"Risen Life of Unworldliness"
A Devotional Exposition of the Teaching of
the Christian Year, by Melville Scott.
THE Christian, as risen with Christ and following His holy example,
has yet to live his life in the world. Thus he must consider how
to be in the world, yet not of the world, and how, while not of the
world, he may yet combine the heavenly and earthly calling. This
is the special subject of the Epistle.
THE EPISTLE. (1 S. PETER ii. 11.)
LIFE IN THE WORLD.
A. Separation from the World.
Christians must look upon the world as strangers in it.
They must regard it as from the outside. They may not imagine that
whatever is done there is right. They are also pilgrims or
sojourners whose position is temporary, for "they have no continuing city,
but seek one to come" (cf. Heb. xi. 13-16). They must cultivate
a life of detachment from much of its business and pleasure, at least in
heart. Especially must they "abstain from fleshly lusts." Many
things are allowable, some thing indifferent, but these are directly contrary
to the Christian life, for they "war against the soul."
B. Duty before the World.
But this separation must not be the separation of pride and contempt,
which is no less un-Christian than worldliness.
The Christ is to remember--
(1) His Duty of Example.
He is only to condemn the world by showing it something better, not
by abuse of it. He will best show what is wrong by doing what is
right. Christianity works not by revolution, but revelation, and
the Christian is so to live that the world shall confess that the Christian
life is truly beautiful (honest), and a sure comfort and stay in times
of sorrow and anxiety--"in a day of visitation."
(2) The Duty of Submission.
Though the particular form of any government is "a creation of man,"
yet the authority of government is of God, and obedience a Christian duty
to be done for "the Lord's sake." The laws, so far as they are wise,
express the wisdom of God, and human justice, so far as it is just, is
based on the justice of God. Obedience to these lies at the foundation
of society, itself an ordinance of God, and is the only security for order,
liberty, confidence, and prosperity. The Christian cannot regard
States as "an affair of one world," for though this world may end them
it will not see the end of their good and evil.
(3) The Duty of Service.
The Christian owns no man master upon earth, and can say to the world,
"Thou are not my master," but he must not forget to say, "Self is not my
master," otherwise he will "use his liberty for a cloak of his wickedness,"
and be like the barons who desired the Pope to absolve them from their
allegiance to the king that they might serve neither.
The world need not suspect Christian liberty, for it is only endangered
by those who, pretending to serve it, are really seeking their own ease
or advancement. "Let princes and States choose such ministers as
are more sensible of duty than of rising, and such as love business upon
conscience." (Bacon. Of Ambition.)
If the Church and God come first and men and kings second, let them
be content to be second; for if self comes first they will be nowhere.
It is to be noticed that we are to honour both the king and all men,
and are, therefore, to a large extent, to have the same feelings towards
them as towards the king on his throne. We learn, therefore, the
duty of universal reverence and politeness; to have the same manner to
the poor as to the rich; to consider men as men, and regard with interest
their feelings, necessities, burdens, and sorrows.
THE GOSPEL. (S. JOHN xvi. 16.)
A LITTLE WHILE.
A. A Lesson for the First Disciples.
(1) Christ gently warns His Disciples that a separation
was imminent. They had hoped for a future like the past, and that
Christ would be ever with them for guidance, teaching, and protection.
They could not realize that the present was but for a little while.
(2) Christ kindly comforts His Disciples.
The coming change was not loss, but gain. The approaching grief
was also only for "a little while." This second "little while" must
be their comfort in thinking of the first, for if sorrow was soon to come
it would soon pass by.
The joy of reunion would surpass the joy they had enjoyed, for it would
be the joy of a clearer vision and a closer intimacy, and "their heart
would rejoice," for this joy should never pass away. All grief should
be swallowed up, and no more remembered, even as the pangs of birth are
forgotten in the rapture of motherhood.
B. A Lesson for All Christians.
The experience of the first disciples is a lesson for all.
(1) Of Warning.
As strangers and pilgrims, "a little while" is written on the whole
of our earthly life. The whole history of the world, human life at
its longest, human effort at its strongest, is all for a little while.
There is an acceleration of apparent velocity as the years pass, and the
years in youth loiter but run apace in age.
We must never fall into the error of thinking that to be permanent which
can only be transient, and become so entangled in cares, riches, and pleasures
as to forget that they must end.
This lesson is conveyed by the first "little while."
(2) Of Encouragement.
The importance of life is not measured by its brevity, and consists
both in what we leave behind us and in what we shall take with us--our
example and influence, which we leave, and our character, which we shall
retain. While the "little while" lasts let us do our utmost.
Our three great enemies know their time is short, but we know it too.
The stress of conflict and the tension of endurance will not be for ever.
Reunion with Christ and those we love may be very near, must be near.
How sad to say at the last, "I could have held out had I known it was only
for so short a time." This is the teaching of the second "little
while," and is full of encouragement. The second "little while" not
only more than makes up for the sadness of the first, but shall issue in
that which shall be for ever.
The Collects for all the Sundays connected with Easter are eminently
practical, and point to various aspects of the Risen life. It is
to be a life not only of good desires, but of good actions; purified from
the leaven of error and sin; fashioned after Christ's example, and, to-day,
marked by careful consistency.
Our very Christianity is due to God Who, by the light of His truth,
revealed to our wandering footsteps the way of righteousness. By
the fall we lost our way; by conversion and baptism we return into the
right path. We ask that God, Who has done so much for us, would do
yet more, and keep us in the right path.
B. Consistent Christianity.
Having been admitted into Christ's Church, which is clearly defined
as "the fellowship (or society) of Christ's religion," we pray for consistency,
to cast off all that is inconsistent and to pursue all such things which
a Christian ought to do. We are to be Christian in what we avoid
and in what we aim at, otherwise we shall both hurt the Christian name
and bring disgrace upon our fellows in Christ's religion.