First part of Sermon LXI. for the Fourteenth Sunday after
Gal. v. 16-24. St. Luke xvii. 11-19.
And JESUS answering said, Were there not ten cleansed but where
are the nine?
—ST. LUKE xvii. 17.
IT is an awful lesson which God would impress on us this week, speaking
to us as it were from the two horns of His holy altar. For the Gospel is
of ten lepers being healed, and one only being thankful; and the Epistle
brings before us that test by which so many will be found wanting, viz.
whether we walk in the Spirit or after the flesh.
I say then, says St. Paul to the Galatians, walk in the Spirit,
and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. This abiding in the
Spirit, this dwelling in love, this conversation in Heaven, the only life
of the regenerate, nourished by faith, will keep you from the desires of
the fleshly mind. The best mode of avoiding sins of the flesh is by being
actively engaged in the life of the Spirit. For thus it is that he who
is “begotten of God keepeth himself and that wicked one toucheth him not.”
(1 John v. 18.) “This path,” says St. Chrysostom, “makes duty easy, produces
love, and by love is fenced in.”
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against
the flesh. By the flesh St. Paul means, “not the natural body,
but the depraved will ;" (St. Chrys. ad loc.) our corrupt nature is in
its desires opposed to the good Spirit of God, so that there must ever
be a conflict between them, till one obtains the mastery; or, as the Apostle
says, And these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot
do the things that ye would. That is, while this contest is going
on, which St. Paul describes more at length in another place, “For to will
is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not,”
(Rom. vii. 18.) speaking of him who has not yet found that perfect freedom
which is in the service of God.
But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. If
ye are following His Divine guidance, so as to obtain this mastery over
the natural mind, ye have no more need of the law. “For,” says the last-mentioned
writer, “he that hath the Spirit as he ought, quenches thereby every evil
desire, and when released from such he is above the law. For he who is
never angry is no more subject to that command of the law, Thou shalt not
kill; and he who never harbours an unchaste thought has no need of the
law, Thou shalt not commit adultery. The grace which is now given has no
need of the law, inasmuch as it mortifies all those evil desires in the
heart, and leads to a higher rule of life.”
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, i. e. ye must not be
deceived by them, as in making this same solemn declaration to the Corinthians,
he says, “be not deceived;” (1 Cor. vi. 10.) and to the Ephesians, “let
no man deceive you.” (Eph. v. 6.) The works of the flesh, which are
these, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft,
hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, sedition, heresies, envyings,
murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you
before, I solemnly warn you beforehand, as I have also told you in time
past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.
It is as if he had said, Christians who are sons of God, and inheritors
of the kingdom, must so live in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit, as not
to be tempted by these desires; you must not creep and crawl on the ground
as heirs of death, and children of the serpent; but your walk, your hearts,
your desires, must be above the world, governed by the grace of God, which
is a new law unto itself. And thus, in the Collect, as not satisfied with
faith only in the beginnings of repentance, we pray for the increase and
abounding of faith, hope, and charity; and that we may obtain the promises
of God, we ask not only to keep but to love His commandments.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering,
gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. He here calls
them “fruit,” not works, as produced by the labour of man and the dews
of Heaven. This description of Christian graces contains within it
all the eight beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount; its duties and its
blessings shed abroad in the soul; and corresponds with the account which
St. Paul gives of all those heavenly dispositions which are found in charity,
or the love of God, which never faileth. Here it is added, against
such there is no law. That is, such persons and such graces are
not subject to the law; it reaches them not; for the Spirit gives them
a higher and better rule to walk by.
And then, that there be no mistake, nor room for self-deceit, he sums
up all in that touching comprehensive sentence, And they that are Christ’s
have crucified—he does not say will crucify, or would, and desire to
do so, but “have crucified “—the flesh with the affections and lusts.
Thus, speaking for himself, in other places, on this subject, St. Paul
breaks forth into a sound of triumph, as one in battle who had seen his
enemies turn their back, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” “Who
shall separate us from the love of Christ?“ “Nay, in all these things
we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” Now this
passage of St. Paul, which forms the Epistle for to-day, is, I say, an
alarming one, for it speaks of a conflict and struggle between the Spirit
of God within us and our natural mind, which struggle many never think
of making at all, but live according to the desires of the mind, as if
there were no war to be waged with ourselves. But more than this,
for he describes the only way of salvation to be that of being victorious
in this struggle; for the works of the fleshly mind and of the Spirit are
so utterly at variance that there can be no compromise, but the Christian,
who is in the narrow way of life, is led by the Spirit so as not to fulfil
the desires of the natural mind. He is not in the struggle or conflict,
but having, through the Spirit, gained the mastery over his corruptions,
he is in the way of peace. He is full of “love, joy, and peace,”
and is therefore abounding in all the fruits of righteousness. But
now this is a state to which few Christians attain. Of how few can
it be said that they have crucified the flesh with its affections, and
are now risen and ascended into that new life which is with Christ in God?
Expressions such as that of being dead with Christ, and buried with Him,
of the old man being mortified, and of our living the life of the New Man,
are taken up and used by us, as if they applied to our own case, because
we know that St. Paul does apply this description to all Christians.
But, alas, we little consider what it all means, and how far it is fulfilled
in us. In a parish of two or three hundred people how few are there
who thus live. Happy is the pastor who has reason to think there
are some that do so.
Now leprosy is, throughout the Scripture, so often put for an outward
type or sign of sin, that we cannot fail to apply the Gospel for to-day,
and to see how strongly and sadly it bears on this subject...
.... (for the second part, on the Gospel.)