IN our enquiry after the central teaching of this Sunday, it
is to be noticed that the present Epistle has been lengthened both at the
beginning and at the end, the original Epistle as found in the Use of Sarum
being Eph. iv. 23-28. We must, therefore, look to this passage for the
central thought of the Sunday, and doing this shall at once find it in
the first verse—” be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the
new man.” Two-fold renewal is without doubt the subject of the Sunday,
the renewal, not merely of the heart, but of the whole life and conduct,
and with this the whole teaching of the Sunday is in a remarkable harmony.
THE EPISTLE. (EPH. iv. 17.)
THE DOCTRINE OF RENEWAL.
This important passage may be summarised as follows :—
A. Man’s Need of Renewal.
We have here a picture of man apart from Christ. In losing faith in
God, man misses the true conception of the object and meaning of life,
the mind becomes a prey to delusions, and the understanding is darkened.
From the mind, sin passes to the heart, and men become not only strangers
to God, but estranged from Him. Sin is no longer felt as pain, for the
conscience has become callous, and all restraints of religion gone, men
plunge into every unhallowed thing with a very greediness of lust. If we
do not always see such results from loss of faith, we may remember that
such results are gradual, and that it is possible to lose faith without
at once losing all that faith has taught, but the tendency will be towards
B. Renewal of Heart.
This is the very different picture of those in whom renewal has begun.
They have come under a new influence. They have “learned Christ” as the
example to which their lives are to be conformed. They have been taught
in Christ’s school, and learned the lesson He teaches even Himself as the
truth, for “truth is in Jesus,” and both teacher and lesson are personal.
They have received a new nature which is to conquer the old nature and
character. It is possible that, as in Rom. vi. 6 and Col. iii. 9, S. Paul
refers to the renewal of baptism, and that we should translate “ye did
put off,” “ye are being renewed,” “ye did put on.” In any case the passage
teaches that baptismal regeneration must be completed by entire renewal
in the spirit of the mind, and that holiness can only proceed from a renewed
nature. Only from a good tree can good fruit be expected.
C. Renewal of Life.
The inward nature must be manifested in outward conduct. This is the
especial lesson of the Sunday, for we are now dealing with the group of
Sundays especially devoted to the outward life of service.
Certain evils are to be cast off and opposite features of good are to
be put on.
This is to be replaced by truth. To deceive one’s neighbour is to deceive
oneself, for it is as if one member of the body deceived another. The word
of a Christian is to be as good as his bond— for his bond is his baptism
into the body of Christ.
(2) Sinful Anger
Only such anger is to be endured as is not sinful—i.e., on the right
occasions, against the right objects, only exercised in a right degree
and for the right duration. Anger is a natural remedy against injustice,
but undue anger may itself come to be unjust. Unrestrained, it gives room
for the devil in the heart and in the Church.
Must be replaced by laborious toil, so that instead of taking from
others we may be able to give to others. Happy those whose toil and thrift
are so blest as to free them from improper dependence upon others and from
the temptation to do wrong by others.
(4) Evil Language
Must be replaced by words which will bring a blessing and help to others.
How beautiful to impart grace by our converse! Sometimes we rather drive
(5) Unloving Tempers
We have here, not only a catalogue, but a genealogy of bad passions.
All such feelings are inconsistent with the presence of the Spirit with
His sensitiveness of holiness and His sensitiveness of love. They are inconsistent
in those who have received forgiveness in Christ—full, free, continually
repeated, and wholly undeserved, and should show the like towards others.
So should the renewed nature be manifested in renewal of outward life.
THE GOSPEL. (S. MATT. ix. 1.)
A MIRACLE OF RENEWAL.
So closely does this Gospel illustrate the doctrine of renewal, as taught
in the Epistle, that it may be divided under similar headings.
A. The Need of Renewal.
Our state by nature is like that of the palsied, for we are weak in
will and principle. Our weakness is, as may be that of palsy, the direct
result of sin indulged till we are past feeling, as described in the Epistle,
so that we are unable, as was the palsied, to do anything in order to effect
our cure. We must learn our need and prove our sincerity by breaking through
every hindrance of prejudice, pride, and inherent shrinking, till we reach
the feet of Christ, Who alone is the Lord of every disease, and among the
rest, of palsy, and can cure the palsied conscience, affections, understanding,
and will. So coming, we shall not be repulsed.
B. Renewal of Heart.
This miracle teaches most clearly:
(1) The Blessing of Renewal.
It is a blessing more necessary even than the cure of a palsy.
Others would have thought that that which the sick man most desired was
bodily health, but Christ saw deeper into his inward burden and misery,
and gave the greatest blessing first.
(2) The Conditions of Renewal.
These may be learned from this miracle, from which it is plain that
Christ will not withhold forgiveness from those who feel their need of
it, and are more anxious for this blessing than for any other; who seek
it from Him and break through every hindrance in order to gain His presence;
and who, lastly, desire to be forgiven in order that they may afterwards
serve more devotedly. These three conditions are, in fact, repentance which
feels our need, faith which seeks Christ, and obedience which desires to
(3) The Assurance of Renewal.
Christ not only forgave the man sick of the palsy, but assured him
of His forgiveness and bade him be of good cheer because of it. He desires,
therefore, that we should both be forgiven and should so know this as to
be happy in the knowledge. He has committed to His Church to convey this
blessing to those who have observed its conditions. He has appointed a
ministry of reconciliation, the great object of which is to announce forgiveness.
He has ordained sacraments, each of which is a channel and seal of forgiveness,
for both the water and the blood are for the remission of sins.
He gives the assurance of His word and Spirit to assure our hearts before
C. Renewal of Life.
This is symbolised by the command, “Arise and walk.” To walk in newness
of life is at once the object and test of renewal. The miracle of healing
was the test of Christ’s power to forgive sins, for it was impossible to
doubt His power to heal the soul when He had so clearly healed the body.
Thus the great test that we have received the invisible benefit must be
supplied by the visible tokens of a sanctified and invigorated life. The
removal of nature’s palsy is a certain seal of the forgiveness of sin.
THE COLLECT. A PRAYER FOR RENEWAL.
This Collect most fitly sums up the teaching of the Sunday as to
A. Our Need of Renewal.
This answers most closely to the picture of man apart from Christ given
in the early part of the Epistle, and to the sad condition of the man sick
of palsy described in the Gospel. Our natural condition is so desperate
that we cannot please God without His helping us to do so, whence it must
follow that those who are not applying for power to please God are not
pleasing Him. It will be noticed that we make of our very weakness a plea
for God’s assistance.
B. The Source of Renewal.
Here also is a reference to the close of the Epistle and to the miracle
of renewal described in the Gospel. We pray for the assistance of the Spirit
in our whole life, that He may guide our intentions and rule our actions.
If we never grieve the Spirit “we shall not fail to please God.”