Melville Scott, The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, Second Edition, 1903. Public Domain.
On the third and last Sunday of Lenten preparation we are taught by our Church that a spirit of Christian love is the true spirit in which we should seek to spend this holy season. Only thus will Lent be marked by all needful self-denials, an increase of devotion, and new activities of Christian usefulness. Only thus will Lenten discipline be preserved from the dangers of self-seeking and self-complacency.
We are apt to think of Lent as chill, cold, and unattractive, to enter upon it without any special object, and to mark it only by increased formalities. Our Church teaches that it should rather be a season into which love should be the entrance, of which love should be the spirit, and in which the increase of love should be our great object.
If we act successfully upon the teachings of our Church the season will be one even of happiness to ourselves, and, through us, to others. Our acts of self-denial will be willing offerings. Our devotion will issue in increased joy. Our more intense activity will issue permanently in an after-life of increased usefulness. Thus will the season be one which God shall most certainly bless, being Himself the God of Love, for the object of Lent is the object of life, even so to possess and be possessed by love as to be fitted for a share in the glorification of love when God shall be all and in all.
THE EPISTLE – 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 – A Psalm of Love
S. Paul never approached more nearly to “the tongues of angels” than in this psalm of love, and it might well seem that he had found the doors of the temple of heaven left open, and listened to the new song, as he describes—
A. The Necessity of Love.
Love, or the desire to bless others, is so necessary that the very highest gifts are nothing without it. Eloquence is mere display, knowledge is buried treasure, if there be not the desire to bless others by what we say or know. The faith that can remove mountains is nothing unless directed to remove the mountains of evil which crush our brethren. Not all liberality is love, for the gift to others may in reality be given only to self. Not all martyrdom is love, for it is the will that sanctifies the cross, and there is a zeal not according to love.
B. The Picture of Love.
In Lent we consider our faults. These are many, but each is but a symptom of the lack of love, and the wise physician will go to the root of the disease. Our sins have many heads, but one neck; let us strike at that. We may also gain all virtues by obtaining one. By love we obtain the following graces:—
The power to bear and still to be kind and full of goodwill as before; freedom from jealousy when others are more noticed and favoured than ourselves; the absence of any large opinion of our own merits and of all annoying harshness or want of tact in our dealings with others. By love we learn forgetfulness of self, to be slow to anger, to be unsuspicious, not imputing ill intention to others, but rather to be glad at hearing good and to be sorry at hearing ill of them. With respect to the ill-doings of others, the
(1) Throws a veil over them, “hides them” (R.V., margin).
(2) Believes them not, believing, rather, in the truth of their opposites.
(3) Hopes the best of them, making all allowance and feeling confident that the worst has been made of them.
(4) If they are against himself, quietly bears and endures them, knowing that he has sinned against God more than any man can sin against him.
C. The Permanence of Love.
All the highest gifts are passing, whether prophecy, tongues, or knowledge, and are all to be superseded and lost in something higher, as the remarks, the conceptions, and the reasonings of childhood are superseded by the deeper knowledge of manhood.
Gifts pass, graces remain. Of graces there are three—one for each relation of life. Towards God there is faith; towards self, hope; towards others, love. Of these graces, love is the greatest; for while faith and hope appropriate, love diffuses; and the grace which gives is more blessed than those which receive. We are prepared for heaven in the same degree in which we are perfect in love, and are advanced Christians only so far as we are advanced in kindness and tenderness of heart.
THE GOSPEL – S. Luke 18:31 – An Example of Love
“The love of Christ constraineth us” so that His example becomes our motive. “We love Him because He first loved us,” and love others because we love Him.
A. A Journey of Love.
This was the motive of our Lord’s last journey to Jerusalem, the city of, the Cross. How infinite is the difference which this last journey of Christ has made in our journey of life, for it has opened to us the pathway to the Jerusalem which is above! To this He now leads His disciples, going before them in the way as surely and faithfully as He led His faithful followers. He Who flinched not on His way to the Cross will never fail us, but will bring us safe and by the right way to, the city of our inheritance.
B. A Sacrifice of Love.
Christ went not in ignorance, but with perfect knowledge of every particular of His sufferings. He had the fore-knowledge and even the fore-feeling of all the shame and suffering. He went in the calm determination of love, and counting the bitter cost of sacrifice, but looking forward to the joy set before Him, the joy of throwing open the Kingdom of God to men. Here is both our inconceivable motive and our perfect example. In times of dangerous weakness, of alluring temptation, when the dread of self-denial and craving for self-indulgence breaks down our feeble wills, may Christ’s example teach us courage. Thus will love make us strong for Lenten duty.
C. A Miracle of Love.
In love Christ went on, but in love He paused. Intent on the end of His way, He did not forget the wayside. Great purposes of love must not lead us to forget every-day duties of love to our homes and friends, to the homeless and friendless. The blind man shows our need, and how we may obtain. He was blind and poor, poor because blind. Spiritual blindness is spiritual poverty, but to the man who sees spiritually all that he sees is his. Spiritual sight is wealth. Salvation is mine in proportion as I see it. We are blind indeed when blind to our blindness.
He shows how to obtain. He obtained by faith, seeing in the Man of Nazareth the Son of David, by prayer made the more earnest by the shortness of his opportunity, by perseverance in spite of all hindrances. Receiving his petition, he followed Christ in the way.
A prayer for Christian love.
A. Its Necessity.
For, as taught by the Epistle, “all our doings,” i.e., all our Lenten sacrifices, are nothing worth without this savour and seasoning.
B. Its Source.
Its abundant and only source is in the Holy Spirit of God, sent by the Father to bring us this very gift.
C. Its Beauty and Preciousness.
It is God’s most excellent gift; it is the most central of all virtues; it is the very essential of Christian life, and is to be obtained for the sake of Jesus Christ.