THE Sunday of spiritual need is followed by a Sunday of Divine
grace. Human poverty may be assisted by Divine sufficiency, and having
seen last Sunday that we are not sufficient of ourselves, we learn to-day
that “our sufficiency is of God.”
This very remarkable Sunday concludes, as has been seen, the first half
of the Trinity series of Love, Duty, and Grace.
THE EPISTLE. (2 COR. iii. 4.) THE
SUFFICIENCY OF THE GOSPEL.
This passage contains S. Paul’s description of the glory of the New
Dispensation as contrasted with that of the Old Dispensation. This contrast
is worked out as follows :—
A. The New Ministry and the
The Christian priest is described in our version as “an able minister
of the New Testament.” This translation is very unfortunate, as seeming
only to mean that the priest is, to use the cant phrase, an able preacher
out of the New Testament.
The Christian priest is not necessarily an able man—he is an “enabled
man.” That with which he is entrusted is not merely a book, but a Divine
covenant of grace. An exact translation of the whole sentence is: —“Not
that we are able of ourselves to regard anything as proceeding from ourselves,
but our ability is of God, Who also hath enabled us as ministers of a new
covenant.” Our superiority is not personal, but all of grace, and grace
is given to help us to do a higher work.
The Christian priest is commissioned to declare a freer dispensation.
He is to call all men to live in a new attitude towards God, Who has placed
Himself in a new attitude of grace towards man. His superiority is not
in himself, but in his message and endowment.
B. The Letter and the Spirit.
The law of Moses was an external law, written and engraven in stones,
and offered no power to write God’s will and ways upon the heart. There
is no mention on Mount Sinai of the Holy Spirit. True, the Holy Spirit
was present under the Old Dispensation, but it was not the Dispensation
of the Spirit.
C. Death and Life.
Many souls were saved under that dispensation, but not one soul was
saved by it. In itself it could not do more than minister condemnation
and death by leading men to feel their need, for “by the law was the knowledge
of sin.” Even under the Old Dispensation it was the New Dispensation which
saved men, and the efficacy of the blood of bulls and of goats lay only
in their testimony to the Lamb of God, which should take away the sin of
Such is the contrast between the Old and the New. Certainly the Old
had a glory of its own, yet it was a transient brightness, and, like the
glory of Moses’ countenance, but a passing gleam soon to vanish away. No
dispensation of God can be despised, and the glory of the Old Dispensation
enhances that of the New. For (1) if the Old was only glorious because
it pointed to the New, how great must be the glory of the New! (2) If that
Dispensation was glorious which showed man’s needs, how much more glorious
must this be which supplies them! If there was glory in that which showed
man his sin, how much rather in the Dispensation which confers acceptance
and the powers of the Spirit.
THE GOSPEL. (S. MARK vii. 31.) THE SUFFICIENCY
A. The extremity of Human Need.
Outward need is sad, need of money, clothes, and what are called the
necessaries of life, but the real necessaries of life are inward, and to
lack these is the deepest poverty. The deaf and dumb man is a figure of
the spiritually poor who are deaf to the voice of conscience, to the call
of God’s providence, God’s Spirit, God’s Gospel, and God’s Son. By nature
all are deaf. By nature, also, all are dumb, averse to prayer, confession,
and to praise. We are dumb to God, for God, and about God. Man as fallen
is a being closed and shut in, with nothing open in all his spiritual nature,
contracted in ear, eye, heart, lips, will, and hand, and living in dreary
isolation towards God and man. Communion and fellowship are cut off by
sin and must be restored by Christ.
B. The Sufficiency of Grace.
Christ enters in by the one remaining door of sight. He with. draws
the sufferer from the crowd in order to direct his attention to Himself.
His fingers touch the seat of need, the deaf ear and the stammering tongue.
His look points towards heaven to show whence cometh help. Thus Christ
arouses faith and brings human poverty into correspondence with grace.
We learn from this miracle—
(1) The Prevenience of Grace.
Christ’s sympathy is proportioned to our needs, and not merely to our
prayers. His grace seeks even where it was not sought; gives where
it was not asked; knocks where no door was opened. How much more, then,
will grace give when we ask, seek, knock!
(2) The Omnipotence of Grace.
This was the lesson which impressed the multitude—“He hath done all
things well.” This miracle was the sign of a universal power and
love that can “renew what has been decayed by the fraud and malice of the
devil or our own carnal will and frailness,” and can restore man to fellowship
with God and the saints.
THE COLLECT. A PRAYER THAT GOD’S
BOUNTY MAY SUPPLY OUR POVERTY.
A. A View of the Divine Sufficiency.
God is almighty and everlasting, and His power is sufficient for all
needs and all time. His bounty is not measured by our sense of need, for
“He is more ready to hear than we to pray” by our desires, for “He is wont
to give more than we desire”; by our deserts, for “He gives more than we
How high is the view here given us of God as loving us more than we
love ourselves, and how low the view of our own deadness, folly, and carelessness!
The object evidently set before us is to become as ready to pray as God
is ready to hear, and to seek to bring our desires to some equality with
God’s longing to satisfy them.
There is evident reference here made to the miracle described in the
Gospel and a petition that the grace of God may heal the dumbness of our
nature and speak the word Ephphatha to our lips.
B. A Prayer of Need.
We ask for the mercy of God in all its abundance. We ask for His forgiving
mercy to relieve our anxious consciences which dare not let us pray; and
for His giving mercy and grace to give us what we can feel we are unworthy
to ask. We pray, in fact, that our sense of need may not hinder our prayers
by leading us to despair, and that we may receive the blessings of the
Gospel Covenant of Grace described in the Epistle of the day.