Go HERE for background on Father Ignatius, O.S.B. (the Rev'd Joseph Leycester Lyne), Evangelist Monk of the Church of England In his warm and forthright evangelistic preaching, he was by no means unique among his generation of Anglo-Catholics. He had a huge following. This is a sermon he preached as part of a week long mission at Westminster Town Hall in the spring of 1887.
The text which I have taken for “The Altar “is Hebrews xiii.10. “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.”
The text which I have taken for “The Host” is Hebrews x.15. “By one Offering (or Host, the “Host” meaning a sacrificial Offering, because the sacrifices were called hostia) He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
I should not be understood if I were not to preface my remarks by saying that as far as the visible altar is concerned, in the worship of the Visible Church, I take thoroughly the Catholic, and not the Protestant, view of the subject. I thoroughly accept the teaching of the Catholic Church with regard to the Altar and the Host offered on it; but I am not here to-day to speak on that aspect of the subject at all.
There is quite enough teaching, to my mind, amongst us Catholics, whether Roman or Anglican, respecting the Sacraments; but there is not one-half enough teaching respecting that substantial foundation on which the subject of the Sacraments alone can rest. I quite believe that there is a vast amount of harm done in our midst by - if I may be allowed the expression - the promiscuous preaching of Sacraments. I often think it would be a very good thing if we could draw a thick curtain in front of the altar, for numbers of people who come into our churches to worship. We have too much Sacramental teaching. When I say “too much,” I mean we have it forced on people who are not prepared to receive it; forced on congregations who are not, in a body, prepared, in the sight of God, to derive any benefit from the teaching; on people who have never come to Christ - who do not know Christ as the Altar on Whom alone our every offering must be laid, before it can be accepted of God.
Therefore, I want to talk about the Altar and the Host of that “Glorious Church” of the Redeemed; the Altar and the Host known, and loved, and used, and offered by those who are in Christ, and who have Eternal Life in Him.
But first, we must begin with the “Host.” It is a very remarkable fact that, through all the ages of human history, there has been the thought permeating every generation of men, that there is need for an offering for sin in the sight of God. The one great idea of worship in the heathen world, as well as in the Jewish Church, taught by special revelation, was offering sacrifices to God. As I have reminded you in this place on a former occasion, even now, at this present time, if it were not for prevention by force, on the part of the British Government, there would be, in the temple of the goddess Kali in Calcutta, a human sacrifice offered continually; for her worshippers believe that a human sacrifice atones for sin for a hundred years. The idea of sacrifice, and the shedding of innocent blood, is quite common, therefore, to civilised humanity’s worship.
I need not remind you that, in the old temples of the Romans, it was innocent blood that was offered before their gods. The idea of the innocent being offered for the guilty; the idea of the blood of the innocent victim being offered for the sin of the sinner, was quite a common, and universally accepted, idea.
Therefore the thought of a “Host” is almost a universal idea. It is not peculiar to revelation or the Word of God.
When we come to the Jewish Church, which worshipped by distinct revelation from heaven, we find there emphatic laws laid down respecting sacrifices. We see plainly that Almighty God commanded the sacrifice to be performed before the eye of the Israelite by the ritual sacrifice of innocent victims.
All these things pointed to Christ. Even the very composition of the garments of the Jews pointed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The law of Moses is as full of Jesus as the four Gospels are, to those whose eyes are opened, and who are able, by the Holy Ghost, to understand these things. The idea then of “The Host” is absolutely necessary in all worship of the living God.
Thus, dear brethren, we come to the thought that, in this Glorious Church of God’s Redeemed, there must be a Host offered; and in my text we see what that Host is.
It is the Offering of Christ once for all. It is that Offering - the value of which no one can too greatly appreciate - which He Himself made. It is the one Offering which this Glorious Church acknowledges and none other. It is the one HOST in the Church of the Redeemed (who have accepted It and now offer It continually before God) - the one Sacrifice by which God “hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
Perhaps there are some Christians here who have not quite accepted the thought yet that the Offering of Christ on the Cross has perfected them, so far as forgiveness of sin is concerned; hut He paid our debt to the “uttermost farthing.” Therefore, as far as pardon for sin is concerned, that one Offering has perfected us for ever; for it has blotted out the sin of His people. “The Lord hath laid on Him,” when He was offered, “the iniquity of us all;” therefore we are perfected so far as pardon for sin is concerned.
Then this Offering perfected us for ever, inasmuch as it has purchased for us eternal Redemption. It is a Redemption that is eternal, for it is a Redemption that cannot be lost; cannot be put away; cannot be forfeited. It is eternal.
And it is not a Redemption of another kind, namely: - “I have made this one Offering to perfect My people so far as this; to redeem them from the power of sin and the devil, so long as they do so and so, and act in such and such a particular way!” If it were, I am sure there is not one who would have any “sure and certain hope” as to the efficacy of such an Offering. No, it has perfected us for ever so far as eternal life, pardon of sin, righteousness, satisfaction, atonement and redemption, are concerned - perfected us for ever.
That one Offering which Christ offered on the Cross is a finished Offering; and “there remaineth no more Offering for sin.” Whatever sin is committed, it can only be forgiven by that one “Host.” “By One Offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
To be sanctified means to be made holy; and this Offering has perfected for ever those who have been made holy - not who have made themselves holy, but those who have been made holy. “He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
St Paul says to the believing Church, to whom he writes: “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified;” and, in another place, “sanctified by faith.” Directly the soul of the sinner, by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, in the preaching of the Gospel of God, has accepted Christ in His fulness, he has accepted, in that Gift, sanctification. As the Apostle writes to the Corinthians: He “of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification.” Therefore this One Offering has “perfected for ever them that are sanctified,” by the faith that is in Him.
If you, at this moment, have the faith to recognize in Jesus Christ your salvation, your righteousness, your peace, you are one of the sanctified ones; and Jesus Christ, in His fulness, is the Host, the Victim, Which alone you offer, as a member of the “Glorious Church,” which He will present to Himself, “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” This is the Host of the “Glorious Church.”
Do we offer this Host? Do we offer this Sacrifice for our sin? Do we rest on this Living Host, this shame-filled Host, this agonized Host, this once bleeding Victim of Calvary? And, as we there learn to find complete and immediate pardon, do we also learn to find deeper hatred, and deeper enmity, towards that sin which crucified the Lord of glory? Can I look at the offered Victim of Mount Calvary; see the crown of thorns on that brow; see the blood mingling with the tears; the sorrow and the anguish of that awful death of shame; the bleeding, outstretched hand; the pierced side; and then remember that it was my sin which crucified the Lord of Glory, and yet be willing for this sin to be uppermost within me?
It is the continual power of the believer to offer this Host, which gives him such a power over sin. There comes a fresh power which enables him to realise the exceeding sinfulness of sin, that rendered necessary the offering of such a Host as the bleeding Son of God on Calvary.
Therefore, in this Church of the Redeemed, the Host, the Perpetual, Living Host, the Host that continually cries for mercy and grace for the Church - the Glorious Church of His love - this Host is nothing but the Offering of Christ “which has perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
Now, brethren, do we know how, every day, to offer this Host? If you are Catholics, some of you go to the daily Mass, where, in solemn rite, by Christ’s appointment, you “show forth the Lord’s death till He come.” But do you go to Mass as a mere formalist or as a living Christian, a living part of the Glorious Church of the Redeemed? Do you see there, in that solemn Christian rite, offered in the way in which Christ, in the Gospel, appointed, His finished work for the believer; do you know how there to lay hold of, by renewed confidence and faith, day after day, the complete satisfaction of Calvary? Do you realise there, in all the solemn rite of the Church, that it is Jesus, and Jesus only, in Whom you can have hope of possessing pardon, salvation, and everlasting glory?
I recollect a young Roman Catholic woman who attended our services. She told me that her clergyman had given her up altogether - that he could do her no good at all. She seemed rather to boast about having given up all religion; but she came to our mission service; and, all at once, by God’s grace, her eyes were opened to see that she was just such a sinner as the Saviour Jesus came to draw to His arms; and when the mission was over she had sunk restfully into the Saviour’s keeping; and she was able to say that she knew she had eternal life in Christ.
After going to church the next Sunday morning, she came back to tell me that The Mass was a totally different thing to her now; that it had been nothing but an outward form of worship to her all her life before; but that it was now full of spiritual meaning for her.
Every single ceremony had for her a living reality now; and I shall never forget the look on her face as she said how she blessed God that she had been able to come to Christ, and “make her calling and election sure.”
Now, my Protestant brethren, although you do not go to Mass, you say at the end of almost all your prayers: “Through Jesus Christ our Lord; “and yet how many hundreds of times do you say these words with the lips, without, in the least, realising their tremendous, their overwhelming power; for every prayer must fall flat to the earth unless it be offered through Him Who is the Only Offering by Which it can become accepted!
Do you, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, make use of this Host, in your prayers, really and truly? Have you learnt to realise that when, from the heart, you offer your prayer to God, and plead it in the Name, and for the sake, of Jesus, it is accepted, and that it must be answered, as is most pleasing to God, and in God’s own time?
Oh, brethren, let us try to realise that Jesus Christ is a Host of glory; that Jesus Christ is a Host of satisfaction; that Jesus Christ is a Host of treasures, and riches, and grace, always pleading in the midst of the Glorious Church of the Redeemed! We cannot exaggerate the power; we cannot exaggerate the efficacy of the pleading of this Victim, Jesus Christ, Who, “by One Offering hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
And now, concerning “The Altar “of the “Glorious Church.” Here again we have only to gaze on Jesus, for Jesus is the Altar on Whom all our acts, great and small, must be offered if they are to be acceptable to God. Yes! a penny laid on this Altar is accepted of God; but a cheque for £100 not offered in Christ and for Christ’s sake, is rejected! Only the offerings laid on this Altar are righteous offerings. All the rest of our righteousnesses are “filthy rags.”
Then, brethren, what wasted actions, what wasted words there are in Christians’ lives unnecessarily!
I will just tell you what I mean. A poor woman, with two starving children, was singing down a street under the windows of some people whom I know, not very far from here. She was very much distressed, and trudged along with one little child in her arms, and the other clinging to her hand. One of my friends, who looked out upon this sad-looking trio, went down to the door, opened it, and beckoning to the little child, who was walking, put into its hand a shilling, saying: “Give this to your mother, and tell her the Lord Jesus sends it to her.” The little child’s look of reverence and awe was something marvellous. She took the shilling as if it were something divine, and went with it to her mother, and the mother almost went down on her knees in the road as the child repeated: “Mother, the Lord Jesus sends you this.”
Brethren, that shilling was laid on the Altar! Do you lay your shilling on the Altar? Do you lay your daily acts on the Altar? Do you lay your every offering on the Altar? If you do not, your offerings are wasted offerings, so far as eternity is concerned. They will bear no fruit; and so far as God is concerned, God does not accept them. It is only in Christ and for Christ that our actions, great and small, are accepted.
This is the Altar of the Glorious Church! And what dignity it gives to human life when we consider that we have this Royal Altar in our midst! Oh! begin to offer your offerings on the Golden Altar in this Glorious Church, and you will receive the grace of God. Lay everything on the Altar.
In your churches, when the offerings of the people have to be collected, the churchwardens bring them to the Priest, who receives them on the plate, and offers them on the Altar. Well, this is just what we should do with the daily actions of our lives; with our daily struggles with sin; our daily endeavours to benefit our fellow-men and glorify God; we should just offer them on our Altar!
Do all for Christ’s sake, so that when you do anything for anyone, you are offering your gifts on the Altar! And if we could only see, with the true seeing of faith, the magic process of what takes place in our offering! The instant it is offered in Christ, the simplest, the poorest, offering becomes transubstantiated into a perfect offering of glory and beauty before God.
Dearest brothers and sisters, if some of us had realised the use of this Altar, when we were younger, what far less wasted lives our lives would have been; what far larger treasures we should have accumulated in Heaven against the eternal years of His Glory! Oh, the number of cheques you have drawn for a charity without a thought of Christ; only perhaps in order to have your name in a subscription list! Oh, what a number of kind words you have spoken, not for Christ’s sake, but only to please yourselves!
How many actions and words have been wasted, in God’s sight,that have not been put on the Altar!
God accepts nothing apart from Christ. Your offerings must be laid on the Altar of which we are speaking, before they can be treasured up in Heaven, and accepted in the presence of God.
Thanks be to God Who hath given us this Altar; and may God grant that these poor, weak words of mine may help you to make use of this Altar. And then I can assure you that your lives will be much brighter; your lives will be much more full of sunshine, and your actions will give you much more satisfaction; and you will realise, in very deed and truth, that whatever you do, you do it all to the glory of God; “that God in all things may be glorified, through Jesus Christ.”
Begin your day of a morning by offering up its coming hours on the Altar. Have your best intentions laid on the Altar at the beginning of the day, and I am sure Jesus will take care of them, when you have forgotten many of them. He will take care of the intentions, and the offerings of the early morning hour, which you have laid on His Altar.
I am certain of this, that as we thus go on through life towards its evening, our Lord will unfold to us some of the beauties and the privileges of His “Glorious Church,” in ways which perhaps some of us have only half realised - yes, perhaps have only half understood.
And then we shall, in very truth, realise, and rejoice in realising, what the “Glorious Church” is. Then we shall know that in this Church there is ever a Host pleading, every moment of the day and night continually, for us, whom “He hath perfected for ever;” and that in this “Glorious Church” we ever have an Altar of Royal Gold, upreared by the Love of God Himself; on which our tiniest, as well as our greatest offerings may be laid; and that when thus laid, instantaneously they become accepted of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.