Gloom is no Christian temper; that repentance is not real, which has not love in it; that self-chastisement is not acceptable, which is not sweetened by faith and cheerfulness. We must live in sunshine, even when we sorrow; we must live in God's presence, we must not shut ourselves up in our own hearts, even when we are reckoning up our past sins.
These thoughts are suitable on this day, when we first catch a sight, as it were, of the Forty Days of Lent. If God then gives us grace to repent, it is well; if He enables us to chasten heart and body, to Him be praise; and for that very reason, while we do so, we must not cease rejoicing in Him. All through Lent we must rejoice, while we afflict ourselves. Though "many be called, but few chosen;" though all run in the race, but "one receiveth the prize;" though we must "so run that we may obtain;" though we must be "temperate in all things," and "keep under our body and bring it into subjection, lest we be castaways;" yet through God alone we can do this; and while He is with us, we cannot but be joyful; for His absence only is a cause for sorrow. The Three Holy Children are said to have stood up in the midst of the fire, and to have called on all the works of God to rejoice with them; on sun and moon, stars of heaven, nights and days, showers and dew, frost and cold, lightnings and clouds, mountains and hills, green things upon the earth, seas and floods, fowls of the air, beasts and cattle, and children of men,—to praise and bless the Lord, and magnify Him for ever. We have no such trial as theirs; we have no such awful suspense as theirs, when they entered the burning fiery furnace; we attempt for the most part what we know; we begin what we think we can go through. We can neither instance their faith nor equal their rejoicing; yet we can imitate them so far, as to look abroad into this fair world, which God made "very good," while we mourn over the evil which Adam brought into it; to hold communion with what we see there, while we seek Him who is invisible; to admire it, while we abstain from it; to acknowledge God's love, while we deprecate His wrath; to confess that, many as are our sins, His grace is greater. Our sins are more in number than the hairs of our head; yet even the hairs of our head are all numbered by Him. He counts our sins, and, as He counts, so can He forgive; for that reckoning, great though it be, comes to an end; but His mercies fail not, and His Son's merits are infinite.
Let us, then, on this day, dwell upon a thought, which it will be a duty to carry with us through Lent, the thought of the blessings and mercies of which our present life is made up. St. Paul said that he had all, and abounded, and was full; and this, in a day of persecution. Surely, if we have but religious hearts and eyes, we too must confess that our daily and hourly blessings in this life are not less than his. Let us recount some of them.
The Gospel today is the parable of the workers in the vineyard, Matthew, Chapter 20. The same website offers a poem by John Keble, Newman's great Oxford Movement friend:
Which heavenly truth imparts,
And all the lore its scholars need,
Pure eyes and Christian hearts.
The works of God above, below,
Within us and around,
Are pages in that book, to shew
How God himself is found.
The glorious sky embracing all
Is like the Maker's love,
Wherewith encompass'd, great and small
In peace and order move.
The Moon above, the Church below,
A wondrous race they run,
But all their radiance, all their glow,
Each borrows of its Sun.
The Saviour lends the light and heat
That crowns his holy hill;
The saints, like stars, around his seat,
Perform their courses still.
The saints above are stars in Heaven-
What are the saints on earth?
Like trees they stand whom God has given,
Our Eden's happy birth.
Faith is their fix¹d unswerving root,
Hope their unfading flower,
Fair deeds of charity their fruit,
The glory of their bower.
The dew of heaven is like thy grace,
It steals in silence down;
But where it lights, the favour'd place
By richest fruits is known.
One Name above all glorious names
With its ten thousand tongues
The everlasting sea proclaims,
Echoing angelic songs.
The raging Fire, the roaring Wind,
Thy boundless power display:
But in the gentler breeze we find
Thy Spirit¹s viewless way.
Two worlds are ours: 'tis only Sin
Forbids us to descry
The mystic heaven and earth within,
Plain as the sea and sky.
Thou, who hast given me eyes to see
And love this sight so fair,
Give me a heart to find out Thee,
And read Thee everywhere.