Our All in All.
Isaiah xxxiii. 22.
SEE here, dear Sisters, one of those many passages in which the Blessed Trinity appears, darkly indeed, but still really, in the Old Testament. And it well so appears, in the very place where the glorious prophet is speaking of the blessedness of that future Kingdom, where the sun shall be no more a light by day, nor the moon and the stars by night; where "the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick; the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity."
But still, we need not now take it in that sense; for the words will apply, just as well, to our Blessed LORD Himself: our Judge indeed, our Lawgiver indeed, our King indeed, and He that must truly save us, or we perish. It is that LORD to Whose coming we are now beginning more earnestly to look forward; it is that LORD Who is now coming to tabernacle among us under the form of Bread and Wine.
"The LORD is our Judge." And there we have an Advent text at once; and we might therefore speak of the terrors of that Judgment when the righteous shall scarcely be saved, and where shall the ungodly and the sinners appear? But, dearest Sisters, there is a comforting side to the thought too. He that knows our infirmities, He that has Himself experienced our temptations, He that while He was on earth walked in darkness and had no light, He, and none other, is our Judge. That dear LORD, the Beloved that is yours, and Whose you are, will He, think you, harshly judge the errors and wanderings of His poor trembling bride,--errors sad enough, wanderings many enough,--when He knows that she loves Him, knows that she clings to Him, knows that for His sake she desires to give up everything here; knows that, except Him, she desires no reward hereafter? Most surely not: and therefore it is that this is such a word of comfort to you. The LORD, the Man of sorrows, the LORD, He that Himself suffered, being tempted, the LORD, Who "knoweth whereof we are made," Who "remembereth that we are but dust," the LORD is our Judge. And a comfort, too, dearest Sisters, it is in another sense. We, of all people, have reason to say, in reference to the judgments passed on us: "Let us fall now into the hands of the LORD, for His mercies are great: and let us not fall into the hand of man." So far as they are concerned, we know we can say as David does: "Be Thou my Judge, for I have walked innocently." To Him that was Himself judged so unrighteously, to Him against Whom false witnesses laid charge things that He knew not, to Him to Whom they rewarded evil for good, to the great discomfort of His soul,, to Him we may appeal. "The LORD is our Lawgiver." And now, see what a depth of meaning that word has for you. The Lawgiver, indeed, of all His people: but how much more especially for those that, like you, are desirous of keeping closest to Him, and treading most fully in His footsteps! And now I am glad that after all this season of excitement and commotion and trouble, we are coming down to the green pastures and still waters of Advent. Dear Sisters, we must prepare ourselves to make the most of that time. If you have lately had so many interruptions in your Hours, in your own prayers, in your Confessions, in your Communions, let us ask GOD that He, Who alone can give us peace, that He, Who can alone ordain all our works for us, would give us a quiet and a holy season.
And then notice how that word lawgiver implies, as the chief duty flowing from it, obedience. If you would but each of you resolve to practise that, to ask for that grace, to strive with yourselves for the attainment of that self-denial in this coming season! The more GOD intends you to do for Him hereafter, depend upon it, the more He will enable you to advance in that grace of graces now! Yes, it seems a hard law, dearest Sisters, this law of pain and suffering; but He that made the law for us, observed it also for Himself. This was the law that began on the very Octave of His Birth; that marked the whole sad thirty-three years of His most precious Life, and finally that was set up on Mount Calvary as the written ordinance of all His people: No way to glory, except through pain. "The LORD is our Lawgiver." "Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse; but Thou hast kept the good wine until now." It seems impossible sometimes not to falter, it seems impossible sometimes not to wish to draw back, when He leads us by paths we have not known, when He calls us to go forth bearing His reproach; when, as of old time, we seem entangled by the sea, and the wilderness shuts us in. But if only His own dear steps be before us, if it be only His own dear voice which is proclaiming, "This is the way, walk ye in it:" how shall we not go on with a good courage, knowing that the darkness will become light, that the crooked paths will become straight, that the rough will become plain?
"The LORD is our King." And what a King, dearest Sisters, this holy time now drawing nigh may tell us. The poor King, Who being laid in a manger because there was no room for Him in the inn, yet promises His servants the eternal riches of that Heavenly City, where the streets are of pure gold, as it were transparent glass, and the twelve gates of twelve several pearls; the peaceful King, Who, though He came not to send peace on earth, nay, but rather a sword, yet said: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you;" the gentle King Who trod the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with Him; Who looked and there was none to help, and wondered that there was none to uphold; but yet says to all His ransomed, "Certainly I will be with you;'' that, for this world; "that where I am, there ye may he also;" that, for the next! "The LORD is our King." You have said it long since, you have proclaimed that you will have this Man to reign over you: "if ye were of the world, the world would love his own;" He hath "chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." The fashion of His Crown you know, which was suffering; the purple robe He wore, you know, which was mockery; the sceptre in His hand, you know, which was scorn; the throne on which He ascended that He might draw the whole world to Himself, you know, it was the Cross. With such a King you have taken service; is that a cold and distant title? Under such a Captain you are enlisted soldiers. Would you hear of something more tender still? Of such a Father you are the chosen children; or, if you still desire the dearest word of affection that you can hear, of such a Royal Bridegroom you desire to be the Brides. "We told you," S. Paul says, "that ye should suffer affliction: even as it came to pass, and ye know.'' It is the mark of that King; it is the standard of that Captain; and the Bride has long ago told you, "My Beloved is white and ruddy, the standard-bearer among ten thousand;" in the same way as the Prophet declares: "The shield of His mighty men is made red, the valiant men are in scarlet."
And you hear the end: "He shall save us." Therefore the Lawgiver; therefore the Judge; therefore the King; that He may be the Saviour. One after another, (I may not see it, I shall not see it, but so I trust and pray it may be, that He will call you softly, gently, dearly, aa He has called your dearest Sister, to Himself; that after you have suffered awhile, He may make you perfect, as He is perfect, stablish you where you shall never go out, strengthen you with His own everlasting might, settle you in that happy country, the Land of your Hope, the Land of your Love, the Land of the Living.
And now to GOD the FATHER, GOD the SON and GOD the HOLY GHOST, be all honour and. glory now and for ever. Amen.