2 Corinthians 4:8
We are pressed on all sides, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;
Sermons
Ministers in Their Weakness and StrengthC. Lipscomb 2 Corinthians 4:7-18
Growth Under PressureH. Macmillan, D. D.2 Corinthians 4:8-12
Not DestroyedScientific Illustrations and Symbols2 Corinthians 4:8-12
The Broken LifeProf. Lewis Campbell.2 Corinthians 4:8-12
The Frailty of the Instruments and the Excess of the PowerArchdeacon Evans.2 Corinthians 4:8-12
Trials in the Cause of ChristD. Thomas, D. D.2 Corinthians 4:8-12


There is the ever-recurring contrast. It is now the ministry as a "treasure," and this treasure is "in earthen vessels." We understand the apostle to refer to the body when speaking of the "clay vessel," the contrasted elements being the glory of the ministry as a Divine illumination and the fragile human form in which it was contained. It was thus that "the excellency of the power" was seen to be "of God, and not of us." Not only was it the power of God, but of "exceeding greatness" (Kling), and while the "surpassing might" demonstrated itself in the gracious and widespread effects of the ministry, it was also obvious in the physical support given in the midst of such unprecedented labours and trials. To illustrate this "surpassing might" (Conybeare and Howson), St. Paul adduces his own experience. As it respects the "earthen vessel:"

1. Troubled on every side.

2. Perplexed.

3. Persecuted.

4. Cast down.

5. Always dying; bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.

As it respects the "excellency of the power:"

1. Not stressed.

2. Not in despair.

3. Not forsaken.

4. Not destroyed.

5. Life of Jesus made manifest in our mortal body.

These ideas of suffering are taken from the body.

1. Pressed or hemmed in on every side.

2. Benighted on our path.

3. Pursued in a conflict.

4. Thrown down and expecting to be killed.

5. The dying of the Lord Jesus never absent as a bodily impression.

This is the second of those vivid pictures St. Paul has given of his personal life, the first being found in 1 Corinthians 4:9-13. There is a marked difference between the two representations, the former referring to the contrast between himself and the self-sufficient Corinthians, while the latter sets forth the contrast between "the glorious gospel" and the weakness of its ministration by means of men. Here the prominence is given to the similarity of his own life to that of Christ," that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." Had he spoken in the previous Epistle of self-denials and voluntary sufferings over and above "other apostles," going on a warfare "at his own charges," planting a vineyard and eating not "of the fruit thereof," a shepherd who "eateth not of the milk of the flock"? No such allusions (except in the reference made in the twelfth verse) are found in this chapter. Before him, in full view, is the career of Jesus of Nazareth, his resignation of the comforts of earth, the homelessness and other privations he endured, and he, the apostle of the Gentiles, is conformed in outward or physical aspects to the sufferings of Christ. Still more, the life of Christ's resurrection and exalted glory appears in him, and this life, so manifested in "our mortal flesh" and the more signally exhibited because of infirmities and afflictions, is for their benefit. "Death worketh in us, but life in you." But is death a shadow, a discouragement, a paralyzing terror? Nay; the life imparted to the Corinthians through him returned from them to his own soul. He believed and spoke; they heard and believed. Furthermore, he had another consolation, the hope of a resurrection, when he and they should be presented by Christ to the Father for final acceptance. Yes; the fellowship would be immortal as well as glorious. "All things are for your sakes," whatever had befallen him, and this "abundant grace," extended to an ever-enlarging number, would swell the volume of thanksgiving to God. In his mind "the glory of God" is never associated with narrow bounds, never with a few, always with the "many" - "through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God." This is his manhood; largeness in everything; breadth of thought and sentiment for this world and the future! a manhood that could breathe in nothing smaller than a universe. How much he is worth to us in this particular! On this account "we faint not." Nothing had power to dishearten his spirit or depress his efforts. The burden rallied the strength; the heavier the weight the more energetic the resistance. Another contrast - outward man, inward man: man in each. St. Paul, who is the theologian of the Bible on the subject of the body no less than of the soul, is here in one of his favourite moods, and, as usual, his philosophy (if we choose so to regard his discernment) is as profound as his piety. "Though our outward man perish." It cannot but perish. "Dust thou art, and unto dust shall thou return." The body exists for no independent purpose, it is for the soul, and the ideal of the soul determines the ideal of the body's history. It eats, sleeps, works, for the soul. It decays for the sake of the soul. Now, this decay which the apostle is considering, we may look at in the light of modern physiology. St. Paul is no teacher of physiology or of science in any form, but he mentions facts, which we can interpret by aid of recent science. What, then, do we know of decay as a bodily law? We know it is a law coexistent and cooperative with our physical life. It sets in early, goes on continuously, and ends only when the body dies. It is a succession of decays. Viewed in this light, decay is a function of activity or a sequel to activity, and, accordingly, a condition of renewal. Exercise the arm like a blacksmith, and it rapidly wastes matter. Exercise the brain as a student, and certain constituents are constantly thrown off and expelled from the system. Yet, in all this, there is reproduction and even growth. The decay has an order; it proceeds from the less serviceable to the more useful functions. Early in life, animal sensations are in excess. The outer world floods the young senses, and no image is painted on the brain that is not a copy of something external. But this abates. It lessens by providential law. The spirits decline in boisterousness; perceptions are not so vivid; reflectiveness increases; and the pulse is more of a pulse of thought, will, emotion. What we can spare best is the first to decay. Long before eye and ear show signs of failing other organs begin to advertise their decline. And hence the decay proceeds as to time and method in such a form as to answer the ends of the body in its relation to the soul. Seldom are there violent changes, No great revolutions occur. Little by little the alterations go on, so that the mind is insensibly accommodated to them. Agreeably to this law, decay contributes till late in life to the development of the mind. Not until decay has accomplished higher ends does it tend towards dissolution. Gently, indeed, the hand of the Father touches the frail tenement, here a nerve and there a muscle, so as to make it less a body for the earth and more a body for the soul. Physiologically, therefore, there is a basis for St. Paul's theology of the body. Now, physiologists may say, as some of them have said, that their science has nothing to do with religion, and, forsooth, this in one sense may be true. But it is certain that Christianity has a good deal to do with their science. Nor, indeed, have we to look further than the text for proof of the fact that, while St. Paul was doing nothing more than unfolding the glory of the gospel, one or more of the rays of that splendour shone on facts which science is only just now beginning to understand. But the inner man, what of him? "Renewed day by day." We have seen that Providence uses decay for restoration and even enhancement of power, and moreover, not until physical development has attained its maximum in respect to mind, does it happen that decay operates towards dissolution. Outward and inward - both the man, as we have said - and yet the differencing adjectives are very expressive. Look at the outside of a tree, the rough bark adapted to the hard usages of wind and weather, and fitted to enclose and protect the fibre and circulating sap. So of the body. It is a sheath to the soul, preserving its freedom from being overpowered by the outward world and guaranteeing self-direction to its activity. More than this, body is a developing instrumentality of mind, and, in this respect, fulfils the special purpose of Providence. Nevertheless, the soul has its own prerogatives. It is God's image, and, as such, witnesses to its own nature as infinitely different from matter. We call it soul because it is perfectly unlike body. We call it spirit because "God is a Spirit." Such words as body, soul, spirit, stand alone and contain the truth of all truths. Now, the apostle urges this contrast; body decays and dies, spirit under the influence of the Holy Ghost is renewed daily. Spirit has a capacity for interminable growth. Day by day, a clearer knowledge of itself, a keener penetration of consciousness, a deeper sense of sinfulness in its nature, and, anomalously enough, while gaining a victory more and more over particular sins, having an acuter conviction of inbred sin. Day by day, the world falling away from its senses, and yet, amid the decay of sensuousness, a continual ascension of delight and gladness as the spirit loses its hold on merely aesthetic beauty and enters more fully into moral beauty, so that, while the body becomes more and more the "temple of the Holy Ghost," the earth grows into a sanctuary of God, where the hours fail not to observe their ritual of worship and the air is never so hushed as not to breathe praise to God. Day by day? Ah! are there not idle days, apparently useless days, even days when prayer and holy service seem a burden? Doubtless; but we must not conclude that these seasons are altogether unprofitable. If we are learning nothing else, we are learning how weak and impotent we are, and how unreliable are our constitution and habits except we have daily renewing grace. God leaves us to ourselves sometimes, that we may find out what company we keep when he is absent. Day by day, the most precious of all is a growing nearness to the Lord Jesus Christ. We can recall the time when he was mainly to our young souls a traditional Christ. We knew him by the hearing of the ear and by the sight of the eye. Voices there were that spoke of him and commanded our listening. Faces there were that shone with unearthly light and touched our eyes to a reverent gaze. They are gone now. Sorrow has done its work, and, if that be done, all other work is made effective for spiritual progress. How real he becomes when we suffer as Christians! In the loneliness that comes with all profound grief, what a personal Christ is he to our hearts! Hearts, we say, for the revelations of sorrow, the fullest and grandest ever made to the soul, are all revelations of the blessed Jesus to the affections. Once we could not have thought it possible, but, in later years, the secret of the Lord is with us, and we commune with him as friend with friend. The wonder now is, how we could ever live an hour without this sense of sonship possessing the soul. "Out of the depths" we have learned to say, "Abba, Father," and then we can rejoice with "joy unspeakable and full of glory." The outward man perishing, the inward man renewed day by day, how would such a man as St. Paul look upon trial and adversity? We know more of the nature, variety, and depth of his sufferings than of any one among the saints of the New Testament, and yet he calls his affliction light. It is also "but for a moment? Why he spoke in this way is made clear at once, for the light and momentary affliction is working for his benefit, fulfilling a purpose, executing a design, and this is a "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." These words are best left to private meditation. "Glory" in contrast with "affliction," "weight" with "light," "eternal" with "moment," and then the "exceeding," the "more exceeding," the "far more exceeding;" we honour the sublimity most by thoughtful silence. And this winking, which is now going on by means of Christ's presence in affliction and derives no merit from him, is so far realized by the apostle that he cannot look upon the things about him other than as transient. It is not the mere decay of the outward man nor the evanescence of the world's glory that produces in him this exalted state of mind. The point of view is altogether different. From the height of spiritual life as essentially eternal life, he glances at the panorama of the world as it passes by, but his look - the fixed eye, the earnest gaze - is on the things which are eternal. For him this eternity has already begun; and while every new grief and every repetition of an old sorrow "worketh" a deeper feeling of the spiritual and eternal life within, he is equally well assured that each one adds something to the accumulated glory of the heaven awaiting him as an apostle of the Lord Jesus. - L.









We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed.
I. THE TRIALS ENCOUNTERED IN THE CAUSE OF CHRIST ARE SOMETIMES VERY GREAT. "We are troubled on every side." The man who is earnestly engaged in any cause in this world will have to encounter trials. The old prophets had theirs; some were insulted, some incarcerated, some martyred. So with John the Baptist, and so with the apostles, so with the confessors, reformers, and revivalists.

II. HOWEVER GREAT THE TRIALS ENCOUNTERED, THEY ARE NOT BEYOND BEARING. "Yet not distressed," or straitened; though "perplexed," or bewildered, yet not benighted; though "persecuted," or pursued, yet not "forsaken," or abandoned; though "cast down," or stricken down with a blow, yet not perishing. The true labourer in the cause of Christ, however great his trials, is always supported —

1. By the approbation of his own conscience.

2. By the encouraging results of his own labours.

3. By the sustaining strength of God. "As thy days, so shall thy strength be."

III. THE RIGHT BEARING OF THESE TRIALS SUBSERVES THE GOOD OF SOULS. In the right bearing of these sufferings the sufferer —

1. Reveals the life of Christ to others (ver. 10). Who that has witnessed the true Christian languishing on the bed of suffering and death has not seen the spirit of the life of Christ revealed?

2. Promotes in himself and others the Christian life (ver. 11). "God," says Dean Alford, "exhibits death in the living that He may also exhibit life in the dying."

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Cast down, but not destroyed
"Sub pondere cresco — I grow under a weight — was the motto on the crest of John Spreull, of Glasgow, who for his defence of religious liberty in the times of Claverhouse was imprisoned on the Bass Rock, in the Frith of Forth. This is the great motto of the worn. Nature is like a huge watch, whose movements are caused by the compression of the mainspring. Only by restraint is life possible. The forms of all living things, from the smallest moss to man himself, are determined by the extent and degree to which the force of life overcomes the dead forces of nature. The simple principle of growth under limitation will account for the shape of every leaf, and the formation of every organ of the human body; for the germination of a seed, and for the beating of the heart within the breast. The blossom of a plant is produced by growth under restraint. At the point farthest away from the root the vital forces are weakest, and the supply of nourishment almost exhausted; and therefore the ordinary leaves are compressed by their diminished power of resistance to the forces to which they are subjected, and modified into the strange shapes and changed into the beautiful colours of the flower. The compression goes on farther in the interior parts of the flower, according as the resisting power becomes less, until at last, in the innermost central part, the forces are brought to an equilibrium, and the plant finds rest in the round seed, which is simply the most complete compression of which the leaves are capable. The head of man is in the same way only a modification of the vertebral column, and his brain a compression of the spinal marrow, by the mechanical conditions under which they are developed. Have you ever watched a bubble of air rising up from the bottom of a clear pond to the top? If so, you cannot fail to have noticed that it ascends not in a straight line, but in a corkscrew or spiral form. The force which draws ii upwards to rejoin the native air from which it has been separated, would do so, if left to itself, by the shortest course; but it encounters continually the resistance of the denser element of the water, and this pressure delays its ascent through it, and makes it take a longer zig-zag path. If you understand the reason of this simple phenomenon, you will understand the way in which every herb and tree grows in the air, and why their shapes are what we see them to be. They all grow in the most varied and complicated spiral forms because they grow under resistance. This is the simple method of nature's working, the law which determines all her forms. The same law obtains throughout the spiritual world. There, too, growth is under resistance. The law of the spirit, of life in Christ Jesus, contends against the law of sin and death; the law in the members wars against the law of the mind. The most essential character of spiritual life is that it depends upon the resistance or contest of one form of moral force by another: its tension is holiness, righteousness, self-control. We grow in grace as the trees grow in space — under limitations; and the various forms and degrees of spiritual life which men exhibit are due to the extent of these limitations. Spiritual life does not assume one stereotyped monotonous pattern. There is the same infinite variety in the spiritual world that there is in the natural, arising from similar causes. As no two plants grow in precisely similar circumstances, so no two human beings are exposed to the same spiritual influences. Of course there can be no growth without life. If the soul has no resisting power within, then the forces of the world without simply destroy it. If the soul is dead, all things deepen its death. But if it has spiritual life, then all things help to maintain and develop it. Like the sailing-boat that tacks to the wind, it takes advantage even of the contrary currents of life to reach its end. We may compare the soul that is dead and the soul that has spiritual life to two seeds, one infertile and the other fertile. The forces of nature play upon both seeds in the same way. In the case of the seed that has no life in it, these forces are unresisted; they have their own way, and they proceed to corrupt or break up the elements of which it is composed, until nothing of it remains. In the case of the seed that is possessed of life, the forces of nature are resisted, and this resistance becomes the source of living action, the very power of growth. The changes which the seed undergoes in germinating under the influence of those forces, duly controlled, form the basis of all the subsequent developments. And like these two seeds are dead and living souls. If the soul is dead it yields helplessly to the corruption that is in the world through lust; if the soul is living, it resists these disintegrating forces of the world, and uses them to increase its spiritual life and to build up its spiritual structure. It is only, therefore, of those who have spiritual life in themselves that it can be said, that though cast down they are not destroyed." To such, justification is a living doctrine — not merely part of a formal creed, nor an intellectual abstraction. Their faith is alive, and can prove its vitality by its energy. And the force of this life is remarkable. This faith can overcome the world. It can rise superior to all its temptations and trials. The force of natural life even in the lowest forms is extraordinary. The soft cellular mushroom has been known to lift up heavy masses of pavement by its expansion beneath them; the tender root of a tree insinuating itself in a crevice of the rock splits it up by its growth. And if life in its feeblest form can do such wonderful things, what may not be expected from spiritual and eternal life? The life that is in Christ Jesus .by mere formality and profession, is like a dead branch that is merely mechanically united to the tree, and which, destitute of the tree's vital sap and force, yields inevitably to the forces of nature, decays, and drops off into dust and ashes. But the life that is in Him by faith is like a living branch that becomes partaker of the whole force of the tree, and grows with its growth, and flourishes with its strength and beauty. "Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world." It grows strong by opposition; it flourishes in the most adverse circumstances; it uses all the conditions of life for its maintenance; it makes even its hindrances to advance its life-work.

1. What casts us down most of all is the burden of sin. In the unrenewed heart this burden is unfelt. We are unconscious of the enormous pressure of the atmosphere upon us, because our bodies are pervaded with air which counterbalances the superincumbent air. But were the air within us removed, the pressure of the air without would crush us. And so, being sinful ourselves, we are unconscious of the weight of sin. But when the love of sin is taken away, then sin becomes a burden which is too heavy for us. We feel ourselves like Christian in the "Pilgrim's Progress," with his huge bundle upon his back. This pressure of sin has drawn tears from eyes which would have looked unmoved upon the martyrs' fires. Sin is indeed the great adversity, the only thing that is truly hostile to us; and yet, in contending with it, we can use it as a fulcrum to remove the obstacles that lie in the soul's upward path. But though this great adversity be taken away by faith in Christ, other evils are not taken away, for that would be to take away what determines the strength and shape of the spiritual life: that would leave it a weak and powerless thing. The Christian is not exempt from ordinary troubles.

2. In the world he has tribulation; and many are the afflictions of the righteous. In addition to the ordinary trials of all men, he has troubles of his own that are peculiar to the spiritual life. And these are felt most in proportion to the strength and vigour of the spiritual life; only that in his ease what crushes others proves a means of growth, calls forth, exercises, and educates all the powers of his soul, and brings down the powers of the world to come to shape his character and conduct. Sometimes, indeed, the weight is too much. There are many of God's people who are so cast down by their circumstances that they seem almost destroyed. They are like a tuft of grass growing under a stone, The stone does not destroy the grass, nor prevent it from growing, for the vital force is stronger than the mechanical; but it dwarfs and distorts it; it blanches its colour, and it deforms its shape. Thus many lives are prevented from being what they might otherwise have been by the crushing circumstances of life.

3. Poverty often lies like a stone upon them. The sordid care for things that perish in the using seems to dwarf the immortal nature to the level of these things — seems to make the soaring spirit a part of the dull material world. The toil that is needed to support the body leaves little time or inclination for the cultivation of the soul. Though poor in itself it can make many rich. It is when the plant is poorest in material, and most limited in force, that it produces the blossom and the fruit by which the world is adorned with beauty and the generations of living creatures are fed. And so the poverty of the Christian may blossom and fruit for others. How often has this been the case in the history of the world! Few of the world's greatest benefactors have had worldly advantages. The inventions and discoveries that have been of the greatest use to society have been made by persons who had little wealth. It is an axiom in nature that motion takes the direction of least resistance. Poverty, therefore, must be eminently helpful to the growth of the soul, insomuch as it removes many of the hindrances which make it hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. If the aspiration of the soul is heavenward, then a poor man encounters less opposition in that aspiration from his circumstances than one who is rich and increased with goods. He is relieved of that weight of worldliness — of those cares and anxieties which oppress the soul and give it an earthward tendency.

4. Sorrow is the commonest of all pressures that cast down the soul. This experience belongs to no class or condition of life exclusively. It is the great mystery of Providence that there should be such a prodigality of pain — how God can permit such forms of anguish. But the greatness of our sorrow is owing to the greatness of our nature. The highest mountains cast the largest shadows; and so the dark, wide shadows of human experience witness to the original loftiness of our being. Sorrow gives a tragic touch to the meanest personality. God has ordered that sorrow should be the most powerful factor in the education of our race. In the histories of the patriarchs and saints we see how suffering, deep and long-continued, ministered to a noble development. We see the baser earthy element in them crystallised into the purity and transparency of heaven through the fires of pain and sorrow. Many of the weights that press down the Christian life are visible and palpable. But as the palm-tree is pressed on every side by the viewless air, as it is exposed to the resistance of forces which the eye cannot see nor the hand feel, so the heaviest weights which drag down the Christian life are often invisible. Its crosses cannot be displayed. Many of its troubles are of a spiritual nature. It is east down, not by circumstances, but by the state of the soul. And these spiritual sorrows are the evidences of the reality of the work of grace; for where there is the principle of life there must be the changes of life. The form of godliness is a dead, invariable thing; whereas the power of godliness has its winter, its summer, and its autumn states. Sorrow arises in the case of most believers from inability to realise the ideal, to reach the mark of attainment they have set themselves. They have sorrow because of the remembrance of past sins and shortcomings. They have sorrow because of the sins of the world. All this is the godly sorrow that worketh repentance unto life. In this winter state the spiritual life is collecting and concentrating itself for renewed effort when the spring of revival is come. It waits upon the Lord, and so renews its strength. No life can grow or support itself in the void by its spontaneous buoyancy. All life upholds itself in the air by continuous effort. The humblest life is s vortex of unceasing forces. Much more is this the case in regard to the highest life of the soul, the life that is breathed into us by God's Spirit and formed by faith in Christ Jesus. It has ever to do an uphill work. It has to grow against the gravitation of sin. But this resistance is meant to bring out all that is best in us, to stimulate our most strenuous exertions, to cultivate our patience, to educate our faith and hope, to mould us after the Divine pattern. It is the weight of the architrave upon the pillar that gives it stability and endurance; and it is the fightings without and the fears within that give strength to the character and perseverance to the life. What a beauty and grace does the spiritual life take from the pressure of the light afflictions that are but for a moment and that work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory! The thorny sorrow that springs from the grave of some dead love or hope forms the richest adornment of life. Not only is the outward form of the Christian life moulded into shapes of moral beauty — into whatsoever things are pure, and honest, and lovely, and of good report — but its inner substance is also made more lovely by the pressure of external shocks and internal sufferings. It is not the tree that grows in a rich soil and in a sheltered situation that produces the richly grained wood which is selected to adorn our finest furniture; but the tree that is exposed in its bleak, shelterless situation to every storm of heaven. The wild forces that beat upon it, and which it successfully overcomes, develop in it the beautiful veins and markings which are so highly prized by man. And so it is not when growing up in luxurious ease and comfort that we produce the gifts and graces which enrich and ennoble the Christian life. The natures that have the richest variety and the greatest interest are ever those which have grown under pressure of suffering, and by a vital faith have overcome the world. The Apostle Paul is an illustrious example of the law in question. His growth in grace was indeed under pressure of the most trying outward circumstances, and yet what a marvellous fulness and variety of form did it display! No man was more many-sided in his Christian attainments. We are not at the mercy of the thousand contingencies of life. The troubles that come to us are not accidents. Divine wisdom is shaping all our ends.

(H. Macmillan, D. D.)

I. CRUSHED, but not penned in a corner. The idea is that of being jostled in a crowd (Mark 3:9). They are hard pressed for space, but not driven into hopeless straits.

II. IN DIFFICULTIES as to the ways and means of carrying on their ministry effectually, but not reduced to utter helplessness.

III. PERSECUTED, but not left in the enemies' hands — not given over to the persecutors.

IV. THROWN TO THE GROUND, but not destroyed. The notion is the pursuit of a fugitive in war, who, when overtaken and thrown down, is usually slain. Here was the overthrow, but, by God's grace, not the slaughter.

(Archdeacon Evans.)

The mystery of evil has many aspects. There is one that is contained in that sad word "waste." The germs of life that wither before they are sprung up, the lives often so full of power and promise that we see cut off in their prime, the gifted minds that are sunk in unconsciousness or madness. But there is another consideration that is still more practical, and that comes home to all men individually. How much that was born with each one of us must pass unused and undeveloped into the grave! The profession on which a young man has set his heart may be really the one best suited to him, and if he might enter on the preparation for it with his enthusiasm, his success might be morally certain, and the natural growth of character assured. But other wills have to be consulted beside his own; there are money difficulties which are thought to be insurmountable, or there is a fear of some loss of caste, or of some problematical moral consequences which are apprehended. And so the first flush of hope and resolution is checked by an untimely frost, and the leading sapling is nipped. Will the tree grow straight afterwards? That is the question. Or the life of the affections has been in some way warped or stunted. Some early disappointment, the discovery of some unknown defect for which no one living is to blame, some hardly avoidable error, makes us conscious of failure and limitation here, where the longing for the infinite is most insatiable. From this point onwards what is the life to be? These are marked instances of what we all find out at some point in our course — that feeling and energy have to be adapted to circumstance; that while desires and aims may be boundless, opportunity and time and human power are limited. And it is here that the difference becomes apparent between the true and false resolution and enthusiasm. We have attempted the impossible. The possible remains. But does there remain in us the strength and will to do it? Disappointment will have a weakening effect for a while, but it will only be for a while if we have any strength in us. The effect is various. The more speculative and dreamy temper discovers that the world is out of joint, and begins spinning theories of a new and regenerate condition of society, in which every nature shall grow without painful effort into the fulness of its ideal form. The more practical lose sight of their ideal altogether, and fall into a narrow, dull routine. The bolder nature becomes cynically embittered, the softer loses heart and subsides in caution and timidity. These are the subterfuges of weakness, and we must arise and shake ourselves from these if we would be spiritually healthy and strong. Suppose, then, the discovery to have been made, that of many plans only the one that seemed the least interesting can be pursued; that of many powers of which we have been conscious, only some of the more ordinary can find their natural fulfilment; that of all to which our hearts once clung, all but some poor fragment has been taken out of reach. Imagine the great soldier, struck down in middle life and doomed to drag out the rest of his time in feebleness and inaction. What then remains for us? If we are true to ourselves, perhaps the most fruitful portion of our lives. It is true that the desire granted is a tree of life, that there are some kinds of growth which can only come through the intensity or the continuance of joy. But it is also true that still deeper sources of life and growth are opened in times of sorrow and gloom for those who have recourse to them aright. Let us return to Him who, by the finger of His providence, has shown us the limits of our appointed way. Let us devote ourselves anew to do and suffer according to His will, and we shall find springing by the strait and narrow road many an unlooked-for blessing. If love and truth, humility and deep contentment be there, if the finite being is rooted in the infinite, there will be enlargement even in the least hopeful lot. The gifts that, with concurrent circumstances, might have adorned the literature of a nation, or made a lasting name in painting, or music, or some other path of art, may be concentrated on the training of one or two children, so laying up a store of usefulness for the coming time. The same energy which in some lives is seen breaking forth victoriously in all the brilliance of success has wrought not less heroically in others, underground, as it were, unsuspected and unseen except by very few, in a struggle with adverse fortune or adverse health. Viewed "under the form of eternity," the one life is no less complete and no less successful than the other. Both pass into the hidden world with equal gain. If there be the fixed determination to do what the hand findeth to do, even though it may seem poor and mean, to do it trusting in the eternal strength and wisdom of Him who ordereth all things according to the good pleasure of His will, we need not fear that any experience, any aspiration, any love, any effort of our past lives will be utterly lost to us. To act in the present is not necessarily to break with the past. We learn to take up mangled matters at the best. We perhaps find out a way of turning to account even the accidents of life, and weaving them into the fabric of our design. Nor is experience, whether of success or failure, ever profitable for ourselves alone. The narrowest and most deserted life need not be lived wholly in isolation. If failure and sorrow have left the heart still fresh and sweet, as it will be if it have clang to a Divine support, then, wherever there are human beings, a way will be found of pouring the oil of consolation and the wine of gladness into other lives. There is so much that wants doing in the world, so few hitherto who have been roused to do even what they eaR. It is terrible to think that we may miss doing the little that is laid to our hands. Let us not waste time in vain regrets, or in vague dreams of what experience has clearly shown to be impossible, but let us gather up the fragments that remain. Though sometimes we may be cast down, let us know that we are not destroyed.

(Prof. Lewis Campbell.)

Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.
Many kinds of seeds are gifted with powers not merely of retaining life under the ordinary circumstances of nature, but of resisting the most terrible attacks. When wine has been made from raisins, and the refuse has been scattered over the fields as manure, it has been observed that the grape-seeds have vegetated and produced young vines, and this notwithstanding the boiling and fermentation they have had to endure. The seeds of elder-berries have been observed to grow after similar trials. Many experiments have been made to ascertain exactly what amount of unnatural heat seeds can bear without being destroyed. It considerably exceeds that which plants can bear; and the same is the case with extreme cold.

(Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.)

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