Servants as are under the yoke.
I. LET US FIRST SEE WHAT CHRISTIANITY DID NOT DO FOR THE SLAVES. That the followers of Him who cared most for the poor and needy, and who longed to break every yoke, pitied these slaves in their abject and humiliating condition, goes without saying. But they certainly did not urge the slaves to escape, or to rebel, nor did they make it an absolute necessity to church membership that a slave-owner should set all his slaves free. We may be quite sure that such a man as Paul would not be insensible to the evils of slavery, and further, that it was not from any deficiency in moral courage that he did not urge manumission; but told some slaves to remain in the condition in which they were, and, by God's help, to triumph over the difficulties and sorrows peculiar to their lot. Strange as this may seem at first sight, was it not wise? Did it not prove in the long-run by far the best thing for the slaves themselves, leading to a more complete extirpation of slavery than if more drastic methods had been tried at first?
II. LET US SEE, THEN, WHAT CHRISTIANITY DID FOR THE SLAVES.
1. It taught masters their responsibilities.
2. It inculcated on the slaves a course of conduct which would often lead to their legal freedom. Under Roman law, liberty was held out as an encouragement to slaves to be honest, industrious, sober, and loyal; and, therefore, any Christian slave who obeyed the laws of Christ would be on the high road to emancipation. Liberty thus won by character was a better thing than liberty won by force or by fraud, and was more accordant with the genius of Christianity.
3. It gave dignity to those who had been despised and who had despised themselves. The work, which had once been a drudgery, became a sacred service; and this your toil and mine may surely be.
4. But, besides all this, Christianity laid down principles which necessitated the ultimate destruction of slavery. It taught that all men had a common origin; that God had made of one blood all nations; and that men of every class were to join together in the wonderful prayer, "Our Father which art in heaven." Learn, then, to trust to principles rather than to organization. Let life be more to you than law, and change of life more than change of law. Care for character first, believing that circumstance will care for itself. And, finally, in conflict with evils deep and wide-spread as ancient slavery, be patient, and have unwavering faith in the God of righteousness and love.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
2. We deal with it as a sentinel does with one he has allowed to pass without challenge — he thinks it all right, and lets him pass again and again, until at last he is horrified to find he has been giving admission to a foe. John Newton, for example, after his conversion (which was as genuine as it was remarkable), carried on for years the inhuman traffic of slavery, and felt his conscience at rest so long as he did what he could for the bodily comfort of the slaves. He was quite insensible to the sinfulness of slavery until it pleased God to open his eyes, which had been blinded by custom. And, at the close of last century, an American gentleman left a plantation well stocked with slaves to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and was evidently unconscious of any inconsistency. It is not to be won dered at that, in the early days of Christianity, disciples of Jesus were similarly deceived. Instead of condemning them, let us ask ourselves whether custom is not blinding us to other sins.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
That the name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed
1. In the first place, then, the persons by whom the objection is adduced, seem, in many cases, to be influenced by a determination to censure, with or without reason, the conduct of Christ's professed followers. Whatever aspect we put on, and whatever deportment we maintain, they must discover, or imagine, something which they may use as a pretext for personal reproach, and which they may ultimately level against the doctrine or principles that we hold. If we are grave, they accuse us of being morose and gloomy. If we are cheerful, then we are light and joyous spirits, having as little seriousness and as much wantonness as themselves.
2. We remark, in the second place, that the fact which gives rise to the objection we are considering is not unfrequently exaggerated by the fault of an individual being transferred and imputed to the whole class to which he belongs. The ultimate aim is to bring Christianity into disrepute — to "blaspheme the name and the doctrine of God"; and in order to accomplish what is thus intended, the aberrations of every individual Christian are spoken of as descriptive of all who have embraced the religion of Jesus, and as a sort of universal and necessary accompaniment to the faith and character of His disciples.
3. It may be observed, in the third place, that the fact of which we are speaking is often exaggerated, by considering one part of the Christian's conduct as a test of his whole character. The splendour of their virtues is obscured by an individual spot, which malice or misconception has magnified far beyond its real size. And their character is appreciated, not by the tone of their principles, in connection with the habitual tenor of their conduct, but by a single vicious action, of which their mind is utterly abhorrent, which they bewail with unfeigned sorrow, and which a candid eye would trace to those imperfections of the heart, and those infelicities of condition, which adhere to humanity in its best estate. The unmanly equivocation of Abraham, the aggravated crime of David, and the unhappy strife between Paul and Barnabas, are held out as the characteristic features of these eminent persons; that faith, and piety, and humility, and zeal for the glory of God and the best interests of mankind, by which they were severally distinguished, go for nothing in the estimate that is formed.
4. In the fourth place, the fact by which unbelievers are furnished with the objection we refer to, is frequently amplified by a too rigid comparison of the Christian's conduct with the religion in which he professes to believe. Now, it would be fair enough to judge us by the standard to which we appeal, if they would take care at the same time to apply it under the direction of those rules, which the very nature and circumstances of the case require to be observed in such an important trial. They forget that the morality of the gospel must be perfect, because it is prescribed by a perfect Being, and that, had it been otherwise, they would very soon have discovered it to be unworthy of its alleged author. They forget that moral imperfection is an attribute of our fallen nature, and must therefore mingle in all our attempts to comply with the Divine will, and to imitate the Divine character.Conclusion:
1. And, in the first place, let it not be thought that we mean to plead for any undue or unlawful indulgence to the disciples of Jesus.
2. In the second place, let Christians beware of encouraging unbelieving and ungodly men in this mode of misjudging and misrepresenting character.
3. Lastly, let us scrupulously abstain in our own conduct from everything of which advantage may be taken, for that unhallowed purpose.
(A. Thomson, D. D.)
(A. Thomson, D. D.)
1. Let it be considered what a multitude of excellent characters have been formed by the influence of the gospel. From its first establishment down to the present day, every successive age has had a number of individuals and of families by whom its sanctifying power has been deeply felt and practically exhibited. On looking into the history of its progress and effects, we observe that it no sooner obtained a footing, than it began to change the moral aspect of society, wherever, at least, the profession of it prevailed.
2. But the holy tendency of the gospel is obvious, not only from its powerful effect on those who have truly believed its Divine origin, and given a candid reception to its doctrines; the same thing may be seen in the improved moral condition of those also who have either given a mere speculative assent to it, or who are acquainted only with its tenets and precepts, or who live merely in countries where it is professed. The history of the gospel furnishes us with a detail of interesting and incontrovertible facts, which demonstrate that Christianity has neither been useless nor detrimental as a moral system: that it has maintained an influence peculiar to itself over the sentiments and manners of mankind; and that this influence has been at once powerful, important, and extensive.
3. It is not enough, however, to state that there are many who show in their conduct the holy tendency and sanctifying power of Christianity; that there are, and have been, multitudes of Christians who have adorned their religion by the exercise of every virtue; it is proper to state, in addition to this, the contrast which their present conduct exhibits to their former conduct, and also to the deportment of others who have rejected the gospel, or who have never heard of its existence. It is right also to compare the moral character of the Christian with that of others who have not known or adopted the same religious faith.
4. It was formerly stated that the fact upon which the objection we are considering is founded, is frequently exaggerated by the fault of one Christian being transferred or imputed to the whole Church. But I have now to observe that the fact is also most unfairly and injuriously misapplied in another way. Our adversaries make no distinction between real and merely nominal Christians.
5. That the gospel has not been more generally efficacious in reforming mankind and in perfecting the character of its votaries, is to be accounted for in various ways. Without entering into any detail, however, I may merely mention one general principle which appears to solve the whole difficulty. The gospel is not a system of compulsion.
(A. Thomson, D. D.)
1. And, in the first place, we exhort you never to forget that the gospel is a practical system. When you turn your mind to any one of its doctrinal truths, you will consider that it is not only to be believed, but that it is to make you free, in some respect or other, from the dominion of iniquity. When you meet with any precept, you will recollect that it is not merely a proof of the perfection of that morality which revelation inculcates, but a rule for your deportment in that branch of holiness to which it refers. When you cast your eye upon the delineation of a character, you will view it as not only held out to attract, or to interest you, but as set before you to warn you against certain offences or to recommend the practice of certain virtues.
2. In the second place, with the same view we exhort you to a faithful and conscientious discharge of the duties which belong to the several relations in which you stand, and the various circumstances in which you are placed. Nor is this all. The circumstances, as well as the relations of life, come under the government of the rule we are considering.
3. In the third place, we exhort you to make a willing sacrifice even of certain privileges and comforts, when the exigences of the case require it, though, in ordinary circumstances, you would be warranted in refusing to make it, if it were demanded. "Let as many servants as are under the yoke," says the apostle, "count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed." While you recollect what is due to yourselves, you must recollect still more what is due to the gospel.
(A. Thomson, D. D.)
I. First I am to consider WHAT JUST GROUND OR COLOUR THERE MAY BE FOR A COMPLAINT OF THE EXCEEDING WICKEDNESS OF MEN NOW UNDER THE CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION. And here it may with truth be observed to the advantage of our holy religion, that, as bad as men are under it, they would have yet been worse without it. The rule by which Christians are obliged to walk is so excellent, and they are thereby so fully and clearly informed of the whole extent of their duty; the promised assistances are so mighty and the rewards so vast, by which they are animated to obedience; that their transgressions, as they are attended with a deeper guilt, so must needs appear to be of a more prodigious size than those of other men. And it is no wonder, therefore, if, on both these accounts, good and holy persons have spoken of them with a particular degree of detestation and horror. And as the vices of Christians are, for these reasons, open and glaring, so their virtues oftentimes disappear and lie hid. The profound humility and self-denial, which the Christian religion first enjoined, leads the true disciples of Christ, in the exercise of the chief gospel graces, to shun the applause and sight of men as much as is possible. On these, and such accounts as these, I say vice seems to have the odds of virtue among those who name the name of Christ, much more than it really hath.
II. Secondly, THAT THEY ARE VERY UNREASONABLE IN SO DOING, I AM IN THE NEXT PLACE TO SHOW. For —
1. The holiest and purest doctrine imaginable is but doctrine still; it can only instruct, admonish, or persuade; it cannot compel. The gospel means of grace, powerful as they are, yet are not, and ought not to be, irresistible. Let the gospel have never so little success in promoting holiness, yet all who have considered it must own that it is in itself as fit as anything that can be imagined for that purpose, and incomparably more fit than any other course that ever was taken. Did philosophy suffer in the opinion of wise men on account of the debaucheries that reigned in those ages, wherein it flourished most among the Grecians and Romans? Was it then thought a good inference that, because men were very dissolute when wisdom was at the height, and the light of reason shone brightest, therefore wisdom and reason were of little use towards making men virtuous?
2. The present wickedness of Christians cannot be owing to any defect in the doctrine of Christ, nor be urged as a proof of the real inefficacy of it towards rendering men holy;Because there was a time when it had all the success of this kind that could be expected; the time, I mean, of its earliest appearance in the world; when the practice of the generality of Christians was a just comment on the precepts of Christ; and they could appeal from their doctrines to their lives, and challenge their worst enemies to show any remarkable difference between them.
1. There must needs be a great disparity between the first Christians and those of these latter ages; because Christianity was the religion of their choice. They took it up while it was persecuted.
2. Another account of the great degeneracy of Christians may be drawn from men's erecting new schemes of Christianity which interfere with the true and genuine account of it.
3. It is not to be expected but that, where Christians are wicked, they should be rather worse than other men; for this very reason, because they have more helps towards becoming better, and yet live in the contempt or neglect of them.
III. SOME MORE PROPER AND NATURAL INFERENCES THAT MAY BE DRAWN FROM IT. They are many and weighty. And —
1. This should be so far from shocking our faith, that it ought on the contrary to confirm and strengthen it; for the universal degeneracy of Christians in these latter days was plainly and punctually foretold by Christ and His apostles.
2. Consider the monstrous degree of pravity and perverseness that is hid in the heart of man, and to account for the rise of it.
3. Learn from thence not to measure doctrines by persons, or persons by doctrines: that is, not to make the one a complete rule and standard whereby to judge of the goodness or badness of the other.
4. To excite ourselves from thence to do what in us lies towards removing this scandal from the Christian faith at large, and from that particular church of Christ to which we belong; both by living ourselves as becomes our holy religion; and by influencing others, as we have ability and opportunity, to live as we do; that so both we and they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things (Titus 2:10).
I. We may take first THE MATTER OF CREED, and we shall find, when we come to investigate, that in this department the words of the Lord Jesus were distinguished by two qualities which mark them as pre-eminently healthy. The first of these is their positive character. The Lord was no mere dealer in negations. Dr. Samuel Johnson complained of Priestley, as a philosopher, that he "unsettled everything and settled nothing"; but no one can read the four Gospels without feeling that in meeting Jesus he has come into contact with One who speaks in the most positive manner. On subjects regarding which the wisest minds of antiquity were completely uncertain, He has the fullest assurance. We may wade through volumes of metaphysics, from those of Aristotle to those of Kant, without getting any distinct notion of God, but "when we hear Jesus say, 'God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth,' we feel that God is a personal reality; and though Christ does not define the nature of spirit, yet when He speaks of God as thinking, loving, willing — His Father and ours — we understand Him better than the philosophers, though He penetrates to the depth of a nature which they had vainly sought to define." He has settled our minds upon the subject, not by argument, but by awakening in us the God-consciousness which is one of the instincts of our being, and so bringing us to say, "It must be so, for I can rest in that." In like manner, when He enforces duty He evokes the conscience within us to a recognition of its responsibility. So, too, in reference to the future. He does not argue, He asserts with the speech of One who knows whereof He affirms, and forthwith the natural longing of the heart for immortality finds its craving satisfied, and settles in the certainty that "dust thou art, to dust returnest, was not spoken of the soul." Akin to this positive characteristic of the Saviour's words concerning creed is the discouragement which they give to all indulgence in speculations about things which are merely curious, and have no bearing upon our character or conduct. Thus, when one of His disciples asked, "Are there few that be saved?" He declined to answer the question, and fixed the attention of His hearers on the vital and urgent matter of individual duty, saying, "Strive ye to enter in at the strait gate," Everything that is profitless and without bearing on life and godliness He brands as unworthy of consideration or discussion, and all mere logomachies are unsparingly condemned by Him. Now in these two things you have the symptoms of mental and spiritual health. The man who accounts nothing certain never focuses his mind on any. thing; while he who runs after every sort of speculation, scatters his mind over everything. The one never gets ready to do anything; the other attempts so much that he really accomplishes nothing. Is it not, precisely, in these two respects that the unhealthiness of much of the thinking in our own age manifests itself?
II. But now, passing from the domain of creed TO THAT OF CHARACTER, WE ARE EQUALLY STRUCK WITH THE HEALTHINESS OF THE SAVIOUR'S WORDS in reference to that.
1. For in dealing with that subject He is careful to put supreme emphasis, not on that which is without, but on that which is within. He distinguishes between the head and the heart, and never confounds intellectual ability with moral greatness. Now the healthiness of all this is apparent at a glance, for it goes to the root of the matter, and only One who was Himself whole-hearted could thus have prescribed for diseased humanity.
2. Again, in reference to character, the healthiness of the Saviour's words appears in that He insists, not on asceticism in any one particular, but on full-rounded holiness. He does not require the eradication of any one principle of our nature, but rather the consecration of them all.
3. But looking now, to the department of conduct, we have in that another equally striking exemplification of the healthiness of the words of the Lord Jesus. He was very far from giving any countenance to the idea that religion is a thing only of sentiment. He insisted, indeed, as we have seen, on the importance of faith in the great central doctrines; and He was equally emphatic in declaring the innerness of holiness. But He dwelt on both of these only that He might the more effectually reach that conduct which one has called "three-fourths of life."
4. But another illustration of the healthiness of Christ's words in regard to conduct may be seen in the absence of all minute and specific details. He lays down great principles, leaving it to the conscience of the individual to make the application of these to the incidents and occasions of life as they arise. The words of Christ are not like the directions on a finger-pest at a crossing, or the indicators of the cardinal points upon a spire, which are of service only in the places where they are set up; but rather like a pocket compass, which, rightly used and understood, will give a man his bearings anywhere. Nothing so educates a man into weakness and helplessness as to be told in every emergency precisely what he must do. That makes for him a moral "go-cart," outside of which he is not able to stand, and the consequence is that he can never be depended upon. If the teacher shows the pupil how to work each individual sum, he will never make him proficient in arithmetic. The man who is continually asking himself, as to his food, what he shall eat and what he shall drink and what he shall avoid, is either a dyspeptic or a valetudinarian. He is not healthy. And in like manner, he who in the domain of morals is continually inquiring of somebody, may I do this? may I go thither? or must I refrain from that? has never rightly comprehended the healthiness of Christ's words, and is far from having attained the strength which they are calculated to foster. Here is the great law, "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation."
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
I. THE WHOLESOMENESS OF CHRIST'S TEACHING. The apostle speaks of "wholesome words," a translation which we prefer to that given in the Revised Version ("sound words"), because it conveys the idea of imparting health to men and to society. Christ's teaching is the ozone of the moral atmosphere.
1. It concerned itself with practical questions. The Sermon on the Mount (which is the chief specimen given us of His teaching) proves this to demonstration. As Jesus Himself put it: a candle was not lighted by Him in order to be looked at or talked about; but that it might give light to all that were in the house. In other words, the Christian religion is to be used rather than to be discussed, and is meant to throw light upon all the obscurities of life's pathway until it leads up to the light of heaven.
2. His teaching was embodied in His perfect life. This made it the more helpful. These slaves, for example, to whom the apostle had been speaking, wanted to know what they were to do under the provocations and hardships of their lot. And nothing could help them more than the knowledge of Him whose gentleness was never at fault; who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered He threatened not, but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.
3. His teaching, tended, to the increase of godliness. "The doctrine which is according to godliness, means the teaching which makes men more like God — in holiness and righteousness and love. But in sharp contrast with this is presented —
II. THE UNWHOLESOMENESS OF FALSE TEACHING, the effects of which were visible in the character of those who accepted and taught it.
1. Self-sufficiency was written on the forehead of each of them. As Paul says, "He is proud," literally "carried away with conceit," "knowing nothing." A footman is generally more awe-inspiring than his master. And this was true of pretentious teachers in Paul's days, of whom he says they are "carried away with conceit."
2. Love of verbal disputes was another characteristic of theirs. The word translated "doting" indicates a distempered and sickly condition, which turns away from the "wholesome" food of the gospel; just as a child with a poor appetite refuses bread-and-butter, and can only daintily pick and choose among delicacies, and the more he has of them the worse his appetite becomes. It is a bad sign when society has unwholesome appetites, caring more for art than for truth — more for manner than for matter; for these are signs of decadence such as preceded the fall of the Roman empire.
3. A carnal appetite was displayed by these opponents of our Lord's wholesome words. Our translation, "supposing that gain is godliness," is incorrect and misleading. No one supposes, or ever supposed, that worldly gain is godliness, or leads to it; but many in all ages have been guilty of what Paul suggests, namely, of "using godliness as a way of gain." In other words, these men, corrupted as they were in mind, in the whole inner life, and "bereft of the truth," only professed the Christian faith so far as it was serviceable to their worldly interests.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
Supposing that gain is godliness
I. I AM TO EXPLAIN THE MEANING OF THE DOCTRINE THAT VIRTUE CONSISTS IS UTILITY. This sentiment has been maintained by those who believe, as well as by those who disbelieve Divine revelation. The turning point is utility. Intention is of no farther value than as it leads to utility: it is the means, and not the end. "The result of this part of the subject is, that those persons have been grossly mistaken, who taught that virtue was to be pursued for its own sake. Virtue is upon no other account valuable, than as it is the instrument of the most exquisite pleasure." All who suppose that virtue consists in utility, agree in maintaining that virtue has no intrinsic excellence, as an end, but only a relative excellence, as a means to promote the only ultimate end in nature, that is, happiness. Since happiness is, in their view, the supreme good, and misery the supreme evil, they conclude that the whole duty of men consists in pursuing happiness, and avoiding misery. Upon this single principle, that virtue wholly consists in its tendency to promote natural good, in distinction from natural evil, Godwin has founded a scheme of sentiments which, carried into practice, would subvert all morality, religion and government.
II. I proceed to demonstrate THE ABSURDITY OF SUPPOSING THAT "GAIN IS GODLINESS," OR THAT VIRTUE ESSENTIALLY CONSISTS IN UTILITY. This sentiment is not only false, but absurd, because it contradicts the plainest dictates of reason and conscience.
1. To suppose that virtue consists in utility, is to suppose that virtue may be predicated of inanimate objects. These have a natural tendency, in various ways, to promote human happiness. The mode in which a man is made subservient is by inducement and persuasion. But both are equally the affair of necessity. The man differs from the knife as the iron candlestick differs from the brass one; he has one more way of being acted upon. This additional way in man is motive, in the candlestick it is magnetism. Such is the natural and avowed consequence of the doctrine, that virtue consists in utility. It necessarily implies that mere material objects may be really virtuous; and some material objects may have more virtue than the most benevolent of the human race.
2. To suppose that virtue consists in utility, is to suppose that virtue may be predicated of the mere animal creation. It is no less absurd to ascribe virtue to the utility of animals than to ascribe virtue to a refreshing shower, or a fruitful field.
3. To suppose that virtue consists in utility, is to suppose that men may be virtuous, without any intention to do good. They certainly may be very useful, without having utility in view. Men are every day performing actions which have a tendency to promote that public good which lies beyond all their views and intentions. But the doctrine under consideration places all virtue in the tendency of an action, and not in the intention of the actor. Intention is of no farther value than as it leads to utility. This is stripping moral virtue of every moral quality, which is a gross absurdity.
4. To suppose that virtue consists in utility, is to suppose that men may be virtuous in acting, not only without any intention, but from a positively bad intention. If the virtue of an action consists altogether in its tendency, it may be as virtuous when it flows from a bad intention as when it flows from a good intention, or from no intention at all. The intention of an agent does not alter the tendency of his action. A man may do that from a good intention, which has a tendency to do evil; or he may do that from a bad intention, which has a tendency to do good. Some actions done from the worst intentions have been the most beneficial to mankind. Be it so, that no malevolent action has a natural or direct tendency to promote happiness; yet if virtue consists in utility the good effect of a malevolent action is just as virtuous as the good effect of a benevolent one. For the doctrine we are considering places all virtue in the tendency of an action, and not in the intention of the agent.
5. To suppose that virtue consists in utility, is to suppose that there is nothing right nor wrong in the nature of things, but that virtue and vice depend entirely upon mere accidental and mutable circumstances. There are certain relations which men bear to each other, and which they bear to our Creator, which create obligations that never can be violated without committing a moral crime.
6. To suppose that virtue consists in utility is to suppose that there is nothing in the universe intrinsically good or evil but happiness and misery.
7. To suppose that virtue consists in utility is to suppose that there is really no such thing as either virtue or vice in the world. If the actions of free agents are either good or evil, solely on account of their tendency to promote either pleasure or pain, then nothing can be predicated of them but advantage or disadvantage. Actions which promote happiness may be denominated advantageous, but not virtuous; and actions which produce misery may be denominated disadvantageous, but not vicious.
III. MEN ARE GREATLY EXPOSED TO EMBRACE IT. This the apostle plainly intimates, by exhorting Timothy to withdraw himself from those who "supposed that gain is godliness."
1. From the resemblance which this error hears to the truth, though it be diametrically opposite to it. Those who maintain that virtue consists in utility, represent it under the alluring name of universal philanthropy, which is an imposing appellation. They pretend that happiness is the supreme good, and virtue solely consists in promoting it to the highest degree. They insinuate that this philanthropy directly tends to diffuse universal happiness, and to raise human nature to a state of perfection in this life.
2. The danger will appear greater if we consider by whom this pleasing and plausible error is disseminated. It is taught by grave divines, in their moral and religious treatises and public discourses. Law and Paley have been mentioned as placing the whole of virtue in utility. Dr. Brown, in his remarks upon the Earl of Shaftesbury's characteristics, maintains that virtue consists in its tendency to promote individual happiness.
3. There is a strong propensity in human nature to believe any other scheme of moral and religious sentiments, than that which is according to godliness. Men naturally love happiness, and as naturally hate holiness.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)
But godliness with contentment is great gain.I. SEEK THE BLESSEDNESS OF GODLY CONTENTMENT.
1. No doubt contentment apart from godliness is a good thing. Seneca and , and other pagan philosophers, were never tired of singing its praises; and , when he walked through the streets of Athens, and saw around him the evidences of wealth, art, and culture, exclaimed, "How many things there are which I can do without."(1) To some this feeling of contentment with their present condition seems constitutional. There are men and women who have an easy-going disposition, which makes the best of everything.(2) Others again are content, not so much from happy temperament, as from the fact that the lines have fallen unto them in pleasant places, and they have a goodly heritage. Belonging to the rich and leisured classes, they have no temptation to win a position, or to make money, by unworthy means, for these are already theirs without effort.
2. It is not contentment, however, which is inculcated here so much as "godliness with contentment." Many a man has been content without being godly, who might have been saved had his content been disturbed and destroyed.
II. ENTERTAIN A LOWLY ESTIMATE OF YOURSELVES. "We brought nothing into this world." Of all God's creatures, the human child is most helpless, most dependent upon kindly care; and one of the lessons taught by the coming of an infant into the home is the lesson of human dependence. What have we, indeed, through life that we did not receive? The very powers which enable us to win position or wealth are as much Divine gifts as the wealth itself. No one here has reason for boasting or pride, but only for reverent gratitude to Him who has crowned us with loving-kindness and with tender mercy.
III. ESTIMATE JUSTLY THE VALUE OF EARTHLY THINGS. However precious worldly things may seem, it is certain "we can carry nothing out" of the world when we leave it. It is a narrow bed which will form the last resting-place even for the owner of a province or the ruler of a nation.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
(E. Garbett, M. A.)
I. WHAT IS MEANT IN SCRIPTURE BY "GODLINESS"? It frequently means the gospel. As in this same first Epistle to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:16), "Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness." In other passages godliness means, as the word actually means in the old Saxon, Godlikeness, or a likeness to God; because the object of the revelation of Christ in the gospel is to show us the character of God in the person of a man, and thereby set us a pattern for us to copy — and by offering grace to all, by which they may be able to copy that pattern, to make them Godlike by making them like Christ.
II. NOW THE EFFECT OF THIS GODLINESS IS IN THE TEXT STATED TO BE "CONTENTMENT" — "godliness with contentment" — that is, religion with the contentment which it always brings forth. Let us now, in examining this part of our subject, endeavour to learn how true religion produces contentment.
1. It teaches us to know God. The ideas which men are able to form of God's character, by observing His works, and without the help of revelation, are not such as to produce contentment. His works show the extent of His power; and the order and harmony of them, His own knowledge and perfection. But to know this will not produce contentment. We must know God's moral character for this. Now the Bible reveals God to us as a God whose name is "Love"; as a God whose goodness and mercy are as great as His power and wisdom. Thus the Bible reveals the Eternal God as the kindest friend of sinful man. And when this, which the Word of God thus discovers, is believed in the heart, then contentment must be produced, and will increase as the knowledge of God's character and the assurance of His love increase. For the Christian thus reasons: Is God all-wise? then surely He knows what is best for me. Is He as good as He is wise? then surely He will give what is best for me.
2. But, secondly, the Scripture teaches us to know ourselves, and thus leads us to contentment. Discontent always springs from pride and an overweening conceit of our own value and excellence. We are all by nature high-minded, and esteem ourselves at more than we are worth. Thus, true religion, by humbling a man, tends to produce contentment, for it shows him and makes him feel that he deserves nothing, so that every thing he has is more than he deserves; since he who values himself at nothing will count everything he receives to be above his value, and therefore a call on him for gratitude. And this contentment, the blessed fruit of godliness, were it spread through the world, were it growing in every heart, would set the foundations of the earth in course again, and bring into order what sin has thrown into confusion. It would teach men to keep to their place and to fulfil its duties. It would cut up all covetousness by the root, while it would give no check to honest industry and proper care to provide for our own household. It would put an end to that diseased love of change, and restless, excited spirit, which is continually agitating the mind of those who are in the world as the winds ruffle the unstable ocean.
(W. W. Champneys, M. A.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Dictionary of Illustrations.Mahmoud, the first Mohammedan conqueror who entered India, when a mortal disease was consuming him, ordered all his costly apparel, and his vessels of silver and gold, and his pearls and precious stones, to be displayed before him. In the royal residence at Ghuznee, which he called the Palace of Felicity, he drew from this display, wherewith he had formerly gratified the pride of his eye, a mournful lesson, and wept like a child. "What toils," said he, "what dangers, what fatigues, both of body and mind, bays I endured for the sake of acquiring these treasures, and what cares in preserving them! and now I am about to die and leave them."
(Dictionary of Illustrations.)
I. I AM TO EXPLAIN GODLINESS. This consists in two things.
1. It consists in a godly heart. Godly signifies godlike. Those who have a heart after God's own heart are godly, and bear His moral image, in which man was at first created, and to which every renewed person is restored by the special influence of the Divine Spirit. The Spirit in regeneration enstamps the moral image of God upon the heart, which consists in righteousness and true holiness. There is nothing in which men so nearly resemble God as in a godly heart.
2. Godliness implies not only a godly heart, but a godly life. All men will live according to their hearts.(1) A sincere consecration of themselves to God. Those who mean to live a godly life, give themselves away to God in an everlasting covenant, never to be forgotten.(2) The godly not only devote themselves to God, but pay a sincere and habitual obedience to the intimations of His will.
II. THAT THIS GODLINESS WILL PRODUCE CONTENTMENT.
1. Godliness leads those who possess it to realize that God always treats them as well as they deserve. They live under an habitual sense of their unworthiness in the sight of God.
2. The godly are sensible that God always treats them according to their prayers, which reconciles them to the Divine dispensations towards them.
3. That it leads men to live by faith in the perfect wisdom and rectitude of the Divine government. The godly believe that the hand and heart of God are concerned in all the events which actually take place.
III. THAT GODLY CONTENTMENT WILL PRODUCE GREAT GAIN; or rather, that godliness with contentment is great gain.
1. That godly contentment gains all the good in this world. Those who are contented after a godly sort, enjoy all the things that they possess, and they actually possess as much as they desire to possess; which affords them complete contentment. The contented person is in just such a situation as He, all things considered, desires to be in.
2. That those who possess godly contentment, gain not only this world, but the world to come. Contentment here prepares them for contentment there. Godliness here prepares them to enjoy godliness there.Improvement:
1. If godliness produces contentment, then those have reason to doubt of the sincerity of their religion who do not derive contentment from it.
2. If godliness produces contentment, then none can be contented who are destitute of godliness.
3. If godliness be so gainful as we have heard, then none can be godly too soon.
4. If godliness be so gainful as we have heard, then there is no danger of being too godly.
5. If godliness be so gainful as has been represented, then the godly have good reason to pity the ungodly.
6. If godliness be so gainful as has been represented, then the godly ought to do all they can to lead others to be godly. Godliness is benevolence, and benevolence wishes well to all mankind.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)We brought nothing into the world. —
The Homilist.There is a sense in which the text is true, and there is a sense in which it is not true.
I. THERE IS A SENSE IN WHICH IT IS TRUE. It is true that we can carry nothing of our material possessions out of the world. We must leave behind our homes, our business, our property, our very bodies. This is —
1. A fact the most obvious.
2. A fact the most practically disregarded.
II. THERE IS A SENSE IN WHICH IT IS NOT TRUE. There are certain things which we did not bring with us, but which we shall carry away with us.
1. Our memories. We came without recollections, we shall carry thousands away.
2. Our responsibilities. We came without responsibilities, we shall carry loads away.
3. Our characters. We came without a character, we shall carry one away.
4. Our true friendships. We came without true friendships, we shall carry many away.
5. Our true sources of spiritual joy. Powers of holy meditation, hopes of approaching good, communion with the Infinite Father, etc., and all these we shall carry away with us.
I. CONSIDER MAN'S DEPENDENCE AND MORTALITY. Everything that we possess and enjoy is not so much a gift as a loan. Strength to labour, and the reward of our labour, all worldly possessions and happiness, are merely for a time. They are only lent to us during our life, to be returned at our death. We often hear of a man having only a life interest in certain property. But who has more than a life interest in any worldly possessions? But, as the text reminds us, we shall have to go out of this world.
II. CONSIDER MAN'S MORAL AND SPIRITUAL NATURE, AND CONSEQUENT ACCOUNTABILITY. We brought much with us into this world, and we shall carry more out.
1. We brought a spiritual nature with us into this world, or, rather, we came into this world spiritual beings. Man is not a body, but a spirit. We have bodies, we are spirits. The universal consciousness of man testifies to the fact that he possesses a life higher than that of the brutes. Into the heavenly kingdom there cannot enter anything that defileth. "Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting."
2. We brought a moral nature with us into this world, or, to speak more correctly, we came into this world moral beings. Things affect us, not merely as pleasurable or painful, but as right or wrong.
3. We shall carry out of this world what we did not bring with us into the world. We must all carry with us the record of our life.
4. Besides the record of our life, which we must carry with us out of the world, we shall be blessed or condemned for what we leave behind us in the world. All of us will leave behind an influence which will live long after we are forgotten.
(A. F. Joscelyne, B. A.)
Having food and raimentI. Let us consider THE NECESSITIES OF NATURE. These are few, and simple, and easily satisfied. For we should distinguish between real and artificial wants. In reference to happiness, a man only has what he can use. If he possesses a thousand pounds which he cannot use, it matters not, as to the benefit he derives from it, whether it be in his coffer or in the bowels of the earth.
II. We should do well to consider THE INSUFFICIENCY OF THE CREATURE. When we see men dissatisfied with what they have, and all anxiety and exertion to amass an abundance of this "world's goods," we should imagine that there was a superlative excellency in these things, and that our happiness absolutely depended upon them. Happiness is an eternal thing. "A good man shall be satisfied from himself."
III. To induce you to be satisfied with such things as you have, consider Your UNWORTHINESS. You murmur because you have not more — but should you not be thankful for what you have? If a man owes you a debt, you ought to have your demand; and if you do not receive the whole, you may justly complain. But it is otherwise with a beggar who asks alms. How much more therefore are we bound to say, with Jacob, " I am not worthy of the least of all Thy mercies"! Cease complaining, Christian.
IV. Observe WHAT YOU HAVE ALREADY IN POSSESSION OR IN REVERSION. When I view the Christian — when I see him blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places — when I see him a son of God, an heir of immortality — loved with an infinite love; redeemed by the blood of the everlasting covenant; called out of darkness into marvellous light. Oh why do not these blessings absorb us! Once they did. When we were first induced to seek them-we thought of nothing else. We then said, If I succeed and obtain these — how willingly can I leave everything else!
V. Consider THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD. Suppose now a voice from heaven were to assure you that a little was best for you. You answer, I would try to acquiesce. And cannot God speak by actions as well as words?
VI. Consider HOW MUCH SAFER YOU ARE WITH LITTLE THAN WITH MUCH. Honey does not more powerfully attract bees than affluence generates temptations. Did you never see men ruined by prosperity? Have you duly considered the duties as well as snares of a prosperous condition? "Where much is given, much will be required."
VII. Consider THE BREVITY OF YOUR CONTINUANCE UPON EARTH, WHERE ALONE YOU WILL NEED ANY OF THESE THINGS. "What is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away!" And how much of this fleeting period is already consumed! There may be but a step between you and death. Now if time be short, your trouble cannot be long. Were you ever so prosperous, it is only the sunshine of a day — the evening shades are beginning to spread, and will hide all your glories from your view. Read the verse before the text: "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out."
But they that will be rich.I. THE DANGERS OF THIS TEMPER OF MIND ARE OBVIOUS.
1. It leads many to deception and dishonesty.
2. To get advantage to oneself is a false aim for any Christian life. If you know how insidious these and other perils are, you may well pray: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
II. DEFENCES AGAINST SUCH EVILS are within our knowledge, and many are finding moral security through using them.
1. Watch against the tendency to extravagant living. The absence of simplicity in some households leads to more evils than you think. Be brave enough to be simple in your habits. Seek to live without ostentation.
2. On the other hand, see to it that you do not bow down to worship the golden calf. No idolatry is more prevalent than this.
3. Cultivate love for higher things than the world offers. Good will conquer evil by its own inherent force.
4. Pray for the spirit of heroism in common life.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
I. THERE ARE CERTAIN CLASSES OF CHARACTER SINGULARLY EXPOSED TO TEMPTATION.
1. Strong-willed and ambitious men. "These fall into temptation and a snare." From some points of view these strong-willed men may be regarded as the noble men of earth. They have a purpose in life, which holds in and guides, as with bit and bridle, all the forces of their being. They are the great men in our mills and warehouses; the foremost as statesmen, and in carrying out great social and national enterprises. Yet this disposition lays men open to peculiar dangers. It comes too often to be opposed to that spirit of contentment which the apostle here intimates is peculiarly suitable to "godliness," and which is the result of a daily thaukful dependence on that living God, who giveth us all things richly to enjoy. Especially do we find that this strong-will is liable to become self-will. And if you observe these strong-willed men carefully, you will find they are sadly often falling into sin in relation to their dependents and servants; becoming imperious in their manners, forgetting the ordinary charities of social intercourse, and treating those who serve them as though they were an inferior kind of creature; which is, in the sight of the one God who made us all, a sad and mournful sin against the common brotherhood. They that will be anything fall thereby "into temptation and a snare." If such is your disposition, remember, that is the side of your nature on which you are peculiarly exposed to danger. Do you then ask, May a Christian man be ambitious? May he say, I will — I will be rich; I will be great; I will be successful? — I reply, "Yes, he may; but only when he can add, 'If God sees best.'" He may be ambitious if he can keep leaning on God all the while he pursues his ambitions.
2. Now, let us consider together two opposite classes of character — intense impulsive men, and inactive, sluggish men. These also "fall into temptation and a snare." They are very liable to sins of commission. So feebly swayed by prudential considerations, they often do things which they live very greatly to regret. In connection with Christian life and work, they are exposed to the sins of discouragement and failing perseverance. They, too, often live a butterfly life, emptying the nectar from no flower on which they settle, but flying hither and thither from flower to flower, and gathering no stores of honey. They are like those streams which are only fed by mountain rains, or melting snows; they sometimes flow along in a very passion of excitement, but only for awhile; they soon subside; for weeks there is but a trick ling rill, and often the stones lie bleaching in the sun for months together. There are few things which do more injury to a Church than the ebb and flow of its hopes and efforts through the influence of its impulsive members. There are many of the opposite disposition. It is exceedingly difficult to arouse them at all. They seem to have no personal wills. They are always requiring to be urged and pressed. Such persons have their peculiar liabilities to temptation; mostly to sins of omission, the sins which come in connection with procrastination; sins arising from neglect of duty.
3. Only one other phase of character I will mention. Men who must have company. These also "fall into temptation and a snare." God has set the solitary in families. "It is not good that man should be alone." But you must have observed that this spirit possesses some men very much more than others. There are some who feel as if they could not live without company. They feel restless in their very homes if no one beside their family is found there. I do not say that, on the very face of it, this is wrong; but need I point out to you how perilous such a disposition becomes? Need I remind you how many have, through it, been led astray into drinking habits, and so ruined in heart and in home, in body and in soul?
II. THERE ARE CERTAIN TIMES IN A MAN'S LIFE WHEN TEMPTATION HAS PECULIAR FORCE. One of the wonderful discoveries of this scientific age is that of the successive changes through which our bodies pass in the course of our lives. Now, these bodily changes are very remarkably associated with our moral conditions; especially are they connected with the varying force of bodily passions. In some conditions of our frame, no temptation to the indulgence of any bodily lust would exert an effective power on us. In other conditions of our frame, the least exposure seems to involve our fall, we feel to be actually "overtaken," "overwhelmed." There are three periods of life in which, for the most part, men fall under the power of evil. Most men that fall, fall either into young men's peril, full-grown men's sins, or old men's sins. The devil never appears so much like an angel of light as when tie clothes himself to meet the rising passions of early manhood. A mourn ful proportion of our youth "fall into temptation and a snare," and are "drowned in destruction and perdition." Many a man has conquered the sins of youth, and then fallen before the sins of manhood. Sensual passion seems to acquire a new force then. The lust of gold. The thirst for position and fame urges men then. Men begin, for the most part, to be misers, or drunkards, or sensualists about this age. "A hoary head is a crown of glory if it be found in the way of righteousness." Yet old age has its special evils. Temptations to those sins which the Bible gathers up in the word "uncleanness." Often uncleanness of word and conversation; often, alas! of life and conduct also. It would appear that bodily lust and passion gathers itself in old age for one last struggle to gain the mastery.
(R. Tuck, B. A.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
Colossians 3:5). This sounds a hard saying, but it is one which can justify itself. For what is the essence of idolatry? Is it not a serving and loving of the creature more than the Creator; a giving to the lower what was due only to the higher, what was due only to Him who is the highest of all? And as this love of money disturbs the relations of men to God, drawing off to some meaner object affections due to Him, so it mingles continually an element of strife and division in the relations of men with one another. Again, what a root of unrighteousness, of untruthful dealing between man and man, of unfair advantage taken of the simple and the ignorant, of falsehood, fraud, and chicane, does the love of money continually show itself to be! And then — for time would fail me if I dwelt at large on all the mischiefs that spring from this, which even the heathen poet could style "the accursed hunger of gold" — what treading on the poor; what thrusting of them on unwholesome and dangerous occupations, with no due precautions taken for their health and safety; what shutting up of the bowels of compassion from the Lazarus lying at the gate; what wicked thoughts finding room in men's hearts, secret wishes for the death of those who stand between them and some coveted possession, have all their origin here. Consider, then, first, how powerless riches are against some of the worst calamities of our present life; how many of the sorrows which search men out the closest, which most drink up the spirit, these are utterly impotent to avert or to cure. Ask a man in a fit of the stone, or a victim of cancer, what his riches are worth to him; why, if he had the wealth of the Indies ten times told, he would exchange it all for ease of body, and a little remission of anguish. But why speak of bodily anguish? There is an anguish yet harder to bear, the anguish of the man whom the arrows of the Almighty, for they are His arrows, have pierced; who has learned what sin is, but has stopped short with the experience of the Psalmist, "Day and night Thy hand is heavy upon me; my moisture is like the drought in summer" (Psalm 32:4), and never learned that there is also an atonement. What profits it such a one that all the world is for him, so long as he feels and knows that God is against him? Then, too, how often we see a man comparatively desolate in the midst of the largest worldly abundance. These considerations may do something; but take now another and a more effectual remedy against this sin. Let a greater love expel a less, a nobler affection supersede a meaner. Consider often the great things for which you were made, the unsearchable riches of which you have been made partakers in Christ; for coveteousness, the desire of having, and of having ever more and more, sin as it is, is yet the degeneration of something which is not a sin. Man was made for the infinite; with infinite longings, infinite cravings and desires. But finally, the habit of largely and liberally setting apart from our income to the service of God and the necessities of our poorer brethren is a great remedy against covetousness.
(R. C. Trench.)
oppression: — The love of money is a root of every evil, and oppression is one of its many bitter fruits. The subject of this discourse is the multiform oppression of the poor, that results from a too eager pursuit of wealth. In ruder times, the rich often oppressed the poor in a very direct manner. When might took the place of right, they who had the power did not always take the trouble of covering their rapacity under legal forms. They kept back the labourer's hire, or seized his patrimonial field, or enslaved his person, according to the measure of impunity which their circumstances permitted them to enjoy. In this country, and in the present day, such vulgar robbery cannot be perpetrated. Love of money, a spring in the heart, when one channel of issue is blocked up, will force its way by another. Accordingly, this passion as certainly, and perhaps we should say as extensively, oppresses the poor now, as in ruder nations at earlier times. The same native evil is compelled to adopt more refined modes of action: but the oppression may be as galling to the poor and as displeasing to God although it keep strictly within the letter of human law. I have no doubt the law of Christ is violated amongst us — thoughtlessly, in ignorance, and in company with a multitude, it may be — but still sinfully violated, to a most alarming extent, in connection with the money-making efforts of this mercantile community. You have seen a street thronged from side to side with human beings, men, women, and children, all moving in one direction. The mass moves like a river. If every one keep his own place and glide along with the current, the motion will be gentle and harmless. But two or three strong men in the midst of that crowd conceive a desire to proceed at a much quicker rate than their neighbours. Yielding to that impulse, they bound forward with might and main. Observe the effect of their effort. They press on the persons that are next them. If these be strong men too, the only effect will be to push them faster forward, and the greater pressure may be only a pleasant excitement. But the pressure extends on either side, and is felt even to the outer edge of the crowd. Wherever there is a woman, a child, or a cripple, the feeble goes to the wall. The person originating the pressure may not be in contact with that sickly passenger — there may be many persons between them; but the pressure goes through all the intermediate links, not hurting any till it come to one who is unable to bear it, and hurting the helpless. In such a crowd you may sometimes see the selfishness of human nature in all is undisguised odiousness. The man seeks his own advantage, heedless of the injury that his effort may inflict on others. He is not guilty of a direct deed of injustice. He would not lift his hand to strike the feeble; he would not illegally wrest away his property. He endeavours to act justly: nay, he sometimes opens his hand in charity to the distressed. But really, though indirectly, he is an oppressor. He wriggles forward, although his movements necessarily hurt the poor. He looks to his own things; and disregards the things of others. He breaks the law of Christ. The oppressions which abound in our day, as the fruits of covetousness, are chiefly of this nature. They are by no means so gross as the tyranny which the feudal lords of the Middle Ages exercised on their serfs; but they spring from the same source, and are essentially of the same character in the estimation of the Judge. I shall now enumerate and briefly illustrate some of the forms which oppression assumes in modern society.
1. The reduction of wages below the point at which a labouring man can support his family, or a woman support herself.
2. The labour of children is another evil more or less remotely an effect of the haste to be rich.
3. Sabbath labour is one of the oppressions that the prevalence of the money-interest inflicts upon mankind. It is an evil that cries loud to the Lord of Hosts.
4. Yet another oppression let me name — the poor are in a great measure cooped up in crowded lanes, and miserable houses. This is one bitter fruit of a general selfishness. Conceive the force operating now within this city in the direction of money-making. If all the energies that are expended in that direction were added, how vast would the sum of them be! I know not a speculation more interesting than this. It would represent a power which, if collected and united, and turned upon the city's filth, and poverty, and ignorance, would sweep them away, as the stream of a mighty river rolling down our streets would carry off the mire that accumulated on their surface.
I. THE PATH BY WHICH COVETOUSNESS LEADS TO DISHONESTY is marked off step by step by the apostle in the text.
1. They "wilt be rich" (ver. 9). A class of persons are here characterized. They are described by the leading aim of their lives. It is not said what their religious profession was. Perhaps their belief was orthodox, and their zeal warm. All that we learn about them is, that in God's sight money was their "chief end." This is not a right — not a safe aim for an immortal being.
2. They "fall into temptation." The word conveys the idea of an unexpected fall — a stumble into a pit which you did not expect to be there. If the real movement of a man's life be toward money, while he diligently keeps his face turned round to maintain the appearance of being a Christian, he will certainly fall into every pit that lies in his way. The motion, too, is uneasy. Those who set out in pursuit of riches, making no other profession, get on more smoothly.
3. They fall into temptation. A man does not all at once go into vicious practices. He glides, before he is aware, into a position where he is exposed to the pressure of a strong temptation. Those who have rightly measured their own strength will avoid persons and places that put it to a severe test. He that trusteth to his own heart is a fool.
4. A snare marks another stage of this downward progress. The man who has thoughtlessly and in foolhardiness placed himself in the way of temptation, is soon surrounded — the meshes of a net compass him about. He got easily in, but he finds it impossible to get out again. He has recourse to a false entry, a forgery, or some other of the thousand tricks that the wit of hard-pressed men has invented, and the complicated forms of business has served to conceal. Behold the desperate, helpless fluttering of the bird in the snare of the fowler — dashing itself on the sides of an iron cage!
5. The next step is into "many foolish and hurtful lusts." These raging lusts are, as it were, watching, ready to fasten on their victim as soon as they see him in the toils of the net. You may have observed that a man whose pecuniary affairs are in a desperate position is peculiarly liable to fall into meaner vices. How frequently do the agonies and embarrassments that precede a shameful disclosure precipitate a man into the abyss of secret drunkenness! These lusts that covetousness leads to are "foolish and hurtful"; they pretend to cure, but they only deepen the wound. They apply a balsam that soothes the sore for a moment, but fixes disease more firmly in the flesh. I shall not trace this progress farther.
II. THE DISHONESTY TO WHICH COVETOUSNESS LEADS. "Flee these things, but follow after righteousness." The vices that the love of money lands in are not named at length. In general, they are said to be foolish and hurtful. But the opposite graces are individually specified. The first on the list is righteousness. Of course, the opposite vice to which covetousness tends, and against which his warning is directed, is injustice. Righteousness is required in all our transactions — righteousness, not according to the conventional rules of society, which shift like the sand, but according to the immutable standard of the Divine law. The righteous Lord loveth righteousness. How many are at this day put to shame for detected dishonesty, who once would have resented the supposition of it as keenly and sincerely as you! I do not know your hearts: and what is more, you do not know them yourselves. One who does know them, however, testifies that they are deceitful above all things. Some forms of dishonesty, such as a false balance, that are prominently condemned in Scripture, we shall pass over without particular notice, because in modern society, though they still exist, they have been comparatively cast into the shade by other inventions. Dishonesty is obliged to hide itself now under more elaborate devices. I mean the adulteration of goods offered for sale by the mixture of other ingredients. A false representation to a customer as to the original cost of your wares, or the rate of your profit, is manifestly dishonest. Above all things, you who have others, especially young persons, employed in selling your goods, charge them to be true and honest. I speak now not for the purchasers, but for the salesmen. Breach of trust is a form of dishonesty alarmingly frequent in our day. Righteousness is one and unchangeable. It compasses about your mighty trafficking, and lays bonds on it, as completely and as easily as the smallest bargainings between a huckster and a peasant at the wayside: even as the same law with equal ease retains a little water in a cup, and the ocean's wave within the ocean's bed.
(H. W. Beecher.)
But thou, O man of God.I. HIS RELATIONS TO GOD are suggested by the title itself, "man of God." This had formerly been distinctive of a prophet, and especially of Elijah, the great reformer, who so realized the truth underlying it that he began many a message by the favourite formula, "The Lord God of Israel, before whom I stand." In Ephesus, Timothy had to take up as decided a stand against prevailing evils as Elijah had maintained in the kingdom of Israel; and he too was to find strength and wisdom in the presence of God, whence he might come forth to the people as God's representative and spokesman. Any devout man may be called a "man of God" if he is —
1. Living near God and coming forth to his duties, as Moses came from the mount of communion, reflecting the light of heaven.
2. Representing God is the outcome of communion with Him. Reflection of light can only result from the incidence of light. A mirror shut up in a pitch-dark cellar is not to be distinguished by the eye from a flagstone, but placed in the sunlight it may reflect a whole heaven of beauty. If you would let your light shine before men, you must put yourself in true relation to the Sun of Righteousness. And, again, no one would be called "a man of God" unless he was —
3. Seeking God's ends. It was because Timothy was by profession and in character "God's man" that the apostle assumes that his course would of necessity be different from that of the worldly — that he would flee the things they loved. Everyone would discredit the assertion of one who said he represented a drapery establishment if, day after day, he was engaged in buying and selling timber or coal, and left all soft goods unregarded.
II. HIS RELATIONS TO SIN are those of unconquerable repugnance.
1. The nature of these sins is exemplified in the words uttered just before by Paul against the love of money, the hurtful lusts of the human heart, and the foolish and evil practices to which these lead.
2. The means of escape from these are twofold. Sometimes we may meet and conquer a temptation, and sometimes we may more wisely flee from it.
III. HIS RELATIONS TO VIRTUES. Negative precepts distinguished the Old Dispensation, but the New Dispensation is not content with them. The virtues mentioned here are arranged in pairs.
1. Righteousness and godliness include all conduct towards God: obedience to His law, trust and reverence, devoutness and prayer.
2. Faith and love are the two essentials to such a life, for righteousness is the offspring of faith, and godliness is the offspring of love.
3. Patience and meekness have regard to our dealings with our fellow-men, especially with those who persecute or wrong us, and they are among the most difficult graces to exhibit.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
I. The text speaks of a MAN.
II. The text says that we are not only to be a man, but it tells us what sort of a man; it says — a "man of GOD." There are two or three kinds of men.
1. There is the "manor the world." You hear such a person say, "Well, you know, I am a man of the world." A "man of the world" is supposed to know everything, but, as a rule, you find that what he knows is everything of indulgence and badness. But does he know how to bear trial when it comes? But the "man of God" feels that duty, principle, righteousness, are of first importance. The "man of the world" puts expediency before him; the "man of God" has principle for his guide. The "man of God" says, "It is not necessary for me to live, but it is necessary that the women and children should get out of danger before me." The "man of the world" always pushes himself first, because he is a "man of the world"; the "man of God" first lifts up others, because he is a "man of God."
2. Then there is the "man of business." All such a man is noted for is that he is a "man of business." His greatest characteristic is that his head is "screwed on the right way." The "man of God" seeks first the kingdom of God; the "things" of the world are of secondary importance. The "man of God" is, however, "diligent in business," but he is not a slave to it.
3. There are also other classes of persons called "men of wealth" and "men of learning." Being a "man of God" implies a man who has found God — God is in all his thoughts. Is God so hard to find as some of the Churches would have us believe? The "man of God" is one who has not only found God, but obeys His commandments. In the text the "man of God" is called upon to "follow righteousness"; that is, to train himself to act in a right or straight course of conduct. An old writer has pointed out that man has naturally a habit of walking askew. How difficult for a man to walk a hundred yards in a perfectly straight line! It is impossible for him to do so if he shut his eyes. I appeal to your recollection whether you ever saw a straight path across a field; it is always tortuous, in and out. Likewise, the path taken by a man's heart is not direct and straight by nature. The "man of God" is reliable; he can be trusted with uncounted gold, and his word is as good as his bond. The "man of God" should be godly; that is, like God, unselfish, not seeking exclusively his own good, but the good of all. The "man of God" will practise self-respect, self-control, and self-denial.
(Memoir of Stewart, the Millionaire.)
I. In the first place, PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE COMMON TO US WITH GOD. Long-suffering is His darling attribute; and what is dear in His sight ought not to be less precious in ours. And how marvellous is His patience who daily pours His blessings on those men who as daily offend, affront, and dishonour Him! Yet God's blessings are abused to the purposes of luxury and lasciviousness; His truth is denied; His commandments are broken; His Church is persecuted; His ministers are insulted; His Son is crucified afresh; and His own long-suffering is made an argument against His existence — and He is still patient. What is man, then, that he should complain?
II. The patience which we so much admire in God SHONE FORTH YET MORE AMAZINGLY IN THE PERSON OF HIS SON JESUS CHRIST. For was ever patience like that patience which, descending from a throne of glory, bore a long imprisonment in the womb to sanctify sinners, and lay in a stable to bring them to a kingdom.
III. The patience thus practised by Christ IS ENJOINED BY HIS HOLY GOSPEL, being, indeed, the badge of that gospel and its professors. Is the mind tempted to impatience by the disappointment of its desires and the loss of worldly goods and enjoyments? The Scripture, to eradicate the temptation, is full of precepts enjoining us to contemn the world, and not to set our hearts upon things that pass away, and that cannot satisfy the soul when it is possessed of them. The worldly man is always impatient, because he prefers his body to his soul; the Christian prefers his soul to his body, and therefore knows how to give largely and to lose patiently.
IV. IF WE FIND ALL THE SAINTS OF GOD who have been eminent for their faith in Christ TO HAVE BEEN AS EMINENT FOR THEIR PATIENCE, without which their faith must have failed in the day of trial; it being not through faith alone, but, as the apostle says, "through faith and patience," that they "inherited the promises. Faith begat patience, which, like a dutiful child, proved the support of its parent. Through patience Moses, so often abused and insulted, and only not stoned by a stiffnecked people, still entreated the Lord for them.
V. THE PRESENT STATE OF MAN RENDERS THE PRACTICE OF THIS VIRTUE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY FOR HIM if he would enjoy any happiness here or hereafter. Could we, indeed, live in the world without suffering, then were there no need of patience. "He that endureth to the end shall be saved. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."
VI. THE MANIFOLD INCONVENIENCES OF IMPATIENCE WILL SET THIS TRUTH OFF TO GREAT ADVANTAGE. As patience is the attribute of God, impatience had its beginning from Satan. "Through envy of the devil," saith the wise man, "came death into the world." And whence proceeds envy but from impatience of beholding the happiness of another? Impatience and malice, therefore, had one father, and they have grown together in his children ever since.
Fight the good fight of faith.
(W. C. Smith, D. D.)
I. TRUE CHRISTIANITY IS A FIGHT. True Christianity! Let us mind that word "true." There is a vast quantity of religion current in the world which is not true, genuine Christianity. The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. He is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence, and security. With whom is the Christian soldier meant to fight? Not with other Christians. Wretched indeed is that man's idea of religion who fancies that it consists in perpetual controversy! No, indeed! The principal fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh, and the-devil. These are his never-dying foes. Unless he gets the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain. He must fight the flesh. Even after conversion he carries within him a nature prone to evil, and a heart weak and unstable as water. He must fight the world, The subtle influence of that mighty enemy must be daily resisted, and without a daily battle can never be overcome. The love of the world's good things — the fear of the world's laughter or blame — the secret desire to keep in with the world — the secret wish to do as others in the world do, and not to run into extremes — all these are spiritual foes which beset the Christian continually on his way to heaven, and must be conquered. He must fight the devil. That old enemy of mankind is not dead. Remember the maxim of the wisest general that ever lived in England — "In time of war it is the worst mistake to underrate your enemy, and try to make a little war." This Christian warfare is no light matter. Saved souls will always be found to have fought a fight. Let us not think that in this war we can remain neutral and sit still. Such a line of action may be possible in the strife of nations, but it is utterly impossible in that conflict which concerns the soul. The boasted policy of non-interference — the "masterly inactivity" which pleases so many statesmen — the plan of keeping quiet and letting things alone — all this will never do in the Christian warfare. It is a fight of universal necessity. No rank, or class, or age, can plead exemption, or escape the battle. Ministers and people, preachers and hearers, old and young, high and low, rich and poor, gentle and simple, kings and subjects, landlords and tenants, learned and unlearned — all alike must carry arms and go to war. It is a fight of perpetual necessity. It admits of no breathing time, no armistice, no truce. On week-days as well as on Sundays — in private as well as in public — at home by the family fireside as well as abroad — in little things like management of tongue and temper, as well as in great ones like the government of kingdoms — the Christian's warfare must unceasingly go on.
II. TRUE CHRISTIANITY IS THE FIGHT OF FAITH. Success depends entirely on believing. A general faith in the truth of God's written Word is the primary foundation of the Christian soldier's character. A religion without doctrine or dogma is a thing which many are fond of talking of in the present day. It sounds very fine at first. It looks very pretty at a distance. But the moment we sit down to examine and consider it, we shall find it a simple impossibility. We might as well talk of a body without bones and sinews. As for true Christians, faith is the very backbone of their spiritual existence. No one ever fights earnestly against the world, the flesh, and the devil, unless he has engraven on his heart certain great principles which he believes. A special faith in our Lord Jesus Christ's person, work, and office, is the life, heart, and mainspring of the Christian soldier's character. Habitual lively faith in Christ's presence and readiness to help is the secret of the Christian soldier fighting successfully. He that has most faith will always be the happiest and most comfortable soldier. Nothing makes the anxieties of warfare sit so lightly on a man as the assurance of Christ's love and continual protection. Let us turn to the pages of early Church history. Let us see how the primitive Christians held fast their religion even unto death, and were not shaken by the fiercest persecutions of heathen emperors. For centuries there were never wanting men like and Ignatius, who were ready to die rather than deny Christ. Fines, and prisons, and torture, and fire, and sword, were unable to crush the spirit of the noble army of martyrs. The whole power of imperial Rome, the mistress of the world, proved unable to stamp out the religion which began with a few fishermen and publicans in Palestine! And then let us remember that believing in an unseen Jesus was the Church's strength. They won their victory by faith. Let us examine the story of the Reformation. Let us study the lives of its leading champions — Wycliffe, and Huss, and Luther, and Ridley, and Latimer, and Hooper. Let us mark how these gallant soldiers of Christ stood firm against a host of adversaries, and were ready to die for their principles. What battles they fought! What controversies they maintained! What contradiction they endured! What tenacity of purpose they exhibited against a world in arms! And then let us remember that believing in an unseen Jesus was the secret of their strength. They overcame by faith.
III. TRUE CHRISTIANITY IS A GOOD FIGHT. "Good" is a curious word to apply to any warfare. All worldly war is more or less evil. The Scripture does not call the Christian fight "a good fight" without reason and cause.
1. The Christian's fight is good because fought under the best of generals. The Leader and Commander of all believers is our Divine Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ — a Saviour of perfect wisdom, infinite love, and almighty power. The Captain of our salvation never fails to lead His soldiers to victory.
2. The Christian's fight is good, because fought with the best of helps. Weak as each believer is in himself, the Holy Spirit dwells in him, and his body is a temple of the Holy Ghost.
3. The Christian fight is a good fight, because fought with the best of promises.
4. The Christian's fight is a good fight, because fought with the best of issues and results.
5. The Christian's fight is good, because it does good to the soul of him that fights it. All other wars have a bad, lowering, and demoralizing tendency. They call forth the worst passions of the human mind. They harden the conscience, and sap the foundations of religion and morality. The Christian warfare alone tends to call forth the best things that are left in man. It promotes humility and charity, it lessens selfishness and worldliness, it induces men to set their affections on things above.
6. The Christian's fight is a good fight, because it does good to the world. All other wars have a devastating, ravaging, and injurious effect. But go where you please, you will find that the presence of a few true Christians is a blessing. Surely this is good!
7. Finally, the Christian's fight is good, because it ends in a glorious reward for all who fight it.(1) It may be you are struggling hard for the rewards of this world. Perhaps you are straining every nerve to obtain money, or place, or power, or pleasure.(2) It may be you know something of the Christian warfare, and are a tried and proved soldier already.
I. IN WHAT RESPECTS THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS THE FIGHT OF FAITH.
1. There are enemies of our salvation, and there must be faith in the soul to set against them. Where there are not two parties, there can be no fight. There is no fighting in heaven, for there are no enemies there (Revelation 21:25). There is none of this fighting in the unbelieving world neither; for the enemies have all there alone, and there is no faith to set against them (Luke 11:21).
2. Faith has the chief interest in this fight. In it there will be use for all the graces, the doing and suffering graces: yet the fight has its name from faith, as that which has the chief hand in it. It carries on the fight, and obtains the victory — "Whom resist, steadfast in the faith" (2 Peter 5:9).
3. Lastly, the great design of a holy God, in that fight is the trial of faith. Hence says the apostle (1 Peter 1:6, 7).
II. IN WHAT RESPECTS IT IS A GOOD FIGHT?
III. WHY IS THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, IN THE DISPOSAL OF HOLY PROVIDENCE, MADE A FIGHT? No doubt the Lord could have given His people a constant sunshine as well on this side as the other side of death, and cleared the way of those armed adversaries that are ready to attack them.
1. That the members may be conformed to their Head in their passage through the world.
2. That the nothingness, and utter unworthiness of the creature, which is to wear the crown of glory for ever, may convincingly appear; so as they themselves and all others may see it is owing purely to free grace, not to them (Deuteronomy 8:2).
3. For the greater confusion of the grand adversary, who, attacked Him in person in the world, and whom He causeth poor weak creatures to triumph over after they have maintained a fight with Him (Romans 16:20).
4. For the greater glory of the Captain of their salvation, the more full display of the freedom of grace, and the efficacy of His blood and Spirit.
5. For that they may have a greater variety of experiences — "Patience worketh experience; and experience, hope" (Romans 5:4).
6. Lastly, that heaven may be the more sweet to them, when they come to it.
IV. WHY THEIR FIGHT IS CALLED A FIGHT OF FAITH. The reason is, because by that means all the glory of the victories obtained redounds to free grace, not to the sinner himself, "It is of faith, that it might be by grace" (Romans 4:16).
V. I WILL TOUCH AT SOME PARTICULAR FIGHTS OF FAITH THE CHRISTIAN MAY HAVE IN HIS COURSE HEAVENWARD, SUCH AS —
1. In a call to some more than ordinary work or duty.
2. In desertion.
3. In temptations from Satan.
4. In afflictions.
5. With this present evil world.
6. With sin.
7. With death.Some have a fighting life with the world all their days: but, alas! it is not the fight of faith with it, but a sinful faithless fighting with it, that carries on the ruin of their souls. Ye will know this faithless fight with it by these two things.
1. All their fight is to get something of the world, not to be kept from the spiritual evil of the world.
2. Their fight they have with the world takes away from them all favour of the Word of God and of religion.We must then stay our hearts by faith —
1. Firmly believing the Scripture accounts of the unseen world (Hebrews 11:1).
3. Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ for your safe passage to the upper part of the unseen world (Psalm 73:24; Psalm 31:5); committing your soul to Him, rolling the weight of your through-bearing on Him as the Captain of salvation appointed of God to bring many sons to glory.
4. Believing that your Lord Christ is Lord of the unseen world, and that the whole compass of it above and below is under His dominion (Revelation 1:18).
(T. Boston, D. D.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
Homilist.I. IT IS SEVERE. Our enemies are many, strong, united.
II. IT IS PAINFUL. It is the house divided against itself. One desire in antagonism to another.
III. IT IS CONSTANT. Foes never tire, we must never rest.
I. SURVEY THE FIELD OF BATTLE. This world is a great battlefield. Upon its bosom are two armies. They are disproportionate in numbers. The one is large, united, armed, disciplined, and determined. The other is small, sometimes trembling and irresolute, with here and there a bold and earnest hero, but for the most part but indifferent soldiers. Their appearance and preparations are best described in 1 Kings 20:27; and it may be that this very passage was intended as a type of them: "The children of Israel pitched before them like two little flocks of kids; but the Syrians filled the country." In this position they are both ready for the battle; but alas! the one is oftentimes more ready than the other. The first is united, and it fills the country: the other is as two flocks of kids. The first is armed with every conceivable weapon: the other has but one. The first is disciplined and determined: the other is simple and feeble. And yet, withal, there is no doubt of the issue. Every soldier in the little army is unconquerable. Many and many an antagonist is conquered and subdued. To what, then, must we attribute this remarkable success? Not to their numbers, certainly; for they are the fewest of any people. Not to their wisdom; for they are the foolish of this world. Not to their strength; for they are the weak things of it. It is to their Captain who commands them. He is the cause of this incessant victory against their overwhelming odds. The first army is commanded, indeed, by a mighty prince. No common general is he. Uniting every species of ability and strength save one, he is altogether invincible by any other might than that of our Commander; but before Him he has no success.
II. We are now to investigate THE NATURE OF THEIR WARFARE. The apostle here calls it a "good fight," and a "fight of faith"; by which terms he shows us at once the object and method of warfare.
1. Take its object. It is the very opposite of the world. The object of the true soldier of Christ is to win souls to Him, to save men from hell, to make known the salvation purchased by Christ, and the promised freedom of the soul from sin.
2. Take, next, the principles of this warfare. Here again we see the difference between these two contending armies. In Satan's army every conceivable weapon is authorized. Lying, equivocation, misrepresentation, forging of books, corruptions of human writings, and the base and unholy trickery of false miracles, are resorted to as occasion may demand. Not such are the principles upon which Christians are called to fight. To them it is not permitted to act but according to the will and Word of God.
3. Let us regard, then, the methods by which the army of Christ are required to maintain their ground in the world. There are three modes of warfare by which they do this. They disarm their opponents, they silence the enemy, they bring them over to their side. These are the results of the Christian's mode of warfare.
III. But I proceed to consider THE WEAPONS WHICH THE CHRISTEN WARRIOR USES. Will all the tradition, or all the philosophy, or all the science of the world break any sinner's heart, or bring him into captivity, or destroy the power of his sins? They are not the Christian's sword, and with such shall no man prevail. But let us bring the. gospel to bear upon these cases. Let us set before the young man, the infidel, or the selfish worldling the love of God in Christ, exhibiting as it does on the one hand the peril and necessary judgment of sin, and on the other the glorious remedy which is provided, and you bring the only weapon which will pierce their hearts. The Scripture, then, is our weapon.
IV. THE DISCIPLINE WHICH IS NECESSARY FOR SO GREAT A CONFLICT.
1. Keep under the body. A habit of self-restraint is an essential element in Christian warfare.
2. Another direction is to endure hardness. Softness, and that temper which makes us shrink from opposition and the rough usage which we may meet with in our career, is often a sad hindrance to the Christian.
3. But the main thing is, that he should study the use of his weapon.
4. Last of all, pray.
(W. Harrison, M. A.)
Lay hold on eternal life.
I. Consider OUR NEED OF ETERNAL LIFE. Greatest gift of God! eternal life is deliverance from eternal death, the curse of a broken law, and the doom of a burning hell. Eternal life is eternal blessedness — the pardon of sin's guilt, and freedom from its tyrannous power.
II. Consider HOW WE OBTAIN ETERNAL LIFE.
III. Consider more particularly WHAT WE HAVE TO DO, TO OBTAIN ETERNAL LIFE. Do! It is not to make ourselves worthy of it; nor to attempt to merit it; nor to wait till we are holy before we come to Christ. Salvation is not of works, but of faith.
IV. Consider WHEN WE ARE TO LAY HOLD ON ETERNAL LIFE — When — but now? If the body is in great danger, and means of safety and escape are offered, there is no occasion to press them on men; to cry, lay hold on life, or say, do it now.
(T. Guthrie, D. D.)
I. "Lay hold on eternal life," that is, BELIEVE IN IT. You cannot lay hold on it unless you know it to be a reality. We do not lay hold on shadows, or fictions, or fancies. It is needful, therefore, to begin by a realizing faith.
1. That we may believe in this life, let me say that Holy Scripture constantly describes men unrenewed by Divine grace as being dead; they are "dead in trespasses and sins."
2. The Scripture represents believers everywhere as possessing everlasting life. "He that believeth in Him hath everlasting life."
3. This life is produced by the operation of the Holy Spirit within the heart.
4. What a difference this quickening has made in those who have received it! What a marvellous life it is! It brings with it new perceptions, new emotions, new desires. It has new senses: there are new eyes, with which we see the invisible; new ears, with which we hear the voice of God, before inaudible. Then have we a new touch, with which we lay hold on Divine truth; then have we a new taste, so that we "taste and see that the Lord is good." This new life ushers us into a new world, and gives us new relationships and new privileges. I want you all to get this idea into your heads — I mean all of you who have not learned this fact as yet: there is a life superior to that of common men — a life eternal, to be enjoyed now and here. I want this idea to become a practical force with you. Stephenson got the notion of a steam-engine into his brain, and the steam-engine soon became a natural fact with him. Palissy, the potter, had his mind full of his art, and for it he sacrificed everything till he gained his end; so may you, by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, lay hold upon eternal life as being a blessed possibility; and may you be moved to seek it! There is an eternal life; there is a life of God in the soul of man; and I trust that you will each one resolve, "If it is to be had I will have it." Henceforth direct your thoughts and desires this way.
II. But this is not enough: it is merely the door-step of the subject. "Lay hold on eternal life": that is to say, POSSESS IT. Get it into your own soul: be yourself alive. How is eternal life grasped?
1. It is laid hold of by faith in Jesus Christ. It is a very simple thing to trust the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet it is the only way of obtaining the eternal life.
2. This life once laid hold upon is exercised in holy acts. From day to day we lay hold on eternal life by exercising ourselves unto godliness in deeds of holiness and lovingkindness. Let your life be love, for love is life. Let your life be one of prayer and praise, for these are the breath of the new life.
3. In laying hold upon it, remember that it is increased by growth. Zealously grasp more and more of it. Do not be afraid of having too much spiritual life. Lay hold on it; for Christ has come not only that we may have life, but that we may have it more abundantly.
4. Remember that spiritual life is enjoyed in the fullest sense in close communion with God. "This is life eternal, to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent."
III. "Lay hold on eternal life." That is, WATCH OVER IT, guard it, and protect it. Most men will preserve their lives at any cost. Unless they are drunk or mad, they will do anything for dear life: "Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life."
1. Let every believer regard the life of God within him as being the most precious possession, more valuable by far than the natural life. It would be wise to lay down a thousand natural lives, if we had them, in order to preserve the spiritual life.
2. To that end the apostle bade Timothy flee from those things which are detrimental to that life. "Thou, O man of God, flee these things." A man that is very careful of his life will not remain in a house where fever has been rife.
3. Then the apostle tells Timothy to seek after everything that would promote his eternal life. He says, "Follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness": seek after that which will exercise and develop your highest life. Frequent those hills of holiness where the atmosphere is bracing for your new-born spirit.
4. God help us to lay hold on eternal life, and to that end above all things lay hold on Christ! We only live in Him: He is our life. To be divided from Christ is as surely death to us as it would be death to the body to be separated from the head.
IV. "Lay hold on eternal life," that is, FULFIL IT. Labour that the time of your sojourning here shall be occupied, not with this poor, dying existence, but with the eternal life.
1. Fulfil the higher and the eternal life in every position of society. The chapter opens with advice to servants, who then were slaves. Their earthly life was wretched indeed, but the apostle bids them live, not for this present life, but for the eternal life.
2. Fulfil this better life, also, by leaving alone those questions which would swallow up the hour. See how Paul destroys these devourers — "Questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself."
3. Further, the apostle bids us do this so as to surmount the temptations of selfishness. He warns us that "they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
V. Last of all, EXACT ETERNAL LIFE. By the two hands of faith and hope lay hold on eternal life as the great reward of the righteous.
1. Let me suggest that we think much about the life to come. We shall soon be there in the endless home, let us send our thoughts thither like couriers in advance.
2. When you think of it, and your heart grows warm with the thought, then count it very near. Suppose you are to live a comparatively long life, yet no human life is really long.
3. Rehearse eternal life! Rehearse the service and joy of heaven! They have rehearsals of fine pieces of music; let us have a rehearsal of heaven's harmonies. The thing is practicable.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I give thee charge in the sight of God.
I. THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST is suggested in the allusion made to —
1. His good confession before Pontius Pilate. It is well for us when we either suffer, or compel, all the incidents of life to lead our thoughts back to Christ. It was partly in order to make this possible that the details of His life and ministry are so fully given in the Gospels. Temptations, troubles, friendships, joys, conflicts, all that go to make up our experience, find counterparts in Him. He witnessed a good confession, though He knew the price of it would be agony, shame, and death! There was a difference, however, between the Lord's confession and Timothy's or ours. Timothy "confessed" the good confession, Christ Jesus "witnessed" the good confession. Christ "witnessed" because He was identified with the truth He confessed, and was the source of every such confession after. Timothy "confessed," for his confession was responsive and secondary, and found. its inspiration in that of his Lord.
2. Christ's achieved victory is another source of encouragement to His faithful followers. The Cross of Calvary was the immediate result of our Lord's good confession; but that was not its final result. God, who quickeneth all things, has raised Him from the dead, and amongst the glorified and redeemed He already appears as Prince and Saviour. The victory of Christ is the encouragement and inspiration of all who are engaged in the conflicts of truth with error, of holiness with sin. Notice how this description of the expected appearing of Christ leads to the noble doxology which celebrates —
II. THE GREATNESS AND GLORY OF GOD, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see; to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen." If He be for us, who can be against us? Timothy is fittingly reminded that —
1. God is eternal. All time is at His disposal.
2. God is the blessed and only Potentate. If you substitute for "blessed" its synonym in modern English, you get the beautiful truth, that ours is a happy God — full of joy in Himself, the source of joy to all His creatures.
3. "God quickeneth all things." He can so quicken us that out of sadness and difficulties and torpor He can raise us to newness of life.
4. God is incomprehensible — as yet to us — in Himself and in His doings; "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto." It is a beautiful thought, that He is not hidden from us through absence of light, but through excess of light. Therefore, amid the gradual development of His purposes, we have only to witness a good confession, leaving all the results to Him.
5. God is Almighty, "the only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords," the King of those who reign, the Lord of those who rule. All authority is in His hands. Let us not lose sight of Him to whom in this passage the great apostle ascribes honour and power everlasting. We too often regard ourselves as the rulers of the world, and forget our absolute dependence; but, in relation to the blessed and only Potentate, we are far more insignificant than insects are in relation to us.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
The blessed and only Potentate
II. was scourged by monks before the shrine of Canterbury; when John received back his crown from Pandulf; when Godfrey refused to wear a crown of gold where his Saviour had a crown of thorns; when Rudolf of Hapsburg, not finding the sceptre in the temple of his coronation, seized upon the crucifix and swore that that should be his sceptre; when the most ancient crown of Europe was made, not of gold, but of iron, and that iron hammered, as men believed, out of a nail of the true cross — what was this but the homage of earthly kings to a Diviner royalty! Yes; and no power on earth has ever been able to resist Christ. Tell it out among the heathen that the Lord is King! Greece despised Him, and Greece glimmered into a dream; but the Cross remains. Rome hated Him, and Rome has crumbled into the dust; but the Cross remains. Philosophy rejected Him, and philosophy has sunk into impotence; but the Cross remains, Is ire your King? Or will you choose in His place some vile and worth less tyranny, some evil spirit, some despotic and besetting vice? Three centuries ago the Spaniards were besieging the little town of St. Quentin, on the frontiers of France. Its ramparts were in ruins, fever and famine were decimating its defenders, treason was gliding among its terrified population. One day the Spaniards shot over the walls a shower of arrows to which were attached little slips of parchment, promising the inhabitants that if they would surrender, their lives and property should be spared. Now, the governor of the town was the great leader of the Huguenots, Gaspard de Coligni. As his sole answer he took a piece of parchment, tied it to a javelin, wrote on it the two words, Regem habemus — "We have a king", and hurled it back into the camp of the enemy. Now that was true loyalty, loyalty in imminent peril, loyalty ready to sacrifice all. But who was that king for whom, amidst sword and flame, amid fever and famine, Coligni was defending those breached and battered walls? It was the weak and miserable Henry II. of France, whose son, Charles IX., was afterwards guilty of the murder of Coligui and the infamies of St. Bartholomew. Have you a king? Is Christ your King? All, if He be, He is not a feeble, corrupt, false, treacherous man like Coligui's master, but a King who loves you, who died for you, who pleads with you even now on the right hand of the Majesty on High. Is Christ your King? If you are selfish and frivolous; if you are a better and a gambler; if you are a whisperer and one who delights in lies; if you are a fornicator or a "profane person, as was Esau"; if you worship Mammon; if your god is your ledger and you mind earthly things; if you are double-tongued, shifty, niggardly, worldly — say not that Christ is your King. Is Christ your King? If in sincerity and truth you will take Christ for your King and Captain I promise you two things. First, I promise you security. Principle is a noble thing; but in the fatal mirage of the passions principle is lost sight of, and amid the glamour of temptation principle not only loses something of its pristine splendour, but it becomes as if it were not. And the other blessing which Christ will give you is joy.; for .Christ says," Peace I give you, My peace I leave with you; not as the world giveth give I unto you." "Not as the world giveth!" There has been a joy in dungeons and on scaffolds passing the joy of the harvest. Christ does not delude as Satan does with promises as. "Serve me, and you shall be rich."
1. Jesus is a King in His own eternal and essential right. He is the Creator of all things; He is the Preserver of all things; He is the sovereign Lord and Proprietor of ell things. But, then, He is a King in another sense, and it is to that, that allusion is here made.
2. He has a mediatorial kingdom which was given Him by the Father as a recompense for His great and glorious undertaking on behalf of our world: and thus He is a mediatorial King. Now, in this view of the subject as a mediatorial King, and having mediatorial kingdom committed to His care, trust, management, and government, we may observe that this kingdom was small in its origin. At its first rising after His resurrection and ascension, the dimensions were small.
3. But, then, there is a third kingdom: if I may so speak, another kingdom within this kingdom — a kingdom in the hearts of His beloved people. "The kingdom of God," it is said, "is within you." It is in vain for men to pretend that they are the subjects of Christ merely because they are so outwardly.
4. I say He is a very bountiful Sovereign in whom you have trusted. He has promised to give everything which He possesses that He can give, and that His subjects can receive. He has made a covenant with them which is well ordered in all things and sure. "All things are yours."
5. Observe, again, He is a tender-hearted and sympathizing Sovereign. He feels for all His subjects; for every one of you, and for the meanest subject that He has; so that everything which concerns them concerns Him. There is no trial which presses sore on the mind which He does not feel, and in which He does not participate.
6. Then, observe, He is a condescending Sovereign. He entreats you to come to His bosom — to make known to Him your every concern. Solomon has this expression, "In the light of the king's countenance is life." There is doubtless here an allusion to the language of his royal Father: the father said, "Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us." So he says again, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple." Then again it is said, "In Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
Whom no man hath seenI. Consider WHAT THE EYE ITSELF IS, THE POOR IMPLEMENT OF WHICH WE DEMAND SO MUCH. A ball of clay and mortality, it can act only on what is material and corruptible like itself. It is limited to a certain province even among these surrounding things. How delicate an organ it is, that is yet capable of taking in the broad scenes of the ocean and the land, and reaching as it were the stars at their immeasurable distances! At very short intervals of time it must be shut up within its fringes from the very light that it lives by; and when it is in its utmost vigour, the direct flash of a single sunbeam is more than it can bear. A tear dims it. A mote takes away from it every capacity but that of pain. A spark destroys it for ever. It cannot penetrate even the thin veils of outward nature. The true light may shine inward, though the body be dark. The soul sees otherwise and more nobly than through that narrow window. Is it through these lenses of flesh — so easily distempered, so often giving false pictures, so soon to perish — is it through these that we would gaze on the King Eternal?
II. Think, further, WHO HE IS WHOM WE ASK TO BE THUS MANIFESTED TO US. The very idea of God absolutely excludes the possibility of His being an object of sight. He is a pure Intelligence, circumscribed by no form, bounded by no space, and to be communicated with only through the Spirit which Himself imparts. But the unconvinced may say: This is not what we seek, or have ever imagined. But we would lay our eyes upon some undeniable signs and representatives of the Almighty Providence. Yet the Scriptures tell them, and their own religious reason tells them, that they are actually surrounded with just such signs and representatives in the natural creation. It is His spirit that gives it life. It is His wisdom that gives it law. It is not, however, with such as these, they may reply, that we are satisfied. We would have testimonies strictly miraculous, transcending all the powers of nature, and thus exhibiting an immediate connection with the Almighty One. The Scriptures and our religious reason then take up the word again and say: Foolish and slow of heart! unless ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. It does not seem, then, that there is the virtue you fancy in the spectacle that you ask. And why should there be? Why should transient visions and strange occurrences impart a steadier trust than the perpetual marvels of this glorious world, and the eternal chain of decrees and providences that can be held but in one sovereign hand? One thing more may be urged by those who withhold or utter faintly the ascription in the text, "To whom be honour and power ever lasting," because "no man hath seen nor can see Him." They may say, It is not even such wonders as you have alluded to that we crave. They are for the individual only, or at most have their chief concern with but a tribe or a generation of men. We would have a supernatural sign that should be permanent and universal. It should be for all eyes. To this suggestion we need not call on the Scriptures for a reply. It demands an open impossibility, and is inconsistent with itself. Whatever should be thus associated with the works of nature must necessarily be regarded as one of them, however marvellous and inexplicable it might appear. We can scarcely conceive of anything more wonderful than is somewhere or other already presented. From what has been said, I hope it has been made clear, that no one has cause for objection or mistrust because the Lord is invisible, for it is inconceivable how He should be otherwise. "To Him, whom no man hath seen or can see, be honour and power everlasting." "What we adore under the affection of our senses," says an old writer, "deserves not the honour of so pure a title. Nor is it strange that we should place affection on that which is invisible. All that we truly love is thus." The soul itself — is it not invisible, like its Source? To be born as we are, animal and moral beings, into two states at once — to dwell in a world like this we inhabit of pale reflections and shadows, where what is the most real is the least obvious — and at the same time to think the outward shape everything, and the secret intelligence and power that makes all to be what it is, nothing — this is to want the very sense that best becomes and exults us. The Scriptures, with a beautiful boldness of expression, speak of "seeing Him who is invisible." And when they thus speak, their meaning is twofold — to acquaint ourselves with him and to rejoice as in His presence. "He that doeth evil," says John, "hath not seen God." But" Blessed are the pure in heart," it is for them that the double privilege is reserved of knowing and enjoying Him.
(N. L. Frothingham.)
1 Timothy 6:16).
Charge them that are rich in this world.I. THE DANGERS OF THE RICH are manifold, but only two or three are suggested here.
1. The danger of self-conceit is hinted at in the words, "Charge them that are rich in this world that they be not high-minded." The vulgar boasting of wealth, and the ostentatious display of it, are indications of this. Again, the self-sufficiency that leads a successful man to attribute all his gains to his own shrewdness and diligence, and to speak contemptuously of those who never get on in the world, as if God had nothing to do with his physical energy and mental calibre, with the education and training of his youth, or with the unexpected opportunities of his manhood, is another sign of "high-mindedness." The pride which refuses to associate with those whose income is smaller, and which will hold aloof from intelligent and religious men and women, in order to cultivate acquaintance with those whose minds are shallow, but whose establishments are costly, and whose influence in the money market is great.
2. Another danger threatening rich men is that of trusting to uncertain riches. It is on this evanescence that Paul lays stress when he speaks of the folly of trusting to them. He hints at the conquest of this by exercising confidence in the living God, who giveth us all things richly to enjoy. The remembrance of the fact that God gave you money adds sacredness to it, a sense of responsibility in the use of it, and arouses the gratitude and praise which are His due.
II. THE OPPORTUNITIES OF THE RICH are as noteworthy as their dangers.
1. They can "do good" to others, and many a noble institution has its source in the generous and wise gifts of those whom God has prospered. But besides this —
2. They can do noble things. The words used by Paul, which are both rendered "good" (in the R.V. as well as the A.V.), have not the same meaning in Greek. They would be better translated, "Charge them that they do good, and that they be rich in noble deeds." The latter word used by Paul signifies what is honourable and lovely in itself. It fell from the lips of our Lord when He described Mary's act of devotion. Rich men can afford to make wise and noble experiments in philanthropy and in Christian enterprise.
III. THE RECOMPENSE OF THE RICH who are thus faithful is not obscurely taught in the words which describe them as laying up in store for themselves "a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life." Of course, Paul does not mean that they gain eternal life by their good works. No one insists more strongly than he does on the fact that salvation is the gift of sovereign grace to the sinful and undeserving. But from its nature this grace becomes a talent, with which we are to do service for God. And since the nature of the future recompense is found in the development of life, all that makes that life more full of possibility and of result lays up in store a good foundation against the time to come. The fact is, that the connection between this life and that is far closer than many imagine it to be.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
1. To trust in riches, is to trust in what we may never acquire; to trust in God, is to trust in Him whom we may always depend on finding.
2. To trust in riches, is to trust in what cannot avail us in the various calamities which occur in the course of human life; to trust in God, is to trust in One who will always be with us in all our straits and trials.
3. To trust in riches, is to trust in what cannot meet the wants of the heart, if it is found; to trust in God, is to trust in One who can fully supply all our need.
4. To trust in riches, is to trust in what we may be deprived of in a moment, or may gradually lose; to trust in God, is to trust in One whom we can never be deprived of, and never shall lose.
5. To trust in riches, is to trust in what we must all part with at last; to trust in God, is to trust in One who will be ours for ever.
6. Many and great are the blessings of every kind which this trust in God, rather than in riches, will secure to us.(1) It will teach us to moderate our desires after riches, and to be less eager than we often are in the pursuit of them.(2) It will show us how we may mingle the right pursuit of temporal things with that supreme regard to spiritual things which their paramount importance entitles them to.(3) It will enable us, when worldly losses come, to bear up patiently and hopefully under them, and to hear the voice of God speaking to us in them.(4) It will teach us the responsibility which is always connected with the possession of any portion of earthly things, and remind us of the account which we must give to God for the way we have used them.
(W. A. Butler.)
1. The acquisition. In speculation it seems hardly to be expected that any one who is once master of enough to answer his real and reasonable wants should feel any desire almost, on his own account, of having more: that he should take much pains about is very wonderful; and that he should do anything wrong for it quite unaccountable. No temptation is a warrant for doing wrong; but to do wrong without anything that deserves the name of a temptation is exceedingly bad. And it cannes be nature, but merely an absurd habit wilfully indulged, that tempts men to accumulate what they have no need of. But though riches alone render eagerness for more very blameable and unbecoming, yet greatness added to them doubles the fault. For exalted rank absolutely calls for the exercise of honourable disinterestedness.
2. Concerning the possession of it. Now keeping a heap of wealth merely for the sake of keeping it is an apparent absurdity. Keeping it merely for the repute of having it is a very low inducement. And if laying up against future accidents be pretended, a moderate store will suffice for a reasonable security, and nothing can secure us absolutely. Indeed the larger the fortune, the more room for accidents in one part or another of it; and the loss of a small part will be as grievous to a heart set upon riches as that of a larger to another man. Besides, whoever lives only to the purpose of saving and accumulating will be tempted by this ruling passion to a sinful neglect of the poor and the worthy among his friends and dependants, perhaps among his relations and very children. But besides the sins which may be committed in the getting or keeping of wealth, there are —
3. Others, committed too frequently in using it; which persons of superior fortune and rank must be charged to avoid, and which undoubtedly the text comprehends. For putting their trust in riches is just as much the description of those who place the happiness of life in the enjoyment of large estates as those who place it in the possession of them. Some trust in their riches so very inconsiderately that they trust there will never be an end of them, let them be squandered as extravagantly as they will. So they set out with gratifying themselves in everything. Others, if they do not dissipate their estates in so wild a manner, yet use them principally to minister to their sensuality and debauchery; vices which men of superior fortune somehow imagine they have a sort of right to be guilty of. Another very bad use of wealth, in which too many seem to place no small part of their happiness, is that of gaming. But supposing wealth be neither spent in this nor any of the gross vices mentioned before, yet if it be employed in ministering to a course of more decent and refined luxury, or in supporting such a pomp of life as nourishes vanity and pride, or in filling so much time with unprofitable entertainment, that little room is left in the mind for objects of importance: these things also the rich and great must be charged to amend.I proceed to THE DUTIES OF WHICH HE ENJOINS THEY SHALL BE PECULIARLY REMINDED.
1. The first is, to trust in the living God, who giveth us all things richly to enjoy. After warning them against placing their happiness in the pre-eminences, the possessions or pleasures of this world, it was very natural to direct them where they should place it: for somewhere-we must. And his precept carries the proof of its own fitness along with it. For the living God must have the greatest power to reward our trust, and He who giveth us all things richly to enjoy hath shown Himself to have the greatest will also. Some persons, it may be, when they are pressed upon the subject, will plead that they are by no means without inward regard to God; though they cannot say they give much outward demonstration of it in acts of worship. But supposing them sincere, what reason can there be why respect to God should not be paid outwardly when respect to every superior besides is? But it is possible for us to keep up a sufficient possession of religion to secure both public order and domestic tranquility, yet by no means have a sufficient sense of it for obtaining eternal life; and what will the former avail us without the latter? We should all, therefore, learn to live more to our Maker; to imprint on our hearts and exert in our whole behaviour a stronger sense of His present providence and future rewards. It would be a direction, a security, an improvement, a comfort to us beyond expression.
2. The second duty prescribed in the text as peculiarly necessary for the rich and great is that they do good, that they be rich in good works. If men of rank and fortune observe duly the preceding part of the apostle's charge, they will easily be induced to observe the concluding one. If they are neither so high-minded as to neglect and despise their fellow-creatures, nor so selfish as to trust in uncertain riches, in the acquisition, the possession, or voluptuous enjoyment of them, for their happiness, but expect it only from their acceptance with the living God; they will naturally imitate Him whom they desire to please, particularly in His beneficence, the most amiable of all His perfections. And it is not by their wealth only that they are able and therefore called to do good, but by their whole behaviour. But still, though almsgiving is by no means the whole of beneficence, yet it is an essential part in those whom God hath qualified for it. And He hath given them all things richly and in plenty, not merely for themselves to enjoy in the vulgar sense, but that others may enjoy a due share of them and they the pleasure of imparting it; the worthiest and highest enjoyment of wealth that can be. But, in general, that both our charity and our generosity should bear some decent and liberal proportion to our abilities, and the rich in this world be rich in good works also. Nor is it sufficient for the rich to give plentifully, but they must do it on every fit occasion speedily; be ready to distribute and not stay till the circumstances of the poor are beyond recovery or their spirits broken under the weight of their misfortunes, but make haste to help them and, as far as possible, prevent distress.
That they do good
(J. A. James.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust.I. THE PERIL against which the apostle warns Timothy was the intellectual pride and subtle speculation which, afterwards, in the second and third centuries, became formulated into a sort of philosophical system. It was then known as Gnosticism, because it exalted "gnosis" — knowledge — above faith, and was of a decidedly presumptuous and pragmatical tendency. The effect of such knowledge has ever been to cause men to err concerning the faith; to lose simplicity and devoutness; to wander into the pleasant meadows of Doubting Castle, till they are seized and imprisoned by Giant Despair; and unless they there learn to pray, and bethink them of the key of promise, they are left at last to fumble and stumble among the tombs. "He who wandereth out of the way of understanding shall abide in the congregation of the dead."
II. PRESERVATION from such peril is to be found in God's answer to the prayer which Paul breathed over Timothy — "Grace be with thee." We cannot by searching find out God. Intellectual acuteness has never yet succeeded in discovering Him.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
both Christ and His Church. It is, indeed, a fatal error not to "hold the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands, having nourishment ministered, and being knit together, increaseth with the increase of God"; but it is also a most grievous error, so to hold the Head as to ignore the divinely appointed organization, through which, as the apostle assures us, the nourishment of the body is dispensed, and its unity and strength secured. We cannot speak faithfully of Christ the Vine, of Christ the Head, of Christ the chief Corner-Stone, without speaking also of that wondrous, spiritual structure, His gracious relation to which is marked by the many names of love and power which are assigned to Him in Holy Scripture. Some persons may be tempted not to "guard the deposit" in certain points, by the hope of conciliating those who are unhappily separated from us. They may desire to withdraw what others regard as unauthorized pretensions, and so to occupy a common ground with them. What, then, must be the necessary effect of their doing so, while "the deposit," as enshrined in the formularies of our Church, remains what it is? They must deprive themselves of all excuse, before God and man, for using or assenting to those formularies. And, more than this, so far as their action is concerned, the Church becomes degraded into the most presumptuous and arrogant of sects, presuming, as she does from their point of view, to utter before God words of most awful and solemn import, to which her heart does not respond, and before men to make pretences and speak "great swelling words of vanity," while she yet repudiates her title to any real distinction from other Christian bodies which put forward no such claims. If we will not "guard the deposit" which has been committed to our trust as a Church, we have no alternative but to renounce it openly and honestly, having first put to ourselves with all seriousness the momentous inquiry, "Did that deposit come to us from the hand of God, or no?" But whither will men turn, if they should unhappily resolve to forsake the historic Church of the past, which we are taught to believe and to confess, as retaining to the end of the world her imperishable continuity, marvellously as she may be taught to adapt herself to the needs of successive generations, and to the various characteristics of "the nation of them that are saved, that shall walk in her light"? Once more, let me present to you that which appears to many a further and most cogent reason for unflinching steadfastness and faithfulness to our high trust. I refer to the remarkable position in which the Church of England has stood ever since the Reformation, in respect of all other Christian bodies throughout the world; and more than ever at this day stands, by virtue of her own wide extension and of her intercommunion with other branches of the Church Catholic, holding the same faith and observing the same order with herself. "If there be," says Bishop Lightfoot, "any guiding hand in the progress of history, if there be any Supreme Providence in the control of events, if there be any Divine Presence and any Divine call — then the position of England, as the mother of so many colonies and dependencies, the heart and centre of the world's commerce and manufacture, and the position of the English Church, standing midway between extremes in theological teaching and ecclesiastical order, point to the Church of this nation, with the very finger of God Himself, as called by Him to the lofty task of reconciling a distracted kingdom and healing the wounds of the nations." For the sake, then, of this inspiring hope, under the sense of this overwhelming responsibility, let us as members of that vast communion, whose worship ascends to God from well-nigh every portion of our globe, resolve by His help to "guard the deposit" which He has committed to our trust, and to stand still in the safe paths of duty and obedience, if haply our eyes or our children's eyes may be blessed by seeing this great "salvation of God."
(G. Whittaker, M. A.)
Oppositions of science falsely so called
(W. A. Snively, D. D.)