Hard, but Most Wholesome

From “Our Sacrifice of Pain and Sorrow” (1878)

All these stories then, of our Lord s miraculous doings on earth are our warrant and encouragement to do with our own troubles, what the men of those days were invited to do with theirs: to bring them all, and pour them out, as it were, before our Lord s fatherly presence; to lodge them in his merciful bosom; to submit them to the touch of his healing hand.

As soon as a Christian feels any calamity coming upon him, be it of mind of body or of estate, he should presently turn towards our Lord and his Cross, and offer up that calamity, to be sanctified by him. As Hezekiah, having received a letter full of bad news and unkind words, did not stay brooding over it at home, but took it into the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord; so should we do with all our vexations and troubles. We should lose no time in making them known to God by inward acts of sincere resignation and prayer.

Whether it be pain of body or sorrow of heart, loss of money or loss of friends, discredit or disappointment, low spirits or a troubled conscience; whatever the anguish be, the most compassionate Redeemer’s word is one and the same, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you” (Matt. 9:28). As he had taught his servants to pray before, in the Old Testament, “Whatsoever sore, or whatsoever sickness there be; then what prayer or what supplication soever shall be made of any man, or of all Thy people Israel, when every one shall know his own sore and his own grief, and shall spread forth his hands in this house; then hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling place, and forgive, and render unto every man according unto all his ways” (2 Chron. 6:28-30)

Do you not see, my brethren, how much we may learn from all this, of the manner in which God meant his holy worship to do us good? Especially, His worship in this place? Too many of us ignorantly imagine, that certain troubles, especially troubles of mind, are a good reason why they should not be so particular about their prayers. They say, they were so distressed, they had not the heart to come to Church, to the Holy Communion and the like.

But Scripture plainly encourages us, when we have troubles, to bring them to Church and to Holy Communion, that they may be there made an offering to God, and truly sanctified by him. And so, being of themselves but for a moment, may help to work out for the faithful Christian an “exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17).

I know, it is a very hard thing to do; it is a hard thing, when poverty or sickness or reproach seems coming upon you, to rouse yourself up at the appointed hours, and command your thoughts, and practice that calmness, which should always accompany us, when we are speaking to our God. It is hard, but it is most wholesome, both for the present, and for the future; and he, who prayed all through his own agony, will not fail to be near with help for those who try in earnest to pray to him in their agonies.

John Keble (1792-1866) was an Anglican priest, theologian, and poet, one of the principal leaders of the Oxford Movement, Anglicanism’s nineteenth century Catholic Revival. He is best known for The Christian Year, a popular set of devotional poems that inspired support for liturgical renewal, and for his 1833 Assize Sermon, widely regarded as the spark of the Oxford Movement. He retired from teaching at Oxford in 1836 to become the vicar of Hursley, a village in Hampshire. Many of his parish sermons were published in a posthumous collection called Sermons of the Christian Year, from which this sermon is taken. Keble is commemorated on March 29 on the liturgical calendars of many Anglican churches.


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