All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.
1. This incidental allusion informs us that already Jesus was confessed before emperors; men that in irresponsible power and savage cruelty had almost lost the nature of men. Faith has won its greatest conquests on straitened and sorrowful fields.
2. If the strength and joy of believing are proportioned to the weight of the crosses born for it, then in some such post as this we must look for the bravest witnesses to the truth.
3. We eulogize virtues that flourish only in a favourite soil and climate. We palliate and excuse the deficiency, when honesty is missing in the household of Caesar. We forget that the piety of the Church and of society dwindles inevitably unless it is replenished by the energy of those valiant examples which will dare to be true in the palaces of power, and fashion, and mammon.
4. There are yet saints in Caesar's household, and there is as good cause to venerate them as when beasts licked up their blood from the sand. For the substance of all sainthood which has vitality enough to live in Caesar's household is this, that its virtue is so built on interior foundations, and its faith so rooted in its Divine Master, that no outward opposition can break it down.
5. There are special traits essential to sainthood in Caesar's household.
I. COURAGE Christianity has favour for every noble sentiment; and so she offers to the veteran soldier, and to the enthusiastic youth, a field for bravery grander than any battle, in the resistance of moral invasion. Accordingly, we find that, very soon, Christianity seized on rough warriors, and some of these believers about the person of Nero must probably have been guards of his palace. On one of the early Christian monuments at Rome there is an epitaph of a young military officer, who "lived long enough when he shed his blood for Christ." But Christ's religion courts no consideration from armies. Its courage is of another kind — the courage that bears wrong, but will not commit it — that saves life, rather than destroys it; that springs from an unspotted conscience; that goes into and out of all companies, counting houses, caucuses, and churches, with an uprightness not to be bent, whether you bring threats, or sneers, or golden baits to tempt it; that lifts up an unblenched face in the most formidable array of difficulties, satisfied to stand on God's side, to listen to the encouragement of the beatitudes and to hold to the breastplate of righteousness. Wherever such Christian courage in duty is there will be saints of Caesar's household.
II. MODESTY. They did not call themselves saints; Paul called them so. They did not boast of their religion; there was too much solemn sincerity in it. They did not lurk about the temples to mock the soothsayers, and to disseminate slanders about the priesthood. They knew the joy of their communion with Jesus, and cared more for that than for the admiration of the citizens. That was their Christian modesty. Disjoined from their fortitude, it might haw degenerated into timidity. And that is often our danger. There are persons of a diffident disposition, that err in not mixing enough boldness of resistance with their good nature. They remain inefficient disciples because they shrink from public notice. This is to turn "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit" into a deformity, and to rob the Master of the testimony that is His due. This is the danger of all threatened minorities, but they will get strength for the fiery trial by going back to see how the inmates of a palace full of gluttony, licentiousness, and all royal vices, held their allegiance fast.
III. But to imitate that successful blending of modesty and courage, they will want a third quality, namely, INDEPENDENCE. The question of duty once settled, all gates but that which leads to acting it out must be shut. And beyond that point, all arguments from custom, from the general expectation, from popular applause, from public or private gratification, are impertinent. Remember, these saints were living in the centre of the great world's energy and splendour, and in the very focus of its intelligence. Independence was a virtue quite indispensable to them; but not a whit more so than to us. For, every day, Providence, through our own instincts, pushes us into some crisis of moral peril, where, if we do not act simply of ourselves, and take our direction at first hand from the Spirit, our integrity itself is gone.
IV. And superadded to independence and modesty and courage is CONSTANCY. There must have been many days when it would have been easy and convenient for these saints to slip round into the old comfortable heathenism. Inducements were not wanting. For the ignorant there was personal safety. For the cultivated Seneca was alive. But they held fast. They might be hunted out, and see their teachers slaughtered; but they gathered again the next evening, and other hands, willing to be mangled by the same martyrdom, broke to them the bread of life. The emperor might send them out to build his baths; they raised no civil rebellion, but while they bent to their slavery they knelt and prayed to their Father. Arrows might pierce their bodies, but they believed the Lord Jesus would receive their spirits. God is asking constancy of us. Our Nero is self-love. The senses are the Caesars of all ages. Fashion is a Rome that commissions its legions and spreads its silent empire wider than the Praetorian eagles. The reigning temper of the world is the imperishable persecutor and tyrant of the faithful soul. And so, in every home and street there are chances for the reappearing of saints in Caesar's household.
Parallel VersesKJV: All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.