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Sermons for the Christian Seasons.
ALL SAINTS' DAY.
THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS.
HEBREWS xii. 1. Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.
WE on this day close the series of festivals of our Christian year. The order, as you remember, begins in Advent with St. Andrew the Apostle, the first called to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and ends with this festival of All Saints. ing many ages of the Church, there were many more days set apart in memory of God's saints than there are now, with special services and lessons. Not only did the whole Church commemorate, in common, them who had been the chief martyrs for Christ, or the chief teachers of His Church, or the chief patterns of holi ness; but each particular Church kept sacred the
memory of its own sainted bishops, and teachers,
But three hundred years ago, the then bishops of our Church judged it necessary to take away from the number of these holy days. In length of time, great corruptions of doctrine and practice had grown up, and men had been taught, or (at the least) had been allowed, without reproof from those who should have reproved them, to look to the merits and intercessions of the saints more than to the merits and intercession of Jesus Christ, the one Mediator between God and man. Our bishops then, as I said, thought it right, where such lamentable corruptions existed, to take away from the number of these holy days. Besides the days which are kept holy in memory of the holy apostles, they retained only the festivals of the blessed Virgin St. Mary, of the evangelists St. Mark and St. Luke, of St. Stephen the first martyr, of St. John Baptist, of the Holy Innocents, and of St. Michael and All Angels. For no others were any special services retained. Their names indeed stand, on their several days, in the calendar; but the direct and solemn commemoration, by our Church, of all other of God's saints, is confined to this one day. Now our rulers in the Church then did what may have
been right and necessary under their circumstances. Still we may lament, as they doubtless lamented, the sins and corruptions which rendered such an act necessary. Many holy names, many examples of primitive piety, faith, charity, self-denial, patient suffering for Christ, were thus withdrawn from the contemplation of the Church. It was a stern duty and a stern necessity which forced them to be silent on the holy and edifying lives of the saints of the universal Church, or of those whom the good providence of God had raised up in our English Church. All these we now commemorate on this one day. God's elder saints,—Abraham, Joseph, Job, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel,-of whom St. Paul writes, "Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again : and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds
and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goat-skins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." Or as they appeared in the spirit to St. John: "After this, I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands, and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God, which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb."
This one day of the year, as I said, alone remains to us, whereon to commemorate all the saints of God; those who before Christ's coming yet lived and died in the fear and obedience of God, and in the faith of Christ, believing in Him who was to come, even as we believe in Him who has come into the world, to redeem us with His precious blood; all who, with Abraham, rejoiced in spirit to see the day of Christ, and saw it, and were glad; all who, with Moses, chose rather to "suffer affliction with the people of
God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward;"> all "the goodly company of the prophets," who spake before of Christ, and witnessed to Him, not only in their words, but (many of them) in their lives and in their deaths.
And as we thus, on this one day, commemorate all the saints of the patriarchal and Jewish Church; all the saints whose names have come down to us in the Old Testament; and with them all that countless host, who have left no name or record upon earth, but whose names, we may not doubt, are written in the Book of Life; so do we, on this one day, commemorate all the saints of the universal Church of Christ.
"The noble army of martyrs," whose blood was the seed of the Church, who witnessed a faithful witness for Christ, who died on the rack, or on the cross, or at the stake, or by wild beasts, or by whatever torments the malice of man or Satan could devise, rather than deny or blaspheme Christ, or pray to or offer sacrifice to idols.
The zealous and fervent preachers of Christ's Gospel among the heathen, the missionaries who bore the Word of God and the Sacraments of the