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‘Examine yourselves, … prove your own selves.’
2 Corinthians 13:5
Nothing unusual in this advice, but something very remarkable in purpose for which it is given by St. Paul. He is appealing to their personal experience for proof of the truth of their new faith. He thus states two great truths: that there ought to be in every one of us a proof of the truth of our religion; and that we may obtain this proof for ourselves. Have we such proof? St. Paul tells us that if we examine ourselves we shall find ‘Christ in us’—a remarkable expression.
I. What are the features of Christ that should reproduce themselves in every true Christian? Christ will show Himself as—
( a) The obedient Son of God.
( b) The absolutely true and perfect brother of every man.
( c) The Perfect Man—perfect in His holiness.
II. Is Christ thus living in us?
( a) Have we ever had even one thought of loving obedience to God?
( b) Have we ever felt in our hearts a thought of love to our fellow-men?
( c) Have we ever felt in our hearts a hatred of evil for its own sake?
III. If we find these beginnings, that is the proof of our faith which lies within the reach of every one of us. You cannot prove logically the articles of your belief concerning Him, but experience will teach you that there is such a Saviour. Thus may we gain evidence for our faith, and be evidences of it to others. So lives still on earth, in the lives of His servants, the ever-living Christ. Then can we say, ‘I know in Whom I have believed.’
‘The truth in which you find yourself is far greater than you, and extends far beyond your ken. You are tentatively feeling your own little way, by gradual experiment, into harmony with the eternal truth which embraces all things. But then, if so, your own experiments can cover but a tiny corner of the vast truth, a passing moment in an endless movement. That is all that you can personally and experimentally verify. But if your own experiment stands; if you are convinced by trusting what supported and ennobled, and are sure that it is a reality to which you have by faith committed yourself—then you will trust the truth, in which you are, for all that which is out of your sight and beyond your verification. You will say: “I have found Christ true in me, for me; therefore I am sure that He is the same in the heart of those perplexities which I cannot solve any more than you. I have no answer to give you in face of all kinds of dark enigmas. I have to leave them as black and terrible as they are to you. I cannot tell what Christ is at behind them. Only I know that He works on a scale which I cannot follow. He takes in a whole series of generations to work through one problem; a long sequence of centuries to disclose a secret. He takes long views. I can only take short ones. How can I pretend or presume to say what He is doing? Only day by day I win through experience a deeper and deeper assurance that I am co-operating through Him with the very truth in things. He meets me at every turn with renewals of confidence. I am at one with the secret, somehow, which holds the world together. Whenever I trust Him He practically answers. That is enough for me. The truth is one. And I am in the truth. Some day I shall know all that it means. For the present I am content to know that I shall know hereafter.” ’
CO-OPERATION IN THE TRUTH
‘We can do nothing against the truth; but [only] for the truth.’
2 Corinthians 13:8
Is that not a satisfying picture of our relationship to truth? The truth—the reality of things—is outside there; moving along its own path, pressing forward towards its proper goal, set in a purposed direction of its own. Whatever we may do or say, it makes good its own intention. Our opportunity lies in coming into co-operation with it. We can join in. We can discover what it intends. Our faculties allow for our understanding what it is after. It invites us to enter into its meaning and to unite forces. We and it are akin and can work together.
I. Even if we ourselves must limit and qualify the claim of practical efficiency to be the sole test of the truth that we believe in, yet, at any rate, those outside us who watch and note us cannot possibly apply any other test. It is the sole proof by which they will judge us—practical results. We therefore are bound to supply them with evidence. They must be able to see that somehow or other, by our belief, we do make something adequate and real of this life of ours. They must be forced to own that we can put ourselves to use; that we are of service to all who need us; that we bring resources into play which cannot be got elsewhere; that we find life full of practical opportunities. They must confess that we offer of our best; that we come to the best of which we are capable; that we improve and grow, and have funds of secret strength, and are in touch with the powers that make for good. If we are in the truth, working with the truth, as we say that we are, these are the results that should happen. It ought to be visible, tangible, audible, that we have a faith which is efficient, a faith which corresponds to the facts and can deal with them, and master them, and draw strength out of them, and do the work asked of it. Are you and I offering any real evidence to those who watch? And if not, why not? That is a serious question to have to answer.
II. There may be some who are retorting, ‘I accept your test of efficiency, and it has carried me away from your Christian Creed; for I have become a better man, a better woman, since I ceased to believe it. My strength was liberated by my freedom from faith’s shackles. Since I threw it over I have been more unselfish, more sacrificial, more true. I have loved humanity with a deeper love. I have cared for righteousness with a finer passion. I have become free from petty anxieties. I have moved in a larger and a sweeter air.’ Is that what you say? Well, what should I answer? I should stand by my test. At all costs I would say: ‘You must obey the call to be at your best. Wherever your best self leads you, thither you must follow. Be true to the best in you. You cannot do anything else. Only follow it loyally to the end. Press after it. I, for my part, must believe that whatever is best in you belongs to Christ. Follow it, and it is bound at last to find its home in Him. It will lead you there if you are loyal to it. All that is good in us is His. He is the one true man in us all. That is the Catholic faith. Therefore we can dare to bid you be true to yourself at all hazards, and you cannot in the end be wrong. The more true you are to the guiding which, as you now are, leads you straight away from Christ, the more certain you will be to find yourself brought back to Him.
III. Ah! that blessed hour of recovered peace in Christ!—What would it not mean to you? And to you, it would be more even than to those poor parted lovers in the poem. To you, it would not merely be a recovery, but a revelation. For, indeed, if the Christ from Whom you have parted did not draw out your best self, then it was some misconceived and misinterpreted Christ Whom you have left behind. And when with those averted feet, following your best, you make full circle and meet again the Christ face to face, it will be a new Christ—the true Christ, the very Lord and Master of your soul. Ah, you will know Him then, as your only joy and peace and consummation. He, and He alone, can fulfil your desire. And in the gladness of the recognition, after the bitter journey to the bourne so sweet, you will thank God for having kept you true to the light which to-day you pledge yourself to follow to the end.
Rev. Canon H. Scott Holland.
‘We think of those two who, in Coventry Patmore’s exquisite poem, are compelled to sever wholly, and to part one East and one West, and who yet, by the very strength of the resolution with which they walk asunder, are brought, by the round Earth, face to face at last. So the poem runs:—
Perchance we may,
Where now this night is day,
And even through faith of still averted feet,
The bitter journey to the bourne so sweet,
Seasoning the termless feast of our content
With tears of recognition never dry.’
‘This we also pray for, even your perfecting.’
2 Corinthians 13:9 (R. V.)
Times of revival are times of spiritual danger. Peril comes from two seemingly opposite quarters. On the one side there is the tendency to exaggerate, on the other to belittle, God’s truth. We suffer from both these tendencies. Thus there are some to-day who, if language means anything, do lay claim to a practically sinless perfection. Such perfection is not our danger, nor does the fact that some think they are perfect seriously menace the life of the Church. Facts are too strong for the theory. Our danger lies in the opposite direction—in an idle acquiescence in imperfection. This is the real peril. Sometimes it springs of personal failure; sometimes of the reaction from perfectionist theories; sometimes from ignorance of God’s demands; sometimes, and most often, from sheer laziness. There are three words whose meaning it is well to grasp if we would understand the scope and limits of Christian perfection.
I. The first of these is ‘teleios.’—Its exact meaning is ‘that which is brought to an end,’ and hence that which is matured and so complete. The Gospel was in this sense perfect as compared with the law ( Hebrews 7:19). The Christian is exhorted to be a child in malice, but a man ( lit. perfect) in understanding ( 1 Corinthians 14:20). In Hebrews 6:1 teleios is used with this significance, where the Christian teachers are urged to leave the first principles, the mere rudiments of Christian truth, and to ‘go on unto perfection’ in their teaching. So in another glowing passage ( Ephesians 4:13) the whole Church is viewed as coming to ‘a full-grown man,’ of which the ‘full-grown men in Christ’ are at once the elements and the miniatures. In this sense it is that our sinless Saviour is said to have been perfected. As ‘the Captain,’ or Archègos, He took part in that which He established; and Himself ‘became perfect ( teleios) through suffering.’ Of this perfection the Resurrection was the visible seal and crown.
II. The second word for perfect is ‘holoklèros.’—The perfection it indicates is one in which no grace of the Christian is lacking, just as in teleios no grace is imperfect or weak. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 the word is translated ‘blameless,’ and in James 1:4, ‘entire.’ In the latter passage it is linked with teleios thus: ‘Let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing.’ How deficient we are! How many would be the finest Christians in the world but for shortcoming just in one obvious point. To how many might not Christ say, ‘One thing thou lackest’; and how many ‘go away grieved’ whom He loves! Nor is the loss theirs only, for what of His heart?
III. The last of these words for perfection is ‘katartisis,’ and its allied verb. It indicates that which is fitted, restored, adjusted, and so made what it ought to be, viz. perfect. Thus, in St. Matthew 4:21, the fishermen are seen mending their nets; in Hebrews 11:3, the worlds are declared to have been ‘ framed by the Word of God.’ So, too, a fallen Christian is to be restored by those that are spiritual ( Galatians 6:1). How deeply suggestive then, is the use of this word in a spiritual application! The great need of many a disappointing Christian life lies in a nutshell; it is spiritual adjustment. Such a life may not be deficient in gifts; you remember that of the Corinthian Church it was written: ‘In everything ye were enriched in Him’; and yet that Church, as a whole, caused grave anxiety to the Apostle. It had gifts abundant; its great need was grace.
If we would know what Christian perfection is, we must go in for it with our whole heart. It is easy to discuss the exact force of words, to point out shades of meaning in the Greek, to argue this or deny that, to know every pitfall on the way to holiness, and yet be unholy still. If our God gives us His supreme command, ‘Be holy,’ let us not forget that His biddings are enablings. But it is only when we are prostrate before Him in willing, joyful obedience that possibilities become certainties.
Rev. Canon Barnes-Lawrence.
‘There is a picture by Albert Durer over which the great painter often shed tears. Jesus Christ is seated, while round Him are weeds and stones and thistles, and He weeps over them. There are wound-prints in His side and hands—it is the risen Lord—and His tears are over the failure of His people; those whom He died to save from sin seem not to care for holiness.’
A THREEFOLD BENEDICTION
‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost.’
2 Corinthians 13:14
Upon this text I base what is to me the absolute inference, that in the mind of St. Paul, when he wrote his salutation to the Corinthian Church, Jesus Christ and God and the Holy Spirit were themselves the One Deity. But somebody may say, ‘Why define God at all? Why not say, “I believe in God,” and there leave the words?’ My answer is that it is not enough to say, ‘I believe in God.’ Immediately the question arises, ‘What is the nature of the God in Whom you believe?’ Whatever definition you give of God, as you are finite and He is Infinite, it must transcend reason. Trinity is not a perfect definition of the Godhead; it is the highest definition to which human thought has yet risen, or to which, under the limitations of humanity, it is apparently capable of rising; and it was a remark of the philosopher Kant himself that the idea of a Trinity of Persons in the Godhead is not an inappropriate representation of God’s threefold relation to us as moral beings.
I. What is it to believe in God the Father?—Whatever happens in the world has a cause, and for that cause there is another cause behind it. And so indefinitely. And as the mind pursues the catena of causes until it seems to lose itself in the immeasurable darkness of the past, it is led to conceive the cause of all causes—the great First Cause—that is God. But the question is, ‘Is that First Cause kind or unkind, a foe or a friend to the children of men?’ Men used to think He was a foe. They importuned Him with prayers, they cajoled Him with offerings. Jesus Christ revealed Him as a Friend, as a Father, Who loves every child of His with an intensity of which an earthly father’s love is but a shadow. And when we embrace His revelation, and hold to it in spite of all difficulties which the frowning aspect of nature may present, then it is that we believe in God the Father—we believe, as the text says, in the love of God.
II. What is it to believe in God the Son?—But a father is a father still, although he be far off; only it is so hard—is it not?—when father and children are sundered, to keep alive the sense of their relation. What would you do, if you were far away, to make your children remember you still? I think you would do just what God has done: you would send them a letter. That is the Gospel. You would send them a likeness of yourself. That is the Incarnation. And oh! if we believe—and who is there of us who does not believe?—that Jesus Christ, the Divine Son, chose the lot of suffering and of death for our sake, when He might have summoned the holy angels to His rescue, and they would have sped on silver pinions at His bidding: that is to believe in God the Son; it is to know what the text calls the grace, the sympathy, the infinite pity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
III. And what is it to believe in God the Holy Spirit?—Jesus Christ lived a human life, He died a human death; but His Church lives after Him—it will live until He comes again in glory. And, according to His own promise, there has been since Pentecost a Holy Spirit of Truth working in the hearts of men. You can see His operation in the surging tide of moral responsibility as it sweeps away one landmark of evil after another in the process of the centuries. You can see it in your own hearts, in the strange Divine strength which comes to man now and again, lifting him above himself into the vision of the High and Holy One. And to believe in that power which is irresistible as it is eternal, to know its presence, its inspiration, its victory, is to believe in the communion of the Holy Spirit.
IV. This doctrine of the Trinity has moved the highest expressions of religious devotion.—Will you now say that the doctrine of the Trinity possesses no meaning and no value for human life? You are sad at heart, perhaps. You feel your own weakness, your poor, fragile, dying life, in the presence of the universe. You could cry with the Breton mariner, ‘Have pity on me, O God, for my bark is so frail, and Thine ocean so wide!’ Then, even then, you flee for refuge to the everlasting Fatherhood of God. Or you are lonely and bereaved, and you want a friend who will abide with you, and not fail in the hour when human friendships seem to vanish like the clouds of the morning. And then you cling to the Friend of all friends, Who loved you, and Who gave Himself for you. Or you are conscious of moral infirmity, and long for a power that will strengthen you in temptation, and give you courage when you are downcast, and make you stronger than the strong, and endow you with victory over others, and that rarer victory over yourself. Then you take heart again at the thought of the strong Spirit Who inspires you with the conscience and the might of Christ Himself.
‘Trinity Sunday is, in a sense, the climax of the Christian year. And Trinity Sunday differs from all the other festivals of the Church as being commemorative, not of any event or anything that happened in the life of our Lord or in the founding of His Church, but of a belief, the sublime mysterious belief, that God, although essentially One, may yet be most justly, or at least inadequately, conceived by human intelligence as a perfect Trinity of Persons. The Church has always held that the authority for that belief is found in the final words of our Lord Himself. St. Matthew relates that when He was parting from the disciples who had been the companions of His earthly life He bade them go into all the world, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name—not the Names, but the Name—of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. No words can be clearer than these.’
THE WORK OF THE TRINITY
Much may be said regarding the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, but may we not learn more practical lessons from considering the work which each one of the Three Persons is doing for us?
St. Paul in our text mentions the work of each Person.
I. The love of God.—He is our Father. It is His love which creates, preserves, provides, and sends all blessings. The greatest evidence of His love seen in giving His only begotten Son.
II. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.—Grace means favour, and it was the grace or favour of the Lord towards us which brought Him to earth, and which enabled Him to fulfil His work. His grace is unchanging. It is seen now in the ‘comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith to all who truly turn to Him.’
III. The communion of the Holy Ghost.—Communion means fellowship, such as exists between two great friends. Do we know anything of this fellowship of the Holy Ghost? If so, it will sanctify us. He it is Who would have fellowship with us, Who puts good desires into our minds, awakens us to the sense of sin.
The Trinity—and each Person therein—is working in us and for us. No wonder St. Paul commended the Corinthians to that great Power. May it be ours to know more of the love of God, the favour of the Lord Jesus, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost!
‘I appeal in respect of the doctrine of the Trinity to the words of the text, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost.” St. Paul writes these words to the Corinthian Church. His Epistles are only letters, just like yours and mine. But when you write a letter to a friend, what do you tell him? Do you tell him the things which you know and he knows? Those are the things which are most certain, but they are the very last things that you would tell your friend in a letter. And what is implied, what can be read as it were between the lines, is, if I may so say, truer, or at all events is more certain, than what is explicitly declared. And so, when St. Paul writes in the text, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost,” he attests more powerfully to my mind than by any express declaration that the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity was part of the known platform of the faith which belonged, and could not but belong, to his converts and himself. For you will observe that he sends them a threefold benediction. He sends it in the name of three Beings. One of these Beings is God, and yet in sending it he does not put God first, but he puts the Lord Jesus Christ first and the Holy Spirit last, and God between them. When names are thus conjoined in the same salutation or benediction, there is only one possible reason—and that is, that the names are equal in rank or dignity, or, as the great Creed puts it, “In this Trinity none is afore or after other: none is greater or less than another.” ’
Our Lord’s life, passion, death, and resurrection, together with the assurances He gave His Apostles of His perpetual presence with them, and of His future return, established them, and established all who accept their testimony, in a living and personal relation with the Saviour, and with His Spirit, of the deepest and most affecting character. That life, death, and resurrection revealed in the Divine nature the most intense personal life, in living participation with the moral struggles of men and women; and the words of the text bore to them, and should bear to us, this living meaning and personal message. ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost’ were to them, and should be to us, the expression of the personal and present action of those Divine Persons. ‘Ye know,’ says St. Paul, ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, how that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye, through His poverty, might be made rich.’
I. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is not only, nor in the first instance, that special aid which He bestows by His spiritual influences; it is, first, and above all, the grace, the personal grace, which condescended to our weakness, which suffered the consequences of our sins, which submitted to our violence and injustice, which endured to shed His blood in patience and agony.
II. The love of God is not only His general benevolence to all His children, but that love which endured that His only begotten Son, in Whom He was well pleased, should endure all his bitterness and misery, instead of being delivered from it by the just execution of the Divine vengeance upon His enemies and persecutors.
III. The communion of the Holy Ghost is the fellowship of our spirits with the Spirit of this gracious Lord, and of His loving and patient Father, the privilege of being admitted to their society in a similar sense to that in which the Apostles were admitted to it, and of thus living in the perpetual comfort of such love and grace as the Saviour showed in His passion.
IV. The reality and depth of our Christian life depend upon our living in the sense of this fellowship, and realising the Saviour’s work for us with a similar personal vividness to that in which, as we have seen, it was present to the minds of the Apostles. It is this which constitutes the preciousness of the Sacrament of the Holy Communion, considered as a remembrance of the death of Christ. It is, indeed, an important truth that that Holy Sacrament is not only a memorial of the Lord’s death and passion—not, as is sometimes said, ‘a bare memorial’; it is also the communion, to those who receive it aright, of the body and blood of Christ. But let not this precious and mysterious spiritual grace obscure to us how much is involved in the fact that such a memorial it is. Its importance in this respect would seem especially emphasised by the Saviour’s dying words, ‘Do this in remembrance of Me.’ It is, in fact, in proportion as we remember Him, in proportion as we realise His personal action and suffering on our behalf, in proportion as His death and the shedding of His blood for our sakes, as for the sakes of all mankind, is present as a living reality to the eye of faith, that we are fitted to receive the further benefits of that Holy Sacrament. But let us thus remember Him, remember Him in His grace and love, in His intense desire for our righteousness and our deliverance from all evil, and in the bitter sacrifice He made for that end, and we shall then live, more and more, in ‘the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.’
‘You can only find the doctrine of salvation by grace in the New Testament. You may read the Veda of the Brahmins, and the Koran of the Mohammedans, and the Zend Avesta of the Parsees, and you will find that these so-called sacred books teach that salvation is to be purchased, that it is to be bought, and that the purchase-money is your own works. They all say, “Multiply your prayers, your pious acts; for there is nothing but your own works, accumulated like capital at a bank, that can save you from eternal ruin.” How different from all this is the teaching of the Gospel!’
THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
St. Paul summed up his prayers and hopes for his Corinthian friends in these well-known words—a prayer that they might have the presence in their hearts of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, and the love of God the Father.
In very brief, the Christian teaching about God is that all that we, with our present very small powers, can know about that infinite and unseen Being, Whose existence we infer and Whom we call God, comes to us in one of three ways, or shall we say that there are three things which compel most men to think of Him, or that there are three ways in which He shows us something of what He is? These three ways in which God shows us something of what He must be are: What we call Nature, the existing world of things and men that we see; the Person of Jesus Christ; and the human heart, with its sense of duty and of sin, its aspirations, its goodness, and its needs.
I. Let us keep in mind that we of to-day have as much opportunity and power of learning about God from what we see in Nature as our fathers had.—Indeed, we have more. Every year teaches us more about Nature, and therefore more about God. We need not see only with our fathers’ eyes; we should use our own. Let us for a moment try to forget that there are any books to tell us what God has put into the minds of other men and other nations to think about Him. Let us try to see and feel and think for ourselves. Picture yourself as standing in some fair spot of this earth of ours, and for the first time consciously contemplating all that surrounds you—the hills and trees and flowers—this miracle of matter and life; lift your eyes, as for the first time, to the heaven above us of sky and cloud and light. Stand still awhile; look at it all; think of it all. It is real, wonderful beyond words. Whence did it come? Who made it? What does it mean? What is this ceaseless stream of energy and life? And what are we—mere atoms on this tiny globe of earth—that we can, as it were, stand apart and survey it all, as the Creator might do? What are we? We ask those questions—what? whence? whither? why? and so, no doubt, did the long past races of men, who have passed and left no sign; races who lived before words were written to preserve their thought, perhaps before spoken words could begin to express it. God did not speak to them directly, any more than He speaks to us. But He gave to them what He gives to us—some power of interpreting the great silences of Nature. For we, too, are a part of Nature, and we share in the mind of God Who created it. No nation has existed without coming to the conviction that, behind all we see, is some great Power, or Mind, or Person, which under various names they called God, and which, for lack of better imagery, they represented by bodily forms and symbols. This slow process of arriving at a conception of God is what we call by the great name of revelation—the gradual showing to men the God without them and within by the exercise of that human reason which is itself the manifestation of God in us. This is revelation, that has come and still comes to the world, the conviction that we and all Nature are the expression of some Spiritual Personality, infinitely great, inconceivable, in Whom we live, and move, and have our being.
II. But we learn about God in a second way. There is that marvellous figure in world-history, Jesus Christ—to Whom the eyes of men have turned for centuries, as they have turned to no one else; on Whom they now rest with ever-growing intensity of hope. What of Him? Have we any warrant besides the words of Christ Himself, reported in St. John’s Gospel, for believing that it is God Whom Christ reveals? Our Lord Himself makes answer, ‘If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me.’ The answer is ‘Yes.’ Christ reveals God to us. Just as Nature compels the Recognition of a Cause behind it, and we name the Cause God, so Christ compels us to think how He came to be. We can know much of Christ, and the world has learned by experience what He is, the Teacher, the Inspirer, the Healer of Sorrows, the Saviour from sin, the Radiator of Love. Knowing all this, and that there is none like Him, we can say, from our own experiences, that it can be nothing less than God Himself which is manifested in Christ. God is our name for the highest we can conceive, and this is what Christ manifests. The more we know of Christ the more certain are we that it is God, and nothing less than God, Whom Christ reveals. His first disciples learned Who He was in just the same way. They lived with Him, talked with Him, for years, and at last came the irresistible conclusion. Not till the end of His days on earth did He teach them by direct words. He let them see Him, and they learnt the lesson. ‘He that hath seen Christ hath seen the Father’—that is, hath seen all that the Father can so manifest. This is the Christian thought of Christ, and no one will dispute it. Everything that exists is some revelation of its origin, and Christ, Whom we know in history and in His words, is a revelation of His origin, God the Creator of all, and He has shown us some elements in that God which we could never find in star, and sun, and earth. What has He shown us? He has shown us that human nature contains much of God; that God is akin to man. He has shown us that that love, and mercy, and purity, and goodness are signs of God. He has shown us much more. He has shown that sin is not necessary, not an essential and permanent quality of human nature; that it is a fall, a huge mistake, a frightful aberration. There is another ‘way of life.’ He is the Way. He has shown us in human life, perhaps all that we can yet understand of God. He has given us an ideal, a standard, a hope. He is a light shining in darkness; but the world will never forget it, and will reach Him at last. Can you conceive any revelation to men as this? Any such Saviour, such Redeemer of man as Christ, the first-fruits of man as He is meant to be?
III. And there is the third revelation, nearer still to each of us, appealing, not to our reason (as we look at the marvels that surround us), not to our knowledge of Christ, which is limited to those who have learned about Him, but a voice speaking in the heart to every child of man, a voice never quite unheard, though muffled, it may be, by ignorance and dullness, or overpowered by the roar of other voices and passions. This revelation, too, is as near to us as it ever was to saints and seers, to poets and philosophers of old. We have the help of all who have gone before. For this revelation we must look within and around us. Then, also, in the human heart is a light shining in darkness, though to some of us it is a darkness appalling in its mystery. We must not shut our eyes to the mystery of sin, the wickedness of human selfishness, of our jealousies, hatreds, and blind ambitions and greed. There is the survival of the brute in us all. It is awful. But there is also the light that shines amid it all—the light of God Himself in the human conscience. We, too, are a part of God’s creation; we are children of our Father in heaven, and we bear His likeness. In every one, if we look for it, is some fragrant of the Divine. If the sight of Nature convinces us of the infinity of the God Who created it, and the sight of Christ tells us God’s love and purpose for man, so our own conscience makes reponse to these sights, and witnesses that within us is a temple in which God may dwell. And there can be no greater stimulus to effort than this conviction that we may be, or may neglect and refuse to be, the instruments and channels of the supreme Will of God on earth. Here is the light that may yet guide this staggering, sinning world to its goal—the true Kingdom of God on earth. Here is a power that may uplift the world.
Rev. Canon J. M. Wilson.
‘God is light: that was a grand revelation. God is righteous: that, too, is grand. But God is love: that is the grandest of all. It is the very Koh-i-noor of Gospel truth. And “when God gave His Son,” as Harrington Evans said, “He gave an infinite proof of infinite Love.” There are two very wonderful clauses in John 17:23-Jeremiah :. In John 17:24 Christ said to His Father, “Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world,” with a changeless, everlasting love. Now listen to the last clause of John 17:23: “Thou hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me”; that is, God loves His people with the same everlasting, changeless Love with which He loves His Son.’
THE APOSTOLIC BENEDICTION
In the offices of the Eastern Church this, the Apostolical Benediction, is used in a slightly expanded form, by making the second clause read, ‘the love of God the Father.’ And there can be little doubt but that this small alteration brings out the actual meaning of the text very fully, and teaches us one of the lessons we have to learn about the crowning mystery of our faith, the Trinity in Unity. It shows us real and personal distinctions within the Godhead when it speaks to us of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, as Each marked by His own special attribute; while the whole Three Persons, being One in substance, are invoked to dwell within the Body, the Church, and within each individual soul of her children.
I. The love of God the Father is manifested to us.
( a) In creation.
( b) In preservation.
( c) In the blessings of this life.
( d) In redemption.
Most beautifully is this brought out in the daily preface which ushers in the Sanctus in the Eastern Liturgy: ‘Meet it is and right to hymn Thee, to bless Thee, to praise Thee, to thank Thee, to worship Thee in all places of Thy dominions. For Thou art God unspeakable, incomprehensible, always I AM, still I AM. Thou and Thy only-begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit. Thou it was that from non-existence to existence broughtest us, and when we were fallen aside raisedst us again, and leftest naught undone to bring us to heaven and bestow on us Thy kingdom to come. For all these things we thank Thee and Thine only-begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit for all that we know, and for all that we do not know, of the seen and the unseen benefits that are come upon us.’
II. The grace of God the Son is manifested in all its fullness in the Incarnation: ‘The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.’ We need this grace, for we have inherited a corrupted nature; it was after his fall that Adam ‘begat a son in his own image.’ And therefore, since we cannot raise ourselves out of the spiritual death of the Fall, and the spiritual corruption which is its consequence, the grace of God the Son has found a way to lift us up again and to set our feet in the way of holiness; and that way is the Incarnation.
III. The communion of the Holy Ghost is the individual application of both the others to the soul of each child of God in order to his sanctification. All spiritual blessings, we are taught, come to us from God the Father, through God the Son, by God the Holy Ghost. The love of the Eternal Father is the never-failing Fountain of all gifts of grace to men, and these come through the Person of the Incarnate Son. ‘In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead,’ and to His Godhead He has added the nature of man. He is indeed Emmanuel—God amongst us—and has bridged over the chasm which sin has made, and made Himself the Channel of all grace.
Thus to the penitent soul full and free communion with God is restored, and obedience is made to be a delight. Thus, indeed, a ‘lively hope is assured to us,’ and we are ‘kept by the Spirit unto the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us.’
—Rev. C. G. Browne.
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 13". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24