THIS closing Sunday of the Easter course plainly teaches the
intense reality which must mark the Risen Life of Christians, both internally
as a life of holy thought and feeling, and externally as a life of daily
THE GOSPEL. (S. JOHN xvi. 23.) THE
Christ reveals three essential marks of the inner life of Christians.
It is to be:
A. A Life of Prayer.
Our Saviour here gives us the very charter of Christian prayer.
The pledge of prayer is our Saviour’s solemn and most emphatic promise,
“Ask, and ye shall receive “—a pledge as wide and unreserved as can possibly
be—” whatsoever ye shall ask.”
He gives us, also, the prevailing plea of Christian prayer—” in My
name.” He will frank our prayers for everything which He can approve, and
He will approve every reasonable longing of our nature. He will join our
prayers to His own and His prayers to ours. Thus we have “access with confidence”
to the Father.
B. A Life of Sonship.
Prayer rests on sonship, and is sonship expressed in words. Our
Lord came to reveal the Father and to make us the sons of God. All definitions
and descriptions of religious truth are “parables” and comparisons, except
this of sonship, which expresses the actual relation between the Christian
and God. The mediation and intercession of Christ must not be taken to
mean that the Father does not Himself love us, or that His will towards
us needs changing, for the Father sent the Son, and, His mission ended,
the Son returned to the Father. The mission of Christ is, therefore, the
expression of the love which first loved us, and which is freely open to
those who have accepted God’s great gift to them. Our sonship is through
C. A Life of Peace.
Sure confidence in God as our Heavenly Father lies at the root of the
Christian life, and gives freedom to prayer. Thus trusting and thus praying
we may live a life of peace. Our peace does not rest upon our faith, but
upon our Father. The disciples were soon to find how weak was the faith
with which they were now so well satisfied. They must cease to depend upon
themselves in any way and depend on God, even as our Lord in the loneliness
of His sufferings still enjoyed the Father’s presence. Thus the inner life
of peace in Christ would enable them for the outward life in the world.
Reality in the inward life can alone enable us to overcome the world’s
temptations, hindrances, difficulties, anxieties, irritations, and afflictions;
can alone aid us to live for God in a world which rejects Him, and in the
midst of a world of sense to live for a world of spirit. In Christ, in
His Person, Church, and ordinances, lies the promise and power of victory.
THE EPISTLE. (S. JAMES i. 22.)
THE OUTER LIFE.
As there must be the inner life of prayer, peace, and sonship, so there
must be the outer life of practice and of brotherhood; for, unless our
principles produce results, they cannot be considered to be there at all.
A. The Necessity of Practice
Is shown by the apt illustration of a mirror, so wholly useless unless
we remove the defects we have seen in ourselves.
The Christian mirror is our Lord Jesus Christ ; His perfect character,
His words and teachings. These form a mirror in which we see
(1) Ourselves as we are.
In studying Christ we see ourselves, our defects, errors, blemishes
in character and principle. He who does not know Christ does not know himself,
but imagines himself better than he is, having never seen the best.
(2) Ourselves as we ought to be.
This mirror is also a law which condemns us for our unlikeness to our
Lord; a perfect law which holds up the very ideal of righteousness in the
face of Jesus Christ.
(3) Ourselves as we can be.
For it is not only a law, but a law of liberty, which while it condemns
shows the way of escape. The imitation of Christ is no hard bondage, but
a labour of love. His rules do not fetter us, but set us free, as a knowledge
of the rules of art make painter and musician free to paint and compose.
Obeying them we seem to obey not something outside of us, but our better
We must intensely contemplate this divine mirror and stand continually
before its pure surface. It is the work of the Spirit to instruct us in
the use of it in order to convince of sin, righteousness and judgment (cf.
last Sunday’s Gospel, S. John xvi. 8-11).
B. Three Special Points of Practice.
It is especially important for us to be very practical in three most
(1) In the Bridling of our Tongues.
The Bridle of Restraint is most needful, for they are apt to go too
fast and be in advance of truth through exaggeration, of modesty through
boasting, of feeling through flattery, of love through anger. In all these
respects they are apt to run away with us.
The Bridle of Correction is needed to prevent them wandering into frivolity,
personalities, scandal, or into subjects of which we know nothing, lest
they carry us whither we would not.
The Bridle of Direction is also needed to guide them into what ever
is good, useful, interesting, and edifying (cf. Eph. iv. 29, 30).
A religion that cannot control the tongue is not a religion of the
heart (cf. S. Matt. xii. 34).
(2) In Charity.
This must be seen in its most practical form of caring for the fatherless
and widows. This is acceptable “before God and the Father,” Who has revealed
Himself as “the Father of the fatherless and the Judge of the widow.” This
is the pattern of Christ, Who “went about doing good,” and of this He will
require the practical proof, “Ye visited Me.”
(3) In Purity
As we need charity to mix with others, so we need purity to avoid others’
sin, and to keep us unspotted from the defilements, seductions, indulgences,
and temptations of the world. The word rendered religion means literally
worship; no external acts of worship are of avail separate from charity
and purity, which are themselves the devotion and worship which God most
We here ask for the inward life of the Gospel and the outward life
of the Epistle from Him “from Whom all good things do come.”
A. For the Inner Life.
We ask for the life of holy thought and feeling, and this, by the inspiration
of God, for we may not regard inspiration as a thing of the past, because
one form of it, and that the least important, is gone. In every other respect
this is the very dispensation of inspiration. We need inspiration of holy
thoughts, purposes, plans, and desires. We need also inspiration for freshness
in our work, since we are apt to become dead and emotionless. We must learn
from the Gospel the emotions which alone produce results.
B. For the Outer Life.
We need inspiration for our start, or we shall never begin; we need
“merciful guidance,” or we shall not arrive at our journey’s end. As it
is easy to get into a habit of acting without feeling, so it is easy to
get into an even worse habit of feeling without acting— a sort of Christian
castle-building of excited but resultless planning and revolving. We are
to learn from the Epistle the practical side of emotion.