Project Canterbury

Thoughts for All Saints Day.

By Charles Frederick Mackenzie

From Mission Life, Vol. I (first series) (Nov. 1, 1866), pages 392-398.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia


A Sermon by the late BISHOP MACKENZIE. Preached at Cambridge on All Saints' Day, 1859, Printed by the kind permission of Miss Mackenzie.

HEBREWS xii. 1, 2.

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith."

THIS day, my brethren, is set apart by the Church for the commemoration of the saints who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, out of weakness were made strong, and are now waiting for the consummation of all things, God having provided some better things for us, that they, without us, should not be made perfect.

And this commemoration of the members of the Church triumphant surely ought not, and need not, lead us into any errors. Surely we may remember with respect and thankfulness those who have gone before us, the great heroes of the Christian army, and all who have died in the faith and fear of God, without risk of idolatry. Surely the ministers of Christ may draw the attention of their hearers to the history of individual saints, or to the remembrance of the general assembly and church of the first-born, without fear of that memory and respect turning into worship or adoration.

But this danger, if there be any, will be the less if we keep in mind the right objects of such commemorations as this.

[393] One good effect of this day upon our minds should be, that we more distinctly and more thankfully honour God for them. We are accustomed to thank God for His mercies vouchsafed to us--for all the means of grace; and why not also for the examples He has afforded us in the lives of faith, and deaths of constancy and peace, of His servants in past times?

We are more indebted to this support of our faith and love than many of us think, or than, perhaps, we are very willing to admit. Surely the fact that so many men, women, and children have lived in the faith of Christ, and died in hope, is an evidence of the truth of our religion, and one that appeals not only to our intellects, but to our hearts, drawing us, by the gentle force of sympathy, to be joined to the whole body of those who love the Lord. If we have, as we all certainly have, received encouragement or correction from the examples of any of the saints that have entered into their rest, should we not thankfully remember this benefit, and honour God, from whom these graces have proceeded?

For though we have a great and perfect example in the life of our blessed Lord, yet has He been pleased to cause lesser lights also to shine, that we may be encouraged by the examples of those who were, like us, compassed with infirmities. To be made like unto our Lord should be our highest aim; and by His example we are taught the duty and happiness of faith and charity, of constancy in prayer, and even of humility.

But for examples of contrition, of repentance, and humiliation after sin, of confidence in His fatherly love and willingness to forgive, we must look to those who, like ourselves, have fallen and been raised up again. And if any of us have been so encouraged by the restoration of David or of Peter, we may well thank God for the assistance, and magnify that mighty power which strengthens such as do stand, and raises up them that fall.

Then, too, what strength is added to our hopes of heaven by the knowledge of the present reality, that some who were once engaged in the fight in which we are now striving have been made more than conquerors through Him! How much more vivid would be our conception of the state of rest to which we all look forward, if we dwelt more consciously on the fact that some have entered that rest! How much more bright would our prospect seem if we thought of the meeting, not only with the Lord, with Him who is the chiefest among ten thousand, but with all those who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb! [393/394] If the greatest solace and happiness to a Christian be the communion of heart and soul with the faithful upon the earth, who shall conceive the bliss of meeting with those of whom we have heard and read--with Abraham and Joseph, with Moses and Elias, with David and Josiah, or with those who were greater than they, St Peter, St John, or St Paul! Should we not thank God for them that are gone before, not only for their sakes, because they have come out of great tribulation, and arrived safe at the haven where they would be, but also for ourselves, because we hope, when the strife is over, and our work on earth is finished, to be admitted to that heavenly society, and to know them also, even as we are known?

Then, again, should not the commemoration of the saints stimulate our desire of holiness? Sin is the great origin of discord and disunion. Holiness is the great bond which draws men to each other and to God. The memory of the saints leads us to hope for that blessed day when we shall be joined to them; not that, like cowards, we sigh for the time when we may escape from the pains, or even the perils of this life, but that, like faithful servants, we long for the time when, our work being done, we shall be admitted into the presence of the Lord, and to the glorious company of the apostles, and the goodly fellowship of the prophets, and the noble army of martyrs. But are we fit to join so holy a body, and to present our praises in the high courts of heaven?

My brethren, the work that is now to be done consists not only in our exertions for the good of others, but even more of the work of the Holy Spirit within us, and our co-operating with Him in our sanctification. How shall we, stained as we all are by the commission of so many evil deeds, and polluted by the germs of the very worst offences--how shall we hope to enter into or enjoy the kingdom of righteousness in which God ruleth over His saints? Only by the blood of Christ can those stains be washed away, and only by the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit can those germs of sin be rooted out. Oh that the memory of the forgiveness of those who have gone before may encourage us to come to the same fountain! Oh that the holy lives which they led, and the perfect holiness to which they have now attained, may stimulate us to grow in grace, and to cultivate every holy thought and habit!

But, again, the commemoration of departed saints, and the hope of living with them in the light of God's presence for ever, should move us to closer and more hearty communion with the saints on earth, who have this prospect in common with us, and whom we [394/395] hope to meet, if we are accounted worthy to obtain that world. And I think there are cases where outward manner or some trifling circumstance causes a want of sympathy, and where this might be renewed by the thought of the saints in light, in whose ranks we and they hope to appear. Such practical lessons seem to flow naturally from this day's commemoration of saints, viz., the duty of honouring God in His saints, of setting them before us as examples, of quickening our hopes of heaven, by the thought of those who have endured to the end, of stimulating our desires of holiness and of closer communion with each other. There is one other lesson most suitable for this day, the duty of doing what in us lies to propagate the gospel, and so to perform our part in the mighty work which Christ came from heaven to achieve, the building up a spiritual house of lively stones, chosen of God and precious. The thought of the innumerable host that will one day stand around the throne of God to celebrate the praises of the Lamb that was slain, may well induce us to look round, and see if there be none now ignorant of Him, to whom we ought to carry the news of His love and mercy, that they may be prepared on earth to join in His praises above.

In every quarter of the globe there are those who are to become saints through the preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified; and with what inconsistency do we act if we speak and think of the glory that is to be revealed at the coming of the Son of God, while we take no steps to swell the number of those who shall rise with us to meet the Lord in the air. How shall we endure to look forward to a meeting with the saints above, if we are sowing the seeds of the remorseful thought that, so far as the number has depended upon our exertions, not one of them has to thank us for any share in bringing him to the Saviour; and, to look at the other side of the picture, not even those who have seen the expression of thankfulness turned towards them for benefits conferred on this earth, can conceive of the joy of that meeting, when each will be blessing not only the Lamb in whom they have trusted, but those also who have been allowed to be instrumental in their salvation.

St Paul looked forward to a meeting with those who would be his joy and crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord. And so, in our degree, may we anticipate the joy of meeting with those who will say, "by your personal exertions, or by your contributions of funds, or by your prayers, you did in God's providence aid in bringing me here." Such motives may and should nerve us to exertions greater than we have yet made for the sending the Gospel to those [395/396] who have not received it, whether they be in the centre of our large towns, or in the central deserts of a large continent.

And I would now occupy the short time that remains, in enforcing upon you, my brethren, the duty which, as it seems to me, lies upon us--the Universities--to send out men to preach in foreign lands. No doubt, the first claim upon us is for our own people, for the building churches, the providing additional clergy for our over-crowded populations at home.

But the performance of one duty does not exonerate us from another, and there is a special reason to be urged upon every single person, why he should offer himself for the foreign branch of the Church's work--viz., that it is the part which it is found most difficult to supply. There is no lack of men to supply our home parishes with rectors and vicars, nor any great difficulty in finding curates to assist them where their cure is large. But there is great difficulty in finding men willing and able to leave this country for work abroad.

Our Church militia is comparatively well supplied, our standing army ready for foreign service is miserably small; and surely it is not from want of manly, noble spirits, that you, the members of these ancient seats of learning and do not come forward to take the most dangerous or least inviting posts. I can well remember how in this very town in days gone by, when a fire broke out and water was wanted to quench it, how ready a response was made to the call for help--how men would form a line, and stand in discomfort for hours in some dark passage, satisfied with the consciousness that they were doing their part, however humble and uninteresting it was, in endeavoring to extinguish the flames, and save property from destruction. And surely the same spirit needs only to be directed into a right channel. The object is gloriously great, to follow in the footsteps of St Paul, who wished to stretch forward to regions beyond, and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to his hand; to be occupied in doing the part allowed to us, in adding to the members of the Church triumphant; to be training moral beings for the society of angels; to be privileged to set before them the highest motives--to strengthen them in acting on their good resolutions; to be assisting in bringing about a favourable answer to the question of our Lord, "When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" and to be setting forth the glorious character of our Master, whom we ourselves adore, to be loved, and worshipped, and served by those who never heard of Him. Are not these reasons why every one that can should come [396/397] and preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men know the mystery of God's mercy, long hid, but now revealed in Christ, that they may be able to comprehend and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that they may be filled with all the fulness of God?

To you, my younger brethren, we look for the supply of the ranks of our missionary army, for men to go out as pioneers in our new expeditions, for men to be sent on no forlorn hope, but with the certainty of success, whether that success appear in our own lifetime or not.

To you we look for men such as a missionary should be--"men who are prepared to walk by faith, to labour to instil new ideas into untrained minds, and new motives among uncurbed passions"--men who believe that the work shall prosper, and that the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, and yet are prepared to see little or no fruits of their labours in their own day--men who, like their Master, love the sheep they tend, and seek that which is lost till they find it--men who, knowing the plague of their own heart, can have compassion on the ignorant and on them that are out of the way, for that they themselves also are compassed with infirmity, and can yet hold unflinching, uncompromising war with sin--whose faith can stand firm in the Saviour's promise, that He is with us always, even to the end of the world, while they see around them on every side the proofs of Satan's power and malignity. For these things we shall be made able by the power of God, which worketh in you mightily.

To you we look for men, and we look with confidence, because we constantly pray for a blessing on our Universities, that there may never be wanting a supply of persons duly qualified to serve God both in Church and State. And to you, my brethren in the ministry, I would say, let us not be content with praying for these results, while we sit by and make no effort to bring them about.

If this place is to send out men fit for a parish, or for a mission to the heathen, and willing to undertake such work, it must be due, under God, mainly to the tone you give to the society of your respective colleges, and to the example you set. Is there none among you willing himself to give up the comforts, and ease, the usefulness of his present life, for the discomforts of a colonial or missionary life, with the assurance that he is ministering to the needs of those who, but for him, must want? Every accession to our ranks abroad is a far greater gain to us than it is a loss to the Church at home--places [397/398] are soon filled up at home. And let not the Universities grudge to give us of their best. Were not Paul and Barnabas sent forth by the church at Antioch, on that first missionary tour in Asia Minor? Be not, then, faint-hearted. Ask in the spirit of that prayer to the Lord of the harvest, that He would thrust forth labourers into His harvest. Remember the faith and patience of the saints of old, and, seeing ye are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, run ye with patience the race that is set before you, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith.

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