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Title: A sermon, preached in St. Peter's, Southborough, on occasion of the death of the Rev. Stephen Langston
Author: Hoare, Edward N.
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A sermon, preached in St. Peter's, Southborough, on occasion of the death of the Rev. Stephen Langston" ***

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Transcribed from the [1879] Hatchards edition by David Price, email

                          THE FAITHFUL SERVANT.

                                * * * * *

                                A SERMON,
                               PREACHED IN
                        ST. PETER’S, SOUTHBOROUGH,
                     ON OCCASION OF THE DEATH OF THE
                          REV. STEPHEN LANGSTON,
                       _Late Vicar of that Parish_,
                                  BY THE
                            REV. CANON HOARE,
                  _Vicar of Trinity_, _Tunbridge Wells_.

                                * * * * *

                          HATCHARDS, PICCADILLY.
                             TUNBRIDGE WELLS:
                   HENRY S. COLBRAN, 9, CALVERLEY ROAD,
                           NEAR THE TOWN HALL.


    “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a
    few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into
    the joy of thy Lord.”—MATTHEW XXV. 23.

THERE is something very solemn in the death of any one, but peculiarly
solemn in the death of a minister of God; for when he dies he resigns not
his life only, but his ministry.  He gives back the ministerial trust
committed to him.  So our revered, and honoured friend, has not merely
fallen asleep in the Lord Jesus; but he has, as it were, handed back to
Him who gave it the sacred stewardship of God’s ministry committed to him
by God.

Thus this text seems very appropriate, for it contains the words of a
master who had been faithfully served, to two servants who had faithfully
served him.  When they met him face to face, and resigned the trusts
committed to their care, the master said to each of them, “Well done thou
good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I
will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy
lord.”  And it is no unwarranted stretch of the imagination to believe
that a similar welcome was given to our honoured friend when he breathed
forth his spirit, and yielded up his ministry to Him who had called him
by His grace, and commissioned him for his service.

I take the words therefore as addressed to him at the end of his course,
and we may consider them at expressing the master’s verdict, and the
master’s welcome.

May God be with us in the study, and may He grant that when we are
gathered into his presence, the same words may be addressed to ourselves!

                                * * * * *

I.  THE MASTER’S VERDICT.  “Thou hast been faithful.”

It does not say, “Thou hast been rich,” or “great,” or “powerful,” or
“brilliant,” but “faithful.”  And it is remarkable that the master said
exactly the same words to the servant who had the two talents, as he did
to the one that had the five.  They were not equally gifted, but both
were declared to be faithful.  This is a great encouragement for those
who are conscious that they have not the same gifts as our venerable
father.  We may not have his powerful, and melodious, voice; his intimate
acquaintance with our great English divines; or his marvellous power of
exhibiting truth.  We may have only two talents, or perhaps only one,
when he had five; but God may give us grace to be faithful, and we may
faithfully use that one talent to his glory.  God said to Moses, “What is
that in thine hand?”  And, though there was nothing there but a common,
rough, shepherd’s rod, God used it for the performance of the greatest
miracles in Israel’s history.  So he says to each of us, “What is that in
thine hand?”  And whatever it is, however humble, he gives us the sacred
privilege of using it faithfully in his service.

But I do not want to consider general principles this morning, so much as
to turn your attention to the special case of him whom we have all known
as so faithful a servant of his most blessed Lord and Saviour.

(1)  To appreciate that faithfulness, we must note first, that IT BEGAN
IN EARLY LIFE.  His was an early call.

There is no age in life at which it does not please God to call his
people to himself.  We see people called sometimes in childhood,
sometimes in middle life, and sometimes in old age when tottering to the
grave.  It is difficult to say at which age conversion brings the
greatest joy in heaven.  There is a marvellous mercy when the old man who
has resisted every influence throughout a long life, is touched at last
by the love of Christ, and brought with a broken heart to the throne of
grace.  But there is also a peculiar joy when the spirited boy is led in
his boyhood to receive the message which his mother teaches him, and so
to spend his whole life that he may say in his old age, as Obadiah did,
“I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth.”  Now this was the case with
our friend.  His faith in the Lord Jesus Christ was not an afterthought
late in life.  His father and grandfather were both pious men; and it was
in his father’s parish, (for his father was a clergyman,) and in his
father’s home, that as a spirited school boy he was first brought to the
Lord.  Even before he went to College he began to conduct cottage
lectures in his father’s parish.  That ministry therefore to which you
used to listen with such intense interest, contained the ripened
experience of a long life, from the beginning consecrated to God.  Is
there not a lesson in this for fathers and mothers?  Is there not an
encouragement to train up those committed to them in the Lord?  Is there
not an illustration of the truth of the promise, “Train up a child in the
way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it?”  And is
there not a word also for young men?  Does it not call on them to begin
early, and to begin at once, and in the midst of all the play, and all
the work of early life, to fall down before God’s footstool, and cry,
“Lord save me, Lord make me thine, now, at once, and for ever?”


It is sixty-three years since he was ordained to the ministry, but
throughout the whole of that long period he was never known to waver.
And how full of disturbing causes has that whole period been!  The minds
of men have been unsettled, and there has been a general shaking of
thought.  The stagnation which prevailed when he commenced his ministry
has given place to a general fermentation, and during those sixty-three
years we have had wave after wave passing over the Church.  In his early
days there was great excitement about the gift of tongues and prophecy
under the leadership of that wonderful christian orator EDWARD IRVING.
Then followed what we used to call “tractarianism,” taught by that master
mind NEWMAN, and since developed in the open Romanism of the Ritualist.
Then arose those who call themselves “The Brethren,” as if they alone
were children in the Lord’s family, and who have done so much to disturb
and unsettle those who have been walking most conscientiously with God.
And lastly, there was wafted from America what many welcome as a new rule
for holiness.  In addition to all which there have been from without the
steady efforts of Popery to pervert the purity, and of Infidelity to sap
the foundations of the faith.  So wave has followed wave, but in the
midst of it all our venerable friend was kept firm as a rock with his
principles unchanged, and his faith unshaken.  As a consistent and honest
Churchman he rejoiced in the thirty-nine Articles, and never for one
moment wavered in his fidelity to their clear testimony to the truth of
God.  And as a student of sacred Scripture, he clung to the great, grand
distinctive truths of the Gospel, such as atonement through the
substitution of the Lord Jesus, justification by faith, new birth by the
Holy Ghost, sanctification by the Spirit, preservation through God’s
unchanging faithfulness, and a full salvation in all its parts through
the free grace that is in Christ Jesus.  These were the great principles
of his faith and ministry all through his life, and through God’s mercy
nothing shook him.  You may compare the old man of eighty-six with the
boy of sixteen, and you will find no change in principle.  You may
compare the last Sermon preached last year with the first Sermon which
was preached in his father’s pulpit in the year 1815, and you will find
the great message substantially the same.  As he himself said, the last
time he occupied this pulpit, “In the Church where I was baptized, in the
village in which I was born, I began my ministry on December 24th, 1815.
I remember the text was “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all
acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of
whom I am chief.” 1 Timothy i. 15.  There I began, there I continued,
there I am still, and there, God helping me, I hope to end glorying in
the Gospel which I know to be the power of God unto salvation to every
one that believeth.”


If we are to stand stedfast for seventy years, we must have something
solid on which to rest, and one great reason why people shift about as
much as they do, is, that they have no stability in their principles.
The reason of this again very frequently is that they take partial views
of truth.  They are one-sided christians, and so lose their balance;
whereas we want our foundation to be well built, and to rest all round
with an even pressure on the rock.  Surely this was most remarkably the
case with the ministry of this faithful man.  He did not clip, or twist,
the sacred Scripture to fit his system, but he was ready to sacrifice the
symmetry of his system in order to bring out the whole teaching of God
himself in his inspired Word.  He rested absolutely on Scripture as the
only and sufficient rule of faith, and wherever Scripture led him there
he was prepared to follow.  It was this that gave such a richness, such a
fulness, and such a comprehensiveness to his ministry.

Nothing, for example, could exceed his exhibition of the love of the Lord
Jesus.  It was his joy to exalt him as a Saviour, and to hold converse
with him as a friend.  But with all that the love of the Father was
always prominent.  The Father’s holy law, and the Father’s purpose, the
Father’s gift, the Father’s covenant, and the Father’s home, were always
in view.

And so with reference to the what are termed the doctrines of Grace.  It
was the joy of his heart to exalt the grace of God in all its forms of
application: redeeming grace, predestinating grace, grace in the call,
grace in the pardon, grace in the gift of faith, grace in the new birth,
grace in holiness, grace in preservation, grace never failing till it
ends in glory!  And this grace he would preach in its peculiar, limited,
and special application to the Church of God’s elect.  But that did not
prevent his proclaiming with unlimited freedom the great offer of eternal
life to the sinner, and throwing on the sinner the whole responsibility
of the acceptance or rejection of the offer.  As an illustration, I never
can forget a magnificent Sermon of his, the grandest Sermon I ever heard
from the lips of man, on Eph. v. 25, and never can I forget the way in
which he quoted the text, “Christ also loved the _Church_,” the church of
God’s elect, “and gave himself for _it_,” or how he pointed out to us the
special and most tender love of the Lord to his chosen people; but
neither on the other hand can I ever forget the thrilling power with
which he gave forth the grand words of our blessed Saviour, “God so loved
the _world_ that he gave his only begotten Son, that _whosoever_
believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” and on
the strength of these words threw broadcast over the congregation the
free offer of life to the sinner.  It was this grand harmony of gospel
truth that gave such a wonderful power to his ministry.  He was not
afraid of letting Scripture tell its own tale, and proclaim its own
message.  What he found there, that he taught, and taught fearlessly,
even though he knew in some instances that it was beyond man’s power to
fit all the parts together.  He believed the Gospel to be God’s message,
revealed in God’s word, perfected in God’s purpose, and taught in God’s
own way; so by God’s help he gave the whole just as he found it, and left
it to the infinity of God himself to bring to light the perfect harmony
of the various parts.


The faithful servants in the parable were able to present to their master
the talents which they had gained during the period of their trust.  In
their case therefore, faithfulness led to fruitfulness.  Their work was
successful, and there were talents gained.  Can we doubt for one moment
that God blessed in the same manner the faithfulness of our revered
friend?  Whatever others may do, I cannot.  I have heard of the deep
interest excited by his ministry wherever he has laboured, in Sheffield,
in Jersey, and amongst yourselves.  I am told by a clergyman at Sheffield
that his ministry there was followed by most blessed results in the
awakening and salvation of souls.  I am told also that “when upwards of
thirty years afterwards he visited that town, not only were there crowds
to hear him, but many came forward to relate the blessings which either
themselves, or their parents and friends had received through his
instrumentality.”  The Lord alone knows how many talents were gathered in
all those places, and presented as a thankoffering to God.  But I know a
little of what took place at Richmond.  MR. LANGSTON went there very soon
after the commencement of his ministry.  Before he went there every thing
in that place was dark, cold, and dead.  The glorious Gospel was almost
an unknown message.  His ministry there lasted, I believe, about three
years, and after an interval of nearly twenty years, I followed him as
curate of the parish.  I have always regarded it as one of the greatest
blessings of my life that I did so, for there I found a large body of
persons from all classes of society, living consistent, holy lives, and
full of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who owed their conversion to Mr.
Langston’s ministry.  Like Barnabas, I “saw the grace of God,” and I am
not ashamed of acknowledging that what I there witnessed as the fruit of
his labours has helped to give a tone to the whole of my subsequent
ministry.  Most truly then may I say of that faithful man, “He rests from
his labours, and his works do follow him.”

(5)  He was faithful in HIS CHILDLIKE TRUST AT THE END; when his work was
done, and as a little child he was simply resting in the arms of his most
blessed Saviour.  I do not attach much importance to the last words of
such a man.  When a person has been walking with God for seventy years
and more, we do not want last words to assure us of his faith.  But it is
pleasant to see how the old foundations bear, and to watch the last
earthly intercourse of the faithful servant with the faithful Saviour.
It was delightful in this instance to do so.  He was sure, perfectly
sure, of his Lord’s fidelity; and when it was said to him, “He will never
leave us,” his reply was “No, never, never.”  On another occasion as he
lay in the deepest weakness, he said, “I am thinking of that good
Scotchman who said, “There is nothing so sweet in all this universe as
Christ to die with, and nothing dearer than his love.”  Nor was this
merely a matter of feeling, or experience; for he was calmly and
intelligently resting on the great principles of the Gospel.  These solid
foundation principles he had preached from the beginning.  On these
principles he had lived, and on these principles he died.  It was the
thought of redeeming mercy that filled his heart with gratitude.  So that
he was heard saying, “He became a curse for me—left alone—deserted by his
own.”  That was his one resting place, and resting there he used to
delight in the hymn—

    OH! Saviour, I have nought to plead,
       In earth, beneath, or heaven above,
    But just my own exceeding need,
       And Thy exceeding love.

    The need will soon be past and gone,
       Exceeding great—but quickly o’er,
    The love unbought is all Thine own,
       And lasts for evermore!

Till at length nothing could be heard but a few detached words, but those
words were quite sufficient to shew where his heart was resting.  “Dear
Saviour”—“Looking”—“Covenant”—“Ordered and sure”—“Thy blood and
righteousness”—“Hope”—“End”—“Coming soon”—and then came the message from
heaven itself, “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,” and the ransomed
spirit was free from the burden of the flesh.

                                * * * * *

II.  For our second subject, THE MASTER’S WELCOME, I have no time left,
and perhaps it is well, for who can attempt either to describe or imagine
it?  The words of this passage seem to indicate that the joys are beyond
all proportion greater than any thing seen here.  There are but few
things here, but many joys there, and the many cannot be measured by our
notions of the few.

Then again the expression “the joy of the Lord,” seems to raise us far
above all earthly thoughts, and introduce us as it were into the very
mind of the Lord himself.

It may be understood as the joy which the Lord feels.  We are taught that
he has special joy even in heaven.  There was a joy set before him to
attain which he endured the cross.  And what is the joy?  Is it not in
the ingathering of souls?  Is it not when souls are saved, and many
justified, that he sees of the travail of his soul, and is satisfied?
Now surely there must be the same blessed happiness in those who share
his joy.  If we rejoice in the joy of the Lord Jesus, we shall rejoice
with those whom he has gathered around him.  As MR. LANGSTON said in his
Sermon on Rev. vii. 15.  “The meeting with those Saints will add no
little accumulation of blessedness.  I shall see Abel, the first martyr
for Christ; the first witness to the atonement by his precious blood.  I
shall see Enoch the first great prophet who walked with God, and was not,
for God took him.  I shall see Noah, the Preacher of righteousness;
Melchizedec, king of righteousness and peace; Moses, Samuel, and all the
Prophets, Evangelists, and Saints.”  Does he not see them now?  Is he not
with them now?  But does he not also see multitudes of precious souls,
from Hastings, from Richmond, from Sheffield, from Jersey, and from
Southborough, to whom he was permitted to convey God’s message, and who
are now rejoicing with him before the throne?  How many were there to
welcome him at heaven’s gate?  And may not the joy of such a meeting be
well termed the joy of the Lord?

But besides this, the joy of the Lord must be the joy that is realized in
the presence of the Lord himself.  It is all very well to be with Abel,
and Enoch, but what must it be to be with Christ?  This it is that will
fill heaven with praise, and make even eternity too short for our
thanksgiving.  Do you remember what he said of the prospect, in the last
Sermon he ever preached to you, “Oh!” he said, “What joy to see him face
to face!  What joy to see him even now through the lattice!  But what to
enjoy that love without interruption, and without a cloud ever rising
between the soul and the sunshine of his love!  Then the seven-fold
promises of revelation, all his own gracious words, will be
fulfilled—“The crown of life.”  “The tree of life.”  “The new name.”
“The morning star.”  “The white raiment.”  “The abiding pillar.”  “And
the share in the throne of the Son of God.”  Is not that the joy of the
Lord?  And is not that the joy in which the faithful servant has now
entered? is he not there now?  Is he not face to face with his Saviour?
Does he not even now see him as he is?  Has he not already experienced
the truth of the words, “In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right
hand there are pleasures for evermore?”

And now what would he say if he could speak to us from that presence
chamber of God?  Do you think he would change his note, or withdraw his

What would he say to you believers?  Do you think he would tell you to
give up for that your faith is in vain?  Would he not rather say, that
the half was not told you, no not the thousandth part, and that there is
such a fulness in Christ Jesus as when on earth he never had had the
least idea of?  Would he not entreat you to cleave to him, to follow him,
to love him, to serve him, to labour for him, and to clasp him to your
heart as the strength of your life, and the joy of your soul?

And what would he say to the unconverted?  Would he say to them that it
does not matter whether they are converted or not, and that he finds that
he was mistaken?  You may remember what he said in his farewell Sermon,
“I think with grief of those who have not submitted to the Gospel of
Christ.  To such, the minister stands in a very awful position as a
witness.  Oh, those words, “Son remember!”  You See how the Father of the
faithful addressed him, owned him as a son, and one of the family, so
that he might have shared its blessing; but he had cast them away.  My
unconverted brethren, if you die without Christ, oh the bitterness of the
anguish, and remorse!  What must be the worm that never dies, the fire
that is never quenched?  O consider this ye that forget God.  He that
being often rebuked, and invited, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be
destroyed, and that without remedy.  My hearers, what I want is that your
hearts may be given to the Lord.  I want Christ to be enthroned in your
hearts.  I want you to become His, to enter in while the door of mercy
invites your approach, and to share all the blessings of everlasting
salvation so freely offered through Christ Jesus the Saviour!”  Do you
think he would say less now, now that he has seen the great realities?
Oh! how would he plead with you, and how would he persuade you, and how
would he point you to the Lord Jesus Christ for life!  But we shall hear
that voice no more on earth, and we can never again listen to him
pleading with souls.  Nevertheless, the message remains, the Redeemer
remains, the salvation remains, the open door still remains, and may God
grant that there may be such a work in each one of us, that when we pass
beyond the veil, we may be welcomed, as we are sure that he has been,
with the words—“Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!”

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *


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