Wednesday, December 01, 2004

On December 1, 1850...
Venerable John Henry Newman, C.O., preached a sermon, of which the following notes survive:

On Death

1. INTROD.—Again Advent. Christmas!—the day darkens; the year dies; all things tend to dissolution. It is the end; we have to think of death and all connected with it.

2. We are going on right to death; a truism, yet not felt. We are on a stream, rushing towards the ocean; every morning we rise nearer to death; every meal we take; every time we see our friends, etc.; nearer the time when we shall lose them. We rise, we work, we eat; all such acts are as milestones. As the clock ticks, we are under sentence of death. The sands of the glass run out; we are executed; we die.

3. And when it comes, what happens? We all know. This happens—we are no longer here. We see not indeed whither we go, but this we know full well, we are not here. The body which was ours is no longer ours; we have slipped it off; no longer a part of us. It is a mask, as a dress; but it is not our instrument or organ. We who think, feel, speak, etc., are not here. Where we are, nothing that is here tells us; but this we know full well, we are not in the body. We are cut off from all here. This minute here, the next a wall impenetrable has grown up; we are as utterly cut off as if we had never been here; as if we had never known any one here. We don't go by degrees—we do not (as it were) lessen in perspective and disappear in the horizon—we go at once and for all.

4. Where it is we see not; what it is we know not; but what it is not we know, as we know where it is not. The man is not what he was. He took pleasure; he depended on this world. He depended for its enjoyment on the senses. That life was not a burden; that it was dear to him; that he enjoyed it; that he was unwilling to quit it, was because he saw, he heard, etc., his amusements, his pleasures; he went to his club, or to business, with his friends; he liked the warm fire, the light; he liked his family, home comforts, his dinner; he strolled out in summer, or he went to places of merry-making and enjoyed the gratifications of sin—nothing supernatural: how many we have known such! Why are people unwilling to die? What is the one reason? There is no pain in it. Because they leave what is known; they go to what is unknown. They leave the sun, etc.; they leave their families, their schemes, their wealth.

5. Oh, how much is implied in this! Men witness against themselves. They are afraid to leave this life; they own they are going to the unknown, yet they are unwilling to make that unknown known. Do lay this to heart;—you are going to the unknown.

6. Now I will tell you what you are going to—not to creatures as here, but to God. Oh the dreadful state of the soul when this step is over! Another world is close to us. It has taken the step, and is in that other world. Have you any relations with God? Do you know aught about Him? Do you know what He is like? Have you tried to make Him your friend? Have you made your peace with Him? What madness! If men are going on a voyage they take letters of introduction; they inquire about the country; they try to make friends beforehand; they take money with them, etc. Yet you do not try to disperse the thick darkness; on the contrary, you learn to be content, because you do not know.

7. Yet that acquiescence is an additional alarm, for it shows God is angry with you. Men lightly say: 'It is a matter of opinion.' No, it is a matter of punishment. This very discordance of sects is a sign of God's displeasure.

8. The longest life comes to an end. You may be young, you may be vigorous, but you must die. When it is over, the longest life is short.

9. Seek the Lord therefore; this is the conclusion I come to; this world is nothingness. Seek Him where He can be found, i.e. in the Catholic Church. He is here in the same sense in which we are.


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