Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.--II EP ST JOHN, 8
THE Providence of GOD, has brought us to a dark and trying moment, and I pray that our strength may be as our day. It is a day of blasphemy and rebuke: the whole land mourns; widows are multiplied; our young men perish in the field; children are fatherless; all joy is darkened, all pleasant pictures are discoloured; we are learning what that means which is written--"sin is a reproach to any people."
Alas! that the overflowings of ungodliness should come up to the mount of GOD, and defile the sanctuary. Christian flocks are scattered; their priests sigh. The venerable and the aged are had in dishonour, and they that sit in the seat of the elders are made the song of the drunkards. Such is the evil time on which we have fallen; and may the LORD restrain the remainder of wrath, that we perish not!
Amid such wide-spread calamities, I must consent to take my share of sufferings. I cannot complain that my plough stops in the mid-furrow; that my work among you is brought to an abrupt and unnatural conclusion. In fact, I feel more burdened with blessings than with sorrows; and my heart is full, beyond the powers of utterance, at this moment, with a sense of gratitude and love to those whom I now address for the last time, as their pastor. How shall I address you? It was my desire to avoid all special references, and to close up [3/4] my labours with little that differs from an ordinary sermon. If I have decided, however, on meeting all the responsibilities of the occasion, and saying to you what I feel that fidelity to my Master requires, I make the effort, in the fullness of affection, and shall say nothing that I have not long and earnestly considered--nothing, save as "speaking the truth in love."
The text, whether addressed to a noble lady and her children, or rather to a Christian Church, under this beautiful figure, is an exhortation precisely in point. It specially refers to duties growing out of past relations, and shows that they cannot be declined without peril and forfeit. It shows what new incentives to zeal and holiness are given to the people, when their wonted supports are withdrawn, and when the counsels and labours of their pastors cease. I have deeply felt the critical circumstances in which you are now placed, as a congregation, and which your duty to GOD obliges you to meet in the pure spirit of devotion to His glory. My object is to make you feel that your duty should be the only question; that you should act, as to the LORD, and not to men; that no partiality and no aversion should lead you to withdraw your help; that your love to the Master should now be exhibited with little comparative interest in men; that you should recognize, in short, a rare opportunity, of glorifying GOD, by constancy, patience, and perseverance; by showing yourselves superior to caprice and feeling, and influenced only by the spirit which lead Saul of Tarsus to cry out--"Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do. Light may be thrown upon such an inquiry, by further examination of the text.
Short as this epistle is, it is full of the Apostle's characteristic themes--truth and love. St John is the Boanerges of doctrine, and yet the very angel of charity. It is with a parallel reference, therefore, to doctrine, and practical piety, that [4/5] he says, "look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward."
This text has been chosen for an occasion too trying and too real for the indulgence of sentimental reflections, and I come at once to the point of your high responsibilities.
1. Look well to yourselves as to the Faith. On this the Apostle insists, primarily. Asserting the fundamental verity of "GOD manifest in the flesh," he adds--"if there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed." Small indeed seems our danger, in this respect. Yet, among all the evils of our time, it is evident that new perils beset the faith. The Holy Scriptures are betrayed with a kiss, as was the LORD of whom they testify I take you to record, this day, that in this respect, I am pure from the blood of all men. Would to GOD that in all respects, I might be able to say as much! With deep searchings of heart, I feel my faults this day, to be great; and I cast myself on GOD'S mercy only, as an unprofitable servant; but, this at least is my rejoicing, that I have never handled the Word of GOD deceitfully, nor omitted opportunities of helping you to search and to know the Scriptures I have taught you to regard them as instinct with life, and with a life-giving efficacy: as full of inspiration; as sacred and sacramental; as able to make you "wise unto salvation." The correlative offices of the Church, as their witness and keeper, and of the Creeds as their master-key, have indeed been insisted upon: but the Scriptures, and in a grand sense, nothing but the Scriptures, have been preached to you by me, as the testimony of JESUS. Bear me witness, and never forget it, that to make you love the Scriptures has been my constant effort On this I have rested my hopes of success in saving souls With young and old; in season and out of season; I have taught you the [5/6] Word of GOD. The Old Testament and the New: the Law and the Prophets; the Psalms and the Gospels, the Ethical books and the Apocalypse; and these, from the pulpit and from house to house; in the chapel and in the church; in classes and in the great congregation; in catechizings, and in every other way which I could suppose profitable to your salvation--I have taught, not with worldly wisdom, but in the spirit, and by the guidance, of the Bride of CHRIST, the Church of the Living GOD. I do not speak as if I were singular in all this; on the contrary, such is the characteristic teaching of our Clergy. But, my greatest comfort before Gal, this day, is based on these honest endeavours to make you love His truth, and in my confidence that GOD'S Word shall never return unto Him void So then, I have preached CHRIST and Him crucified, and have known nothing else among you If you have profited by this teaching, "Look to yourselves, that ye lose not the things ye have wrought." We are rewarded as we go on towards heaven, by a peace which passeth knowledge, but the "full reward" is salvation Some of your children whom I have catechized will live to proclaim the same gospel: and, on many a dying pillow shall words of faith and of triumphant hope attest that it is the one thing needful to know the exceeding great and precious promises which are given us in CHRIST, and in His Holy Gospel.
2 When the Apostle comes to the duty of Christian Love, he says--"and this is Love, that we walk after His commandments." How practical then is charity; and how poor a thing when it expires in sentiment and is not wrought out, according to the precepts of Him, Who is the Love of Gon, manifested to men! Now, the precepts of CHRIST with respect to the unity and fellowship of Christians are of two [6/7] sorts: those which assert the authority of His ministers, and those which enforce the brotherhood of all believers.
We know very well that peace and harmony spring from order, and that Got, is not the author of confusion. We also recognize, in our bishops and pastors, the authority of CHRIST, who sends them. All peace and unity in the Church spring out of this order which the LORD has been pleased to establish, giving "authority to His ministers, and to every man his work." This authority is not arbitrary, but limited; and the Canons of the Church define its metes and bounds, according to the Scriptures, and after the conscientious example of the primitive Church. The Clergy can never become irresponsible nor oppressive under these constitutions; certainly not while they continue, as in our Church, to be in some respects, the most dependent and defenceless of men. But are they such? Yes, in human estimation; and GOD'S providence often permits them to feel that it is so, in fact. But, honourable men feel that this defencelessness is their strength: it is cowardly to assail them; and few are ambitious of being remembered as is Captain Horne who persecuted the holy Bishop Wilson, or Alexander the coppersmith who wrought much evil to St. Paul.
If I refer to such matters, it is because of the perils of the times. I beseech you to remember these things, and to warn others concerning them. Beware of religious faction. Remember "the gainsaying of Core." It is a day of almost unexampled insubordination. Nothing is sacred; nothing is reverenced; nobody obeys. Even children mock their parents; and it is obsolete to expect of them that they will "order themselves lowly and reverently to all their betters." Who are their betters? They are not carefully taught to "submit themselves to all their governors, teachers, spiritual pastors and masters;" and no wonder [7/8] that they grow up little disposed to "love, honour and succour their father and mother." These are awful signs of the times: and, as Christian duties are all connected, I trace them to the just judgments of GOD, on a wide-spread contempt for the precepts which CHRIST has given respecting His own authority in the Christian Ministry.
What are these precepts? They all spring from the Great Commission--"As my Father hath sent Me, even so send I you." I have said the Clergy are defenceless; and so said CHRIST, when He sent them forth "as lambs among wolves." But He has assumed their defence, and identified Himself with them. He knew they must have their treasures in earthen vessels, and that they would show the infirmities of men; and yet He said to them--"He that despiseth you, despiseth Me: and to the people He said--"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves, for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account." Yea, "He rebuked even kings for their sake, and said touch not mine anointed and do my prophets no harm." Such are only some of the defences wherewith CHRIST had invested his humblest minister; and so long as he is faithful to his trust, it is sacrilege to hinder him in his work, or needlessly to grieve and afflict him. As a general rule, to injure a bishop or pastor is also to scandalize a flock, and to destroy souls. If therefore, it is written "wo unto them by whom offences come," and if to offend against even "one of the little ones which believe in CHRIST," is a sacrilege so terribly to be punished-what must it be to "despise governments" in the Church, and to "speak evil of dignities?"
These principles justify my own course, brethren, as being "a man under authority." I have sworn to obey my bishop, "following with a glad mind and will his godly admonitions:" and I have felt it a special obligation, in a day when [8/9] society seems to be dissolving, to show you that I dare not even seem to despise the government which is over me in the LORD. These never was an opportunity so precious, given us, as Churchmen, to show that our principles are realities, and that we know how to reverence the gift that is in our bishops, as "the angels of the Churches, and the glory of CHRIST." Such is their official description, and I would incur peril of plague or pestilence, sooner than I would dishonor CHRIST in them, or risk the awful retributions which are wont to follow such contempt of GOD. But, I am not retreating into a profession of bare official respect I love my bishop, and reverence him personally. I have never insulted him by fawning or flattery, but, I owe him a great debt of love and gratitude, and I rejoice to proclaim it. I bless GOD that I have been his presbyter, but yet more, that I once sat at his feet in our school of the prophets To say that he is not a whit behind his mitred brethren, and that he stands among the first in the Universal Episcopate, is but to repeat the long familiar boast of the Diocese, which, under GOD, he has made his monument. But I cannot retire from his charge without this renewal of my filial allegiance, nor without bearing my testimony to the patience and humility, which, under his overwhelming sorrows, have shed new lustre on his name, and which have adorned his apostolic head with the halo of a faithful confessor.
3. The next point is that of mutual forbearance, and consideration the love or charity on which St John insisted to his dying day Without moderation, society must dissolve: bat, the Church's vital air is charity. By being just to the virtues of those whose faults we deplore by not expecting angelic perfections from poor human nature, by allowing men to be illogical, when we see that they are over mastered by feelings; by considering the case of those whose hearts are enlisted by the exposure and sufferings of near friends, or nearest [9/10] kindred; and by reflecting on the love of CHRIST, which is so tasked to accept any of us in all our daily infirmities, that it is a wonder that any one is saved--by such principles we shall learn to be kind to one another, to "be pitiful, to be courteous." Let me quote those whom we all respect and love, our Southern Bishops, in their late pastoral letter. Speaking of others, they say--"whatever may be their aspect towards us, politically, we cannot forget that they rejoice with us in the one LORD, the one faith, the one baptism, the one Gov and Father of all." These are golden words, and worthy of Apostles. God forbid that they should fail to meet the warmest practical response from all who love the LORD JESUS CHRIST in sincerity!
If this spirit shall prevail among you, it will make you neither barren nor unfruitful Why then should there be any talk of withdrawing: of leaving this sacred place and all its blest associations of going, one hither, and another thither, directed by personal feelings, and not by firm and holy principle, which does everything as to CHRIST, and not to man? Now is the time to show the power of Christian faith, and to overcome evil with good. Local schisms are often the beginning of vast ruptures For three whole years, night and day, with tears, St Paul warned the Church at Ephesus, against the evils that threatened them on his departure, and against the grievous wolves that should assail the flock. So in my humble degree, but in the same spirit, I warn you. A Church is not planted for men, nor for a day, nor for a generation. Such a church as this is an institution for all time It is fraught with blessings for unborn generations. Men are shadows that come and go. Be it Paul, be it Apollos, these are but servants: the master of the house is CHRIST To desert Him when His cause has need of you, involves a great responsibility. It would be the part of madness, or of childish [10/11] frivolity, to pull down what it has taken so long a time to build and what the LORD has made so great a blessing to the city of Baltimore, and to the whole Church
Let me remind you of the sacred interests connected with Grace Church; interests which must suffer if you fail to stand together, and which cannot be impaired without inflicting much injury on the souls and bodies of others. To say nothing of the general Missions and Institutions of the Church, which have begun to depend on you for considerable aid, think of your immediate sphere and position Think of your local charities; of the poor who besiege the doors of the chapel every week, of the schools of St Barnabas, your darling work; of the effort here begun so successfully among Deaf-Mutes, of your responsibility for the Church-Home. for our Sunday-Schools, white and coloured, and for that noble offspring of faith and perseverance, the College of St James. Oh! what hopes I have cherished with respect to all these, and more that might be named, interests most precious to the Diocese, to the parish, and to the souls of men Among the fruitful sister-churches of Maryland, you have borne your part heretofore. Got) is not unrighteous to forget it, but now, "look to yourselves, that we lose riot those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward."
If I retire from my own share in all this, you know it is for your sake It is sometimes the case that a pastor cannot remain in his accustomed place, without dividing his flock, and becoming the subject of personal controversy This is one of the worst evils that can befall a congregation. The Master's cause is forgotten in that of the man, and the strife soon exhausts all the, forces which ought to be concentrated upon nobler ends My mind is made up, that some one who has not been identified with the melancholy history of Baltimore for the past two years is now needed in my [11/12] place. May the LORD send you a shepherd after His own heart, and grant that your future may be, in every way, richer and more blessed than the past
Let it ever be gratefully remembered that this church owes its existence to that beloved man of GOD, the bishop of North-Carolina. On his foundation, I was called to build, and with what degree of' success I have laboured, it becomes me not to say If any man thinks I have done but little, I feel far more than he can do so, that I have indeed been an unprofitable servant When I think of all I have failed to accomplish, I can only smite my breast and say--"GOD be merciful to me a sinner."
But, one thing I may say, with sincerity, and that is, that I have laboured with a sincere devotion to your souls, and with strong personal attachment When this great whirlwind came upon us, we were indeed a happy and united people It grieves me that we have not altogether withstood the fury of the times. But, I complain of no man, and I forgive, as I would be forgiven I could not recognize the fashion of the moment, as any rule of action to me, and what my convictions could not respect I have tenderly but resolutely withstood For what I have done, and for what I have refused to do, I must give account But I think I have done right Not that I judge others I speak for myself alone. Great duties rest on the Christian priest A high career is marked out for him in his commission I follow One who came "not to be ministered unto but to minister" and I cannot pause to complain, much less to retaliate I forgive and forget, and press on. Only in this I will not permit myself to be misunderstood that, as my course here has been influenced by nothing political, so it is not sectional feeling that induces me to retire. Under a call of Providence, I go back to the North where I was born: but the South is not less my country, the whole land is [12/13] my home. A Christian subordinates even patriotism to a world-wide charity, and I cannot feel myself altogether an alien among any Christian people Under the benign influences of our holy religion, all Christian nations are fast becoming one great commonwealth, and as the Gospel teaches me this ennobling view of my relations to mankind in general, you may be sure I shall never be tempted to straiten and provincialize myself here in my native laud. Never! Dearly do I love the North, for there are my dearest kindred and the beloved friends of my youth On the green banks of the Hudson I drew in my earliest love of nature, and amid the magnificence of its scenery I first felt the glory of the Creator. I love it as the Rhinelander loves the Rhine. No chart in which it is not laid down, could I ever recognize as the map of my country: I should feel dwarfed and disinherited were it possible for me to sail upon its waters, feeling that its highlands looked down on me as a foreigner But, in all this I am inspired by a National, not a sectional enthusiasm, for I have a kindred feeling towards the Potomac and the James. What American does not? There were the seats of our earliest civilization; there was the first planting of our learning; there was the cradle of our primitive and apostolic Church. For all this and more that I might mention I love Virginia; and with Maryland my relations are neither recent nor few With its early settlement are connected the tender traditions of my father's ancestry, among the old proprietors of its soil are found the names of my forefathers, on the shores of the Chesapeake, for successive generations, they had their homes. These facts, however uninteresting in themselves, illustrate the interweavings of our people, and assure you that I have not lived as a stranger in Maryland I came to it as to an inheritance, and when I found what a work was given me here, I fondly imagined that after a life, not ignobly, spent [13/14] in your service, I might die here, in my nest. In this I am disappointed: but, not in the rich increase of my friendships and affinities. New and enduring ties have been created. Here children have been given me, and your children have been endeared to me as my own. Saints now reposing in Paradise, far above this world's din and turmoil, are in my thoughts to-day, whose last words were mingled with the most affectionate assurances to the pastor who held their dying hand, and administered to them the last pledges of Redeeming Love. And as I look over this great congregation--what dear friends of my heart are before me! I see not one whom I count a foe; but I see some who, though never of my flock, have ever cheered and helped me; and all that I see impresses and overwhelms me with the thought that I am taking leave of a people, who have warmly reciprocated all that I have felt for them Shall I be ashamed to own that I deeply feel this breaking-up? No indeed; but these blessed ties shall endure I shall never survive these friendships; they shall cheer my journey to the grave; and beyond the grave, and long as eternity shall last, may I not hope to find in the ransomed souls of many among you, my exceeding great reward?
But my work is done Bear with me yet a moment To say my last word, in this pulpit, is very hard Nine years ago I entered it; and now they are as a tale that is told, and I go my way. Such is what we call life: so rapidly comes the hour of death; so soon must we all stand together at the bar of GOD! When I think of that terrible audit, how small are the things which so distract and occupy us to what vanity and nothingness they shrink down! Truly, "it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment." but--oh! the meaning of that which is added--"He that judgeth me is the LORD!"
 I am about to go to that altar, and to renew the commemoration of the tremendous Sacrifice, on which we all must depend So then--though I know nobody that can require it, yet if any one even imagines I have injured him, by thought, word or deed, here I implore forgiveness, and promise to make amends, to the best of my power, for any wrong I may have done I say it to the humblest of you; yes, even to a child. One wrong GOD only can forgive--and may He have mercy on me, for CHRIST'S sake, if in anything I have sinned, by omitting or neglecting opportunities, or by keeping back anything profitable to your souls. Truly, you have deserved much of a pastor; you have been a kind and generous flock. The friendships of which I have spoken, are tried friendships; I return with them to the scenes of my childhood, enriched like Jacob, when he was made two hands! Wherever GOD shall call me, in that uncertain future which I shrink from exploring, be sure I remember you in prayers, for I bear with me your names and characters engraver on my heart. There, too, shall ever linger the recollection of your pleasant homes: the fragrant memories of your welcomes, whether I came amid social joys as your happy guest, or in solemn offices of gladness and sorrow, as the ambassador of CHRIST. Forgive some natural weakness, if I long to be remembered in return Remember the blessed privileges we have shared together: our delightful festivals, our solemn fasts of Lent. I ask the dear children not to forget what I have taught them of the Good Shepherd, especially in those weeks of the Paschal, when I have led them, day by day, in the path of their suffering SAVIOUR, to Calvary, and to the garden of His Resurrection And you, dear friends, those whom I have failed to persuade to be truly Christians--take home this last appeal of pastoral love: be persuaded now And may the HOLY GHOST quicken the seeds of His own word in your hearts: if [15/16] not now--then in some hour of His visitation, when you suffer, or when you die! In that final home, "where no enemy ever enters, and whence no friend departs," may we all be gathered at last! Loving much, because much forgiven, may we spend eternity together, in the presence of the Lamb in thy presence, oh! blessed JESUS, thou gracious Bishop and Shepherd of our souls, unto whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, One GOD, be all honour and glory, now and forever Amen.