Melville Scott, The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, Second Edition, 1903. Public Domain.
Temptations of the World
From the temptations of the Devil and the flesh we are next to consider the temptations of the world, in regard to which the teachings of the day are very rich, both in encouragement and warning. It will again be best to make the Epistle our starting-point.
The Epistle – Ephesians 5:1-14
This dwells upon our baptismal separation as “buried with Christ in baptism,” and its consequent duty that we should “walk in newness of life.” As baptized and incorporated into the Church, we are separate from the world, and are:–
A. God’s Beloved Children.
Such is our position in Christ’s Church–really loved, really forgiven and accepted through the sacrifice of Christ, “whose savour sweet doth always please.” Our position marks our high calling. We are to be–(1) Imitators of our Heavenly Father, especially doubtless in His lovingness so free, so patient, so inventive, so infinite, but also doubtless in His purity, generosity, wisdom, and greatness. God’s children must admire their Father. (2) Imitators also of God the Son. We are to imitate his love so condescending, practical, self-sacrificing, effective, so delightful to the Heavenly Father. That love is to be our example, and our motive to follow that example. How high is our calling, how tender our motive! The world may be full of hate, but the Church should breathe an atmosphere of love” (1 John iii. 13).
We have been made saints, i.e., persons set apart and consecrated (1 Cor. xii. 13). The love which is to fill our hearts is to be a holy thing–no mere fancy, sentiment, or emotion. As being saints, we are to avoid–
(1) Sins of the flesh: for spiritual fervour and love do not remove this vast danger.
(2) Sins of the tongue: “foolish talking or jesting which are not fitting”–a great temptation to Christian people, and often most unprofitable.
(3) The sin of covetousness. This is wholly inconsistent in those who have true riches and an inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God. It is even idolatry to prefer earthly to Heavenly wealth.
Men’s condition out of Christ is darkness–not merely that they are in darkness, but that darkness is in them so that they themselves are darkness. So the Christian is not only in the light, but the light is in him: he is “light in the Lord,” as having received the light of truth, peace, love, holiness, and hope. His consequent duty is–
(1) To walk as a child of light.
As one begotten by it, with its light burning in his nature, disposition, and life, and manifesting itself in kindness, uprightness, and trustworthiness, and in a constant testing of every act to prove it pleasing to God (S. John iii. 20, 21).
(2) To be separate from the darkness.
He is “to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,” for no fruit of nature or grace can grow in darkness. But duty in regard to the world does not end with separation, and the Christian must give silent or uttered reproof of the darkness in order to convict others of their darkness.
(3) To attract others to the light.
The text should read, “Whatsoever is made manifest is light,” which seems to mean that the duty of an enlightened Church is to shine in dark places and hearts. With a view to this, the Church must “awake” at the Spirit’s call, “arise” by the Spirit’s power, and step forth into the Light of Christ.
Oh, for such concentrated light in the Church of Christ as shall shame, and yet attract, the surrounding darkness!
The Gospel – S. Luke 11:14-28
Having learned from the Epistle the duty of separation from the world, we are here taught the duty of antagonism against its evil. In this contest against the forces of evil there can be:–
A. No Alliance.
The Jews foolishly accused our Lord of having made alliance with the evil one. Our Lord answers that Satan could not be allied with Him without being divided against himself. No alliance will come from that side. Neither can the Church ally itself with anything that is evil without being separated from Christ its Head. We are tempted to alliance with evil when we do evil that good may come, or make friends with evil men in order to the advantage of our sect or party. We may not use Satan’s weapons in the cause of God.
Indirectly we also learn the necessity of unity in the Church. Our divisions prevent the Church from exerting its true moral and spiritual force in the world. If Satan will not have a divided kingdom, how can a divided Christendom be for the advantage of Christ?
B. No Neutrality.
We cannot even be neutral, for the struggle is against one strong in himself and armed as knowing our weakness and many ways of access into our hearts, where he has so many secret allies. Satan can only be conquered by the greater strength of Christ. In such a contest indifference counts for opposition, and “he that gathereth not, scattereth.” This is no figure of speech, for those who openly oppose good. Indifference does not realize the evil of evil or the good of good; despising enthusiasm, it chills effort and becomes Satan’s best friend and Christ’s worst enemy. A Laodicean Christianity (Rev. iii. 14-22) is like luke-warm water–odious and sickening.
C. No Interregnum.
Even to cast out evil is not enough: it must be displaced by good. Neglect of full deliverance invites greater bondage. It is not enough to sweep and garnish by outward reformation from gross sin, for the sins of the spirit are no less deadly than the sins of the flesh. Sin loses none of its danger by losing its repulsiveness. Respectability will not serve instead of godliness. A religion empty of religion will prove no safeguard. What alone can keep Satan out is Christ in. Only the new growth casts off the withered leaves. Admiration of our Lord’s teaching will not save us, but only obedience.
A prayer against all our enemies–against the sins mentioned in the Epistle and the mighty foe mentioned in the Gospel. More direct, perhaps, is the reference to the three special foes considered on the three Sundays now concluded–the evil spirit, the evil nature, the evil world.
A. The Nature of Prayer.
It must be the expression of hearty desire and the utterance of humble obedience. We must long to receive our petitions and yet be content with the answer given. Does not neglect of these conditions explain the too frequent phenomenon of unanswered prayer?
B. The Object of Prayer.
Prayer invites the stretching forth of the right hand of God’s Majesty for our defence against all our enemies.