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THE HIGHEST DIGNITY OF MAN
‘Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us.’
We can follow God in love. In this ability our highest dignity as men resides, because this allies us perfectly to God, as children to a father. Let us look first at some other views of the dignity of man which are more popular.
I. Some discourse to us of the dignity of our humanity, whilst they describe the God-like power of intellect, and how, in what it has done, and will do, it elevates us above all other orders of creation, and allies us to God. There is truth in this, but it is not the whole truth. We shall not discover the firmest ground of our alliance with God if we seek it in that direction. The path of intellect leads us up towards God, but it does not reach God.
II. But other voices dwell on natural forces and results, pointing, as in proof of the dignity of our manhood, to the enduring monuments of our physical strength—great cities built, the ocean covered with ships, mountains tunnelled, and the earth belted with metallic rings for the transmission alike of mind and merchandise. Let no one doubt that there is truth also in this, though not the whole truth nor the most important truth.
III. But now, in the exercise of love, we may find that most real relationship with God which gives to our nature its highest dignity. If the acts of intellect or physical power be imperfect, the acts of love are perfect. A loving word or thought or deed wants nothing to complete it: it does its blessed work, and does it fully, both to him who gives and to him who receives it. The loving man is, in the full sense of the term, a follower of God even as a child of a father.
‘To all men of all orders and degrees—to poor and rich, servants and masters, to labouring men and gentlefolk, to the unlearned and to scholars—the command goes forth, “Be ye followers of God, as dear children.” You can follow God as partakers of the Divine nature, which is Love. You can follow God in this most God-like attribute as dear children. Let your daily life, then, be one of love. You may not be rich in money, but be rich in love.’
REDEEMING THE TIME
‘Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.’
We find the words, ‘redeeming the time,’ occurring twice in the Epistles of St. Paul. They mean—when literally translated—‘buying up the opportunity.’
The text addresses itself to Christian people. It is intended, in fact, for them. Let us see, then, what lessons, what warnings, what exhortations it contains for those among us who are living for Christ, and earnestly desirous of glorifying Him by word and deed.
The Apostle tells such persons that they are to ‘buy up opportunities.’ Now opportunities—as I have already hinted—are of two kinds. There are opportunities of getting good, and there are opportunities of doing good.
I. Opportunities of getting spiritual good for ourselves.—Many such occur. Many such are continually occurring. Have we bought all of them up? or have we allowed not a few of them to slip through our fingers?
II. Opportunities of doing good.—For these are included, of course, in the precept of the Apostle. Now, doing good to others is no unimportant part of the calling of a Christian. When a man is brought to the saving knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus, God gives him a work to do. You may be sure of that. And it is every man’s business, first, to find out what that work is—and then to do it. There are differences of administration, as there are differences of talents.
III. This is a voice to which we may all listen.—God keep us all from having to make such a confession as this before the Judgment-seat of Christ!—‘Lord, Thou gavest me talents. I had gifts of mind; I had means; I had many opportunities of doing good in the world; but all I cared about was myself, and to carry out my own schemes and fancies. Lord, I have lived for myself. And now that all is over, here Thou hast the talent that Thou gavest me, wrapped up in a napkin.’
Rev. Prebendary Gordon Calthrop.
‘It was years ago. I was returning from some service on a Sunday night; and as I paced rapidly along, my attention was drawn to what seemed to be a heap of ragged clothes, drifted under the porch of a magnificent West End mansion. I stopped to look at it. I touched it. At the touch the heap uncoiled itself, and showed me two poor little children—sisters, if I remember rightly—who had nestled together for warmth in the bitter cold of the night; and who woke up from their sleep to gaze, with a wild, scared look—like that of ill-used animals—at the stranger who bent over them. The whole circumstance was a fit emblem of what is continually taking place amongst us. There was the wealthy family within—with the power to help and to bless, and, probably enough, not without the inclination, but knowing nothing of its opportunities. There were the children without—miserable in soul and in body. The need and the supply were in closest contact. Oh, that we knew what we might do, if only our eyes were opened to the true state of the case!’
AN EVERYDAY EXHORTATION
‘Husbands, love your wives.’
This exhortation was never more needed than in the present day. The decay of home life is due to the loosening of the marriage tie, and this in turn is the result of a want of that true heart affection which is the great secret of a happy married life. Where marriage is a failure, where home life is unhappy, the fault too often—although not always—rests primarily upon the husband. He is the head of the wife, and when he fails the ruin is complete.
‘Husbands, love your wives.’ Love is a plant which yields precious fruit, as—
I. Faithfulness.—What means the violation of the marriage vow but an absence of love?
II. Loyalty.—To the man who truly loves his wife there is no woman in the world like unto her, and he yields her the loyalty of his heart and life.
III. Comradeship.—There is no home so happy as that in which husband and wife are comrades, but there can be no comradeship without the truest love.
‘Said a dignitary of the Church, well advanced in years, to a young curate just about to marry: “My son, I have had more than fifty years of unclouded happiness as a married man. Let me give you this advice: Love your wife, and often take occasion to tell her that you do. Be lovers till the end of your days.” ’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Ephesians 5". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent