Here is a real treat - a transcript of Father Arthur Stanton's sermon on the Poverty of Jesus, preached at the St Alban's Holborn Monday night mission service on 19th December, 1910. Go HERE for some background on the "slum ritualist" Father Stanton, one of the heroes and evangelists of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England.
“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that, though He was rich,
yet for your sakes He became poor,
that ye through His poverty might be rich.”
(2 Corinthians viii. 9)
Now isn’t that a beautiful text? First of all it is so beautiful because of the “For you know.” When you speak to people about something they know, you interest them at once. If I were to speak to you about something of which you know nothing whatever, you would not be in the least interested; but directly I begin to speak to you about something which you know, you are at once all attention. A young man came up from the country out of Gloucestershire to see me the other day, and he interested me, and I interested him, because he told me all about the country I know. We talked about the valleys and the hills, and the beautiful views, and the broad river Severn flowing all down the valley and opening into the Bristol Channel. He was quite interested in me, and I was quite interested in him. We talked about what we knew.
And so, dear brethren, on this last night in Advent I speak to you in the most simple way I can. It is a subject which we all know. There is nothing uncommon about it, or nothing I have to teach you about it. You and I are on the same platform exactly tonight. I only lead your thoughts back to the old story of Jesus and his love, Whom we know. You and I, every one of us, at least I hope we know the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Why did you come this evening, if you didn’t? Here in the midst of your busy Christmas preparations, you have all come this evening, because you love the sweetness of the old story.
You know the grace of our Lord Christ — It is the woof and the warp of our religious experience. It is the sweet Gospel story, the music of which calls us away because it is the melody of our souls. It is the joy of our hearts. We say we are saved by grace. If you have got a dear human sympathetic heart, it is the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in you. A young man came to me yesterday, he put a sovereign into my hand, and he said: “Give it to some poor chap that wants help.” It was the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Of course that is why men say: “Hail Mary, of grace.” What is Mary’s grace?“ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When we honour Mary “full of grace,” we honour Christ. When we praise the grace of any Saint, we praise Christ. There is no grace beyond the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you have gracious feelings in your heart and you love to do some good to someone, to say some kind word, why, it is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ — of course it is. Haven’t you ever noticed that the doxology we say at the end of our service is put into rather peculiar order? When you talk about grace you put the Saviour first. You notice that, don’t you? It is “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost.” And the reason is this: It is the grace of our Lord Jesus that comes to us first. It is the way the Trinity touches us, because you can see this: the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is the love of God, and the love of God is the fellowship of the Holy Ghost. There you are. Then doesn’t the text open beautifully?
"To know Him not as Angels do above.
They know and sing the wonders of His Love
To fallen, ruined, guilty, sinful man,
But I would know as Angels never can.
"To know Him in His depth of Love to me,
The poorest, weakest, vilest though I be,
His lost one whom He came to seek and save.
His loved one for whose life Himself He gave.
"To know Him as the All in All to me.
All mine for time, All for Eternity,
And in each gift, of Providence and Grace
Himself in all His loveliness to trace."
Do you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? I hope you do, for if you know it, you have the gospel in your heart. You come into business with it as an asset — your knowledge can be appealed to.
Then “He was rich.” There is no doubt about that: “He was rich,” very God of very God, Lord of all. When we say rich, we only use the accommodation of terms. We speak of rich and poor. All things were His from the very beginning. The sea is His, He made it. All the treasures of the ocean are His. He made the earth. All the mysteries of creation; all the things which surround us on earth are His. All that is made and was made, and that ever shall be or is, is His. He possesses all things, Lord of all, from the beginning. Lo, He was rich, and when we use that term we say one word explains it all: “God.” “God.” “God of Gods.” “Light of Lights,” My God. O God, thou art my God. Behold! He was rich . . .
“He held the highest place above.
Adored by sons of flame.
Yet such His self-denying love,
He laid aside His Crown, and came
To seek the lost, at any cost
Of Heavenly rank, and earthly fame,
He sought me - Blessed be His Name.
“It was a lonely path He trod,
From every human soul apart,
Known only to Himself and God
Was the deep grief that filled His heart;
Yet from the track He turned not back
Till, where I lay in sin and shame
He found me - Blessed be His Name.”
Oh! He was rich. And God shall be the humblest of all, because He came from the highest place. No one feels poverty so keenly as they who have been rich, and Jesus had all at His command. “Yet He became poor,” and the whole history of the Master is one of poverty - just as we read - (that is why I read it to you) - He was born in a stable. The people said, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” Then when He went on His ministry, “He had not where to lay His head.” And then they scourged Him, maltreated Him, stripped Him quite naked of everything. He died naked on the Cross, stripped of everything. And then they laid Him in a charity grave. “Who for our sakes became poor.”
Our dear Master – you can never get away from that - our dear Master was poor. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.” (Philippians ii.5-8)
“Come, give me rest, and take
The only rest on earth
Thou livest within,
A heart that for Thy sake
is broken, bleeding, penitent for sin.
“Birds have their quiet nests,
Foxes their holes,
and man his peaceful bed.
All creatures have their rest.
But Jesus hath not where to lay His Head.”
And now I want to lead your thoughts for one moment to “for our sakes,” because there is a sweetness in that “for our sakes.” Why ever did He Who lived in the Deity in Trinity ever wish to create us at all? Why has God made man? It is such an extraordinary thing! The question is why did He do it? Why ever did the Great God Who as the Blessed Trinity made the world, why did He come down and be born in a stable? Why did He do it? And the secret lies in the essence of Deity; because God is revealed to us in His essence as Love. It is not an attribute; it is His essence. God is love, and love always goes out of itself; so leaving His essential glory, He willed to take upon Himself our humanity - Love going out of itself. And mark what love does always: it makes the choice, chooses, and He chose us.
St Augustine says: “God made man for Himself.” Well, He was perfect, why did he want them for Himself? Because of the overflowing of His Sacred Heart. And having chosen us, as love always will, He devoted Himself to us, for devotion is the second course in love, us you all know from the holy love in your hearts. It is devotion. If love your friend, you will be the devoted friend.
And then the third attribute of love is this: Union which is the crown - So the Master says: “I go to prepare a place for you . . . that where I am, there ye may be also” (John xiv. 23). He wants us to be in heaven.
“Who for our sakes.” Don’t forget, “for our sakes.” And I tell you straight: if you want a sweet little motto to stir you to a good Christian act, here it is - three words - ”For Christ’s sake.” If you have a picture in your room of the dear Master dying, perhaps you have put underneath: “For my sake” Well, write in your heart this : “For Christ’s sake.” And do all the good you do “for Christ’s sake,” and abstain from doing what is wrong “for Christ’s sake . . . Who though He was rich, for our sakes became poor.”
And then the last - for I have no time: the last is “that we through His poverty might be rich” - rich not with paltry pelf, but with grace. What do you think are the two best gifts given to mortal man? “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ ” - “ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost”; and immortality too, for to mortal man, to dying man, there is no gift like immortality - and He it is who brought grace and immortality too. By His glorious Gospel we preach immortality. “Whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John xi, 26) That is our Gospel. We are sons of God and heirs of immortality.
We are strangers and pilgrims here on earth, but we look for a better country, a heavenly, and God is not ashamed to be called our God, and has prepared for us a city (see Hebrews xi, 16). My brethren, don’t let the sordid worldliness by which we are surrounded keep you down. We are all of the earth earthy, and lose sight of the Lord of heaven.
And last of all, dear brethren, might I say this to you? If you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ Who was rich and for your sake became poor, don’t any of you enjoy your comforts at Christmas unless you have thought of the poor. Don’t sit in your warm room over the fire, smoking your pipe, or reading your paper, and care nothing for the poor who have got no home. Don’t, for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who though He was rich, for your sakes He became poor that you through His poverty might be made rich; and may the sweet Gospel text ring in your hearts again and again.
(From Father Stanton's Last Sermons in S. Alban's, Holborn, Ed E.F. Russell, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1916)