Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will spill, and the wineskins will be ruined. Instead, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."
I. THE OLD IS SPOILT WHEN IT IS PATCHED WITH THE NEW. The shrinking of the patch of undressed cloth tears the old garment, and so makes the rent worse than it was before. There was a strictly Jewish Christianity in the early Church, really harder and narrower than old Judaism. It was not truly Christian, yet the grand old Jewish ideas were spoilt. At Alexandria, Greek thought degenerated in its association with biblical ideas. It would not accept those ideas in their fulness, and yet it tried to patch its old fabric with them. The consequence was its dissolution. When Protestantism is not a complete severance from Romanism, but a mixture with it, the result is that the advantages of both the authority of the old and the freedom of the new system are lost. All this is melancholy if we are attached to the old. But there is another way of looking at it. The new is revolutionary. When the old is worn threadbare, it is best to cast it aside. Although we cling to it affectionately, it may be well that it should be violently torn from our backs. The gospel will not be a mere patch laid on an ugly defect in our worldly character. It will tear that character to shreds. It is a mistake to hope to patch it. The Christian method is to cast it off entirely and put on a completely new garment - the new character, the new life in Christ.
II. THE NEW IS LOST WHEN IT IS CONFINED BY THE OLD. The new wine ferments and must expand. But the old wine-skins are hard and dry and inelastic, and they are not strong enough to restrain the powerful ferment. The result is a twofold disaster - they are burst, which may not be a very great evil if they are worn out; and the wine is spilt, which is a serious loss. The old is always trying to cramp and restrain the new. Judaism endeavoured to confine Christianity within its own hard limitations. People are constantly trying to force new ideas into old expressions. In practical Christianity the attempt is made to confine the ferment of new enthusiasm within the walls of ancient order. Thus the Churches fetter the new fresh life of Christian experience. Perhaps they have some excuse for themselves. There is a rashness, a rawness, an unsettled ferment, about the new enthusiasm. Nevertheless, if this is real and living, they who resist it do so at their peril. They run a great risk of being themselves shattered in the process. The fact is new ideas absolutely refuse to be limited by old formulae. New spiritual forces cannot be bottled up in antiquated customs. In personal life the new grace of Christ cannot be confined to the old ways of living. If those old ways are obstinate and still claim to rule the man, there will be a dreadful conflict. The only wise thing is to make a fresh start. Many a hopeful movement has been wasted by the attempt to limit it to the ideas and practices of the past. if men had more faith in God they would learn that he belongs to the present as well as to the past, and that therefore the present has equally sacred rights and promises. - W.F.A.
New wine into old bottles.
1. As old cloth and new cloth are one in being cloth, old wine and new are one in being wine; so the religion before Christ and that which He introduced are essentially one in kind, if not in quality.
2. The effect of the forced junction of the old and new would be injurious to both.
(D. Fraser, D. D.)
1. Because a bottle is a proper receptacle of liquor, so is the heart of man a proper receptacle of Divine knowledge, grace, joy, etc.
2. Because a bottle of itself is an empty thing, and must be filled; so the heart of man is naturally empty of good.
3. Because a broken bottle cannot hold new wine, nor can an unrenewed heart hold saving peace, joy, etc.
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