O God, who declarest thy almighty power most chiefly in showing mercy and pity: mercifully grant unto us such a measure of thy grace; that we, running the way of thy commandments, may obtain thy gracious promises, and be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure; 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 Mark Frank
If we peruse the speeches of humble souls in Scripture, by which they accosted their God or their superiors, we shall see variety of expression indeed, but little difference in the upshot of the words. ‘I am but dust and ashes’ (Gen 18:27), says Father Abraham. Now, how can dust and ashes, with their light scattering atoms, endure the last breath of the Almighty? The Prophet Isaiah ‘saw the Lord’ in a vision, ‘sitting upon a throne’, and presently he cries out, ‘Woe is me! for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts’ (Is 6:5). What! undone, Isaiah? Yes, ‘Woe is me, I am undone, for mine eyes have seen the Lord of hosts’. Who certainly cannot but consume me, for so boldly beholding him. ‘I m not worthy’, says the centurion to Christ, ‘that thou shouldest come under the roof of my house: speak the word only’; as if his presence were so great he might not bear it. And St Paul, as soon as he had told us that he had seen Christ, tells us we was ‘one born out of due time;, was ;’the least of the Apostles’, and ‘not meet to be called an Apostle’ (1 Cor 15:8), as if the very seeing of Christ had made him worth nothing. Indeed, it makes us think ourselves so, of whom we ever think too much, till we look up to God. Then it befalls us, as it fell out to Job, ‘I have heard thee by the hearing of the ear’, but that was nothing, ‘now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes’ (Job 42:5, 6). Hither it is always that the sight of God depresses us, to think humbly of ourselves, that we profess our just deserts to be no other than to be deprived of his presence.
There are like expressions of humble minds towards our superiors too in Holy Writ. ‘When Rebekah saw Isaac coming towards her, she lighted down from her camel, and covered herself with her veil; (Gen 24:65), as if either her humility or her modesty would not suffer her suddenly to look upon his face who was presently to be her lord. But Abigail’s complimental humility surpasses. When David sent to take her to him to wife, ‘she arose and bowed herself to the earth, and said, Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord’ (1 Sam 25:41). And Mephibosheth, though not so courtly, yet as deeply undervalues himself in the sight of his lord and king, when he thus answers David’s proferred kindness, ‘What is thy servant that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?’ (2 Sam 9:8).
Now if Rebekah descend from her camel, and veil her face at the sight of her designed husband; if Abigail term herself the servant of the servants of David, even to the meanest office, to wash their feet; if Mephibosheth count himself a dog in the presence of King David, each of these thus expressing their humility, it is no wonder if St Peter, at the presence of his Saviour, it is but just that we, in the presence of our God and Saviour, descend from our camels, from our chairs of state, from our seats of ease, from the stools whereon we sit, and bow down our eyes, our hearts and bodies in all humility, as unworthy to look up to heaven, to look him in the face whom we have so offended, willing to wash the feet of his poorest servants, to serve him in anything, in the poorest, meanest way or office, ready to profess ourselves among the vilest of his creatures, who cannot so much as expect a good look from him. […]
Yet we are men, thy creatures, the work of thine own hands, the price of thine own blood. Spare us, therefore, good Lord, and though thou hast departed from us, for a long, too long a season, return again and save us, for we are sinful men, people that have need of thy presence, never so much as now, who cannot be without it, who though we are not worthy to be with thee, yet we cannot but desire to be with thee for ever and ever. Turn thee then, O Lord, and be gracious unto thy servants, cleanse us from our sins, free us from our iniquities, fit us for thy presence, compass us with thy mercy, and visit us with thy salvation: salvation here and salvation hereafter, where we may enjoy they blessed and glorious presence for evermore.