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Love the Fulfilling of the Law.

by Isaac Williams

from Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and Holy Days

throughout the Year, Vol. II. Trinity Sunday to All Saints' Day 

Rivingtons, London, 1875, pp. 167-173.

Second 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.
(for the first part, on the Epistle.

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. Blessed are the eyes, said our Lord to His disciples, which see the things that ye see; eyes that in faith are able to discern God in Christ. For I tell you, That many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. Blessed the eyes that see, and ears that hear of sins forgiven, of Heaven opened, of diseases and evil spirits flying away at the presence of God, made Man for us; that witness the day of Christ which Abraham saw afar off in hope, and rejoiced.

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life ? He said unto him, What is written in the Law? How readest thou? As our Lord Himself in the temptation thrice overcame Satan, by saying, “It is written,” so now He points out to the Scribe who tempted Him, that the word of life was in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. And he answering, said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And He said unto him, Thou hast answered right; this do, and thou shalt live. Does our Lord then mean to say, that in thus fulfilling the righteousness of the Law, there would be found eternal life ? And if so, how is this to be reconciled with what St. Paul says,— that the Law could not possibly, under any circumstances, give life ? The reason is this, that thus fulfilling the Law, in loving God, would bring to the end of the Law, which is Christ. For God is only known, or loved, or believed, as He is seen in Christ; Christ is the manifestation of God; the Law is the schoolmaster, teaching the love of God, in order to bring to Christ. Therefore, every one so far as he loves God, loves Christ; there is no other love of God either in the Law or in the Gospel. Nay, more than this, Christ only is Love, and Christ only is Life; we can only then have within us love or life, so far as Christ is in us: for He is Himself both the way and the end. And, therefore, He Himself said, “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me.” And here He lays down for us the great principle of love as fulfilling both the Law and the Gospel; in which is the union of man through Christ with God. It is, therefore, of two laws, the love of God and the love of man, yet both comprehended in one, as God and Man are One Christ.

His life only is holy and righteous who loves all things according as they are worthy of love; who loves not much what is worthy of little love; nor loves little an object worthy of much love. “No sinner,” says St. Augustine, “as such is to be loved; but every man as man is to be loved, for the sake of God. But God alone is to be loved for His own sake. And if God is more to be loved than any man, every one ought to love God more than himself. And another man is to be more loved than our own body; because he is capable of enjoying God, which the body cannot.” “And all men are alike to be loved: for our Lord, in explaining to us who our neighbour is, has excluded none (De Doc. Chris. Par. Brev.).

And when our Lord discloses this one great law of love, it is immediately seen why He is rejected of the Jews. For the Scribes and Pharisees we find on all occasions full of their own righteousness, and so anxious at all times to establish this, that they knew not the love of God in Christ: and, therefore, they were so far from loving their neighbour, that they knew not even who he was. And he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

Now our Blessed Saviour had often given commands of loving our enemies and the like; but it was His habit to clothe His precepts in little interesting and instructive histories, such as might take hold of the mind, and never be forgotten; and perhaps there is none of these more memorable than this parable of the Good Samaritan. (For the mystical meaning of this Parable, see "Plain Sermons," Vol. iv. Serm. cxiii.) And Jesus answering, said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Leaving him in a dying state by the road-side, unable to assist himself, and, therefore, sure to die a lingering death, unless some timely assistance should occur. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way. For Jericho was the city of the priests, and Jerusalem was the place where they ministered before God; and surely, if any one might be expected to know the love of God, it was one whose whole business it was to intercede with God for man, and to intercede with man in behalf of God; who “made his boast of God, and knew His will, confident that he himself was a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, a teacher of babes.” (Rom. ii. 17-20)  But, alas, they of whom most might be expected are often the worst: he came to that place in the road where the wounded man was, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. He would not oven look upon him. This is usually the case with selfish people; they are anxious to get out of the sight of misery, that it may not disturb their feelings. It was so with the rich man in the parable; it is not said that he even knew of Lazarus dying at his gate, such things were carefully kept out of his view; he kept on the other side of the road, the side of self-indulgence, ease, and luxury, not to be offended by distresses that might occur to other fellow-travellers on this our common journey of mortality.

And likewise a Levite. Now, the Levites being a sacred tribe, belonging to the temple, and having the care of all holy things, were those of whom, next to the priests, we should most expect to know what Divine love is; but the proverb is too often true, that the nearer men are to Church, the further they are from God. The Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him; he was so far indeed better than the priest, that he came and looked on him as if with a passing thought of concern and sympathy, for first thoughts are often the best; and then he also passed by on the other side.

But a certain Samaritan,—one of those half-heathen, ignorant outcasts whom the Jews would not deign to look upon, by whose very presence they felt contaminated, calling Christ a Samaritan at the same time that they called him a devil,—a Samaritan, as he journeyed, not passing in his own leisure like the priest and the Levite, as it would appear, but on a journey of business,—as he journeyed came where he was; and when he saw him lie had compassion on him, and not only so, but as if forgetting his own concerns and his journey, he went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. He entered into the case as if it had been that of a near relative or dear friend, for even on such an occasion he could have done no more. He gave up his own business, he gave up his oil and wine, the support of his own journey, he gave up his beast, he went himself on foot, he waited himself and tended on the wounded stranger, he made the case entirely his own. This is loving one’s neighbour as oneself. And on the morrow, when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. He did not say to the innkeeper, “Now I have done my part, it is for you and others to look to him,” but he kept to the same course throughout, as a privilege to serve one in distress.

Which now, said our Lord to the Scribe, of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Thus the Scribe who asked the question himself gives the answer, according to that expression in prophecy of the last day, “Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee.” Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. If you wish to know who your neighbour is whom you are bound to love, it is he who needs your assistance. The word neighbour is more expressive in the Greek and Latin languages than in our own; it is he who approaches nearest to you. We are to love all men; but in doing so are to love most those who need it most. Now how can this be ? It is only, my brethren, by loving God. It is by loving men because God loves them, and as beloved of Him, and because we ourselves love Him. And therefore it is the second Commandment, it cannot stand alone, but another goes before it, the first and great Commandment, which is the love of God.

We may love some persons because we love ourselves,—because they are connected with us, are useful to us, or kind; but then we shall love ourselves best; but if we love our neighbour because we love God, then we shall love him in some measure as we love ourselves.

Again, we may dislike various persons for various reasons; one, because be is proud or happy and above us; another, because he is miserable and below us; another, because he is unkind to us; another, because he is in our way, or condemns us; another, on account of infirmities of body or mind: but in all these cases we shall get rid of these evil tempers, if we consider how they are loved of God; surely, as much as we ourselves are. Consider, I say, how God loves them, and you will learn to be merciful, even as your Father in Heaven is merciful.