John Henry Newman.

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no sacrifice of his own. Christ was bringing life to the dead by His
own death. His disciples would have dissuaded Him from going into
Judea, lest the Jews should kill Him. Their apprehension was fulfilled.
He went to raise Lazarus, and the fame of that miracle was the imme-
diate cause of His seizure and crucifixion. This He knew beforehand.
He saw the prospect before Him ; He saw Lazarus raised, — the sup-
per in Martha's house, — Lazarus sitting at table, — ^joy on all sides of
Him ; — Mary honouring her Lord on this festive occasion by the out-
pouring of the very costly ointment upon His feet, — the Jews crowd-
ing, not only to see Him, but Lazarus also ; — His triumphant entry
into Jerusalem, — the multitude shouting Hosanna, — the people testify-
ing to the raising of Lazarus, — the Greeks, who had come up to worship
at the feast earnest to see Him, — the children joining in the general joy ;
and then the Pharisees plotting against Him, Judas betraying Him, His
friends deserting Him, and the cross receiving Him. These things
doubtless, among a multitude of thoughts unspeakable, passed over His
mind. He felt that Lazarus was wakening to life at His own sacrifice ;
that He was descending into the grave which Lazarus left. He felt
that Lazarus was to live and He to die ; the appearance of things was
to be reversed ; the feast was to be kept in Martha's house, but the last
passover of sorrow remained for Him. And He knew that this reverse
was altogether voluntary with Him. He had come down from His
Father's bosom to be an Atonement of blood for all sin, and thereby to
raise all believers from the grave, as He was then about to raise La-
zarus ; and to raise them, not for a time, but for eternity ; and now
the sharp trial lay before Him, through which He was to " open the
kingdom of heaven to all believers." Contemplating then the fulness
of His purpose while going about a single act of mercy, He said to



528 TEARS OF CHRIST, &c. [Skrm. X.

Martha, " I am the Resurrection and the Life : he that believeth in
Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth and
believeth in Me, shall never die."

Let us take to ourselves these comfortable thoughts, both in the con-
templation of our own death or upon the death of our friends. Where-
ever faith in Christ is, there is Christ Himself. He said to Martha,
" Believest thou this ?" Wherever there is a heart to answer, " Lord,
I believe," there Christ is present. There our Lord vouchsafes to stand,
though unseen, — whether over the bed of death or over the grave :
whether we ourselves are sinking, or those who are dear to us. Blessed
be His name ! nothing can rob us of this consolation : we will be as
certain, through His grace, that He is standing over us in love as though
we saw Him. We will not, after our experience of Lazarus's history,
doubt an instant that He is thoughtful about us. He knows the begin-
nings of our illness, though He keeps at a distance. He knows when
to remain away and when to draw near. He notes down the advances
of it, and the stages. He tells truly when His friend Lazarus is sick
and when he sleeps. We all have experience of this in the narrative
before us, and henceforth, so be it ! will never complain at the course
of His providence. Only, we will beg of Him an increase of faith ;
a more lively perception of the curse under which the world lies, and
of our own personal demerits ; a more understanding view of the mys-
tery of His cross, a more devout and implicit reliance on the virtue of
it, and a more confident persuasion that He will never put upon us
more than we can bear, never afflict His brethren with any wo except
for their own highest benefit,



SERMON XI



BODILY SUFFERING.



COLOSSIANS i. 24.



fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's
sake, which is the Church.



Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ came by blood as well as by water,
not only as a Fount of grace and truth, the source of spiritual light, joy,
and salvation, but as a combatant with Sin and Satan, who was "con-
secrated through suffering." He was, as prophecy had marked Him
out, '• red in His apparel, and His garments like him that treadeth in
the wine-fat ;" or, in the words of the Apostle, " He was clothed with
a vesture dipped in blood.'' It was the untold sufferings of the Eternal
Word in our nature, His body dislocated and torn. His blood poured out.
His soul violently separated by a painful death, which has put away
from us the wrath of Him whose love sent Him for that very purpose.
This only was our Atonement ; no one shared in the work. He "trod
the wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with Him."
When lifted up upon the cursed tree, He fought with all the hosts of
evil, and conquered by suffering.

Thus, in a most mysterious way, all that is needful for this sinful
world, the life of our souls, the regeneration of our nature, all that is
most joyful and glorious, hope, light, peace, spiritual freedom, holy in-
fluences, religious knowledge and strength, all flow from a fount of
blood. A work of blood is our salvation , and we, as we would be
saved, must draw near and gaze upon it in faith, and accept it as the
way to heaven. We must take Him, who thus suffered, as our guide ;
we must embrace His sacred feet, and follow Him. No wonder, then,
should we receive on ourselves some drops of the sacred agony which
bedewed His garments ; no wonder, should we be sprinkled with the
sorrows which He bore in expiation of our sins !

And so it has ever been in very deed ; to approach Him has been,
from the first, to be partaker, more or less, in his sufferings ; I do cot

Vol. I.— 34



630 BODILY SUFFERING. [Skrm.

say in the case of every individual who beheves in Him, but as regards
the more conspicuous, the more favoured, His choice instruments, and
His most active servants ; that is, it has been the lot of the Church on
the whole, and of those on the whole who had been most like Him, as
Rulers, Intercessors, and Teachers of the Church. He, indeed, alone
meritoriously ; they, because they have been near Him. Thus, imme-
diately upon His birth, He brought the sword upon the infants of His
own age at Bethlehem. His very shadow, cast upon a city where He
did not abide, was stained with blood. His Blessed Mother had not
clasped Him to her breast for many weeks, ere she was warned of the
penalty of that fearful privilege : " Yea, a sword shall pierce through
thy own soul also."* Virtue went out of Him ; but the water and the
blood flowed together as afterwards from His pierced side. From
among the infants He took up in His arms to bless, is said to have gone
forth a chief martyr of the generation after Him. Most of his Apostles
passed through life-long sufferings to a violent death. In particular,
when the favoured brothers, James and John, came to Him with a re-
quest that they might sit beside Him in His kingdom, He plainly stated
this connection between nearness to Him and affliction. "Are ye
able," He said, " to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be
baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with V'-\ As if He said,
** Ye cannot have the sacraments of grace without the painful figures
of them. The Cross, when imprinted on your foreheads, will draw
blood. You shall receive indeed the baptism of the Spirit, and the cup
of My communion, but it shall be with the attendant pledges of My
cup of agony and My baptism of blood." Elsewhere He speaks the
same language to all who would partake the benefits of His death and
passion : " Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, can-
not be My disciple.":}:

Accordingly, His Apostles frequently remind us of this necessary,
though mysterious appointment, and bid us " think it not strange con-
cerning the fiery trial which is to try us, as though some strange thing
happened unto us, but to rejoice in having communion with the suffer-
ings of Christ. "§ St. Paul teaches us the same lesson in the text, in
which he speaks of taking up the remnant of Christ's sorrows, as some
precious mantle dropt from the Cross, and wearing it for His sake. " I
rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what remains of
the afflictions of Christ for His body's sake, that is the Church."|l And,
though he is speaking especially of [>ersecution and other sufferings

» Luke ii. 35. t Matt. ix. 22. f Luke xiv. 27.

§ I Pet. iv. 12, 13. Vide also 2 Cor. iv. 10.



XL] BODILY SUFFERING. 631

borne in the cause of the Gospel, yet it is our great privilege, as Scrip-
ture tells us, that all pain and trouble, borne in faith and patience, will
be accounted as marks of Christ, grace tokens from the absent Saviour,
and will be accepted and rewarded for His sake at the last day. It de-
clares generally, " When thou passest through the waters, I will be
with thee ; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee ; when
thou walkest through the fire, thou^shalt not be burned, neither shall the
flame kindle upon thee." " Our light affliction, which is but for a mo-
ment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of
glory."*

Thus the Gospel, which has shed light in so many ways upon the
state of this world, has aided especially our view of the sufferings to
which human nature is subjected ; turning a punishment into a privi-
lege, in the case of all pain, and especially of bodily pain, which is the
most mysterious of all. Sorrow, anxiety, and disappointment are more
or less connected with sin and sinners ; but bodily pain is involuntary
for the most part, stretching over the world by some external irresistible
law, reaching to children who have never actually sinned, and to the
brute animals, who are strangers to Adam's nature, while in its mani-
festations it is far more piteous and distressing than any other suffering.
It is the lot of all of us, sooner or later ; and that, perhaps in a measure
which it would be appalling and wrong to anticipate, whether from dis-
ease, or from the casualties of life. And all of us, at length must die ;
and death is generally ushered in by disease, and ends in that separa-
tion of soul and body, which itself may, in some cases, involve peculiar
pain.

Wordly men put such thoughts aside as gloomy ;|they can neither
deny nor avert the prospect before them ; and they are wise, on their
own principles, not to embitter the present by anticipating it. But
Christians may bear to look at it without undue apprehension ; for this
very infliction, which most touches the heart and imagination, has (as
I have said) been invested by Almighty God with a new and comforta-
ble light, as being the medium of His choicest mercies towards us.
Pain is no longer a curse, a necessary evil to be undergone with a dry
submission or passive endurance, — it may be considered even as a bless-
ing of the Gospel, and being a blessing, admits of being met well or ill.
In the way of nature, indeed, it seems to shut out the notion of duty, as
if so masterful a discipline from without superseded the necessity or op-
portunity of self-mastery ; but now that " Christ hath suffered in the flesh,"



* Is. xliii.2. 2Cor. iv 17.



532 BODILY SUFFERING. [Serm.

we are bound " to arm ourselves with the same mind," and to obey, as
He did, amid suffering.

In what follows, I shall remark, briefly, first, on the natural effect of
pain upon the mind ; and next, upon the remedies and correctives of
that effect Avhich the knowledge of the Gospel supplies.

1. Now, as to its effect upon the mind, let it be well understood that
it has no sanctifying influence in itself Bad men are made worse by
it. This should be borne in mind, lest we deceive ourselves ; for some-
times we speak (at least the poor often so speak) as though present hard-
ship and suffering were in some sense a ground of confidence in them-
selves as to our future prospects, whether as expiating our sins or bring-
ing our hearts nearer to God. Nay, even the more religious among us
may be misled to think that pain makes them better than it really does ;
for the effect of it at length, on any but very proud or ungovernable
tempers, is to cause a languor and composure of mind, which looks like
resignation, while it necessarily throws our reason upon the especial
thought of God, our only stay in such times of trial. Doubtless it does
really benefit the Christian, and in no scanty measure ; and he may
thank God who thus blesses it ; only let him be cautious of measuring
his spiritual state by the particular exercise of faith and love in his heart
at the time, especially if that exercise be limited to the affections them-
selves, and have no opportunity of showing itself in works. St. Paul
speaks of chastisement " yielding afterwards the peaceable fruit of
righteousness,"* formed indeed and ripened at the moment, but mani-
fested in due sfeason. This may be the real fruit of the suffering of a
death bed, even though it may not have time to show itself to others
before the Christian departs hence. Surely we may humbly hope that
it perfects habits hitherto but partially formed, and blends the several
graces of the Spirit more entirely. Such is the issue of it in established
Christians ; — but it may possibly effect nothing so blessed. Nay, in
the case of those who have followed Christ with but a half heart, it may
be a trial too strong for their feebleness, and may overpower them.
This is a dreadful reflection for those who put off the day of repentance.
Well does our Church pray for us : " Suffer us not, at our last hour, for
any pains of death to fall from Thee !" As for unbelievers, we know
how it affects them, from such serious passages of Scripture as the fol-
lowing : " They gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the
God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not
of their deeds."t

Nay, I would go so far as to say, not only that pain does not com-

* Heb. xii. 11. t Rey. xvi. 10, 11.



XI.] BODILY SUFFERING. 533

monly improve us, but that without care it has a strong tendency to
do our souls harm, viz. by making us selfish ; an effect produced, even
when it does us good in other ways. Weak health, for instance,
instead of opening the heart, often makes a man supremely care-
ful of his bodily ease and well-being. Men find an excuse in their
infirmities for some extraordinary attention to their comforts ; they
consider they may fairly consult, on all occasions, their own conve-
nience rather than that of another. They indulge their wayward
wishes, allow themselves in indolence when they really might exert
themselves, and think they may be fretful because they are weak.
They become querulous, self-willed, fastidious, and egotistical. By-
standers, indeed, should be very cautious of thinking any particular
sufferer to be thus minded, because, after all, sick people have a multitude
of feelings whicli they cannot explain to any one else, and are often in
the right in those matters in which they appear to others most fanciful
or unreasonable. Yet this does not interfere with the correctness of
my remark on the whole.

Take another instance under very different circumstances. If bodily
suffering can be presented under distinct aspects, it is in the lassitude
of a sick-bed and in the hardships of the soldier's life. Yet, of the lat-
ter we find selfishness almost a proverbial characteristic. Surely the
life of soldiers on service is a very school of generosity and self-neglect,
if rightly understood, and is used as such by the noble and high-princi-
pled ; yet here, a low and carnal mii;id, instead of profiting by its advan-
tages, will yield to the temptation of referring every thing that befalls
it to its own comfort and profit. To secure its own interests, will be-
come enshrined within it as its main duty, and with the greater plausi-
bility, inasmuch as there is a sense in which it may really be so account-
ed. Others (it will suggest) must take care of themselves ; it is a folly
and weakness to think of them ; there are but few chances of safety ;
the many must suffer, some unto death ; it is wisdom to struggle for
life and comfort, and to dismiss the thought of others. Alas ! instances
occur, every now and then, in the experience of life, which show that
such thoughts and feelings are not peculiar to any one class of men,
but are the actuating principles of the multitude. If an alarm of dan-
ger be given amid a crowd, the general eagerness for safety leads men
to act towards each other with utter unconcern, if not with frantic
cruelty. There are stories told of companies of men finding them-
selves at sea with scanty provisions, and of the shocking deeds which
followed, when each was struggling to preserve his own life.

The natural effect, then, of pain and fear, is to individualize us in our
own minds, to fix our thoughts on ourselves, to make us selfish. It is



684 BODILY SUFFERING. [Serm,

through pain, chiefly, that we reahze to ourselves even our bodily-
organs ; a frame entirely without painful sensations is (as it were) one
whole without parts, and prefigures that future spiritual body which
shall be the portion of the Saints. And to this we most approximate in
our youth, when we are not sensible that we are compacted of gross
terrestrial matter, as advancing years convince us. The young reflect
little upon themselves, they gaze around them, and live out of doors,
and say they have souls, httle understanding their words. " They
rejoice in their youth." This, then, is the effect of suffering, that it
arrests us : that it, as it were, puts a finger upon us to ascertain for us
our own individuality. But it does no more than this ; if such a warn-
ing does not lead us through the stirrings of our conscience heaven-
wards, it does but imprison us in ourselves and make us selfish.

2. Here, then, it is that the Gospel finds us ; heirs to a visitation,
which, sooner or later, comes upon us, turning our thoughts from out-
ward objects, and so tempting us to idolize self, to the dishonour of that
God whom we ought to worship, and the neglect of man whom we
should love as ourselves. Thus it finds us, and it obviates this danger,
not by removing pain, but by giving it new associations. Pain, which
by nature leads us only to ourselves, carries on the Christian mind from
the thought of self to the contemplation of Christ, His passion. His
merits, and His pattern ; and, thence, further to that united company
of sufferers who follow Him and " are what He is in this world." He
is the great Object of our faith ; and, while we gaze upon Him, we
learn to forget ourselves.

Surely that is not the most fearful and hateful of evils, here below,
however trying to the flesh, which Christ underwent voluntarily. No
one chooses evil for its own sake, but for the greater good wrought out
through it. He underwent it as for ends greater than the immediate
removal of it, " not grudgingly or of necessity," but cheerfully doing
God's will, as the Gospel history sets before us. When His time
was come, we are told, " He stedfastly set His face to go to Jeru-
salem." His disciples said, " Master, the Jews of late sought to stone
Thee, and goest Thou thither again ?" but He persisted. Again, He
said to Judas, "That thou doest, do quickly." He proceeded to the
garden beyond Cedron, though Judas knew the place ; and when the
band of officers came to seize Him, " He went forth, and said unto
them, I am He."* And with what calmness and majesty did He bear
His sufferings, when they came upon Him, though by His agony in the
garden He showed He fully felt their keenness ! The Psalmist, in his-

• Luke ix. 51. John li. 8 ; xiii. 27 ; xyiii. 2. 4, 5.



XI.] BODILY SUFFERING. 635

prediction of them, says, " I am poured out like water, and all My
bones are out of joint ; My heart is like wax, it is melted ;"* describ-
ing, as it would seem, that sinking of spirit and enfeebling of nerve
which severe pain causes. Yet, in the midst of distress which seemed
to preclude the opportunity of obedience. He was " about His Father's
business," even more diligently than when in His childhood He asked
questions of the doctors in the Temple ; not thinking to be merely pas-
sive under the trial, but accounting it as if a great occasion for a noble
and severe surrender of Himself to His Father's will. Thus He " learn-
ed obedience by the things that He suffered." Consider the deep and
serene compassion which led Him to pray for those who crucified Him ;
His solicitous care of His mother ; and His pardoning words addressed
to the robber who suffered with Him. And so, when He said, " It is
finished," He showed that He was still contemplating, with a clear intel-
lect, "the travail of His soul, and was satisfied;" and in the solemn
surrender of Himself into His Father's hand, He showed where His
mind rested in the midst of its darkness. Even when He seemed to
be thinking of Himself, and said, " I thirst," He really was regarding
the words of prophecy, and was bent on vindicating, to the very letter,
he divine announcements concerning Him.

} Thus, upon the Cross itself, we discern in Him the mercy of a Mes-
senger from heaven, the love and grace of a Saviour, the dutifulness of
a Son, the faith of a created nature, and the zeal of a servant of God.
His mind was stayed upon His Father's sovereign will and infinite per-
fections, yet could pass, without effort, to the claim of filial duty, or
the need of an individual sinner. Six out of His seven last words
were words of faith and love. For one instant a horrible dread over-
whelmed Him, when He seemed to ask why God had forsaken Him.
Doubtless " that voice was for our sakes ;" as when He made mention
of His thirst ; and, like the other, was taken from inspired prophecy.
Perhaps it was intended to set before us an example of a special trial to
which human nature is subject, whatever was the real and inscrutable
manner of it in Him, who was all along supported by an inherent Di-
vinity ; I mean the trial of sharp agony, hurrying the mind on to vague
terrors and strange inexplicable thoughts ; and is, therefore, graciously
recorded, for our benefit, in the history of His death, " who was tempt-
ed, in all points, like as we are, yet without sin."f

Such, then, were our Lord's sufferings, voluntarily undergone, and
ennobled by an active obedience ; themselves the centre of our hopes
and worship, yet borne without thought of self, towards God andj for

• Paalmsiiii. 14. t Heb. iv. 15.



636 BODILY SUFFERING. [Se»m.

man. And who, among us, habitually dwells upon them, but is led,
without deliberate purpose, by the very warmth of gratitude and ador-
ing love, to attempt bearing his own inferior trials in the same heaven-
ly mind ? Who does not see, that to bear pain well, is to meet it cour-
ageously, not to shrink or waver, but to pray for God's help, then to
look at it steadfastly, to summon what nerve we have of mind and
body, to receive its attack, and to bear up against it (while strength is
given us) as against some visible enemy in close combat ? Who will
not acknowledge that, when sent to us, we must make its presence (as
it were) our own voluntary act, by the cheerful and ready concurrence
of our own will with the will of God ? Nay, who is there but must
own that with Christ's sufferings before us, pain and tribulation are,
after all, not only the most blessed, but even the most congruous attend-
ants upon those who are called to inherit the benefit of them 1 Most
congruous, I say, not as though necessary, but as most natural and be-
fitting, harmonizing, most fully, with the main Object in the group of
sacred wonders on which the Church is called to gaze. Who, on the
other hand, does not at least perceive that all the glare and gaudiness
of this world, its excitements, its keenly pursued goods, its successes
and its transports, its pomps and its luxuries, are not in character with
that pale and solemn scene which faith must ever have in its eye ?
What Christian will not own that to " reign as kings," and to be " full,"
is not his calling ; so as to derive comfort in the hour of sickness, or
bereavement, or other affliction, from the thought that he is now in his
own place, if he be Christ's, in his true home, the sepulchre in which
his Lord was laid ? So deeply have His saints felt this, that, when
times were peaceful and the Church was in safety, they could not rest
in the lap of ease, and have secured to themselves hardnesses, lest the
world should corrupt them. They could not bear to see the much-en-



Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 59 of 76)