The Real Union

From “The Promise to Jacob,” University Sermons (1881)

This was Jacob’s consolation when he slept that first night away from his father’s house: “Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, I will not leave thee until I have done all that which I have spoken to thee of.” It is the consolation of a personal presence that is offered, and this consolation, we know, may be ours with a clearness not revealed to Jacob; he saw the ladder set up from earth to heaven, and angels ascending and descending, as evidence of the reality of the communion between himself and God; we know the real union between man and God through him, who is both God and man; we have seen greater things than Jacob saw, even angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man ; through him we know we have access by one Spirit to the Father. The Son of God has promised to be with us always till the end of the world; and, further, he withdrew his visible presence that another Comforter, as true a person as himself, might be our companion with a closeness that no earthly companionship can equal.

Nay, we know that so far from mere obedience to a moral code being the aim and satisfaction of men’s personal freedom, he has told us that the reward of our obedience is the satisfaction of our personality, the release from its sense of singleness in the consciousness of the presence of another Person in the union of love; even the promise of the indwelling companionship of the Three Persons of the ever blessed Trinity, for He who made us and redeemed us, has said, “If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him.’

Personal devotedness to a personal God is one of the chief marks of a true religion. The Bible calls it walking before the face of God, walking with God. Christianity in its essential working, is not a religion of detachment, but of attachment; a religion not of fear, but of love. It is the assurance of the companionship of a Friend always able and willing to guide, check, and support us in all dangers ; a Friend whose rod and staff will still be with us, guiding, protecting, even through the valley of the shadow of death; a Friend whose constant companionship ought to lift up our fallen countenance, and give us, even now, on the journey of life, a brightness that should witness to those who meet us of the reality of the companionship we enjoy — all this is no mere language of theoretical theology, or excited devotional feeling, but may be the sure experience of your daily lives. A singular sense of security, a peculiar independence of place and time, a secret satisfaction, a quiet courage, an inward peace, an increasing hope, a purer, truer, and more extending love — these are some of the well-known proofs of the reality of our personal relation with God, and of his companionship with us.

Edward King (1829-1910) was one of the great leaders of late nineteenth century Anglo-Catholicism, widely admired for his courage and personal holiness. He was Regius Professor of Moral Theology at Oxford and played a key role in the founding of St. Stephen’s House, Oxford. He became Bishop of Lincoln in 1889, serving until his death. King is commemorated on the calendar of the Church of England on March 8.


Online Archives