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(LIBRARY

UNIVERSITY OF
CALIFORNIA

SAN DIEGO



FATHER JOHN OF THE GREEK CHURCH



To rev 1 rend athletes four a rev'rend song.

. . . every hour

I read you kills a sin,

Or lets a -virtue in

To fight against it ; and the Holy Ghost
Supports my frailties, lest my life be lost.



FATHER JOHN

OF THE GREEK CHURCH

an ^Appreciation

with some characteristic passage
of his Mystical and Spiritual Auto-
biography collected and arranged by

^Alexander Whyte
D.D.



lip bant ^Anderson f Ferrier

Saint SVLary Street, Edinburgh, and
21 'Paternoster Square, London
I



Second Edition
Completing Fourth Thousand



Edinburgh : T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to Her Majesty



CONTENTS

PAGB

APPRECIATION AND INTRODUCTION . . 9
SELECTED PASSAGES:

FATHER JOHN ON HIMSELF .... 57

ON DELIBERATION IN PRAYER .... 62

ON ASSIDUITY IN PRAYER .... 63

ON BELIEVING PRAYER 65

ON IMMEDIATE FORGIVENESS . . . 65

ON THE CROSS 68

ON THE CURE OF THE PASSIONS ... 69

ON INVOLUNTARY SIN 70

ON THE TRUE SCIENCE 71

ON THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN ... 72

ON OUR HOME-LIFE 73

ON EATING AND DRINKING .... 74

ON MAKING EVERY DAY SACRAMENTAL . . 75

ON KEEPING THE HEART 77

ON THE GOLDEN RULE 80

ON THE PULPIT ... . 8l



APPRECIATION AND INTRODUCTION



APPRECIATION
AND INTRODUCTION

' They shall come from the east and the west.* OUR LORD.

FATHER JOHN, as he is affectionately called,
is the great living pillar, and the far-shining
ornament of the Greek Church of our day.
And the Greek Church is the most ancient
and the most venerable of all the Churches of
Christendom. The Greek Church stretches
away back in a direct and an unbroken line to
the days of our Lord and His apostles. The
New Testament from Matthew to Revelation
was all written in Greek. And the Old
Testament itself has now for more than two
thousand years been far more widely read in
its Septuagint Greek than even in its original
Hebrew. The great Ecumenical Councils also
all sat in Greek cities, and carried on their great
debates in the Greek tongue. In no other
tongue, indeed, could they have carried on their



io Father John

great debates ; and in no other tongue could
their great Creeds have been composed and
handed down to us. The Greek tongue is by
far the most powerful as well as the most ex-
quisite intellectual instrument that has ever
been perfected by the genius of man. And the
finest use to which that fine tongue has ever
been put has been the composition of the New
Testament and the construction of the great
Creeds of the Greek Church. To this day,
when our Scottish children commit to memory
their Shorter Catechism, they are already having
their opening minds exercised in those deep
distinctions and in those exact definitions that
could only have been extricated and expressed
in the Greek language. When they are taught
to say, ' These three are one God ' ; when they
are taught to say, 'The same in substance,
equal in power and glory ' ; when they are
taught to say, *A true body and a reasonable
soul ' ; when they are taught to say, ' In two
distinct natures, and one person for ever,' our
young people are already symbolising with
Athanasius, and with Nazianzen, and with
Cyril. They are being led back through their



Appreciation and Introduction 1 1

own Westminster to Nice, and to Constanti-
nople, and to Ephesus, and to Chalcedon.
The Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms
are a splendid education in Theology, and
especially in Christology ; in Church History,
also, as well as in deep and clear thinking, and
in correct and exact expression. Let those
noblest of all Church Catechisms always be
taught with all due learning, and intellect, and
reverence, and love.

The great and still lasting schism between
the Greek and Latin Churches was the result
of many causes and the outcome of many
occasions. Racial, linguistical, and geographical
causes and occasions entered into that great
schism : doctrinal and ecclesiastical causes and
occasions entered into it : but most of all,
religious and moral causes and occasions. The
conversion of Constantine entered into it.
The transfer of the seat of empire from Rome
to Constantinople entered into it. The Filioque
and other doctrinal and disciplinary contro-
versies entered into it. The production and
universal use of the Vulgate in the West
entered into it. But most of all, and most



12 Father John

disastrous of all, the bad passions both of the
East and the West entered into it. Ambition,
and envy, and jealousy, and suspicion, and pre-
judice, and fear, and ill-will all entered into it
and exasperated it, and all these things have
embittered and perpetuated the great schism
down to this day. The fall of Constantinople
before the conquering Turks led to the eleva-
tion of Moscow to its present pre-eminence
over against Rome. What Jerusalem had
been to the Jews: what Athens had been to
the ancient Greeks : what Rome then was and
still is to the Latins all that Moscow at
that epoch became and still abides to the Greek
Church and to the immense empire of Russia.
It was to the preaching of St. Andrew that the
Russian people owed their first introduction to
the Gospel. At the same time, ten centuries
had to pass before the grain of mustard-seed
that St. Andrew sowed so early had grown to
be a tree great enough to cover that immense
land. But at last, and as by a miracle, Russia
was born to God in a day. And thus it was
that in the year 1325 Moscow became what
that famous city has ever since remained, the



Appreciation and Introduction 13

sacred seat of the Greek Church in Russia, and
the proud and disdainful rival of Rome.

Every Church of Christendom, like every
race of mankind, has its own special genius and
distinct character. Unto the Jews became I as
a Jew, that I might gain the Jews. To them
that are under the law, as under the law, that I
might gain them that are under the law. To
the weak became I as weak, that I might gain
the weak. So am I made all things to all men,
that I might by all means gain some. The
Gospel spirit runs itself into all the moulds of
men and of nations. It submits itself, and
resigns itself, and adapts itself to all manner of
circumstances. Grant the Gospel spirit but love
and prayer to live upon, and it will become
anything you like to please you. And even in
the supreme matters of love and prayer it pleases
not itself but you, and your traditions, and
your superstitions, and your prejudices to your
edification. If you are a Greek, the Gospel will
become Greek to save you. If you are a Latin,
it will become Latin. If you are an English-
man, it will become English. If you are a
Russian, it will become and will remain Russian.



14 Father John

And, accordingly, the Greek Church in Russia,
like Russia among the nations, is the most
conservative, stationary, and that to stagnation
almost, of all the Churches in Christendom.
The massiveness, the immobility, the inelas-
ticity of the Greek Church in Russia is a
proverb among all her sister Churches. No
innovation has ever invaded the Russian Church.
No development, either in doctrine or in
discipline, has ever disturbed the venerable and
vast calm of The Holy Orthodox Church.
She is the true home of use and wont ; she is
the true harbour and house of refuge for all
those who are determined neither to go forward
nor to go backward, but always to stand still.
' The straws of custom,' says Stanley, ' show
which way the spirit of an institution blows.
The primitive posture of standing in prayer
still retains its ground in the East ; whilst in the
West it is only preserved in the extreme
Protestant communities by way of antagonism
to Rome. Organs and all musical instruments
are as odious to a Greek or a Russian church-
man as they are to a Scottish Presbyterian.
Even the schism that convulsed the Russian



Appreciation and Introduction 15

Church almost at the same time that Latin
Christendom was rent by the German Reforma-
tion, was not a forward but a retrograde move-
ment, a protest not against abuses, but against
innovations.' The Russian Church is The One,
Apostolic, Holy, Orthodox, Catholic Church,
and all outside of her communion and obedience
are schismatics and heretics. We are accus-
tomed in the West and North to insolent
enough assumptions, and to lofty enough pre-
tensions ; but the East looks down on us all
alike. We are all so many rank dissenters
and turbulent non-conformists to her. Rome
and Geneva, Canterbury and Edinburgh, are
all in the same condemnation to her. The
Pope is the oldest of her prodigal sons, and
General Booth is the youngest ; only the Pope
is by far the worse, in her eyes, of the two. The
first Pope, in her eyes, was the first Protestant.
He was the real and original father of all
liberalism in politics and all rationalism in
philosophy and in theology. In the words of
Canonist Theodore Balsamon, 'We excom-
municate the Pope for all his errors : and with
him, all the West who heretically adhere to him.



1 6 Father John

All the Westerns, therefore, are to be treated
simply as so many schismatics, and an
anathema must be provided for their abjuration.'
And that anathema is provided and pronounced
to satiety surely in every Greek Church on
every first Sunday in Lent : and that Sunday is
sanctified by the name of Orthodox Sunday.
On that orthodox and denunciatory day some
sixty anathemas are hurled at all heretics and
schismatics from Arius of Alexandria down to
our own day. Anathema ! Anathema ! Ana-
thema ! But on the other hand, for all the
orthodox Greek Emperors, Everlasting re-
membrance ! Everlasting remembrance ! Ever-
lasting remembrance ! Till I had gone to the
originals for myself I was wont to think that
the Commination Services of Orthodox Sunday
must be something altogether savage and wholly
insufferable to the mind of Christ. But I was
greatly disappointed when I felt myself forced
to surrender all my indignation and contempt
at the Greek Church on account of Orthodox
Sunday, and to admit that, with many imper-
fections from my point of view, and with many
things that, if I were their ecclesiastical and



Appreciation and Introduction 17

devotional censor, I would strike out, yet,
with all that, there is a great deal on Orthodox
Sunday that is not only as true as the word of
God, but is also both tender and charitable,
stately and noble, sweet and beautiful. Let us
give the Greek Church, even on Orthodox
Sunday, her full and even liberal due. Bless
them that curse you.

It was his far-travelling missionary experience
that transformed Saul of Tarsus into such a
shining pattern of that divine charity concern-
ing which he sings such an immortal song in
his First Epistle to the Corinthians. As the
great apostle passed on from land to land, and
from one race of his fellowmen to another, he
came to see that he must consult with them,
and advise with them, and learn from them,
and respect them, and love them, and gener-
ously acknowledge to them, and appropriate
from them, all their native truth and goodness,
if he was ever to hope to win them to the full
mind of Jesus Christ. And all that, the greatest
of the apostles more and more did, as his life
went on, till he ended by standing, shall we say,
next to his Master Himself both in wisdom



1 8 Father John

and in love. But our own Scottish Church,
even in her darkest days, was never more dead
to her Lord's command to preach the Gospel
to every creature than the Russian Church has
all along been, and still is. And the stationary,
stiff, and almost stone-dead state of the Russian
Church, in some respects, is not the outcome of
the somewhat stony Russian character only ; it
is full as much the accumulated result of so
many centuries of a selfish and an indolent
neglect of one of her first duties to her Lord
and to the world. Had the great national
Church of the Russian Empire but devised
liberal things ; had she been what so many
small and poor Churches have been both in
Scotland and in England and on the Continent
and in America ; had she, with all her riches,
been a generous-hearted, self-denying, world-
evangelising Church who can tell how all that
might by this time have been paid back to her
in spiritual life, as well as in ecclesiastical, and
political, and individual liberty? Her Latin
sister, with all her faults, did the noblest service
to her Master and to the world in the evan-
gelisation of England and Germany in the



Appreciation and Introduction 19

middle ages. And even when she was nearest
to death in Europe, her missions to America
and China and India all proved that there was
still a living heart left somewhere in her for
Jesus Christ and for the spread of His Gospel.
And since the Reformation, and notably in our
own day, the missionary work of the Evan-
gelical Communions is the brightest page of
this whole world's history since the days of the
apostles. The Church of Russia alone stands
all the day idle, while all her sisters are hard at
work in their Master's vineyard. All that
Stanley himself can say for her in this respect
is this : ' If the Russian Church is not a
missionary Church : then, neither is she a
persecuting Church.'

' Notwithstanding all that/ says Mr. Durban,
in a fine paper in the third number of The
New Orthodoxy y ' it must be manifest to every
open mind that we have here no decadent or
emasculated spiritual institution. A religion
which has vivified and resuscitated nations :
which throbs in the heart of one of the
mightiest and most rapidly advancing of
modern empires; which commands the spiritual



2O Father John

allegiance and gains the impassioned loyalty of
the manhood of the Russian Empire, as no
other Church does in any other land, is surely
entitled to careful study by all those who feel
interested in the comparative theology of the
age,' and, I will add, by all those who feel
interested in far better and far deeper things
than that.

Truly and intensely interesting as the subject
is, and closely as it touches on the main theme
of this discourse, at the same time, I cannot
attempt to enter on a discussion of the great
Office-books of The Holy Eastern Church ;
nor can I enter on the Public Worship of
which those rich and elaborate books constitute
almost the whole service. Even Neale himself
acknowledges that he found the investigation
of the liturgies and the euchologies of the
Greek Church a task of the very greatest
difficulty. * The variety, the bulk, and the
intricacy of the Office-books themselves ; the
number and the obscurity of the rubrics ;
the unwritten tradition that guides and adjusts
all, and the knowledge of which is scarcely to
be gained but by oral teaching ; the abbrevia-



Appreciation and Introduction 21

tions of diction ; the extraordinary contractions
of words ; the technicalities in the quotation of
Psalms or Versicles ; the shifting backwards and
forwards from book to book ; and the absence
of any one general rule for the concurrence of
festivals ; these things form only one of the
many sources of our difficulty ' in dealing with
the great unconsolidated and unharmonised
Breviary of the Greek Church. But while it is
absolutely impossible to reduce that enormous
subject into such a space as can here be com-
manded, there is one of their books of Public
and Private Devotion that well deserves to
be acknowledged in passing. The Slavonic
Service-book, entitled Trebnik, or 'The Book
of Needs, is an extraordinarily rich and beauti-
ful compilation provided by the Greek Church
for the use both of her priests and her people.
The book gets its so expressive name from its
peculiar contents. This golden little book is
a vade-mecum, so to call it, which the Greek
Church puts into the hands of all her priests
and people to guide them in all the parts and
processes, exigencies and emergencies, of their
spiritual and devotional life from their cradle



22 Father John

to their grave. And, only take Mary out of
it, and some other Greek intrusions ; only edit
it up to our Protestant and Evangelical truth
and taste, and it might quite well become a
cherished possession for all our own household
and personal needs also. And to those who
can pass the mother of our Lord by with all
the reverence and love that are due to her,
and who do not indulge themselves over this
and that stumbling-stone for our Western and
Northern feet; to those who are determined to
take no offence, but to seek their own spiritual
profit only, 'The Book of Needs is a noble book,
and a praise and an honour to the Church that
has provided it for her pilgrim people. The
whole book is of singular dignity, and, indeed,
majesty ; but out of it all The Order for the
Burial of a Priest stands forth as a service of the
greatest stateliness and nobleness and impressive-
ness to the heart and the imagination of one
Presbyterian minister at any rate. The present
speaker is bound to say that he has found it a
great education, and a great reward, to study
both King, and Neale, and Palmer, and Black-
more, and Brightman, and Shann, on 'The Book



Appreciation and Introduction 23

of Needs, and on all the other liturgies and
euchologies to which those learned men have
happily given him such intellectual and de-
votional access. But, perhaps, the very finest
thing ; the thing, at any rate, that I most
enjoy in all the Office-books of the Greek
Church, is The Great Canon composed by St.
Andrew of Crete. This devotional composi-
tion is called ' The Princely Canon,' and it
well deserves its exalted name. This so
elaborate and so impressive devotion begins
at the very beginning, and it takes the penitent
through the whole of Holy Scripture, putting
him into the penitential position and into the
spiritual case of all the successive sinners whose
sins are discovered, confessed, and forgiven in
the Word of God. The intending communicant
comes down through all the recorded transgres-
sions of faith and obedience in the Word of
God, and at the name of each fallen forerunner
of his he stops and says, ' I am the man ! '
And at the name of each saint, also, in the Old
Testament and the New, he covers his face and
says, * Whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to
unloose.' c The Princely Canon ' is a splendid



24 Father John

testimony to the depth of heart and to the
spirituality of mind of its revered composer.
This truly princely canon is sung with great
appropriateness on the Thursday of every
returning Passion Week.

But, all canons and euchologies of men apart
what about the open Bible? you will ask.
Beneath and behind all her other likenesses to
us and unlikenesses : apart from all other
agreements and disagreements, what about the
word of God? Are the Holy Scriptures open
to the Russian people, as they have been open
to us ever since the Reformation? Or, does the
Greek Church interdict, or at best suspect and
grudge, the open Bible to her people like the
Latin Church? 'Well, I am able to answer
your solicitude in that matter in a way that will
rejoice the hearts of all those who make that
inquiry in the hope and prayer to receive a
good answer. I put that whole question, with
some anxiety, to my friend, the Prince Galitzin,
who is both a loyal member of the Greek
Church in Russia, and who at the same time
knows intimately our best religious life in the
West, both Roman and Reformed ; and who



Appreciation and Introduction 25

has, in addition, the fullest sympathy with those
who give the Bible its supreme and un-
approached place, both in public worship and
in private devotion. The Prince's memoran-
dum to me, after some passages on the old
Slavonic language as the official language of the
Russian Church, proceeds thus: 'The reading
of the Scriptures occupies so large and so im-
portant a place in the liturgy of our Church,
that every member who attends the services
regularly is sure to hear the whole of the
Scriptures read to him in a short space of time.
It is true that the Holy Scriptures were very
superficially known in Russia up to the com-
mencement of the present century; but that
was due partly to the great cost of the copies
partly to the defective manner of the reading
of the Scriptures in public worship. But at
the beginning of this century, under the reign
of Alexander i., Prince Galitzin, the minister
of ecclesiastical affairs, gave a great impulse to
the circulation of the Holy Scriptures. Seconded
by some members of the Society of Friends,
and by German pietists and mystics, the Prince
founded the Bible-work in Russia, and built



26 Father John

it up in the teeth of all opposition. A great
impulse to the spread of the Scriptures at
that time was given by the publication of a
magnificent translation of the New Testament
into modern Russian from the pen of Bishop
Philarete Drozdoff. The Holy Synod also,
the head and arm of the Russian Church,
took the matter up, and did the greatest
possible service to the Kingdom of God in
Russia by placing the Bible within the reach of
the poorest purse. For sixpence a well-printed
and well-bound copy of the New Testament is
now to be purchased everywhere in Russia. As
to the diffusion of the Scriptures, that has been
taken up most successfully by the British and
Foreign Bible Society, and by a Russian
Society for the spread of the Gospel. Both
Societies have their agents and colporteurs who
are general favourites and are universally re-
spected. The great convents, also, are often
most important centres for the circulation of
the Scriptures. As for the colporteurs, they
show a zeal and a courage that remind one of
the enthusiasm of the Salvation Army. They
may be met with everywhere urging people to



Appreciation and Introduction 27

become possessors of the pearl of great price.
It is a rare thing to find a steamer or a train in
which there is not one of those devoted men
pressing the Word of God upon the passengers.
The Bible Societies are not content with selling
the Scriptures at a cheap price, they distribute
the Holy Book gratis where the people are too
poor to buy it. For instance, at St. Petersburg
a special agent is commissioned to distribute
copies of the Scriptures to convicts and colonists
on their way to Siberia. Thanks to the
Russian Bible Society, every posting-inn is pro-
vided with a New Testament on the public
table. It lies also- in all the rooms of the best
hotels. The first book that the Russian peasant
buys is the Bible. It is the first book that he
reads and reasons about. And may God bless
the good seed that thus falls on those simple
hearts ! '

Such then, in much too short, is the Greek
Church in Russia in which John Sergieff was
born and brought up, and in which he is now an
arch-priest and a main pillar. I have instinct-
ively and intentionally dwelt on the things



28 Father John

of good report in that Mother Church, rather
than on those of evil report. And who shall be
offended with me for that ? What kind of an
unnatural son would he be who would not
dwell on whatsoever things are venerable, and
noble, and steadfast, and prayerful, and hope-
ful, in that apostolic Church out of whose
roots his own Church sprang, and in whose
ministry such a saint as Father John is now
serving God ? * I am the son of a Sacristan
of the province of Archangel, and I was born in
the year 1829. From my earliest years my
parents instructed me in prayer, and by their
own personal example made me a religiously
inclined boy. They took me regularly to
church, and I loved the public worship with
my whole soul, especially good singing. I
passed into the parish school in the tenth year
of my age : but I made little or no progress
for a long time. I seemed to have no mind.
I could not learn, though, all the time, I was a
well-conditioned lad. Being so much put out
by my want of success in my lessons, I prayed to
God passionately that He would give me more
mind and more ability to learn my lessons.



Appreciation and Introduction 29

And all at once there came to me a marvellous
clearing-up of my intellect, till I began to under-
stand my lessons very well. And the older I
grew the better I succeeded with my studies, till
I was almost the dux of the whole school. And
then in 1851 I was sent to the Ecclesiastical
Academy of St. Petersburg to be educated for
the Church at the cost of the State. I secured
the post of clerk to the Academy, and I was
able, out of my small salary of a pound a
month, to send some help home to my widowed


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