As we are to serve God in all our lives with undivided trust,
so are we most especially to seek His comfort and consolations in our troubles.
This is the evident teaching of this very beautiful Sunday, which has “continual
pity” as the theme of its Collect, the compassion of Christ for its Gospel,
and the most comfortable prayer of S. Paul for its Epistle. As last Sunday
was the Sunday of the anxious, so to-day is the Sunday of the sad.
THE EPISTLE. (EPHES. iii. 13.)
THE GOD OF COMFORT.
S. Paul is anxious not to daunt and discourage the Ephesians by dwelling
upon his many sufferings, and bids them not to faint in their minds as
though the Christian life was beyond their attainment He offers to God
a prayer, not that they may escape troubles, but rise above them into the
peace of God.
S. Paul teaches us that God is our very present Help in trouble, and
that He is a Trinity of Comfort.
A. The Love of the Father.
S. Paul bows his knees to the Father, Who is the source of all comfort,
by His very name of Father, by the tenderness of His love, the constancy
of His care, the certainty of His guidance home. God is a Father, or, more
accurately, the Father, not because He is like earthly fathers—rather,
they are so named because of their likeness to Him. He is the fount of
fatherhood, and “every family” (R.V.) of men or angels is a type and far-off
resemblance of that great family of which the Father is God. It was well
said, “Nullus pater tam pater “—no father was ever so fatherly.
B. The Fellowship of the Spirit.
This is the second source of help in trouble to be sought also from
the Father Who gives the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him. Here is the
remedy for the faintness of the Ephesians and ours, “to be strengthened
with might by the Spirit in the inner man,” and that in no niggard way,
but according to the riches of infinite power and infinite love. Enabled
by such grace the yoke will be easy and the burden light.
C. The Grace of Our Lord Jesus
As we are to seek the Spirit from the Father, so are we to gain the
indwelling presence of Christ through the Spirit. Through this alone can
we realise our position in the temple of Grace—the breadth of its liberty,
the depth of its security, the length of its continuance, and the height
of its glory. Only through Christ’s personal presence can we realise the
love that passeth realisation. Our earthly position, with all its mental
and spiritual difficulties, its many sorrows and its awful outlook into
the critical future, has much need of comfort; but in God we have a holy
mystery of comfort. Th Saviour is one Comforter, the Spirit is another
Comforter, and both proceed from the Father (John xiv. 15), Himself the
source of all comfort. Only as we realise this can we rise to S. Paul’s
doxology of adoration to Him ‘Whose grace is not limited by human prayers
or conceptions, and Whose power can enable our human weakness.
THE GOSPEL. (S. LUKE vii. 11.)
THE COMPASSION OF CHRIST.
Christ came to reveal all the attributes of God, and especially those
attributes of tenderness which might have seemed inconsistent with the
glory of Godhead. He came to show the humanity of God and the divinity
of man. This miracle of comfort is a touching instance of Christ’s continual
pity, from which His Church may gain patience in tribulation.
A. Christ Knows Our Sorrows.
It was by no chance “that Jesus went into a city called Nain,” and so
timed His visit as to meet the funeral procession. Christ arranges both
His path and ours, and arranges that they meet. He is never too soon nor
too late. He knows not only when our troubles come, but how heavy they
are, and He is at hand to make the burden light. There is no such thing
as accident—all is arrangement.
B. Christ Feels for Our Sorrows.
The Lord sees—it is good. He has compassion—it is better; but best of
all is it when we can hear His comfortable words, “Weep not.” Jesus has
a heart to love, to sympathise, and to beat with ours. Learn to believe
in the heart of Jesus, and if you have not met Him seek Him, for “he that
seeketh findeth.” Never was a greater sorrow, never a kinder Comforter.
His pity is continual. His compassions fail not.
C. Christ Removes Our Sorrows.
How different was Christ’s “Weep not” from that of human comforters.
When Christ commands He sends forth power with the command enabling us
to obey. This miracle gives especial comfort for mourners, for the dead
are not out of hearing of the voice of Christ. Thrice He spoke—once to
the newly dead, “Maid arise”; once to the young man borne to burial, “Young
man arise” ; once to the actually buried, “Lazarus, come forth.” It matters
not how long death has held us, nor what our age at death, for all shall
hear His voice. His call shall be a call not only into His presence, but
into the presence and recognition of one another, and He shall deliver
all the divided to their beloved. He shall restore the dead to the living,
and the living to the dead, and wipe away all tears in the final consummation
Thus is Christ’s sympathy, as taught in the Epistle, “ exceeding abundant,
above all we can ask or think,” and the “power that worketh in us” shall
“quicken our mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in us” (cf.
Rom. viii. 11).
THE COLLECT. A PRAYER FOR PITY.
Very humble are the views of the Church about herself, as, in the Collect
for last Sunday, needing “perpetual mercy,” and here as needing “continual
pity” from “the living Fount of pity in Heaven,” which overflowed in the
person of Jesus Christ our Lord.
We ask, not merely for the compassionate feeling of God, but for three
acts of pity :—
Cleansing implies the pollution of inward sin. He Who has cleansed the
Church by one baptism for the remission of sins must continually cleanse
it by His Spirit (cf. John xiii. 10), from error, inconsistency,
and from all abuses. The Church of God needs a continual reformation, not
one in the sixteenth century only.
The best defence for the Church is her cleansing, but beyond this she
needs defence from those who desire, not her reformation, but her destruction,
and attack her doctrines, constitution, and rightful liberties.
This imports dangers both from without and from within. The very existence
of the Church depends upon Christ’s pity and power (cf. Ps. cxxiv.
i), without which it would long ago have been swept from the earth. The
Church needs help to defend and goodness to bless.