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had taken in former times the shape of a pillar guiding the Israelites, and which afterwards took that of fiery tongues lighting on the Apostles, now hovered over the Blessed Jesus in somewhat of the form of a dove, with wings spreading over Him; and we may be certain that it came down with the gentle steady motion of a dove.
What are we to learn from this ? for we may be sure it is not told us in vain. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, partly because of His unspeakable patience, and lowliness, and innocency, is often we know called a Lamb; and doubtless we may discern the same kind of reason why the Third Person vouchsafes to represent HIMSELF as a Dove.
We may think, for instance, of the prayers, the “ dovelike moanings,” which this Blessed COMFORTER puts into the hearts of God's people. “The Spirit,” says St. Paul, “ helpeth our infirmities : for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” That is a true Saint's description of the sacred Spirit of God and of Christ, earnestly praying in the hearts of Christ's people, filling them with longing desires and earnest breathings after heavenly things, causing them to cry mightily unto God, to thirst and long after heavenly delights, as the hart after the rivers of waters. Herein the Holy Ghost is like a dove, because the dove goes on in such wistful, plaintive, longing tones, sometimes far into the night, very often in the early morning. They who lie awake, or who are about betimes, know the sound very well; and one can hardly listen to it without feeling as if it told us what a restless thing this world is, and how we have need to set our hearts on an infinitely better treasure, which as yet is far away from us. And it goes on like a person earnest in prayer, still repeating the same note, as if it could never be tired, nor stop, until it had found the rest which its soul loveth. Such is the voice of the Holy Ghost in prayer, inwardly uttered in a Christian's heart; and because it is like the unwearied melancholy tones of the dove, that may be one reason why the Blessed COMFORTER came down on our Lord in a bodily shape like a dove.
This reason is given us by a great and holy bishop, St. Augustin ; and he adds another, the simple harmless innocence of the dove; and yet another, its gentle, peaceful, loving nature : whereby it becomes the token both of truth and charity. And whereas it is said, that the dove never forsakes its mate, this may serve to remind us of the infinite unchangeable love of the Most High God, enduring for ever and ever upon them that fear Hım. His promise is, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” “Can a mother forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb ? Yea, they may forget, yet will not I forget thee.”
In these and other ways the Holy Dove is God's token to us of the Almighty and Blessed COMFORTER ; and it is also His token of the grace which He bestows upon His Church. For such as He is, such He would have us to be. The very purpose and glory of our Christian calling is to bring us back to God's Image, from which we are so sadly fallen.
“We know not yet what we shall be, but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” The Church, therefore, the Sanctified, is called in Scripture a Dove, as well as the Holy Spirit who comes to sanctify. The Church is called a Dove, as when it is said, “My Dove, my undefiled, is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her :” because there is but one Church, to which all the promises are made. Again, each obedient Christian soul too, in which Christ delights to dwell by His Spirit, is compared to this sacred bird, the Dove: because it is changed by the indwelling Spirit into His own likeness, to be gentle and loving, simple and peaceful like Him. Thus David wishes that he had wings like a dove,-grace and help such as is given to the Saints,—to flee away from the troubles of the world, and be at rest in holy meditation. Thus our Lord HIMSELF is introduced, mercifully encouraging the devout soul to present herself before Him in prayer, and tell Him all her wants. “O my Dove that art in the clefts of the rock, (that is, whose thoughts are in the wounds of the Holy Jesus, as the wild pigeon makes her nest in the cliffs by the sea,) let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice.” Thus that ancient dove, which Noah sent out of the Ark, was a type of the true spiritual mind, abiding with our Lord in His Church, and finding no rest any where else; and wherever her thoughts wander, even in this lower
world, still finding tokens of peace and hope, and humbly acknowledging God's mercy in them, as Noah's dove returned to him and to the Ark, with an olive leaf plucked off in her mouth.
We see, then, our calling, Christian brethren; we see what our LORD would have us be; we see what especial graces and virtues He sets before us, to be thought on, and prayed for, this high and holy day. We are to be simple and harmless as doves. It is His own Word; we are to be simple and harmless. We are to put far away from us the unchristian fancy, that it is good to be knowing about wickedness. Never again, as long as we live, are we to be ashamed of that happy ignorance, whereby God's fatherly care would keep us out of mischief. Never again are we to imagine, with Eve, that it becomes us to know something of evil as well as of good.
Remember this in particular, you that are preparing to be confirmed. The consecrated hands of the Bishop are, we hope, soon to be spread over you, in token of the presence and outstretched wings of that Dove which descended on our Saviour. See, HE warns you how you are to get yourselves ready for that awful yet blessed moment. “Be harmless as doves.” “Be simple concerning evil.” Make up your minds to that saying of a wise man of old: “The knowledge of wickedness is not wisdom, neither at any time the counsel of sinners prudence.” Care not to seem clever and knowing among foolish men; care not for their ridicule, when you know you are trying to please God.
Then, remember that Christ's Dove is undefiled; and think what a miserable thing it will be, should you come to kneel before God with any wilful impurity of heart and life, and bring a curse on you instead of a blessing. Remember that Christ's Dove is'without gall, without bitterness, or malice, or spite, or envy. She is very gentle, and has good words, aye, and kind thoughts too, and prayers, for them “ that despitefully use her and persecute her.”
Remember, lastly, that Christ's Dove is full of lowly and earnest moanings to Him; she prays and mourns continually, because, though contented with her condition in this world, she is ever longing to be in a better world. She thirsts for God, yea, even for the living God: her thought by day and by night is, “When shall I come to appear before the presence of God?"
My brethren, if we know in our secret hearts that these marks of the saintly character, these tokens of Christ's love, find as yet little in us to answer to them, let us not rest, let us be afraid; for it is probable that we are far worse than we know; let us be afraid, but never let us despair. We cannot indeed enter into Heaven, until we are greatly changed. But this SPIRIT is Almighty to change us, as well as all Holy to hate our sins. He can do great things in a short time, in making the proud lowly, the unkind gentle, the worldly full of penitential love; He came to us in Holy Baptism, and pledged Himself to do so, if we sincerely and with all our hearts call upon Him in good time. Call upon Him, and seek Hım early, and you will find Hım waiting at your doors. He will prepare you to meet your Saviour, and your Saviour will carry you into Heaven.
THE BREATH OF THE MOST HIGH GOD.
Psalm civ. 30. “ Thou sendest forth Thy SPIRIT, they are created : and Thou renewest the
face of the earth.”
THESE words were apparently intended to put thoughtful readers in mind of the history of the creation of the world, as we find it in the Book of Genesis. “The earth was without form, and void ; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the SPIRIT of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light : and there was light.” The work of creation did not begin, things did not receive any order, nor had come into that condition which caused the Almighty, seeing them all, to pronounce them “ very good,” until the Holy Spirit of God had “ brooded upon the face of the dark void deep,” as one may imagine a bird brooding with outspread wings, according to the force of the original word. He brooded over it, and in some mysterious way made it apt to obey God's commands, and to bring forth out of its own bosom those marvellous works, which, one after another, God called into being out of the great deep, during those six days of creation.
In like manner, when all things were again become in a manner empty, and void, and waste, by reason of the mischief which the wilful sin of Adam had caused; when it had become quite manifest, that men left to themselves must perish in their misery,