But seek ye first the Kingdom of GOD, and His righteousness;
and allthese things shall be added unto you.
—ST. MATT. vi. 33.
THE Collect and the Gospel being on this as on other Sundays during
this season found together in ancient books, may be considered as both
illustrating and enforcing each other; but it is not so with the Epistle,
which is but a continuation of that for last Sunday, and seems to be carrying
on the same subject. St. Paul had therein been speaking, in expressions
very sublime and heavenly, of the new state into which we are brought by
Baptism, being dead with Christ, and having from henceforth in Him a Divine
life. To-day he proceeds in a lower strain to urge the same upon these
Roman converts, appealing to their human reason on the great advantages
of a religious life over that which is worldly and sinful.
I speak, he says, after the manner of men, because of the infirmity
of your flesh. If ye are as yet unable to appreciate arguments
drawn from the love of God, and from faith in the highest mysteries of
Christ, whereby the soul is hallowed by the great Spirit of truth, I will
descend to set forth the same before you in a manner suited to your own
natural experience. For as ye have yielded your members servants
to uncleanness, and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members
servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants
of sin, ye were free from righteousness. Now there are two services
which must be altogether distinct and separate; the one is the service
of sin, which ye know was that of your heathen state formerly, which was
under the dominion of all natural desires,—lust, covetousness, pride, and
the like,—and continued to increase that servitude by adding sin to sin;
the law of righteousness having then no power over you. But now ye
are called unto quite another service, wherein God demands of you all that
undivided subjection which ye formerly paid to sin and Satan. And
now only consider the vest difference which exists between the two.
What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?
for the end of those things death. There is no argument which
comes home to a worldly man more strongly than this,—your pleasures are
soon over, and when gone, how are you the better for them? You have,
to say the least, sown the wind, and have nothing; your hands are empty.
They are for ever gone, and you are ashamed of them; the abiding effects
which they have left with you are not honour or advantage of any kind,
but shame. But I will not say they have no fruit; for the very feeling
itself of shame which remains, continues to be a witness against you, indicating
that your higher and better nature has been broken in upon. And what
is the end which is naturally to follow?—the death of the body and the
death of the soul. Such pleasures are intimately allied with death,
having their seat in corruption. Such was your unregenerate heathen condition.
But now being made free from sin,—delivered from the bondage
of those things, the very recollection of which is accompanied with shame,—and
become servants to God; having entered upon another service, ye
have your fruit unto holiness; ye already perceive the fruits of it
in spiritual sanctification and works that tend to holiness of life, which
is its own most abundant reward; and the end everlasting life.
These fruits are joyous now to behold, even as a summer field, as they
increase and advance towards perfection; and they wait for a harvest and
ingathering into the barn, which is everlasting life with God.
Weigh, then, as in a balance together, the difference between these
two states, the result of these two services. For the wages of
sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Death is the payment which Satan hath in store for
those that serve him, such are “the wages” which sin earns for that service.
But I cannot speak of “the wages” of holiness; I will not say that by serving
God eternal life is earned as its due recompense or reward for there is
no sort of comparison between such service and the greatness of those promises
which God hath made for those that serve Him; that free “gift of God” which
is everlasting life. Such is that crown of glory which hath been
purchased for you by Christ, and is freely bestowed of God to those that
So great, therefore, being the contrast between these two services,
all I ask is, that ye serve God now as ye once served sin. For if
any one will take that pains in the service of God which men do in the
service of the world, rising up early and late taking rest, feeding the
thoughts ‘with its desires; hoping, contriving, longing for the objects
‘which it holds out to him, he may attain unto great holiness now and happiness
hereafter. Only seek for the bread which God giveth as worldly men
labour for the meat which perisheth, and you will find your hopes and aspirations
so increased upon you, that God only will fill them.... (for
the second part, on the Gospel.)