DEAN OF WESTMINSTER. Preached in Westminster Abbey, Oct, II, 1885.

" For he shall deliver the poor when hecrieth, the needy also, and him that hath no helper. He shall be favorable to the simple and needy, and shall preserve the souls of the poor. He shall deliver their souls from falsehood and wrong, and dear shall their blood be in his sight." — PsALM lxx. 12 — 14.

You will not wonder that these verses have come unbidden to me as I prepared to speak to you to-day. I have read them to you in the form in which they have rung in my own ears during the week that is past in the familiar and remembered rhythm of our Prayer-book version. One touch has been added to their significance by our last revision, which, by substituting in the 13th verse, the words, "he shall have pity on," for " he shall be favorable to," has given a fresh emphasis to the note of tenderness and compassion which runs through one of the most stately and most stirring hymns of these ancient hymns of Israel. It is a Psalm that from the first word to the very last may well haunt men's ears and linger in their memories. I read but lately the remarks of a critic who pronounces that it falls below the general level of Hebrew poetry. He tells us that this rhyme is borrowed from a prophet, that it is an echo from


the book of Job, above all, that the reiterated references to the poor, the oppressed, the helpless, the needy, recur in it with what he calls a wearisome monotony. I have no fear that any one before me who has read the Psalm will indorse this judgment. What is its subject ? We might say that it read almost like a coronation oath, for it spoke of a monarch himself, and a monarch's son who is to rule far and wide over vast regions, over tributary kings, and over the hearts of men. • In its opening

230 The Christian Philanthropist.

words it invokes for this king the divine and royal gift of righteousness, " Give the king thy judgments," — thy justice, that is — " O, God, and thy righteousness unto the king's son." And it pictures in glowing accents of promise or of aspiration the bright perspective of a golden age, of a changed and prosperous world, of a universal dominion and an imperishable name. But note that the title of this unmeasured greatness and of this unbounding happiness is to rest on righteousness; on that care for justice that is inherent in our race — above all, on that aspect of justice so truly prized, then, as now, in Eastern lands, the righteousness that turns an attentive ear to the voice of those who have no gifts to lavish, no bribes to tender, no officials or favorites to plead their cause. " All kings shall fall down before him," we read, " all nations shall do him servxe. For he shall deliver the poor when he crieth ; the needy also, and him that hath no helper. He shall deliver their souls from


falsehood and wrong, and dear shall their blood be in his sight."

We may call it a coronation oath ; but its accents will touch a fiber in human hearts as long, in its own language, as the sun and moon endure — in new republics and in ancient monarchies, wherever there are wants that need a helper, wherever there are yearnings deep down in unsatisfied hearts for a happier world. Do any here remember a page in which it was quoted nearly forty years ago almost at full length by the then young Charles Kingsley, and placed by him as the last utterance on dying lips ? We need not stop to ask which of the long roll of the kings of Palestine, famous or forgotten, called forth such an immortal strain. An inscription, added, it may well be, ages later, identifies its author, or, as some would say, its subject with Solomon. We turn away unsatisfied, its aspirations rise too high above the hard experience of the Hebrew monarchy. It reads rather like a twin picture to that revealed to later prophet-poet of the ideal king who ought to come, who would love righteousness and hate iniquity, who " shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears ; but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth," whose claim to rule over the hearts of men should rest not on birth, or conquest, or power, or resources, but on a Divine beneficence, and righteousness, and tenderness, and compassion. We may all feel that if the reign of Solomon in any


The Christian Philanthropist. 231

way suggested a picture, in very sacred words, " a greater than Solomon " is here.

You will forgive me, I am sure, if I have lingered for a moment on words in which the sacred writer and singer of that ancient covenant brings into the foreground of a picture of ideal kings and kingly greatness the care for the oppressed, the tenderness for the afflicted, which fills so small a place in the praises of Augustus. Am I wrong in thinking that this and kindred passages, helped with the teaching of the New Testament, went far to mold the ideal of Christian kingship in ages far removed from those singers of Israel, that their spirit breathed from time to time in lands far remote from the Saba, the Arabia, and the Lebanon of which the Psalmist speaks ? Do we trace its influence in the life of the medieval king who sleeps beneath this roof amidst his mightier successors ? Do we recognize its effect in the story of him whose claim to the veneration of us who worship here rests not on imagined miracles, or on a half monastic life, but on the belief that he tried earnestly, after the measure of his age and knowledge, to walk in the steps of Him, the Divine and human King, to whom this Psalm points ; that he, too, had compassion on the simple and the poor, " the needy, also, and him that hath no helper ? "

You will bear with me, also, if for one moment I call your attention to the undertone of sympathy with the oppressed and neglected which


runs through so much of the record of that older and sterner dispensation. I have already indicated one or two of its traces. Those of you who are familiar with your Old Testament will discover others in abundance. You will find, again and again, among the denunciations of evil-doers and of personal and national foes, in which tongues that have been bound to follow the accents of Jesus may find it hard to join words that bade men remember that they serve a God not of power only, but of measureless compassion, that " when the poor man cried the Lord Jehovah heard him ; " that the highest of all beings was one who " healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." But there may be very few among us who remember a passage, a terrible passage, I might call it, in the mysterious Book of Job. It is a picture whose lineaments are defaced and almost obliterated in our older version, but they stand out in the impressive freshness of the original in the new

232 The Christian Philanthropise*

revision. The despairing patriarch in his darkest mood pictures the laborers of his day (whence comes the picture we know not), living the lives, as he says, of the very brute creation, shivering, homeless, naked, parched with thirst, as they tread out the rich oil or gather in the grapes for others, starving with hunger as they bend beneath the heavy corn sheaves ; and from crowded cities goes up the voice of misery, yet God, he adds in his bitterness, putteth not down in His book the iniquity.


The words seem to speak to us across the ages. We have heard the same thoughts embodied in moving poetry and in eloquent prose, by those who drew their sad inspiration, alas ! from English cottages planted amidst smiling English scenery, and from English factories, and English cities, and English mines. And thank God we have seen such sights and such thoughts work their due and best effect in the hearts of those to whom God has given something of the gift which the Psalmist invokes. We have seen it in the life, the long and fruitful life, of Ashley, dear to the hearts of the humble and the lowly. We are met here to honor his memory to-day. Oh, that we could have honored it more abundantly three days ago ! It may seem strange to you, brethren — it seemed for a moment half unnatural to myself — that the thoughts and feelings which that life and character induced should find their utterance in the phrases of a Psalmist of old, rather than in some fragment of the words of Him whom he served so truly, and to whom He will say one day with those whom He will call to the Father's kingdom, " Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto Me ! Yet you, who love those ancient strains, will rejoice to hear them speak in Christian churches the highest truths, the noblest teaching of the Christian life. There is little fear to-day of our forgetting the fresh light which the revelation of God in Christ threw, in the fulness of time, on the darkness of the older church and of the older world. We know what a new and wider significance that Gospel has breathed into words like those of my text, what an imperious claim upon our hearts and lives His teaching has given to the half-whispered yearning of the Psalmist here and the prophet there. That care for the defenseless, the


tenderness for the afflicted, is no longer the prerogative of an ideal king or the attribute of a patriarchal chief ; it is the very badge of Christ, the mark which every follower of the Saviour must wear in one form or

The Christian Philanthropist. 233

another. Its forms may be very various, but in one form or another it is incumbent on us, one and all, on the thousands who met within and without this church so lately, on the hundreds who are here to-day. If our Saviour's teaching has any meaning at all, if it has any authority at all, it has in it a call on all who would serve Him to the practice of something, the need of which, we have no warrant to believe, will ever become instinct, when the ages are fulfilled, and the last enemy has been swallowed up in victory. We read in that teaching of a summons to a new duty, shall we say, anew virtue unknown to the ruling races of the old world ? a call for the championship of the unchampioned, the defense of the undefended. We may call it in its more striking forms the virtue of Christian philanthropy ; but we cannot read our Gospels or penetrate into the surface of our Saviour's teachings without seeing that if that teaching is to bear one day the full fruit of the seed which its Master sowed, that fruit must be in special grace cultivated here and there by the few, watched, admired, and honored by the many. It must represent a new spirit, infusing idea, and animating all who call themselves His people. The nation that is indifferent to the wrongs or sufferings


of ar.y class among its members is no Christian nation. The Church that is backward in listening to the cry of the servile or oppressed is no church of Christ. The man or woman whose heart is steeled against human distress is no disciple of Jesus.

Yet, well for all that the words of the Psalmist will retain their undying force. Christian beneficence will come before us from time to time on an heroic scale, and it will be surely needed, and it will still cast its ancient spell over the souls of men. We know well what drew to these doors the presence and the hearts of representatives of all who speak our tongue, to do honor to the very dust of one who had earned a claim to the homage of mankind that kings and conquerors and statesmen and thinkers might greatly envy. It was the sense that one had passed away whose great tone would have given an added sacredness to these famous flowers, the splendid achievements of whose long and honored life might well rank with the noblest that are recorded here. How often do those who have studied, with an interest that never dies, the silent records of the long history of our country, which form a part of the treasures of this sacred fabric, pause for a moment before the monument of Wilber-

234 The Christian Philanthropist.

force or stand for an instant over the grave of Livingstone ? They forget for a space all other greatness and think of lives devoted, in the service


of Christ, to those who can tender no thanks, make no return. The very least in the kingdom of God is greater than they. And our thoughts are to-day with one who had caught from their Master and his the inspiration that first determined his course, shaped his life, and guided his long career. You do not need to be told how more than half a century has passed since he of whom I speak opened for us, we may almost say, a new chapter in the rich history of the worthies of England. You know how, born in a position and endowed with gifts which would have opened to him a path of political eminence which an English nobleman might justly covet, the young inheritor of an ancestral vantage ground, set aside in the prime of early manhood all personal ambition, all selfinterested party aims, and gave himself, with a simple-minded devotion, to a career which promised no advancement, which led through paths which no statesman had explored, into waters which no politician had marked out. You know with what indomitable resolution, with what elastic and expansive sympathy he gave himself henceforth to forward in various forms the cause of the helpless, the cause of the neglected, the welfare of the poor, the downtrodden, the unbefriended. And it has been a long career.

We — the older of us — remember how, with the names of Wilberforce and Clarkson, which we had been taught to honor almost from our cradle, came unto us the names of Stanley and Ashley, who were fighting as hard a battle against a no less appalling form of slavery at home. Yes ; the older among us may cherish among the far off lecollections of their boyhood tales of that early struggle on behalf of little children now


grown old. And it was but the other day that the young children of the present generation, the little children of the courts and alleys of Westminster, came to meet the veteran leader in all good works, as he stood, erect and bare-headed, unbowed by wearing sickness or by the weight of years, amid the lengthening shadows of the summer evening. They heard him once more give his humble friends their annual greeting, and speak to them for the last time of the simple teaching of the flowers which they tended in homes where his loss will be lamented.

And between these recent memories and those far off days, what a roll of

The Christian Philanthropist. 235

peaceful memories could be emblazoned upon a banner that might well hang among those that wave in yonder chapel or beneath the roof of Windsor ! A young subaltern in the closing campaign against negro slavery sprang to the head of what seemed a forlorn hope, advancing, in the enforced absence of its leader, against an iron system which was crushing in hopeless misery the tender children of our northern countrymen. His heart yearned over the doom of the rising generation of a race whose gifts of powerful intellect — I quote his own words — of great determination, of strong affections, struck one who had been reared where he now lies at rest, among the rural peasantry of our southern counties. Let the bitter memory of the long struggle against indiffer-


ence, and stupidity, and erroneous interpretations^ the laws that should rule the lives and actions of nations sleep in oblivion. Yet I can not but remind you of words which I read for the first time since Thursday last. They are those of a gifted Spanish gentleman who, eighty years ago — early, as you see, in this century — stood half dizzy among the bewildering whirl and endless motion of machinery in one of our hives of industry. He watched the " unnatural dexterity," as he says, with which the tiny fingers of those helpless little creatures plied their ceaseless task from early morn until late evening ; he listened to the praises of a system which enabled these almost babies — " doomed," he said, " to grow up diseased, ignorant, and dissolute " — to support themselves, as he was told, and enrich their nation ; and he thanked God that he was not an Englishman. " Better," he said, " the stagnation of Spain than the white slavery of England." I thought, as I read his words, that they were even more impressive than the stanzas of the gifted poetess which, forty years later, made English hearts ache as, speaking of the joyous playfulness of the youth of all creation — of the lamb, the fawn, the bird, the flower — they described the young children, " Weeping bitterly, weeping, in the play time of the others, in the country of the free." Yes, slavery on the soil of the free, in the cradle of freedom ! I dare not stop to ask whether all its forms are extinct among us.

To return. We know how, before the victory so long and stubbornly disputed was won, another cry of woe came to the ear of that knight of the holiest of all orders, that of Him who said " Suffer little children to come unto Me." We have been reminded but lately, how the


236 The Christian Philanthropist.

revelation which he made of the degradation of women, and the suffering of children in the sunless mine stirred to its depths the heart of England, and how wise and beneficent legislation brought relief to the gloomy sphere of work ; and we have been reminded also how his sympathies went out here in London to those against whom the heart of civilized society had been steeled for ages, how he won the confidence of the yet unimprisoned thief. He refused to despair of the unreclaimed thousands of the poor, unhappy, homeless, shivering children, growing up ignorant in the midst of knowledge, savages in the midst of civilization, heathen in the midst of Christianity. We can well believe how his aid was welcomed by the busy men and women of every class, from the humble crossing-sweeper to the educated lawyer, whowere giving without fee or reward — I quote his own words — their time, their talents, and their hearts to the work of diving down into the recesses of human misery, reversing the policy of the evil one, " sowing the good seed while the nations slumbered and siept." Time would fail me if I ddlained you even to enumerate the almost multitudinous fields of civilizing Christian work in which, early and late, he was a toiler or an inspirer. "In the morning sow thy seed, in the evening withhold not thy hand," seemed the motto of the morning and evening of his life. The once uncared-for lunatic, the poor lodger of the


rfoisome and crowded dwelling, the forgotten sailor lad, the ragged child of the gutter, the blind, the cripple, the outcast, the neglected, the despised, the ignorant, found in him not a helper only, they found not a champion only; but one who could recognize, not in merely sentimental and flattering periods, but in manly sympathy the image of God, which, however, defaced and marred, those sons of a common Father still bore about them. There are some who will never forgot how, in the very summer that has just passed from us, he left a bed of suffering and exhaustion to aid those who were anxious to link the great name of Gordon to an offer to carry out a work dear to Gordon — the cause of the neglected boys of England. They will remember how his too apparent weakness seemed to disappear as he warmed with the memory of his brother soldier of Christ ; how he seemed, as some of us felt, to raise and ennoble the tone of the whole meeting by the note which he struck as he reminded us, in simple and earnest language, of the value,

The Christian Philanthropist. 237

of the worth of those young, unhelped boys whom we had met to succor. We felt, some of us, that he had entered into the secret of the apostle of his Lord who bids us not only to love the brotherhood, but to honor all men. And in this lies, no doubt, one secret of the honor in which his name is held. The untaught costermonger, who has been encouraged by him to treat with kindly gentleness the poor dumb beast


that shares his daily toil, knows that he had in him no flattering demagogue who tried to win his voice for selfish ends, but a friend who saw in him one whom, in the words of the ancient patriarch, the same God had made, the same God had fashioned ; one for whom the same Christ had lived and died. The lowliest fellow-worker — and he had, thank God, many such — knew well and honored with simple and generous reverence his desire, as he said, for nothing but the welfare of the lost, and to spend and be spent in the service of their common Lord and Master.

One word more. We have been reminded of late with an inevitable, yet, perhaps, needless, emphasis that his theology is of what is called a narrow type, that he found it hard to sympathize with those who are on this side or on that, who differed at all widely from his own views of the truths and doctrines which form the common creed of Christendom. I am not very careful to dispute to-day the assertion or to put in any countervailing pleas. With what entire accord will every section of the servants of Him who rebuked even the apostle of love for a wellmeant momentary exclusiveness unite in the prayer that their own hearts and those of many Englishmen may catch something of the intensity, of the devotion to the best of all causes, which was the mainspring of the life of him with whom they agreed or from whom they differed. Churchmen of every school, Churchmen and Non-conforming members of the great Church of Christ, let us join in the earnest prayer that the terrible depths of ignorance and misery, which he not long ago reminded us still remained to be fathomed, may be faced in a


spirit as generous and as noble as that of him who has just bequeathed us his example. When, in that long half century of battle in the cause of helplessness or misery, did he, who felt so keenly the wrongs of the oppressed, and whose ear was so open to the cry of anguish and injustice, say a word that added one touch of bitterness to the sense of pain

238 The Christian Philanthropist.

or wrong ? When did he try to further the cause most dear to him by appeals to the stupidity or the envy, or by practicing on the ignorance of those whom he loved to succor ? To bind together man to man, class to class ; to reconcile the alienated sections of society ; to raise up a nobler state of feeling, to awaken in the wealthy a desire to fill up, by ready help and friendly intercourse and kindly language, the gulf that separates them from their less favored brethren ; to teach men, in the words of his statesman friend whose present enforced silence we are all lamenting, to believe that there is no teaching, no influence that so increases and enlarges natural gifts and talents as the desire to use what we possess, however little, for the good of others ; to impress upon his countrymen (to quote yet once more his own words) " the importance to the future history of the world of raising the educational, the moral, the spiritual condition of a nation which year by year is sending forth its"swarms to people the vast solitudes and uslands of another hemisphere ; these were his aims. Where is the tomb beneath this roof that


is tenanted by one of a wider and higher purpose and of nobler achievements ? The laborer's task is done, his battle day is ended ; he has ended his task, even as he would have wished to end it ; working faithfully until close to the very end, little bent by the weight of four score and four years, long unsubdued by a period of suffering and weakness which might well have warranted a longer interval of entire repose before entering on the rest which remaineth for the people of God. And he has died also as he would have wished to die, if not beneath his own roof, yet with sons and daughters around him, and with mind unclouded to the very last, watchful over his own spirit until he resigned it to his God, guarding himself to the most solemn of all moments against a word of murmur or impatience. How many thousands will have looked on that bed of sickness as the gate of heaven ! From how many hearts — let me borrow the thought of one whose eloquence I cannot borrow — will go up the cry, " May my spirit rest where his rests !" Father, in Thy gracious keeping leave we now Thy servant.




Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful