Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles, Duccio di Buoninsegna
between 1308 and 1311, Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana del Duomo, Siena, Italy
O LORD, from whom all good things do come: Grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
St. James 1.22-end
BE ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass. For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
St. John 16.23-end
VERILY, verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: the time cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you; for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God. Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
THE REALITY OF THE RISEN LIFE.
by the Rev. Melville Scott
from The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles and Gospels
A Devotional Exposition of the Teaching of the Christian Year, 1902.
THIS closing Sunday of the Easter course plainly teaches the intense reality which must mark the Risen Life of Christians, both internally as a life of holy thought and feeling, and externally as a life of daily duty.
THE GOSPEL. (S. JOHN xvi. 23.) THE INNER LIFE.
Christ reveals three essential marks of the inner life of Christians. It is to be:
A. A Life of Prayer.
Our Saviour here gives us the very charter of Christian prayer. The pledge of prayer is our Saviour’s solemn and most emphatic promise, “Ask, and ye shall receive “—a pledge as wide and unreserved as can possibly be—” whatsoever ye shall ask.”
He gives us, also, the prevailing plea of Christian prayer—” in My name.” He will frank our prayers for everything which He can approve, and He will approve every reasonable longing of our nature. He will join our prayers to His own and His prayers to ours. Thus we have “access with confidence” to the Father.
B. A Life of Sonship.
Prayer rests on sonship, and is sonship expressed in words. Our Lord came to reveal the Father and to make us the sons of God. All definitions and descriptions of religious truth are “parables” and comparisons, except this of sonship, which expresses the actual relation between the Christian and God. The mediation and intercession of Christ must not be taken to mean that the Father does not Himself love us, or that His will towards us needs changing, for the Father sent the Son, and, His mission ended, the Son returned to the Father. The mission of Christ is, therefore, the expression of the love which first loved us, and which is freely open to those who have accepted God’s great gift to them. Our sonship is through the Son.
C. A Life of Peace.
Sure confidence in God as our Heavenly Father lies at the root of the Christian life, and gives freedom to prayer. Thus trusting and thus praying we may live a life of peace. Our peace does not rest upon our faith, but upon our Father. The disciples were soon to find how weak was the faith with which they were now so well satisfied. They must cease to depend upon themselves in any way and depend on God, even as our Lord in the loneliness of His sufferings still enjoyed the Father’s presence. Thus the inner life of peace in Christ would enable them for the outward life in the world.
Reality in the inward life can alone enable us to overcome the world’s temptations, hindrances, difficulties, anxieties, irritations, and afflictions; can alone aid us to live for God in a world which rejects Him, and in the midst of a world of sense to live for a world of spirit. In Christ, in His Person, Church, and ordinances, lies the promise and power of victory.
THE EPISTLE. (S. JAMES i. 22.) THE OUTER LIFE.
As there must be the inner life of prayer, peace, and sonship, so there must be the outer life of practice and of brotherhood; for, unless our principles produce results, they cannot be considered to be there at all.
A. The Necessity of Practice
Is shown by the apt illustration of a mirror, so wholly useless unless we remove the defects we have seen in ourselves.
The Christian mirror is our Lord Jesus Christ ; His perfect character, His words and teachings. These form a mirror in which we see
(1) Ourselves as we are.
In studying Christ we see ourselves, our defects, errors, blemishes in character and principle. He who does not know Christ does not know himself, but imagines himself better than he is, having never seen the best.
(2) Ourselves as we ought to be.
This mirror is also a law which condemns us for our unlikeness to our Lord; a perfect law which holds up the very ideal of righteousness in the face of Jesus Christ.
(3) Ourselves as we can be.
For it is not only a law, but a law of liberty, which while it condemns shows the way of escape. The imitation of Christ is no hard bondage, but a labour of love. His rules do not fetter us, but set us free, as a knowledge of the rules of art make painter and musician free to paint and compose. Obeying them we seem to obey not something outside of us, but our better new-born selves.
We must intensely contemplate this divine mirror and stand continually before its pure surface. It is the work of the Spirit to instruct us in the use of it in order to convince of sin, righteousness and judgment (cf. last Sunday’s Gospel, S. John xvi. 8-11).
B. Three Special Points of Practice.
It is especially important for us to be very practical in three most necessary directions:–
(1) In the Bridling of our Tongues.
The Bridle of Restraint is most needful, for they are apt to go too fast and be in advance of truth through exaggeration, of modesty through boasting, of feeling through flattery, of love through anger. In all these respects they are apt to run away with us.
The Bridle of Correction is needed to prevent them wandering into frivolity, personalities, scandal, or into subjects of which we know nothing, lest they carry us whither we would not.
The Bridle of Direction is also needed to guide them into what ever is good, useful, interesting, and edifying (cf. Eph. iv. 29, 30).
A religion that cannot control the tongue is not a religion of the heart (cf. S. Matt. xii. 34).
(2) In Charity.
This must be seen in its most practical form of caring for the fatherless and widows. This is acceptable “before God and the Father,” Who has revealed Himself as “the Father of the fatherless and the Judge of the widow.” This is the pattern of Christ, Who “went about doing good,” and of this He will require the practical proof, “Ye visited Me.”
(3) In Purity
As we need charity to mix with others, so we need purity to avoid others’ sin, and to keep us unspotted from the defilements, seductions, indulgences, and temptations of the world. The word rendered religion means literally worship; no external acts of worship are of avail separate from charity and purity, which are themselves the devotion and worship which God most loves.
We here ask for the inward life of the Gospel and the outward life of the Epistle from Him “from Whom all good things do come.”
A. For the Inner Life.
We ask for the life of holy thought and feeling, and this, by the inspiration of God, for we may not regard inspiration as a thing of the past, because one form of it, and that the least important, is gone. In every other respect this is the very dispensation of inspiration. We need inspiration of holy thoughts, purposes, plans, and desires. We need also inspiration for freshness in our work, since we are apt to become dead and emotionless. We must learn from the Gospel the emotions which alone produce results.
B. For the Outer Life.
We need inspiration for our start, or we shall never begin; we need “merciful guidance,” or we shall not arrive at our journey’s end. As it is easy to get into a habit of acting without feeling, so it is easy to get into an even worse habit of feeling without acting— a sort of Christian castle-building of excited but resultless planning and revolving. We are to learn from the Epistle the practical side of emotion.