The Peaceable Ordering of
the World.by Isaac Williams
from Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and
throughout the Year, Vol. II.
Whitsunday to All Saints'
Rivingtons, London, 1875.
First part of Sermon LII. for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity.
That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness
honesty.— I TIM.
THE Epistle for this Sunday has not always been found with this
same Collect and Gospel, [Note: Williams misunderstood that in
point of fact, it was the Anglican tradition which preserved the Epistle
corresponding with the Gospel found in the ancient Comes of St. Jerome.
Click here for further
information] and therefore perhaps we are not to look to it
as carrying out the same lesson which they may be intended to convey; and
yet it will be found to describe very fully in our daily conduct that “joyful
serving” of Christ “in all godly quietness” of which the Collect speaks,
and which the Gospel may be considered to represent. St. Peter is
therein inculcating on Christians how they are to commit the keeping of
their souls to Christ in well-doing amidst the fiery trial of troubles
and persecutions from without. There is no passage which enforces
more strongly what ought to be the feeling of Christians amidst the fever
and disturbance of this world’s politics, as being throughout strangers
upon earth and citizens of a better country.
Be ye all of one mind; not like men of this world, with many
clashing interests that divide them, but all of one mind, “the mind which
was in Christ Jesus” being in you all alike; having compassion one of
another, or rather, full of sympathies or fellow-feeling one with another,
having like affections, so that if one member suffer, all the members suffer
together with it. As St. Paul says, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice,
and weep with them that weep.” Love as brethren; be as those
united in the one great bond of Christian brotherhood; be pitiful,
having tender feelings of mercy, soon moved to pity; be courteous,
of a disposition friendly and kind, in honour preferring one another with
meekness. Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing;
but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called; that
your very calling as Christians is thus to suffer evil in order that ye
may requite it with good, after the example of Christ; and so that ye
should inherit a blessing. So shall ye come even to that blessing
of all blessings when Christ shall say at last, “Come, ye blessed of My
Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you;” and in anticipation of which
He Himself has said, “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute
you...rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in Heaven;”
i.e. “blessed are ye,” and “great shall be your reward,” when ye can thus
requite such ill-treatment with blessing. This is “joyfully serving
in all godly quietness” under persecutions from without. It is to
this ye are called,—this great inheritance of blessing. “For even
hereunto were ye called,” said St. Peter before, “because Christ also suffered
for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps...Who when
He was reviled, reviled not again.”
To this St. Peter adds a passage from the thirty-fourth Psalm, in the
three following verses; and in this we may observe how the very words of
the Psalm seem to kindle and brighten with a sort of Divine fire, when
the Apostle makes use of them, from the example and the Spirit of Christ
with which they are full, far beyond what the Psalmist knew of when he
spake them. For he that will love life and see good days;
he that longeth after that life which is to be found with Christ in God;
whose heart is set on the many days of eternity; to see the goodness of
the Lord in the land of the living; to behold in the beatific vision Him
Who alone is good. Let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his
lips that they speak no guile! even after the example of Him “Who did
no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” Let him eschew
evil, he says from the Psalmist, and do good; let him seek peace
and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and
His ears are open unto their prayers. But the face of the Lord
is against them that do evil.
It is the earnest and daily fulfilment of these things which keeps with
us the good Spirit of God, so that His ears are open unto our prayers,
nay, more, that He gives us a heart to pray; that the eyes of Jesus Christ
are upon us, filling our souls with the light of His countenance, and that
peace which passeth all understanding. And what more awful and terrible
can be declared of those who neglect these things than this, that “the
face of the Lord is against” them?
And who is he that will harm you, adds St. Peter, if ye be
followers of that which is good? And why this fear of evil men?
why all this struggling against them with so much unloving suspicion of
men and distrust of God? for who has any power to harm you, if ye
be followers of that which is good? or, as it might be explained,
if ye imitate and try to walk in the steps of Him Who was Good.
But then an answer to this will immediately arise in the heart, Are
we not told that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution?
is it not following the example of Christ, which will bring upon us, we
are assured from His own words and from all experience, the hatred and
enmity of the world, as it did on Christ Himself? What security,
therefore, is this of which the Apostle speaks in following what is good?
To which St. Peter seems to say, Of course I allow that, I take all that
for granted; but what then? I said, “ Who is he that will harm you?”
can such enemies harm you? can they touch a hair of your head while you
are in God’s favour and keeping? far from it. As for suffering persecution
for righteousness, I look not on that as harm, but, on the contrary, as
the very crown of joy and well-doing; if this is the worst ye can expect,
then great indeed is your happiness. But and if ye suffer for
righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither
be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. Let all
your care be to keep your heart in the love and the fear of God, and then
you need not be apprehensive of those things which are without.
And now to proceed to the Gospel for this Sunday....
(for the second part, on the Gospel.)