Jubilee Shadows and Jubilee Hopes.
R. Lucas & Son, Printers, &c., 'Mail Office, Nelson.
Jubilee Shadows and Jubilee Hopes.
The following is a portion of a sermon preached to a large congregation at the Cathedral on Sunday night, June 26th, by the Bishop of Nelson, who took as his text i. Kings, xx, 22, "And the prophet came to the King of Israel, and said unto him: Go, strengthen thyself and mark, and see what thou doest, for at the return of the year the King of Syria will come up against thee."
After a few introductory remarks, in which he spoke of the danger of the nation after a time of rejoicing over the peaceful victories of the last half century falling back into a sense of security and self-complacency, from which some rude catastrophe might be required to awaken it, the Bishop went on to say:—
Let us look down the fifty years and see what shadows there are which are significant and distinctive and having a meaning and a message for us. There is a question which was full of trouble then, and it is fuller of trouble now—the Irish question, the condition of that unhappy island being frightful in the extreme. It is seen now every day more and more to be a religious question, that the particular tenets of one portion of Christendom on spiritual versus temporal supremacy are at the bottom of the whole difficulty, and men are coming round to believe it too. Daniel O'Connell was the chief mover when the Queen came to the throne. Repeal of the Union was the war cry then; it developed into rebellion, and it was grappled with and set down, just as the present agitation will have to be grappled with and set down. But who are really responsible for this? As long as the Priests of Ireland and the Bishops and Archbishops and Cardinals at their head receive laws and directions from, and are dictated to by, an external Power and one foreign to the Realm, there can be no loyalty to our constitution; there can be no peace, no confidence. Recent events show this to be the case. It is the intervention of the third party, whether at Rome or New York, that troubles Ireland. Those Irishmen who know neither Rome nor New York get on well enough in prosperity and peace. There are not better colonists I ere or elsewhere than men from the North of Ireland, in physique or morals, but they are loyal to the backbone and it is not amongst them that the trouble exists. The absorption of money and time and energy by this ever recurring Irish question is a very sad feature, a dark shadow of the last 50 years. The disendowment and disestablishment of the Irish Church could not mend matters—it was not necessary; the parties who paid for its support did not wish it subverted, but it was only because it was the outward and visible sign of Protestant ascendency that it was demanded to be destroyed. The attack upon it, however, has so far, on the whole, turned out for its good. But it has brought no peace, while, as a sop to Cerberus, the movement has signally failed. Need the sacrifice of the Church of Ireland have been made and enforced? Succeeding ages will wonder and be perplexed as to the meaning of its overturning, but they will note that no great pacification of Ireland followed. As a matter of fact, what we see now is a body of Roman priests who know all about the conspiracy movements of disloyal subjects, but who shelter themselves behind their oaths and declarations from declaring the designs of seditious and conspiring men who stop at nothing. Perhaps it may be asked, what have we to do with the question? I answer, the prin- page 2 ciple at the bottom of it affects us. The supremacy of the Crown must be insisted upon; two Kings will make dissension. The members of the Roman Catholic Church have a right to be protected in their religion and its exercise, but not to the extent of allowing teaching to be given which is really subversive of order, namely, the setting up of the spiritual as a Court of Appeal above the temporal, other than so far as the Supreme Being is concerned. God, we believe, has no Vicar on earth. If we believed that, we should consider the claims of those who profess to occupy the position, but as it is, we have no need to do so. If a firm stand were taken in this matter with regard to external interferences, much of the trouble would disappear, but as long as the great organisation of the Romish Church over Ireland can be and is controlled from Rome, so long will there be friction and dissatisfaction. You have only to see the identification of the priests with movements in Ireland of the most barbarous character, and to notice their connection with the higher orders of the hierarchy and the reference of them to the head quarters, to see that this is a movement which is aimed at the Protestantism of the Empire—notwithstanding that a few Protestants themselves are beguiled into it and made the tools of those who will cast them aside as soon as it is convenient, that is, as soon as the Parliament of Home Rule meets, or else the alternative of civil war takes place. Let it not be said that such reference is unrequired or unnecessary; individuals are loyal, no doubt, and it suits large numbers of persons to take up one attitude in one country and colony and another elsewhere, but I cannot in honesty pass in review the events of the last 50 years, without seeing in the Maynooth grants and in the disestablishment and disendowment of the historical Irish Church, and in the fearful and barbarous murderous actions of the last few years, and of the present day, of the Separatist party in Ireland, without remarking upon it as one of the "shadows." One of two things is certain—either that the Roman Church has no influence at all in Ireland, or else that, if it has, it has not been influenced in the direction of putting down these conspiracies, but, as we now see, is in numberless cases responsible for aiding and abetting them. If the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Church were to use the influence he professes to have in virtue of the position he assumes, and which is professedly re-cognised by his followers, what might not now be accomplished in the pacification of that unhappy country? But he makes no sign. There is every anxiety to secure dominion and the power of interference, but no sign of a firm hand being stretched out to protect the residents—to say nothing of the non-residents—in the due enjoyment of their rights, or to put down the barbarous raids of Moonlighters, or more refined but scarcely less cruel schemes of Boycotters, and similar invaders of the rights of property. If such a proclamation were to issue and fail, at all events something would have been done, but as matters stand at present, we have the spectacle of a large body of men taking a line of disruption and disloyalty and not a voice from head quarters to discourage them. Well, England will manage that question, but when we find persons in eminent positions in the colonies expressing their sympathy with Ireland in revolt, no amount of local loyalty will blind our eyes to facts or prevent our looking into the matters and "marking and seeing what we are doing." I claim perfect toleration both at home and here for any denomination which acknowledges allegiance to The State as the supreme power in temporal things, but it is impossible to tolerate any power, society or church, which so mixes up spiritual and temporal that under the guise of the spiritual it wishes to have the lead and supreme authority in matters temporal. This is a dark shadow, the blame of which must rest on the right heads. It mars page 3 much of the glory of the present reign—it is an open sore, a grievous blot, a weakness in the body politic. It is a source of reproach to us externally, and it may prove a very serious leak in the fabric of the ship of the State. Precious lives, untold money, valuable time, immense intellectual power, are being squandered in a struggle which can have but one issue if the Realm and Empire of England is to continue. Either Romanism will rise to a paramount position again in the world, or it will have to accept the position of one amongst many, and, whatever its pretentions, to be content with keeping them to itself, for the subjects of the realm of England cannot serve two masters in the same sphere, or in any part where those spheres are made to coincide. If Romanism requires the absolute supremacy of the Sovereign Pontiff it must be confined to the spiritual sphere, and we are not going to be beguiled into a foreign allegiance, or its manifest evils, under any theory of combination of the spiritual and temporal spheres. This is the old battle fought before at the Reformation, and if we stand firm it will not have to be fought again; if we yield, our glory as a realm will go, or we must fight the battle over again.
Evils of Great Cities.
The next shadow that meets the eye is the dark cloud resting over the development of our great cities—the gathering together of such vast masses of people in numbers beyond the control either of Government or Church influence, or their ability to secure their temporal or spiritual interests. Great cities mean great centres of vice, sin, unhappiness, and sorrow, and these have increased, and are apparently increasing. Disappointment is being bred every hour of every day, and the evils of close lodging, insufficient pay, food, and clothing, are baffling even the organised efforts of societies and churches to grapple with such difficulties. Something is done, but this social evil cannot be stamped out; it can only be reduced and starved out by limiting the demand for it. The revelations of the last five years are such as to make us tremble for the stability of society, and even for the existence of the future. Shall these evils appear in our midst? Shall the cities of this colony too become centres of evil and festering plague spots of sin? There is but one remedy a higher tone of personal morality, and a deeper spirit of self control. It is self indulgence which lays the mind open to wrong thoughts; self indulgence which forbears to check them as they rise; self indulgence which allows them to gather strength as they go till they develope into an impetuous, irresistible torrent of passion. There is a purity of nature of a physical character, and a purity of grace of a spiritual character. I believe some can follow the purity of nature for its own sake; they see and feel its harmony with the rest of natural laws, and feel themselves bound by such laws. Others again find these natural laws not strong enough for them, and need higher, fuller, and stronger reasons and powers, and they find them in the grace which comes from and is connected with Christ. Whatever others may do, you who call yourselves, and are, Christians, have no uncertain course before you. Self control for the sake of, and in the name of, your Master is a sufficient law, argument, reason, and force for you. This is the will of God—your sanctification. This shadow is a dark and wide spreading one. However this is not one that cannot be remedied, but one which will at once melt into brightness at the approach of the light of truth, holiness, and following the mind and will of Christ.
Growth of Luxury.
An immense growth of personal and domestic luxury is contemporaneous with these fifty years, and especially the last two decades page 4 thereof. Riches being heaped up and extravagantly lavished on luxuries of food, and of dwelling, and of vestment, beyond all limit, while no tithe is given to God, or the poor, or the work of the church, but all goes in self indulgent and excessive expenditure on decoration and articles of luxury. We cannot say there are not some indications of the same thing here. I do not advocate an asceticism which knows no pleasure to be lawfully derived from the beauties of art and colour, far from it; but where there is ability to secure this there should also be borne in mind the wants of others, both of soul and body, and at least a tithe of income should be assigned for the benefit of the souls and bodies of the needy amongst our fellow creatures. This is by no means done. The supporters of our so called charities are proverbially not the richest amongst us, but those who can least afford it, and feel what they give more than others. The many spend their money on themselves, and are so involved in spending it that they never have anything to spare for appeals made to them for others.
But one of the wide spread shadows, and akin to this just mentioned, is a spirit of intemperance and excess, a seeking for self gratification and amusement at any cost, pervading so many, if not all, classes of the community, and this too in connection with an exclusive and caste spirit, which raises up barriers between class and class, and keeps men confined in their sympathies and exclusive in spirit, only finding pleasure in the company of those who can run with them to the same excess of riot. We see side by side, but mutually ignoring each other, the mansion and the hovel, not the mansion either of the titled or the noble, but the mansion of wealth hastily gotten, and not always honestly acquired. It has grown to such an excess and height that against it there is already a protest and a reaction; we will only hope that we may not see a repetition of this out in the colonies. All common gatherings, great or small, such as we have just had and are going to have, where all are one and at one, are helpful in doing away with the artificial barriers which self indulgence and mere wealth create between masses and classes of men.
Exclusion of Religious Teaching from Schools.
A very sad and dark blot, too large to be dwelt on now, is that of the tendency to expel religion from our educational course. New Zealand and France have a sad pre-eminence in this matter, and I am not sure that New Zealand is not the worst, for it does not even require morals and manners to be part of the education, and the French code does. But this I firmly believe, will be amended ere Jong, and before five years are over I expect to see religious instruction imparted in our schools without abating one bit of the usefulness of the present Act.
Some assert there is more of what is generally known as intemperance; it is hard to say whether it is so or not, or whether it is only seen to be more because it is more revealed and shown up; but, going further, there is no doubt that there has been a great growth of indifference to religion amongst the working classes of the people, and a spirit of hostility amongst artisans and mechanics to religion and the ministers of religion. There is no doubt an inattention and indifference to religion on the part of many of our men, who hold aloof from Christian ordinances. I am not altogether sure there is more of this than there was; at the same time there are so many who have ceased to take any active part in worship and attendance on the means of page 5 grace, but whether it be worse or better, it is sufficiently unsatisfactory to report upon and we cannot hide it from ourselves. Men who used to be occupied in religious work, and seemed to delight in the ordinances of the Church, have, we will not say ceased to believe, but ceased to exhibit their faith by external profession, and in some cases are destroying the faith which once they preached.
Nature of the Shadows.
The shadows of the past are of the old sort; they are the result of yielding to the temptations of the world and of the flesh; they arise from exclusive and excessive attachment to the occupations and enjoyments of the present without regard to the future, and to the wants and wishes of the individual man and of the lower self of each man, regardless of the claims of others. Immorality, untruthfulness, and unfaithfulness to responsibility are the main blots which mar the moral prospect and make us tremble when we review the age in which we live and out of which we have sprung. These are dangerous vices, secret for the most part and therefore more dangerous, dangerous because they lie at the root of all action, dangerous because they sap the vitals of the body and soul of the nation; dangerous too, because they lie close in their very nature to duties and virtues and are not so much faults of actual and pronounced sin, but faults, grievous faults, of excess, and of over passing all bounds and all restraints. Liberty turned into license and joy turned into excess. I take no gloomy view either of the state of our homes or our colonial society, nor do I defend it; but there is enough to make us grieved, enough to make us, amidst the joys of success and progress, think seriously, and refuse to blind our eyes to the truth. We have been spared much of what other nations have gone through. No famine, nor pestilence, nor war has weighed us down, we have had peace and plenty; we, therefore, owe a greater measure of conformity to the laws of our being, the laws of our natute, or in a word, the laws of God, and, as in private duty bound as a Christian nation, we may say to the laws of Christ.
Let us now turn to the consideration of some of the elements of Hope for the future which a review of the past seems to contain.
Increase of Knowledge.
First of all, we see light coming in from all sides; information and knowledge are pouring in upon every subject. What is required is not information, so much as thought, and consideration, time to weigh new facts and fresh information. Those whose duty it is to invite reports from various sources know what a conflict there is in the mind when the statistics and information which have been asked for arrive, extensive in magnitude, minute in details sometimes confirmatory, sometimes contradictory and opposing, and difficult to reconcile, yet only requiring time to digest, arrange, and to form into valuable help and assistance. We seem to be in such a state as this: You cannot name a department which is of any human interest that has not received attention. There are Societies whose sole existence depends on the investigation of all that concerns the past or present or future of man, man's nature, man's language, man's place or motive in political, social, or religious society. We have this comfort at all events—we have plenty of information to go upon. If "authority" have ceased to have weight, information and knowledge have increased a hundred fold, and supply somewhat the place of authority. Out of this information and knowledge the laws of the future will be extracted—not fas- page 6 hioned—for law after all is only the experience of recognized customary action. Although from its magnitude it is somewhat embarrassing yet is to my mind a cheering and hopeful thought, this accession to our possessions of so much fresh and unappropriated and unclassified knowledge. Let me take an example. There has been opened up to us the whole history and literature and language of a vast group of Eastern Empires in Assyria, which will bear upon a very important biblical and linguistic subject, the religions of the old world, and the genesis of the religion of the Jewish people, or the religion of the Bible and the religion of Christianity, based upon it, or developed out of it, or at least fundamentally and historically associated with it. The flood of light thrown upon this one department of knowledge is alone a cause of hope. It is so because it prevents apprehension. If what we discovered was limited, or had only the effect of overthrowing previous teachings, that would be small comfort, though we could only rejoice at the overthrow of what was incorrect and untrue, however long believed, however freely cherished. We desire to believe not what is safe, but what is true, as the Prince Consort put it when asked his opinion respecting certain supposed heterodox books, which appeared some years ago and made a great stir. Did time permit, I could show this to be the case with regard to all departments of human knowledge. I cannot say why such a series of revelations should have been retained for the time that now is, but only record my testimony to the fact, and that it has no terror for me as it would have if I were of any other way of thinking, but I perceive in it the elements of the utmost hope. We may have to wait and labor and be patient before we can convert such knowledge into wisdom, and before we can combine the phenomena into groups from which we may deduce laws, but the material is not denied us. So far from that being the case we never had so much laid down for us to work with, only we must be patient and not genera-lise too soon, or come to conclusions too rapidly, or indulge hasty and crude dogmatism. Theories must remain theories; hypotheses must be re-cognised as such. Novelties must not be refused to be treated as such, and to be subject to somewhat of shyness in being looked at, but the volumes of material furnished to us on all sides fill us with the most lively satisfaction, and encourage all to renewed exertions, as students, observers, and judges, as almost on the threshold of a new world.
Desire for Union.
While there are many disintegrating influences, there is a wider spread desire for union. A reaction has set in with regard to the assertion of individual liberty; that assertion has not sufficed; it will go on, but we see that it will not answer practically. The celebration of the Jubilee has been instructive in this respect. Every one has bad his recommendation to make. Every one who could put his pen to paper and sign his letter or not as he pleased has had his suggestion to make. It has been so in England and other parts of the world just as much as in Nelson. It is a feature of the age, and this arises from the levelling influences of the Press and the correspondence admitted to it. I am not complaining of it, I merely point it out as a feature, but it has the effect of showing the need of combination and union if any thing is to be accomplished. The individual may succeed in asserting himself, but either the personal leader or the combining idea is needed to lead to action, and we have some hope that this combining idea is to be found in the work of the Christian Church. Whether the day has come for that to assert itself may be thought questionable by some, but I think we may say there is a more hopeful outlook. There are many page 7 'irreconcilable,' no doubt, on all sides in each of the various parties and sects in the Church and out of it, many who desire only to work on the old lines, and who wish the people to come to them, and by union mean absorption. It is not in them any hope appears to lie, but in a wider circle in which things which tended to separation, looked at from a different and wider point of view, are seen to unite. The dropping of temporary names and phrases which could not be permanent, is seen to be carried on, and in place of this is rising a uniting of those who have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who 'is above all, and through all, and in you all.' Let us try and foster this hope here: there is no obstacle to it Let us keep out the spirit of caste and class, and unite, not for the sake of the word union, but the thing and that which it brings. Let us level by all means, but by levelling up not down. If there are superiors and leaders and prominences let them be those of greater holiness, purity, liberality, virtue, goodness, and greatness, not of mere title and prestige. If there should be valleys in the scenery of the future let them be valleys of beauty or retired coolness and grateful shade; not the recesses of ignorance or chilly darkness, or of the Shadow of Death, but the Valley of Hope and the Vale of Rest.
The Race of Heroes not Extinct.
When we look at the Victorian era, so far as it is already recorded on the pages of history, we see a very hopeful sign in its possessing and presenting to the world men and women of truly an heroic type of character and action, whose influence was really for great good in their day and generation, and more than that, it is an influence which abides and, what is better still, there is no sign of this noble race of saints, heroes, and martyrs coming to an end. Men and women are ready to give up home and all its comforts and associations in order to benefit their fellow creatures. Of course, there always have been some such, but I feel sure on this point that their numbers have greatly increased, and that their quality has by no means diminished. Their names must rise to the lips of many of you, but I am thinking of the many, who, though their names are unknown and their lives unwritten, have in heaven, and in the smaller circles in which they have moved and worked, as great a ground for reputation as any of those of whom we have heard so much. Each name has still a following, not of blind imitators, but of intelligent disciples and learners, and society has been, and is being, purified by their examples. When I was at home last in 1883 I spent four weeks at my old College, of Trinity, Cambridge, and as the custom is, in any room that might be vacant, I was placed in one decorated, as many a College room is, with trophies of athletic and similar victories. There was the oar, the identical oar of the University stroke belonging to him whose name was over the door but who was absent in vacation, and the walls were hung with photos of friends and loved ones, and the cups of victory won by the inmate of this room. Last week a paper came to me in which I read the following record from the interior of China:—"At Hing Lung Mr Stanley Smith baptised 54 men and two women." That was the name over the door of those rooms, the name on that oar, and on those cups! This is an example, and a fresh and recent one too. The Gospel of Christ will not fail while men can be found thus to forsake all and follow Christ for the advancement of His Kingdom.
Organisations for Self Control.
There is hope in the many new organizations for self control. Indeed that is our only hope. All our evils may be summed up in self page 8 indulgence: all our security in self control, and this is the key of the position as regards home influence. It is not so much the control and discipline of the younger members as of the older members of the family and household. It is this that will make homes happy and attractive. We cannot multiply institutions, and homes and refuges, and young men's rooms, and young women's homes, and reading rooms, and clubs and guilds. These are rather for those who are away from home. The home must be made happy if the youth is to be happy and attached to it, but this means self denial. If the heads find their chief pleasure at the club, or the card party, or the tea table, all the time indifferent to the social comfort of the rising members of the family, no wonder they try to find pleasure elsewhere, and late hours and loose company and questionable occupations are resorted to almost in despair by those who ought properly, and would in a healthier state of things, have been satisfied by simple pleasures, purer occupations, and more guileless amusement. Hence for the rising generation those associations which present to them the sterner and more bracing atmosphere of self control—appealing to the counter features of natural asceticism and restraint in the human heart, are a cause of congratulation. Human nature has, we believe, an instinct of government; it does not like lawlessness even though it practises it; it does not like noise and confusion, though paradoxically, it aids and abets it, but it is thankful when the legitimately strong hand of parental discipline takes its postion, and if that is wanting then it not seldom welcomes as a temporary and necessary dictator, the influence of members banded together to supply by co-operation what should have been supplied from other sources. These White Cross Armies, Social Purity movements, University-cultured men resident amongst the masses, and Temperance movements we hail as needed and as successful, but what are all these to the Church, if she would only realise her duty, her position, and her power? Members one of another—one is your master, ail ye are brethren—let us hang together, not try to do what cannot be done, but let us focus our light and our heat, look to our own membership, bring others to Christ, be watchful and strengthen the things which are ready to die. Let each help the other, no carping, no standing alone or aloof while others are fighting. The battle before us is not the officers', but the soldiers' battle. Let each man mend one—that is, first of nil, himself—each knows where his weakest point lies, take it at once, take it this very night to the throne of Jesus; ask for pardon, ask for power and believe God's love, and this will be indeed to you a jubilee, a year of release. Your privileges shall then return to you: the life you had bartered for a mess of pottage, for vanity and for sin will then come back to you, and you shall enter on that which the Lord intended for you. No Jacob shall beguile it from you again, it shall be yours and come back to you. Wonderful recovery! Divine restoration! Not impossible, but truly glorious. This, this, is the jubilee of God: therefore go strengthen thyself, and mark and see what thou doest."
R. Lucas and Son, Printers, etc., Bridge-street, Nelson.