjamin Webb, a freshman--to undertake, at the far-off date of 1839, to reconstruct the visible worship and Church architecture of England. Confessedly their movement was an offshoot of what was still literally Tractarianism at Oxford, for the Tracts were still continuing to come out, but they took up the revival at the point at which the Oxford leaders left it weakest. Their college tutor, Archdeacon Thorp, welcomed the bold suggestion with [20/21] good-humoured encouragement; and a small knot of fellow-workmen was soon collected, including, among others, the present Bishop of Carlisle, the late Archdeacon Freeman, Professor F. A. Paley, Precentor Venables, and Mr. Beresford-Hope, while amongst seniors Dr. Mill gave the aid of his great name; and a Society was formed, called--why it might be difficult to say--the Cambridge Camden Society. In this case, as in so many others, the start was threequarters of the battle; and for a term of years covering two generarations of undergraduate life the Camden Society was a noteworthy element in Cambridge life--active, self-assured, and, it must be owned, not overburdened with deference for academic authority, and accordingly duly resented in turn by old-fashioned Dons. The Society set up a magazine called the Ecclesiologist, thereby successfully introducing a new group of words into the language, and very soon fell foul of a church built with generous intentions, but woeful results, in a suburb of Cambridge; and then the storm burst on it. And yet even at that time the attempt to twist architectural criticism into personal malice was too flimsy for success, so the pioneers of a new science went on combining architecture, art, and ritual, till in 1841 they had a rare chance of practically distinguishing themselves. The famous old Norman round church of St. Sepulchre, Cambridge, partly fell down, and the Cambridge Camden Society undertook the restoration. For the time of day the work was capitally done; but the result was a somewhat famous law suit which declared an immovable stone-altar to be inadmissible in the Church of England. Meanwhile, the school of architects which the society set itself to train were potent missionaries all over the world. At last Cambridge had become no fitting habitat, and in 1846 the Cambridge Camden Society was moved to London, where it changed its name to the Ecclesiological Society, and opened its Committee to the co-operation of Oxford men, such as the Rev. William Scott and Sir Stephen Glynne. Mr. Webb continued as its Secretary all the while and down to its collapse in 1868. Neale with all his genius was not judicious, and how much the worship movement owes to Webb's wise, tolerant judgment cannot be overstated.
Mr. Webb had in the meantime been ordained, and after serving some curacies was appointed in 1851 to the perpetual curacy of Sheen in Staffordshire, a small living in those Moorlands which are the extension of the Peak of Derbyshire. Ten years were sufficient to change a parish inconceivably behindhand into one of model excellence. In 1862 he was called to London to take the incumbency of St. Andrew's, Wells Street, to which he was appointed by Lord Palmerston. This church, an early product of the Church movement, and built by the excellent Dean Chandler, had for some years occupied a conspicuous place, but latterly, with the failing health of the incumbent, the church began to fail, and Mr. Webb might either have led a great revival or presided over a lingering decay. Happily the former was the result of his appointment, and the organization of which he was author at St. Andrew's Church was, in a very different sense from the conventional one, that of a model [21/22] church; the services in their magnificence were one of the sights of London; but this was really the least part of the enterprise. Only those who personally interested themselves in the parish could appreciate the elaborate organization for all good works which the vicar had created; the schools were far above the average, the troop of lay workers was equally numerous and efficient, while the confraternities of men and women, boys and girls, and the creche were there to give the helping hand so much needed amongst the temptations and necessities of London. Yet all this was supported by the voluntary offerings elicited by the confidence universally felt in the vicar; for the church, actually the first founded of all Peel districts, is in itself miserably endowed. Mr. Webb's literary gifts deserve notice; a translation of the First Book of Durandus's Rationale, brought out with a preface by himself and Neale, in early Camden days, may now be chiefly regarded as a curiosity; but his Continental Ecclesiology is full of interesting information; while during his nearly twenty years' editorship of the Ecclesiologist he built up a vast mass of curious information on the science with which that magazine was concerned. In his latest days, the six years during which he edited the Church Quarterly Review were a continuous record of conscientious and successful work. With all these mental preoccupations, the genuine man stood out clear, acute, yet gentle and sparkling. He was the most charming companion and the wisest counsellor, and in the fulfilment of those exceptionally intricate duties which attach to a parish priest of the English Church as spiritual guide and as worldly-wise counsellor, rarely gifted, and conspicuously successful. The varied texture of his congregation of St. Andrew's was the evidence of his singular powers of management, taking in on the one side middle and lower class residents, by no means amenable in London to the abstract claims of parochial authority, and on the other a mixed gathering of persons of conspicuous intellectual, professional, and social standing. It may, after all, be asked, How came such a man to die vicar of a Peel district, barely garnished during the last four years by an unremunerative prebend at St. Paul's? and we can only answer that we are totally unable to say. It is certain that Mr. Webb's personality and works were well known in the quarter which was for the greater part of his London life the fountain of ecclesiastical honours, and that they seemed to have met with its very friendly approbation.
[From the CHURCH QUARTERLY REVIEW, Jan. 1886.]
A Loss which saddens the whole Church of England has fallen upon us with peculiar severity. The Rev. Benjamin Webb, since 1862 Vicar of St. Andrew's, Wells Street, London, and since 1881 Prebendary of Portpool, in St. Paul's Cathedral, has for five years, and since the death of Canon Ashwell, edited the Church Quarterly [22/23] Review, with how much industry, ability, and fertility of resource, with what depth of theology, and fineness of literary touch, our readers can appreciate for themselves better than we can expound to them. This was no wonder, for he did not bring a prentice hand to the work. When he was only two years out of his teens, and still an undergraduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, he undertook the editorship of the Ecclesiologist, the organ of the Cambridge Camden Society, of which he was secretary. The first number was issued in November 1841, and he continued that labour of love till the magazine ceased to appear, after a career of twenty-seven useful, busy years, fruitful in manifold contributions to the study of ritual, architecture, art, and music--all of them included in the new but timely title of Ecclesiology.
Our contribution to the great work of the Church revival belongs to a later stage of that wonderful event, so that we feel it to be a kind of filial duty to proclaim how nearly one to whom we are so indebted, is identified with its earlier and, as we may well call it, its heroic age. This is not the place to dwell upon the priceless services rendered in the ways which we have indicated to the Church cause by the Society formed by Webb himself and John Mason Neale in 1839, and which left Cambridge for London, and changed its name to Ecclesiological Society, in 1846. Among the Oxford recruits enlisted by that most politic action, William Scott occupies a distinguished place, and as the Christian Remembrancer, so long identified with him, was our predecessor and model, so in this fact, coupled with the aid which he gave to Webb in his ecclesiological labours, a distinct bond of union may be gladly welcomed, in which the Ecclesiological movement, the Christian Remembrancer, and the Church Quarterly Review will be found to possess a more than usual connexion of objects and of actors.
The early maturity and completeness with which Mr. Webb's views were reached by the process of clear logic, and systematically ranged in their relations to each other, was a conspicuous element in his intellectual and moral career. He was not one who moved by leaps and bounds, often, it may be, exchanging the safe for the slippery foothold. Wise, when young, in excess of his years, he proved himself, as time rolled on, more and more buoyant and full of resource, for he never wasted himself by the superfluous indulgence of creating otiose change. He had, in fact, made a name at Cambridge while the Oxford Tracts were still in the course of publication, but, to go down a few years, Mr. Webb in holy orders, and immersed in the practical work of the priesthood, took up the position, from which he never flinched, of an Anglicanism which was equally incapable of compromise and of excess, before Dr. Hampden was made a bishop; before Mr. Gorham troubled the Church; before the Papal Aggression drove men crazy; before rifts and divisions appeared among those who should have been a united Church party; before the sharp discipline of the Public Worship Regulation Act came to remind us that we were brethren. Through these changes and chances the calm deliberate student moved on his course to [23/24] cheer, to counsel, and to suggest. He was alive to the benefit secured by the Liddell and Westerton judgment; and when, fourteen years later, a staggering blow, as it seemed, was dealt to Catholic worship by the Purchas judgment, instead of sitting down to deafen the air with idle complaints, he put himself shoulder to shoulder with his senior curate, Mr. (now Bishop) Kingdon, in the forefront of the remonstrants, to whose steadfastness it is due that the decision fell comparatively harmless, and was in a few years reversed.
Mr. Webb's administration of St. Andrew's Church was the index of his mind. The church, when he succeeded to it in 1862, had been consecrated for fifteen years. Mr. Fallow, who watched with much vigilance under the fostering care of Dean Chandler over its earliest fortunes, died a few months after the consecration, and Mr. James Murray succeeded to the cure--a Churchman ahead of his age, and universally beloved as a man of a most genial nature. He soon made a position for St. Andrew's in the forefront of the rising London movement, which was strengthened by the steadfastness of parson and flock, during the delirium of 1850-51. In time, failing health, and powers overstrained, made it manifest that Mr. Murray's best days were over, and his death at the beginning of 1862 left the church in a languishing condition. Some rather curious coincidences had put Mr. Webb in the front rank of possible successors, and Lord Palmerston, in whom for that time lay the patronage, called him from a remote parish in the highlands of North Staffordshire, to the incumbency of St. Andrew's. The good services of Sir William Hayter, who was, of course, very influential with Lord Palmerston, in Mr. Webb's behalf should not be forgotten. [And also, it is said, of Mr. Gladstone.] Webb thus found himself conducting that which proved the last act of his life's drama, reaching from the beginning of 1862 to the end of 1885. It was an all but quarter of a century of symmetrical and continuously augmenting success which, if it had not been so successful, might have been called monotonous. Of course, the fleeting troubles were there, and to a man of the consuming zeal of the vicar (as the 'perpetual curate' became under the operation of Bishop Wilberforce's Act) they were full enough of anxiety. But in retrospect, and now that he is gone, they have shrunk to very little, and the annals of Mr. Webb's reign at St. Andrew's are the records of a conspicuous and continuous felicity. The secret of this may undoubtedly be sought, as in other circumstances, so in the grasp of desiderata, and of the means provided for their supply. Webb realized the double character of a town parish, and in developing either phase was careful not to allow the other one to suffer detriment. The church must be the centre of worship, and, in the case of St. Andrew's, of a worship very devotional, and very splendid; and the parish must equally be the centre of multitudinous and all-embracing good works. The services of St. Andrew's soon attained celebrity, earned alike by their magnificence of execution, and by the deep devotional feeling which was their informing spirit. St. Andrew's was not a church at which one found the honour due to the Celebration balanced by careless [24/25] Mattins and Evensong, nor yet that ideal of an old-fashioned class of organists--oppressive Mattins and Evensong, mated with hurried Celebrations. The music was in the highest sense of the words scientific and artistic, and the works of masters living and dead were equally given with the highest musical skill combined with unfailing reverence, and the Christian year was expressed and set forth with a discriminative emphasis, nowhere exceeded. As the word has in later times come to be understood, the ritual was not very 'high,' while in this connexion it is not immaterial to put on record, in passing, that from the time he received priest's orders Mr. Webb invariably adopted (when he was master) the Eastward Position. Mr. Webb had no quarrel with vestments, far from it, but he came to the conclusion that he best brought, and kept together, his congregation by acquiescing in the fact that for St. Andrew's, such an addition to the externals of worship would be inopportune. [Mr. Webb's views on these points may be gathered from the following extracts from his Evidence before the Ritual Commission in 1867: As regards the Eastward Position in the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist, Mr. Webb stated, that 'both from the literal construction of the words Before the Table and from the historical evidence, he took them to mean at the broad part of the Table and not at the end; that he considered that there is historical evidence that Clergymen of the Church of England have continuously interpreted the words in that sense; and that, without judging the liberty of other Clergymen, he conceived that they had taken a right judgment in so doing.' (On the authority of those who knew him most intimately, as well as from recollection of his own words, it may confidently be stated that during the whole of his ministry he never used in celebrating the Holy Eucharist any other than the Eastward Position.) In regard to the Mixed Chalice, he stated: 'I know, of course, that there is no Rubric ordering the Mixed Chalice now; but it was my notion that there was no infringement of the Rubric by retaining a practice of such great antiquity.' As to Vestments, he answered that he 'understood the Ornaments Rubric to permit, if it does not enjoin Vestments;' that 'it would be a most fatal step if the licence that is still allowed by the Rubric were restricted;' that 'those of his congregation with whom he had talked and taken counsel agree with him in thinking it would be a matter much to be deplored if any alteration were made in the Rubric, though they do not press on him to use the Vestments, on the ground that such alteration would alter the formal status of the Church of England with respect to the Primitive Church;' that he felt at liberty not to 'use the Vestments, because he felt himself in conscience allowed to act upon Christian wisdom and prudence as to restoring them;' and that the non-usage was 'a matter of Christian charity, expediency, and prudence only with him.'] The Daily Sacrifice stood in his eyes on a different and higher level, and this he introduced, besides adopting altar lights at Celebrations. His habitual congregation was at different hours of a very varied character. At times, St. Andrew's was thronged with the poor and with the middle classes; at other hours, it was remarkably representative of all the influence derived from professional eminence, scientific or literary power, and social standing. The worship to which these were invited was the so-called 'Cathedral' service, rendered with a devotion, to which till lately the Cathedrals have been strangers. But, as we have said, St. Andrew's Church was only an element in its mission, and, at St. Andrew's, works of temporal charity for the old, infirm, and destitute, and of spiritual help for those too weak to walk alone, [25/26] were elaborately planned, and unflinchingly acted out. Mr. Webb's catechetical classes on Wednesdays and Saturdays--especially the latter, to which for years he had given unflagging attention, at the cost of great personal exertion--were known throughout all London. The schools were a great organization, and from the Creche for the infants, up to the schools for boys and girls who trembled at the name of the Government inspector, success deservedly crowned untiring exertions. The number, the devotion, and the discipline of the multitudinous lay-helpers of both sexes stamped the church, and testified to the magnetic influence of the vicar's force of character, and lovable disposition, while the Confraternities (s) of Young Men, (2) of Young Women, and (3) of Men and Women, were framed with rules which gave the best guarantee for the permanence of the bond thus created, in the lightness of the reins with which they were driven. We feel it the more incumbent to insist upon these features of the system of St. Andrew's, because we are not without our suspicions that the excellence of the musical services may have so forcibly arrested general attention, as to induce some persons who only knew St. Andrew's generally, to recognize no further merits in it.
There was a singular pathos attaching to Mr. Webb's funeral. The first part of the service was said in his own church, with all the religious beauty befitting such an event, attended by crowds of every station of life, but one in the universal grief at such a bereavement. Then the remains were carried off, attended by not a few particular mourners, to the village churchyard of Aldenham, in Hertfordshire, and deposited in consecrated ground by the vicar, a former curate of St. Andrew's, much beloved by Mr. Webb.