Saintly Ideals
Revelation 19:1-8
And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power…

A very slight acquaintance with the lives of those who may most truly be called saints will satisfy us that they are not all cast in one mould. On the contrary, they are characterised by an almost infinite variety, diversity, and even contrariety of form. But beneath all this contrariety, diversity, and variety, there may be traced a fundamental unity, a substantial identity. Features and form are endlessly different; the spirit is one. I do not speak now of the mere surroundings and outward circumstances of a life. Riches and poverty, solitude and society, sickness and health, all may be said to come alike to it; inasmuch as it is independent of all, and can turn all to good account. We may represent human life, the life of each one of us, to ourselves, as a series of concentric circles, circle within circle, all having the same centre, and that centre being the "I," the soul, the spirit, the will, the very substance of our human personality, call it by what name we will. What we describe as the "circumstances" of our lives will be represented by the outermost of these concentric circles. But we may pass inwards from one to another on our way to the centre of all, and still find endless variety and diversity, and yet the saintly life still. Thus we will take what is certainly much nearer to the centre than the circle already described, which was that of outward circumstance and surrounding. We will take the circle of ritual and worship, which, you will all agree, touches the soul much more nearly than the outward form or fashion of our lives does or can do. Let our thoughts range back over the history of this our own beloved place of worship. What changes and varieties of ritual has it not witnessed in the course of the many centuries that have elapsed between its first conversion from a pagan temple into a Christian Church, and the present moment! Each generation in turn has worshipped here after its own fashion, now with Roman splendour, and now with Puritan simplicity. Better the coldest, barest, ugliest ritual, with spiritual edification, than the costliest and most beautiful and most ornate, without. We pass yet again within — nearer and nearest to the innermost circle and centre of all. We take the circle of religious opinion, of doctrine and dogma; which is indeed the very vesture of the soul. For our intellectual beliefs, our modes of thought upon religious questions — what are they but the garment, as it were, and most immediate environment of the soul; an environment, which acts upon the soul, and upon which the soul reacts, at once moulding and moulded? The saintly life, therefore, cannot but be deeply affected by this intellectual environment; and, according to the nature of that environment, accordingly, to a great extent, will that life be conceived of and lived. Yet, even in this nearest circle of all, it is astonishing to note the amount of possible variety and diversity that is consistent with that fundamental unity and substantial identity of which we have still to speak. To stereotype thought is to kill it; to stereotype religious thought is to destroy its fructifying, generating, or regenerating power. The word of God, if it is to be spoken with power, must be spoken under the influences, and according to the intellectual, as well as the moral and spiritual, necessities of the day in which it is spoken. To borrow our modes of thought and speech from the repertory of a past generation however excellent, or from teachers however devout and learned in their day, is to be, at the best, but as a scribe half instructed unto the kingdom of God. For our Saviour said: "Every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old." We pass through all these circles, which, even to the last, are still external, to that innermost circle which is the centre of all. What is that inner fundamental unity, that substantial identity, of which we are in search, and which constitutes the veritable communion of saints; the true, everlasting bond of fellowship between God's elect, past, present, and to come, here and hereafter? The answer is not far to seek: but an example will be better than any definition. "I see nothing else in the world that can yield any satisfaction besides living to God, pleasing Him, and doing His whole will": such is the dying confession of Brainerd. "Wish always, and pray, that the will of God may be wholly fulfilled in thee": so writes the devout a Kempis. And we might multiply such statements from the lips and pens of the saints of one generation after another, almost without number — whatever their intellectual creed, and what men call their "Denomination." But why spend time on the testimony of those, who are, after all, but the satellites of the Sun of Righteousness? Listen to the language of Him, who is the King of Saints, the faithful and true Witness: "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work." "Whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother." Saints we already are — we all of us are — in name, by title and profession, according to the Scripture meaning of the word "saints," that is, persons consecrated or dedicated to God. Saints we are by title; but woe to us, if we rest content with being mere titular saints! To the outward consecration must be added the inward sanctification, which converts the name into a reality; the righteousness of saints — the saintly life. We see now very clearly in what that life or righteousness consists; that it consists, above everything else, in devotion to the will of God, in the reconciliation of our wills to His holy and blessed Will, alike in action and in suffering, in joy and in sorrow. Here is the root of the matter. And this root has such marvellous virtue in it, that it will grove and flourish and bear fruit in any soil of circumstance, of ritual, of religious opinion. But if it is to do this it must be cultivated with all diligence, by watching, by striving, by praying — by incessant struggles against the snares and temptations and enticements of the world, the flesh, and the devil — by repeated efforts after self-mastery and self-renunciation — in a word, by earnest imitation of Christ in the power of the Spirit of Christ.

(Canon D. J. Vaughan.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God:

WEB: After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Hallelujah! Salvation, power, and glory belong to our God:

Praise to God from All Saints
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