THE epistle for this day instructs us to think of the evangelist S.
Luke as the companion of the Apostle S. Paul; and that more
especially, when he was very near his end. Being in prison and
expecting before long to be martyred for his Lord's sake, S. Paul
writes to Timothy to come to him, saying, that he would be quite
left alone, if it were not for one true friend; and that friend was
S. Luke. "Only Luke," he says, "is with me."
It was no new thing for S. Luke to be with S. Paul. The Acts of the
Apostles shew that he had been his companion in many and great
dangers, before his first imprisonment in Rome; for he continually
says, "We came to such a place," " We kneeled down and prayed," "We
all got safe to land," and other such expressions; by which a
diligent reader may very well make out, where he first joined the
Apostle, and how long he continued with him.
And again, if we look into those epistles, which we know were
written by S. Paul when he was first imprisoned in Rome, we find
that S. Luke was still with him; for he sends greeting from S. Luke
to Philemon, and to others at a distance.
And here we find them still together in S. Paul's second
imprisonment, and as near his death as the New Testament history
gives any account of him.
Now undoubtedly this, to the eye of faith, was a very great
privilege given by the Almighty to the holy evangelist S. Luke.
Even a careless, unthinking person, if he be not quite an
unbeliever, will perceive and acknowledge that so it is. We are all
quite ready to say, "Truly, it must have been a blessed thing to be
present at the last hours of such a person as S. Paul; to be with
him in prison; to hear his high and noble thoughts, as the Holy
Spirit opened to him more and more the true meaning of the
Scriptures of God; to pray with him night and morning; to listen to
his instructions; to partake with him in the Church services, and
especially in the Holy Communion; and, perhaps, to be by him in the
very moment of his martyrdom, when he was beheaded for the sake of
There is not one of us but feels, when he really thinks of this,
that it was a great and blessed thing to be the companion of such a
man; and, perhaps some of us may imagine, that it would have made
all the difference to themselves, if God had cast their lot in such
company. If we had been with such persons as S. Paul, especially in
their dying hours, we are apt to fancy, we should never have
forgotten such instructions and such an example.
But let us not be too sure. The company and example of the saints
of God, like all other spiritual and heavenly privileges, takes
effect upon men, according as they are prepared by their own former
conduct, and disposed in their own hearts. The company and example
of our blessed Lord Himself, we know, did not amend nor save Judas,
because he brought to it a perverse and covetous heart, and refused
to be the better for it. Yet, I suppose, even Judas himself, had he
heard at a distance of such a person as Christ, at least of some
parts of what He said and did; even Judas, I say, would have admired
Him, and thought it good to be with Him. And so it may be in the
case of the saints of Christ, living and dead. Many men may be
touched with what they read or hear of them, and may seem to
themselves, as if they longed to be with them, who, if they really
were brought into their company, would very soon be tired and
disgusted, and long to be away from them. Many may have engaging
dreams (if one may so call them) of S. Paul in prison, who would
never have profited as S. Luke did, by being companion of the
For let us consider the case more nearly. Here is a person, poor,
despised, of weak bodily presence and contemptible speech, shut up
in a prison, from which he has no earthly hope of escape, and out of
which he is daily expecting to be led to a cruel death: and it will
be a shameful death too, for he will be punished as a criminal, and
most part of the people will insult him, believing him guilty. What
is there in this to tempt or delight anyone, except it were one who
had a faith like the faith of S. Paul himself; such a faith as could
look through all this cloud of troubles to the glorious end, the
crown of righteousness?
Again, what if the Apostle spake, almost as never man spake, about
the love of God to His people, and the things prepared for them that
love Him? All this would fall dead and useless on the ears of men,
taken up hitherto with the diversions, and business, and
imaginations of this present evil world. To associate with him from
morning to night, and hear his good and holy sayings, and observe
the Christian use he would make of all things, would be but flat and
wearisome work to a mind taken up with the love of this world; a
mind selfish and impatient, sensual and greedy.
To take an instance which everyone can understand: How would a mere
ordinary person, a child of this world, used always to indulge
himself, how would such an one like to be with the Apostle on his
fasting-days? We know that he did keep fasts; that he restrained
his body and brought it into subjection: he denied himself in many
things, which the generality of men, even such as were called
respectable, took freely, as of course. In such respects his
company could not be very agreeable to them, however much they may
have admired him on other accounts, when they heard of him at a
distance. But S. Luke had been long used to delight in the same
things as S. Paul. He had been, as one may say, in training for
this life of imprisonment and self-denial. When he first joined
himself to S. Paul, he knew that he should have to suffer
affliction, and I it came on him very soon; for the very next place
they preached in, we read of S. Paul and Silas being scourged and
imprisoned, and delivered only by a miracle. Thus he was used to
danger, pain, and shame: he had his soul, as the Psalmist says,
"always in his hand;" that is, he felt continually, how very
uncertain his life was; he knew he could not count on it for a
moment, nor yet on any of the comforts which make life tolerable;
and thus he was well prepared to attend the teacher, whom he had so
long loved, both in prison and to death.
But if his life had been, from the beginning, a life of ease and
self-satisfaction, how different would it all have seemed! Even if
his love for his friend had caused him to wait diligently on him,
yet he could not have done it so effectually. His devout and
affectionate purposes would have been continually more or less
interrupted with thoughts of his own uneasiness. He would have
missed very much of S. Paul's good example, and of his holy and
instructive words, from being so greatly taken up with himself. And
much of what he did see and hear, he would not at all have
understood, the Christian ways being altogether new to him.
For we may depend upon it, that as it is a hard thing to enter into
the meaning of the Scriptures or of the Church, or what is called in
the Bible "the mind of Christ," so it is no easy matter to
understand and value the behaviour of any of Christ's saints, in
such measure as they really come up to the name. There will always
be things in every good man's conduct, which will seem strange, and
harsh, and unaccountable, to those who are below him in goodness.
He will often keep silence where they would expect him to speak; he
will be grave, where they look for encouragement from him; composed
and calm about matters, in which they think it impossible to be too
eager; and he will very often see deep meanings, and act
accordingly, on occasions which they would turn from, as merely
trifling. In short, it must require a good deal of Christian
practice, to enable a man to enter into the spirit of any one who is
worthy to be followed, and really to make the most of his example.
S. Luke seems to have been a pattern of this. His whole manner of
writing proves, that he answered well to David's description of a
good Churchman, one worthy to abide in God's tabernacle, as in other
respects, so in this: that he "made much of them that fear the
Lord." [Ps. xv. 4.] That, no doubt, was what he looked to: he did
not seek after amusing companions, nor such as would better his
condition, or advance his credit and consequence in the world.
Nor, even among Christians, did he seek to be with eloquent or
learned persons, or persons called wise, or much followed by the
people. But the one thing which he sought was this, a heart set
upon fearing God, and a life spent in keeping his commandments.
Where he found that, to such an one he was presently ready to
become a companion. Or, as it is in another psalm, “All his
delight” was “in the saints that are in the earth, and in such as
excel in virtue.” [Ps. xvi. 3] These are very sacred words, for
they are spoken in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. And
they shew plainly, what sort of company we must keep, if we would be
minded like Christ, and approved by Him. We must not look on things
after the outward appearance; we must not be carried away with
beauty, or strength, or skill, or what is called cleverness, or with
learning, or with mirth and amusing ways, or with any such thing: we
must always stop and ask ourselves, "Does this man fear God? Does he
keep His commandments?" before we choose any to be our friend. And,
on the other hand, when we clearly see that anyone is truly devout
in his life and conversation, a lover of God and good men, a humble
and watchful servant of Christ, and an obedient member of His Holy
Catholic Church, we ought not to draw back from him on account of
any outward disadvantages, or for any of the thousand fanciful
reasons which, as weak vain mortals, we are apt to be so much
governed by. S. Luke did not so withdraw himself from the great
Apostle, because "his bodily presence was weak, and his speech
contemptible." He was superior to such childish unworthy feelings.
And this is the more remarkable, as it seems from S. Luke's
writings, and from what is told concerning him, that he was a person
of more education, higher breeding, as it is called, than the holy
writers were in general. No doubt he was a judge of good speaking,
fine writing, and other such matters, and of what is beautiful and
otherwise. There was a tradition among the ancient Christians, that
he was a painter of no smal1 skill. But none of these things moved
him, neither outward beauty, nor ready speech, nor worldly wisdom
and accomplishments; but he chose to be with S. Paul, because he saw
that S. Paul was chief among those who feared God and kept His
commandments. It was not for his own pleasure, or credit, or
consequence, that he joined himself to the Apostle, but for the
salvation of his soul; and therefore he did not look to those things
in his friend, which the world might take notice of and admire, but
to his bright and pure example, and to the grace of God which was in
And having made his choice, he kept constantly to it. Others fell
away from S. Paul's company, when times grew bad and death seemed to
draw near. Demas forsook him, as thinking himself well off in this
present world; and not only Demas, but many others: for he writes,
that when he first appeared on his trial before Caesar, no man stood
by him, but all forsook him. "Only Luke," he says, "is with me."
Thus we see how constant their friendship is, which is founded on
the fear of God, and keeping His commandments. It fails not, for it
is builded on a rock, and that rock is Christ; Christ, in Whom such
friends are firmly knit together, as members of the same body, and
cannot, therefore, fail to have the same care one of another.
But again, we see that the evangelist was not content with merely
admiring, and loving, and following the Apostle, but that he also
employed himself in many things, which did great service to the
Church. He wrote that precious Gospel, which was and is his praise
in all the Churches. He was sent by S. Paul on errands of charity,
being chosen to go a long journey, in charge of a sum which had been
collected for the saints at Jerusalem. And as S. Paul calls him in
one place "the beloved physician," so we may well believe, that the
experience he had in his first profession helped him much in that
charitable waiting, both on the souls and bodies of men, which
belonged to him in his second and higher office of evangelist and
physician of the soul. I will mention one more circumstance in S.
Luke's character, which particularly qualified him to be a companion
of good and holy men, namely, the delight which he plainly took in
watching and remembering their exemplary ways; making much of them,
and setting them down, that they might not pass away as in a dream;
and again, in observing and noting down the wonderful turns and
order of God's Providence, in regard of them and of His whole
Church. Being so minded, the Almighty chose out S. Luke from among
all the disciples, to write the Church history, from the birth of S.
John Baptist to the imprisonment of S. Paul in Rome. This was a
glorious privilege indeed, for one whose delight was in the saints,
or, rather, in the Lord Jesus, both in Himself, and as manifested in
His saints. And surely it is a great encouragement also; to all
such as humbly and obediently apply themselves to watching and
copying the examples of holy men departed; seeking praise, not for
themselves, but for them, and for the God Who sanctified them.
We have seen the high privileges of the evangelist S. Luke, and how
he was trained and prepared for them, and made much of them. It is
a matter to be much considered, and laid to heart by everyone of us.
For certainly, whether we consider it or no, we are sharers, to a
great degree, in those divine favours which S. Luke enjoyed; and if
we are not trying to make the same use of them as he did, if we are
not greatly the better for them, we must be greatly the worse.
All of us, I say, are partakers in S. Luke's privileges; I mean, in
the spiritual advantages he enjoyed as a companion of the fervent
Apostle S. Paul. For we, too, are in a measure companions of S.
Paul; we are made acquainted with him by his sacred writings, and by
S. Luke's own history of him: we read and hear of him a great deal,
both in school and in Church. Now, what is S. Paul to us? Why did
God's providence take order, that we should so often be brought to
remembrance of him, except because it was His will, that we should
follow S. Paul's example? Are we, generally, trying to follow it?
Again, most of us know some one or more friends, whom we believe,
without any question, to be serious in God's service, trying to do
all their duty. We have, perhaps, all of us, more or less,
opportunities of intercourse with such persons. Let us understand
that those opportunities are so many favours and privileges from God
Almighty; they are talents, of which we must give account; if abused
or hidden, they will add to the weight, which will sink us down
irrevocably in the Day of Judgement.
Why is it that people do not consider this more? Why are many of us
so little the better for the goodness of those, among whom we live?
One reason is, I suppose, that we have not generally chosen our
companions for being good, and holy, and devout. If we have lived
among such, it was God's mercy that brought us near them; it was not
at all our own doing. As for us, when we could choose, we became,
like the heathen, "vain in our imaginations:" our foolish hearts
chose out to be our friends, showy, pleasant people, or people of
consequence in the world; if they chanced also to be religious
people, no thanks to us for it; and no wonder, therefore, if we were
little the better for their friendship. Plainly, then, for the time
to come, our duty is, when we have a choice, to join ourselves to
none but such as really fear God. If we thus watch for heavenly
goodness, and go out of our way to seek it, we shall, of course,
deal reverently with it, when we find it, and God in His mercy will
give us a portion in it.
Next, let us take care, that being their companions, we do not abuse
their kindness to any worldly purpose whatsoever; any more than S.
Luke made use of his friendship with S. Paul to increase his own
influence in the Church. This will leave our minds free to receive
all the good, which He, by such companions, intended us.
And let us be very doubtful of our own constancy; very much afraid
what might happen, if at any time our friendship with them called on
us to deny ourselves severely. S. Paul had a Demas among his
companions, who forsook him when danger came on: and who knows what
our case might be, if tribulation and persecution arose for our
Lord's sake? It is one thing to be with good men, and enjoy their
sweetness and kindness, and admire their noble thoughts and
Christian wisdom, when all seems quiet and easy around; and it is
quite another thing to stand by them, and cleave to their good ways,
when it brings reproach and self-denial, poverty, and pain, and
toil, and perhaps even danger.
To prepare us, therefore, for such severer trials, let us be very
attentive to the ways in which they are preparing themselves. Let
us carefully notice, how they use silently to prefer other persons'
pleasure and profit to their own; how they give up their own
opinions, submit to affronts, refuse to have their own way: and let
us be sure that what they do in secret in thus inwardly disciplining
themselves, is a great deal more than what they do in our sight.
God Almighty sees in them very many self-denials and restraints,
which none of us can know any thing of. We are too much used to
say, "I love and admire such an one, and I wish I could be like him;
but I cannot, it is not in my nature." The true way is to say
little about them, but to think and pray a great deal; and to copy,
as we may in little things, their humble and holy ways, that the
world may not prevail against us, and separate us from them, when
great occasions arise.
One thing more: we must be on our guard, that we sin not, before we
are aware, in idolizing these, the earthly members of our Lord;
thinking on them, and depending on them, when all our thoughts and
trusts ought to mount up to Him, Who is their Head and ours. Our
knowledge of holy men, living and dead, should ever lead us back to
Jesus Christ, such as He manifested Himself on earth; even as S.
Luke's intimacy with S. Paul qualified him to write his Gospel. Let
it be our labour in this world to please Him by following His
saints, and it shall be our joy and crown of rejoicing, in His
Presence, at His coming.