August 19, 1867.
May God bless your offer of yourself to Himself. Do not doubt that He will. Do not be discouraged by many difficulties. In making the proposal to your father, you were really making it to Him, and He often grants us our request under the appearance of denial. He withholds for a time in order to give the more fully by and by. He has to train us to receive, and when we are made capable of the fullness of blessing, then He pours forth upon us the unspeakable bounty of His love. We may indeed habitually say in our prayers, Grant this, O Lord, but not yet. It is a great token of God's love when He seems to make our desire impossible, for thus He teaches us to look to His almighty power for its accomplishment. I know well what it must have cost you to speak and write as you did to your father. What would our life be worth if the world could at once understand that it was worth anything? The very essence of our life is the casting away of that which the world values. The truth of our vocation is very much tested by our having grace to hold fast to it in spite of the world's scorn. Those who love us cannot but judge as the world judgeth. Christ must put His fingers in their ears as in ours before they can recognize the vocation, or hear the voice of the Spirit. Only let us give ourselves up to Him. He takes [us] away from the multitude, but it is not that withdrawal which opens our own ears. In due time we shall hear perfectly, hear His own most precious voice. Yes, and we must bring the others one by one to Him, and He will make them hear His voice too; so shall it be known that He has spoken to us, and that we are not deceived.
That blessed voice breaks all earthly bonds, opens all earthly hearts; for it is the voice of the Creator. And its triumph at the beginning is the pledge of its perpetuity to the end. Having loved His own while they were in the world, He will love them unto the very end of their spiritual consummation in Himself. He gives us a feeble Society, and says, Trust in My eternal love, for that cannot fail thee; I have chosen feeble things. In feebleness see security. Thy vows are to Myself. What if the Society were to crumble away? Need you doubt His love? You would still have the assured blessing of poverty. The earth would be your inheritance, and the kingdom of heaven your possession. You should not want, any more than Elias in the famine. You would have your Rule so as to go on in obedience to Christ, even though there were no earthly Superior to represent Him near you, and watch over the integrity of your vows. There is no instability about a Society which is separate from this changeable world. The world may be shaken, the Establishment may be shaken, but the heart of the Religious is in a realm which cannot be shaken; and a Society of Religious is formed of hearts that seek that which cannot be shaken, and are bound together by that which cannot be broken. The world which doubts about our security will, perhaps, soon be surprised to find that we are the only people who are unmoved amidst its dangers.
God bless you and enable all you love to join with you in the blessedness of seeking Himself alone.
TO THE SAME,--The Sacrifice of our own Will.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
April 29, 1868.
I do not doubt that God is guiding you in the best of ways by this constraint of filial duty, and that He will in the end bring you not only to that haven where you would be for ever, but also to that little harbour of refuge, where He has called us to wait until the storms be past, and to realize in some degree the peacefulness of that other haven, into which may He grant us to float with rigging all unhurt. What is the joy of heaven? What is the peace of the Religious? It is not in having our own will, nor is it the mere absence of temptation. No, it is the knowledge of God in all His abundant goodness, all-sufficient whether we have our own will accomplished in outer ways or no. Himself the one true object of our desires, and known and appropriated just in proportion to the price we pay. The gift is a free gift, but the knowledge of the gift is only to be acquired by a long and costly experience, the sacrifice habitually of ourselves in all that earth suggests. So then you will learn this by obedience, and will be thus prepared for the difficulties in the endurance of which the gift shall hereafter be appreciated and apprehended. Be quite cheerful to your father about the whole matter.
TO BROTHER GARDNER.--Times of Weakness.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
Sept. 14, 1873.
I send you a little greeting of love along with Father Hall. I know his coming will be welcome to you. I should like to be in charge of Bridgport for a little while. [A college at Bridgport, Conn., U.S.A., originally built for a seminary, and at that time occupied by some members of the Society of S. John the Evangelist.] May every blessing be with you. Whatever bodily health we may have is God's simple gift to us. But the gifts to the soul are just in proportion to our loving desires. God leads us on by action and suffering. In times of most activity we are most apt to stumble; in times of weakness we are borne steadily onward by the gale of His love, if we will yield ourselves up to it. May you experience the joy of His love more and more. During the winter you must be careful to keep warm. Father Hall will, I am sure, be very watchful over you. Perhaps he may want a little nursing in return; but I have great hopes that the American oxygen will be of great service to him.
TO BROTHER GARDNER.--A Christmas Letter--Joy out of Suffering.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
Dec. 15, 1873.
May all the blessings of Christmas be with you. This festival is indeed a light to them that sit in darkness. How little do people realize that darkness. All the subsequent mysteries of that life of sorrows are but the natural carrying on of that great mystery by which the Son of God took upon Himself our life of sorrows. It is difficult for us not to fancy that, after all, He might, if He pleased, have found life upon earth something else than sorrow. So little do we realize the darkness of this valley of the shadow of death into which He came. And so we are apt to think that we too may find our joy upon the earth. But no; we cannot enter into the joy of our Lord until we are set free from this lower state. He was born in order to suffer, and we must die in order to rejoice; and so we must find our Christmas joy in dying daily along with Him Who came now to be born. It is the thought of dying with Him which really enables us to praise Him as He comes to be born amongst us. May God grant us with every Christmas to become more truly dead to all else, that He may be born within us in all the purity of His unsullied life of Godhead.
TO FATHER RIVINGTON.--Those ordained to Eternal Life will surely come to the Faith.
COWLEY S. JOHN, Feast of the Ascension, 1875.
I cannot send off my letters without a greeting to you. May our ascended Lord indeed shed forth upon you the power of His Holy Spirit, and work along with you, confirming the word with signs following.
I am very glad that you and Nehemiah are working thus together. You can be mutually very useful to one another. I fear the state of intellectual waywardness in England must be very injurious to the spread of truth in India. At the same time we must remember that those who are ordained to eternal life will surely come to the Faith, and probably their faith will be all the more real because it is not accepted upon the foundation of an authoritative self-sufficient civilization. Perhaps God means that England should be the channel of converting others to the faith just in proportion as she loses it herself. If individuals will not accept the faith of Christ because some leaders of English thought are beginning to taboo it, it would not have been much gain if their names had been enrolled as Christians, which might have happened under other circumstances. It is difficult to realize the absolute no gain which converts are who do not thoroughly believe, and believe upon right grounds of supernatural evidence, and with supernatural power. I quite think it is Saul's armour which has kept modern Christendom from conquering heathen nations. May you and every member of the Society have grace to sling the pebble from the brook, so that the evil one may fall.
Nehemiah's lecture must have been interesting to listen to. God will doubtless bring his words home to some consciences. Tell him that though we have not met, I have a great affection for him.
TO BROTHER GARDNER.--The Ascension and the Fire of Pentecost.--The Passion and the Glory of Christ.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
May the joy of this glorious feast shine out upon you all! I have been thinking a good deal this year how this feast helps us to realize the unity of glorious life which thrills through the whole body of Christ, the Head and the members. It would seem as if Christ, passing during the nine days through the orders of the heavenly hierarchy, passing on from one to another, were glorified in His humanity with the glory proper to each of those orders. Each order had a crown, as it were, prepared in their midst for the Son of Man, and yet not one, not all of them, could satisfy His requirements of glory. So He passes on beyond them to take the glory of God at the right hand of God. But there He is not glorified in His own Person only. His Apostles had fed upon Him, had His body within them, by virtue of the Holy Eucharist, although they had not yet come to live thereby. He was in them, but they were not yet in Him. Now, upon His Ascension, His body in them is glorified instantaneously with the glorifying of His body at the right hand of God. Like an electric flash the glory of the Spirit shines out in the fires of Pentecost. The body of Christ, however veiled in our flesh, in our sinful persons, nevertheless cannot but have the glory of the Spirit of holy fire burning and resting upon it. We do not, I think, dwell as we ought to dwell upon the present glorification of our nature in our own persons, as the members of the glorified body of Christ. It is this which the Apostle presses as the argument against sin, "He . . . that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God"--God present within himself; and it was this cherished remembrance which enabled the early Christians to triumph over the world.
We have in this respect, I think, gone back from the teaching of thirty years ago. In those days the resurrection life was pressed, and I am sure it was a great power. In later times we have been so much flooded with Continental devotions upon the Passion, that we have got absorbed into that knowing "Christ after the flesh," from which it was formerly the great work of the Church revivers to rescue us. I always feel that the triumphing Church used to live in the contemplation of Jesus at the right hand of God. Then, when the brightness of worldly position obscured that vision, the Church sank back of necessity into the historical consideration of the Passion, and fell from its mysterious glory to its sorrowful exterior; but if we are to win the victory of the last days, we must rise up to that fellowship with Jesus sitting at the right hand of power. We need to reel that glory round about ourselves. Reading, teaching, praying, suffering, rejoicing, praising, we must feel ourselves to be seated in that car of triumph where the 'Priest after the order of Melchizedek is seated in the triumphal march, as the predestination of the Father and the power of the Holy Ghost bear Him on to victory over all His enemies.
It is while we live in this glory that we find the living power of the Passion, which otherwise is so apt to crumble away into empty phraseology or petty and puerile devotions, so unworthy of itself and of Him Who suffered. The Holy Sacrifice would help us in the constant contemplation of the glorified Lamb bearing the marks of His Passion--each puncture living on, not as an earthly woe, but as a heavenly mystery. Try and live in this fellowship of the ascended Lord, and you will find Boston itself harmless! Those distractions which you allude to cannot find their way within the compass of this heavenly fire. We should be circled with this halo of the divine substance, as in pictures one sees representations of risen saints treading upon earthly things, and yet not touching them. So we touch with the outer, but not with the inner sense, when the divine glory wraps us round.
I wish indeed I could come suddenly upon you. But I know that though I am absent there is a loving eye ever resting upon you, and to that I commend you.
TO A FRIEND.--Spiritual Growth takes time.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
Jan. 3, 1876.
I am glad to hear that you are enabled to act more constantly with the love of God as your motive. If we do so, other matters will be subdued. The wanderings of thought, the want of habitual recollection, the habit of unkind, censorious words--all must give way to the love of God. It is a principle which strengthens the whole moral nature with supernatural grace. We are not able to fix our thoughts because the world has saturated them with its weakening moisture--but the heavenly unction fills all the energies with an abiding power that becomes constantly stronger and stronger, and gradually leads us onward to greater and greater devotion. Our spiritual nature takes time to grow, and grows in spite of continual symptoms of weakness, as our physical and our moral nature also do.
TO FATHER PAGE.--On Patient Waiting for Christ in the midst of Outward Evils and Inward Temptations--The Temptations of Christ--Organization and Life.
ON BOARD THE "CITY OF BERLIN,"
Nov. 11 1876.
We hope to reach New York to-day. A capital voyage. I left London on Thursday night in last week and hope to celebrate in Boston to-morrow morning, going on from New York by the night train. I cannot say much for our passengers. Of course there are some nice ones, but one does get to hope that India will be Christianized very slowly, unless it is Christianized in some better way than Europe and her Western outpourings. When we hear the statistics of Christian and heathen populations how one's heart sinks, not because the Christian number is so few with reference to those who are heathen, but because it is so large as compared with the number of those who have any real right to be called Christians.
How few there are who have any desire for the life of Christ! How many would gladly see a Millenium with Christ reigning over the world: how few there are who are anxious to have Christ reigning in their own hearts as a sovereign power, setting them free from the world! We should like the world to live with Christ's life, for that would be all gain; but who are there who really wish to die to the world with Christ's life, and yet without this death the great gain cannot be had. Persons who have lived outside Christ's Church naturally fancy that the Church tolerates the evil which encrusts her, and so they are apt to fall into the snare of worldliness another way; for their own wisdom and their own religion take the place of the patient waiting upon Christ until the tyranny be overpast, which ought to be the attitude of our souls in the midst of outward evils. We need to have a special intuitive power of faith to see the presence of God in these dark days. Nevertheless we must not doubt it, the shout of the great King--the power of the Holy Ghost--is in the midst of us, and the Lord will arise from the midst of our armies to triumph over every evil.
And so with reference to our own selves. It is difficult to realize the vital power of the Holy Ghost in ourselves, when we feel ourselves to be so prone to evil. But we must learn by our very sins--if they are sins of infirmity--to become all the more dead to ourselves. They prevent us taking any satisfaction in our own spiritual state. That is one great blessing. This will not make us the less vigilant in struggling against them, but rather the more earnest in doing all we can to get rid of them. They are permitted to remain within us as the old inhabitants of Canaan were left among the Israelites, lest the beasts of the land should multiply upon them. They make us feel our weakness, and they serve to develop our strength, and they force us to place our whole reliance on Christ, and they prevent us imagining that this holy land of grace is the final rest to which we are called.
If God uses us for any external works He is very apt to teach us our unworthiness by bitter experiences. We must not think that because these experiences are bitter therefore we dare not look for His love. If we really feel their bitterness, we attain His love all the more. We must come to Him Who was Himself tempted, but in His temptation remained ever free from sin. His temptations show the reality of the oneness of creation in which we and He are one. His purity in the midst of all shows how able He is to help us, and make us triumph along with Himself. People are very apt to interpret S. Paul's words l as if he meant that Christ learnt to sympathize by bearing our weakness, but really it is just the other way. Human high priests need to learn sympathy; and here again is one reason why we, the ministers of Christ, are exposed to very special assaults of Satan. He Who came in the fullness of divine love needed not to learn to sympathize. He took upon Himself our nature of weakness, but He took it upon Himself into the power of God; and every temptation which He endured only served to call forth a fresh stream of power from the divine life wherein He endured, so that He triumphed in Himself, and is able to make us to triumph in every element of nature which makes us akin to Him in His temptations. Whenever we feel our feebleness, we may call forth His strength for our own deliverance, if we are abiding in Him.
We shall have special prayers during Advent. May God grant us grace to rise out of every temptation triumphant in His strength--to rise out of ourselves into Him--to die to ourselves and live to Him--to die to all earthly hopes that we may live in the satisfaction of His love.
We must strive to have matters outwardly as perfect as we can, but I rather think that excessive natural love of outward perfection is one of the things which is very apt to keep us back from the interior spiritual perfection for which we long. It is difficult not to fancy that as organizations develop themselves around us, they must also in some way help to intensify, develop, and shelter the life of Christ within; whereas it is just the reverse. The more we have depending upon us, the more enemies shall we have assailing us. Every organization that clusters round about us is, so to speak, a fresh drain upon the spiritual life within, so that we need all the more constantly to be drawing "water out of the wells of salvation" in order to meet the demand that is on every side. The more we grow in the world the more the world becomes our weakness, except in so far as it drives us to seek the life that is within.
And so our disappointments and embarrassments in the outer work of life are not real hindrances. They wake us up, as our sins of infirmity should wake us up, to seek the strength which alone suffices. When people to whom we looked with hope for carrying on any work turn out other than we had wished, then we learn the blessedness of simple reliance upon Him Who never fails.
May He guide you, provide for you, purify you, perfect you, according to His holy will, and bring you to the blessed reward of those who, amid many enemies, have fought the good fight perseveringly, humbly, lovingly.
TO ONE CONSIDERING THE RELIGIOUS LIFE.
June 16, 1877.
I am sorry that we shall not have you with us. You need not think that a Religious should be rejected because he is not gifted with the power of language. The speech of men and of angels is not of much avail, but we need to hear, and then to speak, the speech of the eternal Word. If that Word is formed within us, we shall be able to say all that we need, for we shall be able to speak from God.
Detachment, obedience, love, are all that a postulant need bring in order to insure success in a religious vocation. I should have been very glad if you could have spent July with us; but if that cannot be we shall be happy to see you in March.
TO BROTHER BEALE.--Intercession and Mission among the Heathen.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
Dec. 6, 1877.
We had our Intercession Day in the Iron Church yesterday. On S. Andrew's Day I was up in London, and preached in the evening at S. Augustine's, Kilburn. Our intercessions this year seem to gather a special interest, as they occur during your voyage. May He Who knows how to fulfil desires so much better than we do how to express them, grant you all that shall be most helpful, and enable you so to grow in holiness that you may win many to His truth. We may be sure that there is only one instrument for the conversion of the heathen, and that is a life sanctified through the truth. If the word of God is the law of our life, He will be also the power of our life. We cannot tell of His Incarnation save in proportion as we know Him to be incarnate within ourselves. His voice within us is the voice of the Good Shepherd, which the sheep will hear. Oh may we have grace to put away all that is of earth, by which the heavenly sound of that voice may be marred! The difficulties which belong to mission life are indeed of its very essence, for they tend to develop within us that holiness which we need. I have been thinking lately how necessary it is for the Church to be persecuted at home if she is to do any mission work abroad. Unless we have that appreciation of the life of Christ which is only possible when we are suffering for it, it is impossible for us to call others to a martyr spirit of appreciation. We cannot communicate the life of Christ except according to that measure of health in which we possess it. We are apt to think of our mission ministry as the utterance of a message, and to forget that the message is a call to our hearers to become incorporated amongst ourselves, that they may have life with the Head. The extremities cannot have a quicker circulation than have those parts which are nearer to the heart. Yet people wonder that Christians in Asia and Africa are not eager to be martyrs, although they imagine that the age of martyrs is over as far as Europe is concerned!
Much joy to you with the new year in the new country. The thought makes one long for the great Christmas and the New Year in that world which never shall be old.
TO A LADY.--On Reparation for Sins.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
Feb. 21, 1878.
We cannot present any acts of our own as reparation for the sins of others in addition to the atoning Sacrifice of Christ, but we may do so in union with that Sacrifice, so as to bring out the power of that Sacrifice in our own lives. Our prayers are but the individualizing of the prayer of Christ, Who is the Head of the whole body; and our acts of penitence are merely forms of prayer, through which He still pleads with the Father by the power of the Holy Ghost. If our acts are to avail for others, they must also avail to make us more closely united to Christ. If they do the one they do the other.
TO FATHER PAGE.--Good Friday and Easter Day.
COWLEY S. JOHN, Good Friday, 1878.
With you Good Friday is now drawing to its climax. With us it is 8.45 a.m., and I am just come back from meditation beginning 7.30.
"God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." May we learn increasingly the glory of this holy day. We are apt to think more of the sadness of it, and of the glory of Easter; but in truth our Easter consciousness of glory is very apt to be a changeling. We are very apt to call an earthly carnal delight by the name of heavenly glory, and not know how we are deceiving ourselves. Perhaps we are less liable to be deceived by the outward call to sorrow which Good Friday gives. We cannot but know how little we are crucified unto the world, and so we are less deceived. But our Good Friday is indeed the measure of our Easter. Our share of the joy is just in proportion as we have plunged into the darkness, not merely as a momentary sensation, but as an abiding law of life. May God of His mercy bring home to many hearts this day the necessity of the crucified life; and if He has taught us in some sort the alphabet of the life in our religious vocation, may He grant us at length to speak the words of this life in all the truth of sanctincation, in the power of the eternal Word Who has called us unto Himself.
TO BROTHER BEALE.--An faster Letter-- Conversion of the Heathen--Preaching
COWLEY S. JOHN,
April 4, 1878.
I hope your first Easter in India is a happy one. This will find you just in its fullness. As one thinks of Easter one thinks of the possibility of the great dead mass of heathendom rising to the joy of the resurrection life. Surely the gathering of them in shall be life from the dead. What shall the joy of harvest be, when they who sow, and they who reap, and they who are reaped, shall rejoice together in the joy of the Lord, Who gives the life and the increase and the maturity. We seem to be drawing near to war. [War with Russia in consequence of the treaty of San Stephano, which the British Government refused to recognize. The question was settled, and peace preserved, by the treaty of Berlin, July, 1878.] I hope it will rouse the English nation out of its miserable life of self-indulgence. We must pray God earnestly to give us some fresh recruits for our own military movements. The depot at Cowley is sadly thinned. [i.e. The Mission House at Oxford.] One scarcely knows how to get the work done. Yet we must live true to our motto. The Lord can save whether by many or by few. We ought to pray earnestly for the approaching synod at Lambeth. I am sorry to hear that Bishop Selwyn is ill. There is to be a stupendous missionary meeting at Lichfield! a platform full of bishops!
I hope you are finding the hot weather does you good. As to preaching without book, I do not think one can lay down any rule. Many of the most effective sermons have been written ones; but certainly it seems better to be without MS., and I do not doubt that God will help you in your purpose. If we do anything for His glory He is sure to work along with us. Only we must be praying to Him. Prayer is the great preparation for preaching. If the Holy Spirit be with us, the word cannot fail. We must not look for immediate results. They are often merely human. But the divine results of the divine Word of life are sure and eternal.
TO A LADY.--Friendship on Earth and in Heaven.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
July 30, 1878.
I presume that you do not mean your note to be taken literally. It were a sad idolatry to think that any earthly friendship would be necessary to our happiness in heaven: "Whom have I in heaven but Thee?" What excellence can any earthly friend possess that is not derived from Christ? Nothing good that we have ever known will be wanting when He is manifest from Whom it came. His perfections are imperfectly perceived shining through the graces, both natural and spiritual, with which He endows His creatures, and which their sinfulness mars. When the sin-stained veil of manifold individuality is done away, we shall see Him from Whom all beauty came in His own perfect archetypal loveliness. We shall need nothing else to satisfy the soul. Thou art "my portion for ever." We must recognize God as the alone good, seen through the earthly. True, we are called by revelation to rejoice in the communion of saints in a future life, but that would be no joy to us if it testified to the insufficiency of God. "When I wake up after Thy likeness, I shall be satisfied with it." Now we must love one another, not merely by reason of certain idiosyncrasies which we may share in common, and which naturally rather separate cliques from the rest of mankind, than unite the cliques in anything worthy of the name of love. "Love is of God," and we can only love one another truly by recognizing in each other the communications and calls of divine grace. We must love all men, for however little man may exercise the grace communicated, there is no man who is not called to all the loveliness of the divine ideal. We must love God in those whom God makes or calls to be the impersonations of His own loveliness, and all men are formed in the image of God. However brightly the truth shines in the image, we must have no love for the image save as shining through the truth. We shall rejoice together in heaven; but we shall rejoice in others as we shall rejoice in ourselves, because we receive the glory of the divine love, not because we have any separate or substantive worthiness of that love. Our substantive worthiness will be our union with Christ. We shall care truly for one another, for we shall love others as ourselves, ourselves and them, all in Christ. There will be no separate existence to care for. Individuality will remain, separated-ness will be gone. God will be all in all; and that must be, as far as God enables us, the law of our friendship now. Anything else is merely of the nature of earthly clique, and derogatory to the glory of Christ, and unworthy of the communion of saints. You must put away such unworthy attachments. Love is heightened, not destroyed, by losing itself in Jesus.
TO FATHER PAGE.--On Teaching Holy Scripture to the Heathen.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
I quite think that the mysteries, and so the deeper parts of Holy Scripture, should not be taught or shown except to inquirers and converts. The initiation of converts ought to be, I think, a lengthened and gradual process. Many of our Lord's teachings and warnings to the Jews might be read with heathen, and the moral or simply narrative parts of Holy Scripture. I expect that the reading of Holy Scripture has much more effect in the way of conversion than people are aware of. Children may be impregnated with Christianity in schools whose Christian faith does not show as a plant until their schooldays have past out of thought. But it is very important that the mysterious teachings of Holy Scripture should not be degraded.
TO FATHER CONGREVE.--On the Approaching Death of an Aged Relative--Spiritual Progress.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
April 15, 1879.
May God bless your travels, and sanctify every grief and every struggle. All that comes to us in our family, in our work, in our own selves, is meant for our perfecting in grace to the glory of God's holy Name.
As you think of those dear souls hovering, as it were, just about the gates of paradise, becoming young again in the freshness of the life of the blessed, as partaking in the glory of the body of Jesus, it will help you to meditate on that glory along with all those who by their sacred calling are required to be dead to the world, and rejuvenescent with all the virtue of the eagle-life of divine contemplation.
Do not let yourself be discouraged because progress is not made faster, either in yourself or in others. Forget progress, and look to the very end of all, to Jesus at the right hand of God. With eyes firmly fixed on Him, we shall not know much of progress until we find ourselves absorbed in Him to whom we look.
TO FATHER CONGREVE--Characteristics of our Life in Christ.
Christmas Day, 1879.
This will, I suppose, reach you just after the retreat. I do not doubt that the blessing of God will have rested with much power upon your spiritual exercises during that time. I shall try and have your fellowship in prayer throughout the week. Monday will, I believe, be a day of retreat for our three coloured Sisters at Baltimore. Friday and Saturday a retreat for our own Society at Boston. I shall thus begin it and end it with you, for which I am thankful.
May God enable us to experience the power of that life which He has given unto us in His Son. That life is a life of divine consciousness, that we may know Him to Whom we belong, that we may see the glory of the Father, and live for ever by thus gazing on Him Whom the Son hath revealed. It is a life of power, that we may really share in all the works of God, and overcome every enemy that opposes himself to God. It is a life of holiness, for it is the communication of God's image renewed within us, and of His likeness quickening that image, that so Christ may be truly formed within, as the law of our new being, and that all our actions may be wrought in God, as befits the glorious headship wherewith His only-begotten Son regulates, in conformity to Himself, all the actions of His mystical body. It is a life of endurance, for it is not by a display of active power that the glory of the Redeemer is manifested; and it can only be by the things that we suffer in our present weakness, that we can really appropriate and worthily exhibit the all-sufficient greatness of the Passion. And it is a life of joy, for surely upon earth there can be no joy equal to that holy unction which the fellowship of the Passion makes to well up from the depth of a wounded heart. Only in suffering can we fully know the joy of the Spirit, as it is only in darkness that we can see the brightness of the stars. And the joy of this life is that which cannot be taken away. This life, if we have been thoroughly anointed with its joy by means of the discipline of sorrow, absorbs us into itself so truly that we never can lose it.
As years go by we must hope to know more of this eternal life, and yet we must long to depart, in order that we may know it in its fullness; for while we are here we can only know it at the best in part; but our knowledge must be a knowledge of growing experience, otherwise we shall not be able to rise up in that great transition, when it shall be no longer one year giving place to another, but time giving place to eternity.
As God has given us His Son this day to be our life, may we all of us evermore live true to Him. So shall we find at length how true He is to us.
TO A FATHER OF THE SOCIETY--On Temptation during Lent.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
March 4, 1880.
It is not wonderful that Satan should specially assail you during Lent. His troublous presence is one of the features that should assimilate our Lent to our Lord's Lent. How apt we are to think that we shall be safe and free in seasons of retirement. In truth we are likely to be more assailed then than at any other time. The world has its distracting temptations, but it blunts the edge of many of Satan's instruments. His sharpest weapons are used for those who are escaped or escaping. God gives us grace according to our need; we must not be cast down, nor perplexed, nor distrustful. Temptations show us our sinfulness and our weakness. They are not sins, but rather discipline whereby we are to be sanctified and set free from sin.
TO FATHER CONGREVE.--The Psalter on a Voyage.
ON BOARD THE "REPUBLIC,"
We are just off Sandy Hook. . . . The voyage has been a beautiful one. Several times I have been able to say the Office with porthole open, and my face toward the great expanse of waters--the waters below the firmament, the waters of the mid-heavens, and, high unseen, the glorious waters of the bow "like unto an emerald," and the solid glassy sea "like unto crystal," no longer moving as the wide waste below, but stablished in the accomplished truth, and perfected in the bright purity of the throne of God. . . . I have been keeping the voyage in active company with king David, and learning some little more of the delight of that inexhaustible treasury. It is enough to make a saloon or any other place happy. Only one does wish that one could make people round about know something of the happiness that they might have in the Psalter if they would. How strange it is to think that one can have such an intense secret of happiness, and that the people round about should be so utterly ignorant of the pleasure within their reach. It makes one wonder why God should have been pleased to reveal such a delight to oneself. One ought to be very thankful. I think the joy of Holy Scripture is very much hidden by the joylessness of commentators who write about it with no sense of the supernatural delight, and, as our Lord says, enter not in themselves, and those that are entering they hinder.
TO THE BISHOP OF BOMBAY--On taking up the work at Poona.
[The Right Rev. L. G. Mylne, D.D.]
COWLEY S. JOHN,
April 21, 1882.
I was not unprepared to receive your letter. Last week I wrote to Father Page to say we could not possibly undertake the fresh work, but such an appeal from you is really irresistible. I suppose it is the work of faith not only to believe, but to attempt, the impossible. "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward." It is at such a bidding from you that we must take up the work, and if we perish, we perish!
I do not doubt that God Who calls will give success. As we have your bidding we shall also have your blessing. The details I must leave pretty much in Father Page's hands to arrange with you. I should wish him to retain entire control over both the works, at Mazagon and at Poona. It is important not to have any divided-ness in the mode of operation, etc. The two works ought to be made as much as possible to play into one another's hands.
TO FATHER GARDNER.--Stability--Growth of the Society,
COWLEY S. JOHN,
Oct. 8, 1884.
. . . What a strange sensation it is after a voyage when the feet are firm on shore! Well, is it not very much the same with our spiritual nature? How things seem to be all unquiet round about, while yet our feet are firm upon the changeless Rock. The instability that we feel is in our own hearts, not in the body of Christ to which we belong. He hath "set my feet upon the Rock" of the Divine Sonship, and He ordereth my goings. Yet it seems as if I were often in danger of falling; so hard it is for us to realize the lesson of Uzzah, that the stability of the Ark is in itself, and quite independent of the wagon-wheels.
I had hoped to go to the Aberdeen meeting this week, but found it impossible to get away. Father Hall is gone instead of me. To-morrow Father Page sails for India, and also the Pusey House is to be opened, so that I shall get to the dedication, which indeed I should have been sorry to miss.
We are feeling ourselves terribly lean at the Mission House after the great gathering! And yet I cannot say, "If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved," for indeed it is in being bereaved that I find the blessedness of having such sons as God has given me. It is ungrateful even to wish for more. Yet one does. We are apt to think that it is yet the day of small things with us; but, after all, it is vastly more which God has done than we at all dreamed of, when I and those who are gone first gathered together. I remember how they thought me, I believe, almost crazy for building so large a Mission House, as if we never had a hope of filling it. Well, it always is the day of small things when we look at the things of God from without, but it always is the day of great things if we consider God as the life of that wherein He works. Laurels, when they are transplanted, have a great tendency to die right down to the root, and then they shoot up quickly with a healthy vigour. I think it will be just so with us. I feel that we must be looking for a great manifestation of God's life, renewing, strengthening, and multiplying our Society now that we have passed through a stage of death. Divine things must pass through death in order to have their life tested. Then, and not till then, can they safely develop in the world.
TO FATHER PAGE.--S. Matthew xxiv--History of the Church, the Kingdom of Christ.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
Jan. 30, 1885.
Certainly Christendom is very disappointing as the representative of the gospel, but we must remember that the gospel would not be true if it were otherwise. The whole series of predictions points to a state of division, false doctrine, anarchy, and strife. Our Lord's prayer for unity in S. John xvii shows what a state of chaos there was to be, out of which the unity and glory of the heavenly Jerusalem will come forth at last, as the kosmos of Genesis i came forth out of the state of things without form and void, on which the light of the first day was made to shine. I never realized how complete a history of the Christian Church is given in our Lord's prophecy, S. Matthew xxiv, until I wrote the meditations in The Final Passover. S. Paul teaches us how a multiform ministry is gradually to bring us through manifold assaults of triumphant error to the unity of the faith, as the glory of the perfect man to be revealed by and by. Christians will jump, like Jews, to catch at the rainbow of the final promises, instead of being content to walk along the dreary highway, the slippery footpath, and the deep quagmire, until they reach the heights where clouds shall be no more. But the first great prophecy of the Church kingdom tells us expressly that it is not to be set up until Nebuchadnezzar's image is fallen down,1 i.e. not until all present earthly forms of government have passed away.
The Apocalypse shows us how the Christian Church would be ensnared into a harlot union with temporal power, instead of being content to wait until her true Lord shall come. Some people catch a little bit of truth and attack what they call establishment; but it is not the establishments under any form--Roman, English, Scotch, or American--which constitutes the harlotry. It is the union of the spiritual and natural orders. We did not get free from it at the Reformation, nor shall we get free from it by disestablishment. The kingdom of Christ cannot exist as such alongside of the kingdom of the world. The figure of Nebuchadnezzar must fall down before the stone cut out of the mountains shall take its place, i.e. we must pass through the terrors of the great revolution of the days of antichrist before the promises of God to His Church can be fulfilled. The Church will not triumph over the world until the world has seemed to gain a complete victory over the Church. Then will the heavenly Jerusalem come down out of heaven where God has been building her up during all these ages. Then will she be brought pure and spotless, having no blemish or any such thing; but holy and unearthly and meet indeed for her Lord, the perfected mother of all living.
The Marriage Supper of the Lamb, when the heavenly Jerusalem shall be seen adorned as a bride for her husband, is yet future; and Christian people too commonly ignore this great event of the future--the bringing of the perfected Church to Christ. People are so apt to think of the Church as an entity perfected at Pentecost, a sort of empty city which was to have its chambers gradually filled; not as the formless bone from the side of Adam, which was to be built up through ages until the perfect stature of the second Eve was made complete. The sacred humanity of Christ grows in the Church, absorbing into itself the sinful mass of our fallen race one by one; not fusing them, in some new and perfect mould, like iron melted in a furnace, but spreading its renewing tissues through the corrupt mass until the new man be formed, and then the old man shall be cast off, just as when the healthy working of the natural frame casts off the sores of long-continued disease, by which the form of the countenance may have become altogether lost. The Church of Christ grows by her own inherent power of growth, her organic life. Church statistics as to numerical growth at any particular time are altogether worthless. We do not count so many Christians against so many Buddhists; we cannot count how many Christians are by this time stablished in the security of Jerusalem; nor can we tell how many, or rather how few, of those who are called Christians upon the earth are really to be considered as having part in the city. . . . We must not despair because the candlestick may be removed from Europe altogether. Probably it is the best hope of the conversion of Asia that Europe should fall away. The candlestick may be removed, but it will not go out; it shines with the breath of Him Who stands in the midst of the seven. . . . Meanwhile Christ is building His "stories in the heavens," and we shall soon see Him coming; and then all that "loveth and maketh a lie" will disappear for ever, and His chosen ones will be with Him for ever.
TO A LADY.--The Glory of God the End of Man--Dying to Self--The Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus--External Mortifications.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
May 24, 1886.
I cannot pretend to remember what I said to you, but perhaps I can give you a few fresh suggestions which may be useful. If we would die to self, we must be careful not to pretend to die, while really acting all the while in the consciousness of self-interest.
The great difficulty of natural morality is to save goodness from being a mere form of selfishness. The religion of (I fear) most people is selfish, especially in the present day. There must be some Being to whom we sacrifice self. The primary object of our religion must be not, as people say, to save our own soul, but to glorify God. Whatever we might do with the former end in view would fail of that end, unless it were subordinated to the latter end, the true end of man, the glory of God. We must not think of God and heaven as if they existed for our happiness, but we must recognize ourselves as existing for God's glory. Our quiet, unimpassioned forefathers lived upon this great moral principle of Christian life much more than we do, at least I think they did. People constantly ask, Cannot I be saved unless I do this or that? That is not the question to ask. We have a higher purpose which must regulate every action: Will God be glorified by my doing this or that? So the first petition of the Lord's Prayer is "Hallowed be Thy Name." There is a petition with reference to the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity before there is any petition relating to ourselves.
It is in the body of Christ that God is glorified, and we must lose the thought of our individual selves in the thought of the body of Christ to which we belong. We die to ourselves by living for an end, and in a sphere, greater than ourselves. We have to think of God's covenant with His Church as the mode of His glorification.
And then again Christ is Head over all things to the Church, which is His body. We must not think of the Church as if it existed for our salvation. It would equally have existed had we never needed to be saved. It is the predestined mode whereby the Father would glorify the Son. We must give ourselves up to Him as our Head, not merely with gratitude, but with an absorbing self-surrender. What begins in fear and gratitude ends in pure love, and perfect self-forgetful praise. Beyond the gratitude which we owe for what He has done for us, there is a gratitude that He now permits us to do something for Him. And if we begin to serve Him with this grateful homage, we shall forget even the idea of gratitude in the true absorption of self. Living for Him becomes a simple necessary instinct of the sanctified soul. "The love of Christ constraineth us." We must learn to live for Him, as the hand or the tongue or the feet live for and minister to our personal selves. Our own personal self is lost in the personal headship of Jesus Christ. He is not a distinct Person from us as members of His body. We live in Him, and He in us. And we recognize any thought of being by any possibility distinct in any way from Him, as being a touch of spiritual death. There is therefore in Christian morals a personal interest beyond ourselves.
And then, thirdly, there is a power which takes us out of ourselves, the power of the Holy Ghost. Our union with Christ is not merely a union such as can be upon earth. Even the union of husband and wife does not make the two to be one spirit. That union is a oneness of flesh, a oneness of earthly life, but death breaks the bond. The unity of the Church with Christ is a unity of living power, eternal, having no other unity to equal it, save the unity of the Father and the Son in the eternal Spirit. The bond of the eternal Trinity is the bond of union between Christ and His members, and also between those members one with another: so our Lord prayed. We cannot know what salvation means except in so far as we know what it is to be thus one with Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost. We must die to ourselves by living true to this end, this sphere, this mediatorial headship, this sanctifying power. Self is of necessity lost in such a life. To think of self--even to think of our own unworthiness save as a stimulus to further exertion--is to draw back from this life. So S. Paul says, "Henceforth I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." So it is that "the just live by faith," as by faith they also die to themselves. We die to ourselves, not merely by the negative efforts of natural morality, but by the positive energies of faith working by love. So the grace of regeneration is, as our Church Catechism teaches, "A death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness." We die to the life of nature, the natural sinful self, as we are taken into the life of grace. We do not die to self with the intention of exercising the powers of the world to come because our better judgement approves those powers, but we come to Christ that we may have life; and by accepting the powers of the world to come we are absolutely translated out of the sphere of the mere natural self. The Sun of Righteousness fills the sky of the soul, and the stars of the night season are lost to sight. If they from time to time shine out, it is because the Sun is suffering eclipse. The only way for us to get rid of those stars is by hasting to walk in the light of the Lord. The Sun of Righteousness suffers eclipse in our souls, not by reason of external obstacles, but by the failure of faith, hope, and charity, whereby we ought to abide in His light. External mortifications are valuable, not so much because they punish or purify the material nature by any inherent power, although this is one of their subordinate uses, but chiefly because in practising them we are calling into energy the mind of Christ, and are identifying ourselves with His Passion as an active law of sympathy. As He by the Holy Spirit offered Himself to suffer and die, so if through the Spirit we mortify the deeds of the body we shall live.1 The Hindu Fakir torments himself far beyond what any Christian ascetic attempts, and yet he gets no good by it. He does but intensify the spirit of pride within himself. We in doing the very smallest acts of self-denial gain continual increase of grace, and die to ourselves, if we are doing them because the Spirit of Christ which is in us leads us to become conformable to His death--His thirty-three years of deadness. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus"2 becomes strengthened within us. Externally our life may be called an imitation, but internally and essentially it is no imitation at all, it is a development and perpetuation of the life of Christ, as the orchard produce of one year is a development of the fruitful power continued from previous autumns. The power of the Spirit of Christ within us as a moral habit grows by exercise, and the contrary powers of the natural fallen sinful self die as the others grow.
TO FATHER HOLLINGS.--On Humility and Chastity.
82 MARGARET STREET, W.,
Ash Wednesday, 1887.
May God grant much blessing to His whole Church during this season of Lent, and especially to our religious communities and those who minister in any way to the advancement of the spiritual life amongst us. We do specially need in the present day the gift of a true humility. The spirit of pride must doubtless be the ruling power of the last age. The self-satisfaction which veils itself under certain religious disguises is perhaps the greatest snare to which the heart of man can be exposed. The opening of the thirty-sixth Psalm seems to speak of antichrist in contrast with the description of our Lord in Psalm cx. "Wickedness saith to the ungodly, My heart within me is supreme"--literally, "within my heart," an ejaculation of self-confidence = mihi plaudo. "There is no fear of God before his eyes." Whereas the Christian attitude is ever to look upward, and away from self. "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand." So it is that present success is substituted for the endeavour of faith, and personal self-satisfaction for the penitential hunger which can find no satisfaction save in God. And this destroys chastity. The pleasure of Church services done in our own way takes place of the simple desire to glorify God by serving Him not in our own way. The age of Laodicea with a religion refined but feeble, flattering in our own sight but valueless before God, is that which we have to do with. We must take care that we are really cherishing the contrary spirit, losing ourselves in the headship of Jesus Christ, and the immediate thoughts of earth in the consciousness of a life hidden with Him in God. There we must dwell, and dwelling there we shall find the purity of soul which nothing but the sight of God can give, the purification not only from earthly sensuality but from earthly anger. God is strong and patient, and if we dwell with Him we learn to be like Him. It is only the fellowship of His Spirit which can raise us out of ourselves. As soon as we fall back to our individual efforts we find the divine likeness dying away. We cannot retain it save by abiding in the divine life. May we indeed have grace thus to press onward to the glorious Easter when the divine life shall be our portion in all its inalienable fullness. We must seek by every Lent to die to the world more and more. It is difficult to put away all the thoughts of earthly life and wish simply to suffer here and pass away, and to realize in its fullness the law of poverty--the less of earth, the more of heaven.
TO FATHER PAGE.--The Personal Presence of the Holy Ghost--Superficial Faith--The Vital Power of Christian Truth.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
May 13, 1887.
I suppose this will reach you in the midst of the Whitsuntide festival. May God the Holy Ghost make His power manifest throughout our Society, guiding us onward in such ways as shall be for His glory. How little do we really take into account His personal active presence ruling throughout the Church, and making all events subserve the glorious purposes of God's providence, while He also opens the eyes of the faithful to contemplate divine mysteries which the natural understanding cannot scrutinize. If only we would open our eyes to see the spiritual realities which God sets before our faith, how different would our estimate of life be! One does not wonder at the wickedness of the world round about us, but one does wonder that persons are content with the husks of religion, and are so incapable of really apprehending the truths which alone constitute its substance. It is not strange that many fall away from a truth so superficial. It is more strange that so many hang on to it. and indeed that they have been hanging on so many hundreds of years. It shows the vital power of Christian truth that even its outer form has such a tough enduring life. I suppose the great bulk of professing Christians have had very little conception of its inward reality since the days of Constantine, and the shaking of hands with the world.
I was reading with great delight a letter in this week's Madras Record from the Christians at Tinnevelly to those in Uganda. It quite carried one back to old times. I hope the Uganda martyrdoms are spreading in wide issues of grace through the black population of Africa.
TO A MISSION PRIEST NEWLY ORDAINED.--The Priestly Life.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
Feast of S. Thomas, 1888.
You are much in our minds this week. I hope indeed that the priesthood to which you will have been admitted when this arrives will be effectual to God's glory, and your own sanctification, and that of many others. He for Whose birth we are looking forward, condescends to perpetuate His Incarnation by our means, as He began it by His Virgin Mother; and we are as passive under the influence of the Holy Ghost as she was. We must sing Magnificat and praise Him for His goodness, Who thus accomplishes His mighty work through our unworthy instrumentality.
How full of marvel and power the life of a priest ought to be. Would that we could realize it more truly. What entire loss of self there should be if we recognize the presence of the Holy Ghost, Whom we receive, as accomplishing in us the work of the priesthood, so entirely beyond all human power--at once miraculous in its extent, and mysterious in its character--the spreading of the life of another world throughout the organism of the material creation. May we have grace to carry on this work faithfully. We of many years standing in the priesthood feel the need of much reparation for wasted powers. You who are just beginning must look to Him to uphold you, and assuredly He will. He never calls us to do anything for which He does not give the power. We accept His charge, and say with humble confidence in His help, "We are able." I May this blessed sufficiency of His grace be continually experienced by you.
TO FATHER GARDNER.--Ascensiontide Teaching--The Kingdom of Christ developed from Himself.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
Ascension 'Day, 1888.
This bright festival must take our hearts right up, and make us indifferent to all the meaner things of this lower world. Indeed it helps us to love our difficulties, because they can no longer bind us; but, as they become greater, it makes us more loose to them than we were before. The bond of the Holy Spirit is perfect freedom, holding us up that we may be safe in the firm grasp of our ascended Lord. Oh that we could learn to look upon earthly things as He looks upon them! We are too apt to dishonour Him while thinking we are interested only in His honour--too apt to think of His kingdom as if it came from beneath, instead of from above--as if He were to receive it from earth, instead of developing it from Himself in heaven, so as to bring it with Himself when He shall return. How little do people commonly understand the words they so often use--"Thy kingdom come!"
TO FATHER GARDNER.--The Indian Climate--The Psalter.
March 14, 1891.
I am as well as my years will let me be. As for Indian heat, I begin to think that must have been a myth of the old geographers. There has not been any hot weather yet. At any rate, not for one who knows Philadelphia! I have scarcely abandoned my thick cassock. I have only worn white when travelling.
I have had a good deal of time to work at the Psalms, but am a long way yet from the finishing. The library at Bishop's College is a nice quiet place for reading; and it is pleasant with some old Hebrew books to think that they were often in the hands of Dr. Mill and Dr. Kay.
My one grievance against India is the mosquitoes! They must have been created to teach us our nothingness--to be so terribly in the power of such insignificant antagonists!
TO A FATHER ON HIS PROFESSION.--The Joys and Temptations of the Religious Life.
August 16, 1893.
I hope that by this time you have been professed. May God grant you much blessing in your life of consecration.
It is a joy far beyond the joys of earth to feel that we are separated from the earth, and that God has taken us to be His own. The responsibility of our life is a great one, but we may rely upon the divine help. "I am Thine: O save me." We are His--and we may be sure He will watch over us with a loving care proportionate to the closeness of our approach to Him. Every act whereby we claim His love will bring forth a loving response, far greater than we know how to claim. Even the temptations, which we must expect as incident to our special conflict with Satan as Religious, will bring out continual increase of grace as they drive us to seek our security in the shelter of His covenant. In our own life, and in the public life of the Church amidst the world, we must remember that difficulties are the sure warrant of proportionate grace, so that we must rather take encouragement than the reverse from finding things go against us. God will never let us be tempted beyond what we are able--i.e. not beyond the measure of grace which He is giving. We must find temptations and sorrows beyond all that we had expected, if we would reach out after those joys which are so far above our possibility of imagining.
May God bless you, and may He of His great mercy bring all the members of our Society safely to the end to which He is calling us.
TO FATHER PAGE.--The Society's Retreat.
July 23, 1894.
Thanks for your letter and the list of retreatants. It is delightful to think of so many being gathered together. We shall feel ourselves to be sharing with you in all the blessings as we say the special collect. The chapel will be nearly full. May our hearts be full of thanksgiving. We ought to think of every one who joins in a religious retreat, not merely as an additional unit, but as a multiplying power. As our hearts are all one, we become interiorly multiplied by the gifts of the Holy Ghost which each one brings as his own individual portion of the common life. Several of the names upon the list are well known to me, some of them are new. Give my love to each and all, whether known or unknown. We shall, I hope, all of us know one another before long with a love that is far beyond the closest of earthly intimacies. It is pleasant to think of faces that one has known elsewhere being gathered into the home, and also to feel that the stream of life is bringing ,in additions from those whom one has not known, all of us being drawn into one purpose and aim as we press onward to claim our place in the great communion of saints.
TO A LADY.--Old Associations--Children of the Light.
Dec. 14, 1896.
Thank you for your letter. Such remembrances from old friends are very precious. They carry the mind back to many old associations, and remind one that what is apt to pass away from our active consciousness in this transitory life, lives on along with ourselves in the blessedness of eternal fellowship. How many have passed away who shared with us in the sympathies of those old days in Margaret Street! Your residence at Foots Cray carries me back to a time long anterior to that. My childhood's home was at North Cray. In those days Lord Bexley was living at Foots Cray, and our grounds were close together. Many worlds seem to have drifted by since that time--the early days of William IV. Changes, changes, changes, too many, too great to be measured! Yet life in all its mystery flowing on with an unbroken stream to the eternal. How wonderful to think that any of the dry bones of the past can rise and live with the brightness of a Saviour's glorified life!
I am glad that your letter has arrived in time to let me wish you all the blessings of Christmas. That season had its joys for us in youth. It has lost none, but has deeper, fuller joys ever growing to cheer and sanctify our hearts as we grow old.
As we feel ourselves scattered far and wide upon the earth, we must long for the gathering together of the flock around the manifest presence of the Good Shepherd. "Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us." It cheers us in the darkness to long for that light. When the light shines it will transform us with its own vital power. So must we walk as the children of the light, having His presence within us, and then His indwelling glory will compass us around. In His light we shall see light.
May that light shine upon you from year to year with increasing power and joy.
TO A PENITENT.--True Penitence.
BOSTON, U.S.A., Sept. 13, 1897.
Now as to the future. You ask me "What can I expect of God's justice and mercy?" You may confidently rely upon His grace, mercy, and truth just in proportion to the faith, the penitence, and the submission with which you act towards Him. Have your past sin ever before you, and you will see the glory of God's love shining out from behind your sin, and inviting you to full renewal of His predestinating grace. Give yourself up to Him, and He "will not say thee nay." There may be much fainting and struggling, but He is sure to bless. Only persevere to the end, and He will yet enable you to live to His glory, and to find Him as your eternal portion. He can use even our sins to rouse us to a whole-heartedness of loving service, which we did not know in the earlier days when we sought ourselves first, and Him second.
TO A FATHER ON HIS PROFESSION.--The Grace of Perseverance amidst Struggles.
Vigil of S. James, 1899.
I rejoice to look forward to your profession in a few days time; also to that of Father------and Father ------. Please give them my love and blessing, and assure them of my congratulations with them in the blessedness of the divine vocation. How wonderful it is to feel, amidst the turmoil of the world around, that God has called us thus to be apart with Himself in the hidden struggles of the religious life. Our struggle is not less than that of the world. It cannot be, for otherwise we should not be proved as worthy of the place in God's kingdom to which He calls us. Our struggle must be greater, harder than that of the world, but we have a joy of the divine life in the midst of the struggle, which those who have to fight their way on in the world cannot realize. There is a vision of peace in the midst of the hardest and most humbling temptations, which those who are in the world can seldom experience.
We need much grace to persevere, but if we look up to Jesus He will supply all our need. We must give ourselves wholly to Him, and that gift involves a daily renewal of the gift. He Who accepts us in our feebleness will in due time reward us with His strength.
TO FATHER GARDNER.--Father Langmore's Ship-wreck--Old Age--Prayer.
Oct. 4, 1899.
Thanks for your letter. We must be very thankful that God is using the plague so manifestly for the work of His grace. It must draw our own hearts closer to Him. Our Society has had another form of blessing. Father Langmore has had a terrible experience of shipwreck. One scarcely realizes the possibility of such a thing in a voyage to America, but upon this occasion he was coming by a Canadian boat through the straits of Belle Isle. There were about four hundred passengers, and after being wrecked on the rock they had to climb a sheer face of rock which was almost impossible.
I believe about ten lives were lost. They had scarcely any food, no clothing but what they wore, and of course the weather was bitterly cold. The sailors behaved well at the first, but the stokers set upon the passengers and plundered their boxes. Several of them have been arrested and sent to gaol.
They were more than twenty-four hours clambering through heather and over rocks, and lying down shivering on the bare ground. Nothing to eat except the berries which they found growing there--blackberries, blueberries, cranberries! At various intervals of rest Father Langmore got the people to repeat the Lord's Prayer aloud, and the Te Deum and Creed. One really hopes it may have been a time of much blessing to some of them. They were very attentive when he spoke to them, and quite recognized him as chaplain.
I am thankful to say he does not seem any the worse.
I am to sail for England on the 25th. It is a long time since I have seen the Old Country, and perhaps most of the people whom I should care to see have passed away. One does not realize until one gets on how the decades after a certain period leave one to go forward with diminished ranks.
The odd thing is to think of so many who were more vigorous than oneself who have passed away, and oneself to feel still so young! Alas! I am afraid one ought to feel one's age even though one is not crippled! The world drifts by; would that one could feel heaven to be nearer and oneself expanding beneath its glow! One seems sadly the same!
The answers to prayer are a very great encouragement. We ought to be growing in habits of prayer, and so getting nearer to God Himself as being Himself the very answer which we chiefly need. He would show Himself to us much more fully if we really looked to Him. How strange it is that we have so little thirst for Him, and therefore so little knowledge of Him. In this great city one feels as if God were scarcely anything more than a name to the vast majority, even of those who attend some place of worship.
TO A LADY.--On Contemplation.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
April 30, 1903.
Your letter is a token that you are getting better. You must not do too much. I am afraid you think contemplation means doing nothing; indeed, it is very much the reverse. Contemplation is the highest and the hardest work. You must be content to lie still in God's hands, and leave Him to do everything. A short passage of Scripture, just read over, will speak to you. Do not be over eager to think about it, and see what it can mean; but let God, Who inspired the writer, speak as He wills in your heart. It is well for us to bring empty baskets. If we try to fill them we often fill them with what is worthless; but if we simply bring them to Him, He will fill them with blessed fragments of heavenly food. We must not be in a hurry for God to give us what we think we want. "My soul, wait thou still upon God." That tranquil dependence brings strength.
If God has work for you in Africa, do not unfit yourself for it by over much eagerness to prepare for it. "Acquaint thyself with God, and be at peace." New developments in a new country; but the old truth of the unchanging God! By a season in which you seem to have nothing but God's love, you are being prepared to teach those new populations how great and all-sufficing God's love is.
TO A LADY.--Evil Days.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
May 2, 1903.
. . . The materialistic spirit is just as bad in England as at Capetown. "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" Our Lord asks the question on purpose that we may not be disquieted because the days are evil. Things must get worse; when they are at the worst Christ will come. The time of utter darkness will not be long; enough for us to know that it is measured. The duration is just as much fixed as the period of the moon's obscuration in an eclipse.
TO A LADY.--On Resting in God.
COWLEY S. JOHN, Feast of S. Edward, 1903.
... I hope you are getting on, and that you are learning to do nothing. It is, alas! easy enough to do nothing if it comes in the way of nature, but it is a lesson of much difficulty if it comes in the way of grace. It is hard to learn the nothingness of all we can do in our most active times. And this is the lesson that is practically brought home to us when we have to give up all our efforts, and rest in God. We must be content simply to live in the hands of God, without dictation, and without desire. The soul must wait in stillness -upon God, with the simple infantine gaze of loving confidence. "Of Him cometh my salvation." "He that shall come will come." We must not think to hasten His coming, except by the stillness of our expectant homage. He cannot come to us unless we are simply satisfied to let Him do all He wills, and when He wills. Do not try to utilize your time of doing nothing by trying to do this or that. Do not try to get into any great depths of theological inquiry or devotional sentiment. In all your spiritual exercises be as simple as possible. Whatever starts a puzzle in your mind, put it aside. "In everything give thanks."
I am very glad to hear that the parish is going on so well. These tokens of God's love help one to rest in Him.
We must be following His wisdom whether it move according to our own fancy or no. We cannot tell what may be happening throughout the world within the next ten years. Only let us see that we are quietly, in hidden devotion and child-like confidence, waiting "for redemption in Israel."
We may hear a little voice in bed calling for its mother in the next room. Heaven must hear our voice calling just in the same way, "Come, Lord Jesus.":
TO A LADY.--On the Spiritual Value of Sickness.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
Christmas Eve, 1904.
I am sorry to hear of your illness. Nevertheless sickness, when we rise out of it, is a fresh token of our heavenly Father's love. He Who sent His Son to share our weakness under the outward condition of Satan's thraldom, calls us by the experience of pain and weakness to find increasingly the inward strength of His redeeming grace, calling us to rejoice in the deliverance which His life of suffering has achieved on our behalf.
Years go by, and as eternity comes nearer to our consciousness we must be learning to drink more of its sweetness, to see more of its brightness, to feel more of its refreshment, and to rise up invigorated by its inexhaustible resources of divine fellowship.
May the new year upon which you entered yesterday open out to you with manifold thanksgiving. . . . How the birth of Christ lifts up the closing year! The blessedness of immortality shines forth in what would otherwise be a mere succession of deaths.
TO FATHER TRAILL.--On the Devotional Use of the Bible.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
July 18, 1907.
People must live in their Bibles, and they will find the nourishing power which is therein. It is of no use to believe the Bible at second hand. We must use it devotionally, so as to learn its truth by experience and constant colloquy with God. We should be much better without a great multitude of devotional books, which people use and do not perceive the errors which are mixed up with them.
Modern ages have lost much by neglecting to recognize the divine spiritual sense of Holy Scripture; but the whole of the Old Testament is really prophetic, and many things which puzzle us as mere history rise to their divine value by their prophetical interpretation. Deny the supernatural, and the Bible remains the most wonderful of all books--even of novels and love-songs!--so wonderful, so unique as to warrant its claim to a divine origin. But without a divine author, a divine truth, a divine purpose, a divine prophecy operating throughout, the whole becomes worthless to an immortal soul, not living for the world, betrothed to Christ, looking forward in the new Adam to a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.
TO THE BISHOP OF VERMONT.--Spiritual Gain through Physical Infirmity.
COWLEY S. JOHN, Feast of S. Matthew, 1911.
I am sorry to hear that you are under the necessity of resting from your public work for a season, but it is certainly well that you should do so, and not delay until your physical condition becomes more hopeless.
I hope you will gain much by the change. If God calls us by evident physical necessity, we may be sure that His outward dispensation is intended to work within us spiritual consequences, which are even more important than bodily in-vigoration. May He in His great love grant you much blessed experience of His Fatherly discipline and care.
I am very much set aside by bodily incapacity. I get to church daily for the eight o'clock celebration. But even when I go to church I am incapacitated by blindness, deafness, and crippled joints from taking part in the service otherwise than by interior co-operation. My comfort is to know that God will supply all my need according to His own bounty, and without regard to my infirmities. I trust that He will supply all the needs of your diocese while your personal superintendence is withdrawn. He will hear your prayers, and grant you what is best both for your own person and for your diocesan responsibilities. He does not cease to use you as His instrument by the withdrawal of your outward activity.
TO A FRIEND.--Difficulties and Limitations of Old Age--Memory and Hope.
COWLEY S. JOHN,
Oct. 1, 1913.
It was a great pleasure to me to get your letter some time ago, and I ought to have sent some acknowledgement before this. You must not think that the delay was through simple negligence, but writing a letter has been almost an impossibility. I am getting so blind that the difficulty of correspondence becomes very great. That is a weak excuse, but it is a very real one. The adjuncts of letter-writing, from the first difficulty of not knowing where to find the letter-paper, and the incapacity of legs making it out of my power to get into another room so as to get what I want, make me very incapable. It is astonishing how one finds oneself incapable. But indeed all these accumulated impediments ought to give way before the exigencies of friendship. They are summed up in the little word sloth!
Alas! However, the voice of affection ought to raise one out of the chair by the fireside, which is my habitual locality. Here I am, with very little--rather no--capacity for the daily details of trifling exercise. As to mere physique, I am very well, but as for organic action I am really a nonentity. As to affection, you must not think I am deficient. My incapacity is a detail of bodily stupidity. Each bodily organ, from eyes to feet, is almost a nonentity.
Your letter carries me back to the days of dear Father O'Neill. How many have passed away in that interval. It wakes one up to hold a renewed intercourse with one like yourself, who can speak from heart to heart of the days and the people who have ceased to share in my present life. All my present associates belong to a new generation. It is a blessed thing to realize that the bygones are not bygones. They live with more than renewed freshness, and are immortalized in the everliving guardianship of divine love.
I sit on the rug, and there is a beautiful book-room of books which have come to our Society, gifts, legacies, and some few purchases, but I have to be content with seeing the binding on the shelves. I cannot read in any sense worthy of the name. A page or two is all that I can manage. The shelves seem to exist for the purpose of making me feel my own ignorance.
Those who have gone before us speak with the voice of God, echoing through the channels of memory. Memory is a very feeble atmosphere. Happily, hope is a more powerful agent, and is a Christian virtue. Holy Scripture winds up with the wonderful vision of hope. This makes the present to be a bearable nonentity. Earthly interests are cleared away from our view in order that we may gaze with hope into the future, and realize God's presence and the multitude of those who are with Him and call us to follow on. Earthly years are a prolonged nonentity. When we have begun to live in the future, the story of earth will appear to us even a drearier nonentity than it does while the individual years are passing by. "So grows in heaven our store." These words you quote. Yes! the nonentity of earthly successions is being continually transformed into the brilliant reality of the eternal sunshine. The gamble of earthly politics would make one sad, but it is corrected by the continual overthrow of the excitements of each successive period. We are driven to look into ourselves, and so to find peace by the vision of divine love. In that love we find peace, and while we watch the excitements of human passion stirring up the varied classes of eager expectation, we find tranquillity in the security of divine promises. Death itself does not destroy our hopes. Death may destroy the foolish accidents and enterprises which surround us, but the destruction of these accidents is of no more value than the newspaper which records them.
You speak of coming to England next summer. If you fulfil this intention, I hope we shall meet.
If we do not meet in this our little island home, we may hope to meet in the infinite home of everlasting peace. In the world we must look for tribulation, but in the eternal there will be peace.
Amidst all the conflicts of earthly passion, folly, ignorance, and prejudice, the supreme power of divine peace shows itself triumphant with all the sweetness of divine wisdom. That which is earthly seems only to develop the sovereignty of God.
MISSION HOUSE, COWLEY S. JOHN,
Jan. 10, 1914.
Many thanks for your kind letter. How pleasant it is to have a reminiscence of old days. However, I can scarcely read a letter, much less can I write any response which would be worthy as a reply to yours.
One of the Fathers has just been reading to me a biography of olden time, when Newman was retired to Littlemore. The sad interests of those days spring up in the midst of the terrible changes (of later times), and after the lapse of many years they seem to be as fresh as ever. You yourself remain on, although so many have passed away. Your name in association with Littlemore seems to perpetuate the vitality of a continuous group of departed friends. Many happy thoughts live on with such personification, though I am living here almost a solitary. Oh, one must think of the multitudes that have passed away, and they are all still one with us who remain!