2 Timothy 1:14
That good thing which was committed to you keep by the Holy Ghost which dwells in us.
The providence of God requires all Christians and all Churches to show what Christianity really is. Christianity is a larger and better thing than Christendom yet knows. Still the Holy Spirit dwells in the apostolic succession of the whole true Church of Christ, showing it what the things of Christ are, and helping it realise them in Christianity. How, then, are we to understand what the Christianity is, which we are still called to make real on earth?
I. THE CHRISTIANITY WHICH THE WORLD NEEDS PROBABLY TRANSCENDS ANY SINGLE DEFINITION OF IT WHICH WE SHALL BE LIKELY TO GIVE. Philosophers have tried many times to define the simple word "life," and at best they have had only clumsy success with their definitions of what every one knows by his own healthy pulse-beatings. The definition is not made easier when we prefix the adjective Christian to the word "life." If we labour to define in words so large and divine a reality as Christianity, we shall be sure to narrow it in our verbal enclosures, and we can hardly fail to leave whole realms of Christianity out when we have finished our fences of system and denomination.
II. CHRISTIANITY IS A LARGER THING THAN ANY ONE PARTICULAR ASPECT OR EXEMPLIFICATION OF IT WHICH MEN MAY BE TEMPTED TO PUT IN THE PLACE OF IT. Christianity, as a whole, is greater than the parts of it which men have hastily seized upon, and contended for as the faith of the saints. Christianity is that good thing which all the Churches hold in common, and it is greater than all. The Christianity of Christ is that good thing committed unto us, which is large enough to comprehend all the ideals of Christian prophets, and prayers of devout hearts, as well as the works of faith which have been done on earth. It would be easy to illustrate from current life and literature the natural tendency of the human heart to substitute some favourite part of Christianity for the divine whole of it. And the unfortunate contentions and hindrances to the gospel which follow from this mistake are all around us. Thus one class of persons are called to benevolent works by the Divine charity of Christ, but in their zeal for man they may not realise sufficiently that the charity of God is the benevolence of universal law, and the Christ is the Life because He is also the Truth. Others, on the contrary, impressed by the order and grandeur of the truths of revelation, repeatedly fall into merely doctrinal definitions of Christianity; and, even while defending from supposed error the faith once delivered to the saints, they narrow that faith into a theological conception of Christianity which may have indeed much of the truth, but little of the Spirit of Christ.
III. CHRISTIANITY IS THAT GOOD THING WHICH WE HAVE RECEIVED FROM CHRIST. In other words, Christianity is not a spirit merely, or idea, or influence, which we still call by the name of Christ, but which we may receive and even enhance without further reference to the historic Christ. Christianity is more than a spirit of the times, more than a memory of a life for men, more than a distillation in modern literature of the Sermon on the Mount, more than a fragrance of the purest of lives pervading history and grateful still to our refined moral sense. Jesus once said before the chief among the people, "I receive not honour from men"; and the patronage of culture cannot make for our wants and sins a Christ from the Father. Christianity is the direct continuation of the life and the work of Jesus of Nazareth in the world. Hence, it would be a vain expectation to imagine that the world can long retain the influence of Christ, the healing aroma of Christianity, and let the Jesus of the Gospels fade into a myth. Christianity, uprooted from its source in Divine facts of redemption, would be but as a cut flower, still pervading for a while our life with its charity, but another day even its perfume would have vanished. The Christianity of Christ is a living love.
IV. CHRISTIANITY IS A CHANGED RELATIONSHIP OF HUMAN SOULS TO GOD THROUGH CHRIST. Go back to the beginning of Christianity to find out what it is. It began to exist on earth first upon the afternoon of a certain day when the last of the Hebrew prophets, looking upon Jesus as He walked, said, "Behold the Lamb of God." And two of his disciples beard him speak, and they followed Jesus. These men are now like new men in another world; in Christ's presence all Divine things seem possible to them; they are changed from the centre and core of their being; they are verily born again, for they live henceforth lives as different from their former lives before they came to Christ as though they had actually died out of this world, and come back to it again with the memory in their hearts of a better world. After a few years in Jesus' companionship, after all that they had witnessed of His death and resurrection, they are themselves as men belonging to another world, citizens of a better country, sojourning for a brief season here. "Old things are passed away," says the last-born of the apostles; "Behold, all things are become new." This, then, is Christianity — Peter, and John, and other men, living with Christ in a new relationship to God. It is a happy, hopeful, all-transfiguring relationship of human souls to God. Christ giving His Spirit to the disciples, disciples witnessing of the Christ — this, this is Christianity. What, then, is Christianity? It is, we say, the doctrine of Christ. What is the doctrine of Christ? Men sound in the faith; men made whole, men living according to Christ. The doctrine of Christ is not a word, or a system of words. It is not a book, or a collection of writings. He wrote His doctrine in the book of human life. He made men His Scriptures. His doctrine was the teaching of the living Spirit. The doctrine of Christ — lo! Peter, the tempestuous man, strong one moment and weak another, become now a man of steady hope, confessor, and martyr — he is the doctrine of Christ! The son of thunder become the apostle of love — he is the doctrine of Christ! The persecutor becomes one who dies daily for the salvation of the Gentiles — he is the doctrine of Christ!
V. CHRISTIANITY IS THE COMPANY OF DISCIPLES IN NEW RELATIONSHIP WITH ONE ANOTHER, AND TOWARDS ALL MEN, THROUGH CHRIST. The new redeemed society is Christianity. A man cannot be a Christian, at least not a whole Christian, by himself alone. To seek to live a Christian life by one's self, in the secrecy of one's own heart, is an endeavour foreign to the original genius of Christianity. Christianity, when it is finished, will be the best society gathered from all the ages, the perfect society of the kingdom of heaven. How can a man expect to fit himself for that blessed society by neglecting here and new to enter into the fellowship of believers who seek to prepare themselves for that final society of the Lord by meeting and breaking bread together at His table? To be a Christian, therefore, is to be actually a follower of Christ with His disciples. And to make real and not merely nominal work of it We shall need often with deliberate resolution to give ourselves up to our own faiths, to throw ourselves manfully upon their current, and to let them catch us up and bear us whither they will.
(N. Smyth, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.