John Henry Newman.

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things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be
good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade

13. St. John, after our Lord's example, implies especial praise upon
those who follow an unmarried life, — involving the letter in the spirit,
as is frequent in Scripture.f " These are they which were not defiled
with women, for they are virgins ; these are they which follow the
Lamb whithersoever He goeth." St. Paul gives more direct praise to
the same state, and gives the same reason for its especial blessedness :
"He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord,

how he may please the Lord I speak this for your own profit

that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. "f

14. St. Paul says, '' Be careful for nothing, but in every thing by
prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made
known unto God ;" St. Peter in like manner, " Casting all your care
upon Him, for He careth for you." Both are after our Lord's exhorta-

* Rom. ii. 6—8. 11 ; xiv. 10—12. 2 Cor. v. 10, 11.

t Vide Hos. xiii. 14. John xi. 23. 40 ; xiii. 8; xviii. 9. And especially, as being
a parallel case, Matt, xviii 3 — 6, and so again, Matt, x- 33. Rev. vii. 14. — The
parallel is instructively brought out in separate passages in the Cliristian Year :

" Yet in that throng of selfish hearts untrue,
Thy sad eye rests upon Thy faithful few,
Children a7id childlike souls are there," &c. — Advent.

" There hangs a radiant coronet,

All gemm'd with pure and living light,

Too dazzhng for a sinner's sight,

Prepared for virgin souls, and them

Who seek the martyr's diadem.

Nor deem, wlio, to that bliss aspire.

Must win their way through blood and fire," &.c.

Wednesday before Easter,

In other words. Childhood, Virginity, Martyrdom, are made in Scripture at once the
Tjrpes and Standards of religious Perfection, as they arc represented in the three
Saints' Days following Christmas Day, — St. Stephen's, St. John's, and Holy Inno-
cents'. So again, Poverty, Luke vi. 20 ; xii. 33. Matt xi. 5, with Matt. v. 3. But
this rule of interpretation, and tiic light it throws upon Gospel duties and the Chris-
tian character, cannot be more than alluded to in a note.
t Rev. xiv. 4. 1 Cor. vii. 32. 35.


tion, " Be not careful for the morrow, for the morrow shall take care
for the things of itself."*

15. Lastly, as Christ foretells the approaching visitations of the
Jewish Church, and the necessity of looking out for them, so St. Peter
declares, " The end of all things is at hand ; be yc therefore sober, and
watch unto prayer." St. James, " Be ye also patient, stablish your
hearts, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh."f And St. Paul in
like manner, " Let your moderation be known unto all men ; the Lord
is at hand."

These instances may suffice by way of pointing out the argument
for the truth of Christianity, which I conceive to lie in the historical
difference existing between the respective Schools of St. Paul and St.
James. Such a difference there is, as every one must grant ; I mean
that St. Paul did, as a matter of fact, begin his preaching upon his own
independent revelations. And thus, however we may be able (as assu-
redly every Christian is gradually able, in proportion to his diligence
and prayer) to reconcile and satisfy himself as regards St. Paul's ap-
parent discordances in doctrine from the rest of the Apostles, so much
after all must remain, just enough, that is, to build the foregoing argu-
ment upon. At the same time, as if to ensure even the historical har-
mony of the whole dispensation, we are allowed to set against our in-
formation concerning this separate origin of the two Apostolical Schools,
the following facts ; first, that St. Paul ever considered himself ecclesi-
astically subordinate to the Church at Jerusalem, and to St. James, as the
book of Acts shows us ; next, that St. John, the beloved disciple, who
was in Christ before him, was appointed to outlive him, and, as a faith-
ful steward, to seal up, avouch, and deliver over inviolate to the Church
after him, the pure and veritable teaching of his Lord.

As to the point of doctrinal agreement and difference which I have
been employed in ascertaining, it is scarcely necessary to observe, that
beyond controversy the agreement is in essentials, the nature and of-
fice of the Mediator, the gifts which He vouchsafes to us, and the tem-
per of mind and the duties required of a Christian ; whereas the differ-
ence of doctrine between them, even admitting there is a difference,
relates only at the utmost to the Divine counsels, the sense in which
the Jewish law is abolished, and the condition of justification, whether
faith or goad works. I would not (God forbid !) undervalue these or
any other questions on which inspiration has spoken ; it is our duty to
search diligently after every jot and tittle of the Truth graciously re-

» Phil. iv. 6, 1 Pet. v. 7. Matt. vi. 31.
t 1 Pet. iv. 7. Phil. iv. 5. Jam. v. 8,


vealed to us, and to maintain it : but I am here speaking as to an un-
believer, and he must confess that, viewing the Gospel Creed in what
may be called its historical proportions, a difference of opinion as to
these latter subjects cannot detract from that real and substantial agree-
ment of System, visible in the course of doctrine which the Two Wit-
nesses respectively deliver.

Next, speaking as a Christian, who will admit neither inconsistency
to exist between the inspired documents of faith, nor points of trivial
importance in the revelation, I observe notwithstanding, that the forego-
ing argument affords us additional certainty respecting the characteris-
tic doctrines as well as the truth of Christianity. An agreement be-
tween St. Paul and St. John in behalf of a certain doctrine is an agree-
ment not of mere texts, but of separate Witnesses, an evidence of the
prominence of the doctrine delivered in the Gospel system. In this
•way, if in no other, we learn the momentous character of some particu-
lar tenets of revelation which heretics have denied, as the Eternity, or
again, the Personality of the Divine Word.

Further, we are thus permitted more clearly to ascertain the main
outlines of the Christian characler ; for instance, that love is its es-
sence, — its chief characteristics, resignation, and composure of mind,
neither anxious for the morrow, nor hoping from this world, — and its
duties, alms-giving, self-denial, prayer and praise.

Lastly, the very circumstance that Almighty God has chosen this
mode of introducing the Gospel into the world, I mean this employ-
ment of a double agency, opens a wide field of thought, had we light
to trace out the parallel providences which seem to lie amid the intri-
cacies of His dealings with mankind. As it is, we can but gaze with
the Apostle in wonder and adoration upon the mystery of His counsels.
" O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God !
how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out !
For who hath known the mind of the Lord ? Or who hath been His
counsellor ? Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recom-
pensed unto him again ? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him,
are all things : to whom be glory for ever. Amen."*

* Rom. xi. 33—36.



Rom., viii. 34.

It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of
God, who also maketh intercession for us.

The Ascension of our Lord and Saviour is an event ever to be com-
memorated with joy and thanksgiving, for St. Paul tells us in the text
that He ascended to the right hand of God, and there makes interces-
sion for us. Hence it is our comfort to know, that " if any man sin,
Ave have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and
He is the propitiation for our sins."* As the Jewish High Priest, after
the solemn sacrifice for the people on the great day of Atonement, went
into the Holy of Holies with the blood of the victim, and sprinkled it
upon the Mercy-Seat, so Christ has entered into Heaven itself, to pre-
sent (as it were) before the Throne that sacred Tabernacle which was
the instrument of His passion, — His pierced hands and wounded side,
— in token of the atonement which Ho has effected for the sins of the

Wonder and awe must always mingle with the thankfulness which
the revealed dispensation of mercy raises in our minds. And this, in-
deed, is an additional cause of thankfulness, that Almighty God has
disclosed to us enough of His high Providence to raise such sacred and
reverent feelings. Had He merely told us that he had pardoned us, we
should had overabundant cause for blessing and praising Him ; but in
showing us somewhat of the means, in vouchsafing to tell what cannot
wholly be told, in condescending to abase heavenly things to the
weak and stammering tongues of earth. He has enlarged our gratitude,
yet sobered it with fear. We are allowed with the Angels to obtain a
glimpse of the mysteries of Heaven, " to rejoice with trembling."

* 1 John ii. 1, 2.


Therefore, so far from considering the Truths of the Gospel as a bur-
den, because they arc beyond our understanding, we shall rather wel-
come them and exult in them, nay, and feel an antecedent stirring of
heart towards them, for the very reason that they are above us. Un-
der these feelings I will attempt to suggest to you on the present Fes-
tival some of the incentives to wonder and awe, humility, imphcit faith,
and adoration, supplied by the Ascension of Christ.

1. First, Christ's Ascension to the right hand of God in marvellous
because it is a sure token that heaven is a certain fixed place, and not
a mere state. That bodily presence of the Saviour which the Apostles
handled, is not here; it is elsewhere, it is in heaven. This contradicts
the notions of cultivated and speculative minds ; and humbles the rea-
son. Philosophy considers it more rational to suppose that Almighty
God, as being a spirit, is in every place ; and in no one place more than
another. It would teach, if it dare, that heaven is a mere state of bless-
edness ; but to be consistent, it ought to go on to deny, with the ancient
heretics, referred to by St. John, that " Jesus Christ is come in the
flesh," and maintain that His presence on earth was a mere vision \ for,
certain it is. He who appeared on earth went up from the earth, and a
cloud received Him out of His Apostles' sight. And here again, an ad-
ditional difficulty occurs, on minutely considering the subject. Whither
did He go? beyond the sun ? beyond the fixed stars? Did he traverse
the immeasureable space which extends beyond them all ? Again, what
is meant by ascending ? Philosophers will say they there is no differ-
erence between down and vp, as regards the sky ; yet, Avhatever diffi-
culties the word may occasion, we can hardly take upon us to decide
that it is a mere popular expression, consistently with the reverence due
to the Sacred Record.

And thus we are led on to consider, how different are the character
and effect of the Scripture notices of the structure of the physical
world, from those which philosophers deliver. I am not deciding whether
or ^not the one and the other are reconcilable; I merely say their re-
spective fffect is different . And when we have deduced what we deduce
by our reason from the study of visible nature, and then read what we
read in his inspired word, and find the two apparently discordant, this is
the feeling I think we ought to have on our minds ; — not an impatience
to do what is beyond our powers, to weigh evidence, sum up, balance,
decide, and reconcile, to arbitrate between the two voices of God, — but
a sense of the utter nothingness of worms such as we are, of our plain
and absolute incapacity to contemplate things as they really are, a per-
ception of our emptiness, before the great Vision of God, of our "come-
hness being turned into corruption, and our retaining no strength," a


conviction, that what is put before us, in nature or in grace, though true
in such a full sense that we dare not infringe it, yet is but an intima-
tion useful for particular purposes, useful for practice, useful in its de-
partment, " until the day break and the shadows flee away," useful in
such a way that both the one and the other representation may at once
be used, as two languages, as two separate approximations tov/ards the
Awful Unknown Truth, such as will not mislead us in their respective
provinces. And thus while we use the language of science, without jeal-
ousy, for scientific purposes, we may confine it to these ; and repel
and reprove its upholders, should they attempt to exalt it and to
" stretch it beyond its measure." In its own limited round it has its
use, nay, may be made to fill a higher ministry, and stand as a prose-
lyte under the shadow of the Temple ; but it must not dare profane
the inner courts, in which the ladder of Angels is fixed for ever, reach-
ing even to the Throne of God, and "Jesus standing on the right hand
of God."

I will but remind you on this part of the subject, that our Lord is to
come from heaven " in like manner" as He went; that He is to come
" in clouds," that " every eye shall see Him," and " all tribes of the
earth wail because of Him." Attempt to solve this prediction, accord-
ing to the received theories of science, and you will discover their
shallowness. They are unequal to the depth of the problem.

2. I have made the foregoing remark in order to impress upon you
the mystery with which we are encompassed all about, such as not
merely to attach to one or two truths of religion, but extending to al-
most every sacred fact, and to every action of our lives. With the
same view, let me observe upon the doctrine which accompanies the
fact of the Ascen.sion. Christ, we are told, has gone up on high " to
present Himself before the face of God for us." He has " entered by
His own blood once for all into the Holy place, having effected eternal
redemption." '» He ever livcth to make intercession for those who
come unto God by Him ; He hath a priesthood Avhich will not pass
from Him." We have such a High Priest who is set on the right
hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens ; a Minister of the
Sanctuary, and of the true Tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and
not man."*

These and similar passages refer us to the rites of the Jev/ish law.
They contain notice of the type, but what is the Antitype ? We can
give no precise account of it. For consider : why was it that Christ
ascended on high ? With what object ? What is His work ? What

* Hcb. ix. 12. 24, 25. vii. 24, 25. viii. 1, 2.


is the meaning of His interceding for us in heaven ? We know that,
whatever He does, it is the gracious reality of the Mosaic figure. The
High Priest entering with the atoning blood into the Holiest, was a
representation of Christ's gracious deed in our behalf. But what is
that deed ? We know what the shadow is ; what is the substance ?
The death of Christ answers to the Jewish rite of atonement ; how
does He vouchsafe to fulfil the rite of Intercession ? Instead of ex-
plaining, Scripture does but continue to answer us in the language of
the type ; even to the last it veils His deed under the ancient figure.*
Shall we therefore explain away its language as merely figurative,
which (as the word is now commonly understood) is next to saying it
has no meaning at all ? Far from it ! Clouds and darkness are round
about Him. We are not given to see into the secret shrine in which
God dwells. Before Him stand the Seraphim, veiling their faces.
Christ is within the veil. We must not search curiously what is His
present office, what is meant by His pleading His sacrifice, and by His
perpetual intercession for us. And, since we do not know, we will stu-
diously keep to the figure given us in Scripture : we will not attempt to
interpret it, or change the wording of it, being wise above what is written.
We will not neglect it, because we do not understand it. We will
hold it as a Mystery, or (what was anciently called) a Truth Sacra-
mental ; that is, a high invisible grace lodged in an outward form, a pre-
cious possession to be piously and thankfully guarded for the sake of the
heavenly reality contained in it. Thus much we see in it, the pledge
of a doctrine which reason cannot understand, viz. of the influence of
the prayer of faith upon the Divine counsels. The Interccs.sor directs
or stays the hand of the Unchangeable and Sovereign Governor of the
World ; being at once the meritorious cause and the earnest of the in-
tercessory power of His brethren. " Christ rose again for our justifi-
cation," " The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth
much," are both infinite mercies, and deep mysteries.

3. Further still, consider our Saviour's words : — " It is expedient for
you that I go away, for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come
unto you." He does not tell us, why it was that His absence was the
condition of the Holy Spirit's presence. " If I depart," He says, " I
will send Him unto you." " I will pray the Father, and He shall give
you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever."f To
the same purpose are the following texts : " He that believeth on me, the
works that I do shall he do also ; and greater works than these shall he
do, because I go unto My Father." " If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice,

* Rev. viii. 3, 4. t John xvi. 7. xiv. 16.


because I said, I go unto the Father"; for my Father is greater than I."
" Touch me not ; for I am not yet ascended to my Father ; but go to
my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your
Father, and to My God and your God."* Now proud and curious
reason might seek to know why He could not " pray the Father," with-
out going to Him ; why He must depart in order to send the Spirit.
But faith, without asking for one ray of Hght more than is given, muses
over the wonderful system of Providence, as seen in this world, which
is ever connecting events, between which man sees no necessary bond.
The whole system of what is called cause and effect, is one of mystery ;
and this instance, if it may be called one, supplies abundant matter of
praise and adoration to a pious mind. It suggests to us, equally with
the topics which have already come before us, how very much our
knowledge of God's -ways is but on the surface. What are those deep
hidden reasons why Christ went and the Spirit came ? Marvellous and
glorious, beyond our understanding ! Let us worship in silence ;
meanwhile, let us jealously maintain this, and every other portion of
our Creed, lest, by dropping jot or tittle, we suffer the truths concealed
therein to escape from us.

Moreover, this departure of Christ, and coming of the Holy Ghost,
leads our minds with great comfort to the thought of many lower
dispensations of Providence towards us. He, who according to His
inscrutable will, sent first His Co-equal Son, and then His Eternal
Spirit, acts with deep counsel, which we may surely trust, when He
sends from place to place, those earthly instruments which carry on His
purposes. This is a thought which is particularly soothing as regards
fhe loss of friends ; or of especially gifted men, who seem in their day
the earthly support of the Church. For what we know, their removal
hence is as necessary for the furtherance of the very objects we have
at heart, as was the departure of our Saviour.

Doubtless, " it is expedient" they should be taken away ; otherwise
some great mercy will not come to us. They are taken away per-
chance to other duties in God's service, equally ministrative to the
salvation of the elect, as earthly service. Christ went to intercede with
the Father : we do not know, we may not boldly speculate, — yet, it
may be, that Saints departed intercede, unknown to us, for the victory
of the Truth upon earth ; and their prayers above may be as really in-
dispensable conditions of that victory, as the labours of those who re-
main among us. They are taken away for some purpose surely ; their
^ifts are not lost to us ; their soaring minds, the fire of their contem-

» John xiv. 12. 28. xx. 17.


plations, the sancliiy of their desires, the vigour of their faith, tho
sweetness and gentleness of their affections, were not given without an
object. Yea, doubtless, they are keeping up the perpetual chant in the
shrine above, praying and praising God day and night in His Temple,
like Moses upon the Mount, while Joshua and his host fight with
Amalek. Can they be allotted greater blessedness, than to have a sta-
tion after the pattern of that Saviour who is departed hence ? Has He
no power in the world's movements, because He is away 1 And though
He is the Living and exalted Lord of all, and the government i.j on His
shoulder, and they are but His servants, without strength of themselves,.
laid up moreover apart from the conflict of good and evil in the para-
dise of God, yet so much light as this is given us by the inspired pages
of the Apocalypse, that they are interested in the fortunes of tlie
Church. We read therein of the Martyrs crying with a loud voice,
*' How long, Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our
blood on them that dwell on the earth ?" At anoiher time, of the
Elders " worshipping God, saying, We give Thee thanks, O Lord God
Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come, because thou hast
taken to Thee Thy great power and hast reigned ; and the nations were
wrathful, but Thy wrath is come." And again of the Saints, saying,
" Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty ; just and
true are Thy ways. Thou King of Saints. Who shall not fear Thee,
O Lord, and glorify Thy name 1 for Thou only art holy ; for all na-
tions shall come and worship before Thee, for Thy judgments are made
manifest."* Let us not forget that, though the prophecies of this sacred
book may be still sealed up from us, yet the doctrines and precepts are
not ; and that we lose much both in the way of comfort and instruc-
tion; if we do not use it for the purposes of faith and obedience.

What has been now said about the Ascension of our Lord, comes to
this ; that we are in a world of mystery, with one bright Light before
us, suflicient for our proceeding forward through all ditiicullies. Take
away this Light, and we are utterly wretched, — we know not where we
are, how we are sustained, what will become of us, and all that is dear
to us, what we are to believe, and why we are in being. But with it
we have all, and alwund. Not to mention the duty and wisdom of
implicit faith in the love of Him who made and redeemed us, Avhat is
nobler, what is more elevating and transporting, than the generosity of
heart which risks every thing on God's word, dares the powers of evil
to their worst efforts, and repels the illusions of sense and the artifices
of reason, by confidence in the truth of Him who has ascended to the

* Rev. vi. 10. xi. 17, 18. xv. 3, 4.


right hnnd of the IMajcsty on high. What infinite mercy it is in Him,
that He allows sinners such as we are, the privilege of acting the part
of heroes rather than of penitents ! Who are we "that we should be
able" and have opportunity "to offer so willingly after this sort?"*
— "Blessed," surely thrice blessed, "are they who have not seen and
yet have believed !" We will not M'ish for sight ; we will enjoy our
privilege ; we will triumph in the leave given us to go forward, " not
knowing whither we go," knowing that " this is the victory that over-
cometh the world, even our faith."f It is enough that our Redeemer
liveth ; that He has been on earth and will come again. On Him we
venture our all ; we can bear thankfully to put ourselves into His hands,
our interests present and eternal, and the interests of all we love.
Christ has died, "yea, rather is risen again, who is even at the right
hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate
us from His love? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or
famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ? Nay, in all these things we
are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us "



Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 37 of 76)