John Henry Newman.

Parochial sermons (Volume 1) online

. (page 32 of 76)
Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 32 of 76)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


heart."* And again, " The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from
thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better
than thou."f

In like manner, Christ also, convicting the Jews out of their own
mouth; "He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let
out His vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render Him the
fruits in their seasons."! Consider how striking an instance the Jews
formed when the Gospel was offered them, of the general Rule which
I am pointing out. They were rejected. How hard they thought it,
St. Paul's Epistles show. They did not shrink from declaring, that if
Jesus were the Christ, and the Gentiles made equal with them, God's
promise was broken ; and you may imagine how forcibly they might
have pleaded the prophecies of the Old Testament, which seemed irre-
versibly to assign honour and power (not to say temyoral honour and
power,) to the Israelites by name. Alas ! they did not seek out and
use the one clue given them for their religious course, amid all the
mysteries both of Scripture and the world, — the one solemn Ru^e of
God's dealings with His creatures. They did not listen for that small
still voice, running under all His dispensations, most clear to those who
would listen, amid all the intricacies of His Providence and His prom-
ises. Impressed though it be upon the heart by nature, and ever in-
sisted on in Revelation, as the basis on which God has established all
his decrees, it was to them a hard saying. St. Paul retorts it on their
consciences, when they complained. " Gol (he says) will render
to every man according to his deeds. To ihem who by patient
continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immor-
tality, eternal life ; hut unto them that are contentious, and do
not obey the Truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and
wrath ; — tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth

* 1 Sam. xiii. 13, 14. t 1 Sam. xv. 28. X Matt. xxi. 41.



^I.] DIVINE DECREES. 279

€vil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile ; but glory, honour, and
peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to
the Gentile. For there is no respect of persons with God."*

Such was the unchangeable Rule of God's government, as it is pro-
pounded by St. Paul in explanation of the Jewish election, and signifi-
cantly prefixed to his discourse upon the Christian. Such as was the
Mosaic, such also is the Gospel Covenant, made without respect of per-
sons ; rich, indeed, in privilege and promise far above the Elder Dis-
pensation, but bearing on its front the same original avowal of impar-
tial retribution, — " peace to every man that worketh good," " wrath to
the disobedient ;" predestining to glory, characters not persons, pledg-
ing the gift of perseverance not to individuals, but to a body of which
the separate members might change. This is the doctrine set before
us by that Apostle, to whom was revealed in an extraordinary way the
nature of the Christian Covenant, its peculiar blessedness, gifts and
promises. The New Covenant was, so far, not unlike the Old, as some
reasoners in these days would maintain.

We are vouchsafed a further witness to it, in the favoured Evange-
list, who finally closed and perfected the volume of God's revelations,
after the death of his brethren. " Behold I come quickly, and My re-
ward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be . . .
Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right
to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city."f

And a third witness that the Christian Election is like the Jewish,
conditional, is our Lord's own declaration, which He left behind Him
with His Apostles when He was leaving the world, as recorded by the
same Evangelist. " If a man abide not in 3Ie," He said, " he is cast
forth as a branch, and is withered ; and men gather them, and cast
them into the fire, and they are burned." And, lest restless and reluc-
tant minds should shelter their opposition to this solemn declaration
under some supposed obscurity in the expression of *' abiding in Him,"
and say that none abide in Him, but the predestined, He adds, for the
removal of all doubt, " If ye keep my commandments., ye shall abide in
my love.":}:

Lastly, in order to complete the solemn promulgation of His eternal
Rule, He exemplified it, while he spoke it, in the instanc3 of an Apos-
tle. He knew whom He had chosen ; that they were " not all clean,"
that " one of them was a devil ;" yet He chose all twelve, as if to
show that souls chosen for eternal life might fall away. Thus, in the
case of the Apostles themselves, in the very foundation of His Church,

* Rom. ii. 6—11. t Rev. xxu. 12, 14. t John xv. 16.



280 ST. MATTHIAS. • [Seum. XL

He laid deep the serious and merciful warning, if we have wisdom to lay it
to heart ; " Be not high-minded, but fear ;" for, if God spared not Apos-
tles, neither will He spare thee !

What solemn overpowering thoughts must have crowded on St. Mat-
thias, when he received the greetings of the eleven Apostles, and took
his seat among them as their brother ! His very election was a witness
against himself, if he did not fulfil it. And such surely Avill ours be in
our degree. We take the place of others who have gone before, as
Matthias did ; we are " baptized for the dead," filling up the ranks of
soldiers, some of whom, indeed, have fought a good fight, but many of
whom in every age have made void their calling. Many are called,
few are chosen. The monuments of sin and unbelief are set up around
us. The casting away of the Jews w^as the reconciling of the Gentiles.
The fall of one nation is the conversion of another. The Church loses
old branches, and gains new. God v/orks according to His own inscru-
table pleasure ; He has left the East, and manifested Himself West-
ward. Thus the Christian of every age is but the successor of the lost and
of the dead. How long we of this country shall be put in trust with the
Gospel, we know not ; but while w^e have the privilege, assuredly we
do but stand in the place of Christians who have either utterly fallen
away or are so corrupted, as scarcely to let their light shine before
men. We are at present witnesses of the Truth ; and our very glory
is our warning. By the superstitions, the profanities, the indifference,
the unbelief of the world called Christian, we are called upon to be
lowly-minded while we preach aloud, and to tremble while we rejoice.
Let us then, as a Church and as individuals, one and all, look to Him
who alone can keep us from falling. Let us with single heart look up
to Christ cur Saviour, and put ourselves into His hands, from whom all
our strength and wisdom is derived. Let us avoid the beginnings of
temptation ; let us watch and pray lest we enter into it. Avoiding all
speculations which are above us, let us follow what tends to edifying.
Let us receive into our hearts the great truth, that we who have been
freely accepted and sanctified as members of Christ, shall hereafter be
judged by our works, done in and through Him ; that the Sacraments
unite us to Him, and that faith makes the Sacraments open their
hidden virtue, and flow forth in pardon and grace. Beyond this
we may not inquire. How it is one man perseveres and another
falls, what are the exact limits and character of our natural corruption,
— these are over-subtle questions ; while we know for certain, that
though we can do nothing of ourselves, yet that salvation is in our own
power, for however deep and far-spreading is the root of evil in us»
God's "-race will be sufficient for our need.



SERMON XII.



THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE BLESSED
VIRGIN MARY.

THE REVERENCE DUE TO HER.



Luke i. 48.
From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

To-day we celebrate the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary ; when the
Angel Gabriel was sent to tell her that she was to be the Mother of our
Lord, and when the Holy Ghost came upon her, and overshadowed her
with the power of the Highest. In that great event was fulfilled her
anticipation as expressed in the text. All generations have called her
blessed.* The Angel began the salutation ; he said, " Hail, thou that
art highly-favoured ; the Lord is with thee ; blessedf art thou among
women." Again he said, " Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour
with God ; and behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring
forth a Son, and shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and
shall be called the Son of the Highest." Her cousin Elizabeth was the
next to greet her Avith her appropriate title. Though she was filled
with the Holy Ghost at the time she spake, yet, far from thinking her-
self by such a gift equalled to Mary, she was thereby moved to use the
lowlier and more reverent language. " She spake out with a loud voice,
and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy
womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should
come to me?" .... Then she repeated, " Blessed is she that believed;
for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her
from the Lor 1." Then it was that Mary gave utterance to her feelings
in the Hymn which we read in the Evening Service. How many and
complicated must they have been ! In her was now to be fulfilled that
promise which the world had been looking out for during thousands of

* fXMCi^i )u



Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 32 of 76)