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Sermons on the Black Letter Days
Or Minor Festivals of the Church of England
by John Mason Neale

London: Joseph Masters, 1872. Third edition.



THIS promise is to the Church of Pergamos, and we must look back, as we did before, to understand it. " I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is." That is, the heathen around were more openly and desperately wicked than in the other seven churches; and the fruits of this we see, for the Epistle goes on--"thou holdest fast My name, and hast not denied My faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was My faithful martyr." The promise then to-night is to a true-hearted servant of CHRIST, in the midst of an adulterous and sinful generation; and who is ready to suffer for His Name's sake, and for the Faith of the Church.

Now, the promise to "him that overcometh" at Smyrna and Ephesus was only one; here it is twofold. See therefore the great honour that CHRIST puts on the confession of His Name before men. Just as in the Sermon on the Mount, whereas the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, have each one blessing, they that are persecuted for righteousness' sake have two.

"To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna." Manna, the food that came down from heaven into the wilderness to support the Israelites, that continued with them day by day till they entered the land of Canaan, that was enough for all, and too much for none, that, as the Jews tell us, had for each man the taste that he liked best, this manna is a type of our LORD'S Body and Blood as given to us in the Holy Communion. That also is intended to feed us all the days of our pilgrimage in the desert of this world, until we come to the heavenly Canaan: that also comes down from heaven: that also has all sweetness in itself. But it does not say that he that overcometh shall eat of the manna, but of the hidden manna. All, both good and bad, receive the Blessed Sacrament; but the good only have the strength and comfort and sweetness that It can give. And see how victory over our enemies is referred to our feeding upon CHRIST. All through the Old Testament, in the types and figures that we have of the Holy Communion, the same thing is set forth to us. It was just after the rock was struck in Horeb, and water came out from it--a type of the blood and water shed out of our LORD'S most Blessed Side on the Cross--that Israel fought with their first enemy, Amalek, and overcame him. It was just after David's stooping down to drink of the brook in the valley of Elah that he slew Goliath the giant, and took away the reproach from Israel. How should this not be so? It just before our LORD went forth to His victory over the devil, that He, for the first time, gave His Apostles His Flesh and Blood. In His Flesh and Blood He conquered: and we, feeding upon Them, must conquer too. For this reason it is, that in all straits and difficulties, before all great struggles, when about to enter into all danger, more especially before the greatest strait, the most fearful struggle, the most terrible danger, before the hour of death, GOD'S people have with desire desired to eat of that Bread and drink of that Cup. By this CHRIST'S faithful servants have gone forth cheerfully to martyrdom: for they knew that carrying Him along with them, they must be more than conquerors. Strong men have known that, excepting for that, their strength would be weakness; women and children have felt that, with this, they were able to do all things. Therefore, receiving for the last time their LORD'S Body and Blood here, they have gone by a short rough passage to sit down at the Supper of the LAMB on high. And that supper of the LAMB, that Marriage feast, whatever be the full meaning of that type, whatever be the pleasures which are set forth by it, all these are set forth by the hidden manna in the text: all are promised to him that overcometh. Hidden those pleasures are for the present: eye hath not seen them, nor ear heard them, but there they are, and depend upon it there they are only for the conqueror.

But the text goes on:--"I will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written." Now we are told all the ground about Pergamos is even to this day covered with such white stones, and therefore the Christians of that city could not stir out without being reminded of the promise "to him that overcometh."

And what is this white stone? The Church has generally believed that it means the body which CHRIST'S true servants will receive at the resurrection day. For just as nothing is more lasting than a stone, as it cannot be destroyed, as it cannot be worn away, so our bodies will be raised incorruptible, and never more subject to sickness or decay. And a white stone, because they will be glorious and shining; just as the face of our LORD in His Transfiguration became white and shining, so as no fuller on earth can whiten. "I will give him a white stone," then, is the same thing as saying, "I will give him a new and glorious body, when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, and the saying shall be brought to pass that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory." And this, coming directly after the promise about the hidden manna, is just as our LORD said Himself, "He that eateth My Flesh, and drinketh My Blood, hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up again at the Last Day."

"And in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." When we are born into this world, we are children of wrath and of the devil; but when we are born, so to speak, at the Resurrection, we shall be the children of GOD at our birth. That will be our new name; we shall have it with our new nature; "old things shall have passed away; behold all things shall have become new." And that is a name, indeed, the blessing of which none knoweth save he that receiveth. What it is to be so the children of GOD, as to serve Him without weariness, to love Him fully, to sin no more, to be entirely His, this who can tell, save those that stand before Him? And they not as yet fully--they have not yet received the white stone of their Resurrection-bodies; they without us are not to be made perfect.

But, in part, they see GOD'S glory; and they that have been martyrs see Him face to face, enjoying, as the Church believes, the Beatific Vision, that is, the immediate sight of GOD. Of this number was, and is, S. Blasius, an Armenian Bishop, whose feast we keep this day. He, after suffering great things for the name of CHRIST, was torn in pieces with wool-combs: and, accordingly, in those parts of England where they have to do with wool, they make much of his day even now. It is thus that he now eats of "the hidden manna," and that he will at the last day receive "the white stone."

Which GOD grant that we also may do, for JESUS CHRIST'S sake: to Whom, with the FATHER and the HOLY GHOST, be all honour and glory for ever. Amen.

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