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DELIVERED BY THE HON. AND VERY REV. E. GREY, D.D.
AT ST. BOTOLPU CHURCH, BISHOPOATE, ON BEHALF OF THE BISHOPQATE NATIONAL SCHOOLS, MARCH 13, 1831.
Ephesians, iv. 11, 12, 13.—" And he gate tame, apostles; and some, prophets; and mme, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers ;for the perfecting of the saints, for the worh of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the hnowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the meature of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
When the Lord Jesus had made satisfaction for the sins of men upon the cross, when he had triumphed over death, burst the bonds of the grave, and showed by his resurrection that his sacrifice was accepted, he ascended into heaven in his human nature, that he might complete the work of man's salvation by his intercession at the right hand of the Father, and by his reception of those gifts which he was to transmit to his people on earth through the medium of the Holy Ghost. Those gifts were ordinary and extraordinary; the latter to be continued only while the circumstances of his church, then newly set up in the world, should require them: the former to be vouchsafed to his people always, even unto the end of the world. In the enumeration of gifts or qualifications in the text there is a mixture of ordinary and extraordinary graces; andit is perhaps impossible, as it is certainly unnecessary, to determine the boundaries of the several offices there mentioned, and what of ordinary, and what of extraordinary works belonged to these. It is more to our purpose to know, that unto every one " apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers," were given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ, were imparted such powers as the Lord in his wisdom and goodness judged to be requisite and meet; and it is satisfactory to be able to infer
from the great end proposed, the perfecting of the saints in unity and love— that unto every one in every succeeding age, both Christ should be afforded, and the necessary supplies to be derived from him.
The gifts of Christ were intended for the good of his Church; and in order to advance his cause and kingdom among men. Whether he endowed Apostles with the power of working miracles, with infallibility in delivering his truth, or enabled prophets to expound the Scriptures, and foretell things to come, or assisted evangelists to teach and record the Gospel, and to settle and establish churches, or supported pastors and teachers in their labours, whatever gifts or graces, wonderful or more common, to ministers or people, he was pleased to bestow, and however he bestowed them, all was done that the saints might be perfected, the Gospel might be spread abroad, that the churches might be edified, that his glory, in which the good of his people consists, might be manifested, love might be cherished, unity promoted, peace secured, faith maintained, and salvation effected. As the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned; so I may say, that the end of Christ's gifts is unity in faith and knowledge, producing love to God and love to man, purify
ing the heart, quieting the conscience, fitting souls for endless happiness.
According to what I have observed before, it is unnecessary, as it would be very difficult, nicely to determine the bounds of, and the gifts annexed to, the several offices mentioned in the first verse of the text. I would rather, therefore, on this occasion, having made such preliminary remarks as I think are sufficient to elucidate the general meaning of that verse, and its connection with the following verses, forbear to notice it further, and in its place, take the seventh verse of the chapter, and join it to the two latter verses of the text. What I have to discourse upon will then run thus— "But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ: for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." Nobody, I presume, who reads the whole of the context, and considers the connection throughout, will accuse me in this, of taking any unwarrantable liberty with Scripture. The sense of the passage is completely preserved, and the arrangement is more convenient for the improvement I propose.
My object now, will be to show that grace is given unto each of us, together with such gifts as we possess for mutual and general edification. Our common head and Lord confers upon every individual member of his church, gifts and graces according to his sovereign wisdom for the benefit of the whole, that the saints may be perfected in their holy profession, that their number may be accomplished,that the body of Christ may be nourished and matured; that believers being securely built upon the true foundation,
and closely linked together in the unity of faith and holiness, the spiritual temple may at length appear in all beauty, harmony, and just proportion. We are each of us, according to what is granted, to assist and instruct those who stand in need of our assistance and instruction. Each according to his gifts is to help his neighbour. Each according to his opportunities arising from his station, wealth, or intellectual talents, is to farther the ad vancement of Christian faith and knowledge. Each according to the powers entrusted to him by God, is to promote the salvation of his fellow sinners, and to expedite the coming, in its full measure, stature, and perfection, of Christ's kingdom.
Let us pursue our contemplations with seriousness and a little more particularity. We are each in his station, and according to the gifts and graces vouchsafed to him, are to do our utmost for the perfection of the saints. It is of the greatest importance that professing Christians should be brought into an orderly and spiritual state and behaviour, that they should be strengthened, confirmed, and advanced therein, that so the name of Christ may be the more magnified in and by them, and they may be brought into closer and more vital communion with him. It is most desirable, yea, it is necessary, for their eternal welfare, that there should be among them a unity of faith and knowledge, that they should agree in the essential doctrines of their most holy faith, and in their knowledge of the Son of God. To the perfecting of 'salvation they must have faith—that one precious faith which is professed in the one baptism of the Church; and they must have that spiritual and experimental knowledge of the Son of God in his person, glory, and redemption, which produces love, obedience, and conformity.
Now, those to whom it is given thus to believe and know, are bound by the most sacred obligations as far as in them lies to lead others to the same unity of faith and knowledge. It is true, this is especially the work of the ministry, and for this great purpose special grace is given. But it is the part of all, as they can, to promote the increase of true faith and knowledge; and it would not be easy perhaps, to fix on an individual thus gifted himself, who has it not in his power to influence aright some others. Let parents reflect on their duty in this respect to their children—masters to their servants—teachers to their scholars—friends to their friends—and even inferiors, who by fear, if there be no other way, may be fellow helpers to their superiors.
If, my brethren, according to the good hand of your God upon you, you belong to the church and people which God hath purchased and preserved to himself, you are bound each in his place to exert yourselves with fidelity and zeal, that the truth may be maintained among you, and handed down to future generations uncorrupted and unimpaired. The edifying of the body of Christ, both now and henceforward, is that which Christians should have much and always at heart. The precious treasure of the Gospel is in a manner lodged with them, and much of the glory of that Gospel, and of its beneficial effects, is made to depend upon those who, as the salt of the earth, are to diffuse the savour of their godliness far and wide, who as the lights of the world are to be for the instruction, direction, quickening and comfort of those who see and hear them.
If Christians, then, you strive to promote Christianity, to spread aboad its doctrines, to build up the church which is Christ's mystical body by seeking an increase of its grace, and
an augmentation of its members—if Christians, your aim must be your own and the church's edification and perfection, perfect unity in the faith, and in the saving knowledge of Christ as the Son of God, and the great Mediator comprizing approbation and affection with all due honour, trust and obedience, and full growth in the gifts of grace,free from childishness and mortal infirmities, and full maturity and ripeness in all those qualifications which are derived to believers from the fulness which is in Christ. Such is to be the aim of the church and of all her true members, as it is the end of all God's dispensations towards us, and that wherein his glory and our eternal felicity will be most eminently displayed. There is a fullness in Christ and a fullness to be derived from him, and there is a certain stature of that fullness, and a certain measure of that stature, both perfect in their degree, assigned, in the councils of God, to every believer. To that perfect measure it is certain we can never come, till we come to heaven; but it is our duty, as it is our interest and our privilege, to press towards the mark in holy desires and hopes, in constant endeavours and preparations, and so to excite others in the course, running in truth, unity and concord, we may at last together obtain the perfect and all glorious prize.
Let me take occasion from this subject, to urge on you, as a Christian congregation, the vast importance and unquestionable duty of instructing the rising generation in the knowledge and practice of that holy faith which you profess. Born in a land where the light of the Gospel pre-eminently shines, members of a church in which the truths of the Gospel are maintained and taught, and the holy precepts thereof explained and enforced with a purity and simplicity to be surpassed, or perhaps equalled, only intheapostolical and purest eras of the universal I church—you are called upon who are thus highly blessed yourselves—you, whose distinguished happiness it is to be Britons and members of the Church of England—you are called on to contribute in such manner as you can, and with alacrity and zeal, to the transmission of the blessings you enjoy to after ages; to secure the spiritual advantages, with which you yourselves are favoured, to those who must one day stand up in your stead in this country and in this place, and to successive generations. These are awful thoughts; but think, my brethren, seriously what numbers of precious souls yet unborn, or but just entered on existence, depend in a great measure at least on you and on your liberality fortheir instruction in the word of life and the way of salvation—for their edification and their progress towards perfection, their chance or hope of their ever attaining unto the measure and stature of the fullness of Christ.
That parents lay under a solemn obligation according to the means they possess, thus to provide for the spiritual and everlasting welfare of their children you will readily adroit; but it has been questioned, how far it is expedient or charitable to assist those, whom Providence has not enabled to educate their own children, orwhohave not the means of obtaining for them proper instruction. It has been said that learning tends to lift the poor out of their sphere, and tempts them to affect a deportment above their station, that it disqualifies them for those pursuits for which most of them are destined, and what is still worse, that it gives them ability to do that mischief in society which they could not have done, had they been left in ignorance. I wish with all my heart that there were any seeming bounds for these objections; but, alas, learning, like all other things, is
sometimes abused. It does sometimes, I fear, make the poor discontented with their condition, and causes them to think themselves above the duties they have to perform; it does tempt some to the practice of crimes; and I will not conceal from you my apprehensions, that in some instances, the designs of our charitable institutions for the education of the poor are extended too far. But in my advocacy for these institutions I am always disposed to dwell on their grand object—religious instruction ; and in teaching the word of God we cannot do amiss. God has been pleased to give to man a revelation in writing ; it must, therefore, be good that man should read, and it must be expedient and charitable to help those who cannot procure teaching for themselves, out of their stores, who can afford to do more. In so doing we shall undoubtedly fulfil the will of God.
Without, therefore, going further into the question of the abuse of education, let me earnestly entreat you on the present occasion, to consider the poor with a view to their instruction in righteousness. I ask you not to make these boys classical scholars or mathematicians, or to render these girls accomplished in works of acquirement unfitted for their station; but I ask you to assist us in enabling them to read and understand the Scriptures, to promote their edification, to train them up in true religion and virtue, their growth in goodness here, and their perfection as saints hereafter. I ask you to give us your aid in saving these children from vice and irreligion, in putting them in the way of godliness and usefulness, and thus making them happy themselves and a benefit, not a pest, to society. If the boon of such a rightly ordered education be perverted, if the knowledge of letters be applied to the reading of those vain and corrupting publications that unhappily abound among us, rather than to the study of God's word, if the lower classes trill abuse the learning they have obtained through the charity of their superiors, wasting their time, which ought to be otherwise occupied, in poring over books, which though harmless or useful in themselves, are unsuited to their condition, and thus imbibing notions very improper for them, and neglecting their humbler duties; if such be the result, more or less frequent, of the good we intend, it is not our fault, and we cannot have it to answer for. Let us only take care that the education of the poor be rightly ordered and conducted by us, and the poor, not those who help them, will have to defend the charge of abuse of learning, of converting wholesome food into deadly poison.
Life and death are set before us in the Scriptures, and all should read the Scriptures, that they may know what is thus set before them. If some be so infatuated as to choose death, as to make their very knowledge the vehicle of leading them to evil, their very means of acquaintance with life and death, a mean to them of death, we must be sorry, but we should not be discouraged; it only proves to us what a little experience in the world confirms, that good abused may be made to produce harm, and that the present life, under all circumstances, abounds with temptations to sin.
I exhort you, then, my brethren, to support with liberality the institution for which I am this day called to plead. It is formed on a national plan, it is designed to the bringing up of the children of the poor in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his Holy name; for their instruction in the purest scriptural principles of our church, for their establishment in sound doctrine and sober history, for their gradual, perfect, and continual advancement in the unity of the faith,
and the knowledge of the Son of God, towards that perfect maturity which the good shall finally attain. It is intended for the making of these children good Christians, good subjects, and good neighbours, pious to their God, dutiful to their king and other superiors, and true and just and kind to one another, God blessing, and you by his grace favouring it, this institution may largely promote the wellbeing of this populous district.
If there be any here who are not acquainted with the institution, let me direct their attention to the notice subjoined to the hymn which has been sung this evening. "These schools were instituted in the year 1815, for the education of poor children in the principles of the established religion; and the number of scholars was usually about two hundred and seventy. They are now united with the parochial schools; and great advantages have already resulted from the undivided attention which the friends of religious education in this parish have thus been enabled to bestow upon the objects of their care." And though these are few, I pray for an increase of their number. "The Treasurer of the National Schools feels it his duty to impress upon the friends of that establishment, the necessity of continuing their accustomed liberality," a considerable portion of the funds being applied to the general purposes of the united schools, I may say indeed the chief proportion. "The Committee have pledged themselves to a considerable annual expence, in order to secure the advantages of a union with the parochial schools. It is much to be wished that the liberal contributions of charitable persons may enable the friends of the schools to extend the benefit of clothing beyond the limited number to which it is at present confined."
Let me impress it on you as a sa