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Church into distant and barbarous nations; and, among them, the holy men by whose labours of love this very land of England was converted, once and again, to the faith of Christ.
The holy bishops, such as St. Chrysostom, who faithfully ruled the Churches of Christ, holding fast that "form of sacred words" which had been committed to their trust.
The learned and godly teachers, such as St. Athanasius, whom God, from time to time, raised up in His Church, to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints, and to rebuke the profane and vain babblings of false teachers and seducers, wherewith the peace of the Church was disquieted.
And with them all who, in their several orders, whether of the priesthood or of the laity, have lived and died in the true faith and fear of God; all who, by God's grace, and in God's service, have lived holy and self-denying lives; all who have mortified the flesh, and its lusts, by prayer, by watching, by fasting, by abstinence; all who have adorned the doctrine of God their Saviour by good works, by alms, by forgiveness of injuries; all who have borne suffering patiently, whether persecution for Christ's sake and a good conscience, or pain, or sickness,
or poverty, or loneliness of spirit; all these, and all such as these, do we, on this one day, commemorate. "Here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth; Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them."
Whatever may have been their trials and sufferings in this life, for the truth's sake, and for duty and a good conscience, all such are now over for ever. They are at rest, where there is neither sin nor sorrow. "But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken for misery, and their going from us to be utter destruction; but they are in peace. For though they be punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality. And, having been a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded; for God proved them, and found them worthy for Himself. . . . They that put their trust in Him shall understand the truth; and such as be faithful in love shall abide
with Him: for grace and mercy is to His saints, and He hath care for His elect The righteous live for evermore; their reward also is with the Lord, and the care of them is with the Most High. Therefore shall they receive a glorious kingdom, and a beautiful crown from the Lord's hand; for with His right hand shall He cover them, and with His arm shall He protect them."
And now to return to the great lesson of this day. "Almighty God hath so knit together His elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of His Son, Christ our Lord," that all, the living and the dead in Christ, God's elder saints and the youngest baptized child, are all one in Him; branches in the one true Vine, living stones in the one true spiritual Temple, members of the one mystical Body. Such is the Communion of Saints. A great and awful mystery indeed, yet one which has place alreadyfl in all who are living in the true faith and fear Go of God. They already have fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ, by the Spirit; and, in Him, with all the members of His mystical body; as writes St. Paul: "But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to
an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel."
If such be our Christian privileges, how great must be our Christian responsibility. The saints of old, the best and holiest, were but, by nature, even such as we are. They had the same fallen and sinful nature, the same trials, the same dangers, the same spiritual enemies which we have. And we have all that they had the same God, the same Saviour, the same Holy Spirit, the same Word of God, the same Church, the same Sacraments, the same means of grace. We have all that they had,—much more than many of them had.
May our lives be as holy, our deaths as peaceful, our rest in Christ as assured as theirs. May God give us grace to learn the practical lesson from this day's festival, "so to follow His blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys, which He hath prepared for them that unfeignedly love Him, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Then shall we indeed have reason to bless the wise
and merciful providence of Almighty God, who hath preserved and continued in our Church this solemn commemoration of all His saints, as a link which binds us to the good, and faithful, and holy of all times, and in all branches of the Church. The Church of Jesus Christ, at all times and in all places, on earth or in paradise, is one,-one body; and of that one body we all are members. This or that branch may be estranged one from another, yet are they all one in the one true Vine; and the saints whom God hath raised up in any one branch of the Church, are not the saints of that branch alone, but are the saints of the universal Church: all the true and living branches have part in them, all have communion with them. A thought very full of comfort in these fallen and evil days, when visible unity and external communion hath been lost, or, at the least, suspended. The more may we value that unity which is invisible, that communion which is inward; that unity wherein all the branches are one in the one true Vine, all the members one in the one Body of Jesus Christ; that communion which joins us to all the saints of God, in every age and in every land, the living, and the faithful departed in their place of rest.