John Henry Newman.

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and attractiveness his many snares ; and these doubtless will engross
us, unless we also give form to the spiritual objects towards which we
pray and labour. How short are the seasons which most men have to
give to prayer ! Before they can collect their memories and minds,
their leisure is almost over, even if they have the power to dismiss the
thoughts of this world, which just before engaged them. Nov/ Forms
of prayer do this /or them. They keep the ground occupied, that Sa-
tan may not encroach upon the seasons of devotion. They are a stand-
ing memorial, to which we can recur as to a temple of God, finding
every thing in order for our worship as soon as we go into it, though
the time allotted us at morning and evening be ever so circumscribed.

6. And this use of Forms in prayer becomes great, beyond power
X)f estimating, in the case of those multitudes of men, who, after going
on V ell for i while, fall into sin. If even conscientious men require
continua' rid; c be reminded of the next world, how extreme is the
need of those who try to forget it ! It cannot be denied, fearful as it
) to reflect upon it, that far the greater number of those who come to
manhood, for a while (at least) desert the God who has redeemed
them ; and, then, if in their earher years they have learned and used
no prayers or psalms by which to worship Him, what is to keep them
from blotting altogether from their minds the thought of religion ? But
here it is that the Forms of the Church have ever served her children,
both to restrain them in their career of sin, and to supply them with
•ready utterance on their repentance. Chance words and phrases of
her services adhere to their memories, rising up in moments of tempta-


tion or of trouble, to check or to recover them. And ! en it happens,
that in the most irreUgious companies a distinction is said to be observa-
ble between those who have had the opportunity of using our public
Forms in their youth, and those whose religious impressions have not
been thus happily fortified ; so that, amid their most reckless mirth, and
most daring pretence of protiigacy, a sort of secret reverence has at-
tended the wanderers, restraining them from that impiety and pro-
faneness in which the others have tried to conceal from themselves the
guilt and peril of their doings.

And again on their repentance, (should they be favoured v/ith so
high a grace,) what friends do they seem to find amid their gloom in
the words they learned in their boyhood, — a kindly voice, aiding them
to say what they otherwise would not know how to say, guiding and
composing their minds upon those objects of faith which they ought to
look to, but cannot find of themselves, and so (as it were) interceding
for them with the power of the blessed Spirit, while nature can but
groan and travail in pain ! Sinners as they are by their own voluntary
misdeeds, and with a prospect of punishment before them, enlightened
by but few and faint gleams of hope, what shall keep them from fever-
ish restlessness, and all the extravagance of fear, what shall soothe
them into a fixed resigned waiting for their Judge, and such lowly efforts
to obey Him, however poorly, as become a penitent, but those words,
long buried in their minds, and now rising again as if with the life of
their uncorrupted boyhood ? It requires no great experience of sick
beds to verify the truth of this statement. Blessed, indeed, is the
power of those formularies, which thus succeed in throwing a sinner for
a while out of himself, and bringing before him the scenes of his youth,
his guardian friends now long departed, their ways and their teaching,
their pious services, and their peaceful end ; and though all this is an
excitement, and lasts but for a season, yet, if improved, it may be con-
verted into an habitual contemplation of persons and deeds which now
live to God, though removed hence, — if improved by acting upon it,
it will become an abiding motive to seek the world to come, an abiding
persuasion, winning him from the works of darkness, and raising him
to the humble hope of future acceptance with his Saviour and Judge.

7. Such is the force of association in undoing the evil of past years,
and recalling us to the innocence of children. Nor is this all we may
gain from the prayers we use, nor are penitent sinners the only persons
who can profit by it. Let us recollect for how long a period our prayers
have been the standard Forms of devotion in the Church of Christ, and
we shall gain a fresh reason for loving them, and a fresh source of com-
fort in using them. I know different persons will feci differently here.


according to their different turn of mind ; yet surely there are few of
us, if we dwelt on the thought, but would feel it a privilege to use (for
instance, in the Lord's Prayer) the very petitions which Christ spoke.
He gave the prayer and used it. His Apostles used it ; all the Saints
ever since have used it. When we use it we seem to join company with
them. Who does not think himself brought nearer to any celebrated
man in history, by seeing his house, or his furniture, or his handwriting,
or the very books that were his 1 Thus does the Lord's Prayer bring
us near to Christ, and to His disciples in every age. No wonder, then,
that in past times good men thought this form of prayer so sacred, that
it seemed to them impossible to say it too often, as if some especial grace
went with the use of it. Nor can we use it too often ; it contains in
itself a sort of plea for Christ's listening to us ; we cannot, so that we
keep our thoughts fixed on its petitions, and use our minds as well as our
lips when we repeat it. And what is true of the Lord's Prayer, is in its
measure true of most of those prayers which our Church teaches us to
use. It is true of the Psalms also, and of the Creeds ; all of which
have become sacred, from the memory of saints departed who have used
them, and whom we hope one day to meet in heaven.

One caution I give in conclusion as to using these thoughts. Be-
ware lest your religion be one of feeling merely, not of practice. Men
may speak in a high imaginative way of the ancient Saints and the
Holy Apostolic Church, without making the fervour or refinement of
their devotion bear upon their conduct. Many a man likes to be re-
ligious in graceful language ; he loves religious tales and hymns, yet is
never the better Christian for all this. The works of every day, these
are the tests of our glorious contemplations, whether or not they shall
be available* to our salvation ; and he who does one deed of obedience
for Christ's sake, let him have no imagination and no fine feeling, is a
better man, and returns to his home justified rather than the most elo-
quent speaker, and the most sensitive hearer, of the glory of the Gospel,
if such men do not practise up to their knowledge.

* Gal. vi. 15.



Luke xx. 37, 38.

" Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the
Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For He
is not a God of the dead, but of the living ; for all live unto Him."

These words of our Saviour show us how much more there is in Scrip-
ture than at first sight appears. God spoke to Moses in the burning
bush, and called Himself " the God of Abraham ;" and Christ tells us,
that in this simple announcement was contained the promise that Abra-
ham should rise again from the dead. In truth, if we may say it with
reverence, the All- wise. All-knowing God, cannot speak without mean-
ing many things at once. He sees the end from the beginning ; He
understands the numberless connexions and relations of all thino-s one
with another. Every word of His is full of instruction, looking many
ways ; and though it is not often given to us to know these various senses,
and we are not at liberty to attempt lightly to imagine them, yet, as
far as they are told us, and as far as we may reasonably infer them, we
must thankfully accept them. Look at Christ's words, and this same
character of them strikes us ; whatever He says is fruitful in meanino-,
and refers to many things. It is well to keep this in mind when we
read Scripture ; for it may hinder us from self-conceit, t. om studyino- it
in an arrogant critical temper, and from giving over reading it, as if we
had got from it all that can be learned.

Now let us consider in what sense the text contains a promise of a
resurrection, and see what instruction may be gained from knowing it.

When God called Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He
implied that those holy patriarchs were still ahve, though they were no
more seen on earth. This may seem evident at first sight ; but it may
be asked, how the text proves that their bodies would live ; for, if their
souls were still living, that would be enough to account for their being
still called in the Book of E.xodus, servants of God. This is the point
to be considered. Our Blessed Lord seems to tell us, that in some sense


or other Abraham's body might be considered still alive as a pledge of
his resurrection, though it was dead in the common sense in which we
apply the word. His announcement is, Abraham shall rise from the
dead, because in truth, he is still alive. He cannot in the end be held
under the power of the grave, more than a sleeping man can be kept
from waking, Abraham is still alive in the dust, though not risen
thence. He is alive because all God's saints live to Him, though they
seem to perish.

It may seem a paradox to say, that our bodies, even when^dead, are
still alive ; but since our Lord seems to countenance us in saying so^
I will say it, though a strange saying, because it has an instructive
meaning. We are apt to talk about our bodies as if we knew how or
what they really were ; whereas we only know what our eyes tell us.
They seem to grow, to come to maturity, to decay ; but after all we
know no more about them than meets our senses, and there is, doubt-
less, much which God sees in our material frames, which we cannot
see. We have no direct cognizance of what may be called the substan-
tive existence of the body, only of its accidents. Again, we are apt to
speak of soul and body, as if we could distinguish between them, and
knew much about them ; but for the most part we use words without
meaning. It is useful indeed to make the distinction, and Scripture
makes it ; but after all, the Gospel speaks of our nature, in a religious
sense, as one. Soul and body make up one man, which is born once,
and never dies. Philosophers of old time thought the soul indeed might
live for ever, but that the body perished at death ; but Christ tells us
otherwise ; He tells us the body will live for ever. In the text, He
seems to intimate that it never really dies ; that we lose sight indeed
of what we are accustomed to see, but that God still sees the elements
of It which are not exposed to our senses.

God graciously called Himself the God of Abraham. He did not
say the God of Abraham's snu', but simply of Abraham. He blest
Abraham, and He gave him eternal life ; not to his soul only without
his body, but to Abraham as one man. And so He is our God, and it
is not given to us to distinguish between what He does for our different
natures, spiritual and material. These arc mere words ; each of us
may feel himself to be one, and that one being, in all its substantial
parts and attributes, will never die.

You will see this more clearly by considering what our Saviour says
about the blessed Sacrament of His Supper. He says He will give us
His flesh to eat.* How is this don ? we do not know. He gives it

* John vi.51.


under the outward symbols of bread and wine. But in what real sense
is the consecrated bread His body ? It is not told us, we may not in-
quire. We say indeed spiritually, sacramentally, in a heavenly way ; but
this is in order to impress on our minds religious, and not carnal notions
of it. All we are concerned to know is, the effect upon us of partaking
this blessed food. Now observe what he tells us about that. " Except
ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, ye have no life
in you. Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, hath eternal
life, and I will raise him up at the last day.''''* Now there is no dis-
tinction made here between soul and body. Christ's blessed Supper is
food to us altogether, whatever we are, soul, body, and all. It is
the seed of eternal life within us, the food of immortality, to " preserve
our body and soul unto everlasting life."| The forbidden fruit wrought
in Adam unto death ; but this is the fruit which makes us live for ever.
Bread sustains us in this temporal life ; the consecrated bread is the
means oi eternal strength for soul and body. Who could live this visible
life without earthly food ? And in the same general way the Supper
of the Lord is the " means'^ of our living for ever. We have no reason
for thinking we shall live for ever unless we eat it, no more than we
have reason to think our temporal life will be sustained without meat
and drink. God can, indeed, sustain us, " not by bread alone ;" but
this is His ordinary means, which His will has made such. He can
sustain our immortality without the Christian Sacraments, as He sus-
tained Abraham and the other saints of old time ; but under the Gospel
these are His means, which He appointed at His will. We eat the
sacred bread, and our bodies become sacred ; they are not ours ; they
are Christ's ; they are instinct with that flesh which saw not corruption ;
they are inhabited by His Spirit ; they become immortal ; they die but
to appearance, and for a time ; they spring up when their sleep is ended,
and reign with Him for ever.

The inference to be drawn from this doctrine is plain. Among the
wise men of the heathen, as I have said, it was usual to speak slight-
ingly and contemptuously of the mortal body ; they knew no better.
They thought it scarcely a part of their real selves, and fancied they
should be in a better condition without it. Nay, they considered it to

* John vi. 53, 54.

t " In the Supper of the Lord there is no vahi ceremony, no bare sign, no untrue
figure of a thing absent ; but as the Scripture says, ... the communion of the
Body and Blood of the Lord, in a marvellous incorporation, which by the operation
of the Holy Ghost .... is through faith wrought in the souls of the faithful, whereby
not only their souls live to eternal life, but they surely trust to win their bodies a re.
surrection to immortality." — Homily on the Sacraine^it, Part I.

Vol. I.— 11.


be the cause of their sinning ; that the soul of man was pure, and the
material body was gross, and defiled the soul. We have been taught
the truth, viz. that sin is a disease of our minds, of ourselves : and that
all of us, not body alone, but soul and body, is naturally corrupt, and
that Christ has redeemed and cleansed whatever we are, sinful soul and
body. Accordingly i?ieir chief hope in death was the notion they should
be rid of their body. Feeling they were sinful, and not knowing how,
they laid the charge on their body ; and knowing they were badly cir-
cumstanced here, they thought death perchance might be a change for
the better. Not that they rested on the hope of returning to a God and
Father, but they thought to be unshackled from the earth, and able to
do what they would. It was consistent with this slighting of their
earthly tabernacle, that they burned the dead bodies of their friends,
not burying them as we do, but consuming them as a mere worthless
case of what had been precious, and was then an incumbrance to the
ground. Far different is the temper which the glorious light of the
Gospel teaches us. Our bodies shall rise again and live for ever ; they
may not be irreverently handled. How they will rise we know not ;
but surely if the word of Scripture be true, the body from which the
soul departed shall come to life. There are some truths, addressed
solely to our faith, not to our reason ; not to our reason, because we
know so little about " the power of God," (in our Saviour's words,) that
we have nothing to reason upon. One of these, for instance, is the
presence of Christ in the Sacrament. We hiow we cat His Body and
Blood ; but it is our wisdom not curiously to ask how or whence, not
to give our thoughts range, but to take and eat and profit thereby.
This is the secret of gaining the blessing promised. And so, as regards
the resurrection of the dead, we have no means or ground of argument.
We cannot determine in what exact sense our bodies will be on the re-
surrection the same as they are at present, but we cannot harm our-
selves by taking God's declaration simply and acting upon it. And it
is, as believing this comfortable truth, that the Christian Church put
aside that old irreverence of the funeral pile, and consecrated the
ground for the reception of the saints that .sh.ep. We deposit our de-
parted friends calmly and thoughtfully, in failh ; not ceasing to love or
remember that which once lived among us, but marking the place
where it hes, as believing that God has set His seal upon it, and His
Angels guard it. His Angels, .surely, guard (ho bodies of His servants ;
Michael the Archangel, thinking it no unworthy task to preserve them
from the powers of evil.* Especially those like Moses, who fall "in

• Judo 9.


the wilderness of the people," whose duty has called them to dapr-er
and suffering, and who die a violent death, these, too, if they have eaten
of that incorruptible bread, are preserved safe till the last day. There
are, who have not the comfort of a peaceful burial. They die in ba';tle,
or on the sea, or in strange lands, or as the early believers, under the
hands of persecutors. Horrible tortures, or the mouths of wild bea.'sts
have ere now dishonoured the sacred bodies of those who had fed I'pon
Christ ; and diseases corrupt them still. This is Satan's work, the ex-
piring efforts of his fury, after his overthrow by Christ. Still, as far as
we can, we repair these insults of our Enemy, and tend honourably and
piously those tabernacles in which Christ has dwelt. And in this view,
what a venerable and fearful place is a Church, in and around which
the dead arc deposited ! Truly it is chiefly sacred, as being the spot
where God has for ages manifested Himself to His servants ; but add
to this the thought, that it is the actual resting-place of those very ser-
vants, through successive times, who still live unto Him. The dust
around us will one day become animate. We may ourselves be dead
long before, and not see it. We ourselves may elsewhere be buried,
and should it be our exceeding blessedness to rise to life eternal, we
may rise in other places, far in the east or west. But, as God's word
is sure, what is sown is raised ; the earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust
to dust, shall become glory to glory, and life to the living God, and a
true incorruptible image of the spirit made perfect. Here the saints
sleep, here they shall rise. A great sight will a Christian country then
be, if earth remains what it is ; when holy places pour out the worship-
pers who have for generations kept vigil therein, waiting through the
long night for the bright coming of Christ ! And, if this be so, what
pious composed thoughts should be ours when we enter Churches ! God
indeed is every where, and His Angels go to and fro ; yet can they be
more worthily employed in their condescending care of man, than
where good men sleep 1 In the service of the Communion we magnify
God together with Angels and Archangels, and all the company of
heaven. Surely there is more meaning in this than we know of;
what a " dreadful" place would this appear if our eyes were opened as
those of Elisha's servant ! " This is none other than the house of God,
and this is the gate of heaven."

On the other hand, if the dead bodies of Christians are honourable,
so doubtless are the living ; because they have had their blessedness
when living, therefore have they in their sleep. He who does not hon-
our his own body as something holy unto the Lord, may indeed revere
the dead, but it is then a mere superstition, not an act of piety. To
reverence holy places (right as it is) will not profit a man unless he


reverences himself. Consider what it is to bo partaker of the Body and
Blood of Christ. We pray Go:l, in our Church's language, that " our
sinful bodies may become clean through His body ; " and we are prom-
ised in Scripture, that our bodies shall be temples of the Holy Ghost.
How should we study, then, to cleanse them from all sin, that they mav
he true members of Christ ! We are told that the peril of disease and
death attends the unworthy partaking of the Lord's Supper. Is this
wonderful, considering the strange sin of receiving it into a body dis-
graced by wilful disobedience 1 All that defiles it, intemperance or
other vice, all that is unbecoming, all that is disrespectful to Him who
has bought our bodies with a price, must be put aside.* Hear St.
Paul's words, " Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more ....
likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin .... let not sin
therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts
thereof."! " If the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead
dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken
your mortal bodies by His indwelling Spirit .... If ye, through the
Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." X

Work together with God, therefore, my brethren, in this work of
your redemption. While He feeds you, prepare for the heavenly feast;
" discern the Lord's body " when it is placed before you, and suitably
treasure it afterwards. Lay up year by year this seed of life within
you, believing it will one day bear fruit. " Believe that ye receive it,
and ye shall have it." || Glorious, indeed, will be the spring time of
the Resurrection, when all that seemed dry and withered will bud forth
and blossom. The glory of Lebanon will be given it, the excellency
of Carmel and Sharon ; the fir tree for the thorn, the myrtle tree for
the briar ; and the mountains and the hills shall break forth before us
in singing. Who would miss being of that company ? Wretched men
they will then appear, who now for a season enjoy the pleasures of sin.
Wretched, Avho follow their own selfish will, instead of walking by faith,
who are now idle, instead of trying to serve God, who are set upon
the world's vanities, or who scoff at religion, or who allow then selves
in known sin, who live in anger, or malice, or pride, or covetousness,
who do not continually strive to become better and holier, who are
afraid to profess themselves Christians and take up their cross and fol-
low Christ. May the good Lord make us all willing to follow Him !
may he rouse the slumb^rers, and raisa lhe:n to a new life here, that
they may inherit His eternal kingdom hereafter !

* 1 Cor. vi. 20. t Rom. vi. 9—12. I Rom. viii. 11. I! Mark xi. 24.



Acts x. 40, 41.

" Him God raised up the third day, and showed Him openly ; not to all the people,
but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us who did eat and drink with
Him after He rose from the dead."

It might have been expected, that, on our Saviour's rising again from
the dead. He would have shown Himself to very great numbers of peo-
ple, and especially to those who crucified Him ; whereas, we know
from the history, that, far from this being the case, He showed Himself
only to chosen witnesses, chiefly his immediate followers ; and St.
Peter avows this in the text. This seems at first sight strange. We
are apt to fancy the resurrection of Christ as some striking visible dis-
play of His glory, such as God vouchsafed from time to time to the
Israelites in Moses' time ; and considering it in the light of a public
triumph, we are led to imagine the confusion and terror which would
have overwhelmed His murderers, had He presented Himself ahve
before them. Now, thus to reason, is to conceive Christ's kingdom of
iliis world which it is not ; and to suppose that then Christ came to
judge the world, whereas that judgment will not come till the last day,

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 19 of 76)