(Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1845).
(Preached on the Friday Evening. Vigil of All Saints.)
HEB. xii. 2.
Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
GREAT need have we, indeed, to look to Jesus! As Man, our Way and Pattern and Guide; as God, our Home to Whom we are going; without, the Image Which, day by day, we should seek to have traced upon ourselves; within, the Giver of that Holy Spirit Who traces it; without, in His Life, Death, and Passion, the Object of our Love; within, He poureth in that love wherewith we love Him, through the Holy Spirit which He hath given us: His Passion melteth into love those whose thoughts dwell upon It, and He by His Fire first melteth our stony hearts within, and upholdeth our heavy thoughts that they may rest on Him. He is our Teacher, without, by His gracious and Divine Acts; within, by pouring into us His Light and Love: our Redemption by His Death, our Righteousness by His Indwelling; Himself in Himself the Eternal Righteousness and Wisdom, for Which we thirst; our Righteousness here in the way, in that we thirst for Him; hereafter in His Fulness, when they who thirst for Him, shall be filled. He is "the Author and Finisher of our Faith" without us, in that He Who is "the Beginning and the End," is the Object of our Faith, and Alone wrought that Redemption, whereon our faith hangs. He is "the Author and Finisher of our Faith" within us in that faith is His gift, He gave us hearts to believe, He increaseth, upholdeth, perfecteth our faith; to those who shall persevere to the end, perseverance is His gift; He calleth His own out of the world, guides them by His counsel, upholds them by His Hand, is with them in the valley of death, receives them into glory. "Whom have I, Lord, in Heaven but Thee? and there is nothing upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever."
And of these ways of beholding our Lord, it must be very dangerous to allow the soul to contemplate Him in either, to the neglect of the other. Our Lord is One Lord. In His humiliation He was God; in His exaltation He is Man, since, as Man onlyr could the Co-Equal Son be exalted. He was Almighty God, when He "abhorred not the Virgin's womb," lay in the manger, was carried into Egypt, was spit upon, blind-folded, buffeted, was weary, faint, expired on the Cross. As God, He sanctified her who bare Him, received the wise men's gifts, supported her in whose arms He was supported, gave to each suffering its value for the effacing of the sins of the whole world. And now, as Man, He intercedeth, yea prayeth, for us, who as God heareth us. "No greater gift," says an ancient father, "could God bestow on men than that He made His Word through Whom He created all things, their Head, and united them to Him as members; so that He should be Son of God and Son of Man; One God with the Father and one Man with men; in such wise that neither when we speak to God in prayer, do we separate from Him the Son, nor when the body of the Son prayeth, doth He separate from Himself His own body, but He Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, is the One Saviour of His body, Who both prayeth for us and prayeth in us, and is prayed by us. He prayeth for us as our High Priest, prayeth in us as our Head, is prayed by us as our God." Either were contrary to the Faith, to think that, as Man, He ever did any act except as being also God, or that His acts had not in them a Divine virtue and excellence, because He did them, being God; or that now His Sacred Manhood, although Deified, and passing into the Divine Nature, does not still coexist, never to be severed from His Godhead.
Almost all heresies arise from some misbelief as to that great mystery of Godliness, "God manifest in the Flesh." St. John says, "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the Flesh is of God, and every spirit that believeth not that Jesus Christ is come in the Flesh is not of God." And so it must also be of great injury to our whole religious habits to think of Him at any time otherwise than as whole Christ. "Own we," says the same father, "the two-fold Substance of Christ, the Divine, whereby He is Equal to the Father; the Human, whereby the Father is greater. Yet Both together is not two, but One Christ; else were God a quaternity, not the Trinity. For as the rational soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is One Christ; and thereby Christ is God, a reasonable Soul, and Flesh. Christ we own in all; Christ in each. Who then is He by Whom the world was made? Christ Jesus; but in the Form of God. Who was crucified under Pontius Pilate? Christ Jesus; but in the form of a Servant. And so of each part whereof the Man consists. Who was not left in hell? Christ Jesus; but only in the Soul. Who lay three days in the tomb, to rise again? Christ Jesus; but in the Flesh alone. In each of these then is Christ named. Yet all these are not two, or three, but One, Christ."
It were then very perilous, in dwelling upon the Person or Office of our Blessed Lord, to allow ourselves to dwell so to say, on one side only of His Divine Truth; to think of Him (as one such case) as our Pattern, without thinking of Him as our Redeemer; or as our Redeemer, and not as our Pattern; or again, as both our Pattern and Redeemer, and not also the Author of all grace whereby alone we can receive Him as either. For so wre should divide Him Who is One; and not only do men injure their whole faith, but even that very portion of it, which they set thus partially before them. Thus Scripture says, "Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the Flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind;" i. e. be this your armour against the evil one, to be conformed with Christ Crucified, to crucify your sins, to nail to His Cross the desires of the flesh, the pride of life, the love of the world, yea, every longing of the heart which draws away from Him, though the nails pierce you to the quick as they did His Divine and tender Flesh, when, for you, He hung in pains unutterable on the Cross. Suffer with Him, that ye may reign with Him. It were a dream, then, and contrary to Holy Scripture, to think that we could love the Passion of Christ and not engrave it on our lives; that we could be melted by His sorrows, which for us He bare, and ourselves not sorrow or suffer with Him; "delicate members of a thorn-crowned Head," as though His bitter Sufferings were but to give us ease, to "eat, drink, and be merry," to disport ourselves on this earth, which He watered with His Bloody Sweat, and redeemed with His Precious Blood. The Sufferings of Christ cannot be real to him who never suffers. Again, we know how very coldly they have ever spoken, who have set forth our Lord as the Pattern, Whom we should follow, themselves not meditating upon the Redemption He wrought, or with what bitter pains He wrought it, or Who He was that wrought it, It is not that they deny it; but speaking or thinking of Him as Man, the example of us men, they lose the living faith, that in all He was Almighty God, and think of His Divine Actions, after the manner of men rather than as a Divine law for man.
Again, it is not uncommon to speak of His Sacred Passion as if It must affect the heart of man, whereas we might remain, ice-cold under His very Cross, unless He Himself kindle our hearts with His piercing look of love. He has said, "If I be lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men unto Me." Truly there is in the Passion a power of love, to draw men and Angels into one, to make men Angels, and all one in Christ, to draw us out of the mire of sin wherein we lay, aloft to Him, to make us hang on Him, cleave unto Him, to lift us up from earth and earthly desires, with that cloud of witnesses by whom we are surrounded, whom we this Eve commemorate, the white-robed army of His redeemed, which ever followeth Him, drawn up by the Sun of Righteousness, away from the damp of this earth, gathering around Him, and glorified by His light and reflecting it. Yet this power It has only, because He Who loves our souls, imparts it; He must draw us inwardly, if we are to run to Him, as He has said, "No man cometh unto Me, unless the Father Who hath sent Me draw him." He saith not, "The thoughts of My Passion, meditation on My exceeding love, thankfulness for the love wherewith I so loved them as for them to become Man, for them so to suffer," but "I shall draw all men unto Me." Himself, our Redeeming Lord, is that living Centre of our souls, the Sun of Righteousness to Whom all things are drawn, around Whom all things roll, to Whom all turn, from Whom all look for and have the glow of life and love, through which they live whom God brings back into the harmony of His creation. Himself is the True Sun, "from Whose heat nothing is hidden" in His new creation; Himself the Hidden Magnet, Who, having no Form or Beauty when He died for us, draws mightily to Himself all who have that which can be drawn, and drawing, holds them to Himself, imparting to them of the Virtue which goeth forth from Him, and thereby transforming them into Himself, so that the closer they are held to Him, the more of His Virtue floweth into them, and the more they receive of Him, the more do they, by His indwelling Virtue, cleave unto Him, upheld not of themselves but by His Spirit Which dwelleth in them. He, through Whom are all things, Himself, through all--inspirations, Sacraments, hidden drawings, the yearnings and cravings of the soul, prayers, meditations, the Mysteries of His Incarnation, Life and Death and Resurrection, His Sufferings and His Glory,--draweth all; Himself as God, the Beginning from Whom all things are, the End to Whom all things tend.
The Passion of our Lord hath in it all sweetness and savour and all manner of delight. In It, as in His Sacred Manhood, are hidden the treasures of His Divinity. It gives power to endure sufferings, and virtue to them, and makes them healthful. It is a remedy against temptation, healing for our wounds, strength to obey, power to love, wisdom to discern, deadness to the world, life to God, freedom from the chains of sin, alacrity to run the way to God, forgetfulness of self, love of God. It is the measure of the depth of our misery whence It raises us, and of the Infinite love of God, to which It draws us, and Whose treasures It lays open to us. It imparts a healthful sorrow for our sins, and makes our sorrow our chief joy; It makes us hate ourselves, and by that hatred and His love, makes us new selves, whom God loves. It turns heaviness into joy, pain into pleasure, shame into glory. It supports the weakness of penitents, the trust of the despairing, shields against relapses, is the holiness of saints, the everlasting joy of all the redeemed. Yet all these and all other wonders It worketh, not in the way of nature, nor of motives to win our affections, nor because our affections must needs be drawn by It; for on the contrary It repels the natural man, to the Jews a stumbling-block and to the Greeks foolishness, and then only avails, when through God's fore-coming grace, we yield ourselves to His gracious drawing.
We must then "look unto Jesus;" but our eye must be cleansed by Him to behold Him, strengthened by Him to gaze stedfastly on Him, fixed by Him, that it wander not from Him to the vanities of the world, quickened by Him, every where to discern Him, yea and turned inward upon ourselves, that enlightened by Him, we may know our own utter helplessness even to love Him. We must gaze on Him, with reverence, as our God, with self-abasement and shame, as being, ourselves, through our own sins, guilty of His Death; with wonder at the exceedingness of His love for one so unworthy of all love; with thankfulness for His long-suffering; with contrition for having wasted His love; with longing, again, from His love to receive His love; with purpose of heart to use all the grace He may give, and serve Him with more devoted service, for love of His Love, Who for love of our love vouchsafed to die.
I say not this, brethren, as if it were any new thing, or what ye had not always heard, seeing that these are the very elements of the Faith; but because what we acknowledge in words, we forget in acts; what we own by the understanding, we often receive not in the heart, and if we count ourselves safe and watch not, Satan steals sometimes one part of the truth, sometimes another from us. Who could doubt that he had nothing "which he had not received," that "every good gift and every perfect gift is from Above;" that of his own he hath nothing but his sins and short-comings? Who doubts, that as in every breathing the life of the body is retained within us through the secret operation of Almighty God, so for every healthful function of our soul's life we need the continual, forecoming, accompanying, sealing grace of God in Whom it lives and breathes? Yet he only acts faithfully on this belief, whose whole life is well nigh our prayer; who begins, continues, ends every course of action, labour, meal, conversation, rest, with some brief mental aspiration to God. Whoever would meditate, speak, preach, on the Passion of our Lord, thinking that It alone could touch men's consciences, would act, as if man could give himself love, or that unloving hearts must melt at once at the hearing of so great love. Blessed be God! the Cross of Christ hath still the same power It had at the first; It still draws penitents to His feet, twines them around It, that they cannot tear themselves from It, finding sorrow there sweeter than all other joy; It wins even those who once hung hardened on their own, converts those who have crucified Him afresh, rends the rocky hearts, awakens those asleep in the dust of forgetfulness, rescues the very prisoners of the grave, raises them, though long since dead, stinking through their corruptions and buried in the graves of their sins, and leads them forth into the holy city, out of the darkness of death into the light of His Presence, the earnest of the Resurrection. "O wonderful power of the Cross!" says a father, "O ineffable glory of the Passion, wherein is both the Judgment-seat of the Lord, and the judgment of the world. Thou hast drawn all things unto Thee, O Lord; and when all day Thou hadst stretched forth Thy Hands to an unbelieving people, gainsaying Thee, the whole world received the power to confess Thy Majesty. Thou, Lord, hast drawn all unto Thee; for Thy Cross is the fountain of all blessing, the cause of all graces, whereby to them who believe is given power out of weakness, glory out of shame, life out of death." "To none, how weak soever, is the victory of the Cross denied; nor is there any, whom the prayer of Christ aideth not."
Yet not the doctrine of the Cross alone, nor its preaching, nor gazing on it, nor bearing it, but He Himself Who for us hung thereon must impart Its virtue to us; Himself, Who bore the Cross to atone for us, applying Its saving efficacy to our souls; Himself, our living Pattern, tracing His own Divine Image on all who "look to" Him. "The Cross of Christ," says the same father, "undergone for man's salvation, is both a Mystery and a Pattern; a Mystery, whereby Divine Virtue is fulfilled, a Pattern whereby man's devotion is aroused; for when he is freed from the yoke of captivity, redemption giveth this power also, that whoso will, may follow it. For if the wisdom of this world in such wise glories in its errors, that whatsoever leader each chooseth, he followeth his opinions, and habits, and whole mode of life, what shall be to us the communion of the Name of Christ, but inseparable union with Him, Who is, as Himself taught, the Way, the Truth, and the Life; the Way of a holy conversation, the Truth of Divine doctrine, the Life of everlasting bliss?"
"Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith." We must then first behold Him as its Author, before we look to Him as its Finisher. In both, indeed, He is Himself the Same, Himself our Redemption, Himself the Source of all grace; to the penitent, the Pardoner of his sins; to the persevering, the Giver of endurance to the end; to the perfected, the Crown of the grace He hath given; yet to the perfected also their Redemption and the Remission of their sins, and the Riches of their salvation, to the penitent also, the Author of the grace of penitence.
Yet each hath its order. We must cease to do evil, ere we learn to do well; die to sin, ere we live to righteousness; mortify the deeds of the body, ere we live the life of the Spirit; bury the old man in the Tomb of Christ, ere the new can be retraced in us; die in His Death, ere we live fully by His Life.
The first-fruit then of the Passion of Christ, is to cleanse the soul in penitence. The vessel must be cleansed of its taints, ere it can receive the good Wine. It is in gazing on Jesus that we first learn the foulness of our sins, and gain a deep, loving, healthful sorrow; there that, loving much, we are much forgiven. If thou wouldest learn a loving penitence, if thou wouldest have thy sins forgiven, spread out thy sins there. It may be an aweful sight; but there, and there only, mayest thou endure them. To Him, the Judge of men, they are known already; they are known also, in a dreadful way, to the Accuser of the brethren, who taught them. Why should we alone, whom it most concerns, hide them from ourselves, to be revealed to us in the hour of death, perhaps, or hopelessly in the Day of Judgment? Then wilt thou love Christ as thy Redeemer, when thou knowest that He is thine own; not, in a vague way, for the infirmities of our nature or as one in the general mass of a sinful race, but when thou knowest thine own sins, and from what He Who died for thee has redeemed thee. Then wilt thou hate thy sins, when thou knowest what they were, one by one, by which thou addedst to that weight of sorrow which He bore; that they formed part of that amazement and great heaviness which He endured; that they sharpened the nails which pierced Him; they were the thorns, which wrung His Brow: to heal them, was His Holy Body torn with stripes; to cover thy shame, did He bear the shame of the Cross. He was forsaken of the Father, that thou, who hast so shamefully forsaken Him, mightest still not be for ever forsaken of Him, the God of thy salvation, Sit thou, then, when thou canst, apart: there, by the "light of His Cross, unfold the book of conscience; much once written there is faded from thy sight; He will revive the letters, if thou pray for His light; in darkness or loneliness much will come back, which is hidden amid the din and glare of the world. But chiefly He will unfold thee to thyself; at one time, one sin will flash across thee, then another; too surely are they thine own; they are the miserable price, at which thou boughtest thy miserable pleasures; the deadly sweetness has vanished, the bitter memory and the foul spots remain. Couldest thou see them all, thou couldest not endure their foulness or thyself; of thyself thou canst not cast them from thee, nor their bitter fruits. "We could not," says a holy man, "bear a garment so defiled. Who would not vehemently shrink from it, quickly cast it off, cast it from him, as abominable? What when we find ourselves such within, and the defiled soul cannot cast itself from itself? What when we find an inward leprosy, which at great pains and toil he hath gained to himself?" It is an aweful, dreadful, sight often, brethren, page after page, to unfold that miserable book, to see the wretched course of years, calendared by sins; each season of life yielding, perhaps, its own fruits of sin; years, months, days, hours, each swelling the haunting tale; each several sin an act of rebellion against God thy Father, of thanklessness to God thy Redeemer, of despite to God thy Sanctifier! and if each of that ghastly heap be such, what the whole? what the subtler sins, which the conscience was too blinded to perceive? what the canker eating away every seeming good? what seeming good could be the fruit of grace, amid all this which destroys all grace? Where in all this death could have been the life of the soul, which is God within it? Well may we say, "My sins have taken such hold upon me, that I am not able to look up; yea they are more in number than the hairs of my head, and my heart hath failed me."
But, aweful as the sight is, to what end to hide it from ourselves? Better that the loathsome, sickening, sore should come to the surface, than that it should putrify within, and become incurable. Fear not! He Who hath borne with thee in thy sin, much more will He upbear thee in thy penitence. It is His Voice Which hath called thee, "Lazarus, come forth." He hath called thee where thou didst lay, buried under the heavy weight of thy evil habits, hidden in thy conscience from His light, stiffened and bound round with the grave-clothes of thy sins, that thou couldest not move towards Him, and thy face bound round, that thou canst not yet behold Him; He, the depth of light and mercy, calleth to the depth of thy darkness and misery, to come forth from the darkness of thy conscience unto the light of His mercy; He shall loose thee that thou shalt come freely unto Him, and behold His Countenance, and be one of those who sit at the Table with Him in His Kingdom.
But, first, must we, with Magdalene, kneel at the foot of that aweful Tree, where He, the All-Holy, was made sin for us; He, Who was the Life, died; the Innocent was tortured; the Lord of Glory put to an open shame. Would it had been for us only! Enough had this been to have caused His Death. But ourselves to have done it! ourselves to be joined with those from whom we shrink, the Chief-Priests who mocked Him, the coarse multitude who reviled Him, the thieves (it is almost too dreadful, brethren, to speak) "who cast the same in His teeth." And yet (although it almost makes one dizzy to think of it and chokes one's breath) what says Scripture of any grievous sin? "Seeing that they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame." And yet, even thus, His prayer for His murderers may reach unto us, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do!" Alas! it is the misery of all sin, that men know not what they do; they know that they are displeasing God; but that they are preferring Satan to their Saviour, a poor bauble or a miserable excitement or a loathsome pleasure to His Precious Blood; that they are giving occasion to devils to triumph in their accursed victories; that they are putting Him Who so loved them as, when sinners, to die for them, to an open shame; this is hidden from them. Too late we find the countless ills gathered into one single deadly sin; too late we find that "too late have we loved Him:" happy, if through any grief or suffering we, by His melting look of pity, be brought to the penitent's confession, "We indeed justly;" to the prayer which translated him from the Cross to Paradise, "Remember me, Lord, in Thy Kingdom."
There then let us in His sight spread out before Him the number of our sins, their weight and measure, there (if our heart's best, youngest, warm affections have been wasted upon things of earth, and tears are dried and the heart is seared) let us, at least, with what is yet left us, with shame of face and bitterness of soul, go over our wasted years, our waste of the Price of our souls, His Blood, our waste of His gracious Presence, our ruin of His likeness in our souls, our decay or defilement, and the injury of His Glory. There, in union with His grief and bitter Sufferings, confess we our sins, as He knows them; offer, if not a broken and contrite heart, yet one that willeth, longeth, that He would break it; say again and again to himself, "Lord, I would, for love of Thee, grieve that I ever offended Thee; would I had never offended Thee! would I could yet please Thee! would I could have a burning love for Thee!" and He Who drew Magdalene to His Cross, Who, amid the blasphemies of the priests, the false witnesses, the buffetings, and spittings, turned His meek Countenance upon the disciple who had denied Him, He Who softened the heart of the robber who had blasphemed Him, will whether we hear His Voice or no, say, "Thy sins be forgiven thee." For boundless is the treasure of the Passion of Christ; boundless and overflowing the love of that Almighty Heart, Which for us was pierced; there, in That wounded Side may we bury all our sins; there may we hide ourselves from ourselves; we have opened It anew by our sins, yet It remaineth still "the Fountain open for sin and for uncleanness;" there will He, on true contrition, itself His own gift, again cleanse us; He will rebuild our ruined souls; of our own we have nought to offer; but if we claim it, all His is ours; for thee He suffered as if there were none beside; offer with humble heart to the Eternal Father for thine abandoned, useless, wasted life The All-Holy Life and Passion of His Son, and He will cleanse thee from all the sins, for which thou mournest to Him, all thou knowest, and all which, though thou know them not, yet in thy inmost heart thou hatest, and what thou lackest, He, out of the Fountain of His own Mercy, will supply.
Only beware that thou turn not like a dog to his vomit, lest, "if there be no end of sinning, there be at last an end of pardoning." Fearful, though not hopeless, are all serious relapses. In the Passion is thy forgiveness, but in the thought of the Passion must be thy armour. It must be thy refuge not in, but from thy sins; a home for thee, when wearied in the strife, not a mere covert for thy listlessness. "Because," says a father", "'the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord,' every where is the victory of Christ close at our side, to fulfil what He said; 'Fear not, I have overcome the world.' Whether then our warfare be against the ambition of the world, or the evil desires of the flesh", be we ever armed with the Cross of the Lord." Be this then thy shield in temptation, so to think of His Passion, as also quickly to ask, for His Love's sake, His help Who endured It for thee. No sin can long harbour in that breast, which so looks to Christ Crucified. Only let it so gaze as also at all times wholly to depend and hang upon Him, and depend upon Him, yet so as also ever to gaze upon Him and while gazing upon Him in the Sacred Mysteries of His Love, dart forth continual aspirations after His Likeness, and the fruits of His condescension, that through His Birth, He may be born in our hearts, and we, our earthly selves, die in His Death, rise through His Life, "in heart and mind thither ascend where He is, and with. Him continually dwell." For the heart which so gazes after Him, He will draw, more and more, secretly into Himself. Could any be proud, ever gazing on the "lowly of heart?" or impatient, looking ever to the Lamb of God? or avaricious, looking to Him Who being rich, for our sakes became poor? or hard-hearted, beholding His tears? or indulge in the thought of miserable sin, "in chambering and wantonness," gazing on that Holy Form, stretched and racked on the hard couch of the Cross? or use his hand to violence, or uncleanness, or immodesty, or any other ill, beholding His so meekly stretched to be pierced for our sins? "This love," says a holy man, "is contrary to the desire of the flesh. For what can be sweet to him in the flesh, to whom there is such sweetness in the Passion of Christ?" "I," he says in well-known words, "I, brethren, from the beginning of my conversion, in place of a store of merits, which I knew was lacking to me took care to bind together this bundle of myrrh and to place it between my breasts, gathering it from all the pains and bitter sorrows of my Lord; first, those endurances of His Infancy, then the toils which He underwent in preaching, His weariness in going to and fro, His watchings in prayer, His temptations in fasting, His tears in compassionating, the snares to catch Him in His words; lastly, His perils among false brethren, the revilings, spittings, buffetings, jeerings, reproaches, the nails, and the like, which for three and thirty years, for the salvation of our race, He did and suffered in the midst of the earth. The memory of the abundance of the sweetness of these things will I utter, so long as I live; for ever will I not be unmindful of those loving mercies; for in them I received life.
"These did holy David of old, with tears, seek after, saying, 'Let Thy loving mercies come unto me, that I may live.' These also another of the Saints mentioned with deep sighing, 'Great are the mercies of the Lord.' How many kings and prophets have wished to see these things and have not seen them. They have laboured and I have entered into their labour; I reaped the myrrh, which they planted; this health-giving bundle was kept for me; no man shall take it from me; it shall rest between my breasts. To meditate on these I said to be wisdom; in these I formed to myself the perfection of righteousness, in these the fulness of knowledge, in these the riches of salvation, in these the abundance of merits. From these at times there cometh to me a healthful draught of bitterness; from these again the sweet unction of consolation. These upraise me in adversity, keep me low in prosperity, and amid the joys and sorrows of this present life, guide me safely on either side, as I walk along the royal road, driving back the evils, from which quarter soever they gather over me. These win for me the Judge of the world, shewing me as meek and lowly Him Who is aweful to the Powers; Him Whom Principalities cannot approach, terrible to the kings of the earth, they shew not only forgiving but imitable." "Wherefore," he says, "these things are ever on my lips as ye know; these are ever in my heart, as God knoweth; this is my highest philosophy to know Jesus and Him Crucified." May God in His mercy so write by His Spirit on our hearts the Passion of our Redeemer, that It may be seen in our lives, and we follow His steps; else, says that same holy man of himself, "the Righteous Blood Which was shed upon the earth shall be required of me, nor shall I be free from that exceeding guilt of the Jews, of being unthankful to so great love, doing despite to the Spirit of grace, counting the Blood of the Covenant an unholy thing, treading under foot the Son of God."
He is, even now, graciously looking on us all, not from the Cross, yet as from the Cross, since even in Heaven He deigns in His glorified Humanity to keep those marks, now beaming with glory as with love, which He received for love of us, "the Wounds of His Hands" which He received in the house of His friends. O strange unutterable love, which counted us friends even while we pierced Him, received them from us as enemies, in order by them to make us friends. On us He looketh down in love; may He give us grace to catch His gracious Eye which seeth us, read in it His pitying love, love Him Who loved us, and loving, cleave to Him, and cleaving to Him, follow His steps in the narrow path which for us He trod, that living unto Him, we may die unto Him, and never be severed from Him, "Who loving His own who were in the world loved them unto the end." Thou hast said, Lord, "I shall draw all men unto Me." Draw us forth then, O Lord, out of all the power of the enemy, and evil desires or passions, or listlessness, or manifold cares of this life, which hang around us and clog us and hold us back from Thee; draw us up above the mists which surround us here into Thy pure light; Thou knowest, Lord, that of ourselves we cannot follow Thee; we are weak, but Thou art strong; we are held down by the body of this death, by the cords of our past sins, by the might of evil habits, but Thou hast died that we might live, Thou wert compassed by the snares of death, that we might be freed; draw us then, Lord, as Thou wilt, in penitence unto Thee and to Thy Cross, that bound unto Thee by the cords of Thy love, we may be freed from all besides and may follow Thee; held by Thy Hand and upheld by Thy grace, may "run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou hast set our heart at liberty," and in this life "drawn after Thee" by Thy grace, may, through Thy Cross and Passion, attain unto Thee, where with The Father.
We beseech Thee, O Lord, pour Thy grace into cur hearts; that, as we have known the Incarnation of Thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an Angel, so by His Cross and Passion we may be brought unto the glory of His Resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.