(Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1845).
(Preached on the Tuesday Morning following the Consecration, Nov. 4.)
PHIL. iii. 15, 16.
Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded; and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
THERE is perhaps no more difficult form of spiritual blindness, than when men secretly act upon maxims, which they will not openly own, or would be the first, if nakedly stated, to disown. What they would disown, if asked in a way which should not bring it home to themselves, they will not believe that they are daily in life acting upon. They do not look into themselves, nor see on what principles they are acting, or whether upon any at all; and so suspect not themselves of acting blindly on what they would not act upon, if they saw. Thus, ask any person, whether he thinks he have already reached that perfection, which Almighty God intended for him? whether there is nothing more for him to do in this life? nothing to amend? nothing which might be more according to God's holy law, or our Blessed Redeemer's All-holy Pattern?--and he would think rightly, that you meant to mock, or, by strong irony, to upbraid him. Yet take the same person in life. See him, day by day, without an effort, going on exactly as the day before, perfectly at ease and satisfied with his state, going through to-day, in a manner by chance, just as he did yesterday, having no object set before him, no aim, no Pattern by Which he reviews his acts, and to Which he strives continually to conform them--what would be the meaning (if it had any) of all this unmeaning action, but that all is well with him, that there is nothing for him left to do in this life, except to remain just where he is? For if there be, why is it not done? why not strive to do it? The Grace of God will not fail him. The acts belie the words. Such a course of life has too clear, solid, a meaning in it, deepened and wrought into the soul, day by day, by its daily action. It means, that it will not be at the pains to make any great effort; will not look into itself to see whether any great effort be needed; and so, in a random way, regardless of God's threats and promises, trusts that none is needed.
Meanwhile such an one little thinks that he is not standing still. Advancing, of course, he is not. How should he advance, who never makes any real consistent effort? Yet if not, even Heathen morality knew that in this life there is no stay. It knew that "not to advance is to fall back." And yet, this is no rare nor uncommon case. Rather, to judge by men's lives and maxims, the easiness of their ways, their aimless round of action, ever revolving amid the same failings, weaknesses, negligences, vanities, what Heathen condemned is the very principle of the greater part of those who bear the Name of the Crucified, themselves in Baptism buried in His Death, and, if now living, living, in whatever degree, by His life.
And so, since this is so very fatal but common a snare, in order to take away all excuses from us, St. Paul is taught to give us his own example, to picture to us the course of his whole life. Elsewhere he had taught us what Christ had wrought in him; here that all was not yet wrought in him; elsewhere, how "in all things he approved himself as the Minister of God,--by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned;" here that there was that yet lacking to him, at which he had to aim. Who might not be scared from his listlessness, if St. Paul "had not attained?" who might think that he might rest contented where he is, if St. Paul was not "perfect?" who stand still, when St. Paul knew that he must press onward, if he would attain?
Far, indeed, was the glorious Apostle already advanced, following his Master's steps, and by the grace of his Lord. But he had not yet come to the days, when he should say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the Faith;" what he was, was not yet revealed to himself; he was nigh upon it, but as yet he knew it not; already was he "Paul the aged," aged yet more through the countless sufferings of the thirty years of his Apostleship, than by those years themselves; himself not as yet reaching the age of man, yet his life being measured out, not, as ours, by hours but by toils; not by the daily rising and setting of the sun, the daily death and birth of nature, but by daily deaths in himself; his life ever spent anew and expended for the Church, and anew revived; "always," at all times, "being anew, delivered over to death for Jesus' sake;" living, as it were, many lives in one, through his multiplied sufferings and deaths; yea, rather, living one life through daily deaths; for he had died to himself and to the world, dying almost in the flesh, that he might" live through the life of Christ" within him; He had been nailed to the very Cross of his Lord, and crucified with Him; he had by the virtue of that Meritorious Death imparted to him, been fitted to the Cross of His Lord, stretched out hand to Hand, side to His Blessed Side, foot to Foot, nail to Nail; had received in him the prints of His Wounds, "bore about in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus," burnt into him, as it were, by sufferings, a brandmark and token of reproach in the sight of men, in the sight of Angels glorious scars, the badges of His Apostleship, the ensigns of his noble soldiery, the pledges of his future inheritance in glory, the livery of his Master, the tokens of his predestination, that "having suffered with Him, he should with Him be glorified." With his Lord he had been scourged, been stoned, been carried to prison and to judgment; "all which was gain, he had counted loss for Christ;" had, for his Lord, "suffered the loss of all;" all which was loss, he had accounted gains; he had been gladdened "by persecutions, by distresses, by stripes, by imprisonment," by want of all things; "infirmities, reproaches, persecutions, distresses for Christ's sake," had been his pleasure and comfort, and exceeding joy; his continual death and life alike were above nature; for his daily death was "the dying of the Lord Jesus" which He "ever bore about in the body;" his life in this "continual death" was already the manifestation of the life that shall be; for it too was "the life of Jesus." And so having in him the virtue of the Death and Life of his Lord, the daily death of the Apostle was a channel of life to the Church; his weakness was their strength; "death worked ever in him and life in them." His Lord Whom once he had persecuted, now endured in him. It was not enough for His exceeding love to suffer in the flesh only. Now, free from suffering, in His excellent glory, at the Right Hand of the Father, would He in His members suffer still; yea, so count their sufferings His own, that the sufferings of the Apostles were "the filling-up of that which was yet lacking of the Sufferings of Christ," which He vouchsafed to suffer, not in His own glorified Body, but in the Apostle's. In Christ, had he (as have all Christians) been crucified, been buried with Him, with Him and by virtue of His Spirit, raised again; and now in turn Christ Who lived in him, daily suffered; He drunk anew in them and with them the Cup of His Passion in His "Father's kingdom." Yea, so did He make His own Death and Life the death and life of His servants, so gave to their death and life the virtue of His Own within them, that He, enduring in them their sufferings, gave them in their degree, the character of His, so that they, in Him, endured, no longer, for chastisement, or trial, or purifying only, but "for the elect's sake, that they too might obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory." Well might the Apostle in this his outward death and hidden power of life, appointed, as it were, to a perpetual conflict with death, yet upheld in life by the Life of His Lord,--so that it is not, he says, "I that live, but Christ liveth in me,"--well might he be a spectacle, not to the world only and to men, but to Angels, marvelling to see in our fallen race, a life like their own, the first-fruits of the Mystery of the Passion, the human partaking of the Divine, man living by and sharing the Life and love of his Redeemer and his God.
Yet he who was a spectacle to Angels was none to himself. He reflected not on his good deeds wrought in God; he counted not the courses he had run; two years after this, and by revelation of God, he knew that it was finished; now what did he? He who "knew" his Lord, and "the power of His Resurrection" in himself, "and the fellowship of His Sufferings;" he to whom those Precious Sufferings had been so imparted, that what were Christ's were, by His communicating, made common with him; he who had been conformed to His Death, had received the stamp of its likeness on himself and been "moulded into it;" what did he? "Brethren," he says, "I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do; forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press towards the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Of all the past, he recollected this only, that he when fleeing from Christ, had been pursued, overtaken, apprehended, by Him; "for which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus." And now, he had but one thought, One Object before him. One Prize hanging before his eyes on high, after Which the more he had attained, the more he must strive in his course; It was on high, and he must see nought on earth; he saw, as though he saw not; heard, as though he heard not; had, as though he held not; suffered, as though he endured not; dead to all outward things; all, sight, hearing, soul, body, wrapt in that One Object toward Which he day by day strained and stretched onward, to Which he was, day by day, nearer; "if, by any means," he says, "I might attain to the resurrection of the dead." For by that Resurrection should he be brought to Him Who had so loved him, Him Whom he so loved, when he should be raised aloft amid Cherubim and Seraphim, to hold that Prize on high, to Which he had stretched out; hold It for ever, by Whom He was held; might grasp in his hands, enfold with his soul? Him by Whose love he should be enfolded, God Himself.
But if St. Paul was not yet "perfect," how then says he, "as many of us as are perfect?" One is the perfection in the way, another is the perfection in our homeg; one the imperfect perfection of earth, another that whereby they who shall attain, shall be perfected in Him Who Alone is Perfect, and our Perfection!, our Father Who is in Heaven; one perfection on the part of the Giver, another as it is bounded by the capacity of the receiver. We may imperfectly receive that which is perfect; nay, as far as we receive the Gift of God, we must so receive It, since the Gift of God is His Holy Spirit, Who, as God, is Perfect; and His love, which is the bond of perfectness.
We are then in one sense perfect, as having received that which is perfect, His Sacrament. In the words of a very early father, "Baptized", we are illumined; illumined, we are adopted as sons; adopted, we are perfected; perfected, we are made immortal. 'I have said, ye are gods, and ye are all the children of the Most High.' For in many ways is this work called; grace, illumining, perfection, the laver. The laver, whereby we wash away sins; grace, whereby the penalty of sin is remitted; illumining, whereby we are admitted to contemplate that holy and saving Light, that is, whereby we behold God; perfection, whereto nothing is wanting. For what is wanting to him who knoweth God? For that were not meet to be called the grace of God, which is not full every way. Perfect must be the gift of The Perfect. For as, when He commandeth, at once all things are, so, in that He willeth to give grace, the grace is full; for what shall be in time, is already in the efficacy of His Will." "Perfect," he well saith, "are the gifts of The Perfect," although by us imperfectly received. Perfect is the principle of life imparted to us, but we receive it in ((a body of death;" perfect and perfecting is the seal of the Spirit, if we but yield our whole clay day by day to receive Its Blessed Impress; perfect the life within us, for It is "Christ our Life," if we receive It, shut It not out by returning to our former death, but let it pervade our whole selves, take up our whole will, conscience, being, and doing, into Itself. Perfect are we in the purpose of God, and the loving-kindness of His good-pleasure, and the fulness of His good-will towards us, if by a contrary will, we mar not the graciousness of His Will for us.
And as we are thus perfect in the purpose of God, so have we a sort of relative, an imperfect perfecting, in faith, in will, in temper, in love, if we give up ourselves without reserve to receive that perfect gift of God. It is a sort of perfection, to hold back nothing from the perfecting grace of God. Thus our Lord, having taught us to love and do good to our enemies, to the evil as the good, says, "Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect," both because such love, being His gift, is so exceedingly perfecting1, as also because we thereby, conquering nature and withholding nothing, yield ourselves on all sides to receive His perfect love. So He saith, (as all have known,) "My strength is made perfect in weakness m;" because then is His strength put forth in its full power, when man, owning his nothingness, mingleth nothing of his own, but yields himself as one, blind and helpless and powerless, to be borne along by the stream of Divine Grace. So also as to knowledge, St. Paul says, "We speak wisdom among those that are perfect;" i. e. to those who receive the "faith of Christ Crucified" wholly and entirely, so that it should penetrate and pervade their whole souls, keeping back nothing out of respect for man's philosophy, or the wisdom of the flesh, or his own imaginings, to these he declares the further mysteries of the faith. And again, "We preach Christ, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus;" i. e. we warn all against all evil, so purifying the soul, and teach to all all wisdom, that so they, dwelling in Christ and He in them, might be "presented perfect in Him." And again, "that ye may stand perfect and filled in all the will of God ";" "for he that is filled," saith a father", "suffereth not any other will to be within him; for if so, he is not wholly filled." So also in St. James, "Let endurance have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing;" i. e. in unreserved conformity to the will of God, yield yourselves to His searching and purifying trials; let them cut, burn, wound as He wills; only withdraw not thyself frtnn His healing Hand; so fulfilling their own work, they shall wound, to heal; shall leave you "perfect and whole, lacking nothing."
This, then, is our perfection in our pilgrimage, to own our imperfection, and aim that the will of God, be on all sides, in all things, in every part of us, at all times, equally fulfilled, to admit His holy Light into our whole selves, that there be "no part dark," "nothing hid from the heat thereof."
So says St. Paul here, "As many of us as are perfect, let us be thus minded." Thus, as he had himself said of himself. And what was this? Never to look backward, ever onward. Such was his whole life, from the time that Christ revealed Himself to him, never looking back to see what heights of virtue he had reached, never pausing to count the courses he had finished, or the victories of faith which he had won, never resting as though He had "attained;" but having God for his Pattern, his Aim, his End, his Everlasting Home and Reward, ever to strain onwards towards That which is Infinite; drawn upward the more, the more he followed on; caught up by Him Whom Alone he felt after, grasped, cleaved unto, with the unutterable longings of his spirit; until at last he should reach that blessed height, the last on earth reserved for him, where earth and heaven should melt together, when there should be no more falling, no more strife, no victory, for there should be nought of the flesh to rebel, but the chains of the flesh should drop off from the freed spirit, and he should rest not in the conflict, but from the conflict, contemplating what he had believed, possessing what he had ever hoped; enlarged, perfected, fulfilled in love; above what even he could here ask or think, the love of those, who shall be enfolded in the Embrace of All-Perfect Love.
In nature or in grace there is no standing still; when the sun ceases to ascend, it sinks; when days no longer lengthen, they become briefer; when the sea ceases to flow, it ebbs; when all things fair cease to increase in beauty, they decrease; when strength is no longer enlarged, it lessens. On the ladder which reached to Heaven, none stood still i; all were ascending towards God, or descending towards the earth. "Our nature being subject to change," says a father, "so long as this our mortality endures, although it be advanced to the very highest earnest love of all excellence, still ever, as it may fall back, so also may it grow. And this is the true righteousness of the perfect, that they should never presume that they are perfect; lest ceasing from their intentness on their course, while yet unfinished, they there fall into the peril of sinking back, where they laid aside the eager desire to press on."
Who in Christ's school is sufficient to himself, how can he be a proficient? how must he not become deficient"?
But these heights of virtue and glory, we may well feel, are for the Apostle and such as are nearest to him, as he unto his Lord. What are we to do, who are but on the plain, ever at the mountain-base, treading the same weary round, of daily failings, infirmities, surprises, self-indulgences, listlessness; our earthbound souls scarcely able to rise, and view even from afar those blessed eminences; earthborn clouds hiding from us the tra*cks of saints and the Presence of our Lord. How shall we, so imperfect, gain the very thought of what growth and advance to perfection should be? The Apostle tells us, "God shall reveal it to you." "If in any respect ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you." And how? By holding fast, and advancing in what ye have, in order and in love. "Whereunto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." He saith not, part we with what we have attained unto, but "whereunto we have attained, there walk we;" he saith not again, "there abide" but "there walk." "See ye," says a father, "we are wayfarers? Say ye what is it, to walk? In one word, I say, it is to ( make progress,' lest if ye understand not, ye walk too slowly." And walk (so the word" means) straight onward, as men in a march, by the same rule as the Apostle, in the same mind, with the same love.
Yes! my brethren, wherever we are in the Christian course, as we have all one End, God; One Faith, in the One Object of Faith, the Ever-blessed, Coequal, Coeternal Trinity, as that Faith has been revealed to us and fenced round against every error in our Creeds; One Hope, to see Him; One Food of life, Himself in His Sacraments; One Spirit, Who is the Life of all the members of the One body, the life of all alike, although His gifts be manifold;--so also for saints or penitents, there is one only Way to Heaven, to walk on in Him Who is the Way, to hold fast that ye have and to press onward. This is the remedy of all doubts in faith and practice. "One step" it has been well said, "enough for me." To-day is thine, by the gift of God; to-morrow as yet is His. Fear not whither you may be led; see only that you be now "led by the Spirit of God;" led, not going before, not holding back, not standing still, but "led." It is the very part of faith, to go forth, as Abraham went, not knowing whither he went. He "leadeth" His own "by ways which they know not, even by a path which they have not trod with their feet." Hold fast what thou hast; act up to what thou believest; walk on in His strength; halt not; and what thou yet lackest, He has said, "He will reveal unto thee."
Thus alone, my brethren, may we hope that in doctrine, our sad manifold divisions will cease. Thus they must cease; for, He has said, "God will reveal it unto thee." Not by disputing, not by teaching alone, not by learning, not by reading Holy Scripture only, shalt thou know the truth; but by gaining, through God's grace, a childlike mind; by cleansing the eye of the soul; by obedience. Not by wisdom or prudence canst thou gain the knowledge of the things of God; from proud wisdom God hides it, and reveals it unto babes. "I am wiser than the aged," says the Psalmist, "because I keep Thy commandments." Well might he be wiser than the aged, whom God taught! But how taught He him? First, by His grace, He taught Him to "keep His commandments," and then by keeping them, gave him wisdom to discern Himself, the true Wisdom. So saith our Lord Himself, "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God," and "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 unto him;" for in those who love Him and keep His commandments, should He Himself dwell by His Spirit, the Life of their life, the Spirit of their spirit; and so they should know things by a higher sense, not of reasoning or of inference, but in His own clear light, Whose Spirit dwelleth in their hearts by love.
And what if some have at all times used this doctrine amiss, and set up their private revelations against the Church, and through their belief of an inward light have rather gone astray from the true Light, which is Christ, and from that light which He has set aloft in the Church, that "it may give light to all who are in the house." It is of the very nature of error that it should look like truth; even as a false coin has the Royal Image set upon it, although it be base and adulterate. Mostly, it must be said, such have not gone the way of obedience and self-denial; have not followed painfully, step by step, the leadings of God and the tracks of His Cross. We see not on such systems "the prints of the Nails."
But St. Paul's words give a further test, "whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule," a rule, plainly, without them, not within them; the rule of faith delivered to the Church from the first; embodied chiefly in the Creeds; made ours in Baptism; by contemplation, adoration, loving obedience, made a part of ourselves. For this has been the character of all heresy; it has not simply invented what is new, it has begun by parting with what was old, what "was from the beginning." The promise is to those who as far as they have attained, walk on by the rule, that they shall see what as yet is hidden to them, shall be guided on it, not to those who quit the rule and the road marked out by God.
And this might, as I said, bring us back from our manifold divisions to the One Truth. Where are so many discordant voices, all cannot be right. How then shall we discover the One Voice of our One Shepherd, Which His sheep hear and follow Him? He has taught us, Hold fast that ye have; walk ye on by the light of it j and what ye see not now, ye shall see; what ye see dimly, shall be clear; He Who has touched your eyes, that ye now see perchance "men, as trees, walking," shall "put His Hands again upon your eyes and make you look up, and ye shall see every thing clearly." Would indeed that all could know the blessedness of believing that which has been ever taught, of receiving all on an authority out of one's self; of not enquiring, but knowing; not seeking, but seeing; not discussing, but living on the Living Truth, which we have received. Would that we, living in a Church founded by God, could all so live, day by day, in the devotions, Creeds, hymns of praise, preserved to us in her, as to imbibe their spirit in ourselves. This would be no uncertain voice to us, did we learn it in the Presence and the house of God. Words have a different meaning, when tossed to and fro in argument, and when prayed in the Communion of Saints, the voice of the one Dove, moaning to its Lord. The full heart, then, stints not the meaning of the words; thinks not how little they may mean, but how much; a ray of light falls upon them from above; we stand not without them, as judges, but within them as worshippers; He Who has taught the Church her prayers is present in our souls; and with His "Blessed Unction from above, Comfort, Life, and Fire of love," anoints both them and us. Disputing divides, devotion knits in one; for in it we pray to One, through One, by One.
But, meantime, whether within or as yet without", the Apostle's rule will guide us all in one. Our strifes every where, are not about what we hold, but about what any do not hold. It has been said at times, "let us drop our differences, and hold fast what we have in common." Good were it and true, if it be not thereby meant, that any should part with any truth he holds. We need not, should not, part with any truth; but mere denials are not truths. It is a blessed truth that the Holy Eucharist is a Commemoration of the Sufferings of our Blessed Lord; they who have held most vividly truths beyond this, have been most melted into tears at the thought of this. It is a heavy truth, that "the world lieth in wickedness," that "whoso loveth it, hath not the love of The Father," that "such must be converted and become as little children:" they have most owned this, and the sadness of the depth of their own falls, who have most believed the might implanted by God in Holy Baptism. And so again, they are truths, that all works, seemingly good, without the grace of Christ, are but shewy sins, destroying rather than giving life; that of our own we have nothing but our sins and short comings; that could we do all we are commanded, we should still be unprofitable servants; yet is it also true, that, under grace, "the love of God shed abroad in the hearts of those who believe," by the Holy Spirit Which is given them, "is a law of faith and a spirit quickening him who loveth;" that "the law of faith saith, Give what Thou commandest," "and command" what Thou wilt;" that what good we have, blessed be God, we have of Him, and therefore chiefly, if we have any good, do we love to have it, because it is His gift; but still righteousness is His real gift within us, and "whom He crowneth, He crowneth in them His own gifts." And so in other cases, men deny plain, blessed, truths, because they think them opposed to other truths, which they are not; and which, would they only hold the truths they have, God would make plain unto them. Wouldest thou arrive at the whole truth of God; part with nothing which the grace of God has worked into thine inward life; deny nothing, which the Church of God has not denied; whatsoever thou hast attained, seek by that grace therein to grow; pray that He perfect whatsoever be lacking to thy faith; and He from Whom thou hast what thou hast, will give thee what as yet thou hast not; He Himself has promised that "He will reveal it unto you." Pray Him to draw thee after Him, and He will give thee grace to "follow Him;" and, "following on to know Him," thou shalt hear His Voice more distinctly, and know it from "the voice of strangers."
And so, and much more, in life. Think ye that when St. Paul said, trembling and astonished, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" he foresaw the endurance, and labour, and sufferings, by which, with the other Apostles, he became "a spectacle to men and Angels?" or that even that dim foreshadowing, whereby our Lord shewed him "how great things he must suffer for His Name's sake," was the same as when he actually followed his Lord, step by step, along a track of blood, and life was one daily death, whose hours were counted by sufferings, and the "jeopardy, every hour" in its turn brought with it? Or think ye that the blessed St. John, when he said, "We are able," could imagine that lengthened banishment, more than the years of the life of man, from the Presence of Him he loved? Or that St. Peter, when he said, "Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee," foresaw that lasting sorrow whereby, night after night, he should out of love bewail his fall, or that suffering would be to him but as his meat and drink; the very life "whereto Christians are called," "no strange thing," but the very substance of his joy? Yet all was wrapped up in those first words. With one earnest devotion, they gave their whole selves to their Master and their God, and He, step by step, unfolded to them the plan which His Fatherly Wisdom had prepared for them; He led them on from "grace to grace," from "strength to strength," made weakness their strength; "the valley of tears" their fountain and refreshment; drew them by each trial nearer to Himself, and Himself drew nearer to their souls; until they had reached that nearness which His love had chosen for them, and whom He had "guided by His counsel," He "received to His Glory."
And so will He, in our measure, with us. Give we up ourselves only with purpose of heart to have no will but His; desire we to be but led, as little children, by Himself unto Himself; look we not what the way will be, joyous or dreary; pledge we ourselves but to this, to follow Him, and He will shew us what the next step shall be. And here again the Apostle's rule will be our guide. Hold fast what you have; act up to what you see; and what you see not God will make known to you. Alas! how many of us have just reversed this in our youth! How often happens it, that as soon as the young are left to act for themselves, they drop, out of impatience or negligence, pious practices which they learnt at their mother's knees! how amid the pleasures or business of the world is prayer or self-examination or daily reading of Holy Scripture laid aside! how many penitents, who have been brought back, have perished for ever, through the undoing of seemingly little links, whereby they were anew bound to God! "Whereunto we have attained, let us walk by the same rule." We should fear extremely to give up any thing which God has heretofore blessed to our souls.
And then, would we walk onward, beware we how we reject any thing, which has been a means of holiness. See we that we are walking; not as some, who resolve, as it were, to stand still. If we see not what lies beyond, let us walk on where we see, and we shall reach it. Be it, that any cannot see fasting to be a duty, though sanctioned by the example and Word of our Blessed Lord, by Apostles and Prophets, by the experience of the whole Church. Happier were he, if he could take it up on their authority. Yet some sort of self-denial in food he will hardly think uncalled for. Let him try to practise this habitually; he will find fasting easier, and that it gives a substance to it. Does any think our weekly Friday-fast, or the observance of set "hours" of devotion which the Ancient Church ever kept in memory of our Lord in the great Mysteries of the Faith, a formal service? Yet can a Christian not meditate on the Passion of our Lord? Seek in earnest to do this, and you will be glad if the hours of the day, as they come, might, through their observance, by their very coming, remind you of the Mysteries of His Cross and Passion; you will find it gladlier to undergo privation with your Lord, than to feast with the world. Does any doubt of the value of some rule for the means wherewith God has entrusted him, of the blessedness of liberal almsgiving according to his ability? Let him do in earnest something he does see, and God will teach him how blessed it is to lend unto Himself, how great the joy of self-denying love.
Nay, ye yourselves, brethren, wherever ye are in the Christian course, whatever ye have attained, know that ye would not, for the whole world, exchange what ye are for what ye were, when ye were less careful to do God's will. They, whose day is marked by seasons of devotion, or who have learned, in whatever degree, to "pray alway," can hardly picture to themselves the dreariness of existence, in which, from morning to evening, there should only be some chance thoughts of God. They who have learned fasting or simplicity or the blessedness of Lent, can hardly imagine to themselves day following day, in one round of self-indulgence. They who have learnt, in strong purpose of heart, to have no will but God's, can scarcely imagine the misery of following blindly their own. They whose one longing it now is, to be approved to God, to gain God, oh what a dreary void, what a dismal blank, to see an existence spent on any thing which is not God, or for His Glory and Will!
Judge then by what ye know, of what ye know not. Or rather if ye have ever known any sweetness of the heavenly things, if, in any season of earnest purpose, ye have felt any thrill of joy, at the thought of the approach of your God, if, at any moment of persevering prayer, there has streamed upon your souls some ray of light, faint though it was and quickly vanishing, if, even in the refusal to "do" some "wickedness and sin against God," or on taking up again some neglected duty, or doing some deed of self-denying love, ye have, in some inward token of joy and peace, known some gleam of the bliss of being in one mind with God, oh; "whereunto ye have attained, walk" on with Him, and pray for perseverance to the end. They are the first faint dawning streak's of a glorious Day. Yea the richest brightness of earth's most glowing glorious light, as compared with the first gleams which just break through the darkness, were a faint image of the inward light of that soul, which makes God its only End, its Riches, its Delight, its All. For what were the brightest light, which God ever kindled in the soul of man, what the sweetness of those unutterable words which St. Paul heard, what the beauty of the heavenly Jerusalem which St. John saw, "which the Glory of God did lighten, and the Lamb was the Light thereof," compared to that Glory, and Sweetness, and Brightness, which not even Apostle's "eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor heart of man hath conceived;" for It is God Himself seen face to Face, It is the Sight, the Embrace, the Love of God. Take that first step; break off the sin thou knowest; seek, by God's grace, to gain some one grace thou most lackest; pray to persevere to the end; and that Sight, that Embrace, that Love is thine.
"Faithful is He Who calleth you, Who also will do it." Now unto Him "Who hath saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began," be glory and dominion, praise and thanksgiving, for ever and ever, Amen.
Almighty and merciful God, of Whose only gift it cometh, that Thy faithful people do unto Thee true and laudable service; Grant, we beseech Thee, that we may so faithfully serve Thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain Thy heavenly promises; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.