First part of Sermon LX. for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity.
Gal. iii. 16-22. St. Luke x. 23-37.
Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see.—ST.
LUKE x. 23.
As we proceed from week to week along the Sundays after Trinity, every
one seems to open to us some new view of the loving-kindness of God, urging
the same upon us as constraining motives to serve Him with something of
the same love to Him and to each other. And so is it to-day. St. Paul,
in the Epistle, is explaining to the Galatians that “the blessing of Abraham”
comes not on the Jews as such, but on all of us, as we are in Christ. To
Abraham, he says, and his seed were the promises made. He saith
not, And to seeds, as of many; the word of promise speaks not of the
many families of the Jews, born on the stock of Abraham; but speaks
as of one, And to thy seed, Which is Christ; to Christ the seed of
Abraham, according to the flesh, and in Whose Body, being one, are contained
all the faithful.
But again, the Jews supposed that through the fulfilment of the Law,
which came in so long after, they should inherit this blessing of Abraham;
this then the Apostle proceeds to answer. And this I say, that the covenant,
that was confirmed before of God in Christ, in giving that promise to Abraham,
the Law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul,
that it should make the promise of none effect. For the inheritance
of the kingdom is given to us at our baptism, as being in Christ; it is
a free gift, according to the promise made to Abraham. For if the inheritance
be of the Law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by
Wherefore then serveth the Law ? the Jew will ask. It was
added, says St. Paul, because of transgressions; it was as a
bridle placed upon the Jews, (St. Chrys. ad loc.) to restrain their wickedness,
and that too only for a time; till the seed should come, he says,
to whom the promise was made: and it was ordained by angels in the hand
of a Mediator. The Law itself was dispensed by the ministering spirits
of Christ, Who Himself was before the Law, and gave the Law as the great
mediator between God and man. For He spake there by means of angels and
prophets, not as in the Gospel, by Himself. Now a mediator is not a
mediator of one, but God is one. A free gift, without conditions, requires
no mediator; but the Law was through a Mediator between God and man. A
mediator implies two persons, God Himself is but One; the other party must
be man therefore, and his part was to be performed, which was obedience.
For a mediation cannot be like a promise, dependent on one party only.
Is the Law then against the promises of God? Does it by bringing
in the curse on disobedience stop the promised blessing, and cut off the
Jew who lived under the Law ? God forbid: for if there had been a Law
given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been
by the Law. For the Law never could under any circumstances have given
life; and, therefore, its non-fulfilment cannot destroy the promise of
life. But the Scripture hath concluded, hath shut up together, all,
not all men, but more, all things, the whole creation, under
sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that
believe. The Law was to convince them of sin, and bring them to Christ:
thus John the Baptist preached repentance; for if they had believed Moses
they would have believed in Christ. The Law was but the means, not the
end; but the Jews were now making it the end; whereas the end of the Law
is Christ, in Whom is the promise, and the blessing, and the covenant,
and righteousness, and life; not for a time only, but for ever. It was
to this the prophets of old looked,’ to this the saints of the elder covenant
aspired, to behold Christ, the end of the Law, in Whom dwells the fulness
of all good, the love of God flowing down from Heaven, and embracing all
men; as the fragrant oil that came down on the head of Aaron, and went
to the skirts of his clothing.
It is this which is in so interesting and beautiful a manner set before
us in the Gospel for to-day...
.... (for the second part, on the Gospel.)