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Full text of ""A city set on a hill" (Matt. V. 4) : an address to the Association of Lay Helpers for the Diocese of London, delivered in the north chapel of St. Paul's Cathedral on Monday evening, Jan. 10, 1876"

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J 876 


* A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.' — Mattheiu v. 14. 

I REMEMBER oiice reading a very remarkable allegory in 
which occurred the words, ' It was the condition of that 
fortress that no assaults could prevail against itfromwitliout, 
unless treachery existed within.' The fortress intended is 
the baptized soul. It is the soul of every one of us — the soul 
of each of you, my dear friends, and my soul. I say this 
most advisedly. Our cases and our courses, however ap- 
parently different or divergent, are made one by the following- 
consideration. God's Providence has led you to join an 
Association which places you to some extent in the position 
assigned by Christ to His Apostles, and, inferentially, to all 
who sliall in any degree exercise their office to the end of the 
world. Glancing first at one of the hill-forts of Palestine, 
perhaps Sanur or Eethulia, which is visible from the Mount of 
the Beatitudes, and then at themselves, He said, with a 
significance that could not be mistaken, ' A city that is set 
on a hill cannot be hid.' Such a city cannot escape some 
enemy's notice. Let it be well seen to that everything within 
is sound. 

You will not be surprised then, my dear friends, if, holding 
you to be of those whom St. John describes as 'fellow-workers 
(fTviepyoi) in the truth'* (3 John, v. 8), I have come to 
take kindly counsel with you this evening as to our common 
duties and common dangers. I am not, in strictness of 
speech, about to preach to you. Your presence and your 
acceptance of what is part of my special office rather preach 
to me. If you, whose callings are secular, are willing to 
turn your studies into the way of evangelising the dark 
corners of this vast diocese, to devote your hardly- cam ed 
leisure to it, and to make yourselves a pattern of good works, 
I am tenfold more bound to these things. 

Let us, however, consider for a few moments both what 
the Association of Lay Helpers is not, and what it is. 

It is not merely a revival of active functions on the part of 
the laity, which have been forgotten or become obsolete in lan- 
guid times of the Church. It may be this, indeed, to a certain , 
extent, for, as you know, it was till recently an error of society 
to regard the clergy only as the Church, and as the only 
persons who had to preach Christ ; and preaching was sup- 
posed to apply to nothing but the delivery of sermons. But 
the Association is something fuller and deeper. It is a volun- 
tary recognition on the part of the laity of their share in that 
spreading the Gospel which is divinely enjoined upon all. 

Nor is it, again, viercly an acceptance by its members of 
definite duties, confined to certain spheres or localities, neg- 
lect of which would expose them, as the clergy would be 
exposed, to ecclesiastical censure. This would be incom- 
patible with the secular engagements of many. Some, indeed 
have enrolled themselves as members of parochial choirs, 
and so have discredited the opinion that the office of con- 

* St. Paul spoke of Epaphroditus as his brother, fel low- worker (cu- 
vif^hv), and fellow-soldier — epithets implying common sympathy, com- 
mon work, common toil and suflfering. 

tributing to Church psahiiody is a hirehng or inferior one. 
Some have undertaken the office of lay missionaries, leaving 
their own homes in pleasant places to sgek and to save the 
reckless and tlie well-nigh lost. Some have held night- 
schools for adult classes. Some, again, have devoted a large 
portion of Sunday to the teaching of children. All honour 
be to such men, and to others, who, in any such direct way, 
have helped Christ's ordained ministers. But these are helped 
as well by the knowledge that they have about them a body 
of laymen, ready, by occasional services of whatever kind, to 
strengthen their hands, and to act as leaders and encouragers 
when unexpected emergencies present themselves. 

Nor, though the works of the members must be to a 
certain extent \isible, and act upon others, was the Associa- 
tion formed merely for this. It was formed also for that 
society, and help, and comfort, which consciousness of union 
supplies. Not, indeed, that this is any new invention. The 
blessed doctrine of the Communion of Saints joins us in the 
design of Christ, through Himself, to all who are saved by 
Him, whether they be departed hence, or be still labouring 
here. The blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, besides its 
other gracious strengthening powers, is a memorial and a 
perpetual reinvigoration of that communion. The Universal 
Church, the particular Church to which we belong, the diocese 
or parish in which our homes are situate, are, or might be, in 
their several ways, reminders that we are all members of One 
Body. But, alas ! in a sceptical age doctrines and ordinances 
connecting men by foith with the unseen world and with its 
Head are liable to be forgotten or neglected. And it has 
been a lamentable result of the tendency of the population 
to converge to this great centre called London, that the 
diocesan and parochial systems have become weakened, and 
that men have been too isolated to be a su})port and help to 
each other. 

A 2 

Well, such a state of things gave rise to our Association, 
as an auxiliary to the clergy, as a bond of union between 
l)ersons of all ages, all ranks, all circumstances, as an 
answer to the cry of some, ' "\^'hat shall we do for Christ?' 
— to the cry of some, * Where shall we find sympathy?* — to 
the cry of others, especially those who, being young, or 
without many personal friends, and with leisure on their 
hands, which they feared they might spend dangerously or 
unprofitably, said, 'Who or what shall save us from our- 
selves, and from the temptations which so easily beset us ? ' 
Let me add, that it arose as a natural response to some peculiar 
features of our day, besides those which I have mentioned. 

For what is our day? It is one of rapid intercommuni- 
cation of facts and ideas; a day of well-nigh irresistible 
combination ; a day of disclosure of wants unfelt or un- 
regarded heretofore ; a day of opening-up of opportunities 
of usefulness to those who are thus made conscious of their 
latent powers and talents ; a day of widely and deeply spread 
perception, that — 

' He that made us with such large discourse, 
Looking before and after, gave us not 
That capability and god-like reason 
To fust in us unused.' — Hamlet, iv. sc. 4. 

And, I will say further, it is a day of search, of earnest, 
intense craving, after what may raise not the individual, self- 
contained man merely, but the community, in the scale of 
being, morally, socially, intellectually, religiously. 

Such, stated in terms broad, indeed, but quite definite 
enough for my purpose, are characteristics of our day. And, 
though as yet quite in its infancy, our Association endea- 
vours to meet them. It is one of the * many ways ' in which 
* Ciod fulfils Himself;' that is, in which He stirs up the 
hearts of men to meet the contingencies of His Providence. 

Several other guilds or institutions have sprung up of a 
somewhat similar kind, with their several good objects, which 
I need not specify here. Their names will readily occur to 
you. But our Association has its own peculiar office, that of 
making men realise their Church membership by actively 
interesting them in each other, and thereby causing their 
own views to be more truly human, because more divine. 
It is but right that, on such an occasion as this, I should tell 
you what I could imagine would be its working. 1 could 
imagine grey-haired men, who would assure me that since 
they have joined it they have felt a new life and reality 
imparted to the theory that we are all members one of 
another. I could imagine rich men who, seeing those who 
are not gifted with this world's goods, giving of themselves 
to Christ, have been moved to larger liberality out of their 
stores. I could imagine men of experience and Christian 
sympathies, who have found in the conferences to which it 
has given occasion the opportunities which they much 
wanted, but knew not how to obtain, of co-operating with 
their clerg}'man. And then I could imagine those who 
might have been left to themselves, unregarded, unelevated, 
unguided, amid the temptations which beset young men in 
' this great, dim, wicked city,' and under which many fall, in 
the hours which early teniiination of business places at their 
disposal, and which necessary separation from family ties 
renders proverbially dangerous. And I could go on to 
picture them — what? As devout communicants, as deeply 
impressed with a sense of the preciousness of their bodies 
and souls as temples of the Holy Spirit ; as content to spend 
their time in teaching little children, or in acting as readers 
to the sick and infirm ; or in holding such mission services 
as their overworked ])astors are unable to hold themselves ; 
or in other ways adorning the doctrine of God their Saviour. 


Nor is this merely imagination. I have many testimonies 
to the Hteral truth of these statements. I have known those 
in high positions who have gratefully acknowledged the 
blessing gained from the new sense of Church membership, to 
which they have been awakened by the fact of belonging to 
this Association. And I have known young men who, 
before they joined it, felt as though they had only ' to fight for 
their own hand,' as it were, in the battle of life; but who have, 
since they joined it, realised the truth that they are soldiers 
of Christ's army, strengthened by, and strengthening others by, 
combination. These have devoutly thanked God that they have 
not been left to themselves. If there are any such here, let me 
say to them — It is very meet and right that you should do so. 
O I (I repeat it w^ith all the energy of which my heart and 
voice are capable) — O, ever thank God, on your bended knees 
and in your best moments, that you have not been so left : 
that what is good in you finds in this brotherhood an oppor- 
tunity of springing up, what is bad is by it providentially let 
of development. Thank God that your brethren thought of 
your dangers, as young men, unbefriended men, and yet 
men embarked upon a sea which was likely to dash your 
frail barks against rocky shores already strewn with the 
wrecks of once goodly humanity. Some one who knew 
your case, and who had himself experienced desolateness 
amid crowded myriads, wrote well and sympathisingly : — 

* He has a life small happiness that gives 
, Who friendless in a London lodging lives, 
Dines in a dingy chop-house, and returns 
To a lone room, while all within him yearns 
For sympathy, and his whole nature burns 
With a fierce thirst for some one — is there none ? — 
To expend his human tenderness upon. 
So blank, and hard, and stony is the way 
To walk, 1 wonder not men go astray.' 

And they were actuated by that man's spirit who called this 
Association into being, and sacrificed their own quiet and 
ease to induce you to join it. They were actuated, let me 
say it reverently, by a higher Spirit still — the loving Spirit of 
Him who gave His life for the world. 

But I must not close without again placing my own case 
and yours upon a level. So frail and fickle are our natures, 
that even measures to which we resort for safety present new 
and peculiar snares to us. One of old, who mistakenly 
fancied that he could avoid worldliness by sequestering 
himself in a desert, found that he had still a world within, 
which was, if not more perilous than, yet at least as perilous 
as, the world without. So, though we of the clergy, and you 
of the laity, have taken upon ourselves new obligations to 
holiness and Christian activity — obligations which cause the 
eyes of our neighbours to be upon us — we are thereby exposed 
to dangers. We clergy incur the danger of placing ourselves in 
God's stead, of forgetting that we have a part in the confes- 
sions that we lead, that we want the absolution which we 
pronounce in our INlaster's name, that the advice which 
we urge upon others should proceed from a knowledge 
of our own hearts and our own hearts' failures and sins. So, 
brethren, it will be, perhaps it has been, with 3-ou. You 
have been, and you will be, tempted by your very familiarity 
with divine things to a careless use of them. The brilliant 
soloist in a choir may touch the hearts of others by ' He 
was despised and rejected of men ;' they may be moved to 
goodly sorrow for the sins which caused Christ's death, while 
the iiia?i himself^ having thought, through the preceding 
prayers, of nothing but of himself and of the effect which his 
voice and execution would produce, is but as sounding brass or 
a tinkling cymbal. A man may dilate to a class of learners upon 
the graces of the Christian life ; but this may be rather from 


a sense of what is expected of him, or of what it is decent for 
him to say, or from an eftbrt of memory, than from an abun- 
dant store of personal experience, or out of the fountains of 
a renewed heart. A man may apply the Holy Scriptures 
with great force and propriety to the poor, to children, to 
the sick, to the distressed, to the dying, yet be insensible to 
tlieir applicability to himself. These cases are not imaginary 
ones. Solomon's words prefigured them : ' They made me 
keeper of vineyards, but mine own vineyard have I not kept.' 
(Cant. i. 9.) St. Paul's words described them, for, no doubt, 
they were actually before him : ' If I give all my goods to 
feed the poor, and have not charity ' — i.e. true Christian love 
— •' I am nothing.' And this same writer's fears for their end 
are solemnly admonitory : •' Lest, after I have preached to 
others, I myself should be a castaway.' So our Lord lias 
told us in the text that we are cities set on a hill, and that 
cannot be hid, and thus that our failure, if discovered, as it 
may be sooner or later, may pull down the truth with it, and 
discredit the doctrines which we have delivered. 

There are few things under which people are more im- 
patient than what are called 'talking good' and ' acting good.' 
By these phrases is meant, assuming a high moral standard 
of tone or conversation which is belied by what is commonly 
known of the talker's or actor's individual life, or by its forced 
and unnatural contrast to what has been going on. There 
are various reasons for this impatience. -Men do not like 
sudden transitions, either from better to worse, or from worse 
to better. Though they will acquiesce in an unpretending, 
admitted superiority, they will not endure a spontaneous 
assumption of it, which is either unproved or more tlian 
questionable. It is almost irksome to them to be taught at 
all — the very position of a learner implies a sense of sub- 
ordination — and they resent vehemently being taught by a 


process which, Hke talking good, costs a teacher so little, or, 
like acting good, may have been put on for the occasion, 
and esi)ecially so if the teacher is one whom they suspect of 
having little or no personal belief in the truth of what he is 

We have, then, my dear friends, to cultivate reality and 
earnestness if we would carry^ out our evangelising mission. 
"W'e must be and do Avhat we recommend others to be and 
to do. ' Come and do it,' not necessarily uttered, indeed, 
but implied, by one who throws himself into a work which he 
inculcates upon others, is always a more powerful incentive 
than *go and do it.' The officer who leads his troops to a 
charge is obeyed with greater enthusiasm than he who 
assumes a post free from danger, and satisfies himself with 
issuing commands from thence. Therefore, I say, if you 
would influence your brethren for good, be real. Be, do not 
seem fo he. "What you do, what you sa}-, though you do it 
without thinking at the moment of setting a good example 
to others, will affect them, though they for their part also are 
unconscious of being affected. Many a man has been stin-ed 
to heartier devotion in a congregation by hearing his neigh- 
bour's earnest utterances, and by seeing how his whole soul 
is intensely thrown into the service \\\>o\\ which he is engaged. 
Many a man has been brought to believe that the busiest 
life and the most intense mental occupations may leave a 
margin of time for works for God, by learning that one of 
our greatest lav/yers devoted, year after year, a portion of his 
rest-day to teaching in a Sunday school. 

But how is this reality to be compassed ? What are we 
to do ? AVe are to keep our hearts, as I said at the outset, 
with all diligence ; or rather, we are to pray, constantly and 
continually, and especially when we are upon any strictly 

religious work, that God may preserve us from the sin of 
thinking more -of ourselves than of Him and His glory. If 
any miscarriage befall us — and perhaps many do or will — let* 
us look for the cause of it within. Most likely it will be 
found there, and not, as we are inclined to flatter ourselves, 
in external circumstances. I remember a young instructor 
of children once told me that he feared he was not making 
way with his class ; that he found them impatient and dis- 
obedient. I ventured to enquire, affectionately, * Have you 
prayed for them, that they may bear with you ; and for your- 
self, that you may bear with them ? ' He admitted with. 
sorrow that he had not done so. Well, the batdewith those 
children's hearts was at length won by him, as other battles 
of the kind, of every kind, have been and will be won, upon 
liis knees. Let us, who desire to lead men to Christ, not be 
ashamed to confess how entirely we need ourselves His 
leading by His Spirit, His lifting up of our hands that falk 
down, His supporting of our feeble knees ; and, after all. His 
clothing our poor imperfect works with the robe of His own 
righteousness. Amen. 




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