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The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity.


by the Rev. Prebendary Melville Scott, D.D.

from The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.

A Devotional Exposition of the Continuous Teaching of the Church Throughout the Year,

S.P.C.K., London, 1902.



THE Sunday of spiritual need is followed by a Sunday of Divine grace. Human poverty may be assisted by Divine sufficiency, and having seen last Sunday that we are not sufficient of ourselves, we learn to-day that “our sufficiency is of God.”

This very remarkable Sunday concludes, as has been seen, the first half of the Trinity series of Love, Duty, and Grace.


This passage contains S. Paul’s description of the glory of the New Dispensation as contrasted with that of the Old Dispensation. This contrast is worked out as follows :—

     A.   The New Ministry and the Old.

The Christian priest is described in our version as “an able minister of the New Testament.” This translation is very unfortunate, as seeming only to mean that the priest is, to use the cant phrase, an able preacher out of the New Testament.

The Christian priest is not necessarily an able man—he is an “enabled man.” That with which he is entrusted is not merely a book, but a Divine covenant of grace. An exact translation of the whole sentence is: —“Not that we are able of ourselves to regard anything as proceeding from ourselves, but our ability is of God, Who also hath enabled us as ministers of a new covenant.” Our superiority is not personal, but all of grace, and grace is given to help us to do a higher work.

The Christian priest is commissioned to declare a freer dispensation. He is to call all men to live in a new attitude towards God, Who has placed Himself in a new attitude of grace towards man. His superiority is not in himself, but in his message and endowment.

     B.   The Letter and the Spirit.

The law of Moses was an external law, written and engraven in stones, and offered no power to write God’s will and ways upon the heart. There is no mention on Mount Sinai of the Holy Spirit. True, the Holy Spirit was present under the Old Dispensation, but it was not the Dispensation of the Spirit.

     C.   Death and Life.

Many souls were saved under that dispensation, but not one soul was saved by it. In itself it could not do more than minister condemnation and death by leading men to feel their need, for “by the law was the knowledge of sin.” Even under the Old Dispensation it was the New Dispensation which saved men, and the efficacy of the blood of bulls and of goats lay only in their testimony to the Lamb of God, which should take away the sin of the world.

Such is the contrast between the Old and the New. Certainly the Old had a glory of its own, yet it was a transient brightness, and, like the glory of Moses’ countenance, but a passing gleam soon to vanish away. No dispensation of God can be despised, and the glory of the Old Dispensation enhances that of the New. For (1) if the Old was only glorious because it pointed to the New, how great must be the glory of the New! (2) If that Dispensation was glorious which showed man’s needs, how much more glorious must this be which supplies them! If there was glory in that which showed man his sin, how much rather in the Dispensation which confers acceptance and the powers of the Spirit.


     A.   The extremity of Human Need.

Outward need is sad, need of money, clothes, and what are called the necessaries of life, but the real necessaries of life are inward, and to lack these is the deepest poverty. The deaf and dumb man is a figure of the spiritually poor who are deaf to the voice of conscience, to the call of God’s providence, God’s Spirit, God’s Gospel, and God’s Son. By nature all are deaf. By nature, also, all are dumb, averse to prayer, confession, and to praise. We are dumb to God, for God, and about God. Man as fallen is a being closed and shut in, with nothing open in all his spiritual nature, contracted in ear, eye, heart, lips, will, and hand, and living in dreary isolation towards God and man. Communion and fellowship are cut off by sin and must be restored by Christ.

     B.   The Sufficiency of Grace.

Christ enters in by the one remaining door of sight. He with. draws the sufferer from the crowd in order to direct his attention to Himself. His fingers touch the seat of need, the deaf ear and the stammering tongue. His look points towards heaven to show whence cometh help. Thus Christ arouses faith and brings human poverty into correspondence with grace.

We learn from this miracle—

     (1)   The Prevenience of Grace.

Christ’s sympathy is proportioned to our needs, and not merely to our prayers.  His grace seeks even where it was not sought; gives where it was not asked; knocks where no door was opened. How much more, then, will grace give when we ask, seek, knock!

     (2)   The Omnipotence of Grace.

This was the lesson which impressed the multitude—“He hath done all things well.”  This miracle was the sign of a universal power and love that can “renew what has been decayed by the fraud and malice of the devil or our own carnal will and frailness,” and can restore man to fellowship with God and the saints.


     A.   A View of the Divine Sufficiency.

God is almighty and everlasting, and His power is sufficient for all needs and all time. His bounty is not measured by our sense of need, for “He is more ready to hear than we to pray” by our desires, for “He is wont to give more than we desire”; by our deserts, for “He gives more than we deserve.”

How high is the view here given us of God as loving us more than we love ourselves, and how low the view of our own deadness, folly, and carelessness! The object evidently set before us is to become as ready to pray as God is ready to hear, and to seek to bring our desires to some equality with God’s longing to satisfy them.

There is evident reference here made to the miracle described in the Gospel and a petition that the grace of God may heal the dumbness of our nature and speak the word Ephphatha to our lips.
     B.   A Prayer of Need.

We ask for the mercy of God in all its abundance. We ask for His forgiving mercy to relieve our anxious consciences which dare not let us pray; and for His giving mercy and grace to give us what we can feel we are unworthy to ask. We pray, in fact, that our sense of need may not hinder our prayers by leading us to despair, and that we may receive the blessings of the Gospel Covenant of Grace described in the Epistle of the day.