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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 2 of 2)
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Liturgy, and to recognize the fitness of making it beautiful in its
external forms. They do not regard baldness and bareness as
meaning the same thing as devoutness. And let me not pass over,
without a word, the name of Archbisliop Cranmer, a thoughtful
and kindly man, a very learned man, a man of pure and high
intentions, a man too doubtless of serious faults of character.
You know that the great lleformation of religion began in his
days. Now if you ever read the history of the great religious
changes of the 16th century at home and abroad, you will find
that along with the blessings which they brought there were also
grievous evils. In many places men clothed their crimes and
shameful lusts with the name of religion. They ran into
horrible extremes of fanaticism, and prej)ared the way for



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downright infidelity, under the name of Protestantism. It was
80 both in France and G-ermany ; but in our own dear country
the Church was reformed, not destroyed; its life was not checked,
its very form was preserved uninjured. The Archbishop of
Canterbury still sits in the chair of Augustine, and Anselm, and
Langton, and Warham, the parochial divisions remain
substantially as Archbishop Theodore arranged them when he
wrought the English Churches into one, the sacraments are still
adminstered in the same manner, and, we may assert, with the
same words that were used in the primitive Church. How to
account for all this ? Not by the firmness of Archbishop Cran-
mer, for fii'mness was not one of his virtues ; it was because whilst
the whole world was tossing and heaving imder the storm,
Cranmer devoted all his strength to giving the English people
the Bible in their own tongue. I hesitate not to say that the
stability of the throne at this time and the affection of the people
for the Church, are owing to the value which from the very
beginning of the movement in England was set upon the Holy
Scriptures. When King Alfred was waiting in exile in the Isle
of Athelney, his foes swarming around him, he had only two
possessions in the world, and they were his harp — for he was
skilful with it — and his Bible, which he was translating into Saxon
for his people. And now, when you hear of his descendant.
Queen Victoria, going into cottages and reading the Bible to sick
and blind men, is it strange to feel that the heart of patriotism
and of loyalty to the old paths still beats strong and true ? The
reign of Henry VIII. had ugly features enough about it. There
were violent spirits who would fain have uprooted many a
landmark, but, as a matter of fact, the only change of any
moment wliich Cranmer made in public worship in his reign, was
to provide for the Scrii^tures being read to the people in English.
In the next reign, that of Edward VI. — let me note this
coincidence — it was on Wliitsiindaij, 1549, that the Book of
Common Prayer, in English, was used in public worship. The
Reformation came to a wreck under Queen Mary. Cranmer



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was burned in the fire, as were 300 more, and the people out-
wardly returned to the Roman faith. But one thing the perse-
cutors never attempted, and that was to take away the English
Bible which Cranmer had given them. It had become part of
the cherished heritage of the nation, and probably not a village
in England would have willingly suffered it to be taken from the
Church in which Cranmer had placed it. Peace returned after
five troubled years, and the wisdom of the Reformation settlement
has made itself felt to this hour, and we, assembled here to-day,
loving our Church and her services, can thankfully acknowledge
that God, in His guidance of that crisis, signally gave gifts imto
men.

If I were beginning my Sermon, instead of ending it, I could
unfold to you a history containing some beautiful features, of the
early planting of religion in America. There are certainly some
dark shades in the picture, and one ought always to fear vain-
glory in comparison of self against others. Yet it is not vain
boasting to contrast the history of the Spanish Conquests in
America with our own. There was a time when Spain possessed
nearly the whole continent, and the histoi'y of her zeal in rob-
bing and murdering the poor Indians and converting them to
religion at the same moment, exceeds in abomination almost
every chapter in history. And now Spain does not possess one
foot of ground on the American Continent. It has not been so
with our own nation. But I dare not carry you step by step
through the planting of the English Church on the Great Western
Continent. Let it suffice to tell that, in 1787, Archbishop Moore
and three of his suffragans consecrated three American Bishops
in Lambeth Chapel, and from that time to this the American
Church has grown in numbers and influence, and certainly can
show, at the present moment, as brilliant a body of preachers
as any Church in Christendom. I do not remember the exact
number of Bishops in the American Chvirch, but it must be near
upon seventy. I once asked the late Dean of "Westminster, after
his return from America, what he thought of the prospects of the



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Church there, and his answer was, " "When I went out I expected
little, now I see that the Church will carry all before it." Six-
teen years aj^o, several of the American Bishops came to England
to hold brotherly counsel with the Bishops of the English Church,
both at home and of the Colonies. The meeting left bright and
happy memories behind it. How could it be otherwise, with
Longley at the head ? Well I remember the presiding Bishop,
Dr. Hopkins, of Vermont, worshipping in our little Church here
on the day before the meeting, singing the hymns lustily, and
with a good courage, and hanging on the earnest words of Bishop
Selwjm, of New Zealand, whom he had persuaded to preach in
his place, he having first engaged himself to me to do so. That
meeting, however, was regarded as an experiment. It only
lasted three days ; but the experiment was so haj^py that they
always longed to come once more, and in fuller numbers, now
that success promised weU. And this brings us to our third
picture — Archbishop Tait receiving them. He did so first of all
at Canterbur}'. It was on St. Peter's Day, June 29th, 1878. In
the morning he joined with them at the Anniversary Service at
S. Augustine's CoUege, when one of their Bishops, Dr. Cleve-
land Coxe, preached a very moving and affectionate sermon,
and I remember well how they walked, with bated breath, through
the ruined Chajiel, under which the first Archbishop of Canter-
bury lies buried. I, myself, conducted two of them from
Margate a few days before to see the spot where he had landed ;
for scenes connected with the English Church are not more dear
to any of us than they are to the Americans. In the afternoon
there was a grand service at the Cathedral. It was crowded
from end to end, and the Archbishop received them seated in
what is called S. Augustine's Chair. None who witnessed it will
ever lose the sense of that solemn scene. That day month his
only son had died, and, at the close of his weighty words,
he turned specially to these Americans, " My brothers from
across the Atlantic," he called them, and talked to them
so earnestly, so impressively, and withal so simply of the kind-



19

noss they had sliown lo his boy on his visit only a few short
nioutJis before. Tiie few pathetic words, iu harmony with
every one's thoughts that day, were the crowning point of the
day's ceremony.

I rejoice that this episode has been chosen as the illustration
of his life. No other could have been so happy. There were
other important and stirring scenes in his long episcopate. Take
for example the visits of himself and his wife to the cholera
districts in 1866 ; but here you have not merely a great Union
of the Church of England with her daughter Churches, the
representatives of the English-speaking Christians all over the
world, under a Patriarchate grander than Augustine himself
ever could have dreamt of; but blended with this in indissoluble
union one has the thought of the great sorrows of his life,
turned even in the very moment of their coming into the earnest
of an eternal and unfading hope ; and further there is the
memory of the beautiful courage which brought him in that
sad hour away from Stonehouse to come down to Canterbury
and go through his duty. Ages yet unborn will ponder upon
the record of that meeting. I have it from the Americans them-
selves that the ^yarm affection which has grown of late years
between the two nations, the reverential feeling with which our
cousins across the water regard the ancient land of their
fathers, must be attributed to the deep love which goes on
between the two Churches.

My friends, I do not think you expected me to come here to-
day to pronounce a panegyric on Archbishop Tait. I feel, indeed,
that while I personally reverence every step of ground on which
he trod for his kindness to myself, I revere jet more, if it were
possible, his public character and life. But you will not need to
have that dwelt upon. You all know it ; }0u know what a kind,
considerate, gentle neighbour you had in him. The greatest
men are the gentlest. This man, boi'n to be a prince among
men, to rule so iirmly and wisely, to be listened to iu the lligh
Court of Parliament with a reverence such as is accorded to



20

few, and not surpassed to any, is there a cottager among you
who did not rejoice to see his pleasant face at your hearth, or
enjoying himself at the children's feast ? and is there any man
you ever met that you would sooner trust to minister to you in
the last hour of all ? But though you will thus remember him
in your own personal lives, that memory will in part die with
you, thox is a record which you have put up that he who thus
befriended the poor and ignorant also rose to the maguiticent
traditions of the Church of England, that he takes his place
among her worthiest and greatest fathers, that he recognised her
position as the greatest factor in our national greatness, an abiding
thread through the tangled history of more than a thousand
years. The student of the history of England, who regards it
with honest eyes, will find that, as in all other countries, so
here, political impiilses have gone from one side to another -nith
tremendous force ; but that here these impulses have been
moderated and controlled by a wonderful power, and that
power has been the Church of England. "When kings have been
self-willed and tyrannical, it has been the Church which has
checked them ; when their subjects have been lawless it has called
them back to obedience. At this present moment, I look in
vain in the news of any foreign country in the world to find what
I find in England, the Chiu'ch allying itself with science, with
social improvement, with humanising influences of every kind,
and its alliance accepted and acknowledged. It was the recog-
nition of the necessity of it which made Archbishop Tait a great
man. And his success was owing to the deep personal piety
which was the very root of his life. Starting from the belief
that his duty, and every man's duty in this world, is to glorify
God and live with Him for ever, the first sentence in the Scotch
catechism, which his eldest sister had taught him in his child-
hood, he looked upon all created things as ministers of that
Divine glory, all fulfilling the law of Christ. The fear of Grod
was his guide, and the love of God his animating princii)le, and
therefore, whilst always active and busiuess-hke, and enjoying



21

his work, he nevertheless fulfilled, in a way that I, for one, have
seen in no other man, the Apostle's exhortation, " Pray without
ceasing."

Dear friends, you have put up your window to his memory —
a very beautiful memorial too. But there is one yet more
beautiful within your power. Remember the good words which
he has spoken to you, the beautiful example ■^'hich he has set
you, and let that toll ujion your life so long as it lasts. His
ardent desire, that for which I believe he would have given up
a hundred lives, was for the peace of the Church, and for the
holiness of its members. You can do something for that. You
can pray for it ; you can strive for it. 0, pray for the peace of
Jerusalem, for they shall prosper that love Thee.

And specially I call on you who are young. Many of us are
gi'owing old — it may be that our place here shall know us but
little longer — the future of the Church of England lies more with
you than with us. You be good and zealou.s Churchmen, pious.
God-fearing, manly Christian people, pure of heart and life, brave
for truth, zealous for the welfare of men. It may be that forty or
fifty years hence some of you who hear me may be living and
pointing to that window and telling your children how you saw
it on its first day here. Oh, that you may be able to say also
that you resolved afresh on that day that you would try to be
good Christians, to say your prayers, to make those prayers real,
to set an example to your fellow countrymen which should make
them love the Church of England, for the fruits of it which they
saw in you. I will go further and give you one sjjecial exhorta-
tion. Set ajDart one day in the week, and ask God sjDOoially on
that day to give peace to His Church, holiness to His Church, to
fill our people with love for it. I have said it to the young, I say
it to all. And if it shall commend itself to your conscience, good
Archbishop Tait's zeal will still live among us, and though he
rests from his labours his works will follow him.



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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 2 of 2)