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The Church Bearing Witness.
by Isaac Williams
from Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and Holy Days
throughout the Year, Vol. I. Advent to Whitsuntide
Rivingtons, London, 1875 [New Edition.]
First part of Sermon III. for the Third Sunday in Advent.
 1 Cor. iv. 1-5.    St. Matt. xi. 2-10.
But I have greater witness than that of John; for the works which
the Father hath given Me to finish, the same works that I do, 
bear witness of Me that the FATHER hath sent Me.
ST. JOHN. v. 36.

THE preparations which Christ makes for His second coming are by means of His appointed Ministers; and we are taught in the Epistle for to-day in what light we are to regard them. Although faithfulness to their high charge is everything to themselves, yet we are not to judge them. We are not indeed to judge one another, much less those who by God Himself are set over us. To their own Master they stand or fall. Even of the Jewish Scribes and Pharisees our Lord said that as sitting in Moses' seat they were to be obeyed, although their bad example was to be avoided; much more then must it be the case with those who sit, not in the seat of Moses, but, as it were, in that of Christ; to whom He Himself hath said after His Resurrection, "As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you." (St. John xx. 21.)  

Let a man so account of us, says St. Paul, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Let him look upon us as Christ's servants, to whom is entrusted the dispensation of His gifts to His household the Church. Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment. Of man's "day" it is in the marginal reading, for man has his "day" and his "judgment" as God also has His. Nay, more, although that judgment of men were in some degree informed by the Spirit of God, yet it is of little moment; for even that voice in our own hearts must be confirmed by the final judgment of Christ. Yea, says St. Paul, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; or, although I am not conscious of any known sin in myself; any want, that is, of ministerial faithfulness, yet am I not hereby justified, but He that judgeth me is the Lord.  I must still wait a higher decision.

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts. Not only the secret deeds of wickedness, but the intentions and thoughts--both of which are now unknown to man--will then be brought forth to await the sentence of God; "the Day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ." (Rom. ii. 16.)  And then, adds the Apostle, shall every man have praise of God; or rather, "and then the praise which shall accrue to every man shall be only that which is of God," there will be then no praise but His, no mistake, no false estimate. To this, therefore, the Minister of Christ is himself to look, and to direct the eyes of all men; they are not to judge him, neither is he to be moved by their judgment; but both are to wait for the return of that Master from Whom alone he has received his stewardship, and been made the shepherd of His sheep; Minister and people, people and Minister, both are to wait the one great approval. Such is the lesson of the Epistle for to-day.

But again, on the other hand, we have something of an apparently different character implied in Scripture; for our Lord says, "Beware of false prophets, by their fruits ye shall know them." We are therefore in some sense to judge of false Teachers by their works, and our Lord Himself pointed to His works as the proof and evidence to men that He came from God. The two things to which He appealed were, first the testimony of John, that He had received His authority from above; and secondly, the works that He did in His Father's name. So likewise does St. Paul appear to both: he was an Apostle, he says, "not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ." Yet he often points to the evidence and fruits of this his Divine mission:  "The seal of mine Apostleship," he says to the Corinthians, "are ye in the Lord." So must the Minister of Christ throughout refer to his outward commission to dispense God's mysteries, and at the same time must he by his works win men over to see that God is with him of a truth. God has united these two credentials, and they must not be put asunder by man.

Let us then next consider the Gospel for to-day....

.... (for the second part, on the Gospel.