Project Canterbury

Sermons on the Apocalypse, the Holy Name, and the Proverbs
by John Mason Neale.

London: J.T. Hayes, 1871.



Preached August 7th, 1856.

"Thou, O LORD, art in the midst of us, and we are called by Thy Name; leave us not."--JER. xiv. 9.

You are expecting that I should speak to you of that Name which is exalted above every Name: that Blessed Name which is as ointment poured forth: that dear Name which, as I hope, is dearer to each of you than any other thing: that holy Name which whosoever names, must depart from iniquity: that happy Name which they who bear in their hearts here, shall bear in their foreheads there: as it is written: "And they shall see His Face, and His Name shall be in their foreheads." But, my dear Sisters, what am I that I should speak of that Name of which so many Saints when preaching have said both to themselves and others: "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground?" You heard last night [1] what S. Bernard said in his own religious house, then in the first fervour of its devotion. And I thought, as we were then hearing those words of his, on fire as they are with love, how true it is that JESUS CHRIST is the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. We, at all events, seek to know no other Name than those Saints knew: on it we hang all our hopes as they did: in it we desire to find all our comfort as they did: to its honour we pray that we may live as they did: in its cause, if GOD so willed, we should ask Him to give us grace to die as they did. And see now for a moment what this most dear and blessed Name has been, from the time that it was first heard till now. Think first of those early Saints that, in the amphitheatre, were called to glorify GOD by giving their bodies to the wild beasts: how, while eighty thousand pitiless eyes were eagerly expecting their last agony, while the hinges of the dens were opening, and the lion preparing for his fatal spring, this Name was, in many and many an instance, the Martyr's last word, so that "JESUS, be Thou my JESUS," is recorded to have been thus said again and again. Think again of those whom you would more especially desire to resemble in their holiness, in their purity, in their love to the Heavenly Bridegroom, how it is recorded of them, that by the virtue of this Blessed Name they were preserved unpolluted in dens of infamy, were guarded safely from sacrilegious hands. Think of those who died for the sake, absolutely and expressly for the sake, of this Name; the countless Martyrs made by those who denied our LORD to be GOD of GOD, very GOD of very GOD, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. Think again how many Christian souls have departed out of this world with that very Litany on their lips which we say every morning: dying in it, so that the old question might again be debated with respect to them, whether their last supplication or their soul were first before the Throne of GOD. It is recorded of one of the Martyrs of the fierce persecution that raged in Cochin China some two hundred years ago, that kneeling down (as the custom was) before the elephant that was to destroy her, she said this same Litany, and when she came to the suffrage, "Jesu, Bridegroom of the Virgins," the beast struck her through with his tusks, and so she entered into glory. A hundred years before that, there is the account of a Portuguese ship which foundered in the Atlantic, and the few survivors reported that in the moment of its going down, the sailors were uniting in the Litany of the Name of JESUS. So, in the great plague at Milan, this same Litany was constantly to be heard in the different wards of the lazar-houses, strengthening and comforting the last rough passage of the sufferers.

Why do I remind you of all these things? Because, as you have this same Litany daily on your lips, so, if you could but each resolve for herself whatever strength it has given others, that, by GOD'S grace, she would have too. My dearest Sisters, do not deceive yourselves. This is entirely in your own power. That Name is the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. It had no value centuries ago that it has not still. It may, if you so will, be as dear to you as it was to any of those blessed men who once took it so joyfully on their lips, and who now see face to face the King in His beauty. I am persuaded that there are none of you who have not longings--not always equally strong, but sometimes very strong indeed--not to be a whit behind them in their cause. Can there be a better day than today to cherish any such? Can there be a better day than to-day to give yourselves again to Him Who is chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely? Than to-day, than this very hour, your hour of especial prayer?

Hear what S. Bernard said to the Sisters of Citeaux: "Not," he says, "that I doubt whether GOD is among you of a truth or not. This I see: this I rejoice and exult to know, O you whom I love so dearly in our LORD. But, when you exert yourselves much, why should you not exert yourselves more? Believe me, if the effort is greater, the comfort is beyond comparison, proportionably greater still. What need I to hear of one angry thought, of one evil desire, of one indulgence in sloth, of one envious word, of one misunderstanding, of one defection to the right hand or to the left? It was not so that our happy brothers and sisters in the old time entered into the Land of the Living. Cry to Him therefore with all your heart: 'Draw me: we will run after Thee.' And note the humility of the prayer. My weakness Thou knowest: my infirmities are all hid from Thee: I cannot run--run? I cannot even walk--walk? I cannot even stand, without Thy grace; draw me, me the least of Thine handmaidens, me the unworthiest, me the lowest, me the most ungrateful: draw me, and we will run after Thee. Thou hast given Thy grace to others: they will arise and do Thy bidding: give it to me, that with them I may also rise, with them also run, with them live for Thee, with them live to Thee, with them die to Thee, with them reign with Thee everlastingly."

Is there anything that was said by that great Saint to those servants of CHRIST seven hundred years ago, that I might not say to you now? Have I any new motives to give you? Have I any less strength to offer you? Have I any less dear hope to set before you? No. It is the same prayer: they used it, and so must we: "Thou, O LORD, art in the midst of us: and we are called by Thy Name: leave us not." Thou art in the midst of us. I cannot but feel that it is so of a truth. I must not doubt GOD'S love and mercy, I must not dishonour this day by forgetting the Almightiness of the Name it bears, because I know--O how much!--my own unworthiness, and because, my dear Sisters, I know your sins and weaknesses. I could not but feel this morning as to one after another I gave the Living Bread that cometh down from heaven, and the Wine that blossoms into purity, that the text was true. I might have said then: "Thou, O LORD, art in the midst of us. By my hands, albeit altogether miserable and unworthy, Thou hast vouchsafed to come among us. Thou seest each of these Thy children kneeling before Thee. Thou knowest their wants: Thou pitiest their weaknesses. Give to her that grace which Thou seest her so much to need: give to her strength against that temptation by which Thou knowest her to be so much assailed: enable her to strive with all her might to keep that resolution which Thou knowest her so earnestly to have made. Thou, O LORD, art in the midst of us: Thou hast begun the good work, Thou must perform it. Thou hast loved all these with an everlasting love, Thou must give them more and more love. Thou, O LORD, art in the midst of us, and we are called by Thy Name. It is the Name we take on our lips oftener than any other: it is the Name we desire to bear in our hearts beyond all other: it is the Name to which we keep this day holy, and to which we desire to be ourselves holy: we are called by Thy Name: leave us not."

Yes: this day ought to be a day of strength for us. "The Name of the LORD is a strong Tower, the righteous runneth into it and is safe." This is that Tower which GOD planted in the midst of this vineyard, as Isaiah sets forth. And it is worth while to notice in that parable the connection of these two things. It says, "He built a Tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein." If the Name JESUS is our Tower, it is because He trod the winepress alone: because He so loved us as to shed the uttermost drop of His Blood for us: because His having thus, once for all, ransomed us, is the very reason that He will be our safeguard to the end. This day is a day of comfort for us, as it is written in the book of Micah: "For all people will walk every one in the name of his God, and we will walk in the Name of the LORD our GOD for ever and ever."

And what follows then? This: "In that day, saith the LORD, I will assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted: and I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation: and the LORD shall reign over them in Mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever."

Halted we all have, in following our LORD: driven out we have all been, from resolutions and determinations innumerable: afflicted we have all been, by the burden of our sins: let us only say, "We will walk in the Name of the LORD our GOD for ever and ever," and depend upon it the prophecy of Isaiah will be fulfilled: "A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation." This day is a day of courage for us: "Some put their trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will remember the Name of the LORD our GOD;" and be well assured that it will follow, "They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen and stand upright." This day is the day of peace and unity: for it is written in the prophecy of Zechariah, "In that day shall be One LORD, and His Name One."

Let us remind our LORD of His own promise: "He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward." This is indeed that Prophet that should come into the world: and we receive Him in the Name of JESUS, the Name of prophecy: "He shall be called JESUS," prophesied the Angel of old: "for He shall save His people from their sins."

"And he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man's reward." We do indeed receive the LORD in the Name of a Righteous Man when we hail Him by that Name which, as the prophet says, put away iniquity, and brought in everlasting righteousness.

I do not, as a general rule, like to ask you to confine yourselves at this hour to any particular prayer. But to-day it shall be otherwise. As soon as you have received the blessing, I should like each of you to take her Litany, and to go through it slowly and deliberately, and with especial reference to her own needs. Thus, "JESU, most mighty," that is, mighty to protect against temptation: and there you would call to mind the temptation from which you would most desire to be protected. "JESU, most powerful," that is, most powerful to preserve in temptation: and then you would recall the means at former times in which He has so delivered you. "JESU, most gentle:" and you would remember how He has led you out of fears and difficulties. "JESU, most patient:" and then, how often He has borne with each of you, ay, even since the time of her last confession. This is the way to fly to that most holy Name; this is the way to give the LORD the honour due unto His Name; this is the way to say, "Some put their trust in horses, and some in chariots; but we will remember the Name of the LORD our GOD." Ourselves, and one or two others excepted, is there any one, think you, in this place, who has remembered to what this day is holy? Let this your unspoken Litany, then, be a Litany of reparation; let others do as they will, let others say, "We will not have this Man to reign over us," let us, at all events, say in our hearts as well as in our lips, "The LORD'S Name is praised from the rising up of the sun even to the going down thereof." Thus, my dear Sisters, or rather let me now say, my dear children, try to do; and may JESUS that died on the Cross, JESUS, that ascended into heaven, JESUS, that evermore liveth to make intercession for us, accept and bless you!

And now to that same JESUS, Who is taken from us into Heaven, but Who shall so come in like manner as we believe that He went into Heaven, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

[1] The reference is to the lessons from a Sermon of S. Bernard in the second nocturn of the Office of the Holy Name. The passage, as given by Dr. Neale, may be acceptable to the reader.

Thy Name is as ointment poured forth. There is no doubt a similitude between oil and the Name of JESUS, the Bridegroom of our souls: nor does the HOLY GHOST, without a purpose, compare the one to the other. Oil shines, oil feeds, oil anoints, It cherishes fire; it nourishes flesh; it diminishes pain. Oil, then, is light, food, and medicine. Thus, too, the Name of the Bridegroom: it shines when preached: it feeds when meditated: it soothes when invoked. Whence, think you, so great and so sudden a light of faith in the whole world, unless by the Name of JESUS preached? In the light of this Name, GOD hath called us to His wonderful light. Whence it is written, "Ye were sometime darkness, but now are ye light in the LORD." Art not thou strengthened as often as thou rememberest It? What is there which so restores the darkened senses, so increases virtues, so strengthens goodness, so cherishes love? All meat is dry, if it be not sprinkled with this oil -. insipid, if it be not savoured with this salt. JESUS is honey in the mouth, jubilation in the heart. We said that the Name of JESUS was medicine. Is any one among you sorrowful? Let the Name of JESUS come into his heart, and thence leap into his mouth: and behold, as the light of that Name arises, every cloud is scattered and fair weather returns. Does any one fall into sin, and run, in despair, on the highway of death? If he invokes the Name of Life, shall he not forthwith be restored to life? If the fountain of tears be exhausted in any, let the Name of JESUS be invoked, and it will flow forth more abundantly, and more sweetly. Is any one hesitating, and trembling in danger? This Name of virtue being invoked, at once gives courage and repels fear. It is written, "Call upon Me in the time of trouble, so will I hear thee, and thou shalt praise Me." Nothing so restrains the impetuosity of anger, so brings down the swelling of pride, so heals the wound of envy, so extinguishes the flame of luxury, so tempers the thirst of avarice. When I name JESUS, I think of a Man meek and gentle, sober, chaste, and merciful, and resplendent with all beauty and glory, and that same Man, Almighty GOD: may He heal me by His example, and lead me by His assistance. Thou hast an universal medicine, O my soul, laid up in the shrine of this Name, the healthful Name of JESUS: there is not one disease in which it is inefficacious. Ever be it in your breast, ever in your hand: let all your senses and acts be directed to JESUS. He invites thee to this, when He says, Set Me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm. O how fair art Thou to Thine Angels, O LORD JESUS in the form of GOD, in the day of Thine Eternity, among the splendours of the Saints: Splendour and Figure of the Substance of the FATHER, and brightness of everlasting life! How beautiful art Thou to me, O my LORD, in the laying aside of this Thy Glory, when Thou didst empty Thyself, and didst put off Thine imperishable light! Then love chiefly was shown, then mercy principally was manifested, then grace was more plainly displayed.

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