ON THE FEAST OF ALL THE SAINTS
Vidi turbam magnam quam dinumerare nemo poterat, ex omnibus gentibus, stantes ante thronum.
Consider first, that on this day the church of God honours with a solemn festival the virtues, the triumphs and the eternal glory of all the saints and citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. First, in order to give glory, praise and thanksgiving, on their account, to the God of all the saints, and to his Son Jesus Christ, the author of all their virtues, of all their triumphs, and of all their glory, and to honour the Lord in his saints. Secondly, to encourage all her children to follow the glorious examples of the saints, and to walk in their blessed footsteps, in hopes of arriving one day at their happy company. Thirdly, to teach them to associate themselves in the mean time to the saints, by a holy communion with them, and to procure the assistance of their prayers and intercession. O how just, how pious, how wholesome it is to glorify God in his saints, who are the most excellent of all his works; to honour in them the bright trophies of the blood of Christ; to learn of them the practice of all Christian virtues, and especially of divine love; and to be admitted to share in their powerful prayers, and to a happy communion with them in all that is good! ‘You are come,’ says the apostle, Heb. xii. 22, & c., speaking to the children of the church, ‘to mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the company of many thousands of angels, and to the church of the first-born, who are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the just made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the New Testament,’ & c. O happy communion indeed! O joyful festivity, in which the church militant solemnly associates herself with the whole church triumphant, in the worship, praise, and love of their common Lord, through him that is the mediator of them both, and through the great sacrifice of his blood! See then, my soul, what ought to be thy devotion on this day.
Consider 2ndly, on occasion of this festival, what encouragements we here meet with to dedicate ourselves, in good earnest, to the holy service of our God, when we reflect on the eternal weight of glory in heaven, with which he rewards the light and momentary labours and sufferings of his servants here upon earth. All these holy ones, whose feast we celebrate this day, have entered into the never-ending joys of their Lord at a very cheap and easy rate. The yoke of his divine servitude, which they bore for the short time of their pilgrimage, was very sweet to them, and their burden was very light. Grace and love made all things easy that they either did or suffered for their beloved. He himself supported them in such manner as to carry, as it were, both them and their crosses too upon his own shoulders. He never left them in life or death, till he took them to himself to his heavenly kingdom, where they shall live and reign for ever with him. My soul, hast not thou the same God as they had? Hast not thou the same Saviour, Jesus Christ, who has purchased the same kingdom for thee also, with his own most precious blood? Hast not thou the same sacraments and sacrifice, and all the same helps and means of grace as they had? Is the arm of God shortened? Or is the source of his infinite goodness and mercy dried up or diminished? Why then mayest not thou also aspire to the same glory and happiness? The saints carried about with them heretofore the like flesh and blood as thou now dost; but their correspondence with the mercy and grace of God raised them up from the dunghill of their corrupt nature, and made them saints; the like correspondence with the divine mercy and grace can do as much for thee also. O why then shouldst not thou also endeavour to be a saint?
Consider 3rdly, that as it is the love of God which makes saints, so it is the divine love which we particularly honour in all the saints. ‘Tis this heavenly love which ought to be the great object of our attention, of our devotion, and of our imitation, on all the festivals of these generous lovers, and beloved of God, and more especially on this day, when we celebrate the virtues of them all under one solemnity. O what strong invitations, what great encouragements have we here, what pressing calls to labour to sanctify our souls with divine love, when we have here set before our eyes all these millions of heavenly lovers whom we honour in this festivity? The blessed virgin the queen and mother of beautiful love; they innumerable legions of angelic spirits, Cherubim and Seraphim, all on fire with love; these patriarchs and prophets, constant and faithful lovers of their God; these apostles of the Lamb, sent by him to spread through all the earth the bright flames of love, which he sent down upon them from heaven; these armies of martyrs, all victims of love, who all laid down their lives for love; these millions of holy confessors, and all these spirits of the just made perfect by love, who both in life and death have been always true friends and servants of divine love – and now, for all eternity, shall shine and burn in its beautiful flames; all these virgins, in fine, the spouses of love, whose love for the Lamb was stronger than death, and who now follow him singing hymns of eternal love, wheresoever he goes. O let us draw near to this great fire, to this heavenly company of seraphic lovers, that our frozen hearts may receive some small heart at least from all their flames.
Conclude ever to love, honour, and imitate the saints of God; but more especially to love in them what God loves in them; that is the gifts of his divine grace; amongst which the most excellent is love. Then shall thou be best entitled both to the intercession of the saints at present, and to their happy society hereafter.