IN one word did our Blessed Lord upon the Cross sum up the whole of man's salvation and His own Eternal purpose for our Redemption, "It is finished." In one word (for each is one word in the language wherein He spake them) doth He here, revealing Himself as He sitteth upon His Throne in glory, sum up the whole of time, "It is done." In one human word did our Lord gather into one all which He had willed, and wrought, and suffered, for man's salvation. "Finished" was the determinate Counsel of God; "finished" all that prophecy had foretold and type foreshadowed, and Patriarchs and righteous men had longed to see, and Angels desired to look into; "finished" the work which His Father gave Him to do, and the deliverance He had wrought in the midst of the earth; "finished" were all the sufferings which the malice of man or of Satan could inflict, and the Cup of His Father's wrath; "finished" "the transgression" and "an end made to sin;" "finished" the One Sacrifice for sin, the Mortal Life of God made Man, the victory over Satan, his rule and our enthralment.
And now once more, at the close of the world and of time, He that sitteth upon the Throne proclaimeth "It is done." This one great word, in a manner, stands over against, and carries on and enlarges the other. At the Cross all was "finished" in and by Him, our Head. His Holy Mortal Life was over: He was "perfect through sufferings." He died as Man; He entered upon Death and Hell as their Conqueror, to lead captivity captive. But what was perfected in the Head remained yet to be fulfilled in the Body. In. that He vouchsafes to call Himself our Head, He vouchsafes, in a manner, not to account Himself, as Man, perfect without the Body. And what is His Body? Ourselves, brethren, and such as we, imperfect though we be, if we be in Him, if we be longing to be perfected. All was then "finished" in hope, in the earnest, in the First-fruits. In that He vouchsafes to make us His members, when He died, we died with Him; when He arose, we arose in Him: when He sat at the Right Hand of God to make intercession for us, He made us to sit in heavenly places in Himself. We sit in Heaven in Him, as He upon earth still suffers, in His faithful ones, as He saith, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" Yet was this as yet in hope only. Martyrs had yet to win their crown, resisting unto blood; all had "to fight the good fight, striving against sin." All the faithful who were before us, all who now are, and all who shall be to the end, all belong to the one Body of Christ; all, from Abel to the end, who have or shall believe in Him Who bruised for us the serpent's head, belong to that one City of God, that one Body, whereof He is the Head; all, with the countless, blessed, Heavenly Host, belong to that One Heavenly Jerusalem, which in everlasting peace and bliss, shall endlessly praise Whom they shall endlessly love. [S. Aug. in Ps. 62. § 2.] Many, then, yet unborn, many now imperfect, many, we trust, who are out of that Body, many, now feebly struggling, or hanging yet in a fearful balance between good and ill, between Satan and God; many now led captive or just recovered and who have yet to weep their falls, and through the Blood of Christ wash out their sins with tears of penitence, yea, some even now dead and buried in trespasses and sins, shall hear the Voice of Christ and live, and shall be owned by Him in the Great Day as His own, yea, twice His own, because when they had wasted in themselves the Price of His Blood, He anew, through that Blood, restored them.
All are saved as yet in hope only. And so, to cheer and animate us in our strife, our Good Lord in this great word "It is done," places us again on the borders of our Heavenly rest, thence to look back on the strifes, and toils, and cares, and temptations, and joys, and sorrows of this fleeting life, as things past and "done." "It is done." All, that is, which ever shall be "done." Things take place in time only. In Eternity things do not take place, are not "done," but are. To be done implies change. What we do, before we did it, was not; what just now was to be, has been. When ye came into this Church, ye had yet to pray, to sing Psalms, to hear God's Word: then it was yet to be; now "it is done." Many of you will yet, by God's mercy, receive the Bread of Life: bye and bye this too will be "done" Lin act, although, by His Mercy, to abide with you in effect. In Eternity will be neither beginning nor end of praise; there they who attain will not weary of praising Whom they will not be wearied of loving: there, will be no feeding on Him from time to time, but one unceasing inflowing of Himself in all the Blessed, one unceasing flowing back of praise and love. In Eternity there is no "has been" or "shall be," but the One Unchangeableness of God: I AM. GOD is, and the glory of the Saints and their bliss, in Eternity, is in Him, unchangeable as HIMSELF Who is their Glory and their Bliss. And in Hell, the damned shall be fixed too in everlasting, unchangeable, hate of God. This strange mystery of "time," as "the Angel sware by Him Who liveth for ever and ever," "shall be no longer." This strange mystery of change in the works of the Unchanging God, shall have no end; and all shall return to that everlasting rest, in which God dwelt when time and creation as yet were not, but only the Co-Equal Trinity in His Eternity.
All shall then be "done" which God in His Eternal Foreknowledge hath ordered and controlled; all His Counsel to the whole race of man, the good and the bad, Angels and devils; all our separate acts; all God's Grace and our labours: God's Long-suffering and our rebellions or our penitence; all our virtues, gained through His Grace; all our trials; our perfecting and the chastisements wherewith we shall be perfected; even Fruits of the Spirit, as "Gentleness, Long-suffering, Goodness, Meekness, Temperance, '" all excellence which belongs to this life of trial, shall be "done;" yea, Faith and Hope themselves shall be swallowed up in the Sight and Everlasting Embrace of Him in Whom here, not seeing, we believe, in Whom we trust, Whom we would love. Love alone shall abide, because It is God Himself. Yet even love itself shall not show itself there in works of love and mercy; for mercy is only where there is misery, and all there shall be unchanging bliss. [See S. Aug. Serm. 104. § 3. [54. p. 419, Oxf. Tr.]] Thither "the works of those who die in the Lord do follow them;" they are not there wrought. There are no hungry to feed, no naked to clothe, no houseless to take in; no sick to visit; no thirst to quench: no strife to make peace; for all shall be fed and clad and healed and satisfied for ever, by Him, and in Him, to Whom, in His members here, we minister, our everlasting Home and Peace, CHRIST our GOD. In Him Who is the Beginning and the End, Alpha and Omega, beginning and end shall then meet in one, in Him our First Beginning and our Everlasting End.
"It is done." What a word is that, my brethren! As it sounds, what a world of busy restlessness it seems to cut off at once. Well may it! For it is the end of the whole world itself, of all but God. How it seems to cut us short: what a sudden shock it would give us mostly, were we to hear it, at once, when He Who created time, shall bid it cease to be. Here we are ever doing; well, if it be well-doing! Here, we are mostly ever planning, toiling, looking forward to things in time, things which may be or may not be, hoping', fearing, living more in that which shall be, than in that which is; restless, never at one stay; if we have not, aiming to have; if we have, aiming to have more, or what we have not; every thing is but a step to that which lies beyond: in nothing, are we beings of the day; in joy, we long for other joys; in grief, we grieve yet more in dread of the morrow than of to day! What a lesson we are to ourselves, if we would read ourselves and our own instincts aright, that there is but one future to look to, that which shall have no future; One End to aim at, even Him Who hath no end; One Joy, One Love, One Peace and Rest, where joy shall not, in the tumultuous way of joys of this earth, displace joy, because it shall be in Him, the Selfsame, the Unchanging; yea we ourselves, if we attain, shall be in Him, changed into His Own Image, and in a manner into Himself through His Indwelling, embosomed and resting in that full, deep, tranquil, Ocean of His Love, and His Joy.
But now! to think of all as "done!" How it would bring most of us to a startled stand-still, as when men are stopped at once in the midst of an eager impetuous course, and their whole selves seem shaken by the sudden check. We are, mostly, ever looking forward, and this Voice turns us round at once, and bids us look back. We are, too often, living in an earthly future; then, all of earth will be past and "done. "Now men are looking on; and hope is as that glass which enlarges things distant; look back, and all shrivels and contracts into a speck, and can no longer fill either eye or heart. How large and long seemed this one year to many, when they entered it; how full, to many, of hopes, and cares, and schemes, and pleasures! What a mere point it has become now! Nothing of it remains, but the traces it has left upon our souls, good or bad. Any of us may deceive ourselves anew, if they will, as to the next, and the next, and the next. They cannot, if they will look steadfastly at it, deceive themselves as to the past. They may, if they will, fill the future and their minds with unreal things, with hopes which shall never be; they may "chase the wind," "to reap the whirlwind;" in this life's desert, the fiery wastes in the distance may seem like water;" when reached, they are but sand. [The "Sharab" (Is. 49, 10), or "mirage," which often deceives even way-farers who know the country. The thirst it excites is the more intense and more bitterly felt.] No revel but seems miserable in the morning-light; no sin, but is sickening, when fulfilled. "The wine giveth its colour in the cup, moveth itself aright; at the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder." "The past preachcth stern truth, if we will but hear. It is real. It has come to an end; and so in it, we may see things as they shall be in the end. Scarcely the most abandoned sinner can endure the past. Cain, Saul, Ahab, Judas hated it. When the miserable pleasure or gain is over, scarce any but must hate the memory of past guilt. And so, man would ever escape from it, stifle his bitter memories of the past, forget himself and anew look onward, ever begin his course of worldliness or sin anew, and hide from his eyes its end. And God would ever turn him back upon himself, and in the end of each portion of his life, make him read the end of all things and his own.
And we ourselves are witnesses to ourselves in earthly things. In them ye doubt not that the end is the touchstone of their value. Ye prize not what looks fair to the eye, but what endures; not what gives good promise, but what fulfils it; not schemes on paper, but realities; not the rich purple glow of morning, but the day's calm abiding brightness; not the beginning, but the end. "Call no man happy before his death," said once a wise heathen. [Solon] We judge of things as they tend towards their end; contain, in a manner, their end in themselves, secure it. Well-laid schemes ye call those, which in every step look to, advance towards, their end. Worldly wisdom is that which gains its end. And shall not Divine wisdom be that which gains its own unending End, the End of all ends, the Everlasting God?
And so, our Blessed Lord, lest His Blood should have been shed for us in vain, carries us beyond this world, beyond all time, and places us at "the end." Stand we there with Him for a while aloft, and as it were, out of this world, and look back with Him upon the world, as we shall see it then. What see we there? He Himself has told us. "The heavens passing away with a great noise, and the elements melting with fervent heat, the earth also and the works therein burnt up." Where then will be empires and kingdoms? Where the greatness and the riches of this world, of such as are "not rich towards God?" Alas! burnt up. Where then "the great city," the Babylon of the world, "that was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, who said in her heart, I sit a queen and shall see no sorrow?" "Utterly burnt with fire, for strong is the Lord God Who judgeth her." Where is "the pride of the world, "which saith "I will be like the Most High?" "Brought down to Hell, to the depths of the pit." Where then, "every high tower and every fenced wall, and ships of Tar-shish, and images of desire, "all which fills the heart of man? "The Day of the Lord of Hosts is upon them. "Where is the vanity and "the bravery of ornaments?" In that day, saith God, "there shall be burning instead of beauty." Where the "gold and silver kept back by fraud" and hardness of heart? God saith "It shall eat your flesh as it were fire." Where "all the houses of joy in the joyous city? ""All joy," answers the word of God, "is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone." Where the works of the mighty? God saith, "The mighty shall he as tow and his work as a spark, and they shall both bum together and none shall quench them." Where "the lusts of the flesh?" "Her scum," saith God, "shall be in the fire. "Where all works which are not according to God? "The fire," saith God, "shall try every man's work, of what sort it is." What then shall abide in this universal burning? Since "the earth and the works thereof shall be burned up," that only shall abide, which is not of earth, the Wisdom which is from above, "gold tried in the fire" and bought of Christ, the gold of charity, and the silver of wisdom, and the precious stones of rich, varied, beauteous graces, gleaming with the Light of God's Holy Spirit, "built upon the Foundation, Which is Jesus Christ."
And now amid this universal burning, and in this awful lurid light of a world "in flames, crackling, sinking, melting amid the deluge of the everlasting fire of God, bursting out from its very centre, look well, if thou canst see any trace of those things which now tempt thine eyes, thy heart, thy pride, thy flesh. Then, when kingdoms are burnt up, and the whole earth passeth away like a scroll, sec, if thou canst, mark well, thy own petty objects of desire, for which thou art now ready to sell thy soul; thy petty gains, for which thou wilt part with the golden streets of heaven; the limbs of flesh, for which Thou wilt exchange the Embrace of God; thy poor pride, for which thou barterest everlasting glory; titles of earth, for which thou tramplest under foot the crowns of heaven; the praise of man, for which thou prodigally castest away the praise of God; houses and lands, for which thou givest up the heritage purchased by Thy Saviour's Blood, "the Kingdom prepared for thee from the foundation of the world" luxuries and pomps, the things of thy birth and station, selfish enjoyments of thy poor body, for which thou refusest to feed, and clothe, and warm, the poor of Christ. See if thou canst find them, keep them, treasure them, pluck them out of the fire of the Great Day; if so, by all means hoard them, keep them, now. If these are the diadems of heaven, thy Saviour's lot on earth, the tokens He will own, the badges of His discipleship, the treasure with which thou shalt be "received into everlasting habitations," gather them around thee; redouble thy pains; let no joy pass by thee. If not a wreck will escape then, behold, in that their end, their value now.
Yea, "would," men shall say, "there were no traces of them then!" Yet too surely shall they be found, not without thee, but within thee, in the book of thy conscience, the book out of which thou shalt be judged; bound up with thee, and part of thee and binding thee; thou shalt find them not as thy possessions, but as things to possess thee; the things themselves passed away; the stain of conscience, the gnawing worm, the corroding sin, all, unless washed away by the tears of penitence and thy Saviour's Blood, too surely shalt thou find. What thou hast sought now, thou wouldest, if thou couldest, flee then; "they hatch, "saith Holy Scripture, "cockatrice eggs, and, crushed, it breaketh forth into a viper." "Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days;" but alas, therein, thou "treasurest up unto thyself wrath, against the Day of wrath and revelation of the righteous Judgment of God." What thou lovest now, thou wouldest hate then, and thyself for having loved them.
And now, Brethren, having thus looked back on this world, as it shall then seem at the end amid the fires of the Judgment Day, take up your stand again where ye are now, amid the temptations, cares, deceits, follies of the day, and thence again look forward, if ye can and will. Look forward anew to the vanities of the world, its schemes and pleasures, its strifes, and wealth, and power, and honours; the praise of men, the gaining of all the wishes of your hearts out of God; set before you, if ye will, hold in your grasp, all that your minds, in their wildest dreams, ever fancied, or pictured to themselves, of good out of God. Only take heed, that ye look far enough. Look on, if ye will. Add pleasure to pleasure, gain to gain, honour to honour, vanity to vanity, self-indulgence to self-indulgence; stretch out your sight, month after month, year after year. Be it that each step, instead of weariness and loathing, should but satisfy your hearts the more! We will look on with you, if ye will look on with us. We will look on with you, step by step, through all the years of time, grant all ye claim, if ye will but look on with us, beyond all time, to eternity. Imagine to yourselves, what ye will do or enjoy, or sin, next, and next, and next; so ye still ask on, "But what next?" "And what afterwards?" "What afterwards?" belongs to time; ask on beyond all time; what is that "afterwards" which has no "afterwards," the afterwards of an everlasting unchanging doom? Do what ye will, so that those words "What afterwards?" ring in your ears, and ye with truth will answer them. When thou art tempted to sin, pause but this one moment, ask thyself steadfastly, "And what afterwards?" await the answer (sin has but one "afterwards," deep penitence or Hell), and through God's mercy on thy soul, thou wilt sin no longer. Those words "What afterwards?" have by God's mercy converted souls to Him; for surely no things of time can satisfy a soul made to outlive all time, no things of sense can suffice an undying spirit; nothing passing can be the end of the soul which abideth; nothing created can fill the soul made for its Creator.
This then can be the only measure of the value of things in time, what shall be their value when time itself is gone. Even a heathen, was taught of God to say, "The whole life of the wise is a thinking on death." [Plato, in Phædone] That only is wise to be done, which in death ye shall wish ye had done. "Whatsoever thou takest in hand," saith the son of Sirach, "remember the end, and thou shalt never do amiss." "Oh that they were wise," saith God Himself, "that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end." "Whether I eat, or whether I drink," says an ancient father, "whether I study or whatsoever else I do, that last trumpet ever soundeth in my cars, 'Arise, ye dead, come to judgment.'" [S. Jerome.] "In every work," it is an ancient rule, "let each say to himself, Wert thou about to die, wouldest thou do this?" [Arnulfi Spec. Monach. in S. Bern. Opp. T. 2. p. § 16.] Not only open sinners then, Brethren, but we all, whom God has placed or brought back into the narrow way, have need ever to try again and again, what we are doing, by that searching test, how shall we look upon it, when all "is done?" We are not yet in our home: not as yet do we reign; things around us still dazzle us; self-pleased thoughts may yet mislead us: we have still, while yet we are in the flesh, to strike closer and closer into the narrow way, closer and closer to cleave to God, more and more to part with all which would keep us from God. And so God often brings things around us to a sudden end, or brings us, in our own sight, near the end, that so we may see things more as we shall see them in the end. Seasons of sorrow or sickness, or approaching death, have shown persons a whole life in different colours from what it wore before; how what before seemed "grace" was but "nature;" how seeming zeal for God was but natural activity [Cecil.] how love of human praise had robbed men of the praise of God; how what they thought pleasing to God, was only pleasing self; how one subtle self-pleasing sin, has cankered a whole life of seeming grace. Wherever, then, we may be, in the course Heaven-wards, morning by morning let us place before ourselves that Morning which has no evening; and purpose we to do that and that only, which we shall wish we had done, when we shall see it in the light of that Morning when in the Brightness of His Presence, every pica of self-love, which now clouds our eyes, shall melt away. Evening by evening, set we before us that night "wherein no man can work," and resolve we, by God's grace, to work on the morrow, if we see it, more steadfastly the works of God. "Place daily," said an holy Bishop of our own, "place daily before your eyes your end. Think most intently, whose those things shall be, what they shall profit you, which shall remain after you. [S. Anselm, Ep. iii. 63. ad Burgundium et Richer, conjugem ej.] Think whither ye shall go; what ye shall carry with you; what, sent before by you, ye shall find there. Of a truth, ye shall not carry thither, nor find there, aught but your own deeds, good or bad.-This think ye; these things meditate, by night and by day, in public or in private; this be your converse together, What do we? Why linger we? Near is our last day. How spend we our life? How make we amends to God for our sins? Prepare we, as seeing, close to us, the day of our calling hence, and so fashion ourselves that we may, without fear, go to judgment, since there we shall receive what we have done in the body, good or bad."
Shrink we not, although as we bring our works near to the light of that Day, much seeming good be shewn to us to be real evil, or full of imperfection. Shrink we not, although our seeming treasure melt away, and wherein we thought ourselves rich, we find ourselves poor; shrink we not, although the fire of that Day, while it burns away our dross, scorch us; draw we not back, although by that light, we see that we must part with this self-indulgence, or sloth, or quickness of temper, or that cherished way of acting, which has wound close round us, self-esteem, or love of the praise of man, or even longing' for human sympathy. Rather, offer we ourselves, in union with the All-Atoning Sacrifice, to love nothing, to prize nothing, to wish for nothing, to fear nothing, to hold nothing, to regret nothing but what we shall love, prize, wish for, or be glad we had feared, held, regretted, when our Saviour's and Judge's Voice shall utter those dread words "It is done." So, baring ourselves more and more of all unpleasing unto Him, shall we with less sluggish steps, follow Him, Who emptied Himself of all which was His, that He might give us All.
Nor, having chosen or wishing to choose the better part, think we that it will be long and wearisome to do without this or that; let not Satan turn or hold us back by telling us we can never hold on so long without this or that; think we it not a weary, dreary future, to wait so long for the Coming of the Lord. Advent by Advent, His Coming draweth nigh; Advent by Advent, with each decaying year, the tokens thicken of the world's decay, the closing strife, the Coming of our God.
Year by year we are nearer to the blessed day when, if we have not parted, we can never be parted from our God. Think it not long to wait for Him, for Whom the disciple of His love waited for seventy years of loving longing, and to whom it might have seemed as though He willed that he should tarry till Himself came. Toward the end He said, "Behold I come quickly." And to thee, too, if thou lookest up steadfastly to thine everlasting home, all between shall seem but a span. Long and wide and far distant seem what thou seest along this earth. Look straight up towards thy home in heaven, and sun, moon, and stars seem close unto thee; yet nearer than the sun is He, thy Sun of Righteousness; nearer to thee, for He came down from heaven, as at this time, to dwell with thee and in thee; nearer to thee, for He is in thy thoughts, thy heart, thy soul, if thou seekest Him--one Spirit with thee. Nearer to thee, at thy very door, at thy very feet, in thy every action, are heaven and hell. He, our Salvation, draweth nigh. He Who brought us to the morning, will bring us to the evening; He Who bringeth us to the evening, will bring us on to the morrow. Satan would deceive men, and bid them delay this or that--the breaking off of a sin, the taking a shorter, straighter road, till to-morrow, and tomorrow, and to-morrow; and ye know too well that tomorrow never comes. God says, "I change not." Fear not for the morrow; I Who am with thee to-day, abide always. "I am the Beginning and the End." "He Who began a good work in thee will perform it unto the end." Where should there be any space between the beginning and the end, wherein He should fail thee, Who is thy First Beginning, and shall be thy Last End?
Look ye, too, on to that day when He Whom ye would love shall say, "It is done. "Think ye of that day when, with loving kindness, He shall say, "well done, good and faithful servant." "In due season ye shall reap, if ye faint not." Brief as are the joys of this world, briefer yet are its afflictions and its weariness; for, bitter in themselves, they are sweetened by the hopes of the everlasting sweetness of the life to come. How will all the longest trials shrink into a very nothing, when thy amazed soul shall enter into the brightness of His eternal Light and Love. "Though He tarry, wait for Him, because He will come, He will not tarry." "He Who sitteth on the throne saith, Behold thy Salvation cometh!" He will come to thee now unseen, by grace. He will come to thee, veiled in His Sacraments. He will come to thee in thy secret chamber; He will descend upon thee in thy prayers; He will ascend with thee, and bear thee in His Arms, that thou faint not, nor grow weary; He will be with thee in trouble; in temptation He will shield thee; in slippery places He will uphold thee; in the fever-heat of thy passions, He will be dew from above to cool thee; in the cold of desolation, He will be fire to kindle thee; in the aching of the heart, His everlasting Arms will be beneath, whereon to rest thee; in the tumults of thy soul, He shall hush thee with more than a mother's love; in thy fears, He shall fold thee in His Bosom; in loneliness, He shall be a still small Voice within thee; "when father and mother forsake thee, He shall take thee up;" when thou passest through the valley of the shadow of death, He saith, "I will be with thee;" around thee, in life; in death, to receive thee. "Thou shalt fear no evil, for I am with thee." When thou fearest, He shall lay His hand upon thee, (as He did upon His beloved disciple), and shall "strengthen thee, and shall uphold thee by the Right Hand of His righteousness," saying, "Fear not; I am the First and the Last; I am He that liveth and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Behold I come quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. Even so, come, Lord Jesus."