"Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain."--ST. JOHN, xv. 16.
THESE words of our Divine Master are among the latest utterances of His earthly life, and they, therefore, come to us with a very deep solemnity. Up to the day when the three selected apostles "were with Him in the Holy Mount," [II. Peter i. 18] His teachings were directed to all the multitudes which gathered round Him. After that wonderful prevision of the glory with which the Son of Man was to be glorified [II. St. John, xvii. 5], the glory that shone from, if not upon the Cross, that lighted up the Sepulchre, that deepened into the transcendent radiance of the Ascension, and that will shine upon the world when the Son of Man "shall come in His glory, and all His holy angels with Him," in the final "manifestation of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;" after this prevision, which was not to be revealed save to the apostles until "the Son of Man was risen from the dead," His teachings were mainly to the twelve alone. They culminated, on the dark and doleful night of His betrayal, in that marvellous Eucharistic prayer, in which He consecrated His body about to be broken, and His blood about to be shed, upon the Cross, to be the [41/42] one oblation and sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.
As they were gathered in the upper room, where Passover and Eucharist met in such wondrous union, the Lord had taught the apostles, by rendering to them a menial service, the true dignity and grandeur of the humblest ministrations in His Church; He had promised to them the abiding presence of the eternal Comforter; He had spoken to them of the many mansions of His Father's house; He had left with them His peace; He had given them the new commandment of fraternal love. And then, before He went on to speak of the coming struggle, trial, tribulation, and the final conquest, He said, "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain." Great words! How full of meaning! How full of teaching bearing directly on the purpose that gathers us here to-day!
"Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you." This declaration of the Lord scatters to the winds all theories of the origin of the ministry and the Church of God, which make the one an after-thought, and find the beginnings of the other in human attempts to meet the surrounding necessities of a given age. Some men are saying of the Church to-day that it was a man-made organization, to provide for the manifold ills and sufferings that the grinding poverty of the period in which it appears carried in its train, and that it thus takes its place as one of the many "guilds of the Roman Empire," which came into being at the time. The same men are saying that the ministry in the Church grew up out of the necessary appointment, at first, of some persons, and then of more, to distribute the alms by which members of this "guild" endeavored to meet the wants of their destitute and starving brethren. There is just enough of truth in these statements to catch the unwary and float the mass of error they contain. There was [42/43] poverty, deep poverty in the world then, and the Church did come in contact with it, to relieve it, just as she was intended to come in contact with all human woes and wants. The ministry in the Church were the almoners to the poor, as they have always been. But to twist those undisputed facts into the theory that we find in them the origin of Church and ministry is a process as unhistorical as it is contrary to right reason and the teaching of the Word of God. When we seek the foundation of that New Jerusalem, which is from above, and the mother of us all, we find it only in "the Christ, the Son of the living God." When we seek the origin of the ministry in the Church, we pass down the long vista of the ages, until we stand beneath the right hand of Him who walks among the candlesticks, and holds in that right hand the stars which are the angels of the Churches. As we stand there, the discordant janglings of discordant theories are for the moment hushed, and on the silence breaks the calm, clear voice of the Incarnate God: "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you."
Does any one ask, Why do you insist on this, why do you make so much of these passing, and possibly personal, words of our Lord--spoken indeed to the twelve, but ending with them? Then I answer, simply because they are words neither passing nor personal, nor yet ending with the twelve. In all their quiet majesty they have come down the Christian ages, always real, always full of meaning, and they, with other words, which can never be dissociated from them, are what make the awful service of this day something more than an imposing pageant or even a decent and orderly solemnity. Nay, there is more, I think, to be said than that. "Did I not believe my office to be of God," exclaimed good Bishop Hall, "I would soon strip off this rochet." Even so. If we are not, here and now, handing on a deposit that has been given us; if we are not acting by His authority on whose "shoulder" [43/44] is laid "the key of the House of David;" if we are not speaking in the name of that Holy Ghost who makes men overseers of the flock, our act is one of awful presumption, our words are simply a fearful mockery. Are we honoring a man? In one sense yes, and with the highest honor that can be given man; to hold an office in which he is to be "esteemed very highly in love for his works sake;" but in another sense no, a thousand times no! because in the great office we forget the man, and while the office is magnified as the very stewardship of "the mysteries of God," he who holds it becomes as nothing.
"That ye should go and bring forth fruit." These words bind together privilege and duty, law and life, the work to be done and the measure of what is done; the lowly service and the blessed issue of the service, in a word, they present to us what has just been named, "the stewardship of the mysteries of God." The mysteries of God; the mystery of the preached Word, to some a savor of life and to others a savor of death; the mysteries of the ministered sacraments, of the baptism by the one Spirit into the one Body, the cup of blessing and the broken bread, the Communion of the Body and the Blood of Christ; the mystery of the seal of the Lord in the laying on of hands; the mysteries, in short, of the entire ministry of reconciliation, carrying on and forward to their final consummation, the grand mysteries of redemption, made possible upon the Cross, made actual in the Resurrection and Ascension, and in the coming of the Comforter; these are the agencies by which they whom the Lord has chosen and sent are "to bring forth fruit."
Not that the bringing forth fruit is the test of the reality of the commission, although it is the test of the proper and faithful administration of the stewardship. The fig tree that bore no fruit, but only cumbered the ground, was a fig tree still. The apostle of whom the Lord spoke as the "son of perdition," was an apostle to [44/45] the end. Let no man fall into the confusion here which is so common and misleading. But, on the other hand, let no man find in the reality of the commission, however it may be administered, excuse for carelessness or negligence. Rather let it be to him his highest incentive, his most awful warning, the warrant of his work, the warrant, too, of his "horrible punishment" if his work is left undone. And all this will be accomplished, if he keeps ever in his mind and on his heart his Master's words, "That ye should go and bring forth fruit."
How the field of duty, to which those pregnant words introduce us, widens as we dwell upon it! How its activities and responsibilities multiply and deepen! How the sympathies and contacts with human needs which it entails reach out in all directions! How its perils--not such, indeed, as those of which the Apostle to the gentiles speaks, but perils still--start into appalling life! until the failing heart and trembling lips cry out, almost in despair, "Besides those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the Churches. Who is weak and I am not weak, who is offended and I burn not?" And then the fearful possibility, "lest when I preach to others I myself should be a castaway." So, as the way lengthens the burden grows; as the years increase the cares increase with them; as the strength fails the labors press with heavier weight. I touch, dear brethren, only here and there a salient point, for time would fail me if I tried for more.
As to all Christ's ministers, so especially to the Episcopate, each age brings its own special trials as well as dangers. One age forgets one part of a Bishop's duty, another age forgets another, and each line of forgetfulness carries with it not a few risks and evils.
There is no danger, in this age and land, that the Episcopate will be taken from its proper functions to mingle in affairs of State or the intrigues of diplomacy, or any of those merely secular employments which once 45/46] caused so many of its members to leave their flocks unfed. Camps and courts make little call on prelates of the Church to-day. Worldly occupations of any sort are little likely to absorb them. Even the world, to say nothing of the Church, demands that they should be about their Master's business. Sloth, or inactivity, or literary leisure, or any thing that takes them from their proper duties, is not likely to be tolerated now. But does it follow that what is called public opinion, even within the Church, grasps their whole function, recognizes all its varying duties, keeps them in due balance, and assigns to each its proper place? He will be more rash than wise who shall say Yes to this suggestive question.
I open the Pastoral Epistles, and almost the first charge that I read to Timothy is, that "he is to hold faith," the faith; and then, as I read on, I find that he is to "take heed" not only to himself, but to "the doctrine;" that he is "to hold fast the form of sound words;" that he is to keep "that good thing which was committed to him by the Holy Ghost;" and, to quote no more, that the things which he had heard of St. Paul "among many witnesses" he was to commit to faithful men who should be able to teach others also. What do these words mean? If they mean anything, they inculcate, they impose, the duty of holding and transmitting the Faith, whole and undefiled. They bind on the Ephesian Bishop, and therefore on all who hold like office, the obligation to do that very thing which was in the great apostle's mind in the solitude of his Roman dungeon; nay, which he made the climax of his review of life when the time of his departure was at hand, as it had been the grand motive power of that whole life, when he said: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."
Is this aspect of a Bishop's work and duty, this part of the fruit he is to bear, much in men's minds to-day? Are there not many into whose account it never comes at all, and in whose reckoning it finds no place? Would [46/47] it not be thought, by not a few, that brilliant theories and attractive speculations were better things than the simple and homely keeping of the Faith? Depend upon it, in an age of utter intellectual unrest, when the caldron of human thought is seething and boiling as it is now, when the settled beliefs of all the Christian ages are regarded as no more settled than the most ephemeral theories and opinions of the hour, it is no light or easy thing to pull against the current and hold fast the faith.
Let me not be misunderstood. I do not mean--God forbid--that they to whom especially this charge has been committed are to be involved in perpetual controversy. I do not mean that the range of thought and opinion is to be cramped and narrowed by the perpetual addition of fresh articles to the old historic creeds, as was done at Trent and Westminster, and by Roman satraps in 1854 and 1870. I do not mean that human theories about the great facts which make up the Catholic creeds are to be placed on a level with the facts which those creeds contain, just as unproved theories in science are sometimes confounded with discovered facts. I mean, my brethren, nothing of the sort. But I do mean that he who is to be a standard-bearer in the army of God must not only have his own personal shield of personal faith, "in which shall be quenched the fiery darts of the wicked one," but that he must also bear in his right hand this banner of the Lord's sacramental host, stained with the blood of martyrs and radiant with the blazonry of heaven. I mean that he must defend his colors with his life. "Stand," said the brave old martyr of Antioch--and his counsel falls in right here--"stand like a beaten anvil. It is the part of a great champion to be stricken and to conquer."
And all that the old creeds teach, let us not forget it, centres in the living Christ the King, and the gospel of the kingdom. Just this is what men want, and yearn for, and are looking for to-day, a living king and a living [47/48] kingdom. And this too, as was just said, is the centre toward which all the earlier portions of the ancient Faith converge, and from which all its later parts flow out. There, at that centre, stands the Incarnate God; not a mere historic Christ coming out from the background of the historic canvass, in bright coloring, it may be, but still a lifeless figure; not merely an ideal man, the consummate flower of manhood evolved from circumstances, conditions and surroundings; not a mere prophet delivering his awful message and then "going the way of all the earth;" not merely a Saviour once dying on the Cross and nothing more, so that faith in that tremendous sacrifice becomes simply a belief in an abstract doctrine of the atonement; not a divinely-gifted man whose life was lived so gloriously that it made Him more than man at last; not one nor all of these things is the Lord and King whom we are to present to men. No! but He is the Son of God Incarnate, born into the world, dying on the Cross, rising from the dead, ascending into heaven, and coming to us, to the Church and to its ministers by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost, to hold us in His arm of strength, to take us to His heart of love, in a presence that is nearer and more real than when apostles held His mortal hand or the beloved disciple rested on His bosom.
At His right hand, in her golden vesture, stands His bride, the New Jerusalem, the City of God, the Church which He has purchased with His own most blessed blood; not an abstraction, not a human contrivance, not a poetic dream, not something to theorize about in vain shows of words, but, if I may somewhat abruptly change the figure, God's house and man's home for which, in His deep love, Christ "gave himself, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."
It was the preaching of this living King and living [48/49] kingdom, carrying with it, each in its proper place and sequence, Incarnation and Nativity, Cross and Passion, mighty Resurrection and glorious Ascension, as apostles taught them and the Word of God declares them, that won the earliest, noblest triumphs of the Faith; it is this which will win such triumphs still. These things proclaimed by lips that have been touched with a live coal from off the altar will have power, living power against all the "opposition of science falsely so called," against all dreams of man's development by dreary evolutions and outworkings in which dead force usurps the place of living love, and equally dead law, supplants the vital energies of a spiritual life.
Just here, too, we must not forget that the Word Incarnate and the Word Inspired, the Revealer and the Revelation must stand or fall together. Give up, forget, the Word Incarnate, and the golden clue is gone that interprets the Word Inspired, and it, ceasing then to be the Word of God, becomes only one of the world's sacred books. Give up, abandon, the Word Inspired, as the Word of God, and the Word Incarnate becomes one among many teachers, and the Faith once, and once for all, "given to the saints" sinks into a school of thought, or philosophy or what you will.
No doubt the whole ministry is set for the defence of those vital things. But, surely, at all times, and especially in an age when a subtle rationalism takes on the guise of sentiment; when the phraseology of revelation is on the lip without one particle of its meaning in the mind; when the Word of God is patronized and the Son of God is condescendingly applauded, as men applaud the work of a skillful artist, the Episcopate, if it be any thing, must stand in the forefront; must--to change the figure--not forget that though they who hold it are to build as wise master builders, they must build with one hand, while in the other they hold, "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."
I turn once more to the Pastoral Epistles. I find [49/50] there the injunction to give "attendance to reading" as well as to " exhortation and doctrine;" I read the charge, "meditate on these things;" and I remember that the first words addressed to the newly consecrated Bishop, after he has received the laying on of the hands, and when the Holy Scriptures are delivered to him, are the solemn echo, repeated and re-repeated, of the words of the great apostle: "Give heed unto reading, exhortation and doctrine. Think upon time things contained in this Book. Be diligent in them, that the increase coming thereby may be made manifest unto all men;" The voice then, of the Scriptures and the voice of the Church, urge these duties of study and meditation, part of the true work, as of all Christ's ministers, so specially of the Episcopate, and find a place for them in its fruit-bearing labors.
Is this age, dear brethren, altogether appreciative, is it even patient of these things? Is it willing to give them the place which Holy Scripture and the Church have given them? It is an age of large and manifold activities, and unless those activities are visible in the glare of the world's trampled and dusty highways, they are hardly counted activities at all. It is an age too in which glittering successions of startling paradoxes carry oftentimes more weight than solid lines of well compacted thought; and brilliant speculation goes for more than soberer teaching which is "good for the use of edifying." With many, nothing is work that men do not see before them in the face of day, nothing is effective work that is not followed on the instant by flutter and sensation.
Under such circumstances, time for the things which are thus enjoined on those whom the Lord has bade to "go and bring forth fruit" is frequently begrudged. It is counted as lost time. Men are willing enough that the Bishop should send for the "cloke" in which he is to travel on his round of duty, but they would prefer that he should take no thought for the "books and [50/51] parchments." This is a great wrong and a great mistake. If our Lord Himself, in His assumption of a human soul as a part of His perfect Manhood in the mysterious union of the incarnation, "increased in wisdom" as well as in "stature," are they whom He sends as the Father sent him, but with only the ordinary powers and opportunities of men, to be debarred from these needful things? If the same Lord, "in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," and on whose human nature the unction of the Spirit was poured without measure, still sought strengthening for the soul as well as refreshment for the body, in days of retirement and nights of prayer, shall they on whom rests the burden of the Episcopate be nothing but men of affairs, perpetually in the sight of the multitude, with no time for thought or meditation on the things committed to them, no time to take account, with themselves and before God, of their stewardship, no opportunity for laying up those stores out of which, as wise householders, they are to "bring forth things new and old?"
I am not undervaluing--God forbid!--the active work of the Episcopate. I only plead against its being overvalued, and filling the field of vision to the exclusion of other and equally important things. I only ask that with whatever serving its members may be burdened, they may be permitted, from time to time, to sit at the Lord's feet, and hear His voice, and learn His doctrine, and commune with Him in silence, and thus become, spiritually and intellectually, better furnished for the varied activities that crowd upon them. The saintly Leighton held that to be the truest life which followed the Lord into the mountain and the desert, to gain knowledge in study and strength in prayer, and then went out among men in ministries of teaching and loving, humble service. If the people, misled by false or imperfect estimates of life, will compel their Chief Pastor to become "like unto a wheel," the power of which is measured only by the number and rapidity of [51/52] its revolutions, they must not wonder if at last they also see them "as the stubble before the wind."
I have spoken of some aspects of a Bishop's work in bringing forth fruit that are in danger of being undervalued, if not entirely passed by in the age in which we live. It would be a great mistake, however, to suppose that it is intended to shut up his duty to those two things. Far from it. They have been dwelt on simply because they are thus undervalued; because if this under estimation leads to their abandonment, spiritual life is weakened, spiritual power is lessened, the ministry is maimed, and the Church of God suffers. Nor need I speak in this place and presence of the wide range of their service--so wide that it sweeps out from the possibilities of human vision, and seems lost in the far- off distance. How thought upon thought, charge upon charge, warning upon warning, crowd upon us in collect, exhortation, epistle, gospel, prayer, in the consecration office! Each one enough to fill one's heart to fullness and task his powers to their uttermost, while all together are a crushing burden that can only be borne by the help of His uplifting hand, who said, "As My Father hath sent Me, so send I you"--sent to the lost and outcast, sent to the wayward and the wandering, sent to feed the sheep and lambs, with no ministry too humble, so it be done for the humblest of the Lord's children; no service too lowly, so it be done for souls and bodies for which He shed His blood--strong in weakness, rich in poverty; unknown, and yet well known; having nothing, and yet possessing all things; through good report and evil report, the apostolic line moves on toward the great consummation and the completed kingdom.
"Amid that your fruit should remain." Glorious words of cheer and promise! And how marvellously have they been fulfilled! Sometimes the fruit seems long in ripening, but it comes at last, even if it comes not always in the very place where the work was done. [52/53] Stephen falls in the dew of his youth, but his work revives and bears abounding fruit in the great Apostle of the Gentiles. Paul dies a martyr in the imperial city, but his fruit outlasts the empire and lives in worlds of which neither he nor his persecutors knew. Latimer and Ridley light a candle that shines for other lands than England. Mackenzie and Pattison count not their lives dear unto themselves, and though the one fell on sleep in the African jungle, and the other yielded up his life amid the coral islands of the southern sea, their fruit remains, and it remains forever.
I speak only of these illustrious instances, but the law is the same for the most secluded life and the humblest field of labor; provided, for here we meet the one condition that underlies the promise, provided the work is done for Christ, and done, too, by His methods. This alone gives permanence. Work done for another than the living Christ, the Incarnate One, work done by methods other than His own, may make fair show at first, and seem, as men measure time, to be permanent and abiding. But such permanency ought to be measured not by one, or two, or three, generations, but by accumulating centuries. Children plant what they call gardens by filling some plot of ground with flowers in bloom, the stems of which they thrust into the earth. Those plots of theirs outshine, for the moment, in color and in beauty, real gardens where germs are bursting from the earth, or buds are just beginning to unfold. But ere long the one is withered and disappears, while the other grows on to flower and fruitage, and renews itself because it springs from a root, and advances by a true law of life. O how much fruit has come to nothing because it had no root in the living Lord, and was pushed to a ripening which it never reached, by methods of which He never knew.
But let the underlying condition be fulfilled, and then this promise holds, and brings its comfort to weary, burdened, breaking hearts. For, let me ask [53/54] you, is there a sorer burden which Christ's ministers have to bear, than the burden of patient continuance in labor without the cheer of proportionate result? Is there a truer test of real heroism than this? How the spirit sometimes flags, and the heart dies down within us, when the question rises, as it must rise, Can my work be true work when it all seems to come to naught, and no permanent, abiding result appears? Then come the blessed words, "That your fruit may remain." Cheer up, then, doubtful, trembling soul. If your work has been done for Christ, in Christ, with Christ, it shall remain. The seed you have sown may seem to die, but it shall one day spring up in a golden harvest, and that harvest shall be stored at last in the eternal granary of God. And so I end these poor words of mine with the great words of the Eternal King from which they have come forth: "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain."
My dear Brother: As I turn to welcome you, in the name of those who surround you here, to the awful trust, the weighty charge, the tremendous responsibility of the Episcopate, more thoughts and memories are present to mind and heart than I can utter now. I remember years, long past for you and me, when in that old Church which I am sure must be almost as dear to you as it will ever be to me, you in your early youth, and your venerated father in his strong manhood, were among those to whom it was my privilege to minister. I think of those who have gone before you in this great Diocese, the mother of other Dioceses strong and flourishing, and still, notwithstanding all that has been taken from her, foremost in this western world. I think of him, with us in spirit if not in bodily presence--may abounding blessing and comfort from the eternal Comforter be shed on his latest years!--to whom, after his long period of earnest labor you are to be a stay and [54/55] help, gaining the aid of old experience, giving the aid of active service. And then I look on this great City that spreads around us; gigantic now, but which you, if God spares you to threescore years and ten, will see gigantic beyond our powers to fancy; with its mighty possibilities for good, its fearful possibilities for evil; its magnificent opportunities; its wealth and its poverty; its luxury and its destitution; its rejoicing spirits and its broken hearts; its Christian homes and its haunts of sin, and all its teeming, throbbing life. O my brother, as you kneel to-day to have the Master's hand laid on you by the laying on of the hands of His servants, with all those voices in your ears and those thoughts in your heart, how full of meaning and responsibility will come to you the words, "Hold up the weak, heal the sick, bind up the broken, bring again the outcasts, seek the lost."
I thank God that I can say in no words of empty compliment, which this place and this service sternly forbid, that this will be no new work for you. The manifold and well-organized charities of your parochial charge, wrought out so silently and unostentatiously that they are better known to God than they are to men, warrant us in forecasting for your Episcopate that you will continue as a Bishop what you have begun as a Priest. Nor would I forget that in this most touching and Christ-like aspect of your future life you have and will have sympathy and prayers from many who see not as we see, but who desire as earnestly as human hearts can desire that men shall be brought into subjection to the law of Christ. Said St. Paul, speaking of a Bishop, "He must have a good report of them that are without." As we repeat those words, we do not, cannot, mean just what the apostle did. He thought of those who believed not in the Lord nor counted the blood of the everlasting covenant a holy thing. We think of those who are the very opposite of this, and in thinking of whom we say [55/56] in the quaint, loving words of the grand ordination hymn:
"Of strife and of dissension,
Dissolve O Lord the bands,
And knit the knots of peace and love,
Throughout all Christian lands."
How much may be done by meeting such sympathy--and that without sacrificing one principle, or compromising one essential truth--to help on the fulfilment of the Redeemer's loving, yearning words, "That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me."
My dear brother, it were easier to go on than it is to stop; but our solemn service may not be interrupted longer. May God grant to you length of days, and strength accordant; opportunity well used, and therefore ever increasing; "the word of wisdom" and the "word of knowledge;" the power in the Holy Ghost, to "hold fast the form of sound words," and to keep "the good thing committed unto thee;" readiness to "endure hardness," and a will to "strive lawfully for masteries." And when busy brain and loving heart are stilled, and laboring hands are folded in the blessed rest, may all men say of you what no man would dare to say of himself, He was "faithful unto death.