On Being a Bishop


MY GOD what qualifications are these ! and how rash was I to undertake such a work, without sitting down and counting the cost, whether I was able to finish it! Thou only canst supply all my defects, which I beseech Thee to do.

Enable me, I beseech Thee, to come as near as possible to this character: that I may teach the mysteries, defend the faith, maintain the truths of the Gospel; that I may be a pattern to my flock, edify the Church, both by my discourses and example, and hearty zeal for the salvation of souls, and a care to secure my flock from the corruptions of the age.

God give me a true and prudent humility, to have nothing of the air of secular governors, to attend the flock of Christ as a servant, to look on Him as my pattern, to study his conduct and spirit, to spend and be spent for my flock; that I may never desire to increase my burden, that I may be better qualified to be ministered unto; and that I may never strive to live at ease, in plenty, in luxury, repose, and independence.

O Jesus, let Thy humility teach me to bear the marks of distinction which the world has given me, as burdens rather than as honours. The name of a servant ought to be esteemed honourable to the eye of faith, and a real privilege, since Jesus Christ took upon Him the nature of a servant.

Bishops and priests (saith St. Ambrose) are honourable, on account of the sacrifice they offer.

The power of the keys, and the exercise of that power; the due use of Confirmation and (previous to that) examination; a strict examination into the learning, lives, and characters of such as are designed for holy orders, are matters of infinite and eternal concern. As also the visitation of parishes and exercise of Church discipline upon all offenders.

A man may be ruined by those very means which were designed to enable him to discharge his duty with more convenience. And bishops have too often been put into such easy circumstances, as to forget that they were bishops.

A bishop who has more regard to his temporalities than to the souls of his flock, is fallen into this sad condition. A primitive bishop will be careful to avoid, as much as possible, worldly equipage and retinue, excess, pomp, and ostentation. To do otherwise would be to establish the kingdom of Satan, which we would destroy; and to destroy the kingdom of Jesus, which we would establish.

When a bishop loseth his gravity, he loseth so much of his authority.

Where a man is despised, his instruction will be despised also. He that would gain respect must respect others.

Thomas Wilson (1663-1755), Bishop of Sodor and Man, from his Sacra Privata, (Parker, Oxford & London 1853), pp. 98 - 101)

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