Melville Scott, The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, Second Edition, 1903. Public Domain.
Risen Life of Unworldliness
THE Christian, as risen with Christ and following His holy example, has yet to live his life in the world. Thus he must consider how to be “ in the world, yet not of the world,” and how, while “not of the world,” he may yet combine the heavenly and earthly calling. This is the special subject of the Epistle.
THE EPISTLE – 1 S. PETER 2:11-17 – LIFE IN THE WORLD
A. Separation from the World.
Christians must look upon the world as strangers in it. They must regard it as from the outside. They may not imagine that whatever is done there is right. They are also pilgrims or sojourners whose position is temporary, for “they have no continuing city, but seek one to come” (cf. Heb. xi. 13-16). They must cultivate a life of detachment from much of its business and pleasure, at least in heart. Especially must they “abstain from fleshly lusts.” Many things are allowable, some thing indifferent, but these are directly contrary to the Christian life, for they “war against the soul.”
B. Duty before the World.
But this separation must not be the separation of pride and contempt, which is no less un-Christian than worldliness.
The Christ is to remember–
(1) His Duty of Example.
He is only to condemn the world by showing it something better, not by abuse of it. He will best show what is wrong by doing what is right. Christianity works not by revolution, but revelation, and the Christian is so to live that the world shall confess that the Christian life is truly beautiful (honest), and a sure comfort and stay in times of sorrow and anxiety–“in a day of visitation.”
(2) The Duty of Submission.
Though the particular form of any government is “a creation of man,” yet the authority of government is of God, and obedience a Christian duty to be done for “the Lord’s sake.” The laws, so far as they are wise, express the wisdom of God, and human justice, so far as it is just, is based on the justice of God. Obedience to these lies at the foundation of society, itself an ordinance of God, and is the only security for order, liberty, confidence, and prosperity. The Christian cannot regard States as “an affair of one world,” for though this world may end them it will not see the end of their good and evil.
(3) The Duty of Service.
The Christian owns no man master upon earth, and can say to the world, “Thou are not my master,” but he must not forget to say, “Self is not my master,” otherwise he will “use his liberty for a cloak of his wickedness,” and be like the barons who desired the Pope to absolve them from their allegiance to the king that they might serve neither.
The world need not suspect Christian liberty, for it is only endangered by those who, pretending to serve it, are really seeking their own ease or advancement. “Let princes and States choose such ministers as are more sensible of duty than of rising, and such as love business upon conscience.” (Bacon. Of Ambition.)
If the Church and God come first and men and kings second, let them be content to be second; for if self comes first they will be nowhere.
It is to be noticed that we are to honour both the king and all men, and are, therefore, to a large extent, to have the same feelings towards them as towards the king on his throne. We learn, therefore, the duty of universal reverence and politeness; to have the same manner to the poor as to the rich; to consider men as men, and regard with interest their feelings, necessities, burdens, and sorrows.
THE GOSPEL – S. JOHN 16:16-22 – A LITTLE WHILE
A. A Lesson for the First Disciples.
(1) Christ gently warns His Disciples that a separation was imminent. They had hoped for a future like the past, and that Christ would be ever with them for guidance, teaching, and protection. They could not realize that the present was but for a little while.
(2) Christ kindly comforts His Disciples.
The coming change was not loss, but gain. The approaching grief was also only for “a little while.” This second “little while” must be their comfort in thinking of the first, for if sorrow was soon to come it would soon pass by.
The joy of reunion would surpass the joy they had enjoyed, for it would be the joy of a clearer vision and a closer intimacy, and “their heart would rejoice,” for this joy should never pass away. All grief should be swallowed up, and no more remembered, even as the pangs of birth are forgotten in the rapture of motherhood.
B. A Lesson for All Christians.
The experience of the first disciples is a lesson for all.
(1) Of Warning.
As strangers and pilgrims, “a little while” is written on the whole of our earthly life. The whole history of the world, human life at its longest, human effort at its strongest, is all for a little while. There is an acceleration of apparent velocity as the years pass, and the years in youth loiter but run apace in age.
We must never fall into the error of thinking that to be permanent which can only be transient, and become so entangled in cares, riches, and pleasures as to forget that they must end.
This lesson is conveyed by the first “little while.”
(2) Of Encouragement.
The importance of life is not measured by its brevity, and consists both in what we leave behind us and in what we shall take with us–our example and influence, which we leave, and our character, which we shall retain. While the “little while” lasts let us do our utmost. Our three great enemies know their time is short, but we know it too. The stress of conflict and the tension of endurance will not be for ever. Reunion with Christ and those we love may be very near, must be near. How sad to say at the last, “I could have held out had I known it was only for so short a time.” This is the teaching of the second “little while,” and is full of encouragement. The second “little while” not only more than makes up for the sadness of the first, but shall issue in that which shall be for ever.
The Collects for all the Sundays connected with Easter are eminently practical, and point to various aspects of the Risen life. It is to be a life not only of good desires, but of good actions; purified from the leaven of error and sin; fashioned after Christ’s example, and, to-day, marked by careful consistency.
Our very Christianity is due to God Who, by the light of His truth, revealed to our wandering footsteps the way of righteousness. By the fall we lost our way; by conversion and baptism we return into the right path. We ask that God, Who has done so much for us, would do yet more, and keep us in the right path.
B. Consistent Christianity.
Having been admitted into Christ’s Church, which is clearly defined as “the fellowship (or society) of Christ’s religion,” we pray for consistency, to cast off all that is inconsistent and to pursue all such things which a Christian ought to do. We are to be Christian in what we avoid and in what we aim at, otherwise we shall both hurt the Christian name and bring disgrace upon our fellows in Christ’s religion.