Plain Sermons by Contributors to ‘Tracts for the Times’

Volume Three—Edward Bouverie Pusey

London: J. G. F. & J. Rivington, 1841.





ST. MARK x. 13, 14.

“And they brought young children to HIM, that HE should touch them; and His disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when JESUS saw it, HE was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of GOD.”


WE have been accustomed to allege these words in behalf of the Catholic practice of Infant Baptism; and rightly, for they have been always so understood by the Church, and the voice of the Church Universal, is that of the LORD. The Anabaptist and the Socinian are obviously so far wrong, that they urge that the word used does not denote “infants,” since although that employed by St. Matthew and St. Mark may be applied to children old enough to know good and evil, St. Luke was directed by GOD to use one which can only signify “infants,” “sucklings,” in its strictest sense; and thus by taking together the teaching of the different Gospels, we learn that children of all ages may he brought to CHRIST in Baptism, not infants only; but if infancy should (in disobedience to the Church) have been unhappily passed over, that they may still he brought. Yet one must, of course (and may without anxiety), allow that there is no mention of Baptism in the whole passage, that the children were brought, not to be baptized, but that JESUS might lay His hands upon them, and pray over them;—whence such people would infer that no sanction is hence derived to any Baptism of children of any sort. And this were true according to that wilful and disobedient way of treating GOD’S Word, which will find in its sayings only the least which can be found in them; and perhaps it may be a sign of something wrong about ourselves, that, in maintaining the claim of our infants to Holy Baptism, we have of late so often shrunk from alleging proofs of this sort, and have argued rather, that it was likely so to be, because the type of Baptism, Circumcision, took place in infancy, or because whole households were baptized by the Apostles, and that in these probably some were little ones; instead of going at once to the authority of the Church Catholic. “Baptize also your infants,” says an ancient writing,[2] speaking the sense of the Greek Church, “and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of GOD. For HE saith, Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not.” And in the Latin Church of old times (as in our own), in the Baptismal Service for Infants,[3] they read this history out of one of the three Gospels, as their LORD’S sanction of their act of charity.

Thus authorized, then, to interpret this passage of the Baptism of our infants, we may find in it much confirmation of our faith, and answer to doubting questions. For they who brought them, and they who would have kept them away, are, many ways, types of us. They who brought them, brought them ignorantly (as must all our approaches to GOD be), not knowing what benefit they should receive, or Who it was of Whom they asked it, and little imagining its greatness, and that HE, Whose touch they sought for their little ones, was VERY GOD; but doubtless they had seen that touch effectual in healing the sick, casting out devils, and so they trusted that some holy, or healing influence, would pass from His touch into their children. Again, they did it ignorantly, in that they thought it necessary that our LORD should “pray over them,” and could not of HIMSELF impart the life which in HIMSELF HE had. Yet our LORD accepted their faith, and compassionated their ignorance. By granting their wish that HE should touch them; HE showed His goodwill to accomplish all which they, knowing or unknowing, wished for: in that HE prayed not over them, hut blessed them, HE manifested the power inherent in HIMSELF: in that HE not merely, as they wished, touched them, hut took them up in His arms, HE declared His purpose to do more for those we bring to HIM, than our faint hearts and trembling faith can realize or ask for. So, on the other hand, the disciples who brought them might in human sight well seem justified; they argued just as those who speak against the Baptism of our infants do now; our LORD was declaring deep and hidden mysteries, “of those who made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven’s sake;” HE had just said, “he that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” “Then,” St. Matthew adds, “were there brought unto HIM young children.” What had these (His disciples would ask) to do with the mysteries of the kingdom of GOD? What good should the word do to them, who could not understand it? or how should our LORD, by His touch, benefit those who had no bodily diseases to be healed of? or why should the Master and Teacher be troubled and interrupted in His office by such petitions? To human reason they would seem justified, and the parents who sought our SAVIOUR’S touch for their little ones, might seem condemned of superstition; just as many, if they ventured to speak plainly, would or do say, ‘what good can it do to sprinkle a little water over an unconscious infant? how does it thereby become other than before? what change do we see in it?’ And so our LORD, mercifully, for ever corrected both our judgments: the one had brought them, as to a Physician, for His touch; and HE, in that HE complied with their wish, taught them of a deeper-rooted disease than they knew of—even that birth-sin, which their very birth had entailed upon them, and which unless cut off, must end in their entire death; and that HE took upon HIMSELF its cure, and would in very infancy make them whole; HE taught that their action was truer, and had a deeper meaning than themselves knew;—the others, who would judge by sense only, or decide by their weak reason, what was fitting for HIM, HE rebuked, “took the children up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them,” thereby bidding us to bring our infants to HIM, promising that HE will accept them, take them in the arms of His mercy, and return them to us—blessed. Yea, and though they, to outward appearance, seem to us the same as before (as doubtless were these children), and though, as St. Mark relates, when HE had laid His hands upon them, HE departed thence, giving them no word of instruction, and removing His bodily presence; yet who would doubt that that touch lived in them, a shield against Satan’s malice, and all the power of the enemy; that that blessing abode around and in them, a source and well-spring of all holy thoughts and good desires. And when the parents knew Who HE was, to Whom they had thus half-ignorantly brought their children; that those hands which touched them were “the hands “which had “made them and fashioned them,” their CREATOR and their GOD; that the blessing they had received was their REDEEMER’S blessing, how must their hearts have leaped for joy! What parent of us would not wish, if he might, that our SAVIOUR should lay His hand upon his child, and bless it? And if His visible touch was such a source of comfort and of hope, how not, and much more, when HE, the risen, the ascended SAVIOUR, Who from the right hand of GOD, sheds forth His gifts abundantly upon His Church—not lays only His hands upon them, but makes them members of HIMSELF, “members of His body, of His flesh, of His bones;” members of “His Church, which is His body, the fulness of HIM, Which filleth all in all.” We know still less of the ineffable greatness of that we seek for, than did these poor parents, who sought for His bodily touch, and His prayers; and the wishes of those who seek for Baptism for the bodily health of their children, is not so far below their belief, whose belief is most enlightened, as is theirs below the inexpressible reality; and so, for the comfort of us all, our SAVIOUR herein showed that HE regarded not our merits, but His mercies; not our ignorance, but His own Omniscience; not our faint wish for a blessing we know not what, but our trust in HIM, our wish to have a blessing from HIM, the inexhaustible Fountain of all blessedness; and grants, not according to the poverty of our desires, but according to the overflowing riches of His goodness, takes our infants even now invisibly up in His everlasting arms, and returns them to us—blessed.

But the text speaks not of privileges only, but of duties (as every privilege involves some duty, and every duty a privilege); and that not a single or a passing act, but an abiding duty. And when we claim to ourselves privileges, and would not have them wrested from us, and argue in their defence (as in this of Infant Baptism), we must call to mind the attendant duty, lest the recital of our privileges, unsanctified by duty, become our condemnation. To bring our children to CHRIST is, namely, no more the one act of bringing them to be baptized (although without this we cannot be said to bring them to CHRIST at all), than mere Christian instruction without Baptism. We not only bring them to HIM, casting them at His feet, and begging HIM to take up these our foundlings, but we receive them back again from HIM, like the mother of Moses, when saved from the water, and out of and through the water, although, as was hers in a figure and in truth, protected by One mightier than she who gave them birth; still they are given back to our care to tend them, not now our own children only, but GOD’S, and so to be tended not only with our natural parental affection, but as a holy deposit, as a trust from the Most High, which HE will demand of our hands, pure as HE entrusted them to us; as a holy and mysterious treasure, of value inexpressible, because HE has set His signet upon it. Like Hannah, we have “lent them to the LORD,” that “as long as they live they should be lent unto the LORD,” and though HE give them back to us for a while, it is but like Samuel, until they shall be weaned, and fit to minister in His house, His Church, for ever.

So then the ancient work, before quoted, rightly laid down the meaning of this text, where it says, “Baptize your infants, and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of GOD, for HE saith, ‘Suffer little children to come unto ME.’ “Both parts, Baptism and Christian education are included in the words, “Suffer little children to come unto ME.”

Yet our LORD hath not left it even thus, but has given us yet further encouragement, by not only bidding us bring our little ones to HIM, but adding a reason also: “for of such is the kingdom of Heaven.” And here, again, we may observe the largeness of our LORD’S words, which are not to be bound down like the words of men, in that HE neither says “of these is the kingdom,” so as to exclude others who in manners, though not in age, were like them; nor again, so restrains His blessing (as people in these latter days are wont) to childlike dispositions, as to exclude the age of childhood in itself. People, namely, looking simply to acquired habits, and the conscious exercise of faith as well-pleasing to GOD, have regarded these qualities of children as nothing pleasing in themselves, but only as images (as it were) of that which should hereafter be well-pleasing, if found again worked by the SPIRIT of GOD in the full-grown man. Docility, guilelessness, unsuspiciousness, forgetfulness and non-requital of injuries, purity, simplicity, implicit faith, believingness, confidence, contentedness, unreasoning acquiescence, undisputatiousness, submissiveness . . . . . these and the like qualities of childhood are (they think) but the natural character of the childish age; they cannot but feel and admit that such qualities are lovely, winning; that they draw our souls to these little ones; but because these precious blossoms of their opening years will not last, but will drop off, one by one, without ripening to fruit, unless they be diligently tended, such think that these early gifts are not real, but mere show only; that it is only when they are developed by the struggle with evil, tried by life’s storms and still enduring, that they have in them any thing acceptable; when one is fully sanctified, then are his separate actions well-pleasing; when one in the form of manhood retains the mind of a child, “of such” (they would explain our LORD’S words) “is the kingdom of Heaven.” I mean not certainly to compare the faith of the aged saint with the trustingness of a child; those virtues which are developed, and have not been marred in the developement, by the mingling of human frailty, undoubtedly acquire a higher character through that fiery trial, “being thereby found to praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of JESUS CHRIST.” And yet might most Christians, recollecting the scars of past sin which they bear about them, and their present imperfections, well look with longing on one of those little ones, not only as a pattern of humility, but as mourning that they have not “their innocency.” But besides this, who bade us estimate what is acceptable to GOD by measures of attainment? It savours too much, surely, of notions of human merit, or the intrinsic importance of human action, to set this wide difference between tried virtue, and the untried though implanted qualities of the infant, as that the one should be acceptable, the disposition of the infant should, because not yet exercised, be a thing indifferent to its MAKER. Even we, being evil, cannot contemplate them without a holy joy, a love and yearning over their innocence; yea, the knowledge that a spot of corruption lurks within, which, if unchecked, would mar all that beauty, hinders not our longing reverence for their yet actual untaintedness; we would be, if we might, as they. They are yet images of their MAKER, as far as that image has not been defaced through their birth, derived from us; yea, as many of them as have been baptized, have that Image more than restored to them. Of those also whom GOD admits to be made members of His SON, HE removes full half from this world ere this image can have been much impaired by actual sinfulness, yet also, at least as far as we can see, ere it receive to any great degree the deepening tracing of those actual workings of holiness, to which we attach such exclusive value. It has been, I think, a misplaced dread, lest we should in any way countenance the Pelagian heresy, which has made men shrink from trusting themselves to contemplate the loveliness of infancy, and speak of its innocence. Why should we think that although they have that within them, which “deserves GOD’S wrath and damnation,” yet since HE has “predestinated them to be conformed to the image of His SON,” HE does not already look with pleasure on this work of His hands, to whom HE has in His will reserved such intensity of honour? It is unbelief in the healing, new-creative power of Baptism, which hinders any from looking on their baptized infants with amazement of delight and wonder. They are made members of CHRIST, members of the SON of GOD,—why should we think that GOD must needs wait for our frail exercise of active faith, ere HE can behold with pleasure those whom HE has recreated, and clad with righteousness, yea clothed with and made part of His SON? But besides, if we regard the words of His Scriptures, as they bear upon each other, our LORD says not simply “of such is the kingdom of Heaven,” but assigns it as a reason, why these infants should not be hindered to come to HIM; HE speaks not as though the character were simply shadowed forth in these infants, but as really being in them, so that its being in them was a ground why they should be brought to HIM; “of such as these is the kingdom of Heaven; and therefore, since they are of that character of which the kingdom of Heaven is, let them be brought to ME; they are the fittest to be made subjects of the kingdom.” And so our LORD at once announces the mystery of the new birth, as HE had before declared, “except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven;” and the privilege of Infant Baptism, that they who are untainted by actual sin, are the fittest, in His counsel, to be made members of that kingdom, and of HIMSELF. And thus HE reproves our exclusive appreciation of this tried holiness, as if “the LORD’S arm were shortened,” and HE were limited in the treasures of His bounty, to what we see on the surface of this world; as if our FATHER had one blessing only, and HE loved not those, whom HE has once chosen to be incorporated into His SON; or as if, at the end, that for which HE loved all whom HE does love, were not that they are members of His SON. Whether they who are so made members, be lesser or greater, young or old, tried or untried, may seem to us who judge by what we see, a great thing; to HIM who sees things as they are, must be infinitely small, compared to that first, central, original gift and source and spring of all gifts, of being in His SON. “Our LORD,” says St. Irenaeus,[4] “breaking not in His own person His law for the human race, sanctified every age by the likeness which it hears to HIMSELF. For HE came to save all through HIMSELF, all who by HIM are born again to GOD; infants and little ones, and children, and young persons, and elders. So HE came in every age, and for infants being made an infant, sanctifying infants; among little ones a little one, sanctifying those of this same age, and becoming to them an example of filial duty, and righteousness, and subjection—“As then, by the stages of His own manifestation in the flesh, HE sanctified every period of life, and made each capable of holiness, through its conformity to HIM, because HE had borne it; so, henceforth, we may Say,—since those who have been baptized into CHRIST, have put on CHRIST,—as there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female (so that one should be in CHRIST, the other not), so is there neither young nor old, “FOR,” says the Apostle, “YE ARE ALL ONE IN CHRIST JESUS.” We are not, then, to look upon these little ones as less holy than ourselves, less children of GOD than ourselves, less GOD’S care, less members of His SON, less of moment in His eyes, and so of less intrinsic value, since they have in themselves that which is the source of holiness, adoption, and love of GOD, the indwelling of the SPIRIT,—that they have by Baptism “put on CHRIST.” They are temples of the HOLY GHOST, and have not defiled that temple. They are members of the SON of GOD; what more can any one be? yea, if any one would be more, he is nothing, since he would be something of himself, not in CHRIST.

Such, then, are baptized infants; such in GOD’S purpose, and sight, and love, the fittest to be made members of His kingdom; the patterns, in such portion of their nature as is yet untainted by actual sin, of those who are elder, and for this, their untainted-ness, well pleasing to GOD, through His SON, in Whom they have obtained remission of that guilt, which from us they contracted; to us, a sacred deposit, a pearl of inestimable purity, which we can ill appreciate, corner-stones of the temple of our LORD, which we are to polish for the MASTER’S use, heirs of eternal glory, purchased for them by their REDEEMER’S blood, who during the first period of their expectancy, are to be under us as “tutors and governors,” to prepare them to serve their SAVIOUR here, and reign with HIM in glory everlasting.

It is an awful, holy, and perilous charge, to have such a deposit intrusted to our keeping, plants which were to flourish in the courts of our LORD, but which through our negligence may be blighted; vessels of honour, into which the HOLY SPIRIT hath been already poured, which through our misconduct may be broken; souls whom CHRIST hath saved, but who through our sin may perish everlastingly, But because they seem to the eye of sense of little account, and we think much of ourselves—they seem little capable of harm, and so through mere carelessness they are harmed very fearfully—our LORD gives us two warnings in this same context; one, to set before us the mysterious greatness of children; the other, the great peril of causing them to err. “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones, for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My FATHER, Which is in heaven.” By which words (mysterious as must to us be every thing which relates to the order of the holy Angels) thus much at least we may understand, that the care of these little ones is given to Angels who have an especial nearness to the Divine Majesty, beholding not the outskirts of GOD’S glory only, nor at times illumined by it, but at all times beholding the very Face of GOD; and, from the great dignity of these their appointed guardians, we are to imagine their great value in our FATHER’S eyes. Whence our LORD adds, as if their salvation was the very especial object of His coming, “For the SON of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost,” and that, as one would leave ninety-nine sheep, and wander up and down in the mountains to seek the one gone astray, so (as the Fathers explain it) HE left the heavenly hosts to seek that one sheep which was lost, man. And this likeness our LORD applies to children, “Even so it is not the will of your FATHER Which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” Every one of these little ones is accounted as if it were the whole human race. And since HE so prizes them, we may the more give heed to the terrible warning, which answers to the woe denounced on Judas, “Whoso shall cause one of these little ones who believe in ME to offend, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were drowned in the midst of the sea,” i. e. better he should die the death men most loathe—sudden, violent, disgraceful, accursed, a spectacle and a bye-word to men—the death of a malefactor, than do that, whereby he shall perish everlastingly.

The care, then, taken of these little ones, may be regarded as among the tests of the sound state of any branch of the Church, to which they have been so lovingly commended by her LORD; they, in outward show, poor, helpless, weak, ignorant, having every thing to learn—to the eye of faith, cleansed in their REDEEMER’S Blood, waited upon and guarded by the highest Angels, clad in the white robes of their baptismal purity, rich in invisible treasures, insensible to our poor outward world, and wrapped in a world unseen, and set forth as our example that we should become such as they. Of a truth, whether we contemplate them in their purity, or our SAVIOUR’S “woe on such as cause them to offend,” one would alike shrink from the duty of forming; what is of so great price and yet so frail, but that a duty is laid upon us, yea, “woe is on us, if we do it not;” and it is not we alone who do it, but HE Who saith, “Whoso receiveth one such little child in My Name, receiveth Me;” HE whose face their Angels in heaven do always behold.

The care of children, then, one may well know to be the sign of a standing or a falling Church, as we see it daily to be, of a standing or a falling family; and our Church in her happier days amply provided for it; believing her baptized infants to be born again, she took care to keep to the utmost of her power that good thing which was placed within them; she gave them to her ministers as the prime of their charge; nay, she made it one main office of one order of her ministers, to “catechise children,” and through the Bishop, requires all her Deacons[5] to promise so to do; she commanded all her lay members who had any children in their charge, “Fathers,[6] Mothers, Masters, and Dames, to cause all Children, Servants, and Apprentices to come to Church” to be so catechised, “until they have learnt all here appointed for them to learn;” she bade them never be weary in instructing them, and she thought it not possible that the members of the Church could think it a weariness to witness their being received into her bosom, or to listen to the instruction which she appointed on each Lord’s-Day to be imparted to them in the presence of the congregation. In her litanies, or solemn supplications to ALMIGHTY GOD, she thought especially of them, and inserted a petition not for “fatherless children” only, whom we all should pity, but of all “young children,” as much needing her pity and her prayers. Evil times came; baptismal regeneration was held in the letter only, and then in the letter also rejected; and then children were regarded again as what they by nature were, not weak only, but absolutely sinful, and incapable almost of spiritual strength; and holiness was regarded not as the privilege of these children of GOD, but as a rare gift, which was only here and there vouchsafed; gladly to be accepted when it came, but rarely to be looked for; and they were looked upon as the prey of Satan, until here and there one might be after years called out; and so love and care waxed cold, and it seemed a hopeless struggle to keep them within CHRIST’S fold, in which men doubted whether they had more than outwardly entered; and catechising was neglected or performed as an almost lifeless task; and people almost said, “Let them alone, they must sin, they are but children:” they let them alone, unless their offences interfered with themselves; and we in these days are reaping the bitter fruits. Through our neglect of the children, the wolf hath come and scattered the sheep, and we have to bring them back, if we may, one by one, “out of a naughty world;” the seed-time was missed, and the tares allowed to spring up, and we wonder at the barren and choked harvest; the character of our people has been lowered; crime,—if not atrocious crime, though this too whensoever temptation offers, yet—sin in all its varied forms, sin against our GOD, has increased; people have begun to feel that they are treading upon unsafe ground, and the cinders are crumbling from beneath them, and they feel the heat of the fire of the concealed pit, which every nation or Church diggeth for itself, which educates not her children in the nurture and admonition of the LORD; and they from without, who would remedy the evil, seem to have clean forgotten that the education of children was once our office, and would educate human beings as machines in a civil society, not as members of their REDEEMER, and inheritors of heaven; and we, my clerical brethren,[7] in very many cases, are employing our strength in desultory efforts to snatch one here or there out of the flames, instead of making our chief diligence to train our youth in the right way, from which, GOD telleth us, they will, when old, not depart. We are ever behind-hand, ever labouring to recover lost ground, and yet, so long as we make not children our main object, abandoning fresh and hopeful soil to Satan’s tares.

It is as one check to this frightful course, that the Society for educating the children of the poor is a cheering sign. It is not, of course, without its dangers; no Society within the Church can be so safe as the Church, because the one is human, the other is Divine; yet the remedies to those dangers are entrusted to ourselves: the one depends upon our own liberality, the other on the faithfulness of our Ministers. Schools, namely, will not only not be useful, but mischievous, if, from our penuriousness, wishing to have the show of doing much with little cost, we congregate large masses of children together, without adequate superintendence, or take not good heed to whom (in the inferior but important office of schoolmaster) we entrust them, or (to speak plainly) forget in any way that “the labourer is worthy of his hire.” Again, and on this I may especially insist, where so many candidates for Holy Orders are present, schools and education will become a curse instead of a blessing, if the clergy think that their labour is in any way superseded by the existence of schools. Rather, it is augmented, enlarged; a new field is opened to them, and they must follow their LORD’S call, and cultivate His vineyard the more diligently. The power to read giveth not the love of reading GOD’S word; to learn to read is not education; a various knowledge of things of all sorts is not education; “knowledge puffeth up,” and the power of reading, like every other power, is more likely to be abused than to be used aright; the abuse comes more naturally to man’s natural heart than the use; knowledge of all sorts is but a sharp instrument, which whoso learneth not to use aright, will wound himself: instruction by itself is not education, but the whetting only of an appetite, which, as it is taught to feed on what is healthy or unhealthy, will benefit its possessor or destroy him. “The fear of the LORD” is the only education, “the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding.” One may then safely say, that so far from these institutions being any reason why the Parish-Priest should think his labour done, they are chiefly valuable for bringing the lambs of his flock together, where he can most frequently and advantageously tend them; and far better were it that every school in the land were destroyed, than that the Clergy should give over any portion of their office; far better, of course, that the children of the “poor should have no knowledge hut what they receive from “the lips of the priest, who should retain knowledge,” than be abandoned to feed, where they may, in large but barren pastures; far better, that as our Church directs, our children should be diligently catechized, even if they should never learn to read, than that they should be taught to read, and catechizing neglected. “In those parishes in the country,” says Bp. Beveridge,[8] “where few or none can read or say the Catechism themselves, much less teach others to read or say it, is the Minister bound to teach them to read? That is no part of the Ministerial Office. Neither is there any necessity of it. In the first ages of the Church, there were few that could read, yet many were so well instructed in the Faith of Christ, that they cheerfully suffered martyrdom for it. For being taught only necessary things, such as those few contained in our Church Catechism, they soon learned them so, as to be deeply affected with them, and retain them in their hearts as well as heads. To make children understand the Catechism, who cannot read nor were taught it before, will require more time and patience, but it may be done.” “The most useful of all preaching,” says Bp. Hall[9] towards the end of life, “is catechetical; this being the grounds, the other raiseth the walls and roof; this informs the judgment, that stirs up the affections. What good is there of those affections, which run before the judgment? or of those walls which want the foundation? For my part, I have spent the greater half of my life in this station of our holy service, I thank GOD not unpainfully nor unprofitably. But there is no one thing of which I repent so much, as not to have bestowed more hours in this public exercise of catechising, in regard whereof I could quarrel with my very sermons, and wish that a great part of them had been exchanged for this preaching conference. Those other divine discourses enrich the brains and tongue, this settles the heart.” And they who have observed narrowly the evils of the present day, the unsettledness, un-stayedness, ignorance, indifference, supercilious criticism, vagueness of belief, self-willedness, have seen also that they arose from this neglect of our Church’s ordinance to catechise.

Yet need we not fall into either snare; we need neither neglect schools, nor, having them, need we neglect the children collected in them; this need be said in caution only, although as caution, doubtless, there is need of it; lest we, too, should be swept away by the evil torrent of the times, which would teach people much about the things of this world, and little or nothing of the world to come; much about these fleeting things, and little about things eternal; much of what they call “life,” and little about the true life, life everlasting, or HIM Who is our Life; much about the world which perisheth, and little about the Maker thereof—GOD, Who liveth and abideth, and is blessed and blesseth for ever. And what we teach, we must teach according to the truth which GOD has given us, not what every one thinketh to be truth, or is right in his own eyes; we must teach with the authority wherewith we are invested; not that poor barren remnant of truth, which remains over, when the holy truths are set aside which men dispute; but the full, certain truth which HE gave us WHO is the Truth, as well as the Way and the Life, and formed the Church “as the pillar and ground of the truth.” Yet the power to read is a. blessing, if they who are taught it are taught to use it aright, and above all books to love the Book of GOD, and above all knowledge, the knowledge of GOD. In sickness, the power of reading the Bible is a cheering power; health, it may prevent our abusing and forgetting GOD; in loneliness, it makes GOD our companion, and families it binds together; when tottering, it may save us from falling; the fallen, by GOD’S imparted power, may raise up; those who stand may keep upright; by it, GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT converteth (if need be), maketh wise, joyeth, enlighteneth the soul; the brokenhearted it bindeth up; the wounds of sin it gradually healeth; it leadeth men on from strength to strength, and to the dying Christian it opens the everlasting gates, and shows him the golden streets of the heavenly city, and the angels who shall conduct him to Abraham’s bosom. One dare not say more, lest a creature should seem to be praising the word of GOD. It supersedes not the labour of the minister, but it supports the doctrine and exhortation, which out of that word he imparts; prepares them to understand it, and fixes it deeper. The will to use this power we cannot give; yet whatever we can, the means of obtaining such a privilege, and with it, as we trust, the will itself, you are this day called on for.

One might (out of much recent experience) appeal to two instances only, in this very diocese, one where the Minister has catechized (as the Church directs) on each Lord’s Day for twenty-two years, and those who have come out of his school have been gladly received into families, because his school was a sort of pledge that they would be faithful, “not doing eye-service as men-pleasers, but as the servants of CHRIST, doing the will of GOD from the heart.” The other I may name, Ewelme, because he of whom I speak is gone to his rest, and they who witnessed the reverent silent mourning of the children, as his body passed by to its temporary home, will be assured what his fatherly training of these children of his schools was, what a blessing these schools may be; and they who witnessed his schools, or the young communicants of his flock, will easily understand why his loss was so mourned by these little ones.

Much has been done by this Society, considering its limited means: and of the schools built by its aid, the knowledge has come that they have already proved a blessing in the visible improvement of the children there trained. As an irreligious or indifferent education has, as far as it has spread, been a curse to the country, and the most crimes have been committed for some time, not by the ignorant, but by the ill-educated, so have our religious schools been already a visible blessing.

Yet while GOD has not refused His blessing to such efforts as have been made, what has been done hitherto is but a mere fraction of what we should have done; we have fenced in the few, and left abroad the many; and while we have been thus rendering this listless duty,[10] children are year by year growing up, year by year are passing beyond your care; too many years have passed away since this society was established, and each bore along with it its own number of neglected children, beyond our power of recovery, too often, we must fear, (horrible as it is to think of,) to their own everlasting1 destruction, and our great loss and condemnation.

These things should not he; more energetic efforts should be made; not on this day only, but by continued, enlarged contributions, year by year, for each year’s need. If education be a good, this petty, creeping way of advancing it, is not the way to bring down the favour of GOD; if ignorance and idleness be the parents of sin, it is not by these puny efforts that we can recover ground from Satan’s kingdom. If what has been done regularly, has been mainly done by the contributions of some fifty or sixty persons, how much more, were all who are able in this one city to contribute.

Fear not, as is sometimes said, lest you should leave nothing to do for them who come after; were it so, it were a glorious monopoly of service, and praise, and blessedness, to be allowed so to provide for the children of our REDEEMER, as to leave nothing but to maintain what we had done; it was thus our forefathers in old time did for us, and we who praise GOD in these goodly houses, which we builded not, and should not have built, might be careful of thinking much of what we do; but no one who knows any thing of “the depth “of spiritual destitution in this our land, would ever fear that if our charity were twice a hundred fold what it is, we should engross too much to ourselves. Meantime there is that to be done, which our posterity can in no case do—take care of those young plants of the LORD, which are committed to our keeping, which year by year grow wild, after they had been grafted into the True Vine, because we kept them not, and which will be demanded of our hands by the LORD of the vineyard.

Yet it is said, again, “there are now so many calls upon our charity.” In GOD’S mercy there are. HE has put it into the minds of His servants to repair in some degree their past negligence; and so, compared with a little time past, the calls seem to be many: yet there may be a nearer and a more humbling reason. No one can doubt that that disease, which is the last outlet of life to a decaying state, luxury, has been spreading into our very inmost frame; we talk familiarly of states of old time, of Tyre, and Sidon, and Rome, and Sybaris, and Corinth, and Venice, how when they became luxurious their end was approaching; we speak of it, as to them, as a proverb; we doubt not of it any more than that the setting of a sun will bring on the night, or rank weeds will impoverish a soil; and yet we confess of ourselves that we are a luxurious people, that luxury is increasing, spreading every where, that it is taking possession of our land, that we know not how to stem it, and yet are secure, as if what has taken place every where else would not here, as if we were to be an exception to GOD’S dealing.

It may be that GOD has seen some good thing in us, and while HE has been chastising us in different ways during many past years, so in His goodness HE would open to us these blessed channels, whereby we might get rid of the luxury which would destroy us, and be doubly blessed, both in that we gave to HIM, and in that we denied ourselves. It may be, that HE saw that some mighty effort was necessary to break up our inured habits, the laws of luxury and comfort, which we had established for ourselves; the iron yoke of custom, which we wear even while it galls us, because we have not strength to break it through; the hold which Satan gains over us by any admitted evil, and so HE has set before our eyes, in a way in which HE did not set before those of our fathers, the wants of His children, that we may shake off this drowsiness wherein we lie, and open our eyes and see the pit we have digged for our own feet. It may be for this cause, that HE has permitted one branch of the state to forget its duty,[11] and instead of ministering, as it ought, to the needs of the Church, almost to lay sacrilegious hands on that which is not its, but GOD’S; that so being pressed on every side, “in peril by our own countrymen,” we might at last turn to HIM, “break off our sins by repentance, and our iniquities by shewing mercy on the poor,” and giving HIM of His own, before we be called to give account of our stewardship, because we may be no longer “unjust stewards.”[12]

You, who are assembled here this day, have all been educated more or less; you have known the value of that education; the stations you fill, the prosperity wherewith GOD has prospered you, have been mainly owing to His blessing upon it; above all, you will have felt that thereby have you in many cases been saved from falling, or been recovered; that it is by GOD’S guardianship over you, through those to whom HE gave your education, that you are what you are this day, that as many as are so doing, are walking before GOD in the light of the living; that what we are or have is not of ourselves, but the gift of GOD through that education. We shall also recollect, most of us, that in some former thoughtless days, we offended with and caused to offend by idle words, or worse actions, little ones like ourselves; that we abused the gifts which GOD gave us, and joined others in what was sin. This cannot be recalled; the evil which we sowed together, may have had its full, terrible growth in them, though, by GOD’S mercy, checked in us. But the evil which GOD allows us not to repair, HE permits us, in some degree, by greater diligence, to replace; these are also His children; these come here this day as representatives of, and as petitioners for a far larger number, who, in this your county, close at hand, are neglected, and might like these be trained in the ways of GOD, from which we have GOD’S promise they shall not depart. Other labour often brings a slow return; the pains bestowed on children (as all know who have laboured with any faithfulness) yields fruit quickly, abundantly; for they are not yet hardened—they have lately come from their MAKER’S hands, their hearts are open and simple to believe; they hear with believing joy, of the brightness of Heaven, and angels’ purity, a FATHER’S presence, and a REDEEMER’S love, and the indwelling of THE SANCTIFIER; they are ready to bow their tender necks to the cross, and take it on them, as their SAVIOUR did; for their baptismal purity is yet recent, their SAVIOUR has lately taken them into His arms, and blessed them; their angels do behold their FATHER’S presence. To educate children requires but faith to regard them as what they are—children of GOD and members of CHRIST; to treat them in all things as young soldiers of CHRIST; the rest is sight, not faith. In such, then, as these your FATHER would receive your acknowledgment of your debt, in His own guardianship of yourselves; in such as these, your sorrow, if at any time you. have offended any of these little ones. Be this done with faithfulness, and then shall our Church, instead of looking with sorrow at her straying members, be again “a joyful mother of children.” Be this done with self-denial, and ye who have sacrificed of your comforts and your ease, that these little ones may be trained in the ways of holiness, shall doubtless see them again as your “crown and your joy,” at the awful Day; ye shall say in your measure, “Behold, I and the children which GOD hath given me.”

And you, my children, who have the blessing of being thus taught the way of GOD, and the value of your own souls, and how you may please your Heavenly FATHER, and serve HIM for the short time of your life here on earth, and what HE has done for you, and how your SAVIOUR loved you, and laid down His life for you, and what care HE is now taking of each of you, even placing His holy angels to protect you, and HIMSELF blessing you, and how you may come to that happy home where all is joy—you have the more duty, because you know this; GOD has favoured you above many other children, in teaching you these things; and you must love HIM more than others, for you will have to give an account to HIM, what use you have made of what HE has done for you; and they who deny themselves that you may be thus educated, will, if they hear of your good behaviour, be more encouraged to do the same for others also, and grieved if they hear otherwise;” you should pray also for those who have done you this kindness; and hereafter, as we trust, if you go on patiently in well doing, you and they will rejoice together in Heaven; they, that they gave up earthly things for your good, and you at seeing them who wished thus well for you, and both in the everlasting mercy of GOD, Who hath made, redeemed, and sanctified us, and would bring us to His glory.

To HIM, the GOD Which fed us all our lives long, unto this day, and redeemed us from all evil, FATHER, SON, and HOLY GHOST, Three Persons and One GOD, be blessing and glory and wisdom and honour and might for ever and ever. Amen.

[1] Preached in aid of a Diocesan Society, for the Religious Education of the Poor.

[2] Apost. Constit. vi. 15.

[3] This portion of St. Mark’s Gospel is directed to be read in a Pontifical of Poitiers, 900 years old (Assem. Cod. Lit. i. 67); that of St. Matthew in one of Remiremont, 800 years old; as also in our own services of York and Sarum.

[4] Lib. ii. c. 39.

[5] Office for the Ordination of Deacons.

[6] Rubric at the end of the Catechism.

[7] Preached where many clergy were present.

[8] Church Catechism, Postscript, p. 161, ed. 2.

[9] Dedication to the “Old religion.”

[10] Preached before the late effort of the Church, to extend education on a larger and higher scale.

[11] Preached while the State refused to assist in Church-education. It has been retained, since we are always too ready to forget the blessedness of adversity. The withdrawal of man’s help is now felt to have been a great blessing to our Church. It taught her anew (if she but forget it not) her true strength, dependence upon her Lord.

[12] Local references, here and elsewhere, are mostly omitted.