Sermons on the Apocalypse, the Holy Name, and the Proverbs
by John Mason Neale.
London: J.T. Hayes, 1871.
SERMON V. Preached at S. Margaret's. Evening. Festival of the Name of JESUS. Sunday, 1859. THE NAME OF TRUST.
"And they that know Thy Name will put their trust in Thee"--Ps. ix. 10.
TO-DAY comes in well to tell us why we work, and for Whom. And the text says well-nigh all that can be said on the question. "They that know Thy Name will put their trust in Thee." The question then is, what the knowing that Name means. Knowing involves acquaintance with its history in itself--study of its power as regards others--experience of its strength in ourselves: and the last is worth the two others put together.
Now see how it was first given. To two Saints, by an Angel: but in what different circumstances! To S. Mary, when filled with a joy which no other created being ever knew, or could know; the joy of the message that the SON of the FATHER, begotten before all worlds, would be her Son, born in time; these were the words, "Thou shalt call His Name JESUS." To S. Joseph: racked with miserable doubts, tried with the hardest of all afflictions: the hesitation whether to condemn one whom we have taken to our heart of hearts, and venerated with all our soul; the words again were, "Thou shalt call His Name JESUS." So then, in the extreme of triumph, and in the extreme of desolation, this Name was first heard: no unmeaning sign that from then till now the case would be the same; no joy so great which this Name will not increase, no sorrow so heavy that it will not lighten.
But then go back further, and see where it was given before this. See how the Name Jesus led the children of Israel out to their first battle. Who went out to fight with Amalek? Not Moses, but Joshua. Who was it, that when all others, having sought GOD, had grown weary, and had left the Tabernacle, who alone remained within? "Nevertheless Joshua, a young man, servant to Moses, departed not out of the Tabernacle." Who was it that first crossed the Jordan, when they went to spy out the land? Again, Joshua. Who that when all the people fell away, and murmured that they had been led out into the wilderness to die there, remained faithful among the unfaithful, with his, "Let us go up at once against the land, for we be well able to take it?" And so as we go through the history: Jesus it was that led the people, when the forty years of their wanderings were past, through Jordan: at whose word the walls of Jericho fell down; who drew not back the spear that was in his hand till Ai was utterly destroyed. And again, a thousand years later, Jesus, the son of Josedech, was the High Priest that stood before the LORD, with Satan at his right hand to resist him; that had the filthy garments in which he was clothed--type of the sins of the human race that our LORD took upon Himself--stripped off: when a fair mitre, namely the Crown of Thorns, was set upon His Head, and Himself clothed with the garments of beauty and immortality.
So you see something of knowing the Name as it was in the old times: and what, since the Spotless Lamb has been offered on the Altar of the Cross, has it been to His followers? Of S. Ignatius it is written that, when he had been torn to pieces by the lions, the Name of JESUS was found written in his heart. A legend only, I know: but thus much it teaches, that none of you can fight with the lions of spiritual enemies, unless you have that Name written there, not, as S. Paul says, "With fleshly letters of the pen, but with the Spirit of the Living GOD." A hundred times do we hear of its being the last word uttered on the rack, or in the flames, or on the sick bed: do we find it worked into banners, carved as the chief and concluding ornament of the great church or the Altar: as it should be in you, the true Temple, on you, the Living Altar.of the HOLY GHOST. You know, too, how above all other Doctors of the Church, S. Bernard seemed raised to this very end, that he should beyond others magnify this Name: how, without repeating himself, he poured forth sermon after sermon, all transfigured, as it were, by the love and the fulness of that Name to which they were dedicated. You know how hymn after hymn has been cast into the treasury of the Church, all celebrating this Name only: this Name, than which there is none other under Heaven given whereby we may be saved: this Name, for which our iniquity is to be pardoned: that Name which is so nigh, and that do its wondrous works declare.
But all this is a very poor and imperfect kind of knowing: is not knowing in any real and true sense.
"Alone who hath Thee in his heart, Knows, Love of JESUS, what Thou art."
Of this, you must have the witness in yourselves. You must know how far you are more and more loving, more and more clinging to that Name. You must know how far it only passes over your tongue, and does not go near your heart of hearts. The hours, dear Sisters, during which you kneel or sit by those desks, are only so far worth as they are really given to the knowing that Name, and its consequences: "They that know Thy Name will put their trust in Thee." How far it is really helping you to fight against the sins that most easily beset you? how far does it make you say, and act out what you say: "I will take heed to my ways, that I offend not with my tongue?" Of course, where there is victory for the past, there is trust for the future: of course, when you find that in days gone by you did this, or left alone that, which in your own strength you could not have done or left undone, you feel that you can break through present chains, and achieve present victories. But then, O miserable Sister, if she must own to herself that she has no such knowledge! To see day roll by after day, weary task succeed to weary task, hour of prayer to hour of prayer, no hope of change in this world, no happy anticipation of the next. I cannot bear to imagine it possible that such a thing can be; and yet we know, it can. We know how many souls, bound by religious vows, have lost this world for their sake, and by their means, sunk only the lower into Hell. And notice, it is: "They that know Thy Name,"--not, that knew Thy Name. You know the story how Cromwell, on that fearful death-bed of his, when, if ever any man had his conscience seared with a red-hot iron, his was, eagerly inquired whether he that had once been in a state of grace, could ever fall away, and how, when the chaplain replied, "Neither fatally nor finally," he cried out as if relieved from anguish: "Then I must be saved: for I know that I was once in grace." Dearest Sisters, there have been times in which, had it pleased GOD to remove each one of you from this world, I should have known--so far as mortal man can know anything--that an entrance would have been abundantly administered to each of you into those good things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive. But those times will not serve you now: nay, the grace you had then will not do now; because, as you grow on in worldly years, so you must grow in grace. And this is the question of questions for you.
Now I was talking of your rules; and of the necessity of keeping them not for their own worth, but because without the habit of perpetual obedience your Christian lives cannot be sustained. And you should be glad that it is so. Because you have a real tangible proof, each of you, whether you are trying more and more to serve GOD. Did you break this by omission, and that by commission, and did your conscience remind you of it, only to be stifled? or did another remind you of it, only to irritate you? or have you spoken angrily or unkindly, or unnecessarily repeated what could do no good, and could make mischief? Well, then: "Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous." In those cases, you are not knowing that Name which is life eternal. Yes: if you could but tell how much harm sentences do, that you sometimes yourselves forget, spoken in a hurry, spoken carelessly, spoken without any intention or idea of really sinning--how they lie in the minds of those who hear them, festering there, you would indeed pray with all your heart to be delivered from the curse of idle words. "Thou shalt find it after many days," is as true of evil words and works as of good. A marvellous life they seem to have: Satan takes care of those little seeds of mischief: his influences water them and rear them, till in time to come they bear bitter fruit. I am not speaking at random. I myself have sometimes been astonished that a sentence apparently so trifling, should have remained so long in the mind: should awake after so long an apparent slumber, and should then be so powerful for mischief. Oh, dear Sisters, the hermit Pambo knew something of this, when he professed that the words, " I said, I will take heed unto my ways, that I offend not in my tongue," were enough employment for his life!
It is a perpetual criterion, a touchstone which you cannot put away from you. When a Religious House has stood for many years, and seen several generations of Sisters, its rules may, and sometimes do, become so completely acted on as matters of course, that they form no great proof of the love that each Sister bears to her LORD. But it must be years before that will be the case with any of you. And certainly, in your place, I should exult that I have a thing by which I could continually satisfy myself that I was trying to follow the Man of Sorrows, the obedient Child of Nazareth. And, the more contrary to flesh and blood, the more one would feel disposed to rejoice at a proof that one was not deceiving one's self; not following cunningly devised fables.
But I rejoice in this thing also. For though I will not deny, dearest Sisters, that I see things in some of you, that may well make me anxious, I yet know that it is only by the help of the Name, exalted above every name, that we continue to this day. He has been thus far with us: He has made straight that which was crooked; He has made plain that which was rough. I know how hard it is to avoid one of two evils--either the so acknowledging what He has wrought, as not to see how often we have failed; or, again, so to concentrate our thoughts on our shortcomings, as not, nevertheless, to say, "Yea, the LORD hath done great things for us already, whereof we rejoice." The very Name, JESUS, ought to teach us better; for in itself it mentions as well that from which we are saved, as that into which we are brought.
There is no legend more common in those brazen figures of mediaeval monuments than, JESUS, BE THOU MY JESUS! Take it for yourselves, dearest Sisters. It is the prayer of all prayers for you. Nowhere is the word my so sweet as there. I, His poor sinful servant; I, His weak, trembling soldier; I, His unloving, unfaithful bride--He, in each of these characters, in ten thousand others, He my JESUS. Mine to cling to in every difficulty; mine to call on in every danger; mine to be comforted by in every affliction; mine, while I journey through the wilderness of this world, to feed on; mine, when I come to the heavenly land, to go to, embraced in His Arms, satisfied with His fulness, swallowed up in His Love! And now, &c.