Tuesday, August 02, 2005

From Sermons Preached on Various Occasions
by Venerable John Henry Newman, C.O.

The earth is full of the marvels of divine power; "Day to day uttereth speech, and night to night showeth knowledge." The tokens of Omnipotence are all around us, in the world of matter, and the world of man; in the dispensation of nature, and in the dispensation of grace. To do impossibilities, I may say, is the prerogative of Him, who made all things out of nothing, who foresees all events before they occur, and controls all wills without compelling them. In emblem of this His glorious attribute, He came to His disciples in the passage I have read to you, walking upon the sea,—the emblem or hieroglyphic among the ancients of the impossible; to show them that what is impossible with man, is possible with God. He who could walk the waters, could also ride triumphantly upon what is still more fickle, unstable, tumultuous, treacherous—the billows of human wills, human purposes, human hearts. The bark of Peter was struggling with the waves, and made no progress; Christ came to him walking upon them; He entered the boat, and by entering it He sustained it. He did not abandon Himself to it, but He brought it near to Himself; He did not merely take refuge in it, but He made Himself the strength of it, and the pledge and cause of a successful passage. "Presently," another gospel says, "the ship was at the land, whither they were going."

Such was the power of the Son of God, the Saviour of man, manifested by visible tokens in the material world, when He came upon earth; and such, too, it has ever since signally shown itself to be, in the history of that mystical ark which He then formed to float upon the ocean of human opinion. He told His chosen servants to form an ark for the salvation of souls: He gave them directions how to construct it,—the length, breadth, and height, its cabins and its windows; and the world, as it gazed upon it, forthwith began to criticize. It pronounced it framed quite contrary to the scientific rules of shipbuilding; it prophesied, as it still prophesies, that such a craft was not sea-worthy; that it was not water-tight; that it would not float; that it would go to pieces and founder. And why it does not, who can say, except that the Lord is in it? Who can say why so old a framework, put together eighteen hundred years ago, should have lasted, against all human calculation, even to this day; always going, and never gone; ever failing, yet ever managing to explore new seas and foreign coasts—except that He, who once said to the rowers, "It is I, be not afraid," and to the waters, "Peace," is still in His own ark which He has made, to direct and to prosper her course?

And hence so many instances are to be found in history, of the triumph of the bark of Peter amid adversity of every kind. "The floods have lifted up, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods have lifted up their waves with the noise of many waters. Wonderful are the surges of the sea; wonderful is the Lord on high." It is the Lord from heaven, who is our light in the gloom, our confidence in the storm. There is nothing hard to Him who is almighty; nothing strange to Him who is all-manifold in operation and all-fruitful in resource. The clouds break, and the sun shines, and the sea is smooth, in its appointed season.


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