The five years, from 1904 to 1909, reach the high-water mark of the Bishop's Lahore Episcopate, including some of his most notable utterances. The sermon upon "Fret not" will be valued. After these years Lefroy entered upon a period of physical weakness, and the rest of his life was tortured by pain in his limbs from sciatica and arthritis. Then began for him a gallant, a very gallant, and brave fight with impaired powers of locomotion, and at times with acute suffering. In his Pastoral Letter in 1904 the Bishop announces a change of view in regard to the "Ordination of remarried converts." It reveals to those who are not conversant with the growth of the Faith in a non-Christian land how perplexing are the problems of the period of transition. In 1900 Lefroy supported the attitude of Bishop Matthew, namely, that converts who had remarried after the desertion of their non-Christian wives would not be candidates for Holy Orders. In 1904, after consultation with other Indian Bishops, he determined to relax this rule. The point at issue is, May a convert, who has been deserted by his non-Christian wife because of his conversion and has married again during the lifetime of the former wife and while she herself has not been remarried, become a candidate for Ordination? The Bishop's decision now is as follows: "It will be understood that henceforth no general bar to Ordination exists in this Diocese on the ground now indicated, though of course in the case of any individual, who might desire to become a candidate for Ordination occupying such a position, I should inquire carefully into his particular circumstances and as to how far there was any likelihood of his original wife ever actually expressing a readiness to join him again. It is obvious that it would be in a very special degree unfortunate if such a position, with its unpleasantness and sadness, were to arise in the case of one who was in Holy Orders."
In 1905 there occurred one of the most terrible earthquakes in the history of India, in the Kangra Valley. Sir Charles Rivaz, the Lieutenant-Governor, postponed his departure from the Punjab, and threw himself heartily into the measures of relief: the Bishop, of course, aided in every way. Some 20,000 persons were killed, and among them many Europeans.
In his Pastoral Letter of 1905 he announced his concurrence in the decisions of the Episcopal Synod of 1904 regarding a delicate and vexed question, namely, the use of Consecrated Churches by other Bodies. The decision was as follows, and from experience of Lefroy's style I cannot doubt that this pronouncement was drafted by him:
"Consecration has not placed the churches under our control in such a sense that we are at liberty to deal with them as we please: but on the contrary it has bound us, by unmistakable terms and under an obligation of a very sacred kind, to restrain their use to the purpose to which they have been expressly assigned. . . . From the express terms of the trust thus laid upon us we cannot in conscience depart except under circumstances of proved necessity or urgent demands of charity: and then only to the extent which such considerations imperatively require. . . . Even the great deference which we wish to pay to the desires of the Government of India cannot be allowed to remove this matter from the sphere of our own ultimate responsibility as Bishops of Christ's Church. In dealing with the trust created by Consecration in the case of churches which have been provided by the Government of India for the use of troops, we do not fail to take into account the circumstances which make this an unique case, namely, that the churches have been built in whole or in part by Government and are maintained and served at the cost of Government, and that the exception is asked for only on behalf of His Majesty's soldiers. Dispensations which on these or other grounds we may have made, or may make, from the strict effect of Consecration in these altogether peculiar cases, we should by no means make or allow in regard to other churches, nor can they form any precedent or justification for what, in the absence of such exceptional conditions, would be a grave irregularity. . . . Resolved, 'That the Synod understands the regulations of the Government of India, dated April 20, 1899, as relating to parade services only.' This estimate of our duty is accurately described by the Government of India in their despatch to the Secretary of State, dated December u, 1902, in the words, 'The Bishops understand these rules as relating to parade services only, and in practice they have been so interpreted up to the present.' In June, 1903, however, the Government of India informed us that they were about to make large provision for the erection of places of worship for the Presbyterians and other denominations, and thus very greatly to diminish the number of cases in which the loan of our churches could be asked. We cordially recognise the liberality of this determination on the part of the Government. . . . We are willing therefore to permit in a small number of places which will remain unprovided for ... the use of consecrated churches by Presbyterian and Wesleyan Ministers officiating with troops (due application having been made to us) not only for parade services but also for the solemnisation of Baptisms and Marriages and for such other occasional services as will not interfere with the full use of the churches for the worship of our own congregations: provided that on no account shall any marriage be solemnised in them which it would not be lawful in the judgment of the Bishop of the diocese for a Minister of the Church of England to solemnise. It is to be understood that such permission does not necessarily extend to the use of all the furniture, ornaments and instruments of Divine Worship.
"We regret that we cannot extend this permission to the Celebration of the Holy Communion in a consecrated church by any one who is not a duly ordained Minister of our own Communion."
The above is an abbreviated report of the decision of the Indian Bishops. They further permit for a period of five years certain specified uses "in all those churches which we allow, or may hereafter allow, to be used for parade services."
In 1905 the Prince and Princess of Wales (now their Majesties the King and Queen) visited India. Lefroy preached at Bannu at a service attended by their Royal Highnesses, and the Princess requested the Bishop to give her a copy of his sermon. Her Majesty graciously consented to lend me the copy and has permitted me to reproduce it. It will be noted that the lesson of the sermon was learnt from his mother, as already related in an earlier chapter.
Jammu: Dec. 10, 1905. "FRET NOT"
Ps. xxxvii. 1. "Fret not."--Don't worry, don't be anxious and troubled about many things, don't let that feeling gain on you of being rushed--driven--which is so painfully common nowadays, and yet so wholly fatal to really good work, don't fret. The injunction sounds a very homely and commonplace one, scarcely worthy, perhaps, of being ranked with the larger and deeper Christian truths of which a preacher may treat, and yet I think if we dwell on it for a few minutes we shall see that it really does go very deep indeed, and that it would mean a very great deal to our lives if only we could faithfully respond to it.
1. First of all look at it merely from the physical side. Is it not undeniably true that "it's not work that kills but worry"? What else is the meaning of all the "rest-cures" of which we hear so much in these days but just this, that it isn't our bodies that get out of order so much as our nerves, and that the trouble with them comes from all the friction and care, the worry and fret of which our modern life seems so terribly full? If we could find the secret of escaping all that, would not the simple gain to health be enormous, and worth almost anything to us?
2. But the trouble goes far deeper than a merely physical one. Do you remember those words which come a little further on in the Psalm--"Fret not thyself, else shalt thou be moved to do evil"! And isn't that intensely true, haven't we known it again and again--perhaps very sadly--in our own experience? That bitter, cutting, unkind word for which you were so heartily sorry afterwards--of which you felt, as we often say, that you would sooner have bitten your tongue off than let it come out--how did it escape you, whatever possessed you to utter it? Wasn't it just that, that you were worried, irritable, fretted, you had lost control of yourself for the minute, and then the harm was done, and perhaps--say or do what you might afterwards--it couldn't be wholly undone again, it couldn't be as though the word never had been spoken. Or, again, that letter--so smart, so crushing, so clever, which yet you had hardly sent off to the post when you felt you would give anything to recall it, only you couldn't, it was too late then--whatever made you write it? It was just the same trouble, wasn't it? You never would have written--never would have dreamed of writing it--if you had waited a little, if you had slept on it first. But you were worried, annoyed, out of temper with yourself and therefore with every one else, and you just sat down and dashed it off. In what numberless cases has that warning been most abundantly, most sadly, justified: "Fret not thyself, else shalt thou be moved to do evil"!
3. But really the trouble goes far deeper down still. To understand how deep it goes, think for a moment of all the stress that is laid in the Bible on "Peace"--that habit of mind, that temper, which is the exact opposite of the worry and fuss and fret of which I have been speaking. Going straight to the heart of things, we know how central this emphasis on Peace is in the life and teaching of our Blessed Lord Himself. We hear it from the very first message which proclaimed His birth--the birth of the Prince of Peace--"Glory to God in the highest, on earth Peace." It comes in His last charge to His disciples before his death--"Peace I leave with you; My Peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you." It is the very first greeting which He gives to His disciples after his Resurrection. "Jesus came and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. . . . Jesus therefore said again to them, Peace be unto you." It plainly is amongst the very choicest gifts which even He, Conqueror over sin, death, and the grave, can give to them.
And exactly the same note runs throughout the entire Bible. Think of those words in the lesson for yesterday: "The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. And My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places." Or that wonderful passage which came only a few days ago in that same book, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect Peace whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee." Or words like those of St. Paul, "The very God of Peace sanctify you wholly;" or, "The Peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." I think there are hardly any words of the New Testament which "find us out" more deeply, come more closely home to us, than these and other verses to the same effect, and I am quite sure that to many here, as well as to myself, they must often have come with a sense of soothing and calm such as scarcely anything else seems to bring, and which is the very best possible preparation for really strong, effective, quiet work.
Surely, then, it must, on all these grounds, be worth making a very great effort indeed to respond to this injunction of the Psalmist--put away worry and fret out of our lives, and live, more and more continually, in the shelter and strength of that "Peace which passeth all understanding."
4. How, then, can we hope to attain to this? Some answers to this question will occur to us at once. Some, of course, will say, "It's all a matter of temperament. Some are born that way, and can take life easily. But that's not possible for me. I am a regular Martha. I always have taken things rather hard, and I know I always shall." And perhaps amid the implied self-commiseration one detects an undernote of satisfaction that this is so, as meaning that, from another point of view, the speaker feels herself to be a really capable and energetic person, who, with whatever drawbacks, is worth very much more than the drone whose role it is to "take life easily."
Or one may say, "It's a question of physical health--it's all very well, and very easy, to keep quiet .and avoid worry and fret when one is in robust health and strength; but it's when one is run down and out of sorts that even little things get on the nerves, and the 'grasshopper becomes a burden.'"
Or once again, "It's really for the most part a question of means. The man who has a good balance at the bank and is in a prosperous, flourishing condition, can very well afford to preach the duty of peace and quiet of mind, but when you haven't got that balance and can't for the life of you think how both ends are going to meet at the end of the month, it's a very different matter." Answers of this kind may, of course, be multiplied endlessly--e.g. "It's all very well for you not to bother; you have your children with you out here, and can look after them yourself and know they are all right j but I had to leave mine at home, and with strangers, too, and I have just heard that one of them is ill--what's the use of telling me not to be anxious or worried? "
Now, with regard to all answers of this sort, it is far best to be quite frank and to recognise that there really is a good deal of truth in them--I mean that it is undoubtedly very much easier for people of one sort of temperament, or under one set of conditions, to fight against the evil of which I am at present speaking, than for others. A naturally happy temperament, a sound digestion, a comfortable balance at the bank, the presence with you of those who are very near and dear--all these things and others like them are undoubtedly a great help, and it would be foolish and unreal to ignore this. Yet, if one thinks a little more of it, one cannot but feel that, after all, these are not the things that go deepest; these were certainly not the things which were in the minds of those who, either in the Old or New Testament, have laid such stress on the importance of being at peace within. Think of our Blessed Lord's circumstances, standing as He did already within the shadow of Gethsemane and Calvary, when He said, "Peace I leave with you; My Peace I give unto you." Think of St. Paul when, from the depths of a Roman prison, he wrote of the "Peace of God which passeth all understanding." Think of the prophets and psalmists who, amid all the wild turbulence and lawlessness and disorder of those early days, could write so quietly and convincingly of that "perfect Peace" which comes from trusting in God, and of the immense importance of resisting the spirit of worry and fret.
No, it was certainly not a comfortable balance at the bank, or anything whatever connected with the outward circumstances of their life, which inspired the words in all these cases.
5. Where, then, should we look for the secret? We shall find it in the words of our Lord recorded in St. Matt, vi., where again and again He urges on His disciples not "to be anxious" about outward things--food, raiment, and the like. In passing, let me remind you of how very great is the gain in this passage of our Revised Version. You remember that in the Old Version it ran, "take no thought for," etc. But that wholly misses the point. Thought for the future we take, and must take, if we are not to put ourselves on a level with the beasts. But not to be anxious--in a bad, worried, harassed way--not to be troubled and overborne with care, in these matters, that is a totally different thing from "taking no thought," and it is this that in this passage our Blessed Lord is urging with so much insistence on His disciples. Five times within the space of a few verses the word recurs, showing that this was a note, a characteristic, which in very special degree He desired to see reproduced in those who were to be called by His Name. And note the reason which He gives for this freedom from worry and care. Is it because these things--"life," "raiment," "food," "stature"--don't matter? Not in the very least. You may hear that kind of position taken sometimes in the pulpit, but then you do know in your hearts that it is unreal, untrue, and you feel perfectly certain--as well you may--that as soon as ever the preacher has come out of the pulpit he will show very plainly by his actions that he is very far indeed in his own heart from thinking these things of no importance. No, you never get false spirituality of that kind in the Gospels. What then? There they are, all these needs--and very urgent they often are, too--and our Lord recognises and admits this, and indeed makes this the very basis of his injunction of rest and Peace. "You do need these things," He says; "and, what's more, your heavenly Father knows that you need them." There we touch the real secret; in that conviction, that we have indeed a Father in heaven, and that He Who Himself has made us in the way in which we are made, with all these needs and points of difficulty, Himself is responsible for providing for them--in that conviction is the secret of such deep and true Peace of the heart as we can know in no other way.
We know quite well that, as a simple matter of fact, this is the secret of the child-life, and of its freedom from worry and care. Why is it that the little life grows up and unfolds itself so free, so bright, so happy? Is it not simply because it is folded in the shelter of the parents' life, the parents' love, the parents' care? "Oh, that'll be all right. Mother will see to that; father always manages about that"--are any notes of the true child-life more invariable, more familiar, than the one which finds expression in some such words as these? Or are any dearer to the father's, the mother's heart? That happy childlike confidence, that perfect unwavering trust, that impossibility even to dream of things not coming all right when father and mother are there to see to them--are they not intensely precious, constituting, one may almost say, the very essence of the relationship!
They may, of course, be--sometimes, no doubt, they are--carried a little too far. One may sometimes have to say to the little one, "I wish you would think a little for yourself sometimes, and not always be so very ready to leave everything to father to look after." But even so, how very slight the trouble is, and how entirely a different matter it would be if the difficulty were of just the opposite kind--if we were to see our children prematurely old, as we say, worrying about their food and their education and their start in life--ignoring, that is, the fact of their parents' love and care altogether I We know quite well that this would wound us in quite another, in an infinitely deeper and more painful, way.
But if this is what we feel about our own children and what, above all else, we expect of them, what must it mean to Him, our Father in heaven, the very type and pattern of all Fatherhood, from whom every family ("all Fatherhood," as it is in the Greek) in heaven and earth is named--what must it mean to Him to see us continually anxious and troubled about many things, overborne with care, fretting and fussing exactly as though we were orphans and had no one at our back to help us in all these things, or look after them for us? What must it mean to Him to see us going through the world, knowing nothing of the great principle of deep, true peace, and of all the best work which men can do, the principle of "casting all your care on Him, for He careth for you "? No one can ever describe, or know except by experience, the peace, the quiet strength, the power for the most solid, telling, steady work, which come into the lives of those who have really anchored themselves on that rock. It was--we may say it with all reverence--the very central note of our Blessed Lord's own life, and it was that to which above all else He sought to bring all who would walk in His footsteps, as He points them, in the very opening words of the Prayer of all the ages, to "Our Father which art in heaven," who will assuredly give us from day to day our daily bread.
And I need not remind you that, while I have dealt with the question from the point of view of the supply of our physical, our elementary, needs, the principle goes infinitely deeper, reaches infinitely wider, than this, and covers every possible problem or difficulty, or cause of worry and anxiety, be it from what quarter it may, which can possibly invade our life. From each and every one of them we find our deliverance, our certain and unfailing harbour of refuge, in exactly the same way--by a deep and true belief in the loving care and guidance and support of our Father in heaven, by "casting all our care upon Him," knowing with an absolute certainty that "He careth for us."
6. I want you, therefore, to recognise this morning that to fail in this matter, to give way to the spirit of care and worry and fret--as I am afraid we are so terribly apt to do--is not only to lose an immense strength, a primary source of happiness and health out of our lives--is not only to run the greatest possible risk of "being moved to do evil"--but is nothing else than a downright dishonouring of God and a denial in act of His Fatherhood and care and love for us. I ask you not to be content for an instant to put it down to the fault, the misfortune, of your temperament, or any of those other superficial, external causes to which I have referred, but to see it as what in deed and truth it is--a denial of God's Fatherhood and of your own childhood alike. If only we can see it thus, surely we shall long to pray and pray again--
"Lord, make these faithless hearts of ours
Such lessons learn from birds and flowers;
Make them from self to cease
Leave all things to a Father's Will,
And taste, before Him lying still,
E'en in affliction, Peace!"
That Peace, the Peace of Christ Himself, which the world can neither give nor take away--the Peace of God which passeth all understanding--may He give us increasingly, deepening our love towards Him, our trust and dependence on Him, making continually more vivid and more real our sense of the shelter of His Presence, in which we are hid so supremely safely from every storm that can rage, and our absolute conviction that in His Hands no evil can possibly touch us, for that "all things work together for good to them that love God."