I thank God that He has allowed me to come here today to take part in the Anniversary Commemoration of this College, which I cannot look upon in any other light, than a school of prophets, such as that which Samuel administered at Ramah. Founded as it has been by some of my own dearest friends and benefactors upon the site of the first Missionary foundation of the Anglo-Saxon Church, this College awakens in my mind the deepest private sympathy, as well as the veneration due to the early history of the place. The past and the present seem to justify an almost unbounded faith and hope for the future. And this is the one thing needful. We must have faith in our work. The school of the prophets cannot be planted, unless we know the nature of a prophet's office, and have faith in the promise of a prophet's reward.
My dear young friends: let me speak to you, as one who has seen already much of the work to which we trust you are already called, and will hereafter be ordained. A prophet's office is not in the courts of kings or in rich men's houses, where men wear soft clothing, [3/4] and fare sumptuously every day. John came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, yet Herod from the midst of his palace heard the fame of his preaching in the wilderness, and respected his character and listened to his reproof. His great prototype, Elisha the Tishbite, put on no courtly garb to wait upon Ahab, but bound his hairy mantle about his loins with his leathern girdle, and went down to him to Samaria to preach to him of the judgments of God. His successor Elisha, called from the plough to receive the mantle of Elijah, assumed to himself no pride of office, but for ten years administered to his master's wants, till he saw him caught up into heaven, and received a double portion of his spirit. Amos was neither a prophet nor a prophet's son, but a herdsman and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: yet the Lord took him as he followed the flock: and the Lord said unto him, Go prophesy to my people Israel. Zechariah speaks of the true prophet, as one who disclaims all glory of his office; and says, I am no prophet, I am an husbandman; for men taught me to keep cattle from my youth: and yet to him the wounds of Christ were revealed, with which He was wounded in the house of his friends. God chose David His servant and took him from the sheepfolds, while he was following the ewes great with young, to feed Jacob His people and Israel His inheritance. The shepherds of Bethlehem were in the field keeping watch over their flocks by night, when they were guided by the light of heaven [4/5] and called by the voice of angels to be the first preachers of the new-born Saviour. The shepherd's hut, the yoke of oxen, the fisher's coat, the tattered nets, and the leaky boats, the mission of the seventy without scrip or purse, Peter and John going up to the temple without silver or gold; all these are the lessons which Scripture teaches us: these are the signs and badges of that order out of which Christ Jesus chose and called His Apostles, Evangelists, and Prophets.
We have this faith therefore in the prophet's office, that it needs no worldly aid to give it its effect: neither wealth, nor honour, nor talent, nor birth, nor station. It needs only the calling of GOD, and a willing heart to obey the calling. If you rest upon the real graces of the Christian character, and the real powers of the Christian ministry, without assuming any of those false and adventitious aids which hinder rather than promote the progress of the gospel, you will not fail of the prophet's reward.
With no less assurance of faith the mind rests upon such foundations as this: that it will be watered with the due of God's blessing: and be made the seedplot of a ministry, which shall go forth in the strength of the Divine grace, to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth. Whatever hindrances may seem to stand in the way; and hindrances, remember, are often most thickly placed in the way to the greatest good, [5/6] I cannot doubt of the ultimate success of this school of the prophets. A little one will become a thousand: the Lord will hasten it in His time. It is now the least of all seeds: but who can tell, how many souls this College may be ordained to save, when it shall have increased and borne fruit an hundredfold, by that reproductive power which is the proof of the wisdom by which God created every tree having its seed within itself.
I speak now in words of encouragement to the Authorities of this College. What work can be so hopeful or so full of promise, as that of searching far and wide for every one, who though like Amos, neither a prophet nor a prophet's son, yet shows in early youth the signs which point to his future calling! Whether it be the blessing of God granted to a mother's prayers as in Samuel, or like John the Baptist, the blessing of the Spirit from his mother's womb, or as in Isaac, the calling and election of God: whatever be the moving power that guides the youthful heart to higher aims and holier desires; it is the same seed out of God's storehouse, planted by the Lord Himself, which it is your blessed privilege to rear.
You, have already felt, I doubt not, the peculiar powers and responsibilities of such an office as this. You have deeply considered, that no outward system, no mere gathering of youths into a school of the [6/7] prophets, can secure them from the temptations of the outward world, and from the deceitfulness of their own hearts.
You have felt that there is need of constant watchfulness and earnest prayer, and above all of the daily remembrance of Christ, to give such a tone to your corporate life, as may impress itself at once upon every student as he enters within your walls. You have resolved to live one for another; to watch over your students with a father's or brother's love; to watch the first signs of decaying interest in the work; the look, the word, the gesture of impatience, which is often enough to tell that the zeal is growing faint, and that the love is waxing cold. Then at the very first sign the word of counsel must be gently whispered in the ear, while the conscience is still awake and answers to the reproof: no formal complaint, no railing accusation, but the whispered warning of an elder brother to the Joseph or the Benjamin whom he loves. Above all, it will be your earnest care, that not a soul should be lost of those whom God has given into your hands. The question is not whose duty it is to speak, the first that sees the fault must be first to admonish: for there must be no false reserve, where souls are at stake, all must feel it as a reproach, if there be one who comes into this place, and either remains unimproved, or falls, or is lost.
As then you commune with God in your own hearts [7/8] and in your chambers, and as you walk daily here as friends in the house of God; so may your hearts be opened one towards another in all that relates to the well being of your College. You have a work before you which no eye can see: which even the mind can only imperfectly conceive. That school of the prophets which Samuel founded at Ramah received the first outpouring of the Spirit, which was not withdrawn during 700 years till it ceased with Malachi.
Already you have students here from the Indies East, and West, and from the frozen shore of Greenland. Here then is the mustard seed. It is the germ of a great tree, which will overshadow the earth.
CANTERBURY: PRINTED AT ST. AUGUSTINE'S COLLEGE PRESS.