But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.
Since the seventh century the first day of November has always been dedicated to the memory of All Saints. Such a day suggests thoughts as solemn and as needful as any which could be presented to us. We watch the procession of mankind as it winds through the long centuries of history, and we note its most striking figures. The vast mass consists of a nameless throng. To our eyes mankind is mainly divided into the eminent and the obscure, the known and the unknown. But to the eye of God, to the eyes of all spirits, it may be, the aspect of that procession is very different. To them the inch-high differences of human rank have simply no existence; for them the thistles of human loftiness have no elevation, and the paltry mole hills cast no shadow. For they know but one distinction, that of the evil and the good. We can see, on the whole, that some men have dared to be eminently good, and that others have been conspicuously, infamously bad. With unspeakable relief we turn from them to the saints of God. "In them is the healing of the world." Do not think of the mere title "saints"; it has been given to some, at least, who have no claim to it, and it has been denied to many more who have been consummately worthy of it. On All Souls' Day we may think not only of those whom the Church has called saints, but also of the long line of heroes of the faith in olden times who are not called saints — of the patriarchs, of Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and many more; of brave judges, glorious prophets, patriot warriors, toiling apostles; of the many martyrs who would rather die than live; of hermits who fled from the guilt and turmoil of life; of the missionaries, Paul, Columba, Benedict, Xavier, Schwartz, and a long roll call of others. Of reformers, of wise rulers, of the writers of holy and who walk with Him in white, for they are worthy. If we would comfort our hearts, strengthen good resolutions, and retain that high estimate of human nature which it is such a misfortune to lose, and which so often threatens to succumb, let us in days like these make ourselves acquainted with Christian history and biography as the antidote to the degeneracy of these worldly and evil days. From earth's mire and darkness lift up your eyes to this galaxy of great examples. We need something to keep alive our faith in the dignity of man. I, for one, find that something, most of all, in dwelling in the life and sufferings of Christ, and next, in considering the blessed example of those who have followed Him, each bearing his own cross. They will help us by furnishing gleaming instances of pure and possible human goodness; they show us how, by true faith in Christ, men just as weak as we are, tempted as we are, yet did gloriously and conspicuously triumph over sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil, and thereby proved to us that we can do the same. See how the universal idol, selfishness, has been gloriously overcome. Pride, too, has been subdued. St. Thomas, of Aquino, was by far the greatest man of his age. One day at Bologna, a stranger arriving at his monastery asked the prior for someone to help him to get provisions and carry his basket. "Tell the first brother you meet," said the prior. St. Thomas was walking in meditation in the cloister, and, not knowing him by sight, the stranger said to him, "Your prior bids you to follow me." Without a word the greatest teacher of his age, the "Doctor Angelicus" — the angel of the schools, as he was called by the affection of his admirers — bowed his head, took the basket, and followed. But he was suffering from lameness, and since he was unable to keep up with the pace, the stranger rebuked him soundly as a lazy, good-for-nothing fellow, who ought to show more zeal in religious obedience. The saint meekly bore the unjust reproaches, and answered never a word. "Do you know to whom you are speaking, who you are treating in this rude way?" said the indignant citizens of Bologna, who had witnessed the scene. "That is Brother Thomas, of Aquino." "Brother Thomas, of Aquino?" said the stranger, and, immediately throwing., himself upon his knees, he begged to be forgiven. "Nay," said St. Thomas, "it is I who should ask forgiveness, since I have not been so active as I should have been." And this humility, so rare in little men, was the chief characteristic of this great man. From that disciplined and noble spirit of the first man of his age all pride had been expelled. "Give me, O Lord," — this was his daily prayer, — "a noble heart which no earthly affection may drag down." What more would we have if, even through so deep a valley of humiliation, there still lies the path to heaven? You see a life spent in brushing clothes, and washing crockery, and sweeping floors, a life which the proud of the earth would have regarded as the very dust beneath their feet, a life spent at a clerk's desk, a life spent at a tradesman's counter, a life spent in a labourer's hut, may yet be so ennobled by God's mercy that for the sake of it a king may gladly yield his crown. Thank God there have been and are tens of thousands of holy and faithful, and therefore happy, souls, full of inward peace. Will you be one of their number?
Parallel VersesKJV: But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.