Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
The Responsibilities of a Bishop
By Jeremy Taylor (16131667)
From a Consecration Sermon preached at Dublin
THE BISHOP is like a man that is surety for his friend; he is bound for many, and for great sums; what is to be done in this case; Solomons answer is the way: Do this now, my son, deliver thyself, make sure thy friend, give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids; that is, be sedulous to discharge thy trust, to perform thy charge; be zealous for souls, and careless of money: and remember this, that even in Christs family there was one sad example of an apostate apostle; and he fell into that fearful estate merely by the desire and greediness of money. Be warm in zeal, and indifferent in thy temporalities: for he that is zealous in temporals, and cold in the spiritual; he that doth the accessories of his calling by himself, and the principal by his deputies; he that is present at the feast of sheep-shearing, and puts others to feed the flock; hath no sign at all upon him of a good shepherd. It is not fit for us to leave the word of God, and to serve tables, said the apostles. And if it be a less worthy office to serve the tables even of the poor, to the diminution of our care in the dispensation of Gods word,it must needs be an unworthy employment to leave the word of God, and to attend the rich and superfluous furniture of our own tables. Remember the quality of your charges: Civitas est, vigilate ad custodiam et concordiam; sponsa est, studete amari; oves sunt, intendite pastui. The Church is a spouse; the universal Church is Christs spouse, but your own diocese is yours; behave yourselves, so that ye be beloved. Your people are as sheep, and they must be fed, and guided, and preserved, and healed, and brought home. The Church is a city, and you are the watchmen; take care that the city be kept at unity in itself; be sure to make peace amongst your people; suffer no hatreds, no quarrels, no suits at law amongst the citizens, which you can avoid; make peace in your dioceses by all the ways of prudence, piety, and authority, that you can; and let not your own corrections of criminals be to any purpose but for their amendment, for the cure of offenders as long as there is hope, and for the security of those who are sound and whole. Preach often, and pray continually; let your discipline be with charity, and your censures slow; let not excommunications pass for trifles, and drive not away the fly from your brothers forehead with a hatchet; give counsel frequently, and dispensations seldom, but never without necessity or great charity; let every place in your diocese say, Invenerunt me vigiles,The watchmen have found me out, hassoverim; they that walk the city round have sought me out, and found me. Let every one of us, as St. Pauls expression is, show himself a workman that shall not be ashamed; operarium inconfusibilem, mark that: such a labourer shall not be put to shame for his illness or his unskilfulness, his falseness and unfaithfulness, in that day when the great Bishop of souls shall make his last and dreadful visitation; for, be sure, there is not a carcass nor a skin, not a lock of wool nor a drop of milk of the whole flock, but God shall for it call the idle shepherd to a severe account. And how, think you, will his anger burn, when he shall see so many goats standing at his left hand, and so few sheep at his right? and, upon inquiry, shall find that his ministering shepherds were wolves in sheeps clothing? and that, by their ill example or pernicious doctrines, their care of money and carelessness of their flocks, so many souls perish, who, if they had been carefully and tenderly, wisely and conscientiously handled, might have shined as bright as angels? And it is a sad consideration to remember, how many souls are pitifully handled in this world, and carelessly dismissed out of this world; they are left to live at their own rate, and when they are sick, they are bidden to be of good comfort, and then all is well; who, when they are dead, find themselves cheated of their precious and invaluable eternity. Oh, how will those souls, in their eternal prisons, for ever curse those evil and false guides! And how will those evil guides themselves abide in judgment, when the angels of wrath snatch their abused people into everlasting torments? For will God bless them, or pardon them, by whom so many souls perish? Shall they reign with Christ, who evacuate the death of Christ, and make it useless to dear souls? Shall they partake of Christs glories, by whom it comes to pass that there is less joy in heaven itself, even because sinners are not converted, and God is not glorified, and the people is not instructed, and the kingdom of God is not filled? Oh, no; the curses of a false prophet will fall upon them, and the reward of the evil steward will be their portion; and they who destroyed the sheep, or neglected them, shall have their portion with goats for ever and ever, in everlasting burnings, in which it is impossible for a man to dwell.