THE first twelve Sundays after Trinity, which make up the first
half of the Trinity series, form an orderly exposition of the great fundamental
truths of the religious life. Five Sundays of the Love of God and His relation
to man are followed by another five Sundays of Duty, or man’s relation
to God. Two Sundays remain, and are employed to explain the doctrine of
grace, and to show how the love of God, which binds to duty, also makes
possible the fulfilment of duty, and not only constrains, but enables.
Thus the whole series may be summed up in three words—Love, Duty, Grace.
It will be noticed that the order of thought is identical with that
of the Church Catechism, in which, after learning God’s attitude of covenant
love displayed in baptism, and the lesson of duty as conveyed by the commandments,
the child is taught that he is not able “to walk in the commandments of
God and to serve Him without His special grace,” which is to be called
for by diligent prayer.
Thus the first half of the Trinity Sundays form a course of more advanced
teaching for those previously trained in the Catechism—a correspondence
which will be found of great assistance to the teacher. The presentation
of religion must always proceed upon the same lines, and show how the love
of God binds to Duty, and how Duty demands Grace.
Of these two Sundays which treat of the Grace of God, the present Sunday
declares that we need the Divine mercy and grace, while the twelfth Sunday
assures us of the Divine sufficiency which is able to supply all we need.
THE EPISTLE. (I COR. xv. 1.)
THE FIRST PRINCIPLES
OF THE GOSPEL.
S. Paul here considers the relation of the Gospel to human need, naming
only those vast features of it which make it, indeed, a Gospel of mercy
A. The Gospel of Mercy.
(1) Its Efficacy.
The Christian must first “receive it” into himself as the motive of
a new life and the seed of a new character. He must “stand upon it” as
on a firm foundation and sure hope. Standing upon his own merits he has
no security, but standing upon the simple fact of Christ’s death he rests
upon something which can bear him. That to which he must trust is not Within
him, but without him. He must “keep it in memory” as a thing too sweet
to be forgotten, and as the ever-present motive of his life.
Doing this, he will find it the source of ever-increasing salvation.
(2) Its Simplicity.
It consists of certain completed facts of history, parts of a Divine
plan foretold in the Scriptures and devised and carried out by the mercy
of God. These facts are three in number.
- The Death of Christ for sin—this the primary Gospel fact delivered
first of all.”
- The Burial of Christ, which certified His death.
- The Resurrection of Christ, which certified the Sufficiency of His
death, and assures us of the life of grace here and of glory hereafter.
(3) Its Trustworthiness.
These simple facts challenge any amount of investigation. There are
no events so sure or which rest on more complete evidence. S. Paul refers
to the evidence of the twelve, to the evidence of hundreds of living Christians,
and to his own vision of the Risen Christ.
B. The Gospel of Grace.
The Gospel of mercy is outside us that we may cling to it. The Gospel
of grace is within us as—
(1) The Source of Christian
By this S. Paul is, not perhaps all that he might have been, but something
very different from what he was.
(2) The Source of Christian
By this S. Paul has done, not perhaps all that he might have done, but
something, yes, more than something, “more than they all.”
For all that he is and for all that he has done the grace of God is
responsible. In spite of all he has been and of all he has done the mercy
of God is available.
THE GOSPEL. (S. LUKE xviii. 9.)
THE FIRST PRINCIPLES
The parable teaches the absolute necessity of a deep sense of sin as
the one condition of receiving grace and mercy. This is the lesson of the
A. The Pharisee.
We need not describe his outward dress, for he has worn every kind and
sort of dress for these twenty centuries, but never the garb of humility.
He thanks God for his virtues, or, rather, the absence of vices. He recounts
all the good things he has done. All is part of his praying, but it is
not prayer. “Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,” and he has no desire.
He has no conception of any goodness that he does not possess. He has not
because he asks not, he asks not because he wants not.
B. The Publican.
We need not describe his trade, for he has been of every trade, his
appearance or his complexion, for it is as various as mankind. In one thing
alone he is ever the same—he is desperately in earnest, terribly in need.
He is ashamed to encounter the eyes of men, for he “stands afar off.” He
is so humble towards God that “he will not lift up his eyes toward heaven.”
He feels inward heartfelt pain, for “he smites upon his breast.” He feels
the speciality of his sin—he is “the sinner.” He trusts alone, if he dare
trust at all, in mercy, and in God, for he prays “God be merciful to me,
the sinner.” His prayer is very short, and he will not be heard for his
much speaking, but he will be heard, for he asks, and “whosoever asketh
receiveth.” And he is heard, he returns justified, and mercy and grace
go with him.
Such is the prayer of need, and such is the answer of grace.
The choice of the Epistle and Gospel is a masterpiece of selection in
its contrast between the unconverted Pharisee and the great convert from
Pharisaism, conscious, indeed, of an inward change, but far from satisfied
with the degree of it, ascribing it all to the grace of God, and ever humbled
by the recollection of what he was previously. The difference between the
two is that the one has felt a need of which the other is wholly unconscious.
THE COLLECT. A PRAYER OF NEED.
A true prayer of the publican enriched by the theology of S. Paul.
A. The Divine Mercy.
God’s mercy is not at issue with His power, for it is the way of showing
His power in which He most delights. The Gospel is the power of God unto
salvation, and each step in grace is an exhibition of the power of God
as real as were Christ’s miracles of mercy.
B. The Prayer for Grace.
We ask for grace in proportion to our needs. We ask for grace to start
on the heavenly journey, for grace to advance quickly, and finally to obtain