Tenth Sunday after Trinity.
by the Rev. Prebendary Melville Scott, D.D.
from The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and
Gospels.A Devotional Exposition of the Continuous Teaching
of the Church Throughout the Year,S.P.C.K., London, 1902.
As the first of these two Sundays deals with our general responsibility
as Christians for our position of covenant grace and favour, so the second
deals with our responsibility for special gifts of the Holy Ghost. These
two Sundays correspond respectively to the parable of the pounds, in which
the same sum was given to all the servants, and the parable of the talents,
in which one received more and another less.
THE EPISTLE. (I COR. xii. 1.)
GIFTS OF STEWARDSHIP.
The opening of this Epistle is very similar to that of the previous
Sunday, both beginning with the words, “I would not have you ignorant.”
Much misuse of stewardship is due to mere ignorance and faulty teaching,
for how can anyone be expected to make full use of position and endowments
of which he has never been taught that he is possessed? There can be no
excuse for such teaching in the case of those who have to expound the Church
Catechism, which so clearly lays down the primary fact of baptismal stewardship,
and its consequent duties of renunciation, faith, and obedience. A complete
exposition of the subject of spiritual gifts is, of course, beyond our
present scope, and it must be sufficient to treat the Epistle in outline.
A. The Universal Gift.
There is one gift of the Holy Ghost common to all Christian people,
“for no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.” The
highest gift of grace is grace, and the highest endowment of Christians
is their Christianity. This is at once the highest and widest Christian
grace—viz., that a man should really obey Christ as Lord, and is a direct
gift of the Holy Ghost. If we can point to no other gift of mind or position
we can still feel that we have not been left destitute, so long as we retain
firm faith in Christ.
B. Particular Gifts.
These are made necessary by the needs of the Church, and their variety
must not lead us to forget that they have one source.
We have different endowments—” diversities of gifts.”
We have different tasks—” differences of administrations.”
We have different ways of working—” diversities of operation.”
But in the midst of all these differences there is one Spirit who is
the source of grace, one Master Whom we serve, one God Who fulfils Himself
in many ways.
C. Particular Gifts in Detail.
(1) Some are of the Head.
“Wisdom and knowledge.” Some approach Christianity as the noblest study
of the intellect, and as the final philosophy. Such are not to be thought
“no Christians” if they seem to lack practical force or to manifest little
enthusiasm. There is room for the patient student in the Church of Christ
who can appeal to wise men to judge his message, and his audience, if select,
will be influential. Let it be enough if he can teach the teachers.
(2) Some are of the Hands.
These are given to practical workers whose faith removes mountains of
difficulty. They have at heart the sacred work of philanthropy and care
for the sick, though they have not, and need not, the aid of miracles.
They are not men of deep knowledge or great preachers, but they are great
workers, and we need more of these hands of tenderness and of power.
(3) Some are of the Heart.
These belong to the prophets, the true guides of souls, the enthusiasts,
the evangelists, who have the holiest power of God in their possession.
They know the deep things of the human spirit and of the Spirit of God.
Such gifts are not given to all, and a man may be truly loyal to his Lord,
and may be highly gifted in knowledge and practice, and yet lack this supreme
THE GOSPEL. (S. LUKE xix. 41.)
THE ACCOUNT OF OUR
Each gift of the Holy Ghost is to the Church, and to the individual
only as a member of the Church. Each is entrusted for a special object,
and is to be used “to profit withal,” and the less showy gifts are not
the least useful. We must reverence God’s gifts in others, and jealousy
is out of place where all are working for the same Lord, Who will reward
us, not for doing better than others, but for doing our best.
This Gospel sums up the teaching of the five Sundays of Duty and Obligation,
as well as that of the two special Sundays of Stewardship. As baptized
members of the Church, as servants, and as sons, we are stewards of God,
and must render strict and solemn account to Him Who visits the Jerusalem
of His Church.
It will be noticed that this Gospel is, in substance, the same as that
for the first Sunday in Advent, and that thus we have an Advent in Trinity.
We may not wait for the final judgment, but must be ever “judging ourselves
that we be not judged.”
We learn from this Gospel :—
A. National Responsibility.
How great this was we see in the tears of Christ, the strong emotion
of a strong nature. The tears of Christ were—
(1) Tears of Insight.
Christ was not deceived by the marble and gold of Jerusalem, but saw
only spiritual poverty and hopeless ignorance of the things that really
matter. He saw beneath the peaceful view of the Holy City the seeds of
confusion. There was no peace in the City of Peace.
(2) Tears of Foresight.
He saw the coming doom—the future retribution in the present of godlessness.
He saw the loss of stewardship, and the curse of twenty centuries. When
Christ weeps, be sure there is something to weep for. He sees nations and
individuals as they are and as they will be. He knows the limits of our
probation, and if we are exhausting the Divine patience.
B. Church Responsibility.
There were no tears here, for there was no excuse of ignorance. The
temple was the very witness of the national stewardship. Here was the House
of God, and the seat of the covenant. Here were offered the sacrifices
in which the nation drew nigh to God and received absolution. The Church
is ever the witness of stewardship, and when the Church is sunk in selfishness
and love of greed Christ will not weep. He will be too angry to weep, but
will use the scourge, and drive out the sin. His judgment will begin at
the House of God.
THE COLLECT. A PRAYER FOR GIFTS
As is so frequently the case, this Collect, so simple in itself, gains
deep significance when viewed in connection with the Scriptures of the
day, and especially with the Epistle. We are taught that if we would gain
gifts of stewardship, as described by S. Paul, and our prayers are to be
answered, we must be :—
A. Acceptable in Our Persons.
God’s ears are open only to the prayers of humility and obedience. He
will not listen if we ask in order to increase our pride, but only if we
ask for what we need in order to serve Him better. Only those who ask His
mercy may expect His grace.
B. Acceptable in Our Petitions.
Our persons are accepted if we ask in the right spirit, our petitions
if we ask for the right things. We pray, therefore, that we may ask such
things as please God. We may covet earnestly the best gifts and be refused,
but there is no refusal for those who covet the best graces.