Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE NINETEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, 1931.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
In the Collect for today we pray that the Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts. In every prayer, we must always remember, we assume responsibility for preparing ourselves for God’s answer. We must make ourselves receptive so far as it lies in our power. We must do our part in creating an atmosphere which may serve as a medium of transmission. We must put our whole selves into our prayer, our souls, our minds, our bodies, our thoughts, our desires and our wills. Back of every prayer there must be the development of a compelling need. We must mean what we say before we can say what we mean.
The beginning of the development of the particular need which lies back of this particular Collect is expressed in the opening clause. “Without Thee we are not able to please Thee” is not merely a devotional ejaculation, it is a statement of a discovery. The way to this discovery led through strange and startling and unforgetable experiences. It was only at the cost of many failures that we learned the short limits of our own strength and the instability of our natural resources. It is worth while if in the end the conviction is forced in upon us that without God everything is impossible. After that it is but a step to the discovery that with God all things are possible. The moment we discovered that we needed to be directed we found our way. The moment we discovered that we needed to be ruled we found our freedom.
The Holy Spirit requires for His operations a sensitive, responsive and obedient subject, if His motions to direct and rule are to be effective. The spiritual mechanism must be in working order if it is to be accurate and reliable. The keeping of this delicate instrument is committed to us. We can make it or mar it. We can develop it or wreck it. There need only be deliberate intention and a sustained effort and the thing is done. After all it is only normal for a spiritual being to be subject to the Holy Spirit. It is sub-normal to be dull. It is abnormal to be disobedient.
The process of attaining to spiritual normality works along these lines.
First, there comes the turning of the mind from self to God. This turning implies distrust of self and trust in God. It is called conversion.
Second, there comes a sorrow for the sins which have offended God, dimmed our vision and dulled our sensibilities. This is called contrition.
Third, there comes the fulfilment of contrition by confession, satisfaction and amendment.
Fourth, there comes the forgiveness which heals the breach and effects at-one-ment with God.
Fifth, there comes Communion whereby the whole being, soul, mind and body are brought into vital contact with God. Understanding, affections and will are energized by this contact with the current of Divine Life. The mind is stayed in God, and there is serenity. The heart is fixed in God, and there is stability. The will is united with God, and there is strength.
Sixth, there comes surrender whereby an oblation of self is consummated. This oblation goes down to the deepest and innermost recesses. All must be discovered and surrendered. Every instinct, appetite, desire, affection, emotion, inclination and impulse must be surrendered. Every thought, suggestion, imagination, memory and association must be surrendered.
Then at last comes the flood of light which makes the way plain. Then comes the inrush of the sense of freedom. Then, comes the thrill of the possession of power. Then comes the peace of right adjustment. This is religion.
Affectionately in Our Lord,