THE Epiphanies of the past and present are to be consummated
by the final Epiphany of the future. Previously to the last revision of
the Book of Common Prayer the Epiphany Season ended with the fifth Sunday,
to be repeated, if needful, on the Sunday following.
The present Collect, Epistle, and Gospel, added by Bishop Cosin, most
appropriately conclude the Epiphany series, and not only so, but are equally
appropriate when transferred to the second Sunday before Advent.
It will be noticed how all Reformation and subsequent Collects recognize
the principle, which the present volume is written to illustrate, of the
individual unity and intimate connection of the Sundays of the Church Year.
THE GOSPEL. (S. MATT. xxiv. 23.)
THE EPIPHANY OF CHRIST.
This Gospel contains our Saviour’s solemn prediction of His final Epiphany
at the last day, as prefigured by His coming to judgment in the day of
Jerusalem. This prior and lesser fulfilment in the days of the generation
then living is a pledge of the final and complete fulfilment, and it may
be also of recurring fulfilments before the end come. It is sufficient
to note the various signs of the end here mentioned.
A. The Prevalence of False Christs.
Men speak of the credulity of faith, but this is very small compared
with the credulity of unbelief. Faith is, indeed, the worst enemy of superstition,
and he who believes in Christ is thereby
delivered from anxious fears and vain speculations. Those who accept
the true are forearmed and forewarned against the false. Christ’s command,
“Believe it not,” is of very wide application. Especially are we to cultivate
the scepticism of faith against those who profess hidden knowledge.
We are to remember, on the one hand, that Christ will come suddenly,
and evidently as the lightning; and, on the other, that He will come with
sure certainty to remove all things that offend. No carcase will fail to
attract the eagles of vengeance.
B. Providential Warnings.
These are to precede His coming. The sun shall be darkened; the moon
shall not give her light; the stars shall fall, and the powers of heaven
shall be shaken. The words are best left without commentary; so also the
mysterious sign of the Son of Man, which is to usher in His Presence. Let
it be ours to be found among those who will see in their Lord’s coming
a call to rejoice rather than to mourn.
THE EPISTLE. (1 S. JOHN iii. 1.)
THE EPIPHANY OF THE SONS
Each Epiphany Epistle has taught the manifestation of some one great
feature of the Christian character. We are now to learn that the
character of Christ is to be fully manifest in His people, who shall be
like Him when they see Him as He is. Thus, this Epistle fitly concludes
the-Epiphany series. We learn with regard to the sons of God :—
A. Their Present Position.
They are the objects of God’s love and fatherly care. We owe to the
Revision the remarkable words which prevent any misunderstanding of the
word “called,” as if it implied an empty title— "and such we are.” Their
position is not earned, but bestowed, and is not due to merit, but love.
No man ever yet earned a father.
B. Their Glorious Prospect.
Even the completion and consummation of Sonship in perfect likeness
to and communion with their Heavenly Father. The future world is full of
mystery, but we need not go beyond the view here given of the perfection
of Sonship realized in blessed intimacy with God. We cannot understand
“the things which God has prepared,” but we can feel that more important
still is our relation to God, which begins even here.
C. Their Present Task
Is to remove all that intercepts this blessed relationship, for every
man that hath his hope set on God purifieth himself even as He is pure.
He must cast away sin, because sin is—
(1) The Transgression of the
That which gives human laws their terror is the degree in which they
resemble the law of God in their justice and certainty. We must, therefore,
regard sin with reasonable fear.
(2) Prevents that for which
He was manifested to deliver from sin and to supply us with motives
against it. To cleave to sin is to make Christ to have died in vain.
(3) Is foreign to Christ’s character.
In Him is no sin, thus to sin is to be Christ’s opposite, and proves
us ignorant of Him, and of that knowledge which is life eternal.
(4) Is inconsistent with our
We were made the children of God in order that we might be righteous,
as He is righteous. Let us not please Satan more than God.
By such arguments are we to be urged to escape from the power and practice
of sin. We need a present Epiphany of Grace if we are to be ready for the
Epiphany of Judgment.
THE COLLECT. A GREAT EPIPHANY
In this noble Collect are summed up the teachings of the whole season
now ended. It is hardly necessary to say that it turns the Epistle into
A. The Epiphany of the Past.
This was in order to destroy the works of the devil in this fallen world
and in fallen hearts: to bring us back to the position of God’s children,
and to make us heirs of the glorious Kingdom in which He now dwells.
B. The Epiphany of the Present.
We pray for such an Epiphany, that we may attain the likeness of Christ—His
devotion to duty, His sympathy, mercy, that His power to save may support
our weakness; that we may reflect His patience. We are to purify ourselves
as He is pure. Surely there is work enough in this.
C. The Epiphany of the Future.
We pray that the Epiphany of Christ within may make us ready for the
final Epiphany. Thus may we hope to attain boldness before the Judgment
Seat of Christ, because as He is even so are we in this world.
Of the three Epiphanies, the first is to produce the second, and the
second to prepare for the third.