(Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1845).
(Preached on the Saturday Morning, the Feast of All Saints.)
Also before the University in the Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford on the Feast of All Saints, 1840.
ST. JOHN xv. 9, 10.
As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love. If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love.
THIS should be a day of subdued, holy, joy, peculiar to itself; on other festivals, we praise God for some portion of His work of mercy in our Redemption, or for some one of that holy band of Apostles and Evangelists through whom the light of the glorious Gospel has reached to us; to-day we praise Him for having perfected what He began, for having completed in man what He wrought for him. To-day is the festival of all the redeemed, whom He has perfected. All, whatever we may be, if we have any good in us, may find our likeness there; young or middle-aged or old; men or women; masters or servants; rich or poor; in authority or subject to it; honoured or despised; learned or unlearned; joyous or sad; in virgin or married or widowed purity; or purified anew through penitence; yet, more among those who were poor, and despised, and mourned, and were, in this life, "of all most miserable." Still, in every people, amid every outward or inward circumstance, of life, mind, temper, endowments, feelings, gifts, has He sanctified His own, and so translated them to Himself, assuring us that what He wrought in them, He will work in us too; that if we be not becoming saints like them, not His grace is lacking, nor are our trials too heavy, but we are feeble because our will is unfaithful. All have an interest in that goodly band, because all have in that endless variety of "the just made perfect," those who once bore their very likeness, "the image of the earthly," even as we may with them "bear the Image of the Heavenly." As upon them, being what we are now, that Image was once re-traced through the same Sacraments and hidden operation of the Holy Spirit, so may we too, day by day, be transformed secretly into that Divine Likeness which now they bear. Whatever our peculiar trials be, many of them have passed through the very same, victorious. All, whose examples kindled our early faith, Patriarchs, Apostles, Prophets, Martyrs, Confessors, Teachers, Ascetics, Penitents, are there; all are at rest from their various labours; all have come out of their varied tribulations, and have washed their robes in the Blood of the Lamb; all are at rest in Abraham's bosom, "in peaceful abodes," "in the keeping of the Lord," they are restored to our lost, yea a more blissful Paradise; they are "with Christ," behold Him by sight not by faith; "see Him ineffably;" joy in His Countenance; see light in His Light; have begun their endless praise of God. Yea, it is to be hoped that all of us have a still closer interest there; all, in some gone before, have their portion in Paradise; all have some who long for and await their coming, in patience, hope, and peace, and prayer; all have some link of human affection with the unseen world; all some treasure there, that their hearts may the rather be there also.
Well might we say, "It is good for us to be here;" jo their peace to forget for a while this world's feverishness; in their rest, our own faithless disquietudes for ourselves or those whom God has lent us, or for the Church of God; in their purity, the defilements, which from every corner of our land go up to bear witness against us, and our own, and long for purity such as theirs and the day when we too shall be wholly cleansed; long with their praises to mingle ours, under their feet, and for the time (if it may be) to praise God less imperfectly, as feeling ourselves in communion with those who praise Him perfectly and being joined, as we confess, "with Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven," catch for the while some faint but cheering gloom of their undying fervour. It is good to find ourselves "in the City of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, amid an innumerable company of angels, the general assembly and Church of the firstborn which are written in heaven, and the spirits of just men made perfect;" to feel that we are one Church with them, though we in weakness, they in strength; we hard-beset by foes, they conquerors; we seeing in a glass darkly, they face to face; we weighed down by "the body of this death," they freed; we imperfect, they perfected; we in the land of the shadow of death, they in the land of the living; the issue of our conflict uncertain, they, in peace, awaiting their crown. But in what is all this to end? Our Church, with our Lord, sends us back from the holy Mount into the world of duties and of trials, bids us gird ourselves (as we pray) to "follow His blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living," and in the Gospel, selects for us, not a picture of the heavenly Jerusalem, but the blessing pronounced by our Lord upon faithful duty; teaching us how they became saints, and how we are to follow their steps,
On this, then, their holy day, I would forego the privilege of speaking of communion with them, in their and our Lord, and would endeavour, in conformity with this guiding of our Church, to say somewhat on the way in which they became saints, and in which we must become such, if we would be as they; how good works, wrought in Christ, produce an increase in (we may not shrink from the word) "righteousness and holiness before Him," and union and acceptance in Him. To this end, as it is difficult to gather into one the comprehensive teaching of the Beatitudes, I have chosen words, in which our Lord Himself declares the value of good works as a condition of abiding in Him; as in the parable of the Vine, whereof they are the close, He tells us also their office in increasing that union with Him, whereof they are themselves the fruit. A patient consideration of that parable would, more readily perhaps than any other Scripture, dispel the errors and misconceptions, which prevail on the whole subject, it being one of the clearest forms, in which we can mould our thoughts of the origin and course of our Christian life. First then, against the Pelagians, it declares that of ourselves we are nothing: "Without Me ye can do nothing." There is no question then of "works before the grace of Christ and the inspiration of His Spirit." By nature we were wild plants, bearing a bitter fruit; the parable exhibits us as in the Vine, taken out of our state of nature, made partakers of the richness of Him Who is the true Vine, and so enabled to bear fruit through the nourishment which He supplies, even His Holy Spirit, Which He diffuses abundantly through all the true branches. Throughout the parable, our Lord speaks not, how we were brought into the Vine, but how, having been brought in, we are to remain in it. "Abide in Me," He saith. They must then have been in Him before. "Every branch in Me," "if a man abide not in Me," "continue ye in My love;" "ye shall abide in My love;" "I have loved you." Eight times in scarcely more verses, does our Lord speak of being in, continuing in, abiding in Him and in His love. The whole subject then of our primary justification, whereby, in S. Augustine's words, "for sinners we were made righteous," is antecedent to, and presupposed in, this teaching. Not only could we not, of ourselves, have become righteous,--much less, in that transcendent way, of being members of Him Who is God and Man,--but having been made righteous, neither, of ourselves, can we do works of righteousness, without the continual inflow of His grace, preceding, accompanying, upholding, perfecting each several act we do. "Without Me, ye can do nothing." And thus, further,--the parable corrects not the heresy of the Pelagians only, but a cold form of doctrine, now nearly past away, which seemed almost to regard the grace, whereby we can bear fruit, as an external state or condition, in which we are placed, once for all; and that thus taken out of our state of nature we possess grace as the gift indeed of God, yet rather as a gift implanted in us, than as continually supplied to us, and derived into us by the Giver. As though we had it altogether in ourselves, and being endowed with it, had it as our own endowment, much as our natural faculties are, although a superadded gift. Rather it is a stream like the life-giving sap, continually anew infused into us, keeping us ever in a blessed dependence upon the Vine, cementing us into It, attesting our union with It, so that our life is not our own, not an imparted life, yea not a life bestowed by God and from God, but a yet more glorious and aweful privilege, His Life in us. "I live," saith St. Paul," "yet not I, but Christ liveth in Me." "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." "Because I live, ye shall live also." It is our privilege, our glory, that we have not our own, but that which is "Another's." It were far less to have a life of our own, than to live, through God living in us, and quickening us that we might live.
But though our life from the first is God's and supplied continually by God, man has yet the aweful power to exclude it, forfeit it; and so the doctrine that man "cannot fall finally from grace given," is likewise shut out by this teaching of our Lord. For it is of those who have been in the True Vine, grafted in not assuredly as dead branches, but dying, because by dead works they shut out Its life--that it is said, "Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit, He taketh away." The branches which shall be cast into the fire and burned, were in Him once, lived in Him once.
Lastly, as by not bearing fruit, these lost their life, so it is by bearing fruit that life is increased; not, again, of itself, since in Christ nothing is of itself, but all of Him and to Him and through Him; still, bearing fruit is the appointed means, whereby life should be enlarged. For such God the Father tendeth; "every branch that beareth fruit He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." He cuts away what is yet dead in it by the sharp knife of suffering; He cutteth short what is luxuriant and would be leaves only, fair shew, and promise, and feelings, that the life restrained and condensed "may bring forth more fruit." In such, God the Son abideth; "if ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit." In such, the Holy Spirit more fully dwelleth, filling them more largely as they are enlarged to receive It, since it is through Him that the Son dwelleth in man. "If ye love Me," our Lord says a little before, "keep My commandments; and I will pray the Father, and He shall give you Another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot receive--but ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you and shall be in you."
So then, love, given by God, keepeth the commandments; and, upon keeping the commandments, the Father giveth Another Comforter, Whom the disobedient world cannot receive, but which obedience, which He gave the power to render, fitteth the more to receive.
And in each stage of man's transformation "from glory to glory," the former stage becomes as nothing. For all which man attaineth to in this life is but the beginning of what is to be ripened in eternity; God's saints seem to themselves to be ever beginning; and so Holy Scripture speaks of each degree, as if what is spoken of, then for the first time existed. Thus it is so often said, "And His disciples believed on Him," as though the belief, which they before had, compared with each enlarged degree of belief, were unbelief. And so here, "Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be My disciples." Only as His disciples, could they bear fruit, much less "much fruit;" yet bearing much fruit maketh them in such sense His disciples, that what they had been before, became as nothing.
And on "bearing much fruit," there seemeth to be yet a further stage opened, in which they shall so be taught what to ask, that whatsoever they shall ask, shall be given them. As it is said in the Psalms, "No good thing will He withhold from them that lead a godly life," so here, "he that abideth in Me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit--if ye abide in Me and I in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." And again, "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth much fruit, and that your fruit shall remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My Name, He may give it you." We, for the most part, it is to be feared, cannot speak of these great promises, but as a dim guess of what we know not; they who in older times obeyed more faithfully, knew what they were; yet, as obedience is the condition of all acceptable prayer, so to these higher measures of obedience, there seems a higher promise annexed; a bolder, nearer, access to the Father, which should ask what it willed, and have what it asked, because, filled with His Spirit, it could not ask amissj but His Spirit in them "made supplication according to the will of God." "Thou hast asked a hard thing," said the Prophet who was the type of our ascending Lord, to him who asked "a double portion of His Spirit," "yet if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee." And so these, ever gazing upwards and seeing their ascended Lord, though taken from them and Unseen, have what they ask; they see what others see not; long for what others understand not; obtain what the souls of others are too narrow to receive.
Imperfect even their obedience, while yet in the flesh, must still have been; imperfect, because that which is perfect is not yet come; imperfect, because the infection, of nature yet remaineth; imperfect, because perfection is not in this life, not until, through death, death and the sting of death, and corruption, are swallowed up in incorruption and life and victory. But although imperfect, still it was real; although it could not stand before the Holiness of God, yet it bears a semblance of that Holiness; although acceptable only through the Obedience of Him Who had no sin, it had a likeness to that Obedience, through which it was accepted. For so our Lord continues, "If ye keep My Commandments, ye shall abide in My love, even as I have kept My Father's Commandments, and abide in His love." The source of the love of the Father, to the Man Christ Jesus, and of His unsinning obedience, (to speak reverently of so aweful a mystery,) one may yet say, was the Hypostatical Union, with "the Well-beloved Son, in Whom the Father is well-pleased," yet did not this hinder the other truth, that through that unsinning obedience the Man, thus united with the Godhead, abode in the Father's love. No more then does the fact, that it is through God's good pleasure, predestinating, calling, justifying, sanctifying, that they who were "by nature children of wrath," become the objects of His love, hinder that it is by keeping His commandments, that they abide in the love, wherewith they were first loved. "It will not suffice," says S. Cyril, "to our entire peace of mind, or to the sanctification which is to exhibit1, as it were, Christ Who sanctifieth us, that we be received, in the character of branches; but upon this must we also sincerely follow Him by a perfect and unfailing love. For hereby chiefly may the might of the super-human gluing and joining-together in the Spirit be well maintained and preserved." Our Lord again shews, that the source of our acceptableness is His love, "As My Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you;" His love, fore-coming, made them objects of love; yet being so made, it was for them to abide in it, not to cast themselves out of it; "continue ye in My love;" and that, by keeping His commandments, "If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love;" and that, a real keeping, in kind though not in degree like the Obedience of our Lord Himself, as Man; "even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love;" so shall that transcendent love, wherewith the Father loveth the Son, redound to those who by keeping His commandments abide in Him and in His love.
Such is a faint outline of the teaching of this great parable, and of the truths, which on its surface it declares; more they will see, who deserve to see more; yet, thus far, it sets forth the history of the Saints we this day commemorate; that all which was good in them they had from being engrafted into the True Vine, Christ Jesus; that they remained in the Vine, while others, equally engrafted once, fell; that by bearing fruit, or good works, the one abode in It, as, through not bearing them, the others were cast out and withered; that bearing fruit they were the more cared for by God, and purged that they might bring forth more fruit; so did they bring forth much fruit; and were for that cause yet more filled with the Spirit, so that they might ask for yet higher measures of grace, and love, and attainment, and "the secret intercourse of the Lord, which is with them that fear Him," and what they asked, was given them. So was the Father glorified in them; so did they abide in their Saviour's love, even as He in the love of the Father; so continuing in His love to the end, were they translated hence to His endless love, even to Him, Who is Love.
To say that "by keeping the commandments" we abide in the Saviour's love, and that by obedience our faith is enlarged and perfected, is one and the same thing. For we can "abide" only, by making progress; it is a law of spiritual, as well as natural life, that not to grow is to decay; natural life has its bounds; it reaches its full strength, and then stays not; forthwith it begins to decay; spiritual life has no bounds; but if a bound be put to it, and it increase not, it too follows the same law, and decays. The heathen proverb, "not to advance is to fall back," must be much more true in things Divine, in which we are upheld not by our own strength; in which strength, unused, is gradually withdrawn; and they from whom it is withdrawn, must fall back to perdition. Would we "abide" in Christ, we must, by keeping His commandments, advance. "Ever," says S. Augustine, "be what thou art, displeasing unto thee, if thou wouldest attain to what thou art not yet. For whereat thou art pleased, there thou stayest. But if thou sayest, 'it sufficeth.' thou art lost. Ever add, ever walk, ever onwards; stay not in the way, return not, go not out of the way." We can, then, only abide in the love wherewith our Lord loved us, by keeping His commandments; and by that obedience we, by His own gracious appointment, grow in that love, as being more capable of that love, which, through the Infinity of its Nature, ever diffuseth itself, wherever it can be received, and has no bounds, except our incapacity to receive it. And through the increase of love, obedience is increased, since "love is the fulfilling of the law." To love is to obey; since love hath no will to please itself, but what it loves. Love obeys, because it is glad to be employed in His service Whom it obeys; obeying, it understands more readily His Will Whom it obeys, as being by obedience- brought more in unison with His Will; understanding more, it performs more; performing more, it loves more; and thus it spreads in an ever-widening circle, love enlarging obedience, and obedience giving strength and substance to love, until, being filled by the Holy Ghost, it "bringeth into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ," expandeth itself to the compass of the whole law; embraceth, with a perfection relative to its earthly state, the whole range of duty to God and man; and realizing it according to its capacity, is looked upon by God as though it fulfilled it. "The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in them." And this not by any natural law, whereby habit is strengthened by action, (although this moral law is a type of the spiritual rule,) but because to obedience there is given enlarged knowledge, and a holier, enduring Presence of the Ever-blessed Trinity, the Father and the Son through the Spirit. Enlarged knowledge,-- since our Lord says, in connection with this same teaching, "He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me, and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him;" so that to obedience our Lord manifests Himself in a new way, a way of which the world knows nothing, understands nothing, can receive nothing, because it is given to faith not to sight, is a spiritual not an earthly reality;--a holier, fuller Presence, since our Lord so explains His own words, "If a man love Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make our abode with him." i. e. (on so great a mystery I had rather give the comment of the holy Augustine than my own,) "Lo! in the holy, the Holy Spirit also with the Father and the Son maketh His abode; within, namely, as God in His own temple. God, the Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Spirit come to us, while we come to Them; They come by aiding, we come by obeying; They come by illumining, we come by contemplating; They come by filling, we come by receiving; so that to us there is of Them no outward, but an inward, Vision, and in us there is of Them no transitory, but an ever-lasting abiding."
One dares not speak as if words of our Lord needed confirmation even from other Scripture; since, however, Scripture teaching as to the value of good works has, of late, become unfamiliar and distasteful, it may be useful to dwell briefly on some other passages, not as to their value generally, (which would be too large a field,) but in this one point, how "good works which are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification1,''increase our acceptableness to God in Christ. "I will never forget Thy precepts," says the Psalmist, "for with them hast Thou quickened me," or "given me life"1;" not assuredly by the outward commands, or by the outward law; for "the commandment which was to life, I found," St. Paul says, "unto death;" not then by any outward law, but because He put the law into their hearts, that they might do it, and was Himself their Law and guided and led them; yet was it by the law thus placed within them that He gave them fresh, renewed, increased life; "with them hast Thou quickened me."
In like way, St. James, speaking of the last act by which Abraham's faith was tried, that last crowning act, wherein he saw the Day of our Lord, which he had longed to see, whereof the Angel of the Lord said, "Now know I that thou fearest God"--speaking of this act, St. James uses the very words, "by works was faith made perfect." "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?" The works proceeded from faith, and thereby became acceptable; "faith wrought with his works;" but that inchoate faith, so to say, was perfected by the works wrought through it; "by works was faith made perfect," not manifested only, (although this is true, before men and angels;) not evidenced only to be a living faith, but "perfected." Faith, being brought into action, developed out of the bud into the fruit, transplanted from the heart into the life, acted upon,--itself, the Apostle says, gained thereby, was "perfected." And so man's trial throughout is not a mere exhibition, but a strengthening and maturing of the faith itself by each separate act of faith; as also faith is weakened by each act of want of faith, not merely the want of it evinced. And so St. James goes on to say, "And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness," i. e. what had been said of him at first without works, was then fulfilled, realized, had its completion by his works; his righteousness still flowed from his faith, but now, by works and especially by this mighty deed of faith, was in a higher and fuller degree realized or "fulfilled." "And he was called the friend of God." This too is the special title of faith perfected by obedience. Abraham was so called, St. James says, because, believing, he offered up his son. "Ye are My friends," saith our Lord to His Apostles immediately after the parable of the Vine, "if ye do whatsoever I command you";" and again, "And I say to you, My friends,'' in connection with suffering for His sake. And so God at first shewed Himself to Moses awefully in the flame of fire in the bush, so that "Moses trembled and durst not behold," and God bade him put off his shoes from his feet; but, after he had been long tried and faithful amidst the threatenings of Egypt and the gainsaying of his own people, Scripture saith, "God spake unto Moses, face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend;" to him, as being faithful in all his house, God saith, "I will speak mouth to mouth," not as to others distantly in visions and in dreams and in dark speeches.
What St. James inculcates thus more fully is taught also by St. Paul; "As ye yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness;" i. e. as each act of uncleanness and iniquity led you, step by step, to further iniquity, and growth in iniquity was the result and end of each act of it, so now shall growth in holiness be the fruit and tendency of each separate act of obedience. And after a few verses, "Now, having been made free from sin and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness;" i. e. ye yield and have an abiding fruit of good works, as our Lord promises, "and your fruit shall remain," and that fruit tending to, and issuing in, holiness. And not sanctification only, but man's righteousness or acceptableness before God, St. Paul teaches is thus increased; and that, in reference to the very works which the Ancient Church, in consonance with Holy Scripture, so dwelt upon, as obtaining mercy, covering past sin,--works of charity to the poor. St. Paul first declares the same truth out of the Old Testament; "As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness remaineth for ever." The 112th Psalm, which St. Paul here quotes, is in itself very remarkable for its relation to the 111th, in that what the 111th declares of God, the 112th declares of the good man; that he is merciful as his Father is merciful; and both declare, the one of God, the other of man, "his righteousness endureth for ever;" as though Scripture would say, that they who, fearing and trusting the Lord, imitate His goodness, shall have His Righteousness imparted to them; their righteousness, like His, as being His imparted to them, should abide for ever; and that, "because as He is, so are they in this world;" "they have dispersed abroad, they have given to the poor, their righteousness endureth for ever." St. Paul proceeds; "Now He that ministereth seed to the sower, both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness";" that is, (for a prayer in Holy Scripture for the faithful is a prediction of what God would give if they persevere,) God should requite their deeds of love with a threefold reward, of things temporal and eternal. First, He would feed them who fed His poor; "minister bread for your food;" then, He would enlarge their means that they might ever continue on their works of love; "multiply your seed sown;" but, more than all, He would repay them the spiritual seed which they had sown, in a harvest of righteousness; "increase the fruits of your righteousness." He first gave them the seed; lie, as in earthly things, would give the increase. And He too would crown the increase which He had given. Still man's sowing was the condition of that increase, and to them who thus cultivated the soil of Heaven, He promises a heavenly recompense, the increase of their righteousness or acceptableness in His sight here, and abundant and rich reward, when they should "come again with joy and bring their sheaves with them." And soy by the Prophet Hosea, He teacheth the same truth in the same image. "Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy--for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you;" i. e. work righteousness and place it with God as a deposit, and He shall repay you, not by any measure of deserts, but in proportion toy His own mercy; not as you work, but according to the abundance of His gift; "sow in righteousness," and He "will come and rain righteousness upon you;" bestow "grace for grace;" "give to him that hath;" enlarge the righteousness of him that worketh righteousness, and that by coming to him, "until He come and rain righteousness upon you;" as oar Lord says, "If a man love Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him."
St. Paul says again, "God--condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," i. e, that, walking continually and holding on in the course wherein they were placed, guided by the Spirit Which dwelt in them, at last the righteousness which the law requires might be fulfilled in them. And for the Ephesians he prays the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," that He would grant unto them--to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith; that they being rooted and grounded in love--might be filled with all the fulness of God." From God he begins, in God ends; begins by the mighty strengthening through His Indwelling, ends in the satisfying fulness of His beatific Presence. Yet the course and order of the Christian life is, that the Holy Spirit strengthens them mightily, penetrating the inner man, and Christ dwelleth in the heart by faith; yet so strengthened, they remain strong, unshaken, immoveable, "rooted" in that Rock, "grounded" on that Foundation, unyielding to any assaults of passion or the world or the Evil one; and then through His love within them, they "know His love which passeth knowledge," and are "filled with the Fulness of God," even the abundance of His grace, and consolation, and love, yea all wherewith He, Who Alone filleth all things, Who Alone can fill the soul, filleth the faithful heart which abides rooted in His Love. All is of God; yet it is through remaining stedfast in the love which He gave, that they attain to the depths of His love, and are filled with His Fulness.
And of himself St. Paul says, "for this cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day," i. e. in proportion as the body was worn down by sufferings for Christ, were soul and spirit, day by day, renewed and enlarged; the life which he lived became less his own, more the life of Christ within him; as he had said just before, "always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." Ever dying with and for his Lord, he lived more and more; his was, day by day, more and more a real life; the life of Jesus day by day expanded more and more, took more possession of him, "was made manifest," displacing death by life.
St. John inculcates the same as St. James and St. Paul. "Whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected;" perfected, namely, by His increased In-dwelling Who is Love. The words are a brief summary of our Lord's promise, "If a man love Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him." And so again, "If we love one another," God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us; hereby know we that we dwell in Him and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit. "He that keepeth His commandments, dwelleth in Him and He in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit That He hath given us." "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment, because as He is, so are we in this world." What St. Paul saith of faith, St. John saith of love, whereby it "worketh" and differeth from the belief of devils, as St. James of deeds, wherezw it worketh. Love is the first gift of the Spirit; so that whoso hath love,--" not" a "love in word nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth,"--knoweth that God hath given him His Spirit, whereby He "sheddeth abroad His love in our hearts." Whoso loveth, in Him God dwelleth, and by indwelling enlargeth and perfecteth his love, so that loving after the likeness of God, he may have confidence in approaching Him. "Begin to love," says S. Augustine, "thou shalt be perfected. Hast thou begun to love? God hath begun to dwell in thee; love Him Who hath begun to dwell in thee, that by in-dwelling more perfectly, He may make thee perfect." Or in his well-known words, "Love commenced is commenced righteousness; love advanced is advanced righteousness; great love is great righteousness; love perfected is perfected righteousness, but love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned."
To conclude, as we began, with our Lord's own words, almost the closing words of the book of Revelations, our Lord's last words to His Church, declare the same, "The just, let him be yet justified, and the holy, let him be yet hallowed;" where our Lord seems to convey His will both to bad and good, that the evil, being at the last abandoned to themselves, "shall increase to more ungodliness;" "the path of the righteous shine more and more unto the perfect day;" and not only so, but that on occasion of the very growth of evil in the wicked the holy should be aroused and warned to increase in holiness. The overhanging ruin of the cities of the plain should urge the more "the just man" to escape from among them to the mountain, lest he be consumed. Standing at the close of the Revelations, the words seem to point to the close of all things, that before our Lord's final coming, the kingdoms of light and darkness will take more distinct possession of the world; the light of heaven and the darkness of hell will each send forth tokens more manifest of their approach; darkness and light will be more visible, less mingled: the "blackness of darkness," as it gathers itself for its last conflict, will, by collecting over against the kingdom of light, be the darker and heavier; the brightness of the Sun will shine the more clearly, when the mists, which now often gather over it, have separated, and concentrated themselves over against it. But, as a general truth, the words declare the will of our Lord, that the just, by increase in righteousness, should become yet more justified; the holy, by growth in holiness, yet more hallowed; in our language, that both justification and sanctification, in some sense, increase in the justified and sanctified.
Such also, Scripture history attests, was the way which they trod, whom we this day commemorate. Lesser trials prepared for greater, lesser obedience obtained grace for the more difficult. Such was the course of the father of 4 the faithful from his first leaving his country until he offered up his only son; such of the patience of Job, yielding up first possessions, then his children, then his body to a martyrdom of disease, then his soul to be held out as a hypocrite, the enemy of God Whom he served; such of Jeremiah and John the Baptist, who were sanctified from their mother's womb, to their martyr-death, through suffering, privation, the nethermost dungeon, the desert, until, having borne witness through their martyrs' lives, they were at last permitted to seal them by martyrs' deaths; such of all the noble army of martyrs; one conflict sent them on prepared for another; each dint on their shield was a pledge of the final victory; but the glories of martyrdom were too great a gift to be bestowed on those undisciplined by a corresponding life; those unprepared, (such as we are now,) sunk under the extremity of suffering, and denied their Lord. Such was the course of all that white-robed army; step by step, they won. their way, until "going on from strength to strength," they at last "appeared in the Presence of" their "God, in" the "Zion" which is above.
Thus may we contemplate them, and it will be well. Contemplate we them in their trials, victories, endurance, self-devotion, unwearied prayers, fastings, abnegation of self, love to man, fixedness on God, the honours which God vouchsafed them here, earnests of their present bliss, preludes of the greater bliss and glory hereafter. "For their works do follow them." Contemplate we them in their contrast with ourselves, how they shewed forth their faith by their deeds, and by works was their faith made perfect, until we be ashamed of our great professions of the purity of our faith, with our laggard steps, our self-indulgence, penurious almsgiving, unsacrificing ease, vacillating obedience, the things of nought upon which we have at some time wasted our energies, the ashes which most of us have, at some time, eaten for bread! How shameth it us, that they were men of like passions with ourselves, who were so purified that they could bear, in the flesh, to see God and lived; to whom He deigned to speak familiarly as a man to his friend, and hid not from them what He would do; whose intercession or whose zeal He accepted for a whole rebel people; whose "covenant He kept for a thousand generations, and cast not off their children for their sakes1;" whose voice He listened to and stopped the course of the sun, or the order of the seasons; who had power with Him, and prevailed; with whom He walked in the fire, or stopped the mouths of lions, subjecting all nature to them, because they subjected themselves first unto their God. By whose tongues again He spake, filled their minds with His Spirit, and fitted them to reveal His counsels; bears witness that they were "full of the Holy Ghost;" deigned to be called especially "their God;" made them and their actions, singly types and images of His Son; revealed to them wisdom in visions of the night; converted nations by their single labours; and their earthly course over, honoured the very vessels which they had left, and shewed the healing tokens of His Presence in their very ashes. How must they have been sanctified, whose very earthly tabernacles He so honoured, and testified that "right dear in His sight is the death of His Saints!"
And we, how little has God wrought by us, how little has He deigned to speak by us, (since our words are feeble and bring so little fruit; His, mighty and return not void!) How faint His presence, since He "maketh men to be of one mind in an house," and our house is so torn and distracted, and we can so little "understand one another's speech!" Our Ark is hemmed in, and we see not the issue; the very light which gleams among us, shews but 'the darkness of our heavens; our fresh life which He has, we trust, infused into our Church, but shews the extent of the presence of the former death. Our enemies are fierce, and we cannot win them; our sheep are scattered, and we cannot re-unite them; our people are wayward, and we cannot restrain them; our labourers few, and we cannot obtain others from the Lord of our Vineyard. "We have not wrought any deliverance in the earth, neither are the inhabitants of the world fallen." It may be a sore loss, greater than we can imagine, that, although confessing in our Creeds, "the Communion of Saints," we, for the most part have so little felt the privilege of being "fellow-citizens with the Saints, and of the household of God," of belonging to a body, of which such glorious hosts have been already perfected, of being struggling members of the one Body. Not realizing that they now live to God, live a higher life than we, being "freed from the body of this death," their histories appear like by-gone tales of what has been, not the living victories of those still "living to God," present in His sight Who wrought these things in and by man. We hear of them, read them, and forget that they are written as our ensamples; that "the Lord's arm is not shortened that it cannot save;" but that "our iniquities have separated between us and our God." Exalting ourselves, as though we were the living, they the dead, we have received the just recompense in ourselves, and are abased.
Be we followers of them, as they of their Lord. Imitate we them in little things, if we cannot in the greater; if not in their glorious close, yet in their outset. Mighty as they became, yet were they too weak and unformed once. By yielding themselves in little things to God's moulding Hand, His Hand formed and fitted them for great. Daniel's first trial was in meat and drink; David's in protecting his father's flock; Joseph's in filial obedience and constancy amid the evil deeds of his brethren, which he reported to his father, and then in continence, as fearing "to do that great wickedness and sin against" his unseen "God." Yet such were the first steps, whereby David became the man after God's own heart; Daniel one of the three men, chief with God; Joseph, the saviour of his brethren and the emblem of his Redeemer. To that moulding Hand yield ye yourselves; ye, at least, are not bound round, it is to be hoped, by enduring custom; ye are plastic still to His Hand, to Whom we would all be like clay to the potter. Blessed, thrice-blessed, are ye, if it be thus with you. Yet, even at the worst, nothing is too hard and dry, for that Almighty Hand to shape to a "vessel for" everlasting "glory," so that it harden not itself amid the fire, whether of inward or outward grief, by which He would soften it. Whatever we be, only yield we ourselves to the stroke of that Divine Rod which brought water out of the flinty rock so that it gushed out like the great deep, and He will, out of our stony hearts, even if tears are dried, bring forth the healthful streams of penitential sorrow which shall flow on to life everlasting. Blessed then too are ye, if now, at the last, ye yield yourselves, to whatsoever severe, but loving, discipline His righteous and Fatherly Providence shall see good for you--temporal losses, bereavement, pains of body, dreariness of mind, fierce temptation, harassing thoughts, whereby He shall bruise, crush, destroy, what ye have become amiss, make you hate what ye have been, and long to be renewed according to that Blessed Image in which He re-created you.
Wherever we are in the road, one step lies immediately before us,--the next; to break off something which we know in ourselves to be displeasing to God, acquire, by His Grace, some grace acceptable to Him. If we cannot yet reach the footsteps of the blessed saints who have gone before us, their Divine zeal, their entire deadness to the world, their super-human charity, at least seek we Him Whom they sought, if not in high things, yet in ordinary duties, seeking to please Him and not man, to gain honour from Him, and not from man. Seek we Him, in the three great classes of duties which our Lord points out, self-discipline in fasting, devotedness to God in prayer, love to man, in self-denying charity, and He will fit us for whatever He has in store for us. The lowliest office, the commonest every-day task, the most undignified suffering, if done or borne for Him, in His faith and fear, will, through His merits Who gave the power so to do and bear it, "work out an eternal weight of glory," Yet, if, as it seems, evil days are coming upon the Church, and (it may be) the approach of the kingdom of darkness is ushering in the Coming of our Lord, duties and sufferings of a higher class may be reserved for those who in simple obedience, humility, self-denial, patience and prayer, are preparing themselves lowlily to receive whatever office our gracious Master may deign to call them to. This then be your ambition, in whatever task of life, to please God; this your pleasure, to be acceptable in His sight; this your "meat and drink," lowlily to do His will; this the object (as it is the end) of your life, to gain Him Who shall Himself be "the exceeding great Reward of the faithful;" to fit yourselves to receive Him Who, although we are altogether "unworthy that He should enter under our" decayed and defiled "roof," yet "dwelleth in the contrite and lowly of spirit," and "looketh to him who trembleth at His word"." So, lowly though the outward lot of any here be, may their prayers prevail with God to spare a guilty nation, and purify and restore His returning Church, so may those to whom He has here lent talent, or station, or wealth, or firmness, be even here foremost in carrying on His work, and have high posts of duty assigned them, of which as yet they rightly dare not even dream, if they be foremost too in disciplining themselves to obey; so may all, if with stedfast though fearful heart they set themselves to keep His Commandments, abide in His ineffable Love.
The time is short; a few more years, and, borne on our Saviour's Cross, the waves of this troublesome world will be passed, our haven won, and we at rest, where we would be, in Abraham's bosom, with all whom He hath loved to the end; a few struggles at most,--few in proportion to the joy set before us,--and the last struggle will resign us over to the end of our struggles, even endless peace, of which the peace vouchsafed to each faithful struggle is the earnest and the preparation; a few years past, and what will it concern us under what outward circumstances we have past our life, so that our lot is then with God's saints? What will matter then, privation, sorrow, disappointment, dejection of heart, failing of the eyes, suffering of body? Yea rather, as our loving Lord this day spake unto us, how blessed it will have been to have "mourned," if by His Mercy we may then "be comforted;" how blessed to have been "poor in spirit," if then, through His merits, yours be "the kingdom of Heaven;" how blessed any self-denial, or toil, or pain, or chastisement, whereby purity of heart shall have been retained or restored, if when we shall close our eyes upon the vanities and distractions of this passing world, and open them upon eternity, we shall--"see God." Which may He of His infinite mercy grant, not for our worthiness, but to our unworthiness, for the Worthiness of His Ever-Blessed Son, in Whom He "hath made" such as we are, and can make us also "to be meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light;" to Whom with the Father.
O Almighty God, Who hast knit together Thine Elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical Body of Thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow Thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys, which Thou hast prepared for them that unfeignedly love Thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.