Page images
PDF
EPUB

SERMON XX.

CIVILIZED BARBARISM.

(Preached for the Bishop of London's Fund, at St. John's

Church, Notting Hill, June 1866.)

ST. MATTHEW ix. 12. They that be whole need not a physician, but they that

are sick.

T HAVE been honoured by an invitation to I preach on behalf of the Bishop of London's Fund for providing for the spiritual wants of this metropolis. By the bishop, and a large number of landowners, employers of labour, and others who were aware of the increasing heathendom of the richest and happiest city of the world, it was agreed that, if possible, a million sterling should be raised during the next ten years,' to do what money could do in wiping out this national disgrace. It is a noble plan; and it has been as yet—and I doubt not

will be to the end-nobly responded to by the rich laity of this metropolis.

More than 100,0001. was contributed during the first six months; nearly 60,0001. in the ensuing year; beside subscriptions which are promised for the whole or part of the ten years. The money, therefore, does not flow in as rapidly as was desired : but there is as yet no falling off. And I believe that there will be, on the contrary, a gradual increase in the subscriptions as the objects of this fund are better understood, and as its benefits are practically felt.

Now, it is unnecessary—it would be almost an impertinence—to enlarge on a spiritual destitution of which you are already well aware. There are, we shall all agree, many thousands in London who are palpably sick of spiritual disease, and need the physician. But I have special reasons for not pressing this point. If I attempted to draw subscriptions from you by painting tragical and revolting pictures of the vice, heathendom, and misery of this metropolis, I might make you fancy

that it was an altogether vicious, heathen, and miserable spot: than which there can be no greater mistake. These evils are not the rule, but the exceptions. Were they not the exceptions, then not merely the society of London, and the industry of London, and the wealth of London, but the very buildings of London, the brick and the mortar, would crumble to the ground by natural and inevitable decay. The unprecedentedly rapid increase of London is, I firmly believe, a sure sign that things in it are done on the whole not ill, but well; that God's blessing is on the place; that, because it is on the whole obeying the eternal laws of God, therefore it is increasing, and multiplying, and replenishing the earth, and subduing it. And I do not hesitate to såy, that I have read of no spot of like size upon this earth, on which there have ever been congregated so many human beings, who are getting their bread so peaceably, happily, loyally, and virtuously; and doing their duty-ill enough, no doubt, as we all do it, but still doing it more or less, by man and God. I am well aware that many will differ from me; that many men and many women-holy, devoted, spending their lives in noble and unselfish labours-persons whose shoes' latchet I am not worthy to unloose—take a far darker view of the state of this metropolis. But the fact is, that they are naturally brought in contact chiefly with its darker side. Their first duty is to seek out cases of misery: and even if they do not, the miserable will, of their own accord, come to them. It is their first duty, too—if they be clergymen—to rebuke, and if possible, to cure, open vice, open heathendom, as well as to relieve present want and wretchedness; and may God's blessing be on all who do that work. But in doing it they are dealing daily—and ought to deal, and must deal—with the exceptional, and not with the normal; with cases of palpable and shocking disease, and not with cases of at least seeming health. They see that into London, as into à vast sewer, gravitates yearly all manner of vice, ignorance, weakness, poverty : but they are apt to forget, at times—and God knows I do not blame them for it in the least—that there gravitates into London, not as into a sewer, but as into a wholesome and fruitful garden, a far greater amount of health, strength, intellect, honesty, industry, virtue, which makes London ; which composes, I verily believe, four-fifths of the population of London. For if it did not, as I have said already, London would decay and die, and not grow and live.

Am I denying the spiritual destitution of this metropolis ? Am I arguing against the necessity of the Bishop of London's Fund ? Am I trying to cool your generosity towards it? Am I raising against it the text—They ' that be whole need not a physician, but they 'that are sick ? Am I trying to prove that the sick are fewer than was fancied, the healthy more numerous; and, therefore, the physician less needed ? Would to heaven that I dare so do. Would to heaven that I could prove this fund unnecessary and superfluous. But instead thereof, I fear that I must say—that the average of that health, strength, intellect, honesty, industry, virtue, which makes London

« PreviousContinue »