ALL THINGS TO ALL MEN.
/ am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
i Corinthians ix. 22.
S. Paul's Cathedral, S. Mark's Day, 1877, at the Consecration of the first Bishop of Truro.
S. Paul's life has ever been an enigma to those who have failed to appreciate this ruling principle of his conduct. To his contemporaries he seemed altogether inconsistent and unintelligible. The Jewish converts were at a loss to understand how one who had conceded so much to Judaism in the case of Timothy should refuse everything to Judaism in the case of the Galatians. The Gentile converts could not reconcile the utterances of a teacher who in the same breath declared that an idol was nothing in the world, and denounced the feasters in an idol's temple as having fellowship with devils. The party of tradition reviled him, because he broke loose from the time-honoured usages of his race and country. The friends of liberty suspected him, because he denounced in no sparing terms the practical license which they grafted on his doctrine. And to modern critics also his conduct has appeared not less perplexing. The Paul of the Acts, they say, is a different person from the Paul of S. Paul's Epistles. They cannot identify the facile pupil of James, who to win over those many thousands of his fellow-countrymen lent himself to a complicity in Nazarite vows, with the stern master of Peter, who declared that those seeking justification through the law had fallen from grace. The one character to them is irreconcilable with the other. Irreconcilable, yes, to those who do not appreciate the infinite power of love in concession, in adaptation, in expedient, in varying sympathy with the wants and the weaknesses and the prejudices and the ignorances of men, while holding firmly and maintaining boldly the great central truths of God. For have we not here, in this saying, the key to all that apparent vacillation upon which his enemies fastened of old? Is not this the solution of all that incongruity which his modern critics have detected in his portraits? Can any words be stronger than these, 'To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews: to the lawless I became as lawless . . . that I might gain the lawless; to the weak I became weak'—weak myself, I felt with their tender scruples about forbidden meats; I narrowed myself to their narrow observance of days; I made all their prejudices and all their littlenesses my own, 'that I might gain the weak: I am become all things,' yes, all things in turn—Hebrew and Greek, puritan and libertine, rigid and facile, simple and learned—'all things to all men, that by all and every means I might save some.'
There is a concession which springs from cowardice, and there is a facility which is born of indifference. There is an adaptation which is the slave of selfinterest, and there is a versatility which is leagued with fraud. Not such was the Apostle's principle of action. His was the elasticity of a keen, absorbing, dominating love, which concentrates its entire energies for the time on the one object before it, which watches every moment, seizes every opportunity, fastens on every rising emotion, and ingratiates itself with every transient thought, that it may force an entrance for the truth which shall save a soul from self and sin, and gain it for God.
Men may misunderstand—they can hardly fail to misunderstand—a character like this. In its superficial aspects the versatility of divine love has resemblances to the versatility of worldly craft. It is impossible to draw any rigid line which shall separate the one from the other in their external actions. Who does not remember the noble extravagance of the great Indian missionary watching the play and holding the stakes of the rude soldiers, content to become a trifler among triflers, that he might win triflers to God? This outwardly was a very worldly thing; and yet who for one moment would condemn Francis Xavier of worldliness? Only the firm grasp of eternal truths, only the exacting tyranny of an unselfish love, only the indwelling presence of a Divine Spirit, though ever changing yet ever the same, transfusing itself like the breathing air which is its symbol, permeating every thought and action, adapting itself in its elasticity to each emergency of time and place and circumstance and person— these and these only can prevent the versatility of a S Paul from degenerating into the insincerity and the chicane of the worldling.
The attitude of S. Paul in the first age is the precedent for the clergy in all ages. They too, like the Apostle, must in a certain sense strive to please all men in all things, careful only that while so doing, they, like him, seek 'not their own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved'.
Therefore, if they are true to his example, they will adapt themselves to the divers nations and the changing times in which their lot is cast. They will be quick to discern that the methods found most efficacious for obtaining a hearing in England may fail in India or in China. They will not fall into the error of identifying the nineteenth century with the sixteenth, or with the thirteenth, or with the fourth and fifth, or even with the first They will thank God for that era of revived learning and awakened thought which shook the Church loose from the fetters of ignorance and superstition, and stripped off" from the truth of Christ the accretions of ages; but they will not attribute to the Reformation such an infallibility as leaves to their own times no advance to be made and no step to be retraced. And again; looking farther back, they will recognise gladly the noble abandonment of selfdevotion which prompted the great religious movement of the thirteenth century; they will not underrate it as a counteraction of the crying evils of the time; they will value it infinitely as a protest against the selfishness of all times; but they will not seek to introduce the anachronism of bygone institutions into an alien condition of society. They will imitate the spirit—the love, the tenderness, the absolute self-sacrifice—but they will not copy the methods, of a Francis of Assisi. And again; turning back to a still earlier page in history, they will fully appreciate the services rendered to the Church by the era of the great councils in the definition of Christian truth; but they will not be blind to its patent faults—its bitterness, its intense party spirit, its recklessness of means to an end; they will not be so untrue to their calling, they will not so far forget the promise of the Spirit, as to suppose that they themselves have no function to fulfil in linking the truths of Christ with the enlarged knowledge and the more catholic sympathies of their own age. And lastly; as they look back with wistful regret on those first days of a simpler faith and a more unselfish love, when the guiding hand of the Apostles was still felt in the Church, they will not forget that Western Europe in this latest century differs widely from Palestine or Asia Minor in that earliest; they will see that a more complex civilisation, with more diversified energies of life and thought, demands from the Church a fuller development of organisation and a more comprehensive study of means. It will be their endeavour not to stereotype the processes, but to revive the mind, of their Apostolic masters. This they will do, remembering always that 'there are diversities of gifts, and yet the same Spirit; there are differences of administrations, and yet the same Lord; there are diversities of operations, and yet the same God which worketh all in all'—diversities as diverse as the centuries are diverse, as the nations are diverse.
This is the true policy, as it is the paramount duty, of a Christian clergy. Is their lot cast in an age, when the relations of employers and employed are in a critical state? They will not stand aloof from the struggle, as if it had no concern for them; they will rather regard themselves as the natural mediators between masters and men, because the natural friends of both, studying the controversy from either side, and thus striving to moderate, to guide, to reconcile. Do they live at a time when aesthetic culture is making rapid strides? They will not let it drift into a position of antagonism to Christian worship, but will rather enlist it in the service of God, careful only not to make a mistress of- a handmaid, and watchful always lest artistic feeling should step into the place of devotion, or music usurp the throne of prayer. Has God called them to work among the thronging population of our large cities? They will see that the simpler modes of almsgiving which sufficed in a simpler age will not meet the demands of our more complex social condition; that the organisation of charitable relief is a necessity of the time, if we would prevent our charity from degrading those whom it is intended to raise. They will discern that extensive combination for providing healthy and suitable homes for the labouring classes is a primary requisite for their work, seeing that, where these are not, any moral and religious improvement on a large scale is almost impossible. Are they confronted with an era of great scientific progress? They will meet the latest acquisitions of science, not with opposition, not with coldness, not with misgiving, but with a hearty welcome—the more hearty in proportion as their faith is the stronger—confident that in the end divine truth can only gain by enlarging the bounds of human knowledge. So they will strive to 'please all men in all things'; and this they will do, 'not seeking their own profit'—whether their own influence or their own amusement or their own advancement— 'but the profit of the many that they may be saved'.
And never, during the eighteen centuries -of Christian history, has there been a Church with larger opportunities and graver responsibilities in this matter than our own. Of the Church of England, more than of any other Church, it may be said that her hand reaches into every rank of social life, into every grade of intellectual culture, into every great branch of the Church of Christ, into every great religion of mankind throughout the world.
She surely will not be wanting in sympathy with any class of society, for her position demands that she should become to the lowly as lowly, that she may win the lowly, and to the noble as noble, that she may save the noble. With her chief pastors holding high positions in the State, and her parochial ministers working in the courts and alleys of our thronged cities, she touches both ends of the social scale as no other Christian community in this country touches them. Much, very much, has yet to be done to bring the Gospel home to the labouring classes. The great problem for our Church in this age is how she may supplement her parochial machinery to this end. But even thus, with all her painful deficiencies, she still stands in closer contact with the poorest classes than any other religious body, even in our large towns, while in wide districts of the country she is almost the sole teacher of the Gospel of Christ.
And, as with the social, so also with the intellectual scale. She has it in her power, as no other Church has, to show herself alike to the learned as learned, that she may gain the learned, and to the simple as simple, that she may save the simple. Despite all gloomy forebodings, the clergy of the English Church are still the most learned clergy in Christendom. It will be an evil day when from remissness or from inappreciation she shall resign this proud prerogative—an evil day for this land, an evil day for the Christianity of the future.
And again; when we extend our range of view beyond the boundaries of our own country to Christendom at large, the Anglican Church is still seen to hold a position of exceptional advantage. It was not, you will remember, the sanguine prophecy of some only too partial son of her own, but the calm opinion of a distinguished member of the Roman community, who was no lenient critic of our faults, that this our English Church seemed destined by her position to give the impulse to a great movement which should result in the union of the divided Churches and sects. Her affinities with the most prominent forms of Christian society place her, as it were, in the moral centre of Christendom. By her adherence to the ancient creeds, she allies herself to the great Oriental Church; in her hereditary institutions, she is connected with the great Latin Church; in her repudiation of traditional corruptions and adoption of simpler forms, as well as in her larger sympathy with intellectual and social freedom, she is drawn towards the Reformed communities. Thus, without any unfaithfulness to her recognised position, she—I say it without fear of being misunderstood— may become to the Greek as a Greek, and to the Roman as a Roman, and to the Protestant as a Protestant, so as to unite Greek and Roman and Protestant in one, that she and they alike may be saved in Christ.
And once more; while holding this central position with regard to the Churches of Christ, she has unique advantages also with respect to the great religions of the world without. What was the lesson which the last consecration held in this cathedral only a few months ago must have suggested to every thoughtful mind? Why, that in his diocese, the most populous diocese in the world, with its hundred and fifty millions of human beings, the bishop of Calcutta would be brought into close and immediate contact with the three great religions which divide with Christianity the allegiance of the civilised world,—with Brahminism in its immemorial home, with Mohammedanism in its chief stronghold and its largest aggregate, with Buddhism in one of its diverse forms. This unwieldy diocese is a satire on our theory of episcopal supervision; it cries shame on the poverty of our missionary efforts; but at least it brings home to us the special obligations upon our English Church and nation to study the elements of truth which have given to these three great religions their hold upon men, and through this study to point out effectively to them a more excellent way. It is for this Church above all Churches—forgive the S. S. 5
over-boldness of my language—I do but extend the bold figure of the Apostle—it is for this Church to become to the Hindu as Hindu, to the Mohammedan as Mohammedan, and to the Buddhist as Buddhist, that she may win all alike to Christ.
These are. the splendid opportunities, this is the unique position, of the English Church. And shall we by precipitancy, by recklessness, by self-will, by passion, thwart the destiny which seems in God's good purpose to have been marked out for her? The crisis is full of magnificent hopes, but it is charged also with many dark forebodings and fears. And it depends on our patience, our forbearance, our discretion, our charity, our largeness of heart and of mind, which of the two shall prevail. Woe to us, if at such a time by a lawless assertion of self-will which obtrudes its own fancies at all hazards, by a reluctance to welcome zeal in others when overlaid with extravagance, by a too great importunity in urging at unseasonable moments reforms which are wise and salutary in themselves, by a too great stiffness in refusing to contemplate the necessity of any reforms, by headlong litigation or by violent speech, by the obstinacy of pressure or the obstinacy of resistance, we should overstrain and shatter this powerful but complex and delicate engine, which God has placed in our hands for the doing of His work.
This however is no fit season for gloomy forebodings. The predominant feeling of all here must be one of joy and hope. The consecration of to-day is no common consecration. It is not the dedication of a new bishop, but the inauguration of a new see; or rather, to speak more correctly, the revival of a very ancient see. We need no more striking illustration of the vitality of our ecclesiastical institutions and the continuity of our national history, than the fact that the work of to-day is intimately connected with the work of eight centuries ago. The Cornish bishopric was united with the Devon bishopric under Edward the Confessor; they are once more separated under Victoria. The reason given for the union in the Confessor's charter is the scanty numbers and the poverty of these districts, the coasts of Devon and Cornwall having been devastated by pirates. The reason for a separation now is the reversal of this condition of things. The growing population, spread over the vast area which the united diocese of Exeter comprises, has overtaxed the energies even of the most energetic. Thankfully therefore will the people of Cornwall accept the work of to-day, notwithstanding the regrets of a personal separation. Thankfully do we Churchmen throughout England welcome it, as an earnest of a still further increase in the Home episcopate, and a recognition of the growing needs of the times. The liberality which has made this day's work possible will carry with it a two-fold blessing. It will bless not only those two western dioceses, which it was designed more immediately to benefit, but it will bless also the Church of England at large by its example in firing the zeal and stimulating the liberality of others elsewhere.
The Cornish bishopric then, though the latest, is also among the earliest of our English sees; and he who is called to-day to preside over it will be reminded by its very history that, as a scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, he is invited, nay, is compelled, to bring forth out of his treasure things new and old: things old, for he succeeds to the immemorial institutions of an ancient faith and an ancient Church; things new, for it is his special work to organise a fresh diocese in this latest century under unique conditions. For of all counties in England Cornwall is unique; unique in the occupation of its labouring classes—its fishermen and its miners; unique in its religious condition—the wide influence of the Wesleyan body; unique in its nationality—in the tenacity of British character and the pride of a British ancestry who held the land long before it was overrun by foreign invaders, the English Athelstan and the Danish Cnute and the Norman William: just as much as it is unique in its vegetation—its heather and its wild flowers; and unique also in the physical conformation of its coasts—its rugged piles of granite and its rigid masses of serpentine.
These peculiarities he will study. In the Apostle's spirit he will strive to become all things to all men— to the miners as a miner, to the Cornishmen as a Cornishman, to the Wesleyans as a Wesleyan, though he is a Churchman—that he may bring all together in Christ.
Even if there were no special conditions in his diocese which demanded special attention, the office of the English episcopate at this time involves no slight responsibility and bespeaks no common gifts. It demands an energetic fervour of zeal, a large sympathy of love, a quick insight and a calm judgment, great caution, great boldness, a staunch tenacity of conservatism, a ready fertility of innovation. 'Who is sufficient for these things?' Who indeed, if God be not with him?
Of one source of strength let us assure him. He will carry to his great work the prayers of many hearts; the prayers of those friends who have grown up with him from boyhood; the prayers of those pupils whom year after year he has sent forth from a great public school, armed for the battle of life; the prayers of his own dear people of Lincoln, to whom three short years have bound him with the cords of an affection which will last a lifetime; the prayers of our fathers in God, who are assembled to-day in numbers rarely seen at the consecration of an English bishop; the prayers of this congregation, which is gathered to witness his dedication of himself anew to God; the prayers of the diocese which henceforth will look to him for guidance; the prayers of the whole English Church.
And he himself—he will go forth to do battle for Christ with a good courage, for he will go forth in a strength not his own. He will lay down this day, at the footstool of God, his successes and his failures, his hopes and his fears, his knowledge and his ignorance, his weakness and his strength, his misgivings and his confidences—he will offer himself, all that he is and all that he might be, content to take up thence just that which God shall give him. Henceforth, amidst every trial and in every effort, this will be his wisdom, his power, his grace, his life; to remember always that he stands face to face, as we all stand—yes, you and I, now, at this moment, in this building, if we could but see it—face to face with the glory of the Eternal Father shining full from the Person of Christ.