The Project Gutenberg eBook of A Sermon preached at Christ Church, Kensington, on May 1, 1859

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Title: A Sermon preached at Christ Church, Kensington, on May 1, 1859

Author: William Wright

Release date: March 6, 2021 [eBook #64717]

Language: English


Transcribed from the 1859 Rivingtons edition by David Price.




On May 1, 1859,









p. 52 Samuel viii. 14, 15.

And he put garrisons in Edom; throughout all Edom put he garrisons, and all they of Edom became David’s servants, and the Lord preserved David whithersoever he went.

And David reigned over all Israel: and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people.”


As an aggregate of individuals professing faith in Christ, we, the people of Great Britain, may with truth and reason venture to assert that our Queen and our Legislature are on a footing, as to God’s protecting care, with highly favoured and heaven-honoured David of old.  If Almighty God, under his earlier revelation, did actually guard and help in temporal matters a ruling prince of this lower world, who was a man “after his own heart”—as David’s plainly-told history everywhere assures us that He did—none can reasonably say that it is either impossible or improbable that He should vouchsafe to guard and help our presiding Monarch and our law-giving Senate in the administration of public affairs, baptized as they are “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;” educated as they are in the very details of his later p. 8and last revelation; and supposed, pledged, and believed as they are to be seeking individually after the mind which is in Christ, and the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit of God.  All, indeed, must at once see, and grant as a foregone conclusion from which there is no appeal, that our monarchical and representative government, being essentially and generally Christian—being so in spite of the Judaism, vice, and infidelity which may be discerned in it, and which in no way interfere with our present argument—is, by virtue of its admitted and preponderating Christianity, brought under the immediate guardianship and protection of the Most High.

Such being the case, or since we believe such to be the case, we most naturally, and, I may add most consistently, pray for the “High Court of Parliament” which assembles from time to time “under our most religious and gracious Queen.”  Our prayer in this matter is as simple as it is beautiful.  A prayer is it which none who are in the habit of praying at all for others can possibly object to.  It simply asks of God that He would “be pleased to direct and prosper all their consultations to the advancement of his glory, the good of his church, the safety, honour, and welfare of our Sovereign and her dominions.”

p. 9Often and often, let me trust, have we loyally and faithfully prayed after this most becoming and time-hallowed fashion.  Especially, most especially, let me also trust, did we do so—I feel confident that we did, if our hearts were not steeled against every patriotic impression—some two years ago, in this very place, as also in the still larger chamber of a thoughtful spirit,—at a time which all must well remember,—a time of deep national distress and heaviness of heart into which, under God’s fearful and probationary providence, we as a people were cast headlong and unawares by the event of an Eastern mutiny.  Recall the occasion referred to.  By so doing we shall be reminded of the great need there then was for prayer for help, and of the petition we then put up, and so be enabled to appreciate more livingly and heartily the answer which God has given us this day in the blessing of peace and restoration of “tranquillity in her Majesty’s Indian dominions.”  Let memory’s wand conjure up to our imagination, or, if we please, let fancy’s pencil sketch to our view the scene, the hour, in which, at the period in question, we had recourse, with more than ordinary interest and earnestness, to prayer in our difficulty on behalf of our Queen and Council of State—prayer to the effect that they might be “directed and prospered” in all their p. 10momentous “consultations” on which, humanly speaking, hung the dignity, the happiness, and the missionary usefulness as well as the safety of our beloved country.  You will suppose, then, that we are just released from the cruel bondage of a warfare into which we were compelled, as men of faith and feeling, to enter for humanity’s sake.  Our laurels of awarded victory are still fresh on the hero’s brow.  Our triumphant attitude is, to all appearance, keeping at bay a tyrant world, and securing “peace on earth and goodwill towards men.”  Time is about to commence her gracious task of lessening our sorrows for the brave and bold who are no more on earth amongst the children of men, and whose remains are swelling with their sad accumulations the once unbroken, but now grave-studded Crimean plain.  Our minds are turning homeward.  We dwell upon reforming ourselves.  Social progress and fair play in all matters, ecclesiastical as well as civil, are points which much interest us.  We are musing with practical intent upon such things as become enlightened and well-disposed minds.  We are thoroughly enjoying national repose, dwelling each man “safely under his own vine;” and we are doing, and anxious to do, the great, the civilizing work of peace.  Alas!  “All is vanity and vexation of spirit.”  Our fondest p. 11hopes are broken up, and, in a moment of time, vanish away as a vision of the night when one awakes.  A cry is heard abroad amongst us; it is no less than a cry of war—that hell-cry which despots love to raise, and which all godless and loveless spirits echo in sympathetic sinfulness!  At the gates of science do we listen, in dread suspense, to hear the contradiction or confirmation of the evil tidings.  Our worst suspicions are soon confirmed.  In rapid successions does the magic whisper steal across the deep, and tell its brief but bloody tale, that ours have risen up against us in the far East; that many a bitter Shimei has come forth to curse our rule; that many a mutinous and rebel Sheba has blown the signal blast of insurrection; that men, women, and children, “bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh,” are being scattered abroad by a cruelly organized persecution, some seeking in hopeless flight a desert solitude, there to die unfriended and alone; others hastening to the nearest fastness, there to hold out, a scanty and surprised handful, against an armed and swarming adversary; and that, once more, numbers of our fellow-countrymen, together with their wives and little ones, have actually perished, if not by more hideous means, by the edge of the sword.  A trembling for the present, and a fear for the future, p. 12take hold of us.  With deepest anxiety do we turn, in this our moment of sharp distress and bewilderment, to our ruling representatives, bidding them do in our common name what seemed to them good under the circumstances of our emergency, and dismissing them to their onerous work with the benedictory prayer, that Almighty God would of his infinite goodness “be pleased to direct and prosper all their consultations to the advancement of his glory, the good of his Church, the safety, honour, and welfare of our Sovereign and her dominions.”  So it was, I doubt not, that we, as a God-fearing people, prayed for our rulers when they were summoned to consider and prepare for the suppression of that Indian mutiny of 1857, whose simply detailed history is of itself, its plain, unvarnished, unembellished self, the most cruel and the most heart-rending tragedy that has ever been recorded!  Of this enough.

And now, my believing and prayer-using brethren—so I would style you all—it is high time for me to challenge your hearty attention to the joyous and indisputable fact, that your reward for having prayed for your rulers is at hand.  Your petition on their behalf has been heard on high, if petition on any national account be ever hearkened to above, or if what we see before us is not the merest p. 13coincidence of blindest chance.  Open wide your eyes, and read for yourselves the heaven-sent answer to your prayer.  Your Sovereign’s will, your senators’ wisdom, have both alike worked marvellously well for you and yours.  All their consultations, resolutions, and decrees, in the matter of the suppression of the Indian mutiny, have, up to the present moment, been accompanied by that triple result which you have so often prayed for—“the advancement of God’s glory, the good of his Church, the safety, honour, and welfare of our Sovereign and her dominions.”

Let me somewhat enlarge.  God’s glory, we do not hesitate to affirm, has been more or less advanced by the conduct and policy of England in and during the warfare which has been recently accomplished in the East.  All that we have done in it worthy of praise or remembrance, we have done, so we believe and confess, through Him, through his strength, through his teaching, through his Gospel, through the very circumstances under which He has placed us, and through the very constitutional dispositions which He has given us.  All, therefore, that has been done in it worthy of praise or remembrance, do we feel bound to ascribe, purely and simply, to God, as its author and finisher, entering as we did upon every work, p. 14every encounter, with these words of humility upon our lips:—“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name, give glory, for Thy mercy and for Thy truth’s sake;” and checking the thought of pride and self-sufficiency which from time to time rose up within on occasion of our having done well, with the apostolic inquiry and reproof—“Who maketh thee to differ from another?  And what hast thou that thou didst not receive?  Now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?”

Much, indeed, from this point of view, does our national behaviour in the East during unparalleled difficulties redound to the glory of that God from whom all “holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed.”  Never have we been in such straits.  Never have we acted so graciously and so in accordance with the spirit of our Gospel.  Before us stood—a sickening and never-to-be-forgotten sight—a vast army in deadly and rebellious array—an army made up of men with whom we had gone side by side to victory over a common foe—men our familiar friends, to whom we had extended, and were learning more and more to extend, the right hand of social fellowship—men whom we had not only treated kindly, but, as was reported and believed, had verily spoiled by forbearing gentleness.  p. 15There they stand—a rebellious horde—raging “furiously,” and imagining a “vain thing,” doing all they can, by slaying the innocent and dishonouring the chaste, to tempt us to forget our nature and our nature’s God, and to assimilate ourselves to their unholy and fiendish temperaments.  Nothing, however, that they do disturbs for a moment the balance of Christian power and influence in our national and common mind.  To war, indeed, do we sally forth in saddest necessity and from a sense of duty, but it is to a war of a purely defensive character on our part, and nothing more.  No hunting down the adversary, no trampling upon him, no tearing away the suckling from the breast, for the sweetness of being revenged, have characterized our doings.  Vengeance have we repudiated, or rather, I should say, not dared to handle, being, as we conceive, an attribute belonging solely to God, and too fearful to be entrusted to fallen man.  Here and there, it is true, the pulpit and the press, losing their moral self-possession, raised awhile in our hearing that ancient Christ-condemned cry of retaliation—“an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth;” but soon, very soon, was that harsh and ugly sound let die away and for ever perish in the softer strain of the Son of God—“But I say unto you, that ye resist not p. 16evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”  Yes.  No vengeance, no retaliation—God’s holy name be praised—have stained the banner of England.  We fought honourably and for noble ends.  We have slain, alas! but only those on whom the law of God and the law of man would have passed sentence of death, if required so to do.  We have fought, who can deny it? but fought that we might “live and let live”—that the world might be peaceably ordered—and that “peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety,” might be established amongst us, amongst the people committed to our charge, even the hosts of India, “for all generations.”  We are ashamed neither of our deeds nor our motives.  They, indeed, are not ours; this is why we are not ashamed of them—but as we have said, they are God’s—God’s, that is, so far as they are pure, holy, merciful, upright, manly—in a word, so far as they are Christian.  To Him, therefore, let them be ascribed in the presence of the whole world, and from them, as from a moral mirror, let there be reflected, not our national, but his everlasting “Glory.”

Inseparably connected with the glory of God, which has in a measure been worked out, as we maintain, by the events to which we refer, is the p. 17“good of his Church”—a result we ever pray may attend all our political consultations and movements.  Who can doubt that the spectacle presented to the Indian mind in all our transactions of war—our wisdom, our mercy, our justice—is doing its silent work in many a thoughtful bosom, and adding some new soul to the Church of Christ even whilst we are speaking?  Many and many a man, depend upon it, has been made to think for himself, in these troublous times, of the real value and working of his ancestral creed.  He has often, may be, had doubts as to the superstitions of his nation, and the doctrines of his overseers.  He has for years, perhaps, held in secret and deep admiration the aspirations and longings of his natural conscience, and felt that they ran counter to the senseless commandments and idle traditions of the world with which he and his race have been overburdened.  He has longed for a creed which should not suppress and smother, but fan into a living flame of sterling piety, those smouldering elements of natural religion which he has treasured amidst the follies of heathenism on the hearth of a not yet abandoned conscience.  His wish is gratified.  He has at length found, or rather, we should say, seen at work, such a creed—seen it in the warrior of the Cross, seen it in one who can fight and yet be merciful, p. 18who can have within his power a cruel relentless enemy, yet find room for compassion; who can show at all times and in all places that he has a heart which beats true to the instincts of our nature, when not lost and sensualized.  He has rejoiced with exceeding great joy to have fallen in with a religion which is far from contradicting conscience or nature, but which, contrariwise, advocates and enforces “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report;” things which even in his childhood’s superstitions and the ignorance of his more advanced years have never altogether forsaken him.  He has pondered over these things in his heart, and contrasting the plain, true, useful life of the Cross, with the wicked follies and fancies of the Crescent, has yielded himself up to the former, and added himself to the Church of Christ.  May it have been so in many, many instances!

As to the last result of legislative labour on our behalf, “the safety, honour, and welfare of our Sovereign and her dominions,” which we prayed might follow our rulers’ consultations, it is needless to say anything.  Each of us can see the finger of p. 19God at work in, and trace its divine impress upon, the facts of to-day, which call us together to thank and praise the Lord.  Each has faith and wit enough of soul, let us believe, to read, in the spirit of the words of the text, the manner in which God has been with our Sovereign, our national interests, yea! ourselves—“And the Lord preserved David whithersoever he went.”

And now, my brethren, what is the most appropriate thank-offering that we, Sovereign and people, can make to Almighty God for his mercies vouchsafed to us?  Undoubtedly that which follows up our advantages and shows that we are worthy, or labouring to be thought worthy, of the great position with which God has entrusted us, even the thank-offering which David made after his preservation, and which is unpretendingly recorded in the words, “And David executed judgment and justice to all his people.”  This it is ours to see carried out, so far as in us lies, and this we trust is being carried out fully and conscientiously by our representatives.

But something more have we to offer up to God than judgment and justice toward the people subject to our rule, though this offering be great and to be had in highest esteem.  We have heard and seen p. 20what kings and prophets desired of old to hear and see.  Our knowledge is increased, and so is our responsibility.  All type, all figure, all mystery, are removed from us, and “God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son”—spoken a word of salvation in the Gospel which exceeds, in point of moral beauty and spiritual comfort, all that we can imagine or desire.  This word we dare not enjoy to ourselves.  On we must pass it, together with judgment and justice, to our people.  It has made us great, and caused us to “shine like lights in the world.”  Why should it not make them so, and cause them so to shine?  On we must pass it, not only as a matter of ordinary and evident duty, but as a matter of feeling.  Each true believer is, by his very impulse of faith, a soul-seeking power amongst men.  In his heart is deeply sown the missionary germ—only requiring the light and heat of a living faith to raise and mature it to its appointed height and grandeur—when its branches are sure to spread themselves forth in sheltering love over all living within their reach.

To this passing on of blessings received to others are we ever invited.  Now, this very day, are we p. 21so especially.  “A great door and effectual” is open to us in the East.  By the violence of circumstances—circumstances, those emissaries of the great Creator’s purpose—have the gates of superstition been torn from their hinges, and a way made for us to enter, unmolested, into the very sanctuary and stronghold of Belial, there to preach to our heart’s content “the way, the truth, and the life.”  It is as if an angel—opportunity had been sent from on high to “prepare the way of the Lord,” and had cried aloud to the long pent-up and isolated heathen world to receive us—the missionary nation of the Cross of Christ; saying unto them, “Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth truth may enter in.”  Oh! who is there amongst us that does not now desire to enter in?  Who is there that does not sorrow over his indolence in not having done more hitherto for his fellows?  Who does not burn with indignation at his own—his country’s—missionary apathy, when he contemplates before him, in India and her immortal millions, a vast sea of souls, now surging with infidelity, now again raging with superstition, bearing as it does on its sin-heaving and lust-swelling surface but few, very few, labourers in the employ of that blessed and acceptable merchandize, p. 22the toiling, as “fishers of men,” for the Son of God?  Who, when he contrasts the greatness of the work to be accomplished with the contemptibly limited means he has brought to bear on its fulfilment—one pastor to a million souls being the provision made by Christian England’s National Church for the restoration of heathen India to her God and Saviour—who, when he so contrasts, is not lastingly impressed with a sense of unworthy selfishness?

Once more—accept, my beloved brethren, whilst it is to-day, this, this for all we know last, last challenge to visit, gospel in hand, the degraded millions of India.  Plant amongst them a church.  Erect for them a school.  Provide them with a minister.  Give them freely the means which have made you under Providence what you are.  Let them know that these means are to be the implements of your new spiritual warfare amidst them.  “Fight,” before them and their children, “the good fight of faith.”  Tell them you seek, and wish them to seek, that “peace which the world cannot give,” and “which passeth all understanding.”  Show them that you delight not in brandishing over their heads the cold and deadly steel, nor take pleasure in witnessing the fire-flash which heralds p. 23a creature’s death, but that you would rather wield the sword of the Spirit over their immortal souls, by means of the preached word, and rejoice for ever and ever in heaven that they were preserved with you and yours unto everlasting life.