RIGHT REV. G. A. SELWYN, D.D.,
BISHOP OF NEW ZEALAND.
PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY J. VINCENT.
AND F. AND C. RIVINGTONS, LONDON.
IN everything relating to our spiritual life, it is not easy to determine whether we are more influenced by the certainty of the past, or by the promise of the future. Our Faith at one time looks back to the Sufferings, and Death, and Resurrection of our Blessed Redeemer, and at another time looks forward to His second coming, and to the revelation of His heavenly glory. In like manner all the greatest joys of life are made up either of memory or of hope: and the present sinks into insignificance by the side of the accumulated and unbounded treasures of the past and of the future.
In the highest subjects of spiritual thought, such as the facts of the Death and Resurrection of our Lord, and the hope of His second coming, it is impossible to say which of the two kinds of Faith ought to move us most. Rather let us consider, that both united make up that one perfect motive which ought to influence every thought, and word, and action of our lives. The groundwork of all Christian practice rests upon the one Lord, which was, and is, and is to come.
But in the lower branches of religious duty, relating rather to the system, than to the doctrines of the Church, we may see with what a beautiful variety the minds of men are constituted: so that every part of the work of Christ may be allotted to a mind especially fitted for it. The servants of God may be divided into the two general classes of the men of memory and the men of hope: the one preserving and cherishing every holy usage and every time-honoured institution; the other, bent upon advancing the standard of the cross, and bringing new countries and new nations within the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Between these two classes of men, both so necessary to the full work of the Church, there is no other ground of preference than a simple priority of operation there must be men of hope before there can be men of memory: those who planted the acorn must have preceded those who sit under the shade of the oak.
They were men of hope, who first looked upon the fair vale of the Isis, or the sedgy plain of the Cam, and marked out the site of the single College, which, in the course of centuries, was to grow into a great and flourishing University. There could have been but little at first to encourage them in their work: the first founders must have died without seeing much, if any, fruit of their labours: every material and every moral difficulty must have stood in the way: there was no reverence of the place, no tone among the Students: no established system of instruction: no tried rule of discipline: the transport of every stone and of every beam must have cost far more labour than at present. If the stones and the beams of our oldest Colleges could cry out of the walls, they would tell of reverend and even royal hands that helped to raise them to their place, in an age when industry was the birthright of all, and neither wealth nor station had as yet excommunicated anyone from that general privilege of all mankind. It was a slow work, in the course of which many generations died in succession: but all were animated by the same one thought. They were all men of hope: and they hoped that the day would come, though they might not live to see it, when the tree which they had planted would bear its fruit. And so it did: for the blessing of God was upon their work. The little one became a thousand. The single College grew into the University. The small band of Students grew into a multitude.
The men of hope were succeeded by the men of memory: pious, thoughtful, meditative men, who treasured up in their cloistered cells every record and precedent of the past: men who thought less of pressing forward to new lives of active duty, than of living up to the ancient standard and verifying in their own persons the traditions of bygone days. In their hands discipline became a code and education a system: their mellow wisdom gave a tone to the manners of the times, and threw a prescriptive reverence over every solemn ordinance and every holy place. It was not their principle to exclude all innovation, any more than to repel strangers, but they scrutinized every visitor closely at the wicket before they opened the gate. The corporate mind was not yet so much desirous of progress as of preserving unimpaired the deposit handed down to them by preceding generations. Each of these two classes of men had its own distinct and holy vocation: the one to plant, the other to preserve; and we can no more deny the usefulness of either than we can draw distinctions between the soldiers that guard the camp, and those that go forth to meet the enemy in the field. In this we recognize the wisdom of Him who is both our creator and our preserver: that He gives to each one of His servants that measure of His own power and grace which may enable him to fill up his own part in the one great work; "that all may grow up into Him, in all things" which is the Head, even Christ: from whom the whole body "fitly framed together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the "measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
There are some here present who have tasted of the pleasures of hope, which a new country, recently colonized, so abundantly supplies. We have no institutions which will bear comparison with those of the mother country: but our wooden walls and reeded roofs are endeared to us by all the varied pleasures of hope. We can stand upon a hill top, and look upon a spacious plain without inhabitants, and picture to ourselves the village churches that will soon arise; the fields of waving corn ripening around the dwellings of the colonists. We come back again to the same spot, and the vision is fulfilled. The wilderness has become a fruitful field. The little one has become a thousand.
Or we can sail to island after island in almost endless succession, without finding anywhere a single trace of the Gospel. All is dark: but a bright ray of light soon pierces the darkness: a little child of heathen parents is committed to our charge. He is taught; he is baptized. He returns as the evangelist of his own people. They listen to his words: and soon the whole face of that moral wilderness is changed. The little one has become a thousand. The hope is justified and the prayer is answered: that the Lord would hasten it in His time.
Joys such as these, first of pure hope and then of its partial fulfillment, recompense the missionary and the colonist for the worst part of his lot, the separation from every thing old, and the privation of so many of the joys of memory. And it is wisely ordered that there are some minds so constituted as to find in the prospect of the future a full satisfaction for the shutting out of all the traditions of the past. Some minds there are, who, in the spirit of St. Paul's words, "forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, can press towards the mark for the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus."
But the strangest sight of all, and one well worthy of investigation, is when we see the same works and plans which seem to belong to a new country and an infant Church, inaugurated with bright hopes and fervent prayers, almost in sight of ancient Colleges which rear their hoary heads in perpetual memory of the zeal and piety of our forefathers. Was the plan of the ancient builders incomplete: or their means insufficient: that they have left this necessary portion of the work of the Church to be completed in our day? How can we account for the fact that the very same work which is the first step in our Colonial Dioceses, seems to have been reserved for the ripe age and mature experience of the Diocese of Oxford? The answer, at least in its main feature, is I think, plain and simple. There is a tendency in all organized communities, analagous to those cycles of disturbing forces, which in the system of nature compensate one another in long periods of time. The first process of improvement often develops causes which hinder its future progress. This seems to be a wise appointment of the Creator, that His work should be really imperishable, and yet not so faultless or unerring in any of its parts, or at any one time, that men should repose their dead weight upon the moving power of the vast machine by which they are borne irresistibly along: rather than give their own earnest efforts, and vivid impulses, each according to his own measure of grace and strength, to that part which seems to be wanting either in power or in speed. Every dead period in the Church, every decay of its spiritual life, is not so much a proof that God's Holy Spirit is withdrawn, as a means ordained by God for calling forth the living energies of His chosen servants, and for promoting His own glory by the success of their ministrations.
There is no doubt that every Cathedral, and even every College, was intended to have within itself, and actually had, the germ of everything needful for the supply of the various ministries of the Church. The Culhams and the Cuddesdons which the piety of the present generation have raised in new places and with new funds, were all enwrapped in the little acorn of comprehensive hope; which some reverend Bishop or some holy King dibbled into the field, which he cleared out of the surrounding forest or reclaimed from the midst of the swamp. Within that hallowed precinct every one was free to enter who could bring with him the two credentials of poverty and piety. There he could obtain without money and without price the third qualification necessary for future advancement, namely, sound learning and religious knowledge. This was the beginning, the wise and good beginning, which in the course of man's moral nature, while it brought forth fruits for which we must be ever thankful, generated also hindrances to its own progress.
The first step in the improvement of mankind, has been to bring him out of that state, described by the poet, "When wild in woods the noble savage ran."
It was to combine the separate atoms of mankind into one system; for religion, to unite them in a Church; for government, to combine them into a state. But every advance of knowledge or of feeling tends to draw men back again to the state of independent egotism from which they were rescued. What is called in art the division of labour, distributes to each workman his own small part and wheel of the great machine, and by constant practice each becomes perfect in his own branch of the work; but this alone does not give the absolute perfection to the engine. There must be a presiding power to demand from every workman his finished piece, and to unite them all in one body, "compacted with that which every joint supplieth." That power is found least where it is wanted most, in the Church of Christ. It is found working in government, in law, in science, in medicine, in trade; but it is not found in religion: there the atomic heresy still prevails; and the result so far as it is not overruled by Divine Providence is a tendency to return to chaos.
This retrograde tendency is the more dangerous, because it is often the direct result of high principle and great earnestness in work, and real advancement in knowledge. What for instance is more natural than that in a place where learning is cultivated, the highest excellence in learning should be the object aimed at or if mathematical science be the chief study of the place, what is more natural than that every ...student's heart should strain that point; at which alone all academical distinctions can be obtained? The division of intellectual as of mechanical labour makes each man perfect in his own department, by shutting out in a great measure every other thought and action from his mind. It is no willful sin then in Universities that they have not fulfilled in all respects the purposes of their founders. It was the inevitable tendency of their work, severed, as it pleased God to allow it to be severed, from the great presiding authority of the Church, which would have gathered together all their separate works in one great thank-offering to Christ, and built in even their intellectual honours as the polished corners of His temple.
The same may be said of Cathedrals. They first founded Parish Churches: and now the Parish Churches, like the suckers of an old tree, are draining the juices of the parent stock. This also is an evil springing out of the very success of the early work. What can be closer or more holy than the daily communing of the parochial clergyman with his flock? What work can have a greater promise of blessing, or a more abundant unction of the Spirit. And therefore the more men learned to value the parochial ministry, the more they needed it: and first the Canon left his cloister and settled in the Parsonage, carrying with him his prebendal income, to restore the parish Church, or to relieve the village poor; and then came a law to take away the canonries themselves; and to pronounce them useless because they were not used; and to scatter their resources far and wide over the length and breadth of the parochial system. One step more brings the subject home to our own doors: we walk through the moss grown cloisters, and by the doors of empty houses, and the abode of holy men now gone to their rest, and we come out into the open country, where upon some hill-top or highway side, the zeal and piety of a Bishop and his Clergy have reared their Cuddesdon or their Culham, to do for the Parochial Clergy the same cardinal and central works, which the Cathedral Clergy might have done, but for their deeper sympathy and more earnest zeal for the parochial ministry. It seems to a stranger a roundabout process, and a loss of power: but straight or circuitous, GOD BLESS THE WORK.
But there was a higher danger still, and I hope to be forgiven for mentioning it in this reverend presence. When Cathedrals ceased to be the central organs of diffusion of good, they ceased to be the true and real sees of the Bishop. He had no interest in the mere administration of funds of which he was not the responsible trustee. He was not needed to control the small residentiary body of Canons or of Choristers. The mind that would have inspired the Council Board with plans of active benevolence ranging over the whole Diocese, and from it over the whole field of the Gentile world, could find no place and feel no interest in mere administrative details. His heart also was with the Parochial Ministry, but without the power, for want of a central organ, really and permanently to influence it for good. There were fervent prayers and holy blessings at the Ember seasons and at the cycles of Confirmation: there were vivid impulses given to every charitable work by sermons and addresses: there was genial hospitality, and intense energy of business: but one thing was lacking, which the Cathedral, fully organized, would have supplied, the daily walk in the House of God with those upon whom he would soon lay his hands: the line upon line, and precept upon precept: the inward communings of heart with heart, which would have stamped upon every neophyte the indelible impress of parental love, and made him to the end of his life, the Bishop's own son in the ministry of Christ.
The lack of that daily work seemed to be little, and yet it was everything. And so the world thought: and even questioned the use of existing Bishoprics instead of wishing for more, and, but for God's providence, would have desolated some of our most time-honoured Cathedrals, and made some of our most reverend brethren the last of their line.
Thus it was, that the comprehensive spirit of the old founders of our Universities and our Cathedrals was lost: and is now seen only, as the faint outline of the ground plan of an old Cathedral may sometimes be seen, traced in the hoar-frost or the dew upon the smooth green turf which now lies above it. Hoar-frost, and dew, and sunshine fall upon it in their turn: as coldness, and blessing, and zeal alternate in the Church: all alike in kindness or in censure trace out the one great ground plot of the Christian Church, which we must always build upon, though we shall not live to see its completion: but we shall see it in another world, a glorious Church, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Among the bitter memories of the past, the sight of ruined Churches, and desolate Cloisters, and failing Institutions, you are brought back to the point in England from which We start in the Colonies, to be men of hope, planters of a new oak to replace the old: convinced of this that the work may change its character, and its local habitation, but that it can never perish, because the spirit of the living God is in it.
Here then we meet with one heart and one soul. Men of memory and men of hope: successors of long lines of holy prelates, running up into the infancy of the British Church: guardians of our venerable Cathedrals: tutors of our ancient Colleges: Parish Priests trained to holy reflection under the shadow cast by the ivy-mantled tower upon the graves where the old forefathers of the hamlets sleep: Colonial men of hope, aye, and of GOOD HOPE too; [The Bishop of Natal and Sir George Grey, R.C.B., newly appointed to the government of the Cape of Good Hope.] who will take the rude navigator's pious name, as the watchword of their own Christian enterprize: and young men, full of zeal and spirit, growing up in our schools of learning: and learning only to win a crown, which they may cast down straightway at the feet of Christ. There are those here, who have seen man relapsing into barbarism, by the abuse of the very means, by which they were first civilized, and yet have not been appalled by the greatness of the work for the multitude of the ungodly: but have laid down their broad ground plan of forty or fifty churches in the midst of dense masses of an almost heathen population, and have lived to see them completed. And some of us have laid the foundations of our spiritual house upon the wild waste of the lonely hill and plain: and have lived to see the hill crowned with the village spire, and the hill side peopled with the worshippers of God. And there are some present here, of a different class: mothers of hope, who have prayed like Hannah, for a holy child: and when he was born have dedicated him to God in baptism: and are now watching the first spark of the fire of the Holy Spirit, and gently breathing it into a flame. This day is the witness of God's blessing upon their holy aspirations. Cuddesdon opens her arms to those children of prayer: as the genial mother who, will gather them in her bosom: and present them hereafter before this altar in the white robe of ministerial holiness, which is the type of the purity of the saints in light.
On this day, my dear brothers, all of us meet as men of hope, to inaugurate with prayer and blessing your new College with its single scholar--"The little one shall become a thousand."
Who can comprehend, even in thought, the future of such a foundation as this? If it were a school of human learning, we should know the bounds beyond which it could not expand-it would then be like the pouring of water, when we know both the quantity of the supply, and the capacity of the reservoir. But who can tell the future development of this one spark of fire? A word of living power spoken here may kindle a flame which will burn even to New Zealand. From this altar live coals may be borne to kindle our old Cathedrals; and to quicken the zeal of our Parochial ministry: and thence to spread the light and life of the gospel to the most distant colony, and to the utmost bounds of the gentile world. It is a seed sown in singleness of heart: it is the least of all seeds, but it will grow into a great tree: it is a little one,--but it will become a thousand.
"The Lord will hasten it in His time."