First part of Sermon I. for the First Sunday in Advent.
Rom. xiii. 8-14. St. Matt. xxi. 1-13.
Behold, Thy King cometh unto thee.—ST.
WHEN our Blessed Lord was taking leave of His disciples at the Last
Supper, the one great lesson and dying injunction which He left them was
of loving one another. Very seasonably therefore does our Church take up
at once the same Divine note when she bids us look for His return; beginning
thus our Epistle for to-day, Owe no man any thing, but to love one another.
Not with regard to pecuniary obligation only, but fulfil every duty
of every kind to every man, except that of love, for that you can never
sufficiently discharge; you must be ever buying and ever paying, for it
must be like the love of God, in which you can never go far enough. The
more we love, the more we shall feel the debt, and the more we feel the
debt, the more shall we grow in humility.
Let your only debt be love; for, adds St. Paul, he that loveth
another hath fulfilled the Law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery,
Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shall not bear false witness,
Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly
comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Love worketh no ill to his neighbour, such as the Law would restrain;
therefore love is in the highest and best sense the fulfilling of the
Law. This is in effect the same as our Blessed Lord said to the rich
young man who wished to know what he should do to obtain eternal life :
our Lord questioned him respecting the six last commandments, of his duty
to his neighbour; because in the love of God consists eternal life, and
“he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God
whom he hath not seen ?" (1 St. John iv. 20.)
No duty is omitted where love is; love shall cover a multitude of sins;
love alone shall not fail on the Great Day; love unites to God; amidst
the darkness of this world love, as St. John describes it, is light; and
to walk in love is to walk in the light; love is the best preparation for
beholding Christ, Who hath so loved us; and therefore St. Paul goes on
to connect it with the great Morning of Christ’s appearing: He dwelleth
in the light which no man can approach unto, yet by love we in some sense
draw more and more near unto Him.
And that knowing the time, adds St. Paul, lifting up the Advent
trumpet, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep,—the sleep
of this world with all its dreams,—for now is our salvation nearer than
when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Very
beautiful and forcible is this comparison of Scripture, whereby our present
condition is likened to the night, and that which approaches to the day.
And no doubt the expression contains a great truth and reality, that the
Advent which approaches is like the sudden breaking in of daylight would
be to those who had been always in the dark, or knew nothing but the night.
What wonderful things would the light reveal to them, which they now only
see darkly, or feel around! It will be like sight suddenly given to the
born blind. What a new world would burst upon him! what faces, what eyes,
what companies of which he can now form no idea, and himself also, like
a blind man seeing for the first time his own countenance in a mirror !
This state Holy Scripture assures us is ever nearer and nearer, is fast
approaching, is just appearing. And here it is as if there were signs of
the coming dawn, the birds twittering under the roof, or such other tokens
that the night was on the wane, and men were awaking each other and saying,
It is now time to arise; it is time to put on our armour, our clothing
for the day.
The day is at hand, Let us therefore, proceeds the Apostle, cast
of the works of darkness, and let us put on. the armour of light. We
are to clothe ourselves with armour,—with what armour? That which suits
the day. Although Scripture speaks of the manifestation of Christ as the
day of light, yet the light is of that spiritual kind that we may have
it even now—we are “children of the light.” Let us walk honestly,
i. e. orderly and well behaved, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness,
not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. For all
these are the works of darkness. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Put on the armour of light, he had said, and now, as if explaining
what this armour of light is, he adds, Put on—be clothed all over with—
the Lord Christ. Be conformable to Him, do all things for His sake, love
all men in Him, let Him dwell within you, and dwell ye in Him, put Him
all around you, clothe yourselves with Him, be armed with Him—your heart,
your hands, your feet; let all your members be in Him. Let your life be
with Him hidden in God; and here on earth be as strangers and pilgrims.
And make not provision for the flesh, he adds, to fulfil the
lusts thereof. Let not your forethought be for the life in the flesh
and for its desires.
Thus the Epistle for to-day is like the herald voice in the wilderness,
Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make His paths straight. It sounds all
of preparation for His appearing in light and glory. But the Gospel
carries us back to His former Advent, and His visiting us in great humility...
.... (for the second part, on the