Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, 1930.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The last sentence in today's Epistle explains several words and phrases that are frequently and constantly found in books of spiritual reading. "Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." When devotional books make use of such words or phrases as "intention," "offering it up," "making acts"—what is meant is the doing. of something, or the bearing of something, or the using of short ejaculating prayers, in the name of the Lord Jesus, with the definite motive of uniting the deed or the suffering or the prayer with the deeds and suffering and prayers of Our Lord. The idea is to do and suffer and pray with Him and so to share in His life as far as it is permitted to us. An ejaculating prayer is a short prayer like these. “O, my God, I believe in Thee." This is called an act of Faith. “O, my God, I hope in Thee." This is called an act of Hope. “O, my God, I love Thee." This is called an act of Charity. “O, my God, I grieve that by my sins I have so often offended Thee." This is called an act of Contrition. If you are not familiar with these Acts or ejaculating prayers, I would advise you to memorize and use them.
Take the word "intention" in its devotional sense first. An intention is a conscious motive. The motive for any act determines the moral value of the act. The question that we must put to ourselves is, "Why am I doing this?" "What am I doing it for?" "What is my object?" "What is my desire?" Whatever your motive is it will indicate the nature of your intention and the character of your expression of it.
By a "pure intention" is meant a motive for saying something or doing something solely for the glory of God. If there is a tincture of self-interest or self-regard in the intention, then the intention is not pure. If there is but one single intention, and that for the glory of God, then the intention is a "simple intention."
The opposite to all this is the muddled and muddy emotionalism which is popularly and fallaciously termed self-expression. Self-expression by all means. But what self? The rational or the irrational? The moral or the immoral? The responsible or the irresponsible? The best self or the worst self? And again we must not be fooled by the word "modern." We are all moderns because we are living in modern times. That catch won't do. There are millions of moderns who are religious. There are many moderns who are irreligious. It so happens at this present moment that the irreligious moderns are noisy. That is all. There is nothing modern about that.
The word "offering" has a sacrificial meaning in the Christian vocabulary. "Sacrifice" means making something sacred or devoted. The Christian makes all life, in this sense, a sacrifice. This does not mean the occasional giving up of something, but the constant offering up of all. It is not a negative, but a positive action. The Christian offers up tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword. In all these things he is more than conqueror. Because he is persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate him from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus Our Lord.
Affectionately in Our Lord,