John Henry Newman.

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Doubtless it is. St. Peter says, that in every nation he that feareth
God and worketh righteousness is accepted with Him.* Now are such
persons, therefore, Christians ? Certainly not. It would seem, then,
it is possible to fear God and work righteousness, yet without being
Christians ; for, (if we would know the truth of it,) to be a Christian is
to do this, and to do much more than this. Here, then, is a fresh subject
for self-examination. Is it not the way of men to dwell with satisfaction
on their good deeds, particularly when, for some reason or other, their
conscience smites them 1 Or when they are led to the consideration
of death, then they begin to turn in their minds how they shall acquit
themselves before the judgment-seat. And then it is they feel a relief
in being able to detect, in their past lives, any deeds which may be
regarded in any sense religious. You may hear some persons comforting
themselves that they never harmed any one ; and that they have not
given into an openly profligate and riotous life. Others are able to say
more ; they can speak of their honesty, their industry, or their general
conscientiousness. We will say they have taken good care of their
families ; they have never defrauded or deceived any one ; and they
have a good name in the world ; nay, they have in one sense lived in
the fear of God. I will grant them this and more ; yet possibly they
are not altogether Christians in their obedience. I will grant that these
virtuous and religious deeds are really fruits of faith, not external
merely, done without thought, but proceeding from the heart. I will
grant they are really praiseworthy, and, when a man from want of
opportunity knows no more, really acceptable to God ; yet they deter-
mine nothing about his having received the Gospel of Christ in power.
Why 1 for the simple reason that they are not enough. A Christian's
faith and obedience is huilt on all this, but is only built on it. It is not
the same as it. To be Christians, surely it is not enough to be that
which we are enjoined to be, and must be, even without Christ ; not
enough to be no better than good heathens ; not enough to be, in some
slight measure, just, honest, temperate, and religious. We must indeed
be just, honest, temperate, and religious, before we can rise to Christian
graces, and to he practised in justice and the like virtues is the way, the
ordinary way, in which we receive the fulness of the kingdom of God ;
and, doubtless, any man who despises those who try to practise them,
(I mean conscientious men, Avho notwithstanding have not yet clearly
seen and welcomed the Gospel system,) and slightingly calls tliem "mere

* Acts X. 3.


moral men" in disparagement, such a man knows not what spirit he is
of, and had best take heed how he speaks against the workings of the
inscrutable Spirit of God. I am not wishing to frighten these imperfect
Christians, but to lead them on ; to open their minds to the greatness
of the work before them, to dissipate the meagre and carnal views in
which the Gospel has come to them, to v/arn them that they must never
be contented with themselves, or stand still and relax their efforts, but
must go on unto perfection ; that till they are much more than they are
at present, they have received the kingdom of God in word, not in
power ; that they are not spiritual men, and can have no comfortable
sense of Christ's presence in their souls ; for to whom much is given, of
him is much required.

What is it, then, that they lack ? I will read several passages of
Scripture which v/ill make it plain. St. Paul says, " If any man be
in Christ he is a new creature : old things are passed away ; behold
all things are become new." Again : "The hfe which I now live in
the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and
gave Himself for me." " The love of Christ constraineth us." " Put
on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies,
kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, forbearing
one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel
against any, even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye ; and above all
these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And
let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are
called in one body, and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell
in you richly in all wisdom." " God hath sent forth the Spirit of His
Son into your hearts." Lastly, our Saviour's own memorable words,
" If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up
his cross daily and follow Me."* Now it is plain that this is a very
different mode of obedience from any which natural reason and con-
science tell us of ; — different not in its nature, but in its excellence and.
peculiarity. It is much more than honesty, justice, and temperance ;
and this is to be a Christian. Observe in what respect it is different
from that lower degree of religion which we may possess without
entering into the mind of the Gospel. First of all in its faith ; which
is placed, not simply in God, but in God as manifested in Christ,
according to His own words, "Ye beheve in God, beheve also in
Me."t Next, we must adore Christ as our Lord and Master, and love
Him as our most gracious Redeemer. We must have a deep sense of
our guilt, and of the difficulty of securing Heaven ; we must live as in

* 2 Cor. V. 14. 17. Gal. ii. 20. Col. iii. 12—16. Gal. iv. 6. Luke ix. 23.
t John xiv. 1.

Vol. 1—4


His presence, daily pleading His cross and passion, thinking of His
holy commandments, imitating His sinless pattern, and depending on
the gracious aids of His Spirit ; that we may really and truly be
servants of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in whese name we were
baptized. Further, we must, for His sake, aim at a noble and unusual
strictness of life, perfecting holiness in His fear, destroying our sins,
mastering our whole soul, and bringing it into captivity to His law,
denying ourselves lawful things, in order to do Him service, exercising
a profound humility and an unbounded, never-failing love, giving away
much of our substance in religious and charitable works, and discoun-
tenancing and shunning irreligious men. This is to be a Christian ; a
gift easily described, and in a few words, but attainable only with fear
and much trembling ; promised indeed, and in a measure accorded at
once to every one who asks for it, but not secured till after many years,
and never in this life fully realized. But be sure of this, that every one
of us, who has had the opportunities of instruction and sufficient time,
and yet does not in some good measure possess it, every one who, when
death comes, has not gained his portion of that gift which it requires a
course of years to gain, and which he might have gained, is in a peril
so great and fearful, that I do not like to speak about it. As to the
notion of a partial and ordinary fulfilment of the duties of honesty,
industry, sobriety, and kindness, " availing"* him, it has no Scriptural
encouragement. We must stand or fall by another and higher rule.
We must have become what St. Paul calls " new creatures ;"f that is,
we must have lived and worshipped God as the redeemed of Jesus
Christ, in all faith and humbleness of mind, in reverence for His word
and ordinances, in thankfulness, in resignation, in mercifulness, gentle-
ness, purity, patience, and love.

Now, considering the obligation of obedience which lies upon us
Christians, in these two respects, first, as contrasted with a mere out-
ward and nominal profession, and next contrasted with that more
ordinary obedience which is required of those even who have not the
Gospel, how evident is it, that we are far from the kingdom of God !
Let each in his own conscience apply this to himself. I will grant he
has some real Christian principle in his heart ; but I wish him to
observe how little that is likely to be. Here is a thought not to keep
us from rejoicing in the Lord Christ, but to make us " rejoice with
trembling,":}: wait diligently on God, pray Him earnestly to teach us
more of our duty, and to impress the love of it on our hearts, to enable
us to obey both in that free spirit which can act right without reason-
ing and calculation, and yet with the caution of those who know their

* Gal. vi. 15. t Gal. vi. 15. I Ps. ii. 11.


salvation depends on obedience in little things, from love of the truth
as manifested in Him who is the Living Truth come upon earth, " the
Way, the Truth, and the Life."*

With others we have no concern ; we do not know what their
opportunities are. There may be thousands in this populous land who
never had the means of hearing Christ's voice fully, and in whom
virtues short of evangelical will hereafter be accepted as the fruit of
faith. Nor can we know the hearts of any men, or tell what is the
degree in which they have improved their talents. It is enough to
keep to ourselves. We dwell in the full light of the Gospel, and the
full grace of the Sacraments. We ought to have the holiness of
Apostles. There is no reason except our own wilful corruption, that
we are not by this time walking in the steps of St. Paul or St. John,
and following them as they followed Christ. What a thought is this !
Do not cast it from you, my brethren, but take it to your homes, and
may God give you grace to profit by it !



Hebrews x. 22.

" Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts
sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."

Among the reasons which may be assigned for the observance of
prayer at stated times, there is one which is very obvious, and yet
perhaps is not so carefully remembered and acted upon as it should be.
I mean the necessity of sinners cleansing themselves from time to time
of the ever-accumulating guilt which loads their consciences. Wc arc
ever sinning ; and though Christ has died once for all to release us
from our penalty, yet we are not pardoned once for all, but according as,
and whenever each of us supplicates for the gift. By the prayer of
faith we appropriate it ; but only for the time, not for ever. Guilt is
again contracted, and must be again repented of and washed away.
We cannot by one act of faith establish ourselves for ever after in the

* John xiv. 6.


favour of God. It is going beyond His will to be impatient for a final
acquittal, when we are bid ask only for our dailij bread. We are still
so far in the condition of the Israelites ; and though we 'do not offer
sacrifice or observe the literal washings of the Law, yet wc still require
the periodical renewal of those blessings which were formerly con-
veyed in their degree by the Mosaic rites ; and though we gain far
more excellent gifts from God than the Jews did, and by more spiritual
ordinances, yet means of approaching Ilim wc still need, and continual
means to keep us in the justification in which baptism first placed us^
Of this the text reminds us. It is addressed to Christians, to the

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 76)