The Parish Church of S. Andrew Auckland, 1881, at the re-opening
The first little rill, which trickles down the mountain brow, moving onward and onward, gathering strength and volume as it advances, now forcing its way over obtruding rocks in cataracts of foam, now flowing stealthily and silently across broad meadow lands, but amidst all changes of circumstance ever widening and deepening in its course, sweeping down in one majestic, rolling tide, till it loses itself in the boundless ocean.
The first little cloud, appearing above the horizon no bigger than a man's hand, growing and spreading
Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
S. John, i. 40.
of the Church.
till it darkens the whole heaven, then opening its flood-gates and refreshing the thirsty ground with copious rain, while herb and flower, cattle and men, revive under its bountiful dispensation, and the languid earth is filled once more with joy and thanksgiving.
The first faint star, timid and uncertain, scarcely discernible in the twilight of the evening sky, gradually growing in brilliancy—a solitary star for a time, but soon another peers out from the darkness, and then another, till the whole heaven is studded with light, and simple men and profound philosophers alike are filled with reverential awe as they contemplate its glories.
The earliest chirp of the awakened bird, heralding the return of day; drowsy and intermittent at first, but growing in frequency and clearness, calling forth a response now on this side and now on that, summoning together the manifold minstrelsy of the woods, till the whole air is vocal with the chorus of song.
Andrew the first called Apostle, Andrew the earliest disciple—what thoughts does not the mention of his name suggest, what feelings of reverence, what sense of thanksgiving, what confession of responsibility!
The first called Apostle, the earliest disciple. I have endeavoured to illustrate this unique position S. S. Ii
by several images from external nature, where from small beginnings a mighty result has been developed, and the little one has become a thousand. But what are all these compared with that transcendent power, of which Andrew was the earliest manifestation—the Gospel of God, the Church of Christ? A rill swollen into a broad and flowing river! But what stream on earth—Nile or Danube or Mississippi—is comparable to that vast, expansive tide, that majestic, rolling body of waters, which washes the shores of all the nations, and presses forward through all the ages, till it loses itself in the Ocean of Eternity? This river is the Church of Christ; these waters are the waters of life. 'He shewed me a pure river of water clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.' 'Thou visitest the earth and waterest it; thou greatly enrichest it with the River of God.'
A speck on the horizon spreading till the whole heavens are darkened, and the weary weeks and months of drought are ended, and the earth heaves and breathes and lives once more under the copious showers! But what drought is so terrible as the drought of the soul—the thirst not of water, 'but of hearing the words of the Lord?' What rain-cloud is so beneficent, what showers are so refreshing, as the outpouring of God's Spirit ?' My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb and as the showers upon the grass.' 'They waited for me as for the rain; they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain.'
The first star which preludes the glories of the midnight heaven! But what sky so bright with its spangled myriads, as the heaven of the-redeemed? What stars so pure and lustrous, as the souls of the just refined by the power of God and purified by the blood of the Lamb ?' They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.'
The first note which at daybreak ushers in the minstrelsy of the woods! But what dawn of day can compare with that awakening morn when the Sun of Righteousness ariseth with healing on His wings? What chorus of birds shall challenge with its melody the hymn of universal creation, which rises before the Eternal Throne: 'I heard the voice of many angels. ...The number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands....And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.'"
This first rill, this small cloud-speck, this faint star, this preluding note of song, was Andrew's courage, Andrew's ardour, Andrew's faith, which leaped forward and clutched the great gift of God when it was placed within his reach.
Of Andrew's life and doings next to nothing is known. Only here and there his name is mentioned in the Gospels. After the day of the Ascension we read no more of him—no more at least, which is handed down on trustworthy authority; for legend is busy with his name.
Yet, though our information is so scanty, we seem to discern in the few notices which are vouchsafed three points in his character, which deserve study; the courage which initiates, the sympathy which communicates with others, the humility which obliterates self. Courage, sympathy, humility—three chief elements in the saintly character. Let us consider each in turn, as it is manifested in the career of S. Andrew.
I. There is first of all then the courage of the man, the boldness which takes the first step, the spirit which comes bravely forward, while all others are hanging back, timid or irresolute.
We have many phrases which bear testimony to the value and the rarity of this courage. We speak of breaking the ice, of shooting Niagara. It is a plunge into an unknown future, where none have gone before, of which none can foretell the consequences. We say that it is the first step which costs. We are lost in admiration of the soldier who steps forward to lead the forlorn hope, to storm the breach, though almost certain death is his destiny. The forlorn hope —does not the very phrase tell its own tale?
Yes, it is the first step which costs. Where one —though only one—has gone before, it does not cost half—not a twentieth part—of the bravery, the resolution, for a second to follow. And for a third and a fourth the degree of courage required lessens in a rapidly decreasing scale.
The first step was taken by Andrew. He was the leader of the forlorn hope of Christendom, the first to storm the citadel of the kingdom of heaven, taking it as alone it can be taken—taking it by force. Be not deceived. Only the violent enter therein—only the brave, resolute, unflinching soldiers, who will brook no opposition, who make straight for truth and righteousness and love, come what may, who are ready to lose their lives that they may save them. This unique glory is Andrew's. Peter may have held a more commanding position in the Church of Christ; Paul may have travelled over a larger area and gathered greater numbers into the fold; but Andrew's crown has a freshness and a brightness of its own which shall never fade—a glory of which no man can rob it. However great and however numerous may be the triumphs of later saints and heroes of Christ, he can never be dispossessed of this preeminence. He was the leader, the foremost man in the foremost rank of the mighty army of God.
And who are they that in their several stations follow Andrew's example and win Andrew's crown? The first member of a family, who is brave enough to shew his religion, where all around in the household is indifference and worldliness; the first little boy in the school dormitory, who—like Arthur in the story— dares to kneel down and say his prayers by his bedside, as he had knelt in his nursery at home; the first soldier in the barracks who has the courage to rebuke the profanity and impurity which prevails around him; the first pitman who raises his voice against the gambling and the intemperance of his companions— these, and such as these, are the true heroes of God, of whom Andrew was the forerunner. Is the opportunity offered to you or to you? Will you not win this glory? Will you not claim this crown? Believe it. There is much hidden sympathy with the good ; there is much secret yearning after a truer life, in those around. If you will only begin, others will soon follow. It is the first step which costs. Be brave. Say the word; do the deed; make the plunge—in the power of God, and in the name of Christ.
Do you ask what it was, which inspired Andrew with this courage? I think I can tell you. The inspiration was twofold—it was the sense of the sinfulness of sin, and the sense of the power of redeeming love.
The sense of the sinfulness of sin first. Andrew was a disciple of the Baptist. The Baptist was the preacher of repentance. His warning 'Repent ye' must have been ringing in Andrew's ears day and night. The horror, the loathsomeness, the exceeding sinfulness, of sin—of his sin—this had been burnt into his soul.
The sense of the power of redeeming love—God's love in Christ—next. John the Baptist's work with Andrew did not end with this conviction of sin. If he proved the disease, he pointed out the remedy also. 'Behold, the Lamb of God.' Yes, here is the manifestation of God's mercy, of God's pardon, of God's love—here in this His beloved Son, Whom He gave to die for us. Jesus turned, looked upon him, riveted him by that gaze, drew him by those words 'What seek ye?' So they went, he and his companion, and abode with Jesus that day, and in the sacred, secret converse of those few mysterious hours his discipleship was confirmed. Yes, here was pardon, here was purification of heart and life, here was rest and peace of soul—here in the communion with Christ Jesus his Lord.
2. This courage then—the courage which takes the first step, the boldness which ventures alone—is the first characteristic which we note in Andrew. The second is wholly different. It is the sympathy, which mediates; the temper and character which draws others together; the conductivity of the man, if I may so speak. It is a remarkable fact that, after this first meeting with Christ, every subsequent notice of Andrew specially brings out this feature in his character. It is not that he does any great thing himself; but that he is the means of getting great things done for or by others. What was his first impulse, what was his first act, after his call? Not the establishment of his own position with Christ, not the proclamation of his discovery on the housetops, nothing of self or self-seeking in any, even in its highest, form; but 'he first findeth his own brother Simon'; 'and he brought him to Jesus'—brought him who was henceforward to be the leader of the Apostles—the foremost after the Ascension to proclaim his risen Lord to a hostile world, the earliest to gather the firstfruits of the Gentiles into the garner of Christ. The second notice of Andrew is akin to the first. He it is, who confers with Jesus on the feeding of the hungry multitude, lays before Him the apparently slender means which were at hand to supply this want, procures for them meat in abundance from the Master's hidden stores—a fit type and parable this of his spiritual function in the Church at y large. The third and last notice is of the same kind. Again he is the medium of communication with Jesus. He introduces to him those Greeks, who, having come up to the feast, desired to see the famous teacher—the earnest of that great harvest which the Apostles and preachers of the Gospel should reap from all the nations of the earth. This is the second bright jewel in Andrew's saintly crown—this conductivity, this sympathy which mediates and leads to Christ. Forasmuch as he turned many to righteousness, he shall shine as a star for ever and ever.
3. The third feature in his character is intimately connected with the second. To Andrew was given the humility which obliterates self. He, who brought others forward, was content himself to retire. Just as at a later date Barnabas, the primitive disciple, took Saul by the hand, introduced him to the elder Apostles, and started him on his career as an Evangelist, content that his own light should wane in the greater glory of this new and more able missionary of Christ, so was it now. Andrew was the first called Apostle. Andrew brought Simon Peter to Christ. Yet Andrew is known only as Simon Peter's brother. Need I remind you in what school he had learnt this lesson? Andrew was the Baptist's disciple, and was not this the lesson of the Baptist's life? 'He must increase, but I must decrease'—obscuration, eclipse, obliteration of self. The personality of Andrew is lost in the personality of Simon. So it is truly said that the world knows nothing of its greatest benefactors. They are lost in their work, or are lost in others. The watchful mother who trains up the saint and hero of God, the affectionate wife who sustains the courage and stimulates the ardour of the patriot, the careful schoolmaster who forms the youthful mind of the future philosopher or scholar or historian, even the faithful servant whose never-failing care is indispensable to his master's efficiency—all these die and their names are forgotten; they are only dimly seen, if seen at all, in the reflected light of another more famous personage; yet who knows but that when the dawn of the great day shall come, and the mists of ignorance shall be dispelled, their visages shall shine with a transcendent glory—a glory all the purer and brighter that it has been untainted by this world's fame? Unknown, they shall be well-known. Is it not ordered so in the kingdom of heaven ?' The first shall be last, and the last first.' Believe it, this effacement of self is the crown of the Christian spirit.
You the inhabitants of this parish, you the worshippers in this church—you are the heirs of Andrew's name and example. Lay these lessons to heart. To-day the worship and the work of this parish takes a fresh start. Let us strive that it be also a fresh starting-point in the spiritual life of every one of us.
A spacious and imposing structure has been bequeathed to us by the munificence of our ancestors. This church of S. Andrew is the just pride of this parish and neighbourhood. It is not the only distinction of this fabric that it is the largest parish church in the county of Durham. It speaks to us, as few parish churches speak, of the long and continuous history of Christianity in England. There is that Latin inscription, imbedded in its pavement, testifying to that earlier Roman civilisation on which, as on a basement, the superstructure of the Gospel was raised. There are those Saxon crosses disinterred from its walls, proclaiming the evangelisation of the great race of which the population of England is mainly composed. And, when from these reliques of older monuments and structures, which long ago were demolished to clear an area or to furnish building materials for the existing fabric, we turn to this fabric itself, we meet with a series of architectural styles, beginning with the Norman basement of the tower and descending through subsequent ages—a series which not inadequately represents the successive epochs in the career of the English Church. In its internal arrangements too it recalls the most striking epochs in the history of this see. It is especially connected with the names of Beck the Patriarch and of Langley the Cardinal—the two most splendid (if indeed outward splendour alone be accounted) in the roll of the Durham Episcopate, during the early centuries.
This Church, thus bequeathed to us by ancient munificence, we could not without shame have left any longer in a state of neglect and decay. At great cost it has been restored to a condition more worthy of the munificence which erected it, and less unworthy of the service to which it is consecrated. To-day we re-open it with solemn prayer that God may look favourably on this our work, and that it may be permitted to redound to the honour of His Name.
But the fabric and the furniture exist only for the sake of the worship. It has been felt therefore that this restoration and adornment should be the signal for an improvement in the services. The building itself has exceptional merits, as a Parish Church. Should we not strive, so far as our opportunities go, to make our services also the models of parochial services?
Art and music have made rapid strides in our own time. Art has forced its way into our dwellings; we cannot bar the door of the sanctuary against it. Music is heard in our homes; we may not silence its voice in the temple of God. The higher cultivation of the age requires a fuller recognition of these good endowments of God in His own House. We do right to give back to God of the best which He has given to us—to our age more especially.
But art and music must be the handmaids, not the mistresses, of divine worship. Art and music, as mere gratifications of the senses, are nowhere more out of place than in the Church of God. They clog the soul. Therefore these accompaniments of divine worship must be duly subordinated to the higher spiritual ends. Above all the music must be congregational. The choir must not supersede, it must only direct, the service of the congregation. So shall this restored fabric of S. Andrew be a fit type of that greater temple which is built up of the souls of men, an habitation of God in the Spirit, a sanctuary eternal in the heavens. So shall our worship here be a parable and a foretaste of that heavenly minstrelsy which 'rests not day and night, saying "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come."'