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Who is sufficient for these things? What mortal powers are there, but must sink beneath the exceeding weight of glory, that belongs to the work of an Evangelist?
But, if such were the musings of an Apostle, what must have been the thoughts of those who have ever, at all worthily, succeeded to the Apostles in their holy office? St. Paul, we know, was not any whit behind the very chiefest of the Apostles1. He had not, perhaps, beheld his Saviour in the flesh; but he saw Him in the skies. To him the mysteries of Christ's kingdom were delivered, almost as the Law was delivered unto Moses, on Mount Sinai. And, touching those mysteries, he communed not with flesh and blood: so that to him it might be said, as it was said unto Peter-flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but the Father which is in heaven; or rather, He into whose hand all things had then been delivered of the Father. And he went forth, accordingly, cased in the whole armour of God; the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation. And, more than all this, he, together with his brethren in the apostleship, was endowed with power from on high, like unto that which was wielded by the Son of Man Himself; a power to look into the spirits of men,
2 Cor. xi. 5.
and to overrule the agencies of nature. And yet, with the consciousness of all these mighty resources within him, the cry bursts forth from his heart, Who is sufficient for these things? Again, therefore, I say, if such were the thoughts of one, who was, if ever man was, in the confidence of heaven, when pondering upon the glories and the burdens of his ministry, what must have been the meditations of those who, age after age, have been called to lay their hand to that good, but awful and arduous, work-the office of a Bishop in the Church of God?
If we cast back our thoughts over the whole range of the Church's history, it will assuredly be found, that there never was a time when the pastoral staff was other than the symbol of a perilous and toilsome charge. And he that held it might always fitly declare, that he stood before God and His people, in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. From the days of the Apostles to the present hour, every successive age has brought with it some form or variety of trial, which might well cause a ruler of the Church to faint under a sense of the shallowness and poverty of all sufficiency or might which is not from heaven. Prosperity and adversity, ignorance and knowledge, light and darkness, yea, earth and hell itself, all in their turn have risen up to teach him the lesson of humility and godly fear. So that, if
he were conscious of no spiritual and superhuman gift within him, which he might, from time to time, awaken and stir up by prayer and sacred meditation; if this were so, he might feel as if engaged in a dark, mysterious, and well-nigh desperate conflict. For the truth of that, which was said by the Apostle to the Church of Ephesus, has by no means passed away. Our wrestling, even as theirs, is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers; against the rulers of the darkness of this world; against the spiritual wickedness which is loosed, for a season, in the world unseen1. And, if this be true of them that are fighting in the ranks, it must be still more eminently and formidably true of the captains and the standard-bearers of the host. They, of all men, must feel most deeply that the warfare is one in which every weapon, that is not of celestial temper, must be shattered or beaten down.
And first, let us for a moment look back unto the days when the Church of God had to grapple with the iron strength of Imperial Rome; and to sever, with the sword of the Spirit, the knots and intricacies of earth-born wisdom; and to pull down with no carnal might, the holds which idolatry had made so strong for herself in the depraved heart of man.
And here we shall find that the Church's
whole history is but one perpetual blaze of commentary on the words of Paul,-" God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise: and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty: and base things of the world, and things that are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought the things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence'. And who were they against whom, in those days of fiery trial, the wrath of man, and the craft and subtilty of the devil, wrought most fiercely and maliciously? What men were they who had most need to cry with the Apostle, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? Were they not the Bishops and Rulers of the Church? When the flock was to be dispersed and scared away, were not the chief shepherds smitten without mercy or remorse? So that it would appear that they, who succeeded to the Apostles, were, like the Apostles themselves, as it were set forth of God, and appointed unto death, and made a spectacle unto Angels and to men 3. Let us, then, conceive an elected Bishop, in those fearful times, advancing to the altar, there to take upon him the oversight and custody
1 Cor. i. 27-29.
2 Rom. viii. 35.
3 1 Cor. iv. 9.
of a portion of God's persecuted Church,-in other words, to succeed to a burden which might cause flesh and heart to fail,-what would be his fittest meditations in that awful hour? Would not the words of the Apostle rush into his soulWho is sufficient for these things? And what could so mightily support and comfort him, as the knowledge, that, in the moment when his brethren should lay on their hands, the power of the Holy Ghost should descend upon him; that thenceforth he should carry a perpetual oracle within his bosom; an oracle which would always graciously respond to the inquiry of faith and love; an oracle which, even if the gates of hell were openly raging against the Church, would ever whisper to her fainting guardian, My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness'. Not by might; not by power; but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts".
At length, however, the day of the Church's affliction passed away. But did the day of trial pass away likewise? Were her Guides and Rulers to sit them down at ease, like men who feel that they are conquerors, and more than conquerors? On the contrary, there, then, awaited them a course of temptation, compared with which, the perils of the axe, or the dungeon, or the stake, were but as the
1 2 Cor. xii. 9.
2 Zech. iv. 6.