IV. SUPPLEMENTARY. Questions have been raised and much discussed as to the connection of the last two chapters, 15. and 16., with the rest of the Epistle. The facts and the opinions founded on them may be summarized as follows.
(a) Origen (on Romans 16:25-27) speaks of some copies in his time being without the concluding doxology, and also without any part of these two chapters, attributing the omission to Marcion, for his own purposes, having mutilated the Epistle. His words are, "Caput hoc (i.e. Romans 16:25-27) Marcion, a quo scripturae evangelicae et apostolicae interpolatae sunt, de hac Epistola penitus abstulit; et non solum hoe, sod ab hoc loco ubi scriptum est, Omne autem quod non ex fide est peccatum est (i.e. Romans 14:23) usque ad finem cuncta dissecuit." Tertullian also speaks of Marcion having mutilated this Epistle, though not specifying these two chapters.
(b) In Codex Amiatinus (a manuscript of the Latin Bible of the sixth century) there is a prefixed table of contents, referring by numbers to the sections into which the Epistle was divided, and describing the subject of each section. In this table the fiftieth section is thus described: "On the peril of one who grieves his brother by his meat," plainly denoting Romans 14:15-23; and the next and concluding section is described thus: "On the mystery of the Lord kept secret before his Passion, but after his Passion revealed," which description can only refer to the doxology of Romans 16:25-27. Hence it would seem that in some Latin copy of the Epistle to which the table of contents referred, the doxology followed Romans 14:23 with nothing between.
(c) Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Cyprian. who quote largely from the Epistle, have no references to Romans 15:1-33. and 16. It may be observed, however, that mere omission to quote is not in itself conclusive, though it may be corroborative of other evidence.
In view of these facts, it may be held that the Epistle, as first written, ended at Romans 14:1-23. with the doxology appended, Romans 15:1-33. and 16. (ending at Romans 15:24 with the usual concluding benediction, "The grace," etc.) having been an addition. Baur, after his manner—and this partly on supposed internal evidence—disputes the two last chapters having been written by St. Paul at all, regarding them as an addition by a later hand. But his reasons are too arbitrary to stand against the authority of existing manuscripts, to say nothing of the internal evidence itself, which really appears to us to tell the other way. Such internal evidence will appear in the course of the Exposition. One view, put forth by Ruckert, and recently supported by Bishop Lightfoot, is that St. Paul, having originally written the whole Epistle, including the two chapters, but without the doxology, reissued it at a later period of his life in a shortened form for general circulation, having then appended the doxology. This theory, however, is but a conjecture, put forward as best accounting for all the facts of the case, including that of all mention of Rome having been apparently absent from some copies. This, however, might be accounted for by the Epistle having been issued, after St. Paul's time, in a form suited for general circulation. On the whole, we may take it as probable that the apostle, having first concluded his Epistle with Romans 14:1-23. and the doxology, felt himself urged to resume a subject which lay so near his heart, and so appended Romans 15:1-33., and then the salutations, etc., in Romans 16:1-27., before the letter was sent.
This supposition would in itself account for copies of the Epistle having got into circulation without the additions to it. Possibly Marcion took advantage of finding some such copies to deny the genuineness of the two final chapters altogether; and his doing so would be likely to promote circulation of the shorter copies. It will be observed that the Epistle, as a doctrinal treatise practically applied, is complete without the last two chapters; and also that Romans 15:1-33., though connected in thought with the end of Romans 14:1-23., might be, and indeed reads like, a resumption and further enforce-merit of its ideas. It seems, indeed, as if three appendices, or postscripts, had been added by the apostle; the first ending with the benediction of Romans 15:33; the second (commending Phoebe, who was to be the bearer of the letter, and sending salutations to persons at Rome) with the benediction of Romans 16:20; and the third (which might be added at the last moment) with that of Romans 16:24. All the benedictions are thus accounted for, being the apostle's usual concluding authentications (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:17; Colossians 4:18).
As to the proper position of the doxology, if the view last given be correct, its original one would be most naturally at the end of Romans 14:1-23.; since otherwise the Epistle, as first completed, would have nothing answering to the usual benedictions in conclusion. And though this is not a benediction, but a doxology, embodying in solemn terms the main idea of the preceding treatise, such a conclusion is in keeping with the peculiar character of the Epistle to the Romans.
Finally, though uncial authority is decidedly in favour of the position of the doxology at the end of Romans 16:1-27., this does not seem to be a sufficient reason for con-eluding it to have been originally there. If there existed anciently two editions, one with, and the other without, the two chapters appended, transcribers of the longer edition would be likely to place the doxology at the end of what they believed to be the true conclusion of the original Epistle.
After all, the question cannot be considered as settled. It has been deemed sufficient here to state the main arguments for or against the various views that have been taken.
H. Renewed admonition to bear with the weak, enforced by Scripture and the example of Christ.
We then (rather, but we, or now we. The δὲ here certainly seems to link this chapter to the preceding section; but it is not inconsistent with the chapter being an addition to a completed letter, of which it takes up the concluding thought) that are strong (St. Paul, here as elsewhere, identifies himself with the more enlightened party) ought ( ὀφείλομεν expresses obligation of duty) to bear the infirmities of the weak (cf. Galatians 6:2), and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good (rather, for that which is good) to edification. For Christ also pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. The quotation is from Psalms 69:9; one in which a righteous sufferer under persecution calls on God for deliverance, and to some parts of which even the details of Christ's Passion strikingly correspond. The first part of the verse here quoted, "The zeal of thine house," etc., is applied to him in John 2:17.
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning (in the old sense of teaching, or instruction), that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures (or, as the form of the Greek rather suggests, and as is confirmed by the repetition of the words conjoined in Romans 15:5, through the patience and the comfort of the Scriptures) might have hope. This verse, introduced by γὰρ, gives the reason why the words of the ancient psalmist are adduced for the instruction of Christians. Christ, it is said, exemplified the principle of it, and it is for us to do so too. By bearing the infirmities of the weak, and submitting, if need be, to reproach, we exhibit Christ-like endurance ( ὑπομονὴ), such as Scripture inculcates; and therewith will come comfort, such as Scripture contains and gives, and so a strengthening of our hope beyond these present troubles. The psalm quoted was peculiarly one of endurance and comfort under vexations and reproaches, and of hope beyond them. It was written afore-time for our instruction, that so it may be with us, as it was with Christ. In the next verse the apostle returns definitely to the subject in hand.
Now the God of patience and comfort (the same word as before, though here in the Authorized Version rendered consolation) grant you to be like-minded (see on Romans 12:16), one with another according to Christ Jesus: that ye may with one accord with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (so certainly, rather than, as in the Authorized Version, "God, even the Father of," etc.). Wherefore receive ye one another (cf. Romans 14:1, and note), even as Christ also received us (or you, which is better supported, and, for a reason to be given below, more likely) to the glory of God. As in Romans 15:3, the example of Christ is again adduced. The connection of thought becomes plain if we take the admonition, "Receive ye one another," to be mainly addressed to "the strong," and these to consist principally of Gentile believers, the "weak brethren" being (as above supposed) prejudiced Jewish Christians. To the former the apostle says, "Receive to yourselves with full sympathy those Jewish weak ones, even as Christ, though sent primarily to fulfil the ancient promises to the house of Israel only (see Romans 15:8), embraced you Gentiles ( ὑμᾶς) also within the arms of mercy" Thus the sequence of thought in Romans 15:8, seq., appears. "Unto the glory of God" means "so as to redound to his glory." Christ's receiving the Gentiles was unto his glory; and it is implied that the mutual receiving of each other by believers would be so too. The idea of God's glory being the end of all runs through the whole passage (cf. Romans 15:6, Romans 15:9, Romans 15:11).
Romans 15:8, Romans 15:9
For (the reading γὰρ is much better supported than δὲ. The essential meaning, however, of λέγω γὰρ is the same as of λέγω δὲ) I say (i.e. what I mean to say is this; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:12; Galatians 4:1 : Galatians 5:16) that Jesus Christ was (rather, has been made, γεγενῆσθαι being the more probable reading than γενέσθαι) a minister of the circumcision (i.e. of the Jews) for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers (literally, the promises of the fathers): and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. Observe the expressions, ὑπὲρ ἀληθείας θεοῦ, etc., and ὑπὲρ ἐλέους, with reference respectively to the Jews and Gentiles. Christ's primary ministry was to "the house of Israel" (cf. Matthew 15:24), in vindication of God's truth, or faithfulness to his promises made through the patriarchs to the chosen race: his taking in of the Gentiles was an extension of the Divine mercy, to his greater glory. The infinitive δοξάσαι, in Romans 15:9, seems best taken in the same construction with βεβαιῶσαι in Romans 15:8, both being dependent on εἰς τὸ. As it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy Name. This quotation from Psalms 18:49 or 2 Samuel 22:50, with those that follow, are for scriptural confirmation of God's purpose, which has just been spoken of, to include the Gentiles in his covenanted mercies to Israel, so that they too might glorify him. St. Paul, after a manner usual with him; follows cut a thought suggested in the course of his argument, so as to interrupt the latter for a while, but to return to it in 2 Samuel 22:13. All, in fact, from the beginning of 2 Samuel 22:8 to the end of 2 Samuel 22:12, is parenthetical, suggested by "even as Christ received you,." at the end of 2 Samuel 22:7. All this, it may be observed, is confirmatory of Pauline authorship. The first quotation introduces David, the theocratic king, confessing and praising God, not apart from the Gentiles, but among them. The second, from Deuteronomy 32:43, calls on the Gentiles themselves to join in Israel's rejoicing; the third, from Psalms 117:1, does the same; the last, from Isaiah 11:10, foretells definitely the reign of the Messiah over Gentiles as well as Jews, and the hope also of the Gentiles in him.
And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye peoples. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust (rather, hope— ἐλπιοῦσι—which is the word in the LXX.; thus brining back the thought of the hope spoken of in Romans 15:4, with a prayer for the abundance of which to his readers, as the result of peace in the faith among each other, the apostle now concludes his exhortation). Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye my abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
I. Expression of confidence in the general disposition of the Roman Christians, and of the writer's desire to visit them, and his intentions in accordance with that desire.
And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye yourselves also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. It is St. Paul's courteous as well as kindly way to compliment those to whom he writes on what he believes to be good in them, and to cling to a good opinion of them, even where he has some misgivings, or has had reason to find fault (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:4, seq.; 2 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Corinthians 3:1, seq.; 2 Corinthians 7:3, seq.). Here "I myself also" ( καὶ αὐτὸς ἐγὼ) may have tacit reference to the general good report of the Roman Church (cf. Romans 1:8 and Romans 16:19), which he means to say he himself by no means doubts the truth of, notwithstanding his previous warnings. "Ye yourselves also" ( καὶ αὐτοὶ) implies his trust that even without such warnings they would of themselves be as he would wish them to be; "full of goodness" ( ἀγαθωσύνης), so as to be kind to one another, as they were enlightened and replete with knowledge ( γνώσεως).
But I have written unto you the more boldly, brethren, in some measure (so, as in the Revised Version, or, in part ( ἀπὸ μέρονς), rather than in some sort, as in the Authorized Version. The allusion seems to be to the passages in the Epistle in which he has been bold to admonish urgently; such as Romans 11:17, seq.; Romans 12:3; and especially Romans 14:1-23.), as putting yon in mind (reminding you only of what you doubtless know), because of the grace given me of God; i.e., as appears from what follows, of apostleship to the Gentries (cf. Romans 1:5, Romans 1:14; also Acts 22:21 : Galatians 2:9). Though the Church of Rome was not one of his own foundation, and he had no desire, there or elsewhere, to build on another man's foundation (Romans 14:20), yet his peculiar mission as apostle to the Gentiles gave him a claim to admonish them. The reason thus given is, it will be observed, a confirmation of the view, otherwise apparent, that the Roman Church consisted principally of Gentile believers.
That I should be the minister ( λειτουργὸν) of Jesus Christ unto the Gentiles, ministering ( λειτουργοῦντα) the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified in the Holy Ghost. As to the words λειτουργὸς and λευτουργεῖν, see on Romans 13:6; and on λατρεύω, λατρεία on Romans 1:9 and Romans 12:1. Here they are evidently used in their sacrificial meaning, but applied metaphorically; the "acceptable offering" which Paul offers to God is that of the Gentiles whom he brings to the faith. "The preaching of the gospel he calls a sacrificial service ( ἱερουργιάν), and genuine faith an acceptable offering" (Theodoret). "This is my priesthood, to preach and to proclaim" (Chrysostom); cf Philippians 2:17.
I have therefore whereof I may glory through (rather, I have my boasting in) Christ Jesus in the things that pertain unto God ( τὰ πρὸς θεόν—the same phrase as is used in Hebrews 5:1 with reference to priestly service). St. Paul's purpose in this and the four following verses is to allege proof of his being a true apostle with a right to speak with authority to the Gentiles. It is evident, he says, from the extent and success of my apostolic labours, and the power of God that has accompanied them. So also, still more earnestly and at length, in 2 Corinthians 11:1-33. and 12. As to his reason for frequently thus insisting on his true apostleship, and for asserting it in writing to the Romans, see note on Romans 1:1.
Romans 15:18, Romans 15:19
For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought through me unto the obedience of the Gentiles (meaning, I will not dare to speak, of any mere doings of my own, but only of those in which the power of Christ working through my ministry has been displayed) by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders (i.e. displays of miraculous power. It is noteworthy how St. Paul alludes incidentally in his letters to such "signs and wonders" having accompanied his ministry, as to something familiar and acknowledged, so as to suggest the idea of their having been more frequent than we might gather from the Acts of the Apostles. Had the alleged "signs and wonders" been unreal, we might have expected them to be made more of in the subsequent narrative of an admirer than in contemporary letters), by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about as far as Illyricum, I have fully preached (literally, I have fulfilled) the gospel of Christ. In thus designating the sphere of his ministry the apostle is denoting its local extent, rather than the course he had taken. He had, in fact, preached first at Damascus (Acts 9:20), and afterwards at Jerusalem (Acts 9:29); but he mentions Jerusalem first, as being the original home of the gospel in the East, and, indeed, the first scene of his own preaching in fellowship with the original apostles. Thence he had extended it in various quarters, and carried it into Europe, Illyricum being the western limit so far reached. It is true that there is no mention in the Acts of his having actually visited Illyria. In the journey of Acts 17:1-34. he plainly got no further west than Betted, which is, however, not far off; and he might possibly mean here only to say that he had extended the gospel to the borders of Illyricum, but for the word πεπληρωκέναι, and his seeming to imply afterwards (Acts 17:23) that he had gone as far as he could in those regions, and consequently contemplated a journey to Spain. Hence, the narrative of Acts not being an exhaustive history, it may be supposed that he had on some occasion extended his operations from Macedonia to Illyricum, as he may well have done on his visit to the latter mentioned in Acts 20:1-38. 1-3, where διελθὼν τὰ μέρη ἐκεῖνα allows for a visit into Illyricum.
Yea (or, but), so striving (or, earnestly desiring, or making it my aim. The word is φιλοτιμούμενον, cf. 2 Corinthians 5:1-21. 9; 1 Thessalonians 4:11) to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation. In the compact between St. Paul and the apostles of the circumcision referred to in Galatians 2:1-7, it was agreed that he should confine his apostolic ministry to the Gentiles. Consequently, we find him selecting as centres of his work the principal cities of the heathen world. But he was further careful to avoid places, wherever they might be, in which Churches were already founded. It was the function of an apostle to extend the gospel by founding new Churches, rather than to invade the provinces of others. Those founded by himself, and thus under his immediate jurisdiction, as e.g. the Corinthian Church, he visited as need arose, and addressed them in authoritative letters, commanding as well as exhorting. But his rule in this respect did not preclude his writing also letters of general encouragement and admonition to any whom his peculiar commission as apostle of the Gen- tiles gave him a claim to be heard by. Thus he wrote to the Colossians, though he had never seen them (Colossians 1:4; Colossians 2:1); and thus also to the Romans, at the same time (as we have seen, Romans 15:15, seq.) almost apologizing for doing so; and, though he proposes visiting them, it is nor with the view of staying among them long, so as to take up the superintendence of them, but only on his way to Spain for mutual comfort and edification (see Romans 1:11, Romans 1:12; Romans 15:24).
But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand (Isaiah 52:15, as in the LXX. The passage is Messianic; but St. Paul need be understood to be quoting it as predictive or directive of the rule he follows. Enough if it expresses his meaning well). For which cause also I have been much hindered (or, was for the most part, or many times hindered) from coming to you. The hindrance had been, mainly at least, as is evident from δὼ (Romans 15:22), the obligation he was under of completing his ministry in the first place in other quarters (see on Romans 1:13). But now having no longer place in these regions (i.e., according to the context, there being no additional sphere for my activity there. He had now planted the gospel in all the principal centres, leaving disciples and converts, and probably an ordained ministry, to carry on the work and extend it in the regions round. In this his proper apostolic work consisted; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:14-17), and having a great desire these many years to come unto you; whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I hope to see you on my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company. The sense of this verse is no way affected by the omission of "I will come unto you," which authorities are against retaining. If "for," after this omission, be retained, the sentence is incomplete, as St. Paul's sometimes are. The omission of "for" (for which there is some little authority) leaves the sentence improved. The apostle's selection of Spain as his next intended sphere of labour might be due to the notoriety of that Roman province, and the facility of communication with it by sea. His omission of Italy, except for a passing visit, is accounted for by his principle, already enunciated, of not building on other men's foundation, there being already a flourishing Church at any rate at Rome. He hoped, as appears from this verse, that some of the members of it might join him in his mission to Spain. For the word προπεμφθῆναι would imply their going all the way in the ease of a sea-voyage. For the use of the word, cf. Acts 15:3; Acts 20:38; Acts 21:5; 1 Corinthians 16:6; 2 Corinthians 1:16. Observe the characteristic courtesy of the concluding clause, which is literally, "should I be first in part" (i.e. not as much as I should wish, but to such extent as my short stay with you will allow) "filled with you," i.e. enjoy you.
But now I go to Jerusalem ministering unto the saints. For it hath pleased ( εὐδόκησανα, implying good will) Achaia and Macedonia to make a certain contribution ( κοινωνίαν, intimating the communion of Christians with each other, evinced by making others partakers of their own blessings; of Romans 12:13; 2 Corinthians 9:13; 1 Timothy 6:18; Hebrews 13:16) to the poor of the saints which are at Jerusalem. As to this collection for the poor Christians at Jerusalem, which St. Paul seems to have been intent on during his journeys, and which he was now on the point of carrying to its destination, of. Acts 19:21; Acts 24:17; 2Co 8:1-9:15. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister ( λειουργῆσαι; here in the general sense of ministry; see on Romans 13:6) to them in carnal things. Here we have the same idea of salvation being derived to the Gentiles from the Jews as is prominent in Romans 11:17, Romans 11:18, and apparent in Romans 15:7, seq.
Romans 15:28, Romans 15:29
When therefore I have accomplished this, and sealed to them (i.e. ratified and assured to them) this fruit, I will come away by you into Spain. And I know that when I come to you ( ὑμᾶς here is intended emphatically) I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ. How different from his anticipations were the circumstances of his first visit to Rome we know from the Acts. So man proposes, but God disposes, and all for final good (cf. Philippians 1:12, seq.). That he afterwards carried out his intention of visiting Spain cannot be alleged with certainty, though there is distinct evidence of an early tradition that he did so (Canon Muratori, Eusebius, Jerome, Theodoret. Cf. Clem. Romans, Ephesians 1:1-23, who speaks of St. Paul having gone to "the boundaries of the West"). Certainly before the end of his detention at Rome he had given up any idea he might have had of going thence at once to Spain; for cf. Philippians 2:19; Philemon 1:22; which Epistles are believed, on good grounds, to have been written during that detention. Still, he may have gone during the interval between his release and his final captivity at Rome, during which the pastoral Epistles were probably written.
In what follows (verses 30-32) some apprehension of dangers attending his visit to Jerusalem, which might possibly thwart his intentions, already appears; sounding like an undertone allaying the confidence of the hope previously expressed. In the course of his progress to Jerusalem this apprehension appears to have grown upon him; for see Acts 20:22, Acts 20:23, Acts 20:28; Acts 21:4, Acts 21:11-14). It may be here observed that such signs, evidently unintentional, of conflicting feelings in the letter, and such consistency between the letter and the narrative, are strong confirmations of the genuineness of both.
Now I beseech you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; that I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints. Here he seems to imply a possibility of even the Jewish Christians not receiving him, with the alms he brought them, kindly. In 2 Oct. Romans 8:18, seq., he had shown signs of being anxious to avoid any possible suspicion of malversation with regard to the contribution. The danger probably arose from the suspicions against himself, his authority, and his motives, entertained by the Judaistic faction. That this faction was then strong at Jerusalem appears from the precautions he was advised to take on his arrival there (see Acts 21:20-24). That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed. Now the God of peace be with you all Amen.
Self-pleasing and self-denial.
The controversy which gave rise to this statement of Christian principle was local and temporary, and seems to us somewhat trivial. It was, however, the occasion for an inspired publication of important, practical moral truths and precepts, of world-wide and lasting application. When a difference arises between two parties, who are accustomed to think and act together, there is danger of each party becoming bitter and overbearing, and resolving to thrust its own convictions and preferences upon the other. Paul teaches us that the true remedy for this evil is unselfishness, and that the true motive to unselfishness is to be found in the cross of Christ.
I. THE MORAL PRECEPT. The authoritative counsel of the apostle is both negative and positive, dissuasive and persuasive.
1. Selfishness is forbidden. It need scarcely be said that undue opinion of self, an undue confidence in one's own judgment, an undue regard to one's own interest, are common faults. We are all naturally prone to please self, even when to do so is injurious to others and displeasing to God. The unrenewed man is in the habit of following the lead of his own appetites, tastes, and inclinations, though these be worldly and sinful. This is not to be wondered at. Of the wandering sheep it is said, "They have turned every one to his own way." Few are the sins, vices, crimes, which cannot be traced to the action of this powerful principle, which induces men to prefer their own gratification to all beside. But it must not be supposed that this is a fault from which the disciples of Christ are universally or generally free. They are not only tempted to please themselves in worldly pursuits; they are in danger of carrying selfishness into their very religion. How often do we find Christians trying to thrust their own views, their own tastes, their own practices, upon their neighbours, whether these are willing or unwilling! There may be a want of consideration and forbearance within Christian societies, and in the relation of such societies to one another. And there are too many whose one idea of religion is this—how they may themselves be saved and made happy. Let it be remembered that the admonition of the text was addressed to Christians. If these Romans needed it, perhaps we may likewise.
2. Unselfishness is enjoined. This passage reminds us that this self-denying posture of mind is to be maintained with regard to a special class. Suppose that you are strong; yet it must not be lost sight of that some are weak. Are their infirmities to be despised? The apostle enjoins us to consider them, and to bear with them. There may be those whose infirmity is owing to youth and inexperience, and those whose infirmity is that of age. There are some who are weak physically, and who perhaps are therefore irritable Many are weak mentally; their ability is small, their education has been neglected. And some are weak spiritually—babes in Christ, though perhaps men in years. Such are not to be despised or derided by such as are strong. Deal patiently, tenderly, forbearingly with such as these. The admonition is more general. We are to please our neighbour, i.e. every one we have to do with, whether weak or strong. This does not mean that we are to gratify all his foolish whims and caprices—to try, as some do, to please everybody, at all costs; to flatter the vain, and cajole the ignorant, and humour the petulant. By "pleasing here we may understand benefiting and serving. If there be any doubt about this, the limitation here introduced by the apostle solves such doubt; it is "for that which is good," and "unto edifying." As regards our fellow-Christians, our service will naturally take the form of helpfulness to them in their need, and spiritual ministrations according to our capacity and opportunity, with effort for their elevation and happiness. As regards our irreligious neighbours, our unselfish service will be mainly effort for their enlightenment and salvation. Probably such effort will displease, rather than please, the careless and self-indulgent, whom we seek to awaken to a better life. Yet the time may come when even such will look back with thankfulness and delight upon benevolent effort and earnest prayer, by which they have received imperishable good. Selfishness, then, is the curse of the world and the bane of the Church; whilst, on the other hand, they obey their Lord, and promote their own welfare and that of society, who are considerate and forbearing towards the weak, and who aim at pleasing and benefiting all who come within the range of their influence.
II. THE RELIGIOUS GROUND FOR THE PRECEPT. Christianity bases every duty. upon a Divine foundation.
1. The virtue of unselfishness is for Christians a virtue springing from their relation to their Lord. Sympathy is in its rudiments a natural principle; but this stands a poor chance when it comes into conflict with natural self-love. Both these principles are good, and virtue lies in their proper adjustment. It is the sacrifice, the spirit, the example of our Divine Saviour, which assure victory to unselfish benevolence.
2. In Christ we observe the sublimest illustration of self-denial and self-sacrifice. We cannot fail to see these qualities in his giving up his own ease and pleasure, and accepting a life of poverty and homelessness. He would not accept an earthly kingdom or worldly honours. In carrying out the purposes of his mission, he set himself against the powerful and the influential among his countrymen. There was no day and no act of his public ministry which was not a proof of the assertion, "Even Christ pleased not himself."
3. We remark in the Lord Jesus perfect obedience to the Father. Prophecy put into his lips the language, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O my God." He himself declared that he came to do the will of him that sent him, and he was conscious that this purpose was carried out. "I do always those things that please him." He even shaped this principle into the remarkable prayer, "Not my will, but thine, be done." Consider that the only way to make sure that life is not self-seeking and self-pleasing is to consecrate it to the high end of pleasing God.
4. Our Saviour endured reproaches and wrongs in the procuring of human salvation. These revilings and injuries were inflicted by sinners, and they came upon the innocent. He "endured the contradiction of sinners against himself;" he endured the cross, despising the shame." And this he did willingly and without a murmur. For "with his stripes we are healed." The "joy that was set before him" reconciled him to hardship and privation, to insult and mocking, to anguish and death. Thus the pleasing of self was utterly absent; the mortification and crucifixion of self were conspicuously present; reproaches were welcomed, that the reproachers might be redeemed.
5. The passage presumes the action of the distinctively Christian principle in such a way as to influence the conduct of Christ's people. Not only. have we, in our Lord's spirit and conduct, the one perfect example of self-denial and of devotion to the cause of human welfare. We have a provision for securing that Christ's people shall resemble their Lord. His love, personally apprehended and experienced, becomes the motive to their gratitude, affection, and consecration; and is the seed of its own reproduction and growth in their renewed nature. His Spirit is the Agent by whose energy men's natural selfishness is vanquished, and the new life is fostered and sustained.
1. Admire the Divine wisdom in the provision made for overcoming the natural selfishness Of mankind. What inferior agency could suffice for such a task?
2. If unhappy, consider whether self-seeking is not at the root of restlessness and dissatisfaction; and fall in with the Divine plan, by seeking earnestly the welfare of your neighbours. And you shall find such action will bring its own reward.
3. Cherish the divinely justified hope for the world's future welfare. Neither interest nor philosophy can effect what Christianity is capable of doing. The prospects of humanity are bound up with the rule and the grace of him of whom we read, "Even Christ pleased not himself."
4. Let the strong please, and bear with the infirmities of, the weak, by supporting such institutions as are designed to relieve suffering and to supply need.
In many ways the New Testament lends its support and sanction to the Old. Our Lord himself bade his auditors and disciples "search the Scriptures." The evangelists support the Divine authority of Christ's ministry, by exhibiting many of its incidents as the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy. And the Epistles abound with quotations from the ancient Hebrew writings which they approve as of inspired authority. In this passage, Paul records in explicit language his own view of the character and purposes of Old Testament Scripture.
I. THE INTENTION THAT THE SCRIPTURES SHOULD BE OF PERPETUAL USE. "These things were written for our learning," i.e. for our instruction and improvement. This may be shown to be the case with the historical lessons, the biographical examples and warnings, the moral precepts, the prophetic promises, of the Word of God. Nothing is purposeless or valueless.
II. THE METHOD IN WHICH THE SCRIPTURES PROVE SERVICEABLE. They are not like an amulet, a charm, the mere possession of which is supposed to be advantageous. They are to be used in conformity with our intellectual and moral nature. Only by entering into the soul, and acting upon its passions, principles, and powers, can the teachings of inspiration profit and help us. The apostle mentions two ways in which the Scriptures thus act.
1. By patience. That is to say, the Scriptures represent our human nature and life as exposed to suffering, temptation, and many evils, against which the power of religion alone can fortify, and from which it alone can deliver. The Scriptures contain representations of God himself which are fitted to sustain his people to endure, and to inspire them to persevere. They contain actual illustrations of the power of patience exhibited in the life of many of the saints of God.
2. By comfort. If patience is exercised by man, consolation is afforded by God. The strengthening and consolatory power of Divine grace is exhibited both in the declarations and doctrines, and also in the practical and living exhibitions and manifestations of piety, which abound in Holy Scripture.
III. THE ULTIMATE AND EXACT PURPOSE FOR WHICH THE SCRIPTURES HAVE BEEN GIVEN. That is, that we may have hope.
1. Why is this needed? Because in this life, and in our experience, there is very much to occasion depression and despondency. Our own weakness and liability to error and to sin, and the ills of human society, are such as to account for frequent discouragement.
2. How is hope awakened and fostered by the Scriptures? By their express declarations of Divine mercy, and their explicit promises of succour and guidance and blessing.
3. Whither are our hopes directed? Primarily to God: "Hope thou in God." And then also to earthly deliverance and to heavenly rest.
4. What is the moral power of hope? It both cheers and sustains the soul, and makes it brighter and more confident in fulfilling Christian service.
Romans 15:5, Romans 15:6
Mutual forbearance and considerateness tend to true spiritual unity. In the presence of a hostile world, it was evidently of the highest practical importance that the early Christians should exhibit the power of the truth and the Spirit of God to draw them together, and to make them one. How dear this aim was to the heart of Christ, is evident alike from his frequent admonitions and from art urgent petition in his great intercessory prayer.
I. THE DIVINE SOURCE OF UNITY. That true unity is from God appears:
1. From the nature and character of God, as "the God of patience and of comfort."
2. From the apostolic prayer, "grant you to be like-minded," etc., from which it is apparent that, in the view of the inspired apostle, the true fountain of concord and brotherly love is in heaven, in the heart of the infinite Father.
3. From the mediation of Jesus Christ, whose design in redemption was first to "make peace" between a righteous Ruler and rebellious subjects; and then to break down every wall of partition that divided man from man, and to constitute one new, unbroken humanity in himself—the glorious Head.
II. THE MANIFESTATIONS OF UNITY.
1. Where this grace exists, there is one mind, with mutual love. By "the same mind" the apostle does not mean "of the same opinion." This is not possible where men think freely and independently. But he means "of similar disposition towards Christ," "of like sentiments of brotherly love one towards another." This is pleasing to the God of peace and love.
2. Where this grace exists there is "one mouth," with common praise. There is a sacrifice in which all devout souls, all holy assemblies, constantly unite—it is the sacrifice of gratitude and praise. The several voices in this offering to Heaven blend in sweetest concord, and form a Divine and exquisite harmony. The more the notes, the vaster the variety, the more marvellous and beautiful is the spiritual concert. As with one only mouth, the living Church offers to the "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" the anthem of spiritual, acceptable, and unending praise—the Church on earth herein preparing for the eternal song of heaven.
APPLICATION. Unity must be, not merely in word or in outward association, but in the spirit of love and in the tribute of grateful adoration.
The office of the Holy Spirit.
Paul was not one of those upon whom the Spirit fell on the Day of Pentecost. He was at that time a scholar; living probably in Jerusalem, and certainly studying the Law and the traditions of his nation, with all the energy of an ardent, zealous, and persevering mind. He may have known at the time of the remarkable events which occurred; but if he did, they made no great impression on him. For only two or three years afterwards, when Stephen was stoned, Saul was one of those who "consented to his death." And, as we read, he "made havoc of the Church," and "breathed out threatenings and slaughter" against the disciples of the Lord. But if for a while neither the crucifixion of Christ nor the descent of the Holy Spirit had any effect upon the Pharisee who boasted himself to be of the school of Gamaliel, the time came when the faith which he despised and persecuted laid hold upon his great heart, and assumed the lordship over his active life. And now observe two things very noticeable in Saul's history. First, when Anauias was sent to the smitten and blinded persecutor, to release him, in the name of Jesus, from his privation and doubt, and, in the same name, to commission him as the apostle to the Gentiles, the servant of the Lord declared the purport of his visit to be that, Saul might be "filled with the Holy Ghost!" And secondly, when, at Antioch, the Holy Ghost called Barnabas and Saul to a missionary enterprise, they are said by the inspired historian to have been "sent forth by the Holy Ghost." So, although Paul was not present when Peter and the rest of the brethren were made partakers of the spiritual outpouring by which the new dispensation was inaugurated, it is clear that he received, and that he knew that he received, the Holy Ghost as well as they. In his conversion, his whole nature was influenced by the Divine enlightenment and quickening; in his commission, the impulse and the authority of his missionary life were conferred by the living Spirit of God. It is not to be wondered at, then, that the apostle of the Gentiles, in his preaching and his writings, laid stress upon the office of the Divine Comforter. He could not have exalted the Spirit more constantly and gratefully even if he had listened to the Master's discourses in which the Paraclete was promised; even if he had been amongst the favoured company on the Day of Pentecost, when cloven tongues of fire sat upon the heads of the disciples of the Lord. In fact, just as the mediatorial work of Christ is at least as fully stated and explained by Paul as by the other apostles, so is he not behind them in the exposition of the offices of the Comforter, and the results of his perpetual indwelling in Christian hearts, in Christian society. It needs not be said that the offices of the Holy Spirit are not only precious, but manifold. Paul was well aware of this fact. But attention is asked especially to one result of the dispensation of the Spirit; to one valuable fruit which all Christians growingly appreciate. The Divine Spirit is set before us in the text as the Author and Inspirer of a cheerful and hopeful disposition of the mind: "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." It is often observed that, in a cultivated and reflective state of society, there is a tendency to a mournful and even desponding disposition. When people have much leisure to think, and large knowledge of human life and history, they often cherish gloomy and hopeless forebodings. Unable to resolve their own difficulties, disappointed with efforts made to improve society, they are prone to abandon themselves to scepticism, and to ask whether all things do not exist in vain, and whether the philosophy of the royal sage is not sound and just: "Vanity of vanities," saith the preacher; "all is vanity!" The Holy Spirit was given to banish such a temper of mind, and to inspire us with cheerfulness and with hope. He is the Spirit of life, quickening the spiritually dead; the Spirit of truth, revealing the realities of the Divine character and government; the Spirit of holiness, fostering in the soul of man all pure thoughts and purposes. And our text brings before us the welcome truth that the Spirit of God has power to fill us with "joy and peace in believing," and to cause us to "abound in hope." There is no broader and more obvious distinction between Christians and unbelievers than that which is suggested by our text. The Christian, speaking generally, is the man who hopes; the infidel is the man who is hopeless. The preacher has known in the course of his life, and has conversed with, many unbelievers—some of them honourable, virtuous, and, within limits, benevolent men. But they have been, without exception, neither happy nor hopeful. Their view of human life is invariably melancholy, and their forebodings for humanity's future are usually dark and despondent. At the time when our Divine faith was first preached in the world, observant and thoughtful men were under a cloud of depression. Dissatisfied with the superstitions of their fathers, disgusted with the corruptions of society, they were without any faith that could sustain and cherish a lofty hope for the race. It did not enter into their minds that any moral power could be introduced into the world capable of even attempting, far less achieving, the regeneration of society—of raising the uncivilized, and redeeming those who were civilized and cultivated, but corrupt and cynical and selfish. What a revelation must Christians—not merely Christianity, but Christians—have brought to the ancient society! Here was a sect of men, distinguished, indeed, by their beliefs and practices, their pure and beneficent life, from those around them, but in nothing more distinguished than in this—they were the men in the world who hoped! Whilst the multitude, and even many of the philosophers, were saying, "Let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die;" whilst the thoughtful and high-minded mourned the corruptions of the times, and despised their degraded fellow-creatures, and saw no prospect of the salvation of society; the followers of Christ appeared, each one with a hope which death could not tear from him, for himself; each one with a yet sublimer hope, that no disappointment could quench, for the unhappy but not forsaken race of which he was a member. You remember the honour which was bestowed upon a patriot—that, in days of darkness and of threatening, he did not despair of his country. Of every lowly Christian the yet more remarkable eulogy would have been true, that he did not despair of his race. And this, in days when Christianity had yet its triumphs to win, its great renown to achieve! The Holy Spirit was given to reveal to the disciples of Christ a "God of hope." Men's dejection and despair arise from their want of faith in God. And nothing but a sound and rational belief in God can bring them to a better mind. What so fitted to inspire with cheerfulness as the conviction that a God of righteousness and of grace lives and reigns, takes the deepest interest in men, and provides for their true well-being? Now, when the Holy Ghost was given, on the Day of Pentecost, he was given as "the promise of the Father," as the bestowal of a gracious God. Let the truth be recognized that a good hope must begin in God. The counsel of the ancient psalmist was sound as well as pious: "Hope thou in God." Fix your hopes, as many do, upon human beings, upon human institutions, upon human plans, and their failure will involve you in cruel disappointment. But if for you the Lord liveth and reigneth, if he be the God of man, the God of salvation, then there is a sound basis for your hopes—a basis which no power on earth, and no power from hell, can overturn or even shake. It was the power of the Spirit that ratified the words and sealed the authority and authenticated the mission of Christ. Jesus had promised that, if he went away, he would" send the Comforter." He knew that the approach of his departure filled their hearts with sorrow, and he bade them rather rejoice, inasmuch as this was the condition of the gift of the Comforter. And when, in fulfilment of his assurance, he shed forth the gifts they needed for their spiritual quickening and for their qualification for apostolic service, the friends of Christ must have felt the encouraging and inspiring influence of the faithfulness and grace of their Lord. After his resurrection, the disciples were "glad when they saw the Lord" After his ascension, "they returned to Jerusalem with great joy" And when the Spirit was poured out, their confidence in their Saviour was naturally confirmed; and their habitual demeanour was that of happy and hopeful spirits. They "ate their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God;" and, when persecuted, they retraced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his Name." It was Jesus Christ who brought hope, even as he brought every other blessing, to this benighted and unhappy world. That he cherished hope, is known full well. His parables regarding the progress of his kingdom, his assurance that when lifted up he would draw all men unto him, his prediction of his reign and his return—all show an unwavering confidence and a calm expectation regarding the future. And in order that this attitude might be shared by his disciples, he provided for the descent of his Spirit, by whose influences they should be brought into living sympathy with himself. Our hope may be said to have three main outlooks:
In all these respects is apparent the power of the Holy Ghost to inspire us with, and to cause us to rejoice in, hope.
I. HOPE CONCERNING ONE'S SELF—concerning one's own future—is generally supposed to be matter of temperament. There are persons of a sanguine temperament, who always expect the best possible, and sometimes are confident in hope, though on the slightest ground. And others are given rather to foreboding, and their forecasts are of evil. Now, Christianity does not destroy temperament; but it gives a just bent to the outlook of the hopeful, and instils into the despondent a different spirit. Based, as the Christian life is, upon faith, it must proceed to hope. The God who has loved us With an everlasting love will never leave and never forsake us. The Saviour who has "loved his own" will "love them unto the end." The Word in which we trust is a "Word which liveth and abideth for ever." It is the office of the Spirit of God to bring these great and inspiriting truths home to the minds of Christians, to make them a power real and effective. If hope were based upon confidence in chance and good fortune, or if it were based upon the character and promises of fallible fellow-men, it would in such cases need rather to be checked and sobered than to be encouraged. But just as faith depends for its value upon the person on whom it rests, so is hope justifiable and wise only when based upon the promises of the Being whose character is unchanging, and whose word is never broken. The Christian's hope extends beyond this earthly life. There have been cases in which the followers of Jesus have been tempted to exclaim, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." But nothing is more distinctive of the Christian revelation than the clearness with which it speaks of a life to come. By the resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead, we are begotten "unto a living hope, of an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away." And the hope which we have is "an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast, that entereth into that within the veil." By the power of the Holy Spirit, this blessed hope is awakened and fostered. His gracious influences counteract the earthly and depressing powers by which we are all beset, and make the mediation and the promises of our Saviour effective and helpful to us; so that we are led to abound in hope. The text reminds us that faith, and the joy and peace which faith brings, and these in Divine fulness, are the antecedents of the abundant hope of the Christian. And this is so. The heart that knows nothing of the cheerful gladness which religion imparts to the present can know nothing of the glowing anticipations which religion inspires with reference to the future. If we are to judge the future merely by what we see now, our outlook might be dim and cheerless. But the present is beheld by the medium of faith; and the same glass, when turned towards the coming ages, affords to us the blessed prospect of Christian hope. It is instructive to observe the close connection between the joy and peace which Christians now have in believing, and the hope to which they are introduced by the gospel. The cheerful mind is likely to be the hopeful mind. The rule and the love of God have reference alike to the present and to the future. Our earthly privileges are the earnest of our immortal prospects. And these, in turn, cast something of their inspiring radiance upon the difficulties and the sorrows of the present.
"Oh, who. in such a world as this,
Could bear his lot of pain,
Did not one radiant hope of bliss
Unclouded yet remain?
That hope the Sovereign Lord has given,
Who reigns above the skies;
Hope that unites the soul to heaven
By faith's endearing ties."
II. But HOPE, THAT IS WORTHY OF THE NAME, WILL TRANSCEND OUR INDIVIDUAL PROSPECTS. We are united, by innumerable bonds, to our fellow-Christians and to our fellow-men; and our hopes must include others within their scope and range. Nothing was further from the generous heart and expansive charity of the apostle than any thought of limiting within narrow bounds the prospects and the hopes born of Christianity. Our religion is emphatically unselfish. And being so, those who come under its sway and share its spirit are constrained to take a wide, expansive view. They are members of a mystical body, and are concerned for the health and well-being of the whole. It is not enough to have a good hope of our own salvation; if the mind of Christ is in us, we shall desire "the edification of the body," as St. Paul phrases it. Enlightened and large-hearted Christians are more interested in the spread of Christianity than in anything beside on earth. It is their hope and prayer that the holy leaven may penetrate and vivify the whole mass of human society; that the tree of life may grow and spread, until all nations shall sit with delight beneath its shadow. Taught by the Spirit of truth, they rely upon the faithful word of Christ, who has unfolded before humanity hopes so bright and glorious. Error may seem to prevail, and we may tremble for the truth. Superstition may encroach upon the simplicity of the gospel, and we may ask—Is the old paganism to revive? Lukewarmness may seem to steal over nominal Christians, and to paralyze the activities of the Churches. Yet the Christian is not daunted by these "signs of the times," distressing though they be. He can join in the triumphant chant, "We will not lear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our Refuge!" When the infidel rejoices over what seem to him tokens of the decrepitude of the Church of Christ; when the atheist foretells the destruction of all religion, and the approach of the millennium of animalism; Christ's followers do not yield to fear. They remember that their Divine Lord has promised that "the gates of Hades shall not prevail against" his Church. Its dead branches may be lopped off, and its living branches may be pruned; but life shall only be the more vigorous, and fruit the more abundant. The gold may be cast into the furnace, and the dross be consumed; but the precious metal shall only be refined and purified, and shall shine with brighter lustre, and be fitter for the Master's use.
III. Is there HOPE FOR HUMANITY? Is this race of man destined to deteriorate; is it doomed to remain for ever a prey to strife, to vice, to sin; or is it appointed to sure progress and to final happiness? Questions these which have disturbed many a sensitive and philanthropic mind; clouded many a generous, disinterested life with sorrow and with gloom. The pessimism which is a sort of fashion in some circles refuses to take any comfort in looking forward to the future of mankind. As the individual is of necessity unhappy, as life is of necessity a calamity, a disaster, and death the only alleviation, annihilation the only thing worth looking forward to; so for the race, composed of units thus unhappy, no destiny that is desirable can be in reserve. Progress is an illusion, and the general happiness a baseless dream. The Spirit of God—the God of hope—has taught the Christian a very different lesson from this. That Spirit encouraged Hebrew prophets of old to anticipate a universal reign of righteousness, knowledge, and peace. That Spirit directed evangelists and apostles to base, upon the incarnation and sacrifice of the Son of God, the broadest of all beliefs and the brightest of all hopes. That Spirit has sustained the faith and inspired the energy of Christ's people, amid the darkness of human ignorance, the din of human conflict, and the desolation of human despair. The omen of the birth of Christ and Christianity has not been falsified. The progress of the truth has been slow, the hindrances have been many, the corruptions and distortions have been serious. War, cruelty, slavery, vice, ignorance, brutality, are still scourging this human race. But no candid observer can say that the religion of Christ has attacked these evils in vain. And no Christian, convinced of the supernatural powers of his religion, can do other than bravely hope in the progress of enlightenment, the victory of righteousness, the reign of Christ.
"Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring!
Oh hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing!
"The promised time is hastening on,
By prophet-bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its undimmed splendours fling,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing!"
Observe the richness and fulness of the apostle's prayer: "That ye may abound in hope." This is an emotion which admits of many degrees. There are cases in which men say, "There is no hope!" and melancholy indeed was the inscription which the poet read over the infernal portals: "Leave every hope behind, all ye who enter here." Sometimes there is a little hope, a faint glimmer, as it were, to relieve the darkness. Hope can grow, as the dawn brightens into the morning. And hope can become a strong, happy, unhesitating persuasion, with no shade of anxiety, fear, or doubt. When the wish is uttered that we may "abound in hope," it is implied that hope is good, and so good that there is no possibility of our having too strong a hope. Abundance is "more than enough;" and what is besought for Christ's people is the "full assurance of hope." This is a "living hope," a hope whose life is vigorous and vital; a "hope which maketh not ashamed," which is confident, and which produces happiness and peace. The Christian should be the possessor of such a hope. Let the unbeliever walk, if he will, in the twilight; it is for us to come out into the fulness of the noonday light. This we may enjoy, not through the power of reason, or of fancy, or of public opinion; but through the power of the Holy Ghost. It is the Divine Spirit, and not a spirit of error or illusion, that prompts our hope. Hope is of God, and is in God; and such a hope may well be abundant. For there is no hope which he inspires which he cannot and will not satisfy; and when Divine fulness meets with human hope, our vessel is filled, and filled to overflowing, from the heavenly, the perennial spring.
Perhaps ordinary and even Christian moralists would not assign to hope the place which it occupies in the teaching of the apostle. But Paul had good reason for extolling and enjoining this beautiful and most inspiring and influential virtue. In this verse he sets forth—
I. THE SOURCE OF HOPE. His language is a prayer, and the prayer is addressed to "the God of hope." He is so called because there can be no true, well-founded, far-reaching hope which is not fixed on God, on his providential rule, on his gracious purposes, on his consolatory promises. He suggests and inspires hope; he justifies and expects hope; he approves and rewards hope. All true and worthy hope for ourselves and for others is fixed on God, centres in God.
II. THE POWER OF HOPE. The Holy Spirit is represented as the Agent by whose aid hope is experienced and enjoyed. When the spirit is downcast and sad, when the prospect is gloomy and dark, when human help seems far and feeble, then the Comforter brings near the grace of God, unveils a glorious prospect, and inspires a blessed confidence.
III. THE MEANS OF HOPE. If any one is bidden to cherish hope, he will reply, "Where is the ground upon which I may hope? By what means can I arise from the Slough of Despair?" The steps by which rational hope can be fostered are here described.
1. Believing; i.e. in Christ as the true Object of hope—"Christ our Hope."
2. Joy; i.e. the emotion produced by a believing appropriation of the blessings of the gospel—joy which may even rise to be "unspeakable, and full of glory."
3. Peace; i.e. another of the fruits of the Spirit, the growth from the root of Christian faith. A disturbed mind is a mind uncongenial to hope; tranquillity in the present is contributive to hopefulness as to the future.
IV. THE ABUNDANCE OF HOPE. When God gives, he gives liberally, royally. Observe in what respects the Christian's hope abounds.
1. For himself, his personal future being gilded with radiant, celestial light.
2. For the Church, that it shall arise and shine and fulfil the ministry it has received.
3. For the world, that it shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.
4. For both time and eternity.
Fulness of blessing.
Commissioned and endowed as he was, the apostle might lawfully and confidently speak thus. Yet every minister of Christ may, in his measure, cherish the same assurance, and look forward to intercourse with those to whom he ministers with a similar expectation and hope.
I. THE ORIGIN AND GIVER OF BLESSING. The word "blessing" has something vague in it; yet this is because of its comprehensiveness. We cannot always be sure what is best to wish for on behalf of others; but we cannot err in seeking for them blessing from God. Poor and few are the gifts man can bestow upon his fellow-men; but "the blessing of God maketh rich, and with it he addeth no sorrow."
II. THE CHARACTER AND IMPORT OF BLESSING. What the apostle anticipates is "the blessing of the gospel of Christ." Here there opens up to us a boundless field, for in this are comprehended all that Christ can bestow, all that man can receive; e.g. Christ's blessing of peace, of life, spiritual and eternal, of confidence and hope, of purity and strength, of fellowship, of service.
III. THE MEASURE OF BLESSING.
1. Fulness corresponding to the Giver, whose riches and resources are inexhaustible. The expression "fulness" is a favourite one with the apostle, and indicates his sense of the abundance of the gifts and promises of that new covenant which it was his privilege to explain to the Jews and the Gentiles.
2. Fulness for every applicant and partaker. The nature of each Christian is such that he is capable of receiving from the fulness of God in Jesus Christ. Consider the multitudes who have sought and found in the Mediator the supply for all their spiritual wants; and you will feel what a witness is such a fact to the infinite provision of Divine mercy and beneficence.
3. Fulness unexhausted and inexhaustible for each participant. When Paul came to a city, he had some conception of the immense variety of human need; and when he ministered to a congregation, he did so knowing that it contained individuals with many, varied, urgent, incessant needs—all to be supplied from the fulness which is in Jesus Christ. It is a most encouraging and inspiring thought that, whatever the heart may crave of blessing, may be surely appropriated and enjoyed upon application to God through Jesus Christ. The preacher may be but an earthen vessel; but the treasure he conveys is both priceless and inexhaustible.
IV. THE CONDITION AND OCCASION OF BLESSING. "When I come unto you." It appears that Christians meeting in fellowship are the means of such mercy to human souls. On the one hand, there is the faithful preacher and teacher of the Word; on the other hand, there are receptive and believing hearers of the Word. The Lord gives to the disciples, and the disciples distribute to the multitude.
V. THE ASSURANCE OF BLESSING. The language of Paul is very confident: "I am sure." Such a conviction must be based upon confidence in Divine declarations and promises, and upon past experience of Divine faithfulness and grace. Such persuasion, and the sober yet confident expression of it, are honouring to God.
1. Here is an example of the spirit in which bishops, pastors, and evangelists should approach those whose spiritual welfare is entrusted to their charge.
2. Here is also an example of the expectations which Christians should cherish when they place themselves under the influence of an enlightened and spiritual ministry.
HOMILIES BY C.H. IRWIN
Romans 15:5, Romans 15:13, Romans 15:33
The Divine character in relation to the human.
"The God of patience and consolation;" "the God of hope;" "the God of peace." The great object of Christ's coming into the world was to save sinners. He does this by revealing God. He is Emmanuel, "God with us." "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." Christ reveals the Divine character. He reveals it in his teaching—the Divine holiness. He reveals it in his cross—the Divine mercy. He reveals it in his resurrection—the Divine power. Christ saves us also by reproducing or restoring in us the image of God. In the renewed nature God becomes part of us. He dwells in us and we in him. The law of heredity emphasizes the fact that children bear not only the bodily, but the mental and moral characteristics of their parents. The character of the parent reappears in the child. So the character of God reappears in his people. Three features of God's character St. Paul speaks of here, and wants his readers to think of them in relation to their own character and life.
I. THE GOD OF PATIENCE.
1. The Divine Being manifests patience in waiting. He waits patiently for the fulfilment of his plans. Thousands of years he waited for the sending of the Saviour. All that time he occupied in the training of Israel, and in the preparing of the nations, till, at the time when Jesus came, the world was ripe and ready for his coming. What a lesson for us! How impatient we are! If we do not see immediate results, we think our work is a failure. "Let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."
2. The Divine Being is patient in enduring. How he bore with Israel, with all Israel's backsliding and. repeated sins! How he bears with us, with our disobedience and our inconsistencies! His patience with us is in marked contrast with our impatience toward our fellow-men. How impatient we are with our subordinates or our fellow-workers, with the slowness and stupidity which they sometimes manifest! Let us imitate the patience of God. We need to learn how to bear with others. Strife is the result of impatience, of intolerance. Unity is the result of patience. This was the apostle's idea, and his practical purpose in referring to the patience of God. "The God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus" (Romans 15:5). Let us be patient in enduring all suffering and trial.
"Angel of patience! sent to calm
Our feverish brows with cooling palm;
To lay the storms of hope and fear,
And reconcile life's smile and tear;
The throbs of wounded pride to still,
And make our own our Father's will!
"There's quiet in that angel's glance,
There's rest in his still countenance!
He mocks no grief with idle cheer,
Nor wounds with words the mourner's ear;
But ills and woes he may not cure,
He kindly trains us to endure.
"O thou who mournest on the way
With longings for the close of day:
He walks with thee, that angel kind,
And gently whispers; 'Be resigned;
Bear up; bear on; the end shall tell
The dear Lord ordereth all things well.'"
II. THE GOD OF HERE. Nature is full of hope. Day follows night. Spring follows winter.
"And ever upon old decay
The greenest mosses cling."
The life of humanity is a life of hope. We are always looking forward. The little child looks forward eagerly to its school-days. The boy or girl at school looks forward to the time of manhood or womanhood. In hope the young man leaves his father's roof. Hope leads the emigrant across the seas. Yet nature and humanity unaided have no hope beyond the grave. The ancient heathen had indeed their goddess of hope. But the lamp of hope flickered as old age came on, and expired with the last breath that left the body. The heathen symbol of death is the broken column, or the torch of life turned upside down. But our God is in truth the God of hope. Do we enjoy life? He tells us of a better life beyond. Is this world fair and beautiful? He tells us of a better country, even an heavenly. Are we weary with the toils and burdens of this life? He tells us that there remaineth a rest for the people of God. Hope in itself can hardly with strictness be called a part of the Divine character, any more than faith. But it is part of the Divine character, and peculiar to it, that he produces in the human heart hope of the life to come. Hence he is truly called "the God of hope." We see the impress and influence of his Divine hope on God's people in all ages. Abraham and the patriarchs "confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." And "they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country." The prophets in Israel's exile spoke of a hope which they knew they would never see fulfilled. The apostles and martyrs, and the missionaries of today, have laboured and suffered in hope. Here also is the practical influence of the Divine character in relation to the human. "The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope" (Romans 15:13). In sorrow: in adversity; in the day when the wicked seem to triumph, and injustice and oppression seem to gain the upper hand—Christians, hope on! The truth will prevail over falsehood and error; purity over impurity; righteousness over wickedness. Abound in hope!
"We hope in thee, O God,
In whom none hope in vain;
We cling to thee in love and trust,
And joy succeeds to pain."
To the sinner also the message of Divine hope extends. "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
III. THE GOD OF PEACE. "The God of peace be with you all" (Romans 15:33). Peace is essentially a part of the Divine character. No storms disturb his rest. No sinfulness is in his being, and therefore no conflict in his moral nature. If the God of peace is with us, then peace will pervade our own spirit and life. There will be not only the peace that comes from pardon, but also the peace that comes from the victory over indwelling and besetting sin. There is a striking phrase in the next chapter: "The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly" (Romans 16:20). If the God of peace is in our hearts, we shall cultivate peace with our fellow-men. "Live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you" (2 Corinthians 13:11). Thus we see how profitable it is to contemplate the character of God, the God of patience, the God of hope, the God of peace, so that endurance and forbearance, hopefulness and joy, unity and peace, may be manifest in our lives.—C.H.I.
The mutual relationship of Jews and Gentiles.
The apostle tries further to heal any existing differences between the various sections of the Christian community at Rome, and still further to enforce the duties of charity, self-denial, and mutual helpfulness, by reminding them of how much they have in common. This is the true method of uniting Christians. Some Christians think they will succeed in bringing others to their view of the truth by exposing the errors of those who differ from them. Consequently, we have bitter controversies between the various denominations, because Christians will persist in emphasizing the points on which they differ, rather than the points—often far more numerous and more important—on which they agree. To draw nearer to Christ, and to draw one another nearer to Christ, this is the true eirenicon.
I. THEIR MUTUAL RELATIONSHIP TO CHRIST. "Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us" (Romans 15:7). Both have been received by Christ: why not, then, by one another? Why should our views of Episcopacy or Presbytery, Calvinism or Arminianism, interfere with our relationship as brethren in Christ? St. Paul shows that both Jews and Gentiles have a direct personal interest in Christ and relationship to him. "Jesus Christ was a Minister of the circumcision" (Romans 15:8). Therefore the Jew should not look upon Jesus of Nazareth as an alien, but as his kinsman according to the flesh. He came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil. But because he is a Jew, he is not, therefore, without an interest in the Gentiles. The apostle shows how even the Jewish writings looked forward to an incorporation of the Gentiles with the people of God, and to their sharing the blessings which the Messiah was to confer (Romans 15:10-12). "In him shall the Gentiles trust." How precious, then, should be the Name of Jesus to all the children of humanity! How the universal brotherhood of Christians is here enforced!
II. THEIR MUTUAL RELATIONSHIP TO THE GOSPEL, Not only was it predicted that both Jews and Gentiles would be joint partakers in the benefits of the Messiah's kingdom, but in actual fact the gospel has come to both. St. Paul, who was himself a Jew, experienced the blessings of the gospel. He, in his turn, communicated those blessings to the Gentiles. He was "the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God" (Romans 15:16). Truly, the gospel is a great reconciler. How it breaks down the prejudices of race and class and caste! Let the gospel only become a real, living power in our own heart and life, and we shall go forth, like St. Paul, to share its blessings with others, winning them by a spirit of love, no matter what our prejudices against them may have been.
III. THEIR DUTY OF MUTUAL HELPFULNESS. At the time of writing this Epistle St. Paul was on an errand which gave practical proof of the mutual sympathy between Gentile and Jewish Christians. He was on his way to Jerusalem (Romans 15:25). He was taking with him a contribution which the Gentile Christians of Macedonia and Achaia had made for their Jewish brethren at Jerusalem, who at this time were in poverty (Romans 15:26). He takes the occasion to say that this act of generosity, cheerfully performed, was indeed a Christian duty. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things" (vet, 27). Here is a reason for missionary efforts among the Jews. They have been the channel through which blessings have flowed to us: shall we not be the channel through which the blessings of the gospel shall flow to them? Here is a reason for the support of the Christian ministry. It is wise and prudent that those who are to be teachers and preachers of the Word, and pastors of the flock, should devote themselves to that work only. How, then, are they to be supported? By the generosity of those to whom they minister. If the latter are "partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things." Such mutual helpfulness all Christians ought to cultivate towards one another.—C.H.I.
An apostle's confidence.
St. Paul has been stating his plans as regards the future, and especially regarding his intended visit to Rome. There is much that is uncertain. But one thing was a certainty to him. "I am sure that, when I come to you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ." Had Paul any grounds for this expectation? Was his confidence warranted by facts? Let us see. About two years after this he came to Rome a prisoner. What was his chief occupation then? Preparing his defence? No. "Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him ' (Acts 28:31). There were two elements in his confident expectation.
I. HIS CONFIDENCE IN THE BLESSING OF THE GOSPEL. "The fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ." St. Paul felt that the best blessing he could bring to any city, or any people whom he visited, was the blessing of the gospel. Four features in the gospel have made it a blessing to the world.
1. It is a gospel of love and mercy. This was a new message to the world. What a contrast to the cruel gods of heathenism is the merciful God whom the gospel proclaims!
2. It is a gospel of salvation. It not only shows us the evil of sin and the guilt of it, but it tells us of a Saviour. Here is its transcendent superiority over the best of the heathen religions. Not only so, but the Saviour of whom it speaks is a Divine Saviour. He is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God through him.
3. It is a gospel of everlasting life. What hopes it opens up! What a stimulus it gives us to exertion to remember that they that are faithful unto death shall receive the crown of life that fadeth not away! It teaches us that this life is eternal in its consequences, and thus exercises a purifying and elevating influence upon the lives of men. What comfort it brings to the bereaved to know that the grave does not end all, but that there is another and a better life beyond! The hope of the agnostic has recently been expressed in a popular novel, 'John Ward, Preacher.' The heroine expresses her hope for the future by speaking of it as "an eternal sleep." Where is the stimulus to exertion there? Where is there any comfort for the bereaved? When death is drawing nigh, the dying Christian and those who are to be left behind can appreciate the blessing of that gospel which has brought life and immortality to light.
4. It is a gospel of light and guidance. It points out to us the path of duty. It gives us not only wise precepts, but the personal example of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here also it transcends all human systems of religion and morality. The best of human teachers have not been free from imperfection and sin. Christ alone can truly say, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life." He alone has the right to say to us—a right vindicated not only by his Divine authority, but by his perfect character—"Follow me." The influence of Jesus Christ and his example is one of the most precious blessings of the gospel. In the year 1876 the centennial of the United States was celebrated. General Grant was then president. The editors of the Sunday School Times wrote to him, requesting him to give them a message for children and youth in their centennial number. In his reply he said, "My advice to Sunday schools, no matter of what denomination, is—Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet-anchor of your liberties, write its precepts on your hearts, and practise them in your lives. To the influence of this book are we indebted for all the progress made in true civilization, and to this we must look as our guide in the future." He, too, had confidence in the gospel, and in the blessings which it brings to the individual and the nation.
II. HIS CONFIDENCE IN THE CHRISTIAN'S POWER TO COMMUNICATE THIS BLESSING. The apostle's words express not only his belief in the blessing of the gospel, but also his confidence that he can and will communicate that blessing. "I am sure that, when I crone to you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ." And yet it was not a confidence in self, in his own lemming or eloquence. It was a confidence in Christ. He knew whom he had believed. Twenty-five years he had been serving him, and he had more than once proved the Divine power of Christ's presence and help. Our power to communicate the blessings of the gospel depends on two things.
1. A personal knowledge of the gospel.
2. Constant communion with Christ. A life of prayer is indispensable if we would live a life of usefulness. These two things, personal knowledge of the gospel and personal communion with Christ, will make us independent of time and circumstances. They impart strength and confidence. It was all the same to St. Paul how or when he went to Rome. As if he said, "No matter how, no matter when I come to you, one thing I am sure of, that I shall bring the rich blessing of Christ's gospel with me." As a matter of fact, he came there as a prisoner, but even thus he brought a blessing. Whether we are rich or poor, learned or unlearned, we shall be sure to carry a blessing to the circles in which we move, if only we have first of all experienced the power of the gospel in our own hearts, and then realize our constant dependence upon Christ. There are two ways in which we can communicate this blessing.
1. By our Christian character. The Corinthian Christians became living epistles (2 Corinthians 3:2, 2 Corinthians 3:3). Their changed life was a remarkable testimony to the power of the gospel.
2. By our personal testimony. If we know by personal experience the preciousness of Christ and the blessings of the gospel, let us be more ready to proclaim them to others.—C.H.I.
HOMILIES BY T.F. LOCKYER
Union in God.
Here, as Godet says, "the particular question treated in Romans 14:1-23. broadens; the point of view rises, and the tone is gradually heightened even to the elevation of a hymn, as at the end of all the great parts preceding (Romans 5:12, et seq.; Romans 8:31, et seq.; Romans 11:33, et seq.). Paul first exhorts, by the example of Christ, to mutual condescension (Romans 14:1-3); he points out (Romans 14:4-7), as an end to be reached, the common adoration to which such conduct will bring the Church; finally (Romans 14:8-13), he indicates the 'special' part given to Jews and to Gentries in this song of the whole redeemed race. It as not now so much the particular question which has just been dealt with, as the whole question of which that was but a part, viz. the relation of a free, spiritual Christianity to the more or less Judaic Christianity of some, to which the apostle here directs his words. They are to be of one mind, that they may with one mouth glorify God.
I. A MUTUAL LOVE. The strong ought to show their strength by bearing the infirmities of the weak. And not only will their strength thus be most perfectly shown, but the love, which is more than strength. For this love is the law of the new life. Shall we then please ourselves, by pluming ourselves on our liberty, our superior faith? Nay, rather, we must seek, in love, to please our neighbour. But not merely as pleasing him, though this is an end to be sought; but as pleasing him in harmony with all right principle, viz. for his good, unto edifying. There must be the desire to contribute comfort, joy; but, above this, and as controlling all else, the desire to contribute to his building up in holiness and love. And what is our great inspiration to this helpfulness of sacrificing love? We have the mind of Christ! Did he please himself? How, then, had we been saved? Nay, rather, for our sake he gave up all. In him was seen pre-eminently the spirit of sacrifice expressed in the ancient words, "The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell upon me." And as generally the ancient Scriptures were written that we might also endure all things for God's sake, being comforted of God, and so have hope of the perfect salvation at last, ought we not in this particular respect to make the sacrifice required, bearing even the weak scruples of our brethren, that together, through God's comfort, we may have hope of heaven? Yes, we must be "of the same mind one with another according to Christ Jesus."
II. A COMMON PRAISE. What shall be the result of loving like-mindedness, in which all differences are sunk? A glorifying of God, with one accord. And the one united psalm shall be but the expression of one common thanksgiving, filling the hearts of all, for the love wherewith God hath loved them. Is not this the end of all God's redeeming work, that all should join in loving praise to God, being redeemed with one common redemption—a praise shown forth, not only with the lips, but in the lives? So should all things be made new. To this end was Christ's work, that Jew and Gentile together might be saved by a true and merciful God. The ancient Scriptures foresaw this grand result, the blending of Gentile and Jewish praise in one large harmony. So David's declaration (Psalms 18:49); so the invitation of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:43); so again the psalmist (Psalms 117:1); and so Isaiah's prophecy of hope: all of which could find their true fulfilment only in such a loving union of the Jewish and Gentile world in the glad service of their one God and Christ as now filled the apostle's view.
One chief guarantee of the mutual love and common praise shall be the united hope of a perfect salvation. Let them look to God for this, and he shall grant them a faith, and a realized power of God through faith, which shall give them joy and peace now, amid whatever outward disturbances, as being the pledge of all things good guaranteed to us for that future. So should their songs abound; so should their hearts be one: praise helping love, and love helping praise, and God all in all!—T.F.L.
The apostle in these verses touches, as at the first (see Romans 1:1-15), on his personal relations to the Church at Rome. And he reintroduces the subject with much delicate courtesy. He may have seemed to be speaking somewhat boldly, to have assumed a knowledge and goodness superior to theirs: not so! They, he was sure, were "full of goodness, filled with all knowledge," and therefore "able to admonish one another." But he might at least remind them of what they knew; and this, not by any superiority of himself to them, but only by the grace of God; not as a better or wiser Christian man, but as an apostle commissioned by God. We have here set forth, then, much as before, his apostleship, his purpose respecting them, and his request for their prayers on his behalf. By this last, again, with much delicacy, making prominent his dependence on them, rather than theirs on him.
I. HIS APOSTLESHIP. He was put in trust by God with the gospel for the Gentiles. And his fulfilment of this trust was as a priestly service, which he should perform, not proudly, but faithfully. And what a service! ministering the gospel in this great temple of the new kingdom, that he might offer up as a sacrifice the whole Gentile world! His thoughts, perhaps, revert to the words he has used in Romans 12:1; and what a vision greets his view as he looks into the future—all the kindreds, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues of this manifold world, praising God with the harmonious psalm of a consecrated life, offering themselves a living sacrifice! Better this than all the bleeding victims of the older dispensation; all man's intellect and affection and energy of action, all science and art, all industry and commerce, all the multifarious activities of all lives, offered to God! And this was his work, to minister the gospel that the offering might be made, acceptable because sanctified by the Holy Ghost. He would glory in such a work as this, for Christ's sake! For all was through Christ, and the great work already done was only Christ's work
II. HIS PURPOSE. Now, there was one aim which governed him in the fulfilment of this work—he would preach the gospel only where it was not known before. Thus from place to place he went, proclaiming the glad tidings to those who had not heard. And hence to this present, having so much room for such work in those eastward parts, he had been hindered from visiting Rome. Now the hindrance was removed: he had "no more any place in these regions." And still impelled by the constraining purpose to preach the gospel to those "to whom no tidings of him came," he must now turn westwards, even to Spain. And, m passing to Spain, there is every reason why he should pause for mutual refreshment, as he delicately puts it, amongst a people who were, indirectly at least, the fruit of his labours—the Christians at Rome. And coming to them, he would come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ.
III. HIS REQUEST. But, meanwhile, there is another mission to fulfil—the mission of charity to the poor saints at Jerusalem. Prominence of this matter among the Churches (see 1 Corinthians 16:1-24.; Acts 20:4). Probable cause of necessity, withholding of custom from Christians on the part of their fellow-Jews. Mere charity demander that help should be given; and not only so, the Gentiles were bound in honour to pay, as it were, in this way, a debt they owed; for their salvation was "of the Jews." But what further constrained Paul to be urgent in this matter was his desire that the charity of the Gentile Churches might overcome all the prejudices that still subsisted amongst the Jewish Christians against the full and free admission of the Gentiles into the Christian Church. And for this, and also for his own security amongst many enemies, he asks the prayers of the Christians at Rome. Then he shall come to them in joy, and find rest. In any case, be he troubled or not, may the God of peace be with them!
So does he exemplify, by his yearning love and courtesy of love, the spirit which he seeks to foster in them; so does he, as he would have them do, refer all his doings to the Lord Christ and the will of God. Most surely the God of peace was with him!—T.F.L.
HOMILIES BY S.F. ALDRIDGE
Romans 15:3, Romans 15:4
That alliance is beneficial which lends the aid of the strong to bear the burdens of the weak. Sympathy renders this possible by its real participation in another's distress. Sometimes the infirmities of others are succoured by yielding up our own gratification, or by restricting our own liberty in order not to shock the scruples of the less enlightened. What is our guide in such cases? The reply is—To live in the spirit of Christ, to walk as he walked.
I. CHRIST HAS INTRODUCED INTO MORALS A BEAUTIFUL MODEL AND A POWERFUL MOTIVE. His pattern life is best appreciated by comparing it with ancient heathen manners. The impossibility of inventing such an ideal is the proof of the genuineness of the Gospel narratives. The story is vivid and consistent because a record of fact. An example instructs more than any prolixity of statement or precept. Lecturers know this by their illustrations and experiments. It is one thing to hear of truth, goodness, beauty, from the lips of Plato; quite another to see it live and breathe before our eyes. Cicero could describe the "perfect man" according to his conceptions of perfection; Christ alone exemplified it. And the relationship of Christ to his followers, as not only Teacher but Saviour, imparts tenfold force to his example. He has definite claims upon our obedience, and dearest links of love bind us to the imitation of our Master. His life on earth has been a stream irrigating the parched desert, and has taught us how to make canals of philanthropic benevolence, deriving their idea and element from the river of his love. In fanatical Jerusalem and luxurious Antioch, in philosophic Athens and pleasure-loving Corinth, in colonial Philippi and imperial Rome, this river of grace proved its power to fertilize and beautify. And today we trace a likeness to Christ in the missionary, content to dwell in malarial swamps, and yield his life for the salvation of the degraded; in the tired mother cheerfully continuing at her household toil whilst she uplifts her thoughts to the Redeemer; and in the Church officer leaving his comfortable fireside after his day's work is done to minister to a brother in sickness. In the repression of a hasty word and biting sarcasm, in the gift unostentatiously placed in the hands of the poor, we behold reflected the self-sacrifice of Christ.
II. THE FEATURE OF CHRIST'S LIFE ON WHICH STRESS IS HERE LAID. He was unselfish; he "pleased not himself." This does not imply that he felt no personal pleasure in his mission of mercy. "I delight to do thy will, O my God." But:
1. He sought not to promote his own ease and comfort, but the edification of others. He would not pander to vitiated taste; he taught what men most needed to know, not what gratified the vanity of his hearers, though he, thereby aroused their enmity and created the storm which burst in wrath upon his head. At great cost of physical labour and spiritual weariness he performed works of love. See him asleep from fatigue in the heaving vessel, and fainting under the load of his cross.
2. He gloried not himself, but the work he came to accomplish. He might have summoned angels to his side, he might have led an uprising of the populace, have overawed the rulers, and selected the wisest and wealthiest as his companions and disciples. But the truth was more than all to him. His meat and drink were to do the will of his Father. He had left for this the splendour of the upper realms, and stooped to the form of a servant, and the obedience of a shameful, agonizing death.
III. To FOLLOW CHRIST IS TO MAKE THE OLD TESTAMENT A WELLSPRING OF PATIENCE AND HOPE. The persecution which Christ met with showed him treading in the steps of Scripture heroes. The language of the psalmist is quoted by the apostle as typically expressing the lot of Christ. The chief pangs of a devoted life are caused by the opposition of an ungodly world. Our Lord exposed the hollow pretensions of the Jewish religionists by declaring that true love to God in the heart would listen to the teachings of his Son, would acknowledge in him the promised Messiah, and would recognize in his deeds the echo of the Scriptures. It fortifies Christian sufferers to know that they are in the line of the faithful. No new thing hath happened, for the same afflictions were accomplished in our brethren before. If, then, others have bravely endured and maintained their confidence, so may we. And the ancient writings testify that men, in pleasing God and serving their day and generation, realized true satisfaction, an inward peace and joy indestructible. So we, too, may discover that the road to happiness is holy self-denial. We are slow to learn that the bitter rind covers grateful fruit, that death is the gate to life, and humility the stepping-stone to honour. Obedience prepares us to wield authority; and to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing is to prove how inseparably the kingdom of God and our own good are combined. Miserly selfishness overreaches itself; the restricted heart dies of inanition. He who will always get from others knows not the blessedness of giving. The wine of Christian charity flushes the spirit with a generous emotion, pure and God-like, the nectar of the skies.—S.R.A.
Warm-hearted Christian courtesy.
Many points of dispute arose in Churches composed of Jews and Gentiles. Not easily or joyfully could Jewish Christians throw off the trammels formed by the habits and traditions of ages, and welcome the admission into the new brotherhood on equal terms of men who had never been trained to compunction on account of ceremonial regulations neglected. Like the mother in the days of Solomon, more anxious for the safety of her child than for the strict settlement of a legal problem, the apostle was concerned for the welfare and peace of the community. He would have both parties waive their rights, and unite in holy fellowship instead of holding aloof. A chief part of our modern difficulties consists in the proper treatment of others, especially of our fellow-Christians. More anxiety, embarrassment, sin, is displayed here than in any other direction. The ancient matters of controversy do not perhaps trouble us, though signs are not wanting on the horizon of clouds no bigger than a man's hand which may at any time overspread the sky and disturb the harmony of the Churches. We still need guidance lest trivial differences in thought and behaviour should estrange us from one another. Let us look at the rule of behaviour laid down. It is contained in those golden words, the pivot of Christian conduct, "Even as Christ also." Our treatment of others is to resemble Christ's behaviour towards us. Here is the path we are to tread, and the source of skill and strength to enable us to proceed therein.
I. CHRIST RECEIVES MEN GLADLY. Not reluctantly, but heartily, with outstretched arms and promise of blessing. See this evinced in the Gospel narratives. He was moved with compassion toward the multitudes; gave royal invitations—"If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink;" "Come unto me, all ye that labour." This can be verified in our own experience; for Christ lives and rules over our hearts and lives, dispenses his favours freely; and the peace and joy that filled our hearts in trusting him were the testimony of his delight, the fire descending from heaven to certify the acceptance of our sacrifice. Contrast Christ's interest in Saul's conversion with the latter's cool reception by the Church at Jerusalem, where the apostle had been abandoned to utter neglect but for Barnabas. The kingdom of God is no close corporation, like a city company, afraid of its membership growing too large for the spoils to be divided; or a House of Lords, where a large influx lessens individual importance. But our desire must be for the Church to increase till it sways the globe. Our Christian societies should be as a fostering greenhouse to young life, or as a warm bath that dissipates spiritual rheumatism, where the outside chill may be forgotten, and men may rise from a hostile crowd to a sanctuary of peace and love.
II. CHRIST RECEIVES MEN IN SPITE OF THEIR IMPERFECTIONS Though sin-stained and despairing of righteousness, helpless with frequent falls, ignorant with a dulness which is realized more each day, yet our worthlessness was not spurned by the Saviour. For this reason he drew us to himself, to heal and save us, to instruct and improve us, to develop into maturity any latent germ of good. He sees what men may become under genial influences—the image of God renewed; the dry stick swelling into life and blossom; the plot of barren ground a garden. If we wait till our brethren are faultless, we shall have little communion this side of heaven. If they are not as cultured or as large-hearted, all the more do they need our stimulating converse; and if not doctrinally perfect, they will learn.
III. CHRIST RECEIVES MEN IMPARTIALLY, making no invidious distinctions. This was Peter's argument for the admission of the Gentiles (Acts 11:17; Acts 15:9). One presented, at court may demand the countenance of any ambassador; for whom the sovereign hath received, all her servants must honour. Whom Christ hath admitted to his grace we are bound to acknowledge. The Saviour on earth demanded sincerity in would-be followers. This is the explanation of any apparent sternness. He would have none enter on a Christian career without counting the cost, and showing a wholehearted readiness to obey. Feeble faith, if genuine, he never refused to bless. Hypocrisy, delusion, he pitilessly unmasked; but trembling seekers he smiled upon with Divine encouragement. Why distrust his magnanimity now? Why fear a scornful rejection of your prayers and service?
IV. CHRIST REGARDS IN ALL THINGS THE GLORY OF GOD. Note his constant reference to the Father's will. He preached that misunderstandings respecting God might be cleared away. He relieved and cheered the suffering that they might know and praise the mercy of God. He gave his life that the dark shadow of human guilt might no longer eclipse the glory of the Divine government. The end cometh, when Christ shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father, having subjected all things to God. And through him the same principle actuates his disciples. It is men who have some noble end in view that can rise above petty meannesses and jealousies, caring no longer for personal rank and power, content to be abased if thereby the kingdom of God may be advanced. The zeal of God's house consumes the fleshly, ease-loving, envious "me," and substitutes a bright blaze of pure, affectionate solicitude for God and man. There are doubtless seasons when individual dignity must be asserted; there is no season when it is not in place to consider the glory of God. That glory includes our own highest good. It is no ear of Juggernaut trampling on the devotees; any contradiction is on the surface merely, and in the future life a lasting reconciliation shall be seen established between man's satisfaction and the authority of his Maker.—S.R.A.
Hopefulness prayed for.
The sense of a passage is clearer if the connection with the context be ascertained. The Revised Version, by translating the same root-word in the same manner, enables the reader to take up the thread of thought from the twelfth verse. Guests introduced to the same host are placed on terms of fellowship with each other. So Jew and Gentile had been received by Jesus Christ, in whom the veracity of God towards the Jews had been confirmed, and his mercy displayed towards the Gentiles. Thus both could unite in praising God, as had been predicted by the Law, the Psalms, and the prophets. "In him shall the Gentiles hope." And this leads the apostle to utter the supplication of the text.
I. THE TITLE GIVEN TO GOD. "The God of hope." The names of God in the Scriptures emphasize his personality and close relationship with his creatures more than any designations in philosophy or mythology. He has established a plan of salvation which is the substantial warrant for hope, and, besides this objective provision, does himself inspire hope subjectively in his people. The bestowment of every grace is attributed to him. Naturally does the apostle, in his anxiety for the hopefulness of Christians, invoke a blessing from the God of hope. Our prayers are fashioned according to our conception of the Hearer of prayer. Hope concerns two things—what we desire, and what we anticipate. When either of these characteristics is absent, hope fails. And we are not to imagine that hope belongs only to us limited beings; for though to the omniscient eye the future is visible, God, like ourselves, cherishes confident expectations. He, too, welcomes the era when his fair dominions shall not he defiled with sin. He is as much delighted with the prospect of triumphant grace as any of us can be. If we wonder why the period is not hastened, the solution is to be found in the nature of man. Forcibly to overcome man's power of resistance would be to destroy the plant in the moment of its flowering, or to crush the drowning in the very act of rescue. The trophies of redemption are to be monuments of moral suasion. The kingdom spreads not by sword and garments rolled in blood, but by the kindling of the fuel of love in the heart of man. What an idea of the patience of the Almighty is presented in the myriad ages through which this earth has been slowly prepared for the residence of man! We are like children, who cannot wait cheerfully for the coming feast; we lose heart if the chariot delays.
II. THE PRAYER. "Fill you with all joy and peace in believing." We may lawfully seek, not only to obey the precepts, but to enjoy the comforts of the gospel. True, the gospel ideal is blessedness rather than happiness; yet its intent is to bring present serenity and gladness, not to leave us all our life trembling in doubt. It is a remedy for present ills, a foretaste of coming bliss. Peace and joy are virtues; there is no merit attached to disquiet and mournfulness. Faith is the ground of peace and joy, or the instrument through which God communicates these blessings. "In believing" is put for the whole of Christian conduct. Expect peace and joy whilst you hold fast to the message which imparted glad tranquillity at the first, whilst you remember the obligations and partake of the privileges of the gospel. Without faith, joy and peace can no more enter the soul than hunger and thirst can be relieved without eating and drinking. Faith grows by exercise, mounts aloft on experience like the vine on the trellis. It is not honourable to be for ever questioning the credibility of Christ. Faith knocks at the door and gains admittance into the mansion of light and song; unbelief examines the door, and questions the resources of the palace. When our right to our inheritance is challenged, we may examine again the title-deeds; but it is not in the law courts that we learn to prize our possessions. The prayer of the text teaches not to rest content with meagre supplies. How exuberant the apostle's language! "Fill you with all peace," etc. There is joy of every kind arising from service and communion—joy intellectual and emotional; joy in our own advance and in the widening bounds of the kingdom of Christ. We are too apt to sink to a certain level of monotony. Our course is circular, too seldom spiral reaching upwards.
III. THE END IN VIEW. "That ye may abound in hope." Here again see the spiritual vehemence of the apostle. He knew that every Gentile believer cherished hope; but he would have this hope to abound in every season, under every circumstance. Some Christians, like birds in an eclipse of the sun, are sure that the shades betoken night. Now, the Christian who is rich in peace and joy cannot help reasoning from the present to the future; his ecstasy tints every cloud with roseate hues. He is youthful in spirit, lives in a
"... boyhood of wonder and hope,
Present promise and wealth of the future beyond the eye's scope."
Hope is imprinted on his countenance, radiates from every action. Advancing age brings him nearer the westering sun; there is a rich ripeness of harvest glory. Two old men, alike in everything else but in the possession of this buoyant expectancy, are really wide as the poles asunder. The one laments that he has seen the best of his days; the other has something better than the best to prepare for. Christian hope is set on an excellent object, rests on a stable foundation, works a purifying, elevating gladness. The hope desired for the Romans was a collective hope, to be fostered as a common solace and strength. Only by dwelling in harmony could it produce its proper fruits. There should be no panic amongst the followers of Christ—hence the importance of the prayer.
IV. THE CONDITION EXPRESSED. "Through the power of the Holy Ghost." The human condition was "believing;" the Divine is the energy of the Spirit. And since he dwells in believers, his aid may surely be reckoned on. This hope, therefore, is neither painted in water nor written in dust. It is not made so much dependent on our reasonings or struggles as on that life from God which is the answer to all man's pleas and excuses. He says, "I am weak, I cannot." God says, "I will pour my Spirit upon you." How vast the difference between the dull, timid disciples and the same when "filled with the Spirit "—enthusiastic, vigorous, ready to preach and to take joyfully the spoiling of their persons and property! Let our cry be, "Come, Holy Sprat, come. Breathe about our wintry chills, scatter our darkness, raise our plane of thought and feeling!—S.R.A.
Debts pleasurably paid.
The ties formed by the reception of the gospel exhibited the expulsive power of a new affection to cast out national jealousies and antipathies. Macedonians and Achaians united in solicitude for their destitute fellow-believers in Jerusalem and in an active endeavour to send them relief. Stronger than the bonds of kinship and race were the new feelings of attraction to each other through their relationship to the one Saviour.
I. EVERY BENEFIT RECEIVED LAYS US UNDER AN OBLIGATION TO OUR BENEFACTORS. As stewards of the gospel the saints in Judea had betrayed their trust if guilty silence restrained their lips from communicating to the world the panacea revealed for human ill. But this fact did not set the Greeks free from indebtedness to the Churches which, recognizing their responsibility, had sent to them the message of life. Whatever the reason that has procured us some kindness or favour, gratitude is incumbent upon us. Not to acknowledge it betrays baseness of soul. And the greatest benefits are those pertaining to our spiritual well-being. These are nobler, more satisfying, more lasting than any treasures of gold or marble, any appeasing of temporal hunger or nakedness, or any rescue from earthly distress or danger. The knowledge, the consolation, the stimulus which a missionary, a teacher, or a pastor imparts are of incomparable value. Is it a matter for wonder that, in return for spiritual gifts, men bestow of their carnal things? Those who clamour for a cheap ministry display woeful inappreciation of the riches of Christ. The return which our Lord demands for his own self-sacrifice is that his servants and brethren be honourably treated and succoured. He still regards his poor; hence our collections at the Lord's Supper.
II. To THE RIGHT-MINDED THE DISCHARGE OF SUCH AN OBLIGATION IS A SOURCE OF PLEASURE. Not in order to get rid of any sense of liability; this would be mean, even if possible; but we are glad of an opportunity of visibly certifying our gratitude. The outward expression of any inward feeling is a delight. A generous emotion ministers a pure joy, which ever seeks for ways and means of demonstration. The memory of Christ's gift of himself to us bestirs us to seek out worthy objects, needy souls on whom the mantle of charity may fittingly fall. "He became poor for our sakes/' The disinclination to give liberally melts away under the impulse of Divine love. Men who grudge the demands of the tax-collector will voluntarily, cheerfully contribute to the dissemination of Christian truth.
"The poorest poor
Long for some moments in a weary life
When they can know and feel that they have been
Themselves, the fathers and the dealers out
Of some small blessings; have been kind to such
As needed kindness; for this single cause,
That we have all of us one human heart."
That is the office of religion to make the stern face of duty break forth into a smile. The task blossoms into a joy; one kind act prompts to further and larger benevolence.
III. THE NATURE AND EXTENT OF THE REQUITAL MUST BE MEASURED BY OUR RESOURCES AND THE WANTS OF OTHERS. God provides for his family by the mutual interdependence and assistance of the members thereof. Whilst unlimited competition and the survival of the strongest tend to make life s battle of hell, unrestricted helpfulness blesses every heart and laud. The Christian law of supply and demand is designed to correct the injuries and supplement the deficiencies of close-fisted political economy. Power is, rightly understood, a capacity to help, not a weapon of destruction to the weak. The men of leisure can visit the sick and suffering; the rich have ability to relieve the needy; and the cultured may bestow on others the results of their mental diligence. "Such as I have give I you." "It is accepted according to that a man hath." As the world is one great market supplied by every land, so the special distress of one country appeals to all for relief. "We do not well, if this be a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace."—S.R.A.
A promised visit.
A great writer in her preface to a story of Florence pictures an inhabitant revisiting his city after four centuries. He notes many changes. The towers and walls are gone; different questions are mooted in trade, scholarships and politics; garments of altered texture and form are worn. But as the sunlight and shadows are the same, so the dawn still breaks upon rosy sleeping children and hardhanded labourers arising to their toil; the same chants are sung in the churches, and the faces of worshippers still turn to the same image of Divine anguish for a beneficent end. Like the river-courses which shape the lives of men, so those other currents which ebb and flow in human hearts have scarcely altered, pulsating to the same needs, the same great loves and terrors. The broad features of the moral landscape alter not. It is this essential sameness of the human lot which lends to the Bible perennial interest. We have the same battle to fight, the same need of divinely instructed wisdom and divinely furbished weapons. We are taking the same journey as ancient heroes, and share their perplexities and convictions.
I. AN INTENSE LONGING. The apostle frequently alluded to his desire to visit Rome and see the brethren there. Aquila and Priscilla must often have conversed with him respecting the famous city, and the vast influx of strangers to be witnessed there continually. The apostle had high hopes kindled in his breast, thoughts of the metropolis as the "pulpit" of the world. The words of a speaker amid the seven hills would, like the faith of the disciples there, be trumpeted to every part of the globe. After some years the apostle resolved to carry his desire into effect (see Acts 19:1-41.). This Epistle offers explanations of the circumstances which had hitherto prevented the realization of the wish. Here is a lesson of patient submission to the guidance of God. Whilst doors of entrance and utterance were opening in the East, and the Gentiles were becoming obedient by word and deed, the Holy Spirit plainly signified that fields so ripe for the sickle must not be deserted. Let those impatient for another sphere of labour beware lest through some burning impulse they neglect the crops ready to the reaper's hands. The wider scope may be presented hereafter. We learn, too, the apostle's missionary method. He liked not to build on another's foundation. He chose of two regions the one most like fallow ground. He loved to evangelize rather than proselytize, and whilst unoccupied territory was near it did not seem right to visit a Church where Christ had been already proclaimed. It is matter for thankfulness that denominations and missionary societies are beginning to recognize the evil and sin of overlapping agencies and districts. Note the apostle's justification of his desire to see Rome. He intended to make it not his terminus, but a temporary resting-place, and a starting-point for further excursions. His eager vision beheld Churches rising in the furthest western limits of Europe, his ear caught the sounds of prayer and praise soon to ascend from countries debased by superstition and vice. The victories won over Satan in Asia Minor and Greece he hoped to repeat in Italy and Spain. He perhaps projected tours through France, for to this Christian warrior, as to Alexander of Macedon, there could be no rest as long as there were kingdoms, if not conquered, at least unassailed. Oh for more of this crusading spirit, this holy ambition!
II. AN UNCERTAINTY as to the time of the expected visit. "When I come." There seemed no reason why Paul should not proceed to Rome immediately after the Pentecostal feast at Jerusalem. But he saw a cloud arising which contained the materials for a storm, though in what way it would burst, or whether it might not pass over, he could not foresee. He knew the vindictive watchfulness of "them that did not believe in Judaea," enemies who never forgave his desertion of their cause. The story in the Acts tells how his suspicions were confirmed by the predictions of Agabus, and how the apostle's yielding to the excessive caution of the saints furnished an occasion for the fury of the fanatical Jews. Imprisonment and shipwreck lay on the apostle's course, and when ultimately his wish to visit the metropolis was gratified, he entered as a prisoner with a prospect of a wearisome captivity. How strangely the hoped-for differed from the actual! Nor is it by any means rare to find the fruition of our hopes attended with far other than the bright-hued environment imagination forecasted. Plans are executed, the projected castles built, the rank secured, the home obtained, yet the accompaniments vary in toto from those anticipated. Sometimes we have asked selfishly, and the cup petitioned has held a bitter potion indeed. Yet the Christian may say confidently, "The will of the Lord be done." There are times when our Master leads his servants purposely through flood and flame. Then be it ours like Paul to accept the post of honour and bravely do our best.
III. A FULL ASSURANCE that his arrival would be fraught with good. "I know that I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ."
1. He would enter the city as a messenger of Christ. Not for purposes of pleasure and sight-seeing, but as the bearer of sacred tidings would he in any case approach Rome. Along the Appian Way had many a renowned general returned laden with the spoils of conflict, many an orator and philosopher had passed through the gates, but none more honoured by posterity than this servant of Christ. When seeking our own ends we may ever doubt of a celestial convoy, but when seeking the things of Christ, the ambassador of Christ shall be treated as such.
2. He could not conceive of the absence of that spiritual power which had thus far attended him. "Lo, I am with you alway," was the promise. Like Joseph in Potiphar's house, and the ark in the house of Obed-Edom, a true man of God brings a blessing where'er he sojourns. Who should separate the apostle from the love and equipment of his Lord? To rely on this is not presumption, but God-honouring confidence.
3. No scanty measure of spiritual gifts ever satisfied or was expected by this devoted labourer. He made little mention of tongues and healing, of priestly functions and intellectual displays; he looked to the blessing which maketh endlessly, joyously rich; that knowledge, proclamation, and practice of the gospel which bears fruit unto eternal life. Next to the presence of the Lord himself the advent of a faithful minister profits our gatherings. With what delight, like members of a family long separated, would these primitive Christians confer on the holy theme of the new faith! Let our anxiety be not to fritter away time in idle gossip, but to make each other wiser and better for the meeting. If we more often expected seasons when, like the river Jordan in harvest-time, our hearts should be filled to overflowing, the testimony would more frequently rejoice us: "It was good to be there." Prepare the vessels for the fulness of the blessing which alone can banish poverty and weakness of the spirit. This conviction did not preclude the apostle from requesting the prayers of the Church for the fulfilment of his beloved project. To our short-sighted reason it is unnecessary to pray to the Father who orders all things aright. But our conclusion is based on too narrow premisses; there are other ends subserved by prayer. It has respect to the plans of the Almighty and the character of his creatures. Prayer is one of the laws of the kingdom, and "effectual fervent prayer availeth much."—S.R.A.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
The Christ-like duty of pleasing our neighbour.
Having just counselled the strong to defer as far as possible to the consciences of the weak, the apostle continues the subject in the thirteen verses now before us. He urges as the principle of the Christian life, not self-pleasing, but neighbour-pleasing. He limits this, of course, by the condition of edification. In short, a Christian is to be a public character, regulating his life by the spiritual interests of all around him. In this respect he will be following Christ.
I. THE PLEASING OF OTHERS, NOT THE PLEASING OF OURSELVES, IS TO BE THE RULE OF OUR CHRISTIAN LIVING. NOW, this does not mean:
1. Popularity-hunting. For this is securing a selfish end by means of gratifying our neighbours. It is self-pleasing in a subtle and deceptive shape. It is self-pleasing, even though it may involve the degradation of our neighbour. And it does mean:
2. The conciliation and even humouring of our neighbour with a view to his edification. This is real love, going all lengths to serve and edify a neighbour. We will bear with him, even humour him, with the thoroughly unselfish end of securing his edification. It is the very essence of public service. What a contrast it presents to the self-seeking which, alas! goes on among men under the name of public services!
II. IN THIS LIFTING UP OF OUR FELLOWS WE SHALL BE STRENGTHENED BY LOOKING UP TO CHRIST. For the whole spirit of our Master's ministry consisted in pleasing ethers and not himself. Not, indeed, that men understood his plan. The gospel does not appear at first to promote men's pleasure. It humiliates, it breaks them down, it calls for penitential tenderness; but it secures peace through pardon, and the joy which comes through believing. Our Lord's sufferings were consequently in the long run with a view to the real and abiding pleasure of men. And so he was constantly lifting them up, so far as they would allow him. His very crucifixion was to please others, and secure their edification. A broad view of Christ's history, therefore, shows it to have been a pleasing of others, not of himself. He became a servant of the circumcision that the Jews might be brought to peace and joy; he became the Saviour and so the Joy of the Gentiles. In both respects he was pleasing and edifying others, not pleasing himself. HIS self-sacrificing life becomes thus the fountain-head for public service.
III. THE GOSPEL THUS DISTINGUISHES ITSELF FROM UTILITARIAN TEACHING. For instead of directing us to regulate our conduct by self-pleasing, which is at bottom the utilitarian principle, it directs us to please our neighbour unto edification, and in the spirit of Christ. Nor is our pleasing of our neighbour to secure personal comfort; this may ultimately be given into the bargain, but it will assuredly be missed if made our end. "A great German poet and philosopher," says Dr. Martineau, "was fond of defining religion as consisting in a reverence for inferior beings. The definition is paradoxical; but though it does not express the essence of religion, it assuredly designates one of its effects. True, there could be no reverence for lower natures, were there not, to begin with, the recognition of a Supreme Mind; but the moment that recognition exists, we certainly look on all that is beneath with a different eye. It becomes an object, not of pity and protection only, but of sacred respect; and our sympathy, which had been that of a humane fellow-creature, is converted into the deferential help of a devout worker of God's will. And so the loving service of the weak and wanting is an essential part of the discipline of the Christian life. Some habitual association with the poor, the dependent, the sorrowful, is an indispensable source of the highest elements of character." £
IV. A BUOYANT, HOPEFUL SPIRIT SHOULD BE OURS IN ALL OUR PUBLIC WORK. For it is "the God of hope" with whom we have to do. And humanity is being lifted up by the Christian spirit of service. And great things are in store for the earth. Peace, joy, hope, should in consequence characterize every one who names the name of Jesus and professes to follow him in service. God grant it to us all!—R.M.E.
The apostle's programme.
The didactic and hortatory portions of the Epistle are now over, and a few personal explanations and salutations are all that remain. They need not detain us long. And here we have—
I. PAUL'S REASONS FOR WRITING TO THE ROMANS. (Romans 15:14-21.) It is not because the Church at Rome is deficient in either knowledge or preaching power. The list in last chapter shows how many able men and women composed the Church. But the reason is:
1. Because Paul is apostle to the Gentiles. The Church at Rome should enjoy his care as well as the other Gentiles. The only difference is that in this case he has not been the pioneer, as he had been in so many other Gentile Churches. And regarding this apostleship he is careful to speak of:
2. But having been prevented hitherto frets coming to Rome, he indites this Epistle to them. It is as a token from the unavoidably absent apostle that he writes the Epistle.
II. HE SKETCHES HIS PROGRAMME FOR THEM. (Romans 15:22-28.) And first he has to go up from Corinth with money for the poor saints of the mother Church at Jerusalem. From that Church the gospel has come to the Gentiles, and it is only reasonable that there should be now a return in the time of their need. A return in carnal things is to be expected after the reception of spiritual things. He hopes when he has got through this service at Jerusalem to come by Rome to Spain. He hoped to make his advent to Rome as a free man—he did not then think it would be as a prisoner.
III. HE IS CERTAIN HE WILL COME AS A BLESSING TO THEM. (Romans 15:29.) He is inspired with moral certainty that his advent will not be in vain. It is such an assurance of blessing through us that should animate every worker for the Master. Rome was to feel the effects of Paul's visit for years. And so it did.
IV. PAUL'S REQUEST FOR INTERCESSION. (Romans 15:30-32.) His assurance of blessing, instead of minimizing, only intensified his prayer, and led him to ask others to intercede for him. And here we notice:
1. The ground of the request. It is "for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit." By all that Christ has been for them and the Spirit has been with them and in them, he asks them to intercede.
2. The substance of the request. For deliverance from unbelievers in Judaea, for acceptance among the poor saints, and for a joyful and refreshing advent to Rome. Of these the last two were answered and the first was denied. Yet his apprehension by the unbelievers was overruled for great spiritual good.
V. THE BENEDICTION. (Romans 15:33.) The God of peace, the great Peace-maker, is asked to be with them, making them a peaceful, happy Church at Rome. It is a message of peace that an apostle brings.—R.M.E.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Romans 15". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Easter