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Sermon for Palm Sunday
How a man ought in all His works to regard God alone, and purely to make Him his end without anything of his own, and shall freely and simply perform all these works for the glory of God only, and not seek his own, nor desire nor expect any reward. Wherewith he may do such works without any self-appropriation or reference to time and number, before or after, and without modes. How the Divine Word speaks and reveals itself in the soul, all in a lofty and subtile sense.
Matt. xxi. 10-17.—“And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus, the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves: And said unto them, It is written: My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple; and He healed them. And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David, they were sore displeased, and said unto Him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise? And He left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and He lodged there.”
WE read in the holy Gospel how that our Lord went into the Temple, and drove out those who were buying and selling therein, and said to those who sold doves: “Take these things hence.” 300Herewith He signified nought else but that He would have the temple empty; just as if He had said: “I have a right to this temple, and will dwell there alone, and have the sole rule therein.” Now what is this temple of which God is minded to have possession even by force, and to rule according to His own will? It is the soul of man, which He has created and fashioned so truly in His own likeness; as we read that God said: “Let us make man after our image.” And He has done so too, and made the soul of man so like Himself, that there is nothing in heaven or on earth so like Himself as that is. For which reason God will have this temple to be empty, that nothing be there but He alone; and the cause why this temple pleases Him so well, is that it is so like Himself, and He loveth to be in it forasmuch as He is there alone.
Now mark, who were the people who were buying and selling, and whom do they represent at this day? Now observe, I intend to speak only of the good people who thus bought and sold, and yet whom our Lord scourged and drove out, and do not mean to say anything to-day concerning open sinners, who knowingly live in the commission of deadly sins. And the Lord does the same now-a-days to all who buy and sell in His temple, for such He will not suffer to remain therein. Behold, dear children, all those are traders who keep themselves from open sins, and would fain be good people, and do their works to the glory of God, and perform many good works, such as fasting, watching, praying, and the like; yet do it all in order that our Lord may give them, or do for them, something that they wish, and thus they seek themselves in all things. All such are traders; 301that is, to speak in vulgar language, they wish to give one thing in exchange for another, and would fain thus drive a traffic with our Lord; and they are deceived in their bargain, for all that they possess or are able to perform they have received from God, and consequently God does not owe them anything in return, nor is He bound to do anything for them, except, indeed, He would do it of His free bounty. What they are, they are of God; and what they become, they have received of God and not from themselves; therefore God owes them nothing in return for their works and their gifts, unless He do it of His own pleasure, of His grace, and not for the sake of their works and gifts; for they have nothing of their own to give, they do not even do their good works of their own power; as Christ said: “Without me ye can do nothing!” Those who would thus bargain with our Lord are thick-headed and ignorant men, who have little or no insight into the truth, wherefore God scourges them and drives them out of the temple. Light and darkness cannot dwell together. God is the Truth and Light in Himself; when, therefore, He cometh into His temple, He drives out of it ignorance and darkness, and reveals Himself with light and truth. Then when the truth is perceived, the buyers and sellers are gone; and the truth will have nothing to do with trafficking. God does not seek His own; all His works are done voluntarily and in singleness of purpose; He does them for very love. So likewise is it with the man who is united with God: his works also are done voluntarily and in singleness of mind, and he does them for love without any wherefore—that is, without any regard to himself—to the glory of God 302only, and seeketh not his own in them; and God works them through him.
I say further, so long as a man in any of his works is seeking or desiring anything that God has to give, or will give hereafter, he is like these traffickers. But if thou wouldst be quite pure from such a mercenary spirit, thou must do thy utmost in good works simply for the praise of God, and shalt stand apart from it all, as if thou hadst not done it; thou shalt ask nothing in return. If thou doest thy works in this spirit, then are they godly and spiritual. And then the buyers and sellers are altogether driven out of the temple, and God alone dwelleth there, when thou purposest nothing but what God purposeth.
Now mark, there is yet a higher state than that of the traders, which is indicated to us in this Gospel; namely, that of the men who perform their works with a sincerely good intent, and yet are hindered from coming to the closest union with God, inasmuch as they still carry on some traffic and converse with the creatures, and are thus like the money-changers and those who sold doves, whose tables and seats the Lord overthrew. For although this their occupation was at first begun by certain of them with a good intent, it was an unseemly practice, and was afterwards turned to the greatest abuses of covetousness, rather than to the service of God. So likewise it is with the persons of whom I am speaking; for although their intent is good, and they do their good works sincerely for God’s sake, and do not seek their own therein, yet nevertheless they do them with self-appropriation, with time and number, with images and reference 303to before and after. By these things they are hindered from coming to the best and highest truth; for they ought to keep themselves free and empty of all that is accidental, from pleasure and pain, even as our Lord is free and alone, and receiveth Himself ever afresh, without interval or time, from His Heavenly Father, and in the same Now is ever without ceasing begotten afresh in perfectness, with thankful praise, into the Majesty of the Father, in co-equal dignity. In like manner must the man who desireth to perceive the highest truth, and to live therein without before or after, and without let or hindrance from any of the outward acts or mental images with which he has ever been conversant, stand free and alone in this eternal Now. He shall simply receive the gift of God, and bring it forth again and render it up to God without let or hindrance, in His light, and with thankful praise through our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus he will have done with all the doves and money-changing; that is, with all the hindrance and qualification which arises from those works which are good in themselves, but in which a man seeks something of his own. For which cause also the Lord would not suffer any to carry vessels to and fro in the temple, as St. Mark tells us; all which has to do with the same principle—that a spiritual man must keep himself free and aloof from all objects that would hinder his advance towards perfectness.
Now when the temple is thus cleared of all that blocks it up, i.e. of all selfishness and ignorance, it shines forth in such beauty, and is so bright and resplendent above all else that God has created, that nothing can outshine it save the uncreated God alone. 304Nothing even that belongs to angelic existence can be compared to this temple. The highest angels do indeed in many respects resemble the temple of a noble soul, yet not wholly, for there is some measure, a certain bound, set to their similarity to it in knowledge and love, beyond which they cannot pass; but the soul is ever able to advance so long as it is in time. For if the soul of a man yet living in this present state were on a level with the highest angel, the man could yet, by virtue of his free self-determination, outstrip the angel at every successive moment, without count, that is to say without mode, and above the mode of the angels, and all created reason. God is alone free and uncreated; and therefore He alone is equal to the soul as touching freedom, and unequal as touching uncreatedness, for the soul is created. But when the soul enters into the unmixed light, she, with her created I, sinks so deeply into her own nothingness, that she cannot by her own power regain the sense of her separate existence as a creature. But God upholds her with His uncreated power, and keeps the soul still herself. The soul has dared to become naught; and yet she cannot attain thereunto of her own power, so entirely is she lost until God upholds her with His power. It must needs be so, seeing that, as I said before, Jesus entered into the temple of God, and cast out those who bought and sold therein, and began to speak in the temple.
Now, dear children, know of a truth, if any one else would fain speak in the temple, that is in the soul, except Jesus alone, He holds His peace, as if He were not there; and in truth He is not at home in the soul, for she has strange guests with whom she desireth to 305hold converse. But if Jesus is to speak in the soul, she must be alone, and must be silent herself that she may hear the voice of Jesus; and then He enters in and begins to speak. What does He speak? He speaks that He is. And what is He then? He is the Word of the Father; in which Word the Father utters Himself, and all the divine nature, and all that God is, so that, in that He perceiveth it, He also is it, and He is perfect in His perception and in His power. Hence He is perfect through this His speaking, for when He uttereth this Word, He uttereth Himself and all things in another person, and giveth that person the same nature which He Himself has, and speaks all rational spirits into being in that Word, in the likeness of the same Word, according to the type or pattern which abideth continually in Him. And thus the Word shines forth in man, according as each word exists in God. Yet is he not in all respects like this same essential Word; but rather the possibility is granted to him of receiving a certain likeness by the grace of this Word, and of receiving the Word as it is in itself. This all has the Father Himself spoken through the Word, and all that is in the Word.
Here the question might be asked, If the Father hath spoken this, in what sense doth Jesus speak in the soul? Here remember, dear children, what I have said of the manner of His speaking, namely, that He revealeth Himself and all that the Father hath uttered in Him, according to the measure of the soul’s ability to receive it.
In the first place He reveals the Father’s sovereignty to the soul, by declaring His changeless, infinite Power. And when through the Son the soul 306hath experience of this power, it becomes strong and mighty in whatever happens, so that it grows powerful and steadfast in all virtues and in perfect singleness of mind, so that neither weal nor woe, nor any or all of the things that God has created in time, have power to stir him, for that he has firm and abiding footing in the strength of God, against which all things are weak and unavailing.
In the second place, the Lord reveals Himself in the soul with an infinite Wisdom, which He Himself is. In this Wisdom the Father perceiveth Himself, with all His Fatherly sovereignty. And that same Word which is also Wisdom, and all that it comprehends, is all the same, sole Unity. When this Wisdom is united with the soul, all doubt and error and darkness utterly vanish away, and she is transported into a pure light, which is God Himself. As the prophet says: “Lord in Thy light shall we see light.” That is to say: “Lord in Thy light shall we perceive the light in the soul.” Then is God perceived in the soul by means of God. Then does she, by means of this Wisdom, perceive herself and all things, and perceiveth this Wisdom itself, and through it she perceiveth the Father’s majesty, and His essential self-existence in simple oneness, without distinction.
In the third place, Christ reveals Himself also with an infinite Love, sweetness and richness flowing forth from the power of the Holy Ghost, overflowing and streaming in a very flood of richness and sweetness into the heart that is waiting to receive it; and with this sweetness He not only reveals Himself to the soul, but unites Himself with her. Through this sweetness, the soul in its essence by grace flows 307out with power above all creatures back into her first origin and fount. Then is the outward man obedient unto the inward man, even unto death, and liveth in constant peace in the service of God continually. That the Lord may thus come into our souls also, overthrowing and casting out all hindrances, bodily or spiritual, that we may become one here on earth, and hereafter in the kingdom of heaven, may He help us evermore. Amen.
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