First part of Sermon LXVI. for the Nineteenth Sunday after
Eph. iv. 17-32. St. Matthew ix. 1-8.
That you put off concerning the former conversation of the old
is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.
And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.—EPH.
iv. 22, 23.
THE Gospel for to-day, in which our Lord is described as giving life
to the dead limbs of the paralytic, affords us a very lively emblem of
this change from the old to the new man, which must take place in us by
faith in the operation of His Godhead. But let us first consider this change,
as St. Paul describes it in the Epistle. This I say, therefore, and
testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk,
in the vanity of their mind. Not like the rest of the nations who know
not of the Gospel. But “the vanity of their mind” in English falls far
short of the original expression; it implies baying no good end, no hope,
because without God.
Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life
of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness
of their heart. The worst consequence of sin is, that it puts out the
light which is in the mind; and therefore our Lord says, “Take heed that
the light which is in thee be not darkness ;“ it brings a sort of callous
hard crust over the heart itself, so that it can neither see God nor love
Him, nor believe Him, and, what is worse, it cannot know its own darkness.
And the nations of the world are described as being in this state, “sitting
in darkness” and in “the shadow of death.”
Who, being past feeling, or as it means, “having ceased to grieve,”
having overcome all pain and remorse for sin; they have given themselves
over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
Sin enlargeth its desire as hell, and can never rest; it is unsatiable
as the grave; for having stifled the conscience, it goes on adding to evil
desires in this world, and increasing sorrow in the next. It cannot rest;
for it knows not of the peace which Christ gives.
But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard Him,
and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus. Not that these
Ephesians had ever heard Christ teaching in the flesh, but that, like ourselves,
they hear and read of Him in the Gospels, and are taught by Him and by
His Spirit; and thus, looking to Him in prayer, are transformed into the
likeness of the New Man.
That ye put of, concerning the former conversation, the old man,
which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, “that which destroys,”
“corrupted and corrupting,” according to those lusts whereby the deceit
of Satan worketh to destruction. And that ye be renewed in the Spirit
of your mind, and put on the new man. Although St. Paul speaks of them
as already “sealed by the Spirit unto the day of redemption;” yet he here
urges them still to go on being renewed, and putting on the new man, ever
casting aside the things which are behind, and clothing themselves with
the righteousness of Christ as if they had never done so before. The new
man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,
or which hath been once created according to God in the holiness of
truth. “After God,” for the old man is after the corruption of Satan.
And now St. Paul, as his custom is, mentions some particulars in daily
life in which this holiness will consist. Wherefore, he says, putting
away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members
one of another. As he had said before that “speaking the truth in love”
we should “grow up into Him ;“ and that thus growing up into His body,
we should in truth and love be ever more and more as members of each other.
Be ye angry and sin not; i. e. although ye be angry, which indeed
may be the case without offence,—for what good man is not angry at successful
wickedness ?—yet let your righteous indignation be without sin; and especially
let no resentment ever find a lodging in your bosom. Let not the sun,
he adds, go down upon your wrath, take care that you never sleep
but in meekness and peace with all the world. Neither give place to
the devil, for Satan knows full well that God forgives you not, unless
you’ forgive; and any feeling of unkindness gives an opening to him which
he will be sure to increase.
Let him that stole, i. e. in his former heathen state, let him
steal no more; but rather let him labour, working with his hands the
thing which is good; i. e. at some honest employment; that he may
have to give to him that needeth. Let him not be content to leave off
stealing, but now let him labour to impart to others. This is ever the
Christian law, abounding in grace where there was sin before. And so again,
in the next instance, we must not be content to do no evil, but must do
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that
which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the
hearers. Let your discourse be such as never to suggest an impure thought;
but, on the contrary, so “seasoned with the salt” of good principle as
to impart grace to others. For every word or thought which defiles drives
away the good Spirit from the heart. And, therefore, he adds, And grieve
not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption;
i. e. at Baptism, as he said before, “After that ye believed ye were
sealed by the Spirit.”
And he sums up all by’ saying, Let all bitterness, and wrath, and
anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking be put away from you, with all malice.
And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even
as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Here we find throughout
how entirely different the state of grace is to that of nature, to the
state of the heathen world, to that, alas, even of many around us, and
of our own hearts. It will always be on earth new, singular, unaccountable,
like light shining in the darkness, and not comprehended by it. But to
those to whom St. Paul wrote it was seen in strong contrast with their
former unregenerate state. “We ourselves,” he says, “were sometimes serving
lusts, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But after
that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,” (Titus
iii. 3) —Oh, how different is it with us all!
Now I have endeavoured Sunday after Sunday to point out to you how all
that beauty of holiness which St. Paul describes, that heavenly conversation
which he inculcates on us, is found full of life, when we turn to the Gospel
for the day.....
.... (for the second part, on the