DIOCESES OF ARGYLL AND THE ISLES.
R. GRANT & SON, 82, PRINCE'S STREET.
LONDON: F. & J. RIVINGTON.
DEAR BRETHREN IN THE LORD,
We meet for a solemn purpose, and under very solemn and awakening circumstances.
We meet to hold the first Synod of the Revived and now United Dioceses of Argyll and the Isles.
We meet to carry out the intentions of our late and venerated diocesan, David, Bishop of Moray and Ross, who, under God, was the means of our diocese attaining to its present independent position.
We meet for the Work of God, for the Promotion of His Glory, by the more abundant Salvation of Men; this is the great purpose and intention of our meeting; may God, the Ever-Blessed, give us Grace to bear this in mind, and strength to carry it out.
We meet for the Work of God. Ere proceeding to that work, my brethren, our first duty, perhaps, will be, to ascertain whether we ourselves are duly called thereto.
We may discover this in various ways. Perhaps [5/6] the most easy will be, by discerning the motives which led us to, and keep us in, the ministry. These have been well stated by the Reformer Calvin, who, whatever we may think of his judgment on other points, was unquestionably right in this,--
"Est autem bonum cordis nostri testimonium quod neque ambitione neque avaritia neque ulla alia cupiditate, sed, sincero Dei timore, et aedificandae Ecclesiae studio, oblatum munus recipiamus."
Nothing else, my brethren, than a desire for the greater Glory of God, and the more abundant Salvation of Men, is motive sufficient for the undertaking of the ministry. If it was this which led us to undertake the ministry, and leads us to continue in our ministerial office, as the motive is sufficient, we cannot doubt but that we are called; and as to the ministry, so to the especial work before us in this place.
God needeth none of us, however, to accomplish His purposes. He saveth not by many, nor by few; numbers, or particular instrumentality, are nothing unto Him; if He vouchsafes to use instrumentality, he will only use instrumentality fitted for His purpose. If His purpose be the promotion of His own Glory by the Salvation of Men, He will employ such instruments alone as will effect this object.
If this be His object here, he will employ such only as have this object at their heart. We can only co-operate, my Brethren, in this God's work, and are only called thereto when our objects and intentions [6/7] are the same as His. Let us not, Uzzah like, put forth improper or unbidden hands.
Our situation, my brethren, as Ministers of the Gospel, is a solemn one. We are ever, as it were, within the house of God. If our objects and occupations be other than the objects and occupations of that house, we are where we ought not to be.
In the Gospel according to St Mark, we read (chap. xi.), that the Lord, shortly before he was betrayed, went into the Temple in Jerusalem, and that when He had looked around upon all things, He departed; but that, on the morrow, He returned, and, having made a scourge of cords, entered again into the building, and cast out those that bought and sold in the Temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the Temple. By this we learn, that if we, being in the House of God, have any objects there, other than the objects of that house, we are not where we ought to be, and had better be elsewhere. Let us judge ourselves, my brethren, that we be not judged of the Lord.
Let us not set ourselves to a work, or retain an office to which we are not duly called; to which we are not duly called if we have other objects than the great objects of the Ministry, and House of God. Our Lord may now be looking round on us, purposing to judge and to return, to return and cleanse His temple by our expulsion if we judge not, and, if need [7/8] be, condemn not ourselves. But if we can settle in our hearts, my brethren, and are fully persuaded in our own minds, that our motives are, in the main, what they ought to be, in our acceptance of and continuance in the ministry, let us proceed to contemplate the special work which is before us in this place, and let us first acquire a clear conception of its nature, and the means whereby it may be best accomplished.
The special work which is before us in this place, my Brethren, is contained in the great object of the Christian ministry, and is to be accomplished by the same means whereby they are accomplished.
The great object of the Christian Ministry, we all know, to be the promotion of the Glory of God by the more abundant salvation of men, and that this object is to be accomplished only by the promulgation of the Gospel of Christ Jesus.
To attain our object, the promotion of the Glory of God by the more abundant salvation of men, our means is unmistakeable. It is the promulgation of the Gospel, or good news of Christ Jesus. The good news is to be the key-note, and keystone of our ministry. We are to be anointed, and anoint others, with that oil of gladness; "God in Christ reconciling a guilty world unto himself not imputing its trespasses unto it."
We are to manifest God in Christ, suffering for man, that man, by such suffering, might be forgiven and sanctified.
 To use a mean such as this aright, my Brethren, it is obvious, that they who use it must have knowledge and experience of its power and nature. We cannot speak of that we have seen and heard, if we have seen and heard nothing. If we have any doubt as to our ministerial vocation, let this test suffice--Has Jesus Christ been so revealed in our hearts as to enable us to set him before others?
Be not afraid, my brethren, that a ministry whose chief topic is "the good news," will lead unto licentiousness. So far is this from being the case, that experience proves that nothing but the Gospel leadeth to obedience. St Paul insists upon it as the crowning argument--"I beseech you," says he, "by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies living sacrifices;" and, "Be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake bath forgiven you."
Nothing but love ensureth godly working, and nothing but the Gospel giveth godly love. Works, pleasing in themselves, and acceptable unto God, are produced only by loving hearts, and such can come but through the belief of the Gospel of Christ: through the belief that God in Christ accepts us freely on the ground of the merits of His Son, without merit or distinction on our part. Where this motive is, there is love, and where there is love there is work. Believe me that without this motive, there is no love, and without love, no obedience, no work or obedience rightly so called. Believe me that he who has this [9/10] motive, works as he who has not this motive cannot work, i. e. the works of God. No motive but the Gospel motive leads to godly work, or to right obedience, as, sayeth St Augustine, "Lex non evacuatur, sed statuitur per fidem, quia fides impetrat Gratiam qua lex impleatur."
If the Gospel, my Brethren, seems to be proclaimed and received, and good works do not follow, we must believe either that it has been imperfectly declared, or that it has been imperfectly comprehended, and not that God has given us an instrument incapable of accomplishing the objects for which He designed it. The Gospel is perfect in itself, and infallible in its accomplishment of the purposes for which it was sent. We can only frustrate its purposes by using it imperfectly, or rejecting the instrument.
Be not afraid of the Gospel of Christ, it is alone the power of God unto salvation. If any of us have hitherto failed in attaining the ends of our ministry, let us consider whether we have used the proper mean, and used it exclusively or aright. Woe unto us if we preach not the Gospel! It is our commission to do so. Woe to us if it be not the Gospel which we preach. Nothing else but the Gospel will attain the end of our vocation.
Let us, however, preach it as leading to morality. Religion, my Brethren, does not, properly speaking, consist in morality, but a religion which does not lead to it is valueless. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is no such religion, it ever leads, when properly set forth [10/11] and received, to true morality. Yea, true morality is indeed obtainable in no other way. Ye cannot preach the Gospel aright without enjoining morality; the Gospel cannot be received aright without good works following; fear not to preach the Gospel as the cause, fear not to enjoin morality as the consequence. Morality as the fruit of faith ye cannot enjoin too earnestly; confound not, however, the result with that which produces it. Remember the aphorism of Augustine,--"Per fidem venitur ad opera, non per opera venitur ad fidem." Exalt morality, enjoin true labour. Only beware of exalting the labour and morality of the Fakeer.
There is, perhaps, no desire nearer to our hearts, my Brethren, than the elevation and increase of that branch of the Church to which we belong. We have it in our power to contribute much towards this object. Our most effectual means will be the exaltation of our Lord and Master, and personal righteousness. This mean may not appear so speedy, or visible, in its operation, as some others, but it is more real and permanent in its effects. It has the authority of the Word of God to ensure its success. Righteousness, it is written, exalteth a nation, and whoso honoureth me I will honour, saith our Lord. The means I have recommended contains the substance of our religion, and doubtless, in desiring the exaltation of our communion, it is the exaltation of the substance of religion which we have at heart. No Christian minister can seriously propose to himself the [11/12] exaltation of aught else. We may, by exalting other things, render our communion distinguished by such exaltation, but we do not elevate it thereby in that wherein it ought to be elevated; we do not elevate it thereby in the substantials of Christianity, and such false elevation ought not to be desired, neither will it continue to benefit long. For it is to the Church, as making prominent the confession,--"Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," that triumph and exaltation are promised over opposition, and if this be not our distinguishing mark, we shall not be exalted long. Let us be chiefly occupied with the substance of religion, and, doubtless, we shall exalt the communion wherein we labour,--wherein we labour, because we believe the substance of religion is contained therein.
We are to deal with the great and substantial verities of religion; those truths which are in accordance with the analogy of faith and the general tenor of Scripture. We are to avoid subjects, not of this sort, subjects not clearly in accordance with the analogy of faith and the general tenor of Scripture, subjects only deducible by probable inference from particular texts of Scripture; and especially must we avoid teaching as the revelation of God, that which we have gathered only from the traditions of men.
As such things are not the things which the ambassadors of Jesus Christ are commissioned to offer to the world, so the world will not receive such things when offered by their hands. The world knows what [12/13] things the ambassadors of Jesus Christ are commissioned to offer, although it may not desire them; and when the grace of God prompts it to desire them, nothing other and nothing less will satisfy it from their hands.
In the language of commerce, provide a good article, provide the right thing, and you will have demand enough. The apostles, although persecuted, never wanted hearers.
Further, if the world, by the grace of God, is led to seek spiritual food, and finds it not where it ought to be found, it will seek until it finds it, and rest wherever that may be, wherever that which has the nourishment, if not the proper aspect of food, seems to be discovered. As saith the saintly Bishop Horne, "If the people hear not the Gospel from our pulpits, where they expect to hear it, they are tempted to wander in search of it to other places of worship."
If our minds and discourses, my Brethren, are set on things which are apart from the chief verities of our religion, we may amuse but shall not save our people; and I question if a continuance of such things will detain, as it cannot satisfy, immortal souls.
Let us deal with the substance, not the accidents of our faith. Let ministers give themselves to the ministry of the word and prayer, and leave other things to those they more concern.
The very erection of churches is but a secondary, a very secondary, not primary, part of the ministerial office. For we are set to communicate that which [13/14] giveth spiritual life, and that which giveth spiritual life must always be of the nature of spirit. We are to beget our people again with the word of life, we are to afford subject-matter for the Divine Spirit to operate on, when he illuminates the eyes of our people, to put forth a scene for them to see, when the light from above is shed abroad upon them; we are to deal in causes, not in effects; we are to implant motives, rather than to provide results.
Now, a material fabric is always a result.
The churches which cover Christendom are the effects of causes, not causes in themselves, they are the effects of causes which preceded them; like causes, wherever they exist, will always produce like effects, but can never themselves be produced by their effects. Let us be occupied, my Brethren, with such causes, and doubt not that they will be followed by such effects. Let us communicate spiritual life, and doubt not that it will be followed by its appropriate consequence, material labour.
Let us give ourselves to spiritual things and the material effect will follow,--will follow from the hands from which it ought to follow, from the hands of those in whom we, by our office, have implanted or developed the divine life,. the nod-ministerial portion of the Church--the laity.
Exalt the head, my Brethren, and in every way the body will be exalted. Even on so low a ground as making provision for the ministry, this is the most successful course. He who evidently forgets his own [14/15] in the things of Jesus Christ, will always have larger provision than he who does the reverse. Who that has tasted of the heavenly gift, and the powers of the world to come, and try foretaste been partaker of its joys, could look upon the pastor by whose hand he had received such blessings, and leave him in want of worldly comforts: If we feed our flocks, my Brethren, they will feed us. If we feed not our flocks, neither will they feed us. And we are set to feed our flocks, not to feed ourselves off them. There are, however, trials on this head peculiar to the ministry; and one, I may say, peculiar to the ministry of our communion; a trial which does not exist so much in this, as in other Dioceses of our Church. I allude to the riches of our people, and the fact that they are but little employed for the furtherance of the ministry. Much of this trial we owe to our own supineness, much to the uncertain position of our Church, but most of all to the fact that the rich are far from the kingdom of God. Not that there is in riches anything incompatible with "the kingdom," but there is that in the possession of riches which, setting their possessor above the exercise of faith for his daily bread, removeth him in so far from that which is the life of that kingdom, and which, making him comfortable here, disinclines him from making a provision for any thing hereafter.
The two first causes of the trial of which we speak, we have it in our power to do much to remove. The last is but in the power of God. A power doubtless, [15/16] however, to be exercised in our favour at our request. Let it be our constant prayer that he will, my Brethren, help us in this respect.
Some trials incidental to the ministry, and trials peculiar to the present day, we escape here from the nature of the position we are called upon to occupy, and most of us are engaged in the care of large, ignorant, and scattered flocks. And our chief work is to seek and to save the lost, to lay hold of and minister unto perishing souls, and as we can effect this only by constant and unvarying labour, by attention to our common duties, we are delivered from some of the most dangerous trials of the present time. And first, from what I may call a dilletante religion, or a discharge of its duties in a shadowy, unreal, representative, or amateur way: a temptation under which many have fallen. Here, my Brethren, we cannot treat religion as a matter of elegant amusement or theatrical show, or as an imitation of early Christianity, or as a matter dependent on antiquarian accuracy, or architectural design. The pressure of evident and crying duty, the care of perishing souls, delivers us from these and similar temptations, as it might have delivered others in the ministry, whom the want of such absolute and unmistakeable work has given up to the enemy. Our great temptation is to discharge our common and primary duties in a negligent, slovenly, or perfunctory manner. Be on your guard, my Brethren, against this temptation; it is my office and duty to warn you against this snare. [16/17] Remember my Brethren, that the lists of figures you annually present to me, as representing the amounts of your various congregations, represent an amount of immortal souls, and of souls under your care, souls for which one day you must give an account, souls of which you have the cure, souls which if not cured are lost. Remember that your services do nothing unless they save your people, that if carelessly performed they do not save yourselves. Content not yourselves with reading or preaching over your people; deal with them privately and individually, as well as collectively and in public. While conversing with them on worldly topics, do not forget the heavenly, and remember that your business with them respects the things of eternity, not of time. Be not put off with commonplaces and trifling words in your conversations with them; remind them that there is more between you and them than such things, and that you cannot be satisfied, nor they safe, until such be attended to. Scrutinize the moral condition of your flock. Remember that if any perish from moral disorder, you are responsible for the loss. If you dislike the responsibility, there is no need ye should bear it; but so long as ye undertake the pastoral office, you must bear the pastoral burden. Remember that your word and deed is the rule and beacon of your flock. Ye are the light of the world; if the light which is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness! You are not only going to perdition yourselves, but dragging thither others with you. It is [17/18] impossible you can be too careful or scrupulous, my Brethren, in your attention to the public services of the Church, whether as to rubrical strictness, correctness, and manner of delivery, or as to punctuality in attention to the fixed times appointed for divine service. Observe in your places of worship the services for the fasts and festivals of the Church, wherever it is possible, and there are few cases wherein it is impossible.
Frequently administer the holy Communion; not less frequently than six times in the year, and oftener if in your power.
Baptize, as a rule, in public. Endeavour to raise the standards of chanting and singing in your Churches.
Set the example in yourselves of teaching in your Sunday Schools, and frequently visit your daily Schools.
Be exact and regular in keeping the Registers of your Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, and have the Register Books ready for inspection on every Visitation of the Bishop.
Endeavour to introduce Family Prayer into those families in your congregations where it does not already exist, and where it does, seek to elevate and sustain its character.
There is much to be done, my Brethren, in our Diocese, in the way of providing additional pastors, schoolmasters, and schoolmistresses, churches, parsonage, and school-houses, bibles, and prayer-books; much which cannot be accomplished speedily, or with our present means; but in time, and with a [18/19] blessing upon us, many of these things we hope will be attained. I have began a Fund, the Highland and Island Episcopal Fund, for the furtherance of such objects, a bond which is still, however, but in its early infancy. It will ever lie much at my heart, my Brethren, in every way in my power to assist and help forward the Clergy of the Diocese over which the will of God has placed me; especially those who are most distinguished for zeal and self-denial in their Master's cause.
There is a snare, my Brethren, against which I would warn you ere I have done,--the snare and danger of party spirit, a temptation to which we are all more or lees exposed, from the discussions of the day. Party spirit is a great evil in itself, my Brethren, and highly demoralizing in its consequences. On such vast and complicated subjects as are embraced by the holy ministry, it is impossible that all, although they may agree as to the truth of the various doctrines of our faith, should agree as to the relative importance which ought to be assigned to them severally. There must always be, as there always has been, difference of opinion on this score, among the Clergy of the Church. Now, although I would not, even for the sake of peace, have any man change his opinion without conscientious conviction; yet I would have every clergyman who differs with another in the Diocese always to remember, that his adversary is probably as sincere and conscientious in his opinion [19/20] as he is himself; and that if such an one be bitter in his opposition, his bitterness arises from no personal motive, but from the belief that the opinions which he himself holds are those alone which are important, or even salutary to be holden, and that such an one is bitter against his adversary, simply because he deems the opinion of his adversary hurtful or destructive; and if he cannot, therefore, agree in opinion with his adversary, yet that he ought not to entertain or encourage party work or party feeling against him. It is love for good, yea good for the Brethren, which makes men have bitterness against each other, wherever such bitterness exists from differences on religious questions. Remember this, my Brethren, and forgive your brother his bitterness against you. If such exists, forgive, yea love him. Love him for his very bitterness, when you consider its cause. Ah! it is ignorance which keeps us apart from one another, and from God. All of us who love the Lord Jesus Christ shall meet one day, and find that most of our contentions in the Church have been unnecessary and uncalled for; that we hate been contending, indeed, for the same thing, from different points of view. It is part of our imperfection here that we should be divided. It will be part of our perfection in Heaven to be all of one mind. Until then, convince your brother if you can. If you cannot, let brotherly love continue.
In conclusion, what I have said unto you, my [20/21] Brethren, I desire to take unto myself. If any of the sayings I have used were hard, I seek not to escape from the hardest of them. Brethren, if your task is stern, mine is sterner still. I have not only a particular church, but "the care of all the churches." If any of you are what you ought not to be, and the flock suffer in consequence, it is I who first of all must bear the burden. For I am set "to provide able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness." "Non quaerentes, quae sint hominum, sed homines." And if I provide not such, or if I tolerate others, I pervert my responsible and awful office. When you consider my office and responsibility, you will forgive me when I speak so plainly as I do. If I have hurt unnecessarily the feelings of any one, I pray to be forgiven by him. If I speak authoritatively, let my office excuse and justify it. I am well aware that were it not my office to teach I should sit with great advantage at the feet of many who are here to learn.
Indeed, my Brethren, our labour and responsibilities are great, our duties hard. The world, the flesh, and the devil are against us. All is contrary to us but our God. Blessed and happy are we, however, in having him; for if he be for us, what signifies opposition; and if our work is hard, we know that we have not an hard master; and if our pastoral responsibility is great, is it greater than if we were not pastors, that is, supposing we have been called thereto by a divine vocation, by a revelation of Christ in our [21/22] hearts; and I trust that none have taken the office without such heavenly call. When we tasted the heavenly gift and sweet constraint of the love of Jesus, and were moved to communicate the fire within to those around us, should we not have greatly erred by refraining from doing so? Should we not have extinguished the fire within ourselves, and should we not so have perished; and have we not saved ourselves, and done our duty by doing the reverse, by testifying of that we have seen and heard? We cannot save ourselves without saving or endeavouring to save others; and, if so, does the formal assumption of the pastoral care by outward call add to our danger or responsibility? Does it not help to remove such by urging us forward; continuing us, and strengthening us in obedience to that divine vocation, which, if we neglect or extinguish we perish? Both from the nature of the case and direct decree, I cannot think that the man divinely called increases his responsibility or risk by becoming an accredited ambassador; I cannot say with Chrysostom, Qaumazw, ei tina esti twn arcontwn swqhnai.
I think risk and responsibility are ran by those only who refuse the office when divinely called, or who assume it to themselves without divine vocation, and not by those who, being called, discharge (it may be imperfectly) the work imposed upon them.
If any one feel himself divinely moved to embrace the ministry, assuredly there is in our communion, my Brethren, an abundant and inviting field presented [22/23] to his labours. The theory of our church is all but perfect; and it cannot but be evident to those conversant with the condition of Scotland, that a wide scope is presented for a ministry such as ours. Without praising unconditionally the faith and labours of the Presbyterian bodies, which regard for my own views of truth would prevent, and without again condemning them, which respect for them, and dread to sin against the Holy Ghost, would equally forbid, I may say, that a church which presents, as does ours and our sister church of England, the means for teaching with authority such as Presbyterian bodies do not possess, and which enforces morality with greater earnestness than perhaps Calvinistic doctrine either enjoins or permits, has a very wide and encouraging scene presented to his labours. And if, in addition, such communion should provide, as ours might easily provide, a sanctuary where the soul could shelter from party quarrels and causeless strife, in holy doctrine and devout repose, it is not too much to say that, in the present religious state of Scotland, such communion would draw within its pale the great bulk of the educated in the kingdom.
To revert, my Brethren especially to ourselves, and to our present position here, I would venture, ere we part, one word of exhortation. Let us not, in dwelling on our responsibilities as ministers, forget our consolations. Let us not dwell entirely, or even chiefly, on the hardness of our warfare. Let us also, and more particularly, consider its encouragements. We [23/24] toil, but while the world is toiling after what it shall eat, and what it shall drink, and what it shall put on, our toil is for better and more endurable things. While the world toils for that which, when attained, must eventually be taken away, we toil for that which, once in our possession, can never cease to be ours. And while the world from its toil is made con. versant with that with which, the more it is conversant the more it becomes debased, we, from our toil, are made conversant with that with which, the more we are occupied, the more we are exalted. We are engaged in a work which, come what may, is the right thing to be engaged in, which ever rises to the surface, and which, bearing us with it, ever makes us conquerors over all below. A work which is not diminished, but is developed and magnified by earthly losses, disappointments, pains; which, come sickness, come death, come Jesus Christ himself is that which we would be doing at such arrivals. Our subject, object, all, my Brethren, is God. Morning, mid-day, night, our atmosphere is God. In him we live, and move, and have our being. Our business, object, life, are his. Nothing less than God is our vocation. It is the Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth, God of God, Light of Light, that we have to deal with; we live upon the earth to act for and represent Him. Can words adequately manifest our position? No more than they can represent Him by whose divine glory we are illuminated and absorbed. We labour not for the meat that perisheth, because [24/25] we have other and more enduring substance. We toil not for that which we put on, because we have raiment which exceedeth all fullers' power in whiteness. To us who live is Christ, to die, gain--in him all things are ours--in him we abound--our God supplying all our needs. Who, my Brethren, that has felt the divine sweetness which the Holy Spirit breatheth from the Son, could be other, if so permitted, than his ambassador. Who that has not felt such breath would dare to be one? Who then, my Brethren, who has felt the divine call, whereby the Spirit selects ambassadors for Christ, would think of choosing for himself another vocation; and who that has not felt that call would dare to be that in profession, which he must be conscious that he is not in reality.
Oh! what glory and pleasure is it to be Christ's minister--to be employed by God and for God. What office or occupation can compete with ours?--with ours which reaches on from this life to and through the ages of eternity! What signifies, my Brethren, any occasional hardness. Yea, what is of any consequence in comparison to our work? Shall we speak of the responsibilities or hardships of the ministry? Ah! no, what are they? What is their importance--what their danger--if the call be God's, and he be with us! And is he not with us in his own work? Ah! that such as we should be the ministers of Jesus Christ. That any of us can look to Heaven's God, and say, "Whose I am, and whom [25/26] I serve." We may, if we choose, refuse, but who that knows that name would refuse to be a minister of Jesus Christ, or would do other at his call than cry Lord, "Here am I, send me." "Come Lord Jesus, come quickly, and find us in thy work." Amen.