Home      Back to Trinity 6





Brotherly Love and the Life of Christ.

by Isaac Williams

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

throughout the Year, Vol. II. Trinity Sunday to All Saints' Day 

Rivingtons, London, 1875, pp. 82, 86-92.

Second part of Sermon XL. for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity.
Now if we be dead with CHRIST, we believe that we shall also live with Him .
R0M. vi. 8.
THE beautiful Collect for this week consists of a devout aspiration for those joys which are with God, and a prayer for that love which alone can prepare the heart for that rest. As a flame rises upwards, so the love of God in the soul naturally aspires to those joys and that rest which is with Him. But as a tree cannot live end, grow, cannot bear flowers and fruit, and expand itself towards Heaven, unless it be first rooted and buried in the ground, so neither can the love of God in the soul, unless that which is earthly be dead and buried with Christ in His death. It is therefore at Baptism that this love is by the Holy Spirit planted within us; it is then that we are buried with Christ, in order that we may live with Him that life which is in God, in holy affections now, and in fulness of joy hereafter. Such, therefore, is the subject of the Epistle. But as this love of God within the heart can only be known by its fruits, and as these its fruits upon earth consist in the love of our brother, therefore this becomes very properly the lesson of this day’s Gospel.  For the joys of Heaven and. the love of God are things high and spiritual; and when our Lord speaks of them, He turns our attention to those practical duties of love, without which we may deceive ourselves.... 
(for the first part, on the Epistle.)
...The consideration of the Epistle and Gospel together is often of great advantage, and furnishes a subject of much interest, from the connexion of doctrine with practical precepts, which are thus brought to illustrate and bear upon each other. Thus it is to-day. Our Lord Himself in the Gospel assures us that no other righteousness but that which is thus founded and based in Him, thus spiritual and filled with Divine love, will be of any avail to us. Jesus said unto His disciples, in the Sermon on the Mount, when He was teaching them the laws and the nature of His Kingdom, Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. As for that “righteousness” which consists in the mere literal fulfilment of the law, it is not this which I require of you My disciples. The mere acknowledgment of only one God; keeping aloof from idol-worship; strictly observing the Sabbath-day; not committing murder or adultery, and the like,—such a fulfilment of the Ten Commandments as this implies falls far short of that spiritual law of love, by which the sinner is united with his Saviour, the soul holds intercourse with its Creator, the spirit of man with the Comforter. The external keeping of the Law which the Scribes and Pharisees teach is necessary; but your righteousness must be deeper and higher than this, if you would be “dead unto sin” in the grave of Christ, and be through Him “alive unto God ;“ a righteousness not fair without, while full of rottenness and dead men's bones within, like the whited sepulchre, but having therein the living Christ, Who requireth truth in the inward parts. For the old law, with “the blood. of bulls and of goats,” may confer an outward “sanctification to the purifying of the flesh ;“ but the Blood of Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, must enter within and. “purge the conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” [Heb. ix. 13, 14.]  The new law of love hath in itself swallowed up the old; the fire coming down from Heaven hath eaten up the wood and the stone, the altar and the sacrifice, and shown thereby its Divine nature. [I Kings xviii. 36.] 

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill: and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgement. But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall he in danger of the council; hut whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire. As there are differences of happiness in Heaven according to the degrees of love which hath reigned in the heart below, so in condemnation also there will be gradations of punishment according to the want of that love which hath broken the brotherhood of God which Christ hath wrought; the causeless anger, the name of unkindness, the opprobrious charge, which mark the issues of the heart, shall then pass, each after its kind or degree, into indelible judgment. 

Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Leave it not undone, but first take care that the heart be right, for to the heart of the worshipper God looks. An altar implies a sacrifice, and a sacrifice implies sin and the need of expiation. And how can he express his need of forgiveness, or his sense of pardon, who hath aught done against himself which he hath not forgiven? And therefore Christ, the true Sacrifice on the altar of the cross, “which sanctifieth the gift” of the heart, estimates the value of the gift by the brotherly and Divine love which is lodged therein. He Himself, in becoming the Sacrifice for us, hath given us the example and the true character of that love, which, as a holy fire from above, is to kindle the gift and to hallow the sacrifice we ourselves would offer. Thus in the oblation of Himself for us He washed the feet of the traitor Judas, and ate with him, and admitted him to the kiss of love, and called him, not Raca, but friend; Who at the same time healed the ear of one who was about to seize and bind Him; Who with His disciples that slept was not angry, nor lost patience, but said, as they might have urged for themselves, with tender charity excusing, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak;" Who, when stretched upon the Cross, prayed for His murderers; and when withdrawn from sight forgot them not, but sent down on that guilty city the unspeakable Gift, the Comforter, that He might speak peace unto them, and offer forgiveness. To His altar, therefore, nothing can be so desecrating, nothing so unwelcome, as want of love in the heart of him that approaches. But to be as He was, is to be “planted together in the likeness of His death;” that the “old man” of self-interest and ill-will may be destroyed, and the new man may serve Him in the new life of love, that new love which is as Christ hath loved us. 

Our Blessed. Lord, knowing what is in man, and his temptation to evil, well knew the dangerous delusiveness of this self-deceit, which would come before God with unkindness to man at heart, yet with professions of loving God, which is indeed like betraying the Son of Man with a kiss. He knew also that there was another most fruitful source of final falling away: that of acknowledging this law of love and intending to fulfil it, but putting it off to a more convenient season, when enmity should have died away, or time smoothed down the difficulties of reconciliation. For nothing destroys men’s souls more than relying on such intentions of good, while not putting them into practice. He therefore adds : Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with Him: lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. These last expressions allude apparently to the parable of the unforgiving servant, who had cast his fellow-servant into prison, after he had himself been forgiven of his lord. [St. Matt. xviii. 34.]  The words derive light and strength from that parable. But the peculiar injunction, like so many of our Lord’s warnings, has reference to the shortness of the time of our probation. “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath,” says the Apostle, “neither give place to the devil.” [Eph. iv. 26.]  And here the adversary gains his strength and power from the forgiveness being delayed. It is like sleeping ‘with a deadly serpent coiled. up within the bosom, not knowing at any time when he may inflict the mortal sting. Indeed, anger and malice are of the nature of deadly sins; nor do we know how near they may be to murder in the heart, as they appear in the sight of God. St. John assures us, that “he that hateth his brother is a murderer.” 

And here may be added. one word in illustration, from the Old. Testament Lessons, which our Church has appointed. for this Sunday. Where is there a more touching account of forgiveness and. love than in David, the man after God’s own heart ? How often did he forgive Saul? how did he spare his life, do all. that he could to alleviate, to pacify, to win him over to love? how did he. lament over him when dead, and remember his family afterwards? how patient and forgiving unto Shimei that cursed him? And his love for Absalom, when in arms against him and seeking his life, seems recorded as an image of our Blessed Saviour’s love for His murderers. Why else is there twice mentioned his exceedingly affecting cry, “O Absalom, my son, my son !“ In that we hear our Saviour’s own voice; it is like that of God’s own love: “Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore my bowels are troubled for him.” [Jer. xxxi. 20.]  Yet even David, such as he was, so loving, so forgiving, harboured an evil thought till he was guilty of murder. Who then has not reason to fear, lest he should tempt God? 

But we have a better strength, and far more light than David had. Anger and hate are always in the heart closely connected with some other evil passion; lust and hate are inseparable companions; and so are malice and covetousness; they were woven into one and the same cord in the heart of Judas, by which Satan held him; so are pride and anger, they are never found apart. And therefore, blessed be God for His great deliverance! all these passions are in us to be mortified and buried with Christ; and if lust, and covetousness, and pride, be away, anger will have nothing to feed on, and will of itself be extinguished. 

“Take My yoke upon you,” is our Blessed Lord’s own invitation, “and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Shall find “rest;” shall find the true Sabbath, the Sabbath of rest in Christ, rest in His grave, from our evil passions being buried there. “Know ye not that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him in Baptism unto death.” And then if we be dead with Christ, to live with Him will be easy, for He will raise us up by the same Spirit, and we shall live with Him; live with Him even now, and not know the death of the grave to be death at all. 

What we have to do then is, to be conformable to Him, to learn of Him His love, to learn to love Him, in order that by so doing we may learn to love others with something of that love with which He does. The love of Christ—let this then be your one great business in life, nay, your one and only business; let every day be considered by you as a lost day which has not done something to further this one end. As a man, who has great and important business to attend to at a distance, must travel whether it be rain or sunshine; whether he meets with convenient modes of being conveyed forward, or those of labour and difficulty on foot; whether he has to pursue his journey in company or alone so with this one end in view, let your days be, in the sunshine of life, or under its clouds, under all varieties of circumstance let this one end be advanced, be always thought of and considered. If you meet with success, let it further in you the love of Christ by some sacrifice; if you have trouble, by strong definite acts of resignation; let all things have a reference to His Cross and Passion; if you are with a friend who sympathizes with you, be as the two going to Emmaus, let Him make one with you and constrain Him; if you have an enemy, this is an opportunity not to be delayed. or foregone; if in public prayer, then take care that it be an act of union with Christ, spiritual worship to the Eye of Him that seeth in secret; if you have leisure and solitude, be sure not to lose the time,—He is then especially waiting to draw near to you. But above all, on every opportunity of approaching His altar, make the most of it by thorough forgiveness of injuries “from the heart,” by entire repentance, and love unfeigned; so may we, “loving Him above all things, obtain” His gracious “promises.” 

But remember, it is a work to be done, a gift to be gained by importunity.