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The Giver of All Good.

by Isaac Williams

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

throughout the Year, Vol. I. Advent to Tuesday in Whitsun Week

Rivingtons, London, 1875, pp. 462-465.


First part of Sermon XL. for the Fourth Sunday after Easter.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the FATHER of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.                                                                                - ST. JAMES i. 17. 

THE Collect, Epistle, and Gospel for this Sunday, which are found the same in our own and other Churches, combine to form one lesson, the object of which seems to be to prepare our hearts for the Unspeakable Gift. And surely it is impossible to conceive anything more divinely sweet and heavenly than the mode in which this subject is thus inculcated throughout. If on Sunday last we were taught to look forward for "a little while" from earth to Heaven, on this we are taught to make a heaven of earth itself; "among the manifold changes of the world" to have our hearts at anchor within the veil, and so to be at rest. 

Every good gift, says St. James, and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. All mankind are seeking for some good; but whatever good this world can afford is but imperfectly good at best, if it were but for its very transient and perishable nature; everything beneath the sun hath its shadow accompanying it, and that shadow deepening into night, in which it soon is lost. But not so with the good and perfect gift which God bestows from above, which partakes of His own un-changeableness—a light which never wanes, has no shadow, never goes down. And therefore the Psalmist, after stating this unceasing want, saying, "There be many that say, Who will show us any good?" himself gives the answer, or rather turns the answer into a prayer, "Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us." [Ps iv. 6,7] 
And speaking of the Father of Lights, the Author of all good, the Apostle adds, Of His own will begat He us with the Word of truth, that we should be a kind of first- fruits of His creatures. For how did we obtain this New birth, that we should be the children of the light? Not of our own merit, or by any works of our own, but of His own free will. "Of His own will begat He us." And in distinction from all the vanities and shadows of this world, it was "with the Word of truth," the Word of God which abideth for ever. The" first-fruits" of old were by the Law hallowed to God, and offered up to Him at this season of the Passover; so are they who are thus sanctified and "redeemed from among men, being the first-fruits unto God and to the Lamb." [Rev. xiv. 4] 
And to this St. James, ever clothing the highest doctrine with precepts of practical duty, adds, Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear; that is to say, since it is of the will of God that we are made His children; since it is from Him, and not from ourselves, that every good gift cometh, the disposition suitable to us is that of listening, and waiting upon God. "I will stand upon the watch;" "I will watch to see what He will say unto me." [Hab. ii. 1.] "I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined unto me." [Ps. xl. 1.] 
"Let every man be swift to hear," slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of man worketh, not the righteousness of God.  This temper, ever ready to obey, is contrary to zeal and forwardness in dictating to others; and to that passionate earnestness which partakes more of human infirmity than of Divine love.  By such the cause of God is not promoted.  They are not congenial to that spirit which is conscious of owing everything to the undeserved goodness of God; which hangs upon Him, which looks to Him, leans upon Him; which has nothing, hopes for nothing but in Him; has no strength, no good but from above.  "Swift to hear, slow to speak ;" this characterizes the meekness of wisdom which is in the sight of God of great price. 
And again, St. James, as his custom is, comprises it all in a few memorable words: Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness; or, rather, " having laid aside," as washed from all stains, and having put on Christ in Baptism, as circumcised in Him—in spirit, in heart, in tongue, from the superfluities of carnal affection. For wickedness arises from superfluity, from seeking what is not needful for us. Having laid aside these, receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls, "the Word able to save," the gift of all gifts, the good gift from above. O that we may ever cherish and keep this treasure of great worth, which is only preserved in this spirit of meekness! 
Thus, in this short passage of the Epistle, are we spoken of throughout as not our own; as begotten by His Word; as receiving His Word engrafted into us as a new life; as looking up to Heaven for the only good and perfect gift; as having nothing of our own but what is evil; no earthly good but what is transient; and therefore possessing our souls in meek and patient reliance on the Giver of all good. 

(for the second part, on the Gospel.)