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
the Father hath given Me to finish, the same works that I do,
bear witness of Me that the FATHER hath sent Me.
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