The Power Of The Name

And she shall bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

1. The angel said to Joseph, “Thou shalt call his name Jesus,” and to-day what name is there so great as this? What other so enduring? It has lived through anarchy and revolution, through storm and change, decay and death. Other names since then, and many of them accounted great—names which held the world in awe, which blanched the cheek, and made men tremble—have passed into oblivion; but this name is as fresh as ever, and far more powerful than it was of old. It is the earliest name that Christian parents breathe into their children's ears; the first they teach them to lisp, as they lie in their lap, or stand at their knee. It is the gracious name woven into all our prayers and mingling with all our praises.

It is the great name which many a learned and holy man has felt it his highest privilege, his most sacred duty, to proclaim. It is the precious name which the evangelist takes to the poorest and most wretched alleys of our cities and towns, knowing that it can lift the burden of sin and sorrow from the soul, and fill it with peace and purity and strength. It is the all-powerful name which the Church is occupied in sending to the farthest places of the earth, that the nations may be turned “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” It is the hallowed name in which the civilized peoples of the globe enact their laws, crown their kings, fight their battles, and celebrate their victories. It is the Divine name on whose authority we sanctify the dearest relationships of life, baptize the child at the font, bless the union at the marriage altar, and commit our dead to the grave. And wherever this name is proclaimed, it is inspiring faith, hope, and love. Many who hear it place their trust in the Saviour, and look to Him as the Source of all blessing, the Well-spring of all joy.
Who does not know what is the power of the name of father or mother, sister or brother? What visions they bring back upon us: what a stream of memories; of years long passed away, of careless childhood, bright mornings, lingering twilights, the early dawn, the evening star, and all the long-vanished world of happy, unanxious thoughts, with the loves, hopes, smiles, and tenderness of days gone by. Who does not know what visions of maturer life come and go with the sound of a name, of one familiar word—the symbol of a whole order now no more? The greater part of our consciousness is summed up in memory; the present is but a moment, ever flowing, past almost as soon as come. Our life is either behind us or before; the future in hope and expectation, the past in trial and remembrance. Our life to come is little realized as yet; we have some dim outlines of things unseen, forecastings of realities behind the veil, and objects of faith beyond the grave; but all this is too Divine and high. We can hardly conceive it; at best faintly, often not at all. Our chief consciousness of life is in the past, which yet hangs about us as an atmosphere peopled with forms and memories. They live for us now in names, beloved and blessed.

2. There is nothing which His name has not hallowed and glorified. The commonest things of earth have now a higher and holier meaning than they ever had before, or ever could have had without Him. A virtue has flowed out of Him into everything He has touched. Has not labour become nobler since He sat at Nazareth on the carpenter's bench? Has not childhood become more sacred since He took little children up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them? Has not woman been elevated since He lay in a woman's arms, and was clasped to a woman's heart? Has not penitence become more holy since the Magdalen fell at His feet to wash them with her tears, and wipe them with the hairs of her head? Has not sorrow been more heavenly since the “Man of Sorrows” wept bitter tears, cried out in the agony of His bloody sweat, and suffered on Calvary? Has not death changed its character since He died and, robbing the arch-fiend of his sting and turning the tide of battle, wrested from the last enemy the victory? Has not the grave become brighter since He lay in the rocky tomb under linen napkin and shroud? The very cross itself, that “accursed tree,” that symbol of shame, has been transfigured into an emblem of all that is dearest to the Christian heart or that is holiest in the Christian faith. And not only things but persons also have been transfigured by contact with Jesus. Sinners have become saints; fishermen, apostles; publicans, disciples. A persecuting and blaspheming Saul has been changed into a holy and loving Paul. It may be recorded of all who drew near Him that “as many as touched were made perfectly whole.” “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”

The Saviour of the world must heal not only the breach between God and man, but the sickness of human nature itself. And this He does by implanting in man, through union with His own perfect nature, a supernatural principle of regeneration; a germ of new life which may destroy the cause of corruption, and arrest its progress, and make human nature again capable of union with God. The corrupt nature struggles still, seeks for its separate life away from God, a life that is no life. But the moment the new life is given, the helplessness, the hopelessness of the struggle is past. The cry of human nature, “I cannot do the things that I would,” becomes the thankful utterance of the regenerate soul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”1 [Note: Aubrey L. Moore, Some Aspects of Sin.]

3. The name still works as a charm. As long as there is sin in the world, and sorrow, broken hearts and wounded spirits; as long as there are chambers of sickness and death-beds, so long will the name of Jesus have power. The saving wonders wrought by Him who bears the name are continued to-day. They are continued in the thousands of assemblies which are met in toiling cities, crowded towns and scattered villages, in solitary hamlets and on heath-clad moors, and in lonely ships ploughing the mighty deep. Everywhere where men of like passions with ourselves have gathered to worship God, Christ has thrown open the doors of heaven, and has sent down His Spirit to renew, to sanctify, to strengthen, and to console. Many shall be born again into the Kingdom of God, and be saved from their sins, and, receiving pardon, shall be given power to wrestle down strong temptations, and shall go forth inspired with a new hope and girt with a new strength, to be purer, better, wiser, more humble, more peaceful; and all the week shall be brighter because of the worship of His name on His own day.

It was in the course of these sermons delivered at Venice, and in the cities of Venetia, that Bernardine's zeal for the propagation of devotion to the holy name of Jesus first began openly to assert itself. This devotion, which may be said to date back to the Pauline saying, In nomine Jesu omne genu flectatur, had been specially fostered by the Franciscan order. We find St. Francis of Assisi making it the theme of many pious exhortations, while the holy name never crossed his lips without his voice faltering as though he were inwardly entranced by a heavenly melody. Nor was his example lost on St. Bonaventure, the author of a leaflet, De laude melliflui nomini Jesu. Bernardine was, therefore, no innovator in striving to rekindle popular fervour towards a devotion which, though heretofore greatly in vogue, had, in his day, been cast somewhat into the shade. In his sermons our saint was for ever extolling the beauty and majesty, the mystery and efficacy of the name of Jesus, and, in order outwardly to embody the sentiments of piety he sought to instil into their hearts, we find him calling upon his hearers to inscribe the holy Name or one of its customary abbreviations on the walls alike of public buildings and of private houses. He himself had adopted the monogram I.H.S., which he loved to see surrounded by a circle of golden rays. And the adoption of this symbol he deemed particularly opportune in a land so overrun by paganism, since he hoped to see the same substituted for the Guelf and Ghibelline emblems with which the walls then literally swarmed, and so to set an outward seal on inward peace of heart. And the practice was adopted, and spread like wildfire throughout Venetia, where both officials and private individuals vied with one another in everywhere printing or carving the sacred monogram, encircled by rays, until it finally became significant of Bernardine's passage and of the popular assent to his word.

The Name Of Jesus
The Associations Of The Name
The Meaning Of The Name
The Power Of The Name