Faith of our Fathers

This is the Day

Mark Frank is not as well known as other Caroline divines and has no entry in the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. His extant works comprise two volumes of sermons in the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology where the influence of Andrewes is evident, which he mentions in his third sermon on the Resurrection. He was born in 1613, was a scholar and later fellow of Pembroke College Cambridge, being deprived because he would not cooperate with the Protectorate, but returned at the Restoration as Master. He died there in 1664. He was the scholar preacher in a university, a High Church divine willing to sacrifice himself for his loyalty to the Church of England. His circle of friends included Ferrar, Herbert and Laudian divines. Like Andrewes he was meticulous about the meaning of words and figures of speech, but his preaching style was thematic and made for simplicity, rather than squeezing every part of a text for meaning. This makes his sermons more immediately readable than Andrewes’, though not less in their command of words and effect, for both preachers brought to their preaching a depth of piety, a basis of scriptural and theology that avoids a mere moralizing.

There is in Frank’s sermons (and Andrewes), ‘a wonderful sense of the richness of liturgical time, of the moment of worship as one in which the past is gathered up, re-membered, the future fulfilment anticipated and made known, in a moment which is one of an intensity of presence. In the power of the Spirit, the risen Christ is made known in our midst; the Father’s love is proclaimed in word and deed.’ (The Kingdom of Love and Knowledge, AM Allchin, p122).

Third sermon on the Resurrection

He builds his sermon around his theme, ‘THIS is the day which the Lord hath made.’ And if ever day made ‘to rejoice and be glad in, ‘this is the day. And the Lord ‘made’ it, made it to rejoice in, as holy Ignatius, a day of days, not only ‘ a high day,’ as the Jewish Easter, but the highest of high days, highest of them all. A ‘day’ in which the sun itself rejoiced to shine; ‘came forth like a bridegroom,’ in the robes and face of joy, and ‘rejoiced like a giant,’ with the strength and violence of joy, exultavit, leaped and skipped for joy ‘to run his course,’ as if he never had seen day before; only a little ‘day-spring from on high,’ as old Zachary saw and sung, never full and perfect day; the Kingdom and power of darkness never fully and wholly vanquished till this morning light, till this day-star, or this day's sun arose, till Christ rose from the grave, as the sun from his Eastern bed, to give us light, the light of grace and the light of glory, light everlasting.

And this sun's rising, this resurrection of our Lord and Master, entitles it peculiarly the Lord's making. This ‘day’ of the week, from this ‘day’ of our Lord's resurrection, styled Lord's day ever since. And of this day of the resurrection, the Fathers, the Church, the scriptures understand it. Not one of the Fathers, says that devout and learned Bishop Andrews, that he had read, (and he had read many), but interpret it of Easter day. The Church picks out this Psalm today, as a piece of service proper to it. This very verse in particular, was anciently used every day in Easter week; evidence enough how she understood it. And for the Scriptures, the two verses just before: ‘The stone which the builders refused, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing and it is marvellous in our eyes, ‘– to which this day comes in presently’ and refers, applied both of them by Christ himself unto himself: in three several places, – rejected by the builders in his passion, – made the head of the corner in his resurrection; the first of the verses applied again twice, by S. Peter, to the resurrection. For these doings, these marvellous doings, a day was made, made to remember it, and rejoice in it, as in the chiefest of his marvellous works.

And being such let us do it. Let not the Jews outdo us: let not them here rejoice more in the figure, than we in the substance; they in the shadow, than we in the sun. It is now properly Sunday, this ‘day’, ever since, a day lighted upon purpose for us, by the Sun himself, to see wonderful things in, and as wonderfully to rejoice in. ‘Abraham saw this day’ of Christ's as well as Christmas: saw it in Isaac's rising from under his hand, from death ‘as in a figure,’ says the Apostle; … Abraham's children all the faithful, will be so too, to see the day whenever it comes. It now is come by the circle of the year, let us ‘rejoice and be glad in it’.

Arthur Middleton is Rector of Boldon, Hon Canon of Durham and a tutor at St Chad’s College.

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