Lecture I. The Attitude of the Church towards Holy Scripture
"This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached to all the world, for a witness unto all nations" S. Matt, xxiv, 14.
THE Founder of the Paddock Lectureship has indicated the range of the subjects to be treated from year to year.
The lectures are to deal with "such central facts as the Church's divine Order and Sacraments, her Historical Reformation, and her rights and powers as a pure and National Church." Within these limits we will find all the room we care to occupy, while attempting to say something which may be helpful to young men about to enter on the solemn duties of the sacred Ministry.
A great English Bishop of the present century has said that among fundamental principles of our Church, are these: The sufficiency of Holy Scripture, the necessity of believing the Creeds, which contain the great dogmas of the Catholic church; the Apostolic Ministry of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons; and the Independence of National Churches. The list is by no means a complete statement of Church principles; but it mentions vital issues which we as loyal sons of the Church are to set forward and maintain, in that field of service to which we have been, or may be, called.
To-night I ask you to observe with me the attitude of the Church towards Holy Scripture.
The Church exists to carry out the Will of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and to fulfil the prophecy; "This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations."
It is natural, therefore, that it should take high ground in speaking to us of that Divine Message which it is commissioned to deliver to the world. It tells us in one of its Articles of Religion (1) that "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation, so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an Article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation;" and in another Article (2) it affirms the Unity of Holy Scripture; asserting that "the Old Testament is not contrary to the New, for both in the Old and New Testament, everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, Who is the only Mediator between God and man," being both God and Man.
The Church, it declares, is a "congregation of faithful men in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments duly administered according to Christ's ordinance;" and when it deals with the Authority of the Church it confesses that Holy Scripture is supreme.
The Church may decree Rites and Ceremonies, and has authority in controversies of Faith; but it is powerless to ordain anything contrary to God's Word, or so to expound one portion of Holy Scripture that it may be repugnant to another. The Church is the Witness and the Keeper of God's Word, and it must not only decree nothing against it, but beyond its Divine Mandates must enforce nothing to be believed for necessity of salvation.
The exalted position that the Church accords to the Word of God in its Articles of Religion, finds emphatic expression throughout the Prayer Book. As our Church was very "far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of discipline, doctrine or worship," and as its Calendar follows the same rule regarding the use of Holy Scripture, we may safely say that it thoroughly agrees with the words in the preface of the English Prayer Book concerning the Services of the Church. There, we are told, that nothing is ordained to be read in the Services of the Church but the very pure Word of God, or that which is agreeable to the same.
It is asserted that this was the godly and decent order of the ancient Fathers, and it sweeps aside the uncertain stories and legends, the multitude of responds, verses, vain repetitions, commemorations, and synodals that had usurped so much of the space in the Divine Service which belonged to Holy Scripture, and it orders the Curate to warn the people by the tolling of the bell, when service is about to begin, that they may come to hear God's Word, as if this privilege was the most precious portion of our heritage.
In the Ordinal we see the care the Church takes, that its Ministers may be fitted to deliver the Divine message to the people. The priest is warned that he cannot compass the "weighty work pertaining to the salvation of men, but with doctrine and exhortation taken out of Holy Scripture, and with a life agreeable to the same;" and he is commanded to be studious in reading and learning the Scriptures and in framing his manners after its rule. He is told that by reading and weighing the Scriptures he will wax riper and stronger in his Ministry; and he is required to make public confession that "Holy Scripture contains all doctrine required as necessary to eternal salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ;" and he pledges himself to instruct the people committed to his charge out of the Holy Scripture, and to teach nothing as necessary to eternal salvation but that which he knows may be concluded and proved from the Word of God.
The Bishop at his consecration makes the same vow, and binds himself to expel from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to the Divine Message. Nothing could be more impressive than this testimony from the Ordinal concerning the sufficiency of Holy Scripture.
In the Offices of the Church we will find the same reverence for Holy Scripture. The Prayer for the Church Militant asks that grace be given to all Bishops and other Ministers, that, by their life and doctrine, they may set forth God's true and lively Word, and rightly and duly administer His holy sacraments. Grace also is asked for the people, that with meek heart and due reverence they may hear and receive God's Holy Word. The hinderer or slanderer of God's Word is warned away from the Altar, and the troubled penitent is told to seek counsel from the Minister of God's Word. The baptized adult is to use all diligence to be rightly instructed in God's Word that he may grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and live godly, righteously, and soberly in this present world.
God is asked in the Confirmation prayers so to lead His children in the knowledge and obedience of His Word, that they may obtain everlasting life. The Marriage Service, passing by the decrees of secular courts, or the statutes of the kingdoms of this world, or the Canons of Councils however venerable, makes God's Word the supreme standard of what is lawful; the sick and dying are referred to that which is written in Holy Scripture, as the medicine and consolation of the soul; and in the Office for the burial of the dead, the voice of the Word of God is dominant from first to last with its message of comfort, peace, and triumph.
Holding this high doctrine concerning the sufficiency of Holy Scripture, the Church places it first in the Altar Service; and at the very beginning of the Christian year, teaches us to pray that we may so read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Divine Message that by "patience and comfort of God's Holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life," which He has given us in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
It is not my intention to defend this fundamental doctrine of our Church. The contention that "the written Books of Holy Scripture, and the unwritten traditions of the Church relating to faith and to morals are to be received and venerated with equal feeling of piety and reverence" our Church strongly denies; while freely allowing the value of tradition as a guide in the interpretation of Scripture. Lectures and courses of study have demonstrated to you the firm ground on which the Church stands in refusing to tradition, however venerable, a place with the Word of God.
Nor will I detain you with any discussion of the so-called Higher Criticism, which has been busily occupied in dissecting portions of the Old Testament, and in striving to ascertain more accurately the probable date and authorship of some of the Sacred Books. Very interesting and instructive have been the labors of students in this field of research; but it is doubtful if the result will be to alter in any appreciable degree the traditional view of the authorship of the Books of the Old Testament, and certainly it will in no way invalidate the Article of Religion which declares that "the Old Testament is not contrary to the New, but both in the Old and New Testaments everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, Who is the one Mediator between God and man; being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard which feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises."
The history of the Criticism of Holy Scripture during the nineteenth century is instructive, as teaching the devout student to maintain an attitude of reserve regarding many of the statements and confident assertions of the critics. During a long period of years the New Testament was assailed by destructive criticism in the supposed interests of truth, and, thirty years ago, in how many quarters did we not hear that the authenticity of a considerable portion of the New Testament could not be successfully maintained? The boldness of the attacks, the positiveness of the assertions and conclusions of the critics, the irreverence of the attitude of many of those professed students of divine truth, tended in a very painful degree to unsettle men's minds, and to strengthen the influences hostile to the Faith of our Redeemer.
And when we consider how groundless and trivial this criticism really was, and how, after all, it has left the Canon of the New Testament unimpaired to the extent of an iota, while the field is strewn in all directions with the battered wrecks of the theories of the critics, it may well teach us to maintain an attitude of reserve when a school of criticism once more assures us that it has made new discoveries which are final and conclusive.
The Convocation of Canterbury, perhaps the most learned deliberative assembly in the world, when its committees presented the Revised Version of Holy Scripture, received the report and ordered it to lie on the table. I believe it is still lying there. Time is vindicating the wisdom of this procedure, and we may with profit imitate this temperate example, when any of the results of the so-called Higher Criticism are offered for our acceptance.
Scholars may be sure that "they are the people, and that wisdom will die with them," but we do not share their confidence, and we are aware that the last word in the controversy has not been spoken. After the Higher Criticism has been criticised, it seems most probable that it will have made very little alteration in the traditional view of the dates and authorship of any of the Sacred Books.
And here I would like to point out to you another reason for caution.
The temper of the present age is not favorable to sound criticism. It demands something that will startle, and astonish; a new discovery that will upset previous calculations; a new theory which will traverse the convictions of a thousand years; and any conjecture of this nature seems to be welcome, although its proofs be dim and few, if advanced with confident assertion. I presume the rapid advance in the discovery of new material inventions has stimulated this temper, and has increased the desire for something new in every field of research.
But the children of this generation, with all their cleverness, are gifted also with a credulity that I believe will be the wonder of future ages. I do not think that the verdict of the future will be that this has been an age marked by the discovery of great principles, but an age to which has pertained the humbler task of applying, practically, principles already discovered; not an age of genius, but of clever smartness in turning the great theories of other days to useful purposes.
And so the philosophy of this age is apt often to rest on a fallacy, because it is so busily occupied with an infinite number of particulars, that it has neither time nor patience to reason out the real ground of its principles.
How readily has our age accepted the theory of Evolution and applied it in I know not how many directions! And yet how far it really is from the demonstration that should be possessed, before this wide reaching theory can find acceptance ! A great many hints and suggestions which we find in nature have been accepted as if they proved the theory. Many phenomena seem to fit into the hypothesis. But is it anything more than a guess at the unknown? something that may be possibly true, but which has yet to be proved.
And yet the so-called scientific man speaks to us of the Evolution of animal life; from the Monad to the Man, from the unicellular existence to that which Holy Scripture assures us was made in the image of God. Of course, to us Christians it makes no difference at all whether the theory be true or not. Whether God was pleased to transform the dust of the ground in a moment into the form of man, or whether He chose to attain the result through a myriad of gradual transformations is of no consequence; for the essential creation of man came to pass when into this man-like creature the Creator breathed His own immortal Spirit. Then man became a living soul.
The theory of Evolution has no effect whatever on the narrative of the first chapter of the Book Genesis; but as seekers after truth we are bound to ask, What proof has it to commend itself to our acceptance? The proof is meagre, and most defective. Yet how widely is it accepted; the world has adopted it. Yet the world may be utterly wrong.
And I ask you to observe another instance where the scientific world had for ages clung to a theory, which had many hints and suggestions to support it, but which to-day is looked upon as a ridiculous absurdity. I refer to the search for the Philosopher's stone.
For more than one thousand years, the scientific world believed this ridiculous theory, which now excites your scorn; and, as late as this present century, as great a man as Sir Humphrey Davy refused to pronounce it untrue. There were innumerable suggestions in the phenomena of nature to support the contention that metals could be transmuted, and that an elixir of life could be found. But the hard fact remained that the secret had never been discovered. That trifling impediment, however, did not interfere with the confidence of those who taught this doctrine, with the unanimous support of the scientific world.
How like this is to the present theory of evolution, supported by, I know not how many, hints and suggestions in nature; but like the theory of the philosopher's stone, traversed by the disagreeable fact that species is found to be invariable.
One is fascinated by the theory that in the measureless periods of the Geological Ages of the Earth, there was all the time that was needed, to produce the gradual, insensible changes and modifications, that the theory of the evolution of species demands, and we are asked to take for granted that under the law of natural selection, and the principle of the survival of the fittest, the explanation, at last, is offered to us of the origin of species; but while almost ready to give our assent, we naturally ask for a single demonstration, in all the world, of the truth of the theory. Alas, the demonstration is wanting. Like the patient Alchemists of old, the man of science searches for the missing link, in his chain of reasoning, but cannot find it.
When one reads a book like De Candolle's Origin of Cultivated Plants, he is reminded, also, that during at least six thousand years, men have been making innumerable experiments, on a dozen species of animals, and two or three dozen species of plants; the intent being to change and improve the species, and to produce something that will be radically different from the primitive type. He has carried on these experiments in all kinds of climates, in every variety of soil, with resources and advantages immeasurably superior to those which the species could have in millions of years under merely natural conditions; but while he has been able to produce wonderful varieties, the species remains invariable, and the moment it has an opportunity it promptly reverts to the primitive type.
What fame would attend the gardener who could change the rose into another flower, or the apple into a different fruit, or the wheat into a different grain? But the species will not change. It is absolutely invariable. It produces its own kind, or it produces nothing. Just as in the old days, after all the plain reasoning to the contrary, the base metal at the Alchemist's bidding would not turn into gold.
Even as great a man as Hegel, furnishes to us a warning, of the ease with which analogy may be mistaken for identity; and the mistakes of the past are a warning to us to occupy a position of reserve with regard to the unproved hypotheses that clamor so loudly to be accepted as demonstrated facts.
"Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good." While maintaining a friendly altitude towards every seeker after truth, we are justified in holding to strict account every attempt to change in any degree the traditions of the past.
I have been led to make these observations because it is the habit of the majority of men to take their opinions second hand; and when the advocates of some new thing conjure with great names, when they can say, "every one accepts this, the keenest intellects are in favor of it," many, and especially the young, are apt to think that this will serve for proof of the theory, or the proposition commended to them for acceptance.
But it may be no proof at all; and when the history of the past furnishes us with so many astonishing illustrations of its fallacy, it warns us that our attitude should be one of reserve until assertion has been supplemented by positive demonstration. And that should be pre-eminently our attitude in our study of the Word of God, by which "thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee."
Assuming that position, nothing need disturb our souls, as we read and teach the Divine Message which God has given us for the salvation of men.
The Church has placed in our hands our English Bible, and it is our highest duty and privilege to proclaim its truth to men.
The "prayer for the Church Militant" reminds us that it is our first duty. God is asked to give His grace to all Bishops and other ministers, that they may, hoth by their life and doctrine, set forth His true and living Word, and, next to that, rightly and duly administer His Holy Sacraments. It is one of the marks of the Church of the living God that it is the Witness and Keeper of the Divine Word. If we judge by this token, we will find that this Church of ours has a clear title to the name of the National Church of the English-speaking people.
It is a fact generally unknown, and ignored by those who do know it, that the world owes to our Mother Church, the Church of England, the English Bible; that wonderful Book, which has lifted up our race, and set it in the foremost place among the nations. The English Bible is an ancient book. It has attained its present form, by many adaptations to the vernacular of our race, but its origin is shrouded in mystery. The English Bible, as now read in our Churches, and accepted throughout the world, is the result of a revision made between the years 1604-1611, by more than forty clergymen and laymen of the Church of England, under the direction of the senior Bishop of our Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was exclusively the work of the Church. No other religious denomination had anything to do with it.
As you know, this version is accepted and used throughout the English-speaking race, by every religious denomination, with one exception. By whatever name they call themselves--Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists, etc.--they look to the Church for their English Bible, and bear testimony that this Church of ours is the Witness and the Keeper of the Word of God.
English-speaking Romanists are the one exception. After their secession from the National Church in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, an attempt was made by them to provide a version of the English Bible. The New Testament was translated and published at Rheims in the year 1582, and the Old Testament at Douai in 1610. It was very unsatisfactory, and many alterations have been made in subsequent editions. The original translation was studiously different from the English Bible in its phraseology; but since that time the Douai Bible has steadily approximated to our version, until now whole paragraphs are practically identical; a strange, although unwilling, confession, that when the Romanist wants the English Bible he must come to that ancient National Church from which he seceded.
The relative value of the Douai version of the English Bible may be judged from the fact, that nobody ever thought for a moment of adopting it, except the Romanist, and with him, it is a matter of necessity, not of choice.
It is unnecessary to dwell on the numerous attempts to supercede the text of the English Bible. Sometimes the effort has been made, as in the case of the Douai Bible, to produce another and a better version; sometimes the endeavor has been to translate in better form a single book, and time and learning have been used without stint to secure the result.
But the judgment of the world has pronounced every attempt a failure. Our English version, which the Church has given to the world, stands pre-eminent for its accurate representation of the original Hebrew and Greek, and may challenge favorable comparison in this respect with the Septuagint, with the Latin Vulgate, or with any other version. Its language is its own. It is a Biblical tongue, separated widely from the colloquial English of every day use, and from the literary English of other books. It is not the English of the Elizabethan or Jacobian times, as has sometimes been suggested. It is not the language in common use in any age of our race. It is the voice of the Church, solemn, simple, sublime, proclaiming God's Message to the English-speaking people which He had committed to its care, and the origin of this Biblical English, which has made the English Bible the best written Book in our tongue, is an absolute mystery.
Our English Bible did not originate with the version of 1604, which we now use. It had been in existence, then, for nearly one thousand years. When the present version was prepared the first rule laid down for the translators was, "that they should follow the ordinary Bible read in Church, commonly called the Bishops' Bible, and alter it as little as the truth of the original would permit." The Bishops' Bible had been made in the year 1568 under the direction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the first rule that Archbishop Parker made for the translators of this version, was, "to follow the common English translation used in the Churches, and not to recede from it, but where it manifestly varieth from the Hebrew or Greek original."
That "common English translation used in the churches," followed by the translators of the Bishops' Bible, was the "Great Bible" translated and published under the direction of Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1535-1539.
The English Bible we now use is, therefore, simply the Bible of 1535, with some slight verbal alterations. If we examine, we will see that this version of 1535 was framed from an ancient manuscript English Bible. The private ventures of Tyndale and Cover dale do not appear to have influenced the translators of the Great Bible. Cranmer's secretary tells us that the Archbishop took an ancient manuscript English Bible, and divided it into nine or ten parts, causing each part "to be writ at large in a paper book," and then to be sent to the best-learned Bishops, and others, to the intent that they should make a perfect correction thereof. "And the same course, no question, he took with the Old Testament; and when the day came, every man sent to Lambeth, their parts corrected."
The old English manuscript Bibles from which Cranmer's Great Bible was formed have for the most part perished. During the reign of Edward VI. all the ancient libraries were destroyed. The University Library of Oxford, the library of Merton College, that of the Guildhall, London, and those of the dissolved monasteries were carted off as waste paper to whoever would buy them, and the very shelves and benches of the library of the University were sold for firewood. Manuscript Bibles in Anglo-Saxon and early English, which they probably could not read, would be the first books to perish at the hand of the stupid, malignant vandals that wrought this destruction. But two of the great scholars who lived in the times of Henry VIII. have told us of these old versions of our English Bible.
Cranmer, in his preface to the Great Bible, writes in support of the vernacular Scriptures; "If the matter should be tried by custom, we might also allege custom for the reading of the Scriptures in the vulgar tongue, and prescribe the more ancient custom. For it is not much above one hundred years ago, since Scripture hath not been accustomed to be read in the vulgar tongue within this realm."
You observe that the Archbishop refers to an-ante-vernacular epoch, during which the publishing and reading of certain editions of the English Bible had been prohibited. He says this epoch did not extend much beyond one hundred years. Previous to that epoch the English Bible had always been freely used. The ante-vernacular-epoch began A.D. 1408, at a convocation held in that year in Oxford under Archbishop Arundel. A canon was then passed which decrees and ordains that "from henceforth no unauthorized person shall translate any portion of Holy Scripture into English, or any other language, under any form of book, or treatise, neither shall any such book or version, made either in Wyckliffe's time, or since, be read wholly, or in part, publicly or privately, under penalty of the greater excommunication."
This prohibition was directed, probably, against the versions of the English Bible published by Nicholas de Hereford and John Purvey, 1360-1400, and which are sometimes called Wyckliffe's Bibles. The social and political troubles of Lollardism had called for severe repressive measures on the part of the authorities, and these popular versions which were extensively used by the Lollards, fell under the ban. But the versions of the English Bible, published anterior to the time of Wyckliffe, were freely used.
Lindewood, the learned Canonist, says (A. D. 1430) of the Canon I have quoted above: "Ex hoc quod dicitur 'noviter compositus' apparet quod libros, libellos, vel tractatus in Anglicis vel alio idiomate prius translates de textu Scripturae legere non est prohibitum."
You see he assumes that versions of the English Bible, much older than the so-called Wyck-liffe's Bibles, were in use among the people, and to this undoubted fact Archbishop Cranmer refers, as within the knowledge of any scholar in his day, for the old libraries had not yet been destroyed. "It is not much above one hundred years ago, since Scripture hath not been accustomed to be read in the vulgar tongue within this realm. And many hundred years before that, it was translated and read in the Saxon's tongue, which at that time was our mother's tongue, whereof there remaineth yet divers copies found lately in old Abbeys of such antique manner of writing and speaking, that few men now be able to read and understand them. And when this language waxed old, and out of common usage, because folk should not lack the fruit of reading, it was again translated into newer language, whereof yet also many copies remain and be daily found."
Foxe says, "Both before and after the Conquest, as well before John Wyckliffe was born, as since, the whole body of Scripture hath been by sundry men translated into our country tongue."
Sir Thomas More writes, "The whole Bible was, long before Wyckliffe's days, by virtuous and well learned men, translated into the English tongue, and by good and godly people with devotion and soberness well and reverently read." In another place More insists that the clergy never kept the English Bible from the laity, except such translations as had not been approved, and adds; "As for old ones, that were before Wyckliffe's days, they remain lawful and be in some folks' hands. Myself have seen and can show you Bibles fair, and old, which have been known, and seen by the Bishops of the Diocese, and left in laymen's hands and women's, to such as he knew for good and Catholic folk, that used it, with soberness and devotion." Such were the old Bibles in the English tongue which were used in the preparation of the Great Bible in 1535.
A writer who was a contemporary of Wyckliffe speaks (A.D. 1398) of a version of the English Bible of "Northern speech" which seemed to him to be two hundred years old. Blunt says, that we can trace nearly the whole of the Bible back into vernacular translations of the times between A.D. 600 and the Norman conquest. King Alfred, A.D. 850, is said to have expressed the desire that all the free-born youth of the kingdom should be able to read the English Scriptures; which shows how extensively they must have been circulated in his day. We know that a century earlier Alcuin, at York, was busy translating the Holy Bible into Anglo-Saxon, and evidently his people had the Word of God in a language they could understand, or he never would have said to them, "The reading of Holy Scripture is the knowledge of everlasting blessedness. The man who wishes ever to be with God, should often pray to Him, and he should often read the Holy Scriptures. For when we pray, we speak to God, and when we read the Holy Books, God speaks to us."
We have still the translation of the Psalter made by the Bishop of Sherborne before the year 700; and Bede shows us that the men of Northumbria, gathered around Aidan, at Lindisfarne, as early as A.D. 635 had the Scriptures in their mother tongue.
As far back, then, as the English language can be traced, we find our English Bible. And there seems to have been a vernacular version in the earlier language of the country, when Anglo-Saxon was unknown. For Gildas writes that when British martyrs gave up their lives, for Christianity, during the Diocletian persecution, all the copies of the Scriptures, that could be found, were burned in the streets.
Thus may we judge the attitude of our Church towards Holy Scripture. Planted in the home of our English-speaking race in apostolic days, by apostolic men, possibly by the great apostle of the Gentiles himself, it has been faithful to the command to keep, and bear witness to the Word of God. It has striven always to give, to the people, God's Word in the language which they understood. And so it has given to our race the English Bible. The origin, and the secret, of the composition of this Book no man can tell; it is best stated, when we say, the Church has given it to the race; for no man, and no generation of men, can claim authorship of the English Bible. Beyond question, as a literary triumph, it is the best written book in the English tongue, and it is almost the only successful translation in the world. For, as we well know, the charm, and power, of a book, seems to depart, when we turn it into another language. To read Shakspeare a man must learn English, to read Homer he must know Greek. No translation can convey the message to us. It seems like a dead thing. But there is one exception to the rule, that translations are failures. It is the English Bible. It speaks to men, with the fervor, the pathos, the power of the Living Voice. And how is this? I know of no adequate explanation of the wonder but this: God has given to His Church, the gift of tongues, the power to convey His Message, as a living voice to men; and to His Church, when it faithfully strives to do His Will, He continues the wonderful Gift. And so this Church has the power to give the Word of God to the race entrusted to it, with the grace, and power of the living voice. Hence the wonderful power of the English Bible. God who spake by the prophets, speaks still by His Church, and bestows on it the power to convey His Message to the souls of men.
None can adequately appreciate the blessing which our Church has bestowed on the English-speaking race. It found our forefathers savages whose idea of war was extermination, men so brutal, that neither age, nor sex was spared in their fury, so degraded, that they bartered their fair-haired daughters to the Moors. And it haa lifted up our race until it stands in the front of all the Nations of the earth, not only in power, but in righteousness, in fair dealing between man and man, in its reverence for law, in its guardianship of human freedom, in its hatred of oppression, of wrong doing, of crime. In that long, toilsome, upward march of the race, the Clmrch has been the teacher and the leader.
It was the Church, headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, that was foremost in securing Magna Charta, which Hallam calls the key stone of English liberty, and of which he says: "If every subsequent law was swept away, there would still remain the bold features that distinguish a free from a despotic monarchy."
"Two great men," he adds, "may be considered as entitled, beyond the rest, to the glory of this monument--Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, and William Earl, of Pembroke. To their temperate zeal England is indebted for the two greatest blessings a patriotic statesman could confer; the establishment of civil liberty, on an immovable basis, and the preservation of National Independence."
It is, to that ancient source, that we go back, for the principles enshrined in our own Declaration of Independence, and wherever, in the world, to-day, you find a community of English-speaking men, there you will find the principles of Magna Charta, which the Church in the dark days of old, won for the race. In the uplifting of our race, the Church has been the blessed, and efficacious instrument.
And if we ask the means which it has employed, to bring about this result, I answer, that it has been the faithfulness of the Church in reading, in teaching, in publishing the English Bible. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. We can see, with what unwearied faithfulness, the Church has given the Word of God, to the English-speaking race, in a language they could understand. And if the Service of God is perfect freedom, and if the throne of law is the Bosom of God; need we any better explanation, of that passion for personal freedom, and that reverence for Constitutional law, which are so characteristic of our race, than the fact, that age after age, from the cradle to the grave, the Church has faithfully taught us the Word of God?
As a rule, the English-speaking race is profoundly ignorant of the debt it owes to the Church. How many among them know, that it is the Episcopal Church from which they have received the English Bible? Indeed, how many of our own people seem to be aware of the fact? Truth may be very close to a man and yet he may be utterly ignorant of it.
I remember, one day, when a good man, of a certain Christian denomination was speaking to me, and unconsciously showed his scorn of the Church, how amazed he was when T asked him to turn to the table of contents of his hymn-book, and note the authorship of the hymns. Out of 335 names, 165 were those of writers of the Episcopal Church. Here was a man, who knew not that he owed anything to the Church, who pitied it for its want, as he thought, of spiritual life; and yet, whenever he wished to lift up his heart in praise to God, to that Church rather than to his own denomination, or to all others, combined, he instinctively turned, to supply him with fitting expressions of praise, and prayer, and thanksgiving. You may think, then, how great was his astonishment, when he found that to that Church, also, he owed his much loved, well read English Bible.
The claim, that this Church, by the common consent of all men, is the Steward of the Word of God to the English-speaking race is one that we have the right to proclaim. Not without pains, and toil, has this Church, in the past, set forth the English Bible, before the world. The sons of the Church, have dared, and suffered all things to fulfil this duty.
I have stood in the street of Oxford at the Martyrs' Memorial, where, in the dark days, when strenuous effort was being made to destroy the power of the Church to teach the English Bible, two of our Bishops laid down their lives for a testimony, and the one cheered the other, as they went to the stake, saying, "Be of good cheer, brother; we shall, to-day, light a candle in England, which shall never be put out."
True prophecy of a loyal heart! how abundantly it has been proved! It is going on four centuries since then, and the light of that English Bible, for which they died, shines not only in England, but over all the earth, wherever that dominant race has made its home.
To us, in God's Providence, there has come the high calling of God, to take that lamp of truth from the faithful hands of a past generation, to hold it high before the world, and hand it on, to those who shall follow us, undimmed by faithlessness, or cowardice, or indolence.
We are ministers of God's Word. It is our Message to a sinful, needy world.
We cannot magnify too greatly the grandeur of our Commission. For this Divine Word entrusted to us, is the Power of God unto Salvation to every one that believeth. So important does the Church consider this duty, so necessary an adequate and constant preparation for it, that it pledges us, at our ordination, to make the Word of God the great study of our whole life time. "Will you be diligent in prayers, and in reading of the Holy Scriptures, and in such studies as help to a knowledge of the same, laying aside the study of the world and the flesh?" And we solemnly reply, "I will endeavor myself so to do, the Lord being my helper."
Using our Prayer Book as our commentary, and guide, we must study our Bible until its page shall be an open book, to our mind, and from an intellect saturated with the inspired Message, we can deliver it to the world. Our sermons and instructions should reflect our study of Holy Scripture, in their aptness to draw from its exhaustless stores, the arrows of truth to pierce the sinful conscience; and the doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness which are the marks of the man of God, thoroughly furnished, unto all good works.
Often one hears very harsh criticisms of sermons, and probably a good deal of it is well deserved. If the aim of the sermon is to magnify oneself, or if it is of such a character, that it cannot be regarded as the Divine Message which the Blessed Redeemer has commissioned us, His ordained servants, to deliver to men, none can brand its unworthiness too harshly. But, if in obedience to our ordination vow, we seek in our sermons, out of Scripture, to instruct the people committed to our charge, we are fulfilling, whatever men may Bay of us, one of the highest of our duties. The truly valuable preacher is the man who thoroughly believes, and accurately knows the English Bible.
Mr. Baring Gould in his book, "Post Mediaeval Preachers," discusses the religious movement which checked and overwhelmed the Huguenot party in France, and he attributes the success attained to the preaching of the Romanist clergy. Sacred eloquence, he says, is the most powerful engine known for influencing multitudes; and the Catholic clergy resolutely cultivated it, and used it with as much success as Chrysostom, Gregory, or Augustine.
He goes on to tell how diligently they drew on the patristic stores of theology and the exhaustive commentaries on every word of Scripture which great scholars of former ages had prepared. And he remarks that the main contrast between Roman Catholic sermons and those of Protestant divines in that age consists in the wonderful familiarity with Scripture, exhibited by the former, and the scanty use made of it, by the latter. It was not, he tells us, that these Romanist preachers affected the quoting of texts, but they seemed to think, and speak in the words of Scripture, without an effort, and their Scriptural illustrations are not confined to one or two books, but evenly selected from the whole Bible.
Here, then, we have the secret of effective preaching. And, as I have pointed out, it is the method which the Church commands us all to follow. It pledges us to be accurate and diligent students of the Bible, and out of these Scriptures to instruct our people. But the command is sadly neglected, and to this neglect we may rightly attribute the feebleness of the pulpit.
I ask you never to rest satisfied until, as the result of study, the whole range of the Word of God is within the grasp of your mind, so that you could give at any time, in your own words, a comprehensive analysis of any Book of the Bible; or, so that you could draw at will, from any portion of it, the weapons you require in your warfare with evil. I have said that your Prayer Book is your commentary. You will find that it draws impartially from every portion of the Word of God, and by following it closely in your study of the Bible, you will be saved from the one-sidedness which has prevented so many good men from prophesying according to the proportion of the Faith.
May I also add, that in delivering the Word of God in the services of the Church, we ought to be sure that we are able to read it. The complaint is often made that clergymen read the Service and the Lessons from Holy Scripture in a manner that does not conduce to edification. Too frequently it is an accurate criticism, but is it not a crime, and a shame that any clergyman should be justly liable to this censure?
In your preparation for the Sacred Ministry, you must at any pains secure such training, that when you read the Word of God in the congregation, it shall be with such reverent distinctness and intelligence that your solemn message will be clearly conveyed to every one among your hearers.
Once, a person said to me, of a clergyman, "I love to hear him read the Lessons. He reads them as if the Bible was the most solemn and wonderful thing in the world." It was a strange but accurate criticism of one of the best readers in the ranks of the clergy. Remember, then, that people will expect that you will be able to read the Bible. Do not, by inattention to lessons in elocution, come unprepared to the work of the Ministry.
Lastly, my brethren, remember that if you are to be faithful ministers of the Word of God, your personal character must reflect the Divine Word, as the mirror reflects the face. Our character, and our conversation should be an epistle known and read of all men.
When you enter on your ministry you will often be watched by unfriendly eyes. But if you are diligent to frame your life according to the Doctrine of Christ, men will take knowledge of you, that you have been with Jesus. They will see that you live as you pray, when before the Altar you ask for God's grace that both in your life and doctrine you may set forth His true and living Word.