John Henry Newman.

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ambiguous. J Such was the King of Israel in the eyes both of the mul-
titude and of their rulers ; a " hard saying," a " rock of offence even to
the disobedient," who came to Him "with their lips, while their hearts
were far from Him." Continue this survey to the case of individuals,
and it will still appear, that, loving and merciful as He was most abun-
dantly, yet that He showed both His power and His grace with reserve,
even to them, as well as to the fickle many, or the unbelieving Phari-
sees.

One instance is preserved to us of a person addressing Him, with some

* Luke XIV. 25—33, t Matt. xii. 39. xxi. 23-27. t John i. 30—37.



XXIII] CHRISTIAN REVERENCE. 175

notions, indeed, of His greatness, but in a light and careless tone. The
narrative is instructive from the mixture of good and bad which the
inquirer's character displays.* He was young, and wealthy, and is
called " a ruler ;" yet was anxious for Christ's favour. So far was well.
Nay, he 'came running, and kneeled to Him." And he seemd to ad-
dress Him in what would generally be considered as respectful terms :
"Good Master," he said. Yet our Saviour saw in his conduct a defi-
ciency ; — " One thing thou lackest :" viz. devotion in the true sense of
the word, — a giving himself up to Christ. This young man seems to
have considered religion as an easy work, and thought he could live as
the world, and yet serve God acceptably. In consequence, we may
suppose, he had little right notion of the dignity of a Messenger from
God. He did not associate the Ministers of religion with awful pros-
pects beyond the grave, in which he was interested ; nor reverence
them accordingly, though he was not without some kind of resp.ct
for them. Doubtless he thought he was honouring our Lord when he
called Him " Good Master ,•" and would have been surprised to hear hi 3
attachment to sacred subjects and appointments called in question.
Yet our Saviour rejected such half homage, and rebuked what even
seemed piously offered. — " Why callest thou Me good ?" He asked :
" There is none good but One, that is, God ;" as if He said, " Observest
thou what words thou art using as words of course ? ' Good Master ' — am
I accounted by thee as a teacher of man's creation, and over whom man
has power, and accosted by a form of honour, which through length of
lime, has lost its meaning ; or am I acknowledged to come and have
authority from Him who is the only source of goodness ?" Nor did our
Lord relax His severity even after this reproof. Expressly as it is told
us, " He loved him," and spoke to him therefore in great compassion and
mercy, yet He strictly charged him to sell all he had and give it away,
if he would show he was in earnest, and He sent him away " sorrowful."
You may recollect, too, our Lord's frequent inquiry into th". fii'h
of those who came to Him. This arose, doubtless, from the same rule,
— a regard to His own Majesty as a King. " If thou canst beheve, all
things are possible to him that believeth."f He did not work miracles
as a mere display of power ; or allow the world profanely to look on as
at some exhibition of art. In this respect, as in others, even Moses and
Elias stand in contrast with Him. Moses wrought miracles before
Pharaoh to rival the magicians of Egypt. Elijah challenged the
prophets of Baal to bring down fire from heaven. The Son of God
deigned not to exert His power before Herod, after Moses' pattern ,

* Matt. xix. ] 6—22. Mark. x. 17-22. Luko iviii. 18—23. t Mark ix. 93.



176 . CHRISTIAN REVERENCE. [Serm,

nor to be judged by the multitude as Elijah. He subdued the power of
Satan at His own seasons ; but when the Devil tempted Him and de-
manded a miracle in proof of His Divinity, He would do none.

Further, even when an inquirer showed earnestness, still He did not
try to gain Him over by smooth representations of His doctrine. He
declared indeed, the general characteristic of His doctrine, " My yoke
is easy ;" but "He made himself strange, and spake roughly" to those
whom came to Him. JSicodemus was another ruler of the Jews, who
sought Him, and he professed his belief in His miracles and Divine
mission. Our Saviour answered in these severe words ; — "Verily,
verily, I say unto thee. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the
kingdom of God."

Such was our Saviour's conduct even during the period of His minis-
try ; much more might we expect it to be such, when He was risen
from His state of servitude, and such we find it.

No man saw Him rise from the grave. His Angels indeed beheld
it ; but His earthly followers were away, and the heathen soldiers were
not worthy. They saw, indeed, the great Angel, who rolled away the
stone from the opening of the tomb. This was Christ's servant ; but
Him they saw not. He was on His way to see His own faithful and
mourning followers. To these He had revealed His doctrine during
His humiUation, and called them " His Friends."* First of all. He
appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden itself where He had been
buried ; then to the other women who ministered unto Him ; then to
the two disciples travelling to Emmaus ; then to all the Apostles sepa-
rately ; besides, to Peter and to James, and to Thomas in the presence
of them all. Yet not even these, His friends, had free access to
Him. He said to Mary, " Touch Me not." He came and left them
according to His own pleasure. When they saw Him, they felt an
awe which fhey had not felt during His ministry. While they doubted
if it were He, " None of them," St. John says, " durst ask Him, Who
art Thou? believing that it was the Lord."f However, as kings have
their days of state, on which they show themselves publicly to their
subjects, so our Lord appointed a meeting of His disciples, when they
might see Him. He had determined this even before His crucifixion ;
and the Angels reminded them of it. " He goeth before you into
Galilee : there, shall ye see Him, as he said unto you. "J The place of
meeting was a mountain ; the same (it is supposed) on which He had
been tiansfigured ; and the number who saw Him there was five
hundred at onca, if we join St. Paul's account to that in the Gospels.

« Matt. xiii. 11. John xv. 15, t John xxi. 12, X Mark ivi. 7.



XXIII.] CHRISTIAN REVERENCE. 177

At length, after forty days, He was taken from them ; He ascended up,
♦' and a cloud received Him out of their sight."

Are we to feel less humble veneration for Him now, than His
Apostles then ? Though He is our Saviour, and has removed all slavish
fear of death, and judgment, are we, therefore to make light of the
prospect before us, as if we were sure of that reward which He bids us
struggle for ? Assuredly, we are still to " serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with reverence," — to " kiss the Son, lest he He be angry,
and so we perish from the right way, if His wrath be kindled, yea but a
little." In a Christian's course, fear and love must go together. And
this is the lesson to be deduced from our Saviour's withdrawing from the
world after His resurrection. He showed His love for men by dying
for them and rising again. He maintained his honour and great glory
by retiring from them, when His merciful purpose was attained, that
they might seek Him if they would find Him. He ascended to His
Father out of our sight. Sinners would be ill company for the exalted
King of Saints. When we have been duly prepared to see Him, we
shall be given to approach Him.

In heaven, love will absorb fear ; but in this world, fear and Jove must
go together. No one can love God aright without fearing Him ; though
many fear Him, and yet do not love Him. Self-confident men, who
do not know their own hearts, or the reasons they have for being dissatis-
fied with themselves, do not fear God, and they think this bold freedom
is to love Him. Dehberate sinners fear but cannot love Him. But
•devotion to Him consists in love and fear, as we may understand from
our ordinary attachment to each other. No one really loves another,
who does not feel a certain reverence towards him. When friends
transgress this sobriety of affection, they may indeed continue associ-
ates for a time, but they have broken the bond of union. It is mutu-
al respect which makes friendship lasting. So again, in the feelings of
inferiors towards superiors. Fear must go before love. Till he who
has authority shows he has it and can use it, his forbearance will not
be valued duly \ his kindness will look like weakness. We learn to
contemn what we do not fear ; and we cannot love what we contemn.
So in religion also. We cannot understand Christ's mercies till we
understand His power, His glory, His unspeakable holiness, and our
demerits ; that is, until we first fear Him, Not that fear comes first,
and then love ; for the most part they will proceed together. Fear is
allayed by the love of Him, and our love sobered by our fear of Him,
Thus He draws us on with encouraging voice amid the terrors of His
threatenings. As in the young ruler's case. He loves us, yet speaks
harshly to us that we may learn to cherish mixed feelings towards Him.
Vol. I — 12



ITS CHRISTIAN REVERENCE. [SEUir.

He hides Himself from us, and yet calls us on, that we may hear His
voice as Samuel did, and, believing, approach Him with trembling.
This may seem strange to those who do not study the Scriptures, and
to those who do not know what it is earnestly to seek after God. But
in proportion as the state of mind is strange, so is there in it, therefore,
untold and surpassing pleasure to those who partake it. The bitter and
the sweet, strangely tempered, thus leave upon the mind the lasting taste
of Divine Truth, and satisfy it ; not so harsh as to be loathed ; nor of
that insipid sweetness which attends enthusiastic feelings, and is weari-
some when it becomes familiar. Such is the feeling of conscience too,
God's original gift ; how painful ! yet who would lose it ! "I opened my
mouth and panted, for I longed for Thy commandments."* This is
David's account of it. Ezekiel describes something of the same feel-
ing, when the Spirit lifted him up and took him away, "and he went in
bitterness, in the heat of his spirit," " the hand of the Lord" being "strong
upon him."f

Now how does this apply to us here assembled ? Are'we in danger
of speaking or thinking of Christ irreverently ? I do not think we are
in any immediate danger of deliberate profaneness ; but we are in great
danger of this, viz. tirst, of allowing ourselves to appear profane, and
secondly, of gradually becoming irreverent, while we are pretending to
be so. Men do not begin by intending to dishonour God ; but they are
afraid of the ridicule of others : they are ashamed of appearing religious ;
and thus are led to pretend that they are worse than they really are.
They say things which they do not mean ; and, by a miserable weak-
ness, allow actions and habits to be imputed to them which they dare
not really indulge in. Hence they affect a liberty of speech which only
befits the companions of evil spirits. They take God's name in vain,
to show that ey can do what . evils do, and they invoke the evil spirit,
or speak familiarly of all that pertains to him, and deal about curses
wantonly, as though they were not firebrands, — as if acknowledging
the Author of Evil to be their great master and lord. Yes ! he is a
master who allows himself to be served without trembling. It is his
very art to lead men to be at ease with him, to think lightly of him,
and to trifle with him. He will submit to their ridicule, take (as it
were) their blows, and pretend to be their slave, that he may ensnare
them. He has no dignity to maintain, and he waits his time when his
malice shall be gratified. So it has ever been all over the earth. Among
all nations it has been his aim to make men laugh at him ; going to and.

* Psalm cxix. 131, t Ezek. iii. 14.



XXIII.] CHRISTIAN REVERENCE. 179

fro upon the earth, and Avalking up and down in it, hearing and rejoicing
in that light perpetual talk about him, which is his worship.

Now, it is not to be supposed that all this careless language can be
continued without its affecting a man's heart at last ; and this is the
second danger I spoke of. Through a false shame, we disown religion
with our lips, and next our words affect our thoughts. Men at last be-
come the cold indifferent profane characters they professed themselves
to be. They think contemptuously of God's Ministers, Sacraments and
Worship ; they slight His word, rarely looking into it, and never study-
ing it. They undervalue all religious profession, and, judging of others
by themselves, impute the conscientious conduct they witness to bad
motives. Thus they are in heart infidels ; though they may not for-
mally be such, and may attempt to disguise their own unbelief under
pretence of objecting to one or other of the doctrines or ordinances of
religion. And should a time of temptation come, when it would be safe
to show themselves as they really are, they will (almost unawares) throw
off their profession of Christianity, and join themselves to the scoffing
world.

And how must Christians, on the other hand, treat such heartless men ?
They have our Lord's example to imitate. Not that they dare precisely
follow the conduct of him who had no sin. They dare not assume to
themselves any honour on their own account ; and they are bound, es-
pecially if they are His Ministers, to humble themselves as the Apostles
did, and " going out to the highways and hedges, (as it were) compel"*
men to be saved. Yet, while they use greater earnestness of entreaty
than their Lord, they must not forget His dignity the while, who sends
them. He manifested His love towards us, " in deed and in truth," and
we, His Ministers, declare it in word ; yet for the very reason that it is
so abundant, we must in very gratitude learn reverence towards Him.
We must not take advantage (so to say) of His goodness ; or misuse
the powers committed to us. Never must we solicitously press the truth
upon those who do not profit by what they already possess. It dishon-
ours Christ, while it does the scorner harm, not good. It is castino-
pearls before swine. We must wait for all opportunities of being useful
to men, but beware of attempting too much at once. We must impart
the Scripture doctrines, in measure and season, as they can bear them ;
not being eager to recount them all, rather, hiding them from the world.
Seldom must we engage in controversy or dispute ; for it lowers the
sacred truths to make them a subject for ordinary debate. Common
propriety suggests rules like thess at once. Who would speak freely

* Luke xiv. 23.



180 CHRISTIAN REVERENCE. [Serm.

about some revered friend in the presence of those who did not value
him 1 or who would think he could with a few words overcome their
indifference towards him ? or who would hastily dispute about him
when his hearers had no desire to be made love him ?

Rather, shunning all intemperate words, lot us show our light before
men by our works. Here we must bo safe. In doing justice, showing
mercy, speaking the truth, resisting sin, ob ying the Church, — in thus
glorifying God, there can be no irreverence. And, above all, let us
look at home, check all bad thoughts, presumptuous imaginings, vain
desires, discontented murmurings, self-complac jnt reflections, and so in
our hearts ever honour him in secret, whom we reverence by open pro-
fession.

May God guide us in a dangerous world, and deliver us from evil.
And may He rouse to serious thought, by the power of His Spirit, all
who are living in profaneness or unconcern.



SERM O N XXIV



THE RELIGION OF THE DAY.



Hebrews xii. 28, 29.



" Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and
godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire."

In every age of Christianity, since it was first preached, there has been
what may be called a religion of the uorhl, which so far imitates the
one true religion, as to deceive the unstable and unwary. The world
does not oppose religion as such. I may say, it never has opposed it.
In particular, it has, in all ages, acknowledged in one sense or other the
Gospel of Christ, fastened on one or other of its characteristics, and
professed to embody this in its practice ; while by neglecting the other
parts of the holy doctrine, it has, in fact, distorted and corrupted even
that portion of it which it has exclusively put forAvard, and so has con-
trived to explain away the whole ; — for he who cultivates only one pre-
cept of the Gospel to the exclusion of the rest, in reality attends to no
part at all. Our duties balance each other ; and though we are too



XXIV.] THE RELIGION OF THE DAY. 181

sinful to perform them all parf ctly, yet we may in some measure be
performing them all, and preserving the balance on the whole ; whereas,
to give ourselves only to this or that commandment is to incline our
minds in a wrong direction, and at length to pull them down to the
earth, which is the aim of our adversary, the devil

It is his aim to hi\iak our strength ; to force us down to the earth, —
to bind us there. The world is his instrument for this purpose ; but he
is too wise to set it in open opposition to the Word of God. No ! he
affects to be a prophet like the prophets of God. He calls his servants
also prophets ; and they mix with the scattered remnant of the true
Church, with th« solitary Micaians who are left upon the earth, and
speak in the name of the Lord. And in one sense they speak the
truth ; but it is not the whole truth ; and we know, even from the com-
mon experience of life, that half the truth is often the most gross and
mischievous of falsehoods.

Even in the first age of the Church, while persecution still raged, he
set up a counter religion amoig the philosophers of the day, partly like
Christianity, but in truth a bitter foe to it ; and it deceived and ship-
wrecked the faith of those who had not the love of God in their hearts.

Time went on, and he devised a second idol of the true Christ, and
it remained in the temple of God for many a year. The age was rude
and fierce. Satan took the darker side of the Gospel ; its awful mys-
teriousness, its fearful glory, its sovereign inflexible justice ; and here
his picture of the truth ended, " God is a consuming fire ;" so declares
the text, and we know it. But we know more, viz. that God is love
also ; but Satan did not add this to his religion, which became one of
fear. The religion of the world was then a fearful religion. Supersti-
tions abounded, and cruelties. The noble firmness, the graceful aus-
terity of the true Christian were superseded by forbidding spectres,
harsh of eye, and haughty of brow ; and these were the patterns or the
tyrants of a beguiled people.

What is Satan's device in this day ■? a far different one ; but perhaps
a more pernicious. I will attempt to expose it, or rather to suggest
some remarks towards its being exposed, by those who think it worth
while to attempt it ; for the subject is too great and to difficult for an
occasion such as the present, and, after all, no one can detect false-
hood for another ; — every man must do it for himself ; we can but help
each other.

What is the world's religion now ? It has taken the brighter side of
the Gospel, — iN tidings of comfort, its precepts of love ; all darker,
deeper views of man's condition and prospects being comparatively for-
gotten. This is the religion natural to a civilized age, and well has



182 THE RELIGION OF THE DAY. [Serm.

Satan dressed and completed it into an idol of the Truth. As the rea-
son is cultivated, the taste formed, the affections and sentiments refined,
a general decency and grace will of course spread over the face of so-
ciety, quite independently of the influence of revelation. That beauty
and delicacy of thought, which is so attractive in books, extends to the
conduct of life, to all we have, all we do, all we are. Our manners are
courteous ; we avoid giving pain or offence ; our words become correct ;
our relative duties are carefully performed. Our sense of propriety
shows itself even in our domestic arrangements, in the embellishment
of our houses, in our amusements, and so also in our religious profession*
Vice now becomes unseemly and hideous to the imagination, or, as it
is sometimes familiarly said, " out of taste." Thus elegance is gradu-
ally made the test and standard of virtue, which is no longer thought to
possess intrinsic claim on our hearts, or to exist further than it leads to
the quiet and comfort of others. Conscience is no longer recognized
as an independent arbiter of actions, its authority is explained away ;
partly it is superseded in the minds of men by the so-called moral sense,
which is regarded merely as the love of the beautiful ; partly by the
rule of expediency, which is forthwith substituted for it in the details of
conduct. Now conscience is a stern gloomy principle ; it tells us of
guilt and of prospective punishment. Accordingly, when its terrors
disappear, then disappear also, in the creed of the day, those fearful
images of Divine wrath with which the Scriptures abound. They aire
explained away. Every thing is bright and cheerful. Religion is
pleasant and easy ; benevolence is the chief virtue ; intolerance, bigotry,
excess of zeal, are the first of sins. Austerity is an absurdity ; — even
firmness is looked on with an unfriendly, suspicious eye. On the
other hand, all open profligacy is discountenanced ; drunkenness is ac-
counted a disgrace'; cursing and2swearing are vulgarities. Moreover^
to a cultivated mind, which recreates itself in the varieties of literature
and knowledge, and is interested in the ever-accumulating discoveries
of science, and the ever-fresh accessions of information, political or
otherwise, from foreign countries, religion will commonly seem to be
dull, from want of novelty. Hence excitements are eagerly sought out
and rewarded. New objects in religion, new systems, and plans, new
doctrines, new preachers, are necessary to satisfy that craving which
the so-called spread of knowledge has created. The mind becomes
morbidly sensitive and fastidious ; dissatisfied with things as they are,
desirous of a change as such, as if alteration must of itself be a relief.
Now I would have you put Christianity for an instant out of your
thoughts ; and consider whether such a state of refinement as I have
attempted to describe, is not that to which men might be brought, quite



XXIV.] THE RELIGION OF THE DAY. 183

independent of religion, by the mere influence of education and civili-
zation ; and then again, whether, nevertheless, this mere refinement of
mind is not more or less all that is called religion at this day. In other
words, is it not the case, that Satan has so composed and dressed out
what is the mere natural produce of the human heart under certain
circumstances, as to serve his purposes as the counterfeit of the Truth ?
I do not at all deny that this spirit of the world uses words, and makes
professions which it would not adopt except for the suggestions of Scrip-
ture ; nor do I deny that it takes a general colouring from Christianity,
so as really to be modified by it, nay, in a measure enlightened and
exalted by it. Again, I fully grant that many persons in whom this
bad spirit shows itself, are but partially infected by it, and at bottom,
good Christians, though imperfect. Still, after all, here is an existing
system, only partially evangelical, built upon worldly principle, yet
pretending to be the Gospel, dropping one whole side of it, viz. its aus-
tere character, and considering it enough to be benevolent, courteous,
candid, correct in conduct, delicate, — though it has no true fear of
God, no fervent zeal for His honour, no deep hatred of sin, no horror
at the sight of sinners, no indignation and compassion at the blasphe-
mies of heretics, no jealous adherence to doctrinal truth, no especial
sensitiveness about the particular means of gaining ends, provided the
ends be good, no loyalty to the Holy Apostolic Church, of which the
Creed speaks, no sense of the authority of religion as external to the
mind : in a word, no seriousness, and therefore is neither hot nor cold,
but (in Scripture language) liihe-warm. Thus the present age is the
very contrary to what are commonly called the dark ages ; and toge-
ther with the faults of those ages we have lost their virtues. I say their
virtues ; for even the errors then prevalent, a persecuting spirit, for
instance, fear of religious inquiry, bigotry, these were, after all, but



Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 21 of 76)