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1 Corinthians 16:1-4
Now concerning the collection.
Collection in church
This is in close connection with the sublime argument about the resurrection. There is no gulf between doctrine and duty; rather, most intimate union between the hope of heaven and details of common life on earth. Duty is the fruit of rightly believed doctrine; character is the index and result of creed.
I. The gift of property is God’s special service, and the impulse of all godly men. It may be in His service in commerce and art, but in religion and philanthropy it is specially devoted to Him. Love must give. Lovers of God give to Him. Jacob at Bethel; David asking, “What shall I render?” etc.; Mary bringing the alabaster box.
II. The gift of property to God is enjoined as an obligation in Scripture. There are--
1. Literal commands.
(1) To the Hebrews, tithes, etc.
(2) To the Christians, as in this chapter.
2. Promises of consequent blessings. “Prove Me now herewith,” etc.; “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
III. The gift of property to God should be systematic.
1. Universal. “Every one of you.”
2. Thoughtful. It is to be by a laying by, which means frequent thought, and on the first day of the week, when associations may well make the thought sacred.
3. Proportionate. “As God hath prospered.”
4. Thoroughly unselfish. Here was a Gentile subscription for the needs of Jews--Corinth caring for Jerusalem. (U. R. Thomas.)
Deacon Ranson Parker, of New York, says: “It is all very well to talk about the cattle of a thousand hills being the Lord’s, but the fact is, some one must collect them together and drive them to market before they can be of much service to the Lord’s cause.” This is a most sensible remark. In our churches there might be abundant funds for the work of the Lord if a more businesslike method was taken to collect the money. The poor pastor pines in poverty, and many loving hearts are ignorant of his need, or, being unsolicited, do not dare to offer a supply. The silver and the gold are the Lord’s, but a kindly, genial person to collect the, precious metals is often needed. We know a Church which contributes more than f300 to missions, but this was not the case till an enthusiastic deacon took up the laborious task of going round to the friends. Are there not gifts of collection as well as gifts of preaching? If some deacons were really to care about their minister, might they not save him from downright want by personally looking up the seat subscriptions? It is wisdom to go round the thousand hills, if there be so many within reach, and fetch home some of the cattle, large and small, that there may be meat in the Lord’s House.
Christian giving, this passage teaches us, is--
I. Positive. “As I have given orders.”
II. Personal. “Let every one of you.”
III. Private. “Lay by him.”
IV. Periodical. “Upon the first day of the week,” weekly.
V. Pious. “Upon the first day of the week.”
VI. Prospective. “That there be no gatherings when I come.”
VII. Proportional. “As God has prospered him.” (J. T. C. Gullan.)
Charity: its principles and methods
We have here an illustration of one peculiar use of Scripture. This distress was long since relieved. The apostle wrote for his own time, yet the whole account is as fresh and instructive to us as it was to the Corinthians. Note--
I. The call for charity. We learn from Romans 15:26 that the Jewish converts were in great distress, and that St. Paul summoned the Gentile converts in Achaia, Galatia, and Rome to relieve them. Observe--
1. How all distinctions of race melt away before Christianity. Collections had often been sent by foreign Jews, but here was a Jewish object supported by Gentiles--a new thing in the world. Christ was the Man, the Saviour, not of one people, but of the world, and in Him all were one. Henceforth there was neither Jew nor Greek, etc.
2. Jerusalem, Corinth, and Galatia were linked by a common object. You have seen a magnet applied to a mass of iron filings, and watched the multitude of delicate points all adhering to each other, through the invisible influence which, sent throughout them all, makes each in its turn a magnet. To scattered races, separate castes and ancient enmities, Christ was the Magnet which united all.
3. This had been done before by war and trade. In earlier times the different and even opposing tribes of the Roman republic were united on the field of battle; they felt they were warring for the same cause. Later we find that trade united men by mutual interest. “We will not injure others, because, by so doing, we shall injure ourselves.” Christianity unites, not through a common hatred or interest, but through a common love.
4. Remark how in God’s counsels sorrow draws out good. Pain and sorrow are mysteries. The sufferers at Jerusalem could not see the meaning of their sorrow; nor did they know how many a Greek and Roman was weekly laying up his store for them; nor how, through their pain, Galatia and Corinth and Rome were drawn by cords of love together. So we often suffer, and see no good result from it. But assuredly, we are not suffering in vain. Suffering works out for us a weight of glory, which tells how our characters are perfected through suffering; but there is a higher Christian light to see our pain in: it blesses others. This is the blessedness of the suffering of Christ; it is the law of the Cross. To be willing to bear in order to teach others!--to lose, in order that others may “through us noblier live”--that is to know something of the blessedness He knew.
II. The principle of its exercise.
1. Systematic in manner (verse 2). That is, instead of waiting for one stirring apostolic appeal, they were to make charity the business of their lives. This contribution was to be a matter of principle, and not of impulse. One burning speech of St. Paul’s might have elicited a larger sum. But he preferred the effects of steady perseverance to those of vehement emotion. For impulse is often mere luxury. To give largely, to strip off a coat to give to a shivering man, may after all be nothing more than a relief from importunity, or a compact with conscience, or a compromise with laziness. On the contrary, this systematic plan of St. Paul’s--
(1) Costs something, and
(a) the habit of a thoughtful life; it reminds us continually that there is something which is owed to God, and therefore is not our own; and it is well that, by an outward system, we should train our inward spirit to the unforgetful thought of our debt to Him.
(b) Self-denial. It gradually lays the foundation of a life of Christian economy; not that which sacrifices one pleasure for another: for this is but mere prudence; but that which abridges pleasure, in order that we may be able to give to God.
2. The measure of liberality was “as God hath prospered him.”
(1) St. Paul establishes a principle here. He lays down no rabbinical maxim of one-tenth or one-fourth. He leaves the measure to our own conscience. “Ask thyself,” he says to each, “how much owest thou unto thy Lord?”
(2) Besides a wide margin is here left necessarily for variety of circumstances. God prospers one man in fortune; another, in time; another, in talent; and time, talents, sympathy, are often better gifts than money. “Silver and gold have I none,” said St. Peter, “but that which I have I give unto thee,” and the man was healed. So now, often the greatest exercise of charity is where there is nothing given, but where the deserving are assisted to support themselves. Often the highest charity is simply to pay liberally for all things had or done for you; because to underpay workmen, and then be bountiful, is not charity. On the other hand, to give, when by so doing you support idleness, is most pernicious.
3. Now, the first principle will explain why the second is not realised. Men do not give as God hath prospered them, because they do not give systematically. They who have most are not they who give most, but the reverse, as is proved by the annals of all societies. Many are the touching cases where the givings of a servant, a governess, a workman, have more than equalled the munificence of the rich. So also was St. Paul’s experience (2 Corinthians 8:1-4). The reason of this strange difference is, that system is easier with little than with much. The man of thousands squanders: every impulse is satisfied immediately; he denies himself nothing; he gives as freely when he is touched by a tale of woe, as he indulges when he wants indulgence. But his luxuries grow into necessities, and he then complains of his larger liabilities and establishment. Now let me appeal to those who really wish to do right in this thing. St. Paul’s principle is the only safe or true one. Systematise your charity. Save, by surrendering superfluities first. Feel that there is a sacred fund, which will be made less by every unnecessary expense. (F. W. Robertson, M.A.)
I. Its claims zealously advocated. In this matter Paul proposes the Galatians as an example to the Corinthians, the Corinthians an example to the Macedonians, and both as an example to the Romans (2 Corinthians 9:2; Romans 15:26). Were it not for the earnest advocacy of Christly men, practical social sympathy would become extinct. It is the living ministry of the gospel that keeps it alive, and in this it fulfils the grandest of all missions.
II. Its operations wisely directed. Paul directed that the contributions should be--
1. Personal. “Every one of you.” No one was exempted, however poor; the widow’s mite was acceptable. If no coin, then give service.
2. Systematic. Begin the week with deeds of practical benevolence.
3. Religious. “As God hath prospered him.” Were this principle acted upon, some of the men who subscribe their thousands would be found to be churls, and those who subscribed their few shillings would appear as princes in the domain of practical charity. But, alas! how men reverse this principle! The more they have the less they give.
III. Its contributions honestly distributed. How sadly is this duty frequently neglected, how much money given for charitable purposes is dishonestly used, and misappropriated every year! (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The gladness of giving
A Methodist minister says that in one of his charges a good man regularly gave every Sabbath f1 for the support of the Church. A poor widow was also a member of the same Church, who supported herself and six children by washing. She was as regular as the rich man in making her offering of twopence per week, which was all the could spare from her scant earnings. One day the rich man came to the minister and said that the poor woman ought not to give anything, and that he would pay the twopence for her every week. The pastor called to tell her of the offer, which he did in a considerate manner. Tears came to the woman’s eyes as she replied: “Do they want to take from me the comfort I experience in giving to the Lord? Think how much I owe to Him. My health is good, my children keep well, and I receive so many blessings that I feel I could not live if I did not make my little offering to Jesus each week.” How many there are who know nothing of the privilege of regularly giving something to the Lord’s work!
Several causes had contributed to this poverty; and, among others, perhaps the persecution promoted by Paul. Many Christians were driven from their homes, and many more must have lost their means of earning a livelihood. But it is likely that Paul was anxious to relieve this poverty, mostly because he saw in it an opportunity for bringing more closely together the two great parties in the Church (Galatians 2:9-10). He saw that no doctrinal explanations were likely to be so fruitful in kindly feeling and true unity as this simple expression of brotherly kindness.
I. In our own day poverty has assumed a much more serious aspect. The poverty which results from accident, or even from wrong-doing or indolence, could easily be met by individual charity or national institutions. But the poverty we are now confronted with is that which results from competition. So overstocked is the labour-market that the employer can name his own terms. Where he wants one man, a hundred offer their services, so that necessarily wages are pressed down by competition to the very lowest figure. In all our large cities there are thousands who by working sixteen hours a day earn only what suffices to maintain the most wretched existence.
1. The most painful and alarming feature of this condition of things is, that every new method of facilitating business, every improvement in machinery, makes life more difficult to the mass of men. Individual charity is here a mere mop in the face of the tide. What is wanted is not larger workhouses where the aged poor may be sheltered, but such a system as will enable the working man to provide for himself against old age. What is wanted is not that the charitable should eke out the earnings of the labouring classes, but that these earnings should be such as to amply cover all ordinary human wants. What the working classes at present demand is, not charity, but justice.
II. Is there any system which could check the evils resulting from competition?
1. The essence of the demand of socialism is that “whereas industry is at present carried on, by private capitalists served by wage-labour, it must in the future be conducted by associated or co-operating workmen jointly owning the means of production.” The difficulty in pronouncing judgment on such a demand arises from the fact that very few have sufficient imagination and sufficient knowledge of our complicated social system to be able to forecast the results of so great a change. In the present stage of human progress personal interest is undoubtedly one of the strongest incentives to industry, and to this motive the present system of competition appeals. The organisation of all industries and the management and remuneration of all labour demand a machinery so colossal that it is feared it would fall to pieces by its own weight.
2. Some of those who have given greatest attention to social subjects, and have made the greatest personal sacrifices in behalf of the poor, believe that deliverance is only to be found in the application of Christian principles to the working of the present competitive system. True progress here, as elsewhere, begins in character.
3. Appeal is confidently made to Christ by both parties. By the one it is affirmed that were He now on earth He would be a communist. Communism has been tried to some extent in the Church. In monastic societies private property is surrendered for the good of the community, and this practice professes to find its sanction in the communism of the primitive Church. But the account we have of that communism shows that it was neither compulsory nor permanent.
4. It is perhaps of more importance to observe that our Lord took no part in any political movement. He was no agitator, although He lived in an age abounding in abuses. And this limitation of His work was due to no mere shrinking from the rougher work of life, but to His perception that His own task was to touch what was deepest in man, and to lodge in human nature forces which ultimately would achieve all that was desirable. It was by the regeneration of individuals society was to be regenerated. The leaven which contact with Him imparted to the individual would touch and purify the whole social fabric.
III. In any case the duty of individual Christians is plain.
1. To seclude ourselves in our own comfortable homes and shut out all sounds and signs of misery is simply to furnish proof that we know nothing of the spirit of Christ. We may find ourselves quite unable to rectify abuses on a larger scale, but we can do something to brighten some lives; we can ask ourselves whether we are quite free from blood-guiltiness in using articles which are cheap to us because wrung out of underpaid and starving hands.
2. The method of collecting which Paul recommends was in all probability that which he himself practised (verse 2). But what is chiefly to be noticed is that Paul, who ordinarily is so free from preciseness and form, here enjoins the precise method in which the collection might best be made. He believed in methodical giving. He laid it on each man’s conscience deliberately to say how much he would give. He wished no one to give in the dark. He knew how men seem to themselves to be giving much more than they are if they do not keep an exact account of what they give, how some men shrink from knowing definitely the proportion they give away. And therefore he presents it as a duty to determine what proportion we can give away, and if God prospers us and increases our incomes, to what extent we should increase our personal expenditure and to what extent use for charitable objects the additional gain. (M. Dods, D. D.)
Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him.
The weekly offering
I. Consider some general principles in relation to Christian gifts,
1. Real religion demands the consecration of some part of our worldly substance to God. Gratitude to God constrains us to inquire, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits?” And God is pleased to encourage in us free-will offerings, and He has in all ages regarded them as a portion of His worship. Before the flood men took the firstlings of their flock and gave them to God. When Noah came out of the ark he took of every clean beast, etc., and gave them to God. Abraham tithed the spoil of battle for the service of God; and Jacob, on the plains of Bethel, vowed a tenth to God. In all the solemnities of Jewish worship the command went forth, “None shall appear before the Lord empty,” and there were seasons when the spontaneous liberality of the people overflowed all the bounds of calculation. Further on the prophets dwelt upon the time when the Church of Christ should emulate and even surpass the enthusiasm of her elder sister. “The abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.” “For brass I will bring gold,” etc. The Magi brought their costly tribute to the infant Saviour, typifying the great consecration that shall one day ensue of the world’s wealth to Him. Mark Christ’s approval of the widow’s mites, and His rebuke of Judas. In apostolic times Barnabas sells his estates and gives the proceeds for the furtherance of the gospel. Name after name is recorded of both sexes as distinguished for high-minded self-denial in the same good cause. Each Epistle contains some reference to the universal duty.
2. The genius of Christianity loudly calls for enlarged benevolence.
(1) The system of redemption is, from first to last, one prodigious process of gift. God loved the world and gave His only begotten Son. The Son loved us, and gave Himself to death for us all. The self-sacrifice of Christ has taught us more pathetically than words could say, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” The patriarch might bring his first-fruits and his flocks with thankfulness as a recognition of the great Landlord of the world. The Jew in his tithes and offerings professed his attachment to the theocracy. But we have holier motives. The blessings obtained by sharing in salvation are so vast that they constitute the substance of which all antecedent privileges were but the shadow. Shall we then feel less of love, and practise less of self-denial?
(2) Moreover, we have in the teachings and example of Jesus infallible lessons in the art of self-surrender. Wherein is our discipleship manifest if it be not by a preference of the glory of God to all inferior motives of time and sense?
(3) The coming of Christ and the completion of His great work of atonement have greatly extended the responsibilities of His Church, for in Him there is neither Greek nor Jew, etc. With His Church the Saviour has left injunctions to subdue the whole world.
3. God has in all ages greatly honoured the consecration of wealth to His service. “Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thine increase. So shall thy barns be filled,” etc. Many Christians will testify that their success in life is due to their dedication of their gains to God. We have yet to meet the man who has been impoverished by charity. But there are rewards of a holier kind. The illiberal man robs himself of the joy of being like God: he narrows the circle of his gratifications and limits their sources.
II. Examine the apostolic instructions contained in the text. What force has this precept now? The reply is not difficult. An inspired apostle is the highest human authority in all that relates to Christian duty. Should any upon the basis of this Scripture adopt the custom of weekly offerings, they cannot be acting wrong. Nay, the strong presumption is that they are adopting the only course that is right. The objection that this is the only precept of the kind is not valid, for upon one passage in this same Epistle we establish our mode of commemorating the Saviour’s love to us, may we not also upon another passage, that now before us, rest our mode of exhibiting our love to Him? In our text we find--
1. The time appointed for religious gifts. The advantages that attach to this apostolic rule are numerous and important. Here is an appointed time of frequent occurrence, and thereby the duty is kept constantly before our attention. The Lord’s day presents the leisure required for deliberate thought and finds us in the happiest state of mind for the performance of the obligation. The cultivation of a spirit of liberality becomes a part of the great work of Christian edification which belongs pre-eminently to the first day in the week. The present desultory mode is inconvenient in the extreme; it jumbles together the perplexities of business and the service of love; it has produced not a little ill-temper, and therefore we commend to you this financial system of the New Testament. Put by each Sabbath what you ought to give. Have somewhere a store which is not your own, but God’s; and when applicants come meet them as a steward, who is dispensing what is his master’s, not his own. This system is one that commends itself for its great facility. The working man could easily put by his one, two, or three-pence a week, whereas five, ten, or fifteen shillings would be an impossibility to him at the year’s end. The tradesman who would not miss his ten shillings or sovereign each Sabbath would be troubled to surrrender at one effort the twenty or fifty pounds which he ought to give annually to the treasury of God.
2. The persons addressed--“Every one of you.” All who have received the gospel are bound to do what they can for its diffusion. Smallness of means does not procure exemption. As under the law the poor man’s pigeon was equally acceptable to God with the bullocks of his wealthier brother, so also were they equally required. The small contributions of the great number are even more desirable than the magnificent offerings of the wealthy few.
3. The rule and measure of contribution--“As God hath prospered him.”
(1) It is true that the New Testament does not assign the specific arithmetical amount which we shall dedicate to God. Amongst the Jews each head of a family was bound to give one-tenth to the support of the tribe of Levi, a second tenth for the great festivals of his nation, a third tenth for the poor. Beside these, there were free-will offerings, trespass offerings, and costly journeys to the temple. The aggregate of religious gifts among the Jews could not have been less than one-fifth of each man’s income, and more probably involved one-third of it.
(2) Now, while the spirit of the gospel is love, still it does give directions to regulate our conduct in relation to contributions. If love does not stoop to arithmetical calculation, it is only because this grace is profuse beyond all calculation.
(3) The rule of the text requires that there should be a continual relation between our temporal circumstances and our religious benefactions. A Christian’s wealth is not to increase and his subscriptions remain stationary. The more the Almighty prospers a man, the more He expects him to bestow (Deuteronomy 16:17). (W. G. Lewis.)
On living by rule
1. St. Paul, the most disenthralled of all the apostles from the bondage of Judaism, here gives a rule on the subject of almsgiving. The wisdom of such a rule is obvious. A considerable sum would thus be gradually accumulated, which a man might hesitate to give in one lump. And then, again, such a rule ensured a gradual discipline in Christian benevolence which would be far more beneficial and a far greater test of character than one great effort. A great effort may be made in a moment of excitement; but continual little efforts can only be made on principle. Lastly, the collection would be over before the apostle’s visit, and their minds would be ready to receive the spiritual benefits of his ministry.
2. Still, a rule it is. It defines the exact method and period. And it has all the narrowness inherent in the nature of rules, it is not adapted to the circumstances of all men. In the case of incomes not accruing weekly, the rule would require to be recast. And there is probably no modern Christian who thinks himself bound to its literal observance however much we may be bound to the spirit of it.
3. It is surprising, until we come to consider it, what a dearth of rules there is in the New Testament. The field of nature presents in this respect a remarkable resemblance to the field of Scripture; she furnishes materials for all the arts of life even as Scripture furnishes principles for holy living. There is stone in her quarries, clay in her soils, timber in her forests, coal in her mines, etc. The various arts of life develop these resources for the well-being of man. Without architecture we must sleep under the canopy of the sky, without the weaver’s art we should be none the better for the sheep’s fleece, and without the industry and ingenuity of man corn could not be converted into bread. Now just as nature furnishes all the materials of life, which art develops and makes up for use, so Holy Scripture furnishes the materials for all rules of holy living, which rules the spiritual instinct and experience of the children of God extracts and draws up in form.
4. From this very simple analogy, then, we learn the great importance as well as the subordinate position of rules. It was not the scope of the Scriptures to do anything beyond furnishing the principles of duty, just as it was not the scope of the Creator in nature to do anything beyond furnishing materials for the supply of man’s various wants. Yet we cannot gather from hence that rules are not absolutely necessary for a holy life.
5. But be it observed that the adoption of rules is recommended not as a bondage but as a help to the will and as a discipline for bracing and hardening it. What Christian man can say with truth that he has risen above the necessity of all such rules? What Christian man could safely afford to dispense, e.g., with the obligation of private prayer morning and evening, and of stated public worship, although these obligations are bound upon him, not by the explicit letter of Holy Scripture, but by the godly customs and traditional usages of the Christian Church? As to almsgiving, some rule surely must be felt by all of us to be urgently needed, and here especially the form and shape which the duty will take will be almost infinitely various. Let each man only make sure of securing by his practice the principle, which is that God has a claim upon a certain fair proportion of our annual income, and that to withhold from Him such a proportion independently of the dishonour done to Him thereby, is as likely to be prejudicial to our spiritual interests as the withholding from Him a portion of our time for the exercises of devotion. Let this principle be deeply settled in the mind and then the details adjusted honestly in accordance with it.
6. In any case let our rules be such as may be easily and cheerfully observed, remembering that we are to serve God in the newness of the spirit, not in the oldness of the letter. Let the object be to make them a help, not to convert them into a penance. (Dean Goulburn.)
The theology of money
(Deuteronomy 8:18 and text):--
I. God gives the power to get wealth.
1. Remember that and industry is turned into a sacrament, and you will feel yourself working side by side with God in the field, warehouse, pulpit etc.
2. This text strikes a blow at that most popular and mischievous fallacy that man is the maker of his own money. Men who can see God moulding worlds, cannot see Him suggesting our idea in business, or smiling on the plough. We have dethroned Him in the realm of commerce, and have put foul little gods called Trick and Cunning into the holy place. We have locked God up in the church.
3. There is always a danger of becoming entangled in the intricacies of second causes. If money fell like rain we should more readily concede that it came from God; but because it comes through circuitous channels we see on it no nobler image than Caesar’s. But He who pours down the sunlight pours out the oil. He who arrays Lebanon in all the pomp of summer foliage gives wool and flax to cover the nakedness of man.
4. God wishes the fact to be treasured in the memory of His saints. Mark the consequences of this grateful recollection.
(1) God and wealth will be ever associated. “The silver and the gold are Mine.”
(2) It will promote humility. “What hast thou that thou hast not received?”
(3) It will restore every act of life to its direct and vital relation to the centre of the universe. The man who can be atheistic in business could be atheistic in heaven itself. The man who never turns his warehouse into a church will turn the church into a warehouse.
(4) It will put a check on all wastefulness. A man who outruns his resources is dishonest; his life is a perpetual felony.
(5) It will beget a becoming gratitude and turn our heart and eye heavenward.
II. The practical recognition this requires. Paul turns the principle to practical account. A time is named--God’s elect day. The Sabbath is emphatically a day of remembrance. The measure is fixed: God’s gift of power, “As God hath prospered.” There is not a word about tenth, or fifth, or twentieth. The whole New Testament arithmetic is moral. The student is at liberty, indeed, to go back into the oldest Biblical records, and to discover what grateful men did in dividing and dedicating property, but the service here demanded is a service of love, gratitude, memorial; the heart will soon arrange the best methods of marshalling details. Note the results which would mark the adoption of this apostolic plan.
1. The fickleness and fitfulness of benevolence would be terminated. Benevolence is now very largely a question of impulse.
2. The benevolent operations of the Church would be immensely facilitated. When help is required there is no difficulty with men who systematically store a portion for God.
3. The gratitude of the individual Christian would be kept in lively exercise. On every Lord’s day he would not only pray for the kingdom, but show the reality of his word by the practical reality of his deed.
1. You may suggest that it is troublesome to be dividing every week: is it troublesome to be receiving every week?
2. If you remember the Lord your God He will remember you. “Honour the Lord with thy substance,” etc. “He which soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly,” etc. (J.Parker, D.D.)
And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve.--
The cooperation of Church and minister
1. That in matters of public interest the Church and the minister should co-operate.
2. That the Church approves and the minister commissions.
3. That the minister, where any solid advantage is to be gained, should be ready for any service imposed upon him (verse 4). (J. Lyth, D.D.)
1 Corinthians 16:5-9
Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia.
God’s will the rule and spiritual usefulness the end of life
I. God’s will should be the rule of life. Paul had made a plan to visit the Corinthians, to “tarry a while” with them, but he rests this plan (no doubt dear to his heart) on “if the Lord permit.”
1. A belief is implied here, viz., that God is in the history of individual man. He is not merely in the material universe, in angelic hierarchies, in human communities, churches, families. He is not too absorbed or too great for this. Paul believed that God was interested in him personally, and that He arranged for him personally. There is something bracing and ennobling in this thought.
2. An acquiescence is implied here. I have no will of my own. Personally, I should like to winter with you, but I subordinate my will to the will of my God. I am in His hands, and am ready to act in everything according to His arrangements.
II. Spiritual usefulness should be the aim of life. (1 Corinthians 16:8-9).
1. Wherever the gospel signally triumphs, great opposition may be anticipated. Paul was now at Ephesus, where he had laboured for a considerable time, and with such success that passionate opposition was excited (Acts 19:9-20). It has ever been so: wherever there has been a great revival of religion there has been unusual opposition. The latent enmity of the serpent is ever roused by the dissemination of spiritual light. Christ kindled a fire upon the earth.
2. Opposition to the gospel often affords specially favourable opportunities for the labour of the evangelist. Religious excitement is ever more favourable to the spread of religion than religious monotony. You stand a better chance of converting an earnest sceptic than a stagnant religionist. Excitement opens a “door.”
3. The true evangelist will be stimulated rather than discouraged by opposition. It is only little souls who are dismayed by difficulties. (D. Thomas, D.D.)
I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.--
What Christianity does for a man
1. These sentences, casually thrown in, as it were, at the end of a letter, reveal incidentally, and therefore really, the spiritual quality and tone of the writer. It is one thing to make a formal statement of what Christianity has done, and another to show its results without any attempt at composition or eye to effect. An incidental touch will reveal the whole man.
2. Paul comes within sight in these instructions. In the previous chapter he was quite beyond the range of our vision. Here he becomes more like one of ourselves. These are only little sentences after the great thunder-bursts of the resurrection chapter, and come too soon to get their full force and value; but they show what Christianity did for Paul. It made him--
I. Most dauntless under circumstances of an intensely discouraging kind. Paul looked at the door rather than at the adversaries, and therein the quality of the man is disclosed. The great soldier must be in the thick of the fight. When the wolf is most dangerous, the shepherd must be most watchful. Paul seemed to have a kind of inborn liking for danger. Herein he was most Christ-like, and quietly but severely rebukes the most of his successors. What an eye we have for the adversaries! and therein is our quality revealed. What moaning there is in the ministry and the Church! The neighbourhood is going down; the population is moving; trade is bad; people are opposed to us. There are many adversaries: Paul is perfectly aware of that; and he counted them one by one, and said, “Humanly speaking, they are an overwhelming majority, but Divinely speaking, they are for ever in a minority, for He that is for us is more than they that be against us.” We must take the completer view, and then we shall see that the great host that is encamped against the Lord is but a handful of moths. And so every adversary should be a stimulus to nobler endeavour--a prick in the side causing us to spring forward with more vital alertness and determination to win the battle of the Lord. We should have said that there being many adversaries was an excellent reason for leaving Ephesus; Paul made it a substantial reason for remaining there.
II. Paternally and most tenderly considerate (1 Corinthians 16:10-11). Timotheus was young in experience; the kind of man that would soon be lost in a crowd; shrinking, modest, one who would never count for much if tumult were to rule the day. See, then, says Paul, “see that he may be with you without fear.” When you shake hands with him, let him feel the pressure of love in the grip which welcomes him by holy symbol: under encouragement he can do a great deal. If he find you critical, pedantic, fault-finding, his young heart will sink. To be with the Church without fear--that is to elicit all that is best in the young minister. “The fear of man bringeth a snare.”
III. Magnanimous (1 Corinthians 16:12). Apollos was “an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures,” Paul’s “bodily presence was weak, and his speech contemptible.” He knew that, yet he says, “As touching our brother Apollos,”--there is tenderness in the very utterance of the man’s name; he is not “Apollos,” but “our brother Apollos,” etc. We are now and then very human: there is perhaps a temptation to persuade Apollos to go in some other direction and so keep out of our particular way. Conclusion: We cannot put these things on from the outside; these are the fruits of the Spirit. All assumed courage is cowardice, a pretended considerateness is the most objectionable patronage, an affected magnanimity is hypocrisy. We must grow in these graces, but the growth must be from within; these are not to be taught or learned in the schools: these are the victories of grace, the miracles of God. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Counsel and character
It is not an unnatural demand that counsel should correspond with the character of the counsellor. How much Seneca and Bacon have lost in moral influence through the discrepancy between what they wrote and what they were! St. Paul’s consistency comes out in a comparison between his advice in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 and his revelation of himself in 1 Corinthians 16:8-9. The Corinthians were exhorted to--
I. Vigilance. Well, was Paul careless? He resolves to tarry at Ephesus. Here he had to watch--
1. Against the surprises of temptation. He was not ignorant of Satan’s devices, and was incessantly watchful “lest Satan should get an advantage over him.” “He kept under his body,” etc.
2. Against the vicissitudes which might otherwise have thwarted his plans and marred his work. Acts 19:1-41. tells us of some of these vicissitudes and how Paul turned them to his own account. It was this Church he addressed when he urged this duty by the force of his well-known example (Acts 20:31).
3. For opportunities. It required no ordinary vigilance to detect in John’s disciples the raw material of Christian missionaries, and to secure sufficient influence with the contradictory elements in the Jewish synagogue and the school of Tyrannus (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19-22)
II. Steadfastness. This quality is tested in two ways.
1. By disheartening difficulties. These tried Paul to no ordinary degree in a city whose population “deserved to be throttled man by man,” a city notorious for licentiousness, superstition, and idolatry. He was in jeopardy every hour; he died daily, yet his faith never wavered (1 Corinthians 4:9-13). No small portion of the trials enumerated in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 must have fallen to his lot at Ephesus.
2. By the existence of an apparently legitimate excuse for the want of it. A man is sometimes compelled to stand fast because he cannot move. The real test is when a way of escape opens. Such a way opened to Paul in the shape of an invitation to Corinth, and the seeming desirableness of accepting it. How much his presence was needed at Corinth; and the work at Ephesus surely would not suffer under the superintendence of Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos. The change would do him good. But no; his business was to do the work in hand so that it would not require to be done a second time. So he sent a letter with an influential deputation to Corinth, and chose to abide “at Ephesus till Pentecost.” How many Christians beguile their conscience with the persuasion that an invitation to another sphere is a legitimate excuse for the abandonment of their present one of difficulty, whereas it may be only a subtle attack of the adversary on their steadfastness! Our text went further to strengthen a previous exhortation to abide in the calling wherein they were called in God. So it comes to us.
III. Courage. He who said “Quit you like men,” etc., illustrated his own counsel by resolving to “tarry at Ephesus,” because--
1. There was “a great door and effectual” there. A great opportunity tests courage because it requires coolness, self-control, fortitude, and all the elements of the nobler heroism, Many a soldier who has nerve to follow when called to command or carry a forlorn hope, loses heart, not because of the danger, but because of the responsibility.
2. There were many adversaries--Jews, magicians, etc.
IV. Charity. Charity--
1. “Is kind,” and he who is so anxious that “all things should be done in charity,” sets the example (verse 10). Timothy had a delicate task to perform, and Paul therefore asked that he might perform it under conditions which would ensure credit and success. How many a promising youth for the want of a kind word or a helping hand has gone to wreck!
2. “Envieth not.” It is as alien from the selfishness of jealousy as from the selfishness of greed. Now if any one could have excited Paul’s jealousy it was Apollos, and yet hear what he says of him (verse 12). With what force does the exhortation come to all factions and rivalries, backed as it is by Paul’s conduct “as touching his brother Apollos.” (J. W. Burn.)
A great door and effectual is opened unto me.
An open door
1. St. John beheld a door opened in heaven. A door opened before him into the mysteries of the unseen, invited him to expatriate there. It was a door opened for ministerial labour and achievement on earth of which St. Paul tells us. Whose portion, would you choose? The chance of getting behind the veil would be very tempting; yet however passionately we might yearn, and with no unworthy yearning, to pierce the inscrutable, would it not be a diviner impulse that should lead us to accept the opportunity of bettering ill conditions or supplying needs that cry?
2. Which was the happier of the two, St. John or St. Paul? In the case of the former there would be a blissful excitement that bore in it a throb of pain, a sense of oppression, a half-fearful expectancy. Would his strength be sufficient for the scenes that would burst upon him? St. Paul’s happiness, you may depend, was the simpler, purer of the two, as in the populous heathen city he found himself at liberty to tell his grand story, and felt around him a great field waiting for the good seed which the husbandman is eager to sow. With what buoyancy he would rise every morning, to resume his hopeful work; how peacefully he would fall asleep each night, thinking of the scenes which had cheered him, meditating on the proceedings for the morrow! And are we ever happier than in moments when scope is given us for doing what we have been craving to be able to do? The text suggests many thoughts.
I. An open door--what would we not give for it?
1. The feeling is something like the anxiety which a painter was under to put an open window or gateway in his picture which without that would be heavy; or a sick man’s longing for the northern coolness and whispering breeze amidst the breathless, motionless evergreen forest of the South. We have a suffocating sense of fainting, of closeness, and ache to get out into fresher air and ampler space; but things hem us in from being and doing as we would. We can see perhaps a simpler, healthier, more rational life to live, and we inwardly desire to live it. There are interests that chain us down, and around us is a world of convention and custom through which we are unable to break. We are shut up to a daily round, so we are impatient. Have we not sighed thus at times for an open door to let us out?
2. Or, again, in earnest thought and contemplation we have felt that light was near; a faint glimmer has been descried by us. It seemed to us that only another step was required to carry us right into the light, and then just there we were stopped; on the verge of it, we were like a man groping about in a dark room for some article which he knows is very close by waiting to be grasped by his hand, but which he feels after in vain. Oh, for one further suggestion that would surely bring us to the land on the borders of which we are!
3. So once more, when wandering solitary in the summer fields, or in the silence of the lonely wood, watching the wondrous sunset at sea, has there never been a feeling with us that, however nature might be speaking to our minds and our hearts, there was something further, deeper, which it had to say--something for the communication of which only a little more faith, or delicacy, or peace in ourselves was needed?
II. But we have had the happy experience of the opening of the door. And how charming it was when the means of doing what we have been craving to do presented itself, and we were free to follow the hitherto thwarted impulses! Suddenly or gradually a new view of a subject has come as with the opening of a window, and the whole aspect of things has undergone change. Or we have stumbled upon facts with which we were previously acquainted which promised to elucidate for us that which was previously inextricable; or, getting hold of a principle, we bare found we could apply it for guidance in relation to matters in dealing with which before we have been dubious or confused. Or the reading of some book, maybe the intercourse with some person has given us a new vision of life.
III. There is such a thing as living always with a door open before us. As every man is his own strait gate, and the main difficulty in his way of improvement, so every man may be if he will his own open door. The secret of the difference between men in their growth is that some are receptive, and some are not. Some are standing every day to appropriate and assimilate all that meets them; and some are with souls more or less enclosed--angels walk by their thresholds and they do not ask them in; Jesus of Nazareth passes by and they are not about.
1. Cultivate at the height of every achievement an ingenuous discontent. Evermore say, “This is good, yet is there better than this.”
2. Try to discipline yourself to equanimity in the presence of petty troubles and grievances. Be very particular to have your mental chamber kept free from the disturbance of a host of shabby visitors. Many men live and die excluded from higher impressions, just because their avenues are all blocked.
3. Cultivate cheerfulness, resist gloom and despondency, than which nothing operates more to prevent appreciation and discernment of the good that offers itself. (S. A. Tipple.)
The opening of a great and effectual door
II. May occur in a most unlikely place.
III. Invites us to enter it.
IV. Usually awakens opposition.
V. Should inspire persistent courage and effort. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
A great and effectual door opened
I. The great and effectual door opened.
1. A few years back and Ephesus was “a door” not open to Christ. The temple of Diana was open, and thronged with worshippers from “all Asia and the world.” The theatre was open, nourishing the worst passions of our fallen nature. Craftsmen had their open shops for the sale of models of the temple and images of the goddess. And yet Ephesus was a most important place, teeming with population, the capital of Proconsular Asia. How sad to see it a closed “door”! And is there no closed “door” in the present day? I speak not now of many a heathen city, but of those closed “doors” in the densely populated parishes of Christian England, where mammon has her open shops, licentiousness her open hells, infidelity her open halls. How distressing to see the “door” of “the broad way” wide open, and the many crowding through it, while “the strait gate” is, to numbers, virtually the closed “door”!
2. But see the “great and effectual door opened!” The apostle came and laboured there for the space of three years. It was in the course of this period that he saw “a great door and effectual opened.” In his opportunity of making known the gospel, and in its ready admission to the hearts of many. Some so ignorant that they had not so much as heard “whether there were any Holy Ghost,” became well-instructed Christians. “Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them. So mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed.” And the gospel and the grace of God is still the same. Wherever faithful men labour in the spirit of the apostle, using the same instrument, and depending on the same grace, they commonly soon see, with delight and thankfulness, a “great and effectual door” opening before them.
II. The many adversaries. When we engage in any work for God we are taught to expect difficulties. In seeking our own salvation we are exhorted to count the cost; in co-operating to save souls we must calculate on opposition. The adversaries are--General. Satan, the adversary of God and man, always in every place opposing the work of God, and man’s natural corruption renders him an easy prey to the enemy seeking his destruction. See how the apostle reminded the Ephesians of both these in his Epistle.
(1) The Jews the embodiment of that self-righteousness which is one of our most potent adversaries to-day. Have not we often had to contend, not only with open ungodliness, but also with this subtle adversary, working in the hearts of the more decent yet formal professors of religion?
(2) The exorcists. So we must not be surprised if, when the true gospel is preached, there be counterfeits of the gospel circulated from corrupt motives by ungodly men.
(3) Demetrius and the craftsmen. These, seeing the open “door,” endeavoured to close it by violence And is there no such storm fast gathering around us in the present day?
III. What is the consequent duty?
1. To acknowledge the hand of God. Who but He, with His Divine hand, opened that “great door and effectual” in Ephesus? And the Fountain-head continues the same--inexhaustible and Divine. Hence all our hopes and consolations.
2. To press forward.
3. Where we see the “great door and effectual opened, “although” there are many adversaries.” “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” It is not by an indolent wish, an occasional impulse of feeling, but by faithful perseverance, even “unto death,” that we shall have “an entrance ministered to us abundantly,” etc. (J. Hambleton, M. A.)
I. This word “opportunity” springs from an old root signifying “at port,” or “in the harbour,” suggestive of the lines: “There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” Thus we think of the trader watching the market, ready to pounce upon every opportunity that he may turn it to gold. Thousands fail in life through neglect of such chances. When the Blucher of opportunity presents itself, they have not “pluck” enough to charge, and so win their Waterloo. There are great national opportunities which present themselves once or twice in the lifetime of a country or community and never come again. Such an opportunity the Church of Rome had when some of her most faithful sons pointed out the sins and excesses which led to the Reformation. Such an opportunity the Church of England had in 1662, when she drove out the crown and flower of her ministerial ranks. Such an opportunity France had at the time of the Reformation of ridding herself of a blind superstition on the one hand, and a hopeless atheism on the other. Such an opportunity Jerusalem had nineteen centuries ago; but she spurned it, rejected it, and finally quenched it in the blood of the innocent (Luke 19:41-44).
II. There are opportunities which belong to certain periods of life. There is the season of youth. How full it is of opportunities--for mental improvement, forming good habits, moulding the character, determining on a future line of action. Use it, therefore, as the springtime which soon departeth, and wherein thou oughtest to plant and sow provisions for a long and happy life. Now if this be true with regard to the physical and mental, how much more with regard to the moral and the spiritual! Says the poet: “Heaven lies near us in our infancy.” The heart has not become stained and soiled; the conscience has not become seared and hardened. There are no hosannas so sweet to Christ as the hosannas of the young. Others, again, are becoming more advanced in years. Gradually they find themselves farther and farther away from the time “when they were boys”--they have reached the autumn of life. Oh, what opportunities they have had! But while men were busy here and there, the golden opportunity was gone. Consider our opportunities of usefulness. Take the home, e.g., what a splendid chance it presents to Christian parents of influencing their children goodwards at the very gateway of life! And to a certain extent the same thing holds good with regard to visitors. When Lord Peterborough lodged with Fenelon for a season, he said, on leaving, “After this I shall be a Christian in spite of myself.” Or possibly you occupy a position in some place of business, and one morning a child with a distressed look comes to say that “father is very ill, and cannot come to-day.” Next morning an intimation reaches you that he is dead. Instantly a “still, small voice” within whispers reproachfully, “I have never in all these years spoken one word to this man about Divine things. I have lost an opportunity that will never return.” Oh, there is a day coming when these lost opportunities will appear in a clearer light and with more terrible and startling distinctness. “Because I have called and ye refused,” etc. (Proverbs 1:24-28). “Consequences are unpitying.” So, then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith. (J. Dymond.)
1 Corinthians 16:10-16
Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear.
Paul’s affectionate recommendation of Timothy teaches us that young ministers
1. Often need encouragement.
2. Should be respected for their works’ sake.
3. Ought not to be despised.
4. Must be treated with tenderness and consideration.
5. Have a claim on the affectionate sympathy of their elder brethren. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
We are reminded--
I. That human plans and purposes are fraught with contingency. “If Timotheus come.” Uncertainty is an important factor in human calculations.
1. Even Paul could not project his plans into the future positively.
(1) The Macedonian cry of some more needy Church might be heard; new doors constantly opening, fresh emergencies might arise.
(2) Fiery persecutions were rife, the murderer’s hand might smite, bonds and imprisonment might hold.
(3) Escaping all these, death was still on his track--accident or disease might prevent. Paul was wise in saying, “If he come.”
2. So you are expecting your Timotheus, my successor. Do not forget the extent and variety of the interests to be looked after, or the contingencies that may arise in adjusting the many claims. The cause you are interested in is God’s, so are the men. Let not your over-anxiety fence Him off from having a hand in selecting your pastor.
II. Of the state of mind essential to ministerial success. “With you without fear.” Paul wanted this young man to start off well on his new charge. He who is not “without fear” is in bad company. He lets rooms, or, rather, helplessly admits an enemy who ties him hand and foot, and robs him of happiness and success. Every man “who is a shepherd, and not an hireling,” will have a natural fear or timidity in taking charge of an important Church. You have the power to confirm or remove this feeling. It is with our people to swing us out into the tropics, or create a winter about us, and--oh, how cold it feels!
III. Of the duty of the Church in this important matter. “See that he,” etc., etc., make it your business. Take pains to let him know that he is appreciated, and has your goodwill and co-operation. Banish the insulting suspicion that you might make him proud if you told him you like his sermons. If such be the case, have the honesty to let him know it. If he be a man of God it will make him a better preacher and more humble. “Now if Timotheus come, see that”--
1. You do not, by needlessly eulogising your former pastor, produce in his mind the fear that he will never be able to fill “the aching void.”
2. You do not, by needlessly unkind criticism, and fault-finding references to your former pastors, produce in him the “fear” that he is among an unkind, fault-finding people; and that, possibly in a few mouths, they may be equally bitter against himself. Do not be in too great a hurry to weigh “Timotheus, if he come”; give him a chance. When you do weigh him, put him on a decent scale, and not one that weighs everything on a sharp hook. See that he is without fear when you put him on the scales; if fear go on with him, he will not register half his weight or worth.
IV. That God’s faithful ministers are all men of one work. “He worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do.” He in his way, I in mine. Sanctified individuality is the great want of the times. Every man has his own mission, and, sanctified to God and duty, he can do a work which no other being on earth can do as well. Better wield the simple sling of David than the cumbersome armour of Saul. (T. Kelly.)
Wholesome teaching for the older ministers
I. Show a tender regard for the interests of young ministers. Timothy was young in years and in the faith; a man, too, perhaps of delicate frame and nervous temperament, and probably not distinguished by any great gift. In Corinth there were philosophers and orators in whose presence he would perhaps feel somewhat abashed. Hence Paul asks the Corinthians to treat him kindly, not to “despise him,” nor in any way to dispirit him. Alas! it is not an uncommon thing for elder ministers to disparage the younger ones, and often treat them with disrespect, and even rudeness.
II. Rise superior to all ministerial jealousies. If Paul had been capable of jealousy it would have been towards Apollos. He was a man of distinguished ability, and perhaps more popular even than Paul himself. Had he been jealous, Paul would have kept him out of Corinth as long as he could, instead of which he says (1 Corinthians 16:12). Jealousy amongst ministers, though most anti-Christian, is not an uncommon thing; and shows itself often in detracting innuendoes and symbolic looks and shrugs.
III. Be not displeased if inferior brethren acquiesce not in your desires. Both the Christian experience and ministerial ability of Apollos were inferior to that of Paul. Notwithstanding this he did not comply with Paul’s request; nor did Paul seem displeased (1 Corinthians 16:12). If Paul did not enforce his wishes on his brethren, how arrogant it seems for any uninspired minister to attempt it! The only authority which one genuine minister has over another is the authority of superior intelligence, experience, and moral force. (D. Thomas, D.D.)
1. That with St. Paul personal considerations were not lost in general philanthropy. It is common enough to profess great zeal for humanity, whilst there is indifference about individual men. But St. Paul’s love was to the Church generally, and besides to Aquila, Priscilla, etc. And is not this too the nature of God’s love, who provides for the universe, and yet spends an infinity of care on the fibre of a leaf?
2. The value of the courtesies of life. There are many minds which are indifferent to such things, and fancy themselves above them. Prescott observes that “liberty is dependent upon forms.” Did not the slow, solemn change in the English constitution, and our freedom from violent subversions, arise from the way in which precedent has been consulted in the manner of every change? But more love is dependent upon forms--courtesy of etiquette guards and protects courtesy of heart. There are three persons chiefly mentioned here.
I. Timothy (1 Corinthians 16:10). Paul bespeaks for him official respect and personal consideration. Consider the circumstances in which young Timothy was placed in coming to a city where gifts were unduly reverenced, and where even the authority of St. Paul was treated lightly. Think how Timothy’s own modesty would have silenced him, and how his young enthusiasm might have been withered by ridicule or asperity!
1. St. Paul’s pleading is an encouragement of goodness while yet in its tender bud. There is a danger of our paralysing young enthusiasm by coldness or by sneers. There are few periods in life more critical than that in which sensibilities and strong feeling begin to develop themselves. The question is about to be decided whether what is at present merely romantic feeling is to become generous devotion, and to end by maturing into self-denial; or whether it is to remain only a sickly sentiment, and by reaction degenerate into a bitter and a sneering tone.
2. Nowhere is feeling met with so little sympathy, or enthusiasm so kept down as here; nowhere do young persons learn so soon the fashionable tone of strongly admiring nothing, reverencing nothing. And this was a danger which Paul knew well, and could not overlook. In earlier days Apollos himself ran the same risk. He set out preaching all the truth that he knew enthusiastically. It was lamentably incomplete. Had the Christians met him--“this young upstart does not preach the gospel”--there had been either a great teacher blighted, or else a strong mind embittered into defiance and heresy. But from this he was delivered by the love and prudence of Aquila and Priscilla, “who expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”
II. Apollos (1 Corinthians 16:12). Note--
1. The perfect absence of all mean jealousy in St. Paul’s mind. Compare this passage with his earnest rebuke of the party of Apollos in the first chapter. On reading that it might appear natural to say, “Oh, he cannot bear a rival!” But behold, it was zeal for Christ, and not jealousy of Apollos. These are some of the fine touches by which we learn what that sublime apostle was, and what the grace of God had made him.
2. The apostle’s earnest desire to make Apollos stand well with the Corinthians. A meaner spirit would either have left his conduct unexplained, or would have caught at the suspicion resting on him; why did he stay away? But St. Paul would leave no misunderstanding to smoulder. He simply stated that Apollos had reasons for not coming; “but he will come.” This is magnanimity and true delicacy of heart.
III. The house of stephanas (1 Corinthians 16:15-16).
1. See what Christianity is--equality, but not levelling. God’s universe is built on subordination; so is God’s Church. The spirit of the world’s liberty says, “Let no man lord it over you”; but the spirit of the gospel liberty says, “Submit yourselves one to another.”
2. They had addicted themselves to the ministry. Who had called them to it? No one, except God by an inward fitness. There are certain things to be done in this world which require peculiar instruments and qualifications. A call from God to do such a work is often shown by a willingness to do it; a readiness to stand forward and take the lead. When this is the case, and such men try to do good, they are often met with innumerable hindrances, as in the cases of Howard and Mrs. Fry. Now St. Paul says, This is wrong; you ought rather to help such. Let them take the lead--follow in their wake, and do not mar the work by any petty jealousy. Observe, then, it is as much an apostolic duty to obey persons who have “addicted themselves” from inward fitness, as it is to respect an outward constitutional authority. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
As touching our brother Apollos.--
Etiquette amongst ministers
I. Is founded in their brotherly relation.
1. As children of one Father.
2. As co-workers in one cause.
II. Excludes all undue assumption of authority--all right of dictation.
III. Prompts them to think and speak kindly of each other. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
The requirements of the Christian warfare
The associations of war and battle breathe in every word of this exhortation. It touches the heart as the spirit-stirring address of a trusted leader touches the hearts of his comrades at some great emergency of the conflict. As the foe gathers in the distance, half hidden behind the brow of the hill or beneath the shadow of the forest, and it remains doubtful for the moment at what quarter the storm will break, his warning voice calls to vigilance--“Watch ye.” As the tide of war rolls its threatening masses onwards, and the advancing column of the enemy, grim and ominous as a thundercloud, threatens to overwhelm the slender line of defenders, the leader’s clear voice is heard in the momentary hush of suspense, exhorting them to steadiness and constancy--“Stand fast.” As the opposing lines break in the shock of battle confusedly, like the meeting of two angry tides, and warrior contends hand to hand with warrior, the familiar voice still sounds amid the tumult, “Quit you like men.” As beneath the fury of the assault the line of the patriot host shakes and wavers, and the crisis calls for a courage prepared to die, but never to yield, I picture to myself the figure of the dauntless leader as he lifts his banner aloft and shouts, “Be strong.” (Canon Garbett.)
The demands of Christianity
I. Vigilance. There were many evils in the Corinthian Church--dissensions, heresies, unchastity, intemperance, etc. Hence the necessity for watchfulness. But where do not evils abound? Hosts surround us all; hence “Watch ye.” “Watch and pray.”
II. Stability. Do not be wavering, vacillating, “tossed about by every wind of doctrine.” Strike the roots of your faith deep into the soil of eternal truth. Firmness is no more obstinacy than the strong rock or the deep-rooted oak.
III. Manliness. There is nothing higher than this. There are great philosophers, poets, statesmen, etc., who are small men leagues away from the ideal.
IV. Charity (1 Corinthians 16:14). Man’s life consists of many “things done.” Activity is at once the law and necessity of his nature. He only really lives as he acts. But while acts are varied, the animating spirit should be one, and that is love. (D. Thomas, D.D.)
Four points in the Christian life
The text contains four points that should characterise the Christian life.
I. Vigilance. It is of the utmost importance that we should set a watch over our minds; for error is, so to speak, in the air. And since the ruling ideas of the mind colour all our thoughts, and affect all our actions, we cannot be too careful, when ideas seek admittance into our minds, to test them, that we may know their character; for false and evil ideas corrupt good and healthy minds. We see every object presented to the mind in the light of our ruling ideas; like coloured glass they transform everything into their own particular shade. In religious matters this is specially important. Whenever any object is presented to the mind for our acceptance, as religious men and women let us at once betake ourselves “to the law and to the testimony.” This is all the more imperative since error can put on the manners of truth, and actually pretend to do truth’s work. There are many false teachers in our day, and error is exceedingly busy; let us, therefore, vigilantly guard the door of our minds, that no false principles take possession of them to pervert our thoughts and best feelings. We need also set a watch over our hearts. The majority of people are easier influenced through their emotions than by means of their intellects. That is the secret of the numerous fascinating shows that are so carefully and strikingly got up and presented to the eye; the exhibitors know that men are moved by such things, and that when they are in such an excited state, they may be carried away and made anything of, whether for good or for evil, just as they may feel disposed. Whenever any serious attempt is made to excite our heart’s affections we should be very careful to ask ourselves the questions, “Are these appeals to my heart true?” “Are the means used for this purpose true in the highest and best sense?” We should also be careful to ask ourselves the question, “Whether the objects that are seeking entrance into our hearts are pure?” The “wisdom that is from above, is first pure.” We should also ask ourselves the furl, her important question, “Whether the things that are seeking our hearts are character-making in the truest sense?” Whether they are likely to make us true, just, honourable, pure, lovely, and thoroughly virtuous? Further, we must set a watch upon our spirits to guard our spirituality. The sharp edge of a knife, if pressed carelessly against a hard substance, will blunt and become unfit for use. Great care should be taken by Christian people to preserve the tone of the spirituality and vigorous point. Whatever lowers the tone of a person’s spirituality hinders the progress of his higher and nobler life. If mingled with a given society; if going to the theatre; if reading a certain class of book; if either of these things, or any other practice, chills the spirit, and indisposes it to pray, it should certainly be abandoned as dangerous. We need, therefore, to set a vigilant watch over our spirits, that we may preserve a healthy and vigorous tone of spirituality that will thoroughly command our carnal passions and keep them in subjection. “But I say, Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh,” etc.
II. Steadfastness. “Stand fast in the faith.”
1. In our faith is the one true and living God. The bane of Greece was the multitude of her gods. The idolatrous upbringing of the Corinthians was, no doubt, a great hindrance to their spiritual growth. With many Christians God is a “God afar off,” it is to be feared; hence their apathy and inertness in regard to religion and the state of their fellow-creatures around them. There were daring unbelievers in Corinth when Paul wrote this Epistle who denied the resurrection of the dead, and who were scattering error broadcast amongst the people. Let us stand fast in our faith in God, then, that He is a “very present God,” who never leaves nor forsakes those who trust in Him.
2. Let us be firm in our faith in Christ as the only and sufficient Saviour. The Corinthians were in danger, from the special importance which the Greeks attached to wisdom. And if wisdom did not actually save humanity, according to them only the wise, in their sense of the term, would be saved. Paul combats this erroneous idea in the first chapter of this Epistle. So it is faith that saves, not wisdom--not true wisdom even. It is not morality that saves either. If it could have saved any one, it most certainly would have saved the rich young ruler in the Gospels.
3. Let us “stand fast in the faith,” that the Scriptures are the only and sufficient rule of faith.
III. Manliness. “Quit you like men.” These words have a martial air about them; they sound like the utterance of a great general on the eve of a critical battle that was to decide the destiny of a mighty nation. The manliness of which the text speaks includes several parts.
1. In the first place, it includes uprightness. Man was made physically erect that he might look heavenward with ease and pleasure. And man’s moral conduct is to resemble his physical flame; it is to be upright. It must not have any twists in it, nor angles of any kind. The eloquent statesman, Henry Clay, propounded a political scheme to a friend once. “It will ruin your prospects for the Presidency,” suggested the friend. “Is it right?” asked Clay. “Yes,” was the answer. Mr. Clay continued, “I would rather be right than President.” Every Christian should do right; his Christian manliness demands it of him. Anything like unprincipled policy or time-serving is utterly out of place in a disciple of Christ’s.
2. It also includes truth. The manly Christian is a true man. He does not think one thing and speak another. His words as truly represent his thoughts as the sound of a correct key in an organ represents a particular part of music. The same consistency is apparent between his feelings and his actions. Among the important objects of his life are “Whatsoever things are true.”
3. And, further, it includes courage. Christian manliness is full of true valour. Fortitude is as prominent a feature of the genuinely good man’s life as uprightness and truth. They will boldly enter a lion’s den rather than deny their God.
IV. True and manly vigour. “Be strong.” The spiritual life is capable of great strength--that is clear from the characters of the faithful of all ages. Intellectual greatness may only be possible to a few; but great spiritual might is practically possible to all true Christians.
1. Be strong in conviction. If we will but allow the light of the truth of the gospel to penetrate our minds, we shall be deeply convinced of its saving power, and the result will be that we shall “be strong” in our adherence to the truth. Let us be careful not to mistake mere tradition for troth.
2. Be strong in love. In the verse which immediately follows the text the apostle directs the Corinthians, “Let all that ye do be done in love.” Love is a special feature of Christianity. Love can do what no other faculty can; what many other faculties combined cannot do; hence our Lord’s “new commandment.” The loving man is a great actor--he is no dreamer, but a doer of the work of Christ.
3. Be strong in will. Strength of will is required in our struggles with the corruptions of our own hearts, and the sin that so abounds without and around us. (D. Rhys Jenkins.)
A manly Christianity
I. Watchful. Because it--
1. Is enlightened.
2. Knows the danger.
3. Provides against it.
II. Steadfast. Because--
1. It understands the faith.
2. Appreciates its value.
3. Resists unto blood.
1. In experience and purpose.
2. Hence immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. (J. Lyth.)
1. Guard against temptation.
2. Hold fast your principles.
3. Act with courage.
4. Persevere with constancy.
5. Do all in the spirit of love. (J. Lyth.)
Three kinds of temptation
There is an indissoluble connection between a man’s character and his view of life. As a man is in moral quality, so will he conceive life to be. It is only the feeble and the worthless who ask, Is life worth living? The brave and the good live worthily, and so feel life full of worth. Sin produces despair. Holiness begets courage and faith. Take, as an instance, the man who writes these words. He had known hardness; his life had been a life of trouble and change, yet he had dared to brave it. And now, summing up the lesson of his life to the men he loved, he says, “Watch ye,” etc. He enforces the duty. They are to watch. That duty is personal, and involves another: “stand fast in the faith.” As they watch they keep the faith. As they keep the faith they quit themselves like men. As these three are together bound and realised in one character they are strong.
I. Watch. The duty of watchfulness implies its need, and the need of watchfulness springs from the manifoldness of temptation.
1. There are three great conditions or forms under which temptations come.
(1) Social. True society is better than it was. Public life is purer and its standard higher. Education is more widely distributed, and as men say no man shall be ignorant, so they must come to say that no man shall make for us laws unless he be a moral man. Our commerce, too, has much of its ancient character of honour. But while we have ranch cause for gratitude, we have greater cause for watchfulness. Our society is sadly destitute of true economy, which means labour wisely directed and applied, the power of gathering in and reaping its abundant fruits, the skill and the will to make of these the most equal, ample distribution, so that they make wealth not simply for the few, but the whole. Our dangers grow from accumulation in the hands of the few, without distribution into the homes and for the comfort of the many. We spend their thirty millions on instruments of war, their three millions or a little more on education and the forming of men. Yet where lieth the strength of a people? Not in its arsenals, not in its army or navy, but in its men. The supreme need of a people is the forming of the people. There is something higher than the making of wealth; there is the making of men. The highest of all social necessities is the making of new men; that is possible only by the preaching and the teaching of the gospel of Christ.
(2) Moral. There are dangers when conventional standards of morality are unreal and unjust. See a banker who has for nigh a whole generation lived on the savings of the hard-working man, the store of the widow and orphan. See him hardly punished--it seems a little more than a severe rebuke; and some tempted lad, in some hour of great need, for miserable theft stamped through years a criminal. Look at the seducer fresh from his guilt, judged to be fit by mother to wed the daughter. And see the victim, by the same, cast out, a thing unclean. There is nothing more mischievous than standards of that kind.
(3) Intellectual. These are often said to rise from increased knowledge and activity. Nay, they rise from ignorance and intellectual frivolity. Newspapers to have power must be spiced. People must be tempted to read. And the result too often is that the mind grows so shallow that it cannot reflect the infinite heaven, So ruffled in its shallowness that it answers to every breeze of wind, and faileth ever to settle into an eternal calm, is a mind lost to holiest things, closed to dearest realities. Look at truth as needed by men for living, for dying, for eternity; and then dare no longer to be frivolous, come to have the truth, to seek the holy, to love the good, that is only of God.
2. All these dangers must be guarded against. Watch! Where a man carries that which is precious he ought ever to carefully guard it. Crossed you ever the mighty ocean on board a steamship that travels so stately and bears its hundreds in comfort and in joy? But, while all is lightness, there walks alone, solitary, watching in the very sunshine for sign of coming storm, the man who bears in his spirit that stately ship, these hundreds of lives, all the wealth she carries in her hold. And think you ever man went to sea, ever sailor guided across the ocean bark half so precious as you carry? Gifted with a nature so rich, a cargo so precious, the spirit ought to be all directed to the watching of evil, to the discovery of the good, and the place that is the haven of rest.
II. Stand fast in the faith. The man that watches will stand. From him it will not be taken--faith in God our Father, yet our King; in Christ who is our Brother, yet our Priest; in that Spirit who is our Comforter, yet our Advocate. Stand fast therein. See that no man spoil you by vain deceit. See that no passion rob you by promised momentary pleasure. Keep the faith. God gave it you, and the faith cannot be kept pure without keeping pure the spirit.
III. Be men. What is it to be a man? It is to bear God’s image. Let the young man dare to be a man, let him, face to face with temptation, look to Him who only hath the power to save. Lost in the multitude, men in the multitude lose themselves. “Quit you like men.” Dare to be innocent of vice, shut up the impure book, close the paragraph that speaks the unholy thing, and to be virtuous in thought, in speech, in feeling, knowing this, that the man who keepeth his own spirit pure is the man most approved of the Father. (Principal A. M. Fairbairn.)
Watchfulness, steadfastness, manliness, strength
I. Watch ye.
1. What is it to watch?
(1) It is opposed to carnal security.
(2) It implies a care of our souls (Ephesians 5:15).
2. What must we watch over?
(1) Our thoughts (Psalms 139:2).
(2) Our affections (Proverbs 4:23; Colossians 3:2).
(3) Our words (Psalms 17:3; Psalms 39:1; Psalms 141:3).
(4) Our actions (1 Samuel 15:22; 1 Corinthians 10:31).
3. What must we watch against?
(1) Ourselves (Jeremiah 17:9; James 1:22).
(2) Satan (1 Peter 5:8).
(3) The world (1 John 2:15).
(a) That they seduce us not into sin (Proverbs 1:10-11).
(b) Nor into error (Acts 20:29-31; Matthew 7:15; 2 Peter 2:1; 2 Peter 3:17).
4. What must we watch for?
(1) For opportunities of doing good (Galatians 6:10), and performing our duty.
(2) For death (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3).
(3) For the coming of Christ (Matthew 24:44).
5. When must we watch?
(1) In time of prosperity.
(a) That you be not proud of it (Jeremiah 9:23; 1 Timothy 6:17).
(b) Nor trust in it (1 Timothy 6:17; Psalms 49:6; Psalms 52:7)
(c) Nor abuse it (James 4:3).
(d) Nor set your hearts upon it (Psalms 62:10).
(e) To improve it to God’s glory (Proverbs 3:9).
(2) In time of adversity (Ecclesiastes 7:14).
(a) Not to be impatient (Ezra 9:13; Lamentations 3:39).
(b) But to be thankful (Job 1:21).
(c) Not to charge God with injustice (Job 1:22).
(d) Nor draw sinful inferences from it (Ecclesiastes 9:1).
(e) To be better by it (Psalms 119:71; Hebrews 12:10).
(3) At all times (Luke 21:36; 2 Timothy 4:5).
6. Why must we watch?
(1) It is for your lives (2 Corinthians 6:5).
(2) Many enemies watch against you (1 Peter 5:8).
(3) Unless ye watch, no sin but you may fall into (1 Corinthians 10:12).
(4) The more we watch over ourselves, the more God will watch over us (Psalms 121:1; Psalms 127:1).
(5) The more watchful we are, the more comfortably we shall live.
(6) We have but a short time to watch (Matthew 26:40).
(7) Eternity depends upon it (Matthew 25:12-13).
(8) We know not when our Lord will come (Mark 13:33; Mark 13:37; Luke 12:37).
II. Stand fast in the faith.
1. What faith must we stand fast in?
(1) That God is (Hebrews 11:6).
(2) That He is a rewarder of all that come to Him (Hebrews 11:6).
(3) That the way to come to Him is by Christ (Hebrews 7:25).
(4) That this Christ is God-man (John 1:14).
(5) And hath satisfied for our sins (1 John 2:1-2).
(6) And now intercedes for our souls (Hebrews 7:25).
(7) That by His satisfaction and intercession our sins may be pardoned (Romans 8:33-34).
(8) That He will come again at the last day (Acts 1:11).
(9) That He will judge all the world (2 Corinthians 5:10).
(10) That the wicked will then be condemned to hell, and the righteous received up into glory (Matthew 25:46).
2. Why stand fast in this faith?
(1) Otherwise we can do no acts of piety (Hebrews 11:6).
(2) Nor have our sins remitted (Galatians 2:16).
(3) Nor our souls saved (Acts 4:12).
3. What are the means of this steadfastness?
(1) Search the Scriptures (John 5:39).
(2) Converse much with God in prayer.
(3) Entertain no doubting thoughts.
(4) Indulge no sin, lest it debauch your principles.
(5) Oft frequent the public ordinances (Romans 10:17).
III. Quit you like men.
1. What is it to quit yourselves like men?
(1) Carry yourselves like men.
(a) Like rational creatures. What more rational than that we should serve Him that made us (1 Corinthians 6:20); choose the best things before the worst (Isaiah 55:1-2); mind our own good and welfare (Matthew 16:26); do to others as we would have others do to us (Matthew 7:12); and submit to God’s will (Lamentations 3:39).
(b) Like those who have immortal souls (Genesis 2:7).
(c) Like those who are capable of the enjoyment of God Himself (1 Corinthians 13:12).
(2) Be valiant and courageous as men (Ephesians 6:10-11).
(a) Be not daunted with afflictions (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).
(b) Nor drawn aside with prosperity (Mark 4:19).
(c) Press through all difficulties for heaven (Acts 14:22).
2. Why quit ourselves thus like men?
(1) We have many potent enemies (Ephesians 6:11-12).
(2) Without spiritual courage we can never conquer them.
(3) The reward will make amends for all (1 Corinthians 15:58).
IV. Be strong--
1. In faith (Matthew 15:28; Romans 4:20).
2. Love (Matthew 22:37).
3. Trust on God (Job 13:15; Hebrews 13:5-6).
4. Why? Be strong and courageous.
(1) The stronger your graces are the weaker will your temptations be.
(2) The stronger your grace is the greater will your comfort be (John 14:1).
(3) Be but strong, and you need not fear but to press through all difficulties, and get to heaven. (Bp. Beveridge.)
Stand fast in the faith
I. The object indicated.
1. The gospel requires faith.
2. Has a right to demand it.
II. The duty enjoined.
1. Adherence to its doctrines.
2. Conformity to its precepts.
3. Advocacy of its claims.
III. The importance of this duty. In its bearing upon--
3. The cause of God. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
We address this to new converts, restored backsliders, and to Christians generally.
I. The necessity for Christian steadfastness.
1. Many foes to contend against.
2. Much difficult service to perform.
3. Only the steadfast know true happiness and peace.
4. Lack of steadfastness is dishonouring to God.
II. Its means.
3. Use of every possible means of grace.
4. Faithful, open profession of allegiance to Christ.
III. Its end.
1. A place on Christ’s own throne (Revelation 3:21).
2. A crown of life (Revelation 2:10).
3. A call to the service of heaven. (John Stevens.)
Standing fast in the faith
We might infer from magazines and newspapers that orthodoxy, or steadfastness in faith, is becoming very unpopular. But philosophy, mathematics, etc., have their “doctrines” as well as Christianity. Note a few reasons for steadfastness in the truth.
I. The mind is so constituted as not to be satisfied with anything less than certitude. As nature abhors a vacuum, so the mind dreads doubt--dreads to be like a ship drifting in darkness and storm with neither star nor sun, compass nor rudder. What would one not give to be on solid earth, who, like Noah’s dove, is thus driven? Stand fast in the faith! Buy the truth and sell it not.
II. This steadfastness is needed to withstand the influences working against us. A soldier in battle needs to stand, a tree in tempests needs to be rooted, and a ship needs an anchor; so we, in meeting the hostility of atheism and science, falsely so called, or kid-gloved, effeminate worldliness, or the supineness and apathy of the Church, need more than a feeble conviction of the truth, such as would be upset by some newly-discovered bone. Be rooted and grounded and able to give an answer, to him who asks you, of your faith.
III. Only by steadfastness in the truth can we render competent service to the cause of Christ. A man of negative opinion, though right, is a feebler power than he who is earnestly wrong. But, to be positively right, believing with all the soul, is to be an increment of might. Such were Luther and Whitfield. Such is Moody, who never even ventured to lean against the corner of a college. Truth did not run over such souls, but into them, becoming a part of their moral fibre, making them aggressive and progressive. Such are not literary Sybarites. (T. B. McLeod.)
I. In body. Purity and (where God gives health) strength of body seemed ever to St. Paul one ingredient in his estimate of true manliness. What is brutal and sensual in your bodies Christianity tells you to conquer, so that that body and its merely animal propensities shall not become your master. All that is innocent and pure in the manly exercise of it, all that is fearless in the brave uses of it, you should cultivate, ennoble, strengthen. If you have to fight for country, truth, or right, then be utterly indifferent to danger or to death.
II. In soul, i.e., in intelleet. “Be not children in understanding, but be ye men.” The empty boast that there must be a divorce between intellect and religion is false. True “unsanctified intellect” has become too common a phrase; but there is such a thing too as “unsanctified stupidity”’ and perhaps the Church has suffered just as much from one as from the other. There is a poor weak thing that calls itself “advanced thought”--in which the thought is imaginary, and the advancement retrogressive--and which is, after all, merely the ghosts of old heresies, coming forth from their graves to frighten the nervous and unthinking. But real science, real philosophy, may ever win the homage of the holiest and most reverent souls. The truth they discover can never contradict the eternal truth of God. Antagonism between intellect and religion! Why the ablest thinkers have been Christians. The noblest high priests of science have also been the devoutest ministers at the altar of God.
III. In spirit. The influence of the spirit of man, acted on and illuminated by the Holy Spirit of God, will raise him to the true dignity of manhood in all his nature. There is nothing “manly” in being irreligious or indifferent. Would you consider him a man who was guilty of the basest ingratitude? And shall we consider the ingratitude less base--shall the unmanliness be diminished, because towards Him who “emptied Himself” of the splendour of the Godhead and died for us! (T. T. Shore, M.A.)
Manliness in religion
1. When Francis Xavier was passing through Navarre to his great life mission, he had to pass his ancestral castle. His companion asked whether he did not mean to visit his friends before he left Spain for ever. “I defer that happiness,” he quietly answered, “until I shall see them in heaven.” It was the manly utterance of a noble heart.
2. In the days of chivalry there was an ideal life, which our own matter-of-fact generation is disposed to despise. Underneath much that was over-strained and unnatural, there was taught a spirit of reverence, obedience, truth, and virtue, which it would be well for the world if they might be again brought back among us.
3. Even after the Fall man did not altogether lose the image of his Maker, and there is still left to him a portion which we call manliness. It is displayed by heroes on battle-fields, but the highest manifestation of it is in the consistent lives of devoted Christians. True manliness--
I. Is wholly incompatible with a half-way and reluctant obedience. If the religion of Christ be true, it is manly to confess it, and to act out our belief. They who receive the gospel in a manly spirit will shrink from no duty nor danger. Even the world will respect us when we are true to our principles. When Charles II visited Winchester during the building of his palace there, Dr. Ken was asked to entertain one of the king’s concubines. This the good clergyman positively refused to do and Charles was much incensed. Again the application was made, and the stern response was, “Not for his kingdom!” Not long after, the bishopric of Bath and Wells became vacant, and Charles said, “No one shall have it but the little fellow who would not give poor Nelly a lodging!”
II. Supposes persevering” persistency in the right, no matter what dangers may threaten. Soon after the Christian missionaries had settled in Fiji, the heathen held a cannibal feast in front of their residence. Shocked at the sight, the good men closed their doors and windows, when the savages insisted that they should come out and witness the custom. The captain of an American ship-of-war, hearing the startling tidings, came at once to the relief of the brave men, and offered to remove them to a place of safety. “No,” was the firm response; “the worse these people are, the more need of our staying where we are to teach them better.” When an insurrection broke out in Madagascar some time ago, before the soldiers set off, the great national idol was to be dragged forth to strengthen them for the conflict. It so happened that three hundred of the soldiers had cast off idolatry, many of whom began to waver, some through fear of death, others through love of wife and children. The leader of the party then read from the New Testament, “He that loveth father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me”; “He that loveth his life more than Me, is not worthy of Me.” It was enough, and all agreed to stand the fiery ordeal. The commanding officer was much enraged, and said, in a threatening tone, “The god will avenge himself upon them!” The army marched forth to meet the insurgents, and came up to them in a deep ravine. Here the Christians were made to take the front rank, and their enemies believed that their destruction was inevitable. The hand of God so arranged the order of battle, that the expected course of events was reversed, and the Christians were left unharmed.
III. Means indifference to the shafts of ridicule. A poor man, being much laughed at for his religion, was asked whether these constant, petty persecutions did not sometimes half tempt him to abandon it. “No, indeed,” he answered; “If Christians are so foolish as to let such people laugh them out of their religion, until at last they drop into hell, it is certain they cannot laugh them out again.” A young friend was making his first trip in a steamer, when his acquaintance was cultivated by a handsomely dressed person, who did his best to play the agreeable. Toward the close of day, the stranger remarked, in an indifferent tone, “Some friends of mine are to have a nice game to-night, in my state-room, and we shall be glad to have you join us.” Taking out his pocket prayer-book, he answered, “This is the only card I ever play with!”
IV. Involves prompt and vigorous action. Good resolutions are not enough; they must be followed up closely and persistently by becoming deeds. A little boy in Holland was returning home one night, when he observed the water trickling through a narrow crevice in the dyke. He had often heard of the sad disasters which had happened from these small beginnings, and his first thought was to hasten home for help, but he remembered that even during his brief absence the opening might so increase as to defy all attempts to close it. Seating himself on the bank of the canal, he stopped the leakage with his band, and in cold and darkness sat by his post of duty until dawn of day. Assistance then came, the dyke was repaired, and hundreds of lives were saved. Do you ever think what a tide of wretchedness and ruin you may be the means of turning aside from multitudes of immortal beings, if you would faithfully use your daily and hourly opportunities of good? (J. N. Norton, D.D.)
The manliness of godliness
I. Things which are not manly.
1. To believe without evidence. Credulity, the readiness to receive every assertion for truth, is childish; and it is worse than childish, when evil reports are easily credited and at all welcomed. We must believe much which we can never comprehend, and therefore cannot prove; but we must be sure that the witness is true.
2. To neglect known duty. Excuses are not arguments. “That servant which knew his Lord’s will, and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes,” etc. From which it is evident that every one’s duty is according to the knowledge which he has, might, and ought to have.
3. To prefer pleasure to business. In this generation there is neither honour nor hope for the idler. And why should not this principle hold as to heavenly things?
4. To find fault with any one unless it be needful, and then face to face. “I withstood him to the face,” says Paul about Peter, “because he was to be blamed.” If mankind would but obey this rule, the happiness of the world would be doubled at once. The apostle is very severe against “whisperers, backbiters and inventors of evil things.”
5. To live only for the passing day. Brutes live for the present, men for the future. Forethought and prudence distinguish our nature from theirs. The wise man sent men to school to “the ant”: and that provident little creature is a very good tutor even for Christians.
II. Things which are manly. There are strange ideas abroad upon this subject, some concluding that scepticism, self-will, and swearing itself is manly. Some think that the more heartless, the more daring, the more manly. I give every one of sound mind at least the credit of knowing better. I am persuaded that there is truth in the saying, “I dare do all things that become a man; and he who dares do more is none.” It is manly--
1. To find out and hold fast the truth. All truth is precious, and “the truth” is of all things most precious. “Little children, I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” Surely in knowledge and discernment these little children were men.
2. To be serious about serious things. Men were made to laugh as well as to weep; but there is also abundant reason in the charge, “Be sober.” Some affect to smile at those who are religious for looking grave and speaking solemnly; but life and death, sin and holiness, are matters for deep thought; and the gospel which delivers from sin and death, and entitles to life through righteousness, is in its very nature matter to make men serious.
3. To be kindly to all, and most to the weakest. The manliness of Christ consisted largely in His gentleness.
4. To fear God more than any man or all men. “Fear Him, ye saints, and you will then have nothing else to fear.”
5. To overcome the devil himself by God’s help.
1. You need not despair of doing this very thing.
2. By doing this you will recommend Christianity. (J. De Kewer Williams.)
(To young men. 1 Kings 2:2, and text). Buckminster says that the sublimest thing in nature is true manhood. But long before Buckminster, Terence said, “I am a man, and I regard nothing pertaining to humanity as foreign to me.” And long before him David said to his son and successor, “Show thyself a man.” And long since then we find Paul saying, “Quit you like men, be strong”; “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” True manliness does not consist in--
I. The strength and size of the human body. This is the barbarian idea of manhood.
II. Intellectual greatness--which our Maker confers on very few persons in any age. We are not responsible for the lack of great talents, but only for the culture and use of what we have. True manliness lies in heart power and conscience power.
III. Chafing under wholesome restraints. It is no uncommon thing to find young persons who think an independent disregard of authority is manly, and when constrained by unavoidable circumstances to feel that the proper domain of their liberties has been invaded. This mistaken and unmanly feeling is apt to show itself, first of all, in opposition to parental authority. And the boy that frets under the restraints of home, will fret under the restraints of the school-room. And, having disregarded the wholesome restraints of home and of the school, he is now ready to disregard those of society; and it is no uncommon thing to see a young man, who commenced his unmanly course of disobedience in the family, graduating in prison. “Show yourself a man,” then, in living in harmony with the Word of God, your conscience, and your environment.
IV. Imitating, indiscriminately, the conduct or habits of others. There are many great men who have their eccentricities and defects; and yet it is just these that younger and smaller men almost always imitate. Many of the admirers of Alexander the Great imitated his intemperance, and not his chastity and liberality; and many of the pupils of Plato imitated his crooked shoulders instead of his philosophy. “Show yourself a man,” then, not by merely imitating, but emulating the virtues of others and by shunning their vices.
V. Following popular opinion, right or wrong, or any party, right or wrong. Popular opinion is generally fickle and very often wrong. It imprisoned Galileo, and erected the guillotine in France. In the Southern States it raised the standard of rebellion. There is a great deal of blind leading, and “when the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” “Show yourself a man,” by thinking and investigating for yourself. Study both sides of every important question.
VI. A reckless disregard of the opinions of others. It is not manly to say, “I don’t care what others think of me.” Every true man cares, and ought to care. While every true man maintains his own independence of character, he is ambitious, at the same time, to merit the golden opinions of the virtuous and the good. When a man enjoys the love and confidence of a virtuous woman he enjoys, next to the love of God, the noblest thing on earth. “Show yourself a man,” then, by showing yourself worthy of such confidence and such love. Again, if you would have others respect you, you must respect yourself. If you would enjoy the friendship of your fellow-men, you must be a true friend to yourself. Often the worst enemy a young man has is himself. “Show yourself a man,” then, by being true to yourself and to your principles.
VII. It is in vain to look for true manliness where there is no virtue or honesty or honour. The word virtue comes from “vir,” which means a man; and to be virtuous, etymologically, is to be manly in the true sense; “an honest man is the noblest work of God.” In the modern sense, virtue means manly purity as well as manly dignity.
1. Now, then, he that would be honest in the much must be honest in the little. A young aspirant for office arriving at the hotel where the governor was stopping, and seeing a man whom he supposed to be the porter, ordered him to take his trunk to his room. The supposed porter charged him twenty-five cents, which he paid with a marked silver quarter worth only twenty cents. The young office-seeker then said, “Here, porter, take my card to Governor Grimes’ room and tell him I wish an interview with him at his earliest convenience.” “I am Governor Grimes, sir.” “Oh! I did not know you were ,Governor Grimes! I beg a thousand pardons!” “None needed,” replied the governor. “I was rather favourably impressed with your letter, and had thought you well suited for the office you desire”; and holding up before him the defective quarter, he said: “Any man who would swindle a poor labourer out of the paltry sum of five cents would defraud the public treasury if he had the opportunity. Good evening, sir.” Again, it is dishonest and unmanly to try to sell an article for more than it is worth, or to try to buy an article for less than its market value.
2. “Show yourself a man,” too, by respecting your own rights and honour, even if others do not; and at the same time remember that others have rights which are entitled to respect. “Be courteous.” St. Paul shows what should be the deportment of a true gentleman or a true lady in these few words: “In honour preferring one another.”
3. “Show yourself a man,” by your moral courage and stability of character. “Dare to do right, dare to be true.” Dare to say No, when you are tempted to do wrong, or to go to a wrong place.
4. “Show yourself a man,” by emulating the virtues of the great and the good.
5. And at the same time that you are developing and using aright your own manly resources, do not fail to recognise the real source of your success in life, to wit: the grace of God. The inspired apostle who says, “Quit you like men,” also says, “Stand fast in the faith.” And it is a fact that the great men of the world--the men whose names and whose deeds stand brightest on the scroll of fame, were men of faith in God. Conclusion: Diogenes is said to have gone through the streets of Athens, in broad daylight, with a lighted lantern in his hand, and when asked by a citizen for the object of his search, he replied, saying: “A man, sir, a man. I have found children in Sparta and women in Athens, but I have not found a man.” Now, I grant that since man fell from his climax in Eden, a man, a perfect man, has not been found save in the humanity of Jesus. Do you want a model of true manhood? You have it in Him. He has won His title to our heart-faith and our supreme regard by His God-like character. “Christ died for us.” Then “show yourself a man,” by showing yourself capable of appreciating such love as His; by giving Him your heart. Then and only then will you be in the line of your own true manhood. (W. B. Stewart, D.D.)
What, then, is manliness?
1. First, it is self-respect. I need hardly warn you that self-respect has an analogy to pride, or to the wretched vulgar ape of pride which is self-conceit.
2. And next to self-respect, manliness is resistance. The true man will not bend like a reed to every passing gust of that insolent ignorance which sometimes in the light-headedness of nations arrogates to itself the name of public opinion. He will not swim with the stream either in the Church or in the State, but will strike out against its fiercest waves. He will not spread his sail to the soft breeze of flattery and self-interest, but even when menaced with shipwreck will oppose his constancy and his convictions to the fury of the storm. Resist the temptations to be idle, self indulgent, vicious, and all the more if those around you are so. Resist the prejudices and the littleness of your own profession or school or party; resist the temptations of the impulses of your lower nature; and so far from being weakened by the struggle, the strength and fire of the conquered temptation shall be to you an added element of force, even as the Indian warrior believes that the strength of his vanquished enemy passes into his own right arm. Resist difficulties! Show that you have some iron in you, and are not all of straw! There are many spurious forms of courage, and that which is often most admired is the lowest and poorest, like that of the brutes. The manliest courage is that which rises superior to the fear of man. The manly youth will have a certain disdain and impatience of evil, a certain violence of truthfulness, a certain impetuosity of principle, conquering and combating all that is hollow and base and mean. He will not be at the mercy of a wicked code of a few silly or depraved companions for a few brief years, at the cost of having to reproach himself as a fool all the rest of his life.
3. And again, manliness is self-mastery. It sits self-governed in the fiery prime of youth obedient at the feet of law. And this self-mastery cannot be had without self-sacrifice. Any fool, the weakest, dullest, paltriest that ever was, can make a drunkard or a debauchee. There is no human clay so vile, no sludge and scum of humanity so despicable, but out of it you may make an effeminate corrupter, or lying schemer; but it takes God’s own gold to make a man. No lacquer work, no tinsel suffices for the cherubim of the sanctuary. They must be hammered out of pure gold, seven times purified in the fire. (Archdeacon Farrar.)
Manliness is not popularly associated with Christianity, and it is not difficult to see how this mistake has arisen. First of all, it has arisen because of the very prominence that is given in the New Testament to what it calls the virtues of meekness and forgiveness. Again, another cause for this popular misunderstanding arises from the mannerism of religious people. They get into a weak, maudlin condition, and adopt a voice and manner that repels any person who has got a spark of manliness in him, and thus there comes a certain smallness of mind, and a morose stupidity, that does much to strengthen the idea that to be a Christian is either to be a fanatic or an effeminate person. Another cause is distinctly attributable to the characters so often drawn by novelists of what a religious person is. They represent a man as a brave, generous, fine fellow, who was no religion at all. Furthermore, people have become accustomed to think of religion as something connected with deathbed scenes, with sickness, or as bearing an aspect of grim severity, and not at all enticing to any one who likes the free breezes blowing across the sea and across the moors, who likes a manly life, and wishes to take a manly part in it. What is Christian manliness? I answer that Christian muddiness is the courage of duty, according to the Christian ideal. Now let us try to understand this. Manliness is the courage of duty, because duty is the essence of all manliness. Courage separated from duty ceases to be manliness. There is a great deal of courage even in the criminal. That is the courage of the madman or of the devil. So mere physical courage may not be the courage of manliness in its best sense. The ferocity which makes the pugilist or the prize-fighter refuse to give in, that is not a bit more wonderful than what you find in brutes. The bulldog will do the same thing, so will the wild-cat, so will the ferret. That species of courage is not necessarily a high standard of courage. There is a certain spirit of self-assertion which is sometimes mistaken for manliness. The rough, impudent, “I am as good as you,” is no indication of the possession of a manly spirit. There is a spirit of arrogance which has nothing to do with manly independence. It is little more than rude incivility, arising from want of consideration from others. Manliness, as the courage of duty, must forbid such things as degrade a man. Look at Christ, the ideal man! There was a life of courage under duty to God and to others, with no thought of self. Christ’s life was one continual self-sacrifice. Duty to God and man is the climax of manliness. The great test of character is to be found in the manner in which the common details of life are met. It is far easier for the soldier in the rush of battle to do noble deeds than to live a faithful life in the barrack-yard, or in attending to dally drill. (D. Macleod, D.D.)
I. The enemies with which you have to contend.
1. The devil.
2. The world.
(1) The men of the world engage on the side of the devil.
(2) The things of the world--honours, profits, and pleasures, how dangerous are these!
3. The flesh, by which is meant the corrupt nature, is the most dangerous enemy of all.
II. This exhortation implies--
1. That you banish unnecessary fears, and engage in the warfare with boldness and resolution.
2. That you fight in Divine strength.
3. That you persevere in the combat.
1. Your cause is good and highly important. It is “the good fight of faith.”
2. You are engaged in the presence of many spectators.
(1) God, whose eye penetrates into the inmost recesses of your hearts. He will be your impartial judge.
(2) Angels. Shall we disgrace ourselves in the sight of heaven?
3. You fight under Jesus Christ, the Captain of salvation.
4. You are sure of victory in the end. (W. Linn, D.D.)
Christ satisfying the instinct of courage
I. Paul here appeals to the instinct of courage. In becoming Christians we do not cease to be men.
1. Courage lies midway between timidity and recklessness. In matters of daring there is a deficiency which is cowardice, and an excess which is foolhardiness.
(1) Timidity is common. Many shrink from pain, fly from danger, and in matters of principle more afraid of man that shall die than of God who must judge.
(2) Foolhardiness is common. What mad prank cannot a schoolboy be dared to do? Who has not been culpably indifferent to health, influence, and character? But often the foolhardy is a coward. The man who will undermine his constitution by vice is afraid of infection. We refuse to either of these the sacred name of instinct. They are perversions, distortions of nature.
2. Nature is brave. Nowhere is cowardice honoured.
(1) Greeks and Romans had but one word for courage and virtue. The coward in battle had better not return to face either his country or his home. The man who left wife or child a prey to violence or fire was henceforth an outlaw.
(2) Courage is the idol of the young. It is this which underlies the hero worship of the river, the course, the field.
(3) Nor will either young or old, so long as England is free or Europe Christian, fail to honour the sincerity that must speak the truth, and the conscience that would go to the stake for duty.
3. Yet courage has its abuses.
(1) There is an intellectual foolhardiness seen in the upsetting of established convictions, the inversion of established convictions, the establishment of some exploded error. Many heresies have sprung out of intellectual bravery. It has seemed so manly to contradict traditions and beliefs. But there is a mental audacity as perilous as and more culpable than that which flings away life in Alpine climbing or in the circus or hunting field.
(2) The same false courage has a more fatal place in things spiritual. What is it that sends the young traveller without arms, map, or guide on the journey of life? What is it that induces one who has been vanquished fifty times on a particular battlefield of temptation to try his chance there again? It was this instinct of courage that Satan appealed to in the wilderness. He had found it in its perversion in the fallen, but not in the perfect Man.
4. Though there is an instinct of courage in us, there are many counteracting instincts, insomuch that it must be, practically, either a rare gift, or else an acquired grace.
(1) Few soldiers probably go into the battle eager for the fray. The very faith of our immortality forbids it.
(2) We reverence and ought to reverence more the grace than the gift. If we know a person naturally sensitive, delicately organised, we admire far more in that person acquired courage, than the stolid acquiescence of one who has neither brain to throb, nor nerve to quiver. Christ’s courage was of this nobler, less constitutional kind, as we see from His natural shrinking from death, and yet His persistence in the path of sacrifice.
II. Christ satisfies this instinct--
1. Of physical courage by showing in Himself how they who may have not the gift may have the grace. Wonderful has been the issue. Witness the martyrs. But excitement of love, hate, bigotry, etc., have had their martyrs. But there is a courage unsupported by excitement and sympathy, in the strength of which Christians have endured in unmurmuring patience lifelong pains, want, etc.
2. Of moral courage. There is nothing in Christ’s character more pervasive than this. We see it in His fearless antagonism to the doctors of His age. He dared to speak the truth regardless of consequences. And thus He taught us courage. He bade us never fear truth--a thing necessary to remember in the face of the present attitude of Faith and Science. The moral courage which He showed in His teaching He also showed in His conduct; and it is here that we want most to cultivate it. Think of His solemn warnings against moral cowardice. How He bade us not be ashamed of Him and His words, and not to fear them who kill the body.
3. Of spiritual courage.
(1) The courage of enterprise and aggression.
(2) The courage of resistance. (Dean Vaughan.)
1. Weakness is always miserable; sometimes sinful. If a man, e.g., abstain from food, having food before him; if he neglect necessary exercise and become, through inaction, enervated; if he pamper the body; if he curtail rest; under such circumstances, to be weak is to be sinful. It is to such weakness that the apostle refers here.
2. Our prayer for you is that you may be strong; and our hope of your strength is not entirely in our prayer, nor in yours. Something more is necessary. In answer to such prayer, God would say to you, “You must lay aside that weight, and that sin, which doth so easily beset you.” “If you would be strong, you must nourish your spirit with that food which I give you.” Suppose that, instead of laying aside that weight, you retain it, and refuse the food offered you. God has answered your prayer in the directions He has given you, and in bringing before you the provision for your strength. The apostle had his eye upon these provisions and directions when he said, “Quit you like men, be strong.”
I. The things that are necessary to spiritual strength.
1. Right and sound principle. “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but the spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind.” Fear is a source of weakness, and love is a source of strength. If your religion is based upon dreading God, you will never be strong, if it is built up upon loving God you will be strong.
2. Mental and emotional nutriment. To have a strong mind, you must get God’s thoughts into it. To have a strong heart, God must be the supreme object of affection.
3. Work. The doing that which God bids us to do, for inactivity invariably brings weakness. The more you do, the more you will be able to do. You find this in prayer, and in the ministrations of benevolence.
4. Self-control and government. “I keep under my body.”
5. Seasonable rest. You must have repose; and if you do not get it, your power of doing sinks and dies out. You see this everywhere, and nowhere more than in the Christian Church.
6. Genial influences upon us. That which we may call light and sunshine--the “love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given unto us.” Flowers will not bloom in darkness; and you cannot get a strong character, except in the love of your God. “Thy gentleness hath made me great.” There are those who expose their children to all sorts of rigors to make them hardy, and perhaps sink them to the grave. The genial influence of real love makes the strongest character.
7. A good atmosphere.
8. Help wisely administered. If, in teaching a child, you do everything for him, he will do nothing. In helping the poor, if you do everything, you impoverish them. God never does this; but He so helps us as to bring out our own resources.
9. Abstinence from all enervating influences. From the principle of fear, e.g., and from carefulness run to seed, “Casting all your care upon Him.” “Fear not, say to them of timid heart, be strong.” 10. A will to be strong.
II. All which is essential to strength we have in possession, or within reach.
1. Right principle is given by God in revelation, and by His Spirit.
2. Bread of life has come down to us from heaven; the well of the water of life has been opened to us.
3. There is work God requires us to do.
4. We have directions for self-control, and we have examples.
5. Rest is divinely promised.
6. There is pure air in the house of prayer, in the Church of Christ, and always on the mount of religious meditation.
7. Help may be always obtained of God. We can lay aside every weight, or it would not be commanded. All that is necessary to make you strong is provided. Do you suppose the Saviour has left His work half done? or that He is doing it now partially? Conclusion: Be strong in your whole spirit, but especially in faith, in hope, and in love. (S. Martin.)
I. The exhortation: “Be strong.”
1. It is not natural, but moral strength that is here intended. A man may be as strong as Goliath, and at the same time quite as wicked. He may have the courage and magnanimity of an Alexander or a Caesar, and yet be a slave to his own lusts. The strength which Paul speaks of, like wisdom, it “cometh from above,” and consists in our being strengthened with all might by God’s Spirit in the inner man (Proverbs 16:32; James 3:17; Ephesians 3:16).
2. The exhortation is addressed to all Christians, whatever be their circumstances or situation, whether in a public or private capacity (Isaiah 35:4; Zechariah 10:6).
3. We need to be reminded that our strength lies not in ourselves, but in Christ our head (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
II. The particular cases to which the exhortation is applicable. We must be strong--
1. To labour. The Christian’s work is constant and complicated; “it is not the work of a day or two,” as Ezra said respecting the reformation to be wrought in Israel, but of a whole life. As to the things of this life, he is not to be slothful in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. But the labours of the spiritual life are still more arduous, and require greater efforts and greater self-denial (Acts 20:24; 1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 1:8).
2. To conquer. Christians are not only labourers, but soldiers; and as such they are called to endure hardness. Seeing that so many forces are combined against us, it is necessary that great strength be exerted. We must not indulge a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (Ephesians 6:11-12).
3. To suffer (Romans 5:3; Colossians 1:11). God’s grace is sufficient for us, though nothing else is. If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.
4. To die. In order to obtain the victory and to die happy, we shall need--
(1) A strong and lively faith, well founded and brought into vigorous exercise (Genesis 49:18; Psalms 23:4; Psalms 73:26; 2 Timothy 4:6-8).
(2) A well-founded and animating hope.
(3) Great strength of affection, desiring to depart and be with Christ, which is far better (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Peter 3:12).
(4) Strong consolation, and a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory. (B. Beddome, M. A.)
Never would Christianity have made any impression upon the godless world which, eighteen centuries ago, it confronted and withstood, had its first teachers and disciples not been men of strength. It may be well, therefore, to consider--
1. The nature.
2. The extent.
3. The source of Christian strength.
(1) What kind of strength is required? Mere physical courage is not enough: we share that with the lower animals. Nor will intellectual power alone suffice; that may be sadly perverted and misused. Both of these are good in their way; but nothing save spiritual strength will carry the Christian triumphantly through the battle of life. This may co-exist with great natural timidity.
(2) When do we need to be strong? At all times and in all circumstances: more than ever before, now that the line of demarcation between the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God is so finely drawn. To live a consistent Christian life in these days, steering clear of the dishonesties practised in the name of “business,” and the shams countenanced in the code of “society”; to denounce, heedless of self-interest, with firm faith in the ultimate victory of goodness and truth, will assuredly tax our strength to the utmost.
(3) Whence are we to derive this strength? In ourselves it cannot be found; its source lies beyond the range of our natural abilities. It comes only from God, the Lord of all power and might, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy. He waits to infuse into each soldier of His the invincible strength which carries all before it. Those who profess to serve Him have no excuse for weakness. The weaker the instrument is by nature, the more splendid is the triumph of Divine grace and the testimony to the sovereign power of God. (J. H. Burn, B.D.)
We mistake strong feelings for strong character. A man who bears all before him--before whose frown domestics tremble, and whose bursts of fury make the children of the house quake--because he has his will obeyed and his own way in all things, we call him the strong man. The truth is, that is the weak man: it is his passions that are strong; he, mastered by them, is weak. You must measure the strength of a man by the power of the feelings be subdues, not by the power of those which subdue him. And hence composure is often the highest result of strength. Did we never see a man receive a flagrant insult, and only grow a little pale, and then reply quietly? That was a man spiritually strong. Or did we never see a man in anguish stand as if carved out of solid rock, mastering himself? Or one bearing a hopeless daily trial remain silent, and never tell the world what it was that cankered his home peace? That is strength. He who, with strong passions, remains chaste--he who, keenly sensitive, with manly power of indignation in him, can be provoked, yet can restrain himself and forgive--these are strong men, spiritual heroes. (New York Observer.)
If we travel by river steamer we are admonished by an inscription just below the steersman’s platform “not to speak to the man at the wheel.” A momentary distraction from attention to his duties might, in some circumstances, involve a deviation from the vessel’s course full of danger to all on board. Like vigilance is needful in spiritual things. The soul must “look right on,” undistracted by the vain conversation of a babbling world, if she would steer her course well for eternity, and avoid making shipwreck of her faith. (J. Halsey.)
A thoughtful scholar of a generation that is passing away was once asked if he would take some bread and a glass of wine. His answer was, “No; I will take some bread and a glass of water.” His friend smilingly answered, “Bread and water--that is prison fare.” “No,” said he, “not prison fare, but garrison fare.” And it is garrison time down here. We can’t afford to be off our watch, not keeping a constant look-out for dangers that are very real and imminent. “What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch!”
1 Corinthians 16:14
Let all your things be done with charity.
Love more effective than logic
As means towards the attainment of the best ends there is no comparison between these. The latter may convince the understanding and leave the heart unchanged, but the former will win the heart, and with that gained, the understanding will usually soon succumb. The difference between them is similar to that between a mallet and the sun in reducing ice to water. The mallet may break the ice into small particles, but each particle will remain ice still, while the sun’s heat falling upon the ice will melt it into a fluid, and so impregnate the fluid with its warmth that while that warmth is continued the water cannot assume again its icy condition. So in changing opinions and reforming habits. Arguments will be of little avail without a loving disposition behind them. The opinions, after all cold pure arguments, will remain generally unchanged, or probably assume another false complexion, and the habits, if broken up for a little, will soon resume their wonted round. But if love prevails, the eyes looking it, the face beaming it, the words expressing it, the whole demeanour demonstrating it, the citadel of opinion will melt before the loving assault, and the heart will become ablaze with the sacred glow. Love and logic should at least go hand in hand in seeking the regeneration of the world.
Love as a motive
Ask yourselves what is the leading motive which actuates you while you are at work. I do not ask what your leading motive is for working, that is a different thing; you may have families to support, parents to help, brides to win; you may have all these, or other such sacred and pre-eminent motives to press the morning’s labour and prompt the twilight thought. But when you are fairly at the work, what is the motive which tells upon every touch of it? If it is the love of that which your work represents--if, being a landscape painter, it is love of hills and trees that move you--if, being a figure painter, it is love of human beauty and human soul that moves you--if, being a flower or an animal painter, it is love, and wonder, and delight in petal and in limb that move you, then the spirit is upon you, and the earth is yours, and the fulness thereof. But if, on the other hand, it is petty self-complacency in your own skill, trust in precepts and laws, hope for academical or popular approbation, or avarice of wealth, it is quite possible that by sturdy industry, or even by fortunate chance, you may win the applause, the position, the fortune that you desire, but one touch of true art you will never lay on canvas or on stone as long as you live. (J. Ruskin.)
A universal rule
I. The spirit of it is love.
II. The applications of it is universal.
III. The motive of it.
1. To promote peace and love.
2. Prevent strife and contention.
3. Subdue enmity and opposition. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
The universal rule
I. To what applied. To all our--
5. Church activities.
II. For whom contemplated, All our--
III. With what result. The promotion of all.
4. Happiness. (J. W. Burn.)
The key which sets the world to music
Man’s life consists of many “things done.” Activity is at once the law and the necessity of his nature. He only really lives as he acts, inactivity is death. But whilst the acts of men are numerous and varied, the animating and controlling spirit should be one, viz., love. It is thus in heaven, through all hierarchies. It should be thus on earth, and must be if earth is to have a millennium. This one spirit will--
I. Make us happy in all our activities. The labour of love is the music of life. All labour, however menial, if wrought under the inspiration of love, must yield happiness.
II. Make us useful in all our activities. Every work performed by love is beneficent, it has a brightness in it to enlighten, a balm in it to soothe, a music in it to charm, an aroma in it to please.
III. Give unity to all our activities. As the circulating sap binds the root, the trunk, and the branches, the leafage, blossoms, and fruit, into one organic unity, so love will give a harmony and completeness to all the numerous and varied acts of life. Why are men everywhere so unhappy in their labours, and their labours so socially pernicious, so disharmonious and divided? Because they are not animated and governed by this one spirit--love. The human labours of the world that spring from greed, ambition, vanity, blind impulse, envy, and resentment, keep individuals, communities, and nations in constant conflict and confusion. (D. Thomas, D.D.)
1 Corinthians 16:15-18
Ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia.
The house of Stephanas
I. Its happiness--united in--
II. Its true nobility--precedence of--
1. Heavenly birth.
III. Its devoted service.
1. Love to the brethren.
2. Liberality of spirit.
3. Sincere attachment to the cause of Christ. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
The natural right of priority
We all feel interested in firstborn children, first forms of enterprise, firstfruits of our labour. Natural feeling gives all first things prominence. First things--
I. Are done with intense feeling, as we see in the youth beginning business, the man entering on a new undertaking. Men brace themselves up for first things, and having no experience as to what strength is required, often put too much into it. Happily life is full of these first things, especially early life, and they exert a most gracious influence on us.
II. Have a natural pre-eminence. The position and rights of the firstborn are an illustration of this. First things are felt to have a representative character. When a servant comes into a house the employers watch the first actions to see how they will frame. When a convert joins a Church the first forms in which Christian responsibility is met are closely scrutinised. Turning his mind back to their hopeful first things the apostle says to the Galatians, “Ye did run well; who did hinder you?”
III. Have promise for following things--as firstfruits have for harvest. A man’s first work need not be his maximum standard, but it ought to be his minimum standard. A first result may tell of power, and power always holds the promise of what culture can make it. One convert made in a new sphere of labour holds the promise of a great ingathering.
IV. Keep a prominent place in the memory, e.g., our first school, first place of business, first love, first sickness, etc. (R. Tuck, B. A.)
That they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.--
Ministering to the saints
I. A very needful work. Many of God’s children are poor, and need the necessaries of life; many are afflicted, and need sympathy; many are weak, and need taking by the hand (Galatians 6:10).
II. A very honourable and beautiful work.
1. Angel-like (Hebrews 1:14).
2. Christ-like (Matthew 20:28; Matthew 25:40).
III. A work that may be exercised in many ways. Thus it is suited to all.
IV. A work that merits recognition on the part of the Church. Those so engaged should be--
1. Highly esteemed. They do much to elevate the tone of the Church; much to preserve it in peace and content; much to stimulate its zeal.
2. Encouraged. The work is trying. Those who encourage others often want much encouragement themselves.
3. Aided. This is probably what the apostle meant in verse 16. “As they serve you, serve them.”
V. A work very beneficial to the workers. “They who water others shall themselves be watered.” We grow rich by bestowing. A sure way of getting to heaven is to get others there. (W. E. Hurndall, M.A.)
That ye submit yourselves unto such.--
Submission due to the elders of the Church
I. Its obligation arises out of their--
II. Its extent reaches as far as they act.
1. In conformity with the apostolic faith; and
2. Help forward its interests.
III. Its fruits.
3. Unity. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
Service and honour
I. The vocation to spiritual ministry.
1. Its first condition is sincere personal adhesion to Christianity (verse 15).
2. Christian ministers are of the most various kinds. They vary with capacity, opportunity, necessity.
3. Such services involve co-operation. Some leading, others following, etc.
4. “ Ministering unto the saints “ is an especial form of acceptable service.
II. The honour and subjection due to those engaged in spiritual ministry.
1. Regard and gratitude. Paul here sets the example.
3. Submission. There are many who should be ready not only to work with, but to work under. (Prof. J. R. Thomson, M.A.)
Our duty to the truly useful
I. Cherish the highest respect for them. Stephanas was one of Paul’s first converts in Achaia, and his family the only one Paul baptized in Corinth, He and his were addicted to the ministries of love. Fortunatus and Achaicus had supplied to Paul what the Corinthians had neglected. The truly useful are the only truly honourable. A man is to be honoured not because of his ancestry, his office, his wealth, but because of what he is morally, and what he does generously in the way of helping the race. The philanthropist is the true prince.
II. Heartily co-operate (verse 16).
1. Co-operate with useful men.
2. In your co-operation let them take the lead. They have proved themselves worthy of your co-operation. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
1 Corinthians 16:17-18
I am glad of the coming of Stephanas,… for they have refreshed my spirit and yours.
These three honoured members of the Corinthian Church came to consult the apostle on matters of faith and practice. But their visit was not simply official, for they were personally attached to Paul, and his grateful language is suggestive of the refreshment of spirit which is the result of Christian association.
I. The need of spiritual refreshment.
1. Work may weigh down the soul as well as the body.
2. Trials such as desertion, disappointment, may dispose to melancholy.
3. Living much alone is wearisome; the energies flag, the work suffers.
II. Its appointed agents. Letters and books are precious, but often inadequate. Living fellowship with those likeminded with ourselves has a peculiar power in restoring the equilibrium of the soul. Paul felt, as we do, it hard to work without the smiles and personal encouragements of his friends.
III. Its means. The presence of Christian friends is much, but the opening of their hearts, the inquiry concerning our successes and failures, are more.
IV. Its results.
1. Depression gives way to cheerfulness.
2. Weariness to vigour.
3. Sluggishness to vivacity.
4. Despondency to hope. (Prof. J. R. Thomson.)
1 Corinthians 16:19-21
The Churches of Asia salute you.
The social temperature of a Church
While doctrines are being discussed in the pulpit, and ecclesiastical distinctions expressed in modes of worship and of discipline, there remains to be studied something quite as essential as these to the future of religion, in the common life that is going on beneath them, the varying phases of which it is impossible for any definition to express. Not second in importance to a Church’s teaching or organisation, is the question of its temperature. The necessity of urging this is not diminished by the consideration of the extreme difficulty of ascertaining what, in Church life, is the exact figure at which the social thermometer should stand. The social habits of our English churches, to confine ourselves for a moment to them, will necessarily be determined to a large extent by our characteristics as a race; and enthusiastic sociability is not, as a rule, regarded as one of these. A witty Frenchman has observed that not only is England an island, but every Englishman is an island. The haughty reserve of manner for which he is celebrated on the Continent, and which at home carries him through a long day’s journey in a railway carriage without opening his lips to his neighbour, is not likely to be cast on one side when he enters the church door. The difficulty in making advances to strangers in congregations is greatly enhanced by the presence in no inconsiderable numbers of this class. They resent the friendly greeting as an intrusion, and are capable of rewarding it with the look which, in one of Lord Beaconsfield’s novels, a great lady bestows upon a person just introduced to her; a look conveying to its recipient the impression that she has never seen him before, that she has no interest in seeing him now, and not the slightest desire ever to set eyes on him again. One of the indispensable elements in the training of a Church social tactician is the cultivation of the faculty of recognising these people at a glance, and of knowing how to deal with them. There are those who value social recognition, and to whom the extension of a ready sympathy is of the first importance, both in regard to their own comfort and as a means of attaching them to the fellowship. Here, again, however, there are subdivisions. Some of these people possess in themselves the social faculty. They have “the coming on humour,” and without much outside help will by the force of their own general attractiveness and geniality, speedily make their way and find themselves at home. Others, depending equally on the appreciation and sympathy of their fellows, and equally expecting it, embarrass their neighbours by the fact that they hoist no signals for a parley. They shut themselves up in their own interior, the windows of their nature shut, and the blinds drawn, and then are astonished and aggrieved that no one knocks at the door. The question of the social temperature of a Church depends for its answer to a considerable extent on the kind of heating apparatus there is in the pulpit. But warmth, fervour, and good-heartedness in the preacher are not enough. There must be organisation as well. Apart from this, the most impassioned discourse on brotherly love will not break through the reserve which prevents Jones in the pew from holding out a hand to Brown, the unknown, in the aisle. The idea of an “Outlook Committee” attached to each Church is excellent. It should be a tolerably large one, of both sexes, and representing the cream of the community in intelligence, tact, good feeling, knowledge of the congregation and of human nature in general. A military officer once said that in a reputedly brave regiment perhaps one in ten would be really brave, it being the example of this tenth that kept the others in line. In a reputedly sociable Church there may, perhaps, be one in ten with the genuine social gift. It is from these, the men and women whose natural grace of temperament has been heightened and enriched by the spirit of Christ; who have the quick intelligence that both reads and remembers faces; who know and respect the social convenances, when to speak and when to refrain from speaking; whose heart knows by instinct the lonely and friendless, and by instinct goes out towards them, that the Look-out Committee should be recruited. Where it is not already in existence it is time to organise it. There is plenty for it to do. The proper comprehension of the conditions of this form of service, and the systematic development of all its capabilities, will put a new face upon many a community that is now languishing from neglect of a vital point. (Christian World.)
The apostolic salutations indicate
I. The unity of the Church of Christ.
1. All the churches are united by common bonds.
2. Should maintain a friendly intercourse.
II. The interest which individuals should feel for the spiritual well-being of those at a distance. It should be--
III. The universal brotherhood of Christians and its fitting expression.
IV. The loving relation between minister and people.
I. From and to whom?
II. Of what kind?
III. Upon what basis?
1. Not upon that of mere courtesy, common interests, or expediency.
2. But “in the Lord.”
(1) In fulfilment of His command.
(2) In imitation of His conduct.
(3) Under the influence of His Spirit. (Prof. J. R. Thomson.)
Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord.--
Aquila and Priscilla
The excellences of this worthy couple. They--
1. Were members of the Church--in Ephesus.
3. Well instructed in the truth (Acts 18:26).
4. Had a Church in their house.
5. Felt a deep interest in the Church at home and abroad. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
With the Church that is in their house.
A Church in the house
I. What this Church is and when our families may be called Churches. Churches are societies--
1. Devoted to God, called out of this world.
2. Employed for God, pursuant to this dedication.
II. Motives to persuade you to turn your families into churches.
1. God will dwell in them.
2. If you make them not churches Satan will have a seat there.
3. It will be comfortable to yourselves.
4. A good legacy.
5. It will help to prosper the Church of God in the nation. (Biblical Museum.)
The Church in the house
(Romans 16:5) imports the Church meeting in their house, consequently implies--
I. The good feeling of the entertainer.
II. The privilege of the household--Christ in the midst.
III. The promise of blessing upon the neighbourhood.
IV. The hope of reunion in heaven. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
The Church in the house
I. The simplest conception of a Church. A meeting or assembly. The term can only be applied to an organised body or material building figuratively. Two or three agreeing to meet together for worship may properly be called a church.
II. Its close association with a home. It is interesting to note that the Christian assemblies were first sanctified homes. They did not need at first any architectural aids.
III. Its fundamental features. Family religion extended to embrace family friends.
IV. The lines of its probable development. These were fixed by--
1. Increase of numbers.
2. Growth of wealth, bringing with it artistic sentiment and desires.
3. Rise of distinction between priesthood and laity, and the consequent development of ritual. (R. Tuck, B.A.)
This is a general custom in the households of evangelical Christians. No man ought to consider his piety of an active stamp who neglects to institute “the Church” in his house.
I. It is a duty. The Bible nowhere directly commands it; but--
1. It is a duty by inference. When Abraham moved his tent to the plain of Mamre, he built there an altar unto the Lord (Genesis 13:18). The pious take their religion with them wherever they go. When David says, “Seven times a day do I praise Thee,” remember there was no temple, and that at least two of these times may refer to morning and evening worship in the household. Daniel “prayed in his house, sometimes himself alone, and sometimes with his family about him” (Daniel 6:10). Cornelius was a man that prayed in his house (Acts 10:30). Paul delighted to honour Priscilla and Aquila, and twice spoke of “the Church that is in their house” (Text and Romans 16:5). This is interpreted by some to mean “that their home was a sanctuary and their family a Church”; but if others may assemble in the home for worship, how much more may not the family? We may certainly claim that family prayer conforms to the command, and is entitled to the promise contained in James 4:8.
2. A duty by example. It can hardly be doubted that the deeply pious in all times have prayed with their family in their households. Abraham, Joshua, David, Job, Daniel, all worshipped God in the family, and our Saviour confirmed the obligation; for He often prayed with His disciples, as His family or household.
II. It is a privilege, Family prayer binds the household more closely and lovingly together. It is a great boon to consecrate the day with prayer before the household separates on its divers ways and on its manifold duties, What if they should never all meet again? To have omitted it on such a day would prove a lasting regret. How precious at night to commit our souls and bodies to that Guardian of Israel who neither slumbers nor sleeps! This gives a gracious opportunity to pray with our children and for our children. Says Cecil, “It may be used as an engine of vast power in the family. It diffuses a sympathy through the members. It calls the mind off from the deadening effects of worldly affairs. It arrests every member with a morning and evening sermon, in the midst of all the hurries and cares of life. It says, ‘There is a God!’ ‘There is a spiritual world!’ ‘There is a life to come!’ It fixes the idea of responsibility in the mind. It furnishes a tender and indictors father or master with an opportunity of gently glancing at faults, where a direct admonition might be inexpedient. It enables him to relieve the weight with which sub-ordination or service sits on minds of inferiors.”
1. Are we prayerless Christians?
2. Do we keep the fires burning brightly and continually upon the family altar?
3. Do we excuse ourselves because of non-ability and lack of confidence? Remember the man who hid his talent in a napkin.
4. Do we make it cheerful with song, instructive with Scripture, hallowed with prayer and precious with all its memories? (Homiletic Monthly.)
A church in the house
I. Churches are societies devoted to God, called out of the world, taken in out of the common to be inclosures for God. He hath set them apart for Himself; and, because He hath chosen them, they also have chosen Him, and set themselves apart for Him. The Jewish Church was separated to God for a peculiar people, a kingdom of priests. Thus our houses must be churches; with ourselves we must give up our houses to the Lord, to be to Him for a name and a people. All the interest we have, both in our relations and in our possessions, must be consecrated to God; as, under the law, all that the servant had was his master’s for-ever, after he had consented to have his ear bored to the door-post.
II. Churches are societies employed for God, pursuant to the true intent and meaning of this dedication.
1. Keep up family doctrine.
(1) You must read the Scriptures to your families, inquiring sometimes whether they understand what you read.
(2) You must also catechise your children and servants so long as they continue in that age of life which needs this milk.
2. Keep up family worship. You must not only, as prophets, teach your families, but as priests, must go before them in offering the spiritual sacrifice of prayer and praise.
(1) You ought to make family acknowledgments of your dependence upon God and His providence, as you are a family.
(2) You ought to make family confessions of your sins against God; those sins you have contracted the guilt of in your family capacity.
(3) You ought to offer up family thanksgivings for the blessings which you, with your families, receive from God.
(4) You ought to present your family petitions for the mercy and grace which your families stand in need of.
(5) You ought to make family intercessions for others also. There are families you stand related to, or which by neighbourhood, friendship, or acquaintance you become interested in, and concerned for, and these you should recommend in your prayers to the grace of God, and your family that are joined with you in the alliances should join with you in those prayers.
3. Keep up family discipline, that so you have a complete church in your house, though in little. Reason teacheth us, “that every man should bear rule in his own house” (Esther 1:22). And since that, as well as other power, is of God, it ought to be employed for God, and they that so rule, must be just, ruling in His fear.
(1) Countenance everything that is good and praiseworthy in your children and servants.
(2) Discountenance everything that is evil in your children and servants. Use your authority for the preventing of sin, and the suppressing of every root of bitterness, lest it spring up and trouble you, and thereby many be defiled. (S. Hayward.)
1 Corinthians 16:22
If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.
Love to Christ
(Ephesians 6:24 and Text):--Though so dissimilar, both texts teach the same truth, viz., that love to Christ is the indispensable condition of salvation.
I. Why is love to Christ thus necessary? Because--
1. Christ is God--God in the clearest form of manifestation--the sum of the Divine perfections. All that there is in God to command the supreme duty of loving Him is in Christ, therefore it is impossible to love God without loving Christ, and not to love Christ is not to love God.
2. Christ is God in our nature, and is thus invested with special attractions, because--
(1)Possessed of another kind of excellence.
(2) Brought into a relation to us He sustains to no other order of beings.
3. Christ loved us and given Himself for us. To be insensible of this claim on our affection is indicative of the greatest moral depravity.
4. By His love and death Christ has opened a way to us from degradation and misery to eternal life and glory.
5. We are shut up to the necessity of loving Christ or Satan. There are but two sovereigns, and you must choose between them.
II. What is it to love Christ, and how can we tell whether we love Him or not? Where this love is there will be--
1. A feeling of reverence and complacency which prevents us from ever treating Him with neglect or indignity, and which makes His society delightful.
2. Zeal for His honour. Any disrespect shown Him is painful to us, and anything which promotes His glory is a source of delight to us.
3. A desire to please Him, to do His will. (C. Hodge, D. D.)
The importance of love to Christ
I. The Lord Jesus Christ is truly and eminently lovely, and is therefore to be loved. Consider the nature and actings of this grace.
1. If Christ be considered as able to do that for us, and communicate that to us, which we want, love is evinced by desire. The believer cannot be satisfied without Him.
2. If He be considered as having already manifested Himself to the soul, then love exerts itself in a way of delight. “Whom having not seen, ye love,” etc.
3. As Christ has an interest to be carried on in the world, love displays itself in zeal for His honour. “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.”
4. If we consider Christ as offended with our sins, and having suffered for them, love manifests itself in grief and sympathy. “I am crucified with Christ,” says the apostle, “and I could not do less.”
5. If we consider Christ as glorified in heaven, love expresses itself in joy and triumph.
II. Notwithstanding all this amiableness in Christ, there are some who no not love Him. Such persons have--
1. No real esteem for the Saviour. “Unto you that believe, He is precious.”
2. No true faith in Christ.
3. No obedience and subjection to Christ. “ If a man love Me, he wilt keep My words.”
III. All who love not the Lord Jesus Christ, are chargeable with aggravated guilt, and expose themselves to the severest displeasure of God. Because--
1. He is so dearly beloved of God.
2. He is so lovely and desirable in Himself.
3. He has given the most astonishing proofs of His love to sinners.
Consequently the want of love to Christ will be destructive of religion here, and happiness hereafter. This one defect destroys the excellency and life of all religion. Without love, faith is dead, repentance legal, fear slavish; and all duties void of this principle are vain. As to future happiness, heaven is a place of love; and to entertain one person there who is not a lover of Christ, would disturb the order and break the harmony of that blessed society. Conclusion:--
1. Love to Christ may be easily discovered.
(1) By the current of your thoughts. What persons love, they think much upon; and the pleasant image is continually before them.
(2) By the care of your lives. Can you say that to you to live is Christ? Now, then, let conscience do its office, and it will easily tell you whether you love Christ or not.
2. Not to love Christ is a crime of tremendous guilt, which is attended with dreadful aggravations; for--
(1) It is a sin without cause. It admits of no reason or excuse.
(2) It is also a sin against many causes.
(3) It is the cause of many other sins. (S. Lavington.)
Loving Christ and the penalty of neglecting it
Note the position which this verse occupies.
1. This Epistle was dictated to an amanuensis, and now Paul adds “The salutation of me Paul with my own hand”: a form immediately followed, in most of his Epistles, by the apostolic benediction: but here he interposes the text. I think this shows us the state of his heart, which was full of Christ: he could not suppress the strong affection he entertained for the Saviour, and here he overflows.
2. Interposed as it is between the signature and the benediction, he intends it to have all the weight which apostolical authority can give it. Note--
I. The duty enjoined.
1. Its object.
(1) The old law was comprehended in two commandments, of which the first was greatest, “Thou shalt love Jehovah thy God,” etc. The New Testament puts forward a similar claim on behalf of Christ; and it were easy to argue from this, that Christ is the one Jehovah for whom the old law challenges our supreme and undivided love. Indeed, this very name is here applied to Him. He is set before us, while claiming our affections, as “the Lord.”
(2) He who claims our love bears not only the incommunicable name, but a name common to many of His fellow-men: Jesus.
(3) Bears another name, or rather title--Christ, or Anointed; because He sustains those offices into which men were commonly inducted by anointing, and which, as God-man, He sustains on behalf of mankind--Prophet, Priest, and King. God, Man, Mediator between God and men--whoever does not present Him in these three aspects robs Him of a part of that which essentially belongs to Him: whoever does not exhibit Him under this threefold character does not show you the Christ of the Scriptures, but some idol of his own invention.
2. The love which is claimed in His behalf must be--
(1) Sincere. You find a distinction made in the Scriptures between loving our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and pretending to love Him.
(2) Supreme. “If any man will come after Me”--“if any man will be My disciple,” he must be prepared to “hate father, mother,” etc. At the time when this was spoken, there went great multitudes after Him: but this was the doctrine by which He proved them. There are multitudes who will come after Him still, if He will be content to follow in the train of some beloved pursuit, or lust. Religion would be the most popular thing in the world, and would carry the whole world before it, if it were at liberty to waive this point. But Christ will have the first place in our affections: whatever stands opposed to Him we must hate; whatever is in harmony with Him, and dependent upon Him, must be loved in subordination to Him.
(3) Ardent. The Scriptures are wont to illustrate this subject by a comparison taken from fire. There may be a spark, and if that spark is blown, it may rise to a vehement flame which many waters cannot quench. You have only to neglect it, and it will expire. But you are told that you must stir up the gift of God.
(4) Constant; and that because He is always the same; that is due to Him at one time is due to Him at all times.
(5) Practical. “This is the love of God that we keep His commandments.”
3. The evidences of this love. I cannot help thinking, that in the case of every human object of affection, the love which there was need to try by many signs, would hardly be counted worth having; that where there is so much uncertainty whether we love Christ or no, one thing is certain--that we do not love Him very much: but still, for the sake of those who love, and who search after the signs and marks, let me give you one or two.
(1) The love of the brethren, i.e., the brethren of Christ, as well as ours: and it is in that light that they are principally to be regarded. If a man feels his heart expanded towards all Christians--if he is willing to bear with their weaknesses, and relieve their necessities, for Christ’s sake--he loves Christ. But on the other hand, if he will stand aloof from them, does he love Christ? If he says he does, Christ Himself says he is a liar. He tells you they are His representatives, and whoever does not to them as he would to Christ, if Christ stood in person before him, does not love Christ as he ought. “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye love one another.”
(2) Whoever loves Christ, rejoices in the return of the Lord’s Day. You have days of meeting among friends; and the offering of every expression of joy is appropriate to such meetings. This is the day which Christ sets apart to meet His friends. Do you love His Sabbath, and do you rejoice in its return? Do you honour the Lord and keep His ordinances? If so, there is ground to hope you love Christ. But if the Sabbath is a weariness, your love to Christ is yet but a name--there is no substance in it.
(3) The Bible is Christ’s love-letter to His people. Who loves to read and honour it? Who comes to it with a relish, as a friend reads a letter from a loved friend? He loves Christ: this is a sign which cannot be mistaken.
II. The penalty denounced. Whoever will not stand this test, what is to become of him? “Let him be accursed: our Lord is coming.” This form of expression is said to be taken from the practice in the synagogues in excommunicating offenders. They had three forms of excommunication, in the last or highest of which they used this expression, and this was always understood to imply the sentence of final and irrevocable ruin. Now, says the apostle, this is the doom of all who do not love Christ.
2. The curse does not fall now: the lovers of Christ and those who do not love Him go on, perhaps, very much with equal steps through life. But “the Lord is coming”; and at His coming He is to separate between those who love Him and those who do not love Him. The tares and the wheat grow together till the harvest; we cannot separate the hypocrite from the sincere until some overt action incontestably proves that the profession is false. The day of separation is at the end of the world; and to this St. Paul alludes, “The Lord is coming,” to discern between the true professor and the false.
3. The Lord delayeth His coming: but why? Not out of weakness, not out of forgetfulness, but that in the interval the curse may be averted.
4. I know that you cannot command your affections, but I tell you what you can do--you can go to the throne of grace and pray that the Holy Ghost may shed it abroad in your hearts. (G. Osborn, D.D.)
Want of love to Christ is
I. Rebellion against the highest authority. “This is My beloved Son, hear ye Him.” Want of love is therefore transgression of the will of God and rebellion against Him.
II. Contempt of the highest excellence. Whether you consider the, Divine nature of our Lord, or His human nature, or His mediatorial character, there is in Him everything calculated to attract. “He is altogether lovely”; therefore not to love Him is to have a degraded mind, and to throw contempt on the highest manifestation of human excellence and Divine love.
III. Ingratitude to the highest benefactor. Consider what we owe Him in connection with His incarnation, death, intercession. Think of the sinfulness of rejecting Him in the light of the truth that those who despise Him live because of His intercession. Conclusion: Is there anything to be said in extenuation of this guilt? The greatest argument for love is love. “We love Him because He first loved us.” You cannot force the slave to love his master; but what do you think of the child that, after receiving increasing kindness, refuses to love a parent? One sees the guilt in such a case. God is not a hard Master; Christ does not treat us as slaves. Oh, if His love is not in our hearts we are indeed hard, unfeeling, thankless, justly under the anathema of God. (W. Cadman, M A.)
Not loving Christ and its consequences
I. What are the claims of Christ upon our love?
1. He is God. If this were the only ground, He would surely have every right to expect our love. He who is the Author of every mercy therefore demands our love.
2. And yet, having failed of obtaining it as Creator, having had His laws insulted and His majesty dishonoured, He hath sought to win our love by such an act of love as even exceeds the mercies of creation, viz., redemption. Whatever you require for your admission into heaven, His love hath done it all. And now He offers His salvation freely.
3. Now, is this Friend of our lost souls unreasonable when He asks our hearts of us? We give them to our friends on earth.
II. Who are the men that “love not” that Lover of their souls?
1. The world. Here are a great variety of characters, but all are alike in this, they “love not the Lord Jesus Christ.” They live without Him, neglect His Word, discountenance His cause, love and follow practices which are His abomination.
2. Hypocritical professors, Christ’s own definition of those who “love Him not” is “He that loveth Me not keepeth not My sayings.” True, they may say high things of Him, yet all this is like the kiss of Judas, whilst they are doing all things in their life and practice to dishonour and affront Him. They love sin.
III. The guilt these men incur. Who can fathom the depth of their ingratitude! To have forgotten the mercies of creation is an awful blot upon our nature; but when He dies for our iniquities, and calls us to His pardoning mercies, who shall estimate the blackness of his guilt who treats this Saviour lightly? “If I had not come and spoken to them they had not had sin”; all our other sins look nothing when compared to this.
IV. The awful doom of all those who “love not the Lord Jesus Christ.” “Let them be accursed at the second coming of the Lord.” There is a curse which rests upon the head of every man by nature as a breaker of the law of God (Deuteronomy 27:26); and to deliver our souls from this was the great end of our Redeemer’s death (Galatians 3:13). To those therefore who receive Him and rely upon Him this curse is turned into a blessing (Romans 8:1). But they who “love not the Lord Jesus Christ” remain under that curse from which He died to set them free (John 3:36; 1 Corinthians 15:17). To reject a Saviour, as it is a more aggravated sin than to reject the law, so will it meet with a more aggravated condemnation (Hebrews 10:28-29). “The curse of the law” is terrible; but “the wrath of the Lamb”! what will that be? (A. Roberts, M.A.)
The sin and doom of the loveless
I. Why is the Lord Jesus Christ to be loved? This love was the pervading emotion of early times, and its fervour quailed not at martyrdom. The memory of the Cross was fresh, and faith wrought by love. That love was a distinct and personal attachment, and is so still. For this love is a rational affection. It is not an emotion which springs up, none can tell how or why. Nor is it any caprice or feverish excitement. It rests on a sure foundation--on a “tried corner-stone,” viz., the knowledge of Christ’s person and claims.
1. Is He not “the chiefest among ten thousand” as a man? and were He not more than man, you cannot but love Him. “Thou art fairer than the sons of men.” The sexes divide between them the elements of perfection, and a perfect man or woman might not be a perfect being. But all that is tender and graceful in woman, and all that is noble and robust in man, met together in Jesus. Nature is never prodigal of her gifts. Birds of gay plumage have no song; strength is denied to creatures endowed with swiftness. As one man is generally distinguished by the predominance of one class of virtues, and another man by another, so the union of both might realise perfection. Had the peculiar gifts of John and Paul been blended, the result might have been a perfect apostle. Were the intrepidity of Luther, the tenderness of Melancthon, and the calm intellect of Calvin combined in one person, you would have the model of a faultless reformer. But every grace that adorns humanity was in Jesus in fulness and symmetry. No virtue jostled another out of its place. None rose into extravagance--none pined in feeble restriction. Perfect in every relation of life, wise in speech, pure in conduct, large in compassion, intense in beneficence, replete with everything that charms into attachment and rapture, He was the incarnation of universal loveliness.
2. But Christ’s humanity was assumed into a personal union with a higher nature. To take a nature so low, to save a race so guilty, and by an agony so awful, was the effect of a love that could only dwell in the bosom of Jehovah. And oh what a labour He accomplished! He secured for us the best of boons, and delivered us from the worst of evils. And surely we must “love Him, because He first loved us.”
II. How Jesus is to be loved. If our creed be, there is none like Christ, then the language of our heart will be--None but Christ! His claims are paramount, and therefore love to Him must not only be ardent, but supreme. Now, it is not of the absence of love in the Church we complain so much as of its lukewarmness. In many love only warms towards Christ on the first day of the week, and falls into slumber on the other six days. The plant could not maintain its life by the enjoyment of air, soil, and water once a week, and the animal would drag out an enfeebled existence if it depended on a similar periodical nutrition. No; it is of the nature of love to give its object an immediate and permanent existence in the heart. If Christ were loved, His image would ever dwell within us; and were He loved supremely, that image would gather in upon itself our deepest attachment, and exercise an undivided sway over thought, purpose, speech, and action.
III. The sin and danger of not loving Christ. It implies--
1. Ignorance of His person, claims, and work. The more men know Him, the more does their heart burn with this gracious and absorbing affection. And surely ignorance of Him must bring a merited anathema. For such ignorance is wholly inexcusable, with the Bible before it and the Cross in its view.
2. Unbelief. “Faith worketh by love.” But if absence of love imply absence of faith, what a curse must follow” “He that believeth is saved, but he that believeth not is condemned already.” Severed from Christ the soul is lost for ever.
3. Unlikeness to God. And if, on a point so tender, he is unlike God, will not God frown upon the sinner and punish him?
4. Unfitness for heaven. Heaven is a region where love to Jesus predominates--where it gladdens every bosom, and gives music to every anthem. But the unloving mind is not allowed to join in these warblings, for none but the new heart can sing the new song. Without love to Him, because unconscious of any salvation from Him, it would feel no reason to bless Him.
5. The certainty of the curse--“Our Lord cometh.” The Church rejoices in that motto, but it is the terror of the wicked. The cloud that guided Israel consumed and terrified the amazed Egyptian. And He comes for the very purpose of making inquisition--of ascertaining who have responded to His love, and confided in His atonement. Nor can He be deceived. His eye, as it looks upon the mass, scans every individual and looks down into his heart. Nay, the heart without love will at once discover itself by its tremor. Nor can it escape. Subterfuge and evasion are alike impossible. But not only does the awful formula certify the curse, it also embitters it--Our Lord cometh--He whom men are bound to love as Saviour pronounces the dead anathema. From other lips it would not be so awful; but surely such an anathema from the lips of Love must arm itself with a burning and unbearable terror. (J. Eadie, D.D.)
A negative crime and a positive punishment
This expression may be regarded--
1. As a grand characteristic of Biblical appeal. It appeals to the heart, and seeks the reformation of the world by the reformation of the individual, and the reformation of the individual by the reformation of the heart.
2. As an incidental argument of the Godhead of Christ. The Bible claims for Him supreme love, but supreme affection belongs to God. Paul makes our destiny depend upon love to Christ. Would he make our destiny depend upon mere love to man, to Abraham, David, Isaiah, or John?
3. As a solemn test of a true character. The essence of a true character consists not in ideas or mere actions, but in love, and in love for Christ. “Lovest thou Me?” said Christ to Peter. The text contains--
I. A negative crime. This state of mind in relation to Christ is--
1. Unreasonable. There is everything in Him to call out the highest love. There are three kinds of love of which we are susceptible--gratitude, esteem, and benevolence. The first requires manifestation of kindness; the second, of moral excellence; the third, a purpose for the common good. Christ manifests all these, and therefore deserves our highest love. There may be men who have power to excite in our natures, in some degree, love in some of these forms; but Christ alone has power to excite all in the highest degree.
2. Ascertainable. We can soon ascertain whether we love Christ or not. The chief object of love will always be--
(1) The most engrossing subject of thought.
(2) The attractive theme of conversation.
(3) The source of the greatest delight in pleasing.
(4) The most transforming power of character.
(5) The most identified with our conscious life.
3. Deplorable. This love is the only true regulative power of the soul. Where this is not, or where it is misdirected, all the powers of our nature are misemployed, and all is confusion. Then, indeed, the life of the soul is dead to virtue and to happiness. Our happiness consists in supreme affection, and our supreme affection, to yield happiness, must be directed to an object absolutely perfect, reciprocative, and ever enduring. Such an object is Christ, and such only is He.
II. A positive punishment.
1. Its nature. “Let him be Anathema.” The word primarily means anything that is laid up, or set apart for some particular purpose. The secondary and general meaning is “accursed,” devoted to ruin (cf. Galatians 1:7-8; Romans 9:3)
. It is one of Paul’s strong words to express a terrible evil. Cut off the planet from the sun, and it rushes to ruin; the river from the fountain, and it is gone; the branch from the tree, and the limb from the body, and they die. The soul, cut off from Christ--its centre, fountain, root, life--is destroyed.
2. Its certainty. “Maran-atha,” “the Lord will come.” Christ will come to execute judgment upon those who love Him not. Paul had written the other part of his letter by an amanuensis, but to write these terrible words he takes up the pen himself. Men are accursed, not merely because they hate Christ, rebel against His authority, profane His ordinances, but because they do not love Him; whatever else they do in philanthropy, etc. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
I. The crime supposed. Not to love Christ supremely is--
1. Unreasonable--He is supremely lovely.
2. Ungrateful--He has loved us.
3. Unjust--He has a right to our love.
II. The punishment threatened.
1. The punishment.
2. The time.
3. The certainty. Application--
(1) It is the duty of all men to love Christ.
(2) Christ knows those who love Him. (G. Whitefield.)
Anathema and grace
1. Terror and tenderness are strangely mingled in this parting salutation. Paul has been obliged, throughout the whole Epistle, to assume a tone of remonstrance, and here he traces all their vices to their fountain-head--the defect of love to Jesus Christ--and warns of their fatal issue.
2. But he will not leave these terrible words for his last. The thunder is followed by gentle rain, and the sun glistens on the dewdrops (verse 23). Nor for himself will he let the last impression he one of rebuke or even of warning (verse 24). Is not that beautiful? And does it not go deeper than the revelation of Paul’s character? May we not see in these terrible and tender thoughts a revelation of the true nature both of the terror and the tenderness of the gospel which Paul preached? Note--
I. The terror of the fate of the unloving. “Anathema” means an offering, or a thing devoted. In the story of the conquest of Canaan, e.g., we read of places, persons, or things that were “accursed,” i.e., devoted or put under a ban. And this “devotion” was of such a sort as that the subjects were doomed to destruction. So Paul tells us that the unloving, like those cities full of uncleanness, when they are brought into contact with the infinite love of the coming Judge, shrivel up and are destroyed. “Maran-atha” is a separate sentence. It means “our Lord comes,” and was perhaps a kind of watchword. The use of it here is to confirm the warning of the previous clause, by pointing to the time at which that warning shall be fulfilled.
1. “The Lord comes.” Paul’s Christianity gathered round two facts and moments--one in the past, Christ has come; one in the future, Christ will come. For memory, the coming by the cradle and the Cross; for hope, the coming on His throne in glory. And between these two moments, like the solid piers of a suspension bridge, the frail structure of the present hangs swinging. There have been many comings in the past, besides the coming in the flesh. One characteristic is stamped upon them all, and that is the swift annihilation of what is opposed to Him. The Bible has a set of standing metaphors by which to illustrate this thought--“A flood,” “a harvest,” the waking of God from slumber, etc. The second coming will include and surpass all the characteristics which these lesser and premonitory judgment days presented in miniature.
2. The coming of the Lord of love is the destruction of the unloving--not the cessation of their being, but a death worse than death, because a death in life. Suppose a man with all his past annihilated, with all its effort crushed, with all its possessions gone, and with his memory and his conscience stung into clear-sighted activity, so as that he looks back upon his former and into his present self, and feels that it is all chaos, would not that fulfil the word, “Let him be Anathema”? And suppose that such a man, in addition to these thoughts, and as the root and the source of them, had ever the quivering consciousness that he was in the presence of an unloved Judge! The unloving heart is always ill at ease in the presence of Him whom it does not love. The unloving heart does not love, because it does not trust nor see the love. Therefore, the unloving heart is a heart that is only capable of apprehending the wrathful side of Christ’s character. So there is no cruelty, no arbitrariness in the decree that the heart that loves not when brought into contact with the infinite Lord of love must find in the touch death and not life, darkness and not light, terror and not hope.
3. Paul does not say “he that hateth,” but he that does not love. The absence of love, which is the child of faith, the parent of righteousness, the condition of joy in His presence, is sufficient to ensure that this fate shall fall upon a man.
II. The present grace of the coming Lord. “Our Lord cometh.” “The grace,” etc. (verse 23).
1. These two things are not contradictory, but we often deal with them as if they were. But the real doctrine says there is no terror without tenderness, and there is no tenderness without terror. You cannot have love which is anything nobler than facile good nature and unrighteous indifference, unless you have along with it aspects of God’s character and government which ought to make some men afraid. And you cannot keep these latter aspects from being exaggerated and darkened into a Moloch of cruelty unless you remember that underlying them and determining them are aspects of the Divine nature, to which only child-like confidence and love rightly respond. The terror of the Lord is a garb which our sins forces upon the love of the Lord.
2. Note what the present grace is. A tenderness which gathers into its embrace all these imperfect, immoral, lax, heretical people in Corinth, as well as everywhere else--“with you all.” And surely the love which gathers in such people leaves none outside its sweep. Let nothing rob you of this assurance, that the coming Lord is present with us all, and all we need, in order to get its full sunshine into our hearts, is that we trust Him utterly, and, so trusting, love Him back again with that love which is the fulfilling of the law and the crown of the gospel.
III. The tenderness, caught from the Master Himself of the servant who rebukes (verse 24). There is no other instance where he introduces himself and his own love at the end, after he has pronounced the solemn benediction. But here, as if he had felt that he must leave an impression of himself on their minds which corresponded to the impression of his Master that he desired to leave, he deviates from his ordinary habit, and makes his last word a personal word--“My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.” Paul embraces all whom he has been rebuking in the warm embrace of his proffered love, which was the very cause of his rebuke. The healing balm of this closing message was to be applied to the wounds which his keen edged words had made, and to show that they were wounds by a surgeon, not by a foe. Because the gospel is a gospel, it must speak plainly about death and destruction to the unloving. The danger signal is not to be blamed for a collision. “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” (A. Maclaren, D.D.)
Loving Jesus Christ
First, love Christ so far as to lay down the pleasures of this life for Him, and so far as to lay down the life itself for Him.
2. Love Him, then, as He is presented to thee here: love the Lord, love Christ, love Jesus. As He is the Lord, thou wilt fear Him; but no man fears God truly, but that that fear ends in love. Love Him as He is the Lord, that would have nothing perish that He hath made. And love Him as He is Christ, that hath made Himself man too, that thou mightest not perish. Love Him as the Lord that could show mercy, and love Him as Christ who is that way of mercy which the Lord hath chosen. I have found Him, and found that He, who by His incarnation was made able to save me (so He was Christ), by His actual passion hath saved me, and so I love Him as Jesus. When I conceit, when I contemplate my Saviour thus, I love the Lord, and there is a reverent adoration in that love; I love Christ, and there is a mysterious admiration in that love; but I love Jesus, and there is a tender compassion in that love, and I am content to suffer with Him and to suffer for Him rather than see any diminution of His glory by my prevarication. And he that loves not thus, that loves not the Lord God, and God manifested in Christ, Anathema, Maranatha, which is our next and our last part. Whether this Anathema be denounced by the apostle by way of imprecation, that he wished it so, or pronounced by way of excomnmnication, that others should esteem them so and avoid them, as such persons, is sometimes debated amongst us in our books. But we rather take this in the text to be an excommunication denounced by the apostle, than an imprecation. Now the excommunication is in the Anathema, and the aggravating thereof in the other words, Maranatha. The word Anathema had two significations: that which for some excellency in it was separated from the use of man to the service of God, or that which for some great fault in it was separated from God and man too. From the first kind men abstained because they were consecrated to God, and from the other because they were aliened from God. By the light of nature, by the light of grace we should separate ourselves from irreligious and from idolatrous persons, and that with that earnestness which the apostle expresses in the last words, Maranatha. It is superabundant perverseness to resist Christ now, now that He hath appeared already and established to Himself a kingdom in the world. And so St. Chrysostom seems to take it too. “Christ is come already,” says he. If any excuse could he pretended before, yet since Christ is come, none can be, But that is not all that is intended by the apostle in this place. It is not only a censorious speech, it is a shame for them, and an inexcusable thing in them, if they do not love the Lord Jesus Christ; but it is a judiciary speech, thus much more, since they do not love the Lord. “The Lord judge them when He comes.” “I,” says the apostle, “take away none of His mercy when He comes, but I will have nothing to do with them till He comes; to me He shall be Anathema, Maranatha, separated from me till then; then the Lord, who shows mercy in minutes, do His will upon him.” To end all, if a man love not the Lord, if he love not God, which is, which was, and which is to come, what will please him, whom will he love? (J. Donne.)
Affection ungratefully withheld
After Joan of Arc had won the great victory at Orleans, and made clear the way for Charles the Seventh to be crowned king, she was taken prisoner, and subjected to the most brutal treatment at the hands of her enemies; still her ungrateful king refused to make a single move to liberate the one who had freed his subjects, and made him heir and king. My unsaved friend, you are doing the same thing. As you read the simple narrative, you doubtless will say, “King Charles was ungrateful, and deserved punishment.” Yet Jesus Christ left His heavenly home, came down to earth, suffered, and died that you might be crowned the “child of a King,” and you refuse to even acknowledge Him. Should the anger of God consume you, could you say aught in your defence? (Sharpened Arrows.)
The sin of not loving Christ
“To refuse to love Jesus Christ, I affirm, is to do Him all the evil which an open enemy could, or at least would do. If Jesus Christ had come into the world, as a king into a revolted province, in order to extinguish rebellion, and cause the silence of terror to reign in it, He might be satisfied with a trembling submission, and care nothing for the evil we do Him. But such a submission He did not desire, nor can desire. That alone which He desired, that alone for which He descended to the earth, the end to which He directed all His toils, was the conquest of our heart. Separate from that triumph, every other is nothing to Him. (Dr. Vinet.)
Want of love to Christ a fatal sin
How great is the sin of not loving your Lord and your Saviour! “Oh! but you see, sir, that is a mere negative thing. It is what we do that we are accountable for to God; it is our positive actions that we must render an account for at the last.” Is that so? Is there no sin in not doing what you ought to do? If your neighbour’s house were in flames to-night, and you saw them belching out of the windows, would it be no sin for you to sit calmly in your own dwelling, and not go at midnight to raise the family from their fatal sleep? Would you think so if to-morrow morning you looked at their skeletons amid the charred and blackened ruins? Suppose there is some man in this chapel to-night, who lives in a comfortable and luxurious mansion, but his own mother is in an almshouse, I say to him, “Where is your old mother?” He says, “In the poorhouse.” “Do you know, sir, that you are practising a diabolical cruelty?” “Oh! but I am doing nothing to my mother.” “It is your not doing; it is your living in luxury, and she lying there on that hard bed of poverty and neglect that stamps you, sir, with that most damnable sin of breaking God’s fifth commandment. It is what you do not do that stamps you as an ingrate to her that bore you.” Oh! my friends, yet out of Christ, it is the sin of not loving Christ that makes you guilty before God. Not loving Him is pronounced in all cases a positive and fatal sin. (T. L. Cuyler.)
How he came to say it
How came the tender-hearted Paul to throw those red-hot words at the Corinthians? Not to love Christ is--
I. Unreasonable and unnatural. Tradition tells us that He was the most infinitely beautiful being that ever walked our small earth, and to a lovely exterior He joined all loveliness of disposition. The sunshine of His love mingling with the shadows of His sorrows, crossed by the crystalline stream of His tears and the crimson of His blood, make a picture worthy of being called the masterpiece of the eternities. He was altogether lovely--always lovely, and lovely in everything. Lovely in His sacrifice. Why, He gave up everything for us, and He took everybody’s trouble. Now suppose that, notwithstanding all this, a man cannot have any affection for Him. Why “After all this, ‘if a man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maran-atha.’”
II. Unjust. Just look at the injustice of not loving Him. There is nothing that excites a man like injustice. If there ever was a fair and square purchase of anything, then Christ purchased us. If anything is purchased and paid for, ought not the goods to be delivered? And you will go to law for it, and, if need be, hurl the defaulter into jail. Such injustice as between man and man is bad enough, but between man and God it is reprehensible and intolerable. After all thin purchase “if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.”
III. Suicidal. If a man gets into trouble, and he cannot get out, we have only one feeling towards him, sympathy and a desire to help him. But suppose the day before he failed, W. E. Dodge had come into his store and said: “My friend, I hear you are in trouble. I have come to help you,” and suppose the man were to say, “I don’t want it; I would rather fail than take it; I don’t even thank you for offering it.” Your sympathy for that man would cease immediately. Now Christ hears of our spiritual embarrassments. He finds the law saying, “Pay me what thou owest.” Pay? We cannot pay a farthing of all the millions of obligation. Well, Christ comes in and says, “You can use My name.” Now suppose the soul says, “O Christ, I want not Thy help. Go away from me.” You would say, “After all this ingratitude and rejection, ‘if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maran-atha.’”
IV. Cruel. The meanest thing I could do for you would be needlessly to hurt your feelings. Now, Christ is a bundle of delicacy and sensitiveness. Oh, what rough treatment He has received sometimes from our hands! Every time you rejected the Lord you struck Him. How you have broken His heart! Do you know there is a crucifixion going on now? You say, “Where?” Here! When a man refuses to love Christ and rejects Him, the apostle intimates that. He “crucifies the Lord afresh.” By our sins we have done this. When I think of all this, my surprise at the apostle ceases. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
1 Corinthians 16:24
My love be with you all.
Paul’s love to the Corinthians was
I. Sincere. Witness the Epistle.
1. Its faithful dealing.
2. Wise counsels.
3. Earnest admonitions.
4. Sublime lessons.
5. Patient and loving spirit.
II. Comprehensive--including all, even those who had offended.
III. Christian in its source, nature, operation, and effect. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Corinthians 16". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29