O God, whose never-failing providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth: we humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things; and to give us those things which be profitable for us; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
ever one God, world without end. Amen.
A reading from the sermons of Henry Edward Manning
Our lives are chiefly determined for good or ill by the first choice we make upon the very threshold: and our choice will be wise, and safe, just in the measure in which we repress the importunate solicitations of our own minds, and follow in faith what seems to us to be the leading of God’s providential hand.
With many of us this act of choice is past. For good or ill it is over: to some of us it is irrevocable – I mean, to us who have received Holy Orders. We cannot choose again; but we may learn much from what I have endeavoured to express. We may learn to look more fixedly, year by year, on the one aim of our life; to cast off unnecessary burdens; to draw ourselves within straiter lines, and to live more singly, and with fuller dedication of all we have and all we are, to the service of the Church.
But I had rather speak to those who have this one great choice still to make.
Brethren, you are come to the point where your life must soon take its determination for ever. Hitherto you have been walking in a vain show; a little while, and your life will be turned to a reality. A change will soon have passed on you, which you have not imagination now to conceive. Your present life will seem to you to be a very dream, a playing at life rather than living. For some of you the choice of your future path (though not actually made) is already predisposed. .. Be that position, be that career what it may be, there is one governing law, which must alike control you and the most consecrated servant of God, No rank, or wealth, or secular dignities; no high office, or great employments of state; no successful administration of civil functions; will set you free from the law which binds you to live absolutely and supremely for the glory of God. The civil state (though not the highest in God’s kingdom) may nevertheless be so related to the mystical body of Christ, as they that ministered to him on earth were related to his Divine person. Personal holiness, therefore, and the devotion of our best and chiefest powers to the service of God, is not the duty of the Priesthood only, but of the whole Church. In this the layman is bound no less than we… ‘Ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your bodies, and in your spirits, which are God’s’ (1 Cor 6:2)). In this there is but one law for all members of his kingdom. The example and the blood-shedding of Christ bind all alike.
Of those among you that are still free to decide, I would fain ask, On what principle, on what view of life have you been preparing to choose your future profession?
The example of our Lord Jesus Christ not only lays down for us a rule of self-devotion; it reveals to us, further, what is the highest work to which the powers and life of man can be devoted. The most perfect office in this world of sin, is that to which he was consecrated – the Priesthood of the atonement, the ministry of reconciliation, which he has entrusted to his Church. So far as the redeemed could partake in the work of their redeemer, he associated his Apostles with himself. They partook of the Divine commission which he had received of the Father: and in them he associated with himself all who should succeed him to the end of the world. There is no other office so nearly related to his Cross, his Sacrifice, and his Throne; none which so takes up into itself the whole being of him that bears it; none so near to the work of ministering angels; none so real, changeless, or blissful, nor in so full a harmony with the will of God in Christ Jesus.