Never Despair — God Is Merciful
In the parable of the Sower … we have set before us four descriptions of men, all of whom receive the word of God. The sower sows first on the hard ground or road, then on the shallow earth or rock, then on a ground where other seeds were sown, and lastly on really good, rich, well-prepared soil. By the sower is meant the preacher; and by the seed the word preached; and by the rock, the road, the preoccupied ground, and the good soil, are meant four different states of mind of those who hear the word. Now here we have a picture laid out before us, which will, through God’s mercy, provide us with a fitting subject of thought this evening …
“Today if ye shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, according to the day of temptation in the wilderness … Exhort one another every day whilst it is called today, lest any be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:7–8, 13). When the heart is hard, the birds take away the divine seed. They do not bring it back; it goes for ever. Make the most of the precious time. Delay not—many a soul has been damned by delay. God’s opportunities do not wait; they come and they go. The word of life waits not—if it is not appropriated by you, the devil will appropriate. He delays not, but has his eyes wide always and is ready to pounce down and carry off the gift which you delay to use.
And if you are conscious that your hearts are hard, and are desirous that they should be softened, do not despair. All things are possible to you, through God’s grace. Come to Him for the will and the power to do that to which He calls you. He never forsakes anyone who calls upon him. He never puts any trial on a man but He gives Him grace to overcome it. Do not despair then; nay do not despond, even though you do come to Him, yet are not at once exalted to overcome yourselves. He gives grace by little and little. It is by coming daily into His presence, that by degrees we find ourselves awed by that presence and able to believe and obey Him. Therefore if any one desires illumination to know God’s will as well as strength to do it, let him come to Mass daily, if he possibly can. At least let him present himself daily before the Blessed Sacrament, and, as it were, offer his heart to His Incarnate Savior, presenting it as a reasonable offering to be influenced, changed, and sanctified under the eye and by the grace of the Eternal Son. And let him every now and then through the day make some short prayer to the Lord and Savior, and again to His Blessed Mother, the immaculate most Blessed Virgin Mary, or again to his guardian angel, or to his patron saint. Let him now and then collect his mind and place himself, as if in heaven, in the presence of God; as if before God’s throne; let him fancy he sees the All-Holy Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. These are the means by which, with God’s grace, he will be able in course of time to soften his heart—not all at once, but by degrees; not by his own power or wisdom, but by the grace of God blessing his endeavor. Thus it is that saints have begun. They have begun by these little things, and so become at length saints. They were not saints all at once, but by little and little. And so we, who are not saints, must still proceed by the same road; by lowliness, patience, trust in God, recollection that we are in His presence, and thankfulness for His mercies.
And now, my brethren, though I have said but a little on a large subject, I have said enough, not enough for the subject, but enough for you, enough for you to get a lesson from. May you lay it to heart, as I am sure you do and will, may you gain a blessing from it; and in this as in all things may the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, etc.
—Excerpt from: Faith and Prejudice and Other Unpublished Sermons, Sermon 3. The Calls of Grace
Newman, J. H. (2010). Life’s Purpose: Wisdom from John Henry Newman (pp. 53–56). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.