« ElőzőTovább »
rugged exercises of a Spartan boyhood. For, so it was, that in the process of time, the bread of adversity, and the waters of affliction, were removed far from them. And then, in the process of time, there followed instead, the outward attributes of dignity and power ; the purple, and the fine linen, and the costly fare ; all those things, in short, for the attainment of which, the children of this world are fain to rise up early, and to take late rest, and to eat the bread of carefulness. And, in the midst of all this splendour of external circumstance, there fell upon them who sat in the high places of the Church, one grand, momentous, and most arduous duty,the duty of showing that these stately accidents of their condition had no power to change them into the likeness of the children of this world; but that, still, as in the midst of tribulation and distress, the Rulers of the Church were foremost among the children of the Light. And, herein, it is no empty rhetoric to say, that they had a cup to drink, though not so bitter, yet more dangerous than the cup of persecution; a baptism to be baptized withal, more deeply awful than that fiery baptism, which, of old, awaited the Martyrs and Confessors of the Church. For, when the man is assailed by fightings without, and by fears within, he is naturally impelled to dive into the very depths of his own spirit; and to call up thence all the secret resources, whether of native heroism, or of unearthly and spiritual might, which may there be stored and treasured up : till at length even the fires of martyrdom shall seem, to the eye of faith, to blaze with a celestial glory. But it is not thus, when all without speaks to him of ease, and prosperity, and pre-eminence. The danger, then, is, lest the resources of the inward man should remain unexplored, and the spiritual gift be left to slumber within him. If, therefore, in the days of persecution, a Bishop might approach the altar with much trembling, still more might his spirit sink, when he approached it, surrounded with all the outward and visible signs of worldly honour and advantage. For, then, would he approach it, oppressed with the prospect of temptations, which are so often found too much for merely human virtue. He, then, would be reminded, that, in addition to his other tasks, he had to teach the world a lesson, of which, as Heaven well knoweth, the world is in perpetual want,—a lesson among the chiefest learned by the Apostle in the school of Christ,--the lesson, how to abound, as well as how to suffer need. He would have to show the children of this world how all its riches and its glories may best be made subservient to the honour of God, and to the benefit of man.
He would have to show that abundance, as well as need, may be a consecrated thing. He would have, in short, to make it manifest in the sight of men, that, in Christ, neither wealth nor poverty availeth any thing, but a new spiritual creation; and that, whether in the days of oppression, or in the days of dominion, the Spirit of Christ is able, by a mighty and mysterious working, even to subdue all things to Himself. And, thanks be to God, this lesson has been taught the world. In spite of all that is sometimes disdainfully and hardly spoken to the contrary, thus much
may be confidently affirmed,—that Bishops of the Church of Christ may, in ample number, be reckoned among the foremost benefactors of mankind; among them, who have illustrated the use of affluence, by visible and practical instruction, such as could never issue from the heart of man, if not divinely touched by the spirit of purity and love. Even in those ages, which have an evil name among us, as the ages of ignorance and darkness, the working of this spirit was often beautiful and glorious. The memorial of it may, to this hour, be read in our seats of learning; in many of our towns and villages ; in monuments of intelligence and piety, which spread a sort of consecration over the whole length and breadth of the land of our fathers. The testimony thereof may further be read, by the eyes of this present generation, in the households and in the lives of the chief Stewards and Ministers of Christ. For there may men behold how the bounties of God may be sanctified by thanksgiving and by prayer, -by temperance and moderation,-by refined and generous hospitality, -and, above all, by an ampler dedication of those bounties to benevolent and holy purposes, than is even dreamed of in the measures and the calculations of the children of this world. And dark indeed would be the day, if ever that day should come, when examples such as these should be withdrawn, by violence and sacrilege, from our eyes! But this, we humb] trust, shall never be, so long as the Rulers of our Israel shall remember whence it is that the spirit of sobriety and love descends upon them ; so long as they shall carry with them, to their sacred office, the temper which prompted the Apostle's exclamation, Who is sufficient for these things ?
But this is not all. The Church had yet another trial to sustain; a trial which continues, and is well nigh at its very height, at this present day. In the fulness of time, there came what may be called an Age of Light. And this age commenced when the mind and the conscience of European Christendom protested, throughout a mighty portion of it, against the manifold corruptions, wherewith the simplicity which is in Christ had, for ages past, been disfigured and debased. And the crisis was devoutly hailed by many, as a season of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. And, by others, it was hailed, merely as a period of deliverance, in
which liberty should be proclaimed to the captive intellect of man, and the opening of the prison to his galled and fettered energies. And how the liberty, thus gloriously achieved, has been often used by the posterity of them that won it, is a thing which is too well and generally known to need a lengthened exposition. Thus much, however, our present purpose demands of us to note. First, that the three hundred years which have passed away since the beginning of that mighty Revolution, have been signalized by more stupendous conquests in the realms of science, than can be paralleled in all the preceding generations of the human race. And, secondly, that the pride of man's understanding hath more than kept an equal pace with the rapidity of its achievements. So that it might seem as if, like the Angels who kept not their first estate, some men were now tempted to sin “ by a reflex of their understandings upon themselves; when, being held with admiration of their own sublimity and honour, the memory of their subordination unto God, and their dependency upon Him, is drowned in this conceit; whereupon, their admiration, and love, and imitation of God cannot choose but also be interrupted'.” And, in this state of things, what became the duty of the chief Pastors of the Church,
1 Hooker, b. i. § 4. vol. i. p. 213.