Melville Scott, The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, Second Edition, 1903. Public Domain.
The Epiphany of Patience
Previous Sundays have dealt with the Epiphanies of the past as manifested in our Saviour’s life on earth. We consider to-day an Epiphany of the present, for we are now under a dispensation of patience.
THE GOSPEL – S. MATTHEW 13:24-30 – A PARABLE OF PATIENCE
This parable describes the present attitude of Christ towards His Church.
A. A Mixed Church.
The mixed character of the Church was not due to Christ, Who sowed in His field the good seed of His life and example, of holy teachings and ordinances, watering it with the blood of His Cross and the dew of His Spirit. But in spite of all He taught, did, and suffered, there is, as He Himself foretold, evil in the Church. The Christian Church should be the Kingdom of God, but another Kingdom should exist over the same ground and at the same time. The subjects of both should be mixed inextricably. Two kinds of seed should lie under the same clod, grow in the same soil, come to productiveness in the same field.
Christ’s enemy also turns sower. He sows by stealth in the dark, and when men think least of him he is the busiest. He goes his way confident of the fatal efficacy of the seed he has left behind him, the evil principles lodged in evil hearts.
B. A Patient Master.
The first impulse of the servants is towards impatience. They are inclined to doubt the goodness of the Master’s seed. They wish to hurry the work of purification. Their Master bids them let both grow together till the harvest. His patience must not be taken for indifference. We must not be staggered at imperfection, nor may any scoff at it and turn it into an objection, for it will only last until the harvest. Until then imperfection must be endured, lest the wheat should be rooted up with the tares.
This counsel may be disregarded in two ways—
(1) By over-discipline.
By this it is attempted to drive out the tares. For this the present is not the time, nor are we the instruments. We cannot distinguish between wheat and tares, and should ourselves well-nigh be turned into tares by such an employment. To sit in judgment upon others cannot be done without sin and spiritual injury to ourselves. We should also be in danger of driving out the unpretending, and retaining the boastful and self-confident.
(2) By Separation.
We may neither drive others out nor ourselves go out in order to hedge off a small portion of the field, vainly hoping that there are not, and never shall be, any tares within it. The great sower of tares can creep through our hedge, and sow within our enclosure as readily as elsewhere. Thus comes a new evil of division easy to make, but almost impossible to unmake, and instead of a humble and unboastful unity conscious of its faults and seeking to mend them by all due means, comes an endless sub-division into censorious and self-satisfied sects. Let us rather see that we ourselves are wheat, and ere long are gathered into the barn and garner of our God. This is so great a work that it will leave little time or inclination for anything else.
THE EPISTLE – cOLOSSIANS 3:12-17 – THE PATIENCE OF THE SAINTS
As Christ is patient with His Church, so the Saints are to be patient with one another, and are themselves to reflect that which was and is so clearly manifested in Christ. This Epistle, therefore, follows the plan of the previous Epiphany Sundays.
A. The Outward Manifestation of Patience.
The remembrance of our blessings which are so undeserved is to be a constant call to patience. In spite of all we have been and are, we are “God’s elect,” chosen to be members of His Church; we are “saints,” as consecrated to His service; we are “beloved,” as accepted in Christ; we are forgiven by Christ and for Christ’s sake Our very standing in Christ’s Church demands a forgiving disposition.
We are, therefore, to put on seven beautiful garments—a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, forbearance, and forgiveness. Above and over all these, as the outmost adornment of his character, his robe, and the girdle, which will keep all else in due place and order, he is to put on love.
B. The Inward Sources of Patience.
As the first section treats of that which is more outward and to be “put on,” so this speaks of that which is to dwell within the heart, and thence to reach the conduct. We are to have within Us :—
(1) The Peace of Christ.
This peace, the sweet companion of surrender, which includes peace of conscience, confidence, and freedom from spiritual and temporal anxiety, in the mystery of its joy is worthy of its author. It is not a Christian luxury, but it is the very object of the Church and sacraments to impart it. It is to rule within the heart, banishing thence all irritability, repining, distrust, and fear, and all bitter feelings, enmities, and jealousies. It is to decide for us our habits and lines of action, which must be consistent with its possession.
(2) The Word of Christ.
We are to have this word in us—in our memories, hearts, and affections. It is to dwell in us, not as a visitor or a stranger, but to be at home within us. It is to be present in rich abundance of knowledge, and with rich influence, guiding judgment, ruling conscience, subduing the will, moulding inward character, and directing outward conduct.
We shall thus both ourselves have the comfort of the Scriptures (Rom. xv. 4), and shall be able to teach and admonish others, and help them by the bright happiness of our faith.
(3) The Name of Christ.
We are to live our lives in unity and communion with Christ. As we have been baptized into His Name, so we are to take Him for our example. Thus we shall become patient with others, and there will be an Epiphany of Patience in the Church of Christ.
THE COLLECT – A PRAYER FOR PATIENCE
The first clause of this Collect is in the original Latin word for word with that of the twenty-second Sunday after Trinity. In both cases the translation, though variously rendered as “continual godliness” and “true religion,” fails to convey the exact meaning, which is “by Thy continual fatherliness.” Of the two words which have come from the Latin pietas, “pity,” rather than “piety,” is what is here intended. It is not our love towards God, but His towards us which is continual. It is remarkable that not only the Collect, but the whole subject of the twenty-second Sunday after Trinity, the Sunday of Perseverance, is closely related to that of the present Sunday. In both cases, also, there is a reference in the Gospel to the servants of God’s household.
The petitions of the Collect are very suitable to the teachings of the day. We pray for
A. Continual Duty.
In the ancient form of the collect it was prayed that God would not fail in His duty as a Father. We now pray that we may not fail in our duty as His servants and members of His family.
B. Continual Hope.
This is beautifully expressed in the word “lean.” We are not only to cast our cares, but ourselves, upon God. We are to depend upon His grace as upon the trusty arm of a friend.
C. Continual Defence.
We pray that we may evermore be defended by His mighty Power. As we learn also on the Sunday of Perseverance, our patience is more truly the patience of God with us, and our strength is His strength made perfect in weakness. Our hope lies in a patient God.