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Sermon for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity
(From the Epistle for the day)
Admonishing each man to mark what is the office to which he is called of God, and teaching us to practise works of love and virtue, and to refrain from self-will.
1 Cor. xii. 6.—“There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”
ST. PAUL tells us in this Epistle that there are different kinds of works, but that they are all wrought by the same Spirit to the profit and well-being of man. For they all proceed from the same God who works all in all. “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the spirit the word of wisdom, to another faith;” and so Paul goes on enumerating many gifts; but repeats that “all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will.” And he says many things for the confirmation of our faith.
In old times the Holy Ghost has wrought very great and wondrous deeds through his servants for a testimony to the faith, having given us great signs by the raising up such a succession of prophets, and by the blood of His saints, and thus suffering unto death. For this kind of testimonies there is no longer any need. Yet, know that of true, living, active faith, there is, alas, as little in some Christian men as in Heathens or Jews!
Now let us meditate on these words of St. Paul: “There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” Children, if you look around you, you see that you have bodies, and that these bodies have many members and many senses, and that each member, such as the eye, the mouth, the nose, the hands, the feet, has its own special office and work. No one of these takes upon itself to be another, nor to do anything but what God has ordained unto it. In like manner, we are all one body, and members one of another, and Christ is the head of the body. In this body there is a great diversity of members; the one is an eye, the other an ear, the third a hand or a foot or a mouth. The eyes of the body of the holy Christian Church are her teachers. This office is none of yours; but let us common Christians look to see what is our office, to the which our Lord has called and bidden us, and what is the gift of which our Lord has made us the vessels. For every art or work, however unimportant it may seem, is a gift of God, and all these gifts are bestowed by the Holy Spirit for the profit and welfare of man.
Let us begin with the lowest. One can spin, another can make shoes, and some have great aptness for all sorts of outward arts, so that they can earn a great deal, while others are altogether without this quickness. These are all gifts proceeding from the Spirit of God. If I were not a priest, but were living as a layman, I should take it as a great favour that I knew how to make shoes, and should try to make them better than any one else, and would gladly earn my bread by the labour of my hands. Children, the foot or the hand must not desire to be the eye. Each must fulfil the office for which God has fitted him, however weighty it may be, and what another could not easily do. Also our sisters shall each have her own office. Some have sweet voices; let them sing in the Churches, for this also comes from the Spirit of God. St. Augustine says: “God is a homogeneous, divine, simple substance, and yet the Author of all variety, and is all in all, one in all, and all in one.” There is no work so small, no art so mean, but it all comes from God and is a special gift of His. Thus, let each do that which another cannot do so well, and for love, returning gift for gift. Know ye, whoever does not exercise his gift, nor impart it, nor make use of it for the profit of his neighbour, lays up a heavy reckoning against the last day. For, as Christ tells us, a man must give account of his stewardship, or his office. Each shall and must restore that which he has received of God, and is answerable in proportion to his advantages over others, and the measure of the ability which God has given him.
Whence comes it then, that we have so many complaints, each saving that his occupation is a hindrance to him, while notwithstanding his work is of God, who hindereth no man? Whence comes this inward reproof and sense of guilt which torment and disquiet you? Dear children, know that it is not your work which gives you this disquiet. No: it is your want of order in fulfilling your work. If you performed your work in the right method, with a sole aim to God, and not to yourselves, your own likes and dislikes, and neither feared nor loved aught but God, nor sought your own gain or pleasure, but only God’s glory, in your work, it would be impossible that it should grieve your conscience. It is a shame for a spiritual man, if he have not done his work properly, but so imperfectly that he has to be rebuked for it. For this is a sure sign that his works are not done in God, with a view to His glory and the good of his neighbour. You may know and be known by this, whether your works are directed to God alone, and whether you are in peace or not. Our Lord did not rebuke Martha on account of her works, for they were holy and good; He reproved her on account of her anxiety. A man ought to busy himself in good and useful occupations of whatever kind they may be, casting his care upon God, and labour silently and watchfully, keeping a rein upon himself, and proving himself, so as to sift what it is that urges and impels him in his work. Further, he must look within, and mark whether the Holy Spirit will have him to be active or quiet; that he may obey His godly leadings in each instance, and do and have undone by the influence of the Holy Spirit; now resting, now working, but ever fulfilling his due task in peace.
And wherever you see the aged, the sick, the helpless, you should run to their assistance, and strive with each other in fulfilling works of love—each helping the other to bear his burden. If thou dost not so, be sure that God will take thy work from thee, and give it to another who will do it aright, and will leave thee empty and bare at once of gifts and of merit.
If, when at thy work, thou feel thy spirit stirred within thee, receive it with solemn joy, and thus learn to do thy work in God, instead of straightway fleeing from thy task. Thus should ye learn to exercise yourselves in virtue; for ye must be exercised if ye are to come to God. Do not expect that God will pour virtue into you without your own effort. You should never trust in virtue that has not yet been put into practice, nor believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost have entered into a man, unless the man hath given evidence thereof in his own labours, outward or inward. Once as a good man was standing, threshing his corn, he fell into a trance; and if an angel had not turned aside the flail, he would have struck himself with it. Now ye are all craving to be thus set free from your work, and this comes, for the most part, from sloth; each would fain be an eye, and give himself to contemplation rather than to work.
I know a man who has the closest walk with God of any I ever saw, and who has been all his life a husbandman,—for more than forty years, and is so still. This man once asked the Lord in prayer if he should give up his occupation and go into the Church; and it was answered him, No; he should labour, earning his bread by the sweat of his brow, to the glory of Christ’s precious blood, shed for him. But let each choose some suitable time in the course of every four-and-twenty hours, in which he can give his whole mind to earnest meditation, each after his own fashion. Those nobler men who are able to turn to God simply without the aid of images or forms, shall do so after their fashion, and others after theirs. Let each set apart a good hour for such exercises, each taking his own method; for we cannot all be eyes; but to our life’s end it is most needful for us to keep up some strenuous exercises of piety, of whatever kind God may appoint, with loving and peaceful hearts, and in obedience to His will. He who serves God after God’s will shall be rewarded according to his own will; but he who prays to God according to his own will shall not be answered in accordance with his own will, but after God’s will.
Children, it is of this coming out from our own self-will, that the true, solid peace is begotten and springs forth, and it is the fruit of long-tried virtue. Unless thy peace come from this, be sure that it is false; for inwardly and outwardly thou must be exercised. But the peace that comes from within none can take away. Now some foolish men, who are puffed up in their own conceit, come and say that ye ought to do this and that, and want to direct every man’s mind according to their own opinion and their own notions and practices. And many of them have lived for forty years in the profession of religion, and to this day do not know what is their own real state. They are much bolder than I. I hold the office of an instructor; and when people come and consult me, I inquire how it stands with them, and how they came into this state. Yet I dare not pass a judgment on them; but I lay their case before the Lord, and if He does not give me what I shall speak, I say to them: Dear children, seek help yourselves from God, and He will give it you. But you want to judge and set an estimate on every man, trying him by the standard of your own usages and conceits. Thus it is that the worms get in and devour the good saplings that were shooting up in God’s garden.—Then they say, “We have no such custom; this is an innovation, and comes from the new notions,” and never reflect that the hidden ways of God are unknown to them. Alas! what strange things do we see among those who fancy themselves in an excellent way!
Now St. Paul says, that the Holy Ghost, by His operations, teaches us the discerning of spirits. Children, who do you suppose are the men to whom God gives this power of discerning the spirits? Know ye, that the men who have this gift have been thoroughly exercised in all ways: by their own flesh and blood, and have gone through the most cruel and perplexing temptations: and the devil has been in them, and they in him, and they have been tried and tested to the very marrow; these are the men who can discern the spirits. When they are minded to do this, they consider a man, and straightway they discern his spirit, whether it be of God or no, and what are the nearest roads of access for him, and what is holding him back from God. Oh! how greatly to our hurt do we fall short of the noblest, highest truth through such trifling, mean things; for the sake of which we must suffer loss for ever and ever, so long as God is eternal. For what we here miss through our own neglect will never be made up to us hereafter. But may God help all of us truly to fulfil the offices and works which His Spirit has committed to us and taught us to perform, each doing as he is inwardly monished by the Holy Ghost! Amen.
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