Not of Littleness, But of Nobility

From “The Vision of God,” The Anglican Pulpit of Today, 240-241 (1885)

As we behold the Divine Image under the light of our own day, must labor to bring to our view of “the world” — the order for a time separated from God — that thought of God which makes it again a fit object of our love, as it is the object of the love of God; to bring to our view of society that conviction of dependence and connection which is at once a safeguard and a motive force; to bring to our view of the present that sense of eternity which transfigures our estimate of great and small, of success and failure.

The transformation of life requires no more; it is possible with no less. And to us as Christians the charge is given to bear this prophetic message to humanity.

True it is that such a vision of God — Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier — entering into fellowship with the beings whom he has made, “gathering up all things to himself,” “making people through the blood of his cross,” shows life to us, as Isaiah saw it, in a most solemn aspect; that it must fill us, as it filled Isaiah, with the sense of our immeasurable unworthiness in the face of Christ’s majesty and Christ’s love; that it must touch us also with something of a cleansing power. And because it is so we can take heart again.

For such emotion, such purification of soul, is the beginning of abiding strength. “He that wonders shall reign,” “He that is near me is near fire,” are among the few traditional sayings attributed to our Lord which seem to be stamped as divine. Awe, awe, the lowliest and the most self-suppressing, is a sign not of littleness, but of nobility. Our power of reverence is a measure of our power of rising. As we bow in intelligent worship before the face of our King, his Spirit — a Spirit of fire — enters into us. We feel that we are made partakers of the divine nature because we can acknowledge with a true faith its spiritual glories, and lay ourselves,

Passive and still before the awful Throne

Consumed, yet quickened, by the glance of God.

Brooke Foss Wescott (1825-1901) was a British biblical scholar and theologian, and served as Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, and, from 1890, as Bishop of Durham. He was the author of several influential commentaries and, with F. J. A. Hort, a pioneering critical edition of the New Testament. His teaching had a mystical character, but he was also a committed Christian socialist. He preached the sermon “The Vision of God” at Great St. Mary’s in Cambridge during his time as Regius Professor, on Trinity Sunday, 1885.


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