First part of Sermon XXXVIII. for the Second Sunday after Easter.
Following the Lamb of God
by Isaac Williams
from Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and
Holy Days throughout the Year, Vol. I. Advent to Tuesday in Whitsun
Rivingtons, London, 1875, pp. 443-446.
A DEVOUT bishop of our Church, in his private prayers, entreats God
to remember and bless those who had done him good in various ways, by their
writings, or their examples, or their conversations, or their prayers,
--but among these he makes especial mention of those who had benefited
him by injuries. [Bp. Andrewes, Dies Quinta] Among his chief benefactors
he numbers his enemies. This, I think, may serve as the best commentary
we can make on St. Peter's words with which the Epistle for today commences:
This is thank-worthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief,
suffering wrongfully. And here we may observe, that this expression
"thankworthy" is our Lord's own word [cariv St.
Luke vi. 33]. "If ye do good," He says, "to them which do good to
you, what thank have ye?"
For what glory is it, proceeds the Apostle, if when ye be
buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? "buffeted"
even as Christ was, we may add, for the very word seems intended to remind
us of Him. [kolafizomenoi. St. Matt. xxvi.
67, ekolafisan.] Who was so smitten in
the hall of the High Priest; but if, when ye do well, and suffer for
it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable, or thankworthy, with
God. He is pleased to account Himself your debtor for this; and
as St. Peter afterwards says in this Epistle, "Happy are ye" if ye thus
suffer. But our Lord Himself affords the greatest encouragement.
"Your reward shall be great," He says, "and ye shall be the children of
the Highest;" an expression which, in accordance with the subject of today's
teaching, we may thus explain. "Ye shall be thus like the Son of
God Himself." For it is on His Divine Example that the Epistle here
proceeds to dwell at length. For even hereunto were ye called:
because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that
ye should follow his steps; Who, before He thus suffered
for us, called upon us to imitate Him especially in this point, this heavenly
temper of mind, saying, "Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart,
and ye shall find rest for your souls."
Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he
was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but
committed himself to him that judgeth righteously. It is St.
Peter that says this; he who himself once exclaimed, on hearing of the
cross, "That be far from Thee, Lord;" he who drew the sword to defend his
Master, and yet the same night denied Him. But now, taught a better
wisdom, he drew the sword to defend his Master, and yet the same night
denied Him. But now, taught a better wisdom, he dwells on his Lord's
example as a cure for all impatience. And well, indeed, it may be
so, --it is the remedy of all remedies; and for this reason the sick soul
in the Canticles says to her Lord, "Thy name is as ointment poured forth."
"My well-beloved is a bundle of myrrh unto me." [Song of Sol. i. 3. 13.]
All the balm of Gilead, we may say, is here in this example. Holy
men have found that to read over the account of Christ in the fifty-third
chapter of Isaiah has been the best antidote against the temptations of
pride and impatience of spirit. For it is not merely His long-suffering,
but His unspeakable love to ourselves throughout the whole, which draws
our hearts and fixes them upon Him, and as we meditate and gaze upon Him,
heals within our souls the wounds of the Old Serpent. And therefore,
when speaking of this His example of meek endurance, St. Peter proceeds
to speak of this His atoning sacrifice, combining both together as they
are in the Collect for today. Who His own self bare our sins in
his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto
righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. This the Prophet
had said of old, and this the Apostle repeats. He bore stripes; He
endured them patiently and without a murmur! but why? because we were all
of us worthy of them, and that by these wounds all over His sacred Body
our wounds might be healed. For from the crown of the head to the
sole of the feet were we corrupted, full of wounds and putrefying sores,
and no soundness in us, as the same Prophet Isaiah bears witness.
[Isaiah i. 6.]
But St. Peter, still using the words of Isaiah, proceeds, For ye
were as sheep going astray; when "the Lord," says the Prophet, "laid
on Him the iniquity of us all;" [Isa. liii.6.] but are now returned
unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
Thus terminates the Epistle for today, speaking of the lost sheep who
have returned to the Shepherd of the soul; and then the Gospel gives our
Lord's own account of the good Shepherd who dies for His sheep, Who knows
them all, and brings them that have been scattered abroad into the one
(for the second part on the Gospel.)