OUR Church has now brought before us the chief internal graces
of the Christian character—purity, singleness of heart, patience, and humility.
But we are not to be satisfied with passive graces, however high, lovely,
and absolutely necessary, but must rise from these to the practical, active,
and useful. The life of saintliness must be a life not only of holy emotions,
but of holy activities. On the present and following Sundays we are to
be fully instructed in Christian duty, and how it is to be done in the
right spirit and to the best advantage.
It is impossible not to be struck with the wisdom which has so carefully
arranged the orderly sequence of our Book of Common Prayer. Surely, we
have a guide to be closely followed, both in private meditation and public
teaching and preaching. When we speak of Church teaching we are not only
to think of what the Church teaches about herself, but of what she teaches
as to the whole inward and outward Christian life in her Eucharistic Scriptures
The present Sunday gives a summary of all Christian duty.
THE EPISTLE. (1 COR. i. 4.) THE
EQUIPMENT OF GRACE.
This short Epistle deals exhaustively with the doctrine of grace. The
Gospel rule is “To every man his work,” and the great Gospel gift is power
to do that work.
All of us have work to do for God and man, and all have received grace
to do it. The same grace which filled the infant Church of Corinth is at
the disposal of every Christian Church and congregation. We are here taught
A. The Channel of Grace.
Grace is given us not merely by Jesus Christ, but “in Jesus Christ”
(R.V.). All our enrichment as Christians not only comes from the Lord Jesus
as its one and only source, but from continual union with Him as members
of His Church. We are not to seek the grace of God in isolation, but as
members of a body, and by means of the Word and Sacraments. These Sacraments
are social ordinances, as though to teach us that we are to be made perfect
through fellowship with others in Christ. In the Church no man is to live
for himself, but has a work provided for him to do and a power provided
for him with which to do it. Thus will the Church prosper, the world be
influenced, and every Christian be enriched in character and ability.
B. The Variety of Grace.
The Church of Corinth had not one gift, but many. They were enriched
in everything needed for the Christian life, in knowledge of the truth
of God, in faith to realise it and in utterance to proclaim it. The perfection
of the Church is to be the aim of the individual Christian. Christ is to
be manifested in the visible body of His Church, but this can only be in
sundry parts and in divers manners. The riches of Christ cannot be fully
seen in any one Christian, but only in all Christians.
C. Growth in Grace.
Perfection could not be all at once, and thus the Corinthians were to
be ever looking onward and waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is not said that death would end growth, for death is not even mentioned,
but only “the day of Jesus Christ.” We have to begin by grace and to be
confirmed by grace and by union with Christ cultivated and carried out
in every appointed way, and then Christ will complete our incompleteness
that we may be “blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Oh, that
we may know what it is to be blameless at the end, and in order to this
that we may be blameless by the way!
THE GOSPEL. (S. MATT. xxii. 34.)
THE SUMMARY OF DUTY.
Christ sums up the essentials of duty in answer to a question of a lawyer
as previously (S. Luke x. 23), a passage used as the Gospel for the Thirteenth
Sunday— the Sunday of “laudable service.”
A. The Two Essentials.
(1) Love to God.
This is the first essential of perfect service, viz., the desire of
perfect service. This is to be the main and chief article of our lives.
When we cease to live with this aim we live below our nature, and instead
of being able to plead our infirmities we stand chargeable with negligence.
He who does not desire perfection cannot plead imperfection, for, if he
had any object at all, his object was to be imperfect, and was not to love
God with all his heart, soul, and mind.
(2) Love to Man
Is the second essential, but is not second in importance, “for it is
like unto” the first.
It stands on the same level, and is enforced by the same reasons. I
am to love my neighbour as I love myself, because God loves him as He loves
me. I am to love him for God’s sake, if not for his own.
B. The Third Essential.
It might have been expected that the Gospel would have ended with “on
these two Commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Our Church has
thought otherwise, and has added faith in Christ in His humanity as the
Son of David, and in His divinity as David’s Lord.
Are we to say that this is a third essential, and that whereas man had
two duties, now he has three, and is, therefore, in so much the harder
The answer is plain: that faith in Christ is the one power which makes
man able to do his two natural duties. We may say:—
(1) Faith in Christ has made easy the love of God, for to see God in
Christ is to love Him. By the sacrifice of Himself also, Christ has removed
the barrier of guilt which caused God to be an object of dread. Fear cast
out love, but Christ has cast out fear.
(2) Faith in Christ makes easier the love of man. Christ has taught
us to love men as He loved them, and for His sake.
Thus, if faith in, Christ be a third essential of duty, yet it is that
which makes easy the other two great duties. The love of God and man is
made possible for all who believe in Christ, Who is God and man in one.
THE COLLECT. A PRAYER FOR ALL GRACE
NECESSARY FOR THE LIFE OF DUTY.
This Collect is singularly apt in its allusions to both Epistle and
Gospel, for it turns the former into a petition that we may rise to the
duty summarised in the latter.
A. A Petition for Grace.
We pray for such equipment of grace as was given by Christ to the Church
of Corinth, that, like the Corinthians, we may be enriched in Christ here,
and with Christ hereafter. We should pray for each aspect and form of grace
there described—knowledge, utterance, such completeness that we may become
testimonies to Christ by our reality, and finally attain full perfectness
in His presence. We should ask, both for the grace necessary to our own
salvation, and also for that which may make us useful to others, and for
the second of these as habitually and naturally as for the first.
B. A Petition for the Life of
We pray for such completeness and thoroughness of duty as was described
in the Gospel, for the conquest of all temptations from our three great
enemies—the world, the flesh, and the devil—and such devotion to God as
Christ demands when He bids us love God with all our heart, soul, and mind.
The undivided “only God” demands an undivided service in faith, heart,
purpose, and life.