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Sermons on Passages from the Prophets
by the Rev. John Mason Neale

London: J.T. Hayes, 1877.

Sermon XII.
September, 1865.
Eyesight. Isaiah xxxii. 3.

IF there be one great truth which we, of all people, ought constantly to keep before our eyes, it is, that privileges and responsibilities go together. You cannot have the possible savour of life unto life, without having also the possible savour of death unto death. You cannot bring the Ark of the LORD into the camp, without risking the end of Hophni and Phineas. It was not an unnatural, though it was a mistaken feeling of fear that to whomsoever much was given, of them would much be required, which induced so many of the earliest Christians to put off Baptism till the end of their lives--even sometimes till their death-beds. So comparatively common did the custom grow, that the Church had to step in with an universal canon, that the man who deferred Baptism till dangerous illness, and then received it, could not, if he recovered, be elevated to the Priesthood.

I need not say, my Sisters, that the danger with us is quite the other way. In that Day, this Oratory, if it do not bear glorious witness to each particular Sister, then it must put in fearful evidence against her. "The stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it." Not one of GOD'S creatures, whose services have been employed here, but will either bear a most happy, or a most fearful dumb witness against each. The Chalice, which you have so many hundreds of times touched with your lips, must either ask the question: "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?" or have heard, on your part, the prayer: "Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His Mouth, for Thy Love is better than wine." Those desks of yours must give their testimony, whether in kneeling at them it was, from allowed and wilful carelessness or thoughtlessness, such a bowing the knee as was theirs who said, "Hail, King of the Jews!" or whether there Esther so approached the glorious Ahasuerus, as again and again to have the golden sceptre stretched forth to her, with the words: "What is thy request? It shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom." Where, by the way, observe that it is well said, "the half of the kingdom." For that kingdom consists of two halves; the one consisting of temporal, the other of spiritual blessings. The former half the Great King has not absolutely promised: the latter He has. Therefore: "What is thy petition? It shall be given thee, even to the half of the kingdom."

Now all this, the text, only under the form of a promise, sets before us. "The eyes of them that see." And one remembers at once that saying: "Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them:" have not seen the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, no longer in types and shadows, but verily and Him self present; "and to hear those things which ye hear:" not only the voice of penitence and supplication: not only, "Have mercy upon me, O GOD, after Thy great goodness:" not only, "I will confess my sins unto the LORD:" but, "By His authority committed unto me, I absolve thee from thy sins, in the Name of the FATHER, and of the SON, and of the HOLY GHOST."

But then, see the danger. There may be eyes that see all this; see it, believe it, know it, and yet are dim; see His own giving Himself to them under the form of Bread and Wine, and are dim to perceive how they therefore are bound to Him: how the infinite love on the one side calls out the best love of the other; are dim to sec their own duties; are dim to see how they, the peculiar people, are bound by especial works to glorify Him Who has honoured them. And then, my Sisters, we must remember how apt the eyes that see now,--that see something of His love,--something of their own need of perpetually looking to Him,--are, to become dim, by slow degrees, but not the less certainly. Any Sister may have a terrible fall, as many and many a one, (now where she can fall no more) has had. But that is not the great danger. Eyes that have been trying to fix themselves on Him Whom David kept always before him, can scarcely at once become blind. But dim and dimmer they may become. When, as you know, a cataract forms over the earthly eye, it does not blind the patient at once. Day by day, by the slowest degrees, it dims and dims his vision, till at length the darkness is as complete as if the eye had been destroyed. It has been said, and when we remember the wonderful analogy between the works of the GOD of Nature and those of the GOD of Grace, we may believe it, that every bodily sickness has its counterpart in spiritual disease. Even heathen philosophers saw this truth. One of the greatest of the Latin poets tells us that avarice and the dropsy are the same sickness, in one form attacking the body, in another the soul. Therefore, in a Sisterhood that has so much to do with nursing, surely it is more inexcusable than it would be in others, not to attend to sicknesses of the soul. See how, with especial difficulties, GOD'S grace sends especial help. You talk and hear of fevers of all kinds, and all the long list of diseases, contagious or not contagious, to which Adam's sin has subjected us. GOD forbid you should fear any of them! But even more, GOD forbid that you should not fear those diseases of the soul, of which they are but the (comparatively harmless) types.

And one of the most dangerous is this dimness of sight. My Sisters, remember this. You break some law in your Rule, which the world would call trifling. It is not a mortal sin. "A just man falleth seven times, and riseth again." But if, remembering it, you do not confess it next day in Chapter, you make the fault worse a hundred times. If you wish your eyes to become dim, I know scarcely a more effectual way. It is not the rule, as S. Ambrose said, but it is the obedience. The perpetual driblets of disobedience, however small each in itself may be, will lead--nothing surer--to the eyes waxing dim.

But, "the eyes of them that see." What is that sight beyond all sights? What is that which, as "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard," so there will be fulfilled the positive of this negation? We all know. "The eyes of them that see" no longer in a glass darkly, that really and verily see, that have the Beatific Vision before them, "shall not be dim." Dim! How could they be dim with that full effulgence of Uncreated Light? Dim! How could they be dim--

"Where no cloud nor passing vapour
Dims the brightness of the air?"

Ah! but eyes may be dim from a different reason also; they may be dim with tears. Shall, or can, that be so then? Let us take a prophecy of the Old and one of the New Testament, and see how they are wedded together. "Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty;" that says Isaiah. "GOD shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;" that says S. John. But together they come to this: "The eyes of them that see shall not he dim, the ears of them that hear shall hearken." But what that hearing, much more, what that hearkening may be, who shall tell?

S. John partly says: "I heard a great voice out of Heaven, saying, Behold the tabernacle of GOD is with men, and He will dwell with them; and they shall be His people, and GOD Himself shall be with them, and be their GOD. And GOD shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."

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

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