Sermons on the Apocalypse, the Holy Name, and the Proverbs
by John Mason Neale.
London: J.T. Hayes, 1871.
SERMON III. Preached September 8th, 1867, being the Second Tuesday in September. THE NAME OF HEALING.
"Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the Name of JESUS CHRIST of Nazareth rise up and walk.'"--ACTS iii. 6.
DEAR Sisters, if I were to begin as the old preachers in the middle ages often used to do, I should say that, with respect to this miracle you had to notice: Who: Whom: What: Where: and Why. Who performed it: on whom it was performed: what it was: where it was wrought: and why it was wrought. In every of one these things there is a lesson for you, not only as Christians, but more especially as Sisters of Mercy.
And to begin with the Why: of which the very day calls me to speak. The reason of the miracle was not so much the benefit of the poor man, as the exaltation of our LORD'S Name. I like exceedingly to think that we have now every month a more especial day for remembering and for worshipping that glorious Name: just as it is my joy and pride for you all that you should all be under its protection, as it is written, "The Name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe:" that you should all resolve to make it your boast here, according to that saying, "I will praise the Name of the LORD with a song, and magnify it with thanksgiving:" and as it is my earnest hope that it will be your most lovely reward hereafter: "They shall see His Face, and His Name shall be in their foreheads." That Name which then healed the impotent man, that Name which has been the rallying point of so many a Christian struggle, the last consolation of so many a Martyr, the perpetual support of so many a Confessor, the life-long study of so many a Doctor, the bundle of myrrh so tenderly cherished by many a Virgin-soul, that Name, dearest Sisters, is here, in this House, by our unalterable resolution, to be chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely: that Name is to be the one Name above all others that you are to hear from me, when I speak to you in common here, when I speak to you by yourselves in Confession, when I pray with you;--as it would be the only one Name of which I should speak if it pleased GOD that I stood by any of your deathbeds, or of which I should desire to hear if any of you stood by mine. And thus much for the Why.
Next, Who: Who wrought this miracle? Peter and John. That is to say, Zeal and Love: the Apostle who was always the most forward in word and in action; and he who was the nearest in earthly relationship, and the dearest in love. Peter and John. That is to say, earnest repentance, and unspotted innocence: the Apostle who most grievously denied, who denied thrice, who began to curse and to swear, "I know not this Man of whom ye speak;" and he who, when all the rest fled, came and stood by the Cross, and into whose charge the Virgin Mother was entrusted. Peter and John; the one among the eldest, the other the youngest, of the Apostolic band: the one to suffer by a cruel martyrdom, the other to end his days in peace: both witnesses of the glory of the Transfiguration: both present at the Agony of Gethsemane: both, alone of the Apostles, at the Sepulchre of the LORD: both to be delivered from imminent death, the one from the dungeon of Herod, the other from the caldron of Domitian, by virtue of that Name which to each of them was dearer than the life itself. And so of you, my dear Sisters; different talents and means of doing good you have: by very different trials you will be purified: different temptations you must expect: but in one thing you must all be alike; The Name of JESUS, as S. Bernard said last night, must be in your heart, and from thence be ready to leap forth to your lips.
Then, Whom: on whom the miracle was wrought. An impotent man, lame from his mother's womb, and poor; and it was a miracle that not only healed the body, but, it would seem, was healing to the soul. Like Hezekiah, the sign of his healing was that he went into the House of the LORD. Now notice this first. The man was above forty years old; therefore he had been in Jerusalem all the time that our LORD went about doing good, exercising His public ministry, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Put these two things together. He was laid daily before the gate of the Temple which is called Beautiful: which gate led into the porch of the Temple that is called Solomon's. Now, only two years before, we read, "JESUS walked in the Temple, in Solomon's Porch." He must then have seen this poor man, must have passed by him, must have known that he had now been a long time in that case; and yet, no gracious word of kindness, no command of healing: this Priest, this Great High Priest, came that way, and when He saw him, He passed by on the other side. Why? Doubtless out of tender love to the man himself, that the refuge from trouble should come at its due time, and not before: but also out of love to His disciples, that they might have so wonderful a testimony to give of their having been sent by Him;--and most of all, because He saw that the glory of His Name would be more increased by the delaying of this miracle till after His Resurrection and Ascension. And so, dearest Sisters, believe me, when He walks among you day by day, as He does in this His most Blessed Sacrament, and still seems to leave some weakness or infirmity in your hearts unhealed, still leaves you a prey to some temptation, still allows Satan to vex and to harass you: what is the reason, but that on the whole, this is for your good, on the whole, this is for His glory? The impotent man shall be made whole in time: the trouble you suffer shall be removed in due season: in the meantime, as the hymn says:
"Now with gladness, now with courage,
Bear the burden on thee laid,
That hereafter these thy labours
May with endless gifts be paid:
And, in everlasting glory,
Thou with joy may'st be array'd."
What the miracle was, we have seen: lameness cured; and the lame man taken, between Peter and John, into the Temple of the LORD. They ministered then to his soul as well as to his body: and therein they left a pattern, dear Sisters, of your vocation. Could there be a more glorious reward of any suffering and labour, than that, as then the lame man entered into the Temple between these two Apostles, so any one of those to whom you had been ministering should hereafter be received into that heavenly Temple, that house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens, through your instrumentality? You know that nothing could be higher than this: you know that for this any affliction were well endured. Only depend on it, if that most sweet and blessed Name be not in your mouths, as it was then on the lips of those two loving and valiant Apostles, you can never hope for this honour: you can never by any possibility expect to turn any from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to GOD. That Name has lost none of its virtues: that ointment, poured forth, loses none of its sweetness; by it the same wonder will be done as of old time: by it the spiritually lame will walk and leap when he enters into the Temple of GOD.
And lastly, Where: where the miracle was performed. In the Beautiful Gate--and that, as I just now said, belonged to the porch called Solomon's. My dearest Sisters, these words are as it were written for you, and applicable to none but you. What is the Temple, but that City which hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it? for the glory of GOD doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof: that Jerusalem which is built as a city that is at unity in itself: that place whither the tribes go up, even the tribes of the LORD, to testify unto Israel, to give thanks unto the Name of the LORD. And, if that blessed abode of the ransomed, that happy and bright dwelling-place of the first-born, written in Heaven, that city wherein dwell the innumerable company of the Angels,-- has any porch on earth joined to itself, but not in itself; joined to itself but yet projecting into the care and turmoil of an ungodly world, into the thoroughfare of a careless and earthly life, what can it be but such a Religious House as this? By this, as by a Porch, you trust that some day you will be sent for by the King into His Chamber's: this is the ascent by which Esther must enter into the Palace of King Ahasuerus: this is the vestibule of that House where the Beloved of your heart dwells. And it is Solomon's porch: it belongs to that peaceful King, Who bequeathed peace in the night of His Agony, Who bestowed it on the day of His Resurrection: it belongs to that glorious King Whose riches are the innumerable souls whom by His Precious Death He acquired to Himself: it belongs to that wise King, Who from all Eternity devised that wonderful plan whereby His banished ones should be restored to Him: the only Wise GOD. And then, Solomon's porch had the Gate called Beautiful. Yes: and so those lives of yours, dearest Sisters, must be. Think the dress, when you assume it, ugly, if you will: but resolve with GOD'S help that the life of which that dress is a pledge, shall be fair: try so to lead it that hereafter it may be said, "Thou art beautiful as Jerusalem, comely as Tirzah:" that one day you may hear those most joyful words, "Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee."
But that is not all: there is a far greater mystery than so. You read in S. John: "It was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And JESUS walked in the temple in Solomon's Porch." Could anything apply more exactly to yourselves? In this house there ought to be a perpetual feast of dedication; you, pledged to Him, you, dedicated to Him, you, sealed for Him, cannot but keep every day holy to Him. And it is a cold and wintry world indeed: heartlessness, bitterness, want of love everywhere: in that, as of old, the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head: in that inn as of old time, there is no room for Him: they reject Him there: they will not have this Man to reign over them there: as He says in the Canticles, His Head is wet with dew, and His locks with the drops of the night: and to you, as to that dear Bride there, He calls to be taken in. Let it be so, dearest Sisters. It is winter there: let JESUS come and walk in this your Solomon's Porch. Walk, not only in His Sacramental Presence in this Oratory, but by His Grace everywhere; this holy and spotless Lamb must be like the poor man's lamb in the parable: that did eat of his own bread and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom. It is well written then, that in Solomon's Porch the lame man was healed: it is well said also, JESUS walked in the Temple, in Solomon's Porch. And now one thing more. We have none of us much of this world's goods to offer to our dear LORD. So much more like the Apostles. But now turn your eyes from that earthly Temple, from the wondering crowds, from the lame man healed: fix them on that Heavenly City, on the adoring multitude of Angels, on the Man--Man as well as GOD--Who was once so poor, Whose Feet were once nailed to the Cross, and bear even now the prints of the cruel nails: and say to Him: "Silver and gold have I none, O LORD JESUS: but such as I have give I thee. I have but myself: I have but a heart full of all manner of imperfection, impurity, sin: I have but desires of serving Thee that are sometimes all but lost and extinguished: I have but a love that is oftentimes very cold and listless: nevertheless, such as I have, give I Thee. Every power of my soul, every faculty of my body, I desire them to be Thine: a poor little gift, a poor, miserable, unworthy offering: but Thou wilt not despise nor reject the low estate of the poor. Take me, O LORD, and do with me as seemeth good unto Thee: let Thine handmaid be a servant of the servants of my LORD: a poor wretched gift, but it is all I have: a poor offering, but it comes with love, it comes from love. Thou knowest that I love Thee: an unworthy oblation, but it is my all: all that a man hath will he give for his life, for Thee, the true life, Thee, the better than life itself. Here I offer and present unto Thee, O LORD, myself, my soul and body: LORD JESUS, silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, give I Thee! to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto Thee. And now, &c.