John Henry Newman.

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to remain, more or less, in the very bosom of the Lord's people, in the
courts of His house, in the services of His worship, "executing the
priests' office,"|| as we read in the book of Acts, offering up the Sac-
rifice of praise and thanksgiving, teaching, catechising, but not busy
or troubled with the world. I do not mean that these offices were
never united in one person, but that they were, in themselves, distinct,
and that the tendency of the Apostles' discipline was to separate ofT
from the multitude of Christian Ministers certain who should serve
God and the Church by giving thanks and intercession.

And next, I may mention children as in some respects partakers of
Mary's portion. Till they go out into the world, whether into its
trades or its professions, their school-time should be, in some sort, a
contemplation of their Lord and Saviour. Doubtless they cannot
enter into sacred subjects as steadily as they may afterwards ;
they must not be unnaturally compelled to serve, and they are to
be exercised in active habits of obedience, and in a needful disci-
pline for the future ; still, after all, we must not forget that He,
who is the pattern of children as well as grown men, was, at twelve
years old, found in His Father's House ; and that afterwards, whea

♦ Luke ii. 36, 37. t Luke xviii. 1. II Tim. v. 5. § Ps. Iit. 4.

II Acts xiii. 3.


He came thither before His passion, the children welcomed Him with
the words, " Hosanna to the Son of David," and fulfilled a prophecy,
and gained His praise, in so doing.

Further, we are told, on St. Paul's authority, (if that be necessary
on so obvious a point,) that Mary's portion is allotted, more or less, to
the unmarried. I say more or less, for Martha herself, though unmar-
ried, yet as mistress of a household, was in a measure an exception ;
and because servants of God, as St. Paul, may remain unmarried, not
to labour less, but to labour more directly for the Lord. St. Paul's
words, some have observed, almost appear to refer to the language
used in the text, when read in the original Greek ; which is the more
likely, as St. Luke was an attendant on the Apostle, and his Gospel
seems to be cited elsewhere by him. As if he said, " The unmarried
carcth for the things of the Lord, so as to be holy both in body and in
spirit. And this I speak for your own profit, that ye may sit at the
Lord's feet without being cumbered."

And further still, there are vast numbers of Christians, in Mary's
case, who are placed in various circumstances, and of whom no descrip-
tion can well be given ; rich men having leisure, or activ'e men during
seasons of leisure, as when they leave their ordinary work for recrea-
tion's sake. Certainly our Lord meant that some or other of His ser-
vants should be ever worshipping Him in every place, and that not in
their hearts merely, but with the ceremonial of devotion. St. Paul
says, " I will therefore that men," even that sex whose especial pun-
ishment it was that they should " eat bread in the sweat of their face,"
*' that men pray every where, Ifii g up holy hands." in common
and public worship, " without wrath and doubting."* And we find,
accordingly, that even a Roman Centurion, Cornelius, had found time,
amid his military duties, to serve God continually, before he became a
Christian, and was rewarded with the knowledge of the Gospel in con-
sequence. " He prayed to God alway," we are told, and his " prayers
and alms came up for a memorial beforo God."t

And last of all, in Mary's portion, doubtless, are included the souls
of those who have lived and died in the faith and fear of Christ.
Scripture tells us that they "rest from their labours;":}: and, in the
.same sacred book, that their employment is p^;^yer and praise. While
God's servants below cry to Him day and nig'it in every place ; thege
" serve Him day and night in H:s temple " a ove, and from their rest-
ing place beneath the altar intercede, with loui voice, for those holy
interests which they have left behind them. " How lorg, O L:>rd,

• 1 Tim. ii. 8. + Acts x. 4. J Rev. xir 13.


holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that
dwell on the earth ?" " We give Thee thanks, because Thou hast
taken to Thee Thy great power and hast reigned."*

This then is the company of those who stand in Mary's lot ; — the
Aged and the Children, — the Unmarried and the Priests of God, — and
the Spirits of the just made perfect, all with one accord, like Moses on
the Mount, lifting up holy hands to God, while their brethren fight, or
meditating on the ])romises, or hearing the Saviour's teaching, or adorn-
ing and beautifying His worship.

2. Such being the two-fold character of Christian obedience, I ob-
serve, secondly, that Mary's portion is the better of the two. Our
Lord does not expressly say so, but he clearly implies it : " Martha,
Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things ; but one
thing is needful : and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall
not be taken away from her." If His words be taken literally, they
might, indeed, even mean that Martha's heart was not right with Him,
which, it is plain from other parts of the history, they do not mean.
Therefore, what He intimated surely was, that Martha's portion was
full of snares, as being one of worldly labour, but that Mary could not
easily go wrong in hers ; that we may be busy in a wrong way ; we
cannot well adore Him except in a right one ; that to serve God by
prayer and praise continually, when we can do so consistently with
other duties, is the pursuit of the " one thing needful," and emphati-
cally " that good part which shall not be taken away from us."

It is impossible to read St. Paul's Epistles carefully without perceiv-
ing how laithfully they connnent on this rule of our Lord's. Is it
doubtful to any one, that they speak much and often of the duties of
worship, meditation, thanksgiving, prayer and praise, intercession ; and
in such a way as to lead the Christian, so far as other duties will allow
him, to make them the ordinary employment of his life ? not, indeed,
to neglect his lawful calhng, nor even to be content without some ac-
tive efforts to do good, whether in the way of the education of the
young, attendance on the sick and needy, pastoral occupation, study,
or other toil, yet to devote himself to a Hfe at Jesus' feet, and a con-
tinual hearing of His word ? And is it not plainly a privilege, above
other privileges, if we really love Him, to be called to this unearthly
IHe ? Consider the following passages, in addition to those already
quoted, and see if they can possibly be completely realized in the life
of the common run of Christians, though all, doubtless, must cultivate
inwardly, and in due measure bring into outward act, the spirit which

» Rev. vi. 10 ; xi. 17.


they enjoin. See if they be not illustrations of that more blessed por-
tion with which Mary was favoured. " Continue in prayer, watching in
it with thanksgiving."* " Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly
in all wisdom ; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and
hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the
Lord."f " Rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, in everything give

thanks, quench not the Spirit, despise not prophesy ings.":j:

" I will that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands. "§ " Be not
drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit, speak-
ing to each other in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing
and making melody in your heart to the Lord ; giving thanks always,
for all things, unto God our Father in the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ. "II "Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth,
.... taking the shield of faith, .... and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God, praying always with all prayer and sup-
plication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverence
and supplication for all the Saints. "H Thus St. Paul speaks : in like
manner St. Peter ; " Casting all your care (such as Martha's) upon
Him, for He is concerned for you."** " Abstain from wine, that you
may pray ■"■\'\ and St James, " Is any among you afflicted ? let him
pray. Is any merry ? let him sing psalms. "|J

These are the injunctions of the Apostles ; next, observe how they
were fulfilled in the early Church. Before the Comforter came down,
they " all (the Apostles) continued" St. Paul's very word in the pas-
sages above cited, " they persevered steadily, they endured, with one
accord, in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the
mother of Jesus, and with his His brethren." And so, after Pentecost,
" They continuing,^'' — the same word, — " steadfastly enduring, daily,
with one accord, in the Temple, and breaking bread from house to
house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising
God.''§§ That early privilege, we know, was soon taken from them as
a body. Persecution arose, and they were "scattered"|||| to and fro,
over the earth. Henceforth Martha's portion befel them. They were
full of labours, whether pleasant or painful ; — pleasant, for they had to
preach the Gospel over the earth, — but painful as losing, not only
earthly comforts, but, in some sort, spiritual quietness. They were
separated from the Ordinances of Divine grace, as wanderers in a wil*
derness. Here and there, as they journeyed, they met a kw of their

* Col. iv. 2. t Col. iii. 16. \ I TlicEs. V. 16-20.

§ 1 Tim. ii. 8. || Eph. v. 18—20. H Eph. \ i 4 -18.

** 1 Pet. V.7. tt iPct. iv. 7. X\ James v. i3.

§§ Acts i. 14 ; ii. 46, |||| Acts viii. 1.


brethren "prophets and teachers, ministering to the Lord" at Antioch ;
or Phihp's daughters, " virgins which did prophesy"* at Caesarea.
They met for worship in secret, fearing their enemies ; and in course of
time, when the fire of persecution became fiercer, they fled to the
deserts, and there set up houses for God's service. Thus Mary's portion
was withheld from the Church for many years, while it laboured and
suffered. St. Paul himself, that great Apostle, though he had his sea-
sons of privilege, when he was caught up into the third heaven and
heard the hymns of Angels, yet he too was a man of contention and
toil. He fought for the Truth, and so laid the foundations of the Tem-
ple. He was " sent to preach, not to baptize." He was not allowed
to build the House of God, for He was, in figure, like David, a " man
of blood." He did but bring together into one, the materials for the
Sacred Building. The Order of the Ministry, the Succession of Apos-
tles, the Services of Worship, the Rule of Discipline, all that is calm,
beautiful, and soothing in our Holy Rehgion, was brought forth piece-
meal, out of his writings by his friends and fellow-disciples, in his own
day, and in the time after him, as the state of the Church admitted.
Accordingly, as peace was in any measure enjoyed, so the building
was carried on, here and there, at this time and that, in the cavern, or
the desert, or the mountain, where God's stray servants lived ; till a
time of peace came, and by the end of four hundred years the work
was accomplished. From that time onwards to the present day, Mary's
lot has been offered to vast multitudes of Christians, if they could re-
ceive it. If they knew their blessedness, there are numbers now, in
various ranks of society, who might enjoy the privilege of continual
praise and prayer, and a seat at Jesus' feet. Doubtless they are, after
all, but the few ; for the great body of Christians have but the Lord's
day as a day of rest, and would be deserting their duty if they lived on
other days as on it. But what is not granted to some, is granted to
others, to serve God in His Temple, and be at rest. Who these fa-
voured persons are, has already been said generally ; which is all that
can be snid in a matter in which every one must decide for himself,
according to his best light and his own peculiar case. Yet surely, with-
out attempting to pronounce upon individuals, so far at least we may
say, that if there be an age when Mary's portion is altogether let alone
and decried, that age is necessarily so far a stranger to the spirit of the

Let me then, in conclusion, ask, for our own edification, whether
perchance this is not such an age ? I say " perchance ;" because in

• Acts xiii. 2 ; xxi. 9.


matters of this kind, men show their motives and principles less openly
than in others, as being of a nature more immediately lying between
themselves and God. Yet, taking account of this, at least is not this
an age in which few persons are in a condition, from the very state of
society, to " give themselves continually to prayer" and other direct
religious services ? Has not the desire of wealth so eaten into our
•hearts, that we think poverty the worst of ills, that we think the secu-
rity of property the first of blessings, that we measure all things by mam-
mon, that we not only labour for it ourselves, but so involve in our own
evil earnestness all around us, that they cannot keep from the pursuit
of it though they would 1 Does not the frame-work of society move
forward on such a plan as to enlist into the service of the world all its
members, almost whether they will or no ? Would not a man be thought
unaspiring and unproductive, who cared not to push forward in pursuit
of that which Scripture calls " the root of all evil," the love of which it
calls " covetousness which is idolatry," and the possession of which it
solemnly declares all but excludes a man from the kingdom of Heaven?
Alas ! can this be denied ? And therefore, of course, the entire system
•of tranquil devotion, holy meditation, freedom from worldly cares, which
•our Saviour praises in the case of Mary, is cast aside, misunderstood, or
rather missed altogether, as much as the glorious sunshine by a blind
man, slandered and ridiculed as something contemptible and vain.
■Surely, no one, who is candid, can doubt, that, were Mary now living,
did she choose on principle that state of life in which Christ found
her, were she content to remain at Jesus' feet hearing His word and
•disengaged from this troublesome world, she would be blamed and
pitied. Careless men would gaze strangely, and wise men compas-
sionately, on such an one, as wasting her life, and choosing a melan-
choly, cheerless portion. Long ago was this the case. Even in holy
Martha, zealous as she was and true-hearted, even in her instance we
are reminded of the impatience and disdain with which those who are
far different from her, the children of this world, regard such as dedi-
cate themselves to God. Long ago, even in her, we seem to witness,
as in type, the rash, unchristian way in which this age disparages de-
vo+'onal services. Do we never hear it said, that the daily Service of
he Church is unnecessary ? Is it never hinted that it is scarcely worth
while to keep it up unless we get numbers to attend it, as if one single
soul, if but one, were not precious enou ^h for Christ's love and His
Church's rearing ? Is it never objected, that a partially-filled Church
is a discouraging sight, as if, after all, our Lord Jesus had chosen the
■many and not the few to be His true disciples ? Is it never maintained,
that a Christian Minister is off his post unless he is for ever labouring
Vol. L-


for the heartless many, instead of ministering to the more rehgious
few ? Alas ! there must be something wrong among us ; when our de-
fenders recommend the Church on the mere plea of its activity, its
popularity, and its visible usefulness, and would scarcely scruple to give
us up, had we not the many on our side ! If our ground of boasting be,
that rich men, and mighty men, and many men love us, it never can be
a religious boast, and may be our condemnation. Christ made His
feast for " the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind." It is the
widow and the fatherless, the infirm, the helpless, the devoted, bound
together in prayer, who are the strength of the Church. It is their
prayers, be they many or few, the prayers of Mary and such as Mary,
who are the safety, under Christ, of those who with Paul and Barnabas
fight the Lord's battles. •' It is but lost labour to rise up early, to sit up
late, to eat the bread of sorrows," if prayers are discontinued. It is
mere infatuation, if we think to resist the enemies who at this moment
are at our doors, if our Churches remain shut, and we give up to prayer
but a few minutes in the day.

Blessed indeed are they whom Christ calls near to Him to be His own
pecuhar attendants and famihar friends, — more blessed if they obey and
fulfil their calling ! Blessed even if they are allowed to seize intervals
of such service towards Him ; but favoured and honoured beyond
thought, if they can without breach of duty, put aside worldly things
with full purpose of heart, renounce the pursuit of wealth, keep clear of
family cares, and present themselves as a holy offering, without spot or
blemish, to Him who died for them.* These are they who " follow
Him whithersoever He goeth," and to them He more especially addres-
ses those lessons of faith and resignation, which are recorded in His
Gospel. " Take heed," He says, " and beware of covetousness, for
man's life consisteth not in the overabundance of the things which he
possesseth. Take no care for your life, what ye shall eat, neither for
the body, what ye shall put on. Consider the lilies how they grow, they
toil not, they spin not. Seek not ye what ye shall eat or what ye shall
drink, neither be ye unsettled ; for all these things do the nations of
the world seek after, and your Father knoweth that ye have need of
these things. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good plea-

* The life here advocated is one of which Prayer, Praise, Intercession, and other
devotional services, are made the object and business, in the same sense in which a
certain profession or trade is the object and business of life to the mass of men : one in
which devotion is the end to which every tiling else gives way. This explanation
will answer the question, how much of each day it supposes set aside for devotion-
Callings of this world do not neceesarily occupy the whole, or half, or a third of our
time, but they r«/e and dispose of the whole of it.


sure to give you the Kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms ; pro-
vide yourselves bags which wax not old, where no thief approacheth,
neither moth corrupteth. Let your loins be girded about, and your
lights burning ; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their
Lord, when He will return from the wedding. Blessed are those ser-
vants, whom the Lord, when He cometh, shall find watching. Verily
I say unto you, that He will gird Himself," — He who before let them
sit at His feet hearing His word, or anoint His feet with ointment kiss-
ing them. He in turn, as He did before His passion, by an inexpressible
condescension, " will gird Himself; and make them to sit down to meat,
and will come forth and serve them. And if He shall come in the
second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed
are those servants. Be ye therefore ready also ; for the Son of man
cometh at an hour, when ye think not."*



Jambs v. 13.
Is any among you afflicted ? let him pray. Is any merry ? let him sing psalms.

St. James seems to imply in these words, that there is that in religious
worship which supplies all our spiritual need, which suits every mood
of mind and every variety of circumstances, over and above the hea-
venly and supernatural assistance which we are allowed to expect from
it. Prayer and praise seem in his view to be a universal remedy, a
panacea, as it is called, which ought to be used at once, whatever it be
that affects us. And, as is implied in ascribing to them this universal
virtue, they produce very opposite effects, according to our need ;
allaying or carrying off the fever of the mind, as the case may be.
The Apostle is not speaking of sin in the text ; he speaks of the emo-
tions of the mind, whether joyful or sorrowful, of good and bad spirits ;

• Luke xii. 15-40.


and for these and all other such disturbances, prayer and praise are a
medicine. Sin indeed has its appropriate remedies too, and more seri-
ous ones ; penitence, self-abasement, self-revenge, mortification, and
the like. But the text supposes the case of a Christian, not of a mere
penitent, — not of scandalous wickedness, but of emotion, agitation of
mind, regret, longing, despondency, mirthfulness, transport, or rapture ;
and in case of such ailments he says, prayer and praise is the remedy.

Indisposition of body shows itself in a pain somewhere or other ; — a
distress, which draws our thoughts to it, centres them upon it, impedes
our ordinary way of going on, and throws the mind off its balance.
Such too is indisposition of the soul, of whatever sort, be it passion or
affection, hope or fear, joy or grief. It takes us off from the clear con-
templation of the next world, ruffles us, and makes us restless. In a
word, it is what we call an excitement of mind. Excitements are the
indisposition of the mind ; and of these excitements in different ways
the services of divine worship are the proper antidotes. How they are
so shall now be considered.

1. Excitements are of two kinds, secular and religious : First, let us
consider secular excitements. Such is the pursuit of gain, or of power,
or of distinction. Amusements are excitements ; the applause of a
crowd, emulations, hopes, risks, quarrels, contests, disappointments,
successes. In such cases the object pursued naturally absorbs the
mind, and excludes all thoughts but those relating to itself. Thus a
man is sold over into bondage to this world. He has one idea, and
one only before him, which becomes his idol. Day by day he is en-
grossed by this one thing, to which his heart pays worship. It may
attract him through the imagination, or through the retison ; it may
appeal to his heart, or to his self-interest, or to his pride ; still, whether
we be young or old, rich or poor, each age, each fortune is liable to its
own peculiar excitement, which has power to fascinate the eye of our
minds, to enervate and destroy us. Not all at once (God forbid !) but
by a gradual process, till every thought of religion is lost before the
contemplation of this nearer good.

The most ordinary of these excitements, at least in this country, is
the pursuit of gain, A man may live from week to week in the fever
of a decent covetousness, to which he gives some more specious name,
(for instance, desire of doing his duty by his family,) till the heart of
rv.ligion is eaten out of him. He may live and die in his farm or in
his merchandise. Or he may be labouring for some distinction, which
depends on his acquitting himself well on certain trying occasions, and
requires a laborious preparation beforehand. Or he may be idly carried
away by some light object of sense, which fills his mind with empty


dreams and pains which profit not. Or he may be engaged in the
general business of Ufe ; be full of schemes and projects, of political
mancEuvres and efforts, of hate, or jealousy, or resentment, or triumph.
He may be busy in managing, persuading, outwitting, resisting other
men. Again, he may be in one or other of these states, not for a life,
but for a season ; and this is the more general case. Any how, while
he is so circumstanced, whether for a longer or a shorter season, this
will hold good ; — viz. the thought of religion is excluded by the force
of the excitement which is on him.

Now then, observe what is the remedy. " Is any afflicted ? let him
pray. Is any merry ? let him sing psalms." Here we see one very
momentous use of prayer and praise to all of us ; it breaks the current
of worldly thoughts. And this is the singular benefit of stated worship,
that it statedly interferes with the urgency of worldly excitements.
Our daily prayer, morning and evening, suspends our occupations of
time and sense. And especially the daily prayers of the Church do
this. I say especially, because a man, amid the business of life, is often
tempted to defraud himself of his private devotions by the pressure of

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 71 of 76)