THE second essential of true and laudable service is purity,
as the first is love. In the activity of a life of good works the Christian
must not lose sight of the work of goodness to be carried on within the
heart by the influence of the Holy Spirit.
THE EPISTLE. (GAL. v. 16.)
THE FLESH AND THE SPIRIT.
The evil of impurity is here contrasted with the blessed results which
follow the holy workings of the Spirit.
A. The Works of the Flesh.
The evil of these is shewn by its wholesale destructiveness. It spoils
all that it touches, and is the parent of confusion and every evil work.
Inward evil in itself, its results are manifest. It brings—
(1) Inward Schism.
Where the “flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the
flesh,” all is confusion in the human heart. It is the battle. field on
which are engaged opposing forces. The workings of the Spirit disable us
for the pleasures of sin, and the workings of evil for the joys of holiness.
Though the old nature is checked by the new, yet the new is still hindered
and thwarted by the old. This state of struggle can only be rightly ended
by our taking ever more decidedly the side of the Spirit.
(2) Antagonism against God.
When we yield to sin we come at once “under the law.” We are placed
in a wrong attitude towards God. We are out of sympathy with His laws,
in which we read our own condemnation, and which are then felt to be a
burden, a restraint, and a bondage. Only by following the Spirit can we
find pleasure in doing the will of God, and feel it no longer a burden
placed on us, but a principle within us.
(3) Confusion in every Sphere of Life.
It ruins the life of home, breaking the marriage tie on which the home
depends, by “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, and lasciviousness,” or
the shameless pursuit of gross sin.
It darkens religion, for if there is no true religion in them men will
turn to superstition and wild speculation. Men must have a religion, and
the last refuge of atheism is superstition, the modern equivalent of “idolatry
It breaks up all society. Hatred breeds every act and form of disunion—”
variance, emulations, wrath, and strife,” and these crystallise into “divisions
and parties,” for the words are wider than the present translation, “seditions
and heresies.” It is not the Church alone that is rent by sin: sin rends
the world and leads to whole. sale anarchy. Evil passions no longer held
in check break loose in “envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and
such like.” Such is the last end of the sins of the flesh. If we have not
realised their inherent evil we can estimate it by these results, “for
the works of the flesh are manifest.”
B. The Fruit of the Spirit.
Let the same test be applied to the fruit of the Spirit. This also is
manifest. The nine graces of the Spirit may be divided into three divisions
(1) Love, joy, peace.
These are for a man’s own heart. Love is the restoration of correspondence
with God, joy and peace are its constant realization. At peace with God,
man is at peace with himself.
(2) Long-suffering, gentleness, goodness.
These are for a man’s home, and for the circle of friends and neighbours.
In long-suffering he accepts the evil; in gentleness he bears himself so
as to give to others the least possible need for forbearance; in goodness
he overcomes evil with good.
(3) Faith, meekness, temperance.
These are for a man’s work in the world. By faith, or, rather, faithfulness,
a man makes it easy for others to work with him, by meekness he is enabled
to work with others.
By temperance or self-control, which is the power within one-self to
rule oneself, to abstain from things forbidden, and to refrain from excess
even in things allowed, a man may gain any good in the form of higher attainment
for himself or of benefit done to others.
“Against such there is no law,” for law exists to restrain, but in the
fruits of the Spirit there is nothing to restrain. Such graces can never
be out of place, never out of date. True it is that they are eminently
Christian virtues and part of our baptismal duty as Christians, for “they
that are of Christ (i.e., all Christians) crucified (i.e., at baptism)
the affections and lusts,” but they are universally needed. The world demands
them, but Christ alone supplies them.
THE GOSPEL. (S. LUKE xvii. 11.)
THE CLEANSING POWER
The healing of the leper (S. Matt. viii. i) recorded in the Gospel of
the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, illustrated the Divine mercy, the
present miracle is here recorded to teach the cleansing power of Christ.
A. The Leprosy of Sin.
The ten lepers are a picture of moral defilement. Leprosy, thc disease
of the flesh, is the natural type, as, no doubt, often also the punishment,
of fleshly sin. As unclean they stood “afar off,” as banished from society
they were driven to consort together.
B. The Miracle of Cleansing.
The extremity of their misery drives them to Christ, Who alone could
deliver them from “the body of this death.” They came conscious of defilement,
for they “lifted up their voices,” unwilling to approach. They came earnest,
entreating, reverent. To know our sin is the first step towards knowing
our Saviour. Christ has ever demanded the concurrence of faith. Still in
their leprosy, they are to go to announce their cure. No more trying evidence
of faith could have been required, and it was forthcoming, for as they
went they were cleansed. The path of obedience is the way to spiritual
health. To believe that prayer has been granted is to receive (cf. S. Mark
C. Fellowship with Christ.
That which happens after cleansing is as important as what has gone
before. When misery has led us to Christ, gratitude must send us back to
Him. The restoration from deadly sin must be followed by fellowship with
Christ, and those once blessed must be ever returning for fuller blessing.
Our praises must be as loud and as earnest as our prayers. It is very remarkable,
and can hardly be without intention, that our Church on two successive
Sundays in which she teaches true and laudable service, brings before us
the example of a Samaritan. The religious position of the Samaritans was
intensely unsatisfactory, for they worshipped they knew not what, yet in
conduct and character they surpassed many of the chosen people. True and
laudable service may be offered by many whom we are inclined to despise.
They may be among the units of the grateful, and we among the tens of the
THE COLLECT. A PRAYER FOR HOLINESS.
Though there is no direct reference to the sins of the flesh, this Collect
is none the less most suitable and in thorough harmony with the command
of the Epistle— “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of
the flesh.” As the remedy of local disease is often found in the improvement
of the general health, so is it with the maladies of the soul.
Hence we pray—-
A. For Growth in Grace.
We pray for greater strength for the whole religious life in its three
aspects—more faith towards God, more hope in respect of ourselves, and
more love towards others—as the three graces are explained in Col. i. 4,
This prayer seems to have connection in thought with “the fruit of the
Spirit,” as mentioned in the Epistle. It is remarkable that on the Seventh
Sunday after Trinity there is precisely the same correspondence between
“ fruit” and “increase “ in the Collect and Epistle of that day.
B. For Conformity to the Will
Here also there seems special reference to the teaching of the Epistle
that sins of the flesh are contrary to the influences of the Spirit and
against the law of God, and that Christians must crucify the flesh with
the affections and lusts. We pray for this perfect conformity in affection
and desire in the words—” make us to love that which thou dost command,”
that we may obtain the promises and kingdom of God.