“Be ye perfect”

“Be ye perfect”

Sermon on the Mount. St Matthew.

(The Gospel History, Section 43*)

Ye have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, Resist not him that is evil: but whosoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man would go to law with thee, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Ye have heard that it was said. Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy: but I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the Gentiles the same? Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

“Be ye perfect”

(The Saviour of the World, Vol II Book III Poem XLIII)

And still the people listened, Christ spake on:
The sun rose high in heaven, the sun declined,
And still the people heard, the Master spake;—
Till all those institutes which should constrain,
Instruct, inspire His Church were set forth plain.
He spake—and it was said: no further word
Might evermore be added to the Law,—
New Law of Christian Life, proclaimed He then.
Association, with no personal aim,—
Hope of advancement, wealth, success or praise,—
He framed that day, and gave it all its laws:
What then in place of all that moves a man,
Stirs him to great endeavour for high praise?
Just love, no more; love, for the Father’s sake,
Should keep their lights aburning before men,
Savour of holiness in all their ways,
Who reckoned them disciples: Love should rule
In straitest discipline their thoughts, words, acts,—
No easy-going liberty for them!
Love for their fellows should endure the worst—
Endure and serve, the order of the day.
Small wonder if with quaking heart they heard—
The Twelve and those about them—counsels, asked
Perfection in who follow! Who were they?
Fishers and folk no better than the rest—
How should they, sudden, lead the perfect life
Fit only for God’s angels? It is hard.

But never thought but finds its way to Him
Who knows the stuff we’re made of; did He abate,—
Pity their imperfection, let them down
To easy living in the common way?
Nay, as the rider quickens flagging horse,
Christ spurr’d to high endeavour. “Perfect, ye
“Shall as your Father be, which is in heaven!
“Think how His sun doth rise day after day
“On good and ill alike, how falls His rain
“On just man and on unjust! E’en so shall ye
“Give and forgive, be merciful and mild,
“Water the thankless with unsparing wealth
“Of love and hope, of service and kind ways.”

Well, Lord, for them who heard Thy blessed voice
To rise to Thy demand! But what for us,
Poor souls, who yet Thy true disciples be,
Who nought in heaven have but only Thee,
Nor compare aught on earth! Yet never day,
But we do fail to show the light Thou gav’st,
Lose savour of Thy word, resent and hate,
Indulge our flesh and lie and Thee forswear!
What hope for us in whom is no good thing?

Not perfect shall we go, gods were we else:
But once a day, or twice, may it not be,
Loving and meek and humble, stand we forth
If but an instant, perfect before God!
And in that instant’s vision strong, we go
A step or two; then fall and weep and pray,—
Lord, guide once more our steps into the Way!

St. Matthew v. 38-48