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The Accepted Time.
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 XXII. for the First Sunday in Lent.
 2 Cor. vi. 1-10.   St. Matt. iv. 1-11.

"We then, as workers together with Him, beseech you also,

that ye receive not the grace of God in vain."

II COR. vi. 1.


THE season of Lent is introduced to us by our Lord’s fast of forty days, the subject of the Gospel for today.  This, with His temptation in the wilderness, took place before He entered upon His ministry; and in the Epistle for today St. Paul describes what the ministers of Christ endured as such.  Thus was that fast which was prefigured in Moses and Elias, and fulfilled in Christ, carried on also by His ministers after Him, filling up that which was behind of the sufferings of Christ; fulfilled also in His many members through their whole lives, made more than conquerors through His grace.  Who, for their sakes, endured temptation and overcame.  It is with respect to Christian ministers that this subject is more especially brought before us on this day; not only because they ought to go before others, and lead the way, but as this first week in Lent is also the season of the Ember Fast.


This connexion between the Epistle and the Gospel is shown in the first words of the Epistle.  We then, says St. Paul, as workers together with Him, i.e. with Christ, Who was “made sin for us, that we might be made in Him the righteousness of God,” we beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vainFor He saith, i.e. the Scripture saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee.  These words are spoken, in the Prophet Isaiah, of Christ, and they may be well understood of the season when He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, was tempted and overcame; and they are here further applied by St. Paul to the “time accepted,” the “day of salvation,” appointed to every Christian and to the Church at large.  Each has his season of probation in this wilderness, even as Christ Himself spoke of a “day” when He had to “work the works of Him that sent” Him before “the night cometh.” [St. John ix. 4.]  An ancient Bishop, [St. Leo, Serm. iv. De Quadrag.] indeed, commenting on this day’s Epistle, applies the words especially to this season of Lent; in which sense they strongly appeal to us.  But we may also apply them more generally, for forty years represent man’s life of trial; and the forty days express the like analogy, “a day for a year,” as Scripture says.[Ezek. iv. 6.]  Behold, now, adds the Apostle, is the accepted time, the one opportunity of welcome acceptance, now is the day of salvation,—the time when God works together with you in this your “day of temptation in the wilderness.”  And then, after telling them that this is their day of grace as hearers, he returns to speak of the ministry fulfilling with Christ this their appointed work. 


Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed; we, the stewards and ministers of God, must be careful that this your day of grace and our own also, be not lost by our fault, but that we carry on the example of Christ in His season of suffering and probation; but in all things approving ourselves, or commending ourselves to you, as the ministers of God.  And here, in contemplating this pattern of what Christian ministers have been and ought to be, we must consider how it is as partaking in that victory which our Blessed Saviour obtained in His temptation; for here we have the same Spirit which led Him forth into the wilderness sustaining His Apostles in His victory over the world, one of like passions and infirmities with ourselves.  In those days of the Church’s early sufferings and persecution, we see His Apostles walking as it were unarmed in the midst of the fiery furnace, and we behold One with them like unto the Son of God. 


In much patience, in great and manifold endurance, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses.  Each one of these words contain quite a history in St. Paul’s eventful life of suffering, which might be supplied even from the little we know of it.  In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, or it might be “in tossings to and fro,” as St. Chrysostom takes it; and to these things from without he adds further, those which he imposed on himself, in labours, in watchings, in fastings.   And here, my brethren, we must remember, that although St. Paul’s life was such as we must rather admire than imitate in the extraordinary hardships which outward circumstances brought upon him, yet it is not so in the care of his own soul, and in such things as he here mentions.


By pureness, i.e. by a chaste heart and life; by knowledge, i.e. by that wisdom which is the result of goodness of life, as St, Peter says, “add to virtue knowledge:” [2 St. Pet. i. 5.] by long-suffering, by kindness, as he says of charity, that it is “long-suffering and kind;” by the Holy Ghost, i.e. by the exercise of spiritual gifts.  And to this he adds that crowning grace of the Spirit, which he called “the more excellent way,” by love unfeigned, charity “without dissimulation,” that best gift from above.  By the word of truth, which he kept as a sacred deposit, and by which our Lord overcame the evil one; by the power of God, “the demonstration of the Spirit and of power;” [1 Cor. ii. 4.] by the armour of righteousness on the right and on the left, the sword and the shield of offensive and defensive warfare; or it may be as armed on all sided against the effects of good or evil success; at all events, it seems connected with what follows: by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report, converting both alike to the glory of God.  As deceivers, and yet true, according to the various estimations of men: as unknown, and yet well known, unknown of the world, yet manifest to the consciences of his own, to Saints, to Angels, and to God: as dying, and behold, we live: as in the midst of “deaths oft ;” as “alway delivered unto death;” as “dying daily,” yet through all marvellously delivered by “God which raiseth the dead.”  Behold! still surviving; yea, and having more abundantly a lite in God, secure from every peril, we live and greatly live, having “the life of the Lord Jesus manifested in our body.”  As chastened, and not killed; as the Psalmist says, “The Lord hath chastened and corrected me, but He hath not given me over unto death.” [Ps. cxviii.18.]  As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing;” for the more we mourn, the more are we comforted of God.  As poor, yet making many rich; as poor in this world, yet sustaining others by the liberal distribution of alms, and far more by imparting unto “many” those “true riches” which alone endure; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things, as having given up all things for Christ’s sake, and yet obtaining from Him whatever we ask in prayer; as made in Him “ heirs of all things,” both in time and eternity; as emptied of self, and possessing God, and having in Him every need supplied.


Such a series of contrasts, such a contradiction, such a mystery to the world, is the true Christian.  And thus in him are fully obtained and realized in substance and truth all those things which Satan falsely offered in the Temptation.  Stones have to him become as bread, and the wilderness a fruitful field.  In possessing all things he has “the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them” for his own; the true riches whereby he makes many rich; he is sustained by angels, and borne aloof by them safe from all harm unto the bosom of God.


Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness .... 


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