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Strengthened with Might.

A Sermon Preached in the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Calcutta, on the occasion of the first Bishop of Dornakal.

By the Reverend Canon [Edward] Sell, D.D.

Madras: Printed at the C. L. S. Press, 1912.

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;

That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Eph. iii. 14-19.

[2] THIS day, the day of the consecration of the first Indian Bishop of the Anglican Communion, is one which marks a great step forward in the history of the Indian Church. We have long waited for this consummation of our hopes and desires, but until now an Indian Bishop has only been a vision of the future. To those on whom the chief duties of the day falls, and to all of us, who by our presence and our prayers take some part in them, the privilege is very great.

In South India the past twenty years have seen a great advance in the development of the corporate life of the Indian Church. Many of its members have shown a laudable desire for self-support, its leaders have acquired considerable administrative ability, and its earnest communicants are imbued with a true missionary spirit. Since the time when more responsibility was placed on and more authority given to it in all matters which fall within the sphere of its operations, the progress of the Church in many important respects has been rapid and sound. This change was [2/3] not brought about without opposition from good men, who under the older system had worked long and well, and indeed laid a good foundation on which we have built with confidence. They were timid and would have kept things as they were; but wiser counsels and a more daring faith prevailed, and we now see the good result.

The Church is a growing body, instinct with life, and from time to time fresh developments take place. In the opinion of many who hold responsible positions, the time has now arrived when another step forward should be taken, and our Indian brethren should be shown that we wish them to carry larger responsibilities and to exercise a wider influence. It was known that there were difficulties to be overcome, that a progressive change would call forth opposition now as a previous change had done in years gone by; but it is believed that the policy is thoroughly sound and right, and that in no other possible way can we meet the emergencies of so great and growing a work as the evangelization of India involves. We feel that unless our Indian [3/4] brethren can be trained for, and trusted with, a very responsible share in the Church's work, we have failed, through lack of faith in God and of belief in man, through want of wisdom and insight, to lay a good foundation on which to build. So with perfect trust in the all-wise direction of God, with confidence in the devotion of our Indian leaders, with a heartfelt desire for their companionship and aid, we this day take one further step forward and welcome to the high office of a ruler in the Church of God one who we believe will render loyal and efficient service, and, in the missions of our Church, be the forerunner of a long line of Indian bishops in the years yet to come.

The diocese of Dornakal, which will be placed under the charge of the new bishop, has special advantages of its own. It is small, it is compact, and the work in it is modern. It is situated in the eastern portion of the Hyderabad State and comprises three missions--one a small diocesan mission with its head-quarters at the Singareni coal-fields; one founded by the Indian [4/5] Missionary Society of Tinnevelly, and the Church Missionary Society's district of Khammamett. Two of these missions have a peculiar interest attached to them. One is the outcome of a missionary spirit amongst the Tinnevelly Christians. The management of the Missionary Society of Tinnevelly is wholly Indian and its efforts meet with a hearty response. Since its establishment there has been a very great advance in the C. M. S. pastorates, of which alone I can speak with authority, in the direction of self-support. In addition to some Rs 12,000 a year raised for what is to the Tinnevelly Church a foreign mission, the contributions for the normal work of the Church have nearly doubled in the C. M. S. area. The reflex benefit of the creation of a missionary spirit has been great. Within the last few years the S.P.G. congregations have joined in this missionary work, and so the whole Church in Tinnevelly is rising to its high privilege of being an earnest missionary Church. The first Indian missionary to Dornakal was sent in 1904 and has been followed by seven others. There are [5/6] already thirty-seven villages in which there are Christians. The people are reported to be growing in knowledge and in Christian character. More than a hundred who were wholly illiterate have learned to read the Bible. The improved moral life of the people has attracted the attention of the higher classes of Hindus and respect for the teachers is growing steadily. The foundation of a prosperous and purely Indian mission has been well laid.

The C. M. S. Khammamett district lies within the territory of the Nizam of Hyderabad, and will henceforth form part of the diocese of Dornakal. It is the youngest of the C. M. S. Telugu missions. From the first the duty of self-help has been placed before the people and already, though poor, they raise annually a very substantial sum for the work of the mission. A Church Council has been formed and so the art of administration is being taught, and the idea of a corporate life is being presented to the people. In the last few years there has been a considerable increase [6/7] in the number of persons who have placed themselves under Christian instruction.

The conditions existing in the diocese of Dornakal are thus unique, and I know of no other part in South India where there is the same opportunity for new methods of work, for a simple procedure and for an administration which may form, if successful, as I firmly believe it will be, a model for future Indian bishoprics. The diocese of Dornakal has the freshness and vigour of youth; it will represent the administrative wisdom of Indian Christians as well as their missionary zeal.

It is to the Indian Church that we must look for a solution of our present-day problems. We must rely more and more on our Indian brethren. To put it on the lowest grounds, the difficulty of financing any considerable extension of the missionary operations of the Church on the older system is very great, and makes continued advance almost impossible. But far more important is the fact that continued foreign support and control weaken the energies of the Church in India and [7/8] prevent it from becoming a truly Indian institution. We have precedents for our guidance both in ancient and modern times. 'Nothing,' says Mr. Andrews of Delhi, 'is more striking in the Acts of the Apostles than the way in which St. Paul entrusted almost immediately to indigenous leadership, with the minimum of foreign supervision, the Churches which he founded.' And in the modern Church of Uganda in East Africa, we have a bold and successful application of St. Paul's methods among the new converts of an African tribe.

These considerations not only justify the proceedings of to-day, but they also call forth our warmest sympathy with the young Bishop before whom so responsible and honourable a career is now opening out. We have seen how remarkably, in the providence of God, a suitable sphere of operations has been provided. Surely then we may believe that He who has prepared this field of labour has not left us without guidance in the choice of the man to work therein.

[9] It is fitting, therefore, that we should seek in His word some message of encouragement and inspiration. This we find in the beautiful prayer of the great Apostle of the Gentiles, in which he pours forth his aspirations for the spiritual uplifting of his Ephesian converts.

He prays for three main things--strength, indwelling, fulness: the power of the Holy Spirit; the indwelling of Christ in the heart, leading on to the full knowledge of His love; and the realization to the utmost capacity of the soul of the fulness of God.

He prays that the Ephesian Christians may have great spiritual boldness in their Christian life, that no fear may paralyse their efforts, that they may quit themselves like men and be strong. This strength is given by the influence of the Holy Spirit in the inner man--in the regenerate soul. In the outside world, and in the daily discharge of duty there may be much to harass and even to cause 'dismay; but within there is the sense of power and confidence assured by the strengthening grace of the Holy Spirit.

[10] But where the Spirit strengthens, there the Christ makes his permanent abode. It is not a mere temporary sojourn. In Col. ii. 9 the same verb is used, where it is said that in Christ dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Such an abiding, such an indwelling of the Christ in the heart of the believer is to be the blessed privilege of those who by a true and living faith are one with Christ. It has been well said that the term 'the Christ' signifies that it is 'Christ not only possessed, but understood--Christ realized in the import of His work.' It is the simple trustful faith of the Ephesians, 'which not only apprehends the divine working in the soul, but brings the divine worker into it.' This indwelling is described as a definite act. It can hardly mean that hitherto there had been no indwelling in the hearts of the Ephesian Christians. Bishop Moule says : ' Surely the account of it is this, that the Apostle views them each and all as ever needing, at whatever stage of spiritual life, such an access of realization and reception as should be to what had [10/11] preceded, a new arrival and entrance of Christ in the heart.' To-day we arrive at a most important spiritual stage in the history of the Church and of him who is called to high office in it. So may he receive an access of reception and the Church an access of realization of the blessedness and the power of the indwelling Christ.

The rich experience of this Spirit-given might, and of the glorious indwelling of the Christ leads all those who possess it to be rooted and grounded in love and able to comprehend all its greatness. This is a love which knows no distinction of race, no boundaries of climate, no barrier of caste; a love the realization of which will gather a great multitude out of all nations to stand before the throne of the Eternal.

Thus the Apostle leads us on from the contemplation of our own spiritual privileges to the wider view of the Church of God, the special object of all this love. He reminds us that we are not to view it in selfish isolation, but with all saints to be strong to comprehend it. In these higher aspects of spiritual realities we must have [11/12] wide sympathies with members of Churches other than our own, who lead the saintly life, and who by the power of the indwelling Christ find their joy and peace in the eternal love made known by Him. And then in words definite and clear the Apostle prays that we may receive another decisive increase of knowledge of the love of Christ, a love so great that, the more we seek to know it, we fail to grasp its immensity; so profound that, the more we try to fathom it, we fail to discover its depth; a love which can find its only adequate definition in the paradoxical statement that it passeth knowledge. Yet just as St. Paul tells us elsewhere that we may 'see the invisible things of God'; 'that the foolishness of God is wiser than men'; 'that the deep poverty of the Church of Macedonia abounded unto riches'; 'that he died to law that he might live unto God'; so now he bids us know the unknowable, and apprehend this marvellous love of Christ which passeth knowledge. Can we wonder that St. Paul, who had such a rich experience of that love, whose heart [12/13] was so full of it, found it difficult to analyse and define, and so by a bold metaphor explained its greatness.

But another and a greater blessing yet remains, 'that ye may be filled with all the fulness of God.' So he had prayed that the Colossians might 'be filled with the knowledge of His will.' Here he sums up all graces and spiritual endowments in one comprehensive term ' all the fulness of God', by which he shows forth his desire that God's truth, righteousness, wisdom, as well as love, should be the rich possession of the Ephesian Church and of each Christian in it. From that fulness proceeds the Spirit-given power in the inner man, which gives the all-needed strength in times of weakness. From that fulness there also comes the indwelling of the Christ in the heart, which leads on to the knowledge of His Kingdom and His love. The crown and climax of this is comprehension with all the saints of the marvellous love of God. The fulness of God! Who can measure it? Yet it may be ours in no stinted measure, and so we too humbly pray, in one of our most [13/14] solemn acts of worship, that we may be 'fulfilled with grace and heavenly benediction.'

And now to you my brother what can we say? Let us make the Apostle's prayer for the Christians at Ephesus our prayer for you. We know that difficulties will arise. In your work opposition will be strong. You will need the might of the Spirit of God. When disappointments meet and sadden you, a fresh realization of all that the indwelling Christ means to your spiritual life will bring back your joy and comfort. So as the years roll on, may you know more and more of the wonderful power of love, mellowing your character and leading you in all your wider work as a ruler in the Church of God to deal with all men, even the wayward and unstable, with great sympathy. The revered Bishop Sargent used to lay the greatest stress on the supreme need of sympathy. You know how he won the hearts of the Tinnevelly Christians. In this respect follow him, as he followed Christ.

The Church to-day places you in a high and responsible position. In God's good [14/15] providence, as I have tried to show, you enter upon your office under most favourable conditions--a fruitful field of labour, the missionary enthusiasm of an Indian Church behind you, and the hearty cooperation of the great Society I have the honour to represent. We look to you to inspire still more zeal, to devise new methods, and to guide a great movement aright. For all this you will require much courage, wisdom and patience. We invoke all these graces for you in the pregnant prayer that you may 'be filled with all the fulness of God.'

The might of the Spirit, the indwelling of Christ, the fulness of God--may all these be yours in rich and abundant measure. Who can explain them? Who can realize all the vast richness contained in them? Even St. Paul as he contemplated what he had prayed for, seemed overwhelmed at the greatness of his request, and so was led on to a beautiful ascription of praise to God, whose power to give is so abundant. And as we pray that the same rich blessings may be yours, and in all the [15/16] fulness of faith believe that you will receive them, so we, too, may conclude with the same doxology and say:--

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the Church, by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

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