When the word is not heard

We continue today in our Lenten series looking at daily extracts from the Anglican Homilies. We have just begun to look at the Homily against “declining from God”, or falling away.

The Preacher says in this sermon that as “we forsake God, so shall he ever forsake us.” This leads to a miserable and frightening state of affairs, which should cause even the most stony of hearts to “tremble and quake” (and hence to come back to God in repentance). But how can we know if God is beginning to forsake us, as individuals or as a church and nation? The Homily has a punchy and provocative answer to that question. Here’s what it says:

“The displeasure of God towards us is commonly expressed in the scripture by these two things: by showing his fearful countenance to us, and by turning his face or hiding it from us.

By “showing his dreadful countenance” is signified his great wrath. But “turning his face”, or hiding it, is signified many more times, that is to say, that he clearly forsakes us and “gives us over.” These things can be taken in a human way: For people commonly bear a good, cheerful, and a loving countenance to those whom they favour, so that by someone’s face or countenance it is apparent how they think or feel about others.

So, when God shows his dreadful countenance towards us — that is to say, he sends dreadful plagues of sword, famine, or pestilence upon us, it appears that he is greatly angry with us. But when he withdraws from us his word, the right doctrine of Christ, his gracious assistance and aide (which is ever joined to his word), and leaves us to our own wits, our own will and strength — he declares then that he is beginning to forsake us.”

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