All Saints Day
For the First Nocturn
(From the Gospel of St. Mathew 5:1,2)
JESUS seeing the multitudes, went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
(From the Catena Aurea, of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Gospel ofMathew 5:1-3)
Pseudo-Chrys.: Every man in his own trade or profession rejoices when he sees an opportunity of exercising it; the carpenter if he sees a goodly tree desires to have it to cut down to employ his skill on, and the Priest when he sees a full Church, his heart rejoices, he is glad of the occasion to teach. So the Lord seeing a great congregation of people was stirred to teach them.Aug., de Cons. Evan., ii, 19: Or He may be thought to have sought to shun the thickest crowd, and to have ascended the mountain that He might speak to His disciples alone.
Chrys., Hom. 4: By not choosing His seat in the city, and the market place, but on a mountain in a desert, He has taught us to do nothing with ostentation, and to depart from crowds, above all when we are to be employed in philosophy, or in speaking of serious things.
Remig.: This should be known, that the Lord had three places of retirement that we read of, the ship, the mountain, and the desert; to one of these He was wont to withdraw whenever He was pressed by the multitude.
Jerome: Some of the less learned brethren suppose the Lord to have spoken what follows from the Mount of Olives, which is by no means the case; what went before and what follows fixes the place in Galilee - Mount Tabor, [ed. note: Mount Tabor is asserted by the Fathers and by tradition coming down to the present day to be the scene of the Transfiguration. But S. Jerome seems to be the only author who speaks of it as the scene of the Sermon on the Mount. The mount of the Beatitudes according to modern travellers lies near to Capernaum, and ten miles north of Mount Tabor. See Grewell Diss. vol. ii. 294. Pococke"s Descrip. of the East, vol. ii. 67] we may suppose, or any other high mountain.
Chrys.: "He ascended a mountain," first, that He might fulfil the prophecy of Esaias, "Get thee up into a mountain;" [Isaiah 40:9] secondly, to shew that as well he who teaches, as he who hears the righteousness of God should stand on a high ground of spiritual virtues; for none can abide in the valley and speak from a mountain. If thou stand on the earth, speak of the earth; if thou speak of heaven, stand in heaven.
Or, He ascended into the mountain to shew that all who would learn the mysteries of the truth should go up into the Mount of the Church of which the Prophet speaks, "The hill of God is a hill of fatness." [Psalms 68:15]
Hilary: Or, He ascends the mountain, because it is placed in the loftiness of His Father"s Majesty that He gives the commands of heavenly life.
Aug., de Serm. Dom. in Mont. i. 1: Or, He ascends the mountain to shew that the precepts of righteousness given by God through the Prophets to the Jews, who were yet under the bondage of fear, were the lesser commandments; but that by His own Son were given the greater commandments to a people which He had determined to deliver by love.
Jerome: He spoke to them sitting and not standing, for they could not have understood Him had He appeared in His own Majesty.
Aug.: Or, to teach sitting is the prerogative of the Master. "His disciples came to him," that they who is spirit approached more nearly to keeping His commandments, should also approach Him nearest with their bodily presence.
Rabanus: Mystically, this sitting down of Christ is His incarnation; had He not taken flesh on Him, mankind could not have come unto Him.
Aug., de Cons. Evan., ii, 19: It cause a thought how it is that Matthew relates this sermon to have been delivered by the Lord sitting on the mountain; Luke, as He stood in the plain. This diversity in their accounts would lead us to think that the occasions were different. Why should not Christ repeat once more what He said before, or do once more what He had done before? Although another method of reconciling the two may occur to us; namely, that our Lord was first with His disciples alone on some more lofty peak of the mountain when He chose the twelve; that He then descended with them not from the mountain entirely, but from the top to some expanse of level ground in the side, capable of holding a great number of people; that He stood there while the crowd was gathering around Him, and after when He had sat down, then His disciples came near to Him, and so to them and in the presence of the rest of the multitude He spoke the same sermon which Matthew and Luke give, in a different manner, but with equal truth of facts.
Greg., Moral., iv, 1: When the Lord on the mountain is about to utter His sublime precepts, it is said,"Opening his mouth he taught them," He who had before opened the mouth of the Prophets.
Remig.: Wherever it is said that the Lord opened His mouth, we may know how great things are to follow.
Aug., de Serm. in Mount. i, 1: Or, the phrase is introductory of an address longer than ordinary.
Chrys.: Or, that we may understand that He sometimes teaches by opening His mouth in speech, sometimes by that voice which resounds from His works.
(From the 39 Articles of Religion)
WE are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.
ALBEIT that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God's Judgement; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith; insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.
VOLUNTARY Works besides, over, and above, God's Commandments, which they call Works of Supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety: for by them men do declare, that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to do, but that they do more for his sake, than of bounden duty is required: whereas Christ saith plainly, When ye have done all that are commanded to you, say, We are unprofitable servants.
For the Second Nocturn
(From the Gospel of St. Mathew 5:3-9)
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their's is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
(From the Rt. Rev. J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospel Matt 5:1-12)
The three chapters which begin with these verses deserve the special attention of all readers of the Bible. They contain what is commonly called the "sermon on the mount."
Every word of the Lord Jesus ought to be most precious to professing Christians. It is the voice of the chief Shepherd. It is the charge of the great Bishop and Head of the Church. It is the Master speaking. It is the word of Him who "spoke as never man spoke," and by whom we shall all be judged at the last day.
Would we know what kind of people Christians ought to be? Would we know the character at which Christians ought to aim? Would we know the outward walk and inward habit of mind which become a follower of Jesus? Then let us often study the sermon on the mount. Let us often ponder each sentence, and prove ourselves by it. Not least let us often consider who they are that are called BLESSED at the beginning of the sermon. Those whom the great High Priest blesses are blessed indeed.
The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who are poor in spirit . He means the humble, and lowly-minded, and self-abased. He means those who are deeply convinced of their own sinfulness in God's sight. These are they who are not "wise in their own eyes and holy in their own sight." They are not "rich and increased with goods." They do not imagine that they need nothing. They regard themselves as "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Blessed are all such! Humility is the very first letter in the alphabet of Christianity. We must begin low, if we would build high.
The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who mourn . He means those who sorrow for sin, and grieve daily over their own short-comings. These are they who trouble themselves more about sin than about anything on earth. The remembrance of it is grievous to them. The burden of it is intolerable. Blessed are all such! "The sacrifices of God are a broken and contrite spirit." One day they shall weep no more. "They shall be comforted."
The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who are meek . He means those who are of a patient and contented spirit. They are willing to put up with little honor here below. They can bear injuries without resentment. They are not ready to take offence. Like Lazarus in the parable, they are content to wait for their good things. Blessed are all such! They are never losers in the long run. One day they shall "reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:10.)
The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who hunger and thirst after righteousness. He means those who desire above all things to be entirely conformed to the mind of God. They long not so much to be rich, or wealthy, or learned, as to be holy. Blessed are all such! They shall have enough one day. They shall "awake up after God's likeness and be satisfied." (Psalms 17:15.)
The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who are merciful . He means those who are full of compassion towards others. They pity all who are suffering either from sin or sorrow, and are tenderly desirous to make their sufferings less. They are full of good works, and endeavors to do good. Blessed are all such! Both in this life and that to come they shall reap a rich reward.
The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who are pure in heart . He means those who do not aim merely at outward correctness, but at inward holiness. They are not satisfied with a mere external show of religion. They strive to keep a heart and conscience void of offence, and to serve God with the spirit and the inner man. Blessed are all such! The heart is the man. "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7.) He that is most spiritual-minded will have most communion with God.
The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who are peacemakers . He means those who use all their influence to promote peace and charity on earth, in private and in public, at home and abroad. He means those who strive to make all men love one another, by teaching that Gospel which says, "love is the fulfilling of the law." Blessed are all such! They are doing the very work which the Son of God began, when he came to earth the first time, and which He will finish when He returns the second time.
Lastly, the Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who are persecuted for righteousness sake . He means those who are laughed at, mocked, despised, and ill-used,because they endeavor to live as true Christians. Blessed are all such! They drink of the same cup which their Master drank. They are now confessing Him before men, and He will confess them before His Father and the angels at the last day. "Great is their reward."
Such are the eight foundation-stones, which the Lord lays down at the beginning of the sermon on the mount. Eight great testing truths are placed before us. May we mark well each one of them, and learn wisdom!
Let us learn how entirely contrary are the principles of Christ to the principles of the world. It is vain to deny it. They are almost diametrically opposed. The very characters which the Lord Jesus praises, the world despises. The very pride, and thoughtlessness, and high tempers, and worldliness, and selfishness, and formality, and unlovingness, which abound everywhere, the Lord Jesus condemns.
Let us learn how unhappily different is the teaching of Christ from the practice of many professing Christians. Where shall we find men and women among those who go to churches and chapels, who are striving to live up to the pattern we have read of today? Alas! there is much reason to fear, that many baptized people are utterly ignorant of what the New Testament contains.
Above all let us learn how holy and spiritual-minded all believers should be. They should never aim at any standard lower than that of the sermon on the mount. Christianity is eminently a practical religion. Sound doctrine is its root and foundation, but holy living should always be its fruit. And if we would know what holy living is, let us often bethink ourselves who they are that Jesus calls "blessed."
(from Wesley’s Explanatory Notes: Matt 5:3-9)
3. Happy are the poor - In the following discourse there is, A sweet invitation to true holiness and happiness, Matthew 5:3-12 . A persuasive to impart it to others, Matthew 5:13-16 . A description of true Christian holiness,Matthew 5:17 ; Matthew 7:12 . (in which it is easy to observe, the latter part exactly answers the former.) The conclusion: giving a sure mark of the true way, warning against false prophets, exhorting to follow after holiness. The poor in spirit - They who are unfeignedly penitent, they who are truly convinced of sin; who see and feel the state they are in by nature, being deeply sensible of their sinfulness, guiltiness, helplessness. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven - The present inward kingdom: righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, as well as the eternal kingdom, if they endure to the end. Luke 6:20 .
4. They that mourn - Either for their own sins, or for other men's, and are steadily and habitually serious. They shall be comforted - More solidly and deeply even in this world, and eternally in heaven.
5. Happy are the meek - They that hold all their passions and affections evenly balanced. They shall inherit the earth - They shall have all things really necessary for life and godliness. They shall enjoy whatever portion God hath given them here, and shall hereafter possess the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
6. They that hunger and thirst after righteousness - After the holiness here described. They shall be satisfied with it.
7. The merciful - The tender - hearted: they who love all men as themselves: They shall obtain mercy - Whatever mercy therefore we desire from God, the same let us show to our brethren. He will repay us a thousand fold, the love we bear to any for his sake.
8. The pure in heart - The sanctified: they who love God with all their hearts. They shall see God - In all things here; hereafter in glory.
9. The peace makers - They that out of love to God and man do all possible good to all men. Peace in the Scripture sense implies all blessings temporal and eternal. They shall be called the children of God - Shall be acknowledged such by God and man. One would imagine a person of this amiable temper and behaviour would be the darling of mankind. But our Lord well knew it would not be so, as long as Satan was the prince of this world. He therefore warns them before of the treatment all were to expect, who were determined thus to tread in his steps, by immediately subjoining, Happy are they who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. Through this whole discourse we cannot but observe the most exact method which can possibly be conceived. Every paragraph, every sentence, is closely connected both with that which precedes, and that which follows it. And is not this the pattern for every Christian preacher? If any then are able to follow it without any premeditation, well: if not, let them not dare to preach without it. No rhapsody, no incoherency, whether the things spoken be true or false, comes of the Spirit of Christ.
For the Third Nocturn
(From the Gospel of St. Mathew 5:10-12)
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for their's is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
(from Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible: Matt 5:10-12)
10.Happy are they who suffer persecution The disciples of Christ have very great need of this instruction; and the more hard and disagreeable it is for the flesh to admit it, the more earnestly ought we to make it the subject of our meditation. We cannot be Christ’s soldiers (369) on any other condition, than to have the greater part of the world rising in hostility against us, and pursuing us even to death. The state of the matter is this. Satan, the prince of the world, will never cease to fill his followers with rage, to carry on hostilities against the members of Christ. It is, no doubt, monstrous and unnatural, that men, who study to live a righteous life, should be attacked and tormented in a way which they do not deserve. And so Peter says,“Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” (1 Peter 3:13.)
Yet, in consequence of the unbridled wickedness of the world, it too frequently happens, that good men, through a zeal of righteousness, arouse against them the resentments of the ungodly. Above all, it is, as we may say, the ordinary lot of Christians to be hated by the majority of men: for the flesh cannot endure the doctrine of the Gospel; none can endure to have their vices reproved.
Who suffer on account of righteousness This is descriptive of those who inflame the hatred, and provoke the rage, of wicked men against them, because, through an earnest desire to do what is good and right, they oppose bad causes and defend good ones, as far as lies in their power. Now, in this respect, the truth of God justly holds the first rank. Accordingly, by this mark Christ distinguishes his own martyrs from criminals and malefactors.
I now return to what I said a little before, that as, all that will live godly in Christ Jesus “(Paul informs us), shall suffer persecution,” (2 Timothy 3:12,) this admonition has a general reference to all the godly. But if, at any time, the Lord spares our weakness, and does not permit the ungodly to torment us as they would desire, yet, during the season of repose and leisure, it is proper for us to meditate on this doctrine, that we may be ready, whenever it shall be necessary, to enter the field, and may not engage in the contest till we have been well prepared. As the condition of the godly, during the whole course of this life, is very miserable, Christ properly calls them to the hope of the heavenly life. And here lies the main difference between Christ’s paradox and the ravings of the Stoics, who ordered that every man should be satisfied in his own mind, and should be the author of his own happiness: while Christ does not suspend our happiness on a vain imagination, but rests it on the hope of a future reward.
11.When they shall cast reproaches on you Luke 6:22 When men shall hate you, and separate you, and load you with reproaches, and cast out your name as evil By these words Christ intended to comfort those who believe in him; that they may not lose courage, even though they see themselves to be detestable in the eyes of the world. For this was no light temptation, to be thrown out of the Church as ungodly and profane. Christ knew that there is no class of men more envenomed than hypocrites, and foresaw with what furious madness the enemies of the Gospel would attack his small and despised flock. It was therefore his will to furnish them with a sure defense, that they might not give way, though an immense mass of reproaches were ready to overwhelm them. And hence it appears, how little reason there is to dread the excommunication of the Pope, when those tyrants banish us from their synagogues, because we are unwilling to renounce Christ.
12.Rejoice ye, and leap for joy The meaning is, a remedy is at hand, that we may not be overwhelmed by unjust reproaches: for, as soon as we raise our minds to heaven, we there behold vast grounds of joy, which dispel sadness. The idle reasonings of the Papists, about the word reward, which is here used, are easily refuted: for there is not (as they dream) a mutual relation between the reward and merit, but the promise of the reward is free. Besides, if we consider the imperfections and faults of any good works that are done by the very best of men, there will be no work which God can judge to be worthy of reward.
We must advert once more to the phrases, on my account, or, on account of the Son of Man, (Luke 6:22;) and lying, shall speak every evil word against you; that he who suffers persecution for his own fault (1 Peter 2:20) may not forthwith boast that he is a martyr of Christ, as the Donatists, in ancient times, were delighted with themselves on this single ground, that the magistrates were against them. And in our own day the Anabaptists, while they disturb the Church by their ravings, and slander the Gospel, boast that they are carrying the banners of Christ, when they are justly condemned. But Christ pronounces those only to be happy who are employed in defending a righteous cause.
For so did they persecute This was expressly added, that the apostles might not expect to triumph without exertion and without a contest, and might not fail, when they encountered persecutions. The restoration of all things, under the reign of Christ, being everywhere promised in Scripture, there was danger, lest they might not think of warfare, but indulge in vain and proud confidence. It is evident from other passages, that they foolishly imagined the kingdom of Christ to be filled with wealth and luxuries.(371) Christ had good reason for warning them, that, as soon as they succeeded to the place of the prophets, they must sustain the same contests in which the prophets were formerly engaged. The prophets who were before you This means not only, that the prophets were before them with respect to the order of time, but that they were of the same class with themselves, and ought therefore to be followed as their example. The notion commonly entertained, of making out nine distinct beatitudes, is too frivolous to need a long refutation.
(from a Sermon by St Bede the Venerable)
TO-DAY, 1 beloved, we celebrate in the joy of one solemnity, the festival of All Saints, in whose companionship the heaven exults; in whose guardianship the earth rejoices; by whom triumphs the Holy Church is crowned; whose confession, as braver in its passion, is also brighter in its honor—because while the battle increased, the glory of them that fought in it was also augmented. And the triumph of martyrdom is adorned with the manifold kind of its torments, because the more severe the pangs, the more illustrious also were the rewards; while our Mother, the Catholic Church, was taught by her Head, Jesus Christ, not to fear contumely, affliction, death, and more and more strengthened—not by resistance, but by endurance—inspired all of that illustrious number who suffered imprisonment or torture, with one and equal ardor to fight the battle for triumphal glory. 1
O truly blessed Mother Church! so illuminated by the honor of divine condescension, so adorned by the glorious blood of triumphant martyrs, so decked with the inviolate confession of snow white virginity! Among its flowers neither roses nor lilies are wanting. Endeavor now, beloved, each for yourselves, in each kind of honor, to obtain your own dignity—crowns, snow white for chastity, or purple for passion. In those heavenly camps, both peace and war have their own flowers wherewith the soldiers of Christ are crowned. 2
For the ineffable and unbounded goodness of God has provided this also, that the time for labor and for agony should not be extended—not long, not enduring, but short, and, so to speak, momentary; that in this short and little life should be the pain and the labors, that in the life which is eternal should be the crown and the reward of merits; that the labors should quickly come to an end, but the reward of endurance should remain without end; that after the darkness of this world they should behold that most beautiful light, and should receive a blessedness greater than the bitterness of all passions; as the apostle beareth witness, when he saith, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” 3
With how joyous a breast the heavenly city receives those that return from flight! How happily she meets them that bear the trophies of the conquered enemy! And with triumphant men, women also come, who rose superior both to this world, and to their sex, doubling the glory of their welfare; virgins with youths, who surpassed their tender years by their virtues. Yet not they alone, but the rest of the multitude of the faithful shall also enter the palace of that eternal court, who in peaceful union have observed the heavenly commandments, and have maintained the purity of the faith. 4
But above all these things is the being associated with the companies of angels and archangels, thrones and dominations, principalities and powers, and the enjoyment of the watches of all the celestial virtues—to behold the squadron of the saints, adorned with stars; the patriarchs, glittering with faith; the prophets, rejoicing in hope; the apostles, who in the twelve tribes of Israel, shall judge the whole world; the martyrs, decked with the purple diadems of victory; the virgins, also, with their wreaths of beauty. But of the King, who is in the midst, no words are able to speak. That beauty, that virtue, that glory, that magnificence, that majesty, surpasses every expression, every sense of the human mind. For it is greater than the glory of all saints; but to attain to that ineffable sight, and to be made radiant with the splendor of His countenance, it were worth while to suffer torment every day—it were worth while to endure hell itself for a season, so that we might behold Christ coming in glory, and be joined to the number of the saints; so is it not then well worth while to endure earthly sorrows, that we may be partakers of such good, and of such glory? 5
What, beloved brethren, will be the glory of the righteous; what that great gladness of the saints, when every face shall shine as the sun; when the Lord shall begin to count over in distinct orders His people, and to receive them into the kingdom of His Father, and to render to each the rewards promised to their merits and to their works—things heavenly for things earthly, things eternal for things temporal, a great reward for a little labor; to introduce the saints to the vision of His Father’s glory; and “to make them sit down in heavenly places,” to the end that God may be all in all; and to bestow on them that love Him that eternity which He has promised to them—that immortality for which He has redeemed them by the quickening of His own blood; lastly, to restore them to Paradise, and to open the kingdom of heaven by the faith and verity of His promise? 6
Let us consider that Paradise is our country, as well as theirs; and so we shall begin to reckon the patriarchs as our fathers. Why do we not, then, hasten and run, that we may behold our country and salute our parents? A great multitude of dear ones is there expecting us; a vast and mighty crowd of parents, brothers, and children, secure now of their own safety, anxious yet for our salvation, long that we may come to their right and embrace them, to that joy which will be common to us and to them, to that pleasure expected by our fellow servants as well as ourselves, to that full and perpetual felicity…. If it be a pleasure to go to them, let us eagerly and covetously hasten on our way, that we may soon be with them, and soon be with Christ; that we may have Him as our Guide in this journey, who is the Author of Salvation, the Prince of Life, the Giver of Gladness, and who liveth and reigneth with God the Father Almighty and with the Holy Ghost.