WITH this Sunday ends the long series of the Sundays after
Trinity, for though next Sunday is within the Trinity Season, it is, and
has always been regarded as, the Sunday before Advent. Thus the Trinity
Series is divisible into its halves of twelve, the first dealing with Christian
motives, the second with the Christian character. That character
has now passed in review before us Sunday by Sunday. We have seen its internal
graces and their manifestation in active service. We have seen its
culmination in perseverance and heavenly-mindedness; we are now to gaze
upon the final scene, to which all that has gone before is the long preparation—the
final deliverance from guilt and sinfulness in the inheritance of the Saints
THE EPISTLE. (COL. i. 3.)
THE PERFECTION OF THE SAINTS.
It is to be noticed that, as in the case of that for the Nineteenth
Sunday, the Epistle has received considerable additions, one verse being
added at the close and no less than six verses at the beginning.
The ancient Epistle possessed only three verses, but these three sound
the keynote of the Sunday, and contain a prayer of S. Paul for the final
perfection of the Saints at Colossae. This prayer should be compared
with that of the Epistle for the Twenty-second Sunday for the perseverance
of the Saints. The Epistle may be divided as follows :—
A. A Thanksgiving for Past Progress.
S. Paul has heard good tidings of the Colossians. They were evidently
showing the three great marks of the Christian character which correspond
to the three necessary relations of life, which have to do with God, man,
and ourselves. In relation to God they possessed “faith in Christ
Jesus,” in relation to men they showed " love toward all the Saints,” while
in relation to them-selves they were conscious of “the hope laid up for
them in the heavens.”
Thus their progress had been continuous, as had been that of all other
Churches, and was due everywhere to the Gospel in its two aspects of truth
and grace, giving them both a new standard of life and power to attain
B. A Prayer for Future Perfection.
This their past progress was to be the foundation for yet greater attainments
in the future, and what he has heard only stirs up S. Paul to more earnest
prayers on their behalf. He prays for such progress as may know no
limit whatever, for five times over he repeats the comprehensive all. Absolute
perfection, though never attainable, is always to be before us as the goal
and aim of our effort, and that in three directions—
(1) In Knowledge.
We must seek knowledge with a view to obedience—” the know. ledge of
His Will”: a knowledge so digested as to become wisdom in the mind and
understanding in its practical application to conduct.
(2) In Holiness.
We are to desire such a holiness as shall be worthy of our Lord, of
the motives of His love, and the perfection of His example: such holiness
as shall both be pleasing to God and shall produce every sort of good fruit
(3) In Strength. THE GOSPEL. (S. MATT. ix. 18.)
TWO MIRACLES OF DELIVERANCE.
We are to long to receive strength proportioned to the glorious power
of its Giver, and especially such strength as is needed for cheerful endurance
in the duties and trials of the Christian life.
There is thus to be no limit to the attainments in knowledge, holiness,
and strength, which are open to us, and which it is our duty to secure.
The Sarum Gospel, omitting the second miracle, abruptly ends with the
words, “made whole from that hour,” in which the great lesson of the day
is concentrated. It is a marked feature of the ancient Epistles and Gospels
that they only record so much as bears on the theme of the Sunday, and
the object of the present Sunday is not to record miracles but to teach
the lesson of spiritual deliverance by the power of Christ. Christ’s power
can deliver :—
A. From the Disease of Sin.
This poor woman, after twelve years of suffering and conscious uncleanness,
came to Christ polluted, exhausted, disappointed, impoverished, and altogether
hopeless. Such are the ravages of sin.
We learn from her example how to approach Christ in faith and humility,
and that no touch of faith, however hesitating, will escape His observation.
No case, however desperate and long continued, is past His power to heal.
But there must on our side be the touch of faith, a personal contact with
the personal Lord of health, a contact hindered by no sense of inward guilt
and impurity, and by no crowd of worldly impediments. We must touch the
Saviour if His Salvation is to be ours, in our daily prayers and in His
Holy Word and Sacraments, when our hearts are dead, when sin tempts and
evil thoughts arise, in the midst of daily duties and employments, and
we shall never touch Him in vain.
B. From the Death of Sin.
Sin is disease, and, like disease, tends to death, but from this also
Christ can deliver us. He delivers—
(1) By Encouraging Faith.
Jairus had faith, as shown by his humble access and earnest prayer.
Christ so acted by performing a miracle on the way as to increase and confirm
his faith. All Christ’s dealings with us in our lives’ history have
this as their object.
(2) By the Touch of Power.
Men may scoff, but their scorn only helps the truth by showing that
if death be real, yet more real must be the power that can conquer death.
Christ’s power, manifested in the silent chamber, is now manifested in
the secret chamber of the heart, and one day in the silence of the tomb.
This miracle is the converse of the last, which taught that deliverance
must come through our touch of Christ, for here it was Christ’s touch that
aroused one who could not touch Him. To touch and be touched by Christ
is the secret of deliverance.
THE COLLECT. A PRAYER FOR FULL
In this most appropriate Collect we pray for entire deliverance, and,
therefore, for a twofold deliverance.
A. From the Guilt of Sin.
To be absolved from our offences means to be absolved from the guilt
which our offences have brought upon us. We desire that conscience
should be unburdened of the debt of unforgiven sin. We long to hear the
voice which said, “Daughter, be of good comfort.”
B. From the Power of Sin.
We pray not only to be relieved from guilt, but from the power of those
special sins which, committed through frailty, hold us bound by the bands
of evil habits, so that we cannot do the things that we would. Absolution
from guilt is impossible, unless we desire also to be free from the dominion
of sin. There can be no holiness that does not spring from pardon,
and no pardon that does not lead to holiness.