Preached (before the University) in the Church of St. Mary, Cambridge, on the Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity, October 28, 1888. Festival of St. Simon and St. Jude.
Of the two Apostles who have had some place in our thoughts and prayers to-day, Holy Scripture tells us little. St. Jude, indeed, the Apostle with three names, [St. Hier. ad Matt. x. 4, Credendum est eum fuisse trinomium] has the distinction which belongs to the brother of James-the-Less, and still more to the author of that Epistle which Origen has described as "consisting of few verses, yet filled with vigorous words of heavenly grace." [Comm. in Matt. xiii. 55.] But he makes only one separate appearance in the Gospel narrative; and his question in the supper-room, why our Lord would manifest Himself unto the disciples and not unto the world, shows that on the eve of the Passion he had much to learn of the purpose and character of the new kingdom of heaven. After Pentecost, he disappears behind a veil of more or less precarious tradition, out of which history may possibly gather with substantial truth that he laid the foundation of that great Syrian Church to which we owe the first translation of the New Testament into a vernacular tongue; not to speak of poets and theologians who will ever be held in honour by Christian learning and Christian piety. [Assem. Bibl. Or. i. 318. St. Jer. ubi aupr. That St. Jude's Epistle is not in the Peschito is no objection to this; the Canon was far from being settled at the date of that version.]
But what do we know of the Apostle whose name stands before St. Jude's in the public language of the Church, as it does in two out of the four lists of the Apostolic College which are preserved in the New Testament? Of him we must say that we know nothing whatever of a personal character, except that, as his name implies, he belonged before his conversion to that implac-able sect whose fierce zeal in the next generation shed such a lurid light upon the closing scenes of agony and despair amidst which the Jerusalem of the Gospel age sank into its grave. We only know that he was the Canaanite, or the Zealot; and, considering the marked retention of that name after his conversion, it is more than likely that even when his character had been trans-formed by the grace of Christ, enough of the old fire remained to remind his associates of what he had been in bygone years. Beyond this there is nothing but the traditions which make Northern Africa or Persia the scene of his ministry, and crucifixion the manner of his death. Thus if we assume that Nathanael is St. Bartholomew, there is no member of the sacred College about whom Holy Scripture is so silent as about Simon the Canaanite. Of the traitor-Apostle we know a great deal more than of this converted Zealot, who yet lived and laboured and died in the service of our Divine Redeemer.
That which makes the silence of Holy Scripture about such a man so remarkable, I had almost said so pathetic, is the greatness of his office and work. This almost unknown Apostle was, let us remember, an Apostle. He was one of that band of brethren whom our Incarnate Lord admitted to a companionship, compared with which, at least in a Christian's judgment, any earthly distinction whatever must seem poor and vain. Not less truly than the three who seemed to their contemporaries to be "pillars" of the new temple, he too had heard and obeyed a Divine call; not less truly than they had he received from the Breath and the Words of Christ the invigorating grace of a commission from Heaven; he too, in the upper Chamber and on the mount of the Ascension, had beheld with the eye of sense the Risen and Living Form of his crucified Master; and to him among the rest were addressed these momentous words: "Ye are they that have continued with Me in My temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me; that ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." And thus, though little was said or remembered of him on earth, yet surely among the twelve foundations of the wall of the heavenly city, whereon are written the names of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, Simon is not forgotten. In truth, an Apostle could not be less than an Apostle; there are offices to which no personal achievements can add distinction; there are prerogatives from the splendour of which no personal obscurity can detract.
Isaiah's words in the text may help to illustrate the spirit and meaning of such a life as St. Simon's. Isaiah is looking across the centuries, not only at the still future Exile, but at much beyond it. The Exile indeed, with its sore burden of misery and humiliation, its agony and suspense, its abrupt and triumphant close, is so altogether present to him, that he lives in it as in a world which is actually his own; he lives in it so entirely for the time being that those moderns who, on a priori grounds, find a difficulty in understanding how a human soul could be endowed with this supernatural gift of vividly realising a strictly distant future have pictured to themselves a later unknown prophet whom they imagine to have witnessed the scenes which the real prophet foresaw. It is on the recovery from this scene of suffering and shame that Isaiah's eye is now fixed, and one token of the glory and completeness of this recovery is the enthusiasm with which the restored city will inspire her sons. She will appear in their eyes not only venerable as a mother, but beautiful as a bride; she will command at their hands not merely the reverence and gratitude and service of dutiful children, but that more tender and soul-absorbing passion which a young man gives to the mistress of his heart. "As a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee."
The prophet's language is undoubtedly bold, and its audacity consists in this: that it seems to make too large a demand on human feeling. At first sight we may think it improbable, if not impossible, that the human heart and will can ever pay to a cause, a society, a country, a Church, an abstract and impalpable object of any kind--that debt of tender, disinterested passion which may be paid to another human being. "As a young man marrieth a virgin;" what can be more concrete and intelligible? "So shall thy sons," O restored Jerusalem, "marry thee;" here reality seems to fade away under the shadow of metaphor: it is difficult to see how any real parallel can exist between an intellectual interest or reasoned sense of duty to a public cause or institution, although prescribing exertion and even sacrifice, and the spontaneous, glowing, fervid devotion of a young man to his chosen bride.
Say you so, my brethren? Then let me say that as yet yon know little of some salient features of human nature. As a matter of fact, abstractions, as we call them, do provoke passion, the passion of love and the passion of hate, no less truly than do concrete and visible objects. Millions of human beings have worked, suffered, fought, and died for these very abstractions;--for a political or social doctrine, for the fame of a fallen dynasty, for the credit of some secret club or association, for a country that has been crushed out of existence, for some wild undemonstrable theory, for some baseless or grotesque superstition, no less than for a true and soul-inspiring faith or principle. Like the road from Samaria to the fords of Jordan, after the Syrian retreat the highways of history are strewn with the abandoned relics of failure and disaster--relics which show how mighty is the power of causes which we may deem abstract and intangible to move men to the greatest efforts, and to stir the most passionate emotions of the human soul.
Isaiah's comparison may suggest that the devotion of her sons to the City of God would have three characteristics.
It would be, first of all, an unreserved, whole-hearted devotion; a devotion which bestows on its object its best and its all. "With my body I thee worship; and with all my worldly goods I thee endow," is the language not only of a Christian Church formulary, but of the human heart in its better mood, throughout all time; and it marks the first characteristic of that devotion to the Church of God which Isaiah saw in vision across the centuries.
Undoubtedly a partial fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy may be recognised in the love and service which Israel after the flesh received from a long line of patriot children. Noblest among them were the Maccabees; but they were only samples of a spirit which was shared, in their day and afterwards, by thousands of their countrymen. That temper was indeed too often mingled with moral alloy that sullied its purity. But the men who saved their aountry from the cultured Paganism of Antiochus Epi-phanes, and who even after the utter ruin of their sacred home by Titus, rose once and again to pour out their blood like water in an unavailing struggle with Imperial Rome at the epoch of its greatest military power, were assuredly not men only under the sway of a common or sordid motive. In their love to "Jerusalem the Holy," whose name was stamped upon their coins, they surely exhibit the careless self-abandonment of the passion which gives itself without stint to the object of its choice.
Compare these Jewish heroes with patriots of the heathen world. They are without the indefinable grace of the Athenian who felt, as the great historian [Thucyd. ii. 37, 40.] makes Pericles feel, the joy and glory of membership in a country at once free and cultured and self-reliant; they know nothing of the bold conceptions of a world-wide rule of law and peace, enforced by a sword that should spare the submissive while it smote the proud--conceptions which filled the imaginations and shaped the energies of Roman statesmen. Their horizon was in an earthly sense far narrower; their enthusiasm was roused and sustained by different aims. For they were sons not only of a city, but in some sense of a Church; they were devoted to a creed no less than to a public policy. In Israel these things, elsewhere separate, were intertwined; the Lord had chosen Zion to be an habitation for Himself; and this choice made her, to those who had faith in it, the object of a passionate attachment, in some respects without a parallel in history.
Now, our Lord proclaimed and founded, within the Jewish nation, yet with a capacity and, indeed, an internal necessity of passing beyond its bounds, a new Society, which was to be more to the intellect and heart of man than the Greek poliV, or the Roman World-Empire, or the Jewish Theocracy itself, ever had been or could be; yet which should sanction and satisfy, in ample measure, those instincts of union, brotherhood, improvement, order, of which earlier forms of association among men were the outcome and assertion. This Society, in virtue of its origin, its object, and its compass, He named the King-dom of Heaven. As described by Himself and His Apostles, it was to have no political or social limits; it was to embrace all races and conditions of men and women; it was to transcend the barriers of sense and time, and associate those who still live here below with their fellow-citizens in the invisible world. So that umwn to politeuma en ouranoiV uparcei--our common life as members of the new kingdom has its sphere in the heavens. And that this Society, thus visible and invisible, was not an accidental but an essential feature of our Lord's Religion is plain from His claiming a Messiah-ship as His own, which already implied a kingdom; from His instituting Sacraments which confer and maintain, among other things, membership in a community; and from the prominence which He assigns to that great grace which beyond any other draws and keeps men together, "By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, that ye have love one towards another." [Cf. Gore, The Ministry of the Christian Church, pp. 40, 41.]
It is a note of genius in Thomas Carlyle, that, standing as he did almost, if not entirely, outside the beliefs and sympathies which point to ancient Christianity, he has recognised in memorable words how great is the idea of the Church of Christ. He is describing the ideals under which, as he maintains, man "marches and rights with victorious assurance." "The Church!" he exclaims: "What a word was there; richer than Golconda and the treasures of the world! In the heart of the remotest mountains rises the little kirk; the dead all slumbering round it, under their white memorial-stones, 'in hope of a happy resurrection.' Dull wert thou, O reader, if never in any hour (say of moaning midnight, when such kirk hung spectral in the sky, and Being was as if swallowed up of darkness) it spoke to thee things unspeakable, that went to thy soul's soul. Strong was he that had a Church, what we can call a Church: he stood thereby, though 'in the centre of immensities, in the conflux of eternities,' yet manlike towards God and man; the vague shoreless universe had become a firm city for him, a dwelling which he knew. Such virtue was in belief; in these words, well spoken, I believe. Well might men prize their Credo, and raise stateliest temples for it, and reverend hierarchies, and give it the tithe of their substance: it was worth living for and dying for." [French Revolution, i. p. 12, ed. 1862.]
Certain it is that the Church of Christ has inspired millions of Christians with the mingled love and enthusiasm here described. Not only her sworn servants and officers, the ministers of the Word and of the Altar, but laymen in every rank of life: soldiers and statesmen, monarchs and slaves, students and men of action, the wealthy and the poor, the young and the old, the practical and the imaginative, the cheerful and the sad, the stern and the buoyant. Nothing is more wonderful than the almost infinite variety of character and condition that is to be noticed in the vast army of the sons or suitors of the Church, as they pass before us during the ages of Christian history. "Lift up thine eyes round about, and see; all they gather themselves together, they come to thee. . . . All they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense, and shall show forth the praises of the Lord. . . . The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall how themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The City of the Lord, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel."
Nor may we wonder that it has been so. If it be, as it is, the instinct of a noble nature to give time, money, thought, strength, health, even life itself, for the service of our country; to deem it a rare and precious privilege if by any exertion or sacrifice we can do aught to extend her influence, to augment her resources, to raise her name higher among the nations of the earth, to add ever so little to the mighty fabric which those who have gone before us have bequeathed to us Englishmen of today; surely a kindred and even stronger feeling towards the Church of Christ is intelligible and legitimate. Not merely towards what we behold as an organised system; stately buildings, solemn worship, a Divinely-ordered ministry, titles, incomes, corporations of which human law takes cognisance;--these things are the fringe of a higher reality; they mark the point at which a heavenly system just touches the soil of earth. A vast combination of immortal beings associated in virtue of that in them which is highest and most lasting; a confederation of spirits bound to each other by a common faith and hope, and by communion with a common though invisible Ruler and Redeemer must, from the nature of the case, speak more powerfully to the heart of man than any society, of which force, or material interest, or even the tie of race is the animating or ruling principle; it must come nearer to provoking a kind of devotion which shall resemble that of the bridegroom to the bride.
There was a phrase that had wide currency some years ago, and which has not been without its influence on the formation of convictions: a phrase which warned us "against the danger of putting the Church in the place of the Redeemer. A warning, most assuredly, which has a true claim to consideration and respect; since it may not be denied that at certain epochs of history, and in certain cases, there has been so keen and one-sided a devotion to some external aspect or mode of action in the Church as to lose sight, in whatever degree, of the presence and glory of the Saviour. Beyond all question it is only as His Church that she has any claim on Christian hearts at all. But surely her claim as His Church is beyond dispute. We do not neglect our earthly sovereign by active interest in the realms she rules. And if we believe that Christ's Church, though built upon the foundation of Apostles and Prophets, has for the chief corner-stone Himself; if we see in her, not a self-formed collection of individuals who agree in following Him, but, as Scripture says, His Body, instinct with His life; for her He shed His most precious Blood that He might present her glorious and immaculate in the realms of purity;--then in making much of her, we surely are doing no wrong to Him. Only because, notwithstanding the scars and stains which come of her sojourn here below, she is yet so intimately His, should she be so precious to His servants;--drawing the noblest souls into the highest paths of service; bidding them forget their mother's grey hairs while they espouse her undying youth and beauty.
For many centuries Isaiah's words contributed to shape that rule of the Western Church which, taking it for granted that perfect devotion to a heavenly interest must exclude all earthly wedlock, imposed on candidates for Holy Orders the condition of celibacy. But whether we look to primitive precedents or to the lessons of experience, we may not doubt that the Church of England was well advised when, in the sixteenth century, she removed this restriction. If among the first Christians the ordained did not marry, it is at least certain that the married were not seldom ordained; devotion to an earthly spouse was thus held to be compatible with devotion to the Bride of Christ. And experience has shown that to impose a rule of celibacy upon some thousands of men, without taking note of individual temperament or vocation, is to put a strain even upon consecrated human nature which it will not always bear, and which may lead too easily to grave disaster.
But granting, or rather earnestly maintaining this, may we not wish that the freedom of choice in this matter which is happily allowed to the clergy of the Church of England were more often exercised than it is in favour of a single life? If a single life involves the surrender of the sympathy and strength which a good wife can contribute to her husband's work, it also means freedom from the contingency of a wife who will not contribute them: and it may mean more freedom of action in obedience to the dictates of conscience; it may mean more independence of the world's opposition,--since many a man who cares nothing for what touches only himself, cannot withstand the cruel shafts that may be directed against his wife's happiness or comfort;--it may mean more time, health, money, to be devoted to public religious objects. We have heard much lately of the hardships which the clergy have had to endure in many parts of the country, in consequence of the operation of causes wholly beyond their control: but these hardships have been undoubtedly increased by the fact that clergymen are generally married men with families to support and educate. What would the author of the 7th chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, with his Apostolic prescription for the "present distress " addressed to all Christians, have prescribed to Christian ministers in such circumstances as ours What may not be--I will not say advisable, but necessary--if it should be ordered in the counsels of God's Providence, that the English Church should one day have to address herself to a more exacting work for the English people than ever before, but without any of those material endowments which the piety of past ages has bequeathed to her?
The devotion which Isaiah predicts will be not only complete, but disinterested. The true-hearted bridegroom marries, not that he may win rank or wealth, or public recognition, or any outward advantages whatever: he weds his bride for her own sake, because she is what she is, because in wedding her he finds the joy and satisfaction of his heart. It is "for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health." So was it also to be with the espousals of the soul. The Holy Bride is wooed for her own sake, and not for anything that she may bestow on those who would win her.
And St. Simon's life points our attention especially to one department of this loyal indifference to personal success or advantage, by the obscurity which, as has been noticed, so remarkably distinguishes his apostolate. As combining this personal obscurity with the loftiest and most ennobling work that could be intrusted to the hands of man, Simon the Canaanite is a forerunner of the vast majority of the ministers of Christ in every generation. From the necessity of the case, only a small minority can attain to leadership or distinction: in every army, whether it wear the uniform of an earthly monarch or of the King of kings, all but a handful must be privates. And St. Simon may remind us that in the army of Jesus Christ this is not at all necessarily a misfortune; that the vita umbratilis has consolations and advantages that are all its own.
Many of us know something of the devoted country clergyman who lives among and for the farmers and labourers who form his flock. He is often a man of culture and ability, and, what is more, of spiritual power; but the little group of peasants around him commands his best thoughts, his warmest affections, his most earnest prayers. And as from time to time some echo of the great world outside reaches him through the press or otherwise in his rural home, he hears how this or that friend at whose side he sat in lecture some ten or twenty years ago has won high fame and place in literature, or politics, or law, or among the ministers of the Church, and he is tempted, for a passing moment, to think regretfully of his own lot in life, even though he guards his heart against that miserable vice of envy, than which none more surely eats out moral force and beauty at the core of the soul. But there are considerations which should be weighed by any here who are looking forward to such a life as his, or to any other form of honest but unrecognised labour.
Every age has its characteristics; and a leading characteristic of ours is the increasing publicity of life, and the prevalent idea that publicity is somehow a certificate of excellence. Many causes contribute to this. Our modern facilities for travelling to all quarters of the globe with a speed and certainty undreamt of one short century ago; our daily, hourly communications with distant continents through the agency of that electric fire which we are even now learning to make more perfectly the servant of our thoughts and wants; the modern art of so handling light as to render the face of every public man, or of every man who aspires to publicity, as familiar to us all as that of a near relative; above all, the Press, that fourth estate, which has already had, and will have increasingly, so many and such lasting effects upon the thoughts and lives of civilised men,--these all make for the spread and rule of publicity.
Never before in human history did human beings know so much of their contemporaries as they do now. Never before was notoriety placed so largely at the disposal of so many members of all classes in society, both for good and evil. For good assuredly, since to be known is to many a man a safeguard in moments of temptation or in partially instructed phases of conscience. But also not less certainly for evil, on account of the exaggerated prominence which is thus given to the approbation of our fellow-creatures, as a governing motive--a motive which to say the least cannot always be depended on to guide us aright. To many a man in our day, who never would have known the temptation two generations ago, the desire of acting or speaking or keeping silence with a view to shaping a paragraph in a newspaper is a motive of almost resistless force. It is widely assumed that notoriety must accompany excellence; that where notoriety is missed or shunned there is either nothing admirable to show, or something wrong that fears the light of day; and that saintly or fruitful lives, altogether removed from the public eye, can scarcely be treated as having real existence.
And yet in the Holy Gospel, publicity--at least on this earthly scene--is by no means appraised after the manner just described. The general drift of our Lord's teaching is to lead us to regard a widespread reputation with distrust. In His day the classes which enjoyed the highest character for excellence were most bitterly opposed to Him. Nothing in the Pharisees and Scribes is more strongly condemned than their various resources for establishing and maintaining a reputation; their prayers in the streets; their high places in the synagogues; their works done for to be seen of men; their broad phylacteries. Of all who pray or fast, or give alms with this object, our Lord says that they have their reward--MTre'oi/crf.1 They have it and take it away with them. They have in the approval of men a full equivalent for the sacrifices which they make; they cannot complain if there is nothing awaiting them beyond it. And, on the other hand, He says to His disciples, "Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you, for so did their fathers unto the false prophets." He insists again and again on the difference between appearance and reality, between the judgment of man and the judgment of God. "Many that are first shall be last, and the last first." "There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, nor hid that shall not be known." "Many shall say unto Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name cast out devils, and in Thy name done many wonderful works? and then will I profess unto them, I never knew you."
My brethren, even for the work of this world there can be no question as to the value of some measure of withdrawal from the public eye--whether for preparation or refreshment. And to be thrust into a position of prominence without some preparatory seclusion is almost certainly to encounter discredit and ruin. Those who have risen high in the service of the State tell us that for such work as theirs, the drudgery of a public office, or the affairs of an exacting constituency, or some literary enterprise undertaken not as a recreation, but as a serious business, must precede appearance on a more public field: it is in these humbler districts of activity that the knowledge is gained and the faculties are disciplined, and the judgment brought to that measure of insight and sobriety which enables a man to handle great affairs without serious miscarriage.
A kindred law obtains in the spiritual world. Our Lord's forerunner was "in the deserts until the day of his showing unto Israel." Nay, our Lord Himself, that He might teach us the value of a hidden life, spent thirty years in the carpenter's shop and on the hillsides of Nazareth; as a villager among His fellows, as a tradesman under working orders; unknown, unthought of, save by His Mother and His foster-father, until He began His public and ministerial life.
And so with His disciples and servants it has constantly happened that life has been in the main a long silent preparation for some one act or form of service in which, like the flower which blooms and dies, it has attained its predestined perfection. What can be more splendid, morally and religiously speaking, than such an end as that of the monk Telemachus, whose generous heroism shamed professedly Christian Rome out of those gladiatorial shows, which in his day still lingered on as an heirloom of the brutal spirit of Paganism? [Theodoret v. 26; Gibbon, Decl. and Fall, c. 30, iv. 41, ed. Milman.] Depend upon it, the preceding years of prayer and self-discipline enabled this brave servant of Christ to take no account at that critical moment of personal safety or of bodily pain, and by rushing into the amphitheatre to welcome a cruel death, which was a step in the education of the conscience of the Christianized Empire.
Or take the career of a great Divine, of one of the greatest, if a stranger may be permitted the opinion, that Cambridge has ever produced--Lancelot Andrewes. Andrewes combined with the polemical learning of the sixteenth century the fuller and more positive knowledge of the seventeenth; he not merely knew what the Primitive Church was not, but also what she was; and thus he reached a maturity and balance of theological judgment that had, perhaps, been impossible during the struggle and shock of the Reformation. The quaint and formal methods of exposition which belong to his age cannot disguise the massive thought and learning of his sermons; his strength and acuteness as a controversialist was felt by the accomplished theologians who were at that day in the service of the Church of Rome; while as a teacher and leader of souls in the highest paths of private devotion, training them to follow the thoughts and to feel at home with the words of the ancient Church, Andrewes still stands alone. His epitaph in St. Saviour's, Southwark, hardly belongs to the class of sepulchral exaggerations:--"Linguarum, artium, scientiarum, humanorum divinorum omnium infinitus thesaurus . . .; orthodoxae Christi ecclesiae dictis, scviptis, precibus, exemplo, incomparabile propugnaculum." Read Andrewes' life, and you will be struck with the quiet undemonstrative character of his early manhood, when as a Cambridge undergraduate he used to walk on foot to his home in London, once in the year, and during these walks to "observe the grass, herbs, corn, trees, cattle, earth, water, heavens, any of the creatures, and to contemplate their natures, orders, qualities, virtues, uses," since "this was to him the greatest mirth, contentment, and recreation that could be." [Life, by Isaacson, p. vi; Works, ed. Oxf. Parker, 1854.] While still only a lecturer at Pembroke College, he composed his Pattern of Catechistical Doctrine; as Vicar of St. Giles', Cripplegate, he compiled his Private Devotions. The leading features of his character and attainments were developed before he reached those higher posts to which he added new and lasting distinction; they had grown during the retired life of the student, who thought of nothing beyond the duty of the hour and of doing his best to discharge it.
And speaking in this church to-day, it is impossible not to recall another great career, in which long years of silent labour have at last led to a position of authority rare indeed in any generation, Not merely the authority of high ecclesiastical office; but the authority of learning, the range and accuracy of which commands the respect of Europe; and the authority of a personal character, which by its simplicity, its strength, its generosity, and its tenderness, wins at the hands of those who have had the happiness of contact with it, I know not whether more of reverence or of affection. His name need not be mentioned in his own University; in this his hour of sickness he will not fail to have the prayers of the many who must owe him much that in no other manner they can possibly hope to repay. [The reference is to Bishop Lightfoot of Durham. He died Dec. 21, 1889.]
In these instances, it may be urged, the day came at last when merit worked no longer in the shade; but what is to be said of lives which, like St. Simon's, are obscure, more or less, to the very end? Well, this is to be said of them, that the obscurity does not last for ever; it will not last beyond the Day when all things shall be revealed. And meanwhile our business is not to win a name, but to do a work. Much of the best work that has ever been done, has been done by men whose names were never heard of, or heard of only accidentally after their death. Think of that unnamed tutor of Roger Bacon, who, when Paris was intently weighing the claims of rival schoolmen, introduced the young Franciscan to a study into which metals, minerals, roots, tools, instruments, manuscripts Hebrew and Arabic, the apparatus of budding experiment and inquiry, the germs of modern research and learning, were crowded in a rude profusion. Think of the long unknown authors of books that have touched the heart of the world, as the Imitation of Christ, or the Spiritual Combat, or the Whole Duty of Man, or the Eikon Basilike. Think of those Hebrew prophets who have no place in the Canon, whose names are unknown, or only guessed at, but who in their day uttered words of decisive import for Israel. Think of the humble missionaries who at the bidding and under the leadership of a Boniface, of an Augustine, of a Cyril or Methodius, of a Selwyn, of a Patteson, of an Innocent of Moscow, have helped these spiritual chiefs to win families, tribes, nations of men, for Jesus Christ; themselves unremembered even by name here below. The Son of Sirach draws a vivid picture of the dignity and the value of unrecognised labourers. "Without them," he says, "cannot a city be inhabited; and they shall not dwell where they will; nor go up and down. They shall not be sought for in public council, nor sit high in the congregation; they shall not sit on the judge's seat, nor understand the sentence of judgment; they cannot declare justice and judgment, and they shall not be found where parables are spoken. But they will maintain the state of the world, and all their desire is in the work of their craft. "
And the prophet's comparison suggests a devotion that will last till death. "Till death us do part." In our day men, and even women, are sometimes ready to raise the question whether the sacred obligation of the marriage tie is not to be pronounced a failure, and might not be replaced by something which ought to be described in very plain and stern terms. To raise such questions at all is to forget the fundamental conditions of moral, social, and national wellbeing. As well might a sensible man propose to discuss the truth and worth of mathematical axioms, as a good man to question a thesis so essential to practical morality as is the obligatoriness of the marriage bond. "What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
Not less indissoluble is the tie which binds the conscience of Christ's ministers to their sacred service. The need for that service can never cease; the Divine Master Who continuously expects it cannot change or die; the Cause which won its first fresh enthusiasms is and will be what it has ever been until the Lord comes. It may be lawful to retire from the ranks of an earthly army; but to forget the indelible character which consecration to ministerial work imprints upon the soul; to seek relief from so-called clerical disabilities after years of service; this is indeed, in the language of our Master, "to look back after putting the hand to the plough." Weariness, impaired health, diminished opportunities for usefulness may come with years; but the tie of sacred service to the Cause and Church of Christ can only end with life.
It may be thought that this form of enthusiasm belongs to a day when the Old Testament had not yet been largely resolved by criticism into late forgeries or doubtful legends, and when the heroes of popular novels had not yet cast off the dust of their feet against the creed of Christendom. No, my brethren, these features of our time do not really affect the religious situation. Wait a little, and you will see that, as after inquiry, to which Cambridge has contributed more than her share, the New Testament has survived Strauss and Baur and Schwegler, so the Old will not finally go to pieces at the bidding of Kuenen and Wellhausen. All that negative criticism can do is to modify some incidental features of our traditional way of looking at Scripture; the main fabric remains intact. And as to the Christian Deism that is to supplant Christianity, if it only will think long and steadily enough, it will surely discover that no difficulties in the Creed which it rejects are so great as those of faith in a Being Who is still held to be All-good as well as All-knowing and All-mighty, but Who yet, surveying this scene of moral misery and pain, has, on the hypothesis, left it to itself. . . . These clouds which are passing over the spiritual heavens are indeed no real reason why a man should fail in devotion to the Cause and Church of Christ.
How much might not be done for that dear and sacred cause, even by two or three undistinguished but resolute Christians! When Tacitus is describing the military revolt which raised Otho, for a brief interval, to the throne of the Roman world, he tersely remarks that two private soldiers undertook that the Imperial Power should be transferred to other hands, and they did transfer it. "Suscepere duo manipulares Imperium populi Romani transferendum: et transtulerunt." [Tac. Hist. i. 25.] The vigour of Grace is not less equal to great efforts than are the energies of nature; and there are nobler works to be achieved in our brief life than the promotion of any change whatever in the tenure of earthly power. We need not go far back into Church History--we have only to refer to the religious records of our own century--its successive efforts in recovering a hold first on one and then on another religious truth; in extending and deepening the study of Biblical and Patristic Literature; in improving the condition of the labouring classes; in giving a new impulse and range to Christian Missions--to see how much has in each case depended on some single will, enlightened and strengthened by the Grace of God. "I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me," was an Apostle's confident exclamation; and the Source of that confidence is still where and what He was when it thus found expression.
"Hard it is for those who know that their earthly career must be near its close to express to you, my younger friends, who are just entering upon life, their wondering, sympathetic, I had almost added their envious sense of your great and not yet wasted opportunities. As life draws near its end, we older men, standing in a clearer light, must more and more anticipate the verdict of the Supreme and Unerring Judge; must see and feel how much has been left undone which we ought to have done, and how much has been done which we ought not to have done; how the years that have past are too often records, at best, of mistakes of judgment or of mistakes of temper. For us the greater part of life is fixed and irreversible; for you it is still to be disposed of. How can you do better than resolve, by God's grace, that you will not let yourselves drift aimlessly through the springtide of life; nor fritter away your finite stock of energy on the trifles that may successively ask a share in it; that, God helping you, you will give what you have to give of thought, resolve, strength, affection to the Cause of Him Who made you, and Who died for you, and in Whose loyal service there are, even here, joys and consolations, that are not even suspected by those who have not embraced it?