Project Canterbury

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

London: Joseph Masters, 1872. Third edition.


S. Hugh. November 17.


I SPEAK to you with great pleasure of any saint; but I confess, I have greater pleasure than usual when, as now, it is an English Saint, like the great and good Bishop of Lincoln, Hugh, whose day this is. For though we are part of one and the same army in which all the servants of GOD have always fought,--though, we have all one great enemy, the Devil, and one Prince, the Captain of our Salvation, JESUS CHRIST,--yet English Saints, so to speak, are in the same regiment with ourselves. We have a more particular interest in them: they have also, GOD be thanked, a more particular interest in us. You may have heard of the English General, who, when part of his army was very hardly pressed by the French, rode up, and said, "Soldiers, you must never be beat, or what will they say in England?" Something of the same sort I might say to you. These Saints of our own country are looking down upon us, watching how we bear the burden and heat of the day, helping us as GOD commands or allows them. Shall we be beaten in the battle in which they conquered? Why should we? Did they find it easy? Did they think it a pleasant thing to renounce the devil and all his works, and constantly to obey GOD'S commandments? Indeed not. S. Paul (and I hope he knew how Saints feel,) found it so extremely hard, that he cried out, "Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" So I come again to what that General said: "Soldiers, we must never be beat, or what will they say?"--they, our best, true friends, our own friends, our own countrymen, our own Saints. Or if you would rather hear the words of an Apostle than of a General: " 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, looking unto JESUS, the Author and Finisher of our Faith."

I read you the text, because I was thinking of the glory of our own Church. "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! and thy tabernacles, O Israel!" This place, this college is one of those tents. It is goodly in itself. It was set up for GOD'S glory; it was intended to help forward His Church: and whatever hindrances or drawbacks there are to this, the fault is in ourselves. Neither this, nor any other help can force you to be saved, whether you will or not. A man may go to hell from a College as easily as if he had never heard the Name of CHRIST; nay, and a great deal more easily: because "to whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." But yet this Church to which we belong, does what she can to save her children. If you could see what at this time she is doing; how many new churches are being built; how many places for the poor, and sick, and sinful; how many persons, women more especially, are giving themselves up altogether to the service of GOD, to teach the ignorant, to nurse the feeble, to go into dens of wickedness, and fight the Devil on his own ground; if you could see how weak helpless women go into infamous streets and alleys, where the police only venture in a good strong party; if you could know these things, then, I think, you would be ready to say, " How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! and thy tabernacles, O Israel!" I will tell you what has been done to-day, what is, perhaps, going on at this moment. There is a large meeting in London, where the Archbishop of Canterbury is in the chair, for sending out four new Bishops into the dark places of the earth. One of them, more especially, is to go to a country of which you all know something. You have all heard of the Gold diggings in Australia. Well,--there, where men seem to forget that they came into this world for any other purpose than to heap up money,--where they are wholly given to idolatry, not of images, but of gold,--a Bishop will go forth, to proclaim to them, "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"--to tell them of that true Wisdom, of which Job says, "The gold and the crystal cannot equal it, and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold. No mention shall be made of coral and of pearls, for the price of Wisdom is above rubies." But all this is of no use to you, all this can be no pleasure to you unless you, each in your part and according to your power, fight the same battle with the Devil, in which the whole Church is engaged. The Church fighting with Satan: there is no doubt which will conquer then. "Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." But you fighting with Satan,--there, there is every doubt. Nay, if that were all, there would be no doubt at all. Who are you that you should be able to resist the Prince of the power of this world! Why, the list S. Paul gives us of his armies is very dreadful: "We contend against"--what?--"principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Yes; but I can tell you for your comfort, that none that ever lived, no Saints, no Martyrs, could ever have conquered him in their own strength; and I can also tell you for your comfort, that CHRIST, Who helped them, is as ready to help you, and then, " If GOD be for you, who can be against you?"

And if He does help you, then there is another and a very blessed sense in which the text may be used, when He shall call you, after doing His will here, to enter into His Paradise hereafter, then indeed you may say, "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! and thy tabernacles, O Israel!" Yet there, indeed, they will not be tents, pitched to-day, taken up to-morrow; they will be a city which abideth, whose Builder and Maker is GOD; they will be that New Jerusalem, "whose light is like to a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal," whose twelve foundations are twelve precious stones, whose twelve gates are each a several pearl. GOD grant that we all may some day hear these words, may some day say, "I was glad when they said unto me, We will go into the House of the LORD."

And now to GOD the FATHER, GOD the SON, and GOD the HOLY GHOST, be all honour and glory for ever. Amen.

Project Canterbury