Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS DAY, 1943.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
"Thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins."
"The only-begotten Son of God, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man: And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate: He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures: And ascended into heaven." "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins."
The work of redemption begins at the Manger and is consummated on the Cross. In Bethlehem we learn the beginning of the mystery of redemption. The two lessons for us are the seriousness of sin and the necessity of repentance, and the requirements of faith in the power of the Holy Redeemer, and in His righteousness, to offer the acceptable propitiation for the sins of the whole world.
Repentance and faith must be held in true balance. Repentance works within its subject such a change in mind as to regard sin with repulsive abhorrence. The abhorrence must be sufficiently active as to spur the penitent on to the point when the sin is finally forsaken by the will.
There may or may not be an emotional action. Some such activity of the feelings doubtless will manifest itself. This will depend upon the individual. But the final test of stability will be made in the will.
Be that as it may, the true penitent will begin to realize the seriousness of sin when he first realizes what forgiveness costs: when he sees with the eyes of his soul the Child in the Manger, Who came down from heaven to pay the price of sin because there was none other on earth good enough to pay that price. Then at last penitence has begun to open the door which lets in the light of faith. He sees the Holy Child as God-Man. He sees in Him the Redeemer Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
He may have tried others who have tried to tell him of paths which seemed to lead to a way, and a truth, and a life. But never before has he been able to find one who in himself has declared himself to be the way, and the truth, and the life. It may be, and for many it must be, a long, long pilgrimage, and a very lonely one. It may be for some, and for many more than we suspect, a sudden, sharp experience of a blinding light like the brightness of a noonday sun. It may be for some a surprising appearance in the twilight, the semi-light and darkness which comes in the advancing evening, when most surely the Redeemer appears, as He did to the penitent thief.
But when it happens—and where and how it happens, one thing is sure, there is given the experience of seeing the Saviour, and there is given the opportunity of speaking the necessary words, "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief."
Is a last minute repentance acceptable? Repentance at any minute is acceptable. But at the last minute? God gives the last minute because it is the last chance.
The greatest penitents have the greatest sorrow for their sins. The greatest penitents have the greatest faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ, because they know that no one else could or would have unlocked the door of heaven to let them in. The greatest penitents have the greatest joy in their forgiveness, they share in the joy of the angels in heaven over every sinner that repenteth.
So as we think of these things we begin to share in Our Lord's joy which was set before Him and which consoled Him as He endured the Cross.
Affectionately in Our Lord,