Sanctity and Other Sermons
by the Rev. Ferdinand Cartwright Ewer, S.T.D.
New York: E. & J. B. Young & Co, 1884
by the Right Reverend George F. Seymour, D.D.
Bishop of Springfield
THE friends of the Rev. Dr. Ewer have for their object in the preparation and publication of this volume the accomplishment of the laudable desire that the eloquent preacher, the profound theologian, the saintly priest, though dead, should still continue to speak. With this purpose the writer heartily sympathizes, and contributes this introduction as his humble tribute of reverence and love for the dear memory of his deceased friend and brother. He has not read a single line of the contents which follow, and hence he is not responsible for the sentiments expressed or the statements made. No two men can agree, nor are they expected to agree, as to all points, but there may exist sympathy between them as regards their general views and aims, and a cordial appreciation of each other's labors, as directed toward the attainment of a common end. In this bond of relationship the Rev. Dr. Ewer drew to himself and united very many who differed widely from him as to practical measures, subordinate lines of teaching, and doctrinal conclusions. This statement is made not to imply that on any point which may be selected for criticism, the Rev. Dr. Ewer was in error, and the author of this introduction is right. Far from it. This would be presumption. The reverse is the more likely to be true. It is placed on record simply to vindicate for himself entire independence beyond the general sympathy and agreement which he has already distinctly avowed with the Rev. Dr. Ewer's life and labors as a priest in the Church of God.
If it be asked what was the one thing above all others which the Rev. Dr. Ewer sought to accomplish, we answer, to recover for the Church of God, in this land, the recognition and acknowledgment on the part of her own children first, and of those outside as well, of her divine origin, her imperative claims, and her notes or marks which characterize her and distinguish her from all other associations or bodies which might otherwise be confounded with her. The creation of the Church by the operation of the Holy Ghost is a matter of historic record in the Acts of the Holy Apostles. Her features, which her divine author stamped upon her at her birth, are there portrayed in clear, distinct outline. God has as clearly told us that she will have these same features in the end, when she becomes the Bride of the Lamb in Heaven. These features must of necessity really belong to the Church and characterize her in the ages all along, in the interval between the beginning and the end, the day of Pentecost and the final triumph in heaven, since it would be absurd to affirm that a human being could have two eyes, and a nose and a mouth at birth and at death, but during youth, maturity, and old age, all distinction of features would disappear, and the face become a confused mass, with no outline or harmony of detail. Strange and unaccountable as it may seem, this is precisely the paradox which has been asserted within the last three hundred years by many, and is still affirmed of the Church of God. Nothing can be clearer, if one admits the truth of Holy Scripture, than that on the day of the Church's birth, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the one hundred and twenty, and when St. Peter preached the first Christian sermon and three thousand were baptized, nothing can be clearer than that the Church was then One, because her children were all with one accord in one place; that she was Holy, because all were filled with the Holy Ghost; that she was Catholic, because there were there, brought into her fold, devout men out of every nation under heaven, the representatives of all lands; and that she was Apostolic, because all the apostles were there. Nothing can be clearer than that in Heaven, in her eternal condition of triumph and perfection, the Church will display the same characteristics, Unity, Sanctity, Catholicity, and Apostolicity since we have St. John's description of her as he saw her, in prophetic vision, preserved for us in his Revelation. He tells us that he beheld the redeemed of all ages and races gathered together before the throne of God, and that they were all holy, and that the great multitude, with white robes and palms in their hands, included the twelve tribes of Israel, and all nations and kindreds, and people and tongues, and the twelve apostles were there sitting on their thrones, and their names are in the twelve foundations of the new Jerusalem.
In the face of these facts, since the middle of the sixteenth century there have been many who, while arrogating to themselves the merit of being pre-eminently Bible Christians, have formed associations of their own on the basis of agreement of opinion as to certain doctrines, and called them churches. They have repudiated the historic Church, rejected the divine polity and apostolic ministry, and asserted for themselves the unlimited right of private judgment in regard to all that relates to the things of God. Such errors in religion and laxity in practice have permeated society, and exerted a baleful influence upon the minds and character even of those who still continued within the fold of Christ. The demoralizing effect of sectarianism upon the practical life of the Church has been intensified by a childish dread, a panic fear of Rome. The thought, the speech, the very life of a large proportion of those who rejected the authority of the Pope was moulded, directed, animated by this Romanphobia. Protestantism was and is the general name which shelters the mass of negations, bad as well as good, which have taken root and grown up and flourish in the religious world, or rather the world outside the Church of Rome. The atheist, the deist, the infidel, the Mormon is a Protestant, and more of a Protestant than the orthodox Christian, who rightly rejects, on proper grounds, the distinctive errors of Rome. Unfortunately this name of uncertain meaning, and to some extent of ill repute, became, through carelessness, attached to the Church of the living God in this land as a characteristic so distinct and conspicuous that it put out of sight and largely out of mind with many her Catholicity. Men forgot that they were Catholic in their zeal to be Protestant. The legislation, the activities, the order for public worship, the ministration of the sacraments, the thought, the life of the Church were largely shaped and influenced by this silly, unreasoning fear of Rome. The question was not, is the thing right, is it positively commanded or clearly implied in the Scriptures, is it the voice of antiquity? This was not, and in some quarters still is not the question, but the simple inquiry was, does Rome do it? And if the answer was "Yes," then the case was settled at once without argument, without trial, the verdict was instantly rendered, the judgment and sentence were immediately pronounced, "Away with it, down with it." This ignorance, this prejudice, this temper and spirit of fanaticism have had, as they must always have, two effects: an immediate and present, and an ultimate and enduring. The immediate result is apparent success and triumph. The madness of passion sweeps all before it. The ultimate result is reaction, and often a strengthening of the cause which originally provoked the opposition. The pendulum swings back and passes the meridian line nearly as far, if not quite as far, on the other side. "Witness the revolt from Puritan excess and tyranny in England in the seventeenth century, which brought back the monarchy at the Restoration without a single constitutional safeguard for the protection of the liberties of the subject, the securing of which had been the one alleged cause of the Great Rebellion; witness the counter Reformation, as it was called, in the regions where the Reformation movement in the sixteenth century had developed the wildest excess in doctrine and practice; witness the condition of our own New England to-day, where supra-lapsarianism with penal persecuting statutes to enforce its sway has generated the extreme of laxity as regards all faith in the supernatural; witness, in the case under consideration, the help which Protestantism has given and is giving to Home, her antagonist.
No one cause does more to promote the advance of the Papacy among us than the fanaticism, the prejudice, the ignorance, and utter misconception of the character, genius, and purpose of the Church of God manifested by most of the sects which gather under the banner of Protestantism. They have practically conceded to their adversary and taught the outside world to concede to her the name of Catholic, the Cross of Christ, the ritual of the Bible. Who is responsible for educating the general public to call Romanism Catholicism? The sects. Who is guilty of allowing Rome to monopolize the cross so that in the popular eye to sign one's self with the Holy Symbol is to stamp one's self as a Romanist? The sects. Who is to blame for putting under the ban of disparagement, and sometimes of the sentence of banishment, the sacraments and scriptural idea and symbols of worship, so that Rome can point with triumph, and say, these are exclusively ours? The sects. Protestantism was doing its bestit was not its intention of courseto help on the cause of Rome. Its indirect influence upon the Church has been to weaken her positive position, her office as a witness and keeper of the truth. Alas! she has acted feebly and spoken with bated breath. The fear of Rome has been upon her sons and daughters, until even God's command to do a thing has not been sufficient to inspire the courage to obey, because, forsooth, Rome has done it all along, and their obedience might be construed into a sympathy with Rome. Christ's counsels have been discredited, and those who have been called to follow them by the inner voice have been discouraged, because Rome has sons and daughters who have listened and obeyed. The positive truths of the Gospel, formulated in the creed of Christendom, have been obscured, ignored, sometimes denied, because Rome had distorted these truths into errors, as the intermediate state, the historic organic Church, the communion of saints. Thus we have drifted on. We could not think, or speak, or act, but some brother cried, beware of Rome. We were denied our birthright, we were slaves in our own home, we were living as the perpetual victims of suspicion. The sects without, meanwhile, were free to do as they pleased, they had disowned the Catholic name, they had evacuated all meaning from the sacraments, and virtually said they were what a man made them; they reversed the true idea of worship, and made it simply an act of receiving, not giving; they were themselves the centre around which everything circulated, in which everything centred. Prayer was really addressed to them, through God, as well as the sermon. They made the sacraments, their thoughts, their will, their hearts did everything, they could not be suspected of Romanism or of Catholicism, or of any sympathy with historic Christianity, hence they could do what they wished without exciting suspicion. They could range over the field of self-pleasing, from the disgusting exhibitions of the revival to the polished lecture-room of the philosopher, who was improving Christianity, without the reproach of any sympathy with Rome; but we, alas! have been compelled, at the cost of valuable lives, of reputations blasted, of reproach, scorn, contempt, to vindicate for ourselves the right to use the Lord's Prayer, to sing the chants, to adorn our churches with the badge of man's salvation, to celebrate with decency the awful mysteries, to wear official garments, to seek to approach the Lord with the reverence and honor which are His due. Alas! what sacrifices men have been called upon to make in defence of these and like things, which the ignorant, prejudiced multitude called Romish, and hence condemned.
Gloriously associated with these confessors for the truth is to be numbered the Rev. Dr. Ferdinand C. Ewer. The aim which gave unity to his life of many vicissitudes and his various labors as a priest in the Church of God was, to assert for the Church her rightful heritage, her notes or marks or features, as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, her polity as having, by divine appointment, a continuity of office to perpetuate her existence until the end; her priesthood, as representing Christ, and ministering, by His command, in His name; her sacraments, as means of grace, imparting to those qualified to receive what the Lord who instituted them promised that they would convey; her worship, as homage paid, given to the Almighty in prayer and praise and above all in the Blessed Eucharist. It was for this he lived and labored and suffered as a priest and man. The fruit of his labors and of others like-minded with himself here, and beyond the sea, is seen in the altered public sentiment which prevails, without, in regard to the Church of God, and within, the change of spirit which animates her councils and directs her legislation and moulds her action.
A vast deal is yet to be accomplished, but we may rejoice that we have gained so much, that we no longer shape all our thoughts and utter our words, and do our deeds with the fear of Rome before our eyes. We have reached that stage of religious freedom when we can call ourselves by our own name, use our own symbol, "the sign of the Son of Man," bow our heads and bend our knees in reverence to holy places and sacred things, as well as in worship to our God, and speak of the Lord's presence in His own sacrament without losing our reputation entirely, or being universally proclaimed superstitious fools, traitors, idiots. The tyranny is not yet wholly overpast. In some quarters still the Cimmerian darkness of ignorance and prejudice and fanaticism lingers. There are still those who, while professing to believe in the Catholic Church, refuse the name, and scorn and contemn those who claim it and rejoice in it; who, while they accept the ministry of Bishops, practically disown the polity of the Church, and call apostolical succession a figment, and the grace of Holy Orders a delusion; who, while they go through the form of administering sacraments, deny their power; who, while they will speak of our Christianity as the religion of the Cross, hate the holy sign, and would, if they could, forbid its use either in wood or stone, on church spire or porch, on font or altar, or book, or forehead, or breast; who, while they use the offices of the Church, venerable with an antiquity as great as that of the Church herself, import into them the inventions and novelties of the last three hundred years, and then charge with Romanism those who accept and use the offices as they were understood before Papal error appeared, much less the heresies of Luther and Calvin and Zwingli.
Much remains to be done, but we have good hope for the future. Such lives as Dr. Ewer's, which has just closed amid such pathetic circumstances, is an earnest that others will follow in his footsteps and labor, and suffer in the same road which he so nobly and heroically trod. The tendencies of the age are fast bringing Protestantism to the test. It is a matter of compulsion, not of choice. Infidelity is employing the very weapons which Protestantism has systematically used against the Church of God, to assail its strongholds, and in the issue Protestantism must suffer disastrous and irretrievable defeat. There is no logical standpoint which can be maintained between the barest Deism and the acknowledgment of the One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. All other positions are simply halting places where men may linger for a generation; their successors must move on, advance or recede, they cannot stay. Endowments may tether them, or even anchor them, for the dead hand through money has an iron grip, and paralyzes conscience and overturns morality, but the laws of thought must have their way as well as the laws of matter, and in the event it will be seen that either evasion will escape the inexorable condition, or else the skeleton fingers will clutch but dust and ashes, the living forces will depart. All positions which rest only on a negative, are simply stages of transition from bad to worse, or worse to better. The mind and soul can no more live on negations than the body can live in a vacuum. The question with the Protestant is not so much what do you affirm, but what do you deny; and the more he denies, and the less he affirms, the better Protestant is he. He is not expected to give much heed to the Creed or the Lord's Prayer, or the Ten Commandments, and for the most part he does not disappoint the expectation. He can tell glibly what he rejects, the Pope and all his errors and abominations, the cross, the altar, the liturgy, and all superstitious practices; but when he is asked what he accepts, he answers, the Bible, and then, if pressed, his speech halts, he may add justification by faith only, election, partial redemption; he does not say, for rarely can he say, "I believe in God the Father Almighty Who created me, in God the Sol Who redeemed me, in God the Holy Ghost Who sanctifies me; in the Holy Catholic Church, in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and in the life everlasting." And if he could say this it would not express his faith, since he has no adequate idea of the Church; he for the most part repudiates the intermediate state, and absolutely denies, in any proper sense, the resurrection of the body. What remains? Alas! his negations. On these he must live, on these he must die.
Protestantism, or so much of it as embraces sectarianism, has done three things as the master-strokes of its policy. It broke away from the Church in the sixteenth century; it rejected the Sacraments in their primitive and Catholic meaning, and it virtually superseded the creed of Christendom with confessions of faith formulated by men. In the place of thesethe Church, the Sacraments, and the CreedProtestantism must provide substitutes, and it did. It put the Bible in the place of the Living Church, the Pulpit in the place of the Sacraments, and Private Judgment as to the meaning of Scripture in the place of the Creed. Thus equipped, it started on its mad career. The final result has not been, even yet, fully reached, but it is tending rapidly toward its accomplishment. There are stages in its progress; step by step the problem is worked out, and a few years more will witness the utter and absolute overthrow of the system, as regards its hitherto avowed principles. All this might have been foreseen, and was foreseen, and foretold. But the deviceit was more than man's, was clever, and promised well. For a time it exceeded the most extravagant expectations of its votaries. It carried, in certain regions, all before it.
In its first stage of development, with private judgment in matters of religion as a substitute for the Creed of Christendom, it speedily demonstrated its failure, since all the machinery of persecution, where Protestants possessed the power, was brought into play to suppress the exercise of that very private judgment, the free use of which was boldly asserted to be one of the leading principles of Protestantism. Still, private judgment, with no living church to teach and creed to guide, would assert itself until, in succession, sect after sect appeared, and the type of Babel has its fulfilment in a hundred and more of so-called religious systems, each warring with its neighbors, confounding confusion with the many strange voices which tell, each in different manner, how the tower is to be built, and the way opened to heaven. In no other sphere of life is such a paradox asserted as that a man may pursue an independent line for himself, without regard to the past or the relations of the present. Home, society, the state, science, put limitations upon a man's judgment, and he must, in spite of his best exertions to be free, submit. Religion is no exception to the rule, and the result thus far reached presents an awful comment upon the folly of teaching that in the realm of faith God has placed no restraints upon man's will.
In its second stage, in substituting the Pulpit for the Sacraments, the result, though longer deferred, has proved equally disastrous. The Sacraments, denuded of their value, have been set aside as worthless. The font has disappeared, the altar has been degraded into a common table, placed in some ignoble position, while the pulpit has been set up as the chief object in which all else culminates in their churches. Alas! Christ's sacraments, in their institution the most emphatic acts which He ever performed, in that He associated them as His last acts before leaving the worldbaptism with His Ascension; the Eucharist with His Crucifixionare ever, as God's gifts, the same; they change not. They are, in the hands of the humblest missionary, as precious as when ministered by the greatest and grandest ecclesiastic. They suffer not by comparison with advancing or receding stages of civilization. They confer as great a gift upon the savage as on the scholar, and are as far removed, on their divine side, from man and earth, to-day, amid the grandeur of modern life and manners, as they were when S. Peter and S. Paul administered them to Jew and Gentile, in the first age. It is not so with the pulpit; its value varies with him who occupies it. He may be bright or dull; he may be learned or ignorant; he may practise what he preaches, or he may be careless and unspiritual in his life. Again, the pulpit has direct and essential relations in its influence and power for good to the ages as they pass, and the conditions of society as they change. Once the pulpit stood almost alone, as the only source whence, aside from the school and university, men derived knowledge; now it is a competitor among many rivals for attentionthe printed book, the newspaper, the magazine, the lecture, the athenaeum, and kindred agencies have sprung into being and placed the pulpit at a discount, even in its own legitimate spherethe preaching the Gospel of Christ. The result is that Protestantism has lost both its sacraments and its pulpit. It virtually discarded the one and perverted the other, and now, among Protestants, few care to be baptized or receive the Holy Communion, since where is the use? and few are attracted to hear the preacher, since the sermon has lost its charm amid the multiplicity of sweeter voices which speak from the elegant volume, the article in the review, the encyclopedia, or the scientific lecture-room.
The third stage in the crucial test to which Protestantism must submit has now been reached. The Reformers on the continent designedly put the Bible in the place of the living Church. This has been the line of Protestantism ever since. The Church, as an outward visible kingdom, having a polity, institutions, laws, authority to bind and loose, has been dismissed and relegated to the exploded fables which once deceived mankind. An invisible Church has been much talked about and insisted upon, as though our Lord means an invisible Church, when He declared that He would build it upon a rock, or the Apostles, when they speak of it in a way, which absolutely forbids such an interpretation. Still, this ignis fatuus of an invisible Church would not do as a substitute for the living historic Body of Christ, which, tracing its origin to the days of the Apostles, was present to men's eyes as a substantial reality; there must be something equally substantial and if possible equally old to take the place of the visible Church. The Bible was pressed into service to do this office, and for a time it seemed to answer the purpose marvellously well. Printing had just brought the Scriptures within the reach of all who could read. They were reputed to be, in their mechanical form as a translation and a book, without qualification the "Word of God, and were popularly accounted to be older than the dispensations of which they treated, and the experiences which they related. The Church and the Bible God joined together; Protestantism put them rudely asunder. It sunk the Church out of sight, and as far as it could do so out of mind, and elevated the Bible as a book into an idol. Popularly for a time men worshipped it. They knew not how it came into the world; somehow they thought of it as the heathen reasoned about Minerva, in regard to whom they were taught to believe that she sprang forth full-armed from the head of Jupiter. The Bible was here and in their hands; they must be satisfied with the blessing without question or examination. For the most part they were; years passed and few inquired as to the origin of Holy Scripture, how it was separated from fictitious and apocryphal writings, and how it was preserved from corruption and handed down in its integrity from the remote past to the present. "What God hath joined together let not man put asunder," is the divine law. Protestantism cared not for this principle. Its necessity must know no law; it needed the Bible for its purpose; it did not want the Church, and so it took the Bible from the custody of its witness and keeper to whom God had consigned it, and started with the Bible in its hands as a book by itself, independent of all relationship to anything else in the world.
This brand-new plan, the invention of the sixteenth century, worked well for a season. It seemed as though there would be no further need for Church, or Priesthood, or Sacraments, or Creed. The Protestant with his Bible was all-sufficient. He needed nothing more. So confident did he feel of his success, that he embodied his conviction in an apothegm, which is still cherished by many as a maxim of wisdom and a ringing note of triumph: "The Bible, and the Bible only is the religion of Protestants." Alas! then for the Apostles and their contemporarieseither they were not Protestants or else they had no religion; one or other of these alternatives must be true since the first century of Christianity had no Bible. The New Testament was growing then by gradual accretions in the hands of the faithful to whom God gave it. The plan of discarding the Church, "the witness and keeper of Holy "Writ," we say, worked well for a time, and the Protestant flourished and felt secure; he was committed to his position, and to render his idol more sacred he largely avowed the theory under different forms of the verbal inspiration of Holy Scripture. Alas! the evil day has come at length for him, and his idol, the printed book, is in the crucible of criticism. The Bible is his all, he has nothing else; he must defend it, if he defend it at all, apart from its witness and keeper, the Church.
The Protestant has disowned the historic Church, an invisible Church he cannot summon to his aid in this conflict. The investigation must be a trial of witnesses, a question of testimony. But witnesses who are to be trusted to tell us what is the Word of God and what is not, are also competent to inform us what men believed, and how they worshipped God in their day; testimony which is sufficient to convince us that God said so and so, must also be adequate to convince us that the claims of God's visible Church are to be allowed, the credibility of the Creed admitted, and the validity of the Sacraments recognized. This the Protestant cannot doit is fatal to his very existence as a PROTESTANT. Besides, the Bible is a relative book; from first to last it implies something else correlative with itself, and that something is the Church. The Bible without the Church needs no infidel to assail it, it refutes itself. The Church and the Bible are related to each other as a kingdom or state to its constitution. The kingdom can exist without its constitution, but the constitution cannot exist, except as an historic curiosity, without the kingdom. Yet this has been the avowed position of Protestantism all along, "the Bible and the Bible only is its religion," and now with its Bible apart from the living Church, if it adheres to its own cherished and avowed principles, it must be ground to powder. It has reached its last entrenchment, its other works have long since been carried, it has no Creed, it has no Sacraments, and soon it will have no Bible. "What God hath joined together let not man put asunder." The Protestant has done this, and now he must pay the penalty of his rashness and impiety. He must either surrender his position as a Protestant and return to a Catholic standpoint, or else he must be content to be at the mercy of the infidel and be stripped and slain.
The infection of Protestantism had passed largely into the Church; it had leavened many of her members with its loves and hates, its prejudices and fears. Social and domestic ties, uniting churchmen to sectarians, carried weakness and the spirit of compromise, and half-heartedness into her halls of legislation, the administration of her prelates, the teaching of her priests, and the practice of her laity. It needed some one to speak out, and act, and recall this generation to lay hold of forgotten truths, and assert them and embody them in their lives and conversation. Such a work, looked at from a human standpoint, must be at the best a most unwelcome task. He who undertakes to do it must expect to be misrepresented and abused. He must count upon being regarded with suspicion and treated with disrespect. He must be prepared to sacrifice all earthly ambition, and pay the price of loss of popularity and the fruits which popularity pours into the lap. He must be prepared for this, and more than this, or else he will be surprised, and disheartened, and driven back, and defeated ere he has begun his warfare.
The Rev. Dr. Ewer was one of those favored ones, whom God called to this noble mission of lifting the church in this land out of the miserable depths of apathy, coldness, ignorance and indifference as to her real claims and character, to the position which she now holds, and the greater and better things in the future which await her. He was not disobedient to the heavenly voice. He girded on his armor and he went forth to the fight, no more to lay it aside until He, who called him, released him, as he was discoursing sublimely of the better country and of the higher life from the pulpit in Montreal.
The American church may well be proud of her confessors, who have suffered and been willing and glad to suffer in her behalf. "We have our missionaries, abundant in their labors and self-denials, such as Chase, Kemper, Breck; our saintly men, such as White, Griswold, Croswell; our heroic champions, such as Hobart, Whittingham, Doane; and our confessors, such as Carey, De Koven, Ewer. We may yet have our martyrs, since the last days, while they will give us the worst results of depravity and sin, will also yield us, through that awful wickedness, the best fruits of righteousness in the lives of saints and the deaths of martyrs. Infidelity, and its handmaids, heresy and schism, are helping forward the arrival of those days. All the signs of the appearing of that evil time are upon us in the bud; the maturity of growth is not far in advance.
Protestantism has degraded marriage from the sanctity with which God has invested it, to the level of a mere civil contract, and the infidel has welcomed the concession; and the infidel and the Protestant together have made our laws and the practice of our people contradict the fiat of God. Divorce, the desecration of home, the rain of children, laxity of morals, and the steady deterioration in all the virtues by which society is held together, and the state sustained, are the result. The end is not far to reach. It will not take much, as it has not taken much in the past, to incite men who have cast off all restraints, to murder the priest at the altar and the bishop on his journey. When that day comes, if it should come, there will not be wanting those who will vindicate their living faith in Christ, and their loyalty to His Church, by giving the testimony of their blood as a free-will offering in His service. We are sure of this, since the lives and labors of such men as Mahan, De Koven, Ewer, are an earnest of what they would have been had God required the sacrifice at their hands.
In all that we have written we have had reference to a system, not persons. We have been seeking to expose fallacies, errors, delusions; we have not intentionally said one word to wound the feelings of a brother. If we are wrong we shall be more rejoiced than they who set us right, to be enlightened, as Dr. Ewer would have been on whose behalf we write these pages. But the methods employed toward him are not likely to convince the understanding, and win the heart. Hard names, abuse, ridicule, baseless accusations, imputation of bad motivessuch were the weapons for the most part directed against him. Could those who thus ruthlessly assailed him have seen how closely he followed his divine Master in this experience which he shared with Him, and which it was his privilege to endure, they would have been won at least to admire his meekness, his sweetness of disposition, and his cheerful submission to the divine will.
In this world time ultimately does much to set things right, even if it does not fully anticipate the judgment of the last great day. We remember years ago sitting in an English cathedral, at a formal visitation of the bishop of the diocese. The choir was crowded with clergy. The bishop sat in state. In due time he read his charge. The burden of his message to his flock, and through them to the Church of England, was the arraignment and condemnation of John Keble for erroneous teaching, if not heresy. The poet-priest sat among his brother clergy, undistinguished by any preferment save the humble living which the partiality of private friendship had awarded him. He was so gentle, so unassuming, so meek. He bent his head in respectful attention to his ecclesiastical superior, and when the charge was over we all departed. We thought as we witnessed that scene, and our eye passed from prelate to priest, Ah! time will adjust this; a few years will reverse the sentence of this hour. The bishop will go down, the priest will go up. The bishop will be remembered only as one of the many insignificant men who filled the see, while John Keble's name will be sacred on the lips of all who can speak the English tongue and read "the Christian year." So has it come about. It was popular to abuse Keble then. The excitement of the Papal aggression, as it was called, had not passed away, and to punish a suspected sympathizer with Home was esteemed a meritorious act, and so the good bishop improved the occasion. He won present applause, but had his charge been worth preserving, would he have secured lasting renown? This scene, and the sequel, are an epitome of the history of all confessors for the truth's sake, and their assailants. God takes care of His own, and brings them out of all their troubles. He vindicates the right, and blesses those who suffer for righteousness' sake.