Melville Scott, The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, Second Edition, 1903. Public Domain.
The Final Epiphany
THE Epiphanies of the past and present are to be consummated by the final Epiphany of the future. Previously to the last revision of the Book of Common Prayer the Epiphany Season ended with the fifth Sunday, to be repeated, if needful, on the Sunday following.
The present Collect, Epistle, and Gospel, added by Bishop Cosin, most appropriately conclude the Epiphany series, and not only so, but are equally appropriate when transferred to the second Sunday before Advent.
It will be noticed how all Reformation and subsequent Collects recognize the principle, which the present volume is written to illustrate, of the individual unity and intimate connection of the Sundays of the Church Year.
THE GOSPEL – S. MATTHEW 24:23-31 – THE EPIPHANY OF CHRIST
This Gospel contains our Saviour’s solemn prediction of His final Epiphany at the last day, as prefigured by His coming to judgment in the day of Jerusalem. This prior and lesser fulfilment in the days of the generation then living is a pledge of the final and complete fulfilment, and it may be also of recurring fulfilments before the end come. It is sufficient to note the various signs of the end here mentioned.
A. The Prevalence of False Christs.
Men speak of the credulity of faith, but this is very small compared with the credulity of unbelief. Faith is, indeed, the worst enemy of superstition, and he who believes in Christ is thereby
delivered from anxious fears and vain speculations. Those who accept the true are forearmed and forewarned against the false. Christ’s command, “Believe it not,” is of very wide application. Especially are we to cultivate the scepticism of faith against those who profess hidden knowledge.
We are to remember, on the one hand, that Christ will come suddenly, and evidently as the lightning; and, on the other, that He will come with sure certainty to remove all things that offend. No carcase will fail to attract the eagles of vengeance.
B. Providential Warnings.
These are to precede His coming. The sun shall be darkened; the moon shall not give her light; the stars shall fall, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken. The words are best left without commentary; so also the mysterious sign of the Son of Man, which is to usher in His Presence. Let it be ours to be found among those who will see in their Lord’s coming a call to rejoice rather than to mourn.
THE EPISTLE – 1 S. JOHN 3:1 – THE EPIPHANY OF THE SONS OF GOD
Each Epiphany Epistle has taught the manifestation of some one great feature of the Christian character. We are now to learn that the character of Christ is to be fully manifest in His people, who shall be like Him when they see Him as He is. Thus, this Epistle fitly concludes the-Epiphany series. We learn with regard to the sons of God :—
A. Their Present Position.
They are the objects of God’s love and fatherly care. We owe to the Revision the remarkable words which prevent any misunderstanding of the word “called,” as if it implied an empty title— “and such we are.” Their position is not earned, but bestowed, and is not due to merit, but love. No man ever yet earned a father.
B. Their Glorious Prospect.
Even the completion and consummation of Sonship in perfect likeness to and communion with their Heavenly Father. The future world is full of mystery, but we need not go beyond the view here given of the perfection of Sonship realized in blessed intimacy with God. We cannot understand “the things which God has prepared,” but we can feel that more important still is our relation to God, which begins even here.
C. Their Present Task
Is to remove all that intercepts this blessed relationship, for every man that hath his hope set on God purifieth himself even as He is pure.
He must cast away sin, because sin is—
(1) The Transgression of the Law.
That which gives human laws their terror is the degree in which they resemble the law of God in their justice and certainty. We must, therefore, regard sin with reasonable fear.
(2) Prevents that for which Christ came.
He was manifested to deliver from sin and to supply us with motives against it. To cleave to sin is to make Christ to have died in vain.
(3) Is foreign to Christ’s character.
In Him is no sin, thus to sin is to be Christ’s opposite, and proves us ignorant of Him, and of that knowledge which is life eternal.
(4) Is inconsistent with our Adoption.
We were made the children of God in order that we might be righteous, as He is righteous. Let us not please Satan more than God.
By such arguments are we to be urged to escape from the power and practice of sin. We need a present Epiphany of Grace if we are to be ready for the Epiphany of Judgment.
THE COLLECT – A GREAT EPIPHANY PRAYER
In this noble Collect are summed up the teachings of the whole season now ended. It is hardly necessary to say that it turns the Epistle into a prayer.
A. The Epiphany of the Past.
This was in order to destroy the works of the devil in this fallen world and in fallen hearts: to bring us back to the position of God’s children, and to make us heirs of the glorious Kingdom in which He now dwells.
B. The Epiphany of the Present.
We pray for such an Epiphany, that we may attain the likeness of Christ—His devotion to duty, His sympathy, mercy, that His power to save may support our weakness; that we may reflect His patience. We are to purify ourselves as He is pure. Surely there is work enough in this.
C. The Epiphany of the Future.
We pray that the Epiphany of Christ within may make us ready for the final Epiphany. Thus may we hope to attain boldness before the Judgment Seat of Christ, because as He is even so are we in this world.
Of the three Epiphanies, the first is to produce the second, and the second to prepare for the third.