We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sermon XII: Endurance of Church Imperfections

When God seems to be breaking down what He hath built, and plucking up what He hath planted; when we know not how soon our house may be left unto us desolate; let us not then, of all times, be seeking great things for ourselves; neither in the way of temporal safety and ease, nor even in the way of spiritual assurance and comfort; but let us turn our thoughts more dutifully than ever to the plain straightforward keeping of the Commandments of God, to the calls and obligations of every hour and moment; to purity, charity, humility, and the fear of God: accounting it a great thing, if we do but probably see our way in the very next step we are to take, and if we have but a reasonable chance of being in God's Church now, and of pardon and peace when we come to the eternal world ...

"If the Communion in which you are placed by God's Providence has prima facie the most evident notes of the Church, all except visible Communion with other parts of Christendom: if it appear to be linked by due succession with those who were sent out to preach among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem: if it acknowledge the same Scriptures, and interpret them by the same Creeds, as did the whole Church in her days of perfect union: if it seem also to possess the Holy Sacraments unmutilated in all things essential, or at least as completely so as those who invite you away from it: (for surely the omission of the Cup in the Eucharist is in itself a greater liberty to take with the institution of Jesus Christ, than any deviation allowed by us from the services of the early Church;)—if your Church, moreover, pray constantly for the actual Communion which it unhappily wants, and have never yet forfeited it, as the Donatists did, by pronouncing other Churches out of the Body of Christ:—then continue in it, and do your best for it, by prayer, by good works, by patience, by self-denial, by humility: not encouraging in yourself any doubt of Christ's Presence within it, but so endeavouring to realize that Presence, that you may do what in you lies towards recovering the fulness of His grace, both for this and for other portions of His Body: full and actual as well as virtual unity: full and definite guidance in all material points, as well as in the fundamentals of the Faith: full Sacraments where they are now mutilated: the body of discipline where there is now but the desire of it: encouragement for high and self-denying rules of life, where such are now but barely tolerated ..."

Judging by God's doings of old, the way of the Cross is the only way, by which these blessings can ever be restored. And as things stand at present, the mark of the Cross seems rather to belong to those who struggle on in a decayed and perhaps still decaying Church, bearing their burden as they may, than to those who allow their imaginations to dwell on fancied improvements, and blessings to be obtained on possible changes of Communion.

-- John Keble

Via dolorosa.

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