Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
For all their faults, one thing that a saint is, in the classical sense of the word, is someone who takes the gospel seriously – even literally. Jesus says to the rich young man, “sell up and give all your possessions to the poor”, so St Francis takes him at his word and presents himself naked in the town square. Jesus says ‘love your enemies’, and so Etty Hillesum attempts to love the Nazi camp officers as human beings, with families and real emotions. This is the very essence of sainthood, and the very essence of radical discipleship. And whilst it seems unrealistic to expect the rest of the church to follow suit, what these saints do, argues [Phyllis] McGinley, is rebuke us in our moderation.
Referring to the radicality of the gospel McGinley notes that these are
soul-stirring slogans which most of us absent-mindedly attend to and admire as we admire lofty phrases. We even try to follow them in moderation. We agree that charity covers a multitude of sins and besides is deductible on the Income Tax. We comfort the afflicted in committee or subscribe to a fund for the relief of earthquake victims a hemisphere away. We take flowers to the hospital, speak with friendship to the folk next door, and give away our old clothes to the deprived.
But the saints, I repeat, are not moderate.
Ian Stackhouse, Primitive Piety, 119.
“Everywhere we look in scripture we are confronted with the scandal of particularity – the gospel itself being the greatest example. We live in a culture that teaches us to abstract, depersonalise, idealise, homogenise, but the incarnation insists on the messiness of the whole thing. We think macro, the Bible thinks micro. We prefer global, the Bible prefers local. We love humanity, the Bible loves people: actual people, who live in actual places, with actual names, and actual churches. Anything less is cowardice.”
Ian Stackhouse, Primitive Piety
A little gem I found from Aquinas’ commentary on John, 4 ways that the Sabbath pointed to Christ:
“God did what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, he condemned sin in his flesh, in order that the requirements of the law might be accomplished in us” (Rom 8:3).
The Jews did not do any work on the Sabbath, as a symbol that there were certain things pertaining to the Sabbath which were to be accomplished, but which the law could not do. This is clear in the four things which God ordained for the Sabbath: for he sanctified the Sabbath day, blessed it, completed his work on it, and then rested. These things the law was not able to do. It could not sanctify; so we read: “Save me, O Lord, for there are no holy people left” (Ps 11:1). Nor could it bless; rather, “Those who rely on the works of the law are under a curse” (Gal 3:10). Neither could it, complete and perfect, because “the law brought nothing to perfection” (Heb 7:19). Nor could it bring perfect rest: “If Joshua had given them rest, God would not be speaking after of another day” (Heb 4:8).
These things, which the law could not do, Christ did. For he sanctified the people by his passion: “Jesus, in order to sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate” (Heb 13:12). He blessed them by an inpouring of grace: “Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing of heaven, in Christ” (Eph 1:3). He brought the people to perfection by instructing them in the ways of perfect justice: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). He also led them to true rest: “We who have believed will find rest,” as is said in Hebrews (4:3). Therefore, it is proper for him to work on the Sabbath, who is able to make perfect those things that pertain to the Sabbath, from which an impotent law rested.
What is the virtue of a horse? Is it to have a bridle studded with gold and straps to match, and a silk band to fasten the housing, and colorful clothes embroidered with gold thread, and headgear studded with jewels, and hair braided with gold cord? Or is it to be swift and strong in its legs, even in its paces, and to have hooves that fit a well-bred horse, and courage for long journeys and warfare, and to be calm on the battlefield, and to save its rider if there is a rout? Isn’t it obvious that these are the things that make the virtue of the horse, and not the others? And what kind of vine should we admire? One that’s covered with leaves and branches, or one loaded down with fruit? Or what kind of virtue belongs to an olive tree? Is it to have big branches and lots of leaves, or is it to have an abundance of its own fruit all over the tree? Well, let’s look at human beings the same way. What is the virtue of a man? Not riches, so that you fear poverty. Not bodily health, so that you are afraid to get sick. Not public opinion, so that you fear a bad reputation. Not life just for its own sake, so that death is terrible to you. Not freedom, so that you avoid servitude. No, the virtue of a man is carefulness in holding true doctrine, and righteous living. Not even the devil himself can take these things away from you if you have them, as long as you take the necessary care to guard them.
St. John Chrysostom, No One Can Harm the Man Who Does Not Injure Himself, 3
“We do not usually measure things rightly. I am persuaded that our weights and scales are out of order. We think we are doing a great deal when we get into a big controversy, or write an article that is read all over the nation, or create a sensation which startles thousands. But, indeed, it is not so! The Lord is not in the wind, nor in the tempest—we must go on with the still small voice of loving instruction and persuasion. You must go on talking with your little children in your classes; you must go on speaking to the few sick persons you are able to visit; you must try and preach Jesus Christ in little rooms, or to dozens and scores in the street corner or on the village green. It is the old-fashioned, quiet personal work which is effective! If we get to think that everything must be big to be good, we shall get into a sorry state of mind. In the little bit of work thoroughly done, God is glorified much more than in the great scheme that is superficial.”
Charles Spurgeon – A Sermon Delivered on Lord’s Day Morning 23 , 1886, (#1901), John 4:31-38
The Holy Spirit presents believers with proof of the life to come. In regeneration, comfort, joy, peace, wisdom, love, power to obey God and miraculous gifts he takes something of the world to come and brings it into our present existence: Christ is raised and we are raised with him, and the whole of creation will be made new! Just as the dove brought Noah a freshly plucked olive leaf, here is a small but undeniable demonstration that new life awaits us. And in that dove’s token we may discern the scale of the wonder of eternal life. All of the blessings we now experience in Christ are only the very tip of just one, newly-grown sapling from the world to come. What a blessed guarantee!
This is how our Saviour taught us diligently to manifest love: first he perfected it in himself, and then he taught those who heard him.
He reconciled our enmity with his Father because he loved us, and he yielded up his innocence in the place of the debtors, and the Good in place of the evil ones was put to shame, and the rich in our behalf was made poor, and the Living died in behalf of the dead, and by his death made alive our death. And the Son of the Lord of all took for our sake the form of a servant, and he to whom all things were subject subjected himself that he might release us from the subjection of sin. And by his great love he gave a blessing to the poor in spirit, and he promised the peace makers they should be called his brothers and sons of God; and he promised the humble that they should inherit the land of life; and he promised the mourners that by their supplications they would be comforted; and he promised to the hungry fullness in his Kingdom; and to those who weep that they should rejoice in his promise; and he promised to the merciful that they should be shown mercy; and to these who are pure in heart he said that they should see God; and again he promised to those who are persecuted on account of righteousness that they should go into the Kingdom of heaven; and to those who are persecuted on account of his name he promised a blessing and rest in his Kingdom. All these things our Saviour did for us because of his great love.
And we also, beloved, should share the love of Christ, while we love one another and fulfill those two commandments, on which hang all the Law and the prophets.
Aphrahat, Demonstration 2, 19
“Communion with the Father Consists in Love. This is the great discovery of the gospel: for whereas the Father, as the fountain of Deity, is not known any other way but as full of wrath, anger and indignation against sin, nor can the sons of men have any other thoughts of him1 – here he is now revealed peculiarly as love, as full of it unto us; the manifestation whereof is the peculiar work of the gospel.”2 John Owen, Communion With The Triune God
1. Rom. 1:18; Isa. 33:13-14; Hab. 1:13; Ps 5:4-6; Eph. 2:3.
2. Titus 3:4.