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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Colossians 3

 

 


Verses 1-4

Colossians 3:1-4

If ye then be risen with Christ.

Risen with Christ

There is no doubt a supposition in the “if.” The apostle takes it for granted that Christians were raised together with Christ, and admonishes them, therefore, to evince it in their life. The resurrection of Christ is represented as giving to His people--

I. A new aim. Man is born to aspire, and when he rises with the victorious Christ he aspires to heavenly things. The new quest is for righteousness, holiness, patience, devotion, love, and self-sacrifice.

II. A new heart. The affections are to be set on things above, not as in the unregenerate state on earthly things. It might be possible to seek heavenly things merely in obedience to authority or convictions of duty, but that we may be raised above that, we are encouraged to set our whole heart and mind upon Divine realities.

III. A new life. Dead to the world, they have nevertheless a resurrection life hid with Christ in God. And their earthly life of duty and endurance corresponds with the secret fountain from which it flows.

IV. A new hope which--

1. Respects Christ--“He shall be manifested.” It is the blessed hope, the glorious appearing. He shall come the-second time without sin unto salvation.

2. Respects Christians. Spiritually raised with Christ, they will share His revelation. (Family Churchman.)

1. St. Paul has just been dealing with a system of repression and abstinence which had a vain show of wisdom, but did not touch the spring of action, and was therefore of no value in resistance to indulgence of the flesh. Would you know, he asks, how you may be lifted above the tyranny of sense, and be initiated into the true secret of temperance and chastity? To go back to a system of bondage fit only for the childhood of the race is to forget the characteristic feature of Christianity, which is the elevating of the whole man into a new region of thought and action, in virtue of union with One who has ascended into that heaven where your true life is hid with Him in God.

2. This is Paul’s great doctrine.

3. This union is expressed in a retrospective way. If I am in Christ I am in Him as that which He is now, as one who has died, risen and ascended; and when He died I died, and when God exalted Him He set me with Him. Henceforth I must live the risen life, and live above the world as one who has done with its cares, tails, and lying vanities. “He that is dead is freed from sin;” he that is raised must mind the things above, have them for his interest, employment, study, affection, so that when the veil is removed which now hides Him we may be manifested with Him.

I. The resurrection of Christ is a fact, as much of history as of the faith of Christendom, and attested by convincing evidence on the part of unexceptionable witnesses.

II. Our resurrection with Christ is a fact spiritual, but real, and contained in Christ’s resurrection. To some minds a spiritual fact is a self-contradiction. But a spiritual fact is, above all other kinds, a factor in history. It sets in motion influences which change the face of nations, working those miracles of good in comparison with which the rise and fall of dynasties are vanity.

III. This resurrection is effected by union with Christ. The word “union” is used very loosely. We speak of a combination of a few thousands for a purpose salutary or mischievous as union, little thinking what the term is which we take in vain. But this union is one which man cannot have with man. It is a union of spirit, and such that the spirit of the Saviour not only influences the spirit of the man from outside, as our mind is wrought upon by speech or books, but from within. “He shall be in you.”

IV. How and when is this union realized. Paul says that all we who are baptized into Christ, there and then put on Christ. “We were buried with Him by our baptism into death.” If this realization of Christ has not yet been given us, let us not take refuge in names and forms, saying, “I have it as a thing of course, for I have been baptized.” If you have it you will know it; if you have it not yet it is yours by right. Baptism is at any rate the promise of God, to each one, of his grace and acceptance in proportion to the need and entreaty.

V. This union is between Christ in heaven and us. That Christ is there need not repel any one from seeking Him. “He ascended that He might fill all things.” When He was upon earth He did not even fill Palestine. Now by virtue of His exaltation He can fill every soul with Himself.

VI. Therefore we must seek the things above.

1. The contrast is to things on earth--harassing anxiety, importunate vanity, consuming ambition, exciting pleasure, shameful self-indulgence. The things above are the realities of which these are counterfeits, the grand and satisfying pursuits of which these are the phantoms, things which bring comfort and peace and rest to the soul.

2. Every honest searching of the heart to root out what God hates, every earnest effort after forgiveness, every aspiration after a Diviner life, every sincere endeavour, is a seeking after the things above.

3. By degrees there shall be in every such seeker a change of places between earth and heaven. From seeking he shall rise to thinking the things above, and when at last the door opens, and he is called in to see the King in His beauty, he shall find himself in no strange scene or company. (Dean Vaughan.)

Christ and the higher nature

That there is a higher life which we may and ought to live, all men, in whom there is any religion, feel; and what is peculiar to the gospel is not the bare idea of this life, but the revelation of its character, power, and attainment.

I. The nature of this higher life.

1. It is “above.” But is not this just what has been ob jected to--that Christianity concerns itself with another world rather than with this? And is not this very exaltation a weakness and a delusion. What nobler ideal can there be than to make the present life better. But Christ’s ideal was a kingdom, in our hearts, it is true, yet “of heaven,” not of earth. It was, in short, a higher Divine life that was to irradiate our poor human life, and to glorify it. It was no development from below, but a revelation from on high, and without this Christianity has no meaning. Cut away its Divine side, and it is destroyed.

2. This life is not merely in the future, although it embraces it. It concerns itself with another world, yet it does not despise things on the earth. The kingdom is now, and not to be reached after death, and the things above are to be possessed now. These are the things of which the apostle speaks presently, “kindness,” etc. Spiritual qualities. The apostle does not contrast heaven and earth as places, nor set the future life against the present, but the spiritual against the natural, the carnal against the Divine. The higher life takes up the present and glorifies it, and finds its development in every variety of well-doing. It embraces every real virtue, and beautifies and ennobles the life that now is as well as that to come.

II. Its source and motive power. It is no process of self-culture or moral discipline. It springs only from the living root Christ. It is a new life rising on the extinction of the old life of self. The same Divine power which raised Christ from the dead is supposed to live and work in Christians. But out of Christ there is no higher life in the Christian sense. But is this so? Axe there not many beautiful characters who never heard of Christ; and are there not many Christians far from stainless? Yes, but--

1. The Christian type of character is to be estimated by its ideal, as rendered by the highest examples, and not by the conduct of all professors. It is true that the best Christians but feebly represent Christ, yet where is there any list of worthies to be compared with the roll of Christian saints? And all such have declared their strength for good to lie in the fact that their life was hid with Christ in God.

2. If there is goodness where the name of Christ is unknown, or which refuses to acknowledge Him, let us not deny it. If we must have a theory the true one is that all goodness, even when seeming to be apart from Christ, has really its root in Him. (Principal Tulloch.)

The hidden life

At the close of the preceding chapter St. Paul exposes the error of those who would bring back Christians to the rudiments of the world; but with that rapidity of thought which is characteristic of him, he passes on to other rudiments--everything that is loved and cultivated by the flesh- and makes no distinction between rites and worldliness, resting on the similarity between them.

I. The Divine life produces dying to the world. It would be wrong to hold the reverse, of course. If you are risen with Christ, your life is no longer here below, but where Christ is. Here comes a series of transformations.

1. Spiritual death. You wore dead in sins, but Christ has raised you (see Colossians 2:12-13; Ephesians 2:5-6; 1 Peter 1:3).

2. In the very act of raising you, Christ has subjected you to a new death--to the world. These two facts correspond as the projections of a coin do with the depressions of the mould. Resurrection is the relievo of the coin; it produces the void which is death: for our life cannot be everywhere; if it is in heaven it is not on the earth (Colossians 3:4).

II. It is true that we live here by our necessary life, but the best part of ourselves is elsewhere. We live where our heart is. The prisoner lives nowhere less than in his cell. You say of the person you passionately love, “She has stolen my heart.” When any one is indifferent to his surroundings we say, “His heart is elsewhere.” It is with the heart we live our real life; “out of it are the issues of life.” It can restrict itself to earthly things, but it can also have its conversation in heaven.

III. We must be quite clear as to the meaning of the words “above” and “below,” “heaven” and “earth.” Earth and heaven here are not exactly places and times, but principles called after the place and time of their perfect realization. To detach ourselves from earth is not to detach ourselves from activity, but to detach our hearts from earthly principles, and attach them to the principles to be realized in heaven. To fulfil social duties, etc., under God’s eye is not to do earthly but heavenly things. And so the Christian becomes attached to the place and time, where the true principle finds its realization, and detached from that where the false principle is realized. Nevertheless, we must not be drawn into a false spirituality, a selfish separation from earth while attached to it in affection. It is an admirable thing when he who is weaned from life appreciates it; for he despises what in it is contemptible, and esteems in it what is really worth esteem.

IV. The life weaned from earth is hidden from the world, and does not seem life. For life does not consist in tile involuntary fact commonly called by the name. The world judges, and rightly from its premises, that visible things are alone worthy of attachment, that a man who does not attend to them does not live. And yet every thing is not obscure in regard to the Christian. He is unknown and yet known. It is impossible to see a Christian without saying, “There is something peculiar there! His life declares him to be a Christian.” But because this life is not understood it is denied. The natural man sees something, but he does not regard it as life. And yet the Christian lives; he is not an anchorite. He has everything that others have as men, but as a Christian more. Worldlings may consider sin as essential to humanity; but it mutilates a man, Christianity increases him, and faith takes away sin. As a man the Christian mixes himself up in the business of life, for the earth belongs to his God; but in spite of this he is not understood, because the common aim which all pursue is with him only a means of attaining a higher end. And from misunderstand ing to contempt and calumniation the distance is not great. Whatever we may do in order to have peace with all men we shall never succeed unless we walk on the same footing. Thus the Christian is treated as dead, and with the same repugnance as is felt towards a dead man in the physical sense.

V. What motives has the Christian to consent to this, and to accept the consequences?

1. In reality he lives, and God knows that he lives, and that is enough. Those small and charming flowers which bloom in the desert or on the mountain-top will fold up their leaves without being seen by any human eye. God sees them, that is enough. In the Middle Ages unknown workmen spent their lives in rearing glorious cathedrals; some, working in positions dangerous and difficult of access, carved wonders of art and patience which are not seen except as you climb to the tops of columns. It was enough that God saw their work and that throughout the ages a continual hymn should rise to Him from the midst of the stone. So with the Christian.

2. What grand compensation. Obscurity does not hinder greatness.

3. But the Christian will appear when Christ appears, and under what glorious circumstances (Philippians 2:10-11; Matthew 10:32; Matthew 13:43; Daniel 12:3). (A. Vinet, D. D.)

When will the world grow better

The world is full of lamentations. The times are bad; business is stagnant. There is no confidence, but everywhere mistrust and discontent. Everybody says that this state of things cannot last. There are plenty of social quacks. We have been flooded with laws for improving the conditions of life; but the confusion is only the greater. New ecclesiastical laws have been made, but entire classes are alienated from the Church. Then when will the world be better? When each one of us begins to grow better himself; and if any one could devise the means of bringing about that result it would be of more use than all modern experiments. But we have the means in the well-tried Word of God and its Divine powers. The world will grow better.

I. When we die and rise with Christ.

1. There was a time when a great deal was said about the moral improvement of the race. If men laid aside their grosser sins and endeavoured to live virtuously, all would be well. The theory was not confirmed by the facts. To-day men have fallen into a similar error. Culture is now the Saviour. All honour to it; but history proves that a man may be learned in every branch of knowledge, and yet be utterly bad.

2. One of the most absurd suppositions which lies at the root of most modern experiments is that human nature is good. The Scripture doctrine to the contrary, though much decried, is a fact of which every parent can convince himself. If the world is to be made better a commencement must be made with the inner life of each man. The old nature must die, and a new one arise, or you may as soon build the top storey of a house before you have laid the foundation.

3. Accordingly in Scripture this renewal is everywhere insisted upon. Ye are dead and ye have risen, and since ye are risen seek the things that are above. It is not by mere accident that this renewing is thus described, and in connection with the death and resurrection of Christ. There was needed for it a spiritual energy which does not exist in us, but is in Christ, the risen One.

4. This new life is by virtue of a personal surrender by faith to Christ (Colossians 2:12). Thus we die to sin and the world. A new purpose is disclosed, viz., to please God and enjoy fellowship with Him; a new rule of thought and action--the will of God; a new impelling principle--the Holy Spirit; and thus we come with our whole personal life into a higher order--the heavenly. What further proof do we need that when this happens things are better?

II. When heavenly-mindedness fills all hearts.

1. That which is below is the earthly world, with its tangible but perishable things; and the more the pursuit of them grows to a longing after them, the worse will it be for the inner and outer life. For this lower world, however beautiful, can never satisfy the heart, and the void is filled with base passions or wild schemes.

2. The world above is closed against the earthly mind. The natural man has no eye for its glory, no ear for its language. Nevertheless it is the real world, where Christ is seated, its light, life, and supreme attraction. When the mind is fixed on this the earthly life is glorified. For though Christ is exalted He dwells on earth with His faithful ones, and, therefore, brings heaven down below. Attachment to Him does not incapacitate us for the business of life, but only makes us independent of what is sinful and selfish, and teaches us to serve God in all things.

3. Who can doubt, therefore, that this heavenly-mindedness would be better for the home, the shop, the nation.

III. When Christ shall be revealed. NOW the Christian’s life is hid. The world understands not its nature, power, or effects. But it shall be manifest at the appearing of Christ--and then in its full perfection. It will indeed be better then. (G. Maurer.)

Of the resurrection

I. Two suppositions.

1. Christ’s resurrection. This needs no “if.” It is a certainty. Three hundred years the world opposed it, and ever since has supposed it. But it is not supposed by itself, and ours inferred, but ores supposed likewise. And as they are so closely linked that one supposition serveth for them, so they are woven together that one preposition (with) holdeth them.

2. Our resurrection.

3. “If.” Is it so? If He is risen cry to Him to draw thee, as He said He would (John 12:32); the soul first as being from above, so the more easily drawn to things above, and then with itself the soul to elevate the flesh.

II. The double inference--“Seek”; “Set your minds.”

1. The two acts jointly; for disjoined they my not be. One is little worth without the other.

2. Then they seek so as they will not taste, handle, or touch. Some seek as to worship angels, and spare not their own bodies, and yet with all their seeking not “risen with Christ.”

2. The acts severally.

3. The order. “Seek” first--

III. The two references or objects of hope. Rest--“sitteth”; glory--“at the right hand of God.”

1. The things we are to seek, etc., are “above.”

(a) The very frame of body has an upward tendency, and bids us look thither. And that way should our soul make. It came from thence, and thither it should draw again, and we do but crook our souls against their nature when we set them to seek nothing but here below.

(b) And if nature would have us no moles, grace would have us mount up as eagles--“Where the body is” (Luke 17:37). For contrary to the philosopher’s sentence, “things above concern us not;” they chiefly concern us.

2. “Above” is Christ, and with Him the things we of all others seek for.

3. But both are united above, where we “sit at the right hand of God” with Christ; and then we have them not so that our rest may be sometimes broken, and our glory sometimes tarnished, but both perfectly and for ever. (Bishop Andrewes.)

The resurrection of Christ an argument for seeking things above

I. The duty to which we are exhorted. Affirmatively, to seek and set our affections on things above; negatively, not on things on the earth.

1. The act. In “seek” and “set your affections” are comprehended

2. The objects of this act.

II. The force of the arguments used to persuade us to it.

1. “If ye be risen ‘with Christ, seek,” etc., i.e.,

2. “Seek the things which are above where Christ sitteth” (Luke 24:26; Ephesians 1:20-22).

3. The transcendent excellence of heavenly things above things of the earth, which the apostle intimates by the opposition, “Set your affections,” etc. (Archbishop Tillotson.)

Following the risen Christ

I. Our spiritual rising with Christ. The “if” is used logically, not theologically, by way of argument, and not by way of doubt.

1. We were dead in sin, but having believed in Christ we have been quickened by the Holy Ghost, and we are dead no longer. We remember the first sensation of life, how it seemed to tingle just as drowning persons when coming back to life suffer great pain. Conviction was wrought in us, and a dread of judgment, and a sense of condemnation, but these were tokens of life, but that life gradually deepened until the eye was opened, and the restored hand stretched itself out, the foot began to move in the way of obedience, and the heart felt the sweet glow of love within.

2. There has been wrought in us a wonderful change. Before regeneration our soul was as our body will be when it dies.

3. In consequence of receiving this life and undergoing this change the things of the world become a tomb to us. To a dead man a tomb is as good a dwelling as he can want; but the moment he lives he cannot endure it.. So when we were natural men earthly things contented us.

2. Merely carnal objects become as the grave to us, whether sinful pleasures or selfish gains. They are as a coffin to the renewed man: he cries for liberty.

4. We are wholly raised from the dead in a spiritual sense. Our Lord did not have His head quickened while His feet were in the sepulchre. So we have been renewed in every part. We have received, although it be in its infancy, a perfect life in Christ Jesus; our ear is awakened, our eye opened, our feet nimble.

5. We are so raised that we shall die no more. “Christ being raised, death hath no more dominion,” etc. So we.

II. Let us exercise the new man in suitable pursuits.

1. Let us leave the sepulchre.

2. Let us hasten to forget every evil as our Lord hastened to leave the tomb. He made the three days as short as possible;. so let there be no lingering and hankering after the flesh.

3. As our Lord spent a short season with His disciples, we are to spend our forty days in holy service.

4. Let our whole minds ascend to heaven with Christ; not a stray thought.

5. What a magnet Christ should be. Where should the wife’s thoughts be but with her absent and beloved one?

III. Let the new life delight itself with suitable objects. “Have a relish for things above”; “study them industriously”; “set your mind on them.” What are they?

1. God Himself. “Delight thyself in the Lord.” What is all the world if He be gone; and if you have Him, what though all the world be gone?

2. Jesus who is God, but truly man. Meditate on His Divine Person, His perfect work, etc.

3. The New Jerusalem of the Church triumphant.

4. Heaven, the place of holiness after sin, of rest after work, of riches after poverty, of health and life after sickness and death. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Risen with Christ

I. Christ is risen. This appears--

II. Christians are risen with Christ. What is this? (Ephesians 2:5-6; Colossians 2:12; Colossians 2:20.)

1. Christ is our Head, and a public Person (Ephesians 5:23).

2. Whatever He did, He did it not in a private but a public capacity, and therefore we are looked upon as doing it in Him (Isaiah ]iii. 5).

3. Hence, when He arose, we arose in Him and with Him.

4. Metaphorically we rise from sin.

III. Being risen with Christ we are to seek the things above.

1. What things?

(a) in our clear knowledge of Him (John 17:3).

(b) Perfect love to Him.

(c) Infinite expressions of love from Him (Zephaniah 3:17).

2. How seek them? It implies--

IV. Why should they who are risen with christ seek the things above?

1. Because now all things else are below them.

2. Their inheritance is there.

V. USE.

1. Motives.

2. Means.

The Christian risen with Christ

I. A glorious truth supposed--that believers are risen with Christ. This involves--

1. A firm belief in His resurrection. This doctrine is of paramount importance as the principal evidence of Christianity. Every other doctrine hangs upon it. If Christ be not risen, where--

2. A personal experience of its power.

3. A well-grounded anticipation of conformity with His resurrection.

II. A momentous duty required.

1. The superiority of its object--“the things above.”

2. The extent of its application. It implies more than a belief in things above, and includes--

3. The power of its motive.

one of dignity and authority. This was the joy set before Him, and is the joy set before us? (Ebenezer Temple.)

The risen life

I. “risen with Christ.”

1. In the earliest Christian teaching the resurrection dominates over all other Christian doctrines. It is the palmary proof of the truth of Christianity. It rested upon the evidences of the senses, and accordingly the first ministerial effort of the apostles was to publish the fact, and let it do its proper work in the understandings and consciences of men (Acts 4:32, etc.). The resurrection is equally prominent in the teaching of St. Paul. But here the apostle teaches us its relation, not to Christian belief, but to Christian living. It is not pressed upon us as a “detached and unfruitful dogma”; it is a vitalizing principle in the living soul. Indeed all Christian doctrine in the Christian soul is inseparable from Christian practice. The practical relation between the two is observable in St. Paul’s Epistles. They are not separated in the two sections into which he usually divides his letters. With him the moral element interpenetrates doctrine, and rises spontaneously out of it; while the dogmatic truth is continually reasserted as the motive or basis of the morality. In the text the resurrection is a germinant principle out of which the soul derives its new life, and by which the laws and obligations of that life are determined. This is not a mere metaphor (Ephesians 1:18-20); but if it were, a metaphor surely means something: it conveys a truth under the form of an illustration. What, then, is the truth latent beneath the metaphor?

3. This resurrection with Christ is not merely a movement, a shifting of spiritual position from a lower to a higher point in the same sphere. That would be an elevation.

4. Resurrection with Christ is a supernatural thing. What is meant by this? Any idea of the supernatural--

(a) The Positivist must see in it a stupid phantom to be relegated to “the theological period” of human development.

(b) The Pantheist will object to it as implying a distinction which, if it be admitted, must be fatal to the essential principles of his philosophy.

(c) Nor does it approve itself to the sensuous materialism which is sceptical of all that lies beyond.

(d) But no serious Theist can deny its possibility. He who made the world which we touch can superadd another world which we cannot touch.

II. “seek those things which are above.”

1. Seek, above all, communion with God, work for God, rest in the felt presence of God, and the final reward in God; and then all that is highest and purest in the sphere of nature.

2. What a rule for conversation. All may do something to raise or degrade it. Each may insist that in his presence it shall keep a pure tone; and a few men who are simply determined to maintain an elevated standard of social intercourse can affect for good an entire society.

3. What a rule for making friendships! How much depends for time and eternity on the choice of one whose affections shall be entwined in ours.

4. What a motto for a library, and even for sacred studies!

5. What a solemn word for those who are deciding their line of work for life, particularly if they are seeking the ministry of souls.

6. But above all, the text is a rule for the regulation and employment of secret thought. (Canon Liddon.)

Believers risen with Christ, and their duty in consequence

I. A fact admitted: the resurrection of Christ.

1. That He was dead cannot be questioned.

2. He was buried. What became of His body?

3. He rose, and in the providence of God many circumstances transpired to render it obvious and undeniable.

II. The privilege supposed. Christians are risen with Christ.

1. Professedly, by joining the Church; coming to the Lord’s table; confession with the tongue.

2. Representatively, by virtue of that federal union with Christ by which His acts become theirs.

3. Spiritually, from death in sin to a life of faith, hope, acceptance, holiness, duty.

4. By anticipation, having the pledges, earnests, and first-fruits of exaltation with Christ. These anticipations differ in various Christians, but four seasons are peculiarly favourable to it--

III. A duty enjoined.

1. The things themselves are described not by their nature, but by their residence, which shows their excellency. There is no night there, no pain, no sin; but the peace that passeth understanding; the joy unspeakable and full of glory; beloved connexions; the good of all ages; angels; Christ.

2. We should seek them because they are--

3. They must be sought--

IV. An inference derived. “If.”

1. It is surely desirable to know this.

2. There is no evidence of our religious condition that can be depended upon separately from heavenly-mindedness.

3. If you are seeking the things above, they must correspond with your condition, and your practice must accord with your profession.

Conclusion:

1. Some entirely disregard the things above.

2. Others regard them as doubtful.

3. Others “declare plainly that they seek a country.” (W. Jay.)

Seek those things that are above

Contemplate--

I. The sublime objects to which the exhortation relates. The future blessedness of believers in heaven. Notice--

1. The perfection of character they shall exhibit. There they shall partake of God’s nature, and be holy as He is holy. It is impossible for sin and sinners to enter there. There is no imperfection in things above. The most eminent saints have faults and blemishes, but there they shall be free from spot or wrinkle.

2. The exercises in which they shall be engaged. Ease is sometimes regarded as necessary to enjoyment. But analogy and revelation are against the sentiment. A heaven of ease would be death rather than life. The service of heaven constitutes one part of the blessedness of the angels, and we are to be equal with them. And how multiplied must be the actions involved in a service which night never interrupts, of a mind and body that are never wearied, and of an existence which knows no end! This view may tend to moderate our surprise and sorrow at the deaths of eminent and useful Christians, who now spend their energies over wider regions.

3. The happiness of which they shall participate. All religious experience on earth affords but a faint emblem of the bliss of heaven. Here, however great, it is much marred, but there it is perfect, because all the saints are made perfectly holy. Here they taste the streams, there the fountain, and the happiness is made complete by a sight of Jesus’ face.

4. The friendships they shall share. Man is constituted for society. Place him in solitude and he will pine and wither. But in heaven we shall enjoy the company of angels, of the wise and good of all ages, of our own loved ones. We look for those breaches which are made in our holy connexions to be repaired there.

II. THE CONDUCT ENJOINED UPON US IN RELATION TO THEM. “Seek” them.

1. This implies belief of them.

2. It implies that attention is directed much towards them. They must be minded as well as credited. This is necessary because of the wrong bias the mind has received.

3. To set our attachment upon them. Surely it would be inconsistent in one who is going to heaven not to set his heart upon it.

4. Diligent and persevering exertions to obtain them are included. Belief awakens attention, attention kindles desires for possession, desires give birth to efforts. You are called upon, then, to use the means. Christ is our “Way” to the holy of holies, and faith, prayer, meditation, etc., are the means.

III. Some motives or considerations which should impel us to this conduct.

1. A regard to consistency. “You who were dead have been quickened, and are risen with Christ, therefore,” etc. From so great a difference of state it is expected that the greatest difference of conduct should follow.

2. The reasonableness of the duty. Can there be anything more reasonable than that among the multiplicity of things which court attention, we should seek those that are most excellent and enduring. As well might a chemist hope for a universal elixir from polluted water, as mankind expect from earthly things the light and bliss of their immortal souls. Besides, earthly things are transitory as well as vain, Like the bubble that glitters in all the colours of the rainbow, but, whilst we view it, bursts, and is no more; like the splendid hues that bedeck the insects’ wings fluttering in the sunbeam, but which are brushed off as soon as the beam is withdrawn, so rapidly do they flee away? The present advantages resulting from the exercise here enioined. By a wise and gracious appointment of God, duty and interest are joined together. “Godliness is profitable unto all things,” etc.

4. The things above are the scene in which are displayed Christ’s presence and glory. The argument of the apostle and the Saviour’s prayer (John 17:1-26.) are that we should meet Him there. In conclusion: be admonished by the consideration of the dreadful alternative which must inevitably follow the neglect of this duty. If you follow not holiness you cannot see the Lord. (J. Beaumont, M. D.)

Seeking things above

I. This is the business of the understanding.

1. Of late years the word “thinker” has been employed to designate those who bring their reasoning faculties to bear on abstract problems, and who give proof of this by lectures and books, and of no others. If this use is correct, thinkers would constitute a select class indeed; it would be just as reasonable to confine the term “worker” to a manual labourer. But all human beings think, and this is none the less true because the understanding apprehends what is before it indistinctly. The eye may none the less see because the objects are somewhat confused.

2. Thus the solemn question arises, “What do we think about?” For most of the day we have no choice. To give your mind to it is the condition of all good work. But there is a fixed hour when business ends and we regain liberty of thought. What do you habitually think about then? The question is important, for the instructive direction of thought at such times may tell us much about our real selves and our destiny.

3. Is it not true that the mind of many is occupied with much that does not guide it heavenwards? It is almost at the mercy of the first claimant; weighted with the importunity of sense; dissipated or distorted by passion; darkened by avoidance of God. What mean those long periods spent over a work of fiction which suggests at almost every page what it dares not describe; those long hours of sullen moodiness, or of hard thoughts of God?

4. It is sometimes thought that if thought is only active it must needs be good, and that only when it stagnates it breeds evil. But thought may be exercised on subjects that degrade it, and in proportion to its activity.

5. Easter then bids thought rise heavenward with Christ; it is the warrant and pattern of mental resurrection. Before Christ rose men had thought and written about another world; but at best the veil was only half withdrawn. Men hoped and guessed. But Christ made it clear and certain, and bade thought arise into the world beyond the stars, into which He passed to prepare a place for us.

6. Seek then in thought the things above. Seek the conversation of the wise, make the most of whatever enlarges and ennobles. In all higher and purer regions of thought you are nearer Christ (Philippians 4:8). But as you seek, cry Excelsior! Rest not until you have struggled beyond literature, science, and nature, into the kingdom of heaven where Christ the King of Glory sits.

II. This is the business of the affections.

1. The affections are a particular department of desire.

2. God gives to every man a certain measure of that affection which is a department of desire. It is dealt out by us partly to those whom providence has appointed to receive it--a father, mother, etc.; and also on objects which we choose to be its recipients. So we may squander it on the pleasures of sense, or compress it into high self-sacrifice. But we do not spend it twice. Since the being who loves is finite the supply is limited; and the despair of those who have given their all at the bidding of some unlawful pleasure is to find, while life is still young, but all too late, that the heart may be like a dried-up spring, “without natural affection” (Romans 1:31; 2 Timothy 3:3). That “wasting fever of the heart” is almost worse than the moral death of which, if unassuaged, it is the assured presentiment.

3. Seek, then, with your affections the things above. As truth is the prize of the understanding, so beauty is the prize of the heart. Let the Eternal Beauty woo and win your hearts. In that higher world there are many objects (1 Corinthians 2:9) to win them; but there is One above all others who has claims such as no other can have upon them. To love Him is to love a Being who sustains love (Romans 5:5; Ephesians 6:24). He is the only Being in loving whom the heart can never incur the risk of exhaustion or disappointment.

III. It is the business of the will. There is at the centre of our being a power which rules all others, which, while professing obedience to reason, not seldom arranges its premises and settles its conclusions, and which gives play to affection or restrains it almost at discretion. It is not reason nor feeling which in the last resort rules the soul, and by which the great question of its destiny must be decided. Grant that the will is weakened, this weakness has been corrected in those who are risen with Christ (Philippians 4:3). Away with the faint-hearted and false notion that religious effort is an affair of temperament! Natural disposition may make things easy or difficult, but it cannot arrest the upward movement of a free, because regenerate, will. We have been made masters of ourselves by Christ, and we cannot shift the responsibility. (Canon Liddon.)

High ground for the affection

Thou puttest wheat in the low ground, and thy friend comes, who knows the nature of the corn and the land, and instructs thine unskilfulness, and says to thee, “What hast thou done? thou hast put the corn in the flat soil, in the lower land; the soil is moist; the seed will rot, and thou wilt lose thy labour.” Thou answerest, “What, then, must I do?” “Remove it,” he says, “into the higher ground.” Dost thou, then, give ear to a friend who gives thee counsel about thy corn, and despisest thou God, who gives thee counsel about thy heart? Thou fearest to put thy corn in the low ground, and wilt thou lose thine heart in the earth? (T. H. Leary.)

Homewards

As the fire mounteth upwards to its proper place, and as the needle still trembleth till it stands at the north; so the soul, once inflamed with the heavenly fire, and acquainted with her first original, cannot be at rest until it finds itself in that comfortable way which certainly leads homewards. (T. H. Leary.)

Above the tide

There is a plant called samphire, which grows only on cliffs near the sea. But though it grows near the salt sea waves, yet it is never found on any part of a cliff which is not above the reach of the tide. On one occasion, a party of shipwrecked sailors, flung ashore, were struggling up the face of precipitous rocks, afraid of the advancing tide overtaking them, when one of their number lighted upon a plant of samphire, growing luxuriantly. Instantly he raised a shout of joy, assuring his companions, by this token, they were now in safety. The sea might come near this spot, and perhaps cast up its spray, but would never be found reaching it. Such is the position of a soul in Christ: justified and united to Him, the person may be in full sight still of the world’s threatening and angry waves, but he is perfectly safe, and he cannot be overwhelmed. (J. L. Nye.)

Reasons for seeking the things above

The things above--

I. Form the proper object of our regard. Every person should attend to the things which relate to his own home. But the home of a Christian is above. There is “his Father’s house.”

II. They are the object for which man is by his nature made; and especially for which he is pre pared in his sanctified character.

1. By the constitution of his mind, man requires an object of a spiritual and eternal kind. Nothing of a worldly nature, however multiplied, is congenial with the tendencies and desires of the immortal spirit.

2. Much more, the Christian, as renewed in his spirit by the power of God, must “seek the things above,” as alone suited to his soul. Spirituality is the essence of the Christian: he breathes and tends heavenward.

III. Their transcendent excellence. There all is perfection; all holiness and happiness. There are in conceivable glories in the heavenly world. Whatever can render it a scene worthy of the majesty of God, of the infinite merit and purchase of the Son of God, of the most enlarged desires and hopes of the redeemed; all is collected and perfect there.

IV. Their perpetuity. The smallest good, of a lasting duration, is deemed prefer able to a much greater benefit that is only transient. But the things which are not seen are eternal.

V. The certainty of success assured to all that seek them in the right way. In the pursuit of all earthly objects there is no certainty of attainment. Conclusion: What reasons, then, exist why we should seek these things with increased earnestness!

1. The apostle, who wrote the text, affords a striking example of the manner in which we should seek them (Philippians 3:12-14).

2. These reasons are always growing stronger; every moment is impairing the lustre and the value of everything below; while every moment is adding to the nearness and importance of eternal things. (Robert Hall, M. A.)

The heavenly aspirations of the renewed nature

I. The intimate connection between Christ and His people. “Dead with Christ,” “Risen with Christ.” The latter phrase implies--

1. That the soul was once dead in sin. The body of the sinner lives--his mind is vigorous, but his soul is dead. It sees no beauty in Christ, hears not the gospel, is unmoved by the love of God, is insensible to the terrors of the coming judgment.

2. The same power which raised Christ from the dead raises dead souls to life.

II. The duty enjoined--“Seek,” etc.

1. The godliness is not merely a “state,” but a “life.”

2. In this active course the Christian is not treated as a mere machine--moved irrespective of his will. God’s power is manifested in it all, but the Christian himself is to “seek.”

3. We are not left in ignorance of the object of our search. “Things above.” This indicates--

III. The inducement to this life. “Christ sitteth” above. It is His will that those whom the Father has given Him be with Him where He is. Christ’s position is--

1. One of honour. “The right hand.” Him hath “God greatly exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour.”

2. One of power. “The right hand” is a symbol of authority. From heaven He shall come to judge the world.

3. Meanwhile it is the position of an Intercessor. (F. Wagstaff.)

Excelsior

The resurrection of Christ occupies a central place in the gospel system, and from it lines of vital connection radiate to every doctrine. As planets revolve round the central sun, and derive light and heat therefrom, so every doctrine connected with man’s salvation circles round the risen Christ.

1. Apart from this no guilty man can be justified, for Christ was raised for our justification. “If Christ be not risen we are yet dead in our sins.”

2. But now is Christ risen, and the opposite results follow.

I. A fact assumed, viz., that Christ has risen.

1. A fact which Christ foresaw would possess transcendent interest. When the Jews asked a sign, this was the one given.

2. A fact well certified, or no fact in history is, and sceptics to be consistent must destroy their Livy, Caesar, Gibbon, and Grote. No one of Christ’s friends was predisposed to belief. The jealousy of the priesthood was a safeguard against deception.

3. A fact which alone can account for the apostle’s heroic service.

II. A supposition. “If,” etc. In Paul’s view regeneration and progress could not be disjoined. Ascension must follow resurrection. To rise with Christ means--

1. A transition from darkness to light. The grave symbolizes our state of moral darkness, conversion is the dawning of heavenly light.

2. From bondage to liberty. The grave is an emblem of captivity. When Christ rose, He led captivity captive.

3. From death to life. Christ liveth in us, and because He lives we shall live also.

III. An inspiring exhortation.

1. Every form of life has its corresponding form of activity. “If you live,” says Paul, “grow.” Superior life is manifested by superior conduct.

2. Our aspiration should have a definite aim. The things above are those which purify and ennoble.

3. The exhortation is supported by a principle of self-consistence. You have risen, rise higher still. On what ground have we started on the heavenly race if we do not mean to continue! (D. Davies, M. A.)

Aspring towards heaven

Ere autumn has tinted the woodlands, or the cornfields are falling to the reaper’s song, or hoary hill-tops, like grey hairs on an aged head, give warning of winter’s approach, I have seen the swallow’s brood pruning their feathers, and putting their long wings to the proof; and, though they might return to their nests in the window-eaves, or alight again on the house-tops, they darted away in the direction of sunny lands. Thus they showed that they were birds bound for a foreign clime, and that the period of their migration from the scene of their birth was nigh at hand. Grace also has its prognostics. They are infallible as those of nature. So, when the soul, filled with longings to be gone, is often darting away to glory, and, soaring upward, rises on the wings of faith, till this great world, from her sublime elevation, looks a little thing, God’s people know that they have the earnest of the Spirit. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

The Christian temper

First, then, those who do “seek the things which are above,” as a matter of fact, become elevated in tone and temper. Do not think that tone and temper are nothing. In the best pictures of great masters, tone is almost everything. Form goes for much. Form, indeed, and the steadiness of the drawing, go for very much in the “composition” of the picture; but deprive it of the wonderful non so che called tone, and it stands out hard and unpleasing, and supplies to the soul no real pleasure. On the other hand, let the tone of the true artist be there, and now it covers in a great degree even badness in the drawing. In the same way, in nature, atmosphere counts for much, very much, in the charm of a scene, in its power, that is, to touch the heart; and when you come to personal life, what tone is to the picture, what atmosphere is to the landscape, such is general temper to the human character. (Knox Little.)

Attaining higher life

I have known men who have been up in balloons, and they have told me that when they want to rise higher they just throw out some of the sand with which they ballast the balloon. Now, I believe one reason why so many people are earthly-minded and have so little of the spirit of heaven, is that they have got too much ballast in the shape of love for earthly joys and gains; and what you want is to throw out some of the sand, and you will rise higher. (D. L. Moody.)

The affections elevated

On board iron vessels it is a common thing to see a compass placed aloft, to be as much away from the cause of aberration as possible; a wise hint to us to elevate our affections and desires; the nearer to God, the less swayed by worldly influences. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verses 1-4

Colossians 3:1-4

If ye then be risen with Christ.

Risen with Christ

There is no doubt a supposition in the “if.” The apostle takes it for granted that Christians were raised together with Christ, and admonishes them, therefore, to evince it in their life. The resurrection of Christ is represented as giving to His people--

I. A new aim. Man is born to aspire, and when he rises with the victorious Christ he aspires to heavenly things. The new quest is for righteousness, holiness, patience, devotion, love, and self-sacrifice.

II. A new heart. The affections are to be set on things above, not as in the unregenerate state on earthly things. It might be possible to seek heavenly things merely in obedience to authority or convictions of duty, but that we may be raised above that, we are encouraged to set our whole heart and mind upon Divine realities.

III. A new life. Dead to the world, they have nevertheless a resurrection life hid with Christ in God. And their earthly life of duty and endurance corresponds with the secret fountain from which it flows.

IV. A new hope which--

1. Respects Christ--“He shall be manifested.” It is the blessed hope, the glorious appearing. He shall come the-second time without sin unto salvation.

2. Respects Christians. Spiritually raised with Christ, they will share His revelation. (Family Churchman.)

1. St. Paul has just been dealing with a system of repression and abstinence which had a vain show of wisdom, but did not touch the spring of action, and was therefore of no value in resistance to indulgence of the flesh. Would you know, he asks, how you may be lifted above the tyranny of sense, and be initiated into the true secret of temperance and chastity? To go back to a system of bondage fit only for the childhood of the race is to forget the characteristic feature of Christianity, which is the elevating of the whole man into a new region of thought and action, in virtue of union with One who has ascended into that heaven where your true life is hid with Him in God.

2. This is Paul’s great doctrine.

3. This union is expressed in a retrospective way. If I am in Christ I am in Him as that which He is now, as one who has died, risen and ascended; and when He died I died, and when God exalted Him He set me with Him. Henceforth I must live the risen life, and live above the world as one who has done with its cares, tails, and lying vanities. “He that is dead is freed from sin;” he that is raised must mind the things above, have them for his interest, employment, study, affection, so that when the veil is removed which now hides Him we may be manifested with Him.

I. The resurrection of Christ is a fact, as much of history as of the faith of Christendom, and attested by convincing evidence on the part of unexceptionable witnesses.

II. Our resurrection with Christ is a fact spiritual, but real, and contained in Christ’s resurrection. To some minds a spiritual fact is a self-contradiction. But a spiritual fact is, above all other kinds, a factor in history. It sets in motion influences which change the face of nations, working those miracles of good in comparison with which the rise and fall of dynasties are vanity.

III. This resurrection is effected by union with Christ. The word “union” is used very loosely. We speak of a combination of a few thousands for a purpose salutary or mischievous as union, little thinking what the term is which we take in vain. But this union is one which man cannot have with man. It is a union of spirit, and such that the spirit of the Saviour not only influences the spirit of the man from outside, as our mind is wrought upon by speech or books, but from within. “He shall be in you.”

IV. How and when is this union realized. Paul says that all we who are baptized into Christ, there and then put on Christ. “We were buried with Him by our baptism into death.” If this realization of Christ has not yet been given us, let us not take refuge in names and forms, saying, “I have it as a thing of course, for I have been baptized.” If you have it you will know it; if you have it not yet it is yours by right. Baptism is at any rate the promise of God, to each one, of his grace and acceptance in proportion to the need and entreaty.

V. This union is between Christ in heaven and us. That Christ is there need not repel any one from seeking Him. “He ascended that He might fill all things.” When He was upon earth He did not even fill Palestine. Now by virtue of His exaltation He can fill every soul with Himself.

VI. Therefore we must seek the things above.

1. The contrast is to things on earth--harassing anxiety, importunate vanity, consuming ambition, exciting pleasure, shameful self-indulgence. The things above are the realities of which these are counterfeits, the grand and satisfying pursuits of which these are the phantoms, things which bring comfort and peace and rest to the soul.

2. Every honest searching of the heart to root out what God hates, every earnest effort after forgiveness, every aspiration after a Diviner life, every sincere endeavour, is a seeking after the things above.

3. By degrees there shall be in every such seeker a change of places between earth and heaven. From seeking he shall rise to thinking the things above, and when at last the door opens, and he is called in to see the King in His beauty, he shall find himself in no strange scene or company. (Dean Vaughan.)

Christ and the higher nature

That there is a higher life which we may and ought to live, all men, in whom there is any religion, feel; and what is peculiar to the gospel is not the bare idea of this life, but the revelation of its character, power, and attainment.

I. The nature of this higher life.

1. It is “above.” But is not this just what has been ob jected to--that Christianity concerns itself with another world rather than with this? And is not this very exaltation a weakness and a delusion. What nobler ideal can there be than to make the present life better. But Christ’s ideal was a kingdom, in our hearts, it is true, yet “of heaven,” not of earth. It was, in short, a higher Divine life that was to irradiate our poor human life, and to glorify it. It was no development from below, but a revelation from on high, and without this Christianity has no meaning. Cut away its Divine side, and it is destroyed.

2. This life is not merely in the future, although it embraces it. It concerns itself with another world, yet it does not despise things on the earth. The kingdom is now, and not to be reached after death, and the things above are to be possessed now. These are the things of which the apostle speaks presently, “kindness,” etc. Spiritual qualities. The apostle does not contrast heaven and earth as places, nor set the future life against the present, but the spiritual against the natural, the carnal against the Divine. The higher life takes up the present and glorifies it, and finds its development in every variety of well-doing. It embraces every real virtue, and beautifies and ennobles the life that now is as well as that to come.

II. Its source and motive power. It is no process of self-culture or moral discipline. It springs only from the living root Christ. It is a new life rising on the extinction of the old life of self. The same Divine power which raised Christ from the dead is supposed to live and work in Christians. But out of Christ there is no higher life in the Christian sense. But is this so? Axe there not many beautiful characters who never heard of Christ; and are there not many Christians far from stainless? Yes, but--

1. The Christian type of character is to be estimated by its ideal, as rendered by the highest examples, and not by the conduct of all professors. It is true that the best Christians but feebly represent Christ, yet where is there any list of worthies to be compared with the roll of Christian saints? And all such have declared their strength for good to lie in the fact that their life was hid with Christ in God.

2. If there is goodness where the name of Christ is unknown, or which refuses to acknowledge Him, let us not deny it. If we must have a theory the true one is that all goodness, even when seeming to be apart from Christ, has really its root in Him. (Principal Tulloch.)

The hidden life

At the close of the preceding chapter St. Paul exposes the error of those who would bring back Christians to the rudiments of the world; but with that rapidity of thought which is characteristic of him, he passes on to other rudiments--everything that is loved and cultivated by the flesh- and makes no distinction between rites and worldliness, resting on the similarity between them.

I. The Divine life produces dying to the world. It would be wrong to hold the reverse, of course. If you are risen with Christ, your life is no longer here below, but where Christ is. Here comes a series of transformations.

1. Spiritual death. You wore dead in sins, but Christ has raised you (see Colossians 2:12-13; Ephesians 2:5-6; 1 Peter 1:3).

2. In the very act of raising you, Christ has subjected you to a new death--to the world. These two facts correspond as the projections of a coin do with the depressions of the mould. Resurrection is the relievo of the coin; it produces the void which is death: for our life cannot be everywhere; if it is in heaven it is not on the earth (Colossians 3:4).

II. It is true that we live here by our necessary life, but the best part of ourselves is elsewhere. We live where our heart is. The prisoner lives nowhere less than in his cell. You say of the person you passionately love, “She has stolen my heart.” When any one is indifferent to his surroundings we say, “His heart is elsewhere.” It is with the heart we live our real life; “out of it are the issues of life.” It can restrict itself to earthly things, but it can also have its conversation in heaven.

III. We must be quite clear as to the meaning of the words “above” and “below,” “heaven” and “earth.” Earth and heaven here are not exactly places and times, but principles called after the place and time of their perfect realization. To detach ourselves from earth is not to detach ourselves from activity, but to detach our hearts from earthly principles, and attach them to the principles to be realized in heaven. To fulfil social duties, etc., under God’s eye is not to do earthly but heavenly things. And so the Christian becomes attached to the place and time, where the true principle finds its realization, and detached from that where the false principle is realized. Nevertheless, we must not be drawn into a false spirituality, a selfish separation from earth while attached to it in affection. It is an admirable thing when he who is weaned from life appreciates it; for he despises what in it is contemptible, and esteems in it what is really worth esteem.

IV. The life weaned from earth is hidden from the world, and does not seem life. For life does not consist in tile involuntary fact commonly called by the name. The world judges, and rightly from its premises, that visible things are alone worthy of attachment, that a man who does not attend to them does not live. And yet every thing is not obscure in regard to the Christian. He is unknown and yet known. It is impossible to see a Christian without saying, “There is something peculiar there! His life declares him to be a Christian.” But because this life is not understood it is denied. The natural man sees something, but he does not regard it as life. And yet the Christian lives; he is not an anchorite. He has everything that others have as men, but as a Christian more. Worldlings may consider sin as essential to humanity; but it mutilates a man, Christianity increases him, and faith takes away sin. As a man the Christian mixes himself up in the business of life, for the earth belongs to his God; but in spite of this he is not understood, because the common aim which all pursue is with him only a means of attaining a higher end. And from misunderstand ing to contempt and calumniation the distance is not great. Whatever we may do in order to have peace with all men we shall never succeed unless we walk on the same footing. Thus the Christian is treated as dead, and with the same repugnance as is felt towards a dead man in the physical sense.

V. What motives has the Christian to consent to this, and to accept the consequences?

1. In reality he lives, and God knows that he lives, and that is enough. Those small and charming flowers which bloom in the desert or on the mountain-top will fold up their leaves without being seen by any human eye. God sees them, that is enough. In the Middle Ages unknown workmen spent their lives in rearing glorious cathedrals; some, working in positions dangerous and difficult of access, carved wonders of art and patience which are not seen except as you climb to the tops of columns. It was enough that God saw their work and that throughout the ages a continual hymn should rise to Him from the midst of the stone. So with the Christian.

2. What grand compensation. Obscurity does not hinder greatness.

3. But the Christian will appear when Christ appears, and under what glorious circumstances (Philippians 2:10-11; Matthew 10:32; Matthew 13:43; Daniel 12:3). (A. Vinet, D. D.)

When will the world grow better

The world is full of lamentations. The times are bad; business is stagnant. There is no confidence, but everywhere mistrust and discontent. Everybody says that this state of things cannot last. There are plenty of social quacks. We have been flooded with laws for improving the conditions of life; but the confusion is only the greater. New ecclesiastical laws have been made, but entire classes are alienated from the Church. Then when will the world be better? When each one of us begins to grow better himself; and if any one could devise the means of bringing about that result it would be of more use than all modern experiments. But we have the means in the well-tried Word of God and its Divine powers. The world will grow better.

I. When we die and rise with Christ.

1. There was a time when a great deal was said about the moral improvement of the race. If men laid aside their grosser sins and endeavoured to live virtuously, all would be well. The theory was not confirmed by the facts. To-day men have fallen into a similar error. Culture is now the Saviour. All honour to it; but history proves that a man may be learned in every branch of knowledge, and yet be utterly bad.

2. One of the most absurd suppositions which lies at the root of most modern experiments is that human nature is good. The Scripture doctrine to the contrary, though much decried, is a fact of which every parent can convince himself. If the world is to be made better a commencement must be made with the inner life of each man. The old nature must die, and a new one arise, or you may as soon build the top storey of a house before you have laid the foundation.

3. Accordingly in Scripture this renewal is everywhere insisted upon. Ye are dead and ye have risen, and since ye are risen seek the things that are above. It is not by mere accident that this renewing is thus described, and in connection with the death and resurrection of Christ. There was needed for it a spiritual energy which does not exist in us, but is in Christ, the risen One.

4. This new life is by virtue of a personal surrender by faith to Christ (Colossians 2:12). Thus we die to sin and the world. A new purpose is disclosed, viz., to please God and enjoy fellowship with Him; a new rule of thought and action--the will of God; a new impelling principle--the Holy Spirit; and thus we come with our whole personal life into a higher order--the heavenly. What further proof do we need that when this happens things are better?

II. When heavenly-mindedness fills all hearts.

1. That which is below is the earthly world, with its tangible but perishable things; and the more the pursuit of them grows to a longing after them, the worse will it be for the inner and outer life. For this lower world, however beautiful, can never satisfy the heart, and the void is filled with base passions or wild schemes.

2. The world above is closed against the earthly mind. The natural man has no eye for its glory, no ear for its language. Nevertheless it is the real world, where Christ is seated, its light, life, and supreme attraction. When the mind is fixed on this the earthly life is glorified. For though Christ is exalted He dwells on earth with His faithful ones, and, therefore, brings heaven down below. Attachment to Him does not incapacitate us for the business of life, but only makes us independent of what is sinful and selfish, and teaches us to serve God in all things.

3. Who can doubt, therefore, that this heavenly-mindedness would be better for the home, the shop, the nation.

III. When Christ shall be revealed. NOW the Christian’s life is hid. The world understands not its nature, power, or effects. But it shall be manifest at the appearing of Christ--and then in its full perfection. It will indeed be better then. (G. Maurer.)

Of the resurrection

I. Two suppositions.

1. Christ’s resurrection. This needs no “if.” It is a certainty. Three hundred years the world opposed it, and ever since has supposed it. But it is not supposed by itself, and ours inferred, but ores supposed likewise. And as they are so closely linked that one supposition serveth for them, so they are woven together that one preposition (with) holdeth them.

2. Our resurrection.

3. “If.” Is it so? If He is risen cry to Him to draw thee, as He said He would (John 12:32); the soul first as being from above, so the more easily drawn to things above, and then with itself the soul to elevate the flesh.

II. The double inference--“Seek”; “Set your minds.”

1. The two acts jointly; for disjoined they my not be. One is little worth without the other.

2. Then they seek so as they will not taste, handle, or touch. Some seek as to worship angels, and spare not their own bodies, and yet with all their seeking not “risen with Christ.”

2. The acts severally.

3. The order. “Seek” first--

III. The two references or objects of hope. Rest--“sitteth”; glory--“at the right hand of God.”

1. The things we are to seek, etc., are “above.”

(a) The very frame of body has an upward tendency, and bids us look thither. And that way should our soul make. It came from thence, and thither it should draw again, and we do but crook our souls against their nature when we set them to seek nothing but here below.

(b) And if nature would have us no moles, grace would have us mount up as eagles--“Where the body is” (Luke 17:37). For contrary to the philosopher’s sentence, “things above concern us not;” they chiefly concern us.

2. “Above” is Christ, and with Him the things we of all others seek for.

3. But both are united above, where we “sit at the right hand of God” with Christ; and then we have them not so that our rest may be sometimes broken, and our glory sometimes tarnished, but both perfectly and for ever. (Bishop Andrewes.)

The resurrection of Christ an argument for seeking things above

I. The duty to which we are exhorted. Affirmatively, to seek and set our affections on things above; negatively, not on things on the earth.

1. The act. In “seek” and “set your affections” are comprehended

2. The objects of this act.

II. The force of the arguments used to persuade us to it.

1. “If ye be risen ‘with Christ, seek,” etc., i.e.,

2. “Seek the things which are above where Christ sitteth” (Luke 24:26; Ephesians 1:20-22).

3. The transcendent excellence of heavenly things above things of the earth, which the apostle intimates by the opposition, “Set your affections,” etc. (Archbishop Tillotson.)

Following the risen Christ

I. Our spiritual rising with Christ. The “if” is used logically, not theologically, by way of argument, and not by way of doubt.

1. We were dead in sin, but having believed in Christ we have been quickened by the Holy Ghost, and we are dead no longer. We remember the first sensation of life, how it seemed to tingle just as drowning persons when coming back to life suffer great pain. Conviction was wrought in us, and a dread of judgment, and a sense of condemnation, but these were tokens of life, but that life gradually deepened until the eye was opened, and the restored hand stretched itself out, the foot began to move in the way of obedience, and the heart felt the sweet glow of love within.

2. There has been wrought in us a wonderful change. Before regeneration our soul was as our body will be when it dies.

3. In consequence of receiving this life and undergoing this change the things of the world become a tomb to us. To a dead man a tomb is as good a dwelling as he can want; but the moment he lives he cannot endure it.. So when we were natural men earthly things contented us.

2. Merely carnal objects become as the grave to us, whether sinful pleasures or selfish gains. They are as a coffin to the renewed man: he cries for liberty.

4. We are wholly raised from the dead in a spiritual sense. Our Lord did not have His head quickened while His feet were in the sepulchre. So we have been renewed in every part. We have received, although it be in its infancy, a perfect life in Christ Jesus; our ear is awakened, our eye opened, our feet nimble.

5. We are so raised that we shall die no more. “Christ being raised, death hath no more dominion,” etc. So we.

II. Let us exercise the new man in suitable pursuits.

1. Let us leave the sepulchre.

2. Let us hasten to forget every evil as our Lord hastened to leave the tomb. He made the three days as short as possible;. so let there be no lingering and hankering after the flesh.

3. As our Lord spent a short season with His disciples, we are to spend our forty days in holy service.

4. Let our whole minds ascend to heaven with Christ; not a stray thought.

5. What a magnet Christ should be. Where should the wife’s thoughts be but with her absent and beloved one?

III. Let the new life delight itself with suitable objects. “Have a relish for things above”; “study them industriously”; “set your mind on them.” What are they?

1. God Himself. “Delight thyself in the Lord.” What is all the world if He be gone; and if you have Him, what though all the world be gone?

2. Jesus who is God, but truly man. Meditate on His Divine Person, His perfect work, etc.

3. The New Jerusalem of the Church triumphant.

4. Heaven, the place of holiness after sin, of rest after work, of riches after poverty, of health and life after sickness and death. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Risen with Christ

I. Christ is risen. This appears--

II. Christians are risen with Christ. What is this? (Ephesians 2:5-6; Colossians 2:12; Colossians 2:20.)

1. Christ is our Head, and a public Person (Ephesians 5:23).

2. Whatever He did, He did it not in a private but a public capacity, and therefore we are looked upon as doing it in Him (Isaiah ]iii. 5).

3. Hence, when He arose, we arose in Him and with Him.

4. Metaphorically we rise from sin.

III. Being risen with Christ we are to seek the things above.

1. What things?

(a) in our clear knowledge of Him (John 17:3).

(b) Perfect love to Him.

(c) Infinite expressions of love from Him (Zephaniah 3:17).

2. How seek them? It implies--

IV. Why should they who are risen with christ seek the things above?

1. Because now all things else are below them.

2. Their inheritance is there.

V. USE.

1. Motives.

2. Means.

The Christian risen with Christ

I. A glorious truth supposed--that believers are risen with Christ. This involves--

1. A firm belief in His resurrection. This doctrine is of paramount importance as the principal evidence of Christianity. Every other doctrine hangs upon it. If Christ be not risen, where--

2. A personal experience of its power.

3. A well-grounded anticipation of conformity with His resurrection.

II. A momentous duty required.

1. The superiority of its object--“the things above.”

2. The extent of its application. It implies more than a belief in things above, and includes--

3. The power of its motive.

one of dignity and authority. This was the joy set before Him, and is the joy set before us? (Ebenezer Temple.)

The risen life

I. “risen with Christ.”

1. In the earliest Christian teaching the resurrection dominates over all other Christian doctrines. It is the palmary proof of the truth of Christianity. It rested upon the evidences of the senses, and accordingly the first ministerial effort of the apostles was to publish the fact, and let it do its proper work in the understandings and consciences of men (Acts 4:32, etc.). The resurrection is equally prominent in the teaching of St. Paul. But here the apostle teaches us its relation, not to Christian belief, but to Christian living. It is not pressed upon us as a “detached and unfruitful dogma”; it is a vitalizing principle in the living soul. Indeed all Christian doctrine in the Christian soul is inseparable from Christian practice. The practical relation between the two is observable in St. Paul’s Epistles. They are not separated in the two sections into which he usually divides his letters. With him the moral element interpenetrates doctrine, and rises spontaneously out of it; while the dogmatic truth is continually reasserted as the motive or basis of the morality. In the text the resurrection is a germinant principle out of which the soul derives its new life, and by which the laws and obligations of that life are determined. This is not a mere metaphor (Ephesians 1:18-20); but if it were, a metaphor surely means something: it conveys a truth under the form of an illustration. What, then, is the truth latent beneath the metaphor?

3. This resurrection with Christ is not merely a movement, a shifting of spiritual position from a lower to a higher point in the same sphere. That would be an elevation.

4. Resurrection with Christ is a supernatural thing. What is meant by this? Any idea of the supernatural--

(a) The Positivist must see in it a stupid phantom to be relegated to “the theological period” of human development.

(b) The Pantheist will object to it as implying a distinction which, if it be admitted, must be fatal to the essential principles of his philosophy.

(c) Nor does it approve itself to the sensuous materialism which is sceptical of all that lies beyond.

(d) But no serious Theist can deny its possibility. He who made the world which we touch can superadd another world which we cannot touch.

II. “seek those things which are above.”

1. Seek, above all, communion with God, work for God, rest in the felt presence of God, and the final reward in God; and then all that is highest and purest in the sphere of nature.

2. What a rule for conversation. All may do something to raise or degrade it. Each may insist that in his presence it shall keep a pure tone; and a few men who are simply determined to maintain an elevated standard of social intercourse can affect for good an entire society.

3. What a rule for making friendships! How much depends for time and eternity on the choice of one whose affections shall be entwined in ours.

4. What a motto for a library, and even for sacred studies!

5. What a solemn word for those who are deciding their line of work for life, particularly if they are seeking the ministry of souls.

6. But above all, the text is a rule for the regulation and employment of secret thought. (Canon Liddon.)

Believers risen with Christ, and their duty in consequence

I. A fact admitted: the resurrection of Christ.

1. That He was dead cannot be questioned.

2. He was buried. What became of His body?

3. He rose, and in the providence of God many circumstances transpired to render it obvious and undeniable.

II. The privilege supposed. Christians are risen with Christ.

1. Professedly, by joining the Church; coming to the Lord’s table; confession with the tongue.

2. Representatively, by virtue of that federal union with Christ by which His acts become theirs.

3. Spiritually, from death in sin to a life of faith, hope, acceptance, holiness, duty.

4. By anticipation, having the pledges, earnests, and first-fruits of exaltation with Christ. These anticipations differ in various Christians, but four seasons are peculiarly favourable to it--

III. A duty enjoined.

1. The things themselves are described not by their nature, but by their residence, which shows their excellency. There is no night there, no pain, no sin; but the peace that passeth understanding; the joy unspeakable and full of glory; beloved connexions; the good of all ages; angels; Christ.

2. We should seek them because they are--

3. They must be sought--

IV. An inference derived. “If.”

1. It is surely desirable to know this.

2. There is no evidence of our religious condition that can be depended upon separately from heavenly-mindedness.

3. If you are seeking the things above, they must correspond with your condition, and your practice must accord with your profession.

Conclusion:

1. Some entirely disregard the things above.

2. Others regard them as doubtful.

3. Others “declare plainly that they seek a country.” (W. Jay.)

Seek those things that are above

Contemplate--

I. The sublime objects to which the exhortation relates. The future blessedness of believers in heaven. Notice--

1. The perfection of character they shall exhibit. There they shall partake of God’s nature, and be holy as He is holy. It is impossible for sin and sinners to enter there. There is no imperfection in things above. The most eminent saints have faults and blemishes, but there they shall be free from spot or wrinkle.

2. The exercises in which they shall be engaged. Ease is sometimes regarded as necessary to enjoyment. But analogy and revelation are against the sentiment. A heaven of ease would be death rather than life. The service of heaven constitutes one part of the blessedness of the angels, and we are to be equal with them. And how multiplied must be the actions involved in a service which night never interrupts, of a mind and body that are never wearied, and of an existence which knows no end! This view may tend to moderate our surprise and sorrow at the deaths of eminent and useful Christians, who now spend their energies over wider regions.

3. The happiness of which they shall participate. All religious experience on earth affords but a faint emblem of the bliss of heaven. Here, however great, it is much marred, but there it is perfect, because all the saints are made perfectly holy. Here they taste the streams, there the fountain, and the happiness is made complete by a sight of Jesus’ face.

4. The friendships they shall share. Man is constituted for society. Place him in solitude and he will pine and wither. But in heaven we shall enjoy the company of angels, of the wise and good of all ages, of our own loved ones. We look for those breaches which are made in our holy connexions to be repaired there.

II. THE CONDUCT ENJOINED UPON US IN RELATION TO THEM. “Seek” them.

1. This implies belief of them.

2. It implies that attention is directed much towards them. They must be minded as well as credited. This is necessary because of the wrong bias the mind has received.

3. To set our attachment upon them. Surely it would be inconsistent in one who is going to heaven not to set his heart upon it.

4. Diligent and persevering exertions to obtain them are included. Belief awakens attention, attention kindles desires for possession, desires give birth to efforts. You are called upon, then, to use the means. Christ is our “Way” to the holy of holies, and faith, prayer, meditation, etc., are the means.

III. Some motives or considerations which should impel us to this conduct.

1. A regard to consistency. “You who were dead have been quickened, and are risen with Christ, therefore,” etc. From so great a difference of state it is expected that the greatest difference of conduct should follow.

2. The reasonableness of the duty. Can there be anything more reasonable than that among the multiplicity of things which court attention, we should seek those that are most excellent and enduring. As well might a chemist hope for a universal elixir from polluted water, as mankind expect from earthly things the light and bliss of their immortal souls. Besides, earthly things are transitory as well as vain, Like the bubble that glitters in all the colours of the rainbow, but, whilst we view it, bursts, and is no more; like the splendid hues that bedeck the insects’ wings fluttering in the sunbeam, but which are brushed off as soon as the beam is withdrawn, so rapidly do they flee away? The present advantages resulting from the exercise here enioined. By a wise and gracious appointment of God, duty and interest are joined together. “Godliness is profitable unto all things,” etc.

4. The things above are the scene in which are displayed Christ’s presence and glory. The argument of the apostle and the Saviour’s prayer (John 17:1-26.) are that we should meet Him there. In conclusion: be admonished by the consideration of the dreadful alternative which must inevitably follow the neglect of this duty. If you follow not holiness you cannot see the Lord. (J. Beaumont, M. D.)

Seeking things above

I. This is the business of the understanding.

1. Of late years the word “thinker” has been employed to designate those who bring their reasoning faculties to bear on abstract problems, and who give proof of this by lectures and books, and of no others. If this use is correct, thinkers would constitute a select class indeed; it would be just as reasonable to confine the term “worker” to a manual labourer. But all human beings think, and this is none the less true because the understanding apprehends what is before it indistinctly. The eye may none the less see because the objects are somewhat confused.

2. Thus the solemn question arises, “What do we think about?” For most of the day we have no choice. To give your mind to it is the condition of all good work. But there is a fixed hour when business ends and we regain liberty of thought. What do you habitually think about then? The question is important, for the instructive direction of thought at such times may tell us much about our real selves and our destiny.

3. Is it not true that the mind of many is occupied with much that does not guide it heavenwards? It is almost at the mercy of the first claimant; weighted with the importunity of sense; dissipated or distorted by passion; darkened by avoidance of God. What mean those long periods spent over a work of fiction which suggests at almost every page what it dares not describe; those long hours of sullen moodiness, or of hard thoughts of God?

4. It is sometimes thought that if thought is only active it must needs be good, and that only when it stagnates it breeds evil. But thought may be exercised on subjects that degrade it, and in proportion to its activity.

5. Easter then bids thought rise heavenward with Christ; it is the warrant and pattern of mental resurrection. Before Christ rose men had thought and written about another world; but at best the veil was only half withdrawn. Men hoped and guessed. But Christ made it clear and certain, and bade thought arise into the world beyond the stars, into which He passed to prepare a place for us.

6. Seek then in thought the things above. Seek the conversation of the wise, make the most of whatever enlarges and ennobles. In all higher and purer regions of thought you are nearer Christ (Philippians 4:8). But as you seek, cry Excelsior! Rest not until you have struggled beyond literature, science, and nature, into the kingdom of heaven where Christ the King of Glory sits.

II. This is the business of the affections.

1. The affections are a particular department of desire.

2. God gives to every man a certain measure of that affection which is a department of desire. It is dealt out by us partly to those whom providence has appointed to receive it--a father, mother, etc.; and also on objects which we choose to be its recipients. So we may squander it on the pleasures of sense, or compress it into high self-sacrifice. But we do not spend it twice. Since the being who loves is finite the supply is limited; and the despair of those who have given their all at the bidding of some unlawful pleasure is to find, while life is still young, but all too late, that the heart may be like a dried-up spring, “without natural affection” (Romans 1:31; 2 Timothy 3:3). That “wasting fever of the heart” is almost worse than the moral death of which, if unassuaged, it is the assured presentiment.

3. Seek, then, with your affections the things above. As truth is the prize of the understanding, so beauty is the prize of the heart. Let the Eternal Beauty woo and win your hearts. In that higher world there are many objects (1 Corinthians 2:9) to win them; but there is One above all others who has claims such as no other can have upon them. To love Him is to love a Being who sustains love (Romans 5:5; Ephesians 6:24). He is the only Being in loving whom the heart can never incur the risk of exhaustion or disappointment.

III. It is the business of the will. There is at the centre of our being a power which rules all others, which, while professing obedience to reason, not seldom arranges its premises and settles its conclusions, and which gives play to affection or restrains it almost at discretion. It is not reason nor feeling which in the last resort rules the soul, and by which the great question of its destiny must be decided. Grant that the will is weakened, this weakness has been corrected in those who are risen with Christ (Philippians 4:3). Away with the faint-hearted and false notion that religious effort is an affair of temperament! Natural disposition may make things easy or difficult, but it cannot arrest the upward movement of a free, because regenerate, will. We have been made masters of ourselves by Christ, and we cannot shift the responsibility. (Canon Liddon.)

High ground for the affection

Thou puttest wheat in the low ground, and thy friend comes, who knows the nature of the corn and the land, and instructs thine unskilfulness, and says to thee, “What hast thou done? thou hast put the corn in the flat soil, in the lower land; the soil is moist; the seed will rot, and thou wilt lose thy labour.” Thou answerest, “What, then, must I do?” “Remove it,” he says, “into the higher ground.” Dost thou, then, give ear to a friend who gives thee counsel about thy corn, and despisest thou God, who gives thee counsel about thy heart? Thou fearest to put thy corn in the low ground, and wilt thou lose thine heart in the earth? (T. H. Leary.)

Homewards

As the fire mounteth upwards to its proper place, and as the needle still trembleth till it stands at the north; so the soul, once inflamed with the heavenly fire, and acquainted with her first original, cannot be at rest until it finds itself in that comfortable way which certainly leads homewards. (T. H. Leary.)

Above the tide

There is a plant called samphire, which grows only on cliffs near the sea. But though it grows near the salt sea waves, yet it is never found on any part of a cliff which is not above the reach of the tide. On one occasion, a party of shipwrecked sailors, flung ashore, were struggling up the face of precipitous rocks, afraid of the advancing tide overtaking them, when one of their number lighted upon a plant of samphire, growing luxuriantly. Instantly he raised a shout of joy, assuring his companions, by this token, they were now in safety. The sea might come near this spot, and perhaps cast up its spray, but would never be found reaching it. Such is the position of a soul in Christ: justified and united to Him, the person may be in full sight still of the world’s threatening and angry waves, but he is perfectly safe, and he cannot be overwhelmed. (J. L. Nye.)

Reasons for seeking the things above

The things above--

I. Form the proper object of our regard. Every person should attend to the things which relate to his own home. But the home of a Christian is above. There is “his Father’s house.”

II. They are the object for which man is by his nature made; and especially for which he is pre pared in his sanctified character.

1. By the constitution of his mind, man requires an object of a spiritual and eternal kind. Nothing of a worldly nature, however multiplied, is congenial with the tendencies and desires of the immortal spirit.

2. Much more, the Christian, as renewed in his spirit by the power of God, must “seek the things above,” as alone suited to his soul. Spirituality is the essence of the Christian: he breathes and tends heavenward.

III. Their transcendent excellence. There all is perfection; all holiness and happiness. There are in conceivable glories in the heavenly world. Whatever can render it a scene worthy of the majesty of God, of the infinite merit and purchase of the Son of God, of the most enlarged desires and hopes of the redeemed; all is collected and perfect there.

IV. Their perpetuity. The smallest good, of a lasting duration, is deemed prefer able to a much greater benefit that is only transient. But the things which are not seen are eternal.

V. The certainty of success assured to all that seek them in the right way. In the pursuit of all earthly objects there is no certainty of attainment. Conclusion: What reasons, then, exist why we should seek these things with increased earnestness!

1. The apostle, who wrote the text, affords a striking example of the manner in which we should seek them (Philippians 3:12-14).

2. These reasons are always growing stronger; every moment is impairing the lustre and the value of everything below; while every moment is adding to the nearness and importance of eternal things. (Robert Hall, M. A.)

The heavenly aspirations of the renewed nature

I. The intimate connection between Christ and His people. “Dead with Christ,” “Risen with Christ.” The latter phrase implies--

1. That the soul was once dead in sin. The body of the sinner lives--his mind is vigorous, but his soul is dead. It sees no beauty in Christ, hears not the gospel, is unmoved by the love of God, is insensible to the terrors of the coming judgment.

2. The same power which raised Christ from the dead raises dead souls to life.

II. The duty enjoined--“Seek,” etc.

1. The godliness is not merely a “state,” but a “life.”

2. In this active course the Christian is not treated as a mere machine--moved irrespective of his will. God’s power is manifested in it all, but the Christian himself is to “seek.”

3. We are not left in ignorance of the object of our search. “Things above.” This indicates--

III. The inducement to this life. “Christ sitteth” above. It is His will that those whom the Father has given Him be with Him where He is. Christ’s position is--

1. One of honour. “The right hand.” Him hath “God greatly exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour.”

2. One of power. “The right hand” is a symbol of authority. From heaven He shall come to judge the world.

3. Meanwhile it is the position of an Intercessor. (F. Wagstaff.)

Excelsior

The resurrection of Christ occupies a central place in the gospel system, and from it lines of vital connection radiate to every doctrine. As planets revolve round the central sun, and derive light and heat therefrom, so every doctrine connected with man’s salvation circles round the risen Christ.

1. Apart from this no guilty man can be justified, for Christ was raised for our justification. “If Christ be not risen we are yet dead in our sins.”

2. But now is Christ risen, and the opposite results follow.

I. A fact assumed, viz., that Christ has risen.

1. A fact which Christ foresaw would possess transcendent interest. When the Jews asked a sign, this was the one given.

2. A fact well certified, or no fact in history is, and sceptics to be consistent must destroy their Livy, Caesar, Gibbon, and Grote. No one of Christ’s friends was predisposed to belief. The jealousy of the priesthood was a safeguard against deception.

3. A fact which alone can account for the apostle’s heroic service.

II. A supposition. “If,” etc. In Paul’s view regeneration and progress could not be disjoined. Ascension must follow resurrection. To rise with Christ means--

1. A transition from darkness to light. The grave symbolizes our state of moral darkness, conversion is the dawning of heavenly light.

2. From bondage to liberty. The grave is an emblem of captivity. When Christ rose, He led captivity captive.

3. From death to life. Christ liveth in us, and because He lives we shall live also.

III. An inspiring exhortation.

1. Every form of life has its corresponding form of activity. “If you live,” says Paul, “grow.” Superior life is manifested by superior conduct.

2. Our aspiration should have a definite aim. The things above are those which purify and ennoble.

3. The exhortation is supported by a principle of self-consistence. You have risen, rise higher still. On what ground have we started on the heavenly race if we do not mean to continue! (D. Davies, M. A.)

Aspring towards heaven

Ere autumn has tinted the woodlands, or the cornfields are falling to the reaper’s song, or hoary hill-tops, like grey hairs on an aged head, give warning of winter’s approach, I have seen the swallow’s brood pruning their feathers, and putting their long wings to the proof; and, though they might return to their nests in the window-eaves, or alight again on the house-tops, they darted away in the direction of sunny lands. Thus they showed that they were birds bound for a foreign clime, and that the period of their migration from the scene of their birth was nigh at hand. Grace also has its prognostics. They are infallible as those of nature. So, when the soul, filled with longings to be gone, is often darting away to glory, and, soaring upward, rises on the wings of faith, till this great world, from her sublime elevation, looks a little thing, God’s people know that they have the earnest of the Spirit. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

The Christian temper

First, then, those who do “seek the things which are above,” as a matter of fact, become elevated in tone and temper. Do not think that tone and temper are nothing. In the best pictures of great masters, tone is almost everything. Form goes for much. Form, indeed, and the steadiness of the drawing, go for very much in the “composition” of the picture; but deprive it of the wonderful non so che called tone, and it stands out hard and unpleasing, and supplies to the soul no real pleasure. On the other hand, let the tone of the true artist be there, and now it covers in a great degree even badness in the drawing. In the same way, in nature, atmosphere counts for much, very much, in the charm of a scene, in its power, that is, to touch the heart; and when you come to personal life, what tone is to the picture, what atmosphere is to the landscape, such is general temper to the human character. (Knox Little.)

Attaining higher life

I have known men who have been up in balloons, and they have told me that when they want to rise higher they just throw out some of the sand with which they ballast the balloon. Now, I believe one reason why so many people are earthly-minded and have so little of the spirit of heaven, is that they have got too much ballast in the shape of love for earthly joys and gains; and what you want is to throw out some of the sand, and you will rise higher. (D. L. Moody.)

The affections elevated

On board iron vessels it is a common thing to see a compass placed aloft, to be as much away from the cause of aberration as possible; a wise hint to us to elevate our affections and desires; the nearer to God, the less swayed by worldly influences. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 2

Colossians 3:2

Set your affections on things above.

Things above

It is implied in this exhortation that the things above are--

I. Known to us. We may love the unseen, not the unknown. We know them through the Scriptures.

II. OURS. We may not set our hearts on what is not ours. But “all things are ours.”

III. If we do not set our affections upon them we shall on things below. Empty man’s heart cannot be.

IV. They are those amid which every Christian will soon be placed for eternity. It becomes the pilgrims of time to visit by faith their future home.

V. They are fitted and worthy to occupy a Christian’s soul. None else are.

VI. They have a transcendent excellency. Note the Apocalyptic figures of them.

VII. They endure for ever. All else is perishable.

VIII. In setting our affections on them we are certain of success. We can say this of nothing else.

IX. They become daily more and more important, while the things of earth grow daily less so. Every day lessens the duration of temporal things and brings us nearer to eternal things.

X. They cast down upon us a transforming beauty. Man’s heart never acts without being acted upon. Contact with the good sanctifies; communion with the happy gladdens. Conclusion: Seek these things then--

1. In the Scripture.

2. In Christ.

3. In the ministry of the gospel.

4. On the Sabbath.

5. In prayer. (J. Cumming, D. D.)

Setting the affections on things above

I. What things above? Things above nature and above earth.

II. What things on earth? (1 John 2:16; Genesis 3:6).

1. Lust of the flesh--pleasures.

2. Lust of the eye--riches (Ecclesiastes 5:11).

3. Pride of life--honours.

III. What by affections?

1. The understanding and meditation.

2. The will and affections.

IV. These affections are not to be set on things upon earth (Psalms 62:10).

1. They are below us (Philippians 3:8).

2. Unsuitable to us.

3. Unsatisfying (1 Corinthians 7:31; Job 30:15; Psalms 78:39; Hosea 13:13; Proverbs 23:5; Luke 8:18).

4. Troublesome and vexatious (Matthew 13:22).

5. Unnecessary.

6. Fleeting and unconstant (Proverbs 23:5; 2 Samuel 19:43; 2 Samuel 19:21.; Belshazzar; Luke 12:19-20). Uses:

1. Information.

2. Exhortation. Consider if ye do set your affections on things below--

V. We are to set our affections on things above.

1. Why? Because--

(a) Our Father (Luke 12:32; John 20:17; Malachi 1:6).

(b) Our Husband (Hosea 2:16; Isaiah 54:5).

(c) Brethren (Hebrews 2:11; Romans 8:29).

(a) Riches (Matthew 6:19-21).

(b) Honours (1 Samuel 2:30).

(c) Pleasures (Psalms 16:11).

(d) Your affections were made on purpose for these things (Proverbs 16:4).

(e) Setting your affections on them now is the way to come to their enjoyment hereafter.

2. What?

(a) Upon God (Psalms 10:4; Psalms 139:18).

(b) Upon Christ (Luke 22:11-19).

(c) Upon the Scripture that leads to them (Psalms 1:2).

3. How?

1. Examination.

2. Exhortation. “Set your affections,” etc.

Affections rightly placed

I. The affections are--

1. The motions of the reasonable soul. When Jerusalem was much affected about the tidings of Christ’s birth it is said that “all Jerusalem was moved.” And when the Jews were affected against Paul they “were moved with envy.

2. So they are the movings of the soul whereby the heart is sensibly carried out upon what is good or evil.

3. And as it is sensibly carried out towards, so it must embrace the same. By one we follow what is good and the other shun what is evil. There are several affections, but all are ministers of love. I love a thing and, if absent, desire it; if present, delight in it. If I hate a thing I shun it or am angry with it.

II. The affections are to be set on things above, and not on things on the earth.

1. What, may we not at all affect the things of earth? Yes, ye may desire them, and grieve at the loss of them, and both desire and grief are affections.

2. Why are we to set our affections on things above? Because, if they are not set on Christ and the things of Christ--

1. This is a hard thing to do: for it means to have a sympathy with that against which we had an antipathy; and to change our sympathies into antipathies, and vice versa, is no easy matter.

2. It is one thing to affect the best things and have some affections for them, and another thing to set our affections on them. Herod heard John gladly, and the stony ground received the Word with joy.

3. If men’s affections were set on things above they would not be so indifferent in the things of God as they are. For this is described as hungering and thirsting.

4. Then they would always carry these things about with them in their minds.

5. They would seek them first, of their age, day, and competition; in youth, morning, and before all.

6. They would be often speaking of them, and would love to hear others (Psalms 45:1).

7. They would be most indulgent and tender of them.

8. They would not be put off with any slight evidence of their interest in them. (W. Bridge, M. A.)

Affections the wings of the soul

If you will go to the banks of a little stream and watch the flies that come and bathe in it you will notice that while they plunge their bodies in the water, they keep their wings high out of it; and after swimming about a little while they fly away with their wings unwet through the sunny air. Now that is a lesson for us. Here we are immersed in the cares and business of the world; but let us keep the wings of our soul, our faith and our love, out of the world, that with these unclogged we may be ready to take our flight to heaven. (J. lnglis.)

Spirituality a safeguard against temptation

“Birds,” says Manton, “are seldom taken in their flight; the more we are upon the wing of heavenly thoughts the more we escape snares.” Oh that we would remember this, and never tarry long on the ground lest the fowler ensnare us. We need to be much taken up with Divine things, rising in thought above these temporal matters, or else the world will entangle us, and we shall be like birds held with limed twigs, or encompassed in a net. Up, then, my heart. Up from the weedy ditches and briery hedges of the world into the clear atmosphere of heaven. There, were the dews of grace are born, and the Sun of Righteousness is Lord paramount, and the blessed wind of the Spirit blows from the everlasting hills, thou wilt find rest on the wing, and sing for joy where thine enemies cannot even see thee. ( C. H. Spurgeon.)

The affections to be habitually heavenward

After painting the Sistine ceiling, Michael Angelo found that the habit of looking upward, which that long-continued work rendered necessary, made it for some time impossible to read or to look carefully at a drawing except in the same attitude. So our converse with heaven should affect our attitude in looking at the things of earth. (T. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)

The supreme attachment due to spiritual objects

I. Affection is the going out of the soul toward objects within its view.

1. How happy it were if affection might go just at its own pleasure and all be right and safe, i.e., that an infallible perception accompanied it with which the moral taste strictly agreed. Then nothing would attract it that ought not; it would be in repulsion to all evil, and both in the right degrees.

2. But this is not so.

II. A measure of affection for things on earth is legitimate. Good men have used an indiscreet language almost of requiring an indifference to or contempt for earthly things; and according to this there is one essential inconsistency between our duty and the condition in which God has placed us. But our interests here have claims that must be allowed.

1. Think in how many ways we derive pleasure or pain from earthly things. Surely our Creator does not desire the pleasure denied or the pain endured more than is inevitable, or disciplinary. And, therefore, we may in measure desire the pleasing, and be anxious to avoid the painful.

2. Think how much care is necessary to avoid the ills of life, and that we may have the most benefit of its relations. Affection is inevitably and justly set on health, near relatives, and as a matter concerning him and them, on his temporal condition. And then a man that looks on the conduct of public affairs, by which his own, his family’s, and his fellow-citizens’ welfare are affected, will necessarily feel consider able interest in that direction. Again, if a man be of a cultivated intellect and taste, he cannot help being affected by the beauties of nature and the great works and discoveries of men.

3. But how sad it is that the relations of the present are all which many recognize. Think if they were exhorted to such an utter indifference to their temporal interests as they indulge respecting their eternal ones. What madness would be charged. A fortiori, then, is not theirs an awful madness.

III. Supreme affection should be reserved for things above.

1. By the nobler part of our nature we are placed in solemn relations with another economy comporting with its immortality--to God, the one infinite Being; to the Redeemer, the Lord of the new economy; to an unseen state of holy companionships and endless felicity. How marvellous that the soul can consent to stay in the dust when it might live beyond the stars.

2. What then should be the comparative state of the affections as towards the former and the latter?

IV. What, then, may be taken as proofs that we have the required preponderance of affection for things above. In most cases this is a matter of prompt and unequivocal consciousness; but in this the best men find tests valuable.

1. Let a man examine when he is strongly interested in some temporal concern whether he can say more than all this is the interest I feel in things above.

2. When he is greatly pleased with something, and his thoughts suddenly turn to higher objects, is he then more pleased?

3. Or is he solicitous that this temporal good may not injure his spiritual interests?

4. If he suffers in goods or body does he feel that he would far rather suffer so than in soul, and does he feel a strong overbalancing consolation from above.

5. Is he more pleased to give earnest application to higher things than to inferior, and that he would sacrifice more for one than for the other?

6. Does he check his temporal pursuits directly they interfere with heavenly, and double his diligence in regard to the latter.

7. Do heavenly things grow increasingly attractive the nearer he gets to them? (John Foster.)

The heavenly inheritance preferred

I. Suppose two objects admitted to be of equal value presented themselves in competition for our favour.

1. In pursuing one of them we can only gain itself, but in pursuing the other we gain it and a large share of its competitor--who could hesitate about making an election? So if a man choose the earthly he can gain none of the heavenly; whereas if he choose the heavenly, besides securing it, he gains the best of the earthly. Nay, the choice of the heavenly portion is the more promising way of obtaining the earthly on the ground of the greater prudence and superior morality which the choice inspires, together with the blessing of God. And further, this is the only way of finding satisfaction in earthly things, and without that satisfaction they are worthless.

2. We shall be wise if we prefer that which we are sure of attaining, and resist that of which it is doubtful if we ever gain it. You who have chosen the earthly consider what a gambler’s work you make of the pursuit of happiness. You must have the whole of your uncertain life in health; you must be pure amidst temptations without grace; you must have uninterrupted business prosperity; a wife who shall prove a helpmeet although chosen under dubious circumstances, and children who shall love and honour you in spite of a godless education. And happiness, according to your estimate, depends on such chances as these. But the happiness of him that seeks the things above is independent of these, and is assured not only now, but for ever.

3. Wisdom will prefer that which requires less labour. Reflect, then, what skilfulness, scheming, racing, anxiety, sleeplessness are required for gaining and retaining earthly things. Not that the life of the heavenly seeker is one of sloth, but his heavenly-mindedness enables him to go through the same work without the same disturbance, and to add others of a benevolent character by way of pastime.

II. But the two things are not of equal value, and though the pursuit of the heavenly excluded the earthly, though it were uncertain while the pursuit of the earthly were certain, and though it were more laborious, yet--

1. Its intrinsic value would outweigh all adverse considerations. The earthly is mainly for the body and fortune, the heavenly for both body and soul and for eternity.

2. Its necessity to our happiness is another weighty consideration. Earthly things are only at best a temporary convenience; but without the heavenly a man perishes for ever. Let, then, the most depressing view of life be taken, it is soon over, and then the Christian is for ever with the Lord. But where is the worldling after every earthly gratification then? (W. Anderson, LL. D.)

The vital transference

I. The folly of setting our affections on things on the earth.

1. They destroy while they please.

3. They are unsatisfactory.

II. Transfer, then, your affections to things above.

1. We ought to do so. We have a throne there, a multitude to greet us, and Jesus.

2. If we did so it would change everything in us, and make us more gentle, loving, hopeful, and when we come to die we should need no Jacob’s ladder or angel’s wing.

3. The apostle had such an idea of heaven that it made the troubles of life seem insignificant. “This light affliction.” (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

Drawings toward heaven

A man was passing along the street, and saw a blind boy seated on his father’s knee, holding in his hand a kite-string, the kite flying away in the air. The man said, “Is it any satisfaction to you, my lad, to fly that kite, when you cannot see it?” “O yes, sir,” he replied, “I cannot see it, but I can feel it pull.” And so out of this dark world, and amid this blindness of sin, we feel something drawing us heavenwards; and though we cannot see the thrones, and the joy, and the coronation, blessed be God, we can feel them pull. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

The antidote to asceticism and sensualism

You must not only seek heaven; you must also think heaven. (Cf. Philippians 3:19-20.) Extremes meet. Here the apostle points the antithesis between earthly and heavenly things to controvert a Gnostic asceticism: in the Philippian letter he uses the same contrast to denounce an Epicurean sensualism. Both alike are guilty of the same fundamental error; both alike concentrate their thoughts on material, mundane things. (Bishop Lightfoot.)

The death of Melancthon

Is there anything else you want?” was asked Melancthon on his deathbed. “Nothing but heaven,” was the reply.

Not on things on the earth

In return for his splendid services to China, Gordon would accept only the distinctions of the “Yellow Jacket” and the “Peacock’s Feather,” which correspond to our own orders of the Garter and the Bath. Of these rewards he wrote to his mother: “I do not care twopence about these things, but know that you and my father like them.” The Chinese Government twice offered him a fortune. On the first occasion ten thousand taels were actually brought into his room, but he drove out the bearers of the treasure, and would not even look at it. On the second occasion the sum was still larger, but this also he declined, and afterwards he wrote home:--“I do not want anything, either money or honours, from either the Chinese Government or our own. As for the honours, I do not value them at all. I know that I am doing a great deal of good, and, liking my profession, do not mind going on with my work. Do not think I am ill-tempered, but I do not care one jot about my promotion, or what people may say. I know I shall leave China as poor as I entered it, but with the knowledge that through my weak instrumentality upwards of eighty to one hundred thousand lives have been spared.” (E. Hake.)

The heart misplaced

To set the heart on the creature is to set a diamond in lead, or to lock coals in a cabinet and throw jewels into a cellar. (Bishop Reynolds.)

Vanity of earthly things

AEsop’s fable says:--“A pigeon oppressed by excessive thirst, saw a goblet of water painted on a sign-board. Not supposing it to be only a picture, she flew towards it with a loud whirr, and unwittingly dashed against the sign-board, and jarred herself terribly. Having broken her wings by the blow, she fell to the ground, and was killed by one of the bystanders.” The mockeries of the world are many, and those who are deluded by them not only miss the joys they looked for, but in their eager pursuit of vanity bring ruin upon their souls. We call the dove silly to be deceived by a picture, however cleverly painted, but what epithet shall we apply to those who are duped by the transparently false allurements of the world! (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Attractions of the world

Nearly all can recall that favourite fiction of their childhood, the voyage of Sinbad the sailor into the Indian Sea. They will remember that magnetic rock that rose from the surface of the placid waters. Silently Sinbad’s vessel was attracted towards it; silently the bolts were drawn out of the ship’s side, one by one, through the subtle attraction of that magnetic rock. And when the fated vessel drew so near that every bolt and clamp was unloosed, the whole structure of bulwark, mast, and spars tumbled into ruin on the sea, and the sleeping sailors awoke to their drowning agonies. So stands the magnetic rock of worldliness athwart the Christian’s path. Its attraction is subtle, silent, slow, but fearfully powerful on every soul that floats within its range. Under its enchanting spell bolt after bolt of good resolution, clamp after clamp of Christian obligation, are stealthily drawn out. What matters it how long or how fair has been the man’s profession of religion, or how flauntingly the flag of his orthodoxy floats from the masthead? Let sudden temptation smite the unbolted professor, and in an hour he is a wreck. He cannot hold together in a tempest of trial, he cannot go out on any cruise of Christian service, because he is no longer held together by a Divine principle within. It has been drawn out of him by that mighty loadstone of attraction, a sinful, godless, self-pampering, Christ-rejecting world. (Cuyler.)

Earthly and heavenly things

As it is but foolish childishness that makes children so delight in baubles that they would not leave them for all your lands, so it is but foolish worldliness, and fleshliness, and wickedness, that makes you so much delight in your houses, and lands, and meat, and drink, and ease, and honour, as that you would not part with them for heavenly delights. But what will you do for pleasure when these are gone? Do you not think of that? When your pleasures end in horror, and go out like a taper, the pleasures of the saints are then at their best. (R. Baxter.)

Earthly-mindedness

It is storied of Henry the Fourth of France, asking the Duke of Alva if he had observed the eclipses happening in that year, he answered, that he had so much business on earth, that he had no leisure to look up to heaven. A sad thing it is for men to be so bent, and their hearts so set on the things of this world, as not to cast up a look to the things that are in heaven; nay, not to regard though God brings heaven down to them in His Word and sacraments. Yet so it is: most men are of this Spanish general’s mind; witness the oxen, the farms, the pleasures, the profits and preferments, that men are so fast glued unto, that they have hardly leisure to entertain a thought of any goodness. (J. Spence.)

Love of the world

A dervish once went into a confectioner’s shop. The confectioner, to honour him, poured some honey into a dish before him. Immediately a swarm of flies settled, as was their wont, upon the honey; some upon the edge of the dish, but the greater number in the middle. The confectioner then took up s whisk to drive them off, when those upon the side flew away with ease, but the others were prevented from rising, the honey clinging to their wings, and were involved in ruin. The dervish noticed this, and remarked, “That honey-dish is like the world, and the honey like its pleasures. Those who enjoy them with moderation and contentment, when the whisk of death approaches, not having their hearts filled with the love of them, can with ease escape its snare; while all who, like the foolish flies, have given themselves wholly to their sweetness will meet with destruction.” (From the Hindustani.)


Verse 3-4

Colossians 3:3-4

For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

The Christian’s life

I. The Christian’s death. “Ye are dead.” Is not this a paradox? Did not Christ come that we might have life abundantly. And yet when we enter His service we are told to die. Who can solve the enigma? Scripture only.

1. “She that liveth in pleasure,” etc. (1 Timothy 5:6)--dead to spiritual things. In that heart there beats no pulse for God; in that spirit there is no desire of heaven; pleasures of sense engross it. Just the reverse of this will explain the text. Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is an enemy to God. Impiety has entered into an unholy compact to amalgamate the two; but it is a covenant with death, and shall be disannulled. The Christian regards the world as though it were not, although the difference may not be apparent to a superficial observer. Try him. Let his duty be set before him, and however difficult he will not shirk it. Mark him in sorrow sustained by an energy of which the world wotteth not. He is risen with Christ.

2. The Christian is crucified with Christ, and is so dead to sin. As by the Saviour’s dying, the power of death was destroyed, so by the sinner’s dying it is dethroned, and he becomes a new creature in Christ.

II. The Christian’s life. It is hid with Christ in God.

1. In the sense of secrecy.

2. In the sense of security. We are continually reminded of the instability of all around us. Fair buds of promise are blighted by the wintry blast. Friends twine themselves round our affections, and then die. The world is rapidly decaying. But the life to come abideth. Time affects not them who live for ever. Death is destroyed for them, and so they are safe. Where is it hidden? With Christ. Where He is--in that land where “there shall in nowise enter anything that can hurt or destroy.” “In God,” in His great heart--who is never faithless to His promise, and whose perfections are pledged to confer it. How can we be distrustful?

III. The Christian’s prospects (verse 4). These words imply--

1. Enjoyment. Scanty as is our knowledge of the future, enough is revealed to exalt our highest hopes. It is brought before us as an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled; as a paradise amongst whose trees of life there lurks no serpent; a country every fresh revelation of whose beauties shall augment our knowledge and joy; a city whose every gate is of jewellery, whose every street is a suntrack; as a temple, and above all as our Father’s house where our elder Brother dwells. Yet these are but emblems.

2. Manifestation. The irreligious world perceives a difference between it and the children of God which it cannot understand. It thinks not that that man whom it charges with hypocrisy or fanaticism is among the favoured ones of heaven, and that beneath a beggar’s robes there throbs a prince’s soul. Bide your time. With what different feelings will they be regarded when they appear with Him in the glory of the Father and with the holy angels.

IV. The Christian’s duty (verse 2). If all this be the case, how can we resist the conclusion? For a Christian to be absorbed in the gainfulness of the world is at once an infatuation and a sin. It is as though a prince were to revel with beggars. What have you, of the blood royal of heaven, to do with this vain fleeting show? Call faith to your aid--“the evidence of things not seen.” (W. M. Punshon, LL. D.)

The present condition and future glory of life in Christ

Observe--

I. That the present condition of the believer’s life in Christ involves a new relation to outward things. “For ye are dead.” There was a time when he lived in, to, and for the world. But now, while still in it, he is dead to its charms and to its ordinances. All the mainsprings of activity are changed. Man lives where he loves.

II. That the present condition of the believer’s life in Christ is one of concealment from the outward world.

1. It is hid. All life is hid. Its origin is a profound mystery. The botanist fails to discover it. The scalpel of the anatomist has not pierced its dark domain. Its presence is known only by its effects. It is not a life of vulgar display.

2. It is hid with Christ, Christ Himself was hidden when here, and is now to the world, and the believer’s life is with Him as a river concealed in a hidden channel flowing beneath. This hiding indicates

3. It is hid in the depths of the Godhead. Not lost in the abyss of Deity, as the mystic or pantheist would teach; but so hid as to retain its own conscious individuality, while sharing in the boundless life of God.

III. That the believer’s life in Christ will, in the future, be manifested in ineffable glory.

1. There will be a signal manifestation of Christ in the future.

2. The believer will share in the ineffable glory of that manifestation. This implies

The Christian life is

I. A death. “Ye are dead.”

1. You have retained an individuality, but lost a consciousness. You had a knowledge once of which you have no knowledge now. Your old sins are like names on a tombstone; once they were your whole being and personality.

2. “Dead,” for how can life be sustained without food? and the old life is unalimented. You have ceased to fulfil the lusts and thus to maintain the being.

3. “Dead,” for you are a mystery to the world. They think there are no pure men and women, but there are, and they have been crucified with Christ.

II. A divine gift lost and restored. Life was the most precious jewel in the gift of God. God inbreathed this life--gave it to man to keep it. Man threw it away. Then said Christ, “I will recover it, and crown him again.” “I am come that they might have life.” But it could only be recovered at the expense of His own. He conquered, and a second time “God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” And from that moment He said to His people, “I am the Keeper of your life.” That jewel must not be thrown away again.

III. Hidden. All life is. The life of a tree, of an insect, eludes the physiologist. It is an awful mystery. We have, too, to feel in our friendships that the heart that beat very near to us, even after all its confidences, is hidden. Our spiritual life is hidden.

1. In its origin. It is a Divine seed. It is the breath of the holy. When men attempt to reason on this matter their processes are sometimes startling and their conclusions uninstructive. It is “hidden from the wise and prudent,” etc. It is hidden, but Divinely true.

2. In its development. “The world knoweth us not because it knew Him not.” True, we may be known by our deeds, but we are hidden, like a pearl in the sea, a star in the daytime. But God sees what we see not. He watches the growth, tends and trains His loved ones. But the growth of a Christian often contradicts the expectations of the world. When the world says, Behold their weakness, Christ says, Behold their strength, and vice versa. Your hopes, fears, prayers, etc., the world never saw. All the most sacred things are secret.

3. In its destiny. As all waters run into the sea, so all fulness in us terminates in our fulness in Him.

IV. Safe. We feel this for our lost friends; let us feel it for ourselves and our living dear ones. The treasure we could not keep is guarded among the regalia of the skies. The forces of eternity bind us to our Lord as the earth is held in order by her parent sun. Good people are neither born, nor live, nor die by chance. So of little children. Why are they born to die? it seems so vain, the parents solicitude and agony. No, it is not vain. “Their life is hid with Christ in God.” A citizen may be safe, although the walls may be destroyed; the man, although the dress be destroyed; the root, although the flower may be destroyed; the soul, although the body be destroyed. Diseases and fiends may prowl around, and fires consume, but they cannot touch him whose life is hid, etc.

V. To be manifested in glory.

1. Glory! What is that? The revelation of the hidden life. Think of it less as the triumph of the conqueror than as the ecstasy of the new-born delight in the thrice holy state.

2. With Him. In the deeper recesses of the heavenly state, when glory does not cast too dreadful a brilliancy; there meditating on the wonder that we appear with Him, that we have seen Him smile, that He has introduced us to our dear ones, that He will employ us in holy toil.

3. Meanwhile, in the presence of this thought, let all light afflictions be forgotten. (Paxton Hood.)

The hidden life

I. Its reality. A traveller in Brazil on passing a mountain, was informed that there was a priceless treasure in the heart of it, which, when disenchanted, would appear. What was a fiction here is a truth concerning the interest of the Christian in Christ, the Rock of Ages. Our title to salvation is in Him; but He is hidden. None the less sure, however, is it that we are saved if we believe in Him. Two considerations may assure us.

1. The consciousness of spiritual change. We have changed views and feelings in regard to God and His claims. We have peace where once was disturbance. We have the Spirit of Adoption, who bears witness with our spirit (Romans 8:16).

2. The evidence of spiritual character: walking in the light, fruitfulness, Christly dispositions, Christian service. The life of the Christian is a testimony to the power of Divine grace. Without Christ we can do nothing; but our character and actions show that we have Him.

II. Its preciousness. Great store is set on it as men set upon the treasures which they used to bury. Statesmen, philanthropists, etc., are presented with the freedom of a city, and the pledge of honour is enclosed in a golden casket. Our citizenship is in heaven with Christ. What dignities are consequently conferred upon us? We are sons, heirs, kings, priests. The service and death of Christ made this privilege possible, and with it “all things are ours,” and to keep it we willingly count “all things loss.”

III. Its sure guardianship. There is nothing valuable but is exposed to danger. Full well we know the peril of the spiritual life, and if it were in our own custody we should soon lose it. But who can erase the shining characters from the life-roll of heaven, traced by the finger of God? Satan’s dark hand cannot reach the archives of heaven. A phosphoric flame can be kept Might in water by electric influence communicated through a wire; so the life of God can be maintained within us, notwithstanding all that tends to extinguish it, through the influence derived from Christ. The late Duke of Brunswick had an iron jewel chest which was so skilfully contrived that when any one opened it, who knew not the secret, bells rung, and pistols were fired. But skilful thieves one night dug through the wall against which it was placed, pierced the chest, and stole many of the gems. And, however careful we might be, if there were not One greater and more vigilant than ourselves our life treasure would be lost.

IV. Its reserve. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” The glory that shall be revealed is not yet manifest. Hence the world knoweth us not, and therefore treats us with contempt. The world values rank, wealth, parade, etc. But some day there will be a full recognition. Look upon a landscape in winter, how dark the trees, dull the grass, cold and uninteresting the scene. But look again when spring and summer have breathed their influences abroad; what luxurious foliage, flower-enamelled turf, singing birds. The hidden life is come forth and is acknowledged. Once, when Lord Macaulay was surrounded by courtly friends in a brilliant assemblage he recognized and shook hands with a retiring literary man whose genius he knew, but whom others passed by. Christ at last shall confess His own before His Father and the angels. But till then this life and glory are hid in Christ. Yet be encouraged; your redemption draweth nigh.

V. Its deathlessness. The perishable body shall decay, but the life secured by Christ shall not be harmed. He will bring it forth and crown it. A cloud passes over the nightly sky; but you wait, and a breeze chases the mist away, and then all the splendour of the starry firmament bursts on your gaze. So death is but a passing eclipse. “Then shall the righteous shine,” etc. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear.”

Conclusion:

1. Prize this life.

2. Seek the proof of its possession.

3. Thank God for it.

4. In patience possess your souls. (G. Mc Michael, B. A.)

Death and life in Christ

I. Where our life is not. It is not in ourselves. “Ye are dead.”

1. How completely the image of bodily death in the senseless, motionless, and unimpressive state of the mortal frame, compared with its vigour and activity during life, represents the natural condition of the soul before God. Talk to the dead of the most stirring truths, surround them with all that charms the living, lavish upon them all the endearments that the heart can bestow, and what return will you receive? Just so is it with the soul in its unconverted state. How else is it that men hear these verities of God and go on as though there were no soul, God, eternity? It is because the soul is dead, cannot see, hear, feel.

2. But this absence of life is ascribed to the converted likewise. They are not dead so as to denote the actual want of life, for Christ is their life; but dead because they have not this life in themselves. The soul has no power to quicken and regenerate itself. Shall the dead raise the dead! Who has not striven to rouse the stagnant affections, kindle the cold desire, to walk closer with God, and render a more zealous obedience, yet found his efforts profitless as trees thrice dead. It is well for us to know the depth of our own need, and the feebleness of our best strength. It is from ignorance that we make these efforts in our own strength, and fail till the heart grows sick. Yes, and grace does not on this side heaven remove this state of impotency. At no stage does God give the soul life in itself; He imparts and renews it, as the soul has need, all fresh from Himself in daily streams to meet daily wants. He does not in one act of conversion store the soul with a treasure of strength, but breathes into it more and more of His spirit, keeping the soul dependent on Himself as a child on its parent.

II. Where our life is. “Hid with Christ in God.”

1. But why not have given man life directly in Him self? This is what God really did; but man lost it beneath his first temptation. Then was moved the fount of Divine compassion, and through a scheme of redemption, culminating in Christ’s resurrection, life is procured for man again.

2. Then comes the question, Into whose keeping shall this life be put? Doubtless life will be in man himself hereafter; but that will be in heaven, when the adversary, all bound and fettered, shall have been cast into his own place. But in whom shall it be placed meanwhile?

I. The Christian’s death and life.

1. Two periods in the history of a Christian: death, resurrection (Comp. Ephesians 2:1, and 1 Peter 1:3).

2. Why these expressions--death, life? Three kinds of life--bodily; of the heart; religious. The last alone real, according to the gospel. It consists in setting our affections on things above, and is in God with Christ. Christ having borne our life away we are dead. “Set not your affections on things on the earth.”

(a) To sin.

(b) To the world.

(c) He has fixed, his goal beyond all that is transitory; he is a stranger, a traveller, a passer-by.

He is dead, and appears dead. How natural this is. Nothing troubles, or excites, or astounds him; gives the right cheek, etc.; this man it is said has no blood in his veins.

3. Yet he lives, but his life is hidden. In one sense it is not so. But--

II. Motives for taking up one’s position.

1. Christ has not yet appeared. Christ is known and unknown. “Shall the disciple be more than his Master?”

2. The Christian is seen of God, this must be enough. There are flowers on inaccessible heights seen only by Him. Mediaeval sculptors carved exquisite images on the top of pillars to be “seen of God.”

3. Glorious compensations--king in disguise.

4. Promise of being manifested some day. “He that shall confess Me” (Daniel 12:3).

III. Application. All this is Christianity, neither more nor less. You might be asked, Are you risen? Are you dead? I ask--

1. Do you love invisible things? Angels love them.

2. Do you love the hidden life? To be last, etc.

3. Do you feel that this is your safety as well as your natural position? Or do you perform all your actions with a view of being seen of men. (A. Vinet, D. D.)

The hidden life

1. What gives Christ’s mediatorship its practical dignity is not only its display of Divine mercy but also its fitness to invigorate and encourage a spiritual life in the believer; and the most reverential view of God manifest in the flesh is the largest producer of daily holiness, as well as the dearest to the heart.

2. The first fact that we encounter in the historic consciousness of the Church is Christ’s invisible supremacy as its head and Lord in the private hearts of disciples and in their public organization and activity. No sooner was Jesus gone than, with the widest diversities of tastes and habits, they were united in one common bond of a hidden life. Journey where they will their hearts cling to one invisible Master.

3. And so it has been in the line of spiritual descent every since. Personal fellowship with Christ has been the hereditary blood in the veins of the Church. This inward life we have now to interpret.

I. In its necessity. The need of sharing the Mediator’s life lies within the soul itself.

1. From the consciousness of spiritual deficiency.

2. From the native notion of perfection.

II. Its nature. In what special kinds of force do its power and peace and charm consist.

1. In this, that being received into our faith in just these two characters in which we need Him,

2. The life hid with Christ in God is a life constantly invigorated by Christ’s quickening spirit received by faith.

4. The doctrine of spiritual union through Christ with God affects devotion. He who is conscious of it knows it by the richer interest given to his prayers. For it reveals Christ as our “advocate with the Father.” How can He intercede for us but by a present acquaintance with our needs? Praying in His name is something more than repeating a proposition at the end of our petitions. It must be praying from the feeling that He knows the substance of our prayer and the heart it confesses, and that He aids it by His prevailing sympathies now as much as when He taught His disciples to say, “Our Father.”

4. Even in those relations which lie most directly between our souls and the Father, which might therefore seem to be most independent of a Mediator, the highest style of piety is not seen without a lively sense of Christ. That faith, e.g., that every concern in our lives is contrived for us by a sympathizing God, a faith which embosoms us in a care so fatherly that we want some warmer word than Providence to express it, is not found except in hearts alive with personal love for Christ.

III. Its results.

1. It is the life of love. Being hid with Christ it is penetrated with the spirit of Him who loved as never man loved. Being hid in God it is suffused by the affections of Him whose name is Love. No man hating his brother can abide in this fellowship, no despiser of the poor, no bigot, no oppressor, no conceited Pharisee. Jesus is charity, and to live in Him is to live mercifully, fraternally, and liberally. When the world’s life is hid with Him, the bloodshed of nations, the overreachings of commerce, the unequal administrations of govern-merits, the barbarous contrasts in Christian cities, the hatreds of households, will yield to a constructive principle of heavenly order. “I in them,” etc.

the social life of the disciples hid with Christ in God.

2. This life solves the old contradiction between works and faith. Christian character is not a mosaic of moralities, but a growth. All we have to do is to receive Christ, and then the fruits of daily righteousness will naturally spring forth, in all forms of manly uprightness, womanly serenity, conscientious citizenship, beneficent industry.

3. The doctrine gives the world truth in all its uncompromising rigour and concrete applications. If Jesus be admitted in all the purity of His transparent soul as a visible witness of the conventional veracity that is satisfied if it equivocates by lying labels, or evasions in a bargain, and artifices in law courts, of the silly falsehoods of flattery, or cowardly falsehoods to avoid offence, who would dare to confront with them the look of His Divine rebuke? Christ, then, hid in the heart, is the test and guardian of truth.

4. And of justice no less; not that formal honesty, which is only a moral name for a selfish policy, not the legal integrity which has no higher sanction than the letter of the statute book, and so cheats the helpless or steals a competitor’s reputation, but rather that spiritual justice which treats every man uprightly because a child of God, although only a servant or an office boy.

5. The hiding of our life with Christ corrects the error that religion is a product of humanity. A few conquests over matter have flattered us into the conceit that God must look down with vast complacency on our attainments, and so we come to substitute decorum for piety, and fancy that we make ourselves acceptable with God. A reception of Christ would expel this self-reference and measurement. The inner life in Christ is offered because otherwise the soul is weak and dark. (Bishop Huntington.)

The hidden life

Standing by the telegraph wires we may often hear the mystic wailing and sighing of the winds among them, like the strains of an AEolian harp; but one knows nothing of the message which is flashing along them. Joyous may be the inner language of those wires, swift as the lightning, far-reaching and full of meaning, but a stranger meddles not therewith. Fit emblem of a believer’s inner life; men hear our notes of outward sorrow wrung from us by external circumstances, but the message of celestial peace, the Divine communings with a better land, the swift heart-throbs of heaven-born desire, they cannot perceive: the carnal see but the outer manhood, but the life hidden with Christ in God flesh and blood cannot discern. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The hidden life of the Christian

I. The treasure. Natural life is a treasure. How highly we value it. When sick what measures we take for recovery. But what is that compared with the life of the soul? The life referred to is--

1. A life of justification (Romans 8:32).

2. A life of sanctification (Ephesians 2:10).

3. An eternal life of glory.

II. Its concealment.

1. It is hid from the world, not in its characteristics and effects, but in its nature and spiritual operations. Communion with God, justification, assurance, Christian peace and joy, are all inscrutable to the natural man, because only spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 1:11).

2. It is partly hidden from Christians themselves. Not that a man can be a Christian without knowing it; but there are ever fresh and astonishing phases opening up, e.g., in the apprehension of the meaning of Scripture, and in the heights and depths of Christian experience (1 John 3:2). And the greatest mystery is that we are Christians at all.

3. It is hidden for safety. Because so precious it is placed out of Satan’s reach.

III. Its caretaker--“with Christ.” This may mean--

1. Mystical union with Him (Ephesians 5:25).

2. Federal union. We are represented by Christ in all that He has done and is, and the Father regards us as in Him. Nothing, then, can injure us, since Christ has borne all the injuries which the law could inflict. We cannot be arrested for our debt since Christ has paid it; nor condemned for our crime since Christ has borne our curse (Romans 8:1).

3. Vital union (John 15:1-5). The continuance of our life is provided for, and its abiding fruitfulness.

IV. Its hiding-place. “In God.” God accepts the charge, and with Christ elevates us to--

1. Divine dignity. We are of heaven while on earth; in God while before men.

2. Divine rest. Who can doubt or sorrow who has a revelation and experience of the character of God? (T. B. Baker, M. A)

Life hid in Christ

I. What of the death which precedes this life?

1. It is a conscious death. There is no spiritual chloroform in the dispensary of the Great Physician. Man is wide awake during the whole process of conviction and conversion. No drug is wanted to stupify, but like the Saviour’s death consciousness must not be disturbed or destroyed.

2. It is a willing death. The will, like a brave helmsman, conducts the soul out of the troubled waters of sin, and shapes and steers the course for the peaceful haven. Here is another parallel. What gave value to the death of Christ was its willingness.

3. It is an honourable death. Was it becoming at every Waterloo banquet to drink a toast in solemn silence in honour of the brave who fell? Men hang out the tattered colours in our national sanctuaries as honourable trophies. We turn to a nobler warfare with grander issues. When the black flag of rebellion is hauled down, the spirit of hostility is changed into devotion, reverence, fellowship, and service. When a man ceases to do evil and learns to do well, when he dies to sin and lives to God, we may call his death an honourable one.

4. It is a useful death. Who shall calculate the usefulness of death. Who shall reckon for us the value of the death of Sir John Franklin in the land of ice; of Allan Gardiner in the land of fire; of Abraham Lincoln, etc? So here; the tomb in which these dead are buried is changed into the “womb of the morning,” and they become “children of the light and of the day.”

II. What of the life which follows this death?

1. It is a life of safety (Psalms 27:5). “Hid with Christ;” what a companion! Hid “in God”; how impregnable. What slender bulwarks man erects. “I hid my self,” is the sorrowful expression of impotency, and is not a wiser policy than that of the ostrich who buries her head in the sand when escape has become impossible.

2. It is a life of privilege. That holy margin of the Saviour’s time between His resurrection and ascension helps us to understand our privileges. How He comforts, confirms, and feeds. What recognition and communion. Outsiders could not see it. “Their eyes were holden.”

3. It is a life of mystery. “It doth not yet appear,” etc. We know in part only. (H. T. Miller.)

The Christian’s life hid with Christ

I. We are in the midst of two worlds, a seen and an unseen, as we ourselves are two selves, seen and unseen; the unseen showing itself in our countenance, and impressing some portion of our character upon it, still, for the most part, unseen except by God. And even our very soul is of a twofold character, belonging in part to the world of sense, in part to the unseen world; and belonging most to either according as the corrupt nature or the new life gains the mastery. And each of these worlds is real, in that each acts upon our soul and moulds it for heaven or hell. But to us that only is real which we realize. Our soul hangs between the two, and as it is drawn down or up, it loses sight of that from which it is withdrawn.

1. To fleshly persons this world is their all; they have no senses for the unseen which they love not. They lose the power to think of God. The truths relating to God become fainter and fainter, and in some dreadful cases God is thought of “as such an one as himself.” The natural mind can think of God only as one with the world. Among the heathen this is seen most nakedly (Romans 1:28). “The pure in heart shall see God;” the impure, then, cannot see Him. “In His light we shall see light;” they, then, who have it not in them must be blind (1 Corinthians 2:14).

2. In like way as men become spiritual, they, too, lose their power of discernment of the things of the flesh. They cannot understand the world, nor the world them. Having learned desire to be last, they cannot understand man’s ambition to be first; nor covetousness, having learned that poverty with Christ is the true riches; nor pride, knowing the blessedness of humility. The sounds, maxims, and pursuits of the world are unreal to the Christian. All seems hollow: its merriment a heaviness; its eagerness a chasing of the wind; its show a painted mask; its laughter madness; its pleasures revolting (1 Corinthians 2:16; Luke 17:15).

II. Since, then, the Christian’s life is hid, he must be prepared for the world’s misunderstandings and opposition.

1. This naturally follows (1 John 3:1; John 1:10), and Christians should take it cheerfully. It is an eternal law that we understand those only to whom we are like. We have no power of judging except by the principles and standards we have made our own. We cannot see what is beyond our range of vision. So the world judging by its own standards cannot understand the Christian. It could not act on his principles, and so thinks him a dissembler or mad (Mark 3:21; Acts 26:24). The world must misjudge us, however careful we are to avoid offence; and God would teach us hereby to commit ourselves to His judgment (Psalms 37:5-6).

2. The world misjudges because it knows nothing of the inner experiences of the Christian life. They who live amid the tumult of the outward cannot hear the secret whispers of His love by which God speaks to souls that seek Him. They cannot tell the secret thrill of joy in the hope that we are indeed God’s, and shall be His for ever. They cannot tell the sweetness when the soul feels itself beloved.

III. Since our life is hid, we must beware how we prejudge anything that God sees necessary for that life. We understand only so much as we, by acting, know. So we must not be prejudiced against what comes to us in the form of untried self-discipline and self-denial. One of the most frequent hindrances to a more excellent way is that men, instead of trying it, ask of what good it is. At every stage knowledge is the reward of obedience.

IV. Since our life is hid we must not be downcast if we have not the refreshment we would have, nor see at once the end of our actions and ourselves (1 John 3:2). We are hidden from ourselves. We know not what we are. We see ourselves surrounded by death, and amidst this death have earnests of life (Romans 8:23); but since our love is imperfect, so is our life and our sense of life. Its source is our Lord hidden, streaming thence to us through the Comforter, discovering itself in holy aspirations, strength, victories; but since it is hidden we must not long for it as though revealed. Had we the fulness of that life it were heaven itself. Now we have at one time the brightness of His presence that we may be cheered onward; now it is veiled that we may be humbled.

V. It will ever be that of this hidden life, the very highest degrees will be what we least understand. For it is of God. And since, being finite, we cannot grasp the infinite, our nearest approaches to Him will ever be what we can least grasp or analyze. When caught up into the third heaven what Paul heard were words unspeakable; his inward sense heard what words could not embody; and so in our degree, our highest bliss is what we can least represent or define, or reason upon; yet we know it to be real.

VI. As this hidden life is obtained, so it is to be maintained and perfected by deadness to the world. Death to the world is life to God; the life in God deadens to the world. The less we live for things outward the stronger burns our inward life. The more we live amid the distractions of the world, the less vivid is the life of the soul. It matters not wherein we are employed or how. We may in the most sacred things forget God, or in the most common things serve Him. We may be promoting His truth, and ourselves be the unfruitful conduit through which it flows; or we may in the meanest things be living to His glory, and thereby promoting it. Self-denying duty, love, and contemplation together advance this life; but not either alone. Conclusion:

1. It is our office to see how, day by day, we may be more hidden from the world, that we may be more with God.

2. As this life is God’s great gift, and our present duty is to cherish it, soft is our stay and support to know that it is hid, etc. (Isaiah 26:3; Psalms 27:5; Psalms 31:20). As evil reacheth Him not, nor losses affect Him, nor dispraise hurt Him, so not the Christian. And if so now, how much more hereafter (Romans 8:35-39). (E B. Pusey, D. D.)

The hidden life--with Christ in God

It is hidden--

I. In its origin. Conversion is a hidden operation. We have read many accounts of it. We are told how certain words, thoughts, providences, were followed by certain feelings, resolutions, actions, but the change itself is beyond the cognizance of the person changed. “The wind bloweth,” etc.

II. In its greatest moments.

1. That of self-dedication. When a man takes the oath of allegiance to his country, it is in the presence of others; but when he swears fealty to God, he is hidden with God.

2. That of communion with God. The soul wants something more than is supplied by public worship.

3. Those of its highest joys, as when Jesus was transfigured, He was hid from His disciples by the bright overshadowing cloud.

4. Those of its deepest sorrows, as Jesus was separated from His disciples in Gethsemane. The greatest actions have not appeared on the public stage of history: they are obscure, un-chronicled, unmonumented, but God has seen and estimated them.

III. From the eye of the world. The life of the world consists in being alive unto sin and dead unto God. The Christian has withdrawn from and is dead to this. Hence though his life be manifest as the sun, the world cannot see him. “If our gospel be hid,” etc. Nature may be hidden in two ways; at midnight by darkness, at noonday by blindness. When Christ appeared the world knew Him not; so with His disciples, It requires a Christian to understand a Christian. The world has not the key to the Christian life.

IV. With Christ.

1. As our representative. The union between the believer and his Lord is a hidden one. It is the sheet anchor of spiritual life cast within the veil, and therefore hidden; but it is in the strength of that the soul can ride securely through the tempest of time.

2. As the object of our affections. Our true home is the spot towards which the heart tremblingly turns as the needle to the pole. “Where your treasure is,” etc.

3. The full meaning of our present life is hidden with Christ. It is full of mystery. Think of its suffering; its relation with sin; its mortality, etc.

4. The final glory of this life is hid with Christ. “It doth not yet appear,” etc.

V. In God. God Himself is the hidden one. “Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself.” “Canst thou by searching;” etc. What safety, comfort, joy, the Christian has. (F. Ferguson.)

The life hid with Christ in God

Have we not heard of rivers rolling in their calm and apparent majesty, hidden from the eye by the deep woods, by the solemn mountains, and the wide-extending prairie? Hidden! nay, has it not been our lot to listen to the murmurings of far-off mountain streams we could not see? The Christian’s life is such; like one of those glorious streams born and taking its rise in far-off mountains, then descending the awful sides of the rugged hill, and shooting into light; then winding and wending its way through villages and fields, by cities and by towns; more or less quiet, more or less observed; then betaking itself to far-off country places again; telling, as it rolls, no story of its birth, and little of its means of widening growth; now watering the giant oak, and the graceful beech, and the lovely elm; and apparently lost in creeping its way by sedgy nettle-beds and banks covered with the hemlock and the weed; but not less useful in the one place than the other, till at last, beyond sight, it is lost in the distant sea. So, for all purposes of illustration, it is with the Christian life and the life of God, as revealed in the human soul. (Paxton Hood.)

The seed of an inner life

On a winter’s night I have noticed a row of cottages, with a deep load of snow on their several roofs: but as the day wore on, large fragments began to tumble from the eaves of this one and that other, till, by and by, there was a simultaneous avalanche, and the whole heap slid over in powdery ruin on the pavement, and before the sun went down you saw each roof as clear and dry as on a summer’s eve. But here and there you would observe one with its snow-mantle unbroken, and a ruff of stiff icicles around it. What made the difference? The difference was to be found within. Some of these huts were empty, or the lonely inhabitant cowered over a scanty fire; whilst the peopled hearth and the high-blazing faggots of the rest created such an inward warmth that grim winter melted and relaxed his grip, and the loosened mass folded off and tumbled over on the trampled street. It is possible by some outside process to push the main volume of snow from the frosty roof, or chip off the icicles one by one. But they will form again, and it needs art inward heat to create a total thaw. And so, by sundry processes, you may clear off from a man’s conduct the dead weight of conspicuous sins; but it needs a hidden heat, a vital warmth within, to produce such a separation between the soul and its besetting iniquities, that the whole wintry incubus, the entire body of sin, will come spontaneously away. The vital warmth is the love of God abundantly shed abroad--the kindly glow which the Comforter diffuses in the soul which He makes His home. His genial inhabitation thaws that soul and its favourite sins asunder, and makes the indolence and self-indulgence and indevotion fall off from their old resting place on that dissolving heart. The easiest form of self-mortification is a fervent spirit. (James Hamilton, D. D.)

The lost taste

A traveller who was asked whether he did not admire the structure of some stately building made reply, “No; for I have been at Rome, where better are to be seen every day.”

The power of a new affection

Dr. Chalmers, riding on a stage-coach by the side of the driver, said, “John, why do you hit that off leader such a crack with your lash?” “Away yonder there’s a white stone; that off leader is afraid of that stone; so, by the crack of my whip and the pain in his legs, I want to get his idea off from it.” Dr. Chalmers went home, elaborated the idea, and wrote, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” You must drive off the devil and kill the world by putting a new idea in the mind. (Dr. Fish.)


Verse 4

Colossians 3:4

When Christ who is our life shall appear then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.

Christ our life

What is meant by life? The word is very comprehensive, and includes--

1. Appropriate activity.

2. Happiness. The life here intended is

I. Its author.

1. He saves us from death.

2. He is the author of inward spiritual life. Because--

II. Its object.

1. The exercises in which Christian life consists terminate on Him.

2. The happiness involved consists in fellowship with Him. He is our life as He is our joy, portion, inheritance.

III. Its end. It is Christ for us to live. While others live for themselves--some for their country, some for mankind--the believer lives for Christ. It is the great design of his life to promote Christ’s glory and advance His kingdom. Inferences:

1. Test of character. The difference between the true and nominal Christian lies here. The one seeks and regards Christ as His life only as He delivers from death; the other as the end and object of life.

2. The true way to grow in grace, or to get life, is to come to Christ.

3. The happiness and duty of thus making Christ our life. (C. Hodge, D. D.)

Christ our life

1. Life is seen around us striking out in tender beauty in the tiny flower which opens its delicate bosom to the light of the sun, or developing into majesty and grandeur in the giants of the forest--this is vegetable life.

2. Life is seen breaking out in the songs of birds, and displayed in the movements of the lower creatures and in the manifold activities of men--this is animal life.

3. Life is seen in the speculations of the philosopher, the research of the historian, the musings of the poet, and the contrivances of the architect and mechanician--this is intellectual life.

4. Life is seen in that hatred to sin, those yearnings after holiness, those graces of faith, hope, etc., the anticipation for heaven which characterize the true Christian--this is spiritual life, To Christ all these may be traced, but Paul is here speaking of the last.

I. Christ on the cross is the source of our life. Spiritual life is no new principle; it was bestowed by Christ as the Almighty Creator. But here we have to view Christ not as the Lord of life, but the victim of death. What an amazing contrast. Yet by the latter He brought life and immortality to light. From this His life flows out to those dead in sin.

II. Christ in the heart is the essence of our life. He not only procures, but is our life. “I am the life.” When we receive life we receive Him. The faith which saves embraces not an abstraction, a truth, but a Person. Many are satisfied with knowing about Christ--the Christian has vital union with Him.

III. Christ in his ordinances is the support of our life. All life requires sustenance. A flower that receives no rain or sunshine withers. God has appointed means for the nourishment of our life.

1. Secret prayer. What is this? An interview with a Person, not the mere utterance of desire breathed into the vacant air; growing intimacy with Christ; the soaring of the soul into the atmosphere of love and joy which makes the pulse of life beat more firmly. “The Christian’s vital breath,” etc.

2. The Sabbath, and its opportunities for sustained intercourse with Christ in sanctuary services (Psalms 63:2). The want of profit in these arises from not seeking God in them. Those who find Him receive augmentation of life.

3. The Lord’s Supper, in which Christ brings Himself specially near, and to realize Him in it is to receive out of His fulness grace for grace.

IV. Christ on earth is the pattern of our life. All life has some outward manifestation. Every grace embodies itself in act. “Work of faith,” etc. God has given us a rule in His Word after which we should conform ourselves. But He has taught us also by example. In Christ’s lowly condition He has taught us not to be ashamed of our poverty. As a workman He ennobled trade. The sorrowful may be comforted by thinking of the Man of sorrows. What an example we have in Him of self-sacrifice, love, forgiveness, courage, etc. The closer we study His life the more we shall be assimilated to it as Moses was to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 3:18).

V. Christ in heaven is the consummation of our life. Here we have but grace, glory lies beyond. His presence in glory is a pledge that we shall share it. The bonds of union will be drawn closer. “For ever with the Lord,” etc. Conclusion: There is no true life but in Christ. Let us beware lest Christ’s lamentation, “Ye will not come unto Me,” etc., be over us. (W. Steele, M. A.)

Christ our life

“What think ye of Christ?” The proper answer is the text. It is not said merely that He lives in us, or that we live by Him or through Him, but that He is our life. Let us apply this--

I. To the Christian’s relative life: justification.

1. We are all dead in law. The soul destitute of the favour of God is dead. There remains only the execution of the sentence to complete our misery.

2. In this state Christ finds us and undertakes to be our life. One of the first questions of an awakened soul is, “How shall a man be just with God?” The gospel replies, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” There was such merit in His cross that God, though just, becomes a Saviour. It is not by the works of the law or repentance, but by the atonement laid hold of by faith that we legally live. But this only justifies us instrumentally; Christ through it meritoriously. Whatever view the Scriptures take of it--release from curse, deliverance from wrath, remission of penalty, acceptance with God--Christ is always the author.

II. To the Christian’s actual life: sanctification.

1. Our death in sin is not only a death in law, but a proper alienation from the life of God. Before we can be restored to communion with God a life of purity must be imparted. Of this Christ is the cause, His Spirit the agent, His word the instrument, His example the model. The outcome of all which is that as He was so are we in the world.

2. But Christ is our life not only as it respects the way in which we are made holy, but as it respects holiness in detail. He is

(a) Faith which gives life to good works, holy tempers, joyful affections; but faith is looking to an object; that object is Christ. It is receiving a gift; that gift is Christ.

(b) Hope. Our anchor is cast within the vail, and is sure and steadfast; but if Christ had not entered first our attempts to cast it had been in vain.

(c) Love. Christ is its object, purifier, director.

III. The Christian’s future life.

1. Of resurrection.

2. Of glory.

1. The subject addresses itself most powerfully to the hearers of the gospel. Preachers labour in vain, hearers listen in vain, if there be no communication of life.

2. To earnest seekers of salvation the subject affords much encouragement. You want pardon, purity, strength, hope. Secure Christ for your life and you will have all.

3. Let Christians learn to be grateful, consistent, useful. (Jabez Bunting, D. D.)

Christ our life

No thoughtful man can be satisfied with a mere worldly life--continued existence, a round of selfish pursuits, and sensual delights which deaden the finest instincts.

I. The vital principle that is recognized. The relation between Christ and His people is vital. Christ is not merely the source and support of their life, but is it. There can be no life--physical, mental, or spiritual--apart from the action of the Divine mind. A- sculptor may carve a most life-like figure, but he cannot impart the vital principle.

1. This life is spiritual in its nature. The Christian is surrounded by material things, and resides in a material body; but his spiritual life is distinct. Christ creates and controls it. It is the life of faith, hope, love.

2. It is eternal in its duration. It does not prevent physical dissolution, but survives it. Christ has given us the fullest assurance of our immortality? It is part of the Divine life; therefore age cannot enfeeble its powers, disease cannot impair its beauty, and death cannot terminate its existence.

3. What is your life? Are you living to gratify the lowest or highest instincts of your nature? If the former your life is not worth living.

II. The splendid spectacle that is predicted.

1. The manner of Christ’s appearing “in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” It is a splendid sight to witness a military review, to see the glittering swords, serried ranks, waving banners, to hear the clattering drums, martial strains, triumphant shout. But no earthly scene is worth comparing with the grandeur and solemnity of the second coming of Christ. Millions were ignorant of His first advent; all shall see His second.

2. Its purpose.

3. Its time. Unknown, and to attempt to settle it is to trifle with God’s Word. When it comes it will be sudden and unexpected.

III. The glorious hope that is awakened. From the cradle to the grave our life is inspired by hope. The Christian hope is--

1. That one day we shall be with Christ. There are earthly companionships for which the heart sighs. Our affections cling to those we love. The believer clings to Christ who is the object of all his hope and desire.

2. That one day we shall participate in Christ’s glory. What that glory is no mind can conceive. Can the seed understand the sweetness and beauty of the flower? the stone the form and grace of the statue? Here God’s children are often poor and unknown. By and by Christ will recognize, honour, crown them. The poet’s fame is brief, the soldier’s glory uncertain, the king’s crown perishable, but the Christian’s triumph certain and eternal. (J. T. Woodhouse.)

Christ our life

Yet to appear.

I. Christ is our life.

1. This is John’s way of talking. “In Him was life,” etc.

2. What is true concerning our spiritual life now is equally true of our spiritual life in heaven.

3. This life of Christ marks our dignity. Kings cannot claim it as such. Talk of their blue blood and pedigree, here is something more.

4. This accounts for Christian holiness. How can a man remain in sin if Christ is his life?

5. See how secure the Christian is. Unless Christ dies he cannot die.

II. Christ is hidden, so, therefore, is our life.

1. TO the unspiritual Christ is as though He did not exist. The worldling can neither see, taste, nor handle Him. Yet unseen as He is He is in heaven, full of joy, pleading before the throne, reigning, and having fellowship with His saints every where.

2. The servant is as his Lord, and is treated accordingly.

III. Christ will one day appear and we with him.

1. How?

2. When? No one knows, and it is impertinent to inquire. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ our life and our hope

There are two things in daily life which exert a great influence over men--fear and hope. A man will work hard through fear that want may come or through hope of bettering his condition. God appeals to both to awaken conscience and stir up the heart to diligence. “Flee from the wrath to come.” “Lay hold on eternal life.” “Mortify,” etc. (verses 5, 6, and text).

I. Christ our life. Many are Christ’s glorious titles, but none more precious than this. Christ is our life inasmuch as He negatively delivers from death. But He does much more. In a positive sense He is our life.

1. In bringing spiritual and eternal life to the soul dead in sin. There is no life without light. When God said, “Let there be light,” life soon came. So “in Him was light, and the light was the life of men.” We cannot believe Christ till we know Him; when we know Him we believe, and by faith comes life. “This is life eternal,” etc.

2. In being the indwelling life of the soul. An infidel once said to a negro, “How can God dwell in man and man in God?” “How can fire be in iron and iron in fire? When the bar is in the furnace,” was the reply. “In Christ.” “Christ in you.”

3. Through the soul’s going out to Him for spiritual life and blessing. Plants stretch towards the light. If they are closed in a dark house, and there be a chink through which the light shines, they will stretch in that direction. Where there is spiritual life it will move towards Christ in faith and love.

4. In being the strength of our life. Herein lies alone our power for good against evil. It is no easy thing to live the Christian life; and forms afford little help against temptation and for duty. The old man must be thrown off and the new man put on, and Christ only is sufficient for that and just as we are strong in Christ shall we be able to discharge the duties here laid down.

II. Christ our hope.

1. The present position of the Christian is good: his prospect is equally good. Hence not only Christ crucified, but Christ coming was the subject of apostolic Leaching. Christ’s first coming was the desire of all nations; His second the grand hope of the Church.

2. His redeemed people will appear with Him.

Christ the life and hope of believers

Paul in the previous verse tells believers that their life is hid. “When shall it be discovered?” they might object. He here tells them.

I. Christ is our life.

1. As its author (John 14:6).

2. As its matter (John 6:48).

3. As its exerciser and actor (John 15:5).

4. As its strengthener and cherisher (Psalms 138:3).

5. As its completer and finisher (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). This being the case let us--

II. Believers shall at last appear glorious ( 15:14; 1 Corinthians 15:43-44; 1 Corinthians 15:51-55; 1 Thessalonians 4:13; Matthew 19:26-28). The reasons are because--

1. The day of their appearing will be the marriage day of the lamb. Mourning weeds will be put off, and glorious robes put on.

2. They shall appear as kings crowned; here they are kings elected with the crown in reversion (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

3. Their enemies and persecutors will see them in their true character as God’s favoured ones.

4. Their manifestation will make much for the honour of Christ. The more glorious the body or the bride, the more glorious the head or bridegroom.

5. The wicked will then justify the goodness and mercy of God in His dealings with His people. Objections will then be answered (Job 21:15; Malachi 3:14).

6. They shall be employed in glorious work (1 Corinthians 6:2-3). (T. Brooks.)

Christ the life and hope of the Church

I. Christ is our life. Our life is bound up with His. He is Source, Medium, Giver. This destroys every hope of obtaining salvation without Him. Then let the sinner trust Him alone; and let this truth fill the Christian with joy.

II. Christ is now hid.

1. He was so to the Old Testament Church, before His first coming; He is so to the New Testament Church before His second coming. There is nothing that speaks to our eyes or ears. But this is true also of God Himself.

2. But as the invisible things of God are manifested in creation, so the invisible things of Christ are made patent by the influence of His preached truth upon the mind and heart. We live “by faith not by sight.”

3. This does not interfere with His purposes of mercy. Both God and Christ can bless without discovery to the senses, and if this fact becomes a snare and an affliction to those who trust Him, it is because they seek Him by sense not by faith.

4. By this arrangement the gospel appeals to the higher elements of our nature, to those faculties which identify us with the angels; and thus it tends to lift us above the seen and temporal. It compels us to think, and should call forth gratitude.

III. Christ shall one day appear.

1. This subject is shrouded in mystery, and every speculation as to the time, etc., has been falsified; which should warn us off, and turn us to practical preparation for His coming.

2. There is a sense in which Christ appears--

3. His second coming is looked forward to not only by the Church on earth. Patriarchs, etc., who never saw Him on earth await it; so do glorified saints who have not forgotten the promises they learned here.

4. The purposes for which He shall appear are important in relation to--

IV. His people shall appear with him in glory.

1. As Christ is hid so are His people. The angels know them (Luke 15:1-32.; Hebrews 1:1-14.) but not the world, and sometimes not one another; and many are hid in heaven.

2. When He appears so will they.

The Christian’s winter and summer

In winter the green tree is like the dry. Summer comes, and the living loot produces leaves and fruits. So our winter is the concealment of Christ, our summer His manifestation (verse 3). Yes, dead full surely. But dead in appearance, alive at the roots. And think of the summer burst which is to follow--when Christ, who is our life, shall appear. Lo, my covenant, dear God! I will die to myself that Thou mayest live in me. (Augustine.)

Anticipations of glory

Do you ever feel like those lions in the Zoological Gardens, restlessly walking up and down before the bars of their cage, and seeming to feel that they were never meant to be confined? Sometimes they are for thrusting their heads through the bars, and then for dashing back and tearing the back of their dungeon, or for rending up the pavement beneath them, as if they yearned for liberty. Does your soul ever want to get free from her cage? Here is an iron bar of sin, of doubt, and there is another iron bar of mistrust and infirmity. You may have seen an eagle with a chain upon its foot, standing on a reck--poor unhappy thing! it flaps its wings--looks up to the sun--wants to fly right straight ahead at it and stare the sun out of countenance--looks to the blue sky, and seems as if it could sniff the blue beyond the dusky clouds, and wants to be away; and so it tries its wings and dreams of mounting--but that chain, that cruel chain, remorselessly holds it down. Has not it often been so with you? You feel, “I am not meant to be what I am; I have a something in me which is adapted for something better and higher, and I want to mount and soar, but that chain--that dragging chain of the body of sin and death will keep me down.” Now it is to such as you that this text comes, and says to you, “Yes, your present state is not your soul’s true condition, you have a hidden life in you; that life of yours pants to get out of the bonds and fetters which control it, and it shall be delivered soon, for Christ is coming, and the same appearance that belongs to Him belongs to you. And then your day of true happiness, and joy, and peace, and everything that you are panting for, and longing for, shall certainly come too.” I wonder whether the little oak inside the acorn--for there is a whole oak there, and there are all the roots, and all the boughs, and everything inside that acorn- I wonder whether that little oak inside the acorn ever has any premonition of the summer weather that will float over it a hundred years hence, and of the mists that will hang in autumn on its sere leaves, and of the hundreds of acorns which itself will cast, every autumn, upon the earth, when it shall become in the forest a great tree. You and I are like that acorn; inside of each of us are the germs of great things. There is the tree that we are to be--I mean there is the spiritual thing we are to be, both in body and soul even now within us, and sometimes here below, in happy moments, we get some inklings of what we are to be; and then how we want to burst the shell, to get out of the acorn and to be the oak! Ay, but stop. Christ has not come, Christian, and you cannot get out of that till the time shall come for Jesus to appear, and then shall’ you appear with Him in glory. You will very soon perceive in your rainwater certain ugly little things which swim and twist about in it, always trying if they can to reach the surface and breathe through one end of their bodies. What makes these little things so lively, these innumerable little things like very small tadpoles, why are they so lively? Possibly they have an idea of what they are going to be. The day will come when all of a sudden there will come out of the case of the creature that you have had swimming about in your water, a long-legged thing with two bright gauze-like wings, which will mount into the air, and on a summer’s evening will dance in the sunlight. It is a gnat you have swimming there in one of its earliest stages. You are just like that; you are an undeveloped being; you have not your wings yet, and yet sometimes in your activity for Christ, when the strong desires of something better are upon you, you leap in foretaste of the bliss to come I do not know what I am to be, but I feel that there is a heart within me too big for these ribs to hold, I have an immortal spark which cannot have been intended to burn on this poor earth, and then to go out; it must have been meant to burn on heaven’s altar. Wait a bit, and when Christ comes you will know what you are. We are in the chrysalis state now, and those who are the liveliest worms among us grow more and more uneasy in that chrysalis state. Some are so frozen up in it that they forget the hereafter, and appear content to remain a chrysalis for ever. But others of us feel we would sooner not be than be what we now are for ever, we feel as if we must burst our bonds, and when that time of bursting shall come, when the chrysalis shall get its painted wings and mount to the land of flowers, then shall we be satisfied. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we also shall appear with Him in glory.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verses 5-9

Colossians 3:5-9

Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth.

Slaying self

Mortify, therefore, because ye were raised with Christ. The homeliest moral teaching of the Epistle is based upon its “mystical” theology,. Character is the outcome and test of doctrine. But too many people deal with their beliefs as they do with their hassocks and hymn-books in their pews, so it is necessary to put the practical issues very plainly.

I. The paradox of self-slaying as the all-embracing duty of a Christian. “Mortify” conveys less than is meant. “Slay your members” is the spiritual duty which stands over against the error of “severity to the body” against which the Colossians had been warned (Colossians 2:23). It consists in the destruction of the passions and desires.

1. Paul’s anthropology regards men as wrong and having to get right. A great deal of moral teaching talks as if men were rather inclined to be good, and its lofty sentiments go over people’s heads. The serpent has twined itself round my limbs, and unless you give me a knife to cut its loathsome coils it is cruel to bid me walk. Culture is not the beginning of good husbandry. You must first stub up the thorns and sift out the poisonous weeds or you will have wild grapes.

2. The root of all such slaying is being dead with Christ to the world. What asceticism cannot do in that it is weak through the flesh, union with Christ will do; it will subdue sin in the flesh.

3. There must, however, he vigorous determination. “Slaying” cannot be pleasant and easy. It is easier to cut off the hand which is not me than to sacrifice passions and desires which are myself. The paths of religion are ways of pleasantness, but they are steep, and climbing is not easy. The way to heaven is not by “the primrose path.” That leads to “the everlasting bonfire.” Men obtain forgiveness and eternal life as a gift by faith; but they achieve holiness, which is the permeating of their characters with that eternal life, by patient believing effort.

II. A grim catalogue of the condemned to death. Paul stands like a jailer at the prison door, with the fatal roll in his hand, and reads out the names of the evildoers for whom the tumbril waits to carry them to the guillotine. It is an ugly list, but we need plain speaking, for these evils are rampant now.

1. Fornication covers the whole ground of immoral sexual relations.

2. All uncleanness embraces every manifestation in word, look, or deed of the impure spirit.

3. Passion and evil desire are sources of evil deeds, and include all forms of hungry appetite for “the things that are upon the earth.”

4. Covetousness, whose connection with sensuality is significant. The worldly nature flies for solace either to the pleasures of appetite or acquisition. How many respectable middle-aged gentlemen are now mainly devoted to making money whose youth was foul with sensual indulgence. Covetousness is “promoted vice, lust superannuated.” And it is idolatry, a fetish worship, which is the religion of thousands who masquerade as Christians.

III. The exhortation is enforced by a solemn note of warning (verse 6).

1. The thought of wrath is unwelcome because thought inconsistent with God’s love. But wrath is love wounded, thrown back upon itself, and compelled to assume the form of aversion, and to do its “strange work” of punishment. God would not be holy if it were all the same to Him whether a man was good or bad; and the modern revulsion against “wrath” is usually accompanied with weakened conceptions of God’s holiness. Instead of exalting, it degrades His love to free it from the admixture of wrath, which is like alloy with gold, giving firmness to what were else too soft for use. Such a God is not love but impotent good nature.

2. The wrath “cometh.” That may express the continuous present incidence of wrath or the present of prophetic certainty. That wrath comes now in plain and bitter consequences, and the present may be taken as the herald of a still more solemn manifestation of the Divine displeasure. The first fiery drops that fell on Lot’s path as he fled were not more surely percursors of an overwhelming rain, nor bade him flee for his life more urgently, than the present punishment of sin proclaims its own future punishment, and exhorts us to flee to Jesus from the wrath to come.

IV. A further motive is the remembrance of a sinful past.

1. “Walking.” That in which men walk is the atmosphere encompassing them; or to walk in anything is to have the active life occupied by it. The Colossians had trodden the evil path and inhaled the poisonous atmosphere. “Lived” means more than “Your natural life was passed among them.” In that sense they still lived there. But whereas they were now living in Christ, the phrase describes the condition which is the opposite of the present--“When the roots of your life, tastes, affections, etc., were immersed, as in some feculent bog, in these and kindred evils.”

2. This retrospect is meant to awaken penitence and to kindle thankfulness, and by both emotions to stimulate the resolute casting aside of that evil in which they once, like others, wallowed. The gulf between the present and the past of a regenerate man is too wide and deep to be bridged by flimsy compromises. It is impossible to walk firmly if one foot be down in the gutter and the other up on the curbstone.

V. We have as conclusion a still wider exhortation to an entire stripping off of the sins of the old state (verses 8, 9).

1. The Colossians, as well as other heathen, had been walking and living in muddy ways; but now their life was hid, etc., and that in common with a community to join which they had left another. Let them keep step with their new comrades, and strip themselves, as their new associates do, of the uniform they wore in that other regiment.

2. This second catalogue of vices summarizes the various forms of wicked hatred in contrast with the various forms of wicked love in the other list. The fierce rush of unhallowed passion is put first, and the contrary flow of chill malignity second; for in the spiritual world as in the physical, a storm blowing from one quarter is usually followed by violent gales from the opposite. Lust ever passes into cruelty, and dwells “hard by hate.” Malice is evil desire iced.

4. Lying has its proper place here because it comes from a deficiency of love or a predominance of selfishness. A lie ignores my brother’s claims upon me, and is poisoned bread instead of the heavenly manna of pure truth. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The flesh to be crucified

A brave officer said once to his soldiers in a day of battle, “Unless you kill your enemies they will kill you.” In like manner may it be said, “Unless we crucify the flesh, it will be our everlasting ruin.”

The mortification of the sinful principle in man

I. The sinful principle has an active outward development.

1. It is mundane in its tendencies. “Your members,” etc. It teaches the soul to grovel when it ought to soar.

2. It is manifested in acts of gross sensuality. “Fornication,” etc.

3. It is recognized by debasing idolatry. Covetousness is insatiable lust for material possessions.

II. The active outgoings of the sinful principle call for Divine vengeance (verse 6). The wrath of God is not a malignant unreasoning passion. Nor is it a figure of speech into which the maudlin philosophers of the day would fain resolve it, but an awful reality.

III. The indulgence of the sinful principle in man is inconsistent with the new life he has in christ (verse 7).

IV. That the sinful principle in man is the source of the most malignant passions (verses 8, 9). The former classification embraced sins which related more especially to self: this includes sins which have a bearing upon others.

1. There are sins of the heart and temper.

2. There are sins of the tongue.

V. The sinful principle in man, and all its out-goings, must be wholly renounced and resolutely mortified. “Now ye also put off all these” (verses 8, 9). (G. Barlow.)

Denying the

flesh:--A brave officer said once to his soldiers in a day of battle, “Unless you kill your enemies, they will kill you.” In like manner may it be said, “Unless we crucify the flesh, it will be our everlasting ruin.”

Mortifying the flesh

Punting after perfection Dr. Judson strove to subdue every sinful habit and senseward tendency. Finding that for want of funds the Mission was languishing, he cast into the treasury his patrimonial estate. Finding that his nicety and love of neatness interfered with his labours among the filthy Karens, he sought to vanquish this repugnance by nursing those sick of most loathsome diseases. Finding that his youthful love of fame was not utterly extinguished, he threw into the fire his correspondence, including a letter of thanks he had received from the Governor General of India, and every document which might contribute to his posthumous renown. And finding that his soul still clave unto the earth, he took temporary leave of all his friends, and retired into a but on the edge of the jungle, and subsisting on a little rice, for several weeks he gave himself entirely to communion with God. (T. Hamilton, D. D.)

Corruptions overcome by grace

My gardeners were removing a large tree which grew near a wall and as it would weaken the wall to stub up the roots, it was agreed that the stump should remain in the ground. But how were we to prevent the stump from sprouting, and so disarranging the gravel-walk. The gardener’s prescription was, to cover it with a layer of salt. I mused awhile, and thought that the readiest way to keep down my ever-sprouting corruptions in future would be to sow them well with the salt of grace. O Lord, help me so to do. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Corruptions overcome gradually

When Sir Christopher Wren was engaged in demolishing the ruins of old St. Paul’s in order to make room for his new cathedral, he used a battering-ram with which thirty men continued to beat upon a part of the wall for a whole day. The work men, not discerning any immediate effect, thought this a waste of time; but Wren, who knew that the internal motion thus communicated must be operating, encouraged them to persevere. On the second day, the wall began to tremble at the top, and fell in a few hours. If our prayers and repentances do not appear to overcome our corruptions, we must continue still to use these gracious battering-rams, for in due time by faith in Jesus Christ the power of evil shall be overthrown. Lord, enable me to give hearty blows by the power of thy Holy Spirit until the gates of hell in my soul shall be made to totter and fall. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Covetousness.

Covetousness

1. Is a thirst for gain. When it burns in a man’s heart, he must make some effort to obtain relief. He must try either to extinguish or satisfy it; to starve it by a religious self-denial, or feed it by a carnal indulgence.

2. Covetousness is ruinous to the individual, to the nation, and to the Church, and the elements which go to constitute the material prosperity of each contain in them the seeds of ruin. Hence the stern exhortation, “Take heed and beware of covetousness.”

I. Its company. Things and men are known by the company they keep. It is the companion of fornication. The collocation is not accidental, it is uniform (1 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:3; 2 Peter 2:14.) When a man has plunged into some fashionable vice, he is indignant to find that the law makes him stand side by side with more vulgar convicts. So with covetous people who find themselves here branded with the same infamy as the unclean. All its respectability is here stripped off. Covetousness is like sins of uncleanness, in that it is--

1. The unlawful direction and acting of desires not in themselves unlawful. Its great strength lies here. The complex apparatus of trade is innocently and dutifully set in motion; but who shall tell when it ceases to be impelled by virtue and begins to be impelled by vice. But the evil spirit enters, and when mammon gets the power, he allows others to retain the name: and the love of money takes the place of a God-fearing, man-loving sense of duty, as the motive-power in a man’s soul.

2. It grows by indulgence. It grows by what it feeds on. The desire of the mind as well as of the body is inflamed by tasting its unhallowed gratification. It burns in the breast like a fire, and fuel added, increases its burning. And the man who makes money an object to be aimed at for its own sake is by common consent called a miser (miserable one). Mammon first entraps, and then tortures its victims. Many would be afraid to dally with approaches to lasciviousness (Proverbs 5:5). But the two lusts are born brothers.

3. The least incipient indulgence displeases God, and sears the conscience. Although the disease may never grow to such a height that men will call you a miser, yet He who looketh on the heart is angry when He sees a covetous desire. He who has said “Whoso looketh on a woman to lust after her,” etc., has not a more indulgent rule whereby to judge this kindred sin.

II. Its character. Idolatry. Other Scriptures less directly, but no less surely, affirm the same (Luke 16:13; 1 Timothy 6:17; Job 31:25-28). It is not the form or name of the idol that God regards, but the heart-homage of the worshipper. This leads us back to the former topic; idolatry is represented as uncleanness in the Bible. God is our Husband, and to transfer our affections from Him is adultery. (W. Arnot, D. D.)
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Covetousness

The Romans worshipped their standards; and the Roman standard happened to be an eagle. Our standard is only one-tenth of an eagle--a dollar--but we make all even by adoring it with tenfold devotion. (Edgar A. Poe.)

Gold in the heart

Mr. Fuller was one day taken into the Bank of England, where one of the clerks, to whom he had occasion to speak, showed him some ingots of gold. He took one of them into his hand, examined it with some care, and then, laying it down, remarked to his friend, “How much better to have this in the hand than in the heart!”

Covetousness is idolatry

I. What is covetousness?

1. There is a good covetousness (1 Corinthians 12:31), as of grace and glory.

2. Sinful: to love the world inordinately.

(a) As to matter--another’s goods (1 Kings 21:1-29.).

(b) As to manner and means--unjust (Proverbs 10:2; Proverbs 28:8).

II. What is idolatry?

1. External.

2. Internal: worship given to what is not God (John 4:24).

III. How is covetousness idolatry?

1. In that

2. Objections.

IV. Signs.

1. Such as whose thoughts run more upon earth than heaven (Luke 12:22; Luke 12:25; Luke 12:29).

2. Whose joy and grief depend on out ward successes (Luke 12:19).

3. Who strive to be rich, but no matter how.

4. Whose desires increase with their estate.

5. Who grudge the time spent in Divine duty (Amos 8:5).

6. Whose hearts are upon the world, while their body is before God (Ezekiel 33:31).

7. Who do not improve the estates God has given them (Matthew 25:24-25).

V. USE. Avoid it. Consider--

1. How odious it is to God (Psalms 10:3).

2. How injurious to our neighbour.

3. Dangerous to us (1 John 2:15; 1 Timothy 6:10). It fills the heart with anxiety (1 Timothy 6:9-10) and will certainly keep us from heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

4. Foolish in itself.

VI. Means.

1. Think much of the vanity of earth and the glory of heaven.

2. Act faith in the promises (Psalms 37:25; Hebrews 13:5).

3. Meditate on the universal providence of God, and His fatherly care (Luke 12:31-32; Matthew 6:25, etc.).

4. Be much in prayer.

5. Often remember the text (1 John 5:21). (Bp. Beveridge.)

The idolatry of covetousness

Idolatry is the earliest thing mentioned in the decalogue, and coveting the latest. The two tables bend round and touch each other so closely that he who breaks the tenth commandment breaks the first. The inordinate love and pursuit of wealth are simply heathenish, and are put down on the same level as the worship of images. Gold seems in many respects very like a god.

I. In the attributes it possesses.

1. Omniscience. Wealth seems to know everything. Let any novelty be presented and men will know of it instantly. You cannot keep any plan or line of business secret if there is any money in it.

2. Omnipresence. The least opening for business invites competition, and so wealth rushes in. “Mammon wins its way where seraphs might despair.”

3. Omnipotence. How many of us know to our sorrow the power of riches! the overmastering, crushing opposition it sets up before every poor man’s enterprise. Gold rules the world, covers the land, buys up the offices of the nation, sways the sceptre of social influence.

II. The worship it attracts.

1. The roar of excited men who clamour with each other in the death grapple of competition, how little does it differ from the cries of the Town Hall of Ephesus.

2. But this is not mere lip-worship. The devotees are as desperately in earnest as the priests of Baal on Carmel. Body and soul are consecrated.

III. The favours it bestows. The fine residence, the gorgeous apparel, the flowing wine, the tremulous obeisance of the seedy gentleman, the obsequious flattery of the lady whose charms have faded, the adulation of the crowd, the flutter in the market, the cringe of ancient enemies; and then the fine funeral, and the marble tomb. “Verily they have their reward.” Wealth, as a duty, is not remarkably beneficent, but it would be uncandid to say that he has nothing to bestow on his faithful devotees. The world likes priestcraft; and the priest has power according to his nearness to his duty, and to the faith of the populace. And hence there is no hierarchy so absolutely revered, feared, and obeyed as those who crowd the temples of gold.

IV. The scourges it inflicts. The temples of heathenism are beautiful, but the gods are ugly because malignant. They are supposed to maltreat and even eat their subjects, and mammon is well typed in them. His most noticeable characteristic is that he loves to trample on and devour his devotees. “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall.” There are some sins which seem to be considered by the Almighty as sufficient for their own punishment, such as pride and anger; passion means suffering. So here this trusting in riches possesses a kind of inflated power to baloon one up to such a height that he suffocates and falls headlong into ruin. It is painful to see how rich men pitch on each other when any one falls into difficulty. The horrible heartlessness with which a neighbourhood will devour a broken estate reminds one of the fabled furies. Conclusion:

1. See, then, why God strikes against this sin. It sets up another god in the place of Him. One of the Roman Emperors offered Jesus a place beside Jupiter. It would not do then, neither will it now. God will have all or none.

2. See how covetousness destroys grace and piety. “What agreement hath the temple of God with idols?”

3. See how it ruins all one’s future, “Ephraim is joined to his idols,” etc. But when one’s god is gone, where is he! Shrouds have no pockets.

4. See how it prevents all hope of progress in a Church. “Will a man rob God,” etc. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh.--

Dissuasives from evil

I. The destructive consequence

1. The cause, “fornication,” etc., not that we should conclude that it is peculiar to these sins alone to excite the Divine wrath, but because upon these which especially overthrow human happiness God is especially provoked (Hebrews 10:31). The apostle wished to point out distinctly the cause of human misery and Divine judgment.

2. The effect. The wrath of God; or the punishment inflicted by wrath. Augustine says, “The anger of God is not the perturbation of an excited mind, but the tranquil constitution of righteous judgment. This wrath is particularly connected with sins of the kind referred to here (Genesis 6:11; Genesis 6:17; Genesis 18:20; Genesis 19:24).

3. The persons subjected to it “Children of disobedience.” Two crimes are involved--unbelief and disobedience, the latter as the genuine offspring of the former (1 Peter 3:20; Matthew 24:38-39 : Genesis 19:14; Zechariah 7:11).

4. From these things draw the following instructions.

II. The removal of the cause (verse 7). Sin is the reigning cause of a wicked life; but sin is not living in you, but mortified; the cause, therefore, having ceased, the effect ceases.

1. From the consideration of their former life learn--

2. From their new state learn--

(a) To gratitude (Romans 6:17; 1 Timothy 1:12-13).

(b) To newness of life (Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:8). (Bishop Davenant.)

The wrath of God a present thing

It is not merely a thing of the past, as seen in the deluge, the destruction of Sodom, the overthrow of Israel in the wilderness; nor a thing wholly reserved for the world to come. It cometh as an enduring and essential principle of the Divine government. In physical debility and disease, in a shattered constitution, in dethroned reason, in destroyed power, you often witness the working of a righteous retribution, the marks of Divine indignation against sin. A sight of terrible penalty under God’s law is it, to see a man carrying to a premature grave the evidences in his body of God’s curse on sins of sensuality; to see the rich man, who has lived in avarice for gold, and has amassed it in millions, now in his old age unable to enjoy it, and haunted with the idea of dying in a workhouse; to see a man of pleasure, who has tried and exhausted all the resources of the world in finding it, now ending his days as a gloomy maniac. Yet these cases are nothing as compared with “the wrath to come; “only a few drops from a dark and dismal cloud, which will hereafter discharge itself in a storm of “judgment and fiery indignation.” (J. Spence, D. D.)

The children of disobedience

Men are sent to the ants to learn diligence, to the conies to learn that there is a way which terminates in a great rock, to the locusts to learn how littles, when combined, may become mighty, sufficient for all the duty and obligation of the day. What if it be found at last that all the lower orders and ranks of creation have been obedient, dutiful, loyal, and that the child only has wounded the great heart. “The ox knoweth his owner,” etc. God has no trouble with His creatures--no trouble with His great constellations--they never mutinied against Him; He has had no trouble with His forests, no rebel host ever banded themselves there. Where has His sorrow lain! His own child, His beloved one, in whom He has written, in fairest hues, the perfectness of His own beauty, that child has lifted up his puny fist and smitten Him, not in the face only, but in His heart of love, which can be only forgiven by shedding sacrificial blood. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Effects of disobedience

“Let the sickles alone,” said a farmer to his son, who was left in the fields while the reapers went to dinner. James obeyed his father for a time; but at length he grew lonesome, and took up a sickle, “just to look at it.” He then felt its edge, and at last thought he would cut “one handful.” In so doing, he cut his little finger, inflicting a wound which rendered the middle joint useless for life. When it was healed an ugly scar and a stiff finger were lasting mementoes of his disobedience. Disobedience to his heavenly Father leaves a scar on the sinner’s soul, and lessens his capacity for virtue. (E. Foster.)

The wrath of God

The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the higher the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. If God should only withdraw His hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it. (Jonathan Edwards.)

But now ye also put off all these.--

The believer’s view of past sin

I once walked into a garden with a lady to gather some flowers. There was one large bush whose branches were bending under the weight of the most beautiful roses. We both gazed upon it with admiration. There was one flower on it which seemed to shine above all the rest in beauty. This lady pressed forward into the thick bush, and reached far over to pluck it. As she did this a black snake, which was hid in the bush, wrapped itself round her arm. She was alarmed beyond all description, and ran from the garden screaming, and almost in convulsions. During all that day she suffered very much with fear; her whole body trembled, and it was a long time before she could be quieted. That lady is still alive. Such is her hatred now of the whole serpent race, that she has never since been able to look at a snake, even though it were dead. No one could ever persuade her to venture again into a cluster of bushes, even to pluck a beautiful rose. Now this is the way the sinner acts who truly repents of his sins. He thinks of sin as the serpent that once coiled itself round him. He hates it. He dreads it. He flies from it. He fears the places where it inhabits. He does not willingly go into the haunts. He will no more play with sin than this lady would afterwards have fondled snakes. (Bishop Meade.)

Conversion and the old nature

There are a great many men who are like one of my roses. I bought a Gloire de Dijon. It was said to be one of the few everblooming roses. It was grafted on a manetti-stalk--a kind of dog-rose, a rampant and enormous grower, and a very good stalk to graft fine roses on. I planted it. It throve the first part of the summer, and the last part of the summer it grew with great vigour; and I quite gloried, when the next spring came, in my Gloire de Dijon. It had wood enough to make twenty such roses as these finer varieties usually have; and I was in the amplitude of triumph. I said, “My soil suits it exactly in this climate; and I will write an article for the Monthly Gardener, and tell what luck I have had with it.” So I waited and waited and waited till at blossomed; and behold! it was one of these worthless, quarter-of-a-dollar, single-blossomed roses. And when I came to examine it I found that it was grafted, and that there was a little bit of a graft down near the ground, and that it was the manetti-sprout that had grown to such a prodigious size. Now, I have seen a great many people converted, in whom the conversion did not grow, but the old nature did. (H. W. Beecher.)

I. The general persuasion.

1. The circumstance of time--“now.” Ye did indulge in these as long as sin lived, but now, since sin is mortified, ye must put these things away (Romans 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6).

2. The act commanded. The word may be explained either to “put off” as men put off their old and dirty clothes, or to “lay aside” from the affections and senses, as dead bodies shut up in sepulchres. The last best agrees with “mortify.”

3. Learn then--

II. We are to put off sins of the heart.

1. What they are.

2. The reasons why they should be extirpated. Because--

3. But is all anger unlawful? No! for God has implanted in the mind the faculty of anger, and Christ was angry (Mark 3:5). Hence the apostle enjoins, “Be ye angry and sin not.”

(a)Which arises from a good motive, viz., from the love of God or our neighbour.

(b) Which tends to a good end, the glory of God and the correction of our neighbour.

(c) Which proceeds according to a good rule, awaiting or following the determination of reason. Basil would have anger to be a bridled horse, which obeys reason as a curb.

(a) Which arises from a bad beginning--hatred or love of praise.

(b) Which tends to a bad end--revenge and our neighbour’s injury.

(c) Which is exercised in an improper manner, forestalling the judgment of reason.

III. Sins of the mouth, arising from the inordinate affections of the heart.

1. What they are.

(a) It is offered to God; first, when that which is repugnant to His nature is attributed to Him; secondly, when that which most befits Him is taken away; thirdly, when that which is His property is attributed to the creature. So heinous was it that God made it a capital crime (Leviticus 24:16; Leviticus 24:23).

(b) It is offered to man (Romans 3:8; 1 Corinthians 4:13; Titus 3:2), and is secret (detraction) and open (railing). Rash and angry persons take the open course; the crafty and malicious the secret. Its grievousness is evident. First, it greatly injures the person himself. His reputation, a principal external blessing is wounded, and is not easy to repair, since the quantity of the loss cannot be estimated. Secondly, it greatly injures those who take it up, engendering as it does suspicions and strifes (Psalms 120:2). Thirdly, it is a great injury done to God. For as He is praised in the saints when the works He effects in them are praised; so when they are defamed He is defamed.

(a) Such as respect the blasphemers. First, the habit argues an unregenerate state, for it is one of the principal deeds of the old man. Second, slanderers are unhappy, for, as Nazianzen says, “It is the extreme of misery to place one’s comfort not in one’s own happiness, but in the evils of others.” Third, they are the disciples of the devil (Revelation 12:10).

(b) Such as respect hearers. First, since it is so great a crime, those who delight to hear it are not void of sin. Each has a devil; this in the ear, that in the tongue. Second, it behoves a pious man to turn away from and reprove slanderers, and to defend his brother (Proverbs 25:23; Psalms 101:5; Job 29:17).

(c) Respecting those injured. First, grieve more for the slanderer than for what he says. Second, slander harms not a good conscience. Third, there is the counterbalancing testimony of conscience and good men. Fourth, do not be provoked to return evil for evil (1 Corinthians 5:12).

2. Filthy communication (Ephesians 2:29; 1 Corinthians 15:33). This is to be avoided because--

Anger

There is an anger that in damnable; it is the anger of selfishness. There is an anger that is majestic as the frown of Jehovah’s brow; it is the anger of truth and love. If a man meets with injustice, it is not required that he should not be roused to meet it; but if he is angry after he has had time to think upon it that is sinful. The flame is not wrong, but the coals are. (H. W. Beecher.)

The evils of bad temper

There are households where this demon of anger governs all at its pleasure, incessantly troubling the concord of husband and wife, the union of parents and children, and the peace of masters and servants. There is nothing done, nothing said, but in anger. You would say of these houses, that they are the fabled cavern of Eolus, where the winds shut up in it are heard night and day, roaring and blustering. There is no climate, no sea, no coast in all the earth, where storms are greater or more frequent. For whereas natural tempests happen but at some seasons of the year, in these miserable houses no calm is ever seen; and there needs but one petty action, one word, yea, one look, to raise storms of many days’ continuance: as it is said of certain lakes in the mountains of Berne, that if one cast but a stone into them, the surrounding air becomes turbid, and is immediately filled with winds and clouds, which soon issue lightning, thunder, and excessive rain. Yea, there are some whose passion is so violent, that it cannot be kept within the enclosure of their houses. It issues out of doors, and without respect to the faces of those who pass by, without apprehension of scandal, audaciously shows itself in public, and acts its tragedies in the presence of all the world. (J. Daille.)

Control of temper

When M. de Persigny was French Minister of the Interior he received a visit one day from a friend. A warm discussion arose between them. Suddenly an usher entered and handed the minister a note. On opening it he at once changed his tone of voice, and assumed a quiet and urbane manner. Puzzled as to the contents of the note, and by the marked effect it had suddenly produced upon the minister, his friend cast a furtive glance at it, when, to his astonishment, he perceived that it was simply a plain sheet of paper. More puzzled than ever the gentleman took his leave, and proceeded to interrogate the usher. “Sir,” said he, “here is the explanation, which I must beg you to keep secret. My master is very liable to lose his temper. As he is aware of his weakness, he has ordered me, each time his voice is raised sufficient to be audible in the ante-room, without delay to place a sheet of paper in an envelope and take it to him. That reminds him that his temper is getting the better of him, and he at once calms himself. Just now I heard his voice rising, and immediately carried out my instructions.” (W. Baxendale.)

Malice

The word is of great extent, and signifies in general that venom and evil of sin which is diffused through any one of our passions, whichever it be. But here, as frequently elsewhere, I suppose it is taken for the malignity of anger; when a mischievous and vindictive stomach inwardly broods on its passion, and feeds its fire under the ashes, hatching some ill turn for the person it aims at, and waiting for opportunity to break out. Such a man works under ground, as miners do, and appears not till the ruin he prepares for his enemy is fully ready. His passion is like a stinted fire, that does not burn up till its season. Of all kinds of auger, there is none more black and malignant in itself, or more noxious and pernicious in its effects. Wherefore the apostle calls it malice, naughtiness, or malignity particularly; and it seems to be the same thing he elsewhere calls bitterness. (J. Daille.)

Blasphemy, its nature

Though the term, in our tongue, imports words spoken to the offence of God, when things unworthy of his greatness, and holiness, and truth, are attributed to Him, or those which belong to Him are denied Him; or when that which is proper to His divinity is communicated to creatures; yet in the Greek, that is, in the language the apostle speaks, the word “blasphemy” generally signifies any offensive, injurious speech, whoever it concerns, whether God, or angels, or men. Tim truth is, this word, if we respect its origin or etymology, simply denotes injuring the reputation, or offending some one’s honour. Consequently, St. Paul uses it not only here, but also in other places, to signify such revilings and detractions as are directed properly to men, and not to God (1 Corinthians 4:13; Titus 3:2). (J. Daille.)

The evil speaker

While the Lord desires us to consider the good qualities with which He has endowed His creatures, to the end that we might praise and esteem them, and imitate them, the evil-speaker looks upon nothing but their defects and vices. And as vultures fly over fair meadows, and flowery and sweet-smelling fields, and alight only on dunghills, and places full of carrion and infection; and as flies, without touching the sound parts of the body, fasten only upon sores and ulcers; so the evil-speaker, without so much as noticing what is graceful and happy in the lives of men, falls upon that which is weak and sickly in them. If they have chanced to stumble, as is very ordinary in this infirmity of our nature, it is upon this that he fixes; in this he takes pleasure, this he gladly exposes and publishes, amplifying and exaggerating it with his infernal rhetoric. It is by this he knows persons; it is by this he marks them out and describes them; as bad painters, who represent nothing so exactly as the moles and scars of the faces which they draw, the deformity of the nose, the protuberance of the lips, and other such marks which they have from the birth, or receive by some accident. Charity covers sins, and forgets them; the evil-speaker divulges them, and remembers them perpetually, and takes out of the grave that which had been buried in oblivion, and brings it to light again. He loves pollution, and feeds on nothing but poisons and filth. And for this end he has always a sufficient store of such provision by him. His memory is a magazine, or rather a sink, where he heaps up the villainies, the sins, and the scandals, not of his own neighbourhood, or his own quarter only, but of the whole city; yea, if he possibly can, of the whole state. It is from this diabolical treasury that he derives the subject of his sweetest thoughts and most pleasing entertainments. These things are his perfumes and his dainties. But he is not content only to rake together and lay open the imperfections which he finds in his neighbours; he is so malignant that he feigns more, and fancies some where there are none. He spreads it abroad for truth; and that he may persuade others of it, he artificially colours his fictions, giving out shows for truths, and shadows for substances. He so bitterly hates all good, that where he sees any he bespatters, blackens, and disguises it, and causes it to pass for evil. And as the snail sullies the lustre of the fairest flowers with its sordid slime; just so this bad man, by the poison of his malignity, defames the most grateful virtues, and turns them into vices. He takes valour for temerity, and patience for stupidity: justice for cruelty, and prudence for craftiness. Him that is liberal he calls prodigal, and the frugal person covetous. If you be religious, be will not fail to accuse you of superstition; and if you be free and generous, and far from superstition, he will accuse you of being profane. In fact, there is no virtue nor perfection for which this wicked man has not found an infamous name, taken from the vice that borders next upon it. To this iniquity he usually adds a base and black piece of treachery, when, to cause his poisons to be the more easily swallowed, he mischievously sugars them, beginning his detractions with a preface of praise, and with an affected commendation of the persons whom he intends to revile; protesting, at his entrance, that he loves and respects them, for the purpose of creating a belief that it is nothing but the mere force and evidence of truth that constrains him to speak evil of them. He kisses his man at meeting, and then murders him, as Joab formerly did: he crowns his victims before he kills them: a fraud which, notwithstanding its ordinary occurrence, is the blackest that can be perpetrated. (J. Daille.)

Slander cannot be recalled

A lady presented herself to Philip Neri one day, accusing herself of being a slanderer. “Do you frequently fall into this fault?” inquired he. “Yes, my father, very often.” “My dear child,” said Philip, “your fault is great, but the mercy of God is still greater. For your penance do as follows: Go purchase a chicken, and walk a certain distance, plucking the feathers as you go along. Your walk finished, return to me.” Accordingly she repaired to the market, did as she was bidden, and in a short time returned. “Ah,” said Philip, “you have been very faithful to the first part of my orders. Retrace your steps, and gather up one by one all the feathers you have scattered.” “But, father,” exclaimed the poor woman, “I cast them carelessly on every side; the wind carried them in every direction. How can I recover them?” “Well, my child,” replied he, “so is it with your words of slander; like the feathers, they have been scattered. Call them back if you can. Go and sin no more.” (W. Baxendale.)

Filthy conversation

As offensive breath betokens some inward indisposition and corruption; so filthy and dishonest conversation discovers the impurity and unchastity that are in the soul of him who uses it. Hence the apostle in another place expressly puts this among other parts of Christian sanctity, that our conversation be pure, chaste, and honest (Ephesians 5:3-4; Ephesians 4:29). (J. Daille.)

Purity of conversation

It is related that General Grant was once sitting in his tent with officers around him, when a general came in in much glee and said: “I have a good story to tell; there are no ladies present, I believe.” “No,” said General Grant, “but there are gentlemen present.” The man’s countenance fell; the good story was never told. Some Christians could learn a good lesson from the great commander’s remark. (Christian, Boston.)


Verses 5-9

Colossians 3:5-9

Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth.

Slaying self

Mortify, therefore, because ye were raised with Christ. The homeliest moral teaching of the Epistle is based upon its “mystical” theology,. Character is the outcome and test of doctrine. But too many people deal with their beliefs as they do with their hassocks and hymn-books in their pews, so it is necessary to put the practical issues very plainly.

I. The paradox of self-slaying as the all-embracing duty of a Christian. “Mortify” conveys less than is meant. “Slay your members” is the spiritual duty which stands over against the error of “severity to the body” against which the Colossians had been warned (Colossians 2:23). It consists in the destruction of the passions and desires.

1. Paul’s anthropology regards men as wrong and having to get right. A great deal of moral teaching talks as if men were rather inclined to be good, and its lofty sentiments go over people’s heads. The serpent has twined itself round my limbs, and unless you give me a knife to cut its loathsome coils it is cruel to bid me walk. Culture is not the beginning of good husbandry. You must first stub up the thorns and sift out the poisonous weeds or you will have wild grapes.

2. The root of all such slaying is being dead with Christ to the world. What asceticism cannot do in that it is weak through the flesh, union with Christ will do; it will subdue sin in the flesh.

3. There must, however, he vigorous determination. “Slaying” cannot be pleasant and easy. It is easier to cut off the hand which is not me than to sacrifice passions and desires which are myself. The paths of religion are ways of pleasantness, but they are steep, and climbing is not easy. The way to heaven is not by “the primrose path.” That leads to “the everlasting bonfire.” Men obtain forgiveness and eternal life as a gift by faith; but they achieve holiness, which is the permeating of their characters with that eternal life, by patient believing effort.

II. A grim catalogue of the condemned to death. Paul stands like a jailer at the prison door, with the fatal roll in his hand, and reads out the names of the evildoers for whom the tumbril waits to carry them to the guillotine. It is an ugly list, but we need plain speaking, for these evils are rampant now.

1. Fornication covers the whole ground of immoral sexual relations.

2. All uncleanness embraces every manifestation in word, look, or deed of the impure spirit.

3. Passion and evil desire are sources of evil deeds, and include all forms of hungry appetite for “the things that are upon the earth.”

4. Covetousness, whose connection with sensuality is significant. The worldly nature flies for solace either to the pleasures of appetite or acquisition. How many respectable middle-aged gentlemen are now mainly devoted to making money whose youth was foul with sensual indulgence. Covetousness is “promoted vice, lust superannuated.” And it is idolatry, a fetish worship, which is the religion of thousands who masquerade as Christians.

III. The exhortation is enforced by a solemn note of warning (verse 6).

1. The thought of wrath is unwelcome because thought inconsistent with God’s love. But wrath is love wounded, thrown back upon itself, and compelled to assume the form of aversion, and to do its “strange work” of punishment. God would not be holy if it were all the same to Him whether a man was good or bad; and the modern revulsion against “wrath” is usually accompanied with weakened conceptions of God’s holiness. Instead of exalting, it degrades His love to free it from the admixture of wrath, which is like alloy with gold, giving firmness to what were else too soft for use. Such a God is not love but impotent good nature.

2. The wrath “cometh.” That may express the continuous present incidence of wrath or the present of prophetic certainty. That wrath comes now in plain and bitter consequences, and the present may be taken as the herald of a still more solemn manifestation of the Divine displeasure. The first fiery drops that fell on Lot’s path as he fled were not more surely percursors of an overwhelming rain, nor bade him flee for his life more urgently, than the present punishment of sin proclaims its own future punishment, and exhorts us to flee to Jesus from the wrath to come.

IV. A further motive is the remembrance of a sinful past.

1. “Walking.” That in which men walk is the atmosphere encompassing them; or to walk in anything is to have the active life occupied by it. The Colossians had trodden the evil path and inhaled the poisonous atmosphere. “Lived” means more than “Your natural life was passed among them.” In that sense they still lived there. But whereas they were now living in Christ, the phrase describes the condition which is the opposite of the present--“When the roots of your life, tastes, affections, etc., were immersed, as in some feculent bog, in these and kindred evils.”

2. This retrospect is meant to awaken penitence and to kindle thankfulness, and by both emotions to stimulate the resolute casting aside of that evil in which they once, like others, wallowed. The gulf between the present and the past of a regenerate man is too wide and deep to be bridged by flimsy compromises. It is impossible to walk firmly if one foot be down in the gutter and the other up on the curbstone.

V. We have as conclusion a still wider exhortation to an entire stripping off of the sins of the old state (verses 8, 9).

1. The Colossians, as well as other heathen, had been walking and living in muddy ways; but now their life was hid, etc., and that in common with a community to join which they had left another. Let them keep step with their new comrades, and strip themselves, as their new associates do, of the uniform they wore in that other regiment.

2. This second catalogue of vices summarizes the various forms of wicked hatred in contrast with the various forms of wicked love in the other list. The fierce rush of unhallowed passion is put first, and the contrary flow of chill malignity second; for in the spiritual world as in the physical, a storm blowing from one quarter is usually followed by violent gales from the opposite. Lust ever passes into cruelty, and dwells “hard by hate.” Malice is evil desire iced.

4. Lying has its proper place here because it comes from a deficiency of love or a predominance of selfishness. A lie ignores my brother’s claims upon me, and is poisoned bread instead of the heavenly manna of pure truth. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The flesh to be crucified

A brave officer said once to his soldiers in a day of battle, “Unless you kill your enemies they will kill you.” In like manner may it be said, “Unless we crucify the flesh, it will be our everlasting ruin.”

The mortification of the sinful principle in man

I. The sinful principle has an active outward development.

1. It is mundane in its tendencies. “Your members,” etc. It teaches the soul to grovel when it ought to soar.

2. It is manifested in acts of gross sensuality. “Fornication,” etc.

3. It is recognized by debasing idolatry. Covetousness is insatiable lust for material possessions.

II. The active outgoings of the sinful principle call for Divine vengeance (verse 6). The wrath of God is not a malignant unreasoning passion. Nor is it a figure of speech into which the maudlin philosophers of the day would fain resolve it, but an awful reality.

III. The indulgence of the sinful principle in man is inconsistent with the new life he has in christ (verse 7).

IV. That the sinful principle in man is the source of the most malignant passions (verses 8, 9). The former classification embraced sins which related more especially to self: this includes sins which have a bearing upon others.

1. There are sins of the heart and temper.

2. There are sins of the tongue.

V. The sinful principle in man, and all its out-goings, must be wholly renounced and resolutely mortified. “Now ye also put off all these” (verses 8, 9). (G. Barlow.)

Denying the

flesh:--A brave officer said once to his soldiers in a day of battle, “Unless you kill your enemies, they will kill you.” In like manner may it be said, “Unless we crucify the flesh, it will be our everlasting ruin.”

Mortifying the flesh

Punting after perfection Dr. Judson strove to subdue every sinful habit and senseward tendency. Finding that for want of funds the Mission was languishing, he cast into the treasury his patrimonial estate. Finding that his nicety and love of neatness interfered with his labours among the filthy Karens, he sought to vanquish this repugnance by nursing those sick of most loathsome diseases. Finding that his youthful love of fame was not utterly extinguished, he threw into the fire his correspondence, including a letter of thanks he had received from the Governor General of India, and every document which might contribute to his posthumous renown. And finding that his soul still clave unto the earth, he took temporary leave of all his friends, and retired into a but on the edge of the jungle, and subsisting on a little rice, for several weeks he gave himself entirely to communion with God. (T. Hamilton, D. D.)

Corruptions overcome by grace

My gardeners were removing a large tree which grew near a wall and as it would weaken the wall to stub up the roots, it was agreed that the stump should remain in the ground. But how were we to prevent the stump from sprouting, and so disarranging the gravel-walk. The gardener’s prescription was, to cover it with a layer of salt. I mused awhile, and thought that the readiest way to keep down my ever-sprouting corruptions in future would be to sow them well with the salt of grace. O Lord, help me so to do. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Corruptions overcome gradually

When Sir Christopher Wren was engaged in demolishing the ruins of old St. Paul’s in order to make room for his new cathedral, he used a battering-ram with which thirty men continued to beat upon a part of the wall for a whole day. The work men, not discerning any immediate effect, thought this a waste of time; but Wren, who knew that the internal motion thus communicated must be operating, encouraged them to persevere. On the second day, the wall began to tremble at the top, and fell in a few hours. If our prayers and repentances do not appear to overcome our corruptions, we must continue still to use these gracious battering-rams, for in due time by faith in Jesus Christ the power of evil shall be overthrown. Lord, enable me to give hearty blows by the power of thy Holy Spirit until the gates of hell in my soul shall be made to totter and fall. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Covetousness.

Covetousness

1. Is a thirst for gain. When it burns in a man’s heart, he must make some effort to obtain relief. He must try either to extinguish or satisfy it; to starve it by a religious self-denial, or feed it by a carnal indulgence.

2. Covetousness is ruinous to the individual, to the nation, and to the Church, and the elements which go to constitute the material prosperity of each contain in them the seeds of ruin. Hence the stern exhortation, “Take heed and beware of covetousness.”

I. Its company. Things and men are known by the company they keep. It is the companion of fornication. The collocation is not accidental, it is uniform (1 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:3; 2 Peter 2:14.) When a man has plunged into some fashionable vice, he is indignant to find that the law makes him stand side by side with more vulgar convicts. So with covetous people who find themselves here branded with the same infamy as the unclean. All its respectability is here stripped off. Covetousness is like sins of uncleanness, in that it is--

1. The unlawful direction and acting of desires not in themselves unlawful. Its great strength lies here. The complex apparatus of trade is innocently and dutifully set in motion; but who shall tell when it ceases to be impelled by virtue and begins to be impelled by vice. But the evil spirit enters, and when mammon gets the power, he allows others to retain the name: and the love of money takes the place of a God-fearing, man-loving sense of duty, as the motive-power in a man’s soul.

2. It grows by indulgence. It grows by what it feeds on. The desire of the mind as well as of the body is inflamed by tasting its unhallowed gratification. It burns in the breast like a fire, and fuel added, increases its burning. And the man who makes money an object to be aimed at for its own sake is by common consent called a miser (miserable one). Mammon first entraps, and then tortures its victims. Many would be afraid to dally with approaches to lasciviousness (Proverbs 5:5). But the two lusts are born brothers.

3. The least incipient indulgence displeases God, and sears the conscience. Although the disease may never grow to such a height that men will call you a miser, yet He who looketh on the heart is angry when He sees a covetous desire. He who has said “Whoso looketh on a woman to lust after her,” etc., has not a more indulgent rule whereby to judge this kindred sin.

II. Its character. Idolatry. Other Scriptures less directly, but no less surely, affirm the same (Luke 16:13; 1 Timothy 6:17; Job 31:25-28). It is not the form or name of the idol that God regards, but the heart-homage of the worshipper. This leads us back to the former topic; idolatry is represented as uncleanness in the Bible. God is our Husband, and to transfer our affections from Him is adultery. (W. Arnot, D. D.)
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Covetousness

The Romans worshipped their standards; and the Roman standard happened to be an eagle. Our standard is only one-tenth of an eagle--a dollar--but we make all even by adoring it with tenfold devotion. (Edgar A. Poe.)

Gold in the heart

Mr. Fuller was one day taken into the Bank of England, where one of the clerks, to whom he had occasion to speak, showed him some ingots of gold. He took one of them into his hand, examined it with some care, and then, laying it down, remarked to his friend, “How much better to have this in the hand than in the heart!”

Covetousness is idolatry

I. What is covetousness?

1. There is a good covetousness (1 Corinthians 12:31), as of grace and glory.

2. Sinful: to love the world inordinately.

(a) As to matter--another’s goods (1 Kings 21:1-29.).

(b) As to manner and means--unjust (Proverbs 10:2; Proverbs 28:8).

II. What is idolatry?

1. External.

2. Internal: worship given to what is not God (John 4:24).

III. How is covetousness idolatry?

1. In that

2. Objections.

IV. Signs.

1. Such as whose thoughts run more upon earth than heaven (Luke 12:22; Luke 12:25; Luke 12:29).

2. Whose joy and grief depend on out ward successes (Luke 12:19).

3. Who strive to be rich, but no matter how.

4. Whose desires increase with their estate.

5. Who grudge the time spent in Divine duty (Amos 8:5).

6. Whose hearts are upon the world, while their body is before God (Ezekiel 33:31).

7. Who do not improve the estates God has given them (Matthew 25:24-25).

V. USE. Avoid it. Consider--

1. How odious it is to God (Psalms 10:3).

2. How injurious to our neighbour.

3. Dangerous to us (1 John 2:15; 1 Timothy 6:10). It fills the heart with anxiety (1 Timothy 6:9-10) and will certainly keep us from heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

4. Foolish in itself.

VI. Means.

1. Think much of the vanity of earth and the glory of heaven.

2. Act faith in the promises (Psalms 37:25; Hebrews 13:5).

3. Meditate on the universal providence of God, and His fatherly care (Luke 12:31-32; Matthew 6:25, etc.).

4. Be much in prayer.

5. Often remember the text (1 John 5:21). (Bp. Beveridge.)

The idolatry of covetousness

Idolatry is the earliest thing mentioned in the decalogue, and coveting the latest. The two tables bend round and touch each other so closely that he who breaks the tenth commandment breaks the first. The inordinate love and pursuit of wealth are simply heathenish, and are put down on the same level as the worship of images. Gold seems in many respects very like a god.

I. In the attributes it possesses.

1. Omniscience. Wealth seems to know everything. Let any novelty be presented and men will know of it instantly. You cannot keep any plan or line of business secret if there is any money in it.

2. Omnipresence. The least opening for business invites competition, and so wealth rushes in. “Mammon wins its way where seraphs might despair.”

3. Omnipotence. How many of us know to our sorrow the power of riches! the overmastering, crushing opposition it sets up before every poor man’s enterprise. Gold rules the world, covers the land, buys up the offices of the nation, sways the sceptre of social influence.

II. The worship it attracts.

1. The roar of excited men who clamour with each other in the death grapple of competition, how little does it differ from the cries of the Town Hall of Ephesus.

2. But this is not mere lip-worship. The devotees are as desperately in earnest as the priests of Baal on Carmel. Body and soul are consecrated.

III. The favours it bestows. The fine residence, the gorgeous apparel, the flowing wine, the tremulous obeisance of the seedy gentleman, the obsequious flattery of the lady whose charms have faded, the adulation of the crowd, the flutter in the market, the cringe of ancient enemies; and then the fine funeral, and the marble tomb. “Verily they have their reward.” Wealth, as a duty, is not remarkably beneficent, but it would be uncandid to say that he has nothing to bestow on his faithful devotees. The world likes priestcraft; and the priest has power according to his nearness to his duty, and to the faith of the populace. And hence there is no hierarchy so absolutely revered, feared, and obeyed as those who crowd the temples of gold.

IV. The scourges it inflicts. The temples of heathenism are beautiful, but the gods are ugly because malignant. They are supposed to maltreat and even eat their subjects, and mammon is well typed in them. His most noticeable characteristic is that he loves to trample on and devour his devotees. “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall.” There are some sins which seem to be considered by the Almighty as sufficient for their own punishment, such as pride and anger; passion means suffering. So here this trusting in riches possesses a kind of inflated power to baloon one up to such a height that he suffocates and falls headlong into ruin. It is painful to see how rich men pitch on each other when any one falls into difficulty. The horrible heartlessness with which a neighbourhood will devour a broken estate reminds one of the fabled furies. Conclusion:

1. See, then, why God strikes against this sin. It sets up another god in the place of Him. One of the Roman Emperors offered Jesus a place beside Jupiter. It would not do then, neither will it now. God will have all or none.

2. See how covetousness destroys grace and piety. “What agreement hath the temple of God with idols?”

3. See how it ruins all one’s future, “Ephraim is joined to his idols,” etc. But when one’s god is gone, where is he! Shrouds have no pockets.

4. See how it prevents all hope of progress in a Church. “Will a man rob God,” etc. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh.--

Dissuasives from evil

I. The destructive consequence

1. The cause, “fornication,” etc., not that we should conclude that it is peculiar to these sins alone to excite the Divine wrath, but because upon these which especially overthrow human happiness God is especially provoked (Hebrews 10:31). The apostle wished to point out distinctly the cause of human misery and Divine judgment.

2. The effect. The wrath of God; or the punishment inflicted by wrath. Augustine says, “The anger of God is not the perturbation of an excited mind, but the tranquil constitution of righteous judgment. This wrath is particularly connected with sins of the kind referred to here (Genesis 6:11; Genesis 6:17; Genesis 18:20; Genesis 19:24).

3. The persons subjected to it “Children of disobedience.” Two crimes are involved--unbelief and disobedience, the latter as the genuine offspring of the former (1 Peter 3:20; Matthew 24:38-39 : Genesis 19:14; Zechariah 7:11).

4. From these things draw the following instructions.

II. The removal of the cause (verse 7). Sin is the reigning cause of a wicked life; but sin is not living in you, but mortified; the cause, therefore, having ceased, the effect ceases.

1. From the consideration of their former life learn--

2. From their new state learn--

(a) To gratitude (Romans 6:17; 1 Timothy 1:12-13).

(b) To newness of life (Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:8). (Bishop Davenant.)

The wrath of God a present thing

It is not merely a thing of the past, as seen in the deluge, the destruction of Sodom, the overthrow of Israel in the wilderness; nor a thing wholly reserved for the world to come. It cometh as an enduring and essential principle of the Divine government. In physical debility and disease, in a shattered constitution, in dethroned reason, in destroyed power, you often witness the working of a righteous retribution, the marks of Divine indignation against sin. A sight of terrible penalty under God’s law is it, to see a man carrying to a premature grave the evidences in his body of God’s curse on sins of sensuality; to see the rich man, who has lived in avarice for gold, and has amassed it in millions, now in his old age unable to enjoy it, and haunted with the idea of dying in a workhouse; to see a man of pleasure, who has tried and exhausted all the resources of the world in finding it, now ending his days as a gloomy maniac. Yet these cases are nothing as compared with “the wrath to come; “only a few drops from a dark and dismal cloud, which will hereafter discharge itself in a storm of “judgment and fiery indignation.” (J. Spence, D. D.)

The children of disobedience

Men are sent to the ants to learn diligence, to the conies to learn that there is a way which terminates in a great rock, to the locusts to learn how littles, when combined, may become mighty, sufficient for all the duty and obligation of the day. What if it be found at last that all the lower orders and ranks of creation have been obedient, dutiful, loyal, and that the child only has wounded the great heart. “The ox knoweth his owner,” etc. God has no trouble with His creatures--no trouble with His great constellations--they never mutinied against Him; He has had no trouble with His forests, no rebel host ever banded themselves there. Where has His sorrow lain! His own child, His beloved one, in whom He has written, in fairest hues, the perfectness of His own beauty, that child has lifted up his puny fist and smitten Him, not in the face only, but in His heart of love, which can be only forgiven by shedding sacrificial blood. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Effects of disobedience

“Let the sickles alone,” said a farmer to his son, who was left in the fields while the reapers went to dinner. James obeyed his father for a time; but at length he grew lonesome, and took up a sickle, “just to look at it.” He then felt its edge, and at last thought he would cut “one handful.” In so doing, he cut his little finger, inflicting a wound which rendered the middle joint useless for life. When it was healed an ugly scar and a stiff finger were lasting mementoes of his disobedience. Disobedience to his heavenly Father leaves a scar on the sinner’s soul, and lessens his capacity for virtue. (E. Foster.)

The wrath of God

The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the higher the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. If God should only withdraw His hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it. (Jonathan Edwards.)

But now ye also put off all these.--

The believer’s view of past sin

I once walked into a garden with a lady to gather some flowers. There was one large bush whose branches were bending under the weight of the most beautiful roses. We both gazed upon it with admiration. There was one flower on it which seemed to shine above all the rest in beauty. This lady pressed forward into the thick bush, and reached far over to pluck it. As she did this a black snake, which was hid in the bush, wrapped itself round her arm. She was alarmed beyond all description, and ran from the garden screaming, and almost in convulsions. During all that day she suffered very much with fear; her whole body trembled, and it was a long time before she could be quieted. That lady is still alive. Such is her hatred now of the whole serpent race, that she has never since been able to look at a snake, even though it were dead. No one could ever persuade her to venture again into a cluster of bushes, even to pluck a beautiful rose. Now this is the way the sinner acts who truly repents of his sins. He thinks of sin as the serpent that once coiled itself round him. He hates it. He dreads it. He flies from it. He fears the places where it inhabits. He does not willingly go into the haunts. He will no more play with sin than this lady would afterwards have fondled snakes. (Bishop Meade.)

Conversion and the old nature

There are a great many men who are like one of my roses. I bought a Gloire de Dijon. It was said to be one of the few everblooming roses. It was grafted on a manetti-stalk--a kind of dog-rose, a rampant and enormous grower, and a very good stalk to graft fine roses on. I planted it. It throve the first part of the summer, and the last part of the summer it grew with great vigour; and I quite gloried, when the next spring came, in my Gloire de Dijon. It had wood enough to make twenty such roses as these finer varieties usually have; and I was in the amplitude of triumph. I said, “My soil suits it exactly in this climate; and I will write an article for the Monthly Gardener, and tell what luck I have had with it.” So I waited and waited and waited till at blossomed; and behold! it was one of these worthless, quarter-of-a-dollar, single-blossomed roses. And when I came to examine it I found that it was grafted, and that there was a little bit of a graft down near the ground, and that it was the manetti-sprout that had grown to such a prodigious size. Now, I have seen a great many people converted, in whom the conversion did not grow, but the old nature did. (H. W. Beecher.)

I. The general persuasion.

1. The circumstance of time--“now.” Ye did indulge in these as long as sin lived, but now, since sin is mortified, ye must put these things away (Romans 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6).

2. The act commanded. The word may be explained either to “put off” as men put off their old and dirty clothes, or to “lay aside” from the affections and senses, as dead bodies shut up in sepulchres. The last best agrees with “mortify.”

3. Learn then--

II. We are to put off sins of the heart.

1. What they are.

2. The reasons why they should be extirpated. Because--

3. But is all anger unlawful? No! for God has implanted in the mind the faculty of anger, and Christ was angry (Mark 3:5). Hence the apostle enjoins, “Be ye angry and sin not.”

(a)Which arises from a good motive, viz., from the love of God or our neighbour.

(b) Which tends to a good end, the glory of God and the correction of our neighbour.

(c) Which proceeds according to a good rule, awaiting or following the determination of reason. Basil would have anger to be a bridled horse, which obeys reason as a curb.

(a) Which arises from a bad beginning--hatred or love of praise.

(b) Which tends to a bad end--revenge and our neighbour’s injury.

(c) Which is exercised in an improper manner, forestalling the judgment of reason.

III. Sins of the mouth, arising from the inordinate affections of the heart.

1. What they are.

(a) It is offered to God; first, when that which is repugnant to His nature is attributed to Him; secondly, when that which most befits Him is taken away; thirdly, when that which is His property is attributed to the creature. So heinous was it that God made it a capital crime (Leviticus 24:16; Leviticus 24:23).

(b) It is offered to man (Romans 3:8; 1 Corinthians 4:13; Titus 3:2), and is secret (detraction) and open (railing). Rash and angry persons take the open course; the crafty and malicious the secret. Its grievousness is evident. First, it greatly injures the person himself. His reputation, a principal external blessing is wounded, and is not easy to repair, since the quantity of the loss cannot be estimated. Secondly, it greatly injures those who take it up, engendering as it does suspicions and strifes (Psalms 120:2). Thirdly, it is a great injury done to God. For as He is praised in the saints when the works He effects in them are praised; so when they are defamed He is defamed.

(a) Such as respect the blasphemers. First, the habit argues an unregenerate state, for it is one of the principal deeds of the old man. Second, slanderers are unhappy, for, as Nazianzen says, “It is the extreme of misery to place one’s comfort not in one’s own happiness, but in the evils of others.” Third, they are the disciples of the devil (Revelation 12:10).

(b) Such as respect hearers. First, since it is so great a crime, those who delight to hear it are not void of sin. Each has a devil; this in the ear, that in the tongue. Second, it behoves a pious man to turn away from and reprove slanderers, and to defend his brother (Proverbs 25:23; Psalms 101:5; Job 29:17).

(c) Respecting those injured. First, grieve more for the slanderer than for what he says. Second, slander harms not a good conscience. Third, there is the counterbalancing testimony of conscience and good men. Fourth, do not be provoked to return evil for evil (1 Corinthians 5:12).

2. Filthy communication (Ephesians 2:29; 1 Corinthians 15:33). This is to be avoided because--

Anger

There is an anger that in damnable; it is the anger of selfishness. There is an anger that is majestic as the frown of Jehovah’s brow; it is the anger of truth and love. If a man meets with injustice, it is not required that he should not be roused to meet it; but if he is angry after he has had time to think upon it that is sinful. The flame is not wrong, but the coals are. (H. W. Beecher.)

The evils of bad temper

There are households where this demon of anger governs all at its pleasure, incessantly troubling the concord of husband and wife, the union of parents and children, and the peace of masters and servants. There is nothing done, nothing said, but in anger. You would say of these houses, that they are the fabled cavern of Eolus, where the winds shut up in it are heard night and day, roaring and blustering. There is no climate, no sea, no coast in all the earth, where storms are greater or more frequent. For whereas natural tempests happen but at some seasons of the year, in these miserable houses no calm is ever seen; and there needs but one petty action, one word, yea, one look, to raise storms of many days’ continuance: as it is said of certain lakes in the mountains of Berne, that if one cast but a stone into them, the surrounding air becomes turbid, and is immediately filled with winds and clouds, which soon issue lightning, thunder, and excessive rain. Yea, there are some whose passion is so violent, that it cannot be kept within the enclosure of their houses. It issues out of doors, and without respect to the faces of those who pass by, without apprehension of scandal, audaciously shows itself in public, and acts its tragedies in the presence of all the world. (J. Daille.)

Control of temper

When M. de Persigny was French Minister of the Interior he received a visit one day from a friend. A warm discussion arose between them. Suddenly an usher entered and handed the minister a note. On opening it he at once changed his tone of voice, and assumed a quiet and urbane manner. Puzzled as to the contents of the note, and by the marked effect it had suddenly produced upon the minister, his friend cast a furtive glance at it, when, to his astonishment, he perceived that it was simply a plain sheet of paper. More puzzled than ever the gentleman took his leave, and proceeded to interrogate the usher. “Sir,” said he, “here is the explanation, which I must beg you to keep secret. My master is very liable to lose his temper. As he is aware of his weakness, he has ordered me, each time his voice is raised sufficient to be audible in the ante-room, without delay to place a sheet of paper in an envelope and take it to him. That reminds him that his temper is getting the better of him, and he at once calms himself. Just now I heard his voice rising, and immediately carried out my instructions.” (W. Baxendale.)

Malice

The word is of great extent, and signifies in general that venom and evil of sin which is diffused through any one of our passions, whichever it be. But here, as frequently elsewhere, I suppose it is taken for the malignity of anger; when a mischievous and vindictive stomach inwardly broods on its passion, and feeds its fire under the ashes, hatching some ill turn for the person it aims at, and waiting for opportunity to break out. Such a man works under ground, as miners do, and appears not till the ruin he prepares for his enemy is fully ready. His passion is like a stinted fire, that does not burn up till its season. Of all kinds of auger, there is none more black and malignant in itself, or more noxious and pernicious in its effects. Wherefore the apostle calls it malice, naughtiness, or malignity particularly; and it seems to be the same thing he elsewhere calls bitterness. (J. Daille.)

Blasphemy, its nature

Though the term, in our tongue, imports words spoken to the offence of God, when things unworthy of his greatness, and holiness, and truth, are attributed to Him, or those which belong to Him are denied Him; or when that which is proper to His divinity is communicated to creatures; yet in the Greek, that is, in the language the apostle speaks, the word “blasphemy” generally signifies any offensive, injurious speech, whoever it concerns, whether God, or angels, or men. Tim truth is, this word, if we respect its origin or etymology, simply denotes injuring the reputation, or offending some one’s honour. Consequently, St. Paul uses it not only here, but also in other places, to signify such revilings and detractions as are directed properly to men, and not to God (1 Corinthians 4:13; Titus 3:2). (J. Daille.)

The evil speaker

While the Lord desires us to consider the good qualities with which He has endowed His creatures, to the end that we might praise and esteem them, and imitate them, the evil-speaker looks upon nothing but their defects and vices. And as vultures fly over fair meadows, and flowery and sweet-smelling fields, and alight only on dunghills, and places full of carrion and infection; and as flies, without touching the sound parts of the body, fasten only upon sores and ulcers; so the evil-speaker, without so much as noticing what is graceful and happy in the lives of men, falls upon that which is weak and sickly in them. If they have chanced to stumble, as is very ordinary in this infirmity of our nature, it is upon this that he fixes; in this he takes pleasure, this he gladly exposes and publishes, amplifying and exaggerating it with his infernal rhetoric. It is by this he knows persons; it is by this he marks them out and describes them; as bad painters, who represent nothing so exactly as the moles and scars of the faces which they draw, the deformity of the nose, the protuberance of the lips, and other such marks which they have from the birth, or receive by some accident. Charity covers sins, and forgets them; the evil-speaker divulges them, and remembers them perpetually, and takes out of the grave that which had been buried in oblivion, and brings it to light again. He loves pollution, and feeds on nothing but poisons and filth. And for this end he has always a sufficient store of such provision by him. His memory is a magazine, or rather a sink, where he heaps up the villainies, the sins, and the scandals, not of his own neighbourhood, or his own quarter only, but of the whole city; yea, if he possibly can, of the whole state. It is from this diabolical treasury that he derives the subject of his sweetest thoughts and most pleasing entertainments. These things are his perfumes and his dainties. But he is not content only to rake together and lay open the imperfections which he finds in his neighbours; he is so malignant that he feigns more, and fancies some where there are none. He spreads it abroad for truth; and that he may persuade others of it, he artificially colours his fictions, giving out shows for truths, and shadows for substances. He so bitterly hates all good, that where he sees any he bespatters, blackens, and disguises it, and causes it to pass for evil. And as the snail sullies the lustre of the fairest flowers with its sordid slime; just so this bad man, by the poison of his malignity, defames the most grateful virtues, and turns them into vices. He takes valour for temerity, and patience for stupidity: justice for cruelty, and prudence for craftiness. Him that is liberal he calls prodigal, and the frugal person covetous. If you be religious, be will not fail to accuse you of superstition; and if you be free and generous, and far from superstition, he will accuse you of being profane. In fact, there is no virtue nor perfection for which this wicked man has not found an infamous name, taken from the vice that borders next upon it. To this iniquity he usually adds a base and black piece of treachery, when, to cause his poisons to be the more easily swallowed, he mischievously sugars them, beginning his detractions with a preface of praise, and with an affected commendation of the persons whom he intends to revile; protesting, at his entrance, that he loves and respects them, for the purpose of creating a belief that it is nothing but the mere force and evidence of truth that constrains him to speak evil of them. He kisses his man at meeting, and then murders him, as Joab formerly did: he crowns his victims before he kills them: a fraud which, notwithstanding its ordinary occurrence, is the blackest that can be perpetrated. (J. Daille.)

Slander cannot be recalled

A lady presented herself to Philip Neri one day, accusing herself of being a slanderer. “Do you frequently fall into this fault?” inquired he. “Yes, my father, very often.” “My dear child,” said Philip, “your fault is great, but the mercy of God is still greater. For your penance do as follows: Go purchase a chicken, and walk a certain distance, plucking the feathers as you go along. Your walk finished, return to me.” Accordingly she repaired to the market, did as she was bidden, and in a short time returned. “Ah,” said Philip, “you have been very faithful to the first part of my orders. Retrace your steps, and gather up one by one all the feathers you have scattered.” “But, father,” exclaimed the poor woman, “I cast them carelessly on every side; the wind carried them in every direction. How can I recover them?” “Well, my child,” replied he, “so is it with your words of slander; like the feathers, they have been scattered. Call them back if you can. Go and sin no more.” (W. Baxendale.)

Filthy conversation

As offensive breath betokens some inward indisposition and corruption; so filthy and dishonest conversation discovers the impurity and unchastity that are in the soul of him who uses it. Hence the apostle in another place expressly puts this among other parts of Christian sanctity, that our conversation be pure, chaste, and honest (Ephesians 5:3-4; Ephesians 4:29). (J. Daille.)

Purity of conversation

It is related that General Grant was once sitting in his tent with officers around him, when a general came in in much glee and said: “I have a good story to tell; there are no ladies present, I believe.” “No,” said General Grant, “but there are gentlemen present.” The man’s countenance fell; the good story was never told. Some Christians could learn a good lesson from the great commander’s remark. (Christian, Boston.)


Verses 9-11

Colossians 3:9-11

Lie not one to another: seeing that ye have put off the old man and his deeds.

Spiritual renewal in Christ

The apostle enforces his exhortation by two arguments: first, “Ye died with Christ,” etc.; second, “Ye have put off the old man,” etc.

I. Every christian is the subject of a change. The “old man” refers to our degenerate nature, and “its deeds” the practical outcome of this degeneracy. The “new man” is the new nature, for the creation of which God has provided in His Son. The grand change takes place in the heart, and is perfected in the life. This change is--

1. Divine in its origin. It is not the result of human skill or self-development.

2. Progressive in its nature, “which is being renewed.” There is in every case a commencement, whether known or not, at regeneration; but as in the case of the new-born infant, its powers have to be expanded and renewed day by day. At no point in this progress can the Christian say, “I have attained or am perfect.” There is in this fact

3. Glorious in its model. “After the image of Him.” Christ is “the image of the invisible God,” and comformity to Him is the pattern of our renewal. This includes much more than the mere restoration of the image lost by Adam.

4. Grand in its result. “Renewed into knowledge”; i.e., knowledge is not the means, but the purpose. It is that of God and things Divine. To know God and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent, is life eternal. To the attainment of some kinds of knowledge character is essential, and pre eminently it is so here. It is to be an intuition--not a cold intellectual acquisition (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 3:16-19). Life without this change is vanity. The “old man” may be rich and strong, but the “new man” only can see God and enter heaven. “Except a man be born again,” etc.

II. In this spiritual renewal human distinctions are of no avail or advantage.

1. National distinctions: “Greek and Jew.” One nation has no advantage over another. The sensual Hindoo, the literary Chinaman, the stolid Hottentot, the energetic European, are alike by sin removed from the life of God; and the gospel is equally adapted to all.

2. Ritual distinctions (Galatians 6:15). A man born in a Christian country requires a change of heart as much as one who dwells in a pagan land. There may be much higher external privilege in one case than in the other, but that does not confer the change, nor is it to be confounded with it.

3. Political distinction: “Barbarian, Scythian.” The Scyttrians were at the lowest point of the scale of civilization. The savage and the polished citizen require alike the washing of regeneration.

4. Social distinction: “Bond, free.” The diversities of condition which divide men are unrecognized. Here rich and poor meet together.

III. In this spiritual change Christ is everything. “All and in all, Christ.”

1. He is the principle of the change. Every Christian is created anew in Christ Jesus.

2. He is its sustenance and strength. As the renewed soul feeds on Him by faith, so it grows up in Him. There can be no advancement away from Him.

3. He is its perfection. We are to be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (J. Spence, D. D.)

The new nature wrought out in the new life

I. The change of the spirit’s dress.

1. We have the same idea before. “Death” is equivalent to the “putting off of the old,” and “resurrection” to “putting on of the new.” The figure of the change of dress to express change of moral character is frequent in Scripture. “Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness.” Zechariah saw the high-priest change his filthy garments for festal robes when God “caused his iniquity to pass from him.” See also Christ’s parables of the Wedding Garment and Prodigal Son, and Paul’s exhortation to Christ’s soldiers to put off their night-gear, “the works of darkness,” etc. In every reformatory the first thing done is to strip off and burn the rags of the new-comers, and then give them a bath, and dress them in clean clothes. Character is the garb of the soul. Habit means costume and custom.

2. The apostle hazards a mixed metaphor--“Put on the new man”--to show that what is put off and on is much more truly part of themselves than an article of dress. There is a deeper self which remains, the true man, the centre of personality. Thus the figure expresses the depth of the change and the identity of the person.

3. This entire change is assumed as having been realized at that point of time when the Colossians began to put their trust in Christ.

4. But however brought about, this is a certain mark of the Christian life.

and all things will have become new, because we move with a new love, have a new hope, aim, song.

5. The practical conclusion: “Seeing that.” The change, though taking place in the inmost nature, needs to be wrought into character and wrought out in conduct. The leaven is in the dough, but to knead it thoroughly into the mass is a lifelong task, only accomplished by our continually repeated efforts.

6. So the apparently illogical, Put off what you have put off, and put on what you have put on, is vindicated. It means, Be consistent with your deepest selves; carry out in detail what you have already done in bulk. Cast out the enemy already ejected front the central fortress, from the isolated positions he still occupies. You may put off the old man, for he is put off already; you must do so, for there is still danger of his again wrapping his poisonous rags about your limbs.

II. The continuous growth of the new man, its aim and pattern.

1. The new man is “being renewed”--a continuous process, perhaps slow and difficult to discern, but, like all powers and habits, it steadily increases; and a similar process works to opposite results in the old man (Ephesians 4:22).

2. This renewing is on the man, not by him. There is a Divine side. The renewing is not merely effected by us, nor due only to the vital power of the new man, but by the “renewing of the Holy Ghost.” So there is hope for us in our striving, for He helps us. “Work out your own salvation,” etc.

3. The new man is renewed “unto knowledge.” Possibly there may be an allusion to the pretensions of the false teachers to a higher wisdom, There is but one way to press into the depths of the knowledge of God, viz., growth into His likeness. We understand one another best by sympathy. We know God only on condition of resemblance. For all simple souls, bewildered by the strife of tongues, and unapt for speculation, this is a message of gladness.

4. The new man is created after “the image,” etc. As in the first creation, so in the new. But the old image consisted mainly in the reasonable soul, the self-conscious personality, the broad distinctions between men and animals. That humanity, in a sense, still has, though marred. The coin bears His image and superscription, though rusty and defaced. But the new image consists in holiness. Though the majestic infinitudes of God can have no likeness in man, we may be “holy as He is holy,” be “imitators of God,” “walk in love as He hath loved us,” and “in the light as He is in the light.”

III. The grand unity of this creation.

1. “Christ is all.” Wherever that new nature is found, it lives by the life of Christ.

2. All who are His partake of that common gift. He is in all. There is no privileged class, as these teachers affirmed. Necessarily, therefore, surface distinctions disappear. Paul’s catalogue may be profitably compared with Galatians 3:28.

3. Christianity waged no direct war against these evils. Revolution cures nothing. The only way to get rid of evils engendered in the constitution of society is to elevate and change the tone of thought and feeling, and then they die of atrophy. Change the climate, and you change the vegetation. Until you do, neither mowing nor uprooting will get rid of the foul growths. So the gospel does with all these lines of demarcation between men. What becomes of the ridges of sand that separate pool from pool at low water? The tide comes up and over them, and makes them all one, gathered into the oneness of the great sea. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

New leaves pushing off the old

Manton says that “Old leaves, if they remain upon the trees through the autumn and the winter, fall off in the spring.” We have seen a hedge all thick with dry leaves throughout the winter, and neither frost nor wind has removed the withered foliage, but the spring has soon made a clearance. The new life dislodges the old, pushing it away as unsuitable to it. So our old corruptions are best removed by the growth of new graces. “Old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” It is as the new life buds and opens that the old, worn-out things of our former state are compelled to quit their hold of us. Our wisdom lies in living near to God, that by the power of His Holy Spirit all our graces may be vigorous, and may exercise a sin-expelling power over our lives: the new leaves of grace pushing off our old sere affections and habits of sin. With converts from the world it is often better not to lay down stringent rules as to worldly amusements, but leave the new life and its holier joys to push off the old pleasures. Thus it will be done more naturally and more effectively. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Life changed for the better

The leader of a very ungodly set of fellows in a dye-house became converted. Two of his fellow-workmen were so struck with the change that for a time they followed him in his new way, and behaved like good Christians. The ridicule and violence of the rest were, however, too strong for their resolution, and they turned to their old ways, while John, the first convert, clung close to Christ, and stood firm as a rock. John did not say much, but he answered scoffs and railing by a consistent Christian life. One day, however, when his fellow-workmen were boasting what good infidelity could do, and how much harm the Bible had done, his soul was stirred within him; he turned round, and said, feelingly, but firmly, “Well, let us deal plainly in this matter, my friends, and judge of the tree by the fruit it bears. You call yourselves infidels.: Let us see what your principles do. I suppose what they do on a small scale they will do on a large one. Now, there are Tom and Jem,” pointing to the two who went with him and then turned back. “You have tried your principles on them. When they tried to serve Christ, they were civil, good-tempered, kind husbands and fathers. They were cheerful, hardworking, and ready to oblige. What have you made them? Look and see. They are cast down and cross; their mouths are full of cursing and filthiness; they are drunk every week; their children half clothed, their wives broken-hearted, their homes wretched. Now, I have tried Christ and His religion, and what has it done for me? You know well what I used to be. There was none of you who could drink so much, swear so desperately, and fight so masterly. I had no money, and no one would trust me. My wife was illused; I was ill-humoured, hateful, and hating. What has religion done for me? Thank God, I am not afraid to put it to you. Am I not a happier man than I was? Am I not a better workman and a kinder companion? Would I once have put up with what I now bear from you? I could beat any of you as easily now as ever. Why don’t I? Do you ever hear a foul word from my mouth, or catch me at a public-house? Go and ask my neighbours if I have not altered for the better. Go and ask my wife. Let my house bear witness. God be praised, here is what Christianity has done for me; there is what infidelity has done for Jem and Tom.” John stopped. The dyers had not a word to say. He used a logic they could not answer--the logic of a life. (Family Treasury.)

The nature of lying

If the following three circumstances concur--that what is uttered be false, that it was wished to announce a falsehood, and that it was the intention to deceive--then it has the qualities of a lie complete; for it is false both materially and formally. (Thomas Aquinas.)

Kinds of lies

There are lies pernicious, officious, and jocose. The first is employed for the sake of injury; the second for that of assistance; the third for diversion. But the Scripture denies any one of these to be lawful (Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:15; Proverbs 12:22; Ephesians 4:25). (Bishop Davenant.)

Lying against reason

Language was instituted, not that men might deceive one another by it, but that they should use it to tell their mutual thoughts; it is therefore an act unlawful to reason for one to utter words to signify that which he doeth not intend in his mind. (Durandus.)

Speech and mind must be at one

Language is a natural sign of the understanding; it is therefore unnatural that any one should signify that by his speech which does not exist in his mind. (Aquinas.)

The disgrace of lying

Clear and sound dealing is the honour of man’s nature; and that mixture of falsehood is like alloy in gold or silver, which may make the metal work better, but it debaseth it. For these windings and crooked courses are the goings of the serpent, which goeth basely upon the belly, not upon the feet. There is no vice that doth so, cover a man with shame as to be found false and perfidious; and therefore Montaigne saith prettily, “If it be well weighed, to say that a man lieth is aa to say that he is brave towards God and a coward towards men. For a lie faces God and shrinks from man.” (Lord Bacon.)

Lying unsafe

A liar is sooner caught than a cripple. Liars should have good memories, a lie has no legs. (Proverbs.)

Falsehood difficult to maintain

It is difficult to maintain falsehood. When the materials of a building are solid blocks of stone, very rude architecture will suffice; but a structure of rotten materials needs the most careful adjustment in order to make it stand. (Archbishop Whately.)

The folly of lying

Truth is always consistent with itself, and needs nothing to help it out; it is always near at hand, sits upon our lips, and is ready to drop out before we are aware. A lie is troublesome, and sets a man’s invention upon the rack; and one trick needs a great many more to make it good. It is like building on a false foundation, which continually stands in need of props to shore it up; and proves at last more chargeable than to have raised a substantial building at first on a true and solid foundation. (Addison.)

Acting a lie

Once while Rowland Hill was spending an evening at the house of a friend, a lady, who was there on a visit, retired, that her little girl of four years old might go to bed. She returned in about half an hour, and said to a lady near her: “She is gone to sleep; I put on my nightcap, and lay down by her, and she soon dropped off.” Mr. Hill, who overheard this, said: “Excuse me, madam: do you wish your child to grow up a liar?” “Oh dear, no, sir; I should be shocked at such a thing.” “Then bear with me when I say you must never act a lie before her. Children are very quick observers, and soon learn that that which assumes to be what it is not is a lie, whether acted or spoken.” This was uttered with a kindness which precluded offence, yet with a seriousness that could not be forgotten.

Folly and misery of lying

The folly of lying consists in its defeating its own purpose. A habit of lying is generally detected in the end; and after detection, the liar, instead of deceiving, will not even be believed when he happens to speak the truth. Nay, every single lie is attended with such a variety of circumstances which lead to a detection, that iris often discovered. The use generally made of a lie is to cover a fault; but as this end is seldom answered, we only aggravate what we wish to conceal. In point even of prudence, an honest confession would serve us better. (R. Gilpin.)

Example of truthfulness

In the course of my acquaintance with Sir Robert Peel I never knew a man in whose truth and justice I had a more lively confidence. In the whole course of my communication with him I never knew an instance in which he did not show the strongest attachment to truth, and I never saw, in the whole course of my life, the smallest reason for suspecting that he stated anything which he did not firmly believe to be the fact. (The Duke of Wellington.)

Love of truth

One drizzly March evening, Stonewall Jackson was about to start at dusk for the residence of a friend a mile distant. “Is it imperative that you go to-night?” he was asked. “Not specially so,” he replied. “Then why walk a mile in the rain if to-morrow will do as well?” “Well, I was talking with Colonel M this morning, and told him that my conversation with Cadet D was held in barracks on Monday. I have since recollected that it was held on the parade-ground, and that it was on Tuesday.” “Does anything depend on this statement?” “Nothing whatever.” “Why, in the name of reason, then, do you walk a mile in the rain for a perfectly unimportant thing?” “Simply because I have discovered it was a misstatement, and I could not sleep comfortably to-night unless I corrected it.” And go he did. (H. O. Mackay.)

Truth and falsehood

I. The nature of the sin of lying. The youngest of us knows the thing too well--the intentional leading of others to understand as true what we know to be false.

1. It may be by a lying word--a sin of the tongue, telling a lie, speaking a lie.

2. It may be by a lying look--a sin of the eye--looking a lie.

3. It may be a lying act--a sin of the hand--acting a lie. This is one of the most common forms of it, and least thought of. Still to keep by school-life: It is the hour for arithmetic. You have got some hard sums to do--too hard for you to master without more time than you have got now. You ask your neighbour to show you his slate, or you look over the shoulder of the boy before you who is always correct, you see you have been mistaken, rub out the wrong figures, fill in the right--in a moment you are on your feet as having finished your work, read off your sum, get your mark, and, with it, credit for being one of the few who are correct. That is a theft, but it is also a lie; it is stealing, but it is also lying. It was not the tongue, but the hand that did it. And here let me warn you against being parties to the lies of others. You are a young servant. You have broken accidentally a favourite china bowl. You do not know what to do. It is the first time such a thing has happened with you. You fear your mistress will be angry; perhaps you will have to replace it out of your half year’s wage, small as it is, just on purpose to make you more careful for the future. So instead of making an immediate and full confession, explaining how it took place, and saying you will be more careful in time to come, you take up the pieces, and lay them aside till you have opportunity of getting them out of the way; or you join the broken piece in as neatly as yon can, set the bowl in the press, and the discovery is never made that you had any hand in it, till you are in another situation. You have been acting a lie; and I can hardly over-estimate the wrong you have done, most of all to yourself. When Jacob put the kid-skins on his hands and neck, and served up dainty meat to his old blind father Isaac, passing himself off for his brother Esau, he acted a lie; in was lying kindness. Before leaving this head, let me say a word regarding equivocating--that is, saying what has a double meaning--what may be taken up in two ways--the mere word true, the thing false--a kind of half-lie.

II. The character of this sin. It would take long to bring out all the bad features of it. Take the following:

1. It is a cowardly thing. No brave boy would lie. Cowards tell lies. Fear lies at the bottom of falsehood, and no liar need pretend to be brave. If I were in search of courageous boys, I would seek truthful ones. Our Scottish martyrs, the good Covenanters in olden times, were bright examples of strict adherence, not only to the truth, but to truthfulness; and There shall we find any more brave? A lie would have saved their lives--a single lying act--one lying bow of the head--but they would not.

2. It is a mean thing. It is not manly, Some of the cases I have mentioned, showing utter disregard to the feelings and interests of others, are base, shabby contemptible in the extreme. Never expect much at the hand of liars. They would sacrifice your interests to their own any day.

3. It is a God-dishonouring thing. How much is said of God in connection with truth! He is called the “God of truth.” It is said, He “keepeth truth for ever.” Every word of His is so unchangeable that His “truth” is just used for His “word”; they mean the same thing. He is called “God who cannot lie.” His people are called “children that will not lie.” Lying lips are said to be “an abomination” to Him. Truth is part of God’s likeness--God’s image. What dishonour, then, must be done to the God of truth by lying! You don’t like lying things; a lying apple, beautiful and inviting without, but rotten within; a lying penny, bright but bad; a lying cat, that invites you to make much of it, and seems ever so friendly, and then bites or scratches you; a lying lottery, that promises a prize and gives a blank; a lying branch, that invites your foot to rest upon it, and then gives way and throws you to the ground. And God dislikes lying things too. This is the worst feature in it all--it is so dishonouring to God. This is seen in the way He speaks of it and punishes it.

4. It is a devilish thing. God is the “God of truth,” the devil is the “father of lies,” is a “liar,” ay, and the father of liars. Lying is so vile a thing, and the word “lie” is so black, even to the world, even to the wicked, even to careless children, that they try to use it as little as possible, and it is spoken and thought lightly of, under another name--a “fib;” “it was only a fib”--a kind of harmless, innocent falsehood--a little lie--a softer name for a bad, black thing.

III. The danger of it.

1. It is a growing sin. By this I mean it is always increasing. One lie leads to and necessitates another, till no one knows where it will end. It is like a snowball, the further it is rolled the more it increases in size. Once or twice indulged, it soon becomes a habit.

2. It leads to and is linked with many other sins. You seldom find lying alone. It is something like drinking: it leads to almost every other sin, and all other sins seek its help, and hide themselves under it. I can hardly fancy a liar to be honest--either to fear God or regard man.

3. It degrades the whole character. When a habit of lying has been formed, we may well fear the worst. When truthfulness goes, the whole character goes along with it. There is an end to all confidence. For a young apprentice, or a young servant, there is nothing I fear so much as untruthfulness.

IV. The punishment of it. This is two-fold.

1. Here--in the present world. There is the loss of character; the loss of all respect. There is degradation; misery; shame. No one can respect a liar. It carries its own punishment with it.

2. Hereafter--in the world to come. Remember, dear children I that sooner or later the lie will be discovered--every lie! If not here, at any rate hereafter.

V. Our duty regarding it. “Lie not: putting away lying--speak the truth.”

1. Strive against it.

2. Watch against it. You must not leave the door open.

3. Pray against it.

4. Seek to love the truth.

Get the heart filled with the love of Christ, and then you will love the truth, and of necessity hate lying. Every effort will strengthen you, and the more you seek after the truth, the stronger you will become in it. Rather be simple than deceitful; rather be the cheated than the cheater, for it is written, “The Lord preserveth the simple.” (J. H. Wilson.)


Verses 9-11

Colossians 3:9-11

Lie not one to another: seeing that ye have put off the old man and his deeds.

Spiritual renewal in Christ

The apostle enforces his exhortation by two arguments: first, “Ye died with Christ,” etc.; second, “Ye have put off the old man,” etc.

I. Every christian is the subject of a change. The “old man” refers to our degenerate nature, and “its deeds” the practical outcome of this degeneracy. The “new man” is the new nature, for the creation of which God has provided in His Son. The grand change takes place in the heart, and is perfected in the life. This change is--

1. Divine in its origin. It is not the result of human skill or self-development.

2. Progressive in its nature, “which is being renewed.” There is in every case a commencement, whether known or not, at regeneration; but as in the case of the new-born infant, its powers have to be expanded and renewed day by day. At no point in this progress can the Christian say, “I have attained or am perfect.” There is in this fact

3. Glorious in its model. “After the image of Him.” Christ is “the image of the invisible God,” and comformity to Him is the pattern of our renewal. This includes much more than the mere restoration of the image lost by Adam.

4. Grand in its result. “Renewed into knowledge”; i.e., knowledge is not the means, but the purpose. It is that of God and things Divine. To know God and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent, is life eternal. To the attainment of some kinds of knowledge character is essential, and pre eminently it is so here. It is to be an intuition--not a cold intellectual acquisition (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 3:16-19). Life without this change is vanity. The “old man” may be rich and strong, but the “new man” only can see God and enter heaven. “Except a man be born again,” etc.

II. In this spiritual renewal human distinctions are of no avail or advantage.

1. National distinctions: “Greek and Jew.” One nation has no advantage over another. The sensual Hindoo, the literary Chinaman, the stolid Hottentot, the energetic European, are alike by sin removed from the life of God; and the gospel is equally adapted to all.

2. Ritual distinctions (Galatians 6:15). A man born in a Christian country requires a change of heart as much as one who dwells in a pagan land. There may be much higher external privilege in one case than in the other, but that does not confer the change, nor is it to be confounded with it.

3. Political distinction: “Barbarian, Scythian.” The Scyttrians were at the lowest point of the scale of civilization. The savage and the polished citizen require alike the washing of regeneration.

4. Social distinction: “Bond, free.” The diversities of condition which divide men are unrecognized. Here rich and poor meet together.

III. In this spiritual change Christ is everything. “All and in all, Christ.”

1. He is the principle of the change. Every Christian is created anew in Christ Jesus.

2. He is its sustenance and strength. As the renewed soul feeds on Him by faith, so it grows up in Him. There can be no advancement away from Him.

3. He is its perfection. We are to be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (J. Spence, D. D.)

The new nature wrought out in the new life

I. The change of the spirit’s dress.

1. We have the same idea before. “Death” is equivalent to the “putting off of the old,” and “resurrection” to “putting on of the new.” The figure of the change of dress to express change of moral character is frequent in Scripture. “Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness.” Zechariah saw the high-priest change his filthy garments for festal robes when God “caused his iniquity to pass from him.” See also Christ’s parables of the Wedding Garment and Prodigal Son, and Paul’s exhortation to Christ’s soldiers to put off their night-gear, “the works of darkness,” etc. In every reformatory the first thing done is to strip off and burn the rags of the new-comers, and then give them a bath, and dress them in clean clothes. Character is the garb of the soul. Habit means costume and custom.

2. The apostle hazards a mixed metaphor--“Put on the new man”--to show that what is put off and on is much more truly part of themselves than an article of dress. There is a deeper self which remains, the true man, the centre of personality. Thus the figure expresses the depth of the change and the identity of the person.

3. This entire change is assumed as having been realized at that point of time when the Colossians began to put their trust in Christ.

4. But however brought about, this is a certain mark of the Christian life.

and all things will have become new, because we move with a new love, have a new hope, aim, song.

5. The practical conclusion: “Seeing that.” The change, though taking place in the inmost nature, needs to be wrought into character and wrought out in conduct. The leaven is in the dough, but to knead it thoroughly into the mass is a lifelong task, only accomplished by our continually repeated efforts.

6. So the apparently illogical, Put off what you have put off, and put on what you have put on, is vindicated. It means, Be consistent with your deepest selves; carry out in detail what you have already done in bulk. Cast out the enemy already ejected front the central fortress, from the isolated positions he still occupies. You may put off the old man, for he is put off already; you must do so, for there is still danger of his again wrapping his poisonous rags about your limbs.

II. The continuous growth of the new man, its aim and pattern.

1. The new man is “being renewed”--a continuous process, perhaps slow and difficult to discern, but, like all powers and habits, it steadily increases; and a similar process works to opposite results in the old man (Ephesians 4:22).

2. This renewing is on the man, not by him. There is a Divine side. The renewing is not merely effected by us, nor due only to the vital power of the new man, but by the “renewing of the Holy Ghost.” So there is hope for us in our striving, for He helps us. “Work out your own salvation,” etc.

3. The new man is renewed “unto knowledge.” Possibly there may be an allusion to the pretensions of the false teachers to a higher wisdom, There is but one way to press into the depths of the knowledge of God, viz., growth into His likeness. We understand one another best by sympathy. We know God only on condition of resemblance. For all simple souls, bewildered by the strife of tongues, and unapt for speculation, this is a message of gladness.

4. The new man is created after “the image,” etc. As in the first creation, so in the new. But the old image consisted mainly in the reasonable soul, the self-conscious personality, the broad distinctions between men and animals. That humanity, in a sense, still has, though marred. The coin bears His image and superscription, though rusty and defaced. But the new image consists in holiness. Though the majestic infinitudes of God can have no likeness in man, we may be “holy as He is holy,” be “imitators of God,” “walk in love as He hath loved us,” and “in the light as He is in the light.”

III. The grand unity of this creation.

1. “Christ is all.” Wherever that new nature is found, it lives by the life of Christ.

2. All who are His partake of that common gift. He is in all. There is no privileged class, as these teachers affirmed. Necessarily, therefore, surface distinctions disappear. Paul’s catalogue may be profitably compared with Galatians 3:28.

3. Christianity waged no direct war against these evils. Revolution cures nothing. The only way to get rid of evils engendered in the constitution of society is to elevate and change the tone of thought and feeling, and then they die of atrophy. Change the climate, and you change the vegetation. Until you do, neither mowing nor uprooting will get rid of the foul growths. So the gospel does with all these lines of demarcation between men. What becomes of the ridges of sand that separate pool from pool at low water? The tide comes up and over them, and makes them all one, gathered into the oneness of the great sea. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

New leaves pushing off the old

Manton says that “Old leaves, if they remain upon the trees through the autumn and the winter, fall off in the spring.” We have seen a hedge all thick with dry leaves throughout the winter, and neither frost nor wind has removed the withered foliage, but the spring has soon made a clearance. The new life dislodges the old, pushing it away as unsuitable to it. So our old corruptions are best removed by the growth of new graces. “Old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” It is as the new life buds and opens that the old, worn-out things of our former state are compelled to quit their hold of us. Our wisdom lies in living near to God, that by the power of His Holy Spirit all our graces may be vigorous, and may exercise a sin-expelling power over our lives: the new leaves of grace pushing off our old sere affections and habits of sin. With converts from the world it is often better not to lay down stringent rules as to worldly amusements, but leave the new life and its holier joys to push off the old pleasures. Thus it will be done more naturally and more effectively. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Life changed for the better

The leader of a very ungodly set of fellows in a dye-house became converted. Two of his fellow-workmen were so struck with the change that for a time they followed him in his new way, and behaved like good Christians. The ridicule and violence of the rest were, however, too strong for their resolution, and they turned to their old ways, while John, the first convert, clung close to Christ, and stood firm as a rock. John did not say much, but he answered scoffs and railing by a consistent Christian life. One day, however, when his fellow-workmen were boasting what good infidelity could do, and how much harm the Bible had done, his soul was stirred within him; he turned round, and said, feelingly, but firmly, “Well, let us deal plainly in this matter, my friends, and judge of the tree by the fruit it bears. You call yourselves infidels.: Let us see what your principles do. I suppose what they do on a small scale they will do on a large one. Now, there are Tom and Jem,” pointing to the two who went with him and then turned back. “You have tried your principles on them. When they tried to serve Christ, they were civil, good-tempered, kind husbands and fathers. They were cheerful, hardworking, and ready to oblige. What have you made them? Look and see. They are cast down and cross; their mouths are full of cursing and filthiness; they are drunk every week; their children half clothed, their wives broken-hearted, their homes wretched. Now, I have tried Christ and His religion, and what has it done for me? You know well what I used to be. There was none of you who could drink so much, swear so desperately, and fight so masterly. I had no money, and no one would trust me. My wife was illused; I was ill-humoured, hateful, and hating. What has religion done for me? Thank God, I am not afraid to put it to you. Am I not a happier man than I was? Am I not a better workman and a kinder companion? Would I once have put up with what I now bear from you? I could beat any of you as easily now as ever. Why don’t I? Do you ever hear a foul word from my mouth, or catch me at a public-house? Go and ask my neighbours if I have not altered for the better. Go and ask my wife. Let my house bear witness. God be praised, here is what Christianity has done for me; there is what infidelity has done for Jem and Tom.” John stopped. The dyers had not a word to say. He used a logic they could not answer--the logic of a life. (Family Treasury.)

The nature of lying

If the following three circumstances concur--that what is uttered be false, that it was wished to announce a falsehood, and that it was the intention to deceive--then it has the qualities of a lie complete; for it is false both materially and formally. (Thomas Aquinas.)

Kinds of lies

There are lies pernicious, officious, and jocose. The first is employed for the sake of injury; the second for that of assistance; the third for diversion. But the Scripture denies any one of these to be lawful (Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:15; Proverbs 12:22; Ephesians 4:25). (Bishop Davenant.)

Lying against reason

Language was instituted, not that men might deceive one another by it, but that they should use it to tell their mutual thoughts; it is therefore an act unlawful to reason for one to utter words to signify that which he doeth not intend in his mind. (Durandus.)

Speech and mind must be at one

Language is a natural sign of the understanding; it is therefore unnatural that any one should signify that by his speech which does not exist in his mind. (Aquinas.)

The disgrace of lying

Clear and sound dealing is the honour of man’s nature; and that mixture of falsehood is like alloy in gold or silver, which may make the metal work better, but it debaseth it. For these windings and crooked courses are the goings of the serpent, which goeth basely upon the belly, not upon the feet. There is no vice that doth so, cover a man with shame as to be found false and perfidious; and therefore Montaigne saith prettily, “If it be well weighed, to say that a man lieth is aa to say that he is brave towards God and a coward towards men. For a lie faces God and shrinks from man.” (Lord Bacon.)

Lying unsafe

A liar is sooner caught than a cripple. Liars should have good memories, a lie has no legs. (Proverbs.)

Falsehood difficult to maintain

It is difficult to maintain falsehood. When the materials of a building are solid blocks of stone, very rude architecture will suffice; but a structure of rotten materials needs the most careful adjustment in order to make it stand. (Archbishop Whately.)

The folly of lying

Truth is always consistent with itself, and needs nothing to help it out; it is always near at hand, sits upon our lips, and is ready to drop out before we are aware. A lie is troublesome, and sets a man’s invention upon the rack; and one trick needs a great many more to make it good. It is like building on a false foundation, which continually stands in need of props to shore it up; and proves at last more chargeable than to have raised a substantial building at first on a true and solid foundation. (Addison.)

Acting a lie

Once while Rowland Hill was spending an evening at the house of a friend, a lady, who was there on a visit, retired, that her little girl of four years old might go to bed. She returned in about half an hour, and said to a lady near her: “She is gone to sleep; I put on my nightcap, and lay down by her, and she soon dropped off.” Mr. Hill, who overheard this, said: “Excuse me, madam: do you wish your child to grow up a liar?” “Oh dear, no, sir; I should be shocked at such a thing.” “Then bear with me when I say you must never act a lie before her. Children are very quick observers, and soon learn that that which assumes to be what it is not is a lie, whether acted or spoken.” This was uttered with a kindness which precluded offence, yet with a seriousness that could not be forgotten.

Folly and misery of lying

The folly of lying consists in its defeating its own purpose. A habit of lying is generally detected in the end; and after detection, the liar, instead of deceiving, will not even be believed when he happens to speak the truth. Nay, every single lie is attended with such a variety of circumstances which lead to a detection, that iris often discovered. The use generally made of a lie is to cover a fault; but as this end is seldom answered, we only aggravate what we wish to conceal. In point even of prudence, an honest confession would serve us better. (R. Gilpin.)

Example of truthfulness

In the course of my acquaintance with Sir Robert Peel I never knew a man in whose truth and justice I had a more lively confidence. In the whole course of my communication with him I never knew an instance in which he did not show the strongest attachment to truth, and I never saw, in the whole course of my life, the smallest reason for suspecting that he stated anything which he did not firmly believe to be the fact. (The Duke of Wellington.)

Love of truth

One drizzly March evening, Stonewall Jackson was about to start at dusk for the residence of a friend a mile distant. “Is it imperative that you go to-night?” he was asked. “Not specially so,” he replied. “Then why walk a mile in the rain if to-morrow will do as well?” “Well, I was talking with Colonel M this morning, and told him that my conversation with Cadet D was held in barracks on Monday. I have since recollected that it was held on the parade-ground, and that it was on Tuesday.” “Does anything depend on this statement?” “Nothing whatever.” “Why, in the name of reason, then, do you walk a mile in the rain for a perfectly unimportant thing?” “Simply because I have discovered it was a misstatement, and I could not sleep comfortably to-night unless I corrected it.” And go he did. (H. O. Mackay.)

Truth and falsehood

I. The nature of the sin of lying. The youngest of us knows the thing too well--the intentional leading of others to understand as true what we know to be false.

1. It may be by a lying word--a sin of the tongue, telling a lie, speaking a lie.

2. It may be by a lying look--a sin of the eye--looking a lie.

3. It may be a lying act--a sin of the hand--acting a lie. This is one of the most common forms of it, and least thought of. Still to keep by school-life: It is the hour for arithmetic. You have got some hard sums to do--too hard for you to master without more time than you have got now. You ask your neighbour to show you his slate, or you look over the shoulder of the boy before you who is always correct, you see you have been mistaken, rub out the wrong figures, fill in the right--in a moment you are on your feet as having finished your work, read off your sum, get your mark, and, with it, credit for being one of the few who are correct. That is a theft, but it is also a lie; it is stealing, but it is also lying. It was not the tongue, but the hand that did it. And here let me warn you against being parties to the lies of others. You are a young servant. You have broken accidentally a favourite china bowl. You do not know what to do. It is the first time such a thing has happened with you. You fear your mistress will be angry; perhaps you will have to replace it out of your half year’s wage, small as it is, just on purpose to make you more careful for the future. So instead of making an immediate and full confession, explaining how it took place, and saying you will be more careful in time to come, you take up the pieces, and lay them aside till you have opportunity of getting them out of the way; or you join the broken piece in as neatly as yon can, set the bowl in the press, and the discovery is never made that you had any hand in it, till you are in another situation. You have been acting a lie; and I can hardly over-estimate the wrong you have done, most of all to yourself. When Jacob put the kid-skins on his hands and neck, and served up dainty meat to his old blind father Isaac, passing himself off for his brother Esau, he acted a lie; in was lying kindness. Before leaving this head, let me say a word regarding equivocating--that is, saying what has a double meaning--what may be taken up in two ways--the mere word true, the thing false--a kind of half-lie.

II. The character of this sin. It would take long to bring out all the bad features of it. Take the following:

1. It is a cowardly thing. No brave boy would lie. Cowards tell lies. Fear lies at the bottom of falsehood, and no liar need pretend to be brave. If I were in search of courageous boys, I would seek truthful ones. Our Scottish martyrs, the good Covenanters in olden times, were bright examples of strict adherence, not only to the truth, but to truthfulness; and There shall we find any more brave? A lie would have saved their lives--a single lying act--one lying bow of the head--but they would not.

2. It is a mean thing. It is not manly, Some of the cases I have mentioned, showing utter disregard to the feelings and interests of others, are base, shabby contemptible in the extreme. Never expect much at the hand of liars. They would sacrifice your interests to their own any day.

3. It is a God-dishonouring thing. How much is said of God in connection with truth! He is called the “God of truth.” It is said, He “keepeth truth for ever.” Every word of His is so unchangeable that His “truth” is just used for His “word”; they mean the same thing. He is called “God who cannot lie.” His people are called “children that will not lie.” Lying lips are said to be “an abomination” to Him. Truth is part of God’s likeness--God’s image. What dishonour, then, must be done to the God of truth by lying! You don’t like lying things; a lying apple, beautiful and inviting without, but rotten within; a lying penny, bright but bad; a lying cat, that invites you to make much of it, and seems ever so friendly, and then bites or scratches you; a lying lottery, that promises a prize and gives a blank; a lying branch, that invites your foot to rest upon it, and then gives way and throws you to the ground. And God dislikes lying things too. This is the worst feature in it all--it is so dishonouring to God. This is seen in the way He speaks of it and punishes it.

4. It is a devilish thing. God is the “God of truth,” the devil is the “father of lies,” is a “liar,” ay, and the father of liars. Lying is so vile a thing, and the word “lie” is so black, even to the world, even to the wicked, even to careless children, that they try to use it as little as possible, and it is spoken and thought lightly of, under another name--a “fib;” “it was only a fib”--a kind of harmless, innocent falsehood--a little lie--a softer name for a bad, black thing.

III. The danger of it.

1. It is a growing sin. By this I mean it is always increasing. One lie leads to and necessitates another, till no one knows where it will end. It is like a snowball, the further it is rolled the more it increases in size. Once or twice indulged, it soon becomes a habit.

2. It leads to and is linked with many other sins. You seldom find lying alone. It is something like drinking: it leads to almost every other sin, and all other sins seek its help, and hide themselves under it. I can hardly fancy a liar to be honest--either to fear God or regard man.

3. It degrades the whole character. When a habit of lying has been formed, we may well fear the worst. When truthfulness goes, the whole character goes along with it. There is an end to all confidence. For a young apprentice, or a young servant, there is nothing I fear so much as untruthfulness.

IV. The punishment of it. This is two-fold.

1. Here--in the present world. There is the loss of character; the loss of all respect. There is degradation; misery; shame. No one can respect a liar. It carries its own punishment with it.

2. Hereafter--in the world to come. Remember, dear children I that sooner or later the lie will be discovered--every lie! If not here, at any rate hereafter.

V. Our duty regarding it. “Lie not: putting away lying--speak the truth.”

1. Strive against it.

2. Watch against it. You must not leave the door open.

3. Pray against it.

4. Seek to love the truth.

Get the heart filled with the love of Christ, and then you will love the truth, and of necessity hate lying. Every effort will strengthen you, and the more you seek after the truth, the stronger you will become in it. Rather be simple than deceitful; rather be the cheated than the cheater, for it is written, “The Lord preserveth the simple.” (J. H. Wilson.)


Verse 10

Colossians 3:10

And have put on the new man.

In allusion to the white garments with which the primitive converts having first laid aside their heathen vestments, were wont to be arrayed, St. Paul exhorts the Colossians to “put off the old man with his deeds, and to put on the new man.” Christians should no more dishonour God and disgrace religion by any of the vices and passions of their natural state, than a courtier should insult his prince by appearing before him in squalid and ragged attire. But this is not enough--this is negative merely. The Christian must also actually array himself in the white and becoming dress of his new character and relation; as a courtier would not only abstain from insulting his prince by wearing defiled and mean garments, but would also be studious to attire himself, when approaching his presence, with the suitable and ornamental dress which he knew was required. (Bishop D. Wilson.)

Which is being renewed.--Divine creation is not a mere mechanical work. It is wholly different from all work of ours. The builder builds a house, and when it is built he has done with it, and may never see it again; still the house stands. An artist paints his picture; it passes from the easel, it is hung in the gallery; he has done with it; he does not stand there day by day, with brush and palette, keeping the yellows brilliant, and the purples rich, and the browns mellow. A poet writes his verses, prints them, and he has done with them. The pathos, beauty, music remain; they touch the heart, charm the ear, kindle the imagination of millions in many ages and lands long after his own heart has ceased to throb, and the fire of his own genius is quenched. This is not the kind of relation between God and His creatures. He transcends the universe, but is immanent in it; it only exists as long as He sustains it. If He were to let it go it would pass into chaos--into nothing. Its enduring forces are the witnesses of His eternal power. The universe, this vast temple which God has made for Himself, would not stand if the Builder were to leave it; its foundations would shake, its walls be rent, it would sink in ruins. The glory of the mountain, lake, and river would not remain like the artist’s picture, if the Divine Artist were to leave it, every outline would lose its firmness and grace, every colour its softness or its strength, and the canvas would forget the beauty which had covered it. The revelation of thought which God has given in all created things would not remain if He, the great Teacher and Poet, ceased to live or ceased to speak; the great poem would perish, it remains only as long as living inspiration is in it. God creates, and, as we are accustomed to say, sustains. But the word is inadequate; it suggests too mechanical and external a relation between God and what He has made. His action might almost be described as a continuous creation. His power is within every created thing, active, persistent, or what He has created would cease to be. His thought is within every created thing, determining, maintaining its form, the characteristic mode of its existence. The sun rises over sea and land, and creates the day; but the sun renews the day from moment to moment, or the day would pass back into night. So were it not for the great power of God ever active, all things would cease to be. The new man was created by Him; day by day the new man is kept new by the fresh and continuous activity of the same power that brought it into being. Every moment, in a true sense, we are born again, just as the stream has the continuous birth from the mountain, and the light from the sun; every moment we are arising anew from the dead, every moment there passes into us afresh the energy of the creative power; we are being renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created us, And, therefore, as we begin to live in answer to our faith, so we continue to live in answer to our faith. We never stand apart and alone. Yesterday’s inspiration gives us no light to-day; the power of the Holy Ghost that was active in us yesterday is unavailing for to-day’s righteousness. And this new life is also a life of continuous prayer. What is the real meaning of indisposition to prayer? It means that the spirit of independence is mastering us, and for us independence means death. We are living only as God lives in us. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

The Image of God restored to men

I. Man was created in the image of God. Righteous as God was righteous he saw God in his own nature; other intelligent creatures saw God in him; and God in His offspring saw Himself.

2. The image of God is now defaced. The substance remains, but its glorious attributes are gone. The form abides but the glorious features are not there.

3. To be right and blessed men must recover this image. Without likeness to God we are unable to appreciate His revelations, and incapable of filial intercourse.

4. By his own power or with the assistance of his fellows, no man can recover it. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” therefore he must be “born not of blood,” etc., “but of God.”

I. God has made provision for the renewal of his image in man.

1. This provision consists in--

2. There is provision: the recovery of God’s image is possible. The aged cannot become young, the diseased healthful, the mutilated whole; but man may be renewed. Nature illustrates this. Trees shed their leaves in autumn, and remain in winter as though dead. In the spring the sap rises and circulates, the branches extend, and the foliage returns. The plumage of the bird loses its vigour and gloss, but moulting recovers strength and restores beauty. The human body is exhausted through the waste of its functional operations, and for its renewal we have provision in feed and sleep. And for the soul there is as real a provision. Let none despair. There is balm in Gilead, etc.

3. This provision is of God. He first thought of making it, not man; and He has carried out this design.

This proves--

4. There is but one provision. If men could have restored themselves or each other, God would not have made provision. As you cannot respire by the light, nor see by the air, but vice versa, so you cannot be regenerated by intellectual or social education.

II. Men are, through the Divine provision, actually regenerated into the image of God.

1. Its sphere.

(a) A renewed man thinks, and his knowledge is of God and Christ.

(b) He feels, and his affections are led away from the unlawful and are fixed on the good.

(c) His conscience is rectified and made sensitive, and His will and actions are brought under its control.

(d) Over the world he is a conqueror.

(e) He is made like Christ, and through Christ like God.

2. Its nature.

1. When the provision of God’s mercy for the regeneration of the race is unknown, no such change is observed to take place.

2. When regeneration does take place, the remedial dispensation of the gospel is acknowledged as the means. (S. Martin.)

Religious affections arise from spiritual enlightenment

In order to have the love of Divine things, in the exercise of which religion consists, the soul must be spiritually enlightened so as to apprehend them.

I. The Scriptures teach that gracious affections arise from spiritual understanding (1 John 4:7; Philippians 1:9; Romans 10:2; Psalms 93:3-4; John 6:45; Luke 11:52).

1. Affections which arise from external impressions on the imagination are not gracious.

2. The same is true of those which are awakened by texts of Scripture which come to the mind without carrying any instruction in them. When Christ makes the Scriptures a means of the heart burning with gracious affections, it is by opening tile Scriptures to men’s understandings (Luke 24:32).

3. Affections that have their ground in bodily sensation, freedom of speech in prayer, aptness of thought, and the like, are not derived from spiritual instruction. Hence the affection is not gracious, unless the light in the understanding, which is its origin, be spiritual. There is, therefore, a “spiritual, supernatural understanding of Divine things that is peculiar to the saints, and which those who are not saints know nothing of” (1 Corinthians 2:14; 1 John 3:6).

II. This spiritual enlightenment consists in “a sense of the heart of the supreme beauty and sweetness of the holiness or moral perfection of Divine things, together with all that discerning and knowledge of the things of religion that depends upon and flows from such a sense.”

1. There is tans a difference between speculative knowledge and that which is experimental (Romans 2:20; 2 Corinthians 2:14).

2. He is led by the Spirit who is first instructed in his duty, and then powerfully inclined to comply with such Divine instruction.

III. some conclusions.

1. This spiritual sense will enable the soul to determine what actions are right and becoming to Christians more readily than the greatest abilities without it.

2. This sense will be distinguished from forms of enthusiasm and supposed discoveries of truth and communications other than those which the Scriptures have always contained.

3. Satan and evil spirits have power to tempt us through the imagination. We need to guard against vain imaginations.

4. We need to distinguish “between lively imaginations that spring from strong affections, and strong affections that arise from lively imaginations.” What is external and natural in its origin cannot be spiritual and gracious. (L. O. Thompson.)


Verse 11

Colossians 3:11

Where there is neither Greek nor Jew.

Comparing the enumeration here with that in Galatians 3:28, we mark this difference. In Galatians the abolition of all distinctions is stated in the broadest way by the selection of three typical instances: Religious prerogative, Jew and Greek; social ,caste, bond and free; natural sex, male and female. Here, on the other hand, the examples are chosen with special reference to the circumstances of the Colossian Church.

1. The Judaism of the Colossian heretics is met by Greek and Jew, and as it manifested itself especially in enforcing circumcision, this is further emphasized by “circumcision nor uncircumcision.”

2. Their Gnosticism is met by “Barbarian, Sythian.” They laid special stress on intelligence, penetration, gnosis. The apostle offers the full privileges of the gospel to barbarians even of the lowest type. In Romans 1:14 the division “Greek and Barbarian” is almost synonymous with wise and unwise.

3. Special circumstances connected with an eminent member of the Colossian Church had directed his attention at this moment to the relation of master and slaves. Hence he cannot leave the subject without adding “bond, free.” (Bishop Lightfoot.)

The high level

I. The gospel produces the new man.

1. Before man is made anew all influences fail to produce the change. The glories of heaven never move him to praise, the riches of the earth never touch his gratitude. Like a withered tree, which receives no benefit from sunshine or shower, gracious influences made no impression.

2. But thrown into the crucible and mould of the Cross, he comes out a new man. New thoughts crowd the theatre of his mind, new emotions flower in the garden of his soul, new prospects enliven his future, and impelled by new convictions he builds up a new character. When ignorant become learned and subjects kings, there is less change than when lions become lambs, and God’s enemies His friends.

3. The new man is possible to all. You cannot make poets, painters, musicians, soldiers, statesmen of all men, but the gospel can renovate all.

II. The gospel unites mankind under one head.

1. There were distinctions.

2. All these distinctions must be sunk and the race come up by another way.

III. The gospel assimilates human life to that of christ.

1. Christ absorbs every other condition which influences the mind. The river which flows over mountain and dale preserves its name and identity all the way to its mouth--then it is lost. So with him whose life-streams flow towards Christ, they will be absorbed in the ocean of His love. We surrender all to the claims of the Cross.

2. Christ is seen and felt in all the relations of life. Nature, duty, etc., which before were Christless, are now full of Christ.

3. As Christ is all in all and we in Him, therefore all things are ours. (T. Davies, Ph. D.)

Christ is all.--

Christ is all

There are two worlds, the old and the new. These are peopled by two sorts of manhood, the old man, and the new man, concerning whom see verses 9, 10.

I. What there is not is the new. When we come to be renewed after the image of Him that created us, we find an Obliteration of--

1. National distinctions: “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew.” Jesus is The Man. In the broadest sense He is neither Jew nor Gentile. Jesus furnishes us with a new patriotism, loyalty, and clanship, which we may safely indulge to the utmost.

2. Ceremonial distinctions: “There is neither circumcision nor uncircumcision.” The separating rite is abolished, and the peculiar privilege of a nation born after the flesh is gone with it.

3. Social distinctions: “There is neither bond nor free.” We are enabled through Divine grade to see that these distinctions are--

What a blessed blending of all men in one body is brought about by our Lord Jesus! Let us all work in the direction of unity.

II. What there is in the new. “Christ is all and in all.”

1. All our culture. In Him we emulate and excel the “Greek.”

2. All our revelation. We glory in Him even as the “Jew” gloried in receiving the oracles of God.

3. All our ritual. We have no “circumcision.” All Scriptural ordinances are of Him.

4. All our simplicity.

5. All our natural traditions. He is more to us than the freshest ideas which cross the mind of the “Barbarian.”

6. All our unconquerableness and liberty. The “Scythian “had not such boundless independence as we find in Him.

7. All as our Master, if we be “bond.” Happy servitude of which He is the head!

8. Our Magna Charta: yea, our liberty itself if we be “free.”

Conclusion: “Christ all and in all” furnishes a test question for us.

1. Is Christ so great with us that He is our all?

2. Is Christ so broadly and fully with us that He is all in our all?

3. Is He, then, all in our trust, our hope, our assurance, our joy, our aim, our strength, our wisdom--in a word, “all in all”?

4. If so, are we living in all for Him?

5. Are we doing all for Him, because He is all to us? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

But Christ is all in all

Here in the text Christ is said to be all; but in what sense is Christ all?

1. Christ is all by way of eminency; all good things are eminently to be found in Him, as the sun doth virtually contain in it the light of the lesser stars.

2. Christ is all, by way of derivation; all good things are transmitted and conveyed to us through Christ; as your rich commodities, jewels, and spices come by sea, so all heavenly blessings sail to us through the red sea of Christ’s blood; “through Him and to Him are all things.” Christ is that spiritual pipe, through which the golden oil of mercy empties itself into the soul. Christ must needs be all, for “in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead.” He hath a partnership with God the Father; “all things that the Father hath are Mine;” so that there is enough in Him to scatter all our fears, to remove all our burdens, to supply all our wants; there can be no defect in that which is infinite. It shows us the glorious fulness of Jesus Christ; “He is all in all.” Christ is a panoply, a magazine and storehouse of all spiritual riches: you may go with the bee from flower to flower, and suck here and there a little sweetness, but you will never have enough till you come to Christ, for Be is “all in all.”

Now, in particular, Christ is in all six respects:

1. Christ is all in regard of righteousness--“He is made to us righteousness.”

2. Christ is all in regard of sanctification--“He is made to us sanctification.” This doth tune and prepare the soul for heaven; it turns iron into gold; it makes the heart which was Satan’s picture, Christ’s epistle. There must be first our days of purification before our days of glorification. What a blessed work is this! A soul beautified and adorned with grace, is like the firmament bespangled with glittering stars. But whence is this? Christ is all; He is made to us sanctification; He it is that sends His Spirit into our hearts to be a refiner’s fire, to burn up our dross, and make our graces sparkle like gold in the furnace; Christ ariseth upon the soul “with healing in His wings.”

3. Christ is all in regard of Divine acceptance. As Joseph did present his brethren before Pharaoh, and brought them into favour with the king, so the Lord Jesus carries the name of the saints upon His breast, and presents them before His Father, so bringing them into repute and honour. Through the red glass everything appears of a red colour; through the blood of Christ we look of a sanguine complexion, ruddy and beautiful in God’s eyes.

4. Christ is all in regard of Divine assistance; a Christian’s strength lies in Christ. Whence is it a Christian is able to do duty, to resist temptation, but through Christ’s strengthening?

5. Christ is all in regard of pacification; when conscience is in an agony, and burns as hell in the sense of God’s wrath; now Christ is all, He pours the palm of His blood into these wounds, He maketh the storm a calm. Christ doth not only make peace in the court of heaven, but in the court of conscience; He not only makes peace above us, but within us.

6. Christ is all in regard of remuneration; He it is that crowns us after all our labours and sufferings. If Christ be all, it shows what a vast disproportion there is between Christ and the creature; there is as much difference as between ens and nihil; Christ is all in all, and the creature is nothing at all--“wilt thou set thine eyes on that which is not?” In all our spiritual wants we should repair to Christ as Jacob’s sons did to their brother Joseph. He opened all the store-houses, and “gave to his brethren corn and provision for the way.” Thus the Lord hath made Christ our Joseph; “in whom are hid all treasures.” If Christ be all, see here the Christian’s inventory, how rich is he that hath Christ! he hath all that may make him completely happy. Plutarch reports that the wife of Phocion being asked where her jewels were, she answered, “My husband, and his triumphs are my jewels!” so, if a Christian be asked, where are his riches, he will say, “Christ is my riches.” How could a Christian sit down satisfied with Christ? “Christ is all.” What though he wants other things, is not Christ enough? If a man hath sunshine, he doth not complain he wants the light of a candle. Thou hast Christ with all His perquisites and royalties! Suppose a father should deny his son furniture for his house, but should settle all his land upon him, had he any cause to complain? If God denies thee a little furniture in the world, but in the meantime settles His land upon thee, He gives thee the field wherein the pearl of price is hid, hast thou any cause to repine? A Christian that wants necessaries, yet having Christ, he hath the one thing needful; “ye are complete in Him.” What! complete in Christ, and not content with Christ? If Christ be all, see the deplorable condition of a Christless person; he is poor, he is worth nothing; “thou are wretched, miserable, and poor,” etc.

The sadness of a man that wants Christ will appear in these seven particulars.

1. He hath no justification.

2. He that wants Christ, wants the beauty of holiness; Jesus Christ is a living spring of grace; “full of grace and truth.”

3. He that wants Christ, wants His freedom; “if the Son make you free, you shall be free indeed.”

4. He that wants Christ, hath no ability for service.

5. He that wants Christ, hath no consolation; Christ is called “the consolation of Israel.” A Christless soul is a comfortless soul.

6. He that wants Christ, hath no salvation.

1. If Christ be all, then set a high valuation upon Jesus Christ; “to you which believe, He is precious.”

2. If Jesus Christ be all, then make sure of Christ; never leave trading in ordinances, till you have gotten this pearl of price. In Christ there is the accumulation of all good things.

And that I may persuade all to get Christ, let me show what an enriching blessing Christ is.

1. Christ is a supreme good; put what you will in the balance with Christ, He doth infinitely outweigh. Is life sweet? Christ is better: He is the life of the soul; “His loving: kindness is better than life.”

2. Christ is a sufficient good; He who hath Christ, needs no more; he who hath the ocean, needs not the cistern.

3. Christ is a sanctifying good, He makes every condition happy to us, He sweetens all our comforts, and sanctifies all our crosses.

4. Christ is a select, choice good. God shows more love in giving us Christ, than in giving us crowns and kingdoms.

5. Christ is such a good, as without which nothing is good, without Christ health is not good, it is fuel for lust: riches are not good, they are golden snares; ordinances are not good, though they are good in themselves, yet not good to us.

6. Christ is an enduring good; other things are like the lamp, which while it shines it spends, the heavens “shall wax old like a garment.”

7. Christ is a diffusive, communicative good; He is full, not only as a vessel, but as a spring, He is willing to give Himself to us.

But how shall I get a part in Christ?

1. See your need of Christ, know that you are undone without Him.

2. Be importunate after Christ. “Lord, give me Christ, or I die!”

3. Be content to have Christ, as Christ is offered,

A Prince and a Saviour.

1. Make Christ all in your understanding, be ambitious to know nothing but Christ. What is it to have knowledge in physic--to be able with Esculapius and Galen to discourse of the causes and symptoms of a disease, and what is proper to apply, and in the meantime to be ignorant of the healing under Christ’s wings? What is it to have knowledge in astronomy--to discourse of the stars and planets, and to be ignorant vi Christ, that bright morning-star which leads to heaven? We cannot know God but through Christ.

2. Make Christ all in your affections. Love nothing but Christ; love is the choicest affection, it is the richest jewel the creature hath to bestow; O if Christ be all, love Him better than all!

3. Make Christ all in your abilities, do all in His strength, “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” When you are to resist a tentation, to mortify a corruption, do not go out in your own strength, but in the strength of Christ: “be strong in the Lord.”

4. Make Christ all in your aims; do all to His glory.

5. Make Christ all in your affiance; trust to none but Christ for salvation; the Papists make Christ something, but not all.

6. Make Christ all in your joy. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When a Christian sees a deficiency in himself, he may see an all-sufficiency in his Saviour: “happy is that people whose God is the Lord!” That servant needs not want who hath his master’s full purse at command: he needs not want who hath Christ, for “Christ is all and in all.” (T. Watson.)

Christ is all

The doctrine of the text--

I. Accounts for the essential similarity of Christian character. Innumerable are the causes of diversity--constitutional peculiarities, external circumstances, accidental associations. But amidst all these, whether men are slaves or freemen, rude or civilized, etc., the Christian principle equalizes all, us forming a common centre, a standard under which all are enlisted, the source of their felicity, the rejoicing of their hearts. Christ is all in all.

1. To those who believe in Him.

2. In all the felicities of an eternal life.

II. Illustrates the true unity of the church. To produce unity uniformity has been attempted, but this is different from oneness of spirit. No visible accordance by subscribing to formularies or uniting in observances can realize unity. There will be a period when this will be realized; but amidst all that separates, amidst all that enemies and friends have done to injure the cause’, there is a real and effective unity between Christians. Bring believers of every age, class, name together, and one chord will vibrate in every heart, one topic be the theme of every song, one principle the life of all. They are all in Christ and therefore one: one in relationship, sympathy, joy, sorrow, hope.

III. Proves the universality of the Christian dispensation. This is the religion of man; adapted to him wherever you find him, whether scorched by Indian suns or blanched by northern snows. All men are lost; Christianity comes to save all men. The religion of Christ, unlike any other, has nothing local or restrictive. There are no circumstantials in it to narrow its range. This universality--

1. Is founded on the condition of man in all circumstances.

2. Is proved by its actual results wherever received.

3. Is provided for by the security of the everlasting covenant.

4. Is guaranteed to the Church by the presence of Christ.

IV. Constitutes the great subject of the Christian ministry, and assigns the true cause of its efficiency. “I if I be lifted up,” etc.

V. Exhibits an adequate source of consolation and support in the prospect of death and eternity.

1. It secures a victory over the king of terrors.

2. It ensures an abundant entrance into heaven. (J. Fletcher, D. D.)

Christ is all

These three words are the essence of Christianity. If our hearts really go along with them it is well. If not we have much to learn. Christ is all.

I. In all the counsels of God concerning man.

1. There was a time when this earth had no being, where was Christ then? (John 1:1; Philippians 2:6; John 17:5; John 17:24; Proverbs 7:23).

2. There came a time when this earth was created in its present order. Where was Christ then? (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:10; Proverbs 8:27-30).

3. There came a day when sin entered the world. Where was Christ then? (Genesis 3:15).

4. There came a time when the world seemed buried in ignorance of God. For 4,000 years the nations of the earth appeared to have clean forgotten the God that made them (1 Corinthians 1:21). What did Christ do then? Left His eternal glory and came down to provide a salvation.

5. There is a time coming when sin shall be cast out from this world (Romans 8:22; Acts 3:21; 2 Peter 3:13; Isaiah 11:9). Where shall Christ be then? And what shall He do? (Matthew 24:30; Revelation 11:15; Psalms 2:8; Philippians 2:10-11; Daniel 7:14).

6. There is a day Coming when all men shall be judged. Where will Christ be then? (John 5:22; Matthew 25:32; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Now, if any think little of Christ, he is very unlike God. He is of one mind and God of another. In all the eternal counsels of God the Father, in creation, redemption, restitution, and judgment Christ is all (John 5:23).

II. Is the inspired books which make up the bible.

1. It was Christ crucified who was set forth in every Old Testament sacrifice (1 Peter 3:18).

2. It was Christ to whom Abel looked when he offered a better sacrifice than Cain (Hebrews 11:4).

3. It was Christ of whom Enoch prophesied in the days of abounding wickedness before the flood (Jude 1:15).

4. It was Christ to whom Abraham looked when he dwelt in tents in the land of promise (John 8:56).

5. It was Christ of whom Jacob spoke to his sons, as he lay dying (Genesis 49:10).

6. It was Christ who was the subject of the ceremonial law. The sacrifices, altar, priesthood, etc., were emblems of Christ and His work (Galatians 3:24).

7. It was Christ to whom God directed the attention of Israel by all the miracles of the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:4; John 3:14).

8. It was Christ of whom the Judges were types.

9. It was Christ of whom David was a type.

10. It was Christ of whom all the prophets from Isaiah to Malachi spoke (1 Peter 1:11).

11. It is Christ of whom the whole New Testament is full. The Gospels are Christ living among men; the Epistles are Christ explained and exalted; the Acts are Christ proclaimed. What is the Bible to you? A book of good moral precepts, or one in which “Christ is all and in all”? If not the latter you have used it to little purpose. You are like a man who studies the solar system and leaves out the sun.

III. In the religion of all true christians. Christ is all--

1. In a sinner’s justification before God (Ephesians 3:12; Romans 3:26). Wherewith shall man come before God? Shall we say we have done our duty, and bring forward prayers, morality, church-going? Which of these will stand God’s searching inspection? None. We must come through Jesus.

2. In a “Christian’s sanctification.”

3. In a Christian’s comfort in time present. A saved soul has many sorrows and trials, which were unbearable but for Christ (Philippians 2:1). Jesus is a brother born for adversity (Hebrews 4:15). We talk of the preciousness of sympathy, but there is none like that of Christ (Psalms 94:19; Psalms 124:5). In Him alone there is no failure. Rich men are disappointed in their wealth, learned men in their books, husbands in their wives, etc., statesmen in their places; but none was ever disappointed in Christ.

4. In a Christian’s hopes for time to come. He has a good hope, the worldly man has none. It is a blessed hope (Titus 2:13; Psalms 62:5).

IV. In heaven.

1. Like the altar in Solomon’s temple Christ will be the grand object in heaven (Revelation 5:6; Revelation 21:23).

2. His praise will be our eternal song (Revelation 5:12-13).

3. His service will be our one occupation (Revelation 7:15).

4. His presence will be our one everlasting enjoyment (Revelation 22:4; Psalms 17:15). All this being the ease, then Christ ought to be all in all.

V. In the visible Church Splendid buildings, gorgeous ceremonies, troops of ordained men are nothing in the sight of God if Christ be not magnified.

VI. In the Christian ministry. Its one work is to lift up Christ. Conclusion: Learn--

1. The utter uselessness of a Christless religion.

2. The enormous folly of joining anything with Christ in the matter of salvation.

3. If you want to be saved to apply direct to Christ.

4. If you be Christians deal with Him as if you really believed this; trust Him far more than you have ever done. (Bishop Ryle.)

Christ is all

I. By whom this truth is recognized.

1. There are many to whom Christ is nothing; He scarcely enters into their thoughts.

2. There are others to whom Christ is something but not much. They are anxious to save themselves, and use the merits of Christ as a sort of make weight to their own slight deficiencies.

3. Others think Him to be much but not all, and so want to feel more, repent more, before they accept Him.

4. Some regard Christ as all in some things, in justification, e.g., but not sanctification, whereas it is said that He is “made unto us wisdom,” etc. There is no point between the gates of hell and the gates of heaven where a believer has to say, Christ fails me here and I must rely on my own endeavours.

5. This is a truth which every believer recognizes, and on which the Church, in spite of its divisions, is one. The man who cannot say this is no Christian, the man who can is.

II. What this truth includes.

1. Christ is all by way of

2. Christ is all to us--

3. Christ is all.

4. Shift the kaleido scope; Christ is all.

5. Christ is all

III. What this truth involves.

1. The excellence of Christ. Of whom else could this be said? There are many good things in this world, but nothing that is good for everything. Some plants may be good medicine but not good cordial; but the plant of renown is good every way. Good clothing is not able to stay your hunger, but Christ is the bread of heaven and the best robe.

2. The safety and blessedness of the believer. Christ is all that he will as well as does want; but we are devoid of all when destitute of Christ.

2. A rebuke for the doubts of many seekers. “I have not this or that,” but Christ has it if it be good for anything.

4. A rebuke for the coldness of saints, If Christ be all, how is it we prize and love Him so little?

5. A means of measuring young converts. We ought not to expect them to be philosophers or divines. Is Christ all in all to them? If so, welcome them.

6. A measure for ministers. Is Christ all in their preaching?

7. A help to estimate our devotions.

IV. What this truth requires--the exhibition of a Christlike life. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ all in all

Christianity is simply Christ. Without His person there is nothing left that is distinctively Christian. Other religions may be separated from their founders; and we rosy take any feature away without destroying its force. But separate any truth of Christianity from Christ and it has lost its peculiar character. Christ is the all in all--

I. Of Christian Morality. Even sceptics admit the extraordinary reformatory effect of Christianity. This is not due to any new truth of morals Christ gave to the world. His system is original in the new form and power given to truth. It would be absurd to deny the claim of an inventor to originality, simply because the materials of his machine were known before. But the peculiar power which has made Christian morality so effective is the living person of Jesus. Embodied in Him the truth is seen and felt and loved as never before, We first love Him and then we love the purity, charity, etc., which make Him “the altogether lovely,” and enthusiasm for these follows. When the sun has set, the mountains, plains, and rivers may be still visible, but their glory has gone. When the person of Jesus is removed from His moral system, its precepts and maxims are there still, but their charm has gone.

II. Of Christian philantrophy. There is no such self-sacrifice and devotion as in Christianity. Witness the history of missionary and charitable effort. Its secret inspiration is “The love of Christ constraineth us,” There are other motives, and Christians feel them as much as non-Christians--the beauty of self-sacrifice, the fine sentiment of humanity, the grandeur of heroic effort. But the grand inspiration is as Paul puts it. A child will work wonders under the approving eye of father or mother. A soldier will fight marvellously under the eye of his captain. A Highland chief fell; and his clan thinking him slain began to waver, but raising himself on his elbow he called, “My children, I am not dead, I am looking at you.” That turned defeat into victory. At the battle of Ivry Henry IV. said, “My children, when you lose sight of your colours rally to my white plume. You will always find it in the way to glory.” So when every other motive fails; when the flags of humanity, sentiment, duty have gone down, the Christian rallies round the Captain of his salvation.

III. Of Christian Consolation. It is not in any new philosophy of suffering, or philosophical way of looking at it, that the Christian finds that peace which the world knows not nor can give. Take to an afflicted Christian even Paul’s “These light afflictions,” etc., and you elicit no peculiar response. But speak to him of the personal love and sympathy of Jesus; say, “In all thy affliction He is afflicted”; point out to him in the dark valley he is treading the bloody foot-prints of his Redeemer; show him in the furnace “one like unto the Son of Man,” and mark the different effect.

IV. Of the Christian plan of salvation. Conclusion: Learn--

1. The folly of that cant about retaining all that is essential in Christianity without the person of Christ.

2. That to be a Christian is to be in personal communion with Christ. (S. P. Sprecher, D. D.)

Christ all in all

I. For the righteousness of the Church. He is the Lord our Righteousness. “He hath made Him to be sin for us,” etc.

II. In a sinner’s acceptance before God. “No man cometh to the Father but by Me.”

III. For the sanctification of believers. “Made unto us … sanctification.”

IV. For the assistance of a saint’s weakness. “Present help in time of trouble.” “My graze is sufficient for thee.”

V. For the tranquility of the Christian’s soul. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” “The peace of God which passeth all understanding,” etc.

VI. In the gracious rewards offered to His disciples. “Father, I will that … they be with Me.” Inferences:

1. How great the difference between Christ as our portion, and all those sources of comfort which earth can afford. The one is “the fountain of living waters,” the other “broken cisterns.” All are yours if ye are Christ’s.

2. The believer should glory in none but Him.

3. How deplorable the condition of those who have no interest in Him.

4. Let us make Him all in all to ourselves.

The Lord Jesus Christ all in all

I. There are some persons who have no essentials in their creed, and others no circumstantials.

2. Surely there are differences between things, between speculative opinion and a practical truth, the ornament of a bridge and the key-stone of an arch, a man maimed and a man dead. The Scriptures, therefore, diminish the value of inferior things in religion, and magnify the importance of the superior ones. Hence, it everywhere shows that Christ is all in all. This is so--

I. In the operations of Divine grace.

1. Redemption. “Ye are bought with a price,” and this price is “the precious blood of Christ.”

2. Justification. “By Him all that believe are justified from all things.” Men talk of making their peace with God. That is made “by the blood of Christ’s cross”; all that is required is to accept it.

3. Renovation. We are “new creatures in Christ Jesus.”

4. Perseverance. The righteous hold on their way not by their own resolutions and efforts, but because He is able to save to the uttermost. We are “more than conquerors through Him.”

5. Glorification. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear,” etc.

II. In the testimony of Scripture. The Bible is a revelation of Christ, and is therefore called “the Word of Christ.” Christ is all in all.

1. in the historical part. In Adam you see him as the head and representative of his people; in Noah, as the restorer of the new world; in Isaac, as a burnt offering; in Joseph, as humbled and exalted, and the saviour of his father’s house; in Aaron, as a high priest; in Moses, as a lawgiver; in Joshua, as the leader and commander of the people; in Solomon, as the Prince of Peace; in Jonah, rising again the third day.

2. In the Levitical part, which was a shadow of which He is the body. Everything in this dispensation reminds us of Christ: the smitten rock, of His refreshment; the manna, of the Bread of Life; the mercy seat, of His propitiation; the passover, of His blood sprinkled on the conscience securing us from the avenger; the sacrifices, of His atonement.

3. In the prophetical part. “To Him gave all the prophets witness.” “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

4. The promissory part. The promises are only “exceeding great and precious,” as they are “Yea and Amen in Him.”

5. The evangelical part.

6. The epistolary part.

III. Is the work of the ministry.

1. In its institution. When He ascended on high He gave gifts to men, and gave some apostles, etc., “for the work of the ministry.”

2. In its commission. “Go ye into all the world.”

3. In its qualification. He only can make men “able ministers of the New Testament.”

4. In its successes. He confirms the word by signs following.

5. In its theme. “God forbid that I should glory,” etc. All other themes radiate from or converge in Him--God, providence, heaven.

IV. In the estimation of His people.

1. This applies to Abraham, who “rejoiced to see his day”; to Moses, who esteemed His “reproach greater riches than the treasures of Egypt”; to Job, who knew that his Redeemer lived; to David, to whom He was “fairer than the children of men”; to the Church, in whose sight He is “altogether lovely”; to Simeon, who saw in Him God’s salvation; to Paul, who esteemed all things loss for the excellency of His knowledge; to the first Christians, who exclaimed, “Whom not having seen we love”; to the noble army of martyrs, who said, “We cannot dispute for Him, but we can burn for Him.”

2. This applies to His own people now, for He is all in all in their thoughts, desires, experience, actions. (W. Jay.)

Christ is a Christian’s all

1. By a Christian is meant:

2. To such Christ is all (1 Corinthians 1:30). We are foolish, but Christ is our “wisdom”; we are guilty, but He is our “righteousness”; we are polluted, but He is our “sanctification”; we are lost and undone, but He is our “redemption”; we are empty, He is a full fountain; we are necessitous and indigent, in Him dwells all fulness of everything (Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:3; Colossians 2:9-10). The rich merchant was none the poorer for parting with all for the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46).

3. When ever so much is said, there cannot be a greater word than “all.” The Greeks deemed it an excellency to speak much in few words; “an ocean of matter: in a drop of words.” The apostle gives us here gold in the wedge, which we are to beat out. The two names given by the ancient philosophers to God were “The Being,” and “The All.” These the apostle gives to Christ. Physicians speak of an universal medicine, but Jesus is a true panacea. There are thousands of cases in which no other can help, but not one in which Christ cannot help fully.

I. Wherein Christ is all.

1. To all Christians, to free them from whatever might hinder their salvation.

(a) by expiating its guilt, and so removing the wrath of God (Ephesians 5:6; Romans 8:1). This neither legal sacrifices nor good works could do; but Christ not only frees us from condemnation but confers the adoption of children (Romans 8:14-16).

(b) By cleansing its pollution (Zechariah 13:1), and restoring us to purity (Isaiah 1:18).

(c) By conquering its tyranny, and reigning Himself where it once held sway.

(d) By redeeming us from its bondage, and giving us the glorious liberty of the children of God.

2. To fill the souls of believers with all that good which may capacitate them for happiness. The experience of grace is essential for the enjoyment of glory. Heaven must be brought down into our souls, before we can ascend thither (Colossians 1:12; Ephesians 5:5). We are by nature unmeet, and could we enter heaven in a state of nature, it would not be heaven for us (Romans 8:6-7), because all delight arises from the suitableness of object to subject. Now Christ is all in this respect (John 1:16; John 10:10; Ephesians 5:8; Ephesians 2:5-10).

3. To fill all ordinances with power. These are means of salvation, and through His concurrence effectual means. Yet they are but empty pipes unless Christ is pleased to fill them, who “filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:23). It is He who baptizes with the Holy Ghost; and in the preaching of the Word speaks to the heart (Luke 24:32). While the disciples fished alone they caught nothing; but when Christ came they caught multitudes (John 21:3-6).

4. To fill every condition with comfort. The best condition is not good without Him, nor the worst bad with Him (Psalms 84:10; Psalms 73:25; Psalms 63:3). The sense of Christ’s love enabled Paul to overcome all adversaries (Romans 8:38-39).

5. To furnish us with strength to persevere. The way to heaven is no smooth and easy way (Matthew 7:14; Acts 14:22): and inasmuch as the crown is reserved for the head of perseverance (Revelation 2:10), we require a strength greater than our own (Romans 7:24). In ourselves we can do nothing (John 15:5; 2 Corinthians 3:5), but in Him who is our all; we can do all things (Philippians 4:13). Thus the Christian is complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10).

II. How is Christ our all?

1. Negatively: not so as to excuse us from all endeavours. Christ’s sufficiency does not excuse, but engage our industry (Philippians 2:12-13). It is God who does all; therefore, do all you can.

2. Positively:

III. what advantage is it to have our all in Christ.

1. Because our salvation can be in no hands so safe as Christ’s. Had it been in ours, alas for us; but in His who is able to save to the utmost it is secure. Hence, as we can have no other Saviour beside Him, we cannot have any other like Him (Acts 4:12).

2. Because our salvation could have been in no way so comfortable. As God has the glory of every attribute, so Christians have the comfort of every attribute in this way of salvation.

Application:

1. If Christ be all, then there is no ground for despondency, either from your own deficiencies or those of creature helps. You need nothing since Christ is your all.

2. What cause have we to be thankful for Christ (Genesis 32:10; Ephesians 1:3).

3. How great is their folly and misery who keep at a distance from Christ. (John 5:40; Ephesians 2:12).

4. That Christ may be all in all to you.

(a) Are you conformable unto Christ (Romans 8:9; Philippians 2:5; 1 Corinthians 6:17; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

(b) Are you all to Him in your affections (Psalms 63:3; Psalms 73:5; Hebrews 11:26; Matthew 10:37); in your acknowledgements (1 Corinthians 15:10; Ephesians 5:20); in your contentment and satisfaction (Hebrews 3:17-18); in your dependencies and expectations; in your designs and aims (Philippians 1:20). (W. Whitaker, A. M.)

Christ everything to the Christian

The happiness we derive from creatures is like a beggar’s garment; it is made up of pieces and patches, and is worth very little after all. But the blessedness we derive from the Saviour is simple and complete. In Him all fulness dwells. He is coeval with every period. He is answerable to every condition. He is a Physician to heal, a Counsellor to advise, a King to govern, a Friend to sympathise, a Father to provide. He is a Foundation to sustain, a Root to enliven, a Fountain to refresh. He is the Shadow from the heat, the Bread of Life, the Morning Star, the Sun of Righteousness--all and in all. No creature can be a substitute for Him, but He can supply the place of every creature. (W. Jay.)

Christ all in all in death

Foster Rutherford when dying said, “He has indeed been a precious Christ to me; and now I feel Him to be my rock, my strength, my rest, my hope, my joy, my all in all.” Robert Newton said, “Christ Jesus the Saviour of sinners and life of the dead. I am going, going, going, to glory! Farewell, sin! farewell, death! Praise the Lord!”


Verses 12-14

Verses 12-15

Colossians 3:12-15

Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved.

The essentials of a Christian character

The Christian character is distinguished by--

I. A special designation, signifying--

1. Divine choice--“Elect.”

2. Personal purity--“Holy.” The evidence and practical result of election (Ephesians 1:4),

3. Divine affection--“Beloved.” Each of these epithets has the force of a motive.

II. A. Heartfelt sympathy. Arising from--

1. A spirit of tender mercy--“Bowels of mercy”--a phrase expressing the effect on the body of strong emotions of pity. A genuine pity is not only visible on the countenance, and uttered by the lips, but is felt in the inmost heart, and prompts to generous actions.

2. A spirit of kindness.

III. A genuine humility.

1. This is not undue self-depreciation, but a proper estimate of self.

2. It proceeds from exalted views of God.

3. It is fruitful, as that branch in the garden which is most heavily laden with fruit is nearest the ground.

IV. A gentle and patient spirit.

1. “Meekness” ( 8:2), which is slow to take and scorns to give offence.

2. “Longsuffering,” meekness continued, though subjected to the strongest provocations.

V. A practical manifestation of a spirit of mutual forbearance and forgiveness.

1. This is to be exercised universally--“Any.” Quarrel would be better rendered complaint. It takes two to make a quarrel; the Christian should never be one.

2. It is en forced by the highest example--“Even as Christ.” The heart that is not moved by this is incorrigible.

Lessons--

1. The unity of Christian character is made up of many separate essential graces.

2. The condition of things in this world affords ample scope for the exercise of every Christian grace.

3. To forgive is at once the most difficult and most Christlike. (W. Barlow.)

The costume of a saint

1. Clothing is the external badge of individuality. Without clothing, or with an absolute uniformity of clothing, it would scarcely be possible for one man to be known from another. And much of the character comes out in one’s dress. The vain, the proud, the miserly, the profligate, the orderly, or the reckless man, may often be quickly distinguished by his dress. So a man’s disposition is the dress of his soul. You know the tone of spirit which distinguishes him from another, and you are struck with it as soon as you are in his company. The word “habit” may be applied either to the material or to the immaterial parts and adjuncts of the human being, and it is a connecting link between the dress of the body and the disposition of the soul.

2. There are distinctive costumes peculiar to certain classes or communities. There are national costumes, by which an Englishman is known from a Turk, a German from a Spaniard, etc. There are costumes of the sexes, and of various ages. There are costumes of professions and trades, aa the soldier’s, the sailor’s, the king’s, the judge’s, etc. Thus also there are characteristic phases of mind which belong to special classes. S. Let us apply these things to Christians. With due allowance for individual idiosyncrasies, there is yet a certain tone and temper of mind which should belong to every child of God. It should be to him as a suit of clothes, at once significant of his character and citizenship, and also contributing to his comfort and comeliness. The parts of this suit are here carefully enumerated, and you will see how admirably they correspond with one another.

I. The costume of a saint as here described.

1. “Bowels of mercies,” a yearning and tender sympathy with the sorrowful and afflicted: as opposed to carelessness or cruel delight in their griefs.

2. “Kindness,” active goodwill, not merely ready to sympathize with suffering, but in every way to do good to others. It is simple, pure, brotherly, and disinterested.

3. “Humbleness of mind” has two phases. It is a low estimate of ourselves, and it leads us highly to estimate others in comparison with ourselves.

4. “Meekness” is a spirit of patience and self-control under reproach, misrepresentation, and unkind treatment by others.

5. “Long-suffering” elongates meekness, and stretches it out, if unkindness from others should be systematic and long continued.

6. “Forbearing one another,” in case of little hitches and provocations.

7. “Forgiving one another,” in case of actual injury to character or estate.

8. “Over all these put on charity.” This is like a girdle round the loins, or like an easy-fitting toga, or cloak, which is at once elegant and useful. It completes our spiritual dress, and adds a general grace to the entire outfit. Further, all this is not to be merely “put on.” There is a radical cause which should produce it all. This lies deep in the heart; and without it, the rest would be a cloak of hypocrisy. “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” It is the peace of God in Christ Jesus. Where this is in the heart, the outward clothing will have an inward root. It will be like the natural and vital clothing of the autumn trees, and not like the artificial attire of the human body: the outward and the inward will correspond. We shall put on externally, by putting out or developing from within, all the graces here sketched.

II. The appropriateness of this attire.

1. Consider your position as God’s elect--holy and beloved. God’s election of you has exemplified in Him all these graces, there[ore it is right that you should exhibit them as well. Besides, you are called to be like Him, and such as He can admire; therefore, conform to His character in these particulars.

2. Consider especially His grace in forgiving your sins. How great that boon! It is a small thing to ask you to do the same for others.

3. Your vocation as a Christian Church demands the exercise of these virtues. You are called to be one compact and corporate body in the Lord. There should be no schism, no lack of mutual sympathy and interest among you. On the contrary, there should be the utmost gentleness, kindness, patience, etc. This is the dress which God requires you to wear. Do you possess it? Seek it more fully now: renew it continually, and so walk, worthy of the high vocation wherewith ye are called., and be thankful. (T. G. Horton.)

The garments of the renewed soul

Because the new nature has been assumed, therefore array your souls in vesture corresponding; because Christ is all in all clothe yourselves with all brotherly graces corresponding to that unity into which Christians are brought by their common possession of Christ.

I. An enumeration of the fair garments of the new man.

1. Let us go over the wardrobe of the consecrated soul.

2. Is this a type of character that the world admires? Is it not uncommonly like what most people call “a poor spiritless creature”? It was a new man emphatically, for the world had never seen anything like it; and it is a new man still. It may be true that Christianity has added no new virtue to those prescribed by conscience, but it has altered the perspective of the whole, and created a type of excellence in which the gentler virtues predominate, and the novelty of which is proved by the reluctance of men to recognize it. By its side worldly “heroic virtues” are vulgar and glaring, like some daub of a soldier on a sign-board by the side of Angelico’s white-robed visions. Better is he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.

3. The great pattern and motive of forgiveness. “As Christ has forgiven us.”

II. The girdle which keeps the garments in their places.

1. “Above all” is equivalent to “over.” The silken sash of love will brace all the rest into a unity. “Perfectness” does not mean that it is the perfect principle of union, but is a collective expression for the various graces which together make up perfection. Love knits into a harmonious whole virtues which would otherwise be fragmentary and incomplete.

2. We can conceive of the dispositions named as existing in some fashion without love, but let love come into the heart and knit a man to the poor creature whom he had only pitied before, or to the enemy whom he had only been able to forgive with an effort, and it lifts these into a nobler life.

3. Perhaps there is the deeper truth that love produces all these graces. The virtues are best cultivated by cultivating it. Paul elsewhere calls love the fulfilling of the law even as his Master had taught him that all the duties were summed up in love to God and love to man. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The elect and their duties

I. The qualities of the elect of God.

1. They are chosen and separated from the world to serve God according to the discipline of the gospel (Ephesians 1:4). It is this that Moses represented to ancient Israel the type of the new (Deuteronomy 26:18). They who boast of being elected but lead a godless life mock God and man. Election is ever accompanied by conversion and sanctification. No one knows of his election but by its effects.

2. They are holy--all of them. Paul is not of Rome’s opinion that none are saints but the canonized. In the Creed, the Church, which is the body of all true Christians, is called holy, and the communion of saints. No man can be a Christian who is not a saint (Romans 8:9). This quality obliges us to the following virtues which are parts of holiness (Leviticus 11:44; Leviticus 20:26).

3. Beloved of God. This obliges us to love God, the effect of which is--

II. The graces of the elect.

1. Mercy is a tenderness which causes us to commiserate the miseries of others as if we took part in them ourselves. “Bowels of mercies” is a Hebrew expression signifying that the real virtue is one which moves the heart, and is not merely a face expression. The gospel has no affinity with stoicism, which holds compassion to be an infirmity (Luke 6:36; 1 Peter 3:8; Romans 13:15), and is exemplified in Christ (Hebrews 5:2; Hebrews 4:15).

2. Kindness is a goodness of nature that takes pleasure in obliging and avoids injuring. We are obliged to this by our stewardship of God’s manifold grace.

3. Humility is the mother of patience and the nurse of charity. It is a difficult virtue to proud man, and its difficulty arises out of our ignorance of ourselves and our relation to God. Could we know this pride would be impossible.

4. Meekness is gentleness, the most amiable ornament of life, which receives every one with an open heart and pleasing countenance, takes things in good part, and is proof against self-injurious irritations.

5. Patience is the sister of gentleness, and undergoes affronts under which gentleness might break down. 6:For the better clearing of these Paul adds--

III. The exemplar of the elect (Ephesians 4:32). What stronger reason could he urge? Christ being the image to which we ought to be conformed, how shall we be His living portraits if we have not the goodness He has shown to us? (Matthew 18:32-33). We were His enemies, and His treatment of us must be our inspiration and model in our treatment of our enemies. (J. Daille.)

Gentle Christians--

A true Christian is like the lily which stings no one, and yet he lives among those who are full of sharpness. He aims to please, and not to provoke, and yet he lives among those whose existence is a standing menace. The thorn tears and lacerates: it is all armed from its root to its topmost branch, defying all comers. But there stands the lily, smiling, not defying; charming, and not harming. Such is the real Christian, holy, harmless, full of love and gentleness and tenderness. Therein lieth his excellence. Who would not stop and turn aside to see a lily among thorns, and think he reads a promise from his God to comfort him amid distress? Such is a true Christian: he is a consolation in his family, a comfort in his neighbourhood, an ornament to his profession, and a benediction to his age. He is all tenderness and gentleness, and yet it may be he lives among the envious, the malicious, and the profane, a lily among thorns. The thorn saith, “Keep away; no one shall touch me with impunity.” The lily cries, “I come to you, f shed my soul abroad to please you.”

The power of kindness

A Christian lady, in the course of visitation, was told of a very depraved woman, who was ruining herself by debauchery, but was of so violent a temper that no one durst interfere with her. She proposed to go up and see her, but was warned, “she will kill you.” She bethought her, “If my Lord were here, He would do it.” She went and entered the miserable apartment, and saw her lying in a corner as if a bundle of rags. She spoke, and “an old, withered, miserable-looking creature raised herself Upon her elbow, and with frenzied look, demanded what she wanted. She replied, “I love you; I want to be kind to you, because Jesus loves you.” She went forward and kissed her brow, and, notwithstanding violent, repelling words, kissed her again. Then came the exclamation, “Go away, go away! you will break my heart; you put me in mind of my mother. Never has any one kissed me as she did; never have I been so treated since I lost her: many kicks and blows have I had, but no kisses like this.” The fountain of feeling was opened, the confidence of the heart was won, and step by step that all but utterly lost soul was led back to Jesus. Elect.

As to this matter of election, I would to God that some who object to it were as common sense in this matter as they are in the daily actions of ordinary life. Let me assume that a purse has been lost in the next street containing a thousand guineas, and that whoever finds it may keep it. “Ha!” we say. “Well, only one can find it; what is the good of a thousand seeking it? Only one can have it; and if I am elected to be the man, it will come in my way.” I never heard people reasoning so in an affair of that kind. Though only one may have it, ten thousand will strive for it if they know the conditions. There is one prize to be given in a school of five hundred scholars. The boys say, “Well, only one of us man get it, why should five hundred of us be toiling and fagging to get it?” Another boy says, “I know if I am to have the prize I shall get it; so I shall read no books, and make no preparation.” You would not allow a boy to reason so. Yet there are men who say this, “If we are called to heaven we’ll get to heaven; if we are elected to be saved, we need not make any effort about it.” “Thou wicked and slothful servant; out of thine own mouth I condemn thee; the whole action of thy evil life shall be thy answer on the day of judgment.” (J. Parker, D. D.)

Election

A senator related to his son the account of the book containing the names of illustrious members of the commonwealth. The son desired to see the outside. It was glorious to look upon. “Oh! let me open it,” said he. “Nay,” said the father, “it’s known only to the council.” Then said the son, “Tell me if my name is there.” “And that,” said the father, “is a secret known only to the council, and cannot be divulged.” Then he desired to know for what achievements the names were inscribed in that book. The father told him; and related the noble deeds by which they had eternized their names. “Such,” said he, “are written, and none but such are written in the book.” “And will my name be there?” asked the son. “I cannot tell thee,” said the father; “but if thy deeds are like theirs, thou shalt be written in the book; if not, thou shalt not be written.” And then the son consulted with himself, and he found that his whole deeds were playing, and singing, and drinking, and amusing himself; and he found that this was not noble. And as he could not count on his name being there as yet, he determined to make his calling and election sure. And thus “by patient continuance in well doing,” the end is crowned with glory. (Paxton Hood.)

Holy.--

The nature of holiness

Holiness is religion shining. It is the candle lighted, and not hid under a bushel, but lighting the house. It is religious principle put into motion. It is the love of God sent forth into circulation, on the feet and with the hands of love to man. It is faith gone to work. It is charity coined into actions, and devotion breathing benedictions on human suffering, while it goes up in intercessions to the Father of all piety. (Bishop Huntington.)

A holy life

is made up of a number of small things. Little words, not eloquent speeches or sermons; little deeds, not miracles, nor battles, nor one great heroic act or mighty martyrdom. The constant sunbeam, not the lightning; the waters of Siloam “that go softly” in the meek mission of refreshment, not the “waters of the river great and many,” rushing down in torrents, are the emblems of a holy life. The avoidance of little evils, little sins, little inconsistencies, weaknesses, follies, indiscretions, imprudencies, foibles, indulgencies of self and of the flesh; the avoidance of such-like things as these goes far to make up at least the negative beauty of a holy life. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

A holy Church

A living thing grows from itself, and not by accession from without as a house grows. A flower does not grow by adding a leaf to it, nor a tree by fastening a branch to it, nor a man by fixing a limb to his frame. Everything that has life grows by a converting process, which transforms the food into means of nourishment and enlargement. A holy Church lives, and its holiness converts all its ordinances and provisions into means of deep tooled, solid, enlarged, and beautiful usefulness. (T. W. Jenkyn, D. D.)

Beloved. The thought that some one loves us has great restraining influence. A young man or woman may be here without friends, alone in this vast city and surrounded by a thousand snares. But you cannot forget that far away in some distant town or village there is a father whose heart yearns towards you, a mother who never ceases with many tears to pray for you--and the thought that there is at least one in the world who loves you, is a stimulus to exertion, a safeguard against evil. Many an effort to do right is prompted by the thought that you are “beloved;” many a debasing pleasure is rejected, from many a seducing snare you turn aside, because you desire to act worthy of such love. And we are “beloved” of God. What an honour is this! Insignificant, sinful creatures of earth--thought of, cared for, beloved in heaven! If so, shall we not “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called?” Can we rejoice in being “beloved” of God while indulging enmity towards our brethren? Shall the fellow-servants hate one another while thus beloved by their Lord and Master? “Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies.” (Newman Hall, LL. B.)

The King’s livery

As the soldier who is in the queen’s service is required to appear in his uniform, that all may know his calling, so the soldier of Christ must appear clothed in certain characteristics needful to prove his loyalty, and show his allegiance to his Lord. (J. Spence, D. D.)

Bowels of mercies (see Philippians 1:8).--

I. The nature of this grace. The real inward and unpretended affection of condoling with another’s woe. The phrase is a Hebraism, and is taken from the emotion, and, as it were, concussion which is felt in the stomach, in deep affections of the mind (Genesis 43:30; Lamentations 2:11; Luke 1:78; Philippians 2:1). The apostle wisely begins with the expression of condolence; because from hence flows the act of relief; and because, as Gregory says, “it is more to compassionate any one from the heart, than to give: for he who gives what is external, gives what does not belong to his own person; but he who gives compassion, gives somewhat of himself.”

II. Its objects.

1. Persons who have none to give them relief, as widows and orphans.

2. But in general it comprehends all oppressed with misery--the poor, the prisoner, the sick, the afflicted.

III. Its motives.

1. The express and oft repeated command of God (Luke 6:36; Romans 12:15; 1 Peter 3:8). Whence Gregory Nazianzen says, “If thou hast nothing, give but a tear; for pity is a great solace to the afflicted.”

2. The examples of the prophets, of Christ, and the apostles, and of all good men (Jeremiah 9:1; Matthew 9:36; Luke 19:41; 2 Corinthians 11:29). Hence that saying of the poet, “The good are tear-abounding men.”

3. The conformity of nature, and the possibility of suffering similar things. The possibility of suffering similar evils, when seriously considered, forces mercy from any man that is not destitute of feel ing. For what has happened to some one may happen to any one.

IV. Hence we conclude--

1. The apathy of the Stoics must be exploded by a Christian; as not agreeing either with our natural condition or our supernatural regeneration. Prosper well remarks, “We are not in” fault for having affections, but for making a bad use of them.”

2. Bowels of mercy are found in every regenerate person: he is therefore moved at the very first view of another’s misery.

3. They who, ere they can be excited to mercy, must have much solicitation from the afflicted, can lay claim to little or nothing of the spiritual man; they who are not moved by these, have nothing human in them. (Bishop Davenant.)

Pity

As love is the most delightful passion, pity is nothing else than love softened by a degree of sorrow. It is a kind of pleasing anguish as well as generous sympathy that knits mankind together, and blends them in the same common lot. (Addison.)

Tire power of compassion

There is something marvellous in the spirit of compassion. I do not mean that it seems to feel a positive pleasure in breathing the atmosphere of distress, nor that it seems to find time for every kind of well-doing, nor that the heart and memory are so enlarged that a range of interest ten times wider and more varied than personal interest findsroom, but that compassion, though it is not talent nor energy, stands in the stead of these and does their work. The social good that is done in the world is not the work of its greatest minds. These set themselves one great task, and gather up all their powers for its accomplishment. They are jealous even of the minutes of their time. They resist all distractions. The compassionate man gives up his time to others, and yet seems to find time for all things. Like the bread miraculously multiplied, he gives, and yet he gathers up for himself more than he gave. How great, again, is its power to find its way to the miserable heart. Convince the wretched man that you know his misery and would ease his burden, and you have already, made it lighter. Show the vicious man that you can see in him something worth caring for, and you thereby take off the despair that is at the bottom of so much vice. Let your enemy see that you have not room in your heart for any bitterness against him, and his arm will fall powerless. (Archbishop Thomson.)

Religion moves to pity

Now I would like you to mark that there is not a true grace of a Christian man, nor a true activity of the disciple of Christ, which does not lead to pity and love like this. Repentance leads to it, for repentance laments selfishness as the essence of its evil, and dreads relapsing into a religion which would be merely a selfishness refined; and repentance remembers its lost estate, the fearful pit and miry clay, and pities those that are still struggling in it; so repentance cherishes love and moves to pity. Faith kindles these virtues. You cannot take refuge in the heart of Christ, and build your hope upon redeeming love, and rejoice in His saving pity that stooped to Calvary, without catching some of the qualities on which you rest. Your heart softens with the warmth of that heart on which it rests, and is kindled by the pity in which it takes refuge. As our faith leads to these qualities, decision moves to them. Except we deny ourselves we cannot be disciples. Self-renunciation, which is the beginning of discipleship, leaves the heart free So cherish love. The comforts of religion move to them. Forgiveness, and peace, and hope, and gratitude swell the heart with the question, “What shall I render?” and move it to share its mercies with those that still lack them. All adoration of God kindles them. In the degree in which we see Him as He is, see Him in the face of Christ, see Him as He weeps over Jerusalem or groans on Calvary, in the degree in which we see the pitiful woe that sometimes fills God’s heart: in that degree we are changed. All hope changes the heart and fills it with this spirit. Hope of earthly providence and hope of immortal heaven, both move men to pity and to love. Every step you take in following Christ kindles pity, for when He leads it is not always unto green pastures and rapturous heights: it is to the haunts of misery, to the widows of Nain, to homes of grief. He would use us, borrows our hand to wipe away a tear, our voice to still a grief. Exactly in that degree in which He employs us, and we follow Him step by step, exactly in that degree do we catch the spirit in which He lived, and the compassion which is the everlasting motive and the perpetual habit of our God. So that I want you to observe that there is not a single Christian instinct, activity, relationship, employment, or grace which does not work out in love and pity. (R. Glover.)

Pity the secret of prophetic light

I want to point out that in love and pity, such as is here expressed, you have not merely the work of the disciple, but you have the secret of prophetic light: that Paul’s light was due, not to his genius, not to his erudition, not even so much specially to heavenly effulgence that visited him, as to the fact that he had a heart of love and pity that could enter and absorb the light of God. Is it not obvious that it was so? We know God by what is kindred to Him, and by what resembles Him. It was Paul’s love of man that could read God’s love of man, that gazed on God till “the shadow” grew into a “face” and the “face” of God was seen glowing with infinite love. He would have been in the darkness till now if his love had not permitted him to see God’s love. The light is ever shining. It is the eye, the eye of the heart, that is wanted; and that he had. He looked on man, not with the cynical eye that sees only what moves men to despair of, or to despise them; but he looked with a loving heart, and could see the world in God’s light; something that made man a pearl of great price in his Saviour’s eyes. He could see Divine movings in them; high capacity; possibilities of change; unrest--all these Divine elements, on which grace could move, and which grace could lead to light. He looked in the face of Christ, and his yearning permitted him to behold Christ’s yearning, so that his love and his pity enlarged his heart, and opened it to light. He walked in the light of the Lord, and truths too grand for poorer eyes lay naked and open to his. One of the greatest theologians of the century, Neander, Wok for his motto, “It is the heart that makes the theologian.” And one of the greatest historians, Niebuhr, uttered some similar words: “I have said, again and again, I will have no metaphysical deity, but the God of the Bible, who is heart to heart.” (R. Glover.)

Kindness.--

The blessings of a benignant spirit

I. In what kindness consists.

1. In a disposition to be pleased; a willingness to be satisfied with others. This goes a long way towards our being actually pleased. This temper stands opposed to the spirit of fault-finding, the propensity to magnify trifles.

2. In a disposition to attribute to others good motives when we can do so. One of the rights of every man is to have it supposed that he acts with good intentions until it is proved to the contrary.

3. In bearing with the infirmities of others. We do not journey long with a fellow traveller before we find that he is far from perfection, and the closer our relations become the more necessity there is for bearing patiently the foibles of others. In the most tender connexions, that of husband and wife, etc., it may require much of a gentle and yielding spirit to so adapt ourselves that life shall move on smoothly and harmoniously. When there is a disposition to do this me soon learn to bear and forbear,, and to avoid the look, gesture, allusion, that would excite improperly the mind of our friend. Like children, we must allow each other to build his own play-house in his own way. Conscious of our own imperfection we must be indulgent to others.

4. In not blaming others harshly when they fall into sin. In no circumstances do men need kindness so much as here. We weep with the bereaved, we sympathize with the unfortunate; but when a man is overtaken in a fault our sympathies frequently die. Yet they ought then to be in fullest operation (Galatians 6:1). Remember--

5. It prompts us to aid others when in our power. If relief cannot be afforded it should be declined with a gentle and benevolent heart.

II. Its value.

1. Much of the comfort of life depends upon it. Life is made up of little things, which, if displaced, render us miserable. Breathing, the beating of the heart, the circulation of the blood, are small matters, and ordinarily scarcely noticed, but when deranged we are sensible of their importance. So in morals and social intercourse. The happiness of life depends not so much on great and glorious deeds as on quiet duties, the gentle spirit, the cheerful answer, the smiling face, etc.

2. Usefulness depends upon it. This and far more than on deeds which excite general admiration. The rivulet that glides through the meadow is far more useful than the grand cataract. Kindness prompts us to seek the good and happiness of others. And it is by this, and not by great martyrdoms, that men will judge of the nature of the gospel. All usefulness may be prevented by a sour temper. Nothing will compensate for the want of that charity which is “kind.”

3. It is commended by the example of Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:1). Christ performed great deeds, but not that we should imitate them. But He was meek and gentle that we might be so too. (A. Barnes, D. D.)

Kindness

The fundamental idea of kindness is ascertained by tracing the connection between kindred or kin and kindness. The latter is the feeling natural to us in relation to our own kind.

1. Take the innermost circle of kindred, the home, and that which constitutes its sweetness is kindness. Unkindness, then, is most unnatural. In German and Dutch the word for child is kind. Kindness was first of all the relation of a child to its parents, and then the feeling of a parent for a child. That was the original and architypal kindness, is its ever present and undying element, and gives character and tone to all the more extended instances of kindness which ripple out with the extension of our kinship.

2. Though our kindred begins in our homes it does not end there. We have remoter relatives to whom it is our duty, and the prompting of our natures, to be kind. Our nation consists of individuals who are of our own kind, and we ought to be kindly towards them all. And then our kith and kin are found in colonies, and the parent state should always feel kindly towards them, and when any colony grows into an independent nation, like the United States of America, it would be a calamity and a sin if kindliness on either side were to cease.

3. The family relationship extends farther than to those who manifest their kinship by the use of the common mother tongue, embalmed in the English Bible. The Dutch and Germans are our cousins, so are the Danes; and there was a time when the Greeks also, and the Romans belonged to the same family circle. Their ancestors came from the same paternal home in Asia from which our ancestors came; and so with the Hindoos, and hence the old old words which are common to the now diverse languages.

4. Indeed, all the nations are kindred to each other. All the families of the earth belong to the great family of man--mankind; hence all owe kindness to one another. Hence Peter exhorts us to add to our godliness brotherly kindness. Some think it more difficult to attain the former than the latter. In some respects it is, in others not: and so the apostle urges us to seek the latter by way of the former. In mere speculation we might have supposed that man must first climb to the terrestrial thing--“brotherly kindness”--and thence ascend to the celestial. But the reverse is the true and better order. We must first get right with God the Father--then, and not till then, shall we get right with man the brother. (J. Morison, D. D.)

The power of kindness

“Go away from there, you old beggar boy!, You’ve no right to be looking at our flowers,” shouted a little fellow from the garden where he was standing. The poor boy, who was pale, dirty, and ragged, was leaning against the fence, admiring the splendid show of roses and tulips within. His face reddened with anger at the rude language, and he was about to answer defiantly, when a little girl sprang out from an arbour near, and looking at both, said to her brother,--“How could you speak so, Herbert! I’m sure his looking at the flowers don’t hurt us.” And then, to soothe the wounded feelings of the stranger, she added: “Little boy, I’ll pick you some flowers, if you’ll wait a moment,” and she immediately gathered a pretty bouquet, and handed it through the fence. His face brightened with surprise and pleasure, and he earnestly thanked her. Twelve years after this occurrence, the girl had grown to a woman. One bright afternoon she was walking with her husband in the garden, when she observed a young man in workman’s dress, leaning over the fence, and looking attentively at her and at the flowers. Turning to her husband, she said,--“It does me good to see people admiring the garden; I’ll give that young man some of the flowers;” and approaching him she said, “Are you fond of flowers, sir? It will give me great pleasure to gather you some.” The young workman looked a moment into her fair face, and then said in a voice tremulous with feeling: “Twelve years ago I stood here a ragged little beggar boy, and you showed me the same kindness. The bright flowers and your pleasant words made a new boy of me; aye, and they have made a man of me, too. Your face, madam, has been a light to me in many dark hours of life; and now, thank God, though that boy is still an humble, hard working man, he is an honest and grateful one.” Tears stood in the eyes of the lady as, turning to her husband, she said, “God put it into my young heart to do that kindness, and see how great a reward it has brought.” (American Agriculturist.)

Humbleness of mind.--

I. The nature of this temper: A low apprehension or esteem of ourselves (Romans 12:3), the opposite to pride and arrogance. The word leads us to consider the disposition of mind; for there may be a humility of behaviour which covers a very proud heart. In consists of--

1. A humble apprehension of our own knowledge (1 Corinthians 8:1). There is nothing of which men are more proud. Many would sooner bear a reflection on their moral characters than on their understandings. The serpent was early sensible that this was man’s weak side (Genesis 3:5). And no kind of pride has more need of a cure (Job 11:12). So it will include--

(a) not on that account to surrender ourselves to the absolute control of others. To this Rome would lead us in pretence of infallibility; and if any others would lead us to such an implicit faith in their dictates, while they disclaim infallibility, their claim is still more absurd. We must answer for ourselves to God in the great day; and therefore it can neither be a laudable nor a safe humility to take our religion from the dictates of fallible men.

(b) But a just apprehension of our liableness to mistake should induce us in all our searches after Divine truth to be very desirous of Divine illumination and guidance (Psalms 25:4-5). It should keep us ever open to further light and willing to learn.

2. Humble thoughts of our own goodness. Not that we are to be insensible to anything that is truly good in us; but Christian humility includes--

3. A humble sense of our dependence and wants--

(a) In the sphere of nature (Acts 17:28).

(b) In the sphere of grace. We should have a deep sense of our need of His mercy to pardon our sins and His grace to help our infirmities.

4. A modest apprehension of our own rank and station.

II. The special obligations which rest on Christians to cultivate this temper.

1. Humility is a grace of the first rank.

(a) Humility is necessary to faith. Without this we shall not have a disposition to receive a revelation. Pride and self-sufficiency was the reason why Christ crucified was a stumbling-block to the Jew, etc.

(b) To obedience. A proud heart says, “Who is the Lord over me?” Humility asks, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”

(c) To the acceptance of Christ as offered in the gospel (Luke 5:31; Revelation 3:17-18; Luke 18:9-13).

(d) To the reception of the grace of the Holy Spirit.

(e) To perseverance, for without it we shall be ready to take offence at crosses.

(f) To the reception of assistance in the way to heaven from other men. Those who are wise in their own conceit despise admonitions.

(g) To the performance of Christian duty.

2. It is this grace which adorns every other virtue and recommends religion to every beholder (1 Peter 5:5).

3. It is recommended by the example of Christ.

(a) He was ready to condescend to the meanest in order to their good (Matthew 8:6; Mark 10:46; John 4:27; Matthew 18:1-10; Matthew 19:13-14).

(b) He was willing to stoop to the meanest offices for the meanest persons (Mark 1:41; John 13:5; Matthew 20:28).

(c) He was not above receiving and acknowledging the respect shown Him by the meanest (Luke 8:3; Matthew 21:15; Matthew 26:13). Learn, then, like Him, to be meek and lowly of heart.

4. Humility is a grace which will go along with us to heaven. The only inhabitants of that world who were ever lifted up with pride have been cast out. The angels abase themselves (Isaiah 6:2-3; Revelation 4:10; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 7:11; Revelation 11:16), and humility will receive a glorious reward (Matthew 25:1-46.). Like charity, it never faileth. (Dr. Evans.)

Humility a safeguard

A French general, riding on horseback at the head of his troops, heard a soldier complain and say, “It is very easy for the general to command us forward while he rides and we walk.” Then the general dismounted and compelled the complaining soldier to get on his horse. Coming through a ravine a bullet from a sharpshooter struck the rider and he fell dead. Then the general said,” How much safer it is to walk than to ride.”

Humility and cheerfulness

Observe the peculiar characters of the grass which adapt it especially for the service of man are humility and cheerfulness--its humility, in that it seems created only for lowest service, appointed to be trodden on and fed upon; its cheerfulness, in that it seems to exalt under all kinds of violence and suffering. You roll it, and it is the stronger next day; you mow it, and it multiplies its shoots as if it were grateful; you tread upon it, and it only sends up richer perfume. Spring comes, and it rejoices with all the earth, glowing with variegated flame of flowers, waving in soft depth of fruitful strength. Winter comes, and though it will not mock its fellow-plants by growing then, it will not pine and mourn, and turn colourless or leafless as they. It is always green, and is only the brighter and gayer for the hoar frost. (J. Ruskin.)

Meekness.--

Meekness: its nature

Meekness is love at school, at the Saviour’s school. It is the disciple learning to know himself, to fear, distrust, and abhor himself. It is the disciple practising the sweet, but self-emptying lesson of putting on the Lord Jesus, and finding all his righteousness in that righteous other. It is the disciple learning the defects of his own character, and taking hints from hostile as well as friendly monitors. It is the disciple praying and watching for the improvement of his talents, the mellowing of his temper, and the amelioration of his character. It is the loving Christian at his Saviour’s feet, learning from Him who is meek and lowly, and finding rest for his own soul. (James Hamilton, D. D.)

Meekness: its blending

It is power blended with gentleness, boldness with humility, the harmlessness of the dove with the prowess of the lion. It is the soul in the majesty of self-possession, elevated above the precipitant, the irascible, the boisterous, the revengeful, it is the soul throwing its benignant smiles on the furious face of the foe, and penetrating his heart and paralyzing his arm with the look of love. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Meekness: its power

Sir Walter Raleigh, a man of courage and honour, was once insulted by a hot-headed youth, who challenged him, and on his refusal spat upon him in public. The knight, taking out his handkerchief, made this reply: “Young man, if I could as easily wipe your blood from my conscience as I can this injury from my face, I would this moment take away your life.” The youth was so struck with a sense of his misbehaviour that he fell upon his knees and asked forgiveness. (E. Foster.)

Meekness: its blessedness

It is in the lowly valley that the sun’s warmth is truly genial; unless indeed there are mountains so close and abrupt as to overshadow it. Then noisome vapours may be bred there; but otherwise, in the valley we may behold the wonderful blessing bestowed upon the meek that they shall inherit the earth. It is theirs for this very reason, because they do not seek it. They do not exalt their heads like icebergs, which, by the by, are driven away from earth, and cluster--or rather jostle--round the pole; but they flow along the earth humbly and silently; and wherever they flow they bless it; and so all its beauty and all its richness are reflected in their peaceful bosoms. (Archdeacon Hare.)

Meekness: its usefulness

The timber of the elder tree is the softest, and can without difficulty be split, eat, and wrought, and yet it does not rot in water. The greater part of the city of Venice stands upon piles of eider, which, sunk into the sea, form the foundation of massive buildings. It is the same with meek hearts. There is no better foundation for important undertakings of public or private utility than that intelligent modesty which is gentle indeed, and ready to yield as far as a good conscience will allow, but which, nevertheless, lasts and continues stable, in the flood of contradiction. (Gotthold.)

Long-suffering is threefold.--

I. In judgment; when, in doubtful cases, we suspend our opinions and censures.

II. In words; which consists either in not answering, or in giving soft answers.

III. In deeds; when we render not evil for evil. (N. Byfield.)

Long-suffering rewarded

Some years ago I had in my garden a tree that never bore. One day I was going down, with my axe in my hand, to fell it. My wife met me in the pathway and pleaded for it, saying, “Why, the spring is now very near; stay, and see whether there may not be some change; and, if not, you can deal with it accordingly.” As I never repented following her advice, I yielded to it now; and what was the consequence? In a few weeks the tree was covered in blossoms; and in a few weeks more it was bending with fruit. “Ah!” said I, “this should teach me not to cut down too soon,” i.e., not to consider persons incorrigible or abandoned too soon, so as to give up hope and the use of the means in their behalf. (W. Jay.)


Verse 13

Colossians 3:13

Forbearing one smother, and forgiving one another.

Forbearance

To forbear is not only freely to forgive, but to meet half way, with extended hand (E. T. E. B.)
.

During the celebrated John Henderson’s residence at Oxford, a student of a neighbouring college, proud of his logical achievements, was solicitous of a private disputation. Some mutual friends introduced him, and having chosen his subject, they conversed for some time with equal candour and moderation; but at length Henderson’s antagonist, perceiving his own confusion inevitable, in the height of passion threw a full glass of wine in Henderson’s face. The latter, without altering his features, or changing his position, gently wiped his face, and coolly replied, “This, sir, is a digression. Now for the argument.” A greater victory than any controversial success could have given him. (Cottle.)

Divine forgiveness admired and imitated

I. Study the pattern of forgiveness.

1. What is this forgiveness of Christ?

2. How did He forgive?

II. Copy it for yourselves.

1. This precept is universally applicable. It is unqualified in its range. It is not put that superiors are to forgive inferiors, or the less are to forgive the greater. The rich are to be forbearing to the poor, and the poor to the rich; the elder is to forgive the junior for his imprudence, and the junior the elder for his petulence and slowness.

2. This forbearance and forgiveness are vital. No man is a child of God who has not a likeness to God; and no man is forgiven who will not himself forgive.

3. Gloriously ennobling. Revenge is paltry; forgiveness is great-minded. David was greater than Saul, and Saul acknowledged it. To win a battle is a little thing if fought out with sword and gun, but to win it in God’s way with love and forgiveness is the best of victories. A nation in fighting, even if it wins the campaign, has to suffer, but he that overcomes by love is all the better and stronger for it.

4. Logically appropriate to all. If our Lord has forgiven us ten thousand talents, how can we take our brother by the throat for one hundred pence.

5. Most forcibly sustained by the example in the text. “Even as Christ.” It is said

Human forgiveness

The world is rife with human quarrels; families, neighbour-hoods, Churches, have their quarrels. They arise from many principles in the depraved heart besides misunderstandings. Hence forgiveness is important. The text suggests two things concerning forgiveness.

I. The duty. Here it is urged as well as in other places (Romans 12:19). Besides this there are two reasons.

1. You desire forgiveness yourself. Who would like to have the vengeance of a man always in his heart towards him? If you would like forgiveness, you must do as you would be done by.

2. You need forgiveness yourself when you have offended. He who cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he himself has to pass. Besides, an unforgiving spirit is an injury to its possessor.

II. Its model. “Even as Christ.”

1. How did Christ forgive? Promptly, generously, fully, without any reflection upon past offences.

2. Examples: The woman taken in adultery. His enemies--“Father, forgive them.” The dying thief. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Forgiveness

implies--

1. The remission of the right to retaliate when safe and proper.

2. The dismissal of the revengeful feelings which injury may have excited.

3. The revival of those feelings of goodwill which it becomes us habitually to cherish. (W. Fleming.)

Forth-giving

To forgive a thing is to “forthgive” by your own act and freewill, to give it forth from you that it may go clean out from you--out of sight and out of mind.

Forgiveness a distinctively Christian virtue

We cannot say that it was unknown to the ancients; under certain conditions, no doubt, it was very common. In domestic life, in which all the germs of Christian virtue are to be found, it was undoubtedly common. Undoubtedly friends fell out and were reconciled in antiquity as among ourselves. But when the only relation between the two parties was that of injurer and injured, and the only claim of the offender to forgiveness was that he was a human being, then forgiveness seems not only not to have been practised, but not to have been enjoined nor approved. People not only did not forgive their enemies, but did not wish to do so, nor think better of themselves for having done so. That man considered himself fortunate who on his deathbed could say, in reviewing his past life, that no one had done more good to his friends or more mischief to his foes. The Roman Triumph, with its naked ostentation of revenge, fairly represents the common feeling of the ancients. Nevertheless, forgiveness even of any enemy was not unknown to them. They could conceive it, and they could feel that there was- a Divine beauty in it, but it seemed to them more than could be expected of human nature, superhuman. (Ecce Homo.)

International forgiveness

Is that which is right between individuals wrong as between societies? Am I to forbear and forgive when acting alone, but when associated with two or three others am I to manifest a different spirit? Is my individual conscience to be merged in the associated conscience, and does the Christian law for a society differ from the law for individuals? Enlarge the society till it becomes the nation. Is the law of Christ abrogated? It would seem to be so considered by the “Christian nations” of the world. Why is Europe in time of peace an entrenched camp? Why are millions of the strongest and healthiest men withdrawn from productive labours and domestic life to be trained in the art of killing, while the people groan under the burden of a taxation and a poverty God never sent? Because in international law there is so little recognition of the Divine precept--“forbearing one another and forgiving one another.” Because many who in their private relations manifest meekness and gentleness, as politicians and statesmen seem to think the old Pagan law is unrepealed. How few of the wars which have desolated Europe during the last thousand years would have been waged had it been more than nominally Christian l If instead of resenting every supposed affront, of vindicating on every petty occasion what is called the honour of a flag, of supposing the dignity of an empire precludes all forbearance, patience, and concession, there had been even a little of the “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering” enjoined in our text, the history of the world had been differently written; heathen nations would have said, “see how these Christians love;” instead of the flags of Europe inspiring terror in distant regions, they would have been everywhere hailed as symbols of peace; and the old prophecy would have had a fulfilment in the case of Christendom--“the joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion.” (Newman Hall, LL. B.)

A quarrel--

A quarrel: Both sides wrong

In most quarrels there is a fault on both sides. A quarrel may be compared to a spark, which cannot be produced without a flint as well as a steel; either of them may hammer on wood for ever, no fire will follow. (R. South.)

Quarrels prolonged

“I have seen in the south of France a row of beggars sitting on the side of a bridge, day after day, winter and summer, showing sore legs and sore arms; these sores never get well, they were kept continually raw with caustic in order to excite compassion and obtain alms. And the most bitter jealousy reigned between these beggars as to the size and irritability of their respective sores. The man with only an inflamed knee burned with envy of the man whose whole leg was raw. Not for all the world would they let their wounds heal, as that would cut off from them a means of livelihood. I fear a great many people love their grievances against neighbours much as those beggars loved their sores. They keep them constantly open and irritable by inventing and applying fresh aggravations. They are proud of them, they like to expose their wrongs, as they call them, to all their neighbours.” (S. Baring-Gould.)


Verse 14

Colossians 3:14

And above all these things put on charity.

The grace of charity

I. Charity is the greatest of graces in the width and extent of its sphere. Other graces have particular things with which they are more intimately concerned; special parts of life on which they throw the light of their charm; special times in which they actively operate. They are like the winds that blow, the rain that falls, the snow that covers, or the lightning that purifies sometimes. But charity is like the Divine sunlight that shines on always, works always, tempers the winds, warms the rains, dissipates the mists, melts the snow; sometimes seen and felt, sometimes unseen, but never ceasing its influence, and recognizing no earth limits to its sphere. Charity covers the whole life and relationships of the Christian, and 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. maps out and distinguishes them.

1. The sphere of a brother’s opinions.

2. The sphere of a brother’s failings.

3. The sphere of a brother’s sorrows.

4. The sphere of a brother’s sins.

II. Because of the difficulty with which it is attained. Difficulty is often the test of value. Gold is valued because of the cost and toil of procuring it. Charity is difficult mainly through the separatings of sin. Sin broke up the fellowship of the human family, and filled the world with opposing interests. Charity is to heal these great wounds, temper the opposing relations, and on its own substantial basis to make the human family one again. And, as charity is God’s own nature, we have first to be reconciled to, and come into sympathy with Him.

III. Because IV never faileth. The summer flowers which blossom in beauty fade and fail. Charity is no summer flower born of earth, sunshine, and showers. It is a heaven-born plant; its flowers never fail; it is like the tree of life. (R. Tuck, B. A.)

Gospel charity

There is no grace or duty that is not commanded in Scripture, but this is commanded above all others (1 Peter 4:8; 1 Corinthians 12:31).

I. The nature of this love. It is the second great duty brought to light by the gospel. There is a natural love which follows on natural relations, and there is a love which arises from society in sin or in pleasure, from a suitableness of humour in conversation, or of design as to political ends, but all these are utter strangers to evangelical love. And therefore, when it was first brought to light by the gospel, the heathen were amazed. “See how these Christians love one another.” What is this love.

1. It is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), as contradistinguished from that which arises from our natural inclination.

2. It is an effect of faith. “Faith worketh by love.” How: When it respects God’s command requiring this love, His promise accepting it, and His glory where unto it is directed. Self may work by love sometimes, and flesh, interest, and reputation, but not by this love.

3. It is that which knits the souls of believers with an entire affection (Ephesians 4:16; Psalms 16:2).

(a) In the exercise of it, it will much answer the evidence that persons are interested in the body of Christ. There are some whose opinions and practices will exercise the most extensive charity to judge that they belong to it. Yet, according to our evidence, so is our love to be.

(b) There may be degrees in our love, especially as to delight and valuation, according as we see more or less of the image of Christ upon a believer, this likeness being the formal reason of this love.

(c) Its exercise must be determined by opportunities.

II. The grounds why this love is so necessary.

1. Because it is the great way whereby we can give testimony to the power of the gospel (John 17:21-23). There is no oneness but that whereof love is the bond of perfectness, that will give conviction unto the world that God hath sent Christ, for He alone can give it.

2. We have no evidence that we are disciples without it (John 13:34-35).

3. This is that in which the communion of saints principally consists.

III. Cautions against its hindrances.

1. Take heed of a morose disposition. If it does not hinder some fruits of love, yet it sullies the glory of its exercise. Grace is intended to change our natural temper and make the froward meek, and the passionate patient.

2. Take heed of hindrances which may attend your state and condition. Riches and honour encompass with so many circumstances that it is difficult to break through them to familiarity with the meanest members of the Church. The gospel leaves you your providential advantages, but in things which concern your communion it lays all level (James 2:1-26.). We all serve one common Master, who for our sakes became poor.

3. Take heed of satisfying yourselves with the duties of love without looking after the entire working of the grace of love. (J. Owen, D. D.)

Charity the bond of perfectness

These words come after an exhortation to the practice of the Christian virtues of mercy, etc.. In addition to these we are to put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. Not perfect bond, but that which renders perfect. Love is that which unites all the others into a complete whole. Another interpretation is to this effect. As in verse 14, Paul has said in the Church and in Christ “there is neither Greek nor Jew,” etc., he says here that love is the unifying principle which binds together all the otherwise discordant members of the Church.

I. Love is used of--

1. Benevolence to man.

2. God’s love to us.

3. Our love to God.

4. Brotherly love among Christians.

5. Love in general as a Christian grace without specification of object. Its characteristics are noted in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.

II. Of this love it is taught--

1. That without this all our passions, professions, hopes, are vain and worthless. No amount of orthodoxy, power, natural or supernatural, devotion, almsgiving, Church membership, assiduity in religious duties, is of any avail.

2. That this love is the fruit of faith. It cannot exist without it, and faith without it is dead.

3. It is the bond of perfectness.

4. It is the image of God. It makes us like Christ.

5. It is the beauty and blessedness of heaven. Perfection of the religion of the Bible.

Love the bond of perfectness

The Christian is here conceived a cleansed and beautifully-robed man, fitted to enter the presence of the great King. He describes the work which we have to do in order to prepare ourselves for the royal audience. There is an inner cleansing of the heart, the thoughts, the secret springs of our being. “Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth.” There is also a putting off of the old garments of self, pride, and indulgence; the clean spirit cannot do with the foul clothes; and there is the putting on of the new dress--the various garments that compose it are called, “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, and forgiving.” These are, as it were, the under-garments; the man is not clothed fit for the presence of the Divine royalty without the robe, worked in graceful colours, made of finest material, hanging in graceful folds, putting the touch of harmony and grace on all the other garments, and being, as it were, “the bond of perfectness,” finishing off and perfecting the whole dress. That over-covering, all-hallowing robe is charity; in its adornings, and completings, and harmonisings, being the very “bond of perfectness” to a gracious character. (R. Tuck, B. A.)

Love a perfecting grac

e:--Here is an evident allusion to the zone of the orientalists, which was generally adorned with jewels and ornaments, and which, by adjusting the folds of the drapery, served at once to give a beautiful form to the human figure, and to unite and perfect the whole dress. The use the apostle here makes of the metaphor is apparent: as the zone was a most material part of the dress, combining and perfecting all, and giving symmetry and beauty to the form of the person by whom it was worn; so charity is the best of all the graces, perfecting and combining the whole in beauty and in love. And, like that also, we may remark that it is put on last. Men in general are much mare anxious to hate and to destroy than to love and do good; and even after they seem to have imbibed much of the Christian temper, this sacred bond, this beautiful zone, is long wanting. (R. Hewlett, D. D.)

Love the perfection of the Christian character

Love is the most potent affection of the human heart.

I. It is the prime element in every other grace of the Christian character. It is the soul of every virtue, and the guarantee of a genuine sincerity. Without it all the rest are but glittering sins. It is possible to have all those mentioned in verse 12; but without love they would be meaningless, cold, and dead. Mercy would degenerate into sentimentality, kindness into extravagance, humility into mock depreciation, long-suffering into dull, dogged stupidity.

II. It occupies the most exalted place in Christian character. “Above all these things,” as the outer garment covers and binds together the rest.

III. Love is the pledge of permanency in the Christian character. As the girdle, or cincture, bound together the loose flowing robes of the ancients, so love is the power that holds together all those graces which together make up perfection. Love is the preservative force in the Christian character. Without it, knowledge would lose its enterprise, mercy and kindness become languid, humility faint, and long-suffering indifferent. Lave binds together in a bond which time cannot injure, the enemy unloose, or death destroy.

IV. The perfection of the Christian character is seen in the practical manifestation of love. “Put on charity.”

1. Love is indispensable. It is possible to possess many beautiful traits--much that is humane and aimiable--without being a complete Christian: to be very near perfection, and yet lack one thing. Without love all other graces are as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal

2. Love is susceptible of individual cultivation.

Lessons:

1. The mere profession of Christianity is empty and valueless.

2. Every grace of the Christian character must be diligently exercised.

3. Above and through all other graces love must operate. (G. Barlow.)

Love is over all, and the bond of perfectness, because--

I. It is of greater extent than any other virtue. Mercy and kindness, and humbleness and forgiveness, are separate graces; but love embraces them all, regards generally our neighbour and those in adversity, our friends and enemies, the good and the bad.

II. Without it all other graces are vain and delusive. Mercy without it is weakness; humility, debasement, meekness, cajolery, and deceit; patience, stupidity; forgiveness, hypocrisy; all is inconsistent, heartless, wayward, selfish.

III. It supplies the want or remedies the defect of any other graces and virtues. For we are always falling short in one or other, from indwelling sin, from temptation, from cast of character, from peculiar circumstances. A sweet charitable temper provides the articles of Christian attire in which we are from time to time most defective, supplies their place, hides their imperfections, remedies the ill effects of their absence. (Bishop D. Wilson.)

Love the “finish” of the Christian character

When the cutler brings his goods to market, he may have the best of steel in the blade and the best of horn in the handle, and every part may be rivetted strongly; but if the blade has not been polished, and if there be no finishing work in the handle, he cannot sell his stock. It is just as good for practical purposes as though it were finished; but people do not want it. They want their blades polished and their handles finished, and they are so used to having goods sand-papered and burnished, that they will not take them unless they are so. There must be art in them. And this is carried so far, that when articles are good for nothing art is put on the outside to make them seem good for something. And men buy things for the sake of their looks. The idea of perfection lies in the direction of the aesthetic; and as much so in social and moral elements as in physical things. Men are not now finished in any respect in their higher relations. I mean even good men. There are hundreds of men that are in the main laying out their life and character in right directions, and on right foundations; but how few men know how to be good variously, systematically, gracefully, genially, sweetly, beautifully. (H. W. Beecher.)

When the apostle speaks so highly of charity, he does not mean to disparage the other graces. They also are most beautiful, considered apart from charity, only charity has such a sun-like excellence, in its presence all star-like beauty, and even moon-like beauty, seem to grow dim and fade away. Compare the diamond with a common wayside stone, and we are not greatly impressed with its superiority; the contrast is too great. Set it in the royal crown; encircle it with pearls; let it compare with other jewels; with ruby, and garnet, and emerald; then the depth of its crystal purity seems so impressive, and the flashing of its light so exquisite. Set charity alongside “humbleness, bowels of mercies, long-suffering,” or forgiving, then it seems to gather up into itself much of the charm and loveliness of such graces, and stands forth in the centre of them all, “the very bond of perfectness.” (R. Tuck, B. A.)


Verse 15

Colossians 3:15

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts.

The peace of Christ

The various reading “peace of Christ” is not only recommended by MS. authority, but has the advantage of bringing the expression into connection with the great words of our Lord, “Peace I leave you,” etc. A strange legacy left at a strange moment. It was but an hour or so since He had been “troubled in spirit” as He thought of the betrayer--and in an hour more He would be beneath the olives of Gethsemane; and yet even at such a time He bestows on His friends some share in His deep repose of spirit. Surely the “peace of Christ” must mean what “My peace” meant: not only the peace which He gives, but the peace which lay like a great calm on the sea on His own deep heart, and we must not restrict it to mutual concord. When He gave us His peace He gave us some share in that meek submission of will to His Father’s will, and in that stainless purity, which were its chief elements. The hearts and lives of men are made troubled not by circumstances, but by themselves. Whoever can keep his own will in harmony with God’s enters into rest. Even if within and without are fightings, there may be a central peace. Christ’s peace was the result of the perfect harmony of His nature. All was co-operant to one great purpose; desires and passions did not war with conscience and reason, nor did the flesh lust against the spirit. Though that complete uniting of all our inner selves is not attained on earth, yet its beginnings are given us by Christ, and in Him we may be at peace with ourselves, and have one great ruling power binding all our conflicting desires in one, as the moon draws after her the heaped waters of the sea. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The power of Divine peace

The connection between this verse and the foregoing is obvious. The man who has this peace is most likely to cultivate love. Christian calmness is the concomitant and stimulus of Christian affection which is hindered by doubt, anxiety, or fear.

I. The nature and value of this blessing.

1. It is the highest blessing. It is peace with God and the rest of the soul in Him--the peace which comes from Christ and through Him. In its character it is that which Christ Himself enjoys, and when we have it, with no gloom from the past, no forebodings for the future, no pursuing vengeance and no depressing fear, we stand strong and calm amid the troubles of this world, like the rock unmoved amid the ocean surges. It is a Divine tranquillity which the world cannot take away and no earthly sorrow diminish.

2. It is a present blessing--not one hoped for to be realized by and by. Yet there are many who are in uncertainty about it, and they go about doubting and unhappy. It ought not to be so when Christ gives it freely. Come forth and dwell in the glory of the Divine love and it will flow into the soul.

3. It is a powerful blessing.

(a) It fortifies against temptation and sin;

(b) against infidelity.

A Christian may be a poor logician and unacquainted with historical evidences, but if Divine peace rules his heart, he has a stronger defence than reason or learning can supply.

II. Inducements and encouragements to its realization.

1. The Divine call to it--“To which we also are called.” They surely forget this who go in doubt or uncertainty. It is God’s gracious design that we should have it. The gospel summons us to happiness. “Peace on earth” was the proclamation of the angels. To give it was the mission of Christ, and His promise to the disciples, “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in Me peace.”

2. Our condition in this world of turmoil and sin. By it we may be raised above the sorrows and anxieties of time. We can and ought to be calm when other men are agitated--when panic is abroad, credit shaken, commerce paralyzed, the bonds of society loosened, human hopes stricken.

3. The unity of the Church--“in one body.” The more we are conscious of it, and let it rule, the more shall we contribute to the manifest oneness of the body of Christ. No strifes and divisions can exist where it reigns.

III. The spirit in which it is to be cherished. Thankfulness is an habitual exercise of the Christian soul; here it is for peace. And when we think that God has called us to it, and contemplate the way in which it has come to us through the Cross, and estimate its value in this world of sorrow, how profound should be our gratitude. (J. Spence, D. D.)

The ruling peace of Christ

The figure is that of the umpire or abitrator at the games who, looking down on the arena, watches that the combatants strive lawfully, and adjudges the prize. The peace of Christ, then, is to sit enthroned as umpire in the heart; or if we might give a mediaeval instead of a classical shape to the figure, that fair sovereign, Peace, is to be Queen of the Tournament, and her “eyes rain influence and adjudge the prize.” When contending impulses and reasons distract and seem to pull us in opposite directions, let her settle which is to prevail. We may make a rude test of good and evil by their effects on our inward repose. Whatever mars our tranquillity, ruffling the surface so that Christ’s image is no longer visible, is to be avoided. That stillness of spirit is very sensitive, and shrinks away at the presence of an evil thing. Let it be for us what the barometer is to the sailor, and if it sinks let us be sure that a storm is at hand. There is nothing so precious that it is worthwhile to lose the peace of Christ for the sake of it. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The peace of God ruling the heart

There are here four pieces of advice.

I. Possess the peace of God. Many persons have peace but it is a false peace, the peace of ignorance, stupidity, indifference--the followers of the false prophet who cried “peace, peace,”’ when there was no peace. Woe to the man whose peace of mind is like the deadly smoothness of the current just as it nears the cataract! The text refers to--

1. Peace with God. If you are reconciled through Jesus Christ, don’t act as though it were doubtful (Romans 5:1). Growing out of this there is peace with God in all His providences which can only come through an entire submission to the Divine will. If thou canst not change thy place change thy mind till thy mind shall love thy place. If forgiven why raise minor points. It is like quarreling on small points of law when the great case has been decided.

2. Peace such as God commends. Perfect peace with Himself and then with all men. What are men’s offences against us compared with those which God has forgiven? And what can men do to us at the worst that we should fear or revenge their injuries? “Peace on earth: good-will toward men.”

3. Peace which God works in the soul. We cannot create this. To take the wild-beast heart out of us and to put a new heart in us is a Divine work.

4. The peace of God--a Hebraism for excellence, as great mountains and trees are called hills and trees of God. It is greater than any other peace. It is the holiest, deepest, one which passeth all understanding, and eternal.

II. Let this peace rule in your hearts.

1. In order to peace there must be a ruler. Those people who are for putting down all governors may bid farewell to peace. The worst king is better than the despotism of the mob, the carnival of misrule wherein every man doth what is right in his own eyes, and all eyes love darkness rather than light. See how it is in a house! Where the head is not the head, the hand is not the hand, and nothing is itself. You must have a governing faculty somewhere; and if nothing governs within your heart the devil governs.

2. It is a blessed gift of grace when the peace of God rules in the heart. If it is in your heart at all, it must rule, for it has power to put down all rebellion. When a riot arises we appeal to the lawful power to come and put down the uproar. So in our hearts we can say to the master principle, the peace of God, “Come, put down my murmuring, arrest this bad temper, help me that I may not break out into anger.”

3. Yield yourself to the blessed umpireship of the peace of God. Resolve to judge all things by it, and do nothing that would upset its government. If you do--say by getting angry--you harm yourself physically, but much more spiritually. In such a case you cannot pray as you did, nor read some scriptures as you did, nor look the Well-beloved in the face and say “I am acting in a way that pleases Him.” It is therefore a serious thing for a believer to break this peace.

4. If a man has this peace he may go down to any meeting, however turbulent--and yet he will be wise to answer and be silent, to do or not to do, for it will keep him quiet. But if his mind be unhinged before the Lord he will be weak as another man, and say and do what he will wish to wipe out with tears.

III. Strengthen yourself by God’s spirit with arguments. Remember--

1. Only can you be happy in heart and healthy in spirit as long as you keep the peace of God.

2. Only then can the Church prosper. A Church disputing is a Church committing suicide’, and most disputes are about little points?

3. Only thus can God be glorified. If you are always fretting and anxious how can you promote that; or if you are finding fault with everybody.

4. God calls you to this. If you are not a peaceful man you have not inherited your true calling. He called you to be a peacemaker.

5. He calls you in one body. What would you think of the hand if it should say, “I will have no peace with the eye,” or the foot if it should say, “I will not carry the heavy body about”? What is to become of the glory of Christ if the members live in contention?

IV. Occupy tour minds healthily--“Be ye thankful.”

1. That is the way to keep our peace with God. Bless Him for all your miseries as well as for all your mercies.

2. That is the way to keep our peace with men. Be thankful in the home society, etc., for benefits received. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Unity and Peace

1. It may surprise us to find peace urged as a duty, whereas it seems a matter over which we have no control. But the text proceeds upon the supposition and urges thankfulness for it also.

2. Moreover, remember that these words were written when the apostle lay in prison, expecting a violent death; when false doctrines were rife and religious animosities fierce; and they are part of an eager controversial Epistle. Therefore it is possible to be in the midst of danger, to breathe the atmosphere of religious controversy, and even to be a controversialist, and yet the soul not lose its deep peace. Joined with this is the doctrine of Church unity as its basis.

I. The unity of the Church of Christ.

1. Distinguish between the unity of comprehensiveness and that of singularity. The army is one, that is the oneness of unity; the soldier is one, that is the oneness of the unit. The body is a unity of manifold comprehensiveness, a member of a body exhibits a unity of singularity. Without unity peace is impossible. There is no peace in a soldier, but there is in an army; none in a limb, only in a body. In order to have peace you must have a higher unity, and herein consists the unity of God’s own being. When the Unitarian speaks of God as one, he means simply singularity of number. We mean that He is of manifold comprehensiveness. “I and My Father are one.”

2. Unity subsists between things dissimilar.

(a) The unity of its ages is not that every age is the repetition of every other, but that each has put forth its own fragment of truth. In early ages martyrdom proclaimed the eternal sanctity of truth rather than give up which a man must lose his life. This age by its revolutions and socialisms proclaims the brotherhood of man. So that just as every separate ray--violet, blue, and orange--make up the white ray, so these manifold fragments blended make up the perfect white ray of truth.

(b) With regard to individuals. At the reformation, e.g., it was given to one to proclaim that salvation is not local; to another, justification by faith; to another, the sovereignty of God; to others, the supremacy of the Scriptures, the right of private judgment, the duty of the individual conscience.

(c) So again with regard to Churches. Would we force upon others our Anglicanism? Then in consistency you are bound to demand that in God’s world there shall be but one colour, and one note. But the various Churches advance different truths, varieties to be blended in unity.

3. Unity consists in submission to one single influence or spirit. Take away the unifying life of the body, and decomposition begins, the principle of cohesion being gone. We know the power of a single living influence. Take, e.g., the power wherewith the orator holds together a thousand men as if they were one; or that which concentrates the conflicting feelings of a people when the threat of foreign invasion has fused down the edges of variance and makes the classes of this manifold and mighty England one; or the mighty winds which hold together the various atoms of the desert, so that they rush like a living thing across the wilderness. And this is the unity of the Church, the subjection to the one uniting spirit of its God. You cannot produce unity by ecclesiastical discipline, by consenting to some form of expression, such as “Let us agree to differ,” by parliamentary enactments. Give us the living Spirit of God and we shall be one. This was exhibited at Pentecost, and may be so again.

II. The inward peace of the members of the Church.

1. This peace is when a man is contented with his lot, when the flesh is subdued to the spirit, and when he feels in his heart that all is right. To this we are called, “Come unto Me all ye that labour, etc.”

2. This was the dying bequest of Christ; and herein lies the power of Christianity to satisfy the deepest want of man--the repose of acquiescence in the will of God.

3. It is God’s peace. God is rest. The “I am” of God is contrasted with the “I am becoming” of all other things. And this peace arises out of His unity. There is no discord between the powers and attributes of God.

4. It is a living peace, and must be distinguished from the peace of the man who lives for and enjoys self: the peace on the surface of the caverned lake that no wind can stir; that is the peace of stagnation: the peace of the stones which have fallen down the mountain’s side; that is the peace of inanity: the peace in the hearts of enemies who lie together on the battle field; their animosity is silenced in death. If ours is the peace of the sensualist, or of inaction, apathy or sin, we may whisper to ourselves “Peace, peace,” but there will be no peace.

5. It is the peace which comes from an inward power--“rule.” There is no peace except where there is the possibility of the opposite of peace, although now restrained and controlled. You do not speak of the peace of a grain of sand, or of a mere pond, but of the sea, because its opposite is there implied. And we make a great mistake when we say there is strength in passion. If the passions of a man are strong, the man is weak if he cannot control them. The real strength of a man is calmness, the word of Christ saying, “Peace!” and there is “a great calm.”

6. It is the peace of reception, but not of inaction.

The heart controls the life

An engine, dragging its train on the rail, is sweeping along the landscape. As it comes near it strikes awe into the spectator. Its furious fire and smoke, its rapid whirling wheels, its mighty mass shaking the ground beneath it, and the stealthy quickness of its approach,--its whole appearance and adjuncts make the observer bate his breath till it is past. What power would suffice to arrest that giant strength. Although a hundred men should stand up before it, or seize its whirling wheels, it would cast them down, and over their mangled bodies hold on its unimpeded course, with nothing to mark the occurrence but a quiver as it cleared the heap. But there is a certain spot in the machinery where the touch of a little child will make the monster slacken his pace, creep gently forward, stand still, slide back, like a spaniel fawning under an angry wold at the feet of his master. I find a law in my members that when I would do good evil is present with me. No power in heaven or earth will arrest that downward fall, unless it be laid upon the heart. (W. Arnot, D. D.)

Be ye thankful.

Thankfulness

I. Things to be thankful for.

1. Providential mercies.

2. The means of grace.

3. Christ and salvation.

II. The ways of showing thankfulness.

1. In word. Thank God--

2. In deed.

III. The sin of unthankfulness. It is ranked with the vilest sins. (J. H. Wilson, M. A.)

Thankfulness; natural

If you consider the universe as one body, you shall find society and conversation to supply the office of the blood and spirits: and it is gratitude that makes them circulate. Look over the whole creation, and you shall see that the band or cement which holds together all the parts of this glorious fabric is gratitude or something like it. You may observe it in all the elements; for does not the air feed the flame, and does not the flame at the same time warm and enlighten the air? Is not the sea always sending forth as well as taking in? And does not the earth quit scores with all the elements, in the noble fruits and productions that issue from it? And in all the light and influence that the heavens bestow on this lower world, though the lower world cannot equal their benefaction, yet, with a kind of grateful return, it reflects those rays that it cannot recompense; so that there is some return, however, although there can be no requital. (R. South, D. D.)

Thankfulness should be practical

As physicians judge of the condition of men’s hearts by the pulse that beats in their arms and not by the words that proceed from their mouths; so we may judge of the thankfulness of men by their lives rather than by their professions. (E. Foster.)

Gratitude the one thing needed

A gentleman in Bombay seeing an anchorite sitting under a cocoa nut tree, asked for an interest in his prayers. The anchorite replied he would with pleasure grant the request, but he scarce knew what best to ask for him. “I have seen you often,” he said, and you appear to have everything you want that can conduce to human happiness; perhaps the best thing I can ask for you will be a grateful heart. (W. Baxendale.)

Rest and be thankful

There is a picturesque tract of the Western Highlands of Scotland, in passing through which the traveller has to ascend a long winding path, very steep, rough, and lonely, leading up a wild and desolate glen. The savage and awful grandeur of the scenery, with its bare hills and rocks, is hardly equalled in this country. But if the traveller goes up that glen on foot (and it is hardly possible to go up it otherwise), his appreciation of the scene around him is gradually overborne by the sense of pure physical fatigue. Not without a great strain upon limbs and heart, can that rugged way be traversed. At last’ you reach a ridge, whence the road descends steeply on the other side of the hill. You have ended your climbing, and you may now begin to go down again, from whichever side you come. And there, at this summit, you will find a rude seat of stone, which bears the inscription in deeply-cut letters, “Rest and be thankful.” Many weary travellers have rested there: let us trust that a good many have been thankful. We all know that the like name has been given to more than one or two like restingplaces, that it is borne by various seats, at the top of various steep ascents in this country. There is something pleasing, and something touching, in the simple natural piety which has dictated the homely name. He was a heathen who said it, but he spoke well who said, Wheresoever man feels himself in peace and rest, let him think of God, and give thanks to Him. “Rest and be thankful,” says the stone in the Highland glen: “Be ye thankful,” says St. Paul to the Christians of Colossae. It is not said to whom we are to be thankful. There is a touch of natural piety in the fact, that that does not need to be said. That is taken for granted. We all know who it is that is the Giver of all good: and when we are told, generally, to be thankful, of course we know to whom! Resting at the summit of the mountain path, it is not to the man who erected that seat for the weary traveller: though it is fit and right that he should be kindly thought of while we are enjoying the effect of his work, yet we are to look beyond him to a cause above him. He erected that seat, acting (as it were) for God: every mortal who does a kind and good deed, in a right spirit, is acting for God, and in God’s name: and he went away when his work was done, asking of the wayfarer, putting his request on record with a pen of iron upon the stone,--that for whatever comfort and rest might be experienced there, the wayfarer might bestow his thanks in the right quarter. And St. Paul does just the same! (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)


Verses 15-17

Verse 16

Colossians 3:16

Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.

The Word of Christ

I. What is it? The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament.

1. Christ is their author.

2. He is their subject-matter--they testify of Him. Christ is the Word, the wisdom of God, the truth; and truth as well as grace came by Him.

II. How shall we treat it?

1. Let it dwell in us. It must not be as a stranger, or a visitor, or as an acquaintance with whom we are not specially intimate, or as a friend away and seldom seen, but rather as a resident member of our family with whom we are in constant and loving communication.

2. Let it dwell in you. It is not enough that it be in our house, study, pocket, and so at hand. It must be in our heart, pervading our whole spiritual nature, directing and controlling all our life and conduct. “Thy Word have I hid in my heart.” “Out of the heart are the issues of life.”

3. Let it dwell in you richly, plentifully, profoundly. This implies--

We should seek to understand it in its inmost compass; in all its bearings and relations, and then gladly receive it, in the love of it, into good and honest hearts (James 1:2). (T. W. Sydnor.)

The school of the Word

I. The lesson-book. The Word of Christ, so called, because--

1. He is its central theme. The beginning of the story of the race is told that the first Adam may prepare the way for the second: then the mass of the race is forgotten, and one chosen family selected because Christ was to come out of it. The songs, prophecies, teachings of the Old Testament are full of Christ, and its characters are as fragments of the perfect character of Jesus. The ethics of the book find their full manifestation in Him. The Gospels are biographies of Him, and the Epistles expositions of the truths of that biography.

2. It was originated by Christ. Some write of what they see or hear, but Christ produces the history He causes to be recorded. He not only breathed His Spirit upon men’s minds that they might write its doctrines; He produced the facts which are the basis of the doctrines. Pardon is taught; but He made the atonement by His death. Immortality is taught; but He revealed it first by His resurrection.

3. He dwells in it. Men are in quest of Christ, and seek Him in sacraments and holy things and places. But we have “not to ascend into heaven to bring Him down,’“ etc. “The Word is nigh thee.” Christ is in His Word, not as Plato in his republic or Shakespeare in his plays, but as a living and operating power. “My words are spirit, and they are life.”

4. Through it He works. There is not a process of grace promised or commended that it does not promote.

II. The school.

1. The Church generally. Christ appointed the Church to teach His Word, and His Word forms the basis of her creeds, and the final authority when those creeds are questioned. It is to be exalted in her worship, commemorated in her sacraments, and proclaimed and defended in her pulpits.

2. The school of devotion; the prayer-meeting.

3. The school of experience; the class or fellowship-meeting.

4. The school of the family, where children learn theology, and the Divine character and administration, by object lessons, by what father and mother say and do.

5. But pre-eminently is the Sunday school the school of the Word.

III. The teacher.

1. His qualification. The Word is to dwell in him richly--in his tongue as its expounder; in his memory as a student; in his heart as a believer: so that when he prays he uses it, when he teaches texts come to his tongue-ends, and as he lives he illustrates it. It must so dwell in him that he will delight in it, love to quote it, go to sleep in times of storm resting upon it, and use it in the hour of death as the key to the kingdom.

2. His method.

The indwelling of the Word

There is nothing easier than to hear the Word with a general regard, and few things more difficult than to receive it as a principle of spiritual life. Satan hinders; cumbering with much business, diverting with trifles, or disturbing with wicked imaginations or affections.

I. The word of Christ.

1. In a special and limited sense this is the gospel, because He preached and published it.

2. In a larger sense it is both Testaments, for He is the author of both.

3. Then in listening to Bible teaching we are listening to Christ Himself. “The Word” is one of His titles, and He would have us honour it by honouring the Scriptures which testify of Him.

4. It is sometimes called the Word of the Kingdom, because it shows the way to the kingdom of grace, that we may be partakers of the kingdom of glory; “the Word of life,” because the instrument of regeneration and spiritual sustentation.

5. But though necessary, how many unnecessary things are preferred before it. It is the polar star which shines out in the spiritual firmament to point you to Christ; and yet in how many instances is the glimmering taper of human reason preferred! It opens a well of life; yet many choose the broken cistern.

II. Its dwelling-place.

1. It is to dwell.

2. It is to dwell within: not in the understanding merely to enlighten it, nor in the judgment to inform and convince it, but to be deeply seated and treasured up in the heart. “I will write My law in their inward parts,” etc. And unless it is so written it is quite certain that we have no interest in the covenant.

III. The measure in which it is to dwell in us.

1. Richly: not as a scanty stream, but as a full flowing river. You are not to be content with partial views of God’s truth. The whole written Word is the soul’s pasturage. “All Scripture … is profitable.” “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word,” etc.

2. This requires prayerful searching, and much more than reading in haste a chapter in the morning or at night. We do not search after worldly wealth so.

3. This rich indwelling will be fruitful in

The indwelling Word of Christ

I. This exhortation is connected with the exhortation out of which it springs (Colossians 3:14-15); and with the outward expression in which it finds vent (Colossians 3:16).

2. The Word of Christ is not His personal teaching merely, but the whole Bible as His present Word, affording the materials of present speech.

3. Its indwelling is personal, and is not to be evaporated, as if it referred to the Church collective (Romans 8:11; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 3:17; 2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 1:14).

I. Let the word of Christ dwell in you.

1. This implies a sense of the preciousness of Christ Himself realized by faith.

2. The preciousness of Christ’s Word, as well as of Christ Himself, is essential to its dwelling in you.

3. The felt preciousness of real present and living intercourse between Christ and you will cause the Word, as His, to abide in you.

II. Richly.

1. In quantity. Let the mind and soul be richly stored. Ah! how much there is of the Bible that does not dwell in you because you do not realize it as the Word of Christ; whole chapters that have not been linked to any gracious dealing of Christ.

2. In quality.

3. In correspondence to the riches of Him whose Word it is. Riches of goodness, glory, wisdom, knowledge, grace; unsearchable riches of Christ.

4. It is to dwell in you, not only as rich receivers, but dispensers. “Freely ye have received, freely give.” You are to be richly productive, fruit-bearing, in faith, in good works.

5. Notice the social hearing of the precept as embedded in the context (Colossians 3:12-15 on the one hand, and Colossians 3:16 on the other). In either view this indwelling is not to be like a mass of dead matter crammed into a dead receptacle; as bales are packed in a warehouse, or loads of unread learning are crowded on library shelves for show. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth, the life, the hand must speak. (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

Indwelling of the Word of Christ

I. The Word of Christ.

1. The literal Word of Christ is one of the most wonderful things that ever has been in the world. Not from Roman rostrum, nor in terms of Greek philosophy, nor as a Jewish rabbi, but simply and naturally to simple and ordinary men wherever they could be got together, and as He spake the words seem to root themselves in the heart, and grew a living force in the life of the nation. Then came the alternative that He must keep silence or die; but He went on speaking till lie said, “It is finished.” Immediately on His resurrection He began to speak, and when He went away He left nothing behind Him but His Word. At that time His life and death were unknown powers, and He did not leave the least written explanation of them, nor were the Gospels in existence at the time of this Epistle; but there was the Word of Christ in its newness and energy.

2. Whether or not that Word would have lived without a literary embodiment we are not required to settle. For evidently it was Christ’s purpose to condense His living speech into writings for the instruction of men. And there is clear reference here to the written as well as the spoken Word. Thus the phrase takes its most comprehensive sense--the gospel--all that is revealed of God for human salvation.

3. Manifestly all this lies solely in the Scriptures. There is authoritative Word of Christ for us nowhere else. But here the Book is all His. He has fulfilled it, explained it, inspired it, made it a living Word from first to last, that He might by His Spirit give it living and blessed applications.

II. Its indwelling. Yield yourselves up as sacred dwellings to be occupied with it.

1. This means that other tenants are not to remain unless in full agreement with this chief dweller. Thoughts and words of men, plans of earthly ambition, pleasures of sin--away! All thoughts are to be ruled, all cares hallowed by it, and all enjoyments made safe and good. It must be this much, or it can be nothing vital. Christ’s Word in the morning, selfish prudence all through the day; Christ’s Word for religious service, the word of man for the mercantile transaction; Christ’s Word for sickness and death, other words for times of health and pleasure; will not do. The tenant will only occupy as sole possessor of the tenement.

2. Let it dwell. There is plenty of it to fill the wonderful house.

3. Richly--in its best forms and sweetest fragrance, with all its luminous, guiding powers. Fill yourselves with it. Open all the doors, fling wide the windows. You have only to do that. You have not to make the Word: it is nigh thee in thy heart and in thy mouth if thou wilt but let it dwell in thee richly.

4. But here is more than a mere passive allowance. There is a direct appeal to the will and to the activity of the mind. The Word, abundant as it is, will not come to dwell at all without consent and careful and diligent endeavour. Much “wisdom” is needed for the due remembrance and seasonable entertainment of the various parts in order to apply it to meet the wants of life as they arise. In this every man must be his own minister. We do not need the whole Bible every day; we need it as we need corn in the granary, as the lamps by night. There is many a passage in reserve. We glance at them to-day with only a general interest, but the day will come when they will be as thousands of gold and silver. Meantime it is a great matter to know what is daily bread for this day.

III. The outflow. One of the divinest and most necessary truths is that we must give in order to have. The Word of Christ, in order to secure continuance, must be always leaving us. Go among the mountains, and you will see that it is the living stream that flows away; and where it flows the grass is green, and the flowers bloom, and the cattle drink, and the children linger to dip the foot and hear the song. Yet the spring is in no way exhausted. It is fed by the drawing sun, the condensing mountains, the bountiful clouds, the wide sea. Let your inner life, nourished by the indwelling Word, have not ostentatious and noisy, but natural and continuous expression. Its light will come to you from the land of lights. So will you draw from the infinite ocean of Divine love (see Colossians 3:16-17). A beautiful life; a life of poetry and heart music; a life, too, open alike to all. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

I. The Psalms of the Old Testament have no single and universally accepted designation in the Hebrew Scriptures. They first obtained such in the Septuagint. Psalm comes from a word signifying properly a touching, and then a touching of a stringed instrument with a plectrum, and next the instrument itself, and lastly the song sung with this musical accompaniment. It was in this latest stage that the word was adopted by the Septuagint, and to this agree the ecclesiastical definitions of it. In all probability the word here and in Ephesians 5:19 refers to the inspired Psalms of the Hebrew canon, and certainly designates these on all other occasions where it is met with in the New Testament, with the doubtful exception of 1 Corinthians 14:16. The psalms, then, which the apostle would have the faithful to sing to one another are those of David, Asaph, and the other sweet singers of Israel.

II. Hymns. While the “psalm” by right of primogeniture, as at once the oldest and most venerable, occupies the foremost place, the Church of Christ does not restrict herself to such, but claims the freedom of bringing new things as well as old out of her treasure house, a new salvation demanding a new song. It was the essence of a Greek “hymn” that it should be addressed to, or be in praise of a god or a hero, i.e., a deified man, as Callisthenes reminded Alexander, who, claiming hymns for himself, or suffering them to be addressed to him, implicitly accepted divine honours. In the gradual breaking down of the distinction between the human and the divine which marked the fallen days of Greece and Rome, with the usurping on the part of men of divine honours, the hymn came more and more to be applied to men; although this was not without remonstrance. When the word was assumed into the language of the Church, this essential distinction clung to it still. A “psalm” might be a De profundis, the story of man’s deliverance, or a commemoration of mercies received; and of a “spiritual song” much the same could be said; a “hymn” must always be more or less of a Magnificat, a direct address of praise and glory to God. Augustine in more places than one states the essentials of a hymn.

1. It must be sung.

2. It must be praise.

3. It must be to God.

But though “hymn” was a word freely adopted in the fourth century, it nowhere occurs in the early Fathers, probably because it was so steeped in heathenism, so linked with profane associations, there were so many hymns to Zeus, Hermes, Aphrodite, etc., that the early Christians shrank from it. We may confidently assume that the hymns referred to in the text were direct addresses to God, such as Luke 1:46-55; Luke 1:68-79; Acts 4:24, and that which Paul and Silas sang in the Philippian dungeon (Acts 16:25). How noble, how magnificent uninspired hymns could prove we have evidence in the Te Deum, in the Veni Creator Spiritus, and in many a later heritage which the Church has acquired. That the Church, brought at the time when St. Paul wrote into a new and marvellous world of realities, would be rich in those we might be sure, even if no evidence existed to this effect. Of such evidence, however, there is abundance (Ephesians 5:14; 1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 2:11-14). And as it was quite impossible that the Church, releasing itself from the Jewish synagogue, should fall into the same mistake as some portions of the Reformed Church, we may be sure that it adopted into liturgic use, not psalms only, but also hymns, singing them to Christ as God (Pliny, Ephesians 10.96); though this we may conclude, more largely in Churches gathered out of the heathen world than in those wherein a strong Jewish element existed.

III. Spiritual songs. ὀδή is the only word of this group which the Apocalypse knows (Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3; Revelation 15:3). St. Paul, on the two occasions when he employs it, adds “spiritual” to it, and this, no doubt, because “Ode” by itself might mean any kind of song, as of battle, of harvest, or festal, or hymeneal, while “psalm,” from its Hebrew use, and “hymn,” from its Greek, did not need such qualification. The epithet thus applied does not affirm that these odes were Divinely inspired, any more than the spiritual man is an inspired man (1 Corinthians 3:1; Galatians 6:1), but only that they were such as were composed by spiritual men, and moved in the sphere of spiritual things. How are we, then, to distinguish these from the former two. If “psalms” represent the heritage of sacred song derived by the Christian Church from the Jewish, the “hymns and spiritual songs” will cover what further in the same kind it produced out of its own bosom; but with a difference. What the hymns were we have seen; but Christian thought and feeling will soon have expanded into a wider range of poetic utterances than those in which there is a direct address to the Deity. If we turn, e.g., to Herbert’s Temple, or Keble’s Christian Year, there are many poems in both, which, as certainly they are not “psalms,” so as little do they possess the characteristics of hymns. “Spiritual songs” these might be fitly called; even as in almost all our collections of so-called “hymns” there are not a few which by much juster title would bear this name. (Archbishop Trench.)

The poets of the New Testament

I. The extent of the poetic endowment in the primitive churches. That it was extensively bestowed we may conceive--

1. From the frequent reference made to it (1 Corinthians 14:26). In Corinth it was valued as a charismata (see also Ephesians 5:19; James 5:13).

2. From the universality of the preternatural endowment. The gift of the Spirit was generally bestowed, and this would rouse the poetic faculty in all who had it, and consecrate it to sacred uses.

3. From the universality of excited feelings in the apostolic Churches. Most of those who embraced religion were subject to extraordinary excitement, and poetry is the language of excited feelings. To the unconverted this inspiration was madness or intoxication.

II. Its character. Poetical productions have a character. They are fruitful or barren, corrupt or chaste. There is much in our great poets repugnant to our sense of propriety and which we would fain suppress; but the mere fact that these early Christian poets were under the power of the Spirit would show that their poetry must have been high and pure. There are three things which determine the value of poetry.

1. Intellectual merit. This was high with the primitive Christians. “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Christian truth is calculated to incite the highest feelings of the soul, and these lofty emotions would find utterance in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” The profoundest feelings of our nature can only be expressed in poetry. The highest strains of the orator are poetical.

2. Moral purity. “Admonishing one another.” This implies a deep concern for each other’s moral welfare. The basis of this concern is personal morality, and issued in strains that were morally improving.

3. Poetic conception. The ideas of the primitive Christians were imaginative and creative.

III. Its utility. Every Divine gift is bestowed for a useful purpose. What is the use of this?

1. For personal enjoyment. The true poet lives in a creation of his own, and in the deepest solitude he communes with the infinite source of light, life, love, and beauty. “Poetry,” said Coleridge, “has been to me its own exceeding great reward. It has soothed my affliction, it has endeared solitude, and it has given me the habit of wishing to discover the good and beautiful in all that surrounds me.”

2. As an element in public worship. Nothing adorns, enlivens, and augments the interest of public worship more than music. It secures the harmony of hearts as well as of voices.

3. It is of social utility. Poetry has exercised a powerful influence on society in all ages, for consolation, inspiration, etc. (P. L. Davies, M. A.)

The service of song

I. The duty.

1. Singing is God’s ordinance, binding all sorts of men (Ephesians 6:19; James 5:13; Psalms 66:1-2; Psalms 92:1; Psalms 135:3). This is a part of our piety, and is a most comely thing.

2. A Christian should recreate himself chiefly this way (James 5:13). God does not allow us to shoulder out this with other recreations.

3. We should sing in our houses as well as in our Churches.

II. The manner.

1. We should teach and admonish by singing, and that--

2. We must sing with grace. This is diversely interpreted; some understand it of the dexterity that should be used in singing; others of the comeliness, right order, reverence, or delight of the heart; others of thanksgiving. Rut I think that to sing with grace is to exercise the graces of the heart in singing, i.e., with holy joy (Psalms 9:2); trust in God’s mercies (Psalms 13:5); a holy commemoration of God’s benefits (Psalms 47:6); yea, with the desire of our hearts that our singing may be acceptable (Psalms 104:33-34).

3. We must sing with our hearts, not with our tongues only for ostentation. To sing with the heart is to sing with the understanding (Psalms 47:7; 1 Corinthians 14:14), with sense and feeling. Hence we are said to prepare our hearts before we sing (Psalms 57:7). Then we must sing earnestly and awake out of our lethargy (Psalms 57:8).

4. We must sing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19), both to God’s glory and with a sense of His presence, and upon a holy remembrance of His blessings.

III. The uses.

1. For instruction. When we are merry to sing psalms (James 5:13), yea, to account this a heavenly melody (Ephesians 5:19).

2. For reproof of such as delight in profane songs. (N. Byfield.)

The conditions of the service of song

I. Psalms, etc., must be spiritual.

1. As to the origin. As Moses, David, and others under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, composed their psalms, etc., so we, whether we sing the same or others, ought to do it under the same direction (Ephesians 5:18-19).

2. As to matter: they treat of spiritual things, relating to the glory of God and our salvation; not of secular and vain matters.

II. They must be sung with grace.

1. With gratitude. The word sometimes means this (1 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Corinthians 2:14). Gratitude is not improperly joined to songs; because we are moved to sing in joyous and prosperous circumstances, in which condition thankfulness is binding and necessary.

2. With gracious affability, which conveys both pleasure and utility to the hearers; so that what Horace says concerning poets may he said of these spiritual songs. “They would both profit and delight.” So the word means in Colossians 4:6, and Ephesians 4:29.

III. They must be sung in the heart, i.e., from the inmost affection. And rightly is an ardent emotion required, for the action of singing declares the inward exultation of the heart. He therefore acts the hypocrite who sings with the heart asleep. Hence David not only tunes his voice to the harp, but his voice before either (Psalms 57:7-8). So Mary (Luke 1:46-47). Do not think one thing and sing another.

IV. They must be sung unto the Lord. The songs of Christians ought not to aim at promoting dissoluteness or gain; but to be employed in celebrating the praises of the Redeemer. Corollaries:

1. The custom of singing is useful, and is to be adopted in the assembling of Christians, as well in public as in private.

2. It is so to be performed, that they who hear may from thence derive spiritual pleasure and edification. Therefore farewell to all nugatory, and much more to impure songs.

3. In singing it ought to be our especial care that the heart be affected; they who neglect this, may perhaps please men by an artificial sweetness of voice, but they will displease God by an odious impurity of heart.

4. What things are done for cheerfulness and relaxation of the mind by Christians, ought to be of such a kind as are agreeable to Christ and religion: we must therefore detest the madness of those who cannot be cheerful without the reproach of Christ and the ridicule of religion. (Bp. Davenant.)

The service of song a means of Christian edification

Whenever a great quickening of religious life comes, a great burst of Christian song comes with it. The mediaeval Latin hymns cluster round the early pure days of the monastic orders; Luther’s rough stormy hymns were as powerful as his treatises; the mystic tenderness and rapture of Charles Wesley have become the possession of the whole Church. The early hymns were of a dogmatic character. No doubt just as in many a missionary Church a hymn is found to be the best vehicle for conveying the truth, so it was in these early Churches, which were made up largely of slaves and women--both uneducated. “Singing the gospel” is a very old invention though the name be new. In these early communities Paul said, “Every one of you hath a psalm, a doctrine.” If a man had some fragment of an old psalm, or some strain that bad come fresh from the Christian heart, he might sing it, and his brethren would listen. We do not have that sort of psalmody now. But what a long way we have travelled from it to a modern congregation, standing with hooks that they scarcely look at, and “worshipping” in a hymn which half of them do not open their mouths to sing at all, and the other half do in a voice inaudible three pews off. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The hymnology of the Church

has from the first been a most important element in her holy progress and means of usefulness. A large part of the Bible is poetry. Instruction thus conveyed aids the memory and makes a greater impression on the mind. How constantly did David find relief in expressing his hopes and fears, his joys and sorrows in song; and in the record of his experience how precious is the boon he has left for the instruction and encouragement of God’s children in all ages. There was a special impressiveness in the use of psalms and hymns in the early Church. The first forms of literature in every country and in great national movements are for the most part in song. Thus it was in Greece; thus it was in Scot land. Facts of history, deeds of prowess, wonderful providences, are handed down in song, and are in this form better remembered and more easily preserved. In our own day, with the power of the printing press, this may not be so necessary; but when books had to be copied in MS., and books were scanty, the citation of song and psalm formed an important element of instruction. It has been said, by a well-known author, that if he were allowed to make the songs of a nation, he cared not who made the laws. The hymns of the Church have often been as the very shrine of spiritual life, for the preservation of doctrine, and the means of progress. How many cares have been relieved by some well-known hymn? How many Christians have crossed the river strong in the faith with the words of some precious stanza on their tongues which they learnt in the Sunday school? (J. Spence, D. D.)

Singing with grace in your hearts unto the Lord.--

Phrygia was proverbially a land of music

A music of wild excitement was used in the worship of Cybele, and of Salazion, the Phrygian Diouysos. Hence St. Paul might be the more anxious that Christian singing should be sweet and graceful in a Phryglan Church. For a deep feeling of anxiety on the part of a ruler in the ancient Church that sacred song should be beautiful, see the story how Ignatius brought back the melody of angels heard in vision to his Church at Antioch (Socrates, Hist. 6:8). Heartfelt singing is not voiceless singing (Psalms 111:1). The Psalmist’s praise was in his heart, but it must have been vocal also, for it was such praise as is offered in the “assembly.” The three conditions of sacred song are sweetness of vocal expression, fulness of inward devotion, direction to a Divine object. These are expressed in this clause.

The clue to the real meaning of the passage is to bear in mind that the apostle is speaking of singing as a Church duty, a part of the Church’s corporate life, a declaration of peace among her children, and a means of edification. The recognition of sweetness and pleasingness as an element of public worship is very interesting and important. Such care for singing, again, is quite of a piece with Paul’s high ideal of womanly grace and beauty in youth (1 Corinthians 11:15), priestlike dignity in age (Titus 2:3), with his recognition of things “lovely” (Philippians 4:3), with his appeal to primary aesthetic instincts (1 Corinthians 11:13), with his horror of “confusion” in public worship (1 Corinthians 14:33), with the word for agrave and majestic beauty in public service expressed in that great foundation-rubric (1 Corinthians 14:40). It shows how thoughtfully he considered local circumstances, and adapted his lessons to them. Phrygian music was apt to become the accompaniment of the passionate and unmanly wailing of Asian barbarism. As Plato says, “The Phrygian strain was adapted for sacred rites and fanatical excitement, being of almost frenzied wildness.” (Bp. Alexander.)

Power of a hymn

On one of the days when President Garfield lay dying at the seaside, he was a little better, and was permitted to sit by the window, while Mrs. Garfield was in the adjoining room. Love, hope, and gratitude filled her heart as she sang the hymn commencing “Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah!” As the soft and plaintive notes floated into the sick chamber, the President turned his eyes up to Dr. Bliss, and asked, “Is that Crete” “Yes,” replied the doctor; “it is Mrs. Garfield.” “Quick, open the door a little,” anxiously responded the sick man. Dr. Bliss opened the doer, and after listening a few moments Mr. Garfield exclaimed, as the large tears coursed down his sunken cheeks, “Glorious, Bliss, isn’t it?” (W. Baxendale.)

Power of a hymn

A little boy came to one of our city missionaries, and holding out a dirty and well-worn bit of printed paper, said, “Please, sir, father sent me to get a clean paper like that.” Taking it from his hand the missionary found it was a bill with the hymn “Just as I am” printed upon it.. He looked down into the little earnest face and asked the boy where he got it, and why he wanted a clean copy. “We found it, sir, in sister’s pocket after she died; and she used to sing it all the time she was sick, and loved it so much that father wanted to get a clean one to put in a frame to hang up. Won’t you give us one, sir?” (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)

Saved by a hymn

On board the ill-fated steamer Seawanhaka was one of the Fisk University singers. Before leaving the burning steamer and committing himself to the merciless waves, he carefully fastened upon himself and his wife life preservers. Some one cruelly dragged away that of his wife, leaving her without hope, except as she could cling to her husband. This she did, placing her hands firmly on his shoulders, and resting there until, her strength becoming exhausted, she said, “I can hold on no longer!” “Try a little longer,” was the response of the wearied and agonized husband, “let us sing ‘Rock of Ages.’” And as the sweet strains floated over the troubled waters, reaching the ears of the sinking and dying, little did they know, those sweet singers of Israel, whom they comforted. But, lo! as they sang, one after another of the exhausted ones were seen raising their heads above the overwhelming waves, joining with a last effort in the sweet, dying, pleading prayer, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me,” etc. With the song seemed to come strength; another and yet another was encouraged to renewed effort. Soon in the distance a boat was seen approaching! Could they hold out a little longer? Singing still, they tried, and soon with superhuman strength, laid hold of the lifeboat, upon which they were borne in safety to land. This is no fiction; it was related by the singer himself, who said he believed Toplady’s sweet “Rock of Ages” saved many another besides himself and wife. And this was only salvation from temporal death I But, methinks, from the bright world yonder the good Toplady must be rejoicing that God ever taught him to write that hymn, which has helped to save so many from eternal death, as, catching its spirit, they have learned to cast themselves alone for help on that dear “Rock of Ages,”--cleft, sinner, for them, for you, and for me, and which ever stands rent asunder that it may shelter those who Utter the cry, “Let me hide myself in Thee.” (Canadian Baptist)
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Verse 17

Colossians 3:17

Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Method and music, or the art of holy and happy living

It is always an advantage to have the laws of a kingdom as concise as possible. The amount of litigation caused by the English code is immense. In God’s government the matter is plain enough--included in ten commandments, and further reduced by Christ to, two. Our text is an instance of the terseness of Divine precepts. It contains a law applicable to every action, word, thought, place, circumstance in a few brief words. It is a great advantage to a mechanic to be able to carry with him a pocket rule or square. And so we have here a compendious rule in life which car, never fail.

I. Holy walking described. “Whatsoever,” etc. This rule applies to those who are in Christ. The unconverted require a radical change before they can carry it out. You cannot walk as a believer if you have not believed. But having begun at the beginning, and taken the step of salvation by faith, the walk has to be carried on by following this injunction, which means--

1. To do all through the office and name of Christ as Mediator.

2. Do all under the authority of Jesus Christ. He is your King. The business of a Christian upon earth is not an independent one; he is a steward for Christ.

3. Do all under the sanction of Christ as our example. It is an admirable course to ask, “What would Christ have done in these circumstances?”

4. Do all as to the glory of Christ. The Christian must not seek self.

5. Do all in the strength of Christ. With Him is the residue of the Spirit, and the Spirit is the believer’s power. These words are a rebuke--

II. Holy music prescribed--“Giving thanks,” etc. Soldiers march to battle to trumpet and drum, etc., and it is an excellent thing when Christian men know how to sing as well as work. The best music consists in thankfulness to God. We ought to praise Him in all things, but more particularly in the exercise of religion. Some people are so afraid of joy, that they seem to labour under the delusion that all who are devout must be unhappy. The text tells us under what aspect we should regard God when thus thanking Him. It is as a Father.

III. Holy motives inculcated. Inscribed on our hearts are reasons which must secure obedience. These are--

1. Gratitude. All we have has been received from the Father through Christ.

2. The worthiness of Christ. “Him hath God exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour.”

3. Love. He claims our love, and He gives us His. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Suggestive summary of Christian duty

I. The guiding law of christian duty. “Do all in the name,” etc. In Christ is--

1. The purest motive to duty. Motive originates and governs action, and makes it good or bad. It is only in Christ we find the holiest and purest motive; in Him love takes the place of selfishness (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

2. The noblest pattern of duty.

3. The highest end of duty. He is the goal towards which all actions tend. There is no higher name for it--“is above every name.”

4. The final authority of duty.

II. Its universal obligation--“Whatsoever ye do,” etc. There must be--

1. A recognition of Christ in everything.

2. Absolute dependence on Christ at all times.

3. Supreme devotion to Christ.

III. Its unvarying spirit--“Giving thanks to God and-the Father by Him.” Lessons:

1. The name of Christ is the greatest power in the universe.

2. All duty gathers its significance and blessedness from its relation to Christ.

3. A thankful spirit is happy in enterprise, brave in difficulties, and patient in reverses. (G. Barlow.)

Godly living

This was applied to the “elect of God” This is the title given by the apostle to Christians. A course of action is appointed for them to carry out.

I. What is to be done? “Do all.” The “all” refers to every act of religious life. There is to be--

The word of Christ must dwell richly in the heart (see previous verse).

II. How it is to be carried out--“In the name of the Lord Jesus.” This implies three things.

1. By the authority of Christ (Acts 3:6).

2. For the sake of Christ (Mark 9:41).

3. For the glory of Christ (Acts 15:26). (Preacher’s Analyst.)

The motive power of a holy life

This is one of the bold sweeping statements of Scripture. However extraordinary and extravagant, it is in keeping with the whole spirit of Christianity. Unlike other religions, that of Christ admits of no compromises. It will have all or nothing, the first place or none. The author of nature and the author of Christianity give tokens of being one and the same, in that their principles are alike simple, universal, imperious, inexorable. In both is the same quiet exertion of power, the same calm majesty of law, and the laws of each can never be trifled with with impunity. The law of gravity does not admit of dispute, neither does the law that eternal life is to be found through the Son of God. Observe--

I. The extreme breadth and lofty spirit of Christian duty. “Whatsoever,” etc. These words cover the whole sphere of Christian activity. Our words, thoughts, desires, labours, etc., are to be under the habitual influence of a sacred and sanctifying power which lies lurking in the name of the Lord Jesus. There are one or two simple explanations which show that there is no real extravagance in this large demand.

1. If the Christian law is just another name for the law of truth, love, and holiness, it is quite clear that we shall never get out of the range of that law, neither in this world nor the next. Not more cer tainly does the law of gravity reach from world to world than does this law prevail wherever intelligence exists.

2. If religion consists in entering the service of a God who looks not on the outward appearance but on the heart, that religion will be the only true one which produces right dispositions towards Him of faithfulness in all things, the smallest as well as the biggest. The spirit we are of determines the character of our actions whether they are holy or unholy. The life of the saint and of the sinner are made up very much of the same commonplace duties, and in all that is patent to the world there may be little difference between them: but the spirit by which they are actuated constitutes a gulf between them as wide as that which divides light and darkness, heaven and hell.

3. It were well for the Church and the world if we recognized more clearly this breadth of Christian duty. There is no act, however little, which Christ does not see and touch, and which may not tend as much to His honour as the songs of the Seraphim; there is no affection, talent, energy on which He does not put His hand and say, “That is mine,” and which may not be transformed into a worship as sincere as that of the communion; no step we can take in life over which He does not watch, and which may not be made a step on the road that brings us nearer Him; no time here or hereafter when it will not be a delightful duty to “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” This round world may therefore become to us a temple, and this little life a song of praise.

II. The motive power of a holy life. The stress lies on “the name of the Lord Jesus.”

1. All the apparent extravagance of the injunction vanishes when we lay our hands on the secret of the Divine life. In the realm of spirit as of matter when we see a great result we know that behind it is a great cause; and we may search the world and we shall not find a power over human hearts comparable with that which lies in this name. What combination of forces has cut so deep a groove across the world? One or two of the world’s heroes and sages have won wide admiration and respect, but who has laid his hand on so many hearts and touched for good so many lives? Bad as the world is, what is good in it is due to Christ. Even now the good is gaining the victory, and the King is Christ. Blot out that name and you blot out the best part of history, all that is purest in morals, elevating in literature, gentle in manners, merciful in laws. Time weakens other forces, but it adds vigour to this.

2. There is no need to enter into the various component elements which go to make up this moral force. What He was and did for us, and above all what He now is and does, explains it. One phrase holds it all--“He died for me.” In Jesus we have not a man dead long ago, but a living Saviour and King ever near us, bearing the one name by which we may be saved. It is His presence by His Spirit in the hearts of His people which is the motive power of their holy life. “The love of Christ constraineth us.”

III. The sacredness of common life and labour. The key-note of this chapter is that religion is a life in Christ, so all-pervading and all-permeating this life that it hallows everything.

1. One of the leading peculiarities of the religion of Jesus is that it virtually annihilated the distinction between the secular and the sacred. As it overstepped all barriers of climate, colour, and race to call men brethren, so it passed over all barriers of priestly function to make all men holy, and so all men are now made priests unto God.

2. What God hath joined together let no man put asunder; and He has wedded religion and life. That is no religion which we cannot carry with us wherever we go; into our pleasures and sorrows, our business and closets. (J. Macgregor, D. D.)

Things sacred and things secular

It is one of the most precious effects of Christianity that it gives interest and dignity to commonplace life. Think how it would bear on the obscure toilers of Ephesus, Corinth, or Rome. Artizan, labourer, soldier, slave, would learn the truth that God cared for him, and designed him for a glorious destiny. It is through Christ that life is worthy of the name of life. The distinction between things secular and things sacred has wrought unspeakable mischief. Involves one rule of life for the person in holy orders, and another for the man who has not received a religious vocation. The monk or the nun is a “religious;” if any be not a priest, or monk, or nun, that person need not be so religious. It is a detestable, an irreligious distinction.

I. It is a distinction which would have been utterly foreign to the mind of an early Christian, and is quite opposed to the spirit of the new testament. Christ, therein revealed, has laid hold upon the whole of life. He has consecrated what we call secular employments by Himself engaging in them. Possible to eat and drink to the glory of God.

II. This distinction is bad, because it vanishes on nearer observation. We find it perfectly impossible to draw a sharp line. Art, science, politics, business, everyday duty, instead of being detached from religion, have such intimate relations with it that they are, or may be, and ought to be, themselves essentially religious. A bad sermon on the text, “Behold I stand at the door and knock,” is (it would seem) sacred; but to paint the well-known picture illustrating same text was secular. To write hymns sacred. Then was it a sacred or a secular work to write “Paradise Lost,” Wordsworth’s “Excursion,” or Cowper’s “Task”? Surely, too, all great music is most truly religious. Again, is it a sacred or a secular work when a young girl, under a deep sense of duty, consecrates her life to attendance upon a suffering mother? Contrariwise, consider what are generally classed as sacred works--praying, preaching, administering sacraments, visiting the sick. How intensely secular they may become I How mean and perfunctory the spirit in which they may be performed! How easily may their motive come to be that so well expressed in Bible words--“Put me into one of the priest’s offices, that I may eat a piece of bread.”

III. This distinction is radically irreligious, Implies that all things are not of God. Churches are, but not houses we live in. Clergymen, but not men of other professions and employments. Sunday, but not other six days. But Christ claimed the world for Himself and His Father, in the sense that He claimed everything in the world. Factories and railways, camps and courts of law, mansions, museums, and picture-galleries, to say nothing of the world of trees, and rivers, and birds, and flowers, form part of the world which belongs to Him, the Heir of all things. This is the only religious view of life.

IV. Seek, then, to make your whole life religious. Pure religion is when the sense of God’s love, of the vastness of His claims, of the breadth of His commandments, so works through the life as to make it one organic whole, and when the poor unworthy distinction of secular and sacred is forgotten; when what is most religious is most human, and what is commonest is ennobled and justified by the grace which flows from “Christ our Life.” (J. A. Jacob, D. D.)

Doing all in the name of Christ

I. What this is.

1. To go to God through Him (John 15:3; John 15:16; John 16:23-26).

2. To do all by His authority (Matthew 18:18-20; Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Timothy 6:15).

3. To do all by His strength (Acts 4:6-7; Acts 4:10; 1 Samuel 17:45; Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 12:9). Without Him we can do nothing, with Him every thing (1 Corinthians 15:10).

4. For His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31; John 5:23; Revelation 5:12-13).

5. To live a life of faith for a supply of all things for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:1-21; 2 Peter 2:1-22; 2 Peter 3:1-18; John 16:23).

6. To walk in the religion of the Lord Jesus (Micah 4:5; 2 Timothy 2:19; Matthew 10:22; Luke 21:17; Revelation 2:3; Revelation 2:13).

7. To follow His example (Matthew 16:24; 1 John 2:6; 1 Peter 2:21-23).

II. Why we are to do it.

1. Be cause all we are, have, or can do, is of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:22-23).

2. Because the Father has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name (Philippians 2:8-10). Therefore we must all honour the Son as the Father (John 5:23).

3. Because we cannot be accepted but by Him (Ephesians 1:6; Hebrews 13:15; Hebrews 5:1).

4. Because all that comes from God to us must be by His hand.

III. How we may do it.

1. We must be supposed to be in Christ first (John 15:4-5).

2. Supposing this we must exercise faith upon Him, and have constant recourse to Him, in all that we do for the supplies of His grace and Spirit (1 Peter 2:20; 1 Peter 5:7; John 16:16; John 16:23; John 16:26).

3. We must live in close communion with Jesus in the use of all His ordinances (Zechariah 4:12).

4. We must exercise our thoughts much upon Him, and be much taken up with Him in the course of our lives (Psalms 73:23).

IV. some uses.

1. It is not in our power to act as we please, or for our own ends (Romans 14:7-8).

2. The impiety of those who invoke Christ’s name on their wicked courses.

3. We cannot expect God’s blessing on anything not done in Christ’s name. (H. Wilkinson, D. D.)

Doing all to the Lord Jesus

All have felt at times a painful void after absorption in active duty. There has been nothing sinful, on the contrary the work, it may be, has been sacred, undertaken with prayer, and been for the good of man and the glory of God, and yet there is no satisfaction.

I. Where is the evil in this? It is that we are slow to learn in act what we know in our souls, that we can do nothing good without God. We take it for granted and so forget it.

1. As to ordinary matters men, e.g., think it unlikely they will die to-day because they have lived safely through so many dangers, and take it for granted that their food will nourish them because it has always done so. Where, then, is there any room for dependence on God even with prayer for protection and blessing, since the feeling assumes that they will be granted without any prayer at all.

2. As to deeds of grace. It is well, as people’s devotions now are, if Christians really prayed to God to carry them through the trials of the day, as really believing that for this they needed the special help of God. How many, if they pray at all, hope to do right and escape flagrant wrong almost through the intention of doing or not doing, and think that if they call upon God in some general way things will not be much amiss with them.

3. As to daily life. Many Christians seem to think that in the daily deeds and words of life they either cannot or else must sin, and that these two are much the same. What people hate is being in earnest at all, and so they do not wish to pray for the grace of God lest they should have to be at the pains of using it. So they are ready to think that they cannot help themselves, that they must fall into sins of infirmity, and thus they cast their faults on God, or they look upon them as no great faults at all, and so they act as though they could not sin. And apart from these who learns, in the midst of his conscious and acknowledged besetting sin, to ask for the grace of God? The angry, sinful word again and again escapes, and the thought of God at best but follows it.

II. Thy remedy. “Whatsoever ye do,” etc., as one bearing His name, in the might of His name, and to its glory. Refer all things to Him. Let Him be the beginning from whom all flows, the end in whom all are gathered, our aim, our reward. Have Him before thee as the pattern whom thou art to copy; the Redeemer in whom is thy strength, the Master and Friend whom thou art to serve and please, thy Creator and thy heaven.

1. But can, one will say, all the little acts of life be done to Him? Were it not almost an indignity to bring them in reference to His great Majesty? On the contrary, great love shows itself most in little acts. Nothing is too small to be done for one deeply loved, and nothing but deep love will do unweariedly all little things to please whom it loves. Little things are the very instances of acceptable service in Scripture. It says not, “Give your bodies to be burned for the glory of God,” but, “Whether ye eat or drink,” etc.

2. How, then, can they be done? Do them as thou wouldest if thou sawest God by thee, with prayer that they may be done aright. He eats and drinks to the glory of God, who does so not for pleasure, but for strength for God’s service; He sleeps to God’s glory, who rests in Christ, hoping to rise to do Him honour; he does his daily task to the glory of God who plies it under the eye of God, and does it or not as and how he thinks God would have it done or not.

3. How can we do both at once without distraction--study, speak, or do and think of Christ at the same time? Will not work be done carelessly? Be thine own judge? Hast thou ever deeply loved parent, bride, husband, or child? Didst thou find that thou toiledst for them less diligently because thou thoughtest of and toiledst for them? Or hast thou done anything for man’s praise, feeling that the eye whose praise thou prizedst was upon thee? Was this a hindrance? Nay, a good and a spur which quickened every nerve. And who looks down upon us? Our Father, our Friend and Brother, who came down from heaven and suffered for us, is ready to help and reward us. And shall not such love quicken us to do all things better. Does it not give strength to self-denial to take up our cross after Jesus? gladness to alms-giving to give to Jesus? cast a holy reverence round a sick room when we minister to Jesus? impart sweetness to teaching children that in them we receive Jesus? When thou hast learned to do all things to Jesus, it will shed pleasure over all dull things, softness over hard things, peace over trial. It will make contradiction sweet, to bear it meekly with Jesus; poverty, honourable to be poor with Jesus; toil, gladsome to labour for Jesus. (E B. Pusey, D. D.)

Common work in the name of Jesus

Wherever we are called to work we must dedicate the labours of our hands or our brain to God, doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Solomon was called to build the temple of the Lord, but every man who is an honest worker, who does his best in the place where heaven has put him, is building up a temple, holy, acceptable to God. The Minister of State in his cabinet, labouring to do right and caring nothing for popularity; and the little servant-maid in the kitchen, who scorns to tell a lie, or neglect her daily duties, are both in their respective stations working for God, doing their duty. None but pure gold may receive the special goldsmith’s mark, none but true, honest work can bear the mark of the Lord Jesus. (H. J. W. Buxton, M. A.)

Every-day religion

Plato had a fable which I have now nearly forgotten, but it ran something like this: He said spirits of the other world came back to this world to find, body and find a sphere of work. One spirit came and took the body of a king and did his work. Another spirit came and took the body of a poet and did his work. After a while Ulysses came, and he said, “Why, all the fine bodies are taken, and all the grand work is taken. There is nothing left for me” And some one replied, “Ah! the best one has been left for you.” Ulysses said, “What’s that?” And the reply was, “The body of a common man, doing a common work, and for a common reward.” A good fable for the world, and just as good a fable for the Church. “Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do it to the glory of God.” (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

The essence of fiery

I begin to see that religion consists not so much in joyous feelings as in a constant exercise of devotedness to God, and in laying ourselves out for the good of others. (D. Stewart.)

The all-pervasiveness of religion

Religion is one of the colours of life which mingles most intimately with all the other colours of the palette. It is that which lends them their appearance of depth, and the best of their brilliance. If by a subtle process it is taken away, all become tarnished and discoloured. (W. Mallock.)

The acceptable prayer

As a petition to the Queen can only reach her through the hands of a minister, so we can only approach God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ. All our prayer and praises must be offered in the name of the Lord Jesus. Very many of those prayers are like letters with no name and address upon them, which never reach their destination. What is it that makes our public services in church so frequently cold and spiritless? Why is it that some of us look on church-going as an irksome task, and the hours spent in God’s house as the most wearisome of our lives? The reason is simply this, that their services are being offered in the wrong name. One offers it in his own name, he is sacrificing to selfishness; another offers it in the name of fashion, another in the name of respectability, but there can be no reality in our services unless offered in the name of Christ. (H. J. W. Buxton, M. A.)

Consistency and gratitude

I. “whatsoever ye do in word or deed,” etc.

1. Paul here clearly gives to Christ the whole of life. The conceptions, affections, and resolutions of the soul refer to words and works as being the principles and motives of them. For it is impossible that they should be in the name of Christ except our understandings and will so address them. The Spirit moves all, and upon this the difference between man’s actions depends. It is this that gives them the right and title they have in Christian morality. Works that are the same as to external action are good in one and bad in another. The aims of an ambitious man and of a true believer have no external difference, yet if you examine the inward springs of both, you will find one a piece of vanity, the other a fruit of charity.

2. The rule is short and easy, but of almost infinite use. As a little square serves an artificer to design and mark out a multitude of lines, and to correct those that are amiss, so by this little rule there is no human action respecting which we cannot ascertain whether it is right or wrong; nor is there any part of our lives which this rule is not capable of guiding and forming to perfection.

3. Specifically the name of Christ is the rule.

(a) That we refer all to His glory.

(b) That we act according to His will.

(c) That we live in entire confidence in and dependence upon Him.

4. By this

(a) the sacred name will purge them of the excess of intemperance on the one hand, and the foolish scruples of superstition on the other.

(b) Being referred to the glory of God, from indifferent they become holy and acceptable to God.

3. We must not so take the precept as if we were obliged in every act and word to raise our thoughts directly to Christ. It is sufficient that we frequently and ordinarily make this application of mind. But it is necessary that we have this deposition so formed in our hearts, that when circumstances allow us to think of Christ our souls may lean that way as being habituated to it.

II. “Giving thanks into God and the Father by Him.” These words may be taken as an independent precept (Ephesians 5:20) or a reason for the preceding rule, a title under which we ought to do all things in the name of Christ, so that our whole life may be an act of gratitude through Christ, which is to be preferred.

1. Thanksgiving is one of the most necessary and universal offices of a Christian. Remember what we are to God through creation, providence, and grace.

2. God the Father is the proper object of gratitude as the first principle of action, though not to the exclusion of the Son and Spirit.

3. By Jesus this gratitude is to be rendered.

1. For the confirmation of faith.

2. For the instruction of our faith.

The reality of religion

I. Christianity is a reality, and deals with realities.

1. If it could be shown that its requirements were unreal, its statements exaggerated, its views of attainment unreasonable, it would lose immensely in its character for truth and its power for good.

2. Here we may fall into opposite mistakes.

3. Owing to this enormous abuses have sprung up under the shadow of the Church. A large proportion of the infidelity of the working classes is due to this unreal teaching. A strained and exaggerated view of religion has been put before them, alien from their habits of thought, and by no means supported by the example of its professors.

II. The text is a remedy for unreality in religion.

1. Observe the extent of this saying. It is plain that it must propose some motive and rule which shall touch daily life at every point.

(a) As to their inward influence on the man himself. Are they evermore in his view and present to his thoughts? Or is not their influence for the most part rather a constraining power of which he is unconscious, rather than a stimulus carried on by conscious effort? Take a man whose motives is the advancement of himself or his family. Such an object is consciously present when he chooses to reflect on it, but day by day in the toil and struggle he is not ever thinking of it, but he is pursuing it. The labourer working under the useful light and genial warmth does not lose his time and dazzle his sight in gazing on the sun, but plies his arm with his eye fixed on his work, and so uses for its intended purpose the light God has bestowed.

(b) They are seldom loudly professed, so seldom that a man professing loudly a given motive arouses suspicion that he is acting on some other, and only using this as a blind. Here, as in nature, the deepest is the stillest; but by this very stillness all who are observant know its depth. Whatever mystery a man makes of his object in life, spectators generally arrive at correct conclusions.

2. Recur to the motive of the text.

Christian ends lend grandeur to human life

He who lives for the glory of God has an end in view which lends dignity to the man and to his life. Bring common iron into proper contact with the magnet, it will borrow the strange attractive virtue, and itself become magnetic. The merest crystal fragment, that has been flung out into the field and trampled on the ground, shines like a diamond when sunbeams stoop to kiss it. And who has not seen the dullest rain-cloud, when it turned its weeping face to the sun, change into glory, and, in the bow that spans it, present to the eyes of age and infancy, alike of the philosopher who studies, and of the simple joyous child who runs to catch it, the most brilliant and beautiful phenomenon in nature? Thus, from what they look at and come in contact with, common things acquire uncommon glory. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

The name of Jesus set in work

Those old saints of the Middle Ages, how dearly they loved to set the name of Jesus forth everywhere, by all means, in every curious work of art--not merely of Church art, mind you, but of household and domestic furniture. Go, for example, into many of the farms round here, and notice the fire-dogs that stand in the yawning chimney: how they are wrought at the sides into those most blessed of all letters, the I.H.C., by which our dear Lord is set forth. Nothing so mean that it was thought unworthy of this monogram; nothing so glorious that it was considered unfit to have that excelling glory added thereto. There they taught us the great lesson--“Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Yes, silver and gold and gems conspired together to mark out this name on the paten, or the chalice, or the shrine; the manufacturer of Limoges worked it out in his enamel; in the monastery potteries they burnt it in on their tiles; in convents they embroidered it on chasuble and cope; in the glorious windows of churches the light came in, sanctified, as it were, and hallowed by the name of the True Light; the poor peasant was encouraged, with his clasp knife, to consecrate his house by carving the same name on the hutch of his door or the barge-boards of his roof; the name of salvation could not be out of place among the dwellings of those who looked to be saved; the name which to adore will be the work of eternity, could never be out of place for the meditation and the worship of earth. (Dr. Neale.)


Verse 18

Colossians 3:18

Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands.

The Christian family

1. In the family, Christianity has signally displayed its power of refining, ennobling and sanctifying earthly relationships. Domestic life as seen in Christian homes is a purely Christian creation, and would have been a new revelation at Colossae as it is in many a mission field to-day.

2. Domestic happiness and family Christianity are made up of very homely elements. One duty is prescribed here for one member of each of the three family groups, and varying forms of another for the other. The wife, child, servant, are to obey; the husband to love, the father to show his love in gentle considerateness, the master to yield his servants their dues. Like some perfume distilled from common flowers which grow on every bank, the domestic piety which makes home a house of God and a gate of heaven, is prepared from these two simples--obedience and love.

I. The reciprocal duties of wives and husbands.

1. The Christian ideal of the wife’s duty has for its centre subjection.

2. What of the husband’s duty? He is to love.

3. The young are to remember that the nobleness and heart repose of their whole lives may be made or marred by marriage, and to take heed where they fix their affections. If a man and woman love and marry in the Lord, He will be in the midst, a third who will make them one, and that threefold cord will not be quickly broken.

II. The reciprocal duties of children and parents--Obedience and gentle authority.

1. The injunction to children is laconic and universal.

2. The law for parents is addressed to fathers, partly because mothers have less need of it and partly because fathers are the head of the household.

III. The reciprocal duties of masters and servants. Obedience and justice.

1. These servants are slaves. Paul recognized that “sum of all villainies,” but his gospel had principles which cut up slavery by the roots. Christ and His apostles did not war against it nor against any existing institutions--“First make the tree good,” etc. Mould men, and the men will mould institutions. And so slavery has died in all Christian lands now. But the principles laid down here are applicable to all forms of service.

2. Note the extent of the servant’s obedience.

3. Masters are bidden to give their slaves what is equitable. A start ling injunction respecting those who were chattels and not persons.

Husbands and wives

The duty of the latter is put first, because obedience is more difficult and distasteful than love, and because the love of the husband largely depends on the subjection of the wife.

I. As to wives.

1. The proposition that wives ought to be subject to their husbands.

(a) The author of creatures would not have them confounded through disorder (1 Corinthians 14:13).

(b) It is not the mark of a base but of a generous mind to be subject to his superiors. “Every man in proportion to his depravity bears a ruler with rude impatience.

(c) Those who shake off the yoke of due subjection are blind to their own interests. “Obedience is the mother of prosperity.”

(a) The internal act of the heart and the acknowledgment of the mind (Ephesians 5:33; 1 Peter 3:6).

(b) Conformity of manners and affections. As a mirror adorned with gems and skilfully polished is nothing unless it express a true likeness of the person looking into it; so a wife, however endowed and beautiful, is nothing un less she render herself conformable to the manners of her husband (1 Corinthians 7:37).

(c) Performance of wifely duties--conjugal love (Genesis 2:18; Titus 2:4; Proverbs 31:12)--care of the children and the house (Titus 2:4-5). The Egyptian women had no shoes, that they might learn to keep at home.

(a) The Divine appointment (Genesis 3:16).

(b) The natural imperfection of the woman (1 Peter 3:7).

(c) The order of creation. Woman was created after, out of, and for man (1 Corinthians 11:8-9).

(d) The transgression of the woman (1 Timothy 2:14).

(a) Pride, which makes the wife disesteem her husband as unworthy to command her. To obviate this evil let her remember that her husband’s dignity and her own inferiority are not to be estimated from virtues, figure, nobility, or riches; but from Divine ordination; that pride is of the devil, who, as he incited Eve, instills the same poison into her daughters.

(b) Defect of love. She studies not to please her husband who is displeased with him. This evil will be avoided if parents would not compel their daughters to odious nuptials (Genesis 24:57-58); if women would beware of marrying for honour and riches; and if after marriage they would avoid all occasions of offence.

(c) Foolish vanities, such as an immoderate desire of appearing in public, extravagance in dress, etc.

2. The limitation of the proposition--“As it is fit in the Lord;” as far as God permits, and as far as it is befitting women who are in the Lord. The occasion of this arose from the circumstance that many believing women were united to unbelieving husbands. If their husbands should strive to compel them to idolatrous worship they must resist (Acts 5:29). The foundation for this is that all authority is derived from God and subordinate to Him. From whence it follows--

II. As to husbands.

1. The precept enjoining love.

(a) In living at home, delighted with the wife’s presence and company, and not seeking others in preference (Proverbs 5:18-19). This effect we see in Christ’s love toward His Church (Matthew 28:20).

(b) In direction and instruction in all those things which relate to this life and the next (1 Corinthians 14:35), because both are partners in earthly things and heirs together of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7).

(c) Provision of all necessary things, in imitation of Christ’s care of His Church. He who neglects this, subjects himself to heavy censure (1 Timothy 5:8).

(a) By the eyes alone, i.e., choosing for mere external beauty. Love which rests on such an unstable foundation cannot be firm and constant.

(b) By the fingers, i.e., choosing for money. The man who does this seeks not a wife but a money porter, and after he has laid his claws on the money, he regards not of a straw the porter.

2. The injunction forbidding bitterness. Plutarch says, “They who sacrificed at the rites of Juno, took out the gall of the victim, signifying by the ceremony that it was not fit that bile and bitterness should enter into the married state.” The bitterness here prohibited shows itself--

(a) from the precept itself, which admits of no exception. As a wife is bound to obey her husband in spite of his many imperfections, so the husband is bound to love the wife notwithstanding hers.

(b) From the example of Christ (Ephesians 5:29).

(a) when the wife is removed from domestic rule and degraded to the rank of a maid, even perhaps subjected to one of them, (Proverbs 31:27; Titus 2:5).

(b) When things pertaining to her dignity or necessity are denied.

(c) When she is treated with cruelty. (Bp. Davenant.)

Relative duties--husbands and wives

The root of all society is the family. (Genesis 2:18; Psalms 68:6). The real strength and virtue of a nation consist to a great extent in the purity of family ties; and in this, more than anything else socially, has the religion of Christ blessed the world. Of the domestic institution, conjugal life and love are the very element and fountain (Ephesians 5:25-33; Titus 2:4-5; 1 Peter 3:1-7).

I. The duty of the wife.

1. The subjection is not that of a drudge or slave, to be ruled by force. It means that in the home, as everywhere else, “order is heaven’s first law.” If there is to be peace and happiness in the home there must not be two co-ordinate authorities. The husband is to be the house-band--the strength and bond of the family. The submission required of a wife involves--

2. The reason for this injunction--“as it is fit in the Lord.” It is God s will that it should be so, and also the dictate of common sense. Where there are two wills seeking for mastery there will be wrangling and bitterness. But the wife is not a slave to do the bidding of a taskmaster, losing in a mechanical obedience the sense of responsibility. No! she may not do wrong to please her husband. Her own relation to God will determine the standard of right and limit of duty. How much has a Christian wife in her power I By submission she may gain conquests for Christ, and commend the Lord whom she supremely loves.

II. The duty of the husband. The sum and fountain of all other duties is love.

1. Positively--“love your wives.”

1. Paul does not say as the complement of submission, “Rule your wives wisely, keep them in their position.” The rule of love is sweet and easily borne. Either side is, perhaps, apt to forget its own special obligation: the wife is not so likely to forget her love as her subjection, nor the husband his authority as his love. But he will most surely and fully receive the acknowledgment due to him who truly loves; and she will be most tenderly loved who shows most heartily deference. Let the love which won the youthful bride be continued and augmented.

2. This love must be manifested. It is too often taken as a matter of course. Contact with the world often deadens the susceptibilities, and love is left to care for itself and struggle for a precarious existence. But the wife craves for love, and a tone of tenderness will make her soul brighten for days amid the manifold cares of home. It is one thing to be silly in the expression of a rapturous fondness and quite another to be manly in the exhibition of a sincere affection. If a man is not ashamed of being married he ought not to be ashamed of showing his love, in, e.g., preferring his wife’s society, in seeking to please her, in taking an interest in those things which specially occupy her thought. And she has a right to expect it amidst the monotony of her household cares.

2. Negatively--“Be not bitter against them.” It is possible to have a general sentiment of affection and yet to be bitter. This spirit is grossly wrong in a Christian man to the woman who has given up all for him. It may be exhibited in surly silence as well as in sharp words. There will be need of forbearance on both sides. Some homes, alas, are in a state of chronic conflict. He commands imperiously; she resists proudly. Some men are pleasant and genial abroad, but churlish at home. Marriage is left us as a wreck saved from Paradise; according to our spirit and conduct it will be either a reminder of “paradise lost,” or a help towards “paradise regained.” (J. Spence, D. D.)

Wife: meaning of the word

It literally means a weaver. The wife is the person who weaves. Before our great factories arose, one of the great employments in every house was the fabrication of clothing; every family made its own. The wool was spun into thread by the girls, who were therefore called “spinsters”; the thread was woven by their mother, who was accordingly called the weaver or the wife; and another remnant of this old truth we discover in the word heirloom, applied to any old piece of furniture which has come down to us from our ancestors, and which, though it may be a chair or bed, shows that a loom was once the most important piece of furniture in the house. Thus in the word wife is wrapped up a hint of earnest, indoor, stay-at-home occupations, as being fitted for her who bears this name.

Qualities of a wife

A good wife should be like three things; which three things she should not be like.

1. She should be like a snail, to keep within her own house; but she should not be like the snail to carry all she has upon her “back.

2. She should be like an echo, to speak when spoken to; but she should not be like an echo, always to have the last word.

3. She should be like a town clock, always to keep time and regularity; but she should not be like a town clock, speak so loud that all the town may hear her. (Old writer.)

The value of submissiveness in wives

A pleasure-loving husband boasted of the good temper of his wife; and a wager was laid that she would rise at midnight and give the company a supper with perfect cheerfulness. It was put to the test, and the boast of the husband was: found true. One of the company thus addressed the lady, “Madam, your civility fills us with surprise. Our unreasonable visit is in consequence of a wager which “we have certainly lost. As you cannot approve of our conduct, give me leave to ask what can possibly induce you to behave with so much kindness to us?” “Sir,” she replied, “When I married, my husband and myself were both unconverted. It has pleased God to call me out of that dangerous condition. My husband continues in it. I tremble for his future, and therefore try to make his: present as comfortable as possible.” “I thank you for the warning, my dear,” said her husband, “by the grace of God I will change my conduct.” From that time he became another man. (E. Foster.)

A considerate wife

When Mr. Disraeli retired from office he was offered an earldom. He declined it with the intimation that if there was any reward thought to be deserved, he wished it to be conferred upon his wife, to whom he attributed all his success. His wife therefore became Viscountess Beaconsfield. On the day, long before this, when he was to unfold the Budget, he entered the carriage absorbed in thought, his wife quietly taking her seat beside him. In getting in, her finger was caught by the door, which shutting upon it held it so fast that she could not withdraw it. Fearful of driving figures and arguments from his head, she uttered no cry nor made any movement until they reached the House; nor did Disraeli hear of it till long after. All that evening the faithful wife sat in the gallery, that her husband’s quick eye might not miss her from it, bearing her pain like a martyr, and like a woman who loves. (E. Foster.)

Husband: meaning of the word

It means literally “the band of the house,” the support of it, the person who keeps it together, as a band keeps together a sheaf of corn. There are many married men who are not husbands, because they are not bands of the house. In many cases the wife is the husband, who by her prudence and economy keeps the house together. The man who by his dissolute habits strips his house of all comfort, is only a husband in a legal sense. He is not a houseband; instead of keeping things together he scatters them. (E. Foster.)

Husband’s love

Tiberius Gracchus, the Roman, finding two snakes in his bed, and consulting with the soothsayers, was told that one of them must be killed; yet, if he killed the male, he himself would die shortly; if the female, his wife would die. His love to his wife, Cornelia, was so great, that he killed the male, saith Plutarch, and died quickly. (G. Swinnock, M. A.)

A wife not loved too much

Rowland Hill often felt much grieved at the false reports which were circulated of many of his sayings, especially those respecting his publicly mentioning Mrs. Bill. His attentions to her till the close of life were of the most gentlemanly and affectionate kind. The high view he entertained of her may be seen from the following fact:--A friend having informed Mr. Hill of the sudden death of a lady, the wife of a minister, remarked, “I am afraid our dear minister loved his wife too well, and the Lord in wisdom has removed her.” “What, Air?” replied Mr. Hill, with the deepest feeling, “can a man love a good wife too much? Impossible, sir, unless he can love her better than Christ loves the Church.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Husband’s love reciprocated

Xenophon relates, that when Cyrus had taken captive a young prince of Armenia, together with his beautiful and blooming wife, of whom he was remarkably fond, they were brought before the tribunal of Cyrus to receive their sentence. The warrior inquired of the prince what he would give to be reinstated in his kingdom, and he replied that he valued his crown and his liberty at a very low rate; but if the noble conqueror would restore his beloved wife to her former dignity and possessions, he would willingly pay his life for the purchase. The prisoners were dismissed, to enjoy their freedom and former honours; and each was lavish in praises of the conqueror. “And you,” said the prince, addressing his wife, “what think you of Cyrus?” “I did not observe him,” she replied. “Not observe him!” exclaimed her husband; “upon whom, then, was your attention fixed?” “Upon that dear and generous man,” she replied, “who declared his readiness to purchase my liberty at the expense of his life.” (Christian Age.)

The influence of a wife

The tear of a loving girl, says an old book, is like a dewdrop on a rose; but one on the cheek of a wife is a drop of poison to her husband. Try to appear cheerful and contented, and your husband will be so, and when you have made him happy, you will become so, not in appearance but in reality. The skill required is not so great. Nothing flatters a man so much as the happiness of his wife: he is always proud of himself as the source of it. (J. Moser.)

A wife’s influence

As I was conversing with a pious old man, I inquired what were the means of his conversion. For a moment he paused. I perceived I had touched a tender string. Tears gushed from his eyes, while, with deep emotion, he replied, “My wife was brought to God some years before myself. I persecuted and abused her because of her religion. She, however, returned nothing but kindness, constantly manifesting an anxiety to promote my comfort and happiness; and it was her amiable conduct, when suffering ill treatment from me, that first sent the arrows of conviction to my soul.” (N. Y. Observer.)


Verses 18-25

Verse 20-21

Colossians 3:20-21

Children, obey your parents in all things.

The mutual offices of parents and children

Among all those mutual offices by which society is preserved those incumbent on parents and children are the most important. If a man neglect his children or misgovern them, how wilt he duly treat other dependants? Or if a child shake off the parental yoke, how will he bear that of a master or prince? Whereas a good child in the house is likely to be a good subject in the state, and a good father will prove a good master and magistrate (1 Timothy 3:4-5).

I. The duty of children.

1. Those addressed are of either sex. Daughters, therefore, must not urge their weakness, nor sons their strength, as a reason why obedience should be dispensed with. Nor must time or fortune, for children, of whatever age or rank, are unalterably their father’s and mother’s (Genesis 46:29).

2. The duty is obedience: which includes the “honour” prescribed by the law. But the term is used to show us that this honour is not a vain respect, and to condemn hypocritical obsequiousness (Matthew 21:30).

3. The extent of the duty is universal. This is natural, and would have been literal but for sin. Now, however, exceptions must be introduced (Ephesians 6:1), and obedience in things not “well pleasing to the Lord” is prohibited. If a father should command his son to be an idolater, or to kill or hate his neighbour, or forbid him to embrace the service of God, obedience would be criminal (Luke 14:26; Matthew 10:37). But children are to obey--

4. The enforcement. The apostle might have urged the justice of the thing itself, gratitude prompting it; or from nature, which has engraven this law on animals; or from the custom of all nations, who have authorized the veneration of parents as of sacred persons, and made piety at once Divine worship and filial obedience. But he alleges nothing but the sole will of God. That this is well pleasing to God is seen--

II. The duties of parents.

1. The provocation forbidden is an ill effect of the abuse of parental authority. Fathers provoke their children--

2. To dissuade fathers from this fault, the apostle shows the evil it produces. Nothing more dejects the heart of a child than undue vigour.

The obligations of parents and children

I. The duty of children.

1. The duty itself contains four things.

(a) With respect to speech, that it be agreeable to the relation, graced with humility and modesty, giving them honourable titles, pleasing answers, respectful requests.

(b) With respect to behaviour. Rude and haughty looks cannot comport with this duty.

(a) Attending to their instructions.

(b) Executing their commands.

(c) Depending on their counsels--as regards a calling in life, and marriage.

(d) Following their examples.

(a) With respect to their benevolence towards us.

(b) With respect to their claims when in indigence, in infirmity, or dead.

(a) To their admonitions.

(b) To their corrections.

2. The extent of the duty. We cannot imagine that this is so universal and absolute as obedience to God. He is the only absolute lawgiver (James 4:12), and when parental claims conflict with His, we are absolved from our obedience. Hence we find Acrotatus commended among the ancients because, when his parents had required of him to do an unjust thing, he answered, “I know you are willing I should do that which is just, for so you taught me to do; I will therefore do what you desire, but not what you bid.”

3. The reason for the duty: because it is well pleasing to the Lord. The supreme authority of our heavenly Father makes any duties He requires highly reasonable: and in pleasing God you please your parents and yourself too, for you must needs be happy when God and you are pleased (Psalms 19:11; Ephesians 6:1).

II. The office of parents. They are not to irritate their children, but, by parity of reasoning, to so comport themselves in good government as to secure their children’s honour. Let us look, then, at this positive side of the matter. L The more general parental duties.

2. More particular.

III. The means of managing the duties of both relations. 1, To children.

2. To parents.

The duties of parents and children

God hath set the solitary in families. The domestic constitution is the type of all governments. If discipline is neglected in the home, it is rarely that the loss is made up afterwards. Coleridge has said: “If you bring up your children in a way which puts them out of sympathy with the religious feelings of the nation in which they live, the chances are that they will ultimately turn out ruffians or fanatics, and one as likely as the other.” Lord Bacon observes that fathers have most comfort of the good proof of their sons; but the mothers have most discomfort of their ill proof. It is therefore of vital importance that the reciprocal duties of parents and children should be faithfully and diligently observed.

I. The duty of the child to the parent is to obey.

1. This obedience is universal. “In all things.” The law commands: “Honour thy father,” etc., and the most signal way is to obey. Parents have the wisdom of experience, and know the dangers that threaten their children, and are in a position to offer judicious counsel. Filial obedience should be prompt, cheerful, self-denying, uniform; not dilatory and reluctant.

2. This obedience is qualified and limited by the Divine approval.

II. The duty of the parent to the child is to rule.

1. The parent is not to rule in a spirit of exasperating severity. An excessive severity is as baneful as an excessive indulgence.

2. To rule in a spirit of exasperating severity tends only to dishearten. A certain writer has significantly said: “What if God should place in your hand a diamond, and tell you to inscribe on it a sentence which should be read at the last day, and shown there as an index of your own thoughts and feelings? What care, what caution, would you exercise in the selection. Now this is what God has done. He has placed before you the immortal minds of your children, more imperishable than the diamond, on which you are about to inscribe every day and every hour, by your instruction, by your spirit, or by your example, something that will remain and be exhibited for or against you at the judgment day!”

Lessons:

1. To rule wisely we must first learn to obey.

2. Disobedience is the essence of all sin.

3. That government is the most effective that tempers justice with mercy. (G. Barlow.)

Children entreated to obey their parents

I. Why you should obey.

1. Because it is your duty.

2. Because it is your interest. Neither God nor your parents would wish it if it were not for your good.

3. Because you have the perfect pattern of our Lord to urge you to obey.

II. How you should obey.

1. Religiously. With a regard to what pleases God, and not what pleases self or parents so much.

2. Heartily and sincerely, as opposed to that hypocritical obedience which some children yield when their parents are in sight, because they are afraid of the consequences.

3. Completely. It is of no use for children to obey in some things and disobey in others; to do half what their parents command, and leave half undone.

4. Instantly, without waiting to ask the reason, or promising to obey at some future time.

5. Cheerfully. There is an obedience of the hand, but a disobedience of the heart.

6. Always. Not simply till you go to business, or are of age, or married. “Despise not thy mother when she is old.” (B. W. Noel, M. A.)

Obedience of children

The commander of the Orient, before the Battle of the Nile, placed his son, Cassabianea, thirteen years of age, on certain duty, to stay at his post till relieved by his father’s order. Soon after the father was slain. The boy held his post in the midst of fearful carnage, ignorant of his father’s fate; and while the sailors were deserting the burning and sinking ship, he cried, “Father, may I go?” The permission did not come, and there he stood at his post and perished. (E. Foster.)

Obedience to a master

The Hon. Thomas H. Benton was for many years a United States senator. When making a speech in New York once, he turned to the ladies present, and spoke about his mother in this way” “My mother asked me never to use tobacco, and I have never touched it from that day to this. She asked me never to gamble, and I never learned to gamble. When I was seven years old she asked me not to drink. I made a resolution of total abstinence. That resolution I have never broken. And now, whatever honour I may have gained, I owe it to my mother.” (King’s Highway.)

The rarity of obedience

A tradesman advertised for a boy to assist in his shop, and go on errands. A few hours after the morning papers were circulated he had his shop thronged with all kinds of boys. Not know ing which to choose he advertised again: “Wanted, to assist in a shop, a boy who obeys his mother.” Only two boys ventured to apply for the situation. (J. Bate.)

Safety of obedience

A pointsman in Prussia was at the junction of two lines of railway, his lever in hand for a train that was signalled. The engine was within a few seconds of reaching the embankment, when the man, on turning his head, perceived his little boy playing on the rails on the line the train was to pass over. “Lie down!” he shouted to the child, but as to himself, he remained at his post. The train passed safely on its way. The father rushed forward expecting to take up a corpse, but what was his joy on finding that the boy had at once obeyed his order! He had lain down, and the whole train passed over him without injury. The next day the king sent for the man, and attached to his breast the medal for civil courage.

Disobedience regretted

When I was a boy, and a little reckless, my mother used to say to me, “De Witt, you will be sorry for this when I am gone.” I remember just how she looked, with her cap and spectacles. I remember just how she sat with the Bible on her lap. I laughed the admonition off, but she never said a truer thing in all her life. I have been sorry for it ever since. (T. De W. Talmage, D. D.)

Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, lest they be discouraged.

The treatment that discourages piety

Discouraged, Paul means, in good. His language is addressed to fathers, for he seems to have had in view the case of advanced children; and yet the language is equally applicable to the case of mothers and very little children. Children are discouraged and hardened to good--

I. By too much prohibition. There is a monotony of continuous prohibition which is really awful. It does not stop with ten, like the words of Sinai, but keeps up the thunder from day to day. All commandments, of course, in such a strain come to sound Very much alike, and as they are all equally annoying, the child learns to hate them all. The study should be rather to forbid as few things as possible, and then soundly to enforce what is forbidden.

II. By unfeeling and absolute government. If a Christian father is felt to be a tyrant, he will seem to his child to be a tyrant in God’s name, and that will be enough to create a sullen prejudice against all sacred things. Nor is the case improved when the child is cowed into fear of such a parent, and thus reduced to submission. There is a beautiful courage in a child’s approach to God; but if his courage even toward his father is broken down, he will only shrink from God with a greater fear.

III. By an over-exacting manner and a difficulty in being pleased. Children love approbation, and are specially disappointed when they fail of it in their meritorious endeavours, and especially when they are blamed for a trivial defect which, had they known, they would have avoided. But some parents appear to think it a matter of faithfulness to be not easily pleased, lest the children should have loose impressions of duty. They do not consider how they would fare if God should treat them in the same manner. But what can win a child to attempt to please God when His earthly representative is so difficult to please?

IV. By holding displeasure too long, and yielding with too great difficulty. It is right when children have done wrong to make them feel your displeasure; but that should not take the manner of a grudge, and hold on after repentance. On the contrary, there should be a hastening towards the child like the prodigal’s father, otherwise repentance will be turned into a sullen aversion, and into a feeling that there is the same heavy tariff of displeasure to be paid when he would turn towards God.

V. By hasty and false accusations. When good intentions are rated low, and children are put under the ban of dishonour, they are very likely to show that they are no better than they are taken to be. To batter self-respect is the surest way to break every natural charm of virtue and religion. The effect is scarcely better where acknowledged faults are exaggerated and set off by colours of derision. It will do for a parent to be severely just, but exaggerated justice is injustice, and more terribly so when it assumes the Christian name.

VI. By keeping children in a continual torment of suppression. We have no right to be anxious anywhere; it is unbelief which trust in God should set at rest. And we have less right to be, in that it destroys the comfort of others. Only to be in a room with an anxious person is enough to make one positively unhappy. What, then, is the woe put upon a hapless little one who is shut up day by day to the fearing look and deprecating whine, and supercautionary keeping of a nervously anxious mother. Nothing will so dreadfully overcast the sky of childhood as the weather this makes. It worries the child in every putting forth and play lest he should be hurt, and takes him away from every contact with the great world’s occasions that would school him for manhood. And then, since the child will most certainly learn how little reason there was for this eternal distress, he is sure to be issued finally in a feeling of confirmed disrespect. No, there must be a certain courage in maternity and the religion of it. The child must be wisely trusted to danger, and shown how to conquer it.

VII. By giving them tests of character that are inappropriate to their age. A child loses his temper, and the conclusion forthwith sprung upon him is that he has a bad heart. Whereupon he is reluctant to pray, as if the wrong were conclusive against him. But how would the father or mother fare if tested by the same rule? So, if the child evinces a desire to play on Sunday, has not the father, who has outgrown play, occupied himself even in church with his secular schemes? If a child is wholly perverse, it will not discourage him to tell him of it; but if he wants to be good, he should be shown how ready God is to help him and to forgive his faults.

VIII. By the holding aloof system by which children are denied a recognition of their church membership. The child giving evidence, however beautiful, of his piety, is still kept back from the Lord’s table, for the simple defect of years. As if years were a Scriptural evidence of grace. No plan could be devised for the discouragement of piety in children more certain in its object. They are only mocked and tantalized by their baptism itself. (H. Bushnell, D. D.)


Verses 22-25

Colossians 3:22-25

Servants, obey in all things your masters.

Servants and masters

I. A precept of obedience.

1. The occasion of this precept seems to spring from the circumstance that converted servants thought themselves exempt from servitude. The error had some colour. If masters embraced Christianity with their slaves it seemed unjust to hold them in bondage; and if masters still adhered to paganism, what right had they, the servants of Satan, over those who were now Christ’s free men?

2. The precept involves--

He that is lord of the flesh must not command contrary to the Lord of the Spirit (Matthew 10:28).

3. Instructions.

II. The manner of obeying.

1. Negatively.

2. Positively. The remedies for the disease.

(a) Not compulsorily and unwillingly. We do anything heartily when the mind rejoices in what the hand does. On the contrary, when the mind murmurs, although the outward act rosy be performed, yet it is done from the body rather than from the mind.

(b) Benevolence of spirit towards the commander of the work (Ephesians 6:7). No one obeys better than he who renders obedience from love.

(a) They who obey are more servants of Christ than of earthly masters. Earthly masters buy their servants’ bodies with silver and gold; Christ redeems both soul and body with His blood for perpetual liberty.

(b) They obey earthly masters only at the appointment of Christ, and Him through them His stewards.

(c) Christ commands them to obey their masters.

III. Incentives to obedience.

1. The promise.

(a) As hire is only given to workmen, so the heavenly kingdom is not given to the indolent.

(b) As hire is not given until work is finished, so heaven is not bestowed until life is ended.

But the heavenly reward is unlike hire--

(a) in that it is given, not according to the merit of the workman, but from the grace and liberality of the bestower (Luke 17:10);

(b) in that it is not proportioned to labours bestowed, for finite has no proportion to infinite.

2. The confirmation of the promise, “Ye serve the Lord Christ” (Matthew 25:40-45). All works of obedience are rendered to Christ because commanded by Him.

3. Corollaries.

The duties of servants

I. The duty of a servant is to obey his master in all things relating to his state of servitude. There is nothing degrading in service. It is the employment of angels, and is ennobled by the example of Christ. To obey in all things is not pleasant or easy; but the Christian servant will strive to accomplish the task. He consults not his own but his master’s will, nay, time. But his employer is only according to the flesh, and has no power over the spirit; nor is he to command anything forbidden by God.

II. The servant’s duty is to be discharged in a spirit of sincerity.

1. Free from duplicity. From the treatment he received the slave was tempted to be diligent in the presence of his master, but indolent and reckless in his absence. Christianity has elevated man from slavery, and provided him with the highest motives to moral action.

2. It is to be done in the fear of God. “Fearing God”--the one Lord as contrasted with the master according to the flesh. The Christian servant has a conscience to satisfy. The fear of the Lord is the holiest motive power in all acceptable service. He who serves man as he seeks to serve God will take care that the Divine and human interests do not collide.

III. The servant is to act from the loftiest religious principle.

1. In every duty God is to be recognized. “And whatsoever ye do, do it as to the Lord, and not unto men.” This will give a moral dignity to the most menial employment, and exalt the common drudgery of toil into a means of religious refreshment.

2. In every duty the best powers should be exercised. “Do it heartily.” If the heart be engaged, it will put into operation the best powers of the whole man. No work is well done when the heart is not in it.

IV. Faithful service will meet with a glorious reward (Colossians 3:24).

V. Every act of injustice will meet with impartial retribution (Colossians 3:25). Some regard the wrong-doer referred to in this verse as the servant who defrauds the master of his service; others, as the master who defrauds the servant of his just recompense. But the words announce a general principle which is equally applicable to both. The philosophers of Greece taught, and the laws of Rome assumed, that the slave was a chattel, and that as a chattel, he had no rights. The New Testament shows that between both there is a reciprocity of duties and of penalties. The injustice done in the world, whether by master or by servant, shall be impartially redressed, and the injured one vindicated at the day of final retribution. (G. Barlow.)

Loving service is true service

To lead a discouraged people to the Holy War is as difficult as for Xerxes’ commanders to conduct the Persian troops to battle against the Greeks, The vassals of the great king were driven to the conflict by whips and sticks, for they were afraid to fight: do you wonder that they were defeated? A Church that needs constant exhorting and compelling accomplishes nothing. The Greeks had no need of blows and threats, for each man was a lion, and courted the encounter, however great the odds against him. Each Spartan fought con amore; he was never more at home than when contending for the altars and for the hearths of his country. We want Christian men of this same sort, who have faith in their principles, faith in the doctrines of grace, faith in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost; and who therefore contend earnestly for the faith in these days when piety is mocked at from the pulpit, and the gospel is sneered at by professional preachers. We need men who love the truth, to whom it is dear as their lives; men into whose hearts the old doctrine is burned by the hand c,f God’s Spirit through a deep experience of its necessity and of its power. We need no more of those who will parrot what they are taught, but we want men who will speak what they know. Oh, for a troop of men like John Knox, heroes of the martyr and covenanter stock! Then would Jehovah of hosts have a people to serve Him who would be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Faithfulness in work

A carpenter was once asked why he troubled to finish off a magistrate’s bench so carefully? His reply was, “I can’t do otherwise; besides, I may have to sit on it One of these days.” (H. D. Machay.)


Verse 23

Colossians 3:23

Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord.

Servants of Christ

The apostle was speaking to slaves, who must have felt their condition to be irksome and degrading, but he applies a principle which altogether transforms it. They are to feel and act as servants of Christ. This principle is of far-reaching application. We are to serve Christ by discharging all the duties of life so as to please Him. This suggests a train of thought which has a special suitableness to young men. Note then the things which are essential to the realization of this lofty ideal of Christian service.

I. There must be a full surrender of the whole being to Christ. “No man can serve two masters.” “He that is not with Me is against Me.” Alas! how many act as though they bad made a bargain with Christ; that part of their nature should be given to Him, and part retained for the world and self. In certain circumstances they seem devout and earnest believers, in others frivolous and worldly Such a course is dishonouring to Christ, and injurious to their own souls. There are families in which the children having been asked to do something, refuse or delay; then a struggle ensues, involving discomfort to both parents and children. In others the first intimation is followed by prompt obedience. In the one case is love, order, and happiness; in the other the reverse. Why? In the one case the children had learned to obey, in the other they had not. So some of God’s children have not learned to surrender their wills utterly to Him; hence every act of obedience involves a struggle; but some have learnt to make the struggle once for all, and are now happy in that service which is perfect freedom.

II. Strive to be efficient in your worldly calling. “Whatsoever,” whether the work of master or servant, prince or peasant, “do it as to the Lord.” When we can recognize Christ as our Master, and our work as rendered to Him, it should make us faithful servants, whoever may be our immediate employer. Unfortunately this has not been always acted on, and religion has been regarded as a disqualification for efficient service. A lad once said, when urged to decision, “I would like to learn my business before being converted, for I notice that the pious men in my father’s employ are not generally good workmen.” I want you to wipe out this reproach, and try to excel in everything for the sake of Christ--whether in school, workshop, or counting-house, etc. The influence of Christian character and effort is greatly enhanced when connected with superiority in business. A working man who had recently come to reside in a northern village, was asked, as he was strolling in the fields one Sunday, to attend a cottage service where the speaker was going to preach. The invitation was rudely declined, and OH mentioning the matter to an acquaintance who came up immediately, he was asked if he knew who the preacher was. “No.” “Why that is Thompson, the best forgeman in the district.” “Oh, indeed, I have often heard of Thompson’s work; I will go and hear him preach.” He did so and became a new man.

III. Strive to acquire mental culture and general intelligence for the sake of Christ.

1. It will open to you many avenues of enjoyment.

2. It will enable you to discover riches and beauty in the Divine word which would otherwise be concealed.

3. It will help to keep you free from the religious crotchets by which the Christian life is now weakened and disfigured.

4. It will give you greater power to serve Christ. Edward Irving had in his Glasgow congregation the wife of a shoemaker, who was a determined infidel. Irving visited him day after day without producing any impression. But one day he sat down beside him and began talking about his work and the material he was then handling. The man became interested, for he found that the minister knew as much about his trade as he did himself. Next Sunday he went to church, and when taunted by his former companions, replied, “Mr. Irving is no fool, he kens leather.”

IV. Have some special work to do for Christ. The field of Christian usefulness is wide, and there can be no difficulty in finding suitable work. To help you in this--

1. Be regular and faithful in your devotions.

2. Try to do every day something simply for Christ’s sake--repress your temper, speak to some friend about salvation, practise some self-denial, for Christ’s sake, and with the help of the Spirit. Conclusion: Are you serving Christ or Satan? You must be one or the other. (G. D. Macgregor.)

Do all for God

1. When we remember that our destiny is to live with Christ and glorified beings, and that any work that does not fit us for that is a great impertinence, it is alarming at first sight to note that the great bulk of our occupations are of the earth, earthy. All professions and trades are for the purpose of supplying defects in the existing order, and, therefore, when that order is no more, and is superseded by one in which there are no defects, the occupations of this life must necessarily die a natural death. Is there not, then, something which seems inappropriate in the circumstance that all this short life should be taken up in doing what has no reference to eternity, and will be swept away like so much litter?

2. It was just this feeling that gave rise to Monasticism. Men assumed that eternity would be given up to prayer and praise; these, therefore, must be the earthly occupations of religious men. Let us not rail at their mistake, for it is a common assumption that a secular pursuit is an obstacle to a religious mind. Hence a seriously disposed young man is pointed out as destined for the Church.

3. As the pushing of a false theory to its extreme point is one method of showing its fallacy, imagine it to be God’s will that all Christians should have a directly spiritual pursuit. What then? The system of society is brought to a dead-lock. Take away the variety of callings, reduce all to that of the monk, and civilization is undermined and we revert to barbarism. This assuredly cannot be the will of Him who has implanted in us the instincts which develope into civilization.

4. But if this cannot be the will of God, then it must be His will that this man should ply some humble craft; that this other should have the duties of a large estate; that a third should go to the desk; a fourth minister to the sick; a fifth fight the battles of his country. Now if this be the case the greatest harm is done when a man thrusts himself out from his proper vocation. Each man’s wisdom and happiness must lie in doing the work God has given him. So thought St. Paul. He did not urge his converts to join him in his missionary journeys, but to abide in his calling with God.

5. “With God.” This wraps up the secret of which we are in search, how we may serve God in our daily business. How can this be done? By throwing into the work a pure and holy intention. Intention is to our actions what the soul is to the body. As the soul, not the body, makes us moral agents, so motive gives action a moral character. To kill a man, of malice prepense, is murder; but to kill him by accident is no sin at all. A good work, such as prayer, becomes hypocrisy if done for the praise of men.

6. Now the great bulk of life’s work is done with no intention whatever of serving God.

7. Now what is the true motive which lifts up the humblest duties into a higher atmosphere? This--“Whatsoever ye do,” etc. The primary reference is to the duties of slaves, the lowest imaginable. The a fortiori inference is this, that if the drudgery of a slave admits of such a consecration, much more does any nobler form of business. No man after this can say, “My duties are so very commonplace that they cannot have a religious dignity and value.”

8. Practical counsels.

Working

Were I to ask, “What was the purpose for which you were sent into the world,” I should get a variety of replies. But the right answer would be, To work. So the Bible tells us, and Providence and the worm around. Work is not an evil, but a good. There is work in heaven. Adam unfallen was a working man. If there had been no sin the world would not have been a world of idleness. And what is true of us is true of all God’s creatures. Take water; it never stands still. Take horses, or even the birds, how soon they have to work for a living. Our text tells us how to work and for whom to work. Take then its instruction as a guide for--

I. School work. Many wish there were no such thing. This is foolish, for schools make all the difference between us and heathens. How hard it is for a man to get on in life who has had a poor education. School work is hard, but it will be made all the lighter ii done heartily and to the Lord; and then there would be no need for the coaxing and bribing and threatening that are so common.

II. Home work. Young people should make themselves useful at home, and not expect that everybody should be attending upon “them. Home work is an important part of the training for after life; and there is nothing in it beneath the dignity of any girl. And what a comfort it would make you, and what a saving you might be to mother’s cares. And the reason it is repulsive is because you do not take to it in a right spirit. Throw heart in it, and it will soon be enjoyable.

III. Business work. Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well--the work even of a message-boy, crossing sweeper, or shoeblack. It is often when people are busy at their work that God comes with a blessing. Moses, Gideon, Elisha, the shepherds, the apostles were all called when at their work. Is yours humble? You can exalt it by taking it as Christ’s, and by doing it with all your heart.

IV. Soul work. This is done more for us than by us. And yet we have to “work out” what God works in. This will have to be done heartily and unto the Lord, or literally not at all. We have to escape--which surely involves earnestness--to Jesus.

V. Christian work. Every work is Christian if done for Christ, but there is work more especially done for Him. When a little girl’s mother comes to visit her at school, she wants to introduce all her friends to her. Your work is to introduce them to Jesus. You need not be missionary to do this. (J. H. Wilson, M. A.)

“Not unto men”

It is related that when Phidias, the great sculptor who carved statues for one of the temples of antiquity, was labouring with minute fidelity upon the hair on the back of the head of one of the historic figures which was to be elevated from the pavement to the very apex of the building, or placed along the frieze, some one expostulated with him, saying, “Why do you take such great pains with the hair? It is never to be seen.” His simple reply was, “The gods will see it.” So he laboured thoroughly in the minutest things, not for the eyes of men but for the eyes of the gods. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ.

Christian Socialism

Christianity, though altogether opposed to those levelling theories which disaffected men industriously broach, places the highest and the lowest on a par in the competition for eternity. Christianity is the best upholder of the distinctions in society; and he can have-read his Bible to little purpose who does not see the appointment of God that there should be rich and poor in the world, master and servant; who does not perceive that want of loyalty is want of religion, and that there is no more direct rebellion against the Creator than resistance to any constituted authority, or the endeavour to bring round that boasted equality in which all shall have the same rights, or to speak more truly, in which none shall have any. But if Christianity makes it sinful to repine against servitude, it gives a dignity to the servant who would still remain in servitude. It tells the servant, that ii faithful here, he may rank with his master hereafter, even though the employment of the master has been the advancement of Christ’s cause on earth. And oh! it should be a surprisingly cheerful thing to those who have to wear away life in the meanest occupations, that, as immortal beings, they are not one jot disadvantaged by their temporal position, but they make as much progress in the Christian race as those placed at the very highest summit in the Christian office. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Living for Christ

I. Unity of purpose is necessary.

1. For the development of character.

2. For success in life.

Glory, self-interest, benevolence, each gives unity and force, whereas a man without any such governing principle becomes weak; and it is only by making one object predominant and seeking that object that great results are achieved.

II. That which gives unity to the Christian life is Christ.

1. He is the unifying principle of Christian theology.

2. Of the inward life of the Christian.

3. Of his outward and active life.

We have an illustration of this in Paul, in his theology, experience, and work. Negatively he did not seek wealth or honour, either as his main or subordinate object. He simply sought the glory of Christ.

III. The glory of Christ should be our aim.

1. Because it is our duty. This is the highest thing we can do. Whatever else we do will, in the end, be regarded as nothing.

2. Our inward holiness and happiness will thereby be best advanced.

3. Only thus can we be really useful. Thus only do we associate ourselves with the saints and angels. The extension of Christ’s kingdom is the only thing worth living for.

4. Christ has died for you, redeemed you. You are not your own but His. Serve Him, then, under the constraint of His love. (C. Hodge, D. D.)

The perfect service

It would be truthful to say that all “serve the Lord Christ.” Some against their will--Pharisees, Pilate, Judas, etc. Some unconsciously--all who spread the true refinement of art, the researches of science, the charities of philanthropy. But Paul is not now speaking to such, but “to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ at Colossae.” And these words indicate about the life service of all true Christians.

I. Its motive. The constraint is “for Christ’s sake.” Such motive is--

1. Deep enough. It has its hands on all the hidden springs of purpose and love.

2. Abiding enough. To please others who may change or die, or please self, which is fickle and disappointing, cannot ensure the prolonged service men can render to the eternal and unchanging Christ.

II. Its pattern. In some warfare the commander says, “Go”; in this He says, “Follow Me.” “He was in all points tempted,” etc. “He has left us an example.”

III. Its help. The fishers after their night of bootless toil, Peter walking on the waves, Paul receiving grace to endure a hidden sorrow, are specimens of men needing and receiving help from Christ.

IV. Its comprehensiveness. It includes all circumstances, whether of partizan or statesman; all ages, whether of child or patriarch; of all spheres, whether of the inward or outward life. “Whatsoever ye do.”

V. Its consummation. It has now the approval of conscience and the Master; it will ultimately receive “the reward of the inheritance.” (U. R. Thomas.)

The service of Christ is

I. honourable service. We serve the Lord Christ--King of kings, and Lord of lords. The servants of royalty are nobles; so we are kings and priests unto God.

II. Reasonable service. The master had a claim upon the slave as his property won in war or purchased by money. We have been bought with a price. Christ has a right based upon His service of love; we should respond with gratitude.

III. Entire service. The slave was his master’s altogether--self, family, belongings, etc. So Christ claims all we are and all we have--time, money, secularities, and not merely Sabbaths, worship, etc.

IV. Happy service. Sometimes the road is rough, but the motive for treading it makes it smooth, and the companionship of Him we love relieves its tedium and lightens its darkness.

V. Easy service. “Take My yoke upon you … and ye shall find rest.” Love is the magic power which makes what is irksome pleasurable.

VI. The service of Friendship (John 15:15). It is the badge of true Christian discipleship--not creeds, professions, sentiments, etc.

VII. Lucrative service.

1. It is its own reward here.

2. It has an exceeding great reward by and by. (A. C. Price, B. A.)

How difficulties in Christ’s service are overcome

Sometimes when a man’s limb has been broken, and long weeks of rest are necessary in order that the fractured bones may reunite, there is danger lest the limb should become permanently contracted; so as soon as it is safe to do so, the patient is ordered to exercise the limb. At first the exercise gives acute pain, but after awhile, as vigour and strength return to the limb, in the thrill of health that he feels, the man forgets the pain and is glad. Now sin has dislocated man’s moral nature, and though by grace it may have been reset, still God’s wise exercise of it is exceedingly painful; but then this exercise begets spiritual health, and that health sends such a thrill of pleasure through the soul that the very act of obedience to, and service of, Christ, gains strength to obey and serve; and with increasing strength difficulty after difficulty disappears, pain goes, pleasure comes, and the Christian is master of his work, and delights in it. (A. C. Price, B. A.)

What makes Christ’s service easy and pleasant

That huge piece of timber which lies there in that quiet creek, from which the tide has receded, leaving it dry and immovable in the sand; try to shift it, and it is only with the utmost difficulty that you can do so. But wait till the tide comes in, and the waters flow around it. Make the attempt now, and with what comparative ease you accomplish it! Even so there are ten thousand things in the way of duty laid upon us by God which, so long as the heart is unrenewed, seem hard and burden some, but all of which yield when once the love of Christ has once entered and filled the heart, are cheerfully taken up and done with ease and joy to the Loved One. A little child had given to her by a friend a bunch of ripe, beautiful grapes. Just as she was about to eat them her mother said, “My child, will you give me those grapes?” The little one looked at the grapes and then at the mother whom she loved; and then after a pause, as the mother’s love came rushing with full tide into her heart, and overmastering every other feeling, she flung the grapes into her mother’s lap, and with a kiss surrendered them all (Matthew 18:3). The love of Christ makes sacrifice easy and delightful. (A. C. Price, B. A.)

The ruling motive of Christ’s servants

You cannot serve two masters--you must serve one or other. If your work is first with you, and your fee second, work is your master, and the Lord of work, who is God. But if your fee is first with you, and your work second, fee is your master, and the lord of fee, who is the devil; and not only the devil, but the lowest of devils--“the least erected fiend that fell.” So there you have it in brief terms--work first, you are God’s servants; fee first, you are the fiend’s. And it makes a difference, now and ever, believe me, whether you serve Him who has on His vesture and thigh written, “King of kings,” and whose service is perfect freedom; and him on whose vesture and thigh is written, “Slave of slaves,” and whose service is perfect slavery. (John Ruskin.)

The sure reward of Christ’s servants

When Calvin was banished from ungrateful Geneva, he said, “Most assuredly if I had merely served man, this would have been a poor recompense; but it is my happiness that I have served Him who never fails to reward His servants to the full extent of His promise.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

All for Jesus

The gospel does not barely supply us with directions, but furnishes us with reasons and power for obedience. The apostle knew that the conditions of believers are various, and therefore laid down distinct precepts for masters and servants, etc., but proposed a common motive for all. Our translation is in the indicative and states the fact--“Ye serve the Lord Christ.” Is that so? If not, the original will bear rendering in the imperative--“Serve ye the Lord Christ.” What an exaltation for a slave of Satan to become a servant of Christ. “Thy gentleness hath made me great.” It is a greater honour to serve Christ in the most menial capacity than to occupy the throne of the Caesars. To serve us He laid aside His glorious array and girt Him with the garments of a servant. In our turn let us serve Him alone and for ever. Ye serve the Lord Christ--

I. In the common acts of life. The fact that the text was addressed to the lowest is instructive. He does not address this choice saying to masters, preachers, deacons, magistrates, or persons of influence, but to slaves. He goes to the kitchen, the field, etc., to his toiling brethren. If the poor slave should serve Jesus how much more ought I?

1. Those who are in a low estate serve the Lord Christ.

2. This view of things--

If you serve the Lord Christ, serve Him well. If you had work to do for Her Majesty you would try to do your best.

II. In religious actions. Every professor should have something to do for Christ. It would be well if our Church discipline permitted us to turn out every drone. They are of little use in honey making and are at the bottom of all quarrels. But all who work are not necessarily serving Christ.

1. Some serve in a legal spirit. This spirit has a measure of power in it, as the lash drives the slave. But Christians are free and should serve Christ from gratitude and not from fear.

2. Some in a spirit of formality, as a part of the general routine of their existence. It is the proper thing to go to a place of worship, to give their guinea, etc. Christ is not served by such mechanical working.

3. Some in a party spirit, who serve not Christ but their own denomination, and who would almost be vexed at Christ being honoured by any other sect.

4. Some out of the ambition to be thought useful. Our parents or friends wish us to be active in the Church, and therefore we do it.

5. We must rise above all this. What we do we must do for the Master alone.

III. In special acts done to himself. We desire not only to aid our friend in his projects, but to do something for him himself. So we want to do something, personally, for our Divine Benefactor.

1. We can adore Him. We may be doing nothing for our fellows while thus occupied, but Jesus is dearer to us than the whole race. And as we adore Him in secret so we should extol Him in public.

2. We should pray for: Him. “Prayer shall be made for Him continually.” It is delightful to pray for sinners and for saints, but there should be special prayer for the extension of Christ’s kingdom, that He may see the travail of His soul.

3. There should be much communion with Him. “If any man serve Me let him follow Me, and where I am there shall also My servant be.” To be near Him is one of the essentials of service. Let no day pass without a word with Jesus. You are His spouse--can you live without a loving word from your husband?

4. You should sit at His feet and learn of Him, studying His Word. Martha prepared a feast for Christ and did well, but Jesus gave Mary the preference.

5. You must obey Him. “If ye love Me keep My commandments,” not simply build chapels, etc.

6. You must be willing to bear reproach for His sake.

7. Care for His Church. “Lovest thou Me?--feed My sheep.” If you cannot serve with your tongue you can feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these,” etc.

8. Bestow upon Him little wastefulnesses of love--breaking alabaster boxes of very precious ointment on: Him. Think of something now and then that you could not justify in prudence. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 25

Colossians 3:25

He that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done.

I. Punishment threatened.

1. To masters.

(a) By defrauding them of their clothing, food, or wages.

(b) By imposing labours beyond their strength.

(c) By afflicting them with reproaches and unjust stripes, for all of which see Exodus 5:1-23.

2. To servants.

3. Instructions to both.

II. An objection anticipated.

1. Masters might object, Who shall call us to account? Slaves were accounted as nothing. According to the lawyers no wrong could be done to them. But in case of arraignment, by power and bribery it was easy to secure acquittal. The apostle affirmed that in the final court there was a judge who recognized the rights of slaves and who was not to be terrified by power, nor turned aside by favour or bribes (Job 34:19).

2. Servants might object, If we neglect the duties of our wretched bondage surely the merciful God will not punish us. Paul denies that God can favour the poor more than the rich (Exodus 23:3; Leviticus 19:15).

3. Instructions.