Supposing Him to be the Gardener

From “The Gardener” The Last Sermons of Father Stanton at St. Alban’s, Holborn, 186-190 (1911).

“She, supposing him to be the gardener.” It was such a beautiful supposition, because the first Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden, and the second Adam in the garden of his Church. Eden was watered by the five rivers: Pison, Gihon, Hiddakel, and Euphrates; and the Church of God is watered by the five rivers which flowed from the sacred wounds. He is the gardener of his Church, and that is why the supposition is so beautiful.

“She, supposing him to be the gardener.” And is he not the gardener of his Church? This is why, then, supposing he is the gardener, there is a Church at all. He can cause the fig tree to grow instead of the thorn, and the myrtle tree to spring up instead of the briar. He it is that has arranged the garden, its terraces, its walks, its parterres, its borders — everything! Supposing he is the gardener, we see how the Church of God has been arranged by the wounded hands.

Supposing he is the gardener, then that is why such beautiful flowers grow in his garden. Of course, first, there is Mary, our Blessed Lady… And there are all the saints of God, those of whom the world was not worthy — the saints, the martyr, the virgins, the confessors — all down the ages of the Church, you are not surprised at the list of the saints belonging to the Church of God, those who have given up all for the sake of the Master, supposing he is the gardener…

Then, of course, we ought not to mind — we ought to be quite contented with where we are. If he put us here, it is right. Let him plant where he will, and if he prunes, let him prune; and if he digs deep, let him dig deep round about us. You will not mind what is the providence of God concerning you, supposing he is the gardener, will you? “Lord, do unto me whatever seemeth best in thy sight.” He says, “My soul desireth ripe fruits,” and when the fruit is right, let him have it. The fruit ripens in the sunshine of God, and when it is ripe, and the gardener picks it, drops it into his hand. And so we must pass away, supposing he is the gardener…

Supposing him to be the gardener, you must not mind if he takes the flowers you love so much, must you? Supposing he is the gardener, then he can transplant the plant he has reared into the garden that is above, where the other plants are. “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am ye may be also.”

Supposing he is the gardener, both the time and manner of the transplanting we leave to him. My time is in his hands. He who hath held me up ever since I was born, he who made me and died for me, will do the best for me in the end, supposing he is the gardener.

Arthur H. Stanton (1839-1913) was an English Anglo-Catholic priest, who served for 51 years, his entire ministry, as curate of St. Alban’s, Holborn, in London. He was a leader of the Ritualist Movement and a champion of the poor, and was famous for his emotional sermons. He preached “The Gardener” at St. Alban’s on the Fourth Sunday after Easter, 1911.

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