William Benham.

Gifts of the holy spirit to the church : a sermon preached in Addington Church, on Whitsunday morning, 1883, on the occasion of the placing, by the parishioners, of a new window in the church, in the online

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Online LibraryWilliam BenhamGifts of the holy spirit to the church : a sermon preached in Addington Church, on Whitsunday morning, 1883, on the occasion of the placing, by the parishioners, of a new window in the church, in the → online text (page 1 of 2)
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Preached in Addington Church, on Whitsunday Morninc;, 1883,
ON the occasion of the placing, by the parishioners,


to the memory of



Rector. of St. Edmund's, Lombard Street; formerhj Vicar of Addi/ifjton.

Maidstone :
Printed at 13, Middle Row, High Street.


Some of the friends who heard this Sermon have expressed a
wish to read it. It was not composed with any view to
publication, but I shall be thankful if it shall prove in any
degree profitable or interesting as an explanation of the
beautiful memorial which the Addington people have put up to
the memory of their illustrious and loving parishioner, and I
know that what I have spoken concerning him will find an echo
in all their hearts.

My dear friend and successor, in his evening Sermon, brought
out two points which I have begged him to allow me to quote,
as I hardly touched upon them at all.

First, the connexion of Archbishop Tait's name with those of
his two predecessors, Augustine and Langton, illustrates first
his zeal for missionary work at home and abroad, and also his
statesmanship and patriotism. " He claimed for the laity that
they formed as true a part of the Church as the clergy did, and
refused to dissociate in any way the interests of the laity from
the interests of the Church at large."

And the second point is this. It is so beautiful and touching
that I quote it at length — " If you look at the words written on
the scroll round the head, you will find a line taken from a
hymn familiar to us all — ' Jesici, lover of my Suid.^ That hymn is
most closely connected with our recollections of him ; it is
associated with each of the great trials of his life. Again and
again it was repeated to him on his death-bed. We sang it at
that most impressive evening service when, at his own request,
we met to pray that his illness might be blessed, not only to

his own soul, but to ours. Once again we sang it as we laid his
body to rest by the side of those he loved. And yet once again,
God willing, we will sing it to-night, as we welcome to its place
in our Church this memorial of our reverence and love.

" ' All my help from Thee I hring.'' Are not the words a fitting
expression of the simple trust in Christ which supported him in
the darkest days and under the heaviest trials ? "

I will only add that I have not attempted to elaborate my
Sermon, but print it exactly as it was preached, and dedicate it
affectionately to the Vicar and his people.


Eph. iv. 8.


Once more we are called on to praise God, because as on
this day He sent His Holy Spirit down to give birth to the
Church for which His blessed Son had become incarnate, and
yielded up His life upon the cross, and risen from the dead.
The atoning sacrifice was finished, the price of the world's
redemption was paid, now came the first fruits of that sacrifice —
the world was to confess itself God's. The gift of the Holy Spirit,
as to-day, was to enable men to do this, and the truth which is
expressed so easily by the lips ought to kindle a real joy, a
real comfort to us, eveiy one, that God the Holy Ghost did come
into the world, did inspire men to believe that they had a Saviour
from sin, and a living Helper to abide with them always.

Gathered here in a small village Church, we know that there
are hundreds upon hundreds of congregations assembled to-day
all round the world thanking God that on this day of Pentecost
God taught the hearts of His faithful people, by the sending to
them the light of His Holy Spirit. Well, when we join in that
song of thanksgiving, shall we do it in form and our hearts not
go with it ? God forbid. Look to it even now. Think of your
own life. You have had much to make you sad, more to make
you happy. Once there were those by your side dear to you, and

now they have returned to their dust in the churchyard outside,
and you still think of them so lovingly, and yet not unhappily ;
for kind nature, " busy with her hand of healing," has softened
down the jiain of parting, and you are able to look forward to a
time when once more you shall meet before the Throne of God,
and look upon the face of the Lord that redeemed you and
bought pardon for your sin. "Whilst you remain in the world
you can come aside from your daily work and daily cares into
this house and tell God of your needs, and go home comforted
and refreshed. And it is all because God the Holy Ghost came
down into the poor, weary, sinladen, darkened world, and gave
birth to the living Church, which is to bear witness by the
AVord and Sacraments of Life, that Christ has come and will
come again.

Ah yes ! it is the old, old story ; and yet if we will only
bethink ourselves, it will always be fresh to the very end of our
lives ; as fresh as each morning finds us to enjoy once more the
life and beauty of earth. You all know the hymn which speaks
of the sense each morning of new mercies, new perils past, new
thoughts of God, new hopes of Heaven. Even so each heart
that has learned its own sinfulness before God and its loose hold
of this life, and has laid hold on the hope of immortality, will
not let Whitsuntide pass over without remembering that all
these blessings and comforts are the fruits of the Spirit of Life,
which God gave us at this time.

We have once more heard this morning the manner of His
coming — the rushing mighty wind, and the tongues of fire, and
the Avondrous gift of speech. The same signs were repeated
afterwards, as we know from other chapters of the Acts ; but
soon these signs passed away. What then was left ? The Holy
Spirit is to abide with us for ever, Christ told us. There was
left first the power and grace, transfused into the Sacraments. I
am sure I need not remind you that these are no empty sig-ns,
but real means of grace depending, not on our poor words and
thoughts, but on the word and promise of God. You come to

them, not because you feel good, but because you want to be
good, and believe tliat God will give you grace in tlieni to make
you good. There is the ministry ordained by the Apostles, and
continued unbroken until now. There is the written word
inspired by that selfsame spirit. There is His voice speaking
to the heart and conscience, whether by way of rebuke, or
exhortation, or comfort. All these are the work of the Holy
Gift of Pentecost. But we can go further. " He gave gifts
unto men." S. Paul, who quotes the words, explains two or
three verses further on, that these gifts are Apostles, Teachers,
Evangelists, Pastors. That is then, the gifts which He gives to
men are themselves men. It is not hard to understand that.
If you are blessed at home with pious wife or husband, or
dutiful children, or loving brother or sister, or kind friends, it
comes natural to say that God has given you such a blessing.
And here you have the Great Apostle talking in like manner
of the Apostles and Teachers and Evangelists, who have been
a blessing to the Church, as being gifts of God the Holy

It is this plain and simple truth which has led up to my dear
friend and brother inviting me to speak to you here to-day.
"With what thankfulness I come I cannot tell. Ten years is long-
to look forward to, how short a time to look back upon ! — and yet
what changes it has wrought. So many of the old familiar faces
gone like a tale that is told. But the Word of God abideth
ever. And they are gone not into cold forgetfulness, for the
Whitsuntide message tells of Life — of Life which has conquered
Death — Life Immortal. I have come, then, to say a few words
to you about your new window, and certainly no better day
could have been chosen for the occasion ; for what I have
to point out is that it bears witness of the gifts which the Holy
Ghost has given to men.

I speak to many who know the facts commemorated, but as
this is a village Church, I shall not hesitate to tell the story fur
the sake of those who do not know it.


When Christ was born into the world our forefathers did not
live in this country. They lived far across the sea in Germany ;
the Britons lived here. Some 50 years later, the Romans came
and conquered them. The Eomans were heathen like the
Britons, but it is very likely there were a few Christians among-
the soldiers even then, and certainly, as Christianity spread
among the Eomans, it would be sure to spread in this island. At
first Christians were persecuted, and had to meet in secret ; but
300 years after Christ His religion became the received
religion, and then Christian churches were built here as else-
where. But in the middle of the 5th century, our forefathers —
the English — came, and they killed many Britons, and drove the
rest away to the west, and called them " Welshmen," which
means strangers, and the name remains to this present. Our
English forefathers were heathens for more than a hundred
years after they came, and we call our days of the week to this
day after the names of their heathen gods. They would not
accept the religion of the people they had subdued, and whom, of
cause, they hated, and they went on worshipping their idols, and
the churches were some of them turned into idol temples, some
were left to fall to pieces. As they landed, some at one place,
some at another, they founded several distinct kingdoms, till, as
we commonly reckon, there were seven kingdoms in the country.
The part we are in was part of the kingdom of Kent, and its chief
town was called Cmit-tcara-hyrig, that is, "Kent men's borough."
When you see the Primate signing himself Canttuir, it will
remind you that this is the old spelling, and that it means *' Kent
Man," and the name goes back to a time before the light of the
Gospel had shined upon us.

Now I will take you to the city of Rome. Just 1 300 years ago
a good ecclesiastic was living there, named Gregory. He was a
benevolent and tender-hearted man, whose good deeds for his
people and his Church were many ; he was a very precious gift
of God's Holy Spirit to the world of his own time. There was
one special evil which ho strove against unceasingly, and that

was the slave trade. It was a common thing for traders to steal
children from every country of Europe, and sell them to be slaves
in rich men's houses, and Gregory use to buy them and then give
them their liberty, even urging his clergy to sell the Church plate
for the purpose. News reached him one day that a fresh cargo
of this cruel merchandise had just come in, and with sad heart
he walked down to the market place. There, amid swarthy
Africans, Syrians, Spaniards, he saw three boys of fair face and
golden hair ; such a sight as perhaps he had never seen before.
He looked at them lovingly, for he was always gentle towards
children, and asked what nation they were of. " They are
Angles," was the reply. " They would be angels," was his
answer, ' ' if they but knew Christ. ' ' He turned away from the sight
of them sorrowfully, but the memory of the scene sank deep into
his heart, and he wanted to go and preach the Gospel in their
country, only the people of Rome loved him too well to suffer
him to go. But when he became Bishop of Rome he sent
Augustine, the monk, with 40 companions, to preach to the far
off Angles.

It was on the evening of an autumn day. in the year 596, that
the devoted band were landed out of a ten-oared galley at Ebb's
Fleet, in the Isle of Thanet. Augustine sprang out first, "a
man of almost gigantic stature," says an old chronicle, '•' silver
haired and hollow of cheek, dressed in a long coarse woollen
robe, with a leathern girdle at his waist, and a scrip containing
all his worldly possessions." All of them knelt down on the
ground and sought the blessing of their Saviour and King. The
king of Kent, Ethelbert by name, went out to meet them, and
the meeting took place under an oak tree hard by. Not much
more than 50 years ago the old stump of the tree, which had
always been known as Augustine's Oak, was removed. Certainly
a sacred spot, though now there is nothing to mark it. Here
the missionary preached Christ by an interpreter, whom he had
brought with him. When he had finished, the king made
answer, " Your words and your promises are fair, but because


they are new and doubtful I cannot assent to tliem, nor leave the
customs which I and my people have so long observed. But since
you have come hither as strangers, from a long distance, to deliver
to us what you believe to be right and true, we do not wish to
molest you ; nay, rather we are anxious to receive you
hospitably, and to give you all that you need for your support ;
and we do not forbid you to join all that you can to your faith."
No answer could be more wise or more j ust, and Augustine and
his 40 companions went fearlessly on to Canterbury. Your
picture represents him preaching there. Only a few weeks ago
the altar where he first celebrated the Commixnion was laid bare.
I saw it ten days since, and I am sure it would have rejoiced you
to see the absorbed interest of an American friend whom I had
brought with me to see it. The Lord was working with the great
missionary, and on Whitsunday next year — 1286 years ago to-
day (going by the season ; for "Whitsunday fell on the 2nd of
June that year) — he baptized King Ethelbert, and at Canter-
bury you may still see the very font.* So began Christian

When He ascended up on High He gave gifts unto men. What
a gift was that, the gift of a Christian missionary, followed by a
Christian king, to our own dear country. Time passes, yet I
cannot pass at a bound to the next picture. I wish I could take
half-a-dozen sermons to tell you about Augustine's sucaessors.
Out of the complete list which lies before me — what a splendid
roU it is — I take a few names. Archbishop Theodore, a fellow-
townsman of S. Paul — for he came from Tarsus — was a man of
such ability and wisdom that, although the country was still
divided into many kingdoms, he was able to unite it, for the first
time, into one Church, and thus the Church of England is even
older than the monarchy, and was, in fact, the main instrument

* The identity of this font has hecn doubLed, but archaeological researches
have confirmed the old tradition. Mr. Loftus Brock, the secretary of the
Eoyal Archivologieal Society, pronounces for the bowl without hesitation,
but thinks the base may be later.


in uniting the monarcliy. And not only so, but he established
schools all over the country, and thus subjected knowledge of
earthly things to faith in the invisible God. And thus he, too,
was a gift of the Holy Spirit of God to men. Here is Archbishop
Elthelred too, who moved King Alfred — not only the greatest
of English kings, but, as I hold, the noblest king that ever lived
— Archbishop Ethelred, who moved King Alfred to send a word
for Christianity to far-off Hiudostan ; and here is Archbishop
Plegmund too, in the same reign, who began the regular
arrangement of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the oldest English
history, the beginning of the magnificent records which any
Englishman pondering upon must rejoice over with a heart
swelling with thankfulness, or else must suspect himself of hav-
ing lost the precious gifts of patriotism and the sense of brother-
hood. Here is Archbishop Wulfhelm, who, when he crowned
Alfred's grandson, King Athelstan, at Kingston-on-Thames,
swore him to faithfulness on a copy of the Bible which is in
Lambeth Library, and drew up the form of Coronation which
has been used among our mouarchs down to Queen Victoria,
who, let us not forget to mention, is lineally descended from
that same King Athelstan. Here is Archbishop Dunstan too, the
first of the goodly roll of great English statesmen, wise to govern
men and direct kings. England would never have risen to her
greatness had she not been blessed with many such, gifts given
unto her by the self-same Spirit who came down at Pentecost.
Here is Elfric too, who shall be named as having written in our
marriage service the touching vow of fidelity, " to have and to
hold, to love and to cherish, from this day forward, till death us
do part." And here is Alphege, who was Arclibishop when the
fierce Danes broke into the country, over-ran it, burut down towns
and homesteads, and slaughtered the people by hundreds. They
seized Archbishop Alpliege in his capital city of Canterbury, and
dragged him with them towards London, because he withheld
from them the money which had been collected for the poor, and
in their wild fury they murdered him at I]ltham, and then,

filled with remorse, buried him with honour in London, and
always afterwards held the church where they had done so in
special reverence ; and to this day it retains the name of St.
Clement of the Danes. The greatest of their kings afterwards
carried the martyr's bones to Canterbury, and he and his people
became zealous Christians and dwelt peaceably in the land, and
became a strength to it — a noble infusion of new blood into a
nation which had become somewhat weak and effeminate. Here
is Anselm too, mighty in the Scriptures, so gentle and saintly of
life that the great roll contains no sweeter, holier name.

All these came between Augustine and the subject of your
next j)icture — Archbishop Langton and the Great Charter.
Stephen Langton was the 43rd of the Archbishops. England
had already grown to an important place among the nations, and
was now one of the chief powers of Europe. Her towns had
become populous, and their burgesses were men of influence,
feeling that they had rights and duties of their own. The
Norman kings would have grown tyrants, and the one power in
the State which prevented them Avas the Church of England.
The Bishops saw that, if religion meant anything, it meant that
man is responsible to God, that he is a being with soul and spirit,
with a conscience, and, therefore, with freedom of will, and
danger of ruin ; and it would be easy enough to show you how
the Church was the bulwark of national freedom, and the
defender of such as were in need and necessity. On behalf of
the liberties of the Church and the poor, Archbishop Anselm had
been banished from the country, and Becket had been slain in
his own Cathedral. And now King John, utterly mean and
odious in character — yet not the coward and fool that he is
sometimes represented — had filled the country with crimes and
abominations. Great landholders and country townsfolk alike
regarded him with detestation, and took up arms against him.
Archbishop Langton set himself earnestly to bring about peace,
and he did so by drawing up the Great Charter — Magna Charta as
it is called — containing the assertion of the rights of the people


against oppression by any ruler whatever. The story is a very
grand one in its preliminary details, but I have only to do with
the great scene. The king, driven to bay, for his friends had
departed from him, was forced to consent to sign it. Let them
come to Windsor Castle, he said, and he would do it. But the
barons and Langton were wary. No, they said, they would
rather not trust themselves in strong castles ; they would
rather meet him in open air. He ragsd at the message, but
they knew better than to yield, and he agreed to meet them at
Eunnymede, not far off, a meadow by the Thames. They even
stipulated for the day. Trinity Sunday was at hand ; they would
wait and adore the name of the Blessed Trinity, and on the
Monday afterwards the oath should be taken in that thrice holy
name. And they did meet that day. It was the 15th of June,
1215. The river was crowded with bargeloads of London
citizens, spectators streamed over the hill sides, while the king
stood silent and sullen. Langton read the Great Charter aloud.
It declared that the property of wards and widows should be
protected — a proof that there was good reason in that is seen in
the fact that not long before the owner of Addington had died,
leaving a daughter of fourteen as his only child, and the king had
forced her to marry one of his favourites ; the king was
prohibited from levying money at his own will ; law-courts were
to bo held at fixed places, and not to follow the king about
wherever he went ; fines for offences were to be proportioned
to the offence and assessed by a jury ; forest-laws, which set the
life of a buck at a higher value than a man's, were abolished.
But the key note of the Charter, the foundation of English
liberty, lay in this sentence — " No freeman shall be arrested, or
imprisoned, or deprived of his possessions, or outlawed, or
banished, or anyway ruined, nor will we pronounce sentence
upon him or allow judges to do so, except by the legal judgment
of his equals, or by the law of the land. To none wiU we sell
right and justice, to none deny it, to none delay it." The king is
said to have ground his teeth, as his manner was, when this


passage was read, but he said nothing. The parchment was
signed, and next time yon go to the British Museum you may
see the document itself, blackened and disfigured with age, but
how full of suggestions of English greatness, English goodness,
English liberty, I need not add. And once more I would ask
which of us, contemplating the blessings which God has showered
down upon old England, the security in which her people have
dwelt, the blessings of liberty and good government, and an
unbroken line of monarchs, will doubt that men like Stephen
Langton was one of the Holy Spirit's gifts unto men ? Many
years afterwards it was found necessary to alter the position of
one of the walls of Canterbury Cathedral, to re-build it over the
spot where Langton is buried, but — honour to them for the
thought — they would not disturb the bones of a patriot so
honoured, so brave, and self-sacrificing, so they threw an arch
over the tomb, and left it untouched. Next time you go to
Canterbury, go into the Trinity Chapel, and there you will see
the tomb half in the chapel, half under the arch in the wall.
You will see the memorials of many great men, but there is none
nobler, more deserving of reverence, than the plain and
unornamented tomb of Stephen Langton.

If your window had twenty compartments, one could find
subjects for them. We have seen already how the noble army
of martyrs has had recruits among this roll of Primates. Two
others should be named — two who were beheaded on Tower Hill.
One was Archbishop Sudbury, beheaded by the mob in Wat
Tyler's rebellion, because he had preached against the superstition
of pilgrimages and the evil results which came from them j and
Archbishop Laud, on the chai-ge that he had sought to restore
popery in England. I cannot pause upon the evil influences
which for awhile perverted the mind of the nation against him,
they were not of his making ; but there are two points which I
cannot here pass by. One ground of the charge was that he had
endeavoured to introduce the Book of Common Prayer into Pres-
byterian Scotland. It was sent down there in 1637, and was


appointed to be read for the first time on the 7th Sunday after
Trinity. You may remember the beautiful collect for that day —
** Lord of all power and might," it begins. Indignant bigotry
raised an outcry against it, and when the minister began to read
the collect, a fanatic woman threw a stool at him, a riot ensued,
and a fierce civil war began. Well, last year, on the 7th Sunday
after Trinity, in the same Church, the Presbyterian minister
began the service with reading the same collect, and preached on
the beauty of the Liturgy. Last October I went down to bury a
friend in the very churcliyard where those Covenanters are buried
whose slaughter is described by Sir AValter Scott in Old Mortality.
I saw the graves and read the inscriptions. There were three
Presbyterian ministers present when I said our Service, and
they one and all exclaimed afterwards, "What a beautiful Service,
What a pity we have not got it." So much for Archbishop
Laud's Prayer Book. But may not his martyr's death have
helped to bring them to a better inind. Another charge was
that lie put up stained glass windows in Lambeth Chapel. So
he did ; and the people who put him to death broke them, and
Archbishop Tait restored them. And not a dog moved his tongue.
Eut a greater and better change than all is that the English
people, the working men and artizans, have come to love this


Online LibraryWilliam BenhamGifts of the holy spirit to the church : a sermon preached in Addington Church, on Whitsunday morning, 1883, on the occasion of the placing, by the parishioners, of a new window in the church, in the → online text (page 1 of 2)