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The Scriptures Bearing Witness.

by Isaac Williams

from Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and Holy Days

throughout the Year, Vol. I. Advent to Whitsuntide 

Rivingtons, London, 1875 [New Edition.]

First Part of Sermon II. for the Second Sunday in Advent.
 Rom. xv. 4-13.    St. Luke xxi. 25-33.
Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning; that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.—ROM. xv. 4.

THE Holy Scriptures have been always made by the Church the subject of this Sunday. In the Epistle they are spoken of as already fulfilled; in the Gospel, which our Church has appointed, as now waiting their last accomplishment. The Epistle speaks of Christ as revealed to all nations; the Gospel as yet to be manifested in great power from Heaven. The things of which the Epistle speaks were once matters of prophecy, now matters of history; they were once merely in the written Word, and subjects of faith, but now of sight throughout the world. That which the Gospel describes is still matter of prophecy received by faith, not by sight. Yet not altogether thus; for the Gentiles are not yet fully called in as the Epistle describes, and the signs of which the Gospel speaks are even now some of them fulfilled. Thus things which have been, and things that are, and things yet to be, are by Holy Scripture interwoven together, and form that “threefold cord” which “is not quickly broken.” When we read the Epistle, we look behind and see what has been fulfilled and is fulfilling in us; in reading the Gospel we look before, and wait for what is yet to be.

Whatsoever things were written aforetime, says St. Paul, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. He is speaking of things in the Old Testament respecting Christ; they are there written, he says, that we may dwell and. ponder on the same, as seeing how they have been fulfilled in Him; and so being supported and comforted by them may have hope. But as the inspired Scriptures are of no avail unless God Himself, Who gave them, enlighten us, he takes up the same words of “patience and consola-tion,” and proceeds, Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus; that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. That God may shed abroad His peace in our hearts, and this His peace may make us at peace with each other; and so having love to each other, we may render to God acceptable praise and united worship. This, the firstfruits of the Word and of the Spirit, must be by brotherly kindness, uniting Jew and Gentile, bond and free, rich and poor, fragrant as the sacred ointment, and as the dew from Heaven rich in blessing. Wherefore receive ye one another, he adds, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

St. Paul then returns to the fulfilment of the Scriptures, showing how the Law and the Prophets were in Christ altogether accomplished; inasmuch as He fulfilled the righteousness of the Law, was the object of its types, the substance of its shadows, and as such the “Apostle and High Priest” to the Hebrews; (Heb. iii. 1.) and according to the same Scriptures throughout, was to bring the Gentiles to the obedience of faith, that there might be “one fold and one Shepherd.”

Now I say that Jesus Christ was a Minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers; i. e. fulfilling all the promises made to Abraham and his seed. And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy. This calling of the nations, St. Paul next proceeds to show, is intimated through the whole of the Old Testament; as instances of which he mentions these expressions of the Prophets: As it is written in the Psalms, For this cause I will confess to Thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto Thy Name. And again He saith, by the mouth of Moses long before, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with His people. And again, the Psalmist, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles, and laud Him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse,. and He that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in Him shall the Gentiles trust.

This is the mystery so long hidden; the Jew knew Him not, and the Gentile knew Him not, but now both in Him are made one; and as He opens their understandings they find the Scriptures bearing witness to Him they knew not. And thus the Holy Scriptures would have been as a sealed Book were it not for Christ, Who bears the keys of David. “ The Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the Book, and to loose the seals thereof.” (Rev. v. 5.) For now, the Holy Spirit enlightening our hearts, we are able therein to discern Christ throughout; we take hold of Him by faith, and will not let Him go, saying, “I have found Him Whom my soul loveth ;“ “My beloved is mine, and I am His.” (Song of Sol. ii. 16; iii. 4.) So the good Spirit whispered in the Old Testament to the secret heart of the penitent; and so did He speak aloud to St. Paul, filling all his life, as it were, and his soul with this Heavenly music, with which he laboured so earnestly to fill the minds of others. All of which he here sums up in these words, Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. “The God of hope,” as before “the God of patience and consolation ;“ this is a wonderful expression; how full of sweetness; what a tower of strength is there in the very word! If our God is the “God of hope,” who shall despair? if our God is “the God of patience,” who shall not endure? And thus does the Epistle end as it begins with hope, as resting on the Scriptures, as strengthened by the fulfilment of them, as imparted by the God of all hope; and this hope is that “blessed hope” of seeing Christ soon return, and of being accepted in Him. 

And surely such hope we need, and all the strength with which the Scriptures and the God of all consolation can afford to support us, when from looking back to what has already bean fulfilled, we turn our eyes and look forward to those fearful things of which the Gospel for to-day speaks, and the coming on of which we may now expect.

.... (for the second part, on the Gospel.)