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A sermon preached in Westminster Abbey, on St. Matthias' Day, 1859, at the consecration of the first… Tait, Archibald Campbell, 1811-1882; Church of England. Diocese of London. Bishop (1856-1869 : Tait) 1859

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Array       A   SERMON
18d9.  TO
b j5*ntum m Jhbitateb
Acts I. 26.
And they gam forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias
St. Matthias the apostle, on whose day^we
are met, was then selected for his apostleship
by lot. The principle of choosing by lot was
very different in the democracy of Athens and
in the theocracy of the inspired and miraculously
supported Church of the days of the apostles.
The democratic principle of choosing officebearers by lot was, that all who were capable of
appointment were equal in claim; that they were
all alike entitled to have the chance of appointment ; and that the fairest plan for giving none
an undue advantage, was to cast all the names
into the urn and submit the selection to blind
chance. But the spirit in which the Church
of the Apostles had recourse to lot is marked
in this morning's Epistle in the verses which %■■■■■ aajj^.
come before the text. The disciples were
gathered together: they were reminded of the
deep importance of the occasion on which they
met: out of the number of those who had
companied with the eleven all the time that the
Lord Jesus had gone in and out among them—
beginning from His first initiation into His
ministry till the day when He was taken up to
heaven—two were carefully selected; and then,
that man's judgment might not be trusted
further, the last selection was referred to God:
They prayed, and said: I Thou, Lord, which
" hnowest the hearts of all men, shew whether
I of these two Thou hast chosen"
The qualifications of an apostle, -as described
in this passage, were different from those of a
ruler of the Church in our days. To have been
present at all the Lord did and said during the
years of His earthly sojourn, and to be a witness
of His resurrection—this qualification, and the
miraculous duties of the office, have passed: t;he
ordinary duties of oversight and government,
with the ministry of the Word and sacraments,
remain, and will remain while the world lasts.
Who can exaggerate the importance of these
duties, or the qualifications required for -their
full discharge through God's grace ?
It is a goodly sight to see the Church of God
putting forth its strength ; sending its chief
ministers, with all the arrangements of its fully 5
developed system, to take possession for Christ
of the distant lands, which, learning to reverence   the British   name,  we   trust,  for   many
temporal blessings, receive from Britain as the
greatest of all blessings the inheritance of the
Gospel  of  the Lord,  and the  opportunity  of
worshipping Him in His own appointed ordinances.   And if there ever were a case which
called for our Church's fully ordered system,
we have it in that land to which we send our
brother forth to-day.    We send him forth, that,
striving to touch and rouse men's hearts by the
preaching of the Gospel, he may not leave them
without guidance when aroused, but that exerting himself in every way, God helping him—by
orderly government—by  establishing the rations of a duly subordinated ministry—by giving
to all arrangements of the Gospel their settled
form, venerable as coming down from the days
of the apostles—he may, by God's grace, cherish
a Christian love of law and order, and a reverence for the old things of Christ's Church in the
midst of a society which, it may be feared, has
within it the  elements  of dissolution,   simply
-because, from its peculiar circumstances, it can
produce  from  within  itself no  reverence  for
those thoughts  and associations, to which the
Bishop's office especially witnesses.    It is indeed
a goodly and great work to found a bishopric
in such a colony.    Let us thank God heartily EBB
that the desire, and means have been given to
found it. The awful trust of wealth cannot be
used better than when it is thus laid out to produce interest in spreading. Christian civilization
where unchristianised societv would be a hell. We
have good ground to believe that the work now
undertaken of founding this bishopric is of God.
And if the Bishop's office is thus so much
needed, how great the amount of simple, self-
denying zeal, and wise discretion, requisite
for its due discharge. Our prayers should be
earnest that our brother's soul may be blessed.
We look upon him as called to a work peculiarly
great and difficult. i|f.    ■ . •,• #^
H' "-Do you trust that you are inwardly moved
by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this office P"1
Thus the Church speaks to each candidate for
admission into the ministry. And if the first
step, so each that follows it—binding with awful
| responsibilities—opening up fresh means of
influence—investing with higher powers—shall
not each step be taken only when we can gather
that it is the will of God, whispered by the
Holy Ghost, that we should take it ? A solemn
and appalling thought when realized in plainness and sincerity—apart from all the conventionalities of religious or professional phraseology—that we are not justified in seeking any
advancement as Christ's ministers, except so far
} Ordering of Deacons. forth as we are prepared to answer to God, who
knows the heart, that we have good reason to
believe that the proposed change in our life, and
the willingness to embark on it, come only from
Himself. With all,those accessories of wealth
and many worldly advantages, which the prosperity of the Church has wound around its higher
dignities at home, how dangerous an opening for
self-deceit! Truly it is different when, as to-day,
we are met to see one raised to the sacred office
in a bishopric, which is indeed like our own
bishoprics at home, in that it will have its full
share of apostolic labours and difficulties, but
unlike them will be left in all respects to apostolic
simplicity in its outward worldly circumstances.
It may well be taken for granted that a man
engages in such an office in the spirit of self-
sacrifice. The rending of home-ties; a life-long
dwelling amongst rough men, in such a state of
society as is likely to spring up when a barbarous
land has. the offscourings of the civilized world
suddenly poured into it; the having to deal, in
the attempt to spread the Gospel, neither with
our own people, such a,s we have them at home
(knowing from long experience their worst and
best qualities), nor yet with some simple savage
tribe, nor some ancient nation, the habits and
feelings of which, however degraded, may at
least be learned from _what observation and
history tell us of  their institutions,  and their 8
past career,—but the having to deal, in our
attempts to spread the Gospel, with a confluence of men from all nations—most of whom
have cast themselves adrift from all the softening associations of country, of home, of law,
of religion; to have it as your life's business to
mould such men into the forms of the Christian
society, and bring their rough hearts to reflect
the image of the Lord Jesus Christ: truly, there
are so few alluring features in this prospect that
there seems little room, in the breast of him before
whom it is opening, for any feelings but those
of self-sacrifice. Yet it is well for all of us, even
to-day, reverently and distinctly to call to mind,
that if we are to expect that the work undertaken to-day is to be blessed—the thoughts
which have led to it, the purpose of founding
this bishopric, and the call of him we send to it,
must all proceed from God the Holy Ghost. We
do not, as the Apostles did, cast the names of
those who seem fitted for the office into the urn,
and prayerfully leave it to God, the searcher of
hearts, to say, by controlling the lots, which name
He has chosen. But, if the efforts of our Church
to Christianise the world are to be assured of
God's blessing, the whole matter—the wishes and
efforts of the members of the Church generally, to
put forward the claims of those they honour—the
actual selection of those on whom God has laid
the weighty responsibility of choice—the accept- 9
ance of the office by him who is chosen, and the
solemn work of consecration when the choice is
made—all ought to be marked and hallowed by
that reverent, faithful, praying spirit which referred the selection of Matthias directly to the
Lord who knows all hearts.,
My friends, would that in our common daily
life we were more accustomed to see God manifested—to refer to Him, and faithfully to wait
upon Him ! Then should we be more certain to
place ourselves entirely in His hands, and feel His
manifested presence, and rejoice to submit our
wills and desires to Him in those more solemn
matters, which we cannot but recognise as
demanding His especial cognizance, since they
directly and powerfully affect the eternal interests
of so many souls for which Christ died.
. y They gave forth the lots ; and the lot fell upon
" Matthias" " The lot is cast into the lap" says
the wise man, | but the ichole disposing thereof
I is of the Lord" I It is a comfort which every
religious mind knows when any emergency of our
life seems imminent—a comfort doubtless felt by
him whom we are to-day assembled to set apart
for his great office—that there is One who controls
us in all things which affect us; that, as it is true
that without His cognizance not a sparrow falls
to the ground, so all the little incidents that have
given its bias to our life past—all the relations
1 Proverbs xvi. 33.
1 r
# ^-
i -~r«s
l 3gs
into which we have been thrown—all the influences which have been brought to bear upon
us—all the helps we have had in rising to positions of usefulness, and all the checks too which
have at times thwarted our cherished desires—
have been subject to His absolute controlling
will; that as a loving Father He has tended us
from our earliest childhood; and when we have
grieved Him by the sad neglect and sinfulness of
past years, He has still never forsaken us, but,
loving us in the Lord Jesus Christ even when we
showed ourselves to be His wayward children, has
caused all things to work together, if by any
means our characters might be so trained and
disciplined that we might be fitted for the very
duties and the very position for which He of His
goodness destined us. Our life may have seemed
to flow on at random, acquaintances may seem to
have been formed by chance which have given a
turn and complexion to our whole life; but Christians know that they are not subjected to chance,
that they are dealt with even in the minutest
matters by the Lord who loves their souls.
U Of St. Matthias, I suppose it may be said, we
know almost nothing. As he, with other apostles
barely named, and then apparently forgotten in
the history, is a remarkable example how God
may have a great and real work for men to do,
and yet may push themselves as it were altogether
into the background, making what they perform '11 I
not the less real because it is thus marked as His
work, and not theirs, and is difficult or impossible to distinguish in its details from the great
Whole of those doings of God, of which it is
but an insignificant part—as thus St. Matthias
is no sooner named as an apostle than he is lost
sight of—so we cannot tell, as to his earlier days,
what sort of a home cherished him in boyhood;
who taught him, or how he was taught; what
discipline he had, of a sickly or a healthy, a happy
or unhappy youth. We do not know amid
what sort of scenes in town or country his mind
developed, nor what was the accidental circumstance, as it would be called, which led him first
to listen to the words of the Lord Jesus, and to
give himself to His company. But be sure that
the gracious Father who called him to the apo-
stleship, who put it. into the hearts of those who
gathered together for the choice of Judas' successor, to select his name with that of Barsabas,
and then so disposed the lots that he finally was
chosen—be sure, I say, that this gracious Father
had all through the events of his earlier days been
shaping his course and arranging every circumstance of his being, if haply his soul might be
saved from the dangerous temptations which
must have beset him as a child of Adam, and
moulded to that form in which it would best
answer to the responsibilities of that great work
to which in time he was to be called.
*fc«5i^dfc I H
For us Christians this is no commonplace
reliance on the great truth of natural religion,
that God controls the universe, and, infinite in His
condescension to small details as in His boundless grasp of the greatness which is illimitable,
deals not only with worlds and empires, but with
their inhabitants one by one. Bather it is the
conviction that in Christ Jesus we Christians are
brought so near to the Father of our spirits that
what others acknowledge coldly of God's controlling power as a doctrine of philosophy, we can
realize as a living fact, knowing and feeling, as
well as acknowledging, that we are and ever have
been in our Father's hands. If a man be a real
disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is wonderful
how this thought grows in intensity within him;
what calmness it gives him in all changes; how
it reconciles him to be forgotten and thought
nothing of if God deems that best for him.; and
how also it makes him look forward hopefully if
a post of difficult and high responsibility, and
many irksome duties, has not been grasped at by
his own self-will, but is distinctly assigned to
him by the providential arrangements of his
Father's controlling power. Then he feels, He
who has called me has been preparing me; He
who has kept me hitherto will not leave me now,
if I strive humbly and earnestly to be ever near
Him in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is, as we have
hinted, to awaken this feeling and to deepen it, 13
that our Church so earnestly presses on the
consciences of its clergy to make sure that they
are called of God to their office according to the
will of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, innumerable instances press upon us to
show that God thus prepares His servants for
whatever work He has for them. The boy
Joseph, during those hours when he lay hopeless
in the pit—how were his ambitious dreamings
of fancy chastened, when it seemed thus all
over with him, and he felt that he was certain
to die early and unhonoured. Doubtless during
those sad solitary hours of darkness his heart
was drawn, as it never had been before, to
feel after and lean upon that unseen Friend,
whom he never forgot afterwards amid the most
dangerous seductions of temptation. In the
prison, too, is it not certain that God was giving
him the discipline of adversity, that he might
bear himself the better in that strange reverse
of sudden affluence and power and royal favour,
which in like circumstances has proved ruinous
to very many souls ?
Again, the Hebrew youth Moses, nurtured at
court, contrary to all that might have been expected for him in the humble lot to which he
was born—instructed in all the wisdom of the
Egyptians—who can doubt that, while God's
Spirit prevented him, in that seductive position
amidst their masters, from forgetting the enslaved
fr3fl ssm
people who were of his own blood, those outward
advantages of his acquired position were all used
and controlled to fit him better for rescuing his
fellow-slaves from their miserable thraldom, and
building them up to be a great people, while he
became, through the truths he was commissioned
to announce then, not only the Jews', but the
world's law giver ? Examples are endless : David,
the shepherd-boy, musing in the solitude of the
sheep walk on thoughts which were to become
the theme of Psalms fit to be sung by him amid
assembled worshippers, when God raised him to
be the wise and powerful shepherd of his people;
Daniel, the abstemious, God-fearing captive
youth, preparing to be the truth-loving, fearless,
uncorrupted minister of a despotic court, upholding God and His truth with unshaken fidelity,
while reigns began and ended, and dynasties
tottered, and the plots of envious evil men were
ever on the watch to entrap and ruin him. So
in New Testament times—remember St. Peter's
watchful labours at the net, fitting him to become equally watchful and laborious as a fisher
of men, his early frowardness mellowing into
steady zeal, losing, through the very discipline
of its falls and disgrace, all in it which was
wavering and unreliable, while it retained its
eagerness and fire. -Or think of St. Paul—his
training at the  feet  of   the   great Pharisee—
the deep insight he gained into  his  country's 15
theology—even what he learned of heathen poets
and philosophers — who knows not how God
sent them all to fit him | better for his conflict with the prejudices of Jews and Greeks ?
And who can fail to trace also how the early
vehemence of the bigoted upholder of Judaism
was moulded by God Himself, as well through
the great catastrophe of his life1 that befell
him on the journey to Damascus, as through
after years of struggle and suffering, into that
overpowering zeal of ardent Christian faith to
which, speaking humanly, we owe, more than to
any other cause, the conversion of Europe and
the ultimate downfall of Paganism ? Doubtless,
if we knew the secret history of God's great servants of every age, we should see their heavenly
Father using every event and circumstance of their
lives to fit them for the great work to which He
destined them. Man proposes, but God disposes.
And God in Christ, caring for His Church with
all a Father's yearning love, watches and guides
each circumstance of our being, and moulds the
hearts of those who yield themselves to be led by
Him, that they may be fitted to do His work.
And now, my brother, going forth to do God's
work in a distant land, under very peculiar
difficulties, think, for thy encouragement, of
God's dealings with thee in past times. The
lessons even of boyhood and early youth—nay,
of thy earliest childhood—they will not be lost ■Hi
in the sphere to which God has called thee. The
trials and joys of past years, they have all been
ordered to make thee fit to do God's work now.
Thy confirmation—thy first communion—that
turning of thy heart, whether it were gradual or
whether it were sudden, which led thee to realize
thy nearness to God and the things unseen, far
more than thou couldst have done in thoughtless
days—the solemn impressions of thy first ordination—the cares and difficulties of thy first
pastoral charge—the death-beds, standing by
which, yet inexperienced, thou wast called in
Christ'-s name to cheer or warn — thy early
teachings, as much of thyself *as of the children
committed to thee in the ministrations of the
Sunday-school — thy growing opportunities of
usefulness in a wider sphere as years advanced
and ministerial experience deepened—all thy
felt acquaintance in past times with thine own
-weakness and miserable failures, and thy grateful acknowledgment of being empowered to do
some good in thy Master's name amongst those
whose souls were committed to Thee—consider
now that thy gracious and laving Father has been
overruling all these things to fit thee for this
thy life's work. It is a work which needs all
draining and all help; but in which thy heart
lias no cause to fail thee, if thou dost enter on it
in a faithful, prayerful spirit, depending on the
Lord Jesus Christ. 17
No doubt the difficulties which God sets before
us are found, when we manfully grapple with
them, to be less than they at first appear. No
doubt, in a new colony of gold-seekers, where
society cannot indeed be said to be disorganized,
but simply because it has never been formed,
and to which bold, reckless adventurers have
gathered from every land, there -must be a
fearful mass of utter godlessness; but, no doubt,
also, in this age, when our old countries are
straitened from the multitude of their inhabitants, and high-spirited young men cannot find
occupation for their energies at home, many
seek this new field beyond the ocean, who are
driven forth by no restlessness of bad principles,
but who desire to find or establish the same
Christian home in their new to which they were
accustomed in their old country. And doubtless
Lhe who is thus appointed to be the chief religious teacher and guide of such a new colony
will find many helps to aid him in the midst of
surrounding discouragements, from young men
trained in Christian principles, who have no
wish to forget their early associations, and who
must much depend on his guidance and kindly
sympathy, if they are to be kept right or raised
to true Christian feeling at a distance from
the friends, who have watched over them in
boyhood. And as, after all, human nature is
much alike wherever we go-—and God the Holy
Id 18
Ghost is ever at hand to use hours of sickness
and despondency for whispering, even in the
rudest and hardest hearts, that there are things
beyond the world of which sickness and death
cannot rob us—treasures more precious than the
finest gold, laid up for the faithful in Christ's
presence; and as the trusting freshness .pf childhood, and the helplessness of old age, are found
in all communities, and offer precious moments
in which, even in a very wild state of society,
the things unseen may be better valued than,
alas, they are likely to be amid the incessant
strife of the occupations of men's middle strength,
:—surely in any great aggregate of human beings,
the minister of Christ's Gospel may feel quite
confident that abundant opportunities will be
offered him for pressing the truths of hell and
heaven and Christ's salvation home to many
hearts and consciences, with all the aids of which
God the Holy Ghost avails Himself, from the
varying circumstances of our common humanity.
He who has human beings to deal with, where-
ever they are and whatever they are, finds the
same wants and miseries, and has to apply the
same balm of Christ's Gospel—a soothing cure
for all wounds.
The one thing, my friends, needful for all of
us, as ministers of Christ, to remember, wherever
we are placed, and whatever be our difficulties,
is this—to be faithful to Him whose name and 19
commission we bear; while we boldly rebuke vice
for Him, and are an example in our own persons
of a life guided by His rules and given up to His
service, to speak to sinners' souls His simple
truth, which has a wonderful, most searching
power. Call to mind what, in our past experience, are those truths which have most, by
God's grace, won their way into rude hearts
which had not thought of Christ before. Speak
to them as St. Paul spake. No words go so
straight to the conscience as those which tell
of the love of the Lord Jesus, and the exceeding
misery of sin. Somehow these simple Gospel doctrines find an echo in the rudest hearts, which
we might in vain attempt to waken by all the
threatenings of the Law, without the gentle invitations of the Gospel.g The preaching of the
Gospel of Christ, at home and abroad, is powerful to the rousing of the conscience. Use this
instrument first faithfully, and then we may
turn with great effect to the accessories of a
regularly formed Church system, when we have
first convinced men that they and their children
have souls to be saved, which, by God's grace,
the regulations of the Church will edify and
God grant all of us, at home and abroad, to
have a daily deepening feeling of our responsibilities, a better understanding of the way in
which God, through life's discipline,  has been 20
preparing each of us in our sphere and degree
to do some good to the souls around us ; and as
we love and acknowledge the Gospel of Christ
daily more in our own hearts, to be able to press
its truths better on the hearts and consciences of


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