Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. IT IS TO BE A SACRIFICE OF OUR FEELINGS. The whole heart must be given up to God, so that whatever is right may be strengthened, and that whatever is wrong may be taken away. Many Christians render to Christ an imperfect sacrifice in this respect They keep back part of their life from him. They allow themselves to be dominated by feelings which are inconsistent with his spirit and precepts. They will excuse themselves for some besetting sin by saying, "That is my nature; I can't help it." The evil nature is still with us, it is true; but it is our duty to strive against it, to overcome it. Moses appears to have been at first a man of hasty and violent temper. Yet the Divine discipline, and no doubt also his own obedience to the Divine will, produced such a change in his character that it is afterwards recorded of him, "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men who were upon the face of the earth." It is a natural thing to be angry when things are said or done to provoke us; but is it Christian? So with the other feelings of envy, of pride, of revenge, of hatred - instead of yielding to them or excusing them, the true Christian will be ashamed of them and sorry for them, and will do his best to overcome their influence in his heart.
II. IT IS TO BE A SACRIFICE OF OUR AFFECTIONS. The love of God should ever be the chief affection of our heart. Not that we are to love our friends less, but we are to love God more. Hence, when our natural affections become hindrances in the Christian life, they must be restrained and subdued. The strongest temptations to the Christian are not always those that come from the baser part of his nature, but sometimes those that come from the purer and better emotions of the soul. The love of a friend - it might seem strange that there should be anything wrong in that. Yet even this affection, right and natural in itself, becomes wrong when it interferes with love to God. The love of home - how can there be anything wrong in that? Yet there is wrong in it when it interferes with the call of duty. "He that loveth father or mother more than me," says Christ, "is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." When the din of war begins to resound throughout a land, the man who has dedicated himself to the military service of his country does not hesitate to obey the trumpet-call. His farm or his business may require his presence, and may suffer seriously by his absence. It is a sore trial to tear himself away from his wife, from his family, and from his friends, whose faces he may never see again in this world. But however pressing the claims of his daily work may be, however strong his domestic ties, all these considerations must now give way to the demand of patriotism and of duty. And shall not the Christian soldier sacrifice all earthly affections rather than be unfaithful to Christ? Shall he not hear the voice of Jesus above all earthly voices? Of such complete self-denial Christ himself has given us the best example. "He pleased not himself." Not merely in his death, but in his life, he gave himself a living sacrifice. When we think of how much we owe to Christ, any sacrifice that we can make will seem but a poor and feeble effort to show our gratitude and our love. Yet we are encouraged to present even our poor sacrifice by the assurance that it will be "acceptable unto God." - C.H.I.
II. THE SACRIFICE AND SERVICE OF THE BODY. There was a total change from Judaism to Christianity in the point of sacrifice. The old dispensation was one of blood and death. Daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly, on various ever-recurring occasions, the altars of the temple ran with blood from the dead bodies of slain beasts and birds. The temple was one vast slaughter-house. But Christianity said, "This no more!" For there has been offered one sacrifice for sins for ever; and what is wanted now, says the apostle, is your bodies, not the bodies of beasts and birds, and these bodies living, not dead. There was a vast change in the point of service (λατρεία) also. What an elaborate ritual of service had gathered round the sacrifice! part ordained by God, part added by man. There were feasting and fasting; times and seasons, days and years; meats and drinks; purifyings; prayers. Christianity swept this away too, in all its ceremonial character. And what is wanted now, says the apostle, is not an elaborate ritual and minute observance, but the life; a service, not mechanical and befitting children, but rational and befitting men. All this the apostle points to by his words. Your own living bodies are to be the sacrifice; the holy, consecrated life of your bodies is to be the service. But let us gather the significance of his words more fully. The body is an integral part of man: consider in this connection the creation, death, and the resurrection. The body is sacred: consider old dualistic heresy, leading to severe repression or gross sin; also the modern error of despising the body now, and hoping to be freed from it as from a burden by-and-by. The body? it is the instrument of our active life in God's creation - deed, speech, thought. The spirit in itself may live towards God; but only by the medium of the body can it live for God amongst men. And to present the body a living sacrifice is thus to offer the whole life to God. Think, then, of the meaning of this. Think of your life: busy work, with manifold industries of limb, or speech, or brain, and intervals of rest which continually re-create you for new work; social relationships, with all the continuous interchange of affection and thought which they involve; of the life of your own mind, your reasonings, your beliefs, your fancies, your memories, your hopes: think of all these things, and a thousand others; and then remember that all this is to be offered up to God, a living sacrifice. This demands that the life be pure. Jewish sacrifices without spot. So conduct, words, imaginings, must be undefiled. Demands also that the life be consecrated. Just as sacrifice, when pronounced pure, was offered on altar, so our activities, being undefiled, are to be all given to God, that they may be employed for him. Nothing neutral: activities of brain, of tongue, of hand, having many subordinate ends, must be governed by the great controlling purpose to please God and do his will. Is it so? Is the undefiled life God's life? Do you make everything inexorably bend to this? Is your great "sacrifice" the sacrifice of the life? your great "service" the service of the life? All else is as nothing compared with this.
II. THE RENEWING OF THE MIND. But how? The "age" is against us. Whether or not conspicuously an age of impurity, certainly an age of greed and self-worship. Consider the plastic and binding influences exerted by the world: it imperceptibly educates us to itself if we yield; it restrains us as with iron bands if we attempt to break away. And the current of our own nature sets with the stream (Ephesians 2:2, 3). Self-seeking; self-pleasing. Not only are the lusts (ἐπιθυμίαι) of the flesh worldwards, themselves controllable if the inner life were right; but the desire (θέλημα) of the mind is worldwards too. The interior springs of life are bad; the "willing" nature (νοῦς) is diseased. And the secret of all this is that the inward life is wrong with God; there is death, not life (Ephesians 2:1). For this reason, God's governance and succour being lost, the will is sunk in the lusts that it should control, and it is thus that the desires of the flesh (ἐπιθυμίαι) have become actually volitions (θελήματα) of the flesh (see Ephesians 2:3 again). Hence "be not conformed" is immediately followed by "be transformed." This is the great doctrine of the new birth: a re-attachment to the life of God, which shall make all things new. Has been fully elaborated in ch. 6.-8. in which the apostle sets forth regeneration as the natural and necessary accompaniment of true justification. It is here insisted upon once more, as the only guarantee of a life of consecration such as he is about to set before his readers in the following chapters, which are an unfolding of the principle of the first verse of this chapter. The Spirit of God is the regenerating power: what is the regenerating principle? Love - love evoked, fed, perfected by the mighty, changeless love of God. An enthusiasm for the highest good, which wings its way through all that obstructs a lower energy of life, and triumphs evermore. So now the νοῦς is renewed, the θελήματα set with the current of the new life, and the ἐπιθυ,ίαι of the flesh fall into their proper place. Thus a power of nonconformity to the "course of this world" is ours; the bonds are broken, and the plastic influences break like spray upon a rocky shore. And so, with the altar set in order, the sacrifice is offered up; with the worshipful heart restored, a living service is rendered. We "prove" what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God; it is -known, loved, obeyed. In conclusion, let us remember that we are besought to this renewal and consecration by the yearning pity (οἰκτιρμῶν) of our God. His tears! Oh, let us be persuaded to accept our healing at his hands! - eyesight for blindness, love for our dead, cold, barren selfishness. And being alive unto God within, let us live to God without. Away with fictitious sacrifices and fictitious service! The sacrifice is to be the living sacrifice of ourselves; the service the rational service of a pure and consecrated deed and speech and thought. - T.F.L.
παρακαλέω. But the feature of the word is speaking to some one for a particular purpose, to get him to do or refrain from something, to help him in difficulty or console him under trouble. The Saviour is spoken of in John's Epistle as our "Advocate," our Paraclete, according to our Lord's own description of himself when he promised, "I will send you another Comforter." And who has so great a right to speak faithfully as a brother? The very nearness of kin implies affectionate solicitude, precludes evil suspicions. As brethren should the members of Churches stimulate each other with kindly jealousy for each other's welfare.
I. THE DEDICATION DESCRIBED. "Present your bodies a living sacrifice." The law of offerings is not abrogated, is spiritually fulfilled. The daily Christian sacrifice is not propitiatory like the Saviour's, but consequent upon that one efficacious atonement, and intended in like manner to glorify the righteousness and goodness of God, and to redeem man from evil. Sin has corrupted the entire organism, and the sacrifice is to consist of the whole being. The body is expressly named as the part which visibly was immersed in sin, and bowed under idolatry. But as the organ and symbol of the life, and the vehicle of information and action, bringing the powers of the soul into exercise, the surrender of the body to Christian principle means that the entire self is yielded to God. If sacrifice signifies self denial, there is yet a joy that swallows up the pain of privation in the thought of the honour conferred on the garlanded victim accepted by the Most High as an act of worship and praise. Note some of the qualities of this sacrifice. It is "living," as contrasted with the dead sacrifices of Jewish rites. True religion is not a galvanized life, but an inward principle that vivifies the entire frame. The mere saying of prayers, attendance at God's house, the avoidance of ill places and company, is a dead and worthless sacrifice if unaccompanied by love and devotion. The love of Christ flaming within the body makes it no longer a dull lump of clay, but an illumined spiritual temple. It is a "holy" sacrifice; the sacredness of consecration to a holy Being rests upon it, and there is real and actual holiness of heart and life. It is "acceptable," well-pleasing to him who despises not the weak, but rejoices in humble, devout sincerity, where the leaven is cast out in order to a true celebration of the feast. We need not fear the rejection of our offering, since to us has been revealed the proper mode of approach; nor will the shortcomings and sinful accompaniments that in spite of our best attempts mingle with our words and deeds cause them to be abhorred of him who perceives therein the sweet savour of Christ and incense of the Spirit. The "calves of our lips" will not pollute his courts, nor our "doing good and communicating" pollute his holy altar. We have also a general characterization of the sacrifice. It is a "reasonable service. It is engaged in and ratified by the highest powers, the enlightened intellect and the quickened spirit. Unlike an unmeaning ritual, the service of the Christian is to him emblematic of deepest truths. He sees himself not an isolated unit which has itself merely to please and cherish, but a child of God, a constituent of society, with the obligation and dignity of obedience and self-abnegation for the service of God and man. And there is great meaning in the word employed to denote our service." It compares our lives to the ministrations of the priests in the temple. When we raise our voices in supplication to the throne, when we seek to lead others to the Saviour of our choice, when we strive to discharge the duties of our calling as unto the Lord, when we relieve the distressed or comfort the afflicted, we are as much employed in temple-worship as if, like Aaron, we wore the high priest's robes, or, like Zacharias, offered incense before the veil. What a noble idea of the vocation of the people of God this metaphor conveys! Expect not a path of flowery ease - that the mountains should be levelled and the valleys raised to facilitate your progress! At the altar say, "I feel the cord that binds me; the knife is keen that severs the tender flesh; the flames are hard to bear; but withal I can rejoice that I am exalted to the honour of a holocaust accepted of God, and not consumed but purified by the sacrifice."
II. THE WEIGHTY ARGUMENT TO URGE THE DEDICATION. There is a "therefore in the text; the exhortation is grounded on previous reasoning and previously stated facts. Herein lies the strength of the religious teacher. He may have no excommunication with bell, book, and candle to pronounce, no fire and sword with which to wring reluctant assent; but he has decisions of a recognized court to allege, and motives of unequalled potency to appeal to. Every one who has to do with machinery knows the importance of motive-power. And Christianity is strong where philosophical systems of ethics are weak. You admit," the apostle seems to say, "these premisses; now supply the practical conclusion" He has been rehearsing the "mercies of God to Jews and Gentiles. Gratitude for the Divine goodness impels to his service, and the hope of future benefits is a lawful constraining force. Surely the grace that has granted pardon, peace, eternal life, is a voice to demand, a magnet to attract to, such a sacrifice as that entreated. Providential mercies cry aloud, Yield yourselves unto God." Where shall we begin, how end their recital? There are seasons, such as the beginning of a new year, or the anniversary of a birthday, when the remembrance of the Divine forethought and loving-kindness overwhelms the soul with thankfulness and praise. The darkest night has had its star; in the coldest day some gleam of sunshine has cheered our landscape. Family and household mercies, blessings bestowed on Church and town and country, fresh discoveries in nature or art, "sweet voices from the distant hills," - all these renewed compassions of a benevolent God evoke the old inquiry, "What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits toward me?' The text furnishes the answer, the full New Testament programme, outlined in the psalmist's "cup of salvation" and "thanksgiving," and "payment of vows" and "prayer." - S.R.A.
I. OUR BODIES ARE TO BE LAID AS LIVING SACRIFICES ON GOD'S ALTAR. (Ver. 1.) If we have been called with a holy calling, if the risen Saviour has given us the needed helping band, then we are bound to realize our obligation to him in dedicating our bodies as "living sacrifices" unto him. The reason why we can dedicate them as living sacrifices is that he has offered the atoning sacrifice our pardon and acceptance require, and we can consequently dedicate ourselves living to his glory. Now, when we look into the order of the Jewish sacrifices, we find that the sin offering came first, then the burnt offering, and then the peace offering. The leading idea in each was atonement, consecration, and fellowship. The sin offering emphasized atonement, the burnt offering or holocaust emphasized consecration, and the peace offering emphasized fellowship. Now, the self-dedication to which the apostle here calls us corresponds in the ritual to the burnt offering; and just as in this particular sacrifice the entire carcase was consumed in the sacred fire, so the idea is that our whole personality, body, soul, and spirit, is to be consecrated by the fire of the Holy Spirit to the service of our Lord and Master. The idea, in short, is that our bodies should be organs of the Holy Ghost. What a holy and blessed thought is thus associated with the body of the believer! It dare not be dedicated to any profane use. It is a holy thing, and is to be laid on God's altar and thus dedicated in its entirety to him. Miss Havergal's "Hymn of Consecration" will occur to every one, with the dedication of" hands," and "feet," and "voice," and "lips" and, in a word, "all' we are, to the glory of our Lord. Dean Goulburn, in his suggestive work on the ' Study of the Holy Scriptures,' gives a sketch upon this passage, from which the following will be found useful: "Consider the members of the body which must thus be yielded:
(1) The eyes. The lust of the eye must be mortified, and the eye employed in reading God's Word, or surveying his works.
(2) The ears. We must be 'swift to hear' the voice of instruction, and must turn away the ear from temptation and from flattery (see Acts 12:22, 23).
(3) The hands. 'Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth' (Ephesians 4:28).
(4) The feet. 'I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me' (Matthew 25:36).
(5) The mouth. 'Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers' (Ephesians 4:29). 'Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt' (Colossians 4:6)."
II. WE ARE TO REALIZE THAT THIS ENTIRE DEDICATION IS ONLY OUR REASONABLE SERVICE. (Ver. 1.) It seems at first a large demand. But it becomes reasonable the moment we consider our obligation. If Jesus has dedicated his body in life and in death to our interests and salvation, the dedication of our living bodies in return to him is surely a reasonable service. M. de Rougemont has brought out the reasonable character of this self-dedication in his own pointed fashion. Writing in his 'La Vie Humaine avec et sans la Foi' upon this passage, he says, "The word body signifies here the complete man; the victim, it is ourselves, and the sacrifice, to which St. Paul exhorts us, is that of our soul, of our will, of our thought, of our heart, without which that of our flesh would be impossible. But on hearing this term 'sacrifice,' the vicious takes to flight, the honest man is up in arms (resiste), the semi-Christian frets. All say it is impossible, or at least it is too difficult. And St. Paul contends that it is reasonable! Yes, reasonable, and irrational, senseless, absurd, to refuse God such a worship (culte). In fact, to refuse it to him is to refuse him all worship; it is to condemn ourselves to a life of worldliness and irreligion. Is it a true religion which consists in giving to prayer a half-hour a day, to the Divine service two or three hours on Sunday, when, even during those hours, one says to God, 'I give thee, indeed, a part of my time; but my heart? - no, I keep that for myself'? If at least, by guarding thus for ourselves our heart, we were happy! Let us leave aside here the lusts and passions which enslave and shame us. Let us speak only of our plans of happiness, of our favourite occupations, of our legitimate affections. We cannot bring ourselves to lay them on the altar, to present them to God, and minus these to sacrifice ourselves to him. But are we then our masters? do we dispose events according to our will? do we hold in our hands the threads of our life and of the life of our relatives (la vie des notres)? Can we do anything against God? If he wishes to take away from us the objects of our affections, to snatch us away from our labour or our pleasures, to over- turn all our projects, who are we to struggle against him? Is it not more reasonable to offer ourselves altogether unto him, like docile and trustful lambs, and to say to him, 'Here we are; make us what thou pleasest: thou canst take no more from us, since we have given all to thee; we are besides without fear, because we know by Jesus Christ how great are thy mercies? Can such living and holy victims be anything but acceptable to God? and is not this worship the only reasonable one, as it is also the only loyal, free, and joyous one?" (pp. 122-124).
III. Such A SELF-DEDICATION IMPLIES NONCONFORMITY TO THE WORLD AND TRANSFIGURATION INTO THE DIVINE WILL. (Ver. 2.) The conduct of others is not to be our standard, but the will of God. Worldliness consists essentially in this - making the fashion our standard of life. Now, in this respect we are not to conform to the worldly and prevailing ideas. Saurin has a fine sermon on this verse, in which he exhorts his hearers not to conform to the multitude in faith, or in worship, or in morals, or in our exodus at death. And then, if we take the Divine will as our proper standard, we shall find ourselves "transfigured" (μεταμορφοῦσθε) by the renewing of our minds, so that we shall "test" (δοκιμάζειν) and so come to understand what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (cf. Shedd, in loc.). Now, it is in this way, by surrendering ourselves to the Divine idea concerning us, that we shall realize that individuality and influence among men which is so desirable. In fact, we become most original, in the best sense of that term, when we do not try to be original, but simply to be and do what is God's will concerning us. It was the same with our blessed Master. He professed to do nothing of himself, but simply to mediate to men what the Father gave him (John 5:19); and yet he has been out of sight the most original personality which has ever appeared in this world. So will it be with us in our little spheres if we will only allow God to transfigure us.
IV. SUCH ABANDONMENT TO THE DIVINE WILL SECURES DUE SOBRIETY IN OUR ESTIMATE OF OURSELVES. (Ver. 3.) The gospel delivers us from egotism; we dare not think highly of ourselves; we can only think of how we are realizing God's will concerning us. And so, as merely mediating God's wiser will, we think soberly and humbly of ourselves. The apostle thus commends to the Romans and to all men what Leighton calls that "gracing grace of humility, the ornament and safety of all other graces, and what is so peculiarly Christian." Our individualism will thus be found delivered from the egotism and self-esteem of worldly men, and projected along the path of meekness and lowliness of heart which the Master trod before us. Such sober self-knowledge makes the Christian life a wondrous power. Contrasting with the self-assertion and self-esteem which are so valuable in the world's regard, the humility of the Christian becomes a power and influence radically different in kind from, but far more fruitful in results than, the noisy efforts of the world. May the Master help us all to follow in his meek and lowly steps! - R.M.E.
I. LIKENESS TO THE WORLD. Against this the apostle warns the Christian: "Be not conformed to this world."
1. The exhortation is much needed. The ambition of many Christians is to be as like the world as possible. They talk of the extreme of Puritanism, and speak of being too strict. The danger now is from the extremity of worldliness. If I am to choose, let me have the extreme of being too scrupulous rather than too careless, ultra-conscientious rather than having a conscience that sees no harm in anything. Let me be like Abraham, who would not take from a thread even to a shoe-latchet from the King of Sodom, rather than like worldly minded Lot, who pitched his tent toward Sodom, and by-and-by came and dwelt in Sodom, though he vexed his righteous soul from day to day with the filthy conversation and unlawful deeds of the people among whom he had chosen to dwell. Let me be like Elisha rather than Gehazi, like Daniel rather than Belshazzar.
2. Conformity to the world is injurious to the Church. When the Jewish people came in contact with the heathen nations, they began to imitate them, to conform to their customs. The result was disastrous to the spiritual life, and ultimately to the temporal prosperity of Israel. So it was with the Churches of Asia, Their worldliness proved their ruin. Sardis had a name to live, but it was dead. Laodicea was lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot. We may try as Christians to please the world by conforming to it, but in proportion as we do so we are unfaithful to our Master, and we are displeasing him. "The friendship of this world is enmity against God."
3. The conformity of Christians to the world is injurious to the world. Some Christians imagine that they will have more influence on the world by becoming more like it. It is a great mistake. If we want to teach children to write, we don't set them imperfect copies. The world was never made better by low ideals. The deities of paganism did not elevate humanity. It is not the half-and-half Christian, the worldly minded Christian, whose influence will tell for good upon those around him. If we are to make the world better, it can only be by keeping before us as Christians a high ideal of what the Christian life ought to be, and by striving faithfully, and with the help of Divine grace, to live up to it. Christians are living epistles, known and read of all men. What kind of copy are we setting to the world?
4. We are not to imitate the world in its estimate of religion. The world's idea of religion is that it is a thing of gloom, an irksome restraint, a weary bondage, something that it would be desirable to have when death is approaching, but which it would be well to live without as long as possible. Too often Christians give encouragement to this idea, Their religion has too little relation to their daily life, or a relation of routine form rather than of living and pleasant association.
5. We are not to imitate the world in its estimate of the soul. In the popular estimation, and in everyday life, the soul is thrust into the background. The chief concern is how to provide comfort and luxury for the body. No expense is grudged for these objects. Bodily health is scrupulously guarded, and rightly so. Education is carefully attended to. How anxious parents are, and rightly so, to secure a good education for their children! But how little trouble is taken to instruct them or have them instructed in eternal things! How little care, generally, is devoted to the concerns of the immortal soul! In this respect professing Christians are too liable to be conformed to the world. They become too much absorbed in the world's business to think as much as they ought of their own spiritual life and of the souls of others. Christian parents are often very careless in regard to the spiritual instruction of their children. Let us not bear the world's likeness. "Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate;" "Be not conformed to this world."
II. LIKENESS TO GOD. "But be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind."
1. This is the way to drive out likeness to the world. Likeness to God will exclude likeness to the world. The more desire we have for God, the less we shall have for the world; the more we think of the soul, the less we shall be anxious about the body; the more we think of eternity, the less we shall think of this present world; the more we think of the judgment of God, the less we shall think of the judgment of men.
2. The first step is the renewing of your mind. An external influence is here implied. We cannot renew our own minds. "Except a man be born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God." This is rightly called the saving change. To experience this change is the starting-point of the Christian life. It is to pass from death to life. Old things pass away; all things become new. There is a new way of looking at things. Things which we once took pleasure in have no attraction for us now; duties which we once thought irksome now become our delight. This is the result of the Holy Spirit working in us, producing in us likeness to God, transforming us into his image, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Jesus Christ.
3. This transformation will soon affect your whole life.
(1) It will affect your business. You will no longer regard your business dealings from the merely worldly, but from the Christian standpoint. Your question will not be merely - Will it pay? but - Is it right?
(2) It will affect your companionships. The question will be, not - Are they pleasant, but - Are they pleasing to God? are they helpful to my spiritual life?
(3) It will affect your amusements. The question will be, not - May I? but - Ought I? Not - Is there any harm in this? but - Is there any good in it? Is it the way in which I would enjoy myself if I knew that I was to die tomorrow? When Achilles Daunt, late Dean of Cork, was a student at Trinity College, Dublin, he was passionately fond of the drama, and used to go often to the theatre. One evening, after coming home and taking up his Bible for his usual evening reading - feeling that the scenes he had just witnessed made it a little irksome to do so - his eye lit on our Lord's words, "He that is not with me is against me." The passage seemed to seize him with an iron grip. He then and there battled out the matter with his own heart, and did not rise from his knees till he had resolved to dedicate himself to the Lord, to take his stand boldly as his servant, and never again to enter a theatre.
4. This transformation is to be developed by living near to God. Prayer, and the study of God's Word, are the means of obtaining this likeness to God. It is noteworthy that the same Greek word which is here translated "transformed" is the word which is used to describe the transfiguration of Christ: "And he was transfigured before them." And when did Christ's transfiguration come to him? When he was on the mountain-top in prayer. "And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering" (Luke 9:29). Prayer is the true transformation, the true transfiguration, of the soul. Thus here on earth we shall reflect in some measure the image of God until we reach that land where "we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." - C.H.I.
I. NOT THE FASHION OF THE AGE, BUT THE WILL OF GOD, IS THE TRUE STANDARD OF DUTY. The Scriptures contrast this world with the kingdom of God. The one is fleeting, the other eternal. The one is carnal, the other spiritual; the one appears to the bodily senses, the other is a vision of faith. The kingdom which Christ has established realizes the desire and purpose of God's heart. Those who enter it are not thereby removed from the sphere of worldly need and influence and activity, but there is a difference in the spirit with which these temporal objects are pursued. A touchstone of value is introduced, and occupations and possessions are appraised according to its decisions. The will of God is the Ariadne clew which guides the traveller safely through the maze of shifting opinions and bewildering dictates. The disciple of Christ asks not - What will my companions say? what is the prevailing etiquette? what is the code of honour prescribed by the circle to which I belong? or what is the amount of kindness, purity, and justice which will save me from public censure? but - What would God have me do? what will he approve? what is his Divine intent in my upbringing and redemption? From how many petty anxieties is such a man freed, and what noble cares supplant his former subservience to custom! Commerce, politics, the Church, every arena needs such men. The face of God is not reflected in his servants like coins stamped with the sovereign's identical image, but varies like the reflection of the sky, according to the lake, river, or sea that mirrors its glory.
II. A RENEWED MIND IS THE CHANNEL OF TRANSFORMATION. God has created man intelligent, and men act generally according to their perception of the fitness of things. Alter their views, modify their tastes, direct their inclinations, and their career is changed. If they do the same things, they do them with reference to a higher Being and a wider landscape. Some things loved before appear loathsome now; the eyes are opened, and the old order is deserted for the beauties and satisfactions of the new state. The will of God may be traced in his works and ways, in creation and providence; but Jesus Christ in the Scriptures is to us the fullest revelation granted of the mind of God, and by studying him is the conscience quickened, the reason enlightened, the affection sanctified. Christianity thus works from within outward. It does not try to transfigure appearances by gilding the apples of the tree, or appending fruit to its boughs, but it transforms the sap, and lets the new life produce its appropriate harvest. The renewing of the judgment implies a restoration of man to a primitive condition from which he has fallen. The lineaments of God in human nature which had grown dull, almost obliterated by the wear and tear of a godless existence, are made vivid again. Like the whitewash removed from the walls of an ancient edifice, and no longer allowed to conceal the glorious frescoes or carving beneath, so the chamber of the heart is renovated by the reception of the Spirit of Christ, and the defilements and deceptions give place to the pristine conception of man in the likeness of God, retouched, remodelled by him who maketh all things new. The blood-stained cross is the measure of devotion to the will of God and of self-sacrifice for the common good. The risen Christ is the ideal of the future to which Christian hopes turn and to which conformity is lovingly sought.
III. THE COMPLETER THE TRANSFORMATION, THE MORE SURELY IS THE WILL OF GOD DISCERNED, AND THE MORE INTENSELY IS IT PRIZED. It is the universal law condensed into a proverb that "experience teaches." Not all at once can the car distinguish sounds, or the eye form and colours. Not immediately does the reason discriminate between logical and illogical arguments and procedures, nor the taste discover and apply its canons of judgment. Practice and discipline are required. And it were absurd to expect that in the regenerated man the old habits of liking and behaviour could be thrown off by one effort like a worn-out garment. The man rescued from drowning slowly comes to himself, and gradually does the eye of the saved believer learn to recognize in every place the presence of his Lord, and his ear to at all times catch the faintest whisper of his voice. The early converts made sad blunders in their celebration of Christian ordinances, in their governance of the gifts with which they were endowed, and in their application of Divine morality to the questions of the day. But they were in the school of Christ, and made steady progress. And every advance in knowledge and life has confirmed our appreciation of the will of God as being good, and worthy of the utmost maturity of ethical manhood. The Saviour's prayer is the verdict of the saintliest lives, the last word of Christian judgment: "Thy will, not mine, be done." As an encouragement it may be noted that our standard of duty ever rises as we understand better the mind of God and approximate to its requirements. And we must not be disappointed if to ourselves we seem as far off as ever from the ideal development. This is only as, in climbing to some mountain summit, the top appears more distant because progress reveals more accurately the total height. - S.R.A.
I. DIVERSITY AND UNITY IN THE BODY. "We have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office" (ver. 4). There we have diversity. What diversity there is between the organs of hearing and seeing, tasting and touching, speaking and smelling! What a complex organism is that of heart and brain, and veins and arteries, and nerves and sinews! Yet there too we have unity. There is one body. One life throbs in all the parts.
II. DIVERSITY AND UNITY IN THE CHURCH. "So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another" (ver. 5). There we have diversity. There is room for diversity in the Church of Christ - for varied forms of worship, for varied views of doctrine, for varied methods of Church government. A dull uniformity is undesirable. "Acts of Uniformity" only made more diversity, and produced discord instead of unity. When the Church of England had no room for John Wesley, she only prepared the way for a larger secession from the ranks of her membership. So, too, in individual congregations, there is room for varied gifts and activities. There, also, we have unity. "One body, and every one members one of another." There is the unity of the Spirit, the unity that arises from the common bond of faith in Christ and love to him, of obedience to the same Divine law, and of the inspiring hope of the same heaven.
III. TWO PRACTICAL LESSONS.
1. A lesson of humility. "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly' (ver. 3). The recognition of the fact that there are varied gifts in the Church of Christ will prevent any one from being unduly proud of any gifts he may possess, or any work he may have done. All the members of the body have need of one another. There is a place for the humble and unlearned workers in the Church of Christ, just as much as for the wealthy and the cultured and the learned.
2. A lesson of concentration. Division of labour and concentration of individuals upon particular branches is one of the great principles of modern manufacturing and commerce. St. Paul applies the same principle to Christian work. "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; he that giveth, let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness." There are three special spheres of Christian work.
(1) Teaching. Under this head may be comprised what the apostle speaks of as "prophecy," "teaching," "exhortation." This is the work of ministers of the gospel, of professors in colleges, of teachers in daily schools and in Sunday schools. There could be no more important work than that of instructing others, moulding immortal souls, inspiring old and young with the power of great principles. When Socrates was asked why he did not commit to writing his philosophic opinions and teachings, his answer was, "I write upon human souls. That writing will last eternally." How important that all who engage in any department of teaching should realize the abiding consequences of their work, and should devote their best energies to it!
(2) Ruling. There must of necessity be authority and discipline in the Christian Church. Impenitent offenders against Christian morality need to be excluded. Differences of opinion or quarrels between brethren need to be wisely considered, and breaches healed. How necessary that those who are placed in positions of authority should rule "with diligence," realizing their high responsibility to preserve the peace and maintain the purity of the Church of Christ!
(3) Giving. Under this head may be included not only what is here called "giving," but also those branches spoken of as "ministering" and "showing mercy." Christians who are not teachers or rulers ought at least to be givers. If they have money to give for Christ's cause, let them give it, and give it, too, with liberality, in no selfish and in no niggard spirit. Every Christian can give something for the building up of the Church of Christ. We can give our time. We can give our attention to the poor, to the sick, to the stranger. Let Christians remember that in the natural body there are no useless or idle members. Each member has its own distinct function. So is it in the Christian Church. There is some special work for every one to do. - C.H.I.
I. First, we are to have a sober and proper estimate of ourselves and our aptitudes.
1. The tendency amongst men is to exalt themselves in their own thoughts as compared with others. An unholy rivalry of heart is easily possible even in the Christian brotherhood. We magnify our own importance out of all proportion to the actual place we fill. How contrary to the very initial requisite of the kingdom of heaven: "Blessed are the poor in spirit"! We must, on the contrary, think soberly. We must in all seriousness know ourselves and our place. We must indeed gauge and estimate our sanctified powers, but only that we may know to what holy purpose we shall put there "according to the capacity, in the realm of faith, which God has given us" (see Godet).
2. And so we must think of our various gifts, not as in rivalry, but as supplementing one another. The figure of the many members, and their diverse offices: so the body of Christ. Variety in unity: this the lesson taught us by God's works, and by his constitution of human society in general; we Christians must learn the lesson, as teaching us that we all are "members one of another."
II. Secondly, we are to give ourselves with all diligence to the fulfilment of our several works. We trench here upon the second principle. If humility teaches us to confine ourselves soberly to our own God-appointed labour, love teaches us to throw ourselves with holy zeal into such labour that the several members may all profit by our diligence. And the great truth brought out prominently here is that the cause of Christ is best advanced when each one does earnestly what he can do best. The apostle says, "Use your own sanctified gifts to the best of your ability, so will God be well-pleased, and your brethren and the world be blessed."
1. Prophecy: the spiritual insight that apprehends with increasing clearness God's purposes of saving grace. Ministry: the official attention to financial and business matters of the Church, in which the "deacon" wins his good degree. Teaching: the assiduous inculcation of received truth, that the people of God may be built up in the faith. Exhorting: the earnest pleading with men, that their hearts may be won, or more fully won, to that which is Divine and good. Such the more official duties.
2. The more private and spontaneous duties are to be similarly performed. Giving: for some who are so favoured have it as their special work to hold in trust for others, and to bestow as they have opportunity, the good things of this world. Let this be with all liberality of heart. Ruling: there will be committees for such philanthropic work, and men of enterprise will have it as their special business to lead the way. Let this be with diligence, for success or failure will follow according to their devotion or half-heartedness. Showing -mercy: some will have it for their work personally to dispense the help which perhaps the liberality of others affords. Let it be with a cheerfulness that shall make the blessing doubly blessed; let their presence be hailed everywhere as it were sunshine in the gloom. Such is the principle of a true Christian humility, merging into love. The old Greek wisdom urged upon its students, "Know thyself." Our Christian faith inculcates the same lesson upon us. Not by our seeking to do others' work, but by our fulfilling, as best we may, our own, will the common weal be advanced. Yes, know thyself, and know thy Saviour; so shalt thou save thyself, and promote the salvation of the world. - T.F.L.
I. IT IS NOT SELF-DEPRECIATION WHICH IS HERE COMMANDED. Aristotle's dictum of right action is that virtuous behaviour lies in a mean between two extremes. And whilst not a sufficient account, this often serves as a ready criterion. Proper humility is not to be confounded with mock modesty and diffidence on the one hand, nor on the other hand with arrogance and pride. He acts injuriously to himself who, comparing himself with others, despises what he is and can do, because higher and larger gifts have been bestowed on his fellows. Such self-despising is ingratitude to God, and casts a slur on the Divine equity. We dare not make light of any post he enables us to fill, or of the simplest service he permits us to render. He who has dignified humanity, first by creating it "in his own image after his likeness," and then by the incarnation of his beloved Son, may expect in every man a certain reasonable degree of self-respect. And the apostle implies that there is a way in which each "ought think" of himself, ought to honour his position and abilities. Shall the lark refuse to trill forth melody in his upward flight because he cannot pour forth the luscious changeful notes of the nightingale? or the robin refuse to chirp merrily in the winter because he cannot undertake the long flight of the swallow? Shall the violet withhold its delicious fragrance because the sunflower is so conspicuously gorgeous? or the lofty elm not clap its hands in praise of God because of its nearness to the wide-spreading beech? That is not true humility, but scornful indolence, which buries its talent in the earth. Of a lowly beast of burden it was said, "The Lord hath need of him."
II. IT IS UNDUE SELF-ESTEEM WHICH IS REPROVED. An immoderate estimate of our personal worth is unmindful of obvious facts. It forgets that God regards quality rather than quantity, and that all we possess we have received, even the ability to use our gifts, and by use to augment and perfect our capacity. We gain a humble estimate of our powers by coming into the society of truly great men. As we measure little hills by the sky-piercing mountains, so we may profitably turn our thoughts to the almighty and all-wise, the ever-living and holy God. And, to assist us in our judgments, his grace has sent a pattern of merit in the character and life of his Son, attempering the glory of the Most High to our weak vision, and allowing us to see Divine greatness humbling itself to the form of a servant and the death of a criminal. We have to own our imperfect rectitude when we place it side by side with the obedience and righteousness of Christ. As with a douche of cold water, is the most intoxicated with his own grandeur sobered into due modesty. Through pride the angels "kept not their first estate," and it is a favourite device of the tempter to allure men into a sense of self-sufficiency and importance. "Look unto the rock whence ye were hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye were digged." Wounded vanity prevents many a member of the Church from seeking to glorify a lowly position; the foot wants to be where the eye is, and the hand objects to serve the head. The elder brother loses the joy of the prodigal's return. Remember that in the Saviours reckoning the widow's offering far outweighed the costly contributions of the wealthy.
III. THE RULE IS TO BE UNIVERSALLY APPLIED. I say to every man that is among you." Every man needs this regulation. The precepts and promises of Scripture addressed to all are only effective as each severally appropriates them. We are individualized in God's sight, not lumped together in the mass. The danger lies at the door of each, and each must calculate his proper worth and position. We cannot do this for one another; to his own Master does each stand or fall Every Christian obtained some amount of faith. There are gradations in spiritual as in temporal life, and the rank of honour is according to the service rendered to the body to which we belong. But none is entirely destitute; let none, therefore, be despised or downhearted. All Christians are landed proprietors; an estate large or small is allotted to them to occupy and cultivate. The Spirit distributeth as he will. Our business is not to quarrel with the distribution, but to be diligent stewards of the deposit entrusted to our care. He that is faithful in little or in much shall be rewarded. Such a consideration abates envy and discontent, abolishes boasting and self-complacency. - S.R.A.
individualism is meant to be in the preceding verses, we now enter upon the wider relation of Churchmanship. For the apostle is not here speaking of human nature in its social aspects, as we find it so powerfully expounded for us in Bishop Butler's 'Sermons upon Human Nature,' but in its Church aspect, the relation of the individual to the one body which has its organic existence "in Christ." The apostle would have us to believe that we are united as closely to our fellow-believers as the members of one body are to one another. In fact, we are members one of another. A selfish individualism is out of the question; we are bound to the body of believers by vital and eternal ties. Hence we are to consider in this section the constitution of the body of Christ, that is the Church. And -
I. BELIEVERS ARE TO REGARD THEMSELVES AS ORGANICALLY UNITED, AND ARE CONSEQUENTLY TO CO-OPERATE FOR THE COMMON END. (Vers. 4, 5.) We are not meant to be isolated units, but members in sympathy. We are "joint-heirs" with Jesus Christ; we are consequently partners with one another in the great Christian enterprise. Co-operation, rather than competition, should be the guiding star of Christian people. We are distinctly made for the Christian Church, and it is our duty to promote the happiness and welfare of all our fellow-believers. Organic connection implies co-operation and sympathy of the sincerest character.
II. AS MEMBERS ONE OF ANOTHER, BELIEVERS WILL FIND THEMSELVES DISTRIBUTED A VARIETY OF POSITIONS, JUST AS THE MEMBERS OF THE BODY. (Vers. 6-8.) While believers are members one of another, we are not reduced to a dead level of uniformity. Edification is doubtless to be in the body as every joint supplieth it, but the joints are not all alike; if they were, it would be a curious medley - a conglomeration of mere atoms, which we should have in place of a body. In the body there is subordination of member to member, and part to part. The foot is not to usurp the place of the head, nor the hand that of the eye, else will the body be turned upside down, and become a monstrosity instead of a thing and form of beauty. Consequently, we find that in the apostolic Church there were a variety of offices, and the apostle here specifies the spirit in which they should be filled and their duties discharged. Let us briefly notice the offices as here described.
1. Prophecy. The apostle puts this in the very forefront. Parallel passages go to prove that it was most highly esteemed in the apostolic Church. Thus it is placed immediately after the working of miracles (1 Corinthians 12:10). In another place it is spoken of as "the gift of prophecy," and is associated with the "understanding of all mysteries, and of all knowledge" (1 Corinthians 13:2). It is further represented as the necessary adjunct to speaking with tongues (1 Corinthians 14:6, 22). And it was evidently regarded as the prime requisite in the edification of the public congregation; for St. Paul declares, "If all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth" (1 Corinthians 14:24, 25). Now, the more this matter is looked into, the more clearly are we landed in the conclusion that we have the prophetical office continued in Christ's Church in the ministry of the Word. Every minister who is called by Christ to the preaching of the gospel, and endowed by him for the work, is a prophet of the Highest just as really as Elijah or John the Baptist. If, then, to any of us this grace of prophecy has been committed, we must exercise it "according to the proportion of faith" (ἀναλογίαν τῆς πίστεως). That is, "the prophet must be true and sincere, communicating only what God has given him." Moreover, and chiefly, must he show no disposition to exaggerations in the exposition of religion, but must give to each subject its due place and proportion. Hence Dr. Shedd, in his 'Commentary' upon the passage, declares, "This injunction of St. Paul is the key to systematic theology. No alleged Christian tenet can be correct which conflicts with other Christian tenets. All Christian truth must be consistent with Christianity. For example, the Deity of Christ supposes the doctrine of the Trinity; monergistic regeneration involves the doctrine of election; and an infinite atonement for sin, by God incarnate, logically implies an infinite penalty for sin."
2. The diaconate. For it is evidently to this particular ministry (διακονίαν) the apostle is here referring. To the apostolic Church this set of officers was given to attend to the temporalities of the Church, especially the care of the poor, the sick, and such like. The idea, then, is that thoroughness should characterize the diaconate just as well as the prophetical office.
3. Teaching. Now, the office of teacher is distinguished from that of prophet in such passages as 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11. It has been suggested that the prophetical office implies inspiration, while the teacher's only the common knowledge of a devout and disciplined Christian mind (Shedd, in loc.). There is evidently need of a teaching order in the Church as well as of a preaching or prophetical order. If any is called to teach, let him be thorough in his teaching.
4. Exhortation. This is a gift which can be exercised by men who do not aspire to either the prophetical or the teaching office. It deals with the heart and will. "Evangelists" are for the most part of this character: they go about to stir up the souls of men to decision and activity, while their teaching is of necessity of a very limited description.
5. Giving. This applies to the distribution by the deacon of the Church's charity, and it may also apply to the private beneficence of the Church-member. In either case simplicity of motive and of aim is to characterize the giver. Charity should be exercised without parade and without any ulterior or selfish end.
6. Ruling. This undoubtedly refers to the function exercised by the officers of the Church, and it implies that nothing but diligence can succeed. Zeal (σπουδή) for the Church's purity and honour, and for the glory of the Church's Head, should characterize all who have authority in the Church.
7. Showing mercy. This applies to the attention the deacons and private Christians show to the sick and the suffering. Well, it is to be exercised "with hilarity" (ἱλαρότητι). What a difference it often makes when we set cheerfully about our merciful ministrations, entering with alacrity into them, and not doing them "against the grain"? Our "pity," as it has been very properly said, "should be impulsive, and not an effort; an inclination, and not a volition" (so Shedd, in loc.). Now, if Churchmanship were entered into in this noble and sympathetic spirit, what a different tale would our different Churches have to tell! It would be a tale of tender and gracious ministration, a tale of real because spiritual success? May the merciful Master grant it! - R.M.E.
Romans 12:9-21Romans 12:9-21 (omitting vers. 11 and 12, for which see below).
The Christian's duty to his fellow-men. In these closing verses of this chapter the apostle sets before us the duty of a Christian man. It is a picture of what the Christian ought to be. What a world it would be if these precepts were carried out, if even every Christian was careful to observe them! Six features the apostle mentions which should characterize our dealings with others.
I. SINCERITY. "Let love be without dissimulation" (ver. 9). Unreality, falsehood, insincerity, untruthfulness, - these are prevalent evils in our day. They weaken all confidence between man and man. They destroy domestic peace, social intercourse, and commercial morality. Truthfulness and sincerity are much needed.
II. DISCRIMINATION. "Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good" (ver. 9). The spirit of indifference is another prevalent evil of our time. "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil." Dr. Arnold at Rugby, trying to elevate the standard of character there, found this difficulty - indifference about evil. He said, "What I want to see in the school, and what I cannot find, is an abhorrence of evil; I always think of the psalm, 'Neither doth he abhor that which is evil.'" We want more discrimination. The young especially need to discriminate in their friendships, and to choose the society of good men and good women.
III. GENEROSITY. "Distributing to the necessity of saints" (ver. 13). In exercising generosity, God's people, our brethren in Christ, should have the first claim upon us. But we are not to limit our attentions to them. "Given to hospitality," we shall show kindness to strangers, just because they are strangers and are away from home and friends. How truly the Christian religion teaches men consideration for others!
IV. SYMPATHY. "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep" (ver. 15). Sympathy is a Christ-like quality. Sympathy for the perishing brought Jesus Christ to earth. Sympathy sent Henry Martyn to Persia, Adoniram Judson to Burmah, David Brainerd to the Red Indians, David Livingstone and Bishop Hannington to Africa. Sympathy led Mr. E. J. Mather to brave the dangers of the deep in order to do something for the temporal and spiritual welfare of the deep-sea fishermen of the North Sea. We want more sympathy for those near us - for the poor, the sick, the suffering, the careless, at our own doors. We need to learn also how to sympathize with innocent enjoyment. The mission of the Christian Church is not a mission of amusement, but it can show that it does not frown upon, and can thoroughly enter into, the innocent pleasures and recreations of life. We are not only to "weep with them that weep," but also "rejoice with them that do rejoice."
V. HUMILITY. "Mind not high things, but condescend to man of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits." There is too mush pride even in the Church of Christ - pride of rank, pride of wealth, pride of learning. The condition of things so severely satirized and rebuked in the second chapter of James is still too common in the Christian Church. The Church of Christ needs to condescend a little more than it does "to men of low estate." Christian ministers need to think more of the humbler members of their congregations, while they do not neglect the spiritual welfare of the rich. A little more of the humility of Christ would make the Church of Christ and. the ministers of religion more respected among the working classes and the poor.
VI. PEACEFULNESS. "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men" (ver. 18). This peaceful relation may be secured:
1. By not cherishing a vindictive spirit. "Recompense to no man evil for evil" (ver. 17). "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves" (ver. 19). Offenders against peace would do little harm if they did not find others only too ready to take offence. What an example is that of Cranmer! -
To do him any wrong was to beget 2. By meeting enmity with kindness. "Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not" (ver. 14). "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." Your kindness will be like coals of fire to melt his hardened heart, just as Jacob's prudent act of kindness, following on his prayer, turned away the anger of his injured brother Esau. So we may destroy our enemies, as the Chinese emperor is said to have done, by making them our friends. Thus we shall "overcome evil with good." - C.H.I.
2. By meeting enmity with kindness. "Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not" (ver. 14). "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." Your kindness will be like coals of fire to melt his hardened heart, just as Jacob's prudent act of kindness, following on his prayer, turned away the anger of his injured brother Esau. So we may destroy our enemies, as the Chinese emperor is said to have done, by making them our friends. Thus we shall "overcome evil with good." - C.H.I.
I. First, as members of Christ, they are to love one another.
1. The ethical character of this love. It is holy. Not a mere sentimental tenderness, but a love that abhors the evil, in whomsoever found, and cleaves only to the good (comp. James 3:17, "first pure," etc.).
2. The manifestations of the love. Tender affection, as of the members of one loving family; self-sacrificing respect, so contrary to the spirit which asks, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" - zealous to practise this regard for others with a diligent industry; animated to this diligence by the fervour of the spiritual life; sanctifying the love and service by loving and serving them in Christ.
3. The supports of such love. The exultant joy of Christian hope, in view of that appearing of our Lord; the patient endurance of trial and pain, by the power of that hope; the abiding fellowship with God, which ever rekindles the hope and makes it holy.
4. The practical working of this love in the matters of the life that now is. Relief of needy ones, as being the needy ones of God's household; hospitality to all who for the Lord's sake have left their home and rest. 5. The forbearance of this love.
5. The forbearance of this love.When, unhappily, even Christian brethren misunderstand and strive and persecute, they are still to be loved and blessed; not for any provocation is cursing to be rendered back.
6. The sympathies of the love. A real and manifested joy, in sympathy with rejoicing ones; a real and manifested sorrow, in sympathy with sorrowing ones.
7. The unity of love. Of the same mind.
8. The humility of love. Not high, ambitious aspirations, but willingness for lowly work; and to this end, not serf-conceited wisdom, but the heart of a little child.
II. Secondly, as showing forth Christ to men, they are to love even those that are without.
1. No revenge to be allowed. Think of their temptations to old habits and practices.
2. Honourable conduct to be strictly maintained. Yes, even with the emphatically "heathen man.
3. Peace to be sought with all. On our side at least it is possible, and so the sanctities of the Christian's own heart shall not be violated.
4. Again, no vengeance towards those whose crimes may seem to cry for vengeance upon them. No, not even in the way of justice, for a higher One is Judge, and all wrath must be left to him, whose very wrath is love; and, in truth, our rising wrath itself must be transformed to love, a love which shall even feed and give drink to the enemy in his distress. And shall not this shame his heart? and his shame may be to him for salvation. So shall the evil not conquer us, but be itself conquered by the good. Who is sufficient for these things?" The high perfection of this Christian love seems far beyond our reach. But it has been shown forth once, in him who said, "I have overcome the world." Yes, its evil was vanquished by his sacrifice of love. And, through him, we may conquer too. May the living Christ be ours, and his grace shall be sufficient! - T.F.L.
Churchmanship, which was discussed by the apostle in the preceding verses, we now pass to the Christian in society; and our endeavour will be to appreciate the Christian socialism which Paul here inculcates. The great error of the Christless socialism which prevails, alas! in many lands, is that it tries to do from without and by mere material manipulation what can only come from within through the Christian spirit. Into the various forms which socialism has assumed it would be improper here to enter; but any who wish to get some idea of the subject will do well to get the late Dr. Roswell D. Hitchcock's powerful and compendious treatise on 'Socialism,' where, after treating of "Socialism in General," "Communistic Socialism," and "Anti-Communistic Socialism," he reaches his climax in expounding the meaning of "Christian Socialism." Our duty just now is to appreciate the spirit of love which Christianity infuses into society, thereby securing all that socialism could possibly reach by its coarse materialistic methods, and infinitely more.
I. CONSIDER THE CHARACTER OF LOVE. (Vers. 9, 10.) For this is the one thing needful (1 Corinthians 13.). Well, the apostle tells us it is not to be hypocritical (ἀνυπόκριτος); not to be a profession, but the reality of love. It is from this loving spirit that Christianity proceeds to the regeneration of society. If, then, we start with a genuine spirit of love, we shall not be found rejoicing at evil, but always abhorring it; while to good at all costs we shall ever cleave. Thus "pure Christian love manifests itself in two phases - the ethical recoil from moral evil, and the cleaving to moral good. The former, full as much as the latter, evinces the sincerity of the affection. Indifference towards sin, and especially an indulgent temper towards it, proves that there is no real love of holiness. The true measurement of a man's love of God is the intensity with which he hates evil (cf. Psalm 97:10). The ethics produced by the sentimental idea of God and of moral evil, is 'easy virtue'" (so Shedd, in loc.). Such love, then, will bloom into the intense "brotherly love" (φιλαδελφίᾳ), which is the great evidence of the Christian spirit (John 13:35). And when brotherly love is entertained, instead of a selfish race for honours, there will be a pushing of worthy brethren forwards - a contest not for the first rank, but for worthier men than we are to put therein. How striking a Christian spirit becomes in presence of the severe competition going on around it, when it is seen exerting itself to honour others rather than to honour itself! It is this self-effacement which the world cannot understand.
II. LIFE IN EARNEST. (Vers. 11-13.) Now, when a Christian declines honour, and seeks to put the better man thereinto, it is not that he may shirk work. For, as a matter of fact, hard work and honour are not inseparably associated in this world. Hence the Christian can show his "zeal for the Lord" while setting no store by honour for it. The next element, therefore, in the Christian life and spirit is earnestness. As Luther puts it, "In regard to zeal, be not lazy." The Christian will show a zealous spirit in all legitimate lines of effort. His life will be intense. And to maintain it in intensity, it will require to be "fervent in spirit," and in all "serving the Lord." The serving of the opportunity, as in some ancient manuscripts, is not so likely, nor so emphatic, as "serving the Lord;" for the Christian is one who has learned to serve God in everything - to "do everything as unto the Lord, and not unto men, knowing that of the Lord he shall receive the reward of the inheritance as he serves the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:23, 24). Moreover, with this fervent, faithful spirit there will come a buoyancy and hopefulness which is most important in all Christian work; a patience too in tribulation; a prayerfulness at all times; a liberality towards the saints; a hospitality towards all men. The Christian keeps "open house" because he is open-hearted. Now, if such an earnestness were infused into all Christian living, society would soon be regenerated.
III. LIFE MAGNANIMOUS AND SYMPATHETIC. (Vers. 14-16.) Jesus set the great example of magnanimity. He blessed his persecutors; he prayed for his murderers; he converted some of them at Pentecost. Hence, if we would carry out his spirit, we must bless them that persecute us; we must meet the weak spirit which descends to intolerance and persecution with the one weapon of blessing. The Christian martyrs have crushed the opposition to the gospel by blessing their persecutors. But we must show sympathy as well as magnanimity, prepared to congratulate those in joy, to weep along with those in tears. Sympathy adds largely to the experience and benefit of life. And this sympathy is to be genuine all round; we are to be "of the same mind one towards another." We are not to be selecting for our sympathy those in good positions, but we are to "condescend to men of low estate." This is, indeed, the luxury of the Christian spirit to be able to take men up in a low condition, and treat them as God has treated us. We are also to avoid being "wise in our own conceits." In this way the Christian will exhibit large-heartedness; there will be nothing small or petty about his movements; he will be the noble brother-man in his little sphere that Christ has been and is in the wide sphere of the Church.
IV. LIFE LOVINGLY AGGRESSIVE. (Vers. 17-21.) We pass, lastly, to love encountering opposition, yet triumphing over it. And first we are not to take the law into our own hand and recompense evil for evil Now, the world cannot well understand this Christian spirit. It can appreciate better "the blow for blow" which characterized the early ages. "Thomas Paine, in reference to our Lord's injunction to turn the other cheek to the smiter, charges Christianity with the 'spirit of a spaniel,' asserting that it destroys proper self-respect, and renders man indifferent to insult and affront" (see Shedd, in loc.). But when the Christian is charged to "provide things honest in the sight of all men," the meaning being "things honourable" (Revised Version), then it couples with forbearance true Christian dignity. In strict accordance with this Christian dignity is to be our living peaceably with all men, if possible. It may be necessary by Christian testimony sometimes to provoke and exasperate worldling; but, at the same time, pugnacity will be seen not to belong to the Christian spirit. And as for vengeance, let us leave all that with God. He will do justly at last. Meanwhile it is our prerogative to feed and give drink to an enemy; and by every means in our power to heap coals of fire on his head. The only vengeance allowed in the code of love is to kill our enemy with kindness. As the king was directed by Elisha to feed the Syrian soldiers and send them home in peace, and as they came not in that generation into Palestine again, so we are to avenge ourselves by kindness. The apostle leaves us here in the last verse with the great principle in the aggressive Christian life. Evil can only be overcome by good. We are not to be exasperated by the enemy; we are to turn the tables on him by love. And has not this been God's own plan? Is not his government and administration to overcome evil by good? Even "everlasting punishment will be covered by the principle of good. May we entertain and practise the Christian spirit in all our intercourse with men! - R.M.E.
"To thine own self be true, I. DILIGENCE IN BUSINESS. Each man should have some definite work or business in life. Especially should the Christian be free from the sin of idleness. Whatever our work is, let us be diligent in the performance of it. "The hand of the diligent maketh rich." "Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men." II. EARNESTNESS OF SPIRIT. "Fervent in spirit." It is a strong phrase. Fervent means "burning," "on fire." Yes, we need more Christians who are on fire. It is the enthusiasts who have done the best and most lasting work in the world. They are usually called fanatics at first, but the day comes when their memory is blessed. St. Paul was a fanatic to Festus. Festus could not understand the fire that burned in Paul's heart and in his words. "Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning cloth make thee mad." William Wilberforce, the emancipator of the slaves; John Howard, the prisoner's friend; Samuel Plimsoll, the sailor's friend; Lord Shaftesbury, the friend of the overworked artisan; - all these men at first were sneered at and ridiculed by the multitude of indifferent and interested men. Earnestness and enthusiasm may be incomprehensible to the world, but they are indispensable to the true Christian. III. A RELIGIOUS SPIRIT. "Serving the Lord." That spirit consecrates life, sweetens life, saves life. Serving the Lord does not lead us to the drunkard's degradation, the disgrace of the dishonest or fraudulent, the cell of the murderer or the grave of the suicide. The Christian will serve the Lord in every relationship of life - in his home, in his business, in his amusements. Can we all say as St. Paul did (Acts 27:23), "Whose I am, and whom I serve"? IV. HOPEFULNESS AND JOY. "Rejoicing in hope." The apostle elsewhere in this Epistle uses the same phrase, "And rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:2). Dr. Chalmers has somewhere said, "That which distinguishes wisdom from folly is the power and habit of anticipation." The Saviour himself, in his earthly life, was sustained by the hope of what lay beyond. "Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:2). So it was with St. Paul. He looked forward to the crown of righteousness. Therefore the Christian should be full of joyousness. Why should we groan under life's heavy burdens when we think of the rest that remaineth to the people of God? Why should we be unduly distressed by life's trials when we remember that they that are tried shall receive the crown of life? This, too, is a duty the Christian owes to himself. Work becomes no longer a burden when it is done with hopefulness and joy. V. PATIENCE UNDER TROUBLE. "Patient in tribulation." The true Christian will know how to suffer. He knows that trials have their meaning and their place in the discipline of the children of God. He knows that whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and that "though no chastisement for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous, nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby." VI. PERSEVERANCE IN PRAYER. "Continuing instant in prayer." Prayer is the beginning and the end of the Christian life. We should ever go forth to the discharge of our duties, humbly asking for the Divine guidance and the Divine help. And then, when the duties are performed, we should not forget to pray that the Divine blessing should follow the work that we have done. This thought is well brought out by St. Paul in his description of the Christian's armour (Ephesians 6:11-18). Having exhorted his readers to put on the whole armour of God - the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit - he adds, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit." This is the fitting climax of the whole. It is the fitting conclusion of any exhortation about Christian warfare or Christian work. "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it." Such, then, are the Christian's duties to himself. Diligence. Earnestness. Religious spirit. Hopefulness. Patience. Prayerfulness. Let us cultivate them. - C.H.I.
I. DILIGENCE IN BUSINESS. Each man should have some definite work or business in life. Especially should the Christian be free from the sin of idleness. Whatever our work is, let us be diligent in the performance of it. "The hand of the diligent maketh rich." "Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men."
II. EARNESTNESS OF SPIRIT. "Fervent in spirit." It is a strong phrase. Fervent means "burning," "on fire." Yes, we need more Christians who are on fire. It is the enthusiasts who have done the best and most lasting work in the world. They are usually called fanatics at first, but the day comes when their memory is blessed. St. Paul was a fanatic to Festus. Festus could not understand the fire that burned in Paul's heart and in his words. "Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning cloth make thee mad." William Wilberforce, the emancipator of the slaves; John Howard, the prisoner's friend; Samuel Plimsoll, the sailor's friend; Lord Shaftesbury, the friend of the overworked artisan; - all these men at first were sneered at and ridiculed by the multitude of indifferent and interested men. Earnestness and enthusiasm may be incomprehensible to the world, but they are indispensable to the true Christian.
III. A RELIGIOUS SPIRIT. "Serving the Lord." That spirit consecrates life, sweetens life, saves life. Serving the Lord does not lead us to the drunkard's degradation, the disgrace of the dishonest or fraudulent, the cell of the murderer or the grave of the suicide. The Christian will serve the Lord in every relationship of life - in his home, in his business, in his amusements. Can we all say as St. Paul did (Acts 27:23), "Whose I am, and whom I serve"?
IV. HOPEFULNESS AND JOY. "Rejoicing in hope." The apostle elsewhere in this Epistle uses the same phrase, "And rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:2). Dr. Chalmers has somewhere said, "That which distinguishes wisdom from folly is the power and habit of anticipation." The Saviour himself, in his earthly life, was sustained by the hope of what lay beyond. "Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:2). So it was with St. Paul. He looked forward to the crown of righteousness. Therefore the Christian should be full of joyousness. Why should we groan under life's heavy burdens when we think of the rest that remaineth to the people of God? Why should we be unduly distressed by life's trials when we remember that they that are tried shall receive the crown of life? This, too, is a duty the Christian owes to himself. Work becomes no longer a burden when it is done with hopefulness and joy.
V. PATIENCE UNDER TROUBLE. "Patient in tribulation." The true Christian will know how to suffer. He knows that trials have their meaning and their place in the discipline of the children of God. He knows that whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and that "though no chastisement for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous, nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby."
VI. PERSEVERANCE IN PRAYER. "Continuing instant in prayer." Prayer is the beginning and the end of the Christian life. We should ever go forth to the discharge of our duties, humbly asking for the Divine guidance and the Divine help. And then, when the duties are performed, we should not forget to pray that the Divine blessing should follow the work that we have done. This thought is well brought out by St. Paul in his description of the Christian's armour (Ephesians 6:11-18). Having exhorted his readers to put on the whole armour of God - the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit - he adds, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit." This is the fitting climax of the whole. It is the fitting conclusion of any exhortation about Christian warfare or Christian work. "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it." Such, then, are the Christian's duties to himself. Diligence. Earnestness. Religious spirit. Hopefulness. Patience. Prayerfulness. Let us cultivate them. - C.H.I.
I. GOD HAS MADE MAN A SOCIAL BEING. He is the "God of the families of Israel." The Law commanded convocations, social observances; the people encamped not as individuals, but as households and tribes. Besides the appetites and affections that concern ourselves personally, there are others which respect our fellows and cannot be gratified without their presence. Love, gratitude, pity, all suppose their existent objects, so that the moral constitution of man exhibits the social capacities with which he has been endowed. There is a basis for sympathy in our physical nature. The appearance of one man acts and reacts on his companions. The mirthful induces merriment in the company, and the entrance of a gloomy countenance damps the spirits of a whole party. Infants are quickly affected by the attitude of those near them; and the lower animals are prone to frisk and leap when their masters are glad, and to be depressed by their melancholy. To shut one's self up in solitude, to take no notice of the circumstances of others, is therefore to sin against the laws of our being.
II. JESUS CHRIST HAS PROVIDED FOR THESE SOCIAL INSTINCTS IN THE ESTABLISHMENT OF HIS CHURCH. He has instituted a community of believers, united for mutual counsel and support. One by one we resort to the Saviour for individual teaching and healing, but "those that are being saved" are "added to the Church," and the visibility of the fact assists in that redemption from selfishness which is the essence of sin. "Bear ye one another's burdens" is the recognition of our unity. The limb which shares not in the thrill of pain or pleasure is on the way to atrophy, disunion, death. Love and service to the Head of the body bind the members together as an organism, and love ministers to trouble and enhances joy. Such sympathy cannot, however, be restricted to the members of the Church. Family ties lead to efforts for the salvation of outsiders, and a desire for the glory of the Lord and the enlarging usefulness of his kingdom prompts to imitation of his beneficence who came to lighten our woes and to augment our gladness.
III. OUR DEVELOPMENT UNTO PERFECTION DEMANDS THE CULTIVATION OF SYMPATHY. It was not "good" for Adam to be alone. A high pitch of civilization cannot be reached or maintained in isolation. Left to ourselves, we grow careless of refinement or progress. To shut ourselves up like flowers that close their petals at the rude blast, to crawl inside our shell, and, closing the aperture, to dwell simply on our own satisfactions and uneasinesses, is the pleading of mistaken self-love that overreaches itself and misses the pure happiness of sharing others' delights and of doing good. Spiritual growth is not attainable any more than physical strength by a life within-doors. Avoid the heat and the icy wind, and health suffers by too-great confinement. What lessons may be learnt from the successes and misfortunes of our neighbours! Their lot may be ours soon; it were well to be wise betimes. To look on others is to gaze at a mirror that reflects our own image.
IV. THE FULFILMENT OF THIS PRECEPT WOULD MATERIALLY LIGHTEN THE WRETCHEDNESS OF THE WORLD. The savageness of unrestricted competition vanishes where a due regard is paid to the happiness or suffering of our companions. Nothing like a visit from the employer to the homes of his servants, or a sight by the speculator of the misery his unjust gains have entailed, to abate the fierceness of greed and to remedy grievances and wrongs. The world sorely needs brotherly kindness. Then would men and nations realize that what elevates one raises all, what depresses one truly enriches none. We may note that obedience to the latter clause of the text is perhaps more needful than compliance with the former. The distressed require help, the prosperous can do without it. But any separation of the two duties weakens both. It is not always easy to congratulate a fortunate compeer, any more than to assist the unlucky. No doubt we like to bask in the sunshine, and to withdraw from gloom. But the "elder brother" refused to join in the household felicitations, and the Levite and the Pharisee "passed by" the wounded traveller. Guard against the mere indulgence of passive sympathy. The rejoicing and mourning of the text imply an active sympathy, and action forms habits of good will and benevolence as Butler has described. Copy the Redeemer. No ascetic or misanthrope was he, who multiplied the innocent gaiety of the marriage feast, and mingled his tears with those of the weeping sisters of Lazarus. Even a hearty grasp of the hand adds to joy, and a moistened eye comforts those that mourn. The poorest in point of worldly goods may be rich in God-like sympathy. Many a man has been saved from utter despair by the knowledge that another was interested in his welfare. - S.R.A.
I. THE CHRISTIAN'S ASSURANCE. When the apostle says, "Overcome evil with good," he implies that the good has power to overcome the evil. He implies even more than this; he implies that the good, as manifested and practised by the Christian, will prove a sufficient weapon with which to vanquish the forces of sin. It is not merely that the good, in some general or abstract sense, will overcome the evil, but that you Christians, men and women, flesh and blood though you be, may overcome the evil by the good which you can exhibit and exercise. Is not this something worth having the assurance of? Is not this something worth living for? My life, if it be a good one, shall not then be in vain. Humble though my position, my talents, my influence, I may, nevertheless, be a part of the Divine power against evil, a labourer together with God, and a partaker of the great and final triumph of righteousness over sin. This is faith in Jesus Christ in its practical side. In ourselves we could not vanquish sin. But we can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth us. This is the Christian's assurance. Ever afraid of evil, yet never afraid of it. Ever on the watch against sin, yet never disheartened by its power. Ever distrustful of self, yet never distrustful of God, never wavering in our confidence that when God is on our side success and victory are sure. If men had only this trust in God, they would never transgress his law to obtain a temporal blessing or a temporary success. They would not be so impatient to vindicate themselves. Committing their character and their cause into God's hands, they would not be so ready to revenge themselves on those who do them injury or wrong. Let this, then, be our confidence, that the good is always better than the evil; that it is always best to do the right, no matter how hard it may be; and that the day is coming when evil shall be entirely vanquished and overthrown, and righteousness shall prevail throughout the earth. "Fret not thyself because of evil-doers, neither be thou envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good.... Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S DUTY. "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Not only is there a warfare between the evil and the good, a warfare which shall ultimately result in the triumph of what is good; but it is the duty of every Christian to take part in that warfare. This duty applies first to his own character and life. The best way to drive out evil thoughts, evil passions, is to fill your mind with what is good. Seek the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Be filled with all the fulness of God. Let your thoughts be much occupied with the precepts and promises of God's Word, and then sin will not easily gain dominion over you. Those who occupy their days with all the good they may do will not have time to think of what things they may not do. The same rule of duty holds good in regard to others, in our relations to the world without us. When evil things are said of us, when unkind or angry words are spoken to us, it is hard not to feel provoked, it is hard not to answer back, it is hard to keep down the desire for revenge. But here again we can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth us. Divine grace can wonderfully restrain such tendencies of our human nature. To feel anger, or to exhibit anger in such a case, is to be "overcome of evil." To look upwards for help. and in the strength of Divine grace to restrain our anger - this is to "overcome evil with good." To crucify the flesh, this is the Christian's work. This to so show that Christ is our Life, when we try to act as he would have acted, and speak as he would have spoken. Christians may overcome the evil in the world both by being good and by doing good. By being good. For every consistent Christian life tells upon the world. It is a light shining in the darkness. It bears witness to the power of Divine grace. It is a protest against worldliness, ungodliness, and sin. If the personal character of every professing Christian was what it ought to be, what a power for good the Church of Christ would exercise! By doing good also. Ignorance and error are to be overcome by the activity of Christians in educational and evangelistic effort. Unkindness and uncharitableness are to be overcome by the active manifestation of kindness, charity, and love. "He that overcometh shall inherit all things." - C.H.I.
I. THE MOMENTOUS CONFLICT. "Be not overcome of evil." A man has been wronged by his neighbour. The feeling of injury begets a desire for retaliation. The resentment is just, is a testimony to the sense of righteousness imbedded in the conscience. But the feeling tends to go too far, and to become a longing for revenge in any shape that may present itself. Here is the subtlety of temptation, making evil appear as good. Undisguised vice is easy to repel, but a righteous indignation may open the gate through which unrighteous passion enters like a flood. This is one form of the universal battle against sin, which is ever ready to take advantage of lawful natural impulses and to push them to excess. The warning of the text applies, therefore, to the whole sphere of life. All good conduct implies the possibility of the reverse. Solicitations to evil are everywhere about us. Physical evil, such as a painful disease, may become moral evil when it produces murmuring, peevishness, utter idleness, and blasphemy. The struggle is fierce and prolonged, for "we wrestle against powers, against spiritual wickedness in high places." As the gifts of God in the material universe are secured at the expense of painful thought and toil, so the blessings of the spiritual life are not to be had at our ease, but only by strenuous wrestling.
II. THE METHOD OF WARFARE. "Overcome evil with good." To resist the evil inclination is the first part of the duty, but it is not alone a sufficient maxim. We have a weapon to wield; we must occupy ourselves in the practice of what is good. Not only arrest the hand that is about to strike an angry blow, but find some service for the hand to render to our opponent. They sin least, are least subject to temptation, who are engrossed like the Saviour in "doing good." He could move uncontaminated in the presence of "publicans and sinners." The outrush of active benevolence barred the influx of evil. The moment we try to see if we cannot benefit a would-be foe, we are conscious of a changed sentiment within; we pity instead of hating and condemning; we lose our worse to find our better self. This is a law to be remembered in all attempts to combat the forces of evil. "Resist the devil; draw nigh to God." The drunkard may sign the pledge of abstinence, but he needs meetings, society, efforts for others, to occupy his leisure moments. Do not gaze at the Sirens, but make for the home whose pure pleasures will profitably engage your energies. Let the young man have his study, and his proper recreation, and thus by the pursuit of what is elevating rise above petty meannesses and degrading amusements.
III. THE INSPIRING PATTERN. Christ is our Exemplar, "who, when he was reviled, reviled not again." He "committed his cause to him that judgeth righteously," and instead of heaping reproaches on his persecutors, prayed for their forgiveness, died for their salvation. The spurious Gospels, with their narrative of the Saviour's boyhood as a scene of vengeance wreaked on his youthful companions for their opposition and insult, condemn themselves as contradictory to the after-life of the "meek and lowly" One. He never exerted his power to harm his foes. His only miracles of judgment were on the swine and the barren fig tree. In Gethsemane the band of traitors were awed to the ground, but not injured. He knew that "to whomsoever much is forgiven, the same loveth much." Afterwards "a great company of priests became obedient to the faith." Saul the persecutor was changed by appealing love into Paul the missionary. The Lamb "led to the slaughter" unresistingly has proved himself in victorious submission the "Lion of the tribe of Judah." "Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind."
IV. THE SUCCESS OF THIS METHOD. Good is stronger than evil because it is on the side of God and the angels; it is backed by eternal laws. Like produces like. Strife leads to more strife; war sows a crop of dragons' teeth that yield a harvest of future enmities and battles. Germany, exacting a heavy indemnity from France and seizing two fair provinces, has laid herself under crushing armaments and ceaseless fears of coming reprisals. The peace principles of Christ, wherever faithfully adhered to, prove their soundness and fruitfulness. The man who resists not tames the spirit of his opponent. Obstinacy that defies the chilling blast is forced to relax when the warmth of Christian kindness shines on its outer crust. The coals of such a fire do not fiercely burn, but they melt the unjust into contrition and confession. The disuse of duelling has contributed to courtesy amongst men. We are not fit to take the law into our own hands and mete out justice, but we cannot do wrong in cultivating mercy and generosity. The observance of what is good works no mischief, whereas we may run into many an error if we fight evil with evil either in ourselves or others, and fancy that the end may justify the means. - S.R.A.