Melville Scott, The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, Second Edition, 1903. Public Domain.
PREPARATION BY THE WORD
FROM the duty of preparation we pass to the means of preparation provided for us by God; and the first of these to be considered is the Bible. We are to think of the Bible as a means rather than an end. The perfection of the Bible lies in its adaptation to human needs. The inspiration of the Bible is to be sought in its power to inspire human hearts, and is not of the letter, but of the spirit. The proof of inspiration given in 2 Tim. 3: 16 is that Holy Scripture is “profitable for instruction in righteousness,” just as the excellence of a teacher does not consist in omniscience but in his power to teach, and the excellence of a physician in his power to cure. The Bible is a practical book written with a practical object, “for our learning,” and if it fulfils this object, and when rightly used “makes us wise unto salvation,” it is the book we need, and it is futile to object that “it is not of such a sort and so promulged as weak men are apt to fancy should have been the case with a book containing a Divine Revelation.” (Butler.)
THE EPISTLE – ROMANS 15:4-13 – A BOOK OF HOPE
This is concerned with the Old Testament only, as containing the “things which were written aforetime.” We are to regard the Old Testament as :—
A. A Book of Hope.
Its very object was to kindle hope, and keep it alive. Its covenants all pointed to a better covenant; its sacrifices, so inadequate in themselves, all pointed to a more availing sacrifice that could take away sin; its prophecies, to a better dispensation surely coming in the dim future. To Christians this record has an abiding value, as the history of men who “trusted in God and were not confounded.” These Old Testament Scriptures were “written for our learning,” and still have a lesson for us.
S. Paul adds that we who have received good hope in Christ must be patient towards others.
B. A Book of Hope for the Jews.
Christ came to fulfil all the hopes of the Jews, and “to confirm the promises made unto the fathers,” and to set His seal on all the promises of the Old Testament. He came as “A Minister of the Circumcision,” i.e., with a special mission to the Jews. Their nation was big with Messianic hope. Christ came to show that this hope was not mistaken, and, as Prophet, Priest, and King, He fulfilled all that God had promised.
C. A Book of Hope for the Gentiles.
Many promises of God to the Gentiles were scattered through the Old Testament. Christ came to fulfil these, and “open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.” Nothing is more remarkable than the presence of these passages so apparently alien to Jewish exclusiveness, yet so necessary to prepare the way for a wider dispensation under the spreading tree that was to spring from the root of Jesse.
D. A Book of Hope for Us.
The Old Testament has still a message, and a message of hope. In our own trials and difficulties we may turn to the example of those who in darker days still kept faithful to the God of Hope, and were not confounded, and may draw lessons of patience and comfort. We have in this passage a most happy Pilgrim’s Progress— first “patience,” then “comfort,” then “hope,” and lastly, something higher still, “joy and peace in believing.”
THE GOSPEL – S. LUKE 21:25-33 – A MESSAGE OF HOPE
This contains the New Testament message of Hope, and our great duty of preparation for the final Advent.
A. The World in Despair.
Without Christ the course of this world will be without hope. All will be distress, perplexity, fear, and foreboding, and those who have not learned to love Christ will ever dread His appearing.
B. The Christian Hope.
That which will make others fear will inspire the Christian with eager hope. He will look up and lift up his head as he sees redemption drawing nigh. He will look upon the coming storms as the equinoctial gales that usher in the spring and summertide of God’s Kingdom, and the perfect sunshine of Christ’s presence.
C. The Certainty of the Christian Hope.
It is sure as the sure word of Christ. All else shall pass away, but Christ’s words never, and each generation shall find them true. Science can only tell us that heaven and earth shall pass away, and that the powers of heaven shall be shaken. The Bible is a book of calm confidence. It sees the worst and yet hopes for the best, looking onward to the Kingdom that cannot be shaken, and full of faith in Him Who is “the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” Hence, from cover to cover, the Bible is a Book of Hope, and the Book of the God of Hope.
A prayer for the right use of Holy Scripture, especially as a preparation for the Second Advent.
A. The Nature of the Bible.
It is both human and Divine, human because “written by holy men of old,” Divine because they wrote as “moved by the Holy Ghost.” Our Church recognises both elements in the phrase, “‘Who hast caused all Holy Scriptures to be written.”
The Bible is our lesson-book as “written for our learning.” It is not out of date, for every age may say it was written for our learning. If merely human it would lack authority to teach; if merely Divine we could not attain to its lessons.
B. The Right Use of the Bible.
This is to be a matter for prayer, for He by Whom it was caused to be written can alone cause it to be read with profit. It is not merely to be heard when read by others, but to be read by ourselves, and read with attention—not merely read, but studied and assimilated.
C. The Blessings of such Spiritual Study.
These are threefold—Patience which can endure trials, Comfort that can be happy beneath the rod, Hope that all trial will one day be at an end. Such spiritual study is to be a great means of preparation for the Second Advent as giving hope of everlasting life, to be welcomed with eagerness and retained with perseverance.