Knew We?

From “Sermon Preached on Saturday Evening before All Saints,” (1845)

But deeper, more marvelous, mystery yet! What marvel that angels enlarge their joy, when he, the Lord of angels and their God, is said to rejoice? You know, brethren, who is that Good Shepherd, who when out of the perfect number of his creatures, his hundred sheep, that one sheep — man — fell, and the number of those who should love and worship him, was broken, left his Father’s glory and those ninety-nine sheep, the angelic hosts, safe indeed and fenced still and encompassed by his almighty hand, in what seemed, as it were, a desert, because man, its heir, had forfeited it. You know who sought his own lost sheep, laid down his life for him, and returned bringing with him the firstling of his flock, a penitent…

Are we then alone, my brethren, the sheep of Christ? Are we alone the lost and found? If found ourselves — and we indeed hope, that when lost and astray he sought us — can we help yearning, with his own love, over his other sheep yet scattered in this evil world, that they too may be gathered, and be one fold under one shepherd? Can we, in the wide wilderness of this land, where so many souls are, with the prodigal which we once were, “perishing for hunger,” while, not for any deserts of ours but according to his mercy he has drawn us back to his own house, has spread a table before us, given to us angels’ food, and the good shepherd feeds us with his own blood – can we not long for those who might be gathered and are not?

He who has so loved us, loves them. He who died for us, died for them. He who, in part through the ministry of others, has sought us, would, through us, seek them. If as, one by one, he regained us who had erred and strayed, like lost sheep, in negligence or still deeper sin, uplifted us when fallen, bound us when broken, and laid us on his shoulders rejoicing, there was joy in heaven, how much more, when many, at once, are gathered! And shall we hope that angels have joyed and do joy over us, and not long that, through us, they should joy over others also, like us lost, but not, like us, (as we hope,) as yet restored? shall we, who are admitted to the citizenship with the angels, not ourselves joy with angels’ joy? Could we not almost think that we could hear the echoes of the angels’ joy, when these houses of God arise, as folds for repentant sinners, to gather in his returning sheep? Or if we share not this their joy, think we that we shall be owned by him with whom they rejoice, because he hath found the sheep which was lost?

My brethren, lukewarmness about the salvation of our brethren is no good token for ourselves. Knew we from what pit we had ourselves, as we hope, been saved; knew we by what undeserved mercy we had been sought, and, as we hope, found; knew we him, by whose love we had been gathered, and, if we are saved, on his shoulders rest; could we be careless, while those around are not found, because we seek them not? Our very blessings condemn us, if we impart them not. To be careless about others’ salvation is to risk our own. For they only are saved who love. And can we indeed love God, if we long not that all around us should love him who has so loved us, in whose love we have found our rest?

Love is the mark of his sheep. The good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep, has said to us by his apostle, “And we should lay down our lives for the brethren.” He who stooped so low to our misery and sin, that he might raise us so high, to be “with the princes of his people,” before his Father’s throne, yes, to “sit down with him in his throne,” says to us. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” Bear we then indeed the tokens of him who was wounded and bruised in his search for us, who “was himself led as a lamb to the slaughter, and was as a sheep dumb before his shearers,” if we part with none of our luxuries or comforts or ease to bind up that which was bruised or bring back that which is astray? If we care not for those who are, with us, the flock of Christ, shall we be placed at the last day among that flock we cared not for? Are we indeed his sheep, or are we not rather of “the goats?”

Oh think what it was, once to have been lost; what had it been to have been left as lost; what it is to have been found by him; what at the last great day to be found in him; what to share the angels’, yes your master’s joy, (is it not a foretaste of everlasting joy, to joy with him over them, who with you shall joy in him forever?) and as he has loved you, love him in them!

In whatever lawful way God opens to you, by all acts of love and tenderness, by tender warnings where you may, by loving care for the lambs of Christ, by gentle ministering to the bodies and souls of the sick and afflicted when the soul is most open to holy influences, by making peace, by helping, if it may be, to restore the fallen, by self-denying toil or alms, by the charity of daily prayers for the conversion of your fellow-sinners, show forth your love; and he, the fountain of your love, shall himself be its everlasting reward; he who gives you to joy with him here, shall in his everlasting kingdom joy over you and in you; his “joy shall remain in you, that your joy may be full.”

Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882) was a priest who served as Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford for more than fifty years. He was among the primary leaders of the Oxford Movement, Anglicanism’s Catholic revival. He wrote several of the Tracts of the Times, and sacramental confession and religious sisterhoods were restored in the Church of England through his influence. This sermon is part of a series Pusey preached in association with the consecration of St. Saviour’s, Leeds, one of the first parish churches to be modeled on the principles of the Oxford Movement, whose construction he anonymously funded. He is commemorated on September 18 on the liturgical calendars of several Anglican churches.

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