John Henry Newman.

Parochial sermons (Volume 1) online

. (page 25 of 76)
Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 25 of 76)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


214 ST. ANDREW. [Skr«.

been of wisdom amoncr them from the beginning, yet when Ho came
on earth in visible form, even then it was said of Him, " The world
knew Him not." His marvellous providence works beneath a veil,
which speaks but an untrue language ; and to see Him who is the Truth
and the Life, we must stoop underneath it, and so in our turn hide our-
selves from the world. They who present themselves at kings' courts,
pass on to the inner chambers, where the gaze of the rude multitude
cannot pierce ; and we, if we would see the King of kings in His glory,
must be content to disappear from the things that araseen. Hid are
the saints of God ; if they are known to men, it is accidentally, in
their temporal offices, as holding some high earthly station, or effecting
some mere civil work, not as saints. St. Peter has a place in history,
far more as a chief instrument of a strange revolution in human affairs,
than in his true character, as a self-denying follower of his Lord, to
whom truths were revealed which flesh and blood could not discern.

How poor-spirited are we, and what dishonour we put upon the capa-
bilities and the true excellence of our nature, when we subject it to the
judgment and disposal of all its baser specimens, to the rude and igno-
rant praise, and poor recompensing of carnal and transgressing man !
How shall the flesh be at all a judge of the spirit ? or the sinner of God's
elect ? Are we to look downwards, not upwards ? Shall we basely
acknowledge the right of the Many who tread the broad way, to be the
judge of holiness, which comes from God, and appeals to Him 1 And
does not the eye of faith discern witnesses of our conduct, ever present,
and far worthier of our respect, than even a world of the ungodly ? Is
man the noblest being in the creation 1 Surely we, as well as our Divine
Lord, are "seen of Angels ;" nay, and ministered unto by them, much
as they excel us in strength ! St. Paul plainly tells us, that it is God's
purpose that " His manifold wisdom should be known to the heavenly
principalities and powers, through the Church."* When we are made
Christians, we are baptized " into that within the veil," we are brought
near to an innumerable company of Angels ; and resembling them in
their hidden condition, share their sympathy and their services. There-
fore, the same Apostle exhorts Timothy to persevere in obedience, not
only by the thought of God, but by that of the Angels ; and surely
we ought to cultivate the habitual feeling, that they see us in our most
private deeds, and most carefully guarded solitudes.

It is more than enough for a sinful mortal to be made a fellow-worker
and fellow-worshipper with the Blessed Spirits, and the servant and the
son of God Most High. Rather let us try to realize our privilege, and

* Eph. iii. 10.



JI.] THE WORLD'S BENEFACTORS. 215

withal humble ourselves at our want of faith. We are the elect of
God, and have entrance "through the gates into the" heavenly "City,"
while we "do His commandments,"* following Christ as Andrew did,
when pointed out to us by His preachers and ministers. To those who
thus " follow on to know Him, He manifests Himself, while He is hid
from the world. They are near Him, as His confidential servants, and
are the real agents in the various providences which occur in the his-
tory of nations, though overlooked by their annalists and sages. They
bring before Him the temporal wants of men, witnessing His marvellous
doings with the barley loaves and fishes ; they, too, lead strangers be-
fore Him for His favourable notice, and for His teaching. And, when
He brings trouble and distress upon a sinful people, they have truest
knowledge of His will and can best interpret His works ; for they had
lived in contemplation and prayer, and while others praise the goodly
stones and buildings of the external Temple, have heard from Him in
secret, how the end shall be. Thus they live ; and when they die, the
world knows nothing of its loss, and soon lets slip what it might have
retained of their history ; but the Church of Christ does what she can,
gathering together their relics, and honouring their name, even when
their works cannot be found. But those works have followed them ;
and, at the appearing of their Lord in judgment, will be at length
"displayed before all the world, and for His merits eternally rewarded in
His heavenly kingdom.



SERMON II



^HE FEAST OF ST. THOMAS THE APOSTLE.
FAITH WITHOUT SIGHT.



John xx. 29,
Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast beheved : blessed are they that have
not seen, and yet have believed.

St. Thomas is the Apostle who doubted of our Lord's resurrection.
This want of faith has given him a sort of character in the minds of
most people, which is referred to in the Collect for the day. Yet we
must not suppose that he differed greatly from the other Apostles. They

* Rev. xxii. 14,



216 ST. THOMAS. [SE»Hi

all, more or less, mistrusted Christ's promises when they saw Him led
away to be crucified. When He was buried, their hopes were buried
with Him ; and when the news was brought them, that He was risen
again, they all disbelieved it. On His appearing to them. He " upbraid-
ed them with their unbelief and hardness of heart."* But, as St. Thomas
was not present at this time, and only heard from his fellow Apostles
that they had seen the Lord, his time of perplexity and darkness lasted
longer than theirs. At the news of this great miracle, he expressed his
determination not to believe unless he himself saw Christ, and was
allowed to touch Him. And thus by an apparently accidental circum-
stance, Thomas is singled out from his brethren, who at first disbelieved
as well as he, as if an especial instance of unbelief. None of them:
believed till they saw Christ, except St. John, and he too hesitated at
first. Thomas was convinced latest, because he saw Christ latest. On
the other hand, it is certain that, though he disbelieved the good news
of Christ's resurrection at first, he was no cold-hearted follower of his
Lord, as appears from his conduct on a previous occasion, when he
expressed a desire to share danger, and to suffer with Him. When
Christ was setting out for Judaea to raise Lazarus from the dead, the
disciples said, " Master, the Jews of late sought to stone Thee, and
goest Thou thither again ^'f When He remained in His intention,
Thomas said to the rest, " Let us also go, that we may die with Him."
This journey ended, as His Apostles had foreboded, in their Lord's
death ; they indeed escaped, but it was at the instance of Thomas that
they hazarded their lives with Him.

St. Thomas then loved his Master, as became an Apostle, and was
devoted to His service ; but when he saw Him crucified, his faith failed
for a season with that of the rest. At the same time we need not deny
that his especial doubts of Christ's resurrection were not altogether
owing to circumstances, but in a measure arose from some faulty state
of mind. St. John's narrative itself, and our Saviour's speech to him,
convey an impression that he was more to blame than the rest. His
standing out alone, not against one witness only, but against his ten
fellow-disciples, besides Mary Magdalene and the other women, is evi-
dence of this ; and his"" very strong words, " Except I shall see in His
hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the
nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.":]: And it is
observable, that little as we know of St. Thomas, yet the one remain-
ing recorded speech of his (before Christ's crucifixion,) intimates some-
thing of the same doubting, perplexed state of mind. When Christ said

* Mark x\i. 14. t John xi. 8. t John xx. 25.



II.] FAITH WITHOUT SIGHT. 21T

He was going to His Father, and by a way which they all knew,
Thomas interposed with an argument : " Lord, we know not whither
Thou goest, and how can we know the way ?"* that is, we do not see
heaven, or the God of heaven, how can we know the way thither 1 He
seems to have required some sensible insight into the unseen state, some
infallible sign from heaven, a ladder of Angels like Jacob's, which
would remove anxiety by showing him the end of the journey at the
time he set out. Some such secret craving after certainty beset him.
And a like desire rose within him on the news of Christ's resurrection.
Being weak in faith, he suspended his judgment, and seemed resolved
not to believe any thing, till he was told every thing. Accordingly,
when our Saviour appeared to him, eight days after his appearance to
the rest, while He allowed Thomas his wish, and satisfied his senses
that He was really alive. He accompanied the permission with a rebuke,
and intimated that by yielding to his weakness, he was withdrawing
what was a real blessedness. " Reach hither thy finger, and behold
my hands, and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side, and
be not faithless but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto
him. My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because
thou hast seen me, thou hast beheved : blessed are they that have not
seen and yet have believed. "f

However, after all, we are not so much concerned with considera-
tions respecting the natural disposition and temper of the Blessed Apos-
tle, whom we to-day commemorate, as with the particular circumstance
in which his name occurs, and with our Saviour's comment upon it.
All His disciples minister to Him ; and, as in other ways, so also in
giving occasion for the words of grace which proceed from His mouth.
They minister to Him even in their weaknesses, which are often brought
to light in Scripture, not hidden as Christian friends would hide in
piety, that so He may convert them into instruction and comfort for His
Church. Thus Martha's over-earnestness in household duties has
drawn from Him a sanction for a life of contemplation and prayer ;
and so, in the history before us, the over-caution of St. Thomas has
gained for us His promise of especial blessing on those who believe
without having seen. I proceed to make some remarks on the nature
of this believing temper, and why it is blessed.

It is scarcely necessary to observe, that what our Saviour says to
Thomas so clearly and impressively. He has implied, in one way or
other, all through His ministry ; the blessedness of a mind that believes
readily. His demand and trial of faith in the case of those who came

* John xiv. 5. t 1 John xx. 27-29.



318 ST. THOMAS. [Skrm.

for His miraculous aid, His praise of it were found, His sorrow where
it was wanting, His warnings against hardness of heart ; all are evi-
dence of this. " Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith,
no not in Israel." " Daughter, be of good comfort, thy faith hath
made thee whole." " Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace." " An
evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.'' " O fools, and
slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken."* These
will remind us of a multitude of similar passages in especial praise of
faith. St. Paul pursues the same line of doctrine begun by his Lord.
In three Epistles he sets before us the peculiar place it holds among the
evidences of a religious mind ; and each time refers to a passage in the
Prophets, in order to show that he was bringing in no new doctrine,
but only teaching that which had been promulged from the beginning.
In consequence, in our ordinary language we speak of religion being
built upon faith, not upon reason : on the other hand, it is as common
for those who scoff at religion to object this very doctrine against us>
as if, in so saying, we had almost admitted that Christianity was not
true. Let us then consider how the case stands.

Every religious mind, under every dispensation of Providence, will
he in the habit of looking out of and beyond self, as regards all matters



Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 25 of 76)