A Sermon Commemorative of the Reverend Joseph Richey,
preached in Mount Calvary Church, Baltimore,
on the twenty-first Sunday after Trinity, October 21st, 1877
by William F. Brand,
Rector of S. Mary's Church, Harford Co., Maryland.
Baltimore: Innes and Company, 1877. 29 pp.
AT A MEETING OF THE VESTRY AND CHURCH-WARDENS OF MT. CALVARY CHURCH, HELD ON SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 1877.
It was Resolved, That
THE Vestry and Church Wardens of this parish, on the part of the congregation which they represent, and for themselves, would hereby give expression to the profound sorrow with which they are filled on learning of the death of their devoted Rector and beloved friend, the REV. JOSEPH RICHEY.
They would record their sense of his fervent piety and holy zeal in his Master's cause, by which his daily walk and conversation were ever illustrated.
They would cherish the memory of his untiring and self-sacrificing devotion to duty, whereby, at the precious cost of Ms own life, the work of this parish has been sustained, extended and strengthened.
They would bear testimony to his learning and wisdom, which made him, though still young in years, yet mature in counsel and in judgment.
While grieving that his fostering care is thus early withdrawn from the flock which has so much loved him, and has been by him so much beloved, they find comfort in the assured hope that he has entered into that rest where the faithful unto death shall receive a crown of life, and the pure in heart shall see GOD.
HIS SERVANTS SHALL SERVE HIM: AND THEY SHALL SEE HIS FACE.
"Go Up Higher."—St. Luke xiv. 10.
OUR BLESSED LORD, eating bread in the house of one of the chief Pharisees, and marking how the guests chose out the places of honour, put forth what St. Luke calls a parable. By a precept of mere worldly wisdom, which gross hearts might be ready to accept, He inculcated a spirit of humility, the beauty of which they were not ready to perceive, saying unto them: "When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room, lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; and he that bade thee and him, come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Ye see that so it may be among men, so it is with God.
The lesson may be spoken against by those who choose to pervert Scripture; but it is no more contrary to the simplicity and directness of the Gospel than is any other inculcation of virtue coupled with a promise, e. g., "God giveth grace to the humble: humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time."
Suggested by what men call chance, I make use of the words "Friend, go up higher," as an introduction to a discourse touching one who was "lowly in his own eyes," and who, I doubt not, has therefore heard them from the blessed lips of the gracious Lord, who has bidden us all to the great wedding.
As a friend from whom his inmost thoughts were not hidden, I have been requested by your clergy and vestry "to preach a sermon commemorating the life and labors of the Rev. Joseph Richey," whom God in love has called to rest from the wearisome contest with sin. There can be but few facts to be noticed in the life of one whose days have been spent in the routine of a student and of a parish priest, and into whose hand the palm has been so soon given. My task is chiefly to bear testimony to the character of the man, the principles which guided him, the spirit which animated him. And doing this, what have I to say that is not already known to you, who have been blessed during these too few years by his counsels and his example?
Joseph Richey was born in Newry, County Down, Ireland, on the 5th of October, 1843. When ten years old he was brought by his parents to the United States, whither a part of their family had previously emigrated. His home at first was in the western part of Pennsylvania. Having determined at an early age to become a candidate for holy orders, in 1859 he came to Baltimore, that he might be under the care of the Rev. Thomas Richey, at that time Rector of this Church. With this elder brother, the younger lived here two years. In this Church he was confirmed, and here he made his first communion. And some of you who lament the man you revered as your teacher, knew and kindly esteemed him as a school boy. He was subsequently a student at St. Stephen's College, Anandale, New York, where Dr. Richey was Warden; and at Trinity College, Connecticut, of which institution he was a graduate of the class of 1866. After this he became a member of the General Theological Seminary, and was graduated in 1869. During all his academic course, and while a theological student, young Richey was remarked for his intellect and unwearied application, and for his consequent attainments:—in the Seminary for something more.
Now and then, among a body of young men who have devoted their lives to the glorious hardships of the Gospel Ministry, there is seen one who, by modest but evident and deep piety, by discretion and judgment as well as by proficiency in studies, and by a generous sympathy of true charity (without which all else would fail of due effect,) gains over his fellow students an influence which teachers in general may envy. So was it
with Richey at the Seminary. He was looked upon by his fellows as bringing credit on their body; he was looked up to as a leader; he was sought as a counsellor and as a comforter. I am told by those who were familiar with the fact that so it was. His straightforward, honest character, his fervid temper, (which would have made him impetuous at times, had he not been always self-restrained,) his readiness to consult the convenience and pleasure of others rather than his own, his firm maintenance of principle against the inclination of others or his own, his humble Christian earnestness, could not but have given him such a power; my loving memory of such an one being the witness. However differing; in judgment and in tendencies some of his fellow students may have been, all honoured Richey and trusted in him.
On leaving the Seminary he was made Deacon, and placed in charge of a congregation in Delhi, in the Diocese of Albany. The next year, 1870, he was ordained Priest, and soon after became one of the clergy of the Church of the Advent in Boston, of which the Rector was one of the Evangelist Fathers. His associations here were very pleasant. That he is lovingly remembered by those among whom he labored in each of these two fields, is shown by the fact that so soon as the news of his departure was received, by each congregation, he was in a special service commended to God. So would he have chosen to be borne in mind.
From the Church of the Advent he was, in the spring of 1872, invited to take charge of this congregation; but before considering this invitation, he made it a condition that he should be accompanied by his near friend, the Rev. Mr. Perry, since then his so faithful fellow-laborer. Mr. Richey came to Mt. Calvary under circumstances which might well have deterred one relying on his own strength. I can but refer to these circumstances; for he who caused your sorrow and anxiety was, and is, loved by me. Whatever were your fears, and the fears of others for you, they were soon dispelled. Life was infused anew into the parish. The number of the clergy was increased; and to their aid soon came the Sisters of the Poor from All Saints,—efficient helpers, abounding in good works. New fields of labor were entered upon. A school for girls was opened, in which, while providing best education in other respects, special regard should be had to that training without which all other teaching comes short of its true end—without which, learning cannot be a true blessing. And, in addition, there was undertaken and effectively carried out a very remarkable work among the coloured people, securing for them full and attractive religious services, together with schools for boys and for girls. Of this charity our Bishop has lately spoken in terms that leave nothing to be desired in the way of commendation, and that cannot but be cheering to the self-denial by which alone such work could have been maintained.
Brethren, your Rector's zeal taxed your ability. God grant that you may feel no desire to escape the burden laid upon you;—(does not the Apostle speak of a weight of glory?)—and that no help to support it may be taken from you. If your Rector called for exertions which you may have thought to be beyond your strength, no one can say that he pointed out a way untrodden by him; he was in advance always.
What is the measure of time? Count the years and the months. How short the while he was with you! Look to what has been done: how long a time it must have taken! In the midst of abundant labors there was a seemingly sudden lapse of power to endure. If others saw the shadow cast before, I did not, being with him only from time to time. I heard from him no complaint, from others no warning, until I saw that there was strength for ^nothing more. After a few weeks spent in gathering strength for, as he supposed, a health-giving journey, he went from us, hopeful, yet asking of friends, "Pray for me that I may desire only the will of God." Hopeful he was to the very last; yet upon every one abroad producing the impression he left with me when I spoke my last words to him—the words of blessing which he begged.
There is little to be said of his few days abroad. Landing somewhat better than when he sailed, he was driven by unpropitious weather from Ireland, where his strength rapidly failed, to London, whence he was almost immediately sent by physicians to seek a drier climate on the Continent. He went up the Rhine towards Switzerland, which he did not reach. I do not know at what point he turned back to London. We cannot but thank God that he reached there, to die among friends, with one exception scarcely known in person, but more than friends, brethren in the Lord; cared for by them most tenderly, through love for their common Lord. One of them has written: "He was so good and patient, that we all thought it a privilege to do for him." To the knowledge of all but himself he was dying when he reached London on the evening of the 17th of September, and yet he passed away unexpectedly. He had seen his one personal friend, Father Benson, in the evening; about six, the loving mother of All Saints Sisterhood left him, having been arranging with him that he should receive the Blessed Sacrament in the morning; at ten he sent word to her by a Sister that he felt better. The Rev. Mr. Brinckman, chaplain to the All Saints Sisters, who was in the same house, was with him as late as two in the morning, and then went down to his room, thinking that he was going on as usual; but at five he gave a deep sigh and passed away. This was on the morning of St. Matthew's day. Brethren, his last fond hope was that he might be able to return to you, God having provided some better thing for His faithful servant.
I turn to another part of my theme. I have spoken of Mr. Richey's proficiency as a scholar and of his habits as a student. He endeavoured to know well all that he attempted; but all his acquisitions were to one end—the better fulfilling the duties to which his life was devoted. A mere man of books he was not; but having entered on the duties of clerical life with a better preparation through the use of books than do the greater number of our clergy, he took care to keep his mind in due exercise as a scholar. He was not satisfied simply to seek to be prepared for weekly intellectual demands; nor yet by the exercise of memory to lay up additional facts; but, despite the multiplicity of his employments, he endeavoured to give some portion of the day to study as distinct from reading—to study that would task his faculties. He feared else (as he said to me;) that his mind would become impatient of work. In conveying to others the result of study, or in persuasion, he was not a brilliant orator; but in speech he was easy and self-possessed, and he gave an impression not only of the sincerity of his convictions, but also of the exactness of his knowledge. It could not be that application to study should not give increased power to set forth and defend his convictions; but these were not the result of later studies: they were reached early in life. A Christian man living in the West, that land of unrest and doubt, of bold and open avowal of persuasions good or bad, was asked by an unhappy doubter, "Through what reasoning did you reach your firm persuasion of the truth of the Bible?" He answered, "I believe because my mother brought me up in the nurture of the Bible." Mr. Richey was a believer always. His belief grew with his growth. There have been expressed fears lest what was called his developing doctrine of the Eucharist should finally lead him to a position inconsistent with that of a priest in our Church. I have been myself asked whether I did not think it must "end in his abandoning the Church, Once referring to this fear, he said to me: "I have known no development. All I hold now was taught me when I was prepared for confirmation." Oh, the blessedness of one who has always been under the guidance of our Mother, always led in her paths of pleasantness! whose mind has opened under her genial influence as a flower-bud does under that of dew and sunshine, naturally, gradually, in due proportion, with increasing growth of petal and depth of tint, but always the same in purpose—that which was included in the germ! How many of our members reach their position in the Church through painful resistance to the truth rather than glad acceptance of it; with struggling against the hand that would gently lead us, and at last by violent wrenchings of dear associations! They are at best Churchmen by conviction, not having the instincts and feelings of children of the Church; with whom matters of faith even have been, in some sense, desecrated by doubting discussion. Alas! some there are who have had no one to care for their souls; they have been brought in from the broad road of sin through the narrow gate of bitter repentance, with hearts dulled by perverted affections, half-blinded by the false lights they have followed, stiffened by long wearing the bonds of iniquity. They are as those delivered from a fiery furnace, yet of whom it can not be said that "the smell of fire has not passed from them," for there is a freshness of innocence which repentance can not restore. However the privilege be gained, to be a citizen of the Kingdom is cause for gratitude. There are those among us who with a "great sum obtained this freedom"; but Richey was "free born"—if not in that sense which I had supposed, until told the contrary last night, yet from a child he had "known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make wise unto salvation through faith." With a child's faith he had embraced that service which is alone freedom; and through the faithfulness of an uncle, who is a clergyman, he at an early age had had "expounded unto him the way of GOD more perfectly," as we deem. He had never had to unlearn anything. The blessing of this training he rightly appreciated, and hence, in part, his zealous efforts for education in the Church.
Mr. Richey's position with respect to some points of doctrine and of practice about which there are such earnest differences among men who yet profess to hold common standards, was due to his thoroughly Catholic acceptance of the mystery of the Incarnation, and of primitive teaching touching the one Catholic and Apostolic Church, the living body, of which the living Head is God Incarnate, from Whom, unseen, but really present, all life flows through channels of His appointing. For him it was no dead truth that God the Son was borne by the Virgin,—that with her consent, of her substance God took our nature upon Him. Having received this so pregnant mystery, he stumbled not through unbelief at any other declaration of God. In the light of this truth, all other teaching respecting God's dealings with fallen man was contemplated. His was a religion spiritual indeed, but addressed to men in the flesh, and therefore in the eyes of some a sensuous, carnal religion. "It is finished," to his understanding, did not imply that since Christ has died, man has but to believe in an atonement made. The Christ in whom he placed all his trust is not a dead Christ, but a living Christ Who maketh intercession for us—Who imparts life, and gives strength to bring to a perfect end the work begun by Him. As Christ, being God, for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was made man, so must we, if we would rise to heaven, become at one with God through union with that Man who is the Son of God. There is, for man, no access to God but through the Man Christ Jesus. If we be the sons of that Second Adam we must have put on Christ, and have become like unto Him in mind and in consequent righteousness. la all the modes which he who considers himself most spiritual and delivered from dead ordinances would inculcate, must each redeemed man seek to become like in nature to the Divine and human Head of the redeemed race; but also in the way indicated by the LORD, commending itself to faith only, to wit: being born anew in baptism of water and of the spirit; and sustaining life thus imparted (the life of soul and of body) by feeding on Christ, by frequent partaking of the Holy Communion of the Blessed Body and Blood of Christ. "The sacraments are 'the extension of the Incarnation,' and through these means we are united to the man's nature of Christ." It is little to say that Mr. Richey believed Baptism to be Baptism in truth, not figuratively, the washing of regeneration; and that, reading the words of the LORD, "Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day"; and again, "This is my body, this is my blood,"—His servant put no evasive interpretation on them, but joyfully accepted their literal significance, believing in gladness of heart that Christ, fulfilling His word, does give Himself in His sacrament, and dwelling with those who rightly receive Him, imparts new life, and in the end will raise them up, (their bodies and souls) unto eternal life. In other words, your guide who has gone before held, as you my hearers are witness, and most plainly insisted on, the highest doctrine touching the gifts of Christ to His Church—doctrines which he had learned from his catechism, which teaches us that there are two sacraments "generally," i. e. for all men, "necessary to salvation." He taught you that by the one sacrament life .is imparted, and that by the other life is sustained and perfected; that when according to God's ordinance the latter is administered, then the Body and Blood of Christ are, in no unreal sense, taken and received; and that the Lord Who thus gives Himself, being present to the eye of faith as really as when in the risen body He was seen to ascend up into heaven, is to be adored as present Deity. Moreover, that this act of faith is not only a Holy Communion, a partaking of the Blessed Body and Blood, but is also, what our Prayer Book terms it, a sacrifice. Not a repeating of what was enacted on the Cross once for all, but a pleading and a representing on earth of what, on the part of the one only Priest and Victim, is ever enacted in heaven. If by philosophic language your teacher ever attempted to make clearer to your apprehension the mystery which is beyond comprehension, I do not know the fact. I am here simply to speak of my friend, not to express my own opinions. Yet I beg leave to say that, in my judgment, all intruding into those things which God has veiled is, to say the least, rash; and that hence I shrink not only from all attempts to show how that can be which the Truth has declared is, but also from some doctrines and consequent practices which are piously thought to follow the acceptance of the reality of the Divine presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Pardon this reference to myself.
It was not only with regard to the two Sacraments of the Catechism that your teacher presented high views, from which some draw back, fearing what may possibly lie behind. He was bold in the Lord, knowing that a theology which is always dreading possible consequences must be always a feeble theology. He knew that there is but one true Priest, and that there never has been any other. Yet he knew also that this one Priest, the sent of God, has sent men even as He was sent of the Father, to act in His name, stewards of His mysteries. Believing that this mission from Jesus had descended even to him, he held not back from the most startling of the functions deriving worth from the fact that the servant but acts in the name of his Lord. The enemies of Christ asked in scorn: "Who can forgive sins but God only?" And the answer must be, "No one on earth or in heaven." But the Son of Man claimed to forgive sins; and He expressly gave to men the right which He claimed. Because of the Incarnation, because the Son of Man is the Son of God, by His power and in His name the forgiveness of sins is declared with authority to the repentant believer. The Church in her ordination asserts that this power, of forgiving is committed to her, and in plain terms imparts it to her ministry. Among those who accept the Prayer Book, there may exist doubts as to a priest's right to exercise the power to absolve; but there can be none as to the fact that the power was given him when he was ordained.
Many of you know to your comfort that your priest did not so read our formularies as to withhold the exercise of what was imparted to him. What he in faith bestowed he habitually sought, making his humble confession to Almighty God, and asking of His minister counsel, penance and absolution.
And this leads me to say, that in respect to all teaching and practice he was guided by his belief in one Catholic and Apostolic Church. In no respect had his theological principles changed since his ordination, and in all sincerity had he taken the vows which bound him to "minister the doctrine and sacraments and the discipline of Christ as this Church hath received the same." He would have denied the right of any one in our orders to set aside the authoritative teaching of our Church, and turning the pages of the Fathers to form for himself a code of Catholic doctrines. How was it then that he held a position so severely denounced by brethren who, insisting on the term "as this Church hath received the same," from writings of men prominent in the days of the Reformation bring proof of the Protestant character of our Church? Mr. Richey was emphatically of that school which calls itself Catholic. He did not believe that the best phase of Christ's body ever seen in the lapse of ages was presented immediately after the American Revolution; nor that the reformers of the Church of England were the embodiment of all Christian wisdom and piety; nor yet that from the clash of contending parties there resulted that presentation of the Bride of Christ which they who love her beauty as once revealed could most desire. Undoubtedly he did not love the work of the Puritan party; but I never heard from him a scoff at its result: he believed that whatever, through admiration of Continental reformers and detestation of the Pope, might have been their purposes, they were restrained from touching anything essential. They "brake down the carved work with axes and hammers, and set fire upon holy places," but yet the ark of the covenant was preserved. Whatever the ulterior views of civil government and of some in authority in the Church, the Reformation was in the beginning professedly an intended return to the teaching and usages of primitive ages; and this profession was never gainsaid. The 30th Canon of 1603 declares that "the Church of England only departed from the Church of Italy, France or any such like" "in those particular points wherein they were fallen both from themselves in their ancient integrity and from the Apostolic Churches which were their first founders." In God's good Providence the authoritative exposition of doctrine and discipline has not violated this claim to have remained Catholic. Points of doctrine and usage may have been passed over in silence; but omission is not prohibition: and even if Catholic teachings have been discouraged, still liberty is left. As the Church of England of the present day is professedly the Church of primitive ages, (no uncertain era, for it includes at least the ages which witnessed the first four General Councils) so her daughter in America has avowed that in her reconstruction she meant by no means "to depart from the Church of England in any essential point." Appealing to these facts, Mr. Richey would have asserted that in all that he held or did, it was "as this Church hath received the same." Where there is room for interpretation, her rules must be interpreted in accordance with her avowed principles.
Discipline of the Church enforced by rightful authority he unfeignedly submitted to. I was with him in attendance on the sessions of the last General Convention, when zeal burnt against "ritualists," and the result of legislation was feared. He at that time said to me, "The Convention can pass no canon that I am not ready fully to obey." He was a true and obedient son of the Church, which is yet not wholly conformed to the conceptions of one who cherished the life and spirit of the earlier ages. In sympathy with a school which is looked upon with suspicion, he yet desired no escape from his position, for this reason: his knowledge of the condition of the Church showed him that there is no one existing branch that does not fall short of its grand ideal; but chiefly because he was assured, as I have intimated, that the Church which gave him orders is a part of the one Catholic and Apostolic Church in which God's grace descended to him, and from which he could not willingly separate without sin. He might have said of her as Peter, in the name of the Apostles said to their Lord, "To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."
His bold maintenance of his convictions and his spirit of obedience to rightful rule were shown by painful circumstances, which forced him to meet manfully a notoriety from which his nature shrank. I need not recall the facts, which are but too fresh in your memory. The intended trial was averted by your clergy rightly submitting to the godly admonition of their Bishop, and promising to avoid what had been an occasion of stumbling; yet without abandoning, and without being asked to abandon their conviction that, although not commanded in Holy Scripture, nor distinctly set forth in our service book, commemoration of the faithful departed is legally observed in the English Church, is clearly a primitive usage, and one familiar to, probably practised by, our Lord and His Apostles as Jews, certainly never condemned by Him or them.
Whatever the judgment of your late teacher on any religious matter, it was not unconsidered. For the reason of his opinions, as of the hope that was in him, he was ready always to give an answer. His reading in theology had been extensive, and not confined to one school. You are witnesses how his clear conception of the truths he held aided his earnestness in impressing them on you. His was not the preaching of vague generalities;—but of this I have only the testimony of others. You best know the faithfulness and loving nature of his private efforts to lead in the way of holiness. Of his entire devotion to his work,—his Master's work,—all are cognizant. In labours he was abundant. Your clergy will tell you that, while prompt to spare them, he never spared himself. I myself have seen him later than two o'clock taking his first morsel of food after constant labour from six in the morning,—a labour so wearying to the body through the spirit; and this at a time when the disease which cut short his days gave him little rest in sleep. And yet his complaint was that he neglected duties. I have heard complaints of his forgetfulness, and have uttered them myself. We did not know then how great the cause. Why bemoan that cause? Better the sword should destroy its scabbard than that rust should eat into the blade.
One so faithful to others could not have been negligent of his own soul. I think he was tender in his dealings with you. I know that he was severe in his judgment of himself. He was as honest with himself as he was humble. Save one who long years ago left me to mourn, having at an even much earlier age reached a wonderful spiritual development, he was of all men the most spiritual-minded I have ever known. The one who by his true spirit of humility—a spirit which does not hide from us qualities bestowed, but recognizes rather Who gave them, and how poor the response we have made to His goodness—the one, I say, who has made me realize, as never before, how St. Paul could call himself" the chief of sinners." The one who has most impressed me as having ever before him the true aim of a redeemed soul—the living for God Who bought him—cherishing a sense of His presence, doing and suffering His will in all things, and thus growing conformed to Him, and the better fitted to enjoy Him forever. I have never known a man who, to my perception, more fully acted in accordance with the words of St. Paul, "I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which I am also apprehended of Christ Jesus; forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things that are before, I press towards the mark." Ah! brethren, let us be like minded. Living in the practice of the presence of God, he yet did not always feel the consoling presence of God. God, who thus tries only those who are strong to bear, left him at times no support but bare faith; yet rejoicing in the sweets of religion, and drawing abundantly from the well of salvation, or seemingly "in a dry and thirsty land where no water is," equally did he endeavour to do each duty laid upon him. One word more: his manner in the highest office of religion was such as we may picture to our minds to be that of those who veil their faces on high; so truly did he feel that he stood before the throne of God. Tears have run down my cheeks, called up by the tenderness of his tones.
Is it wrong thus to exalt my brother? An eminent English Bishop was made the victim of extravagant praise before our assembled Church. In his answer he put aside what had been heaped upon him; showed that other men had, in the main, done and endured what was attributed to him; that he had but "entered into their labours." But had all been true, yet it is never meet to forget that men are but instruments in God's hands. And then he said, "I would apply to myself words spoken with a different purport, and of a very different Person,—'Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner.'" I accept the Bishop's teaching. The man whom I have praised was indeed a sinner, ever conscious of the fact, looking only to the mercy of Him who came to save sinners. He had nothing that was not given. By the grace of God he was what he was; and we but praise God that grace was not bestowed on him in vain. When His servant is past the reach of pride and vanity, it is not unmeet to dwell on the fruits of God's goodness.
In the last day the Lord "shall come to be glorified in His saints"; and not only then, but now, He is "to be admired in all them that believe." My friend was a sinner, not simply in that he was subject to that "infection of nature" which "doth remain, yea in them that are regenerate "; but he had his special infirmities, the remembrance of which yet hinders not the avowal that in him seemed fulfilled, in no small measure that wondrous prayer of St. Paul for the Ephesians. "Christ dwelt in his heart by faith." His life seemed to result from the fact that he was "rooted and grounded in love." For what he was in himself and toward us, God's holy name be praised!
And now to His servant, who was ready at his Master's bidding to take the lowest room, the Lord has said, "Friend, come up higher." He is hidden from our eyes. By the exercise of memory only do we dwell upon his example and hear his words. Let him, being dead, often speak to you. Let me now in his name say to you those words which the Lord in fullest sense shall but once speak to any—(alas! how many shall never hear them!)—but which, all our life through, to each one He is uttering in pleading tones, Come up higher!
Is there any one here who thus far has resisted the leadings of God's Spirit, and, a Christian only by his baptism, which may insure the greater damnation, dwells only on this earth, lives only for the things of this earth? Friend, come up higher! No longer suffer the enemy of souls to persuade you that earth has any thing, even were it stable, worthy to be compared with, the abundance, the wisdom, the pleasures wherewith Christ would enrich you. And you—thank God! the far greater number of those who are before me—-who have in some degree tasted and seen how gracious the Lord is, Come up higher! Whatever your attainments in the knowledge of your own unworthiness and of God's love, there are depths which you have not yet sounded, heights which you have not yet climbed. Seek them. By the same effort are they reached. The knowledge that "passeth knowledge" is a paradox. The more, under God's guidance, you abase yourselves, the more you are exalted. Search, prove yourselves. It is only by feeling your weakness that you can learn your strength. In the exercise of that strength you cannot, in the end, but attain the highest room. But hear once more the very words of your dead pastor—dead to the world, but living with the Lord. Writing to one of his charge only a short while ago, he says: "You ask me to write you a letter of spiritual counsel such as St. Francis wrote. To do that I should have to ask you first of all to make me like St. Francis. But there is one thing which I will say as a word of spiritual counsel: Try to learn more and more, what we all need so much to learn, that we have only one thing to do on earth, and that is God's will. If you undertake every duty, even the most trivial, in obedience to God and in dependence upon God,—if your only motive in it is that you may glorify Him in it and by it,—if you look to Him only for your reward,—then you may rest assured that He will help you, and that you will be acceptable in His sight. If you will only look more to God and less to man, you will not be so easily robbed of that inward peace, the loss of which is such a hindrance to you in the spiritual life."
When God has taken away the worthy head of a congregation, the bereaved are apt to stand gazing upwards, and say, as did Elisha, My Father! my Father! We do not know to whom to look to carry on the work left without his direction Brethren, when the all-wise Master calls a labourer to his reward, we may believe that his work is done—I mean that the task given him is, to the utmost of his power and faithfulness, finished. This is not fatalism, but a trust that all things are ordered by loving Wisdom which notes a sparrow's fall. The work in which your pastor showed so much zeal, was not his work nor borne by his strength; it was God's work, which He has committed to other hands. See to it that you fail not in the effort to discharge your task in reliance on God; and for your comfort, remember that for effort only are you responsible. When a loving guide and counsellor is withdrawn,—our habitual stay taken from us—we can not but feel more than ever our want of certainty and our weakness. But who has made many of you now thus desolate? God, Who knows your every need; Who desires your best good; Who would have you recognize that your best good comes from Him, is found by those who draw nigh to Him, who live in utter dependence on Him. God is a jealous God, and will not give His honour to another; and so sometimes He takes from us that on which we had fixed our hearts and placed our reliance. He is jealous of His honour through love for us. He would be our all in all.
"Put not your trust in princes." It is a hard lesson, ever and again forgotten, and therefore taught again I do not say, Be indifferent as to who may be your earthly teacher and guide; but listen always for your Heavenly Father's voice, lean only on His hand.
To those who with me mourn the severing of sweetest friendly ties, I do not say, "Sorrow not"; only let your sorrow for yourselves be tempered by joy through sympathy with him for whom we grieve. How often at early celebrations have you joined with him in saying these words:
O Christ, Whom now beneath a veil we see,
May that we thirst for soon our portion be:
To gaze on Thee, and see with unveiled face
The vision of Thy glory and Thy grace.
Though it be with choking voice, give thanks that God has heard this his prayer. May God have our loved one in His holy keeping. Be it our chief aim so to live that we too may gladly hear the summons—Come up higher!
Unto God, with Whom do live the spirits of those who depart hence in the Lord, and with Whom the souls of the faithful are in joy and felicity: unto the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost, with sorrowing yet thankful hearts, we do give all praise and glory. Amen!