CHRISTIAN service, if it is to be true and laudable, must be
the service of love and purity. It must also be marked by singleness
of aim and purpose. This is the manifest teaching of to-day—the Sunday
of undivided service, the keynote of which is struck by the first sentence
of the Gospel: “No man can serve two masters.”
THE EPISTLE. (GAL. vi. 11.)
S. Paul is here brought before us as one who knew Whose he was and Whom
he served—a conspicuous example of entire devotion of heart and life. The
Epistle may conveniently be summarized as follows :—
A. One Mind.
The mind of S. Paul was perfectly made up. This was, he seems
to imply, visible in his very handwriting. That he “wrote with his
own hand” was a proof of earnestness; that he wrote “with such large letters”
was a sign of eager energy. If handwriting is any evidence of character,
that of S. Paul showed an uncompromising vigour and clearness
B. One Aim in Life.
Others might shrink from the shame of the Cross, and conform to Jewish
prejudice by advocating circumcision. That which was their shame
was his glory. That which they feared as a mark of separation from
the Jewish world he accepted as that by which “the world was crucified
unto him, and he unto the world,” for the separation was mutual, and he
was content to go his way, and let the world go its own.
The prejudice of to-day is no longer Jewish. Not circumcision,
but indifference, is now the mark of the world. The attitude of the world
may change, but the Christian must ever remain loyal to the Cross.
C. One Master.
S. Paul’s one task was to become like his master. This was the rule
by which he walked, having got a new master, to be a new man. The Jewish
Church might cast him out, but that mattered little if he belonged to the
Israel of God. From henceforth let no man trouble him, for he “bore
in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”
Three slightly different meanings, all of interest, though the last
appears the best, may be given to these words —
(1) Let me alone, I am weary enough with my
proper toil. Cease to add to my yoke by your factious quarrels and
disputes. Let me alone of very pity.
(2) Or, let me alone, resist my authority no
more, for I bear about my credentials, and in my body are the marks of
an Apostle of Christ. Let me alone of your reverence.
(3) Or, still better—let me alone, I have no
more to say to you. I have taken my side and bear my scars proudly. Let
me alone, for you waste your time and mine.
THE GOSPEL. (S. MATT. vi. 24.)
This is the secret of undivided service, for those only can dare to
seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness who have learned that
all other things shall be added unto them. As we have an Epistle
of Service, so we have a Gospel of Trust.
A. The Necessity of Trust
Is the same with the necessity of service we cannot trust unless we
serve, and we cannot serve unless we trust. Man has only one heart,
and if he fill it with worldly cares he will leave no room in it for God.
Faith and anxiety cannot live together, for if faith do not cast out anxiety,
anxiety will cast out faith. Either God is to be depended upon or
He is not; if He is, there is no room for anxiety; and if He is not, there
is no room for faith.
B. The Reasonableness of Trust.
God is to be trusted—
(1) For His Power.
He Who has given the greater gift has power to bestow that which is
less. He Who has gives life must be able to supply the means of living,
and He Who has given us our bodies so fearfully and wonderfully made must
be able to give us the wherewithal to clothe them. Man’s helplessness
proves that he was intended to trust in God. Care is condemned by its uselessness.
(2) For His Love.
The birds trust God for food, “for they sow not, neither do they reap,
nor gather into barns.” They can make no provision for the future,
yet they are quite happy about it, and God never forgets them. God
has a closer relation to us, for He is our Heavenly Father, and we are
more precious in His sight than they. God clothes the grass of the
field, so transient in its existence, and clothes it so richly. Will
He not much more clothe us? To doubt this is to be as the heathen,
who know not God nor His relation to them. We know our Heavenly Father,
and, what is still better, He knows us and what we need.
(3) For His Promise.
THE COLLECT. A PRAYER OF TRUST.
God has given us a sure charter against care. The agreement into
which He enters, and by which He is pledged to act, is this that if we
will attend to the needs of the soul He will attend to the needs of the
body. If we give the first of our affections, energies, and time
to things eternal He will provide for things temporal. Those who
make God their one care shall have no other.
The history of this Collect is very remarkable, for there can be no
doubt that it refers to a pre-Reformation Epistle (Gal. v. 25—vi. 10),
which dealt with “the frailty of man and his liability to fall.”
The Reformers of 1549 introduced the present Epistle, which follows
immediately after the old, no doubt, as a commentary on the first words
of the Gospel: “No man can serve two masters.”
The Collect is, however, by no means inappropriate to the present Epistle.
We pray in it:—
A. For the Mercy of God.
The Church and Israel of God depends wholly on the Divine mercy. It
is only safe so long as, like S. Paul, it glories in the Cross as the sign
of perpetual mercy.
B. For the Grace of God.
Taught by Christ in the Gospel, we avow our entire dependence upon the
Grace of God. We cannot depend on ourselves either in things temporal
or in things spiritual, for the frailty of man cannot but fall. We
need grace to protect us from harm, and grace to lead us to all that is
good. Only by undivided trust can we be enabled for undivided service.