For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
1. Zeal is an intense earnestness for the accomplishment of an object — not a great excitement of feeling, not mere demonstrative warmth of expression, but something far more deep and enduring. It is a working, practical energy; it is a power which may be directed to things indifferent, things good, or things bad; and accordingly the word is sometimes used in the New Testament in a good sense, and sometimes in a bad one. Thus in a good sense, "Your zeal hath provoked very many"; "I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy." And in a bad sense where the apostle enumerates among the works of the flesh "envyings and emulations." What zeal is we know by experience. For instance, what zeal is shown by men of science when they explore the remotest bounds of the earth, from torrid zones to the everlasting snows of the far North, or when they leave their bones to whiten in Australian wildernesses, to settle a question of geography. What zeal is shown by them in a nobler cause when they sacrifice their own lives — in some cases consciously — in the study of disease and the result of the battle with death. So in things bad, what zeal is shown by infidels in the propagation of their opinions on all occasions and in every place. What in the sacrifices of violent revolutionists, etc. When I turn from such illustrations I blush for the apathetic condition of our Church.
2. Now, such a zeal can only spring out of a great motive, just as the rush of the limpid stream at the mountain side shows the abundance of the water that feeds it. Zeal is force; it is the great working force of our world; and force can only arise from an adequate motive, just as the great river is not fed by the scanty summer shower, but gathers its strength from rains that fall upon a thousand hills. Now, the motives furnished in this passage are common to all Christian men, just as the grace they must produce must be common to Christian men likewise. The ultimate spring is love — love, purest, holiest, sweetest, most abiding of all motives — the very essence of true religion, the Alpha and the Omega of its strength, the one thing which of all earthly things approaches most to Omnipotence, because it is the reflection of God and His peculiar prerogative. It is love for Christ awakened by His love for us — the deep echo of a converted human soul to the suffering cries and agonising tears of a dying Saviour; love quickened by the grateful experience of the peace which fills the heart when leaning its weary guilt upon the Sin Bearer, and which feels itself redeemed from all iniquity; love deepened by profound obligation as it remembers that the very purpose of that love was to purify us unto Himself; love strengthened by adoring admiration, which has called us to be His peculiar people and filled our breasts with a world of wealth, of which the unconverted man has no knowledge.
3. There is one thing more by which a habitual zeal must necessarily be characterised. If it be the common grace of all Christians; if it springs from motives which are abiding as the life of a redeemed soul; if it is taught by the power of the Almighty Spirit of God then it must be a steady, permanent force — not transient, not occasional, not flickering up into a vehement flame now and then and dying away again, but like the sun in the midst of the heavens, or like the laws of nature which hold sun and moon and stars revolving ever in their courses round their central orb.
(E. Garbett, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,