For the Salvation of His Soul

From “The Companion of the Saints,” Sermons for the Christian Year, X.400-401 (1875)

We must not look on things after the outward appearance; we must not be carried away with beauty, or strength, or skill, or what is called cleverness, or with learning, or with mirth and amusing ways, or with any such thing : we must always stop and ask ourselves, ” Does this man fear God ? Does he keep His commandments?” before we choose any to be our friend.

And, on the other hand, when we clearly see that any one is truly devout in his life and conversation, a lover of God and good men, a humble and watchful servant of Christ, and an obedient member of his holy catholic Church, we ought not to draw back from him on account of any outward disadvantages, or for any of the thousand fanciful reasons which, as weak vain mortals, we are apt to be so much governed by. St. Luke did not so withdraw himself from the great apostle, because “his bodily presence was weak, and his speech contemptible.” He was superior to such childish unworthy feelings.

And this is the more remarkable, as it seems from St. Luke’s writings, and from what is told concerning him, that he was a person of more education, higher breeding, as it is called, than the holy writers were in general. No doubt he was a judge of good speaking, fine writing, and other such matters, and of what is beautiful and otherwise. There was a tradition among the ancient Christians, that he was a painter of no small skill.

But none of these things moved him, neither outward beauty, nor ready speech, nor worldly wisdom and accomplishments; but he chose to be with St. Paul, because he saw that St. Paul was chief among those who feared God and kept His commandments. It was not for his own pleasure, or credit, or consequence, that he joined himself to the apostle, but for the salvation of his soul; and therefore he did not look to those things in his friend, which the world might take notice of and admire, but to his bright and pure example, and to the grace of God which was in him.

And having made his choice, he kept constantly to it. Others fell away from S. Paul’s company, when times grew bad and death seemed to draw near. Demas forsook him, as thinking himself well off in this present world; and not only Demas, but many others: for he writes, that when he first appeared on his trial before Caesar, no man stood by him, but all forsook him. ” Only Luke,” he says, “is with me.”

Thus we see how constant their friendship is, which is founded on the fear of God, and keeping his commandments. It fails not, for it is built on a rock, and that rock is Christ; Christ, in whom such friends are firmly knit together, as members of the same body, and cannot, therefore, fail to have the same care one of another.

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 was among the principal authors of The Tracts for the Times, a series of 90 pamphlets that announced the Oxford Movement’s aims to the wider church. His parochial sermons were published posthumously as Sermons for the Christian Year. Keble is commemorated on March 29 on the liturgical calendars of many Anglican churches.

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