John Henry Newman.

Parochial sermons (Volume 1) online

. (page 2 of 76)
Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 76)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Gen. xvi. 13.

Thou God seest me ........ 514


John xi. 34 — 36.
Jesus said, Where have ye laid him ? They say unto Him, Lord come
and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold, how he loved him 522


Col. i. 24.
I fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh
for His body's sake which is the Church ..... 529



He3. V. 7, 8.
Who, in the days of His flesh, when he had oftercd up prayers and supphca-
tions with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him
from death, and was heard in that He feared ; though He were a Son,
yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered . . 539

XIV CO nIt E N T 8 .


Judges v. 31.
So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord ; but let them that love Him be
as the sun when he goeth forth in his might. And the land had rest
forty years ......... 549


Prov. iv. 24—27.
Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.
Let thine eyes look right on, and 1st thine eye-lids look straight befortt
thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be estabUshed.
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left ; remove thy foot from evil 559



Matt. xlii. 47, 48.
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and
gathered of every kind; which, when it was full, they drew to shore
and sat down, and gatliered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away 568



2 Tim. ii. 20.
In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also
of wood and of earth ; and some to honour, and some to dishonour - 576

Heb. xii. 1.
Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of
witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily
beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us - 586


2 Cor. iii. 18.
We all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, arc
changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit
of the Lord - 596



1 Cor. xii. 13.
By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body . - . . 606




Matt, xviii. 5.
Whoso shall receive one such little child in My name, receiveth Me - 615


Not forsakmg the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some
JB, but exhorting one another ; and so much the more, as yc see the day
approaching ....... .. 623



Luke X. 41,42.
Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things ; but
one thing is needful : and Mary hath cliosen that good part, which
shall not be taken away from her ...... 63S



James v. 13.

le any among you afflicted ? let him pray. Is any merry ? let him smg psalms 643



Eph. vii. 18.
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watch.
ing thereunto with all perseverance and supphcation for all saints . 651


Rev. vi. 11.
And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said
unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, imtil their fellow-
servants also, and their brethren, that should be killed as they were,
should be fulfilled 661




Vol. I.-1




Hebrews xii. 14.
"Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."

In this text it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit to convey a chief
truth of reUgion in a few words. It is this circumstance which makes
it especially impressive ; for the truth itself is declared in one form or
other in every part of Scripture. It is told us again and again, that to
make sinful creatures holy was the great end which our Lord had in
view in taking upon Him our nature, and thus none but the holy will be
accepted for His sake at the last day. The whole history of redemp-
tion, the covenant of mercy in all its parts and provisions, attest the
necessity of holiness in order to salvation ; as indeed even our natural
conscience bears witness also. But in the text what is elsewhere im-
plied in history, and enjoined by precept, is stated doctrinally, as a mo-
mentous and necessary fact, the result of some awful irreversible law in
the nature of things, and the inscrutable determination of the Divine

Now some one may ask, " Why is it that holiness is a necessary
qualification for our being received into heaven ? why is it that the Bible
enjoins upon us so strictly to love, fear, and obey God, to be just, honest,
meek, pure in heart, forgiving, heavenly-minded, self-denying, humble,
and resigned ? Man is confessedly weak and corrupt ; why then is he
enjoined to be so religious, so unearthly ? why is he required (in the
strong language of Scripture) to become " a new creature ? Since he


is by nature what he is, would it not be an act of greater mercy in God
to save him ahogether without this holiness, which it is so difficult, yet
(as it appears) so necessary for liim to possess ? "

^ow we have no right to ask this question. Surely it is quite enough
for a sinner to know, that a way has been opened through God's grace
for his salvation, without being informed why that way, and not another
way was chosen by Divine Wisdom. Eternal life is " the gift of
God. " Undoubtedly He may prescribe the terms on which He will
give it; and if He has determined holiness to be the way of life, it is
enough ; it is not for us to inquire why He has so determined.

Yet the question may be asked reverently, and with a view to enlarge
our insight into our own condition and prospects ; and in that case the
attempt to answer it will be profitable, if it be made soberly. I proceed,
therefore, to state one of the reasons assigned in Scripture, why present
holiness is necessary, as the text declares to us, for future happiness.

To be holy is, in our Church's words, to have " the true circumcision
of the Spirit ; " that is, to be separate from sin, to hate the works of the
world, the flesh, and the devil ; to take pleasure in keeping God's com-
mandments ; to do things as He would have us do them ; to live habit-
ually as in the sight of the world to come, as if we had broken the ties
of this life, and were dead already. Why cannot we be saved without
possessing such a frame and temper of mind ?

I answer as follows: That, even supposing a man of unholy life were
suffered to enter Heaven, he would not he happy there ; so that it would
be no mercy to permit him to enter.

We are apt to deceive ourselves, and to consider Heaven a place like
this earth ; I mean, a place where every one may choose and take his
oivn pleasure. We see that in this world, active men have their own
enjoyments, and domestic men have theirs ; men of literature, of science,
of political talent, have their respective pursuits and pleasures. Hence
we are led to act as if it will be the same in another world. The only
difference we put between this world and the next, is that here, (as we
know well), men are nol always sure, but there, we suppose they tcill he
alwaya sure, of obtaining what they seek after. And accordingly we
conclude, that any man, whatever his habits, tastes, or manner of life, if
once admitted into Heaven, would be happy there. Not that we alto-
gether deny, that some preparation is necessary for the next -world ; but
we do not estimate its real extent and importance. We think we can
reconcile ourselves to God when we will ; as if nothing were required
in the case of men in general, but some temporary attention, more than
ordinary, to our religious duties, — some strictness, during our last sick-
ness, to the services of the Church, as men of business arrange their


letters and papers on taking a journey or balancing an account. But an
opinion like this, though commonly acted on, is refuted as soon as put
into words. For Heaven, it is plain from Scripture, is not a place
where many different and discordant pursuits can be carried on at once,
as is the case in this world. Here every man can do his own pleasure,
but there he must do God's pleasure. It would be presumption to at-
tempt to determine the employments of that eternal life which good men
are to pass in God's presence, or to deny that that state which eye hath
not seen, nor ear heard, nor mind conceived, may comprise an infinite
variety of pursuits and occupations. Still so far we are distinctly told,
that that future life will be spent in God's presence, in a sense which does
not apply to our present life ; so that it may be best described as an end-
less and uninterrupted worship of the Eternal Father, Son, and Spirit.
" They serve him day and night in His temple, and he that sitteth on the
throne shall dwell among them .... The Lamb which is in the midst
of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains
of water. " Again, "The city had no need of the sun, neither of the
moon to shine in it, for the glorj^ of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is
the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk
in the light of it, and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and
honour into it. " * These passages from St. John are sufficient to re-
mind us of many others.

Heaven, then, is not like this world ; I will say what it is much more
like, — a church. For in a place of public worship no language of this
world is heard ; there are no schemes brought forward for temporal ob-
jects, great or small; no information how to strengthen our worldly in-
terests, extend our influence, or establish our credit. These things in-
deed may be right in their way, so that we do not set our hearts upon
them ; still, (I repeat,) it is certain that we hear nothing of them in a
church. Here we hear solely and entirely of God. We praise Him,
worship Him, sing to Him, thank Him, confess to Him, give ourselves
up to Him, and ask His blessing. And therefore, a church is like Hea-
ven ; viz., because both in the one and the other, there is one single
sovereign subject — religion — brought before us.

Supposing, then, instead of it being said that no irreligious man could
serve and love God in Heaven, (or see Him, as the text expresses it,)
we were told that no irreligious man could worship, or spiritually see
Him in church ; should we not at once perceive the meaning of the doc-
trine ? viz. that, were a man to come hither, who had suffered his mind
to grow up in its own way, as nature or chance determined, without any

* Rev. vii. 15, 17 ; xxi. 23, 24.


deliberate habitual effort after truth and purity, he would find no real
pleasure here, but would soon get weary of the place ; because, in this
house of God, he would hear only of that one subject which he cared
little or nothing about, and nothing at all of those things which excited
his hopes and fears, his sympathies and energies. If, then, a man with-
out religion (supposing it possible) were admitted into Heaven, doubt-
less he would sustain a great disappointment. Before, indeed, he fan-
cied that he could be happy there ; but when he arrived there, he would
find no discourse but that which he had shunned on earth, no pursuits
but those he had disliked or despised, nothing which bound him to aught
else in the universe, and made him feel at home, nothing which he could
enter into and rest upon. He would perceive himself to be an isolated
being, cut away by Supreme Power from those objects which were still
entwined around his heart. Nay, he would be in the presence of that
Supreme Power, whom he never on earth could bring himself steadily
to think upon, and whom now he regarded only as the destroyer of all
that was precious and dear to him. Ah ! he could not bear the face of
the Living God ; the Holy God would be no object of joy to him. " Let
us alone ! What have we to do with thee ? " is the sole thought and de-
sire of unclean souls, even while they acknowledge His majesty. None
but the holy can look upon the Holy One ; without holiness no man can
endure to see the Lord.

When, then, we think to take part in the joys of heaven without holi-
ness, we are as inconsiderate as if we supposed we could take an inter-
est in the worship of Christians here below without possessing it in our
measure. A careless, a sensual, an unbelieving mind, a mind destitute
of the love and fear of God, with narrow views and earthly aims, a low
standard of duty, and a benighted conscience, a mind contented with it-
self, and unresigned to God's will, would not feel pleasure, at the last
day, at the words, " Enter into the joy of thy Lord, " more than it does
now at the words, " Let us pray. " Nay, much less, because, while we
are in a church, we may turn our thoughts to other subjects, and contrive
to forget that God is looking on us ; but that will not be possible in

We see, then, that holiness, or inward separation from the world, is
necessary to our admission into Heaven, because Heaven is not Heaven,
is not a place of happiness except to the holy. There are bodily indis-
positions which afiect the taste, so that the sweetest flavours become
ungrateful to the palate ; and indispositions which impair the sight, ting-
ing the fair face of nature with some sickly hue. In like manner,
there is a moral malady which disorders the inward sight and taste ;
and no man labouring under it is in a condition to enjoy what Scripture


calls " the fulness of joy in God's presence, and pleasures at His right
hand for evermore."

Nay, I will venture to say more than this ; — it is fearful, but it is right
to say it ; — that if we wished to imagine a punishment for an unholy, re-
probate soul, we perhaps could not fancy a greater than to summon it to
Heaven. Heaven would be hell to an irreligious man. We know how
unhappy we are apt to feel at present, when alone in the midst of stran-
gers, or of men of different tastes and habits from ourselves. How mis-
erable, for example, would it be to have to live in a foreign land, among
a people whose faces we never saw before, and whose language we
could not learn. And this is but a faint illustration of the loneliness of
a man of earthly dispositions and tastes, thrust into the society of saints
and angels. How forlorn would he wander through the courts of Hea-
ven ; He would find no one like himself; he would see in every direc-
tion the marks of God's holiness, and these would make him shudder.
He would feel himself always in his presence. He could no longer
turn his thoughts another way, as he does now, when conscience re-
proaches him. He would know that the Eternal Eye was ever upon
him ; and that Eye of holiness, which is joy and life to holy creatures,
would seem to him an eye of wrath and punishment. God cannot
change his nature. Holy He must ever be. But while he is holy, no
unholy soul can be happy in Heaven. Fire does not inflame iron, but
it inflames straw. It would cease to be fire if it did not. And so Hea-
ven itself would be fire to those, who would fain escape across the great
gulf from the torments of Hell. The finger of Lazarus would but in-
crease their thirst. The very " Heaven that is over their head," will
be " brass " to them.

And now. I have partly explained why it is that holiness is prescribed
to us as the condition on our part for our admission into Heaven. It
seems to be necessary from the very nature of things. We do not see
how it could be otherwise. — Now then I will mention two important
truths which seem to follow from what has been said.

1. If a certain character of mind, a certain state of the heart and af-
fections, be necessary for entering Heaven, our actions will avail for our
salvation, chiefly as they tend to produce or evidence this frame of mind.
Good works (as they are called) are required, not as if they had any
thing of merit in them, not as if they could of themselves turn away God's
anger for owr sins, or purchase Heaven for us, but because they are the
means, under God's grace, of strengthening and showing forth that holy
principle which God implants in the heart, and without which, (as the
text tells us,) we cannot see Him. The more numerous are our acts of
charity, self-denial, and forbearance, of course the more will our minds


be schooled into a charitable, self-denying, and forbearing temper.
The more frequent are onr prayers, the more humble, patient, and reli-
gious are our daily deeds, this communion with God, these holy works,
will be the means of making our hearts holy, and of preparing us for
the future presence of God. Outward acts, done on principle, create
inward habits. I repeat, the separate acts of obedience to the will of
God, good works as they are called, are of service to us, as gradually
severing us from this world of sense, and impressing our hearts with a
heavenly character.

It is plain, then, what works are not of service to our salvation ; — all
those which either have no effect upon the heart to change it, or which
have a bad effect. What then must be said of those who think it an
easy thing to please God, and to recommend themselves to Him ; who
do a few scanty services, call these the walk of faith, and are satisfied
with them ? Such men, it is too evident, instead of being themselves
profited by their acts, such as they are, of benevolence, honesty, or
justice, may be (I might even say) injured by them. For these very
acts, even though good in themselves, are made to foster in these per-
sons a bad spirit, a corrupt state of heart, viz. self-love, self-conceit, self-
reliance, instead of tending to turn them from this world to the Father
of spirits. In like manner the mere outward acts of coming to church,
and saying prayers, which are, of course, duties imperative upon all of
us, are really serviceable to those only who do them in a heavenward
spirit. Because such men only use these good deeds to the improve-
ment of the heart; whereas even the most exact outward devotion avails
not a man, if it does not improve it.

2. But observe what foUavvs from this. If holiness be not merely
the doing a certain number of good actions, but is an inward character
which follows, under God's grace, from doing them, how far distant
from tha,t holiness are the multitude of men. They are not yet even
obedient in outward deeds, which is the first step towards possessing
it. They have even to learn to practise good works, as the means of
changing their hearts, which is the end. It follows at once, even though
Scripture did not plainly tell us so, that no one is able to prepare him-
self for heaven, that is, make himself holy, in a short time : — at least
we do not see how it is possible ; and this, viewed merely as a deduc-
tion of the reason, is a serious thought. Yet, alas ! as there are per-
sons who think to be saved by a few scanty performances, so there
are others who suppose they may be saved all at once by a sudden
and easily acquired faith. Most men who are living in neglect of God,
silence their consciences, when troublesome, with the promise of re-
penting some future day. How often are they thus led on till death


surprises them ! But we will suppose tliey do begin to repent when
that future day comes. Nay, we will even suppose that Almighty God
were to forgive them, and to admit them in His holy heaven. Well,
but is nothing more requisite ? are they in a fit state to do Him service
in heaven 1 is not this the very point I have been so insisting on, that
they are not in a fit state ? has it not been shown that, even if admitted
there without a change of heart, they would find no pleasure in heaven?
and is a change of heart wrought in a day ? Which of our tastes or
likings can we change at our will in a moment? Not the most super-
ficial. Can we then at a word change the whole frame and character
of our minds? Is not holiness the result of many patient, repeated
eflbrts after obedience, gradually working on us, and first modifying
and then changing our hfearts ? We dare not, of course, set bounds, to
God's mercy and power in cases of repentance late in life, even where
He has revealed to us the general rule of His moral governance ; yet,
surely it is our duty ever to keep steadily before us, and act upon, those
general truths which His Holy Word has declared. His Holy Word
in various ways warns us, that, as no one will find happiness in hea-
ven, who is not holy, so no one can learn to be so, in a short time, and
when he will. It implies it in the text, which names a qualification,
which we know in matter of fact does ordinarily take time to gain.
It propounds it clearly, though in figure, in the parable of the wedding
garment, in which inward sanctification is made a condition distinct
from our acceptance of the proffer of mercy, and not negligently to be
passed over in our thoughts as if a necessary consequence of it ; and
in that of the ten virgins, which shows us that we must meet the bride-
groom with the oil of holiness, and that it takes time to procure it.
And it solemnly assures us in St. Paul's Epistles, that it is possible so
to presume on Divine grace, as to let slip the accepted time, and be
sealed even before the end of life to a reprobate mind.*

I wish to Speak to you, my brethren, not as if aliens from God's
mercies, but as partakers of His gracious covenant in Christ ; and for
this reason in especial peril, since those only can incur the sin of making
void his covenant, who have the privilege of it. Yet neither on the
other hand do I speak to you as wilful and obstinate sinners, exposed
to the imminent risk of forfeiting, or the chance of having forfeited, your
hope of heaven. But I fear there are those, who, if they dealt faith-
fully with their consciences, would be obliged to own that they had not
made the service of God their first and great concern ; that their obedi-
ence, so to call it, has been a matter of course, in which the heart has

* Heb. vi. 4— G ; x. 26—29. vid. also 2 Pet. ii. 20. 22.


had no part ; that they have acted uprightly in worldly matters chiefly
for the sake of their worldly interest. I fear there are those, who,
whatever be their sense of religion, yet have such misgivings about
themselves, as lead them to make resolve to obey God more exactly
some future day, such misgivings as convict them of sin, though not
enough to bring before them its heinousness or its peril. Such men
are trifling with the appointed season of mercy. To obtain the gift of
holiness is the work of a life. No man will ever be perfect here, so
sinful is our nature. Thus, in putting ofi" the day of repentance, these
men are reserving for a few chance years, when strength and vigour
are gone, that work for which a wliole life would not be enough.
That work is great and arduous beyond expression. There is much
of sin remaining even in the best of men, and '.'if the righteous scarcely
be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner, appear?"* Their
doom may be fixed any moment ; and though this thought should not
make a man despair to-day, yet it should ever make him tremble for

Perhaps, however, others may say ; — " We know something of the
power of religion — we love it in a measure — we have many right
thoughts — we come to church to pray ; this is a proof that we are pre-
pared for heaven : — we are safe, and what has been said does not apply
to us." But be not you, my brethren, in the number of these. One
principal test of our being true servants of God is our wishing to serve
Him better ; and be quite sure that a man who is contented with his
own proficiency in Christian holiness, is at best in a dark state, or rather
in great peril. If we are rcilly imbued Avith the grace of holiness, we
shall abhor sin as something base, irrational, and polluting. Many

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 76)