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Title: Expositions of Holy Scripture - Second Corinthians, Galatians, and Philippians Chapters - I to End. Colossians, Thessalonians, and First Timothy.
Author: Maclaren, Alexander, 1826-1910
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_EXPOSITIONS OF HOLY SCRIPTURE_

ALEXANDER MACLAREN, D. D., Litt. D.

       *       *       *       *       *

          SECOND CORINTHIANS,
          GALATIANS,
          AND PHILIPPIANS

          CHAPTERS I TO END

          COLOSSIANS, THESSALONIANS,
          AND FIRST TIMOTHY

          NEW YORK
          GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY



          _EXPOSITIONS OF
          HOLY SCRIPTURE_

          ALEXANDER MACLAREN, D. D., Litt. D.

                 *       *       *       *       *

          SECOND CORINTHIANS

          _Chaps. VII to End_

          GALATIANS AND
          PHILIPPIANS



CONTENTS


II. CORINTHIANS

HOPE AND HOLINESS (2 Cor. vii. 1)                                 1

SORROW ACCORDING TO GOD (2 Cor. vii. 10)                          8

GIVING AND ASKING (2 Cor. viii. 1-12)                            20

RICH YET POOR (2 Cor. viii. 9)                                   27

WILLING AND NOT DOING (2 Cor. viii. 11)                          36

ALL GRACE ABOUNDING (2 Cor. ix. 8)                               42

GOD'S UNSPEAKABLE GIFT (2 Cor. ix. 15)                           50

A MILITANT MESSAGE (2 Cor. x. 5 and 6, R.V.)                     57

SIMPLICITY TOWARDS CHRIST (2 Cor. xi. 3)                         65

STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS (2 Cor. xii. 8, 9)                          74

NOT YOURS BUT YOU (2 Cor. xii. 14)                               83


GALATIANS

FROM CENTRE TO CIRCUMFERENCE (Gal. ii. 20)                       91

THE EVIL EYE AND THE CHARM (Gal. iii. 1)                        100

LESSONS OF EXPERIENCE (Gal. iii. 4)                             109

THE UNIVERSAL PRISON (Gal. iii. 22)                             116

THE SON SENT (Gal. iv. 4, 5, R.V.)                              126

WHAT MAKES A CHRISTIAN: CIRCUMCISION OR FAITH? (Gal. v. 6)      136

'WALK IN THE SPIRIT' (Gal. v. 16)                               153

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT (Gal. v. 22, 23)                        162

BURDEN-BEARING (Gal. vi. 2-5)                                   171

DOING GOOD TO ALL (Gal. vi. 10)                                 180

THE OWNER'S BRAND (Gal. vi. 17)                                 189


PHILIPPIANS

LOVING GREETINGS (Phil. i. 1-8, R.V.)                           200

A COMPREHENSIVE PRAYER (Phil. i. 9-11, R.V.)                    206

A PRISONER'S TRIUMPH (Phil. i. 12-20, R.V.)                     211

A STRAIT BETWIXT TWO (Phil. i. 21-25)                           219

CITIZENS OF HEAVEN (Phil. i. 27, 28)                            233

A PLEA FOR UNITY (Phil. ii. 1-4, R.V.)                          244

THE DESCENT OF THE WORD (Phil. ii. 5-8, R.V.)                   253

THE ASCENT OF JESUS (Phil. ii. 9-11, R.V.)                      260

WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION (Phil. ii. 12, 13)                  268

COPIES OF JESUS (Phil. ii. 14-16, R.V.)                         281

A WILLING SACRIFICE (Phil. ii. 16-18, R.V.)                     287

PAUL AND TIMOTHY (Phil. ii. 19-24, R.V.)                        295

PAUL AND EPAPHRODITUS (Phil. ii. 25-30, R.V.)                   305

PREPARING TO END (Phil. iii. 1-3, R.V.)                         311

THE LOSS OF ALL (Phil. iii. 4-8, R.V.)                          321

THE GAIN OF CHRIST (Phil. iii. 8, 9, R.V.)                      328

SAVING KNOWLEDGE (Phil. iii. 10, 11, R.V.)                      336

LAID HOLD OF AND LAYING HOLD (Phil. iii. 12)                    348

THE RACE AND THE GOAL (Phil. iii. 13, 14)                       359

THE SOUL'S PERFECTION (Phil. iii. 15)                           369

THE RULE OF THE ROAD (Phil. iii. 16)                            381

WARNINGS AND HOPES (Phil. iii. 17-21, R.V.)                     391



II. CORINTHIANS

HOPE AND HOLINESS

          Having therefore these promises . . . let us cleanse
          ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and
          spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of
          God.'--2 COR. vii. 1.


It is often made a charge against professing Christians that their
religion has very little to do with common morality. The taunt has
sharpened multitudes of gibes and been echoed in all sorts of tones: it
is very often too true and perfectly just, but if ever it is, let it be
distinctly understood that it is not so because of Christian men's
religion but in spite of it. Their bitterest enemy does not condemn them
half so emphatically as their own religion does: the sharpest censure of
others is not so sharp as the rebukes of the New Testament. If there is
one thing which it insists upon more than another, it is that religion
without morality is nothing--that the one test to which, after all,
every man must submit is, what sort of character has he and how has he
behaved--is he pure or foul? All high-flown pretension, all fervid
emotion has at last to face the question which little children ask, 'Was
he a good man?'

The Apostle has been speaking about very high and mystical truths, about
all Christians being the temple of God, about God dwelling in men, about
men and women being His sons and daughters; these are the very truths
on which so often fervid imaginations have built up a mystical piety
that had little to do with the common rules of right and wrong. But Paul
keeps true to the intensely practical purpose of his preaching and
brings his heroes down to the prosaic earth with the homely common sense
of this far-reaching exhortation, which he gives as the fitting
conclusion for such celestial visions.

I. A Christian life should be a life of constant self-purifying.

This epistle is addressed to the church of God which is at Corinth with
all the _saints_ which are in all Achaia.

Looking out over that wide region, Paul saw scattered over godless
masses a little dispersed company to each of whom the sacred name of
Saint applied. They had been deeply stained with the vices of their age
and place, and after a black list of criminals he had had to say to them
'such were some of you,' and he lays his finger on the miracle that had
changed them and hesitates not to say of them all, 'But ye are washed,
but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord
Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.'

The first thing, then, that every Christian has is a cleansing which
accompanies forgiveness, and however his garment may have been 'spotted
by the flesh,' it is 'washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.'
Strange cleansing by which black stains melt out of garments plunged in
red blood! With the cleansing of forgiveness and justification comes,
wherever they come, the gift of the Holy Spirit--a new life springing up
within the old life, and untouched by any contact with its evils. These
gifts belong universally to the initial stage of the Christian life and
require for their possession only the receptiveness of faith. They
admit of no co-operation of human effort, and to possess them men have
only to 'take the things that are freely given to them of God.' But of
the subsequent stages of the Christian life, the laborious and constant
effort to develop and apply that free gift is as essential as, in the
earliest stage, it is worse than useless. The gift received has to be
wrought into the very substance of the soul, and to be wrought out in
all the endless varieties of life and conduct. Christians are cleansed
to begin with, but they have still daily to cleanse themselves: the
leaven is hid in the three measures of meal, but ''tis a life-long task
till the lump be leavened,' and no man, even though he has the life that
was in Jesus within him, will grow up 'into the measure of the stature
of the fulness of Christ' unless, by patient and persistent effort, he
is ever pressing on to 'the things that are before' and daily striving
to draw nearer to the prize of his high calling. We are cleansed, but we
have still to cleanse ourselves.

Yet another paradox attaches to the Christian life, inasmuch as God
cleanses us, but we have to cleanse ourselves. The great truth that the
spirit of God in a man is the fontal source of all his goodness, and
that Christ's righteousness is given to us, is no pillow on which to
rest an idle head, but should rather be a trumpet-call to effort which
is thereby made certain of success. If we were left to the task of
self-purifying by our own efforts we might well fling it up as
impossible. It is as easy for a man to lift himself from the ground by
gripping his own shoulders as it is for us to rise to greater heights of
moral conduct by our own efforts; but if we can believe that God gives
the impulse after purity, and the vision of what purity is, and imparts
the power of attaining it, strengthening at once our dim sight and
stirring our feeble desires and energising our crippled limbs, then we
can 'run with patience the race that is set before us.'

We must note the thoroughness of the cleansing which the Apostle here
enjoins. What is to be got rid of is not this or that defect or vice,
but '_all_ filthiness of flesh and spirit.' The former, of course,
refers primarily to sins of impurity which in the eyes of the Greeks of
Corinth were scarcely sins at all, and the latter to a state of mind
when fancy, imagination, and memory were enlisted in the service of
evil. Both are rampant in our day as they were in Corinth. Much modern
literature and the new gospel of 'Art for Art's sake' minister to both,
and every man carries in himself inclinations to either. It is no
partial cleansing with which Paul would have us to be satisfied: '_all_'
filthiness is to be cast out. Like careful housewives who are never
content to cease their scrubbing while a speck remains upon furniture,
Christian men are to regard their work as unfinished as long as the
least trace of the unclean thing remains in their flesh or in their
spirit. The ideal may be far from being realised at any moment, but it
is at the peril of the whole sincerity and peacefulness of their lives
if they, in the smallest degree, lower the perfection of their ideal in
deference to the imperfection of their realisation of it.

It must be abundantly clear from our own experience that any such
cleansing is a very long process. No character is made, whether it be
good or bad, but by a slow building up: no man becomes most wicked all
at once, and no man is sanctified by a wish or at a jump. As long as men
are in a world so abounding with temptation, 'he that is washed' will
need daily to 'wash his feet' that have been stained in the foul ways of
life, if he is to be 'clean every whit.'

As long as the spirit is imprisoned in the body and has it for its
instrument there will be need for much effort at purifying. We must be
content to overcome one foe at a time, and however strong may be the
pilgrim's spirit in us, we must be content to take one step at a time,
and to advance by very slow degrees. Nor is it to be forgotten that as
we get nearer what we ought to be, we should be more conscious of the
things in which we are not what we ought to be. The nearer we get to
Jesus Christ, the more will our consciences be enlightened as to the
particulars in which we are still distant from Him. A speck on a
polished shield will show plain that would never have been seen on a
rusty one. The saint who is nearest God will think more of his sins than
the man who is furthest from him. So new work of purifying will open
before us as we grow more pure, and this will last as long as life
itself.

II. The Christian life is to be not merely a continual getting rid of
evil, but a continual becoming good.

Paul here draws a distinction between cleansing ourselves from
filthiness and perfecting holiness, and these two, though closely
connected and capable of being regarded as being but the positive and
negative sides of one process, are in reality different, though in
practice the former is never achieved without the latter, nor the latter
accomplished without the former. Holiness is more than purity; it is
consecration. That is holy which is devoted to God, and a saint is one
whose daily effort is to devote his whole self, in all his faculties and
nature, thoughts, heart, and will, more and more, to God, and to
receive into himself more and more of God.

The purifying which Paul has been enjoining will only be successful in
the measure of our consecration, and the consecration will only be
genuine in the measure of our purifying. Herein lies the broad and
blessed distinction between the world's morality and Christian ethics.
The former fails just because it lacks the attitude towards a Person who
is the very foundation of Christian morality, and changes a hard and
impossible law into love. There is no more futile waste of breath than
that of teachers of morality who have no message but Be good! Be good!
and no motive by which to urge it but the pleasures of virtue and the
disadvantages of vice, but when the vagueness of the abstract thought of
goodness solidifies into a living Person and that Person makes his
appeal first to our hearts and bids us love him, and then opens before
us the unstained light of his own character and beseeches us to be like
him, the repellent becomes attractive: the impossible becomes possible,
and 'if ye love Me keep My commandments' becomes a constraining power
and a victorious impulse in our lives.

III. The Christian life of purifying and consecration is to be animated
by hope and fear.

The Apostle seems to connect hope more immediately with the cleansing,
and holiness with the fear of God, but probably both hope and fear are
in his mind as the double foundation on which both purity and
consecration are to rest, or the double emotion which is to produce them
both. These promises refer directly to the immediately preceding words,
'I will be a Father unto you and ye shall be My sons and daughters,' in
which all the blessings which God can give or men can receive are fused
together in one lustrous and all-comprehensive whole. So all the great
truths of the Gospel and all the blessed emotions of sonship which can
spring up in a human heart are intended to find their practical result
in holy and pure living. For this end God has spoken to us out of the
thick darkness; for this end Christ has come into our darkness; for this
end He has lived; for this end He died; for this end He rose again; for
this end He sends His Spirit and administers the providence of the
world. The purpose of all the Divine activity as regards us men is not
merely to make us happy, but to make us happy in order that we may be
good. He whom what he calls his religion has only saved from the wrath
of God and the fear of hell has not learned the alphabet of religion.
Unless God's promises evoke men's goodness it will be of little avail
that they seem to quicken their hope. Joyful confidence in our sonship
is only warranted in the measure in which we are like our Father. Hope
often deludes and makes men dreamy and unpractical. It generally paints
pictures far lovelier than the realities, and without any of their
shadows; it is too often the stimulus and ally of ignoble lives, and
seldom stirs to heroism or endurance, but its many defects are not due
to itself but to its false choice of objects on which to fix. The hope
which is lifted from trailing along the earth and twining round
creatures and which rises to grasp these promises ought to be, and in
the measure of its reality is the ally of all patient endurance and
noble self-sacrifice. Its vision of coming good is all directed to the
coming Christ, and 'every man that hath this hope in Him, purifieth
himself even as He is pure.'

In Paul's experience there was no contrariety between hope set on Jesus
and fear directed towards God. It is in the fear of God that holiness is
to be perfected. There is a fear which has no torment. Yet more, there
is no love in sons or daughters without fear. The reverential awe with
which God's children draw near to God has in it nothing slavish and no
terror. Their love is not only joyful but lowly. The worshipping gaze
upon His Divine majesty, the reverential and adoring contemplation of
His ineffable holiness, and the poignant consciousness, after all
effort, of the distance between us and Him will bow the hearts that love
Him most in lowliest prostration before Him. These two, hope and fear,
confidence and awe, are like the poles on which the whole round world
turns and are united here in one result. They who 'set their hope in
God' must 'not forget the works of God but keep His commandments'; they
who 'call Him Father,' 'who without respect of persons judgeth' must
'pass the time of their sojourning here in fear,' and their hopes and
their fears must drive the wheels of life, purify them from all
filthiness and perfect them in all holiness.



SORROW ACCORDING TO GOD

          'Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not
          to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world
          worketh death.'--2 COR. vii. 10.


Very near the close of his missionary career the Apostle Paul summed up
his preaching as being all directed to enforcing two points, 'Repentance
towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.' These two, repentance
and faith, ought never to be separated in thought, as they are
inseparable in fact. True repentance is impossible without faith, true
faith cannot exist without repentance.

Yet the two are separated very often, even by earnest Christian
teachers. The tendency of this day is to say a great deal about faith,
and not nearly enough in proportion about repentance; and the effect is
to obscure the very idea of faith, and not seldom to preach 'Peace!
peace! when there is no peace.' A gospel which is always talking about
faith, and scarcely ever talking about sin and repentance, is denuded,
indeed, of some of its most unwelcome characteristics, but is also
deprived of most of its power, and it may very easily become an ally of
unrighteousness, and an indulgence to sin. The reproach that the
Christian doctrine of salvation through faith is immoral in its
substance derives most of its force from forgetting that 'repentance
towards God' is as real a condition of salvation as is 'faith in our
Lord Jesus Christ.' We have here the Apostle's deliverance about one of
these twin thoughts. We have three stages--the root, the stem, the
fruit; sorrow, repentance, salvation. But there is a right and a wrong
kind of sorrow for sin. The right kind breeds repentance, and thence
reaches salvation; the wrong kind breeds nothing, and so ends in death.

Let us then trace these stages, not forgetting that this is not a
complete statement of the case, and needs to be supplemented in the
spirit of the words which I have already quoted, by the other part of
the inseparable whole, 'faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.'

I. First, then, consider the true and the false sorrow for sin.

The Apostle takes it for granted that a recognition of our own evil, and
a consequent penitent regretfulness, lie at the foundation of all true
Christianity. Now I do not insist upon any uniformity of experience in
people, any more than I should insist that all their bodies should be of
one shape or of one proportion. Human lives are infinitely different,
human dispositions are subtly varied, and because neither the one nor
the other are ever reproduced exactly in any two people, therefore the
religious experience of no two souls can ever be precisely alike.

We have no right to ask--and much harm has been done by asking--for an
impossible uniformity of religious experience, any more than we have a
right to expect that all voices shall be pitched in one key, or all
plants flower in the same month, or after the same fashion. You can
print off as many copies as you like, for instance, of a drawing of a
flower on a printing-press, and they shall all be alike, petal for
petal, leaf for leaf, shade for shade; but no two hand-drawn copies will
be so precisely alike, still less will any two of the real buds that
blow on the bush. Life produces resemblance with differences; it is
machinery that makes facsimiles.

So we insist on no pedantic or unreal uniformity; and yet, whilst
leaving the widest scope for divergencies of individual character and
experience, and not asking that a man all diseased and blotched with the
leprosy of sin for half a lifetime, and a little child that has grown up
at its mother's knee, 'in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,' and
so has been kept 'innocent of much transgression,' shall have the same
experience; yet Scripture, as it seems to me, and the nature of the case
do unite in asserting that there are certain elements which, in varying
proportions indeed, will be found in all true Christian experience, and
of these an indispensable one--and in a very large number, if not in
the majority of cases, a fundamental one--is this which my text calls
'godly sorrow.'

Dear brethren, surely a reasonable consideration of the facts of our
conduct and character point to that as the attitude that becomes us.
Does it not? I do not charge you with crimes in the eye of the law. I do
not suppose that many of you are living in flagrant disregard of the
elementary principles of common every-day morality. Some are, no doubt.
There are, no doubt, unclean men here; there are some who eat and drink
more than is good for them, habitually; there are, no doubt, men and
women who are living in avarice and worldliness, and doing things which
the ordinary conscience of the populace points to as faults and
blemishes. But I come to you respectable people that can say: 'I am not
as other men are, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican'; and
pray you, dear friends, to look at your character all round, in the
light of the righteousness and love of God, and to plead to the
indictment which charges you with neglect of many a duty and with sin
against Him. How do you plead, 'guilty or not guilty, sinful or not
sinful?' Be honest with yourselves, and the answer will not be far to
seek.

Notice how my text draws a broad distinction between the right and the
wrong kind of sorrow for sin. 'Godly sorrow' is, literally
rendered,'sorrow according to God,' which may either mean sorrow which
has reference to God, or sorrow which is in accordance with His will;
that is to say, which is pleasing to Him. If it is the former, it will
be the latter. I prefer to suppose that it is the former--that is,
sorrow which has reference to God. And then, there is another kind of
sorrow, which the Apostle calls the 'sorrow of the world,' which is
devoid of that reference to God. Here we have the characteristic
difference between the Christian way of looking at our own faults and
shortcomings, and the sorrow of the world, which has got no blessing in
it, and will never lead to anything like righteousness and peace. It is
just this--one has reference to God, puts its sin by His side, sees its
blackness relieved against the 'fierce light' of the Great White Throne,
and the other has not that reference.

To expand that for a moment,--there are plenty of us who, when our sin
is behind us, and its bitter fruits are in our hands, are sorry enough
for our faults. A man that is lying in the hospital a wreck, with the
sins of his youth gnawing the flesh off his bones, is often enough sorry
that he did not live more soberly and chastely and temperately in the
past days. That fraudulent bankrupt who has not got his discharge and
has lost his reputation, and can get nobody to lend him money enough to
start him in business again, as he hangs about the streets, slouching in
his rags, is sorry enough that he did not keep the straight road. The
'sorrow of the world' has no thought about God in it at all. The
consequences of sin set many a man's teeth on edge who does not feel any
compunction for the wrong that he did. My brethren, is that the position
of any that are listening to me now?

Again, men are often sorry for their conduct without thinking of it as
sin against God. Crime means the transgression of man's law, wrong means
the transgression of conscience's law, sin is the transgression of God's
law. Some of us would perhaps have to say--'I have done crime.' We are
all of us quite ready to say: 'I have done wrong many a time'; but
there are some of us who hesitate to take the other step, and say: 'I
have done sin.' Sin has, for its correlative, God. If there is no God
there is no sin. There may be faults, there may be failures, there may
be transgressions, breaches of the moral law, things done inconsistent
with man's nature and constitution, and so on; but if there be a God,
then we have personal relations to that Person and His law; and when we
break His law it is more than crime; it is more than fault; it is more
than transgression; it is more than wrong; it is sin. It is when you
lift the shutter off conscience, and let the light of God rush in upon
your hearts and consciences, that you have the wholesome sorrow that
worketh repentance and salvation and life.

Oh, dear friends, I do beseech you to lay these simple thoughts to
heart. Remember, I urge no rigid uniformity of experience or character,
but I do say that unless a man has learned to see his sin in the light
of God, and in the light of God to weep over it, he has yet to know 'the
strait gate that leadeth unto life.'

I believe that a very large amount of the superficiality and
easy-goingness of the Christianity of to-day comes just from this, that
so many who call themselves Christians have never once got a glimpse of
themselves as they really are. I remember once peering over the edge of
the crater of Vesuvius, and looking down into the pit, all swirling with
sulphurous fumes. Have you ever looked into your hearts, in that
fashion, and seen the wreathing smoke and the flashing fire there? If
you have, you will cleave to that Christ, who is your sole deliverance
from sin.

But, remember, there is no prescription about depth or amount or length
of time during which this sorrow shall be felt. If, on the one hand, it
is essential, on the other hand there are a great many people who ought
to be walking in the light and the liberty of God's Gospel who bring
darkness and clouds over themselves by the anxious scrutinising
question: 'Is my sorrow deep enough?' Deep enough! What for? What is the
use of sorrow for sin? To lead a man to repentance and to faith. If you
have as much sorrow as leads you to penitence and trust you have enough.
It is not your sorrow that is going to wash away your sin, it is
Christ's blood. So let no man trouble himself about the question, Have I
sorrow enough? The one question is: 'Has my sorrow led me to cast myself
on Christ?'

II. Still further, look now for a moment at the next stage here. 'Godly
sorrow worketh repentance.'

What is repentance? No doubt many of you would answer that it is 'sorrow
for sin,' but clearly this text of ours draws a distinction between the
two. There are very few of the great key-words of Christianity that have
suffered more violent and unkind treatment, and have been more obscured
by misunderstandings, than this great word. It has been weakened down
into penitence, which in the ordinary acceptation, means simply the
emotion that I have already been speaking about, viz., a regretful sense
of my own evil. And it has been still further docked and degraded, both
in its syllables and in its substance, into _penance_. But the
'repentance' of the New Testament and of the Old Testament--one of the
twin conditions of salvation--is neither sorrow for sin nor works of
restitution and satisfaction, but it is, as the word distinctly
expresses, a change of purpose in regard to the sin for which a man
mourns. I cannot now expand and elaborate this idea as I should like,
but let me remind you of one or two passages in Scripture which may show
that the right notion of the word is not sorrow but changed attitude and
purpose in regard to my sin.

We find passages, some of which ascribe and some deny repentance to the
Divine nature. But if there be a repentance which is possible for the
Divine nature, it obviously cannot mean sorrow for sin, but must signify
a change of purpose. In the Epistle to the Romans we read, 'The gifts
and calling of God are without repentance,' which clearly means without
change of purpose on His part. And I read in the story of the mission of
the Prophet Jonah, that 'the Lord repented of the evil which He had said
He would do unto them, and He did it not.' Here, again, the idea of
repentance is clearly and distinctly that of a change of purpose. So fix
this on your minds, and lay it on your hearts, dear friends, that the
repentance of the New Testament is not idle tears nor the twitchings of
a vain regret, but the resolute turning away of the sinful heart from
its sins. It is 'repentance toward God,' the turning from the sin to the
Father, and that is what leads to salvation. The sorrow is separated
from the repentance in idea, however closely they may be intertwined in
fact. The sorrow is one thing, and the repentance which it works is
another.

Then notice that this change of purpose and breaking off from sin is
produced by the sorrow for sin, of which I have been speaking; and that
the production of this repentance is the main characteristic difference
between the godly sorrow and the sorrow of the world. A man may have his
paroxysms of regret, but the question is: Does it make any difference
in his attitude? Is he standing, after the tempest of sorrow has swept
over him, with his face in the same direction as before; or has it
whirled him clean round, and set him in the other direction? The one
kind of sorrow, which measures my sin by the side of the brightness and
purity of God, vindicates itself as true, because it makes me hate my
evil and turn away from it. The other, which is of the world, passes
over me like the empty wind through an archway, it whistles for a moment
and is gone, and there is nothing left to show that it was ever there.
The one comes like one of those brooks in tropical countries, dry and
white for half the year, and then there is a rush of muddy waters,
fierce but transient, and leaving no results behind. My brother! when
your conscience pricks, which of these two things does it do? After the
prick, is the word of command that your Will issues 'Right about face!'
or is it 'As you were'? Godly sorrow worketh a change of attitude,
purpose, mind; the sorrow of the world leaves a man standing where he
was. Ask yourselves the question: Which of the two are you familiar
with?

Again, the true means of evoking true repentance is the contemplation of
the Cross. Law and the fear of hell may startle into sorrow, and even
lead to some kind of repentance. But it is the great power of Christ's
love and sacrifice which will really melt the heart into true
repentance. You may hammer ice to pieces, but it is ice still. You may
bray a fool in a mortar, and his folly will not depart from him. Dread
of punishment may pulverise the heart, but not change it; and each
fragment, like the smallest bits of a magnet, will have the same
characteristics as the whole mass. But 'the goodness of God leads to
repentance' as the prodigal is conquered and sees the true hideousness
of the swine's trough, when he bethinks himself of the father's love. I
beseech you to put yourselves under the influence of that great love,
and look on that Cross till your hearts melt.

III. We come to the last stage here. Salvation is the issue of
repentance. 'Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation not to be
repented of.'

What is the connection between repentance and salvation? Two sentences
will answer the question. You cannot get salvation without repentance.
You do not get salvation by repentance.

You cannot get the salvation of God unless you shake off your sin. It is
no use preaching to a man, 'Faith, Faith, Faith!' unless you preach
along with it,'Break off your iniquities.' 'Let the wicked forsake his
way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him turn unto the
Lord.' The nature of the case forbids it. It is a clear contradiction in
terms, and an absolute impossibility in fact, that God should save a man
with the salvation which consists in the deliverance from sin, whilst
that man is holding to his sin. Unless, therefore, you have not merely
sorrow, but repentance, which is turning away from sin with resolute
purpose, as a man would turn from a serpent, you cannot enter into the
Kingdom of Heaven.

But you do not get salvation for your repentance. It is no case of
barter, it is no case of salvation by works, that work being repentance:

          'Could my zeal no respite know,
           Could my tears for ever flow,
           All for sin could not atone,
           Thou must save, and Thou alone.'

Not my penitence, but Christ's death, is the ground of the salvation of
every one that is saved at all. Yet repentance is an indispensable
condition of salvation.

What is the connection between repentance and faith? There can be no
true repentance without trust in Christ. There can be no true trust in
Christ without the forsaking of my sin. Repentance without faith, in so
far as it is possible, is one long misery; like the pains of those poor
Hindoo devotees that will go all the way from Cape Comorin to the shrine
of Juggernaut, and measure every foot of the road with the length of
their own bodies in the dust. Men will do anything, and willingly make
any sacrifice, rather than open their eyes to see this,--that
repentance, clasped hand in hand with Faith, leads the guiltiest soul
into the forgiving presence of the crucified Christ, from whom peace
flows into the darkest heart.

On the other hand, faith without repentance is not possible, in any deep
sense. But in so far as it is possible, it produces a superficial
Christianity which vaguely trusts to Christ without knowing exactly what
it is trusting Him for, or why it needs Him; and which has a great deal
to say about what I may call the less important parts of the Christian
system, and nothing to say about its vital centre; which preaches a
morality which is not a living power to create; which practises a
religion which is neither a joy nor a security. The old word of the
Master has a deep truth in it: 'These are they which heard the word, and
anon with joy received it.' Having no sorrow, no penitence, no deep
consciousness of sin, 'they have no root in themselves, and in time of
temptation they fall away.' If there is to be a profound, an
all-pervading, life-transforming-sin, and devil-conquering faith, it
must be a faith rooted deep in penitence and sorrow for sin.

Dear brethren, if, by God's grace, my poor words have touched your
consciences at all, I beseech you, do not trifle with the budding
conviction! Do not seek to have the wound skinned over. Take care that
you do not let it all pass in idle sorrow or impotent regret. If you do,
you will be hardened, and the worse for it, and come nearer to that
condition which the sorrow of the world worketh, the awful death of the
soul. Do not wince from the knife before the roots of the cancer are cut
out. The pain is merciful. Better the wound than the malignant growth.
Yield yourselves to the Spirit that would convince you of sin, and
listen to the voice that calls to you to forsake your unrighteous ways
and thoughts. But do not trust to any tears, do not trust to any
resolves, do not trust to any reformation. Trust only to the Lord who
died on the Cross for you, whose death for you, whose life in you, will
be deliverance from your sin. Then you will have a salvation which, in
the striking language of my text, 'is not to be repented of,' which will
leave no regrets in your hearts in the day when all else shall have
faded, and the sinful sweets of this world shall have turned to ashes
and bitterness on the lips of the men that feed on them.

'The sorrow of the world works death.' There are men and women listening
to me now who are half conscious of their sin, and are resisting the
pleading voice that comes to them, who at the last will open their eyes
upon the realities of their lives, and in a wild passion of remorse,
exclaim: 'I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.' Better to
make thorough work of the sorrow, and by it to be led to repentance
toward God and faith in Christ, and so secure for our own that salvation
for which no man will ever regret having given even the whole world,
since he gains his own soul.



GIVING AND ASKING

          'Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace
          of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2.
          How that in a great trial of affliction the
          abundance of their joy and their deep poverty
          abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 3.
          For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond
          their power they were willing of themselves; 4.
          Praying us with much entreaty that we would
          receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship
          of the ministering to the saints. 5. And this they
          did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own
          selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of
          God: 6. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he
          had begun, so he would also finish in you the same
          grace also. 7. Therefore, as ye abound in every
          thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and
          in all diligence, and in your love to us; see that
          ye abound in this grace also. 8. I speak not by
          commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of
          others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.
          9. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
          that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He
          became poor, that ye through His poverty might be
          rich. 10. And herein I give my advice: for this is
          expedient for you, who have begun before, not only
          to do, but also to be forward a year ago. 11. Now
          therefore perform the doing of it; that as there
          was a readiness to will, so there may be a
          performance also out of that which ye have. 12.
          For if there be first a willing mind, it is
          accepted according to that a man hath, and not
          according to that he hath not.'--2 COR. viii.
          1-12.


A collection from Gentile churches for their poor brethren in Jerusalem
occupied much of Paul's time and efforts before his last visit to that
city. Many events, which have filled the world with noise and been
written at length in histories, were less significant than that first
outcome of the unifying spirit of common faith. It was a making visible
of the grand thought, 'Ye are all one in Christ Jesus.' Practical help,
prompted by a deep-lying sense of unity which overleaped gulfs of
separation in race, language, and social conditions, was a unique
novelty. It was the first pulsation of that spirit of Christian
liberality which has steadily grown in force and sweep ever since.
Foolish people gibe at some of its manifestations. Wiser ones regard
its existence as not the least of the marks of the divine origin of
Christianity.

This passage is a striking example of the inimitable delicacy of the
Apostle. His words are full of what we should call tact, if it were not
manifestly the spontaneous utterance of right feeling. They are a
perfect model of the true way to appeal for money, and set forth also
the true spirit in which such appeals should be made.

In verses 1 to 5, Paul seeks to stimulate the liberality of the
Corinthians by recounting that of the Macedonian churches. His sketch
draws in outline the picture of what all Christian money-giving should
be. We note first the designation of the Macedonian Christians'
beneficence as 'a grace' given by God to them. It is twice called so
(vers. 1, 4), and the same name is applied in regard to the Corinthians'
giving (vers. 6, 7). That is the right way to look at money
contributions. The opportunity to give them, and the inclination to do
so, are God's gifts. How many of us think that calls for service or
money are troublesome obligations, to be got out of as easily as
possible! A true Christian will be thankful, as for a love token from
God, for every occasion of giving to Him. It would be a sharp test for
many of us to ask ourselves whether we can say, 'To me . . . is this grace
given,' that I should part with my money for Christ's sake.

Note, further, the lovely picture of these Macedonian givers. They were
plunged in sorrows and troubles, but these did not dry their fountains
of sympathy. Nothing is apt to be more selfish than grief; and if we
have tears to spare for others, when they are flowing bitterly for
ourselves, we have graduated well in Christ's school. Paul calls the
Macedonians' troubles 'proof of their affliction,' meaning that it
constituted a proof of their Christian character; that is, by the manner
in which it was borne; and in it they had still 'abundance of joy,' for
the paradox of the Christian life is that it admits of the co-existence
of grief and gladness.

Again, Christian giving gives from scanty stores. 'Deep poverty' is no
excuse for not giving, and will be no hindrance to a willing heart. 'I
cannot afford it' is sometimes a genuine valid reason, but oftener an
insincere plea. Why are subscriptions for religious purposes the first
expenditure to be reduced in bad times?

Further, Christian giving gives up to the very edge of ability, and
sometimes goes beyond the limits of so-called prudence. In all regions
'power to its last particle is duty,' and unless power is strained it is
not fully exercised. It is in trying to do what we cannot do that we do
best what we can do. He who keeps well within the limits of his supposed
ability will probably not do half as much as he could. While there is a
limit behind which generosity even for Christ may become dishonesty or
disregard of other equally sacred claims, there is little danger of
modern Christians transgressing that limit, and they need the stimulus
to do a little more than they think they can do, rather than to listen
to cold-blooded prudence.

Further, Christian giving does not wait to be asked, but takes the
opportunity to give as itself 'grace' and presses its benefactions. It
is an unwonted experience for a collector of subscriptions to be
besought to take them 'with much entreaty,' but it would not be so
anomalous if Christian people understood their privileges.

Further, Christian giving begins with the surrender of self to Christ,
from which necessarily follows the glad offering of wealth. These
Macedonians did more than Paul had hoped, and the explanation of the
unexpected largeness of their contributions was their yielding of
themselves to Jesus. That is the deepest source of all true liberality.
If a man feels that he does not own himself, much less will he feel that
his goods are his own. A slave's owner possesses the slave's bit of
garden ground, his hut, and its furniture. If I belong to Christ, to
whom does my money belong? But the consciousness that my goods are not
mine, but Christ's, is not to remain a mere sentiment. It can receive
practical embodiment by my giving them to Christ's representatives. The
way for the Macedonians to show that they regarded their goods as
Christ's, was to give them to Paul for Christ's poor saints. Jesus has
His representatives still, and it is useless for people to talk or sing
about belonging to Him, unless they verify their words by deeds.

Verse 6 tells the Corinthians that the success of the collection in
Macedonia had induced Paul to send Titus to Corinth to promote it there.
He had previously visited it on the same errand (chap. xii. 14), and now
is coming to complete 'this grace.' The rest of the passage is Paul's
appeal to the Corinthians for their help in the matter, and certainly
never was such an appeal made in a more dignified, noble, and lofty
tone. He has been dilating on the liberality of others, and thereby
sanctioning the stimulating of Christian liberality, in the same way as
other graces may legitimately be stimulated, by example. That is
delicate ground to tread on, and needs caution if it is not to
degenerate into an appeal to rivalry, as it too often does, but in
itself is perfectly legitimate and wholesome. But, passing from that
incitement, Paul rests his plea on deeper grounds.

First, Christian liberality is essential to the completeness of
Christian character. Paul's praise in verse 7 is not mere flattery, nor
meant to put the Corinthians into good humour. He will have enough to
say hereafter about scandals and faults, but now he gives them credit
for all the good he knew to be in them. Faith comes first, as always. It
is the root of every Christian excellence. Then follow two graces,
eminently characteristic of a Greek church, and apt to run to seed in
it,--utterance and knowledge. Then two more, both of a more emotional
character,--earnestness and love, especially to Paul as Christ's
servant. But all these fair attributes lacked completeness without the
crowning grace of liberality. It is the crowning grace, because it is
the practical manifestation of the highest excellences. It is the result
of sympathy, of unselfishness, of contact with Christ, of drinking in of
His spirit, Love is best. Utterance and knowledge and earnestness are
poor beside it. This grace is like the diamond which clasps a necklace
of jewels.

Christian giving does not need to be commanded. 'I speak not by way of
commandment.' That is poor virtue which only obeys a precept. Gifts
given because it is duty to give them are not really gifts, but taxes.
They leave no sweet savour on the hand that bestows, and bring none to
that which receives. 'I call you not servants, but friends.' The region
in which Christian liberality moves is high above the realm of law and
its correlative, obligation.

Further, Christian liberality springs spontaneously from conscious
possession of Christ's riches. We cannot here enter on the mysteries of
Christ's emptying Himself of His riches of glory. We can but touch the
stupendous fact, remembering that the place whereon we stand is holy
ground. Who can measure the nature and depth of that self-denuding of
the glory which He had with the Father before the world was? But, thank
God, we do not need to measure it, in order to feel the solemn, blessed
force of the appeal which it makes to us. Adoring wonder and gratitude,
unfaltering trust and absolute self-surrender to a love so
self-sacrificing, must ever follow the belief of that mystery of Divine
mercy, the incarnation and sacrifice of the eternal Son.

But Paul would have us remember that the same mighty act of stooping
love, which is the foundation of all our hope, is to be the pattern for
all our conduct. Even in His divinest and most mysterious act, Christ is
our example. A dewdrop is rounded by the same laws which shape the
planetary spheres or the sun himself; and Christians but half trust
Christ if they do not imitate Him. What selfishness in enjoyment of our
'own things' could live in us if we duly brought ourselves under the
influence of that example? How miserably poor and vulgar the appeals by
which money is sometimes drawn from grudging owners and tight-buttoned
pockets, sound beside that heart-searching and heart-moving one, 'Ye
know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!'

Further, Christian liberality will not go off in good intentions and
benevolent sentiments. The Corinthians were ready with their 'willing'
on Titus's previous visit. Now Paul desires them to put their good
feelings into concrete shape. There is plenty of benevolence that never
gets to be beneficence. The advice here has a very wide application: 'As
there was the readiness to will, so there may be the completion also.'
We all know where the road leads that is paved with good intentions.

Further, Christian liberality is accepted and rewarded according to
willingness, if that is carried into act according to ability. While the
mere wish to help is not enough, it is the vital element in the act
which flows from it; and there may be more of it in the widow's mite
than in the rich man's large donation--or there may be less. The
conditions of acceptable offerings are twofold--first, readiness, glad
willingness to give, as opposed to closed hearts or grudging bestowals;
and, second, that willingness embodied in the largest gift possible. The
absence of either vitiates all. The presence of both gives trifles a
place in God's storehouse of precious things. A father is glad when his
child brings him some utterly valueless present, not because he must,
but because he loves; and many a parent has such laid away in sacred
repositories. God knows how to take gifts from His children, not less
well than we who are evil know how to do it.

But the gracious saying of our passage has a solemn side; for if only
gifts 'according as a man hath' are accepted, what becomes of the many
which fall far short of our ability, and are really given, not because
we have the willing mind, but because we could not get out of the
unwelcome necessity to part with a miserably inadequate percentage of
our possessions. Is God likely to be satisfied with the small dividends
which we offer as composition for our great debt?



RICH YET POOR

          'For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
          that, though He was rich yet for your sakes He
          became poor, that ye through His poverty might be
          rich.'--2 COR. viii. 9.


The Apostle has been speaking about a matter which, to us, seems very
small, but to him was very great viz., a gathering of pecuniary help
from the Gentile churches for the poor church in Jerusalem. Large
issues, in his estimation, attended that exhibition of Christian unity,
and, be it great or small, he applies the highest of all motives to this
matter. 'For ye know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that though He
was rich yet for your sakes He became poor.' The trivial things of life
are to be guided and shaped by reference to the highest of all things,
the example of Jesus Christ; and that in the whole depth of His
humiliation, and even in regard to His cross and passion. We have here
set forth, as the pattern to which the Christian life is to be
conformed, the deepest conception of what our Lord's career on earth
was.

The whole Christian Church is about to celebrate the nativity of our
Lord at this time. This text gives us the true point of view from which
to regard it. We have here the work of Christ in its deepest motive,
'The grace of our Lord Jesus.' We have it in its transcendent
self-impoverishment, 'Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became
poor.' We have it in its highest issue, 'That ye through His poverty
might become rich.' Let us look at those points.

I. Here we have the deepest motive which underlies the whole work of
Christ, unveiled to us.

'Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Every word here is
significant. It is very unusual in the New Testament to find that
expression 'grace' applied to Jesus Christ. Except in the familiar
benediction, I think there are only one or two instances of such a
collocation of words. It is 'the grace of God' which, throughout the New
Testament, is the prevailing expression. But here 'grace is attributed
to Jesus'; that is to say, the love of the Divine heart is, without
qualification or hesitation, ascribed to Him. And what do we mean by
grace? We mean love in exercise to inferiors. It is infinite
condescension in Jesus to love. His love stoops when it embraces us.
Very significant, therefore, is the employment here of the solemn full
title, 'the Lord Jesus Christ,' which enhances the condescension by
making prominent the height from which it bent. The 'grace' is all the
more wonderful because of the majesty and sovereignty, to say the least
of it, which are expressed in that title, the Lord. The highest stoops
and stands upon the level of the lowest. 'Grace' is love that expresses
itself to those who deserve something else. And the deepest motive,
which is the very key to the whole phenomena of the life of Jesus
Christ, is that it is all the exhibition, as it is the consequence, of a
love that, stooping, forgives. 'Grace' is love that, stooping and
forgiving, communicates its whole self to unworthy and transgressing
recipients. And the key to the life of Jesus is that we have set forth
in its operation a love which is not content to speak only the ordinary
language of human affection, or to do its ordinary deeds, but is
self-impelled to impart what transcends all other gifts of human
tenderness, and to give its very self. And so a love that condescends, a
love that passes by unworthiness, is turned away by no sin, is unmoved
to any kind of anger, and never allows its cheek to flush or its heart
to beat faster, because of any provocation and a love that is content
with nothing short of entire surrender and self-impartation underlies
all that precious life from Bethlehem to Calvary.

But there is another word in our text that may well be here taken into
consideration. 'For your sakes,' says the Apostle to that Corinthian
church, made up of people, not one of whom had ever seen or been seen by
Jesus. And yet the regard to them was part of the motive that moved the
Lord to His life, and His death. That is to say, to generalise the
thought, this grace, thus stooping and forgiving and self-imparting, is
a love that gathers into its embrace and to its heart all mankind; and
is universal because it is individualising. Just as each planet in the
heavens, and each tiny plant upon the earth, are embraced by, and
separately receive, the benediction of that all-encompassing arch of the
heaven, so that grace enfolds all, because it takes account of each.
Whilst it is love for a sinful world, every soul of us may say: 'He
loved me, and'--therefore--'gave Himself for me.' Unless we see beneath
the sweet story of the earthly life this deep-lying source of it all, we
fail to understand that life itself. We may bring criticism to bear upon
it; we may apprehend it in diverse affecting, elevating, educating
aspects; but, oh! brethren, we miss the blazing centre of the light, the
warm heart of the fire, unless we see pulsating through all the
individual facts of the life this one, all-shaping, all-vitalising
motive; the grace--the stooping, the pardoning, the self-communicating,
the individualising, and the universal love of Jesus Christ.

So then, we have here set before us the work of Christ in its--

II. Most mysterious and unique self-impoverishment.

'He was . . . He became,' there is one strange contrast. 'He was _rich_
. . . He became _poor_,' there is another. 'He was . . . He became.' What
does that say? Well, it says that if you want to understand Bethlehem,
you must go back to a time before Bethlehem. The meaning of Christ's
birth is only understood when we turn to that Evangelist who does not
narrate it. For the meaning of it is here; 'the Word became flesh, and
dwelt among us.' The surface of the fact is the smallest part of the
fact. They say that there is seven times as much of an iceberg under
water as there is above the surface. And the deepest and most important
fact about the nativity of our Lord is that it was not only the birth of
an Infant, but the Incarnation of the Word. 'He was . . . He became.' We
have to travel back and recognise that that life did not begin in the
manger. We have to travel back and recognise the mystery of godliness,
God manifest in the flesh.

And these two words 'He was . . . He became,' imply another thing, and
that is, that Jesus Christ who died because He chose, was not passive in
His being born, but as at the end of His earthly life, so at its
beginning exercised His volition, and was born because He willed, and
willed because of 'the grace of our Lord Jesus.'

Now in this connection it is very remarkable, and well worth our
pondering, that throughout the whole of the Gospels, when Jesus speaks
of His coming into the world, He never uses the word 'born' but once,
and that was before the Roman governor, who would not have understood or
cared for anything further, to whom He did say,'To this end was I
born.' But even when speaking to him His consciousness that that word
did not express the whole truth was so strong that He could not help
adding--though He knew that the hard Roman procurator would pay no
attention to the apparent tautology--the expression which more truly
corresponded to the fact, 'and for this cause came I into the world.'
The two phrases are not parallel. They are by no means synonymous. One
expresses the outward fact; the other expresses that which underlay it.
'To this end was I born.' Yes! 'And for this cause came I.' He Himself
put it still more definitely when He said, 'I came forth from the
Father, and am come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go unto
the Father.' So the two extremities of the earthly manifestation are
neither of them ends; but before the one, and behind the other, there
stretches an identity or oneness of Being and condition. The one as the
other, the birth and the death, may be regarded as, in deepest reality,
not only what He passively endured, but what He actively did. He was
born, and He died, that in all points He might be 'like unto His
brethren.' He 'came' into the world, and He 'went' to the Father. The
end circled round to the beginning, and in both He acted because He
chose, and chose because He loved.

So much, then, lies in the one of these two antitheses of my text; and
the other is no less profound and significant. 'He was rich; He became
poor.' In this connection 'rich' can only mean possessed of the Divine
fulness and independence; and 'poor' can only mean possessed of human
infirmity, dependence, and emptiness. And so to Jesus of Nazareth, to be
born was impoverishment. If there is nothing more in His birth than in
the birth of each of us, the words are grotesquely inappropriate to the
facts of the case. For as between nothingness, which is the alternative,
and the possession of conscious being, there is surely a contrast the
very reverse of that expressed here. For us, to be born is to be endowed
with capacities, with the wealth of intelligent, responsible, voluntary
being; but to Jesus Christ, if we accept the New Testament teaching, to
be born was a step, an infinite step, downwards, and He, alone of all
men, might have been 'ashamed to call men brethren.' But this denudation
of Himself, into the particulars of which I do not care to enter now,
was the result of that stooping grace which 'counted it not a thing to
be clutched hold of, to be equal with God; but He made Himself of no
reputation, and was found in fashion as a man, and became obedient unto
death, even the death of the Cross.'

And so, dear friends, we know the measure of the stooping love of Jesus
only when we read the history by the light of this thought, that 'though
He was rich' with all the fulness of that eternal Word which was 'in the
beginning with God,' 'He became poor,' with the poverty, the infirmity,
the liability to temptation, the weakness, that attach to humanity; 'and
was found in all points like unto His brethren,' that He might be able
to help and succour them all.

The last thing here is--

III. The work of Christ set forth in its highest issue.

'That we through His poverty might become rich.' Of course, the
antithetical expressions must be taken to be used in the same sense, and
with the same width of application, in both of the clauses. And if so,
just think reverently, wonderingly, thankfully, of the infinite vista
of glorious possibility that is open to us here. Christ was rich in the
possession of that Divine glory which Had had with the Father before the
world was. 'He became poor,' in assuming the weakness of the manhood
that you and I carry, that we, in the human poverty which is like His
poverty, may become rich with wealth that is like His riches, and that
as He stooped to earth veiling the Divine with the human, we may rise to
heaven, clothing the human with the Divine.

For surely there is nothing more plainly taught in Scriptures, and I am
bold to say nothing to which any deep and vital Christian experience
even here gives more surely an anticipatory confirmation, than the fact
that Christ became like unto us, that each of us may become like unto
Him. The divine and the human natures are similar, and the fact of the
Incarnation, on the one hand, and of the man's glorification by
possession of the divine nature on the other, equally rest upon that
fundamental resemblance between the divine nature and the human nature
which God has made in His own image. If that which in each of us is
unlike God is cleared away, as it can be cleared away, through faith in
that dear Lord, then the likeness as a matter of course, comes into
force.

The law of all elevation is that whosoever desires to lift must stoop;
and the end of all stooping is to lift the lowly to the place from which
the love hath bent itself. And this is at once the law for the
Incarnation of the Christ, and for the elevation of the Christian. 'We
shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.' And the great love,
the stooping, forgiving, self-communicating love, doth not reach its
ultimate issue, nor effect fully the purposes to which it ever is
tending, unless and until all who have received it are 'changed from
glory to glory even into the image of the Lord.' We do not understand
Jesus, His cradle, or His Cross, unless on the one hand we see in them
His emptying Himself that He might fill us, and, on the other hand, see,
as the only result which warrants them and satisfies Him, our complete
conformity to His image, and our participation in that glory which He
has at the right hand of God. That is the prospect for humanity, and it
is possible for each of us.

I do not dwell upon other aspects of this great self-emptying of our
Lord's, such as the revelation in it to us of the very heart of God, and
of the divinest thing in the divine nature, which is love, or such as
the sympathy which is made possible thereby to Him, and which is not
only the pity of a God, but the compassion of a Brother. Nor do I touch
upon many other aspects which are full of strengthening and teaching.
That grand thought that Jesus has shared our human poverty that we may
share His divine riches is the very apex of the New Testament teaching,
and of the Christian hope. We have within us, notwithstanding all our
transgressions, what the old divines used to call a 'deiform nature,'
capable of being lifted up into the participation of divinity, capable
of being cleansed from all the spots and stains which make us so unlike
Him in whose likeness we were made.

Brethren, let us not forget that this stooping, and pardoning, and
self-imparting love, has for its main instrument to appeal to our
hearts, not the cradle but the Cross. We are being told by many people
to-day that the centre of Christianity lies in the thought of an
Incarnation. Yes. But our Lord Himself has told us what that was for.

'The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to
give His life a ransom for many.' It is only when we look to that Lord
in His death, and see there the very lowest point to which He stooped,
and the supreme manifestation of His grace, that we shall be drawn to
yield our hearts and lives to Him in thankfulness, in trust, and in
imitation: and shall set Him before us as the pattern for our conduct,
as well as the Object of our trust.

Brethren, my text was spoken originally as presenting the motive and the
example for a little piece of pecuniary liability. Do you take the
cradle and the Cross as the law of your lives? For depend upon it, the
same necessity which obliged Jesus to come down to our level, if He
would lift us to His; to live our life and die our death, if He would
make us partakers of His immortal life, and deliver us from death; makes
it absolutely necessary that if we are to live for anything nobler than
our own poor, transitory self-aggrandisement, we too must learn to stoop
to forgive, to impart ourselves, and must die by self-surrender and
sacrifice, if we are ever to communicate any life, or good of life, to
others. He has loved us, and given Himself for us. He has set us therein
an example which He commends to us by His own word when He tells us that
'if a corn of wheat' is to bring forth 'much fruit' it must die, else it
'abideth alone.' Unless we die, we never truly live; unless we die to
ourselves for others, and like Jesus, we live alone in the solitude of a
self-enclosed self-regard. So living, we are dead whilst we live.



WILLING AND NOT DOING

          'Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as
          there was a readiness to will so there may be a
          performance also.'--2 COR. viii. 11.


The Revised Version reads: 'But now complete the doing also; that as
there was the readiness to will, so there may be the completion also out
of your ability.' A collection of money for the almost pauper church at
Jerusalem bulked very largely in the Apostle's mind at the date of the
writing of the two letters to the Corinthian church. We learn that that
church had been the first to agree to the project, and then had very
distinctly hung back from implementing its promises and fulfilling its
good intentions. So the Apostle, in the chapter from which my text is
taken, with wonderful delicacy, dignity, and profundity, sets forth the
true principle, not only of Christian giving, but of Christian asking.
The text advises that the gushing sentiments of brotherly sympathy and
liberality which had inspired the Corinthians a year ago should now bear
some fruit in action. So Paul is going to send Titus, his right-hand man
at the time, to hurry up and finish off the collection and have done
with it. The text is in effect the message which Titus was to carry; but
it has a far wider application than that. It is a needful advice for us
all about a great many other things: 'As there was a readiness to will,
so let there be a performance also.'

Resolutions, noble and good and Christlike, have a strange knack of
cheating the people who make them. So we all need the exhortation not to
be befooled by fancying that we have done, when we have only willed. Of
course we shall not do unless we will. But there is a wide gap, as our
experience witnesses, between the two things. We all know what place it
is to which, according to the old proverb, the road is paved with good
intentions; and the only way to pull up that paving is to take Paul's
advice here and always, and immediately to put into action the resolves
of our hearts. Now I desire to say two or three very plain and simple
things about this matter.

I. I would have you consider the necessity of this commandment.

Consider that the fault here warned against is a universal one. What
different men we should be if our resolutions had fruited in conduct! In
all regions of life that is true, but most emphatically is it true in
regard to religion. The damning tragedy of many lives, and I dare say of
those of some of my hearers, is that men have over and over again
determined that they would be Christians, and they are not Christians
yet; just because they have let 'the native hue of resolution be
sicklied over' by some paleness or other, and so have resolved and
resolved and resolved till every nerve of action is rotted away, and
they will die unchristian. I dare say that there are men or women
listening to me now, perhaps with grey hairs upon them, who can remember
times, in the springtide of their youth, when they said, 'I will give my
heart to Jesus Christ, and set my faith upon Him'; and they have not
done it yet. Now, therefore, 'as there was a readiness to will, let
there be also the performance.'

But it is not only in regard to that most important of all resolves that
I wish to say a word. All Christians, I am sure, know what it is, over
and over again, to have had stirrings in their hearts which they have
been able to consolidate into determination, but have not been able to
carry into act. 'The children have come to the birth, and there is not
strength to bring them forth.' That is true about all of us, more or
less, and it is very solemnly true of a great many of us professing
Christians. We have tried to cure--we have determined that we will
cure--manifest and flagrant defects or faults in our Christian life. We
have resolved, and some nipping frost has come, and the blossoms have
dropped on the grass before they have ever set into fruit. I know that
is so about you, because I know that it is so about myself. And
therefore, dear brethren, I appeal to you, and ask you whether the
exhortation of my text has not a sharp point for every one of
us--whether the universality of this defect does not demand that we all
should gravely consider the exhortation here before us?

Then, again, let me remind you how this injunction is borne in upon us
by the consideration of the strength of the opposition with which we
have always to contend, in every honest attempt to bring to act our best
resolutions. Did you ever try to cure some little habit, some mere
trifle, a trick of manner or twist of the finger, or some attitude or
tone that might be ugly and awkward, and that people told you that it
would be better to get rid of? You know how hard it is. There is always
a tremendous gulf between the ideal and its realisation in life. As long
as we are moving _in vacuo_ we move without any friction or difficulty;
but as soon as we come out into a world where there are an atmosphere
and opposing forces, then friction comes in, and speed diminishes; and
we never become what we aim to be. We begin with grand purposes, and we
end with very poor results. We all start, in our early days, with the
notion that our lives are going to be radiant and beautiful, and all
unlike what the limitations of power and the antagonisms that we have to
meet make of them at last. The tree of our life's doings has to grow,
like those contorted pines on the slopes of the Alps, in many storms,
with heavy weights of snow on its branches, and beaten about by tempests
from every quarter of the heavens; and so it gets gnarled and knotted
and very unlike the symmetrical beauty that we dreamed would adorn it.
We begin with saying: 'Come! Let us build a tower whose top shall reach
to heaven'; and we are contented at last, if we have put up some little
tumble-down shed where we can get shelter for our heads from the blast.

And the difficulty in bringing into action our best selves besets us in
the matter of translating our resolutions into practice. What are
arrayed against it? A feeble will, enslaved too often by passions and
flesh and habits, and all about us lie obstacles to our carrying into
action our conscientious convictions, our deepest resolutions; obstacles
to our being true to our true selves; to which obstacles, alas, far too
many of us habitually, and all of us occasionally, succumb. That being
the case, do not we all need to ponder in our deepest hearts, and to
pray for grace to make the motto of our lives, 'As there was a readiness
to will, let there be a performance'?

II. Consider the importance of this counsel.

That is borne in upon mind and conscience by looking at the disastrous
effects of letting resolutions remain sterile. Consider how apt we are
to deceive ourselves with unfulfilled purposes. The quick response which
an easily-moved nature may make to some appeal of noble thought or lofty
principle is mistaken for action, and we are tempted to think that
willing is almost as good as if we had done what we half resolved on.
And there is a kind of glow of satisfaction that comes when such a man
thinks, 'I have done well in that I have determined.' The Devil will let
you resolve as much as you like--the more the better; only the more
easily you resolve, the more certainly he will block the realisation.
Let us take care of that seducing temptation which is apt to lead us all
to plume ourselves on good resolutions, and to fancy that they are
almost equivalent to their own fulfilment. Cheques are all very well if
there be bullion in the bank cellars to pay them with when they fall
due, but if that be not so, then the issuing of them is crime and fraud.
Our resolutions, made and forgotten as so many of our good resolutions
are, are very little better.

Note, too, how rapidly the habit of substituting lightly-made
resolutions for seriously-endeavoured acts grows.

And mark, further, how miserable and debilitating it is to carry the
dead weight of such unaccomplished intentions.

Nothing so certainly weakens a man as a multitude of resolves that he
knows he has never fulfilled. They weaken his will, burden his
conscience, stand in the way of his hopes, make him feel as if the
entail of evil was too firm and strong to be ever broken. 'O wretched
man that I am!' said one who had made experience of what it was to will
what was good, and not to find how to perform, 'who shall deliver me
from the body of this death?' It is an awful thing to have to carry a
corpse about on your back. And that was what Paul thought the man did
who loaded his own shoulders with abortive resolutions, that perished
in the birth, and never grew up to maturity. Weak and miserable is
always the man who is swift to resolve and slow to carry out his
resolutions.

III. And now let me say a word before I close about how this universal
and grave disease is to be coped with.

Well, I should say to begin with, let us take very soberly and
continually into our consciousness the recognition of the fact that the
disease is there. And then may I say, let us be rather slower to resolve
than we often are. 'Better is it that thou shouldest not vow than that
thou shouldest vow and not pay.' The man who has never had the
determination to give up some criminal indulgence--say, drink--is
possibly less criminal, and certainly less weak, than the man who, when
his head aches, and the consequences of his self-indulgence are vividly
realised by him, makes up his mind to be a teetotaller, and soon
stumbles into the first dram-shop that is open, and then reels out a
drunkard. Do not vow until you have made up your minds to pay. Remember
that it is a solemn act to determine anything, especially anything
bearing on moral and religious life; and that you had far better keep
your will in suspense than spring to the resolution with thoughtless
levity and leave it with the same.

Further, the habit of promptly carrying out our resolves is one that,
like all other habits, can be cultivated. And we can cultivate it in
little things, in the smallest trifles of daily life, which by their
myriads make up life itself, in order that it may be a fixed custom of
our minds when great resolves have to be made. The man who has trained
himself day in and day out, in regard to the insignificances of daily
life, to let act follow resolve as the thunder peal succeeds the
lightning flash, is the man who, if he is moved to make a great resolve
about his religion, or about his conduct, will be most likely to carry
it out. Get the magical influence of habit on your side, and you will
have done much to conquer the evil of abortive resolutions.

But then there is something a great deal more than that to be said. The
Apostle did not content himself, in the passage already referred to,
with bewailing the wretchedness of the condition in which to will was
present, but how to perform he found not. He asked, and he triumphantly
answered, the question, 'Who shall deliver me?' with the great words, 'I
thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.' There is the secret; keep near
Him, trust Him, open your hearts to the influences of that Divine Spirit
who makes us free from the law of sin and death. And if thus, knowing
our weakness, recognising our danger, humbly trying to cultivate the
habit of prompt discharge of all discerned duty, we leave ourselves in
Jesus Christ's hands, and wait, and ask, and believe that we possess,
His cleansing Spirit, then we shall not ask and wait in vain. 'Work out
your own salvation, . . . for it is God that worketh in you, both the
willing and the doing.'



ALL GRACE ABOUNDING

          'God is able to make all grace abound toward you;
          that ye, always having all-sufficiency in all
          things, may abound to every good work.'--2 COR.
          ix. 8.


In addition to all his other qualities the Apostle was an extremely good
man of business; and he had a field for the exercise of that quality in
the collection for the poor saints of Judea, which takes up so much of
this letter, and occupied for so long a period so much of his thoughts
and efforts. It was for the sake of showing by actual demonstration that
would 'touch the hearts' of the Jewish brethren, the absolute unity of
the two halves of the Church, the Gentile and the Jewish, that the
Apostle took so much trouble in this matter. The words which I have read
for my text come in the midst of a very earnest appeal to the Corinthian
Christians for their pecuniary help. He is dwelling upon the same
thought which is expressed in the well-known words: 'What I gave I kept;
what I kept I lost.'

But whilst the words of my text primarily applied to money matters, you
see that they are studiously general, universal. The Apostle, after his
fashion, is lifting up a little 'secular' affair into a high spiritual
region; and he lays down in my text a broad general law, which goes to
the very depths of the Christian life.

Now, notice, we have here in three clauses three stages which we may
venture to distinguish as the fountain, the basin, the stream. 'God is
able to make all grace abound toward you';--there is the fountain. 'That
ye always, having all-sufficiency in all things';--there is the basin
that receives the gush from the fountain. 'May abound in every good
work';--there is the steam that comes from the basin. The fountain pours
into the basin, that the flow from the basin may feed the stream.

Now this thought of Paul's goes to the heart of things. So let us look
at it.

I. The Fountain.

The Christian life in all its aspects and experiences is an outflow from
the 'the Fountain of Life,' the giving God. Observe how emphatically the
Apostle, in the context, accumulates words that express universality:
'_all_ grace . . . _all_-sufficiency for _all_ things . . . _every_ good
work.' But even these expressions do not satisfy Paul, and he has to
repeat the word 'abound,' in order to give some faint idea of his
conception of the full tide which gushes from the fountain. It is 'all
grace,' and it is abounding grace.

Now what does he mean by 'grace'? That word is a kind of shorthand for
the whole sum of the unmerited blessings which come to men through Jesus
Christ. Primarily, it describes what we, for want of a better
expression, have to call a 'disposition' in the divine nature; and it
means, then, if so looked at, the unconditioned, undeserved,
spontaneous, eternal, stooping, pardoning love of God. That is grace, in
the primary New Testament use of the phrase.

But there are no idle 'dispositions' in God. They are always energising,
and so the word glides from meaning the disposition, to meaning the
manifestation and activities of it, and the 'grace' of our Lord is that
love in exercise. And then, since the divine energies are never
fruitless, the word passes over, further, to mean all the blessed and
beautiful things in a soul which are the consequences of the Promethean
truth of God's loving hand, the outcome in life of the inward bestowment
which has its cause, its sole cause, in God's ceaseless, unexhausted
love, unmerited and free.

That, very superficially and inadequately set forth, is at least a
glimpse into the fulness and greatness of meaning that lies in that
profound New Testament word, 'grace.' But the Apostle here puts
emphasis on the variety of forms which the one divine gift assumes.
It is '_all_ grace' which God is able to make abound toward you. So
then, you see this one transcendent gift from the divine heart, when
it comes into our human experience, is like a meteor when it passes
into the atmosphere of earth, and catches fire and blazes, showering
out a multitude of radiant points of light. The grace is
many-sided--many-sided to us, but one in its source and in its
character. For at bottom, that which God in His grace gives to us as His
grace is what? Himself; or if you like to put it in another form, which
comes to the same thing--new life through Jesus Christ. That is the
encyclopædiacal gift, which contains within itself all grace. And just
as the physical life in each of us, one in all its manifestations,
produces many results, and shines in the eye, and blushes in the cheek,
and gives strength to the arm, and flexibility and deftness to the
fingers and swiftness to the foot: so also is that one grace which,
being manifold in its manifestations, is one in its essence. There are
many graces, there is one Grace.

But this grace is not only many-sided, but abounding. It is not
congruous with God's wealth, nor with His love, that He should give
scantily, or, as it were, should open but a finger of the hand that is
full of His gifts, and let out a little at a time. There are no sluices
on that great stream so as to regulate its flow, and to give sometimes a
painful trickle and sometimes a full gush, but this fountain is always
pouring itself out, and it 'abounds.'

But then we are pulled up short by another word in this first clause:
'God is _able_ to make.' Paul does not say, 'God will make.' He puts the
whole weight of responsibility for that ability becoming operative upon
us. There are conditions; and although we may have access to that full
fountain, it will not pour on us 'all grace' and 'abundant grace,'
unless we observe these, and so turn God's ability to give into actual
giving. And how do we do that? By desire, by expectance, by petition,
by faithful stewardship. If we have these things, if we have tutored
ourselves, and experience has helped in the tuition, to make large our
expectancy, God will smile down upon us and 'do exceeding abundantly
above all' that we 'think' as well as above all that we 'ask.' Brethren,
if our supplies are scant, when the full fountain is gushing at our
sides, we are 'not straitened in God, we are straitened in ourselves.'
Christian possibilities are Christian obligations, and what we might
have and do not have, is our condemnation.

I turn, in the next place, to what I have, perhaps too fancifully,
called

II. The Basin.

'God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, having always
all-sufficiency in all things, may,' . . . etc.

The result of all this many-sided and exuberant outpouring of grace from
the fountain is that the basin may be full. Considering the infinite
source and the small receptacle, we might have expected something more
than 'sufficiency' to have resulted.

Divine grace is sufficient. Is it not more than sufficient? Yes, no
doubt. But what Paul wishes us to feel is this--to put it into very
plain English--that the good gifts of the divine grace will always be
proportioned to our work, and to our sufferings too. We shall feel that
we have enough, if we are as we ought to be. Sufficiency is more than a
man gets anywhere else. 'Enough is as good as a feast.' And if we have
strength, which we may have, to do the day's tasks, and strength to
carry the day's crosses, and strength to accept the day's sorrows, and
strength to master the day's temptations, that is as much as we need
wish to have, even out of the fulness of God. And we shall get it, dear
brethren, if we will only fulfil the conditions. If we exercise
expectance, and desire and petition and faithful stewardship, we shall
get what we need. 'Thy shoes shall be iron and brass,' if the road is a
steep and rocky one that would wear out leather. 'As thy days so shall
thy strength be.' God does not hurl His soldiers in a blundering attack
on some impregnable mountain, where they are slain in heaps at the base;
but when He lays a commandment on my shoulders, He infuses strength into
me, and according to the good homely old saying that has brought comfort
to many a sad and weighted heart, makes the back to bear the burden. The
heavy task or the crushing sorrow is often the key that opens the door
of God's treasure-house. You have had very little experience either of
life or of Christian life, if you have not learnt by this time that the
harder your work, and the darker your sorrows, the mightier have been
God's supports, and the more starry the lights that have shone upon your
path. 'That ye, always having all-sufficiency in all things.'

One more word: this sufficiency _should be_ more uniform, _is_ uniform
in the divine intention, and in so far as the flow of the fountain is
concerned. Always having had I may be sure that I always shall have. Of
course I know that, in so far as our physical nature conditions our
spiritual experience, there will be ups and downs, moments of
emancipation and moments of slavery. There will be times when the flower
opens, and times when it shuts itself up. But I am sure that the great
mass of Christian people might have a far more level temperature in
their Christian experience than they have; that we could, if we would,
have far more experimental knowledge of this 'always' of my text. God
means that the basin should be always full right up to the top of the
marble edge, and that the more is drawn off from it, the more should
flow into it. But it is very often like the reservoirs in the hills for
some great city in a drought, where great stretches of the bottom are
exposed, and again, when the drought breaks, are full to the top of the
retaining wall. That should not be. Our Christian life should run on the
high levels. Why does it not? Possibilities are duties.

And now, lastly, we have here what, adhering to my metaphor, I call

III. The stream.

'That ye, always having all-sufficiency in all things, may abound to
every good work.'

That is what God gives us His grace for; and that is a very important
consideration. The end of God's dealings with us, poor, weak, sinful
creatures, is character and conduct. Of course you can state the end in
a great many other ways; but there have been terrible evils arising from
the way in which Evangelical preachers have too often talked, as if the
end of God's dealings with us was the vague thing which they call
'salvation,' and by which many of their hearers take them to mean
neither more nor less than dodging Hell. But the New Testament, with all
its mysticism, even when it soars highest, and speaks most about the
perfection of humanity, and the end of God's dealings being that we may
be 'filled with the fulness of God,' never loses its wholesome, sane
hold of the common moralities of daily life, and proclaims that we
receive all, in order that we may be able to 'maintain good works for
necessary uses.' And if we lay that to heart, and remember that a
correct creed, and a living faith, and precious, select, inward emotions
and experiences are all intended to evolve into lives, filled and
radiant with common moralities and 'good works'--not meaning thereby the
things which go by that name in popular phraseology, but 'whatsoever
things are lovely . . . and of good report'--then we shall understand a
little better what we are here for and what Jesus Christ died for, and
what His Spirit is given and lives in us for. So 'good works' is the
end, in one very important aspect, of all that avalanche of grace which
has been from eternity rushing down upon us from the heights of God.

There is one more thing to note, and that is that, in our character and
conduct, we should copy the 'giving grace.' Look how eloquently and
significantly, in the first and last clauses of my text, the same words
recur. 'God is able to make _all_ grace abound, that ye may _abound_ in
_all_ good work.' Copy God in the many-sidedness and in the copiousness
of the good that flows out from your life and conduct, because of your
possession of that divine grace. And remember, 'to him that hath shall
be given.' We pray for more grace; we need to pray for that, no doubt.
Do we use the grace that God has given us? If we do not, the remainder
of that great word which I have just quoted will be fulfilled in you.
God forbid that any of us should receive the grace of God in vain, and
therefore come under the stern and inevitable sentence, 'From him that
hath not shall be taken away, even that which he hath!'



GOD'S UNSPEAKABLE GIFT

          'Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.'--2
          COR. ix. 15.


It seems strange that there should ever have been any doubt as to what
gift it is which evokes this burst of thanksgiving. There is but one of
God's many mercies which is worthy of being thus singled out. There is
one blazing central sun which shines out amidst all the galaxy of lights
which fill the heavens. There is one gift of God which, beyond all
others, merits the designation of 'unspeakable.' The gift of Christ
draws all other divine gifts after it. 'How should He not with Him also
freely give us all things.'

The connection in which this abrupt jet of praise stands is very
remarkable. The Apostle has been dwelling on the Christian obligation of
giving bountifully and cheerfully, and on the great law that a glad
giver is 'enriched' and not impoverished thereby, whilst the recipients,
for their part, are blessed by having thankfulness evoked towards the
givers. And that contemplation of the happy interchange of benefit and
thanks between men leads the fervid Apostle to the thoughts which were
always ready to spring to his lips--of God as the great pattern of
giving and of the gratitude to Him which should fill all our souls. The
expression here 'unspeakable' is what I wish chiefly to fix upon now. It
means literally that which cannot be fully declared. Language fails
because thought fails.

I. The gift comes from unspeakable love.

God _so_ loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. The love is
the cause of the gift: the gift is the expression of the love. John's
Gospel says that the Son which is in the bosom of the Father has
_declared_ Him. Paul here uses a related word for _unspeakable_ which
might be rendered 'that which cannot be fully declared.' The declaration
of the Father partly consists in this, that He is declared to be
undeclarable, the proclamation of His name consists partly in this that
it is proclaimed to be a name that cannot be proclaimed. Language fails
when it is applied to the expression of human emotion; no tongue can
ever fully serve the heart. Whether there be any thoughts too great for
words or no, there are emotions too great. Language is ever 'weaker than
our grief' and not seldom weaker than our love. It is but the surface
water that can be run off through the narrow channel of speech: the
central deep remains. If it be so with human affection, how much more
must it be so with God's love? With lowly condescension He uses all
sweet images drawn from earthly relationships, to help us in
understanding His. Every dear name is pressed into the service--father,
mother, husband, wife, brother, friend, and after all are exhausted, the
love which clothed itself in them all in turn, and used them all to give
some faint hint of its own perfection, remains unspoken. We know human
love, its limitations, its changes, its extravagances, its shortcomings,
and cannot but feel how unworthy it is to mirror for us that perfection
in God which we venture to name by a name so soiled. The analogies
between what we call love in man and love in God must be supplemented by
the differences between them, if we are ever to approach a worthy
conception of the unspeakable love that underlies the unspeakable gift.

II. The gift involves unspeakable sacrifice.

Human love desires to give its most precious treasures to its object
and is then most blessed: divine love cannot come short of human in this
most characteristic of its manifestations. Surely the copy is not to
surpass the original, nor the mirror to flash more brightly than the sun
which, at the brightest, it but reflects. In such a matter we can but
stammer when we try to find words. As our text warns us, we are trying
to utter the unutterable when we seek to speak of God's giving up for
us; but however such a thought may seem to be forbidden by other aspects
of the divine nature, it seems to be involved in the great truth that
'God is love.' Since He is, His blessedness too, must be in imparting,
and in parting with what He gives. A humble worshipper in Jewish times
loved enough to say that he would not offer unto God an offering that
cost him nothing, and that loving height of self-surrender was at the
highest, but a lowly imitation of the love to which it looked up. When
Paul in the Epistle to the Romans says, 'He that spared not His own Son
but delivered Him up for us all,' he is obviously alluding to, and all
but quoting, the divine words to Abraham, 'Seeing thou hast not withheld
thy son, thine only son, from Me,' and the allusion permits us to
parallel what God did when He sent His Son with what Abraham did when,
with wrung heart, but with submission, he bound and laid Isaac on the
altar and stretched forth his hand with the knife in it to slay him.
Such a representation contradicts the vulgar conceptions of a
passionless, self-sufficing, icy deity, but reflection on the facts of
our own experience and on the blessed secrets of our own love, leads us
to believe that some shadow of loss passed across the infinite and
eternal completeness of the divine nature when 'God sent forth His Son
made of a woman.' And may we not go further and say that when Jesus on
the Cross cried from out of the darkness of eclipse, 'My God! My God!
Why hast Thou forsaken me?' there was something in the heavens
corresponding to the darkness that covered the earth and something in
the Father's heart that answered the Son's. But our text warns us that
such matters are not for our handling in speech, and are best dealt
with, not as matters of possibly erring speculation, but as materials
for lowly thanks unto God for His unspeakable gift.

But whatever may be true about the love of the Father who sent, there
can be no doubt about the love of the Son who came. No man helps his
fellows in suffering but at the cost of his own suffering. Sympathy
means _fellow-feeling_, and the one indispensable condition of all
rescue work of any sort is that the rescuer must bear on his own
shoulders the sins or sorrows that he is able to bear away. Heartless
help is no help. It does not matter whether he who 'stands and says, "Be
ye clothed and fed,"' gives or does not give 'the things necessary,' he
will be but a 'miserable comforter' if he has not in heart and feeling
entered into the sorrows and pains which he seeks to alleviate. We need
not dwell on the familiar truths concerning Him who was a 'man of
sorrows and acquainted with grief.' All through His life He was in
contact with evil, and for Him the contact was like that of a naked hand
pressed upon hot iron. The sins and woes of the world made His path
through it like that of bare feet on sharp flints. If He had never died
it would still have been true that 'He was wounded for our
transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.' On the Cross He
completed the libation which had continued throughout His life and
'poured out His soul unto death' as He had been pouring it out all
through His life. We have no measure by which we can estimate the
inevitable sufferings in such a world as ours of such a spirit as
Christ's. We may know something of the solitude of uncongenial society;
of the pain of seeing miseries that we cannot comfort, of the horrors of
dwelling amidst impurities that we cannot cleanse, and of longings to
escape from them all to some nest in the wilderness, but all these are
but the feeblest shadows of the incarnate sorrows whose name among men
was Jesus. Nothing is more pathetic than the way in which our Lord kept
all these sorrows close locked within His own heart, so that scarcely
ever did they come to light. Once He did permit a glimpse into that
hidden chamber when He said, 'O faithless generation, how long shall I
be with you, how long shall I suffer you?' But for the most part His
sorrow was unspoken because it was 'unspeakable.' Once beneath the
quivering olives in the moonlight of Gethsemane, He made a pitiful
appeal for the little help which three drowsy men could give Him, when
He cried, 'My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. Tarry ye
here and watch with Me,' but for the most part the silence at which His
judges 'marvelled greatly,' and raged as much as they marvelled, was
unbroken, and as 'a sheep before her shearers is dumb,' so 'He opened
not His mouth.' The sacrifice of His death was, for the most part,
silent like the sacrifice of His life. Should it not call forth from us
floods of praise and thanks to God for His unspeakable gift?

III. The gift brings with it unspeakable results.

In Christ are hid 'all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.' When God
gave us Him, He gave us a storehouse in which are contained treasures of
truth which can never be fully comprehended, and which, even if
comprehended, can never be exhausted. The mystery of the Divine Name
revealed in Jesus, the mystery of His person, are themes on which the
Christian world has been nourished ever since, and which are as full of
food, not for the understanding only, but far more for the heart and the
will, to-day as ever they were. The world may think that it has left the
teaching of Jesus behind, but in reality the teaching is far ahead, and
the world's practise is but slowly creeping towards its imperfect
attainment. The Gospel is the guide of the race, and each generation
gathers something more from it, and progresses in the measure in which
it follows Christ; and as for the race, so for the individual. Each of
Christ's scholars finds his own gift, and in the measure of his
faithfulness to what he has found makes ever new discoveries in the
unsearchable riches of Christ. After all have fed full there still
remain abundant baskets full to be taken up.

He who has sounded the depths of Jesus most completely is ever the first
to acknowledge that he has been but as a child 'gathering pebbles on the
beach while the great ocean lies unsounded before him.' No single soul,
and no multitude of souls, can exhaust Jesus; neither our individual
experiences, nor the experiences of a believing world can fully realise
the endless wealth laid up in Him. He is the Alpha and the Omega of all
our speech, the first letter and the last of our alphabet, between which
lie all the rest.

The gift is completed in consequences yet unspeakable. Even the first
blessings which the humblest faith receives from the pierced hands have
more in them than words can tell. Who has ever spoken adequately and in
full correspondence with reality what it is to have God's pardoning
love flowing in upon the soul? Many singers have sung sweet psalms and
hymns and spiritual songs on which generations of devout souls have fed,
but none of them has spoken the deepest blessedness of a Christian life,
or the calm raptures of communion with God. It is easy to utter the
words 'forgiveness, reconciliation, acceptance, fellowship, eternal
life'; the syllables can be spoken, but who knows or can utter the
depths of the meanings? After all human words the half has not been told
us, and as every soul carries within itself unrevealable emotions, and
is a mystery after all revelation, so the things which God's gift brings
to a soul are after all speech unspeakable, and the words 'cannot be
uttered' which they who are caught up into the third heavens hear.

Then we may extend our thoughts to the future form of Christian
experience. 'It doth not yet appear what we should be.' All our
conceptions of a future existence must necessarily be inadequate.
Nothing but experience can reveal them to us, and our experience there
will be capable of indefinite expansion, and through eternity there will
be endless growth in the appropriation of the unspeakable gift.

For us the only recompense that we can make for the unspeakable gift is
to receive it with 'thanks unto God' and the yielding up of our hearts
to Him. God pours this love upon us freely, without stint. It is
unspeakable in the depths of its source, in the manner of its
manifestation, in the glory of its issues. It is like some great stream,
rising in the trackless mountains, broad and deep, and leading on to a
sunlit ocean. We stand on the bank; let us trust ourselves to its broad
bosom. It will bear us safe. And let us take heed that we receive not
the gift of God _in vain_.



A MILITANT MESSAGE

          'Casting down imaginations, and every high thing
          that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and
          bringing every thought into captivity to the
          obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to
          avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall
          be fulfilled.'--2 COR. x. 5 and 6 (R.V.).


None of Paul's letters are so full of personal feeling as this one is.
It is written, for the most part, at a white heat; he had heard from his
trusted Titus tidings which on one hand filled him with a thankfulness
of which the first half of the letter is the expression; but there had
also been tidings of a very different kind, and from this point onwards
the letter is seething with the feelings which these had produced. There
was in the Corinthian Church a party, probably Judaisers, which denied
his authority and said bitter things about his character. They
apparently had contrasted the force of his letters and the feebleness of
his 'bodily presence' and speech. They insinuated that his 'bark was
worse than his bite.' Their language put into plain English would be
something like this, 'Ah! He is very bold at a distance, let him come
and face us and we shall see a difference. Vapouring in his letters, he
will be meek enough when he is here.'

These slanderers seem to have thought of Paul as if he 'warred according
to flesh,' and it is this charge, that he was actuated in his opposition
to the evils in Corinth by selfish considerations and worldly interests,
which seems to have set the Apostle on fire. In answer he pours out
quick, indignant questionings, sharp irony, vehement self-vindication,
passionate remonstrances, flashes of wrath, sudden jets of tenderness.
What a position for him to have to say, 'I am not a low schemer; I am
not working for myself.' Yet it is the common lot of all such men to be
misread by little, crawling creatures who cannot believe in heroic
self-forgetfulness. He answers the taunt that he 'walked according to
the flesh' in the context by saying, 'Yes, I live in the flesh, my
outward life is like that of other men, but I do not go a-soldiering
_according_ to the flesh. It is not for my own sinful self that I get
the rules of my life's battle, neither do I get my weapons from the
flesh. They could not do what they do if that were their origin: they
are of God and therefore mighty.' Then the metaphor as it were catches
fire, and in our text he expands the figure of a warfare and sets before
us the destruction of fortresses, the capture of their garrisons, and
the leading of them away into another land, the stern punishment of the
rebels who still hold out, and the merciful delay in administering it.
It has been suggested that there is an allusion in our text to the
extermination of the pirates in Paul's native Cilicia which happened
some fifty or sixty years before his birth and ended in destroying their
robber-holds and taking some thousands of prisoners. Whether that be so
or no, the Apostle's kindled imagination sets forth here great truths as
to the effects which his message is meant to produce and, thank God, has
produced.

I. The opposing fortresses.

The Apostle conceives of himself and of his brother preachers of Christ
as going forth on a merciful warfare. He thinks of strong rock
fortresses, with lofty walls set on high, and frowning down on any
assailants. No doubt he is thinking first of the opposition which he had
to front in Corinth from the Judaisers to whom we have referred, but the
application of the metaphor goes far beyond the petty strife in Corinth
and carries for us the wholesome lesson that one main cause which keeps
men back from Christ is a too high estimate of themselves. Some of us
are enclosed in the fortress of self-sufficiency: we will not humbly
acknowledge our dependence on God, and have turned self-reliance into
the law of our lives. There are many voices, some of them sweet and
powerful, which to-day are preaching that gospel. It finds eager
response in many hearts, and there is something in us all to which it
appeals. We are often tempted to say defiantly, 'Who is Lord over us?'
And the teaching that bids us rely on ourselves is so wholly in accord
with the highest wisdom and the noblest life that what is good and what
is evil in each of us contribute to reinforce it. Self-dependence is a
great virtue, and the mother of much energy and nobleness, but it is
also a great error and a great sin. To be so self-sufficing as not to
need externals is good; to be so self-sufficing as not to need or to see
God is ruin and death. The title which, as one of our great thinkers
tells us, a humourist put on the back of a volume of heterodox tracts,
'Every man his own redeemer,' makes a claim for self-sufficiency which
more or less unconsciously shuts out many men from the salvation of
Christ.

There is the fortress of culture and the pride of it in which many of us
are to-day entrenched against the Gospel. The attitude of mind into
which persons of culture tend to fall is distinctly adverse to their
reception of the Gospel, and that is not because the Gospel is adverse
to culture, but because cultured people do not care to be put on the
same level with publicans and harlots. They would be less disinclined to
go into the feast if there were in it reserved seats for superior people
and a private entrance to them. If the wise and prudent were more of
both, they would be liker the babes to whom these things are revealed,
and they would be revealed to them too. Not knowledge but the
superciliousness which is the result of the conceit of knowledge hinders
from God, and is one of the strongest fortresses against which the
weapons of our warfare have to be employed.

There is the fortress of ignorance. Most men who are kept from Christ
are so because they know neither themselves nor God. The most widely
prevailing characteristic of the superficial life of most men is their
absolute unconsciousness of the fact of sin; they neither know it as
universal nor as personal. They have never gone deeply enough down into
the depths of their own hearts to have come up scared at the ugly things
that lie sleeping there, nor have they ever reflected on their own
conduct with sufficient gravity to discern its aberrations from the law
of right, hence the average man is quite unconscious of sin, and is a
complete stranger to himself. The cup has been drunk by and intoxicated
the world, and the masses of men are quite unaware that it has
intoxicated them.

They are ignorant of God as they are of themselves, and if at any time,
by some flash of light, they see themselves as they are, they think of
God as if He were altogether such an one as themselves, and fall back on
a vague trust in the vaguer mercy of their half-believed-in God as their
hope for a vague salvation. Men who thus walk in a vain show will never
feel their need of Jesus, and the lazy ignorance of themselves and the
as lazy trust in what they call their God, are a fortress against which
it will task the power of God to make any weapons of warfare mighty to
its pulling down.

II. The casting down of fortresses.

The first effect of any real contact with Christ and His Gospel is to
reveal a man to himself, to shatter his delusive estimates of what he
is, and to pull down about his ears the lofty fortress in which he has
ensconced himself. It seems strange work for what calls itself a Gospel
to begin by forcing a man to cry out with sobs and tears, Oh, wretched
man that I am! But no man will ever reach the heights to which Christ
can lift him, who does not begin his upward course by descending to the
depths into which Christ's Gospel begins its work by plunging him.
Unconsciousness of sin is sure to lead to indifference to a Saviour, and
unless we know ourselves to be miserable and poor and blind and naked,
the offer of gold refined by fire and white garments that we may clothe
ourselves will make no appeal to us. The fact of sin makes the need for
a Saviour; our individual sense of sin makes us sensible of our need of
a Saviour.

Paul believed that the weapons of his warfare were mighty enough to cast
down the strongest of all strongholds in which men shut themselves up
against the humbling Gospel of salvation by the mercy of God. The
weapons to which he thus trusted were the same to which Jesus pointed
His disciples when, about to leave them, He said, 'When the Comforter is
come He will convict the world of sin because they believe not in Me.'
Jesus brought to the world the perfect revelation of the holiness of
God, and set before us all a divine pattern of manhood to rebuke and
condemn our stained and rebellious lives, and He turned us away from the
superficial estimate of actions to the careful scrutiny of motives. By
all these and many other ways He presented Himself to the world a
perfect man, the incarnation of a holy God and the revelation and
condemnation of sinful humanity. Yet, all that miracle of loveliness,
gentleness, and dignity is beheld by men without a thrill, and they see
in Him no 'beauty that they should desire Him,' and no healing to which
they will trust. Paul's way of kindling penitence in impenitent spirits
was not to brandish over them the whips of law or to seek to shake souls
with terror of any hell, still less was it to discourse with philosophic
calm on the obligations of duty and the wisdom of virtuous living; his
appeal to conscience was primarily the pressing on the heart of the love
of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. When the heart is melted, the
conscience will not long continue indurated. We cannot look lovingly and
believingly at Jesus and then turn to look complacently on ourselves.
Not to believe on Him is the sin of sins, and to be taught that it is so
is the first step in the work of Him who never merits the name of the
Comforter more truly than when He convicts the world of sin.

For a Christianity that does not begin with the deep consciousness of
sin has neither depth nor warmth and has scarcely vitality. The Gospel
is no Gospel, and we had almost said, 'The Christ is no Christ' to one
who does not feel himself, if parted from Christ, 'dead in trespasses
and sins.' Our religion depends for all its force, our gratitude and
love for all their devotion, upon our sense that 'the chastisement of
our peace was laid upon Him, and that by His stripes we are healed.'
Since He gave Himself for us, it is meet that we give ourselves to Him,
but there will be little fervour of devotion or self-surrender, unless
there has been first the consciousness of the death of sin and then the
joyous consciousness of newness of life in Christ Jesus.

III. The captives led away to another land.

The Apostle carries on his metaphor one step further when he goes on to
describe what followed the casting down of the fortresses. The enemy,
driven from their strongholds, have nothing for it but to surrender and
are led away in captivity to another land. The long strings of prisoners
on Assyrian and Egyptian monuments show how familiar an experience this
was. It may be noted that perhaps our text regards the obedience of
Christ as being the far country into which 'every thought was to be
brought.' At all events Paul's idea here is that the end of the whole
struggle between 'the flesh' and the weapons of God is to make men
willing captives of Jesus Christ. We are Christians in the measure in
which we surrender our wills to Christ. That surrender rests upon, and
is our only adequate answer to, His surrender for us. The 'obedience of
Christ' is perfect freedom; His captives wear no chains and know nothing
of forced service; His yoke is easy, not because it does not press hard
upon the neck but because it is lined with love, and 'His burden is
light' not because of its own weight but because it is laid on us by
love and is carried by kindred love. He only commands himself who gladly
lets Christ command him. Many a hard task becomes easy; crooked things
are straightened out and rough places often made surprisingly plain for
the captives of Christ, whom He leads into the liberty of obedience to
Him.

IV. Fate of the disobedient.

Paul thinks that in Corinth there will be found some stiff-necked
opponents of whom he cannot hope that their 'obedience shall be
fulfilled,' and he sees in the double issue of the small struggle that
was being waged in Corinth a parable of the wider results of the warfare
in the world. 'Some believed and some believed not'; that has been the
brief summary of the experience of all God's messengers everywhere, and
it is their experience to-day. No doubt when Paul speaks of 'being in
readiness to avenge all disobedience,' he is alluding to the exercise of
his apostolic authority against the obdurate antagonists whom he
contemplates as still remaining obdurate, and it is beautiful to note
the long-suffering patience with which he will hold his hand until all
that can be won has been won. But we must not forget that Paul's
demeanour is but a faint shadow of his Lord's, and that the weapons
which were ready to avenge all disobedience were the weapons of God. If
a man steels himself against the efforts of divine love, builds up round
himself a fortress of self-righteousness and locks its gates against the
merciful entrance of convictions of sin and the knowledge of a Saviour,
and if he therefore lives, year in, year out, in disobedience, the
weapons which he thinks himself to have resisted will one day make him
feel their edge. We cannot set ourselves against the salvation of Jesus
without bringing upon ourselves consequences which are wholly evil and
harmful. Torpid consciences, hungry hearts, stormy wills, tyrannous
desires, vain hopes and not vain fears come to be, by slow degrees, the
tortures of the man who drops the portcullis and lifts the bridge
against the entrance of Jesus. There are hells enough on earth if men's
hearts were displayed.

But the love which is obliged to smite gives warning that it is ready to
avenge, long before it lets the blow fall, and does so in order that it
may never need to fall. As long as it is possible that the disobedient
shall become obedient to Christ, He holds back the vengeance that is
ready to fall and will one day fall 'on all disobedience.' Not till all
other means have been patiently tried will He let that terrible ending
crash down. It hangs over the heads of many of us who are all unaware
that we walk beneath the shadow of a rock that at any moment may be set
in motion and bury us beneath its weight. It is 'in readiness,' but it
is still at rest. Let us be wise in time and yield to the merciful
weapons with which Jesus would make His way into our hearts. Or if the
metaphor of our text presents Him in too warlike a guise, let us listen
to His own gentle pleading, 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if
any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.'



SIMPLICITY TOWARDS CHRIST

          'But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent
          beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds
          should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in
          Christ.'--2 COR. xi. 3.


The Revised Version, amongst other alterations, reads, 'the simplicity
that is _towards_ Christ.'

The inaccurate rendering of the Authorised Version is responsible for a
mistake in the meaning of these words, which has done much harm. They
have been supposed to describe a quality or characteristic belonging to
Christ or the Gospel; and, so construed, they have sometimes been made
the watchword of narrowness and of intellectual indolence. 'Give us the
simple Gospel' has been the cry of people who have thought themselves to
be evangelical when they were only lazy, and the consequence has been
that preachers have been expected to reiterate commonplaces, which have
made both them and their hearers listless, and to sink the educational
for the evangelistic aspect of the Christian teacher's function.

It is quite true that the Gospel is simple, but it is also true that it
is deep, and they will best appreciate its simplicity who have most
honestly endeavoured to fathom its depth. When we let our little
sounding lines out, and find that they do not reach the bottom, we begin
to wonder even more at the transparency of the clear abyss. It is not
simplicity _in_ Christ, but _towards_ Christ of which the Apostle is
speaking; not a quality in Him, but a quality in _us_ towards Him. I
wish, then, to turn to the two thoughts that these words suggest. First
and chiefly, the attitude towards Christ which befits our relation to
Him; and, secondly and briefly, the solicitude for its maintenance.

I. First, then, look at the attitude towards Christ which befits the
Christian relation to Him.

The word 'simplicity' has had a touch of contempt associated with it. It
is a somewhat doubtful compliment to say of a man that he is
'simple-minded.' All noble words which describe great qualities get
oxidised by exposure to the atmosphere, and rust comes over them, as
indeed all good things tend to become deteriorated in time and by use.
But the notion of the word is really a very noble and lofty one. To be
'without a fold,' which is the meaning of the Greek word and of its
equivalent 'simplicity,' is, in one aspect, to be transparently honest
and true, and in another to be out and out of a piece. There is no
underside of the cloth, doubled up beneath the upper which shows, and
running in the opposite direction; but all tends in one way. A man with
no under-currents, no by-ends, who is down to the very roots what he
looks, and all whose being is knit together and hurled in one direction,
without reservation or back-drawing, that is the 'simple' man whom the
Apostle means. Such simplicity is the truest wisdom; such simplicity of
devotion to Jesus Christ is the only attitude of heart and mind which
corresponds to the facts of our relation to Him. That relation is set
forth in the context by a very sweet and tender image, in the true line
of scriptural teaching, which in many a place speaks of the Bride and
Bridegroom, and which on its last page shows us the Lamb's wife
descending from Heaven to meet her husband. The state of devout souls
and of the community of such here on earth is that of betrothal. Their
state in heaven is that of marriage. Very beautiful it is to see how
this fiery Paul, like the ascetic John, who never knew the sacred joys
of that state, lays hold of the thought of the Bridegroom and the Bride,
and of his individual relation to both as indicating the duties of the
Church and the solicitude of the Apostle. He says that he has been the
intermediary who, according to Oriental custom, arranged the
preliminaries of the marriage, and brought the bride to the bridegroom,
and, as the friend of the latter, standing by rejoices greatly to hear
the bridegroom's voice, and is solicitous mainly that in the tremulous
heart of the betrothed there should be no admixture of other loves, but
a whole-hearted devotion, an exclusive affection, and an absolute
obedience. 'I have espoused you,' says he, 'to one husband that I may
present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear lest . . . your mind
should be corrupted from the simplicity that is towards Him.'

Now that metaphor carries in its implication all that anybody can say
about the exclusiveness, the depth, the purity, the all-pervasiveness of
the dependent love which should knit us to Jesus Christ. The same
thought of whole-hearted, single, absolute devotion is conveyed by
other Scripture metaphors, the _slave_ and the _soldier_ of Christ. But
all that is repellent or harsh in these is softened and glorified when
we contemplate it in the light of the metaphor of my text.

So I might leave it to do its own work, but I may perhaps be allowed to
follow out the thought in one or two directions.

The attitude, then, which corresponds to our relation to Jesus Christ is
that, first, of a faith which looks to Him exclusively as the source of
salvation and of light. The specific danger which was alarming Paul, in
reference to that little community of Christians in Corinth, was one
which, in its particular form, is long since dead and buried. But the
principles which underlay it, the tendencies to which it appealed, and
the perils which alarmed Paul for the Corinthian Church, are perennial.
He feared that these Judaising teachers, who dogged his heels all his
life long, and whose one aim seemed to be to build upon his foundation
and to overthrow his building, should find their way into this church
and wreck it. The keenness of the polemic, in this and in the contextual
chapters, shows how real and imminent the danger was. Now what they did
was to tell people that Jesus Christ had a partner in His saving work.
They said that obedience to the Jewish law, ceremonial and other, was a
condition of salvation, along with trust in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
And because they thus shared out the work of salvation between Jesus
Christ and something else, Paul thundered and lightened at them all his
life, and, as he tells us in this context, regarded them as preaching
another Jesus, another spirit, and another gospel. That particular error
is long dead and buried.

But is there nothing else that has come into its place? Has this old
foe not got a new face, and does not it live amongst us as really as it
lived then? I think it does; whether in the form of the grosser kind of
sacramentarianism and ecclesiasticism which sticks sacraments and a
church in front of the Cross, or in the form of the definite denial that
Jesus Christ's death on the Cross is the one means of salvation, or
simply in the form of the coarse, common wish to have a finger in the
pie and a share in the work of saving oneself, as a drowning man will
sometimes half drown his rescuer by trying to use his own limbs. These
tendencies that Paul fought, and which he feared would corrupt the
Corinthians from their simple and exclusive reliance on Christ, and
Christ alone, as the ground and author of their salvation, are perennial
in human nature, and we have to be on our guard for ever and for ever
against them. Whether they come in organised, systematic, doctrinal
form, or whether they are simply the rising in our own hearts of the old
Adam of pride and self-trust, they equally destroy the whole work of
Christ, because they infringe upon its solitariness and uniqueness. It
is not Christ and anything else. Men are not saved by a syndicate. It is
Jesus Christ alone, and 'beside Him there is no Saviour.' You go into a
Turkish mosque and see the roof held up by a forest of slim pillars. You
go into a cathedral chapter-house and see one strong support in the
centre that bears the whole roof. The one is an emblem of the Christless
multiplicity of vain supports, the other of the solitary strength and
eternal sufficiency of the one Pillar on which the whole weight of a
world's salvation rests, and which lightly bears it triumphantly aloft.
'I fear lest your minds be corrupted from the simplicity' of a
reasonable faith directed towards Christ.

And in like manner He is the sole light and teacher of men as to God,
themselves, their duty, their destinies and prospects. He, and He alone,
brings these things to light. His word, whether it comes from His lips
or from the deeds which are part of His revelation, or from the voice of
the Spirit which takes of His and speaks to the ages through His
apostles, should be 'the end of all strife.' What He says, and all that
He says, and nothing else than what He says, is the creed of the
Christian. He, and He only, is 'the light which lighteth every man that
cometh into the world.' In this day of babblements and confusions, let
us listen for the voice of Christ and accept all which comes from Him,
and let the language of our deepest hearts be, 'Lord, to whom shall we
go? Thou only hast the words of eternal life.'

Again, our relation to Jesus Christ demands exclusive love to Him.
'Demands' is an ugly word to bracket with love. We might say, and
perhaps more truly, permits or privileges. It is the joy of the
betrothed that her duty is to love, and to keep her heart clear from all
competing affections. But it is none the less her duty because it is her
joy. What Christ is to you, if you are a Christian, and what He longs to
be to us all, whether we are Christians or not, is of such a character
as that the only fitting attitude of our hearts to Him in response is
that of exclusive affection. I do not mean that we are to love nothing
but Him, but I mean that we are to love all things else in Him, and
that, if any creature so delays or deflects our love as that either it
does not pass, by means of the creature, into the presence of the
Christ, or is turned away from the Christ by the creature, then we have
fallen beneath the sweet level of our lofty privilege, and have won for
ourselves the misery due to distracted and idolatrous hearts. Love to
one who has done what He has done for us is in its very nature
exclusive, and its exclusiveness is all-pervasive exclusiveness. The
centre diamond makes the little stones set round it all the more
lustrous. We must love Jesus Christ all in all or not at all. Divided
love incurs the condemnation that falls heavily upon the head of the
faithless bride.

Dear friends, the conception of the essence of religion as being love is
no relaxation, but an increase, of its stringent requirements. The more
we think of that sweet bond as being the true union of the soul with
God, who is its only rest and home, the more reasonable and imperative
will appear the old commandment, 'Thou shalt love Him with all thy
heart, and soul, and strength, and mind.'

But, further, our relation to Jesus Christ is such as that nothing short
of absolute obedience to His commandment corresponds to it. There must
be the simplicity, the single-mindedness that thus obeys, obeys swiftly,
cheerfully, constantly. In all matters His command is my law, and, as
surely as I make His command my law, will He make my desire His motive.
For He Himself has said, in words that bring together our obedience to
His will and His compliance with our wishes, in a fashion that we should
not have ventured upon unless He had set us an example, 'If ye love Me,
keep My commandments. If ye ask anything in My name I will do it.' The
exclusive love that binds us, by reason of our faith in Him alone, to
that Lord ought to express itself in unhesitating, unfaltering,
unreserved, and unreluctant obedience to every word that comes from His
mouth.

These brief outlines are but the poorest attempt to draw out what the
words of my text imply. But such as they are, let us remember that they
do set forth the only proper response of the saved man to the saving
Christ. 'Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.' Anything short of a faith that
rests on Him alone, of a love that knits itself to His single,
all-sufficient heart, and of an obedience that bows the whole being to
the sweet yoke of His commandment is an unworthy answer to the Love that
died, and that lives for us all.

II. And now I have only time to glance at the solicitude for the
maintenance of this exclusive single-mindedness towards Christ.

Think of what threatens it. I say nothing about the ferment of opinion
in this day, for one man that is swept away from a thorough
whole-hearted faith by intellectual considerations, there are a dozen
from whom it is filched without their knowing it, by their own
weaknesses and the world's noises. And so it is more profitable that we
should think of the whole crowd of external duties, enjoyments,
sweetnesses, bitternesses, that solicit us, and would seek to draw us
away. Who can hear the low voice that speaks peace and wisdom when
Niagara is roaring past his ears? 'The world is too much with us, late
and soon. Buying and selling we lay waste our powers,' and break
ourselves away from our simple devotion to that dear Lord. But it is
possible that we may so carry into all the whirl the central peace, as
that we shall not be disturbed by it; and possible that 'whether we eat
or drink, or whatsoever we do, we may do all to His glory,' so that we
can, even in the midst of our daily pressing avocations and cares be
keeping our hearts in the heavens, and our souls in touch with our Lord.

But it is not only things without that draw us away. Our own weaknesses
and waywardnesses, our strong senses, our passions, our desires, our
necessities, all these have a counteracting force, which needs continual
watchfulness in order to be neutralised. No man can grasp a stay, which
alone keeps him from being immersed in the waves, with uniform tenacity,
unless every now and then he tightens his muscles. And no man can keep
himself firmly grasping Jesus Christ without conscious effort directed
to bettering his hold.

If there be dangers around us, and dangers within us, the discipline
which we have to pursue in order to secure this uniform, single-hearted
devotion is plain enough. Let us be vividly conscious of the
peril--which is what some of us are not. Let us take stock of ourselves
lest creeping evil may be encroaching upon us, while we are all
unaware--which is what some of us never do. Let us clearly contemplate
the possibility of an indefinite increase in the closeness and
thoroughness of our surrender to Him--a conviction which has faded away
from the minds of many professing Christians. Above all, let us find
time or make time for the patient, habitual contemplation of the great
facts which kindle our devotion. For if you never think of Jesus Christ
and His love to you, how can you love Him back again? And if you are so
busy carrying out your own secular affairs, or pursuing your own
ambitions, or attending to your own duties, as they may seem to be, that
you have no time to think of Christ, His death, His life, His Spirit,
His yearning heart over His bride, how can it be expected that you will
have any depth of love to Him? Let us, too, wait with prayerful patience
for that Divine Spirit who will knit us more closely to our Lord.

Unless we do so, we shall get no happiness out of our religion, and it
will bring no praise to Christ or profit to ourselves. I do not know a
more miserable man than a half-and-half Christian, after the pattern of,
I was going to say, the ordinary average of professing Christians of
this generation. He has religion enough to prick and sting him, and not
enough to impel him to forsake the evil which yet he cannot comfortably
do. He has religion enough to 'inflame his conscience,' not enough to
subdue his will and heart. How many of my hearers are in that condition
it is for them to settle. If we are to be Christian men at all, let us
be it out and out. Half-and-half religion is no religion.

          'One foot in sea, and one on shore;
           To one thing constant never!'

That is the type of thousands of professing Christians. 'I fear lest by
any means your minds be corrupted from the simplicity that is towards
Christ.'



STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS

          'For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that
          it might depart from me. And He said unto me, My
          grace is sufficient for thee; for My strength is
          made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore
          will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the
          power of Christ may rest upon me.'--2 COR. xii. 8,
          9.


This very remarkable page in the autobiography of the Apostle shows us
that he, too, belonged to the great army of martyrs who, with hearts
bleeding and pierced through and through with a dart, yet did their work
for God. It is of little consequence what his thorn in the flesh may
have been. The original word suggests very much heavier sorrow than the
metaphor of 'a thorn' might imply. It really seems to mean not a tiny
bit of thorn that might lie half concealed in the finger tip, but one
of those hideous stakes on which the cruel punishment of impalement used
to be inflicted. And Paul's thought is, not that he has a little,
trivial trouble to bear, but that he is, as it were, forced quivering
upon that tremendous torture.

Unquestionably, what he means is some bodily ailment or other. The
hypothesis that the 'thorn in the flesh' was the sting of the animal
nature inciting him to evil is altogether untenable, because such a
thorn could never have been left when the prayer for its removal was
earnestly presented; nor could it ever have been, when left, an occasion
for glorifying. Manifestly it was no weakness removable by his own
effort, no incapacity for service which in any manner approximated to
being a fault, but purely and simply some infliction from God's hand
(though likewise capable of being regarded as a 'messenger of Satan')
which hindered him in his work, and took down any proud flesh and danger
of spiritual exaltation in consequence of the largeness of his religious
privileges.

Our text sets before us three most instructive windings, as it were, of
the stream of thoughts that passed through the Apostle's mind, in
reference to this burden that he had to carry, and may afford wholesome
contemplation for us to-day. There is, first, the instinctive shrinking
which took refuge in prayer. Then there is the insight won by prayer
into the sustaining strength for, and the purposes of, the thorn that
was not to be plucked out. And then, finally, there is the peace of
acquiescence, and a will that accepts--not the inevitable, but the
loving.

I. First of all we see the instinctive shrinking from that which
tortured the flesh, which takes refuge in prayer.

There is a wonderful, a beautiful, and, I suppose, an intentional
parallel between the prayers of the servant and of the Master. Paul's
petitions are the echo of Gethsemane. There, under the quivering olives,
in the broken light of the Paschal moon, Jesus 'thrice' prayed that the
cup might pass from Him. And here the servant, emboldened and instructed
by the example of the Master, 'thrice' reiterates his human and natural
desire for the removal of the pain, whatever it was, which seemed to him
so to hinder the efficiency and the fulness, as it certainly did the
joy, of his service.

But He who prayed in Gethsemane was He to whom Paul addressed his
prayer. For, as is almost always the case in the New Testament, 'the
Lord' here evidently means Christ, as is obvious from the connection of
the answer to the petition with the Apostle's final confidence and
acquiescence. For the answer was, 'My strength is made perfect in
weakness'; and the Apostle's conclusion is, 'Most gladly will I glorify
in infirmity,' that the strength or 'power _of Christ_ may rest upon
me.' Therefore the prayer with which we have to deal here is a prayer
offered to Jesus, who prayed in Gethsemane, and to whom we can bring our
petitions and our desires.

Notice how this thought of prayer directed to the Master Himself helps
to lead us deep into the sacredest and most blessed characteristics of
prayer. It is only telling Christ what is in our hearts. Oh, if we lived
in the true understanding of what prayer really is--the emptying out of
our inmost desire and thoughts before our Brother, who is likewise our
Lord--questions as to what it was permissible to pray for, and what it
was not permissible to pray for, would be irrelevant, and drop away of
themselves. If we had a less formal notion of prayer, and realised more
thoroughly what it was--the speech of a confiding heart to a
sympathising Lord--then everything that fills our hearts would be seen
to be a fitting object of prayer. If anything is large enough to
interest me, it is not too small to be spoken about to Him.

So the question, which is often settled upon very abstract and deep
grounds that have little to do with the matter--the question as to
whether prayer for outward blessings is permissible--falls away of
itself. If I am to talk to Jesus Christ about everything that concerns
me, am I to keep my thumb upon all that great department and be silent
about it? One reason why our prayers are often so unreal is, because
they do not fit our real wants, nor correspond to the thoughts that are
busy in our minds at the moment of praying. Our hearts are full of some
small matter of daily interest, and when we kneel down not a word about
it comes to our lips. Can that be right?

The difference between the different objects of prayer is not to be
found in the rejection of all temporal and external, but in remembering
that there are two sets of things to be prayed about, and over one set
must ever be written 'If it be Thy will,' and over the other it need not
be written, because we are sure that the granting of our wishes _is_ His
will. We know about the one that 'if we ask anything according to His
will, He heareth us.' That may seem to be a very poor and shrunken kind
of hope to give a man, that if his prayer is in conformity with the
previous determination of the divine will, it will be answered. But it
availed for the joyful confidence of that Apostle who saw deepest into
the conditions and the blessedness of the harmony of the will of God and
of man. But about the other set we can only say, 'Not my will, but
Thine be done.' With that sentence, not as a formula upon our lips but
deep in our hearts, let us take everything into His presence--thorns and
stakes, pinpricks and wounds out of which the life-blood is ebbing--let
us take them all to Him, and be sure that we shall take none of them in
vain.

So then we have the Person to whom the prayer is addressed, the subjects
with which it is occupied, and the purpose to which it is directed.
'Take away the burden' was the Apostle's petition; but it was a mistaken
petition and, therefore, unanswered.

II. That brings me to the second of the windings, as I have ventured to
call them, of this stream--viz. the insight into the source of strength
for, and the purpose of, the thorn that could not be taken away. The
Lord said unto me, 'My grace is sufficient for thee. For My strength'
(where the word 'My' is a supplement, but a necessary one) 'is made
perfect in weakness.'

The answer is, in form and in substance, a gentle refusal of the form of
the petition, but it is a more than granting of its essence. For the
best answer to such a prayer, and the answer which a true man means when
he asks, 'Take away the burden,' need not be the external removal of the
pressure of the sorrow, but the infusing of power to sustain it. There
are two ways of lightening a burden, one is diminishing its actual
weight, the other is increasing the strength of the shoulder that bears
it. And the latter is God's way, is Christ's way, of dealing with us.

Now mark that the answer which this faithful prayer receives is no
communication of anything fresh, but it is the opening of the man's eyes
to see that already he has all that he needs. The reply is not, 'I
_will_ give thee grace sufficient,' but 'My grace' (which thou hast
now) 'is sufficient for thee.' That grace is given and possessed by the
sorrowing heart at the moment when it prays. Open your eyes to see what
you have, and you will not ask for the load to be taken away. Is not
that always true? Many a heart is carrying some heavy weight; perhaps
some have an incurable sorrow, some are stricken by disease that they
know can never be healed, some are aware that the shipwreck has been
total, and that the sorrow that they carry to-day will lie down with
them in the dust. Be it so! 'My grace (not shall be, but) _is_
sufficient for thee.' And what thou hast already in thy possession is
enough for all that comes storming against thee of disease,
disappointment, loss, and misery. Set on the one side all possible as
well as all actual weaknesses, burdens, pains, and set on the other
these two words--'My grace,' and all these dwindle into nothingness and
disappear. If troubled Christian men would learn what they have, and
would use what they already possess, they would less often beseech Him
with vain petitions to take away their blessings which are in the thorns
in the flesh. 'My grace is sufficient.'

How modestly the Master speaks about what He gives! 'Sufficient'? Is not
there a margin? Is there not more than is wanted? The overplus is
'exceeding abundant,' not only 'above what we ask or think,' but far
more than our need. 'Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not _sufficient_
that every one may take a little,' says Sense. Omnipotence says, 'Bring
the few small loaves and fishes unto Me'; and Faith dispensed them
amongst the crowd; and Experience 'gathered up of the fragments that
remained' more than there had been when the multiplication began. So the
grace utilised increases; the gift grows as it is employed. 'Unto him
that hath shall be given.' And the 'sufficiency' is not a bare adequacy,
just covering the extent of the need, with no overlapping margin, but is
large beyond expectation, desire, or necessity; so leading onwards to
high hopes and a wider opening of the open mouths of our need that the
blessing may pour in.

The other part of this great answer, that the Christ from Heaven spoke
in or to the praying spirit of this not disappointed, though refused,
Apostle, unveiled the purpose of the sorrow, even as the former part had
disclosed the strength to bear it. For, says He, laying down therein the
great law of His kingdom in all departments and in all ways, 'My
strength is made perfect'--that is, of course, perfect in its
manifestation or operations, for it is perfect in itself already. 'My
strength is made perfect in weakness.' It works in and through man's
weakness.

God works with broken reeds. If a man conceits himself to be an iron
pillar, God can do nothing with or by him. All the self-conceit and
confidence have to be taken out of him first. He has to be brought low
before the Father can use him for His purposes. The lowlands hold the
water, and, if only the sluice is open, the gravitation of His grace
does all the rest and carries the flood into the depths of the lowly
heart.

His strength loves to work in weakness, only the weakness must be
conscious, and the conscious weakness must have passed into conscious
dependence. There, then, you get the law for the Church, for the works
of Christianity on the widest scale, and in individual lives. Strength
that conceits itself to be such is weakness; weakness that knows itself
to be such is strength. The only true source of Power, both for
Christian work and in all other respects, is God Himself; and our
strength is ours but by derivation from Him. And the only way to secure
that derivation is through humble dependence, which we call faith in
Jesus Christ. And the only way by which that faith in Jesus Christ can
ever be kindled in a man's soul is through the sense of his need and
emptiness. So when we know ourselves weak, we have taken the first step
to strength; just as, when we know ourselves sinners, we have taken the
first step to righteousness; just as in all regions the recognition of
the doleful fact of our human necessity is the beginning of the joyful
confidence in the glad, triumphant fact of the divine fulness. All our
hollownesses, if I may so say, are met with His fulness that fits into
them. It only needs that a man be aware of that which he is, and then
turn himself to Him who is all that he is not, and then into his empty
being will flow rejoicing the whole fulness of God. 'My strength is made
perfect in weakness.'

III. Lastly, mark the calm final acquiescence in the loving necessity of
continued sorrow. 'Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my
infirmity that the power of Christ may rest upon me.' The will is
entirely harmonised with Christ's. The Apostle begins with instinctive
shrinking, he passes onwards to a perception of the purpose of his trial
and of the sustaining grace; and he comes now to acquiescence which is
not passivity, but glad triumph. He is more than submissive, he gladly
glories in his infirmity in order that the power of Christ may 'spread a
tabernacle over' him. 'It is good for me that I have been afflicted,'
said the old prophet. Paul says, in a yet higher note of concord with
God's will, 'I am glad that I sorrow. I rejoice in weakness, because it
makes it easier for me to cling, and, clinging, I am strong, and
conquer evil.' Far better is it that the sting of our sorrow should be
taken away, by our having learned what it is for, and having bowed to
it, than that it should be taken away by the external removal which we
sometimes long for. A grief, a trial, an incapacity, a limitation, a
weakness, which we use as a means of deepening our sense of dependence
upon Him, is a blessing, and not a sorrow. And if we would only go out
into the world trying to interpret its events in the spirit of this
great text, we should less frequently wonder and weep over what
sometimes seem to us the insoluble mysteries of the sorrows of ourselves
and of other men. They are all intended to make it more easy for us to
realise our utter hanging upon Him, and so to open our hearts to receive
more fully the quickening influences of His omnipotent and
self-sufficing grace.

Here, then, is a lesson for those who have to carry some cross and know
they must carry it throughout life. It will be wreathed with flowers if
you accept it. Here is a lesson for all Christian workers. Ministers of
the Gospel especially should banish all thoughts of their own
cleverness, intellectual ability, culture, sufficiency for their work,
and learn that only when they are emptied can they be filled, and only
when they know themselves to be nothing are they ready for God to work
through them. And here is a lesson for all who stand apart from the
grace and power of Jesus Christ as if they needed it not. Whether you
know it or not, you are a broken reed; and the only way of your ever
being bound up and made strong is that you shall recognise your
sinfulness, your necessity, your abject poverty, your utter emptiness,
and come to Him who is righteousness, riches, fulness, and say,
'Because I am weak, be Thou my strength.' The secret of all noble,
heroic, useful, happy life lies in the paradox, 'When I am weak, then am
I strong,' and the secret of all failures, miseries, hopeless losses,
lies in its converse, 'When I am strong, then am I weak.'



NOT YOURS BUT YOU

          'I seek not yours, but you.'--2 COR. xii. 14.


Men are usually quick to suspect others of the vices to which they
themselves are prone. It is very hard for one who never does anything
but with an eye to what he can make out of it, to believe that there are
other people actuated by higher motives. So Paul had, over and over
again, to meet the hateful charge of making money out of his
apostleship. It was one of the favourite stones that his opponents in
the Corinthian Church, of whom there were very many, very bitter ones,
flung at him. In this letter he more than once refers to the charge. He
does so with great dignity, and with a very characteristic and delicate
mixture of indignation and tenderness, almost playfulness. Thus, in the
context, he tells these Corinthian grumblers that he must beg their
pardon for not having taken anything of them, and so honoured them. Then
he informs them that he is coming again to see them for the third time,
and that that visit will be marked by the same independence of their
help as the others had been. And then he just lets a glimpse of his
pained heart peep out in the words of my text. 'I seek not yours, but
you.' _There_ speaks a disinterested love which feels obliged, and yet
reluctant, to stoop to say that it _is_ love, and that it _is_
disinterested. Where did Paul learn this passionate desire to possess
these people, and this entire suppression of self in the desire? It was
a spark from a sacred fire, a drop from an infinite ocean, an echo of a
divine voice. The words of my text would never have been Paul's if the
spirit of them had not first been Christ's. I venture to take them in
that aspect, as setting forth Christ's claims upon us, and bearing very
directly on the question of Christian service and of Christian
liberality.

I. So, then, first of all, I remark, Christ desires personal surrender.

'I seek not yours, but _you_,' is the very mother-tongue of love; but
upon our lips, even when our love is purest, there is a tinge of
selfishness blending with it, and very often the desire for another's
love is as purely selfish as the desire for any material good. But in so
far as human love is pure in its desire to possess another, we have the
right to believe the deep and wonderful thought that there is something
corresponding to it in the heart of Christ, which is a revelation for us
of the heart of God; and that, however little we may be able to construe
the whole meaning of the fact, He does stretch out an arm of desire
towards us; and for His own sake, as for ours, would fain draw us near
to Himself, and is 'satisfied,' as He is not without it, when men's
hearts yield themselves up to Him, and let Him love them and lavish
Himself upon them. I do not venture into these depths, but I would lay
upon our hearts that the very inmost meaning of all that Jesus Christ
has said, and is saying, to each of us by the records of His life, by
the pathos of His death, by the miracle of His Resurrection, by the
glory of His Ascension, by the power of His granted Spirit, is, 'I seek
you.'

And, brethren, our self-surrender is the essence of our Christianity.
Our religion lies neither in our heads nor in our acts; the deepest
notion of it is that it is the entire yielding up of ourselves to Jesus
Christ our Lord. There is plenty of religion which is a religion of the
head and of creeds. There is plenty of religion which is the religion of
the hand and of the tongue, and of forms and ceremonies and sacraments;
external worship. There is plenty of religion which surrenders to Him
some of the more superficial parts of our personality, whilst the
ancient Anarch, Self, sits undisturbed on his dark throne, in the depths
of our being. But none of these are the religion that either Christ
requires or that we need. The only true notion of a Christian is a man
who can truly say, 'I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.'

And that is the only kind of life that is blessed; our only true
nobleness and beauty and power and sweetness are measured by, and
accurately correspond with, the completeness of our surrender of
ourselves to Jesus Christ. As long as the earth was thought to be the
centre of the planetary system there was nothing but confusion in the
heavens. Shift the centre to the sun and all becomes order and beauty.
The root of sin, and the mother of death, is making myself my own law
and Lord; the germ of righteousness, and the first pulsations of life,
lie in yielding ourselves to God in Christ, because He has yielded
Himself unto us.

I need not remind you, I suppose, that this self-surrender is a great
deal more than a vivid metaphor: that it implies a very hard fact;
implies at least two things, that we have yielded ourselves to Jesus
Christ, by the love of our hearts, and by the unreluctant submission of
our wills, whether He commands or whether He sends sufferings or joys.

And, oh, brethren, be sure of this, that no such giving of myself away,
in the sweet reciprocities of a higher than human affection, is
possible, in the general, and on the large scale, if you evacuate from
the Gospel the great truth, 'He loved me, and gave Himself for me.' I
believe--and therefore I am bound to preach it--that the only power
which can utterly annihilate and cast out the dominion of self from a
human soul is the power that is lodged in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ
on the Cross for sinful men.

And whilst I would fully recognise all that is noble, and all that is
effective, in systems either of religion, or of irreligious morality,
which have no place within their bounds for that great motive, I am sure
of this, that the evil self within us is too strong to be exorcised by
anything short of the old message, 'Jesus Christ has given His life for
thee, wilt thou not give thyself unto Him?'

II. Christ seeks personal service.

'I seek . . . you'; not only for My love, but for My tools; for My
instruments in carrying out the purposes for which I died, and
establishing My dominion in the world. Now I want to say two or three
very plain things about this matter, which lies very near my heart, as
to some degree responsible for the amount of Christian activity and
service in this my congregation. Brethren, the surrender of ourselves to
Jesus Christ in acts of direct Christian activity and service, will be
the outcome of a real surrender of ourselves to Him in love and
obedience.

I cannot imagine a man who, in any deep sense, has realised his
obligations to that Saviour, and in any real sense has made the great
act of self-renunciation, and crowned Christ as his Lord, living for the
rest of his life, as so many professing Christians do, dumb and idle, in
so far as work for the Master is concerned. It seems to me that, among
the many wants of this generation of professing Christians, there is
none that is more needed than that a wave of new consecration should
pass over the Church. If men who call themselves Christians lived more
in habitual contact with the facts of their redeeming Saviour's
sacrifice for them, there would be no need to lament the fewness of the
labourers, as measured against the overwhelming multitude of the fields
that are white to harvest. If once that flood of a new sense of Christ's
gift, and a consequent new completeness of our returned gifts to Him,
flowed over the churches, then all the little empty ravines would be
filled with a flashing tide. Not a shuttle moves, not a spindle
revolves, until the strong impulse born of fire rushes in; and then, all
is activity. It is no use to flog, flog, flog, at idle Christians, and
try to make them work. There is only one thing that will set them to
work, and that is that they shall live nearer their Master, and find out
more of what they owe to Him; and so render themselves up to be His
instruments for any purpose for which He may choose to use them.

This surrender of ourselves for direct Christian service is the only
solution of the problem of how to win the world for Jesus Christ.
Professionals cannot do it. Men of my class cannot do it. We are clogged
very largely by the fact that, being necessarily dependent on our
congregations for a living, we cannot, with as clear an emphasis as you
can, go to people and say, 'We seek not yours, but you.' I have nothing
to say about the present ecclesiastical arrangements of modern Christian
communities. That would take me altogether from my present purposes, but
I want to lay this upon your consciences, dear brethren, that you who
have other means of living than proclaiming Christ's name have an
advantage, which it is at your peril that you fling away. As long as the
Christian Church thought that an ordained priest was a man who could do
things that laymen could not do, the limitation of Christian service to
the priesthood was logical. But when the Christian Church, especially as
represented by us Nonconformists, came to believe that a minister was
only a man who preached the Gospel, which every Christian man is bound
to do, the limitations of Christian service to the official class became
an illogical survival, utterly incongruous with the fundamental
principles of our conception of the Christian Church. And yet here it
is, devastating our churches to-day, and making hundreds of good people
perfectly comfortable, in an unscriptural and unchristian indolence,
because, forsooth, it is the minister's business to preach the Gospel. I
know that there is not nearly as much of that indolence as there used to
be. Thank God for that. There are far more among our congregations than
in former times who have realised the fact that it is _every_ Christian
man's task, somehow or other, to set forth the great name of Jesus
Christ. But still, alas, in a church with, say, 400 members, you may
knock off the last cypher, and you will get a probably not too low
statement of the number of people in it who have realised and fulfilled
this obligation. What about the other 360 'dumb dogs, that will not
bark'? And in that 360 there will probably be several men who can make
speeches on political platforms, and in scientific lecture-halls, and
about social and economical questions, only they cannot, for the life of
them, open their mouths and say a word to a soul about Him whom they say
they serve, and to whom they say they belong.

Brethren, this direct service cannot be escaped from, or commuted by a
money payment. In the old days a man used to escape serving in the
militia if he found a substitute, and paid for him. There are a great
many good Christian people who seem to think that Christ's army is
recruited on that principle. But it is a mistake. 'I seek you, not
yours.'

III. Lastly, and only a word. Christ seeks us, _and_ ours.

Not you _without_ yours, still less yours without you. This is no place,
nor is the fag end of a sermon the time, to talk about so wide a subject
as the ethics of Christian dealing with money. But two things I will
say--consecration of self is extremely imperfect which does not include
the consecration of possessions, and, conversely, consecration of
possessions which does not flow from, and is not accompanied by, the
consecration of self, is nought.

If, then, the great law of self-surrender is to run through the whole
Christian life, that law, as applied to our dealing with what we own,
prescribes three things. The first is _stewardship_, not ownership; and
that all round the circumference of our possessions. Depend upon it, the
angry things that we hear to-day about the unequal distribution of
wealth will get angrier and angrier, and will be largely justified in
becoming so by the fact that so many of us, _Christians included_, have
firmly grasped the notion of possession, and utterly forgotten the
obligation of stewardship.

Again, the law of self-surrender, in its application to all that we
have, involves our continual reference to Jesus Christ in our
disposition of these our possessions. I draw no line of distinction, in
this respect, between what a man spends upon himself, and what he spends
upon 'charity,' and what he spends upon religious objects. _One_
principle is to govern, getting, hoarding, giving, enjoying, and that
is, that in it all Christ shall be Master.

Again, the law of self-surrender, in its application to our possessions,
implies that there shall be an element of sacrifice in our use of these;
whether they be possessions of intellect, of acquirement, of influence,
of position, or of material wealth. The law of help is sacrifice, and
the law for a Christian man is that he shall not offer unto the Lord his
God that which costs him nothing.

So, dear friends, let us all get near to that great central fire till it
melts our hearts. Let the love which is our hope be our pattern.
Remember that though only faintly, and from afar, can the issues of
Christ's great sacrifice be reproduced in any actions of ours, the
spirit which brought Him to die is the spirit which must instruct and
inspire us to live. Unless we can say, 'He loved me, and gave Himself
for me; I yield myself to Him'; and unless our lives confirm the
utterance, we have little right to call ourselves His disciples.



GALATIANS



FROM CENTRE TO CIRCUMFERENCE

          'The life which I now live in the flesh I live by
          the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and
          gave Himself for me.'--GAL. ii. 20.


We have a bundle of paradoxes in this verse. First, 'I am crucified with
Christ, nevertheless I live.' The Christian life is a dying life. If we
are in any real sense joined to Christ, the power of His death makes us
dead to self and sin and the world. In that region, as in the physical,
death is the gate of life; and, inasmuch as what we die to in Christ is
itself only a living death, we live because we die, and in proportion as
we die.

The next paradox is, 'Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.' The Christian
life is a life in which an indwelling Christ casts out, and therefore
quickens, self. We gain ourselves when we lose ourselves. His abiding in
us does not destroy but heightens our individuality. We then most truly
live when we can say, 'Not I, but Christ liveth in me'; the soul of my
soul and the self of myself.

And the last paradox is that of my text, 'The life which I live in the
flesh, I live in' (not 'by') 'the faith of the Son of God.' The true
Christian life moves in two spheres at once. Externally and
superficially it is 'in the flesh,' really it is 'in faith.' It belongs
not to the material nor is dependent upon the physical body in which we
are housed. We are strangers here, and the true region and atmosphere of
the Christian life is that invisible sphere of faith.

So, then, we have in these words of my text a Christian man's frank
avowal of the secret of his own life. It is like a geological cutting,
it goes down from the surface, where the grass and the flowers are,
through the various strata, but it goes deeper than these, to the fiery
heart, the flaming nucleus and centre of all things. Therefore it may do
us all good to make a section of our hearts and see whether the _strata_
there are conformable to those that are here.

I. Let us begin with the centre, and work to the surface. We have,
first, the great central fact named last, but round which all the
Christian life is gathered.

'The Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.' These two
words, the 'loving' and the 'giving,' both point backwards to some one
definite historical fact, and the only fact which they can have in view
is the great one of the death of Jesus Christ. That is His giving up of
Himself. That is the signal and highest manifestation and proof of His
love.

Notice (though I can but touch in the briefest possible manner upon the
great thoughts that gather round these words) the three aspects of that
transcendent fact, the centre and nucleus of the whole Christian life,
which come into prominence in these words before us. Christ's death is a
great act of self-surrender, of which the one motive is His own pure and
perfect love. No doubt in other places of Scripture we have set forth
the death of Christ as being the result of the Father's purpose, and we
read that in that wondrous surrender there were two givings up The
Father 'freely gave Him up to the death for us all.' That divine
surrender, the Apostle ventures, in another passage, to find dimly
suggested from afar, in the silent but submissive and unreluctant
surrender with which Abraham yielded his only begotten son on the
mountain top. But besides that ineffable giving up by the Father of the
Son, Jesus Christ Himself, moved only by His love, willingly yields
Himself. The whole doctrine of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ has been
marred by one-sided insisting on the truth that God sent the Son, to the
forgetting of the fact that the Son 'came'; and that He was bound to the
Cross neither by cords of man's weaving nor by the will of the Father,
but that He Himself bound Himself to that Cross with the 'cords of love
and the bands of a man,' and died from no natural necessity nor from any
imposition of the divine will upon Him unwilling, but because He would,
and that He would because He loved. 'He loved me, and gave Himself for
me.'

Then note, further, that here, most distinctly, that great act of
self-surrendering love which culminates on the Cross is regarded as
being for man in a special and peculiar sense. I know, of course, that
from the mere wording of my text we cannot argue the atoning and
substitutionary character of the death of Christ, for the preposition
here does not necessarily mean 'instead of,' but 'for the behoof of.'
But admitting that, I have another question. If Christ's death is for
'the behoof of' men, in what conceivable sense does it benefit them,
unless it is in the place of men? The death 'for me' is only for me when
I understand that it is 'instead of' me. And practically you will find
that wherever the full-orbed faith in Christ Jesus as the death for all
the sins of the whole world, bearing the penalty and bearing it away,
has begun to falter and grow pale, men do not know what to do with
Christ's death at all, and stop talking about it to a very large extent.

Unless He died as a sacrifice, I, for one, fail to see in what other
than a mere sentimental sense the death of Christ is a death for men.

And lastly, about this matter, observe how here we have brought into
vivid prominence the great thought that Jesus Christ in His death has
regard to single souls. We preach that He died for all. If we believe in
that august title which is laid here as the vindication of our faith on
the one hand, and as the ground of the possibility of the benefits of
His death being world-wide on the other--viz. the Son of God--then we
shall not stumble at the thought that He died for all, because He died
for each. I know that if you only regard Jesus Christ as human I am
talking utter nonsense; but I know, too, that if we believe in the
divinity of our Lord, there need be nothing to stumble us, but the
contrary, in the thought that it was not an abstraction that He died
for, that it was not a vague mass of unknown beings, clustered together,
but so far away that He could not see any of their faces, for whom He
gave His life on the Cross. That is the way in which, and in which
alone, _we_ can embrace the whole mass of humanity--by losing sight of
the individuals. We generalise, precisely because we do not see the
individual units; but that is not God's way, and that is not Christ's
way, who is divine. For Him the _all_ is broken up into its parts, and
when we say that the divine love loves all, we mean that the divine love
loves each. I believe (and I commend the thought to you) that we do not
fathom the depth of Christ's sufferings unless we recognise that the
sins of each man were consciously adding pressure to the load beneath
which He sank; nor picture the wonders of His love until we believe that
on the Cross it distinguished and embraced each, and, therefore,
comprehended all. Every man may say, 'He loved me, and gave Himself for
me.'

II. So much, then, for the first central fact that is here. Now let me
say a word, in the second place, about the faith which makes that fact
the foundation of my own personal life.

'I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself
for me.' I am not going to plunge into any unnecessary dissertations
about the nature of faith; but may I say that, like all other familiar
conceptions, it has got worn so smooth that it glides over our mental
palate without roughening any of the _papillæ_ or giving any sense or
savour at all? And I do believe that dozens of people like you, who have
come to church and chapel all your lives, and fancy yourselves to be
fully _au fait_ at all the Christian truth that you will ever hear from
my lips, do not grasp with any clearness of apprehension the meaning of
that fundamental word 'faith.'

It is a thousand pities that it is confined by the accidents of language
to our attitude in reference to Jesus Christ. So some of you think that
it is some kind of theological juggle which has nothing to do with, and
never can be seen in operation in, common life. Suppose, instead of the
threadbare, technical 'faith' we took to a new translation for a minute,
and said '_trust_,' do you think that would freshen up the thought to
you at all? It is the very same thing which makes the sweetness of your
relations to wife and husband and friend and parent, which, transferred
to Jesus Christ and glorified in the process, becomes the seed of
immortal life and the opener of the gate of Heaven. Trust Jesus Christ.
That is the living centre of the Christian life; that is the process by
which we draw the general blessing of the Gospel into our own hearts,
and make the world-wide truth, our truth.

I need not insist either, I suppose, on the necessity, if our Christian
life is to be modelled upon the Apostolic lines, of our faith embracing
the Christ in all these aspects in which I have been speaking about His
work. God forbid that I should seem to despise rudimentary and
incomplete feelings after Him in any heart which may be unable to say
'Amen' to Paul's statement here. I want to insist very earnestly, and
with special reference to the young, that the true Christian faith is
not merely the grasp of the person, but it is the grasp of the Person
who is 'declared to be the Son of God,' and whose death is the voluntary
self-surrender motived by His love, for the carrying away of the sins of
every single soul in the whole universe. That is the Christ, the full
Christ, cleaving to whom our faith finds somewhat to grasp worthy of
grasping. And I beseech you, be not contented with a partial grasp of a
partial Saviour; neither shut your eyes to the divinity of His nature,
nor to the efficacy of His death, but remember that the true Gospel
preaches Christ and Him crucified; and that for us, saving faith is the
faith that grasps the Son of God 'Who loved me and gave Himself for me.'

Note, further, that true faith is personal faith, which appropriates,
and, as it were, fences in as my very own, the purpose and benefit of
Christ's giving of Himself. It is always difficult for lazy people (and
most of us are lazy) to transfer into their own personal lives, and to
bring into actual contact with themselves and their own experience,
wide, general truths. To assent to them, when we keep them in their
generality, is very easy and very profitless. It does no man any good to
say 'All men are mortal'; but how different it is when the blunt end of
that generalisation is shaped into a point, and I say 'I have to die!'
It penetrates then, and it sticks. It is easy to say 'All men are
sinners.' That never yet forced anybody down on his knees. But when we
shut out on either side the lateral view and look straight on, on the
narrow line of our own lives, up to the Throne where the Lawgiver sits,
and feel 'I am a sinful man,' that sends us to our prayers for pardon
and purity. And in like manner nobody was ever wholesomely terrified by
the thought of a general judgment. But when you translate it into 'I
must stand there,' the terror of the Lord persuades men.

In like manner that great truth which we all of us say we believe, that
Christ has died for the world, is utterly useless and profitless to us
until we have translated it into Paul's world, 'loved _me_ and gave
Himself for _me_.' I do not say that the essence of faith is the
conversion of the general statement into the particular application, but
I do say that there is no faith which does not realise one's personal
possession of the benefits of the death of Christ, and that until you
turn the wide word into a message for yourself alone, you have not yet
got within sight of the blessedness of the Christian life. The whole
river may flow past me, but only so much of it as I can bring into my
own garden by my own sluices, and lift in my own bucket, and put to my
own lips, is of any use to me. The death of Christ for the world is a
commonplace of superficial Christianity, which is no Christianity; the
death of Christ for myself, as if He and I were the only beings in the
universe, that is the death on which faith fastens and feeds.

And, dear brother, you have the right to exercise it. The Christ loves
each, and therefore He loves all; that is the process in the divine
mind. The converse is the process in the revelation of that mind; the
Bible says to us, Christ loves all, and therefore we have the right to
draw the inference that He loves each. You have as much right to take
every 'whosoever' of the New Testament as your very own, as if on the
page of your Bible that 'whosoever' was struck out, and your name, John,
Thomas, Mary, Elizabeth, or whatever it is, were put in there. 'He loved
_me_.' Can _you_ say that? Have you ever passed from the region of
universality, which is vague and profitless, into the region of personal
appropriation of the person of Jesus Christ and His death?

III. And now, lastly, notice the life which is built upon this faith.

The true Christian life is dual. It is a life in the flesh, and it is
also a life in faith. These two, as I have said, are like two spheres,
in either of which a man's course is passed, or, rather, the one is
surface and the other is central. Here is a great trailing spray of
seaweed floating golden on the unquiet water, and rising and falling on
each wave or ripple. Aye! but its root is away deep, deep, deep below
the storms, below where there is motion, anchored upon a hidden rock
that can never move. And so my life, if it be a Christian life at all,
has its surface amidst the shifting mutabilities of earth, but its root
in the silent eternities of the centre of all things, which is Christ
in God. I live in the flesh on the outside, but if I am a Christian at
all, I live in the faith in regard of my true and proper being.

This faith, which grasps the Divine Christ as the person whose
love-moved death is my life, and who by my faith becomes Himself the
Indwelling Guest in my heart; this faith, if it be worth anything, will
mould and influence my whole being. It will give me motive, pattern,
power for all noble service and all holy living. The one thing that
stirs men to true obedience is that their hearts be touched with the
firm assurance that Christ loved them and died for them.

We sometimes used to see men starting an engine by manual force; and
what toil it was to get the great cranks to turn, and the pistons to
rise! So we set ourselves to try and move our lives into holiness and
beauty and nobleness, and it is dispiriting work. There is a far better,
surer way than that: let the steam in, and that will do it. That is to
say--let the Christ in His dying power and the living energy of His
indwelling Spirit occupy the heart, and activity becomes blessedness,
and work is rest, and service is freedom and dominion.

The life that I live in the flesh is poor, limited, tortured with
anxiety, weighed upon by sore distress, becomes dark and gray and dreary
often as we travel nearer the end, and is always full of miseries and of
pains. But if within that life in the flesh there be a life in faith,
which is the life of Christ Himself brought to us through our faith,
that life will be triumphant, quiet, patient, aspiring, noble, hopeful,
gentle, strong, Godlike, being the life of Christ Himself within us.

So, dear friends, test your faith by these two tests, what it grasps
and what it does. If it grasps a whole Christ, in all the glory of His
nature and the blessedness of His work, it is genuine; and it proves its
genuineness if, and only if, it works in you by love; animating all your
action, bringing you ever into the conscious presence of that dear Lord,
and making Him pattern, law, motive, goal, companion and reward. 'To me
to live is Christ.'

If so, then we live indeed; but to live in the flesh is to die; and the
death that we die when we live in Christ is the gate and the beginning
of the only real life of the soul.



THE EVIL EYE AND THE CHARM

          'Who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey
          the truth, before whose eye Jesus Christ hath been
          evidently set forth, crucified among you?'--GAL.
          iii. 1.


The Revised Version gives a shorter, and probably correct, form of this
vehement question. It omits the two clauses 'that ye should not obey the
truth' and 'among you.' The omission increases the sharpness of the
thrust of the interrogation, whilst it loses nothing of the meaning.

Now, a very striking metaphor runs through the whole of this question,
which may easily be lost sight of by ordinary readers. You know the old
superstition as to the Evil Eye, almost universal at the date of this
letter and even now in the East, and lingering still amongst ourselves.
Certain persons were supposed to have the power, by a look, to work
mischief, and by fixing the gaze of their victims, to suck the very life
out of them. So Paul asks who the malign sorcerer is who has thus
fascinated the fickle Galatians, and is draining their Christian life
out of their eyes.

Very appropriately, therefore, if there is this reference, which the
word translated 'bewitched' carries with it, he goes on to speak about
Jesus Christ as having been displayed before their eyes. They had seen
Him. How did they come to be able to turn away to look at anything else?

But there is another observation to be made by way of introduction, and
that is as to the full force of the expression 'evidently set forth.'
The word employed, as commentators tell us, is that which is used for
the display of official proclamations, or public notices, in some
conspicuous place, as the Forum or the market, that the citizens might
read. So, keeping up the metaphor, the word might be rendered, as has
been suggested by some eminent scholars, 'placarded'--'Before whose eyes
Jesus Christ has been placarded.' The expression has acquired somewhat
ignoble associations from modern advertising, but that is no reason why
we should lose sight of its force. So, then, Paul says, 'In my
preaching, Christ was conspicuously set forth. It is like some
inexplicable enchantment that, having seen Him, you should turn away to
gaze on others.' It is insanity which evokes wonder, as well as sin
which deserves rebuke; and the fiery question of my text conveys both.

I. Keeping to the metaphor, I note first the placard which Paul had
displayed.

'Jesus Christ crucified has been conspicuously set forth before you,' he
says to these Galatians. Now, he is referring, of course, to his own
work of preaching the Gospel to them at the beginning. And the vivid
metaphor suggests very strikingly two things. We see in it the Apostle's
notion of what He had to do. His had been a very humble office, simply
to hang up a proclamation. The one virtue of a proclamation is that it
should be brief and plain. It must be authoritative, it must be urgent,
it must be 'writ large,' it must be easily intelligible. And he that
makes it public has nothing to do except to fasten it up, and make sure
that it is legible. If I might venture into modern phraseology, what
Paul means is that he was neither more nor less than a bill-sticker,
that he went out with the placards and fastened them up.

Ah! if we ministers universally acted up to the implications of this
metaphor, do you not think the pulpit would be more frequently a centre
of power than it is to-day? And if, instead of presenting our own
ingenuities and speculations, we were to realise the fact that we have
to hide ourselves behind the broad sheet that we fasten up, there would
be a new breath over many a moribund church, and we should hear less of
the often warrantable sarcasms about the inefficiency of the modern
pulpit.

But I turn from Paul's conception of the office to his statement of his
theme. '_Jesus_ was displayed amongst you.' If I might vary the metaphor
a little, the placard that Paul fastened up was like those that modern
advertising ingenuity displays upon all our walls. It was a
picture-placard, and on it was portrayed one sole figure--Jesus, the
Person. Christianity is Christ, and Christ is Christianity; and wherever
there is a pulpit or a book which deals rather with doctrines than with
Him who is the Fountain and Quarry of all doctrine, there is divergence
from the primitive form of the Gospel.

I know, of course, that doctrines--which are only formal and orderly
statements of principles involved in the facts--must flow from the
proclamation of the person, Christ. I am not such a fool as to run
amuck against theology, as some people in this day do. But what I wish
to insist upon is that the first form of Christianity is not a theory,
but a history, and that the revelation of God is the biography of a man.
We must begin with the person, Christ, and preach Him. Would that all
our preachers and all professing Christians, in their own personal
religious life, had grasped this--that, since Christianity is not first
a philosophy but a history, and its centre not an ordered sequence of
doctrines but a living person, the act that makes a man possessor of
Christianity is not the intellectual process of assimilating certain
truths, and accepting them, but the moral process of clinging, with
trust and love, to the person, Jesus.

But, further, if any of you consult the original, you will see that the
order of the sentence is such as to throw a great weight of emphasis on
that last word 'crucified.' It is not merely a person that is portrayed
on the placard, but it is that person _upon the Cross_. Ah! brethren,
Paul himself puts his finger, in the words of my text, on what, in his
conception, was the throbbing heart of all his message, the vital point
from which all its power, and all the gleam of its benediction, poured
out upon humanity--'Christ crucified.' If the placard is a picture of
Christ in other attitudes and in other aspects, without the picture of
Him crucified, it is an imperfect representation of the Gospel that Paul
preached and that Christ was.

II. Now, think, secondly, of the fascinators that draw away the eyes.

Paul's question is not one of ignorance, but it is a rhetorical way of
rebuking, and of expressing wonder. He knew, and the Galatians knew,
well enough who it was that had bewitched them. The whole letter is a
polemic worked in fire, and not in frost, as some argumentation is,
against a very well-marked class of teachers--viz. those emissaries of
Judaism who had crept into the Church, and took it as their special
function to dog Paul's steps amongst the heathen communities that he had
gathered together through faith in Christ, and used every means to upset
his work.

I cannot but pause for a moment upon this original reference of my text,
because it is very relevant to the present condition of things amongst
us. These men whom Paul is fighting as if he were in a sawpit with them,
in this letter, what was their teaching? This: they did not deny that
Jesus was the Christ; they did not deny that faith knit a man to Him,
but what they said was that the observance of the external rites of
Judaism was necessary in order to entrance into the Church and to
salvation. They did not in their own estimation detract from Christ, but
they added to Him. And Paul says that to add is to detract, to say that
anything is necessary except faith in Jesus Christ's finished work is to
deny that that finished work, and faith in it, are the means of
salvation; and the whole evangelical system crumbles into nothingness if
once you admit that.

Now, is there anybody to-day who is saying the same things, with
variations consequent upon change of external conditions? Are there no
people within the limits of the Christian Church who are reiterating the
old Jewish notion that external ceremonies--baptism and the Lord's
Supper--are necessary to salvation and to connection with the Christian
Church? And is it not true now, as it was then, that though they do not
avowedly detract, they so represent these external rites as to detract,
from the sole necessity of faith in the perfected work of Jesus Christ?
The centre is shifted from personal union with a personal Saviour by a
personal faith to participation in external ordinances. And I venture to
think that the lava stream which, in this Epistle to the Galatians, Paul
pours on the Judaisers of his day needs but a little deflection to pour
its hot current over, and to consume, the sacramentarian theories of
this day. 'O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?' Is it not like
some malignant sorcery, that after the Evangelical revival of the last
century and the earlier part of this, there should spring up again this
old, old error, and darken the simplicity of the Gospel teaching, that
Christ's work, apprehended by faith, without anything else, is the
means, and the only means, of salvation?

But I need not spend time upon that original application. Let us rather
come more closely to our own individual lives and their weaknesses. It
is a strange thing, so strange that if one did not know it by one's own
self, one would be scarcely disposed to believe it possible, that a man
who has 'tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to
come,' and has known Jesus Christ as Saviour and Friend, should decline
from Him, and turn to anything besides. And yet, strange and sad, and
like some enchantment as it is, it is the experience at times and in a
measure, of us all; and, alas! it is the experience, in a very tragical
degree, of many who have walked for a little while behind the Master,
and then have turned away and walked no more with Him. We may well
wonder; but the root of the mischief is in no baleful glitter of a
sorcerer's eye without us, but it is in the weakness of our own wills
and the waywardness of our own hearts, and the wandering of our own
affections. We often court the coming of the evil influence, and are
willing to be fascinated and to turn our backs upon Jesus. Mysterious it
is, for why should men cast away diamonds for paste? Mysterious it is,
for we do not usually drop the substance to get the shadow. Mysterious
it is, for a man does not ordinarily empty his pockets of gold in order
to fill them with gravel. Mysterious it is, for a thirsty man will not
usually turn away from the full, bubbling, living fountain, to see if he
can find any drops still remaining, green with scum, stagnant and
odorous, at the bottom of some broken cistern. But all these follies are
sanity as compared with the folly of which we are guilty, times without
number, when, having known the sweetness of Jesus Christ, we turn away
to the fascinations of the world. Custom, the familiarity that we have
with Him, the attrition of daily cares--like the minute grains of sand
that are cemented on to paper, and make a piece of sandpaper that is
strong enough to file an inscription off iron--the seductions of worldly
delights, the pressure of our daily cares--all these are as a ring of
sorcerers that stand round about us, before whom we are as powerless as
a bird in the presence of a serpent, and they bewitch us and draw us
away.

The sad fact has been verified over and over again on a large scale in
the history of the Church. After every outburst of renewed life and
elevated spirituality there is sure to come a period of reaction when
torpor and formality again assert themselves. What followed the
Reformation in Germany? A century of death. What followed Puritanism in
England? An outburst of lust and godlessness.

So it has always been, and so it is with us individually, as we too
well know. Ah, brethren! the seductions are omnipresent, and our poor
eyes are very weak, and we turn away from the Lord to look on these
misshapen monsters that are seeking by their gaze to draw us into
destruction. I wonder how many professing Christians are in this
audience who once saw Jesus Christ a great deal more clearly, and
contemplated Him a great deal more fixedly, and turned their hearts to
Him far more lovingly, than they do to-day? Some of the great mountain
peaks of Africa are only seen for an hour or two in the morning, and
then the clouds gather around them, and hide them for the rest of the
day. It is like the experience of many professing Christians, who see
Him in the morning of their Christian life far more vividly than they
ever do after. 'Who hath bewitched you?' The world; but the
arch-sorcerer sits safe in our own hearts.

III. Lastly, keeping to the metaphor, let me suggest, although my text
does not touch upon it, the Amulet.

One has seen fond mothers in Egypt and Palestine who hang on their
babies' necks charms, to shield them from the influence of the Evil Eye;
and there is a charm that we may wear if we will, which will keep us
safe. There is no fascination in the Evil Eye if you do not look at it.

The one object that the sorcerer has is to withdraw our gaze from
Christ; it is not illogical to say that the way to defeat the object is
to keep our gaze fixed on Christ. If you do not look at the baleful
glitter of the Evil Eye it will exercise no power over you; and if you
will steadfastly look at Him, then, and only then, you will not look at
it. Like Ulysses in the legend, bandage the eyes and put wax in the
ears, if you would neither be tempted by hearing the songs, nor by
seeing the fair forms, of the sirens on their island. To look fixedly at
Jesus Christ, and with the resolve never to turn away from Him, is the
only safety against these tempting delights around us.

But, brethren, it is the crucified Christ, looking to whom, we are safe
amidst all seductions and snares. I doubt whether a Christ who did not
die for men has power enough over men's hearts and minds to draw them to
Himself. The cords which bind us to Him are the assurance of His dying
love which has conquered us. If only we will, day by day, and moment by
moment, as we pass through the duties and distractions, the temptations
and the trials, of this present life, by an act of will and thought turn
ourselves to Him, then all the glamour of false attractiveness will
disappear from the temptations around us, and we shall see that the
sirens, for all their fair forms, end in loathly fishes' tails and sit
amidst dead men's bones.

Brethren, 'looking _off_ unto Jesus' is the secret of triumph over the
fascinations of the world. And if we will habitually so look, then the
sweetness that we shall experience will destroy all the seducing power
of lesser and earthly sweetness, and the blessed light of the sun will
dim and all but extinguish the deceitful gleams that tempt us into the
swamps where we shall be drowned. Turn away, then, from these things;
cleave to Jesus Christ; and though in ourselves we may be as weak as a
humming-bird before a snake, or a rabbit before a tiger, He will give us
strength, and the light of His face shining down upon us will fix our
eyes and make us insensible to the fascinations of the sorcerers. So we
shall not need to dread the question, 'Who hath bewitched you?' but
ourselves challenge the utmost might of the fascination with the
triumphant question, 'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?'

Help us, O Lord! we beseech Thee, to live near Thee. Turn away our eyes
from beholding vanity, and enable us to set the Lord always before us
that we be not moved.



LESSONS OF EXPERIENCE

          'Have ye suffered so many things in vain?'--GAL.
          iii 4.

          Preached on the last Sunday of the year.


This vehement question is usually taken to be a reminder to the fickle
Galatians that their Christian faith had brought upon them much
suffering from the hands of their unbelieving brethren, and to imply an
exhortation to faithfulness to the Gospel lest they should stultify
their past brave endurance. Yielding to the Judaising teachers, and
thereby escaping the 'offence of the Cross,' they would make their past
sufferings vain. But it may be suggested that the word 'suffered' here
is rather used in what is its known sense elsewhere, namely, with the
general idea of _feeling_, the nature of the feeling being undefined. It
is a touching proof of the preponderance of pain and sorrow that by
degrees the significance of the word has become inextricably intertwined
with the thought of sadness; still, it is possible to take it in the
text as meaning _experienced_ or _felt_, and to regard the Apostle as
referring to the whole of the Galatians' past experience, and as
founding his appeal for their steadfastness on all the joys as well as
the sorrows, which their faith had brought them.

Taking the words in this more general sense they become a question which
it is well for us to ask ourselves at such a time as this, when the
calendar naturally invites us to look backwards and ask ourselves what
we have made of all our experiences in the past, or rather what, by the
help of them all, we have made of ourselves.

I. The duty of retrospect.

For almost any reason it is good for us to be delivered from our
prevailing absorption in the present. Whatever counterpoises the
overwhelming weight of the present is, so far, a blessing and a good,
and whatever softens the heart and keeps up even the lingering
remembrance of early, dewy freshness and of the high aspirations which,
even for a brief space, elevated our past selves is gain amidst the
dusty commonplaces of to-day. We see things better and more clearly when
we get a little away from them, as a face is more distinctly visible at
armslength than when held close.

But our retrospects are too often almost as trivial and degrading as is
our absorption in the present, and to prevent memory from becoming a
minister of frivolity if not of sin, it is needful that such a question
as that of our text be urgently asked by each of us. Memory must be in
closest union with conscience, as all our faculties must be, or she is
of little use. There is a mere sentimental luxury of memory which finds
a pensive pleasure in the mere passing out from the hard present into
the soft light, not without illusion in its beams, of the 'days that are
no more.' Merely to live over again our sorrows and joys without any
clear discernment of what their effects on our moral character have
been, is not the retrospect that becomes a man, however it might suit
an animal. We have to look back as a man might do escaping from the
ocean on to some frail sand-bank which ever breaks off and crumbles away
at his very heels. To remember the past mainly as it affected our joy or
our sorrow is as unworthy as to regard the present from the same point
of view, and robs both of their highest worth. To remember is only then
blessed and productive of its highest possible good in us, when the
question of our text insists on being faced, and the object of
retrospect is not to try to rekindle the cold coals of past emotions,
but to ascertain what effect on our present characters our past
experiences have had. We have not to turn back and try to gather some
lingering flowers, but to look for the fruit which has followed the
fallen blossoms.

II. The true test for the past.

The question of our text implies, as we have already suggested, that our
whole lives, with all their various and often opposite experiences, are
yet an ordered whole, having a definite end. There is some purpose
beyond the moment to be served. Our joys and our sorrows, our gains and
our losses, the bright hours and the dark hours, and the hours that are
neither eminently bright nor supremely dark, our failures and our
successes, our hopes disappointed or fulfilled, and all the infinite
variety of condition and environment through which our varying days and
years have led us, co-operate for one end. It is life that makes men;
the infant is a bundle of possibilities, and as the years go on, one
possible avenue of development after another is blocked. The child might
have been almost anything; the man has become hardened and fixed into
one shape.

But all this variety of impulses and complicated experiences need the
co-operation of the man himself if they are to reach their highest
results in him. If he is simply recipient of these external forces
acting upon him, they will shape him indeed, but he will be a poor
creature. Life does not make men unless men take the command of life,
and he who lets circumstances and externals guide him, as the long water
weeds in a river are directed by its current, will, from the highest
point of view, have experienced the variations of a lifetime in vain.

No doubt each of our experiences has its own immediate and lower purpose
to serve, and these purposes are generally accomplished, but beyond
these each has a further aim which is not reached without diligent
carefulness and persistent effort on our parts. If we would be sure of
what it is to suffer life's experiences in vain, we have but to ask
ourselves what life is given us for, and we all know that well enough to
be able to judge how far we have used life to attain the highest ends of
living. We may put these ends in various ways in our investigation of
the results of our manifold experiences. Let us begin with the
lowest--we received life that we might learn truth, then if our
experience has not taught us wisdom it has been in vain. It is
deplorable to have to look round and see how little the multitude of men
are capable of forming anything like an independent and intelligent
opinion, and how they are swayed by gusts of passion, by blind
prejudice, by pretenders and quacks of all sorts. It is no less sad for
us to turn our eyes within and discover, perhaps not without surprise
and shame, how few of what we are self-complacent enough to call our
opinions are due to our own convictions.

If we ever are honest enough with ourselves to catch a glimpse of our
own unwisdom, the question of our text will press heavily upon us, and
may help to make us wiser by teaching us how foolish we are. An infinite
source of wisdom is open to us, and all the rich variety of our lives'
experiences has been lavished on us to help us, and what have we made of
it all?

But we may rise a step higher and remember that we are made moral
creatures. Therefore, whatever has not developed infant potentialities
in us, and made them moral qualities, has been experienced in vain. 'Not
enjoyment and not sorrow is our destined end and way.' Life is meant to
make us love and do the good, and unless it has produced that effect on
us, it has failed. If this be true, the world is full of failures, like
the marred statues in a bad sculptor's studio, and we ourselves have
earnestly to confess that the discipline of life has too often been
wasted upon us, and that of us the divine complaint from of old has been
true: 'In vain have I smitten thy children, they have received no
correction.'

There is no sadder waste than the waste of sorrow, and alas! we all know
how impotent our afflictions have been to make us better. But not
afflictions only have failed in their appeal to us, our joys have as
often been in vain as our sorrows, and memory, when it turns its lamp on
the long past, sees so few points at which life has taught us to love
goodness, and be good, that she may well quench her light and let the
dead past bury its dead.

But we must rise still higher, and think of men as being made for God,
and as being the only creatures known to us who are capable of religion.
'Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever.' And this
chief end is in fullest harmony with the lower ends to which we have
just referred, and they will never be realised in their fullest
completeness unless that completeness is sought in this the chief end.
From of old meditative souls have known that the beginning of wisdom is
the fear of the Lord, and that that fear is as certainly the beginning
of goodness. It was not an irrelevant rebuke to the question, 'What good
thing shall I do?' when Jesus set the eager young soul who asked it, to
justify to himself his courteous and superficial application to Him of
the abused and vulgarised title of 'Good,' and pointed him to God as the
only Being to whom that title, in its perfectness, could be given. If
'there is none good but one, that is God,' man's goodness must be drawn
from Him, and morality without religion will in theory be incomplete,
and in practice a delusion. If, then, men are made to need God, and
capable of possessing Him, and of being possessed by Him, then the great
question for all of us is, has life, with all its rapid whirl of
changing circumstance and varying fortunes, drawn us closer to God, and
made us more fit to receive more of Him? So supreme is this chief end
that a life which has not attained it can only be regarded as 'in vain'
whatever other successes it may have attained. So unspeakably more
important and necessary is it, that compared with it all else sinks into
nothingness; hence many lives which are dazzling successes in the eyes
of men are ghastly failures in reality.

Now, if we take these plain principles with us in our retrospect of the
past year we shall be launched on a very serious inquiry, and brought
face to face with a very penitent answer. Some of us may have had great
sorrows, and the tears may be scarcely dry upon our cheeks: some of us
may have had great gladnesses, and our hearts may still be throbbing
with the thrill: some of us may have had great successes, and some of us
heavy losses, but the question for us to ask is not of the quality of
our past experiences, but as to their effects upon us. Has life been so
used by us as to help us to become wiser, better, more devout? And the
answer to that question, if we are honest in our scrutiny of ourselves,
and if memory has not been a mere sentimental luxury, must be that we
have too often been but unfaithful recipients alike of God's mercies and
God's chastisements, and have received much of the discipline of life,
and remained undisciplined. The question of our text, if asked by me,
would be impertinent, but it is asked of each of us by the stern voice
of conscience, and for some of us by the lips of dear ones whose loss
has been among our chiefest sufferings. God asks us this question, and
it is hard to make-believe to Him.

III. The best issue of the retrospect.

The world says, 'What I have written I have written,' and there is a
very solemn and terrible reality in the thought of the irrevocable past.
Whether life has achieved the ends for which it was given or no, it has
achieved some ends. It may have made us into characters the very
opposite of God's intention for us, but it has made us into certain
characters which, so far as the world sees, can never be unmade or
re-made. The world harshly preaches the indelibility of character, and
proclaims that the Ethiopian may as soon be expected to change his skin
or the leopard his spots as the man accustomed to do evil may learn to
do well. That dreary fatalism which binds the effects of a dead past on
a man's shoulders, and forbids him to hope that anything will
obliterate the marks of 'what once hath been,' is in violent
contradiction to the large hope brought into the world by Jesus Christ.
What we have written we _have_ written, and we have no power to erase
the lines and make the sheet clean again, but Jesus Christ has taken
away the handwriting 'that was against us,' nailing it to His cross.
Instead of our old sin-worn and sin-marked selves, He proffers to each
of us a new self, not the outcome of what we have been, but the image of
what He is and the prophecy of what we shall be. By the great gift of
holiness for the future by the impartation of His own life and spirit,
Jesus makes all things new. The Gospel recognises to the full how bad
some who have received it were, but it can willingly admit their past
foulness, because it contrasts with all that former filth their present
cleanness, and to the most inveterately depraved who have trusted in
Christ rejoices to say, 'Ye were washed, ye were sanctified, ye were
justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.'



THE UNIVERSAL PRISON

          'But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin,
          that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be
          given to them that believe.'--GAL. iii. 22.


The Apostle uses here a striking and solemn figure, which is much veiled
for the English reader by the ambiguity attaching to the word
'concluded.' It literally means 'shut up,' and is to be taken in its
literal sense of confining, and not in its secondary sense of inferring.
So, then, we are to conceive of a vast prison-house in which mankind is
confined. And then, very characteristically, the Apostle passes at once
to another metaphor when he goes on to say 'under sin.' What a moment
before had presented itself to his vivid imagination as a great dungeon
is now represented as a heavy weight, pressing down upon those beneath;
if, indeed, we are not, perhaps, rather to think of the low roof of the
dark dungeon as weighing on the captives.

Further, he says that Scripture has driven men into this captivity.
That, of course, cannot mean that revelation makes us sinners, but it
does mean that it makes us more guilty, and that it declares the fact of
human sinfulness as no other voice has ever done. And then the grimness
of the picture is all relieved and explained, and the office ascribed to
God's revelation harmonised with God's love, by the strong, steady beam
of light that falls from the last words, which tell us that the
prisoners have not been bound in chains for despair or death, but in
order that, gathered together in a common doleful destiny, they may
become recipients of a common blessed salvation, and emerge into liberty
and light through faith in Jesus Christ.

So here are three things--the prison-house, its guardian, and its
breaker. 'The Scripture hath shut up all under sin, in order that the
promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given unto all them that
believe.'

I. First, then, note the universal prison-house.

Now the Apostle says two things--and we may put away the figure and look
at the facts that underlie it. The one is that all sin is imprisonment,
the other is that all men are in that dungeon, unless they have come out
of it through faith in Jesus Christ.

All sin is imprisonment. That is the direct contrary of the notion that
many people have. They say to themselves, 'Why should I be fettered and
confined by these antiquated restrictions of a conventional morality?
Why should I not break the bonds, and do as I like?' And they laugh at
Christian people who recognise the limitations under which God's law has
put them; and tell us that we are 'cold-blooded folks who live by rule,'
and contrast their own broad 'emancipation from narrow prejudice.' But
the reality is the other way. The man who does wrong is a slave in the
measure in which he does it. If you want to find out--and mark this, you
young people, who may be deceived by the false contrasts between the
restraints of duty and the freedom of living a dissolute life--if you
want to find out how utterly 'he that committeth sin is the slave of
sin,' try to break it off, and you will find it out fast enough. We all
know, alas! the impotence of the will when it comes to hand grips with
some evil to which we have become habituated; and how we determine and
determine, and try, and fail, and determine again, with no better
result. We are the slaves of our own passions; and no man is free who is
hindered by his lower self from doing that which his better self tells
him he ought to do. The tempter comes to you, and says, 'Come and do
this thing, just for once. You can leave off when you like, you know.
There is no need to do it a second time.' And when you have done it, he
changes his note, and says, 'Ah! you are in, and you cannot get out. You
have done it once; and in my vocabulary once means twice, and once and
twice mean _always_.'

Insane people are sometimes tempted into a house of detention by being
made to believe that it is a grand mansion, where they are just going to
pay a flying visit, and can come away when they like. But once inside
the walls, they never get past the lodge gates any more. The foolish
birds do not know that there is lime on the twigs, and their little feet
get fastened to the branch, and their wings flutter in vain. 'He that
committeth sin is the slave of sin--shut up,' dungeoned, 'under sin.'

But do not forget, either, the other metaphor in our text, in which the
Apostle, with characteristic rapidity, and to the horror of rhetorical
propriety, passes at once from the thought of a dungeon to the thought
of an impending weight, and says, 'Shut up _under_ sin.'

What does that mean? It means that we are guilty when we have done
wrong; and it means that we are under penalties which are sure to
follow. No deed that we do, howsoever it may fade from the tablets of
our memory, but writes in visible characters, in proportion to its
magnitude, upon our characters and lives. All human acts have perpetual
consequences. The kick of the rifle against the shoulder of the man that
fires it is as certain as the flight of the bullet from its muzzle. The
chalk cliffs that rise above the Channel entomb and perpetuate the
relics of myriads of evanescent lives; and our fleeting deeds are
similarly preserved in our present selves. Everything that a man wills,
whether it passes into external act or not, leaves, in its measure,
ineffaceable impressions on himself. And so we are not only dungeoned
in, but weighed upon by, and lie under, the evil that we do.

Nor, dear friends, dare I pass in silence what is too often passed in
silence in the modern pulpit, the plain fact that there is a future
waiting for each of us beyond the grave, of which the most certain
characteristic, certified by our own forebodings, required by the
reasonableness of creation, and made plain by the revelation of
Scripture, is that it is a future of retribution, where we shall have to
carry our works; and as we have brewed so shall we drink; and the beds
that we have made we shall have to lie upon. 'God shut up all under
sin.'

Note, again, the universality of the imprisonment.

Now I am not going to exaggerate, I hope. I want to keep well within the
limits of fact, and to say nothing that is not endorsed by your own
consciences, if you will be honest with yourselves. And I say that the
Bible does not charge men universally with gross transgressions. It does
not talk about the virtues that grow in the open as if they were
splendid vices; but it does say, and I ask you if our own hearts do not
tell us that it says truly, that no man is, or has been, does, or has
done, that which his own conscience tells him he should have been and
done. We are all ready to admit faults, in a general way, and to confess
that we have come short of what our own consciousness tells us we ought
to be. But I want you to take the other step, and to remember that since
we each stand in a personal relation to God, therefore all
imperfections, faults, negligences, shortcomings, and, still more,
transgressions of morality, or of the higher aspirations of our lives,
are sins. Because sin--to use fine words--is the correlative of God. Or,
to put it into plainer language, the deeds which in regard to law may be
crimes, or those which in regard to morality may be vices, or in regard
to our own convictions of duty may be shortcomings, seeing they all have
some reference to Him, assume a very much graver character, and they are
all sins.

Oh, brethren, if we realise how intimately and inseparably we are knit
to God, and how everything that we do, and do not do, but should have
done, has an aspect in reference to Him, I think we should be less
unwilling to admit, and less tinged with levity and carelessness in
admitting, that all our faults are transgressions of His law, and we
should find ourselves more frequently on our knees before Him, with the
penitent words on our lips and in our hearts, 'Against Thee, Thee only
have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight.'

That was the prayer of a man who had done a foul evil in other people's
sight; who had managed to accumulate about as many offences to as many
people in one deed as was possible. For, as a king he had sinned against
his nation, as a friend he had sinned against his companion, as a
captain he had sinned against his brave subordinate, as a husband he had
sinned against his wife, and he had sinned against Bathsheba. And yet,
with all that tangle of offences against all these people, he says,
'Against Thee, Thee only.' Yes! Because, accurately speaking, the _sin_
had reference to God, and to God alone. And I wish for myself and for
you to cultivate the habit of connecting, thus, all our actions, and
especially our imperfections and our faults, with the thought of God,
that we may learn how universal is the enclosure of man in this dreadful
prison-house.

II. And so, I come, in the second place, to look at the guardian of the
prison.

That is a strange phrase of my text attributing the shutting of men up
in this prison-house to the merciful revelation of God in the Scripture.
And it is made still more striking and strange by another edition of
the same expression in the Epistle to the Romans, where Paul directly
traces the 'concluding all in disobedience' to God Himself.

There may be other subtle thoughts connected with that expression which
I do not need to enter upon now. But one that I would dwell upon, for a
moment, is this, that one great purpose of Scripture is to convince us
that we are sinful in God's sight. I do not need to remind you, I
suppose, how that was, one might almost say, the dominant intention of
the whole of the ceremonial and moral law of Israel, and explains its
many else inexplicable and apparently petty commandments and
prohibitions. They were all meant to emphasise the difference between
right and wrong, obedience and disobedience, and so to drive home to
men's hearts the consciousness that they had broken the commandments of
the living God. And although the Gospel comes with a very different
guise from that ancient order, and is primarily gift and not law, a
Gospel of forgiveness, and not the promulgation of duty or the
threatening of condemnation, yet it, too, has for one of its main
purposes, which must be accomplished in us before it can reach its
highest aim in us, the kindling in men's hearts of the same
consciousness that they are sinful men in God's sight.

Ah, brethren, we all need it. There is nothing that we need more than to
have driven deep into us the penetrating point of that conviction. There
must be some external standard by which men may be convinced of their
sinfulness, for they carry no such standard within them. Your conscience
is only _you_ judging on moral questions, and, of course, as you change,
it will change too. A man's whole state determines the voice with which
conscience shall speak to him, and so the worse he is, and the more he
needs it, the less he has it. The rebels cut the telegraph wires. The
waves break the bell that hangs on the reef, and so the black rocks get
many a wreck to gnaw with their sharp teeth. A man makes his conscience
dumb by the very sins that require a conscience trumpet-tongued to
reprehend them. And therefore it needs that God should speak from
Heaven, and say to us, '_Thou_ art the man,' or else we pass by all
these grave things that I am trying to urge upon you now, and fall back
upon our complacency and our levity and our unwillingness to take stock
of ourselves, and front the facts of our condition. And so we build up a
barrier between ourselves and God, and God's grace, which nothing short
of that grace and an omnipotent love and an all-powerful Redeemer can
ever pull down.

I wish to urge in a few words, yet with much earnestness, this thought,
that until we have laid to heart God's message about our own personal
sinfulness we have not got to the place where we can in the least
understand the true meaning of His Gospel, or the true work of His Son.
May I say that I, for one, am old-fashioned enough to look with great
apprehension on certain tendencies of present-day presentations of
Christianity which, whilst they dwell much upon the social blessings
which it brings, do seem to me to be in great peril of obscuring the
central characteristic of the Gospel, that it is addressed to sinful
men, and that the only way by which individuals can come to the
possession of any of its blessings is by coming as penitent sinners, and
casting themselves on the mercy of God in Jesus Christ? The beginning of
all lies here, where Paul puts it, 'the Scripture hath herded all men,'
in droves, into the prison, that it might have mercy upon all.

Dear friend, as the old proverb has it, deceit lurks in generalities. I
have no doubt you are perfectly willing to admit that all are sinful.
Come a little closer to the truth, I beseech you, and say each is
sinful, and I am one of the captives.

III. And so, lastly, the breaker of the prison-house.

I need not spend your time in commenting on the final words of this
text. Suffice it to gather their general purport and scope. The
apparently stern treatment which God by revelation applies to the whole
mass of mankind is really the tenderest beneficence. He has shut them up
in the prison-house in order that, thus shut up, they may the more
eagerly apprehend and welcome the advent of the Deliverer. He tells us
each our state, in order that we may the more long for, and the more
closely grasp, the great mercy which reverses the state. And so how
shallow and how unfair it is to talk about evangelical Christianity as
being gloomy, stern, or misanthropical! You do not call a doctor unkind
because he tells an unsuspecting patient that his disease is far
advanced, and that if it is not cured it will be fatal. No more should a
man turn away from Christianity, or think it harsh and sour, because it
speaks plain truths. The question is, are they true? not, are they
unpleasant?

If you and I, and all our fellows, are shut up in this prison-house of
sin, then it is quite clear that none of us can do anything to get
ourselves out. And so the way is prepared for that great message with
which Jesus opened His ministry, and which, whilst it has a far wider
application, and reference to social as well as to individual evils,
begins with the proclamation of liberty to the captives, and the opening
of the prison to them that are bound.

There was once a Roman emperor who wished that all his enemies had one
neck, that he might slay them all at one blow. The wish is a fact in
regard to Christ and His work, for by it all our tyrants have been
smitten to death by one stroke; and the death of Jesus Christ has been
the death of sin and death and hell--of sin in its power, in its guilt,
and in its penalty. He has come into the prison-house, and torn the bars
away, and opened the fetters, and every man may, if he will, come out
into the blessed sunshine and expatiate there.

And if, brethren, it is true that the universal prison-house is opened
by the death of Jesus Christ, who is the Propitiation for the sins of
the whole world, and the power by which the most polluted may become
clean, then there follows, as plainly, that the only thing which we have
to do is, recognising and feeling our bound impotence, to stretch out
chained hands and take the gift that He brings. Since all is done for
each of us, and since none of us can do sufficient for himself to break
the bond, then what we should do is to trust to Him who has broken every
chain and let the oppressed go free.

Oh, dear friend, if you want to get to the heart of the sweetness and
the blessedness and power of the Gospel, you must begin here, with the
clear and penitent consciousness that you are a sinful man in God's
sight, and can do nothing to cleanse, help, or liberate yourself. Is
Jesus Christ the breaker of the bond for you? Do you learn from Him what
your need is? Do you trust yourself to Him for Pardon, for cleansing,
for emancipation? Unless you do, you will never know His most precious
preciousness, and you have little right to call yourself a Christian. If
you do, oh, than a great light will shine in the prison-house, and your
chains will drop from your wrists, and the iron door will open of its
own accord, and you will come out into the morning sunshine of a new
day, because you have confessed and abhorred the bondage into which you
have cast yourselves, and accepted the liberty wherewith Christ hath
made you free.



THE SON SENT

          'When the fulness of the time came, God sent forth
          His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that
          He might redeem them which were under the law,
          that we might receive the adoption of sons.'--GAL.
          iv. 4, 5 (R.V.).


It is generally supposed that by the 'fulness of time' Paul means to
indicate that Christ came at the moment when the world was especially
prepared to receive Him, and no doubt that is a true thought. The Jews
had been trained by law to the conviction of sin; heathenism had tried
its utmost, had reached the full height of its possible development, and
was decaying. Rome had politically prepared the way for the spread of
the Gospel. Vague expectations of coming change found utterance even
from the lips of Roman courtier poets, and a feeling of unrest and
anticipation pervaded society; but while no doubt all this is true and
becomes more certain the more we know of the state of things into which
Christ came, it is to be noted that Paul is not thinking of the fulness
of time primarily in reference to the world which received Him, but to
the Father who sent Him. Our text immediately follows words in which the
air is described as being 'under guardians and stewards' until the time
appointed of His Father, and the fulness of time is therefore the moment
which God had ordained from the beginning for His coming. He, from of
old, had willed that at that moment this Son should be born, and it is
to the punctual accomplishment of His eternal purpose that Paul here
directs our thoughts. No doubt the world's preparedness is part of the
reason for the divine determination of the time, but it is that divine
determination rather than the world's preparedness to which the first
words of our text must be taken to refer.

The remaining portion of our text is so full of meaning that one shrinks
from attempting to deal with it in our narrow space, but though it opens
up depths beyond our fathoming, and gathers into one concentrated
brightness lights on which our dim eyes can hardly look, we may venture
to attempt some imperfect consideration even of these great words.
Following their course of thought we may deal with

I. The mystery of love that sent.

The most frequent form under which the great fact of the incarnation is
represented in Scripture is that of our text--'God sent His Son.' It is
familiar on the lips of Jesus, but He also says that 'God gave His Son.'
One can feel a shade of difference in the two modes of expression. The
former bringing rather to our thoughts the representative character of
the Son as Messenger, and the latter going still deeper into the mystery
of Godhead and bringing into view the love of the Father who spared not
His Son but freely bestowed Him on men. Yet another word is used by
Jesus Himself when He says, 'I came forth from God,' and that expression
brings into view the perfect willingness with which the Son accepted the
mission and gave Himself, as well as was given by God. All three phases
express harmonious, though slightly differing aspects of the same fact,
as the facets of a diamond might flash into different colours, and all
must be held fast if we would understand the unspeakable gift of God.
Jesus was sent; Jesus was given; Jesus came. The mission from the
Father, the love of the Father, the glad obedience of the Son, must ever
be recognised as interpenetrating, and all present in that supreme act.

There have been many men specially sent forth from God, whose personal
existence began with their birth, and so far as the words are concerned,
Jesus might have been one of these. There was a man sent from God whose
name was John, and all through the ages he has had many companions in
his mission, but there has been only one who 'came' as well as 'was
sent,' and He is the true light which lighteth every man. To speak in
theological language of the pre-existence of the Son is cold, and may
obscure the truth which it formulates in so abstract a fashion, and may
rob it of power to awe and impress. But there can be no question that in
our text, as is shown by the juxtaposition of 'sent' and 'born,' and in
all the New Testament references to the subject, the birth of Jesus is
not regarded as the beginning of the being of the Son. The one lies far
back in the depths of eternity and the mystery of the divine nature, the
other is a historical fact occurring in a definite place and at a dated
moment. Before time was the Son was, delighting in the Father, and 'in
the beginning was the word and the word was with God,' and He who in
respect of His expression of the Father's mind and will was the Word,
was the Son in respect of the love that bound the Father and Him in one.
Into the mysteries of that love and union no eyes can penetrate, but
unless our faith lays hold of it, we know not the God whom Jesus has
declared to us. The mysteries of that divine union and communion lie
beyond our reach, but well within the grasp of our faith and the work of
the Son in the world, ever since there was a world, is not obscurely
declared to all who have eyes to see and hearts to understand. For He
has through all ages been the active energy of the divine power, or as
the Old Testament words it, 'The Arm of the Lord,' the Agent of
creation, the Revealer of God, the Light of the world and the Director
of Providence. 'He was in the world and the world was made by Him, and
the world knew Him not.'

Now all this teaching that the Son was long before Jesus was born is no
mere mysterious dogma without bearing on daily needs, but stands in the
closest connection with Christ's work and our faith in it. It is the
guarantee of His representative character; on it depends the
reliableness of His revelation of God. Unless He is the Son in a unique
sense, how could God have spoken unto us in Him, and how could we rely
on His words? Unless He was 'the effulgence of His glory and the express
image of His person': how could we be sure that the light of His
countenance was light from God and that in His person God was so
presented as that he who had seen Him had seen the Father? The
completeness and veracity of His revelation, the authoritative fulness
of His law, the efficacy of His sacrifice and the prevalence of His
intercession all depend on the fact of His divine life with God long
before His human life with men. It is a plain historical fact that a
Christianity which has no place for a pre-existent Son in the bosom of
the Father has only a maimed Christ in reference to the needs of sinful
men. If our Christ were not the eternal Son of God, He will not be the
universal Saviour of men.

Nor is this truth less needful in its bearing on modern theories which
will have nothing to say to the supernatural, and in a fatalistic
fashion regard history as all the result of an orderly evolution in
which the importance of personal agents is minimised. To it Jesus, like
all other great men, is a product of His age, and the immediate result
of the conditions under which He appeared. But when we look far beyond
the manger of Bethlehem into the depths of Eternity and see God so
loving the world as to give His Son, we cannot but recognise that He has
intervened in the course of human history and that the mightiest force
in the development of man is the eternal Son whom He sent to save the
world.

II. The miracle of lowliness that came.

The Apostle goes on from describing the great fact which took place in
heaven to set forth the great fact which completed it on earth. The
sending of the Son took effect in the birth of Jesus, and the Apostle
puts it under two forms, both of which are plainly designed to present
Christ's manhood as His full identification of Himself with us. The Son
of God became the son of a woman; from His mother He drew a true and
complete humanity in body and soul. The humanity which He received was
sufficiently kindred with the divinity which received it to make it
possible that the one should dwell in the other and be one person. As
born of a woman the Son of God took upon Himself all human experiences,
became capable of sharing our pure emotions, wept our tears, partook in
our joys, hoped and feared as we do, was subject to our changes, grew as
we grow, and in everything but sin, was a man amongst men.

But the Son of God could not be as the sons of men. Him the Father
heard always. Even when He came down from Heaven and became the Son of
Man, He continued to be 'The Son of Man which is in Heaven.' Amid all
the distractions and limitations of His earthly life, the continuity and
depth of His communion with the Father were unbroken and the
completeness of His obedience undiminished. He was a Man, but He was
also the Man, the one realised ideal of humanity that has ever walked
the earth, to whom all others, even the most complete, are fragments,
the fairest foul, the most gracious harsh. In Him and in Him only has
been 'given the world assurance of a man.'

The other condition which is here introduced is 'born under the law,' by
which it may be noted that the Apostle does not mean the Jewish law,
inasmuch as he does not use the definite article with the word. No doubt
our Lord was born as a Jew and subject to the Jewish law, but the
thought here and in the subsequent clause is extended to the general
notion of law. The very heart of our Lord's human identification is that
He too had duties imperative upon Him, and the language of one of the
Messianic psalms was the voice of His filial will during all His earthly
life; 'Lo! I come, in the volume of the Book it is written of Me, I
delight to do Thy will and Thy law is within My heart.' The very secret
of His human life was discovered by the heathen centurion, at whose
faith He marvelled, who said, 'I _also_ am a man under authority'; so
was Jesus. The Son had ever been obedient in the sweet communion of
Heaven, but the obedience of Jesus was not less perfect, continual and
unstained. It was the man Jesus who summed up His earthly life in 'I do
always the things that please Him'; it was the man Jesus who, under the
olives in Gethsemane, made the great surrender and yielded up His own
will to the will of the Father who sent Him.

He was under law in that the will of God dominated His life, but He was
not so under it as we are on whom its precepts often press as an
unwelcome obligation, and who know the weight of guilt and condemnation.
If there is any one characteristic of Jesus more conspicuous than
another it is the absence in Him of any consciousness of deficiency in
His obedience to law, and yet that absence does not in the smallest
degree infringe on His claim to be 'meek and lowly in heart.' 'Which of
you convinceth Me of sin?' would have been from any other man a defiance
that would have provoked a crushing answer if it had not been taken as a
proof of hopeless ignorance of self, but when Christ asks the question,
the world is silent. The silence has been all but unbroken for nineteen
hundred years, and of all the busy and often unfriendly eyes that have
been occupied with Him and the hostile pens that have been eager to say
something new about Him, none have discovered a flaw, or dared to 'hint
a fault.' That character has stamped its own impression of perfectness
on all eyes even the most unfriendly or indifferent. In Him there is
seen the perfect union and balance of opposite characteristics; the rest
of us, at the best, are but broken arcs; Jesus is the completed round.
He is under law as fully, continuously and joyfully obedient; but for
Him it had no accusing voice, and it laid on Him no burden of broken
commandments. He was born of a woman, born under law, but he lived
separate from sinners though identified with them.

III. The marvel of exaltation that results.

Our Lord's lowliness is described in the two clauses which we have just
been considering. They express His identification with us from a double
point of view, and that double point of view is continued in the final
clauses of our text which state the double purpose of God in sending His
Son. He became one with us that we might become one with Him. The two
elements of this double purpose are stated in the reverse order to the
two elements of Christ's lowliness. The redemption of them that were
under law is presented as the reason for His being born under law, and
our reception of the 'adoption of sons' is the purpose of the Son's
being sent and born of a woman. The order in which Paul here deals with
the two parts of the divine purpose is not to be put down to mere
rhetorical ornament, but corresponds to the order in which these two
elements are realised by men. For there must be redemption from law
before there is the adoption of sons.

We have already had occasion to point out that 'law' here must be taken
in the wide sense and not restricted to the Jewish law. It is a
world-wide redemption which the Father's love had in view in sending His
Son, but that all-comprehending, fatherly love could not reach its aim
by the mere forth-putting of its own energy. A process was needed if the
divine heart was to accomplish its desire, and the majestic stages in
that process are set forth here by Paul. The world was under law in a
very sad fashion, and though Jesus has come to redeem them that are
under law, the crushing weight of commandments flouted, of duties
neglected, of sins done, presses heavily upon many of us. And yet how
many of us there are who do not know the burden that we carry and have
had no personal experience like that of Bunyan's Christian with the pack
on his back all but weighing him down? Jesus Christ has become one of
us, and in His sinless life has 'magnified the law and made it
honourable,' and in His sinless death He endures the consequences of
sin, not as due to Himself, but because they are man's. But we must
carefully keep in view, that as we have already pointed out, we are to
think of Christ's mission as His coming as well as the Father's sending,
and that therefore we do not grasp the full idea of our Lord's enduring
the consequences of sin unless we take it as meaning His voluntary
identification of Himself in love with us sinful men. His obedience was
perfect all His life long, and His last and highest act of obedience was
when He became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.

This is the only means by which the burden of law in any of its forms
can be taken away from us. For a law which is not loved will be heavy
and hard however holy and just and good it may be, and a law which we
have broken will become sooner or later its own avenger. Faithful in
_Pilgrim's Progress_ tells how 'So soon as a man overtook me he was but
a word and a blow, for down he knocked me and laid me for dead. . . . He
struck me another deadly blow on the breast and beat me down backward,
so I lay at his foot as dead as before, so when I came to myself again I
cried him "Mercy," but he said, "I know not how to show mercy," and with
that knocked me down again; he had doubtless made an end of me but that
one came by and bid him forbear. . . . I did not know him at first, but as
he went by I perceived the holes in his hands and in his sides.' He was
born under law that He might redeem them that were under law.

The slaves bought into freedom are received into the great family. The
Son has become flesh that they who dwell in the flesh may rise to be
sons, but the Son stands alone even in the midst of His identification
with us, and of the great results which follow for us from it. He is the
Son by nature; we are sons by adoption. He became man that we might
share in the possession of God. When the burden of law is lifted off it
is possible to bestow the further blessing of sonship, but that blessing
is only possible through Him in whom, and from whom, we derive a life
which is divine life. There is a profound truth in the prophetic
sentence, 'Behold I and the children which God hath given me!' for, in
one aspect, believers are the children of Christ, and in another, they
are sons of God.

We have been speaking of the Son's identification with us in His
mission, and our identification with Him, but that identification
depends on ourselves and is only an accomplished fact through our faith.
When we trust in Him it is true that all His--His righteousness, His
Sonship, His union with the Father--is ours, and that all ours--our
sins, our guilt, our alienation from God and our dwelling in the far-off
land of rags and vice--is His. In His voluntary identification with us,
He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. It is for us to
determine whether we will lay on Him our iniquities, as the Father has
already laid the iniquities of us all. Are we by faith in Him who was
born of a woman, born under law, making our very own the redemption from
the law which He has wrought and the adoption of sons which He bestows?



WHAT MAKES A CHRISTIAN: CIRCUMCISION OR FAITH?

          'In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any
          thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh
          by love.'--GAL. v. 6.


It is a very singular instance of imaginative misreading of plain facts
that the primitive Church should be held up as a pattern Church. The
early communities had apostolic teaching; but beyond that, they seem to
have been in no respect above, and in many respects below, the level of
subsequent ages. If we may judge of their morality by the exhortations
and dehortations which they received from the Apostle, Corinth and
Thessalonica were but beginners in holiness. If we may judge of their
intelligence by the errors into which they were in danger of falling,
these first congregations had indeed need that one should teach them
which were the first principles of the oracles of God. It could not be
otherwise. They were but just rescued from heathenism, and we need not
wonder if their spirits long bore the scars of their former bondage. If
we wish to know what the apostolic churches were like, we have but to
look at the communities gathered by modern missionaries. The same
infantile simplicity, the same partial apprehensions of the truth, the
same danger of being led astray by the low morality of their heathen
kindred, the same openness to strange heresy, the same danger of
blending the old with the new, in opinion and in practice, beset both.

The history of the first theological difference in the early churches is
a striking confutation of the dream that they were perfect, and a
striking illustration of the dangers to which they were exposed from
the attempt, so natural to us all, to put new wine into old bottles. The
Jewish and the Gentile elements did not coalesce. The point round which
the strife was waged was not whether Gentiles might come into the
Church. That was conceded by the fiercest Judaisers. But it was whether
they could come in as Gentiles, without first being incorporated into
the Jewish nation by circumcision, and whether they could remain in as
Gentiles, without conforming to Jewish ceremonial and law.

Those who said 'No' _were_ members of the Christian communities, and,
being so, they still insisted that Judaism was to be eternal. They
demanded that the patched and stiff leathern bottle, which had no
elasticity or pliability, should still contain the quick fermenting new
wine of the kingdom. And certainly, if ever man had excuse for clinging
to what was old and formal, these Judaising Christians held it. They
held by a law written with God's own finger, by ordinances awful by
reason of divine appointment, venerable by reason of the generations to
which they had been of absolute authority, commended by the very example
of Christ Himself. Every motive which can bind heart and conscience to
the reverence and the practice of the traditions of the Fathers, bound
them to the Law and the ordinances which had been Israel's treasure from
Abraham to Jesus.

Those who said 'Yes' were mostly Gentiles, headed and inspired by a
Hebrew of the Hebrews. They believed that Judaism was preparatory, and
that its work was done. For those among themselves who were Jews, they
were willing that its laws should still be obligatory; but they fought
against the attempt to compel all Gentile converts to enter Christ's
kingdom through the gate of circumcision.

The fight was stubborn and bitter. I suppose it is harder to abolish
forms than to change opinions. Ceremonies stand long after the thought
which they express has fled, as a dead king may sit on his throne stiff
and stark in his golden mantle, and no one come near enough to see that
the light is gone out of his eyes, and the will departed from the hand
that still clutches the sceptre. All through Paul's life he was dogged
and tormented by this controversy. There was a deep gulf between the
churches he planted and this reactionary section of the Christian
community. Its emissaries were continually following in his footsteps.
As he bitterly reproaches them, they entered upon another man's line of
things made ready to their hand, not caring to plant churches of
circumcised Gentiles themselves, but starting up behind him as soon as
his back was turned, and spoiling his work.

This Epistle is the memorial of that foot-to-foot feud. It is of
perennial use, as the tendencies against which it is directed are
constant in human nature. Men are ever apt to confound form and
substance, to crave material embodiments of spiritual realities, to
elevate outward means into the place of the inward and real, to which
all the outward is but subsidiary. In every period of strife between the
two great opponents, this letter has been the stronghold of those who
fight for the spiritual conception of religion. With it Luther waged his
warfare, and in this day, too, its words are precious.

My text contains Paul's condensed statement of his whole position in the
controversy. It tells us what he fought for, and why he fought, against
the attempt to suspend union to Christ on an outward rite.

I. The first grand principle contained in these words is that faith
working by love makes a Christian.

The antithesis of our text appears in somewhat varied forms in two other
places in the Apostle's writings. To the Corinthians he says,
'Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping
of the commandments of God.' His last word to the Galatians--the
gathering up into one strong sentence of his whole letter--is, 'In
Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth anything, nor
uncircumcision, but a new creature.'

Now, all these assertions embody substantially the same opposition
between the conception of Christianity as depending upon a ceremonial
rite, and as being a spiritual change. And the variations in the second
member of the contrast throw light on each other. In one, the essential
thing is regarded from the divine side as being not a rite performed on
the body, but a new nature, the result of a supernatural regeneration.
In another, the essential thing is set forth as being not an outward
act, but an inward principle, which produces appropriate effects on the
whole being. In yet another the essential thing is conceived as being
not a mere ceremonial, but practical obedience, the consequence of the
active principle of faith, and the sign of the new life. There is an
evident sequence in the three sayings. They begin with the deepest, the
divine act of a new creation--and end with the outermost, the last
result and object of both the others--deeds of conformity to God's law.

This one process in its triple aspects, says Paul, constitutes a man a
Christian. What correspondence is there between it, in any of its
parts, and a carnal ordinance? They belong to wholly different
categories, and it is the most preposterous confusion to try to mix them
up together. Are we to tack on to the solemn powers and qualities, which
unite the soul to Christ, this beggarly addition that the Judaisers
desire, and to say, the essentials of Christianity are a new creature,
faith, obedience--and circumcision? That is, indeed, sewing old cloth on
a new garment, and huddling together in grotesque chaos things which are
utterly diverse. It is as absurd bathos as to say the essentials of a
judge are integrity, learning, patience--and an ermine robe!

There would be less danger of being entangled in false notions of the
sort which devastated Galatia and have afflicted the Church ever since,
if people would put a little more distinctly before their own minds what
they mean by 'religion'; what sort of man they intend when they talk
about 'a Christian.' A clear notion of the thing to be produced would
thin away a wonderful deal of mist as to the way of producing it. So
then, beginning at the surface, in order to work inward, my first remark
is that religion is the harmony of the soul with God, and the conformity
of the life to His law.

The loftiest purpose of God, in all His dealings, is to make us like
Himself; and the end of all religion is the complete accomplishment of
that purpose. There is no religion without these elements--consciousness
of kindred with God, recognition of Him as the sum of all excellence and
beauty, and of His will as unconditionally binding upon us, aspiration
and effort after a full accord of heart and soul with Him and with His
law, and humble confidence that that sovereign beauty will be ours. 'Be
ye imitators of God as dear children' is the pure and comprehensive
dictate which expresses the aim of all devout men. 'To keep His
commandments' goes deeper than the mere external deeds. Were it not so,
Paul's grand words would shrink to a very poor conception of religion,
which would then have its shrine and sphere removed from the sacred
recesses of the inmost spirit to the dusty Babel of the market-place and
the streets. But with that due and necessary extension of the words
which results from the very nature of the case, that obedience must be
the obedience of a man, and not of his deeds only, and must include the
submission of the will and the prostration of the whole nature before
Him; they teach a truth which, fully received and carried out, clears
away whole mountains of theoretical confusion and practical error.
Religion is no dry morality; no slavish, punctilious conforming of
actions to a hard law. Religion is not right thinking alone, nor right
emotion alone, nor right action alone. Religion is still less the
semblance of these in formal profession, or simulated feeling, or
apparent rectitude. Religion is not nominal connection with the
Christian community, nor participation in its ordinances and its
worship. But to be godly is to be godlike. The full accord of all the
soul with His character, in whom, as their native home, dwell
'whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely,' and the full
glad conformity of the will to His sovereign will, who is the life of
our lives--this, and nothing shallower, nothing narrower, is religion in
its perfection; and the measure in which we have attained to this
harmony with God, is the measure in which we are Christians. As two
stringed instruments may be so tuned to one keynote that, if you strike
the one, a faint ethereal echo is heard from the other, which blends
undistinguishably with its parent sound; so, drawing near to God, and
brought into unison with His mind and will, our responsive spirits
vibrate in accord with His, and give forth tones, low and thin indeed,
but still repeating the mighty music of heaven. 'Circumcision is
nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the
commandments of God.'

But our text tells us, further, that if we look backwards from character
and deed to motive, this harmony with God results from love becoming the
ruling power of our lives. The imitation of the object of worship has
always been felt to be the highest form of worship. Many an ancient
teacher, besides the Stoic philosopher, has said, 'He who copies the
gods worships them adequately.' One of the prophets lays it down as a
standing rule, 'The people will walk every one in the name of his God.'
But it is only in the Christian attitude towards God that the motive
power is found which makes such imitation more than an impossible duty,
even as it is only in the revealed character of God that a pattern is
found, to imitate which is to be perfect. Everywhere besides, harmony
with the gods meant discord with conscience and flagrant outrages of the
commonest moralities. Everywhere else, the task of copying them was one
lightened by no clear confidence in their love, and by no happy
consciousness of our own. But for us, the love revealed is the perfect
law, and the love evoked is the fulfilling of the law.

And this is the might and nobleness of the Christian love to God; that
it is no idle emotion or lazy rapture, no vague sentiment, but the root
of all practical goodness, of all strenuous effort, of all virtue, and
of all praise. That strong tide is meant to drive the busy wheels of
life and to bear precious freightage on its bosom; not to flow away in
profitless foam. Love is the fruitful mother of bright children, as our
great moralist-poet learned when he painted her in the House of
Holiness:

          'A multitude of babes about her hung,
           Playing their sport that joyed her to behold.'

Her sons are Strength and Justice, and Self-control and Firmness, and
Courage and Patience, and many more besides; and her daughters are Pity
with her sad eyes, and Gentleness with her silvery voice, and Mercy
whose sweet face makes sunshine in the shade of death, and Humility all
unconscious of her loveliness; and linked hand in hand with these, all
the radiant band of sisters that men call Virtues and Graces. These will
dwell in our hearts, if Love their mighty mother be there. If we are
without her, we shall be without them.

There is discord between man and God which can only be removed by the
sweet commerce of love, established between earth and heaven. God's love
has come to us. When ours springs responsive to Him, then the schism is
ended, and the wandering child forgets his rebellion, as he lays his
aching head on the father's bosom, and feels the beating of the father's
heart. Our souls by reason of sin are 'like sweet bells jangled, out of
tune and harsh.' Love's master hand laid upon them restores to them
their part in 'the fair music that all creatures make to their great
Lord,' and brings us into such accord with God that

          'We on earth with undiscording voice
           May rightly answer'

even the awful harmonies of His lips. The essential of religion is
concord with God, and the power which makes that concord is love to God.

But this text leads to a still further consideration, namely, the
dominion of love to God in our hearts arises from faith.

We thus reach the last link, or rather the staple, of the chain from
which all hangs. Religion is harmony with God; that harmony is produced
by love; and that love is produced by faith. Therefore the fundamental
of all Christianity in the soul is faith. Would this sound any fresher
and more obvious if we varied the language, and said that to be
religious we must be like God, that to be like Him we must love Him, and
that to love Him we must be sure that He loves us? Surely that is too
plain to need enlarging on.

And is it not true that faith must precede our love to God, and affords
the only possible basis on which that can be built? How can we love Him
so long as we are in doubt of His heart, or misconceive His character,
as if it were only power and wisdom, or awful severity? Men cannot love
an unseen person at all, without some very special token of his personal
affection for them. The history of all religions shows that where the
gods have been thought of as unloving, the worshippers have been
heartless too. It is only when we know and believe the love that God
hath to us, that we come to cherish any corresponding emotion to Him.
Our love is secondary, His is primary; ours is reflection, His the
original beam; ours is echo, His the mother-tone. Heaven must bend to
earth before earth can rise to heaven. The skies must open and drop down
love, ere love can spring in the fruitful fields. And it is only when we
look with true trust to that great unveiling of the heart of God which
is in Jesus Christ, only when we can say, 'Herein is love--that He gave
His Son to be the propitiation for our sins,' that our hearts are
melted, and all their snows are dissolved into sweet waters, which,
freed from their icy chains, can flow with music in their ripple and
fruitfulness along their course, through our otherwise silent and barren
lives. Faith in Christ is the only possible basis for active love to
God.

And this thought presents the point of contact between the teaching of
Paul and John. The one dwells on faith, the other on love, but he who
insists most on the former declares that it produces its effects on
character by the latter; and he who insists most on the latter is
forward to proclaim that it owes its very existence to the former.

It presents also the point of contact between Paul and James. The one
speaks of the essential of Christianity as faith, the other as works.
They are only striking the stream at different points, one at the
fountain-head, one far down its course among the haunts of men. They
both preach that faith must be 'faith that worketh,' not a barren assent
to a dogma, but a living trust that brings forth fruits in the life.
Paul believes as much as James that faith without works is dead, and
demands the keeping of the commandments as indispensable to all true
Christianity. James believes as much as Paul that works without faith
are of none effect. So all three of these great teachers of the Church
are represented in this text, to which each of them might seem to have
contributed a word embodying his characteristic type of doctrine. The
threefold rays into which the prism parts the white light blend again
here, where faith, love, and work are all united in the comprehensive
saying, 'In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor
uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.'

The sum of the whole matter is this--He who is one in will and heart
with God is a Christian. He who loves God is one in will and heart with
Him. He who trusts Christ loves God. That is Christianity in its
ultimate purpose and result. That is Christianity in its means and
working forces. That is Christianity in its starting-point and
foundation.

II. But we have to consider also the negative side of the Apostle's
words. They affirm that in comparison with the essential--faith, all
externals are infinitely unimportant.

Paul's habit was always to settle questions by the widest principles he
could bring to bear upon them--which one may notice in passing is the
very opposite to the method that has been in favour with many Church
teachers and guides since, who have preferred to live from hand to
mouth, and to dispose of difficulties by the narrowest considerations
that would avail to quiet them. In our text the question in hand is
settled on a ground which covers a great deal more than the existing
dispute. Circumcision is regarded as one of a whole class--namely, the
class of outward rites and observances; and the contrast drawn between
it and faith extends to all the class to which it belongs. It is not
said to be powerless because it is an Old Testament rite, but because it
is a rite. Its impotence lies in the very nature which it has in common
with all external institutions, whether they be of the Old Testament or
of the New, whether they be enjoined of God or invented by men. To them
all the same characteristic cleaves. Compared with faith they are of no
avail. Not that they are absolutely useless. They have their place, but
'_in Christ Jesus_' they are nothing. Union to Him depends on quite
another order of facts, which may or may not exist along with
circumcision, or with baptism, or with the Lord's Supper. However
important these may be, they have no place among the things which bind a
soul to its Saviour. They may be helps to these things, but nothing
more. The rite does not ensure the faith, else the antithesis of our
text were unmeaning. The rite does not stand in the place of faith, or
the contrast implied were absurd. But the two belong to totally
different orders of things, which may co-exist indeed, but may also be
found separately; the one is the indispensable spiritual experience
which makes us Christians, the other belongs to a class of material
institutions which are much as helps to, but nothing as substitutes or
equivalents for, faith.

Keep firm hold of the positive principle with which we have been dealing
in the former part of this sermon, and all forms and externals fall as a
matter of course into their proper place. If religion be the loving
devotion of the soul to God, resting upon reasonable faith, then all
besides is, at the most, a means which may further it. If loving trust
which apprehends the truth, and cleaves to the Person, revealed to us in
the Gospel, be the link which binds men to God, then the only way by
which these externals can be 'means of grace' is by their aiding us to
understand better and to feel more the truth as it is in Jesus, and to
cleave closer to Him who is the truth. Do they enlighten the
understanding? Do they engrave deeper the loved face carven on the
tablets of memory, which the attrition of worldly cares is ever
obliterating, and the lichens of worldly thoughts ever filling up? Do
they clear out the rubbish from the channels of the heart, that the
cleansing stream may flow through them? Do they, through the senses,
minister to the soul its own proper food of clear thought, vivid
impressions, loving affections, trustful obedience? Do they bring Christ
to us, and us to Him, in the only way in which approach is
possible--through the occupation of mind and heart and will with His
great perfectness? Then they are means of grace, precious and helpful,
the gifts of His love, the tokens of His wise knowledge of our weakness,
the signs of His condescension, in that He stoops to trust some portion
of our remembrance of Him to the ministry of sense. But in comparison
with that faith which they cannot plant, though they may strengthen it,
they are nothing; and in the matter of uniting the soul to God and
making men 'religious,' they are of no avail at all.

And such thoughts as these have a very wide sweep, as well as a very
deep influence. Religion is the devotion of the soul to God. Then
_everything_ besides is not religion, but at most a means to it. That is
true about all Christian ordinances. Baptism is spoken about by Paul in
terms which plainly show that he regarded it as 'nothing' in the same
sense, and under the same limitations, as he thought that circumcision
was nothing. 'I baptized some of you,' says he to the Corinthians; 'I
scarcely remember whom, or how many. I have far more important work to
do--to preach the Gospel.' It is true about all acts and forms of
Christian worship. These are not religion, but means to it. Their only
value and their only test is--Do they help men to know and feel Christ
and His truth? It is true about laws of life, and many points of
conventional morality. Remember the grand freedom with which the same
Apostle dealt with questions about meats offered to idols, and the
observance of days and seasons. The same principle guided him there too,
and he relegated the whole question back to its proper place with, 'Meat
commendeth us not to God; for neither if we eat are we the better,
neither if we eat not are we the worse.' 'He that regardeth the day,
regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the
Lord he doth not regard it.' It is true, though less obviously and
simply, about subordinate doctrines. It is true about the mere
intellectual grasp of the fundamental truths of God's revelation. These,
and the belief of these, are not Christianity, they are helps towards
it.

The separation is broad and deep. On one side are all externals, rites,
ceremonies, politics, Church arrangements, forms of worship, modes of
life, practices of morality, doctrines, and creeds--all which are
externals to the soul: on the other is faith working through love, the
inmost attitude and deepest emotion of the soul. The great heap is fuel.
The flame is loving faith. The only worth of the fuel is to feed the
flame. Otherwise it is of no avail, but lies dead and cold, a mass of
blackness. We are joined to God by faith. Whatever strengthens that
faith is precious as a help, but is worthless as a substitute.

III. There is a constant tendency to exalt these unimportant externals
into the place of faith.

The whole purpose of the Gospel may be described to be our deliverance
from the dominion of sense, and the transference of the centre of our
life to the unseen world. This end is no doubt partly accomplished by
the help of sense. So long as men have bodily organisations, there will
be need for outward helps. Men's indolence, and men's sense-ridden
natures, will take symbols for royalties, bank-notes for wealth. The
eye will be tempted to stay on the rich colours of the glowing glass,
instead of passing through them to heaven's light beyond. To make the
senses a ladder for the soul to climb to heaven by, will be perilously
likely to end in the soul going down the ladder instead of up. Forms are
sure to encroach, to overlay the truth that lies at their root, to
become dimly intelligible, or quite unmeaning, and to constitute at last
the end instead of the means. Is it not then wise to minimise these
potent and dangerous allies? Is it not needful to use them with the
remembrance that a minute quantity may strengthen, but an overdose will
kill--ay, and that the minute quantity may kill too? Christ instituted
two outward rites. There could not have been fewer if there was to be an
outward community at all, and they could not have been simpler; but look
at the portentous outgrowth of superstition, and the unnumbered evils,
religious, moral, social, and even political, which have come from the
invincible tendency of human nature to corrupt forms, even when the
forms are the sweet and simple ones of Christ's own appointment. What a
lesson the history of the Lord's Supper, and its gradual change from the
domestic memorial of the dying love of our Lord to the 'tremendous
sacrifice,' reads us as to the dangerous ally which spiritual
religion--and there is no other religion than spiritual--enlists when it
seeks the help of external rites!

But remember that this danger of converting religion into outward
actions has its root in us all, and is not annihilated by our rejection
of an elaborate ceremonial. There is much significance in the double
negation of my text, 'Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision.' If the
Judaisers were tempted to insist on the former, as indispensable, their
antagonists were as much tempted to insist on the latter. The one were
saying, 'A man cannot be a Christian unless he be circumcised.' The
other would be in danger of replying, 'He cannot be a Christian if he
is.' There may be as much formalism in protesting against forms as in
using them. Extremes meet; and an unspiritual Quaker, for instance, is
at bottom of the same way of thinking as an unspiritual Roman Catholic.
They agree in their belief that certain outward acts are essential to
worship, and even to religion. They only differ as to what these acts
are. The Judaiser who says, 'You must be circumcised,' and his
antagonist who says, 'You must be uncircumcised,' are really in the same
boat.

And this is especially needful to be kept in mind by those who, like the
most of us, hold fast by the free and spiritual conception of
Christianity. That freedom we may turn into a bondage, and that
spirituality into a form, if we confound it with the essentials of
Christianity, and deny the possibility of the life being developed
except in conjunction with it. My text has a double edge. Let us use it
against all this Judaising which is going on round about us, and against
all the tendency to it in our own hearts. The one edge smites the
former, the other edge the latter. Circumcision is nothing, as most of
us are forward to proclaim. But, also, remember, when we are tempted to
trust in our freedom, and to fancy that in itself it is good,
_uncircumcision is nothing_. You are no more a Christian for your
rejection of forms than another man is for his holding them. Your
negation no more unites you to Christ than does his affirmation. One
thing alone does that,--faith which worketh by love, against which sense
ever wars, both by tempting some of us to place religion in outward
acts and ceremonies, and by tempting others of us to place it in
rejecting the forms which our brethren abuse.

IV. When an indifferent thing is made into an essential, it ceases to be
indifferent, and must be fought against.

Paul proclaimed that circumcision and uncircumcision were alike
unavailing. A man might be a good Christian either way. They were not
unimportant in all respects, but in regard to being united to Christ, it
did not matter which side one took. And, in accordance with this noble
freedom, he for himself practised Jewish rites; and, when he thought it
might conciliate prejudice without betraying principle, had Timothy
circumcised. But when it came to be maintained as a principle that
Gentiles _must_ be circumcised, the time for conciliation was past. The
other side had made further concession impossible. The Apostle had no
objection to circumcision. What he objected to was its being forced upon
all as a necessary preliminary to entering the Church. And as soon as
the opposite party took that ground, then there was nothing for it but
to fight against them to the last. They had turned an indifferent thing
into an essential, and he could no longer treat it as indifferent.

So whenever parties or Churches insist on external rites as essential,
or elevate any of the subordinate means of grace into the place of the
one bond which fastens our souls to Jesus, and is the channel of grace
as well as the bond of union, then it is time to arm for the defence of
the spirituality of Christ's kingdom, and to resist the attempt to bind
on free shoulders the iron yoke. Let men and parties do as they like, so
long as they do not turn their forms into essentials. In broad freedom
of speech and spirit, which holds by the one central principle too
firmly to be much troubled about subordinate matters--in tolerance of
diversities, which does not spring from indifference, but from the very
clearness of our perception of, and from the very fervour of our
adherence to, the one essential of the Christian life--let us take for
our guide the large, calm, lofty thoughts which this text sets forth
before us. Let us thankfully believe that men may love Jesus, and be fed
from His fulness, whether they be on one side of this undying
controversy or on the other. Let us watch jealously the tendencies in
our own hearts to trust in our forms or in our freedom. And whensoever
or wheresoever these subordinates are made into things essential, and
the ordinances of Christ's Church are elevated into the place which
belongs to loving trust in Christ's love, then let _our_ voices at least
be heard on the side of that mighty truth that 'in Jesus Christ neither
circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which
worketh by love.'



'WALK IN THE SPIRIT'

          'Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the
          lust of the flesh.'--GAL. v. 16.


We are not to suppose that the Apostle here uses the familiar contrast
of spirit and flesh to express simply different elements of human
nature. Without entering here on questions for which a sermon is
scarcely a suitable vehicle of discussion, it may be sufficient for our
present purpose to say that, as usually, when employing this antithesis
the Apostle means by Spirit the divine, the Spirit of God, which he
triumphed in proclaiming to be the gift of every believing soul. The
other member of the contrast, 'flesh,' is similarly not to be taken as
equivalent to body, but rather as meaning the whole human nature
considered as apart from God and kindred with earth and earthly things.
The flesh, in its narrower sense, is no doubt a predominant part of this
whole, but there is much in it besides the material organisation. The
ethics of Christianity suffered much harm and were degraded into a false
and slavish asceticism for long centuries, by monastic misunderstandings
of what Paul meant by the flesh, but he himself was too clear-sighted
and too high-toned to give his adhesion to the superficial notion that
the body is the seat and source of sin. We need look no further than the
catalogue of the 'works of the flesh' which immediately follows our
text, for, although it begins with gross sins of a purely fleshly kind,
it passes on to such as hatred, emulations, wrath, envyings and
suchlike. Many of these works of the flesh are such as an angel with an
evil heart could do, whether he had a body or not. It seems therefore
right to say that the one member of the contrast is the divine Spirit of
holiness, and the other is man as he is, without the life-giving
influence of the Spirit of God. In Paul's thought the idea of the flesh
always included the idea of sin, and the desires of the flesh were to
him not merely rebellious, sensuous passion, but the sinful desires of
godless human nature, however refined, and as some would say,
'spiritual' these might be. We do not need to inquire more minutely as
to the meaning of the Apostle's terms, but may safely take them as, on
the one hand, referring to the divine Spirit which imparts life and
holiness, and on the other hand, to human nature severed from God, and
distracted by evil desires because wrenched away from Him.

The text is Paul's battle-cry, which he opposed to the Judaising
disturbers in Galatia. They said 'Do this and that; labour at a round of
observances; live by rule.' Paul said, 'No! That is of no use; you will
make nothing of such an attempt nor will ever conquer evil so. Live by
the spirit and you will not need a hard outward law, nor will you be in
bondage to the works of the flesh.' That feud in the Galatian churches
was the earliest battle which Christianity had to fight between two
eternal tendencies of thought--the conception of religion as consisting
in outward obedience to a law, and consequently as made up of a series
of painful efforts to keep it, and the conception of religion as being
first the implanting of a new, divine life, and needing only to be
nourished and cared for in order to drive forth evils from the heart,
and so to show itself living. The difference goes very far and very
deep, and these two views of what religion is have each their adherents
to-day. The Apostle throws the whole weight of his authority into the
one scale, and emphatically declares this as the one secret of victory,
'Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.'

I. What it is to walk in the Spirit.

The thought which is but touched upon here is set forth more largely,
and if we may so say, profoundly, in the Epistle to the Romans (chap.
viii.). There, to walk after the flesh, is substantially the same as to
be carnally minded, and that 'mind of the flesh' is regarded as being by
fatal necessity not 'subject to the law of God,' and consequently as in
itself, with regard to future consequences, to be death. The fleshly
mind which is thus in rebellion against the law of God is sure to issue
in 'desires of the flesh,' just as when the pressure is taken off, some
ebullient liquid will bubble. They that are after the flesh of course
will 'mind the things of the flesh.' The vehement desires which we
cherish when we are separated from God and which we call sins, are
graver as a symptom than even they are in themselves, for they show
which way the wind blows, and are tell-tales that betray the true
direction of our nature. If we were not after the flesh we should not
mind the things of the flesh. The one expression points to the
deep-seated nature, the other to the superficial actions to which it
gives rise.

And the same duality belongs to the life of those who are 'after the
Spirit.' 'To walk,' of course, means to carry on the practical life, and
the Spirit is here thought of not so much perhaps as the path on which
we are to travel, but rather as the norm and direction by which we are
to travel on life's common way. Just as the desires of the flesh were
certain to be done by those who in their deepest selves belonged to the
flesh, so every soul which has received the unspeakable gift of newness
of life through the Spirit of God will have the impulses to mind and do
the things of the Spirit. If we live in the Spirit we shall also--and
let us also--walk in the Spirit.

But let us make no mistakes, or think that our text in its great
commandment and radiant hope has any word of cheer to those who have not
received into their hearts, in however feeble a manner and minute a
measure, the Spirit of the Son. The first question for us all is, have
we received the Holy Ghost?--and the answer to that question is the
answer to the other, have we accepted Christ? It is through Him and
through faith in Him that that supreme gift of a living spirit is
bestowed. And only when our spirits bear witness with that Spirit that
we are the children of God, have we a right to look upon the text as
pointing our duty and stimulating our hope. If our practical life is to
be directed by the Spirit of God, He must enter into our spirits, and we
shall not be in Him but in the measure that He is in us. Nor will our
spirits be life because of righteousness unless He dwells in us and
casts forth the works of the flesh. There will be no practical direction
of our lives by the Spirit of God unless we make conscience of
cultivating the reception of His life-giving and cleansing influences,
and unless we have inward communion with our inward guide, intimate and
frank, prolonged and submissive. If we are for ever allowing the light
of our inward godliness to be blown about by gusts, or to show in our
inmost hearts but a faint and flickering spark, how can we expect that
it will shine safe direction on our outward path?

II. Such walking in the Spirit conquers the flesh.

We all know it as a familiar experience that the surest way to conquer
any strong desire or emotion is to bring some other into operation. To
concentrate attention on any overmastering thought or purpose, even if
our object is to destroy it, is but too apt to strengthen it. And so to
fix our minds on our own desires of the flesh, even though we may be
honestly wishing to suppress them, is a sure way to invest them with new
force; therefore the wise counsels of sages and moralists are, for the
most part, destined to lead those who listen to them astray. Many a man
has, in good faith, set himself to conquer his own evil lusts and has
found that the nett result of his struggles has been to make the lusts
more conspicuous and correspondingly more powerful. The Apostle knows a
better way, which he has proved to his own experience, and now, with
full confidence and triumph, presses upon his hearers. He would have
them give up the monotonous and hopeless fight against the flesh and
bring another ally into the field. His chief exhortation is a positive,
not a negative one. It is vain to try to tie up men with restrictions
and prohibitions, which when their desires are stirred will be burst
like Samson's bonds. But if once the positive exhortation here is
obeyed, then it will surely make short work of the desires and passions
which otherwise men, for the most part, do not wish to get rid of, and
never do throw off by any other method.

We have pointed out that in our text to walk in the Spirit means to
regulate the practical life by the Spirit of God, and that the 'desires
of the flesh' mean the desires of the whole human nature apart from God.
But even if we take the contrasted terms in their lower and commonly
adopted sense, the text is true and useful. A cultivated mind habituated
to lofty ideas, and quick to feel the nobility of 'spiritual' pursuits
and possessions, will have no taste for the gross delights of sense, and
will recoil with disgust from the indulgences in which more animal
natures wallow. But while this is true, it by no means exhausts the
great principle laid down here. We must take the contrasted terms in
their fullest meaning if we would arrive at it. The spiritual life
derived from Jesus Christ and lodged in the human spirit has to be
guarded, cherished and made dominant, and then it will drive out the
old. If the Spirit which is life because of righteousness is allowed
free course in a human spirit, it will send forth its powers into the
body which is 'dead because of sin,' will regulate its desires, and if
needful will suppress them. And it is wiser and more blessed to rely on
this overflowing influence than to attempt the hopeless task of coercing
these desires by our own efforts.

If we walk in the Spirit, we shall thereby acquire new tastes and
desires of a higher kind which will destroy the lower. They to whom
manna is sweet as angel's food find that they have lost their relish for
the strong-smelling and rank-flavoured Egyptian leeks and garlic. A
guest at a king's table will not care to enter a smoky hovel and will
not be hungry for the food to be found there. If we are still dependent
on the desires of the flesh we are still but children, and if we are
walking in the Spirit we have outgrown our childish toys. The enjoyment
of the gifts which the Spirit gives deadens temptation and robs many
things that were very precious of their lustre.

We may also illustrate the great principle of our text by considering
that when we have found our supreme object there is no inducement to
wander further in the search after delights. Desires are confessions of
discontent, and though the absolute satisfaction of all our nature is
not granted to us here, there is so much of blessedness given and so
many of our most clamant desires fully met in the gift of life in
Christ, that we may well be free from the prickings of desires which
sting men into earnest seeking after often unreal good. 'The fruit of
the Spirit is love, joy, peace,' and surely if we have these we may well
leave the world its troubled delights and felicities. Christ's joy
remains in us and our joy is full. The world desires because it does not
possess. When a deeper well is sunk, a shallower one is pretty sure to
give out. If we walk in the Spirit we go down to the deepest
water-holding stratum, and all the surface wells will run dry.

Further, we may note, that this walking in the Spirit brings into our
lives the mightiest motives of holy living and so puts a bridle on the
necks and a bit in the mouths of our untamed desires. Holding fellowship
with the divine Indweller and giving the reins into His strong hand, we
receive from Him the spirit of adoption and learn that if we are
children then are we heirs. Is there any motive that will so surely
still the desires of the flesh and of the mind as the blessed thought
that God is ours and we His? Surely their feet should never stumble or
stray, who are aware of the Spirit of the Son bearing witness with their
spirit that they are the children of God. Surely the measure in which we
realise this will be the measure in which the desires of the flesh will
be whipped back to their kennels, and cease to disturb us with their
barks.

The whole question here as between Paul and his opponents just comes to
this; if a field is covered with filth, whether is it better to set to
work on it with wheel-barrows and shovels, or to turn a river on it
which will bear away all the foulness? The true way to change the fauna
and flora of a country is to change the level, and as the height
increases they change themselves. If we desire to have the noxious
creatures expelled from ourselves, we must not so much labour at their
expulsion as see to the elevation of our own personal being and then we
shall succeed. That is what Paul says, 'Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall
not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.'

III. Such a life is not freed from the necessity of struggle.

The highest condition, of course, would be that we had only to grow, not
to fight. It will come some day that all evil shall drop away, and that
to walk in the Spirit will need no effort, but that time has not come
yet. So in addition to all that we have been saying in this sermon, we
must further say that Paul's exhortation has always to be coupled with
the other to fight the good fight. The highest word for our earthly
lives is not 'victory' but 'contest.' We shall not walk in the Spirit
without many a struggle to keep ourselves within that charmed
atmosphere. The promise of our text is not that we shall not feel, but
that we shall not fulfil, the desires of the flesh.

Now this is very commonplace and threadbare teaching, but it is none the
less important, and is especially needful to be strongly emphasised when
we have been speaking as we have just been doing. It is a historical
fact, illustrated over and over again since Paul wrote, and not without
illustration to-day, that there is constant danger of lax morality
infecting Christian life under pretence of lofty spirituality. So it
must ever be insisted upon that the test of a true walking in the Spirit
is that we are thereby fitted to fight against the desires of the flesh.
When we have the life of the Spirit within us, it will show itself as
Paul has said in another place by the righteousness of the law being
fulfilled in us, and by our 'mortifying the deeds of the body.' The gift
of the Spirit does not take us out of the ranks of the combatants, but
teaches us to fight, and arms us with its own sword for the conflict.
There will be abundant opportunities of courage in attacking the sin
that doth so easily beset us, and in resisting temptations which come to
us by reason of our own imperfect sanctification. But there is all the
difference between fighting at our own hand and fighting with the help
of God's Spirit, and there is all the difference between fighting with
the help of an unseen ally in heaven and fighting with a Spirit within
us who helpeth our infirmities and Himself makes us able to contend, and
sure, if we keep true to Him, to be more than conquerers through Him
that loveth us.

Such a conflict is a gift and a joy. It is hard but it is blessed,
because it is an expression of our truest love; it comes from our
deepest will; it is full of hope and of assured victory. How different
is the painful, often defeated and monotonous attempt to suppress our
nature by main force, and to tread a mill-horse round! The joyous
freedom and buoyant hope taught us in the gospel way of salvation have
been cramped and confined and all their glories veiled as by a mass of
cobwebs spun beneath a golden roof, but our text sweeps away the foul
obstruction. Let us learn the one condition of victorious conflict, the
one means of subduing our natural humanity and its distracting desires,
and let nothing rob us of the conviction that this is God's way of
making men like angels. 'Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the
lusts of the flesh.'



THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

          'But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
          long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23.
          Meekness, temperance'--GAL. v. 22, 23.


'The fruit of the Spirit,' says Paul, not the fruits, as we might more
naturally have expected, and as the phrase is most often quoted; all
this rich variety of graces, of conduct and character, is thought of as
one. The individual members are not isolated graces, but all connected,
springing from one root and constituting an organic whole. There is
further to be noted that the Apostle designates the results of the
Spirit as fruit, in strong and intentional contrast with the results of
the flesh, the grim catalogue of which precedes the radiant list in our
text. The works of the flesh have no such unity, and are not worthy of
being called fruit. They are not what a man ought to bring forth, and
when the great Husbandman comes, He finds no fruit there, however full
of activity the life has been. We have then here an ideal of the noblest
Christian character, and a distinct and profound teaching as to how to
attain it. I venture to take the whole of this list for my text, because
the very beauty of each element in it depends on its being but part of a
whole, and because there are important lessons to be gathered from the
grouping.

I. The threefold elements of character here.

It is perhaps not too artificial to point out that we have here three
triads of which the first describes the life of the Spirit in its
deepest secret; the second, the same life in its manifestations to men;
and the third, that life in relation to the difficulties of the world,
and of ourselves.

The first of these three triads includes love, joy, and peace, and it is
not putting too great a strain on the words to point out that the source
of all three lies in the Christian relation to God. They regard nothing
but God and our relation to Him; they would be all the same if there
were no other men in the world, or if there were no world. We cannot
call them duties or virtues; they are simply the results of communion
with God--the certain manifestations of the better life of the Spirit.
Love, of course, heads the list, as the foundation and moving principle
of all the rest. It is the instinctive act of the higher life and is
shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit. It is the life sap which
rises through the tree and given form to all the clusters. The remaining
two members of this triad are plainly consequences of the first. Joy is
not so much an act or a grace of character as an emotion poured into
men's lives, because in their hearts abides love to God. Jesus Christ
pledged Himself to impart His joy to remain in us, with the issue that
our joy should be full. There is only one source of permanent joy which
takes possession of and fills all the corners and crannies of the heart,
and that is a love towards God equally abiding and all-pervasive. We
have all known joys so perturbed, fragmentary and fleeting, that it is
hard to distinguish them from sorrows, but there is no need that joys
should be like green fruits hard and savourless and ready to drop from
the tree. If God is 'the gladness of our joy,' and all our delights come
from communion with Him, our joy will never pass and will fill the whole
round of our spirits as the sea laves every shore.

Peace will be built upon love and joy, if our hearts are ever turning to
God and ever blessed with the inter-communion of love between Him and
us. What can be strong enough to disturb the tranquillity that fills the
soul independent of all externals? However long and close may be the
siege, the well in the castle courtyard will be full. True peace comes
not from the absence of trouble but from the presence of God, and will
be deep and passing all understanding in the exact measure in which we
live in, and partake of, the love of God.

The second triad is long-suffering, kindness, goodness. All these three
obviously refer to the spiritual life in its manifestations to men. The
first of them--long-suffering--describes the attitude of patient
endurance towards inflictors of injury or enemies, if we come forth from
the blessed fellowship with God, where love, joy, and peace reign
unbroken, and are met with a cold gust of indifference or with an icy
wind of hate. The reality of our happy communion and the depth of our
love will be tested by the patience of our long-suffering. Love
suffereth long, is not easily provoked, is not soon angry. He has little
reason to suppose that the love of God is shed abroad in his heart, or
that the Spirit of God is bringing forth fruit in him, who has not got
beyond the stage of repaying hate with hate, and scorn with scorn. Any
fool can answer a fool according to his folly, but it takes a wise and a
good man to overcome evil with good, and to love them that hate; and yet
how certainly the fires of mutual antagonism would go out if there were
only one to pile on the fuel! It takes two to make a quarrel, and no man
living under the influence of the Spirit of God can be one of such a
pair.

The second and third members of this triad--kindness, goodness, slide
very naturally into one another. They do not only require the negative
virtue of not retaliating, but express the Christian attitude towards
all of meeting them, whatever their attitude, with good. It is possible
that kindness here expresses the inward disposition and goodness, the
habitual actions in which that disposition shows itself. If that be the
distinction between them, the former would answer to benevolence and the
latter to beneficence. These three graces include all that Paul presents
as Christian duty to our fellows. The results of the life of the Spirit
are to pass beyond ourselves and to influence our whole conduct. We are
not to live only as mainly for the spiritual enjoyments of fellowship
with God. The true field of religion is in moving amongst men, and the
true basis of all service of men is love and fellowship with God.

The third triad--faithfulness, meekness, temperance--seems to point to
the world in which the Christian life is to be lived as a scene of
difficulties and oppositions. The rendering of the Revised Version is to
be preferred to that of the Authorised in the first of the three, for it
is not faith in its theological sense to which the Apostle is here
referring. Possibly, however, the meaning may be trustfulness just as in
1 Corinthians xiii. it is given as a characteristic of love that it
'believeth all things.' More probably, however, the meaning is
faithfulness, and Paul's thought is that the Christian life is to
manifest itself in the faithful discharge of all duties and the honest
handling of all things committed to it. Meekness even more distinctly
contemplates a condition of things which is contrary to the Christian
life, and points to a submissiveness of spirit which does not lift
itself up against oppositions, but bends like a reed before the storm.
Paul preached meekness and practised it, but Paul could flash into
strong opposition and with a resonant ring in his voice could say 'To
whom we gave place by subjection, No! not for an hour.' The last member
of the triad--temperance--points to the difficulties which the spiritual
life is apt to meet with in the natural passions and desires, and
insists upon the fact that conflict and rigid and habitual self-control
are sure to be marks of that life.

II. The unity of the fruit.

We have already pointed out the Apostles remarkable use of the word
'fruit' here, by which he indicates that all the results of the life of
the Spirit in the human spirit are to be regarded as a whole that has a
natural growth. The foundation of all is of course that love which is
the fulfilling of the law. It scarcely needs to be pointed out how love
brings forth both the other elements of the first triad, but it is no
less important to note that it and its two companions naturally lead on
to the relations to men which make up the second triad. It is, however,
worth while to dwell on that fact because there are many temptations for
Christian people to separate between them. The two tables of the law are
not seldom written so far apart that their unity ceases to be noted.
There are many good people whose notions of religious duties are shut up
in churches or chapels and limited to singing and praying, reading the
Bible and listening to sermons, and who, even while they are doing good
service in common life, do not feel that it is as much a religious duty
to suppress the wish to retaliate as it is to sit in the sunshine of
God's love and to feel Christ's joy and peace filling the heart. On the
other hand many loud voices, some of them with great force of words and
influence on the popular mind, are never wearied of preaching that
Christianity is worn out as a social impulse, and that the service of
man has nothing to do with the love of God. As plainly Paul's first
triad naturally leads to his third. When the spiritual life has realised
its deepest secret it will be strong to manifest itself as vigorous in
reference to the difficulties of life. When that heart is blessed in its
own settled love, abounding joy and untroubled peace, faithfulness and
submission will both be possible and self-control will not be hard.

III. The culture of the tree which secures the fruit.

Can we suppose that the Apostle here is going back in thought to our
Lord's profound teaching that every good tree bringeth forth good fruit,
but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit? The obvious felicity of
that metaphor often conceals for us the drastic force of its teaching,
it regards all a man's conduct as but the outcome of his character, and
brushes aside as trifling all attempts at altering products, whilst the
producer remains unaltered. Whether Paul was here alluding to a known
saying of Jesus or no, he was insisting upon the very centre of
Christian ethics, that a man must first be good in order to do good. Our
Lord's words seemed to make an impossible demand--'Make the tree
good'--as the only way of securing good fruit, and it was in accordance
with the whole cast of the Sermon on the Mount that the means of
realising that demand was left unexpressed. But Paul stood on this side
of Pentecost, and what was necessarily veiled in Christ's earlier
utterances stood forth a revealed and blessed certainty to him. He had
not to say 'Make the tree good' and be silent as to how that process was
to be effected; to him the message had been committed, 'The Spirit also
helpeth our infirmity.' There is but one way by which a corrupt tree can
be made good, and that is by grafting into the wild briar stock a
'layer' from the rose. The Apostle had a double message to proclaim, and
the one part was built upon the other. He had first to preach--and this
day has first to believe that God has sent His own Son in the likeness
of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin--and then he had to proclaim
that, through that mission, it became possible that the ordinance of the
law might be fulfilled in us who 'walk not after the flesh but after the
spirit.' The beginning, then, of all true goodness is to be sought in
receiving into our corrupt natures the uncorrupted germs of the higher
life, and it is only in the measure in which that Spirit of God moves in
our spirits and, like the sap in the vine, permeates every branch and
tendril, that fruit to eternal life will grow. Christian graces are the
products of the indwelling divine life, and nothing else will succeed in
producing them. All the preachings of moralists and all the struggles
after self-improvement are reduced to impotence and vanity by the stern,
curt sentence--'a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit.' Surely it
should come to us all as a true gospel when we feel ourselves foiled by
our own evil nature in our attempts to be better, that the first thing
we have to do is not to labour at either of the two impossible tasks of
the making our bad selves good, or of the getting good fruits from bad
selves, but to open our spirits through faith in Jesus for the entrance
into us of His Spirit which will change our corruption into
incorruption, and cleanse us from all filthiness of flesh and spirit.
Shall we not seek to become recipient of that new life, and having
received it, should we not give diligence that it may in us produce all
its natural effects?

These fruits, though they are the direct results of the indwelling
Spirit and will never be produced without its presence, are none the
less truly dependent upon our manner of receiving that Spirit and on our
faithfulness and diligence in the use of its gifts. It is, alas! sadly
too true, and matter of tragically common experience that instead of
'trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord' heavy with ruddy
clusters, there are but dwarfed and scrubby bushes which have scarcely
life enough to keep up a little show of green leaves and 'bring no fruit
to perfection'. Would that so-called Christian people would more
earnestly and searchingly ask themselves why it is that, with such
possibilities offered to them, their actual attainments should be so
small. They have a power which is able to do for them exceeding
abundantly above all that they can ask or think, and its actual effects
on them are well on this side of both their petitions and their
conceptions. There need be no difficulty in answering the question why
our Christian lives do not correspond more closely to the Spirit that
inspires them. The plain answer is that we have not cultivated, used,
and obeyed Him. The Lord of the vineyard would less often have to ask
'Wherefore when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it
forth wild grapes?' if we listened more obediently to the pathetic
command which surely should touch a grateful heart--'Grieve not the holy
Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.'

IV. How this is the only worthy fruit.

We have already pointed out that the Apostle in the preceding context
varies his terms, and catalogues the actions that come from the godless
self as works, whilst those which are the outcome of the Spirit are
fruit. The distinction thus drawn is twofold. Multiplicity is contrasted
with unity and fruit with works. The deeds of the flesh have no
consistency except that of evil; they are at variance with themselves--a
huddled mob without regularity or order; and they are works indeed, but
so disproportionate to the nature of the doer and his obligations that
they do not deserve to be called fruit. It is not to attach too much
importance to an accidental form of speech to insist upon this
distinction as intended to be drawn, and as suggesting to us very solemn
thoughts about many apparently very active lives. The man who lives to
God truly lives; the busiest life which is not rooted in Him and
directed towards Him has so far missed its aim as to have brought forth
no good fruit, and therefore to have incurred the sentence that it is
cut down and cast into the fire. There is a very remarkable expression
in Scripture, 'The unfruitful works of darkness,' which admits the busy
occupation and energy of the doers and denies that all that struggling
and striving comes to anything. Done in the dark, they seemed to have
some significance, when the light comes in they vanish. It is for us to
determine whether our lives shall be works of the flesh, full, perhaps,
of a time of 'sound and fury,' but 'signifying nothing,' or whether they
shall be fruits of the Spirit, which we 'who have gathered shall eat in
the courts of His holiness.' They will be so if, living in the Spirit,
we walk in the Spirit, but if we 'sow to the flesh' we shall have a
harder husbandry and a bitterer harvest when 'of the flesh we reap
corruption,' and hear the awful and unanswerable question, 'What fruit
had ye then of those things whereof ye are now ashamed?'



BURDEN-BEARING

          'Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the
          law of Christ. . . . 5. For every man shall bear his
          own burden.'--GAL. vi. 25.


The injunction in the former of these verses appears, at first sight, to
be inconsistent with the statement in the latter. But Paul has a way of
setting side by side two superficially contradictory clauses, in order
that attention may be awakened, and that we may make an effort to
apprehend the point of reconciliation between them. So, for instance,
you remember he puts in one sentence, and couples together by a 'for,'
these two sayings: 'Work out your own salvation'; 'It is God that
worketh in you.' So here he has been exhorting the Galatian Christians
to restore a fallen brother. That is one case to which the general
commandment, 'Bear ye one another's burdens,' is applicable.

I cannot here enter on the intervening verses by which he glides from
the one to the other of these two thoughts which I have coupled
together, but I may just point out in a word the outline of his course
of thought. 'Bear ye one another's burden,' says he; and then he thinks,
'What is it that keeps men from bearing each other's burdens?' Being
swallowed up with themselves, and especially being conceited about their
own strength and goodness. And so he goes on: 'If a man think himself to
be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.' And what is the
best cure for all these fancies inside us of how strong and good we are?
To look at our work with an impartial and rigid judgment. It is easy for
a man to plume himself on being good, and strong, and great; but let him
look at what he has done, and try that by a high standard, and that will
knock the conceit out of him. Or, if his work stands the test, then 'he
shall have rejoicing in himself, and not' by comparing himself with
other people. Two blacks do not make a white, and we are not to heighten
the lustre of our own whiteness by comparing it with our neighbour's
blackness. Take your act for what _it_ is worth, apart altogether from
what other people are. Do not say, 'God! I thank thee that I am not as
other men are . . . or even as this publican'; but look to yourself. There
is an occupation with self which is good, and is a help to brotherly
sympathy.

And so the Apostle has worked round, you see, to almost an opposite
thought from the one with which he started. 'Bear ye one another's
burdens.' Yes, but a man's work is his own and nobody else's, and a
man's character is his own and nobody else's, so 'every man shall bear
his own burden.' The statements are not contradictory. They complete
each other. They are the north and the south poles, and between them is
the rounded orb of the whole truth. So then, let me point out that:

I. There are burdens which can be shared, and there are burdens which
_cannot_.

Let us take the case from which the whole context has arisen. Paul was
exhorting the Galatians, as I explained, in reference to their duty to a
fallen brother; and he speaks of him--according to our version--as
'overtaken in a fault.' Now, that is scarcely his idea, I think. The
phrase, as it stands in our Bibles, suggests that Paul is trying to
minimise the gravity of the man's offence; but just in proportion as he
minimised its gravity would he weaken his exhortation to restore him.
But what he is really doing is not to make as little as possible of the
sin, but to make as much of it as is consistent with the truth. The word
'overtaken' suggests that some sin, like a tiger in a jungle, springs
upon a man and overpowers him by the suddenness of the assault. The word
so rendered may perhaps be represented by some such phrase as
'discovered'; or, if I may use a 'colloquialism,' if a man be caught
'red-handed.' That is the idea. And Paul does not use the weak word
'fault,' but a very much stronger one, which means stark staring sin. He
is supposing a bad case of inconsistency, and is not palliating it at
all. Here is a brother who has had an unblemished reputation; and all
at once the curtain is thrown aside behind which he is working some
wicked thing; and there the culprit stands, with the bull's-eye light
flashed upon him, ashamed and trembling. Paul says, 'If you are a
spiritual man'--there is irony there of the graver sort--'show your
spirituality by going and lifting him up, and trying to help him.' When
he says, 'Restore such an one,' he uses an expression which is employed
in other connections in the New Testament, such as for mending the
broken meshes of a net, for repairing any kind of damage, for setting
the fractured bones of a limb. And that is what the 'spiritual' man has
to do. He is to show the validity of his claim to live on high by
stooping down to the man bemired and broken-legged in the dirt. We have
come across people who chiefly show their own purity by their harsh
condemnation of others' sins. One has heard of women so very virtuous
that they would rather hound a fallen sister to death than try to
restore her; and there are saints so extremely saintly that they will
not touch the leper to heal him, for fear of their own hands being
ceremonially defiled. Paul says, 'Bear ye one another's burdens'; and
especially take a lift of each other's sin.

I need not remind you how the same command applies in relation to
pecuniary distress, narrow circumstances, heavy duties, sorrows, and all
the 'ills that flesh is heir to.' These can be borne by sympathy, by
true loving outgoing of the heart, and by the rendering of such
practical help as the circumstances require.

But there are burdens that cannot be borne by any but the man himself.

There is the awful burden of personal existence. It is a solemn thing
to be able to say 'I.' And that carries with it this, that after all
sympathy, after all nestling closeness of affection, after the tenderest
exhibition of identity of feeling, and of swift godlike readiness to
help, each of us lives alone. Like the inhabitants of the islands of the
Greek Archipelago, we are able to wave signals to the next island, and
sometimes to send a boat with provisions and succour, but we are parted,
'with echoing straits between us thrown.' Every man, after all, lives
alone, and society is like the material things round about us, which are
all compressible, because the atoms that compose them are not in actual
contact, but separated by slenderer or more substantial films of
isolating air. Thus there is even in the sorrows which we can share with
our brethren, and in all the burdens which we can help to bear, an
element which cannot be imparted. 'The heart knoweth its own
bitterness', and neither 'stranger' nor other 'intermeddleth' with the
deepest fountains of 'its joy.'

Then again, there is the burden of responsibility which can be shared by
none. A dozen soldiers may be turned out to make a firing party to shoot
the mutineer, and no man knows who fired the shot, but one man did fire
it. And however there may have been companions, it was his rifle that
carried the bullet, and his finger that pulled the trigger. We say, 'The
woman that Thou gavest me tempted me, and I did eat.' Or we say, 'My
natural appetites, for which I am not responsible, but Thou who madest
me art, drew me aside, and I fell', or we may say, 'It was not I; it was
the other boy.' And then there rises up in our hearts a veiled form, and
from its majestic lips comes 'Thou art the man'; and our whole being
echoes assent--_Mea culpa; mea maxima culpa_--'My fault, my exceeding
great fault.' No man can bear that burden.

And then, closely connected with responsibility there is another--the
burden of the inevitable consequences of transgression, not only away
yonder in the future, when all human bonds of companionship shall be
broken, and each man shall 'give account of himself to God,' but here
and now; as in the immediate context the Apostle tells us, 'Whatsoever a
man soweth, that shall he also reap.' The effects of our evil deeds come
back to roost; and they never make a mistake as to where they should
alight. If I have sown, I, and no one else, will gather. No sympathy
will prevent to-morrow's headache after to-night's debauch, and nothing
that anybody can do will turn the sleuth-hounds off the scent. Though
they may be slow-footed, they have sure noses and deep-mouthed fangs.
'If thou be wise thou shalt be wise for thyself, and if thou scornest
thou alone shalt bear it.' So there are burdens which can, and burdens
which cannot, be borne.

II. Jesus Christ is the Burden-bearer for both sorts of burdens.

'Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ,' not
only as spoken by His lips, but as set forth in the pattern of His life.
We have, then, to turn to Him, and think of Him as Burden-bearer in even
a deeper sense than the psalmist had discerned, who magnified God as 'He
who daily beareth our burdens.'

Christ is the Burden-bearer of our sin. 'The Lord hath laid'--or made to
meet--'upon Him the iniquity of us all.' The Baptist pointed his lean,
ascetic finger at the young Jesus, and said, 'Behold the Lamb of God
which beareth'--and beareth away--'the sin of the world.' How heavy the
load, how real its pressure, let Gethsemane witness, when He clung to
human companionship with the unutterably solemn and plaintive words, 'My
soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death. Tarry ye here and watch
with Me.' He bore the burden of the world's sin.

Jesus Christ is the bearer of the burden of the consequences of sin, not
only inasmuch as, in His sinless humanity, He knew by sympathy the
weight of the world's sin, but because in that same humanity, by
identification of Himself with us, deeper and more wonderful than our
plummets have any line long enough to sound the abysses of, He took the
cup of bitterness which our sins have mixed, and drank it all when He
said, 'My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken Me?' Consequences still
remain: thank God that they do! 'Thou wast a God that forgavest them,
and Thou didst inflict retribution on their inventions.' So the outward,
the present, the temporal consequences of transgression are left
standing in all their power, in order that transgressors may thereby be
scourged from their evil, and led to forsake the thing that has wrought
them such havoc. But the ultimate consequence, the deepest of all,
separation from God, has been borne by Christ, and need never be borne
by us.

I suppose I need not dwell on the other aspects of this burden-bearing
of our Lord, how that He, in a very deep and real sense, takes upon
Himself the sorrows which we bear in union with, and faith on, Him. For
then the griefs that still come to us, when so borne, are transmitted
into 'light affliction which is but for a moment.' 'In all their
afflictions He was afflicted.' Oh, brethren! you with sad hearts, you
with lonely lives, you with carking cares, you with pressing, heavy
duties, cast your burden on the Christ, and He 'will sustain you,' and
sorrows borne in union with Him will change their character, and the
very cross shall be wreathed in flowers.

Jesus bears the burden of that solemn solitude which our personal being
lays upon us all. The rest of us stand round, and, as I said, hoist
signals of sympathy, and sometimes can stretch a brotherly hand out and
grasp the sufferer's hand. But their help comes from without; Christ
comes in, and dwells in our hearts, and makes us no longer alone in the
depths of our being, which He fills with the effulgence and peace of His
companionship. And so for sin, for guilt, for responsibility, for
sorrow, for holiness, Christ bears our burdens.

Yes! And when He takes ours on His shoulders, He puts His on ours. 'My
yoke is easy, and My burden is light.' As the old mystics used to say,
Christ's burden carries him that carries it. It may add a little weight,
but it gives power to soar, and it gives power to progress. It is like
the wings of a bird, it is like the sails of a ship.

III. Lastly, Christ's carrying our burdens binds us to carry our
brother's!

'So fulfil the law of Christ.' There is a very biting sarcasm, and, as I
said about another matter, a grave irony in Paul's use of that word
'law' here. For the whole of this Epistle has been directed against the
Judaising teachers who were desirous of cramming Jewish law down
Galatian throats, and is addressed to their victims in the Galatian
churches who had fallen into the trap. Paul turns round on them here,
and says, 'You want law, do you? Well, if you _will_ have it, here it
is--the law of Christ.' Christ's life is our law. Practical Christianity
is doing what Christ did. The Cross is not only the ground of our hope,
but the pattern of our conduct.

And, says Paul in effect, the example of Jesus Christ, in all its sweep,
and in all the depth of it, is the only motive by which this injunction
that I am giving you will ever be fulfilled. 'Bear ye one another's
burdens.' You will never do that unless you have Christ as the ground of
your hope, and His great sacrifice as the example for your conduct. For
the hindrance that prevents sympathy is self-absorption; and that
natural selfishness which is in us all will never be exorcised and
banished from us thoroughly, so as that we shall be awake to all the
obligations to bear our brother's burdens, unless Christ has dethroned
self, and is the Lord of our inmost spirits.

I rejoice as much as any man in the largely increased sense of mutual
responsibility and obligation of mutual aid, which is sweetening society
by degrees amongst us to-day, but I believe that no Socialistic or other
schemes for the regeneration of society which are not based on the
Incarnation and Sacrifice of Jesus Christ will live and grow. There is
but one power that will cast out natural selfishness, and that is love
to Christ, apprehending His Cross as the great example to which our
lives are to be conformed. I believe that the growing sense of
brotherhood amongst us, even where it is not consciously connected with
any faith in Christianity, is, to a very large extent, the result of the
diffusion through society of the spirit of Christianity, even where its
body is rejected. Thank God, the river of the water of life can
percolate through many a mile of soil, and reach the roots of trees far
away, in the pastures of the wilderness, that know not whence the
refreshing moisture has come. But on the wide scale be sure of this: it
is the law of Christ that will fight and conquer the natural selfishness
which makes bearing our brother's burdens an impossibility for men.
Only, Christian people! let us take care that we are not robbed of our
prerogative of being foremost in all such things, by men whose zeal has
a less heavenly source than ours ought to have. Depend upon it, heresy
has less power to arrest the progress of the Church than the selfish
lives of Christian professors.

So, dear friends, let us see to it that we first of all cast our own
burdens on the Christ who is able to bear them all, whatever they are.
And then let us, with lightened hearts and shoulders, make our own the
heavy burdens of sin, of sorrow, of care, of guilt, of consequences, of
responsibility, which are crushing down many that are weary and heavy
laden. For be sure of this, if we do not bear our brother's burdens, the
load that we thought we had cast on Christ will roll back upon
ourselves. He is able to bear both us and our burdens, if we will let
Him, and if we will fulfil that law of Christ which was illustrated in
all His life, 'Who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor,'
and was written large in letters of blood upon that Cross where there
was 'laid on Him the iniquity of us all.'



DOING GOOD TO ALL

          'As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good
          unto all. . . .'--GAL. vi. 10.


'As we have therefore'--that points a finger backwards to what has gone
before. The Apostle has been exhorting to unwearied well-doing, on the
ground of the certain coming of the harvest season. Now, there is a
double link of connection between the preceding words and our text; for
'do good' looks back to 'well-doing,' and the word rendered
'opportunity' is the same as that rendered 'season.' So, then, two
thoughts arise--'well-doing' includes doing good to others, and is not
complete unless it does. The future, on the whole, is the season of
reaping; the present life on the whole is the season of sowing; and
while life as a whole is the seed-time, in detail it is full of
opportunities, openings which make certain good deeds possible, and
which therefore impose upon us the obligation to do them. If we were in
the habit of looking on life mainly as a series of opportunities for
well-doing, how different it would be; and how different we should be!

Now, this injunction is seen to be reasonable by every man, whether he
obeys it or not. It is a commonplace of morality, which finds assent in
all consciences, however little it may mould lives. But I wish to give
it a particular application, and to try to enforce its bearing upon
Christian missionary work. And the thought that I would suggest is just
this, that no Christian man discharges that elementary obligation of
plain morality, if he is indifferent to this great enterprise. 'As we
have an opportunity, let us do good to all.' That is the broad
principle, and one application is the duty of Christian men to diffuse
the Gospel throughout the world.

I. Let me ask you to look at the obligation that is thus suggested.

As I have said, well-doing is the wider, and doing good to others the
narrower, expression. The one covers the whole ground of virtue, the
other declares that virtue which is self-regarding, the culture which
is mainly occupied with self, is lame and imperfect, and there is a
great gap in it, as if some cantle had been cut out of the silver disc
of the moon. It is only full-orbed when in well-doing, and as a very
large constituent element of it, there is included the doing good to
others. That is too plain to need to be stated. We hear a great deal
to-day about altruism. Well, Christianity preaches that more
emphatically than any other system of thought, morals, or religion does.
And Christianity brings the mightiest motives for it, and imparts the
power by which obedience to that great law that every man's conscience
responds to is made possible.

But whilst thus we recognise as a dictate of elementary morality that
well-doing must necessarily include doing good to others, and feel, as I
suppose we all do feel, when we are true to our deepest convictions,
that possessions of all sorts, material, mental, and all others, are
given to us in stewardship, and not in absolute ownership, in order that
God's grace in its various forms may fructify through us to all, my
present point is that, if that is recognised as being what it is, an
elementary dictate of morality enforced by men's relationships to one
another, and sealed by their own consciences, there is no getting away
from the obligation upon all Christian men which it draws after it, of
each taking his share in the great work of imparting the gospel to the
whole world.

For that gospel is our highest good, the best thing that we can carry to
anybody. We many of us recognise the obligation that is devolved upon us
by the possession of wealth, to use it for others as well as for
ourselves. We recognise, many of us, the obligation that is devolved
upon us by the possession of knowledge, to impart it to others as well
as ourselves. We are willing to give of our substance, of our time, of
our effort, to impart much that we have. But some of us seem to draw a
line at the highest good that we have, and whilst responding to all
sorts of charitable and beneficent appeals made to us, and using our
faculties often for the good of other people, we take no share and no
interest in communicating the highest of all goods, the good which comes
to the man in whose heart Christ rests. It is our highest good, because
it deals with our deepest needs, and lifts us to the loftiest position.
The gospel brings our highest good, because it brings eternal good,
whilst all other benefits fade and pass, and are left behind with life
and the dead flesh. It is our highest good, because if that great
message of salvation is received into a heart, or moulds the life of a
nation, it will bring after it, as its ministers and results, all manner
of material and lesser benefit. And so, giving Christ we give _our_
best, and giving Christ we give the highest gift that a weary world can
receive.

Remember, too, that the impartation of this highest good is one of the
main reasons why we ourselves possess it. Jesus Christ can redeem the
world alone, but it cannot become a redeemed world without the help of
His servants. He needs us in order to carry into all humanity the
energies that He brought into the midst of mankind by His Incarnation
and Sacrifice; and the cradle of Bethlehem and the Cross of Cavalry are
not sufficient for the accomplishment of the purpose for which they
respectively came to pass, without the intervention and ministry of
Christian people. It was for this end amongst others, that each of us
who have received that great gift into our hearts have been enriched by
it. The river is fed from the fountains of the hills, in order that it
may carry verdure and life whithersoever it goes. And you and I have
been brought to the Cross of Christ, and made His disciples, not only in
order that we ourselves might be blessed and quickened by the gift
unspeakable, but in order that through us it may be communicated, just
as each particle when leavened in the mass of the dough communicates its
energy to its adjacent particle until the whole is leavened.

I am afraid that indifference to the communication of the highest good,
which marks sadly too many Christian professors in all ages, and in this
age, is a suspicious indication of a very slight realisation of the good
for themselves. Luther said that justification was the article of a
standing or a falling church. That may be true in the region of
theology, but in the region of practical life I do not know that you
will find a test more reliable and more easy of application than this,
Does a man care for spreading amongst his fellows the gospel that he
himself has received? If he does not, let him ask himself whether, in
any real sense, he has it. 'Well-doing' includes doing good to others,
and the possession of Christ will make it certain that we shall impart
Him.

II. Notice the bearing of this elementary injunction upon the scope of
the obligation.

'Let us do good to all men.' It was Christianity that invented the word
'humanity'; either in its meaning of the aggregate of men or its meaning
of a gracious attitude towards them. And it invented the word because it
revealed the thing on which it rests. 'Brotherhood' is the sequel of
'Fatherhood,' and the conception of mankind, beneath all diversities of
race and culture and the like, as being an organic whole, knit together
by a thousand mystical bands, and each atom of which has connection
with, and obligations to, every other--that is a product of
Christianity, however it may have been in subsequent ages divorced from
a recognition of its source. So, then, the gospel rises above all the
narrow distinctions which call themselves patriotism and are parochial,
and it says that there is 'neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, Jew
nor Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free,' but all are one. Get
high enough up upon the hill, and the hedges between the fields are
barely perceptible. Live on the elevation to which the Gospel of Jesus
Christ lifts men, and you look down upon a great prairie, without a
fence or a ditch or a division. So my text comes with profound
significance, 'Let us do good to all,' because all are included in the
sweep of that great purpose of love, and in the redeeming possibilities
of that great death on the Cross. Christ has swept the compass, if I may
say so, of His love and work all round humanity; and are we to extend
our sympathies or our efforts less widely? The circle includes the
world; our sympathies should be as wide as the circle that Christ has
drawn.

Let me remind you, too, that only such a world-wide communication of the
highest good that has blessed ourselves will correspond to the proved
power of that Gospel which treats as of no moment diversities that are
superficial, and can grapple with and overcome, and bind to itself as a
crown of glory, every variety of character, of culture, of circumstance,
claiming for its own all races, and proving itself able to lift them
all. 'The Bread of God which came down from heaven' is an exotic
everywhere, because it came down from heaven, but it can grow in all
soils, and it can bring forth fruit unto eternal life everywhere amongst
mankind. So 'let us do good to all.'

And then we are met by the old objection, 'The eyes of a fool are in the
ends of the earth. Keep your work for home, that wants it.' Well! I am
perfectly ready to admit that in Christian work, as in all others there
must be division of labour, and that one man's tastes and inclinations
will lead him to one sphere and one form of it; and another man's to
another; and I am quite ready, not to admit, but strongly to insist,
that, whatever happens, home is not to be neglected. 'All men' includes
the slums in England as well as the savages in Africa, and it is no
excuse for neglecting either of these departments that we are trying to
do something in the other. But it is not uncharitable to say that the
objection to which I am referring is most often made by one or other of
two classes, either by people who do not care about the Gospel, nor
recognise the 'good' of it at all, or by people who are ingenious in
finding excuses for not doing the duty to which they are at the moment
summoned. The people that do the one are the people that do the other.
Where do you get your money from for home work? Mainly from the
Christian Churches. Who is it that keeps up missionary work abroad?
Mainly the Christian Churches. There is a vast deal of unreality in that
objection. Just think of the disproportion between the embarrassment of
riches in our Christian appliances here in England and the destitution
in these distant lands. Here the ships are crammed into a dock, close up
against one another, rubbing their yards upon each other; and away out
yonder on the waters there are leagues of loneliness, where never a
sail is seen. Here, at home, we are drenched with Christian teaching,
and the Churches are competing with each other, often like rival
tradespeople for their customers; and away out yonder a man to half a
million is considered a fair allowance. 'Let us do good to all.'

III. Lastly, note the bearing of this elementary precept on the
occasions that rise for the discharge of the duty.

'As we have opportunity.' As I have already said, the Christian way to
look at our circumstances is to regard them as openings for the exercise
of Christian virtue, and therefore summonses to its discharge. And if we
regarded our own position individually, so we should find that there
were many, many doors that had long been opened, into which we had been
too blind or too lazy, or too selfishly absorbed in our own concerns, to
enter. The neglected opportunities, the beckoning doors whose thresholds
we have never crossed, the good that we might have done and have not
done--these are as weighty to sink us as the positive sins, the
opportunities for which have appealed to our worse selves.

But I desire to say a word, not only about the opportunities offered to
us individually, but about those offered to England for this great
enterprise. The prophet of old represented the proud Assyrian conqueror
as boasting, 'My hand hath gathered as a nest the riches of the peoples
. . . and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or
peeped.' It might be the motto of England to-day. It is not for nothing
that we and our brethren across the Atlantic, the inheritors of the same
faith and morals and literature, and speaking the same tongue, have had
given to us the wide dominion that we possess, I know that England has
not climbed to her place without many a crime, and that in her 'skirts
is found the blood of poor innocents,' but yet we have that connection,
for good or for evil, with subject races all over the earth. And I ask
whether or not that is an opportunity that the Christian Church is bound
to make use of. What have we been intrusted with it for? Commerce,
dominion, the impartation of Western knowledge, literature, laws? Yes!
Is that all? Are you to send shirting and not the Gospel? Are you to
send muskets that will burst, and gin that is poison, and not
Christianity? Are you to send Shakespeare, and Milton, and modern
science, and Herbert Spencer, and not Evangelists and the Gospels? Are
you to send the code of English law and not Christ's law of love? Are
you to send godless Englishmen, 'through whom the name of God is
blasphemed amongst the Gentiles,' and are you not to send missionaries
of the Cross? A Brahmin once said to a missionary, 'Look here! Your Book
is a good Book. If you were as good as your Book you would make India
Christian in ten years.'

Brethren! the European world to-day is fighting and scrambling over what
it calls the unclaimed corners of the world; looking upon all lands that
are uncivilised by Western civilisation either as markets, or as parts
of their empire. Is there no other way of looking at the heathen world
than that? How did Christ look at it? He was moved when He saw the
multitudes as 'sheep having no shepherd.' Oh! if Christian men, as
members of this nation, would rise to the height of Christ's place of
vision, and would look at the world with His eyes, what a difference it
would make! I appeal to you, Christian men and women, as members of
this nation, and therefore responsible, though it may be
infinitesimally, for what this nation is doing in the distant corners of
the world, and urge on you that you are bound, so far as your influence
goes, to protest against the way of looking at these heathen lands as
existing to be exploited for the material benefit of these Western
Powers. You are bound to lend your voice, however weak it may be, to the
protests against the savage treatment of native races--against the
drenching of China with narcotics, and Africa with rum; to try to look
at the world as Christ looked at it, to rise to the height of that great
vision which regards all men as having been in His heart when He died on
the Cross, and refuses to recognise in this great work 'Barbarian,
Scythian, bond or free.' We have awful responsibilities; the world is
open to us. We have the highest good. How shall we obey this elementary
principle of our text, unless we help as we can in spreading Christ's
reign? Blessed shall we be if, and only if, we fill the seed-time with
delightful work, and remember that well-doing is imperfect unless it
includes doing good to others, and that the best good we can do is to
impart the Unspeakable Gift to the men that need it.



THE OWNER'S BRAND

          'I bear in my body the marks of the Lord
          Jesus.'--GAL. vi. 17.


The reference in these words is probably to the cruel custom of branding
slaves as we do cattle, with initials or signs, to show their ownership.
It is true that in old times criminals, and certain classes of Temple
servants, and sometimes soldiers, were also so marked, but it is most in
accordance with the Apostle's way of thinking that he here has reference
to the first class, and would represent himself as the _slave_ of Jesus
Christ, designated as His by the scars and weaknesses which were the
consequences of his apostolic zeal. Imprisonment, beating by the Jewish
rod, shipwrecks, fastings, weariness, perils, persecutions, all these he
sums up in another place as being the tokens by which he was approved as
an apostle of Jesus Christ. And here he, no doubt, has the same thought
in his mind, that his bodily weakness, which was the direct issue of his
apostolic work, showed that he was Christ's. The painful infirmity under
which, as we learn, he was more especially suffering, about the time of
writing this letter, may also have been in his mind.

All through this Epistle he has been thundering and lightning against
the disputers of this apostolic authority. And now at last he softens,
and as it were, bares his thin arm, his scarred bosom, and bids these
contumacious Galatians look upon them, and learn that he has a right to
speak as the representative and messenger of the Lord Jesus.

So we have here two or three points, I think, worth considering. First,
think for a moment of the slave of Christ; then of the brands which mark
the ownership; then of the glory in the servitude and the sign; and then
of the immunity from human disturbances which that service gives. 'From
henceforth let no man trouble me. I bear in my body the marks of the
Lord Jesus.'

I. First, then, a word or two about that conception of the slave of
Christ.

It is a pity that our Bible has not rendered the title which Paul ever
gives himself at the beginning of his letters, by that simple word
'slave,' instead of the feebler one, 'servant.' For what he means when
he calls himself the 'servant of Jesus Christ' is not that he bore to
Christ the kind of relation which servants among us bear to those who
have hired and paid them, and to whom they have come under obligations
of their own will which they can terminate at any moment by their own
caprice; but that he was in the roughest and simplest sense of the word,
Christ's slave.

What lies in that metaphor? Well, it is the most uncompromising
assertion of the most absolute authority on the one hand, and claim of
unconditional submission and subjection on the other.

The slave belonged to his master; the master could do exactly as he
liked with him. If he killed him nobody had anything to say. He could
set him to any task; he could do what he liked with any little
possession or property that the slave seemed to have. He could break all
his relationships, and separate him from wife and kindred.

All that is atrocious and blasphemous when it is applied to the
relations between man and man, but it is a blessed and magnificent truth
when it is applied to the relations between a man and Christ. For this
Lord has absolute authority over us, and He can do what He likes with
everything that belongs to us; and we, and our duties, and our
circumstances, and our relationships, are all in His hands, and the one
thing that we have to render to Him is utter, absolute, unquestioning,
unhesitating, unintermittent and unreserved obedience and submission.
That which is abject degradation when it is rendered to a man, that
which is blasphemous presumption when it is required by a man, that
which is impossible, in its deepest reality, as between man and man, is
possible, is blessed, is joyful and strong when it is required by, and
rendered to, Jesus Christ. We are His slaves if we have any living
relationship to Him at all. Where, then, in the Christian life, is there
a place for self-will; where a place for self-indulgence; where for
murmuring or reluctance; where for the assertion of any rights of my own
as against that Master? We owe absolute obedience and submission to
Jesus Christ.

And what does the metaphor carry as to the basis on which this authority
rests? How did men acquire slaves? Chiefly by purchase. The abominations
of the slave market are a blessed metaphor for the deep realities of the
Christian life. Christ has bought you for His own. The only thing that
gives a human soul the right to have any true authority over another
human soul is that it shall have yielded itself to the soul whom it
would control. We must first of all give ourselves away before we have
the right to possess, and the measure in which we give ourselves to
another is the measure in which we possess another. And so Christ our
Lord, according to the deep words of one of Paul's letters, 'gives
Himself for us, that He might purchase unto Himself a people for His
possession.' 'Ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price.'

Therefore the absolute authority, and unconditional surrender and
submission which are the very essence of the Christian life, at bottom
are but the corresponding and twofold effects of one thing, and that is
love. For there is no possession of man by man except that which is
based on love. And there is no submission of man to man worth calling
so except that which is also based therein.

          'Thou hearts alone wouldst move;
           Thou only hearts dost love.'

The relation in both its parts, on the side of the Master and on the
side of the captive bondsman, is the direct result and manifestation of
that love which knits them together.

Therefore the Christian slavery, with its abject submission, with its
utter surrender and suppression of mine own will, with its complete
yielding up of self to the control of Jesus, who died for me; because it
is based upon His surrender of Himself to me, and in its inmost essence
it is the operation of love, is therefore co-existent with the noblest
freedom.

This great Epistle to the Galatians is the trumpet call and clarion
proclamation of Christian liberty. The breath of freedom blows
inspiringly through it all. The very spirit of the letter is gathered up
in one of its verses, 'I have been called unto liberty,' and in its
great exhortation, 'Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ
hath made you free.' It is then sufficiently remarkable and profoundly
significant that in this very letter, which thus is the protest of the
free Christian consciousness against all limitations and outward
restrictions, there should be this most emphatic declaration that the
liberty of the Christian is slavery and the slavery of the Christian is
freedom. He is free whose will coincides with his outward law. He is
free who delights to do what he must do. He is free whose rule is love,
and whose Master is Incarnate Love. 'If the Son make you free, ye shall
be free indeed.' 'O Lord, truly I am Thy servant, Thou hast loosed my
bands.' 'I bear in my body' the charter of my liberty, for I bear in my
body the 'brand of the Lord Jesus.'

II. And so now a word in the next place about these marks of ownership.

As I have said, the Apostle evidently means thereby distinctly the
bodily weaknesses, and possibly diseases, which were the direct
consequences of his own apostolic faithfulness and zeal. He considered
that he proved himself to be a minister of God by his stripes,
imprisonments, fastings, by all the pains and sufferings and their
permanent consequences in an enfeebled constitution, which he bore
because he had preached the Cross of Christ. He knew that these things
were the result of his faithful ministry. He believed that they had been
sent by no blundering, blind fate; by no mere secondary causes; but by
his Master Himself, whose hand had held the iron that branded into the
hissing flesh the marks of His ownership. He felt that by means of these
he had been drawn nearer to his Master, and the ownership had been made
more perfect. And so in a rapture of contempt of pain, this heroic soul
looks upon even bodily weakness and suffering as being the signs that he
belonged to Christ, and the means of that possession being made more
perfect.

Now, what is all that to us Christian people who have no persecutions to
endure, and none of whom I am afraid have ever worked hard enough for
Christ to have damaged our health by it? Is there anything in this text
that may be of general application to us all? Yes! I think so. Every
Christian man or woman ought to bear, in his or her body, in a plain,
literal sense, the tokens that he or she belongs to Jesus Christ. You
ask me how? 'If thy foot or thine hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast
it from thee.'

There are things in your physical nature that you have to suppress; that
you have always to regulate and coerce; that you have sometimes entirely
to cast away and to do without, if you mean to be Jesus Christ's at all.
The old law of self-denial, of subduing the animal nature, its passions,
appetites, desires, is as true and as needful to-day as it ever was; and
for us all it is essential to the loftiness and purity of our Christian
life that our animal nature and our fleshly constitution should be well
kept down under heel and subdued. As Paul himself said in another place,
'I bring under my body, and I keep it in subjection, lest by any means I
should myself, having proclaimed to others the laws of the contest, be
rejected from the prize.' Oh, you Christian men and women! if you are
not living a life of self-denial, if you are not crucifying the flesh,
with its affections and lusts, if you are not bearing 'about in the body
the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Christ may be
manifested in your mortal body,' what tokens are there that you are
Christ's slaves at all?

Then, besides this, we may expand the thought even further, and say
that, in a very real sense, all the pains and sorrows and
disappointments and afflictions that mainly touch our mortal part should
be taken by us as, and made by us to be, the tokens that we belong to
the Master.

But it is not only in limitations and restrictions and self-denials and
pains that Christ's ownership of us ought to be manifested in our daily
lives, and so by means of our mortal bodies, but if there be in our
hearts a deep indwelling possession of the grace and sweetness of
Christ, it will make itself visible, ay! even in our faces, and 'beauty
born of' our communion with Him 'shall pass into' and glorify even
rugged and care-lined countenances. There may be, and there ought to be,
in all Christian people, manifestly visible the tokens of the indwelling
serenity of the indwelling Christ. And it should not be left to some
moment of rapture at the end of life, for men to look upon us, to behold
our faces, 'as it had been the face of an angel,' but by our daily walk,
by our countenances full of a removed tranquillity, and a joy that rises
from within, men ought to take knowledge of us that we have been with
Jesus, and it should be the truth--I bear in my body the tokens of His
possession.

III. Now, once more notice the glorying in the slavery and its signs.

'I bear,' says Paul; and he uses, as many of you may know, a somewhat
remarkable word, which does not express mere bearing in the sense of
toleration and patient endurance, although that is much; nor mere
bearing in the sense of carrying, but implies bearing with a certain
triumph as men would do who, coming back victorious from conflict, and
being received into the city, were proud to show their scars, the
honourable signs of their courage and constancy. So, with a triumph that
is legitimate, the Apostle solemnly and proudly bears before men the
marks of the Lord Jesus. Just as he says in another place:--'Thanks be
unto God, which always leadeth us about in triumph in Jesus Christ,' He
was proud of being dragged at the conqueror's chariot wheels, chained to
them by the cords of love; and so he was proud of being the slave of
Christ.

It is a degradation to a man to yield abject submission, unconditional
service to another man. It is the highest honour of our natures so to
bow before that dear Lord. To prostrate ourselves to Him is to lift
ourselves high in the scale of being. The King's servant is every other
person's master. And he that feels that he is Christ's, may well be, not
proud but conscious, of the dignity of belonging to such a Lord. The
monarch's livery is a sign of honour. In our old Saxon kingdom the
king's menials were the first nobles. So it is with us. The aristocracy
of humanity are the slaves of Jesus Christ.

And let us be proud of the marks of the branding iron, whether they come
in the shape of sorrows and pains, or otherwise. It is well that we
should have to carry these. It is blessed, and a special mark of the
Master's favour that He should think it worth His while to mark us as
His own, by any sorrow or by any pain. Howsoever hot may be the iron,
and howsoever deeply it may be pressed by His firm, steady, gentle hand
upon the quivering flesh and the shrinking heart, let us be thankful if
He, even by it, impresses on us the manifest tokens of ownership. Oh,
brethren! if we could come to look upon sorrows and losses with this
clear recognition of their source, meaning and purpose, they change
their nature, the paradox is fulfilled that we do 'gather grapes of
thorns and figs of thistles.' 'I bear in my body,' with a solemn triumph
and patient hope, 'the marks of the Lord Jesus.'

IV. And now, lastly, the immunity from any disturbance which men can
bring, which these marks, and the servitude they express, secure.

'From henceforth let no man trouble me.' Paul claims that his apostolic
authority, having been established by the fact of his sufferings for
Christ, should give him a sacredness in their eyes; that henceforth
there should be no rebellion against his teaching and his word. We may
expand the thought to apply more to ourselves, and say that, in the
measure in which we belong to Christ, and hear the marks of His
possession of us, in that measure are we free from the disturbance of
earthly influences and of human voices; and from all the other sources
of care and trouble, of perturbation and annoyance, which harass and vex
other men's spirits. 'Ye are bought with a price,' says Paul elsewhere.
'Be not the servants of men.' Christ is your Master; do not let men
trouble you. Take your orders from Him; let men rave as they like. Be
content to be approved by Him; let men think of you as they please. The
Master's smile is life, the Master's frown is death to the slave; what
matters it what other people may say? 'He that judgeth me is the Lord.'
So keep yourselves above the cackle of 'public opinion'; do not let your
creed be crammed down your throats even by a consensus of however
venerable and grave human teachers. Take your directions from your
Master, and pay no heed to other voices if they would command. Live to
please Him, and do not care what other people think. You are Christ's
servant; 'let no man trouble' you.

And so it should be about all the distractions and petty annoyances that
disturb human life and harass our hearts. A very little breath of wind
will ruffle all the surface of a shallow pond, though it would sweep
across the deep sea and produce no effect. Deepen your natures by close
union with Christ, and absolute submission to Him, and there will be a
great calm in them, and cares and sorrows, and all the external sources
of anxiety, far away, down there beneath your feet, will 'show scarce
so gross as beetles,' whilst you stand upon the high cliff and look down
upon them all. 'From henceforth no man shall trouble me.' 'I bear in my
body the marks of the Lord Jesus.'

My brother! Whose marks do you bear? There are only two masters. If an
eye that could see things as they are, were to go through this
congregation, whose initials would it discern in your faces? There are
some of us, I have no doubt, who in a very horrid sense bear in our
bodies the marks of the idol that we worship. Men who have ruined their
health by dissipation and animal sensualism--are there any of them here
this morning? Are there none of us whose faces, whose trembling hands,
whose diseased frames, are the tokens that they belong to the flesh and
the world and the devil? Whose do _you_ bear?

Oh! when one looks at all the faces that pass one upon the street--this
all drawn with avarice and earthly-mindedness; that all bloated with
self-indulgence and loose living--when one sees the mean faces, the
passionate faces, the cruel faces, the vindictive faces, the lustful
faces, the worldly faces, one sees how many of us bear in our bodies the
marks of _another_ lord. They have no rest day nor night who worship the
beast; and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

I pray you, yield yourselves to your true Lord, so on earth you may bear
the beginnings of the likeness that stamps you His, and hereafter, as
one of His happy slaves, shall do priestly service at His throne and see
His face, and His name shall be in your foreheads.



PHILIPPIANS



LOVING GREETINGS

          'Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to
          all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at
          Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2. Grace
          to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord
          Jesus Christ. 3. I thank my God upon all my
          remembrance of you, 4. Always in every
          supplication of mine on behalf of you all making
          my supplication with joy, 5. For your fellowship
          in furtherance of the gospel from the first day
          until now; 6. Being confident of this very thing
          that He which began a good work in you will
          perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ: 7. Even
          as it is right for me to be thus minded on behalf
          of you all, because I have you in my heart,
          inasmuch as, both in my bonds and in the defence
          and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are
          partakers with me of grace. 8. For God is my
          witness, how I long after you all in the tender
          mercies of Christ Jesus.'--PHIL. i. 1-8 (R.V.).


The bond between Paul and the church at Philippi was peculiarly close.
It had been founded by himself, as is narrated at unusual length in the
book of Acts. It was the first church established in Europe. Ten years
had elapsed since then, possibly more. Paul is now a prisoner in Rome,
not suffering the extremest rigour of imprisonment, but still a prisoner
in his own hired house, accessible to his friends and able to do work
for God, but still in the custody of soldiers, chained and waiting till
the tardy steps of Roman law should come up to him, or perhaps till the
caprice of Nero should deign to hear his cause. In that imprisonment we
have his letters to the Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and
Philemon, which latter three are closely connected in time, the two
former in subject, and the two latter in destination. This letter stands
apart from those to the great Asiatic churches.

Its tone and general cast are unlike those of most of his letters. It
contains no doctrinal discussions and no rebukes of evil, but is an
outpouring of happy love and confidence. Like all Paul's epistles it
begins with salutations, and like most of them with prayer, but from the
very beginning is a long gush of love. These early verses seem to me
very beautiful if we regard them either as a revelation of the personal
character of the Apostle, or as a picture of the relation between
teacher and taught in its most blessed and undisturbed form, or as a
lovely ideal of friendship and love in any relation, hallowed and
solemnised by Christian feeling.

Verses one and two contain the apostolic greeting. In it we note the
senders. Timothy is associated with Paul, according to his custom in all
his letters even when he goes on immediately to speak in the singular.
He ever sought to hide his own supremacy and to bring his friends into
prominence. He was a great, lowly soul, who had no pride in the dignity
of his position but felt the weight of its responsibility and would fain
have had it shared. He calls Timothy and himself the slaves of Christ.
He regarded it as his highest honour to be Christ's born servant, bound
to absolute submission to the all-worthy Lord who had died to win him.
It is to be noted that there is no reference here to apostolic
authority, and the contrast is very remarkable in this respect with the
Epistle to the Galatians, where with scornful emphasis he asserts it as
bestowed 'not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ
and God the Father.' In this designation of himself, we have already the
first trace of the intimate and loving relationship in which Paul stood
to the Philippians. There was no need for him to assert what was not
denied, and he did not wish to deal with them officially, but rather
personally. There is a similar omission in Philemon and a pathetic
substitution there of the 'prisoner of Jesus Christ' for the 'slave of
Christ Jesus.'

The persons addressed are 'all the saints in Christ Jesus.' As he had
not called himself an apostle, so he does not call them a church. He
will not lose in an abstraction the personal bond which unites them.
They are saints, which is not primarily a designation of moral purity,
but of consecration to God, from whom indeed purity flows. The primitive
meaning of the word is _separation_; the secondary meaning is
_holiness_, and the connection between these two meanings contains a
whole ethical philosophy. They are saints in Christ Jesus; union with
Him is the condition both of consecration and of purity.

The Philippian community had an organisation primitive but sufficient.
We do not enter on the discussion of its two offices further than to
note that the bishops are evidently identical with the elders, in the
account in Acts xx. of Paul's parting with the Ephesian Christians,
where the same persons are designated by both titles, as is also the
case in Titus i. 5 and 7; the one name (elder) coming from the Hebrew
and designating the office on the side of dignity, the other (bishop)
being of Greek origin and representing it in terms of function. We note
that there were several elders then in the Philippian church, and that
their place in the salutation negatives the idea of hierarchical
supremacy.

The benediction or prayer for grace and peace is couched in the form
which it assumes in all Paul's letters. It blends Eastern and Western
forms of greeting. 'Grace' being the Greek and 'Peace' the Hebrew form
of salutation. So Christ fuses and fulfils the world's desires. The
grace which He gives is the self-imparting love of God, the peace which
He gives is its consequence, and the salutation is an unmistakable
evidence of Paul's belief in Christ's divinity.

This salutation is followed by a great burst of thankful love, for the
full apprehension of which we must look briefly at the details of these
verses. We have first Paul's thankfulness in all his remembrance of the
Philippians, then he further defines the times of his thankfulness as
'always in every supplication of mind on behalf of you all making my
supplication with joy.' His gratitude for them is expressed in all his
prayers which are all thank-offerings. He never thinks of them nor prays
for them without thanking God for them. Then comes the reason for his
gratitude--their fellowship in furtherance of the gospel, from the first
day when Lydia constrained him to come into her house, until this moment
when now at the last their care of him had flourished again. The Revised
Version's rendering 'fellowship in furtherance of' instead of
'fellowship in' conveys the great lesson which the other rendering
obscures--that the true fellowship is not in enjoyment but in service,
and refers not so much to a common participation in the blessedness as
in the toils and trials of Christian work. This is apparent in an
immediately following verse where the Philippians' fellowship with
Christ is again spoken of as consisting in sharing both in His bonds and
in the double work of defending the gospel from gainsayers and in
positively proclaiming it. Very beautifully in this connection does he
designate that work and toil as 'my grace.'

The fellowship which thus is the basis of his thanksgiving leads on to a
confidence which he cherishes for them and which helps to make his
prayers joyful thanksgivings. And such confidence becomes him because
he has them in his heart, and 'love hopeth all things' and delights to
believe in and anticipate all good concerning its object. He has them in
his heart because they faithfully share with him his honourable, blessed
burdens. But that is not all, it is 'in the tender mercies' of Christ
that he loved them. His love is the love of Christ in him; his being is
so united to Jesus that his heart beats with the same emotion as throbs
in Christ's, and all that is merely natural and of self in his love is
changed into a solemn participation in the great love which Christ has
to them. This, then, being the general exposition of the words, let us
now dwell for a little while on the broad principles suggested by them.

I. Participation in the work of Christ is the noblest basis for love and
friendship.

Paul had tremendous courage and yet hungered for sympathy. He had no
outlets for his love but his fellow Christians. There had, no doubt,
been a wrenching of the ties of kindred when he became a Christian, and
his love, dammed back and restrained, had to pour itself on his
brethren.

The Church is a workshop, not a dormitory, and every Christian man and
woman is bound to help in the common cause. These Philippians help Paul
by sympathy and gifts, indeed, but by their own direct work as well, and
things are not right with us unless leaders can say, 'Ye all are
partakers of my grace.' There are other real and sweet bonds of love and
friendship, but the most real and sweetest is to be found in our common
relation to Jesus Christ and in our co-operation in the work which is
ours because it is His and we are His.

II. Thankful, glad prayer flows from such co-operation.

The prisoner in his bonds in the alien city had the remembrance of his
friends coming into his chamber like fresh, cool air, or fragrance from
far-off gardens. A thrill of gladness was in his soul as often as he
thought on them. It is blessed if in our experience teacher and taught
are knit together thus; without some such bond of union no good will be
done. The relation of pastor and people is so delicate and spiritual,
the purpose of it so different from that of mere teaching, the laws of
it so informal and elastic, the whole power of it, therefore, so
dependent on sympathy and mutual kindliness that, unless there be
something like the bond which united Paul and the Philippians, there
will be no prosperity or blessing. The thinnest film of cloud prevents
deposition of dew. If all men in pulpits could say what Paul said of the
Philippians, and all men in pews could deserve to have it said of them,
the world would feel the power of a quickened Church.

III. Confidence is born of love and common service.

Paul delights to think that God will go on because God has already begun
a good work in them, and Paul delights to think of their perfection
because he loves them. 'God is not a man that He should lie, or the son
of man that He should repent.' His past is the guarantee for His future;
what He begins He finishes.

IV. Our love is hallowed and greatened in the love of Christ.

Paul lived, yet not he, but Christ lived in him. It is but one
illustration of the principle of his being that Christ who was the life
of his life, is the heart of his love. He longed after his Philippian
friends in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus. This and this only is
the true consecration of love when we live and love in the Lord; when we
will as Christ does, think as He does, love as He does, when the mind
that was in Christ Jesus was in us. It is needful to guard against the
intrusion of mere human affection and regard into our sacred relations
in the Church; it is needful to guard against it in our own personal
love and friendship. Let us see that we ourselves know and believe the
love wherewith Christ hath loved us, and then let us see that that love
dwells in us informing and hallowing our hearts, making them tender with
His great tenderness, and turning all the water of our earthly
affections into the new wine of His kingdom. Let the law for our hearts,
as well as for our minds and wills, be 'I live, yet not I but Christ
liveth in me.'



A COMPREHENSIVE PRAYER

          'And this I pray, that your love may abound yet
          more and more in knowledge and all discernment;
          10. So that ye may approve the things that are
          excellent; that ye may be sincere and void of
          offence unto the day of Christ; 11. Being filled
          with the fruits of righteousness, which are
          through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of
          God.'--PHIL. i. 9-11 (R.V.).


What a blessed friendship is that of which the natural language is
prayer! We have many ways, thank God, of showing our love and of helping
one another, but the best way is by praying for one another. All that is
selfish and low is purged out of our hearts in the act, suspicions and
doubts fade away when we pray for those whom we love. Many an alienation
would have melted like morning mists if it had been prayed about, added
tenderness and delicacy come to our friendships so like the bloom on
ripening grapes. We may test our loves by this simple criterion--Can we
pray about them? If not, should we have them? Are they blessings to us
or to others?

This prayer, like all those in Paul's epistles, is wonderfully full. His
deep affection for, and joy in, the Philippian church breathes in every
word of it. Even his jealous watchfulness saw nothing in them to desire
but progress in what they possessed. Such a desire is the highest that
love can frame. We can wish nothing better for one another than growth
in the love of God. Paul's estimate of the highest good of those who
were dearest to him was that they should be more and more completely
filled with the love of God and with its fruits of holiness and purity,
and what was his supreme desire for the Philippians is the highest
purpose of the gospel for us all, and should be the aim of our effort
and longing, dominating all others as some sovereign mountain peak
towers above the valleys. Looking then at this prayer as containing an
outline of true progress in the Christian life, we may note:

I. The growth in keenness of conscience founded on growth in love.

Paul does not merely desire that their love may abound, but that it may
become more and more 'rich in knowledge and all discernment.' The former
is perhaps accurate knowledge, and the latter the application of it.
'Discernment' literally means 'sense,' and here, of course, when
employed about spiritual and moral things it means the power of
apprehending good and bad as such. It is, I suppose, substantially
equivalent to conscience, the moral tact or touch of the soul by which,
in a manner analogous to bodily sense, it ascertains the moral character
of things. This growth of love in the power of spiritual and moral
discernment is desired in order to its exercise in 'proving things that
differ.' It is a process of discrimination and testing that is meant,
which is, I think, fairly represented by the more modern expression
which I have used--keenness of conscience.

I need spend little time in remarking on the absolute need of such a
process of discrimination. We are surrounded by temptations to evil, and
live in a world where maxims and principles not in accordance with the
gospel abound. Our own natures are but partially sanctified. The shows
of things must be tested. Apparent good must be proved. The Christian
life is not merely to unfold itself in peace and order, but through
conflict. We are not merely to follow impulses, or to live as angels do,
who are above sin, or as animals do who are beneath it. When false coin
is current it is folly to accept any without a test. All around us there
is glamour, and so within us there is need for careful watchfulness and
quick discrimination.

This keenness of conscience follows on the growth of love. Nothing makes
a man more sensitive to evil than a hearty love to God. Such a heart is
keener to discern what is contrary to its love than any ethical maxims
can make it. A man who lives in love will be delivered from the blinding
influence of his own evil tastes, and a heart steadfast in love will not
be swayed by lower temptations. Communion with God will, from its very
familiarity with Him, instinctively discern the evil of evil, as a man
coming out of pure air is conscious of vitiated atmosphere which those
who dwell in it do not perceive. It used to be said that Venice glass
would shiver into fragments if poison were poured into the cup. As evil
spirits were supposed to be cast out by the presence of an innocent
child or a pure virgin, so the ugly shapes that sometimes tempt us by
assuming fair disguises will be shown in their native hideousness when
confronted with a heart filled with the love of God.

Such keenness of judgment is capable of indefinite increase. Our
consciences should become more and more sensitive: we should always be
advancing in our discovery of our own evils, and be more conscious of
our sins, the fewer we have of them. Twilight in a chamber may reveal
some foul things, and the growing light will disclose more. 'Secret
faults' will cease to be secret when our love abounds more and more in
knowledge, and in all discernment.

II. The purity and completeness of character flowing from this keenness
of conscience.

The Apostle desires that the knowledge which he asks for his Philippian
friends may pass over into character, and he describes the sort of men
which he desires them to be in two clauses, 'sincere and void of
offence' being the one, 'filled with the fruits of righteousness' being
the other. The former is perhaps predominantly negative, the latter
positive. That which is sincere is so because when held up to the light
it shows no flaws, and that which is without offence is so because the
stones in the path have been cleared away by the power of
discrimination, so that there is no stumbling. The life which discerns
keenly will bring forth the fruit which consists of righteousness, and
that fruit is to fill the whole nature so that no part shall be without
it.

Nothing lower than this is the lofty standard towards which each
Christian life is to aim, and to which it can indefinitely approximate.
It is not enough to aim at the negative virtue of sincerity so that the
most searching scrutiny of the web of our lives shall detect no flaws
in the weaving, and no threads dropped or broken. There must also be the
actual presence of positive righteousness filling life in all its parts.
That lofty standard is pressed upon us by a solemn motive, 'unto the day
of Christ.' We are ever to keep before us the thought that in that
coming day all our works will be made manifest, and that all of them
should be done, so that when we have to give account of them we shall
not be ashamed.

The Apostle takes it for granted here that if the Philippian Christians
know what is right and what is wrong, they will immediately choose and
do the right. Is he forgetting the great gulf between knowledge and
practice? Not so, but he is strong in the faith that love needs only to
know in order to do. The love which abounds more and more in knowledge
and in all discernment will be the soul of obedience, and will delight
in fulfilling the law which it has delighted in beholding. Other
knowledge has no tendency to lead to practice, but this knowledge which
is the fruit of love has for its fruit righteousness.

III. The great Name in which this completeness is secured.

The Apostle's prayer dwells not only on the way by which a Christian
life may increase itself, but in its close reaches the yet deeper
thought that all that growth comes 'through Jesus Christ.' He is the
Giver of it all, so that we are not so much called to a painful toil as
to a glad reception. Our love fills us with the fruits of righteousness,
because it takes all these from His hands. It is from His gift that
conscience derives its sensitiveness. It is by His inspiration that
conscience becomes strong enough to determine action, and that even our
dull hearts are quickened into a glow of desiring to have in our lives,
the law of the spirit of life, that was in Christ Jesus, and to make our
own all that we see in Him of 'things that are lovely and of good
report.'

The prayer closes with a reference to the highest end of all our
perfecting--the glory and praise of God; the former referring rather to
the transcendent majesty of God in itself, and the latter to the
exaltation of it by men. The highest glory of God comes from the gradual
increase in redeemed men's likeness to Him. They are 'the secretaries of
His praise,' and some portion of that great honour and responsibility
lies on each of us. If all Christian men were what they all might be and
should be, swift and sure in their condemnation of evil and loyal
fidelity to conscience, and if their lives were richly hung with ripened
clusters of the fruits of righteousness, the glory of God would be more
resplendent in the world, and new tongues would break into praise of Him
who had made men so like Himself.



A PRISONER'S TRIUMPH

          'Now I would have you know, brethren, that the
          things which happened unto me have fallen out
          rather unto the progress of the gospel; 13. So
          that my bonds became manifest in Christ throughout
          the whole prætorian guard, and to all the rest;
          14. And that most of the brethren in the Lord,
          being confident through my bonds, are more
          abundantly bold to speak the word of God without
          fear. 15. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy
          and strife; and some also of good will: 16. The
          one do it of love, knowing that I am set for the
          defence of the gospel: 17. But the other proclaim
          Christ of faction, not sincerely, thinking to
          raise up affliction for me in my bonds. 18. What
          then? only that in every way, whether in pretence
          or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and therein I
          rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. 19. For I know
          that this shall turn to my salvation, through your
          supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus
          Christ. 20. According to my earnest expectation
          and hope, that in nothing shall I be put to shame,
          but that with all boldness, as always, so now also
          Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by
          life or by death.'--PHIL. i. 12-20 (R.V.)


Paul's writings are full of autobiography, that is partly owing to
temperament, partly to the profound interpenetration of his whole
nature with his religion. His theology was but the generalisation of his
experience. He has felt and verified all that he has to say. But the
personal experiences of this sunny letter to his favourite church have a
character all their own. In that atmosphere of untroubled love and
sympathy a shyer heart than Paul's would have opened: his does so in
tenderness, gladness, and trust. We have here the unveiling of his
inmost self in response to what he knew would be an eager desire for
news of his welfare. This whole section appears to me to be a wonderful
revelation of his prison thoughts, an example of what we may call the
ennobling power of a passionate enthusiasm for Christ. Remember that he
is a prisoner, shut out from his life's work, waiting to be tried before
Nero, whose reign had probably, by this time, passed from its delusive
morning of dewy promise to its lurid noon. The present and the future
were dark for him, and yet in spite of them all comes forth this burst
of undaunted courage and noble gladness. We simply follow the course of
the words as they lie, and we find in them,

I. An absorbing purpose which bends all circumstances to its service and
values them only as instruments.

The things which happened unto me; that is Paul's minimising euphemism
for the grim realities of imprisonment, or perhaps for some recent
ominous turns in his circumstances. To him they are not worth dwelling
on further, nor is their personal incidence worth taking into account;
the only thing which is important is to say how these things have
affected his life's work. It is enough for him, and he believes that it
will be enough even for his loving friends at Philippi to know that,
instead of their being as they might have feared, and as he sometimes
when he was faithless expected, hindrances to his work, they have turned
out rather to 'the furtherance of the gospel.' Whether he has been
comfortable or not is a matter of very small importance, the main thing
is that Christ's work has been helped, and then he goes on to tell two
ways in which his imprisonment had conduced to this end.

'My bonds became manifest in Christ.' It has been clearly shown why I
was a prisoner; all the Prætorian guard had learned what Paul was there
for. We know from Acts that he was 'suffered to abide by himself with
the soldier that kept him.' He has no word to say of the torture of
compulsory association, night and day, with the rude legionaries, or of
the horrors of such a presence in his sweetest, sacredest moments of
communion with his Lord. These are all swallowed up in the thought as
they were in the fact, that each new guard as he came to sit there
beside Paul was a new hearer, and that by this time he must have told
the story of Christ and His love to nearly the whole corps. That is a
grand and wonderful picture of passionate earnestness and absorbed
concentration in one pursuit. Something of the same sort is in all
pursuits, the condition of success and the sure result of real interest.
We have all to be specialists if we would succeed in any calling. The
river that spreads wide flows slow, and if it is to have a scour in its
current it must be kept between high banks. We have to bring ourselves
to a point and to see that the point is red-hot if we mean to bore with
it. If our limitations are simply enforced by circumstances, they may be
maiming, but if they come of clear insight and free choice of worthy
ends, they are noble. The artist, the scholar, the craftsman, all need
to take for their motto 'This one thing I do.' I suppose that a man
would not be able to make a good button unless he confined himself to
button-making. We see round us abundant examples of men who, for
material aims and almost instinctively, use all circumstances for one
end and appraise them according to their relations to that, and they are
quoted as successful, and held up to young souls as patterns to be
imitated. Yes! But what about the man who does the same in regard to
Christ and His work? Is he thought of as an example to be imitated or as
a warning to be avoided? Is not the very same concentration when applied
to Christian work and living thought to be fanatical, which is welcomed
with universal applause when it is directed to lower pursuits? The
contrast of our eager absorption in worldly things and of the ease with
which any fluttering butterfly can draw us away from the path which
leads us to God, ought to bring a blush to all cheeks and penitence to
all hearts. There was no more obligation on Paul to look at the
circumstances of his life thus than there is on every Christian to do
so. We do not desire that all should be apostles, but the Apostle's
temper and way of looking at 'the things which happened unto' him should
be our way of looking at the things which happen unto us. We shall
estimate them rightly, and as God estimates them, only when we estimate
them according to their power to serve our souls and to further Christ's
kingdom.

II. The magnetism or contagion of enthusiasm.

The second way by which Paul's circumstances furthered the gospel was
'that most of the brethren, being confident through my bonds, are more
abundantly bold to speak the word of God.' His constancy and courage
stirred them up. Moved by good-will and love, they were heartened to
preach because they saw in him one 'appointed by God for the defence of
the gospel.' A soul all on flame has power to kindle others. There is an
old story of a Scottish martyr whose constancy at the stake touched so
many hearts that 'a merry gentleman' said to Cardinal Beaton, 'If ye
burn any more you should burn them in low cellars, for the reek (smoke)
of Mr. Patrick Hamilton has infected as many as it blew upon.'

It is not only in the case of martyrs that enthusiasm is contagious.
However highly we may estimate the impersonal forces that operate for
'the furtherance of the gospel' we cannot but see that in all ages, from
the time of Paul down to to-day, the main agents for the spread of the
gospel have been individual souls all aflame with the love of God in
Christ Jesus and filled with the life of His Spirit. The history of the
Church has largely consisted in the biographies of its saints, and every
great revival of religion has been the flame kindled round a flaming
heart. Paul was impelled by his own love; the brethren in Rome were in a
lower state as only reflecting his, and it ought to be the prerogative
of every Christian to be a centre and source of kindling influence
rather than a mere recipient of it. It is a question which may well be
asked by each of us about ourselves--would anybody find quickening
impulses to divine life and Christian service coming from us, or do we
simply serve to keep others' coldness in countenance? It was said of old
of Jesus Christ, 'He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and in fire,'
and that promise remains effective to-day, however little one looking on
the characters of the mass of so-called Christians would believe it.
They seem rather to have been plunged into ice-cold water than into
fire, and their coldness is as contagious as Paul's radiant enthusiasm
was. Let us try, for our parts, to radiate out the warmth of the love of
God, that it may kindle in others the flame which it has lighted in
ourselves, and not be like icebergs floating southwards and bringing
down the temperature of even the very temperate seas in which we find
ourselves.

III. The wide tolerance of such enthusiasm.

It is stigmatised as 'narrow,' which to-day is the sin of sins, but it
is broad with the true breadth. Such enthusiasm lifts a man high enough
to see over many hedges and to be tolerant even of intolerance, and of
the indifference which tolerates everything but earnestness. Paul here
deals with a class amongst the Roman Christians who were 'preaching of
envy and strife,' with the malicious calculation that so they would
annoy him and 'add affliction' to his bonds. It is generally supposed
that these were Judaising Christians against whom Paul fulminates in all
his letters, but I confess that, notwithstanding the arguments of
authoritative commentators, I cannot believe that they are the same set
of men preaching the same doctrines which in other places he treats as
destructive of the whole gospel. The change of tone is so great as to
require the supposition of a change of subjects, and the Judaisers with
whom the Apostle waged a neverending warfare, never did evangelistic
work amongst the heathen as these men seem to have done, but confined
themselves to trying to pervert converts already made. It was not their
message but their spirit that was faulty. With whatever purpose of
annoyance they were animated, they did 'preach Christ,' and Paul
superbly brushes aside all that was antagonistic to him personally, in
his triumphant recognition that the one thing needful _was_ spoken, even
from unworthy motives and with a malicious purpose. The situation here
revealed, strange though it appears with our ignorance of the facts, is
but too like much of what meets us still. Do we not know denominational
rivalries which infuse a bitter taint of envy and strife into much
evangelistic earnestness, and is the spectacle of a man preaching Christ
with a taint of sidelong personal motives quite unknown to this day? We
may press the question still more closely home and ask ourselves if we
are entirely free from the influence of such a spirit. No man who knows
himself and has learned how subtly lower motives blend themselves with
the highest will be in haste to answer these questions with an
unconditional 'No,' and no man who looks on the sad spectacle of
competing Christian communities and knows anything of the methods of
competition that are in force, will venture to deny that there are still
those who preach Christ of envy and strife.

It comes, then, to be a testing question for each of us, have we learned
from Paul this lesson of tolerance, which is not the result of cold
indifference, but the outcome of fiery enthusiasm and of a clear
recognition of the one thing needful? Granted that there is preaching
from unworthy motives and modes of work which offend our tastes and
prejudices, and that there are types of evangelistic earnestness which
have errors mixed up with them, are we inclined to say 'Nevertheless
Christ is proclaimed, and therein I rejoice, Yea, and will rejoice'?
Much chaff may be blended with the seeds sown; the chaff will lie inert
and the seed will grow. Such tolerance is the very opposite of the
carelessness which comes from languid indifference. The one does not
mind what a man preaches because it has no belief in any of the things
preached, and to it one thing is as good as another, and none are of any
real consequence. The other proceeds from a passionate belief that the
one thing which sinful men need to hear is the great message that Christ
has lived and died for them, and therefore, it puts all else on one side
and cares nothing for jangling notes that may come in, if only above
them the music of His name sounds out clear and full.

IV. The calm fronting of life and death as equally magnifying Christ.

The Apostle is sure that all the experiences of his prison will turn to
his ultimate salvation, because he is sure that his dear friends in
Philippi will pray for him, and that through their prayers he will
receive a 'supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,' which shall be enough
to secure his steadfastness. His expectation is not that he will escape
from prison or from martyrdom, both of which stand only too clearly
before him, but that whatever may be waiting for him in the future, 'all
boldness' will be granted him, so that whether he lives he will live to
the Lord, or whether he dies, he will die to the Lord. He had so
completely accepted it as his life's purpose to magnify Jesus, that the
extremest possible changes of condition came to be insignificant to him.
He had what we may have, the true anæsthetic which will give us a
'solemn scorn of ills' and make even the last and greatest change from
life to death of little account. If we magnify Christ in our lives with
the same passionate earnestness and concentrated absorption as Paul had,
our lives like some train on well-laid rails will enter upon the bridge
across the valley with scarce a jolt. With whatever differences--and the
differences are to us tremendous--the same purpose will be pursued in
life and in death, and they who, living, live to the praise of Christ,
dying will magnify Him as their last act in the body which they leave.
What was it that made possible such a passion of enthusiasm for a man
whom Paul had never seen in the flesh? What changed the gloomy
fuliginous fanaticism of the Pharisee, at whose feet were laid the
clothes of the men who stoned Stephen, into this radiant light, all
aflame with a divine splendour? The only answer is in Paul's own words,
'He loved me and gave Himself for me.' That answer is as true for each
of us as it was for him. Does it produce in us anything like the effects
which it produced in him?



A STRAIT BETWIXT TWO

          'To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22.
          But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of
          my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. 23.
          For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire
          to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far
          better: 24. Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is
          more needful for you. 25. And having this
          confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue
          with you all for your furtherance and joy of
          faith.'--PHIL. i. 21-25.


A preacher may well shrink from such a text. Its elevation of feeling
and music of expression make all sermons on it sound feeble and harsh,
like some poor shepherd's pipe after an organ. But, though this be true,
it may not be useless to attempt, at least, to point out the course of
thought in these grand words. They flow like a great river, which
springs at first with a strong jet from some deep cave, then is torn and
chafed among dividing rocks, and after a troubled middle course, moves
at last with stately and equable current to the sea. The Apostle's
thoughts and feelings have here, as it were, a threefold bent in their
flow. First, we have the clear, unhesitating statement of the
comparative advantages of life and death to a Christian man, when
thought of as affecting himself alone. The one is Christ, the other
gain. But we neither live nor die to ourselves; and no man has a right
to think of life or death only from the point of view of his own
advantage. So the problem is not so simple as it looked. Life here is
the condition of fruitful labour here. There are his brethren and his
work to think of. These bring him to a stand, and check the rising wish.
He knows not which state to prefer. The stream is dammed back between
rocks, and it chafes and foams and seems to lose its way among them.
Then comes a third bend in the flow of thought and feeling, and he
gladly apprehends it as his present duty to remain at his work. If his
own joy is thereby less, his brethren's will be more. If he is not to
depart and be with Christ, he will remain and be with Christ's friends,
which is, in some sort, being with Him too. If he may not have the gain
of death, he will have the fruit of work in life.

Let us try to fill up, somewhat, this meagre outline of the warm stream
that pours through these great words.

I. The simplicity of the comparison between life and death to a
Christian thinking of himself alone.

'To me' is plainly emphatic. It means more than 'in my judgment' or even
'in my case.' It is equal to 'To me personally, if I stood alone, and
had no one to consider but myself.' 'To live' refers mainly here to
outward practical life of service, and 'to die' should, perhaps, rather
be 'to be dead,' referring, not to the act of dissolution, but to the
state after; not to the entrance chamber, but to the palace to which it
admits.

So we have here grandly set forth the simplicity and unity of the
Christian life. While the words probably refer mainly to outward life,
they presuppose an inward, of which that outward is the expression. In
every possible phase of the word 'life,' Christ is the life of the
Christian. To live is Christ, for He is the mystical source from whom
all ours flows. 'With Thee is the fountain of life,' and all life, both
of body and spirit, is from Him, by Him, and in Him. 'To live is
Christ,' for He is the aim and object, as well as the Lord, of it all,
and no other is worth calling life, but that which is _for_ Him by
willing consecration, as well as _from_ Him by constant derivation. 'To
live is Christ,' for He is the model of all our life, and the one
all-sufficient law for us is to follow Him.

Life is to be _as_ Christ, _for_ Christ, _by_, _in_, and _from_ Christ.
So shall there be strength, peace, and freedom in our days. The unity
brought into life thereby will issue in calm blessedness, contrasted
wondrously with the divided hearts and aims which fritter our days into
fragments, and make our lives heaps of broken links instead of chains.

Surely this is the charm which brings rest into the most troubled
history, and nobleness into the lowliest duties. There is nothing so
grand as the unity breathed into our else distracted days by the
all-pervading reference to and presence of Christ. Without that, we are
like the mariners of the old world, who crept timidly from headland to
headland, making each their aim for a while, and leaving each inevitably
behind, never losing sight of shore, nor ever knowing the wonders of the
deep and all the majesty of mid-ocean, nor ever touching the happy
shores beyond, which they reach who carry in their hearts a compass that
ever points to the unseen pole.

Then comes the other great thought, that where life is simply Christ,
death will be simply gain.

Paul, no doubt, shrank from the act of death, as we all do. It was not
the narrow passage which attracted him, but the broad land beyond. Every
other aspect of that was swallowed up in one great thought, which will
occupy us more at length presently. But that word 'gain' suggests that
to Paul's confident faith death was but an increase and progression in
all that was good here. To him it was no loss to lose flesh and sense
and all the fleeting joys with which they link us. To him death was no
destruction of his being, and not even an interruption of its
continuity. Everything that was of any real advantage to him was to be
his after as before. The change was clear gain. Everything good was to
be just as it had been, only better. Nothing was to be dropped but what
it was progress to lose, and whatever was kept was to be heightened.

How strongly does that view express the two thoughts of the _continuity_
and _intensifying_ of the Christian life beyond the grave! And what a
contrast does that simple, sublime confidence present to many another
thought of death! To how many men its blackness seems to be the sudden
swallowing up of the light of their very being! To how many more does it
seem to put an end to all their occupations, and to shear their lives in
twain, as remorselessly as the fall of the guillotine severs the head
from the body. How are the light butterfly wings of the trivialities in
which many men and women spend their days to carry them across the awful
gulf? What are the people to do on the other side whose lives have all
been given to purposes and tasks that stop on this side? Are there shops
and mills, or warehouses and drawing-rooms, or studies and
lecture-halls, over there? Will the lives which have not struck their
roots down through all the surface soil to the rock, bear transplanting?
Alas! for the thousands landed in that new country, as unfit for it by
the tenor of their past occupations, as some pale artisan, with delicate
fingers and feeble muscles, set down as a colonist to clear the forest!

This Paul had a work here which he could carry on hereafter. There would
be no reversal of view, no change in the fundamental character of his
occupations. True, the special forms of work which he had pursued here
would be left behind, but the principle underlying them would continue.
It matters very little to the servant whether he is out in the cold and
wet 'ploughing and tending cattle,' or whether he is waiting on his
master at table. It is service all the same, only it is warmer and
lighter in the house than in the field, and it is promotion to be made
an indoor servant.

So the direction of the life, and the source of the life, and the
fundamentals of the life continue unchanged. Everything is as it was,
only in the superlative degree. To other men the narrow plain on which
their low-lying lives are placed is rimmed by the jagged, forbidding
white peaks. It is cold and dreary on these icy summits where no
creature can live. Perhaps there is land on the other side; who knows?
The pale barrier separates all here from all there; we know not what may
be on the other side. Only we feel that the journey is long and chill,
that the ice and the barren stone appal, and that we never can carry our
household goods, our tools, or our wealth with us up to the black jaws
of the pass.

But for this man the Alps were tunnelled. There was no interruption in
his progress. He would go, he believed, without 'break of gauge,' and
would pass through the darkness, scarcely knowing when it came, and
certainly unchecked for even a moment, right on to the other side where
he would come out, as travellers to Italy do, to fairer plains and bluer
skies, to richer harvests and a warmer sun. No jolt, no pause, no
momentary suspension of consciousness, no reversal, nor even
interruption in his activity, did Paul expect death to bring him, but
only continuance and increase of all that was essential to his life.

He has calmness in his confidence. There is nothing hysterical or
overwrought or morbid in these brief words, so peaceful in their trust,
so moderate and restrained in their rapture. Are our anticipations of
the future moulded on such a pattern? Do we think of it as quietly as
this man did? Are we as tranquilly sure about it? Is there as little
mist of uncertainty about the clearly defined image to our eye as there
was to his? Is our confidence so profound that these brief monosyllables
are enough to state it? Above all, do we know that to die will be gain,
because we can honestly say that to live is Christ? If so, our hope is
valid, and will not yield when we lean heavily upon it for support in
the ford over the black stream. If our hope is built on anything
besides, it will snap then like a rotten pole, and leave us to stumble
helpless among the slippery stones and the icy torrent.

II. The second movement of thought here, which troubles and complicates
this simple decision, as to what is the best for Paul himself, is the
hesitation springing from the wish to help his brethren.

As we said, no man has a right to forget others in settling the question
whether he would live or die. We see the Apostle here brought to a stand
by two conflicting currents of feelings. For himself he would gladly
go, for his friends' sake he is drawn to the opposite choice. He has
'fallen into a place where two seas meet,' and for a minute or two his
will is buffeted from side to side by the 'violence of the waves.' The
obscurity of his language, arising from its broken construction,
corresponds to the struggle of his feelings. As the Revised Version has
it, 'If to live in the flesh--if this is the fruit of my work, then what
I shall choose, I wot not.' By which fragmentary sentence, rightly
representing as it does the roughness of the Greek, we understand him to
mean that if living on in this life is the condition of his gaining
fruit from his toil, then he has to check the rising wish, and is
hindered from decisive preference either way. Both motives act upon him,
one drawing him deathward, the other holding him firmly here. He is in a
dilemma, pinned in, as it were, between the two opposing pressures. On
the one hand he has the desire (not 'a desire,' as the English Bible has
it, as if it were but one among many) turned towards departing to be
with Christ; but on the other, he knows that his remaining here is for
the present all but indispensable for the immature faith of the churches
which he has founded. So he stands in doubt for a moment, and the
picture of his hesitation may well be studied by us.

Such a reason for wishing to die in conflict with such a reason for
wishing to live, is as noble as it is rare, and, thank God, as imitable
as it is noble.

Notice the aspect which death wore to his faith. He speaks of it as
'departing,' a metaphor which does not, like many of the flattering
appellations which men give that last enemy, reveal a quaking dread
which cannot bear to look him in his ashen, pale face. Paul calls him
gentle names, because he fears him not at all. To him all the
dreadfulness, the mystery, the pain and the solitude have melted away,
and death has become a mere change of place. The word literally means
_to unloose_, and is employed to express pulling up the tent-pegs of a
shifting encampment, or drawing up the anchor of a ship. In either case
the image is simply that of removal. It is but striking the earthly
house of this tent; it is but one more day's march, of which we have had
many already, though this is over Jordan. It is but the last day's
journey, and to-morrow there will be no packing up in the morning and
resuming our weary tramp, but we shall be at home, and go no more out.
So has the awful thing at the end dwindled, and the brighter and greater
the land behind it shines, the smaller does it appear.

The Apostle thinks little of dying because he thinks so much of what
comes after. Who is afraid of a brief journey if a meeting with dear
friends long lost is at the end of it? The narrow avenue seems short,
and its roughness and darkness are nothing, because Jesus Christ stands
with outstretched arms at the other end, beckoning us to Himself, as
mothers teach their children to walk. Whosoever is sure that he will be
with Christ can afford to smile at death, and call it but a shifting of
place. And whosoever feels the desire to be with Christ will not shrink
from the means by which that desire is fulfilled, with the agony of
revulsion that it excites in many an imagination. It will always be
solemn, and its physical accompaniments of pain and struggle will always
be more or less of a terror, and the parting, even for a time, from our
dear ones, will always be loss, but nevertheless if we see Christ across
the gulf, and know that one struggle more and we shall clasp Him with
'inseparable hands with joy and bliss in over measure for ever,' we
shall not dread the leap.

One thought about the future should fill our minds, as it did Paul's,
that it is to be with Christ. How different that nobly simple
expectation, resolving all bliss into the one element, is from the
morbid curiosity as to details, which vulgarises and weakens so much of
even devout anticipation of the future. To us as to him Heaven should be
Christ, and Christ should be Heaven. All the rest is but accident.
Golden harps and crowns, and hidden manna and white robes and thrones,
and all the other representations, are but symbols of the blessedness of
union with Him, or consequences of it. Immortal life and growth in
perfection, both of mind and heart, and the cessation of all that
disturbs, and our investiture with glory and honour, flung around our
poor natures like a royal robe over a naked body, are all but the
many-sided brightnesses that pour out from Him, and bathe in their
rainbowed light those who are with Him.

To be with Christ is all we need. For the loving heart to be near Him is
enough.

          'I shall clasp thee again, O soul of my soul,
           And with God be the rest.'

Let us not fritter away our imaginations and our hopes on the
subordinate and non-essential accompaniments, but concentrate all their
energy on the one central thought. Let us not lose this gracious image
in a maze of symbols, that, though precious, are secondary. Let us not
inquire, with curiosity that will find no answer, about the unrevealed
wonders and staggering mysteries of that transcendent thought, life
everlasting. Let us not acquire the habit of thinking of the future as
the perfecting of our humanity, without connecting all our speculations
with Him, whose presence will be all of heaven to us all. But let us
keep His serene figure ever clear before our imaginations in all the
blaze of the light, and try to feed our hopes and stay our hearts on
this aspect of heavenly blessedness as the all-embracing one, that all,
each for himself, shall be for ever conscious of Christ's loving
presence, and of the closest union with Him, a union in comparison with
which the dearest and sacredest blendings of heart with heart and life
with life are cold and distant. For the clearness of our hope the fewer
the details the better: for the willingness with which we turn from life
and face the inevitable end, it is very important that we should have
that one thought disengaged from all others. The one full moon, which
dims all the stars, draws the tides after it. These lesser lights may
gem the darkness, and dart down white shafts of brilliance in quivering
reflections on the waves, but they have no power to move their mass. It
is Christ and Christ only who draws us across the gulf to be with Him,
and reduces death to a mere shifting of our encampment.

This is a noble and worthy reason for wishing to die; not because Paul
is disappointed and sick of life, not because he is weighed down with
sorrow, or pain, or loss, or toil, but because he would like to be with
his Master. He is no morbid sentimentalist, he is cherishing no
unwholesome longing, he is not weary of work, he indulges in no
hysterical raptures of desire. What an eloquent simplicity is in that
quiet 'very far better!' It goes straight to one's heart, and says more
than paragraphs of falsetto yearnings. There is nothing in such a wish
to die, based on such a reason, that the most manly and wholesome piety
need be ashamed of. It is a pattern for us all.

The attraction of life contends with the attraction of heaven in these
verses. That is a conflict which many good men know something of, but
which does not take the shape with many of us which it assumed with
Paul. Drawn, as he is, by the supreme desire of close union with his
Master, for the sake of which he is ready to depart, he is tugged back
even more strongly by the thought that, if he stays here, he can go on
working and gaining results from his labour. It does not follow that he
did not expect service if he were with Christ. We may be very sure that
Paul's heaven was no idle heaven, but one of happy activity and larger
service. But he will not be able to help these dear friends at Philippi
and elsewhere who need him, as he knows. So love to them drags at his
skirts, and ties him here.

One can scarcely miss the remarkable contrast between Paul's 'To abide
in the flesh is more needful for you,' and the saying of Paul's Master
to people who assuredly needed His presence more than Philippi needed
Paul's, 'It is expedient for you that I go away.' This is not the place
to work out the profound significance of the contrast, and the questions
which it raises as to whether Christ expected His work to be finished
and His helpfulness ended by His death, as Paul did by his. It must
suffice to have suggested the comparison.

Returning to our text, such a reason for wishing to die, held in check
and overcome by such a reason for wishing to live, is great and noble.
There are few of us who would not own to the mightier attraction of
life; but how few of us who feel that, for ourselves personally, if we
were free to think only of ourselves, we should be glad to go, because
we should be closer to Christ, but that we hesitate for the sake of
others whom we think we can help! Many of us cling to life with a
desperate clutch, like some poor wretch pushed over a precipice and
trying to dig his nails into the rock as he falls. Some of us cling to
it because we dread what is beyond, and our longing to live is the
measure of our dread to die. But Paul did not look forward to a thick
darkness of judgment, or to nothingness. He saw in the darkness a great
light, the light in the windows of his Father's house, and yet he turned
willingly away to his toil in the field, and was more than content to
drudge on as long as he could do anything by his work. Blessed are they
who share his desire to depart, and his victorious willingness to stay
here and labour! They shall find that such a life in the flesh, too, is
being with Christ.

III. Thus the stream of thought passes the rapids and flows on smoothly
to its final phase of peaceful acquiescence.

That is expressed very beautifully in the closing verse, 'Having this
confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all, for
your furtherance and joy in faith.' Self is so entirely overcome that he
puts away his own desire to enter into their joy, and rejoices with
them. He cannot yet have for himself the blessedness which his spirit
seeks. Well, be it so; he will stop here and find a blessedness in
seeing them growing in confidence and knowledge of Christ and in the
gladness that comes from it. He gives up the hope of that higher
companionship with Jesus which drew him so mightily. Well, be it so; he
will have companionship with his brethren, and 'abiding with you all'
may haply find, even before the day of final account, that to 'visit'
Christ's little ones is to visit Christ. Therefore he fuses his opposing
wishes into one. He is no more in a strait betwixt two, or unwitting
what he shall choose. He chooses nothing, but accepts the appointment of
a higher wisdom. There is rest for him, as for us, in ceasing from our
own wishes, and laying our wills silent and passive at His feet.

The true attitude for us in which to face the unknown future, with its
dim possibilities, and especially the supreme alternative of life or
death, is neither desire nor reluctance, nor a hesitation compounded of
both, but trustful acquiescence. Such a temper is far from indifference,
and as far from agitation. In all things, and most of all in regard to
these matters, it is best to hold desire in equilibrium till God shall
speak. Torture not yourself with hopes or fears. They make us their
slaves. Put your hand in God's hand, and let Him guide you as He will.
Wishes are bad steersmen. We are only at peace when desires and dreads
are, if not extinct, at all events held tightly in. Rest, and wisdom,
and strength come with acquiescence. Let us say with Richard Baxter, in
his simple, noble words:

          'Lord, it belongs not to my care
             Whether I die or live;
           To love and serve Thee is my share,
             And that Thy grace must give.'

We may learn, too, that we may be quite sure that we shall be left here
as long as we are needed. Paul knew that his stay was needful, so he
could say, 'I know that I shall abide with you.' We do not, but we may
be sure that if our stay is needful we shall abide. We are always
tempted to think ourselves indispensable, but, thank God, nobody is
necessary. There are no irreparable losses, hard as it is to believe it.
We look at our work, at our families, our business, our congregations,
our subjects of study, and we say to ourselves, 'What will become of
them when I am gone? Everything would fall to pieces if I were
withdrawn.' Do not be afraid. Depend on it, you will be left here as
long as you are wanted. There are no incomplete lives and no premature
removals. To the eye of faith the broken column in our cemeteries is a
sentimental falsehood. No Christian life is broken short off so, but
rises in a symmetrical shaft, and its capital is garlanded with
amaranthine flowers in heaven. In one sense all our lives are
incomplete, for they and their issues are above, out of our sight here.
In another none are, for we are 'immortal till our work is done.'

The true attitude, then, for us is patient service till He withdraws us
from the field. We do not count him a diligent servant who is always
wearying for the hour of leaving off to strike. Be it ours to labour
where He puts us, patiently waiting till 'death's mild curfew' sets us
free from the long day's work, and sends us home.

Brethren! there are but two theories of life; two corresponding aspects
of death. The one says, 'To me to live is Christ, and to die gain'; the
other, 'To me to live is self, and to die is loss and despair.' One or
other must be your choice. Which?



CITIZENS OF HEAVEN

          'Only let your conversation be as it becometh the
          gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you,
          or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs,
          that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind
          striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28.
          And in nothing terrified by your
          adversaries.'--PHIL. i. 27, 28.


We read in the Acts of the Apostles that Philippi was the chief city of
that part of Macedonia, and a 'colony.' Now, the connection between a
Roman colony and Rome was a great deal closer than that between an
English colony and England. It was, in fact, a bit of Rome on foreign
soil.

The colonists and their children were Roman citizens. Their names were
enrolled on the lists of Roman tribes. They were governed not by the
provincial authorities, but by their own magistrates, and the law to
which they owed obedience was not that of the locality, but the law of
Rome.

No doubt some of the Philippian Christians possessed these privileges.
They knew what it was to live in a community to which they were less
closely bound than to the great city beyond the sea. They were members
of a mighty polity, though they had never seen its temples nor trod its
streets. They lived in Philippi, but they belonged to Rome. Hence there
is a peculiar significance in the first words of our text. The
rendering, 'conversation,' was inadequate even when it was made. It has
become more so now. The word then meant 'conduct.' It now means little
more than words. But though the phrase may express loosely the Apostle's
general idea, it loses entirely the striking metaphor under which it is
couched. The Revised Version gives the literal rendering in its
margin--'Behave as citizens'--though it adopts in its text a rendering
which disregards the figure in the word, and contents itself with the
less picturesque and vivid phrase--'let your manner of life be worthy.'
But there seems no reason for leaving out the metaphor; it entirely fits
in with the purpose of the Apostle and with the context.

The meaning is, Play the citizen in a manner worthy of the Gospel. Paul
does not, of course, mean, Discharge your civic duties as Christian men,
though some Christian Englishmen need that reminder; but the city of
which these Philippians were citizens was the heavenly Jerusalem, the
metropolis, the mother city of us all. He would kindle in them the
consciousness of belonging to another order of things than that around
them. He would stimulate their loyalty to obedience to the city's laws.
As the outlying colonies of Rome had sometimes entrusted to them the
task of keeping the frontiers and extending the power of the imperial
city, so he stirs them up to aggressive warfare; and as in all their
conflicts the little colony felt that the Empire was at its back, and
therefore looked undaunted on shoals of barbarian foes, so he would have
his friends at Philippi animated by lofty courage, and ever confident of
final victory.

Such seems to be a general outline of these eager exhortations to the
citizens of heaven in this outlying colony of earth. Let us think of
them briefly in order now.

I. Keep fresh the sense of belonging to the mother city.

Paul was not only writing _to_ Philippi, but _from_ Rome, where he might
see how, even in degenerate days, the consciousness of being a Roman
gave dignity to a man, and how the idea became almost a religion. He
would kindle a similar feeling in Christians.

We do belong to another polity or order of things than that with which
we are connected by the bonds of flesh and sense. Our true affinities
are with the mother city. True, we are here on earth, but far beyond the
blue waters is another community, of which we are really members, and
sometimes in calm weather we can see, if we climb to a height above the
smoke of the valley where we dwell, the faint outline of the mountains
of that other land, lying bathed in sunlight and dreamlike on the opal
waves.

Therefore it is a great part of Christian discipline to keep a vivid
consciousness that there is such an unseen order of things at present in
existence. We speak popularly of 'the future life,' and are apt to
forget that it is also the _present_ life to an innumerable company. In
fact, this film of an earthly life floats in that greater sphere which
is all around it, above, beneath, touching it at every point.

It is, as Peter says, 'ready to be unveiled.' Yes, behind the thin
curtain, through which stray beams of the brightness sometimes shoot,
that other order stands, close to us, parted from us by a most slender
division, only a woven veil, no great gulf or iron barrier. And before
long His hand will draw it back, rattling with its rings as it is put
aside, and _there_ will blaze out what has always been, though we saw it
not. It is so close, so real, so bright, so solemn, that it is worth
while to try to feel its nearness; and we are so purblind, and such
foolish slaves of mere sense, shaping our lives on the legal maxim that
things which are non-apparent must be treated as non-existent, that it
needs a constant effort not to lose the feeling altogether.

There is a present connection between all Christian men and that
heavenly City. It not merely exists, but we belong to it in the measure
in which we are Christians. All these figurative expressions about our
citizenship being in heaven and the like, rest on the simple fact that
the life of Christian men on earth and in heaven is fundamentally the
same. The principles which guide, the motives which sway, the tastes and
desires, affections and impulses, the objects and aims, are
substantially one. A Christian man's true affinities are with the things
not seen, and with the persons there, however his surface relationship
knit him to the earth. In the degree in which he is a Christian, he is a
stranger here and a native of the heavens. That great City is, like some
of the capitals of Europe, built on a broad river, with the mass of the
metropolis on the one bank, but a wide-spreading suburb on the other. As
the Trastevere is to Rome, as Southwark to London, so is earth to
heaven, the bit of the city on the other side the bridge. As Philippi
was to Rome, so is earth to heaven, the colony on the outskirts of the
empire, ringed round by barbarians, and separated by sounding seas, but
keeping open its communications, and one in citizenship.

Be it our care, then, to keep the sense of that city beyond the
river vivid and constant. Amid the shows and shams of earth look
ever onward to the realities 'the things which _are_,' while all
else only seems to be. The things which are seen are but smoke
wreaths, floating for a moment across space, and melting into
nothingness while we look. We do not belong to them or to the
order of things to which they belong. There is no kindred between
us and them. Our true relationships are elsewhere. In this present
visible world all other creatures find their sufficient and homelike
abode. 'Foxes have holes, and birds their roosting-places'; but man
alone has not where to lay his head, nor can he find in all the width
of the created universe a place in which and with which he can be
satisfied. Our true _habitat_ is elsewhere. So let us set our thoughts
and affections on things above. The descendants of the original settlers
in our colonies talk still of coming to England as going 'home,' though
they were born in Australia, and have lived there all their lives. In
like manner we Christian people should keep vigorous in our minds the
thought that our true home is there where we have never been, and that
here we are foreigners and wanderers.

Nor need that feeling of detachment from the present sadden our spirits,
or weaken our interest in the things around us. To recognise our
separation from the order of things in which we 'move,' because we
belong to that majestic unseen order in which we really 'have our
being,' makes life great and not small. It clothes the present with
dignity beyond what is possible to it if it be not looked at in the
light of its connection with 'the regions beyond.' From that connection
life derives all its meaning. Surely nothing can be conceived more
unmeaning, more wearisome in its monotony, more tragic in its joy, more
purposeless in its efforts, than man's life, if the life of sense and
time be all. Truly it is 'like a tale told by an idiot, full of sound
and fury, signifying nothing.' 'The white radiance of eternity,'
streaming through it from above, gives all its beauty to the 'dome of
many-coloured glass' which men call life. They who feel most their
connection with the city which hath foundations should be best able to
wring the last drop of pure sweetness out of all earthly joys, to
understand the meaning of all events, and to be interested most keenly,
because most intelligently and most nobly, in the homeliest and
smallest of the tasks and concerns of the present.

So, in all things, act as citizens of the great Mother of heroes and
saints beyond the sea. Ever feel that you belong to another order, and
let the thought, 'Here we have no continuing city,' be to you not merely
the bitter lesson taught by the transiency of earthly joys and treasures
and loves, but the happy result of 'seeking for the city which hath the
foundations.'

II. Another exhortation which our text gives is, Live by the laws of the
city.

The Philippian colonists were governed by the code of Rome. Whatever
might be the law of the province of Macedonia, they owed no obedience to
it. So Christian men are not to be governed by the maxims and rules of
conduct which prevail in the province, but to be governed from the
capital. We ought to get from on-lookers the same character that was
given to the Jews, that we are 'a people whose laws are different from
all people that be on earth,' and we ought to reckon such a character
our highest praise. Paul would have these Philippian Christians act
'worthy of _the gospel_.' That is our law.

The great good news of God manifest in the flesh, and of our salvation
through Christ Jesus, is not merely to be believed, but to be obeyed.
The gospel is not merely a message of deliverance, it is also a rule of
conduct. It is not merely theology, it is also ethics. Like some of the
ancient municipal charters, the grant of privileges and proclamation of
freedom is also the sovereign code which imposes duties and shapes life.
A gospel of laziness and mere exemption from hell was not Paul's gospel.
A gospel of doctrines, to be investigated, spun into a system of
theology, and accepted by the understanding, and there an end, was not
Paul's gospel. He believed that the great facts which he proclaimed
concerning the self-revelation of God in Christ would unfold into a
sovereign law of life for every true believer, and so his one
all-sufficient precept and standard of conduct are in these simple
words, 'worthy of the gospel.'

That law is all-sufficient. In the truths which constituted Paul's
gospel, that is to say, in the truths of the life, death, and
resurrection of Jesus Christ, lies all that men need for conduct and
character. In Him we have the 'realised ideal,' the flawless example,
and instead of a thousand precepts, for us all duty is resolved into
one--be like Christ. In Him we have the mighty motive, powerful enough
to overcome all forces that would draw us away, and like some strong
spring to keep us in closest contact with right and goodness. Instead of
a confusing variety of appeals to manifold motives of interest and
conscience, and one knows not what beside, we have the one all-powerful
appeal, 'If ye love Me, keep My commandments,' and that draws all the
agitations and fluctuations of the soul after it, as the rounded fulness
of the moon does the heaped waters in the tidal wave that girdles the
world. In Him we have all the helps that weakness needs, for He Himself
will come and dwell with us and in us, and be our righteousness and our
strength.

Live 'worthy of the gospel,' then. How grand the unity and simplicity
thus breathed into our duties and through our lives! All duties are
capable of reduction to this one, and though we shall still need
detailed instruction and specific precepts, we shall be set free from
the pedantry of a small scrupulous casuistry, which fetters men's limbs
with microscopic bands, and shall joyfully learn how much mightier and
happier is the life which is shaped by one fruitful principle, than that
which is hampered by a thousand regulations.

Nor is such an all-comprehensive precept a mere toothless generality.
Let a man try honestly to shape his life by it; and he will find soon
enough how close it grips him, and how wide it stretches, and how deep
it goes. The greatest principles of the gospel are to be fitted to the
smallest duties. Indeed that combination--great principles and small
duties--is the secret of all noble and calm life, and nowhere should it
be so beautifully exemplified as in the life of a Christian man. The
tiny round of the dew-drop is shaped by the same laws that mould the
giant sphere of the largest planet. You cannot make a map of the poorest
grass-field without celestial observations. The star is not too high nor
too brilliant to move before us and guide simple men's feet along their
pilgrimage. 'Worthy of the gospel' is a most practical and stringent
law.

And it is an exclusive commandment too, shutting out obedience to other
codes, however common and fashionable they may be. We are governed from
home, and we give no submission to provincial authorities. Never mind
what people say about you, nor what may be the maxims and ways of men
around you. These are no guides for you. Public opinion (which only
means for most of us the hasty judgments of the half-dozen people who
happen to be nearest us), use and wont, the customs of our set, the
notions of the world about duty, with all these we have nothing to do.
The censures or the praise of men need not move us. We report to
headquarters, and subordinates' estimate need be nothing to us. Let us
then say, 'With me it is a very small matter that I should be judged of
men's judgment. He that judgeth me is the Lord.' When we may be
misunderstood or harshly dealt with, let us lift our eyes to the lofty
seat where the Emperor sits, and remove ourselves from men's sentences
by our 'appeal unto Cæsar'; and, in all varieties of circumstances and
duty, let us take the Gospel which is the record of Christ's life,
death, and character, for our only law, and labour that, whatever others
may think of us, we 'may be well pleasing to Him.'

III. Further, our text bids the colonists fight for the advance of the
dominions of the City.

Like the armed colonists whom Russia and other empires had on their
frontier, who received their bits of land on condition of holding the
border against the enemy, and pushing it forward a league or two when
possible, Christian men are set down in their places to be 'wardens of
the marches,' citizen soldiers who hold their homesteads on a military
tenure, and are to 'strive together for the faith of the gospel.'

There is no space here and now to go into details of the exposition of
this part of our text. Enough to say in brief that we are here exhorted
to 'stand fast'; that is, as it were, the defensive side of our warfare,
maintaining our ground and repelling all assaults; that this successful
resistance is to be 'in one spirit,' inasmuch as all resistance depends
on our poor feeble spirits being ingrafted and rooted in God's Spirit,
in vital union with whom we may be knit together into a unity which
shall oppose a granite breakwater to the onrushing tide of opposition;
that in addition to the unmoved resistance which will not yield an inch
of the sacred soil to the enemy, we are to carry the war onwards, and,
not content with holding our own, are with one mind to strive together
for the faith of the gospel. There is to be discipline, then, and
compact organisation, like that of the legions whom Paul, from his
prison among the Prætorian guards, had often seen shining in steel,
moving like a machine, grim, irresistible. The cause for which we are to
fight is the faith of the gospel, an expression which almost seems to
justify the opinion that 'the faith' here means, as it does in later
usage, the sum and substance of that which is believed. But even here
the word may have its usual meaning of the subjective act of trust in
the gospel, and the thought may be that we are unitedly to fight for its
growing power in our own hearts and in the hearts of others. In any
case, the idea is plainly here that Christian men are set down in the
world, like the frontier guard, to push the conquests of the empire, and
to win more ground for their King.

Such work is ever needed, never more needed than now. In this day when a
wave of unbelief seems passing over society, when material comfort and
worldly prosperity are so dazzlingly attractive to so many, the solemn
duty is laid upon us with even more than usual emphasis, and we are
called upon to feel more than ever the oneness of all true Christians,
and to close up our ranks for the fight. All this can only be done after
we have obeyed the other injunctions of this text. The degree in which
we feel that we belong to another order of things than this around us,
and the degree in which we live by the Imperial laws, will determine the
degree in which we can fight with vigour for the growth of the dominion
of the City. Be it ours to cherish the vivid consciousness that we are
here dwelling not in the cities of the Canaanites, but, like the father
of the faithful, in tents pitched at their gates, nomads in the midst
of a civic life to which we do not belong, in order that we may breathe
a hallowing influence through it, and win hearts to the love of Him whom
to imitate is perfection, whom to serve is freedom.

IV. The last exhortation to the colonists is, Be sure of victory.

'In nothing terrified by your adversaries,' says Paul. He uses a very
vivid, and some people might think, a very vulgar metaphor here. The
word rendered _terrified_ properly refers to a horse shying or plunging
at some object. It is generally things half seen and mistaken for
something more dreadful than themselves that make horses shy; and it is
usually a half-look at adversaries, and a mistaken estimate of their
strength, that make Christians afraid. Go up to your fears and speak to
them, and as ghosts are said to do, they will generally fade away. So we
may go into the battle, as the rash French minister said he did into the
Franco-German war, 'with a light heart,' and that for good reasons. We
have no reason to fear for ourselves. We have no reason to fear for the
ark of God. We have no reason to fear for the growth of Christianity in
the world. Many good men in this time seem to be getting half-ashamed of
the gospel, and some preachers are preaching it in words which sound
like an apology rather than a creed. Do not let us allow the enemy to
overpower our imaginations in that fashion. Do not let us fight as if we
expected to be beaten, always casting our eyes over our shoulders, even
while we are advancing, to make sure of our retreat, but let us trust
our gospel, and trust our King, and let us take to heart the old
admonition, 'Lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not
afraid.'

Such courage is a prophecy of victory. Such courage is based upon a sure
hope. 'Our citizenship is in heaven, from whence also we look for the
Lord Jesus as Saviour.' The little outlying colony in this far-off edge
of the empire is ringed about by wide-stretching hosts of dusky
barbarians. Far as the eye can reach their myriads cover the land, and
the watchers from the ramparts might well be dismayed if they had only
their own resources to depend on. But they know that the Emperor in his
progress will come to this sorely beset outpost, and their eyes are
fixed on the pass in the hills where they expect to see the waving
banners and the gleaming spears. Soon, like our countrymen in Lucknow,
they will hear the music and the shouts that tell that He is at hand.
Then when He comes, He will raise the siege and scatter all the enemies
as the chaff of the threshing-floor, and the colonists who held the post
will go with Him to the land which they have never seen, but which is
their home, and will, with the Victor, sweep in triumph 'through the
gates into the city.'



A PLEA FOR UNITY

          'If there is therefore any comfort in Christ, if
          any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the
          Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions, 2.
          Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be of the same mind,
          having the same love, being of one accord, of one
          mind; 3. Doing nothing through faction or through
          vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting
          other better than himself; 4. Not looking each of
          you to his own things, but each of you also to the
          things of others.'--PHIL. ii. 1-4 (R.V.).


There was much in the state of the Philippian church which filled Paul's
heart with thankfulness, and nothing which drew forth his censures, but
these verses, with their extraordinary energy of pleading, seem to hint
that there was some defect in the unity of heart and mind of members of
the community. It did not amount to discord, but the concord was not as
full as it might have been. There is another hint pointing in the same
direction in the appeal to Paul's true yoke-fellow, in chapter iv., to
help two good women who, though they had laboured much in the gospel,
had not managed to keep 'of the same mind in the Lord,' and there is
perhaps a still further indication that Paul's sensitive heart was
conscious of the beginnings of strife in the air, in the remarkable
emphasis with which, at the very outset of the letter, he over and over
again pours out his confidence and affection on them 'all,' as if aware
of some incipient rifts in their brotherhood. There are always forces at
work which tend to part the most closely knit unities even when these
are consecrated by Christian faith. Where there are no dogmatical
grounds of discord, nor any open alienation, there may still be the
beginnings of separation, and a chill breeze may be felt even when the
sun is shining with summer warmth. Wasps are attracted by the ripest
fruit.

The words of our text present no special difficulty, and bring before us
a well-worn subject, but it has at least this element of interest, that
it grips very tightly the deepest things in Christian life, and that
none of us can truly say that we do not need to listen to Paul's
pleading voice. We may notice the general division of his thoughts in
these words, in that he puts first the heart-touching motives for
listening to his appeal, next describes with the exuberance of
earnestness the fair ideal of unity to which he exhorts, and finally
touches on the hindrances to its realisation, and the victorious powers
which will overcome these.

I. The motives and bonds of Christian unity.

It is not a pedantic dissection (and vivisection) of the Apostle's
earnest words, if we point out that they fall into four clauses, of
which the first and third ('any comfort in Christ, any fellowship of the
Spirit') urge the objective facts of Christian revelation, and the
second and fourth ('any consolation of love, any tender mercies and
compassions') put emphasis on the subjective emotions of Christian
experience. We may lay the warmth of all of these on our own hearts, and
shall find that these hearts will be drawn into the blessedness of
Christian unity in the precise measure in which they are affected by
them.

As to the first of them, it may be suggested that here, as elsewhere in
the New Testament, the true idea of the word rendered 'comfort' is
rather 'exhortation.' The Apostle is probably not so much pointing to
the consolations for trouble which come from Jesus, as to the stimulus
to unity which flows from Him. It would rather weaken the force of
Paul's appeal, if the two former grounds of it were so nearly identical
as they are, if the one is based upon 'comfort' and the other on
'consolation.' The Apostle is true to his dominant belief, that in Jesus
Christ there lies, and from Him flows, the sovereign exhortation that
rouses men to 'whatsoever things are lovely and of good report.' In Him
we shall find in the measure in which we are in Him, the most persuasive
of all exhortations to unity, and the most omnipotent of all powers to
enforce it. Shall we not be glad to be in the flock of the Good
Shepherd, and to preserve the oneness which He gave His life to
establish? Can we live in Him, and not share His love for His sheep?
Surely those who have felt the benediction of His breath on their
foreheads when He prayed 'that they may all be one; even as Thou,
Father, art in Me and I in Thee,' cannot but do what is in them to
fulfil that prayer, and to bring a little nearer the realisation of
their Lord's purpose in it, 'that the world may believe that Thou didst
send Me.' Surely if we lay to heart, and enter into sympathy with, the
whole life and death of Jesus Christ, we shall not fail to feel the
dynamic power fusing us together, nor fail to catch the exhortation to
unity which comes from the lips that said, 'I am the vine, ye are the
branches.'

The Apostle next bases his appeal for unity on the experiences of the
Philippian Christians, and on their memories of the comfort which they
have tasted in the exercise of mutual love. Our hearts find it hard to
answer the question whether they are more blessed when their love passes
out from them in a warm stream to others, or when the love of others
pours into them. To love and to be loved equally elevate courage, and
brace the weakest for calm endurance and high deeds. The man who loves
and knows that he is loved will be a hero. It must always seem strange
and inexplicable that a heart which has known the enlargement and joy of
love given and received, should ever fall so far beneath itself as to be
narrowed and troubled by nourishing feelings of separation and
alienation from those whom it might have gathered into its embrace, and
thereby communicated, and in communicating acquired, courage and
strength. We have all known the comfort of love; should it not impel us
to live in 'the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace'? Men around
us are meant to be our helpers, and to be helped by us, and the one way
to secure both is to walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us.

But Paul has still further heart-melting motives to urge. He turns the
Philippians' thoughts to their fellowship in the Spirit. All believers
have been made to drink into one spirit, and in that common
participation in the same supernatural life they partake of a oneness,
which renders any clefts or divisions unnatural, and contradictory of
the deepest truths of their experience. The branch can no more shiver
itself off from the tree, or keep the life sap enclosed within itself,
than one possessor of the common gift of the Spirit can separate himself
from the others who share it. We are one in Him; let us be one in heart
and mind. The final appeal is connected with the preceding, inasmuch as
it lays emphasis on the emotions which flow from the one life common to
all believers. That participation in the Spirit naturally leads in each
participant to 'tender mercies and compassions' directed to all sharers
in it. The very mark of truly possessing the Spirit's life is a nature
full of tenderness and swift to pity, and they who have experienced the
heaven on earth of such emotions should need no other motive than the
memory of its blessedness, to send them out among their brethren, and
even into a hostile world, as the apostles of love, the bearers of
tender mercies, and the messengers of pity.

II. The fair ideal which would complete the Apostle's joy.

We may gather from the rich abundance of motives which the Apostle
suggests before he comes to present his exhortation, that he suspected
the existence of some tendencies in the opposite direction in Philippi,
and possibly the same conclusion may be drawn from the exuberance of
the exhortation itself, and from its preceding the dehortation which
follows. He does not scold, he scarcely even rebukes, but he begins by
trying to melt away any light frost that had crept over the warmth of
the Philippians' love; and having made that preparation, he sets before
them with a fulness which would be tautological but for the earnestness
that throbs in it, the ideal of unity, and presses it upon them still
more meltingly, by telling them that their realisation of it will be the
completion of his joy. The main injunction is 'that ye be of the same
mind,' and that is followed by three clauses which are all but exactly
synonymous with it, 'having the same love, being of one accord, of one
mind.' The resemblance of the latter clause to the main exhortation is
still more complete, if we read with Revised Version (margin) 'of the
same mind,' but in any case the exhortations are all practically the
same. The unity which Paul would fain see, is far deeper and more vital
than mere unanimity of opinion, or identity of polity, or co-operation
in practice. The clauses which expand it guard us against the mistake of
thinking that intellectual or practical oneness is all that is meant by
Christian unity. They are 'of the same mind,' who have the same wishes,
aims, outlooks, the same hopes and fears, and who are one in the depths
of their being. They have 'the same love,' all similarly loving and
being loved, the same emotion filling each heart. They are united in
soul, or 'with accordant souls' having, and knowing that they have them,
akin, allied to one another, moving to a common end, and aware of their
oneness. The unity which Christian people have hitherto reached is at
its best but a small are of the great circle which the Apostle drew,
and none of us can read these fervid words without shame. His joy is not
yet fulfilled.

That exhortation to be 'of the same mind,' not only points to a deep and
vital unity, but suggests that the ground of the unity is to be found
without us, in the common direction of our 'minds,' which means far more
than popular phraseology means by it, to an external object. It is
having our hearts directed to Christ that makes us one. He is the bond
and centre of unity. We have just said that the object is external, but
that has to be taken with a modification, for the true basis of unity is
the common possession of 'Christ in us.' It is when we have this mind in
us 'which was also in Christ Jesus,' that we have 'the same mind' one
with another.

The very keynote of the letter is joy, as may be seen by a glance over
it. He joys and rejoices with them all, but his cup is not quite full.
One more precious drop is needed to make it run over. Probably the
coldness which he had heard of between Euodias and Syntyche had troubled
him, and if he could be sure of the Philippians' mutual love he would
rejoice in his prison. We cannot tell whether that loving and careful
heart is still aware of the fortunes of the Church, but we know of a
more loving and careful heart which is, and we cannot but believe that
the alienations and discords of His professed followers bring some
shadow over the joy of Christ. Do we not hear His voice again asking,
'what was it that you disputed among yourselves by the way?' and must we
not, like the disciples, 'hold our peace' when that question is asked?
May we not hear a voice sweeter in its cadence, and more melting in its
tenderness than Paul's, saying to us 'Fulfil ye My joy that ye be of
the same mind.'

III. The hindrances and helps to being of the same mind.

The original has no verb in front of 'nothing' in verse 3, and it seems
better to supply the one which has been so frequently used in the
preceding exhortation than 'doing,' which carries us too abruptly into
the outer region of action. Paul indicates two main hindrances to being
of the same mind, namely, faction and vainglory on the one hand, and
self-absorption on the other, and opposed to each the tone of mind which
is its best conqueror. Faction and vainglory are best defeated by
humility and unselfishness. As to the former, the love of making or
heading little cliques in religion or politics or society, has oftenest
its roots in nothing loftier than vanity or pride. Many a man who poses
as guided by staunch adherence to conviction is really impelled only by
a wish to make himself notorious as a leader, and loves to talk of
'those with whom I act.' There is a strong admixture of a too lofty
estimate of self in most of the disagreements of Christian people. They
expect more deference than they get, or their judgment is not taken as
law, or their place is not so high as they think is their due, or in a
hundred different ways self-love is wounded, and self-esteem is
inflamed. All this is true in reference to the smaller communities of
congregations, and with the necessary modifications it is quite as true
in reference to the larger aggregations which we call churches or
denominations. If all in their work that is directly due to faction and
vainglory were struck out there would be great gaps in their activities,
and many a flourishing scheme would fall dead.

The cure for all these evils is lowliness of mind. That is a Christian
word. Used by Greek thinkers, it meant abjectness; and it is one
conspicuous instance of the change effected in morals by Christian
teaching that it has become the name of a virtue. We are to dwell not on
our gifts but on our imperfections, and if we judge ourselves with
constant reference to the standard in Christ's life, we shall need
little more to bring us to our knees in true lowliness of mind. The man
who has been forgiven so many talents will not be in a hurry to take his
brother by the throat and leave the marks of his fingers for tenpence.

Christian unity is further broken by selfishness. To be absorbed in self
is of course to have the heart shut to others. Our own interests,
inclinations, possessions, when they assert themselves in our lives,
build up impassable barriers between us and our fellows. To live to self
is the real root of every sin as it is of all loveless life. The Apostle
uses careful language: he admits the necessity for attention to our 'own
things,' and only requires that we should look 'also' on the things of
others. His cure for the hindrances to Christian unity is very complete,
very practical, and very simple. Each counting other better than
himself, and each 'looking also to the things of others' seem very
homely and pedestrian virtues, but homely as they are we shall find that
they grip us tight, if we honestly try to practise them in our daily
lives, and we shall find also that the ladder which has its foot on
earth has its top in the heavens, and that the practice of humility and
unselfishness leads straight to having 'the mind which was also in
Christ Jesus.'



THE DESCENT OF THE WORD

          'Have this mind in you which was also in Christ
          Jesus: 6. Who, being in the form of God, counted
          it not a prize to be on an equality with God, 7.
          But emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant,
          being made in the likeness of men; 8. And being
          found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself,
          becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death
          of the cross.'--PHIL. ii. 5-8 (R.V.).


The purpose of the Apostle in this great passage must ever be kept
clearly in view. Our Lord's example is set forth as the pattern of that
unselfish disregard of one's own things, and devotion to the things of
others, which has just been urged on the Philippians, and the mind which
was in Him is presented as the model on which they are to fashion their
minds. This purpose in some measure explains some of the peculiarities
of the language here, and may help to guide us through some of the
intricacies and doubtful points in the interpretation of the words. It
explains why Christ's death is looked at in them only in its bearing
upon Himself, as an act of obedience and of condescension, and why even
that death in which Jesus stands most inimitable and unique is presented
as capable of being imitated by us. The general drift of these verses is
clear, but there are few Scripture passages which have evoked more
difference of opinion as to the precise meaning of nearly every phrase.
To enter on the subtle discussions involved in the adequate exposition
of the words would far exceed our limits, and we must perforce content
ourselves with a slight treatment of them, and aim chiefly at bringing
out their practical side.

The broad truth which stands sun-clear amid all diverse interpretations
is--that the Incarnation, Life, and Death are the great examples of
living humility and self-sacrifice. To be born was His supreme act of
condescension. It was love which made Him assume the vesture of human
flesh. To die was the climax of His voluntary obedience, and of His
devotion to us.

I. The height from which Jesus descended.

The whole strange conception of birth as being the voluntary act of the
Person born, and as being the most stupendous instance of condescension
in the world's history, necessarily reposes on the clear conviction that
He had a prior existence so lofty that it was an all but infinite
descent to become man. Hence Paul begins with the most emphatic
assertion that he who bore the name of Jesus lived a divine life before
He was born. He uses a very strong word which is given in the margin of
the Revised Version, and might well have been in its text. 'Being
originally' as the word accurately means, carries our thoughts back not
only to a state which preceded Bethlehem and the cradle, but to that
same timeless eternity from which the prologue of the Gospel of John
partially draws the veil when it says, 'In the beginning was the Word,'
and to which Jesus Himself more obscurely pointed when He said, 'Before
Abraham was I am.'

Equally emphatic in another direction is Paul's next expression, 'In the
form of God,' for 'form' means much more than 'shape.' I would point out
the careful selection in this passage of three words to express three
ideas which are often by hasty thought regarded as identical. We read of
'the _form_ of God' (verse 6), 'the _likeness_ of men' (verse 7), and
'in _fashion_ as a man.' Careful investigation of these two words 'form'
and 'fashion' has established a broad distinction between them, the
former being more fixed, the latter referring to that which is
accidental and outward, which may be fleeting and unsubstantial. The
possession of the form involves participation in the essence also. Here
it implies no corporeal idea as if God had a material form, but it
implies also much more than a mere apparent resemblance. He who is in
the form of God possesses the essential divine attributes. Only God can
be 'in the form of God': man is made in the likeness of God, but man is
not 'in the form of God.' Light is thrown on this lofty phrase by its
antithesis with the succeeding expression in the next verse, 'the form
of a servant,' and as that is immediately explained to refer to Christ's
assumption of human nature, there is no room for candid doubt that
'being originally in the form of God' is a deliberately asserted claim
of the divinity of Christ in His pre-existent state.

As we have already pointed out, Paul soars here to the same lofty height
to which the prologue of John's Gospel rises, and he echoes our Lord's
own words about 'the glory which I had with Thee before the foundation
of the world.' Our thoughts are carried back before creatures were, and
we become dimly aware of an eternal distinction in the divine nature
which only perfects its eternal oneness. Such an eternal participation
in the divine nature before all creation and before time is the
necessary pre-supposition of the worth of Christ's life as the pattern
of humility and self-sacrifice. That pre-supposition gives all its
meaning, its pathos, and its power, to His gentleness, and love, and
death. The facts are different in their significance, and different in
their power to bless and gladden, to purge and sway the soul, according
as we contemplate them with or without the background of His
pre-existent divinity. The view which regards Him as simply a man, like
all the rest of us, beginning to be when He was born, takes away from
His example its mightiest constraining force. Only when we with all our
hearts believe 'that the Word became flesh,' do we discern the
overwhelming depths of condescension manifested in the Birth. If it was
not the incarnation of God, it has no claim on the hearts of men.

II. The wondrous act of descent.

The stages in that long descent are marked out with a precision and
definiteness which would be intolerable presumption, if Paul were
speaking only his own thoughts, or telling what he had seen with his own
eyes. They begin with what was in the mind of the eternal Word before He
began His descent, and whilst yet He is 'in the form of God.' He stands
on the lofty level before the descent begins, and in spirit makes the
surrender, which, stage by stage, is afterwards to be wrought out in
act. Before any of these acts there must have been the disposition of
mind and will which Paul describes as 'counting it not a thing to be
grasped to be on an equality with God.' He did not regard the being
equal to God as a prey or treasure to be clutched and retained at all
hazards. That sweeps our thoughts into the dim regions far beyond
Calvary or Bethlehem, and is a more overwhelming manifestation of love
than are the acts of lowly gentleness and patient endurance which
followed in time. It included and transcended them all.

It was the supreme example of not 'looking on one's own things.' And
what made Him so count? What but infinite love. To rescue men, and win
them to Himself and goodness, and finally to lift them to the place from
which He came down for them, seemed to Him to be worth the temporary
surrender of that glory and majesty. We can but bow and adore the
perfect love. We look more deeply into the depths of Deity than unaided
eyes could ever penetrate, and what we see is the movement in that abyss
of Godhead of purest surrender which, by beholding, we are to
assimilate.

Then comes the wonder of wonders, 'He emptied Himself.' We cannot enter
here on the questions which gather round that phrase, and which give it
a factitious importance in regard to present controversies. All that we
would point out now is that while the Apostle distinctly treats the
Incarnation as being a laying aside of what made the Word to be equal
with God, he says nothing, on which an exact determination can be based,
of the degree or particulars in which the divine nature of our Lord was
limited by His humanity. The fact he asserts, and that is all. The scene
in the Upper Chamber was but a feeble picture of what had already been
done behind the veil. Unless He had laid aside His garments of divine
glory and majesty, He would have had no human flesh from which to strip
the robes. Unless He had willed to take the 'form of a servant,' He
would not have had a body to gird with the slave's towel. The
Incarnation, which made all His acts of lowly love possible, was a
greater act of lowly love than those which flowed from it. Looking at it
from earth, men say, 'Jesus was born.' Looking at it from heaven, Angels
say, 'He emptied Himself.'

But how did He empty Himself? By taking the form of a slave, that is to
God. And how did He take the form of a slave? By 'becoming in the
likeness of men.' Here we are specially to note the remarkable language
implying that what is true of none other in all the generations of men
is true of Him. That just as 'emptying Himself' was His own act, also
the taking the form of a slave by His being born was His own act, and
was more truly described as a 'becoming.' We note, too, the strong
contrast between that most remarkable word and the 'being originally'
which is used to express the mystery of divine pre-existence.

Whilst His becoming in the likeness of men stands in strong contrast
with 'being originally' and energetically expresses the voluntariness of
our Lord's birth, the 'likeness of men' does not cast any doubt on the
reality of His manhood, but points to the fact that 'though certainly
perfect man, He was by reason of the divine nature present in Him not
simply and merely man.'

Here then the beginning of Christ's manhood is spoken of in terms which
are only explicable, if it was a second form of being, preceded by a
pre-existent form, and was assumed by His own act. The language, too,
demands that that humanity should have been true essential manhood. It
was in 'the form' of man and possessed of all essential attributes. It
was in 'the likeness' of man possessed of all external characteristics,
and yet was something more. It summed up human nature, and was its
representative.

III. The obedience which attended the descent.

It was not merely an act of humiliation and condescension to become man,
but all His life was one long act of lowliness. Just as He 'emptied
Himself' in the act of becoming in the 'likeness of men,' so He 'humbled
Himself,' and all along the course of His earthly life He chose constant
lowliness and to be 'despised and rejected of men.' It was the result
moment by moment of His own will that to the eyes of men He presented
'no form nor comeliness,' and that will was moment by moment steadied
in its unmoved humility, because He perpetually looked 'not on His own
things, but on the things of others.' The guise He presented to the eyes
of men was 'the _fashion_ of a man.' That word corresponds exactly to
Paul's carefully selected term, and makes emphatic both its superficial
and its transitory character.

The lifelong humbling of Himself was further manifested in His becoming
'obedient.' That obedience was, of course, to God. And here we cannot
but pause to ask the question, How comes it that to the man Jesus
obedience to God was an act of humiliation? Surely there is but one
explanation of such a statement. For all men but this one to be God's
slaves is their highest honour, and to speak of obedience as humiliation
is a sheer absurdity.

Not only was the life of Jesus so perfect an example of unbroken
obedience that He could safely front His adversaries with the question,
'Which of you convinceth Me of sin?' and with the claim to 'do always
the things that pleased Him,' but the obedience to the Father was
perfected in His death. Consider the extraordinary fact that a man's
death is the crowning instance of his humility, and ask yourselves the
question, Who then is this who chose to be born, and stooped in the act
of dying? His death was obedience to God, because by it He carried out
the Father's will for the salvation of the world, His death is the
greatest instance of unselfish self-sacrifice, and the loftiest example
of looking on the 'things of others' that the world has ever seen. It
dwindles in significance, in pathos, and in power to move us to
imitation unless we clearly see the divine glory of the eternal Lord as
the background of the gentle lowliness of the Man of Sorrows, and the
Cross. No theory of Christ's life and death but that He was born for us,
and died for us, either explains the facts and the apostolic language
concerning them, or leaves them invested with their full power to melt
our hearts and mould our lives. There is a possibility of imitating Him
in the most transcendent of His acts. The mind may be in us which was in
Christ Jesus. That it may, His death must first be the ground of our
hope, and then we must make it the pattern of our lives, and draw from
it the power to shape them after His blessed Example.



THE ASCENT OF JESUS

          'Wherefore also God highly exalted Him and gave
          unto Him the name which is above every name; 10.
          That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
          of things in heaven, and things on earth, and
          things under the earth; 11. And that every tongue
          should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the
          glory of God the Father.'--PHIL. ii. 9-11 (R.V.).


'He that humbleth himself shall be exalted,' said Jesus. He is Himself
the great example of that law. The Apostle here goes on to complete his
picture of the Lord Jesus as our pattern. In previous verses we had the
solemn steps of His descent, and the lifelong humility and obedience of
the incarnate Son, the man Christ Jesus. Here we have the wondrous
ascent which reverses all the former process. Our text describes the
reflex motion by which Jesus is borne back to the same level as that
from which the descent began.

We have

I. The act of exaltation which forms the contrast and the parallel to
the descent.

'God highly exalted Him.' The Apostle coins an emphatic word which
doubly expresses elevation, and in its grammatical form shows that it
indicates a historical fact. That elevation was a thing once
accomplished on this green earth; that is to say it came to pass in the
fact of our Lord's ascension when from some fold of the Mount of Olives
He was borne upwards and, with blessing hands, was received into the
Shechinah cloud, the glory of which hid Him from the upward-gazing eyes.

It is plain that the 'Him' of whom this tremendous assertion is made,
must be the same as the 'He' of whom the previous verses spoke, that is,
the Incarnate Jesus. It is the manhood which is exalted. His humiliation
consisted in His becoming man, but His exaltation does not consist in
His laying aside His humanity. It is not a transient but an eternal
union into which in the Incarnation it entered with divinity.
Henceforward we have to think of Him in all the glory of His heavenly
state as man, and as truly and completely in the 'likeness of men' as
when He walked with bleeding feet on the flinty road of earthly life. He
now bears for ever the 'form of God' and 'the fashion of a man.'

Here I would pause for a moment to point out that the calm tone of this
reference to the ascension indicates that it was part of the recognised
Christian beliefs, and implies that it had been familiar long before the
date of this Epistle, which itself dates from not more than at the most
thirty years from the death of Christ. Surely that lapse of time is far
too narrow to allow of such a belief having sprung up, and been
universally accepted about a dead man, who all the while was lying in a
nameless grave.

The descent is presented as _His_ act, but decorum and truth required
that the exaltation should be God's act. 'He humbled Himself,' but 'God
exalted Him.' True, He sometimes represented Himself as the Agent of His
own Resurrection and Ascension, and established a complete parallel
between His descent and His ascent, as when He said, 'I came out from
the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go
unto the Father.' He was no less obedient to the Father's will when He
ascended up on high, than He was when He came down to earth, and whilst,
from one point of view, His Resurrection and Ascension were as truly His
own acts as were His birth and His death, from another, He had to pray,
'And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory
which I had with Thee before the world was.' The Titans presumptuously
scaled the heavens, according to the old legend, but the Incarnate Lord
returned to 'His own calm home, His habitation from eternity,' was
exalted thither by God, in token to the universe that the Father
approved the Son's descent, and that the work which the Son had done was
indeed, as He declared it to be, 'finished.' By exalting Him, the Father
not merely reinstated the divine Word in its eternal union with God, but
received into the cloud of glory the manhood which the Word had assumed.

II. The glory of the name of Jesus.

What is the name 'which is above every name'? It is the name Jesus. It
is to be noted that Paul scarcely ever uses that simple appellative.
There are, roughly speaking, about two hundred instances in which he
names our Lord in his Epistles, and there are only four places, besides
this, in which he uses this as his own, and two in which he, as it were,
puts it into the mouth of an enemy. Probably then, some special reason
led to its occurrence here, and it is not difficult, I think, to see
what that reason is. The simple personal name was given indeed with
reference to His work, but had been borne by many a Jewish child before
Mary called her child Jesus, and the fact that it is this common name
which is exalted above every name, brings out still more strongly the
thought already dwelt upon, that what is thus exalted is the manhood of
our Lord. The name which expressed His true humanity, which showed His
full identification with us, which was written over His Cross, which
perhaps shaped the taunt 'He _saved_ others, Himself He cannot
save,'--that name God has lifted high above all names of council and
valour, of wisdom and might, of authority and rule. It is shrined in the
hearts of millions who render to it perfect trust, unconditional
obedience, absolute loyalty. Its growing power, and the warmth of
personal love which it evokes, in centuries and lands so far removed
from the theatre of His life, is a unique thing in the world's history.
It reigns in heaven.

But Paul is not content with simply asserting the sovereign glory of the
name of Jesus. He goes on to set it forth as being what no other name
borne by man can be, the ground and object of worship, when he declares,
that 'in the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.' The words are quoted
from the second Isaiah, and occur in one of the most solemn and majestic
utterances of the monotheism of the Old Testament. And Paul takes these
words, undeterred by the declaration which precede them, 'I Am am God
and there is none else,' applies them to Jesus, to the manhood of our
Lord. Bowing the knee is of course prayer, and in these great words the
issue of the work of Jesus is unmistakably set forth, as not only being
that He has declared God to men, who through Him are drawn to worship
the Father, but that their emotions of love, reverence, worship, are
turned to _Him_, though as the Apostle is careful immediately to note,
they are not thereby intercepted from, but directed to, the glory of God
the Father. In the eternities before His descent, there was equality
with God, and when He returns, it is to the Father, who in Him has
become the object of adoration, and round whose throne gather with
bended knees all those who in Jesus see the Father.

The Apostle still further dwells on the glory of the name as that of the
acknowledged Lord. And here we have with significant variation in strong
contrast to the previous name of Jesus, the full title 'Jesus Christ
Lord.' That is almost as unusual in its completeness as the other in its
simplicity, and it comes in here with tremendous energy, reminding us of
the great act to which we owe our redemption, and of all the prophecies
and hopes which, from of old, had gathered round the persistent hope of
the coming Messiah, while the name of Lord proclaims His absolute
dominion. The knee is bowed in reverence, the tongue is vocal in
confession. That confession is incomplete if either of these three names
is falteringly uttered, and still more so, if either of them is wanting.
The Jesus whom Christians confess is not merely the man who was born in
Bethlehem and known among men as 'Jesus the carpenter.' In these modern
days, His manhood has been so emphasised as to obscure His Messiahship
and to obliterate His dominion, and alas! there are many who exalt Him
by the name that Mary gave Him, who turn away from the name of Jesus as
'Hebrew old clothes,' and from the name of Lord as antiquated
superstition. But in all the lowliness and gentleness of Jesus there
were not wanting lofty claims to be the Christ of whom prophets and
righteous men of old spake, and whose coming many a generation desired
to see and died without the sight, and still loftier and more absolute
claims to be invested with 'all power in heaven and earth,' and to sit
down with the Father on His throne. It is dangerous work to venture to
toss aside two of these three names, and to hope that if we pronounce
the third of them, Jesus, with appreciation, it will not matter if we do
not name Him either Christ or Lord.

If it is true that the manhood of Jesus is thus exalted, how wondrous
must be the kindred between the human and the divine, that it should be
capable of this, that it should dwell in the everlasting burnings of the
Divine Glory and not be consumed! How blessed for us the belief that our
Brother wields all the forces of the universe, that the human love which
Jesus had when He bent over the sick and comforted the sorrowful, is at
the centre. Jesus is Lord, the Lord is Jesus!

The Psalmist was moved to a rapture of thanksgiving when he thought of
man as 'made a little lower than the angels, and crowned with glory and
honour,' but when we think of the Man Jesus 'sitting at the right hand
of God,' the Psalmist's words seem pale and poor, and we can repeat them
with a deeper meaning and a fuller emphasis, 'Thou madest Him to have
dominion over the works of Thy hands, Thou hast put all things under His
feet.'

III. The universal glory of the name.

By the three classes into which the Apostle divides creation, 'things in
heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth,' he simply
intends to declare, that Jesus is the object of all worship, and the
words are not to be pressed as containing dogmatic assertions as to the
different classes mentioned. But guided by other words of Scripture, we
may permissibly think that the 'things in heaven' tell us that the
angels who do not need His mediation learn more of God by His work and
bow before His throne. We cannot be wrong in believing that the glory of
His work stretches far beyond the limits of humanity, and that His
kingdom numbers other subjects than those who draw human breath. Other
lips than ours say with a great voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb that hath
been slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honour
and glory and blessing.'

The things on earth are of course men, and the words encourage us to dim
hopes about which we cannot dogmatise of a time when all the wayward
self-seeking and self-tormenting children of men shall have learned to
know and love their best friend, and 'there shall be one flock and one
shepherd.'

'Things under the earth' seems to point to the old thought of 'Sheol' or
'Hades' or a separate state of the dead. The words certainly suggest
that those who have gone from us are not unconscious nor cut off from
the true life, but are capable of adoration and confession. We cannot
but remember the old belief that Jesus in His death 'descended into
Hell,' and some of us will not forget Fra Angelico's picture of the open
doorway with a demon crushed beneath the fallen portal, and the crowd of
eager faces and outstretched hands swarming up the dark passage, to
welcome the entering Christ. Whatever we may think of that ancient
representation, we may at least be sure that, wherever they are, the
dead in Christ praise and reverence and love.

IV. The glory of the Father in the glory of the name of Jesus.

Knees bent and tongues confessing the absolute dominion of Jesus Christ
could only be offence and sin if He were not one with the Father. But
the experience of all the thousands since Paul wrote, whose hearts have
been drawn in reverent and worshipping trust to the Son, has verified
the assertion, that to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord diverts no
worship from God, but swells and deepens the ocean of praise that breaks
round the throne. If it is true, and only if it is true, that in the
life and death of Jesus all previous revelations of the Father's heart
are surpassed, if it is true and only if it is true, as He Himself said,
that 'I and the Father are one,' can Paul's words here be anything but
an incredible paradox. But unless these great words close and crown the
Apostle's glowing vision, it is maimed and imperfect, and Jesus
interposes between loving hearts and God. One could almost venture to
believe that at the back of Paul's mind, when he wrote these words, was
some remembrance of the great prayer, 'I glorified Thee on the earth,
having accomplished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.' When the Son
is glorified we glorify the Father, and the words of our text may well
be remembered and laid to heart by any who will not recognise the deity
of the Son, because it seems to them to dishonour the Father. Their
honour is inseparable and their glory one.

There is a sense in which Jesus is our example even in His ascent and
exaltation, just as He was in His descent and humiliation. The mind
which was in Him is for us the pattern for earthly life, though the
deeds in which that mind was expressed, and especially His 'obedience to
the death of the Cross,' are so far beyond any self-sacrifice of ours,
and are inimitable, unique, and needing no repetition while the world
lasts. And as we can imitate His unexampled sacrifice, so we may share
His divine glory, and, resting on His own faithful word, may follow the
calm motion of His Ascension, assured that where He is there we shall be
also, and that the manhood which is exalted in Him is the prophecy that
all who love Him will share His glory. The question for us all is, have
we in us 'the mind that was in Christ'? and the other question is, what
is that name to us? Can we say, 'Thy mighty name salvation is'? If in
our deepest hearts we grasp that name, and with unfaltering lips can say
that 'there is none other name under heaven given amongst men whereby we
must be saved but the name of Jesus,' then we shall know that

          'To us with Thy dear name are given,
           Pardon, and holiness, and heaven.'



WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION

          'Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
          13. For it is God which worketh in you both to
          will and to do of His good pleasure.'--PHIL. ii.
          12, 13.


'What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder!' Here are,
joined together, in the compass of one practical exhortation, the truths
which, put asunder, have been the war-cries and shibboleths of
contending sects ever since. _Faith_ in a finished salvation, and yet
_work_; God working all _in_ me, and yet I able and bound to work
likewise; God upholding and sustaining His child to the very end;
'perfecting that which concerns him,' making his salvation certain and
sure, and yet the Christian working 'with fear and trembling,' lest he
should be a castaway and come short of the grace of God;--who does not
recognise in these phrases the mottoes that have been written on the
opposing banners in many a fierce theological battle, waged with much
harm to both sides, and ending in no clear victory for either? Yet here
they are blended in the words of one who was no less profound a thinker
than any that have come after, and who had the gift of a divine
inspiration to boot.

Not less remarkable than the fusion here of apparent antagonisms, the
harmonising of apparent opposites, is the intensely practical character
of the purpose for which they are adduced at all. Paul has no idea of
giving his disciples a lesson in abstract theology, or laying for them a
foundation of a philosophy of free will and divine sovereignty; he is
not merely communicating to these Philippians truths for their creed,
but precepts for their deeds. The Bible knows nothing of an unpractical
theology, but, on the other hand, the Bible knows still less of an
untheological morality. It digs deep, bottoming the simplest right
action upon right thinking, and going down to the mountain bases on
which the very pillars of the universe rest, in order to lay there, firm
and immovable, the courses of the temple of a holy life. Just as little
as Scripture gives countenance to the error that makes religion theology
rather than life, just so little does it give countenance to the far
more contemptible and shallower error common in our day, which _says_,
Religion is not theology, but life; and _means_, 'Therefore, it does
not matter what theology you have, you can work a good life out with any
creed!' The Bible never teaches unpractical speculations, and the Bible
never gives precepts which do not rest on the profoundest truths. Would
God, brethren, that we all had souls as wide as would take in the whole
of the many-sided scriptural representation of the truths of the Gospel,
and so avoid the narrowness of petty, partial views of God's infinite
counsel; and that we had as close, direct, and as free communication
between head, and heart, and hand, as the Scripture has between precept
and practice!

But in reference more especially to my text. Keeping in view these two
points I have already suggested, namely,--that it is the reconciling of
apparent opposites, and that it is intensely practical, I find in it
these three thoughts;--First, a Christian has his whole salvation
accomplished for him, and yet he is to work it out. Secondly, a
Christian has everything done in him by God, and yet he is to work.
Lastly, a Christian has his salvation certainly secured, and yet he is
to fear and tremble.

I. In the first place, A Christian man has his whole salvation already
accomplished for him in Christ, and yet he is to work it out.

There are two points absolutely necessary to be kept in view in order to
a right understanding of the words before us, for the want of noticing
which it has become the occasion of terrible mistakes. These are--the
persons to whom it is addressed, and the force of the scriptural
expression 'salvation.' As to the first, this exhortation has been
misapplied by being addressed to those who have no claim to be
Christians, and by having such teaching deduced from it as, You do your
part, and God will do His; You work, and God will certainly help you;
You co-operate in the great work of your salvation, and you will get
grace and pardon through Jesus Christ. Now let us remember the very
simple thing, but very important to the right understanding of these
words, that none but Christian people have anything to do with them. To
all others, to all who are not already resting on the finished salvation
of Jesus Christ, this injunction is utterly inapplicable. It is
addressed to the 'beloved, who have always obeyed'; to the 'saints in
Christ Jesus, which are at Philippi.' The whole Epistle is addressed,
and this injunction with the rest, to Christian men. That is the first
thing to be remembered. If there be any of you, who have thought that
these words of Paul's to those who had believed on Christ contained a
rule of action for you, though you have not rested your souls on Him,
and exhorted you to try to win salvation by your own doings, let me
remind you of what Christ said when the Jews came to Him in a similar
spirit and asked Him, 'What shall we do that we may work the works of
God?' His answer to them was, and His answer to you, my brother, is,
'_This_ is the work of God, that ye should _believe_ in Him whom He hath
sent.' That is the first lesson: Not _work_, but _faith_; unless there
be faith, no work. Unless you are a Christian, the passage has nothing
to do with you.

But now, if this injunction be addressed to those who are looking for
their salvation only to the perfect work of Christ, how can they be
exhorted to work it out themselves? Is not the oft-recurring burden of
Paul's teaching 'not by works of righteousness, which we have done, but
by His mercy He saved us'? How does this text harmonise with these
constantly repeated assertions that Christ has done all for us, and
that we have nothing to do, and can do nothing? To answer this question,
we have to remember that that scriptural expression, 'salvation,' is
used with considerable width and complexity of signification. It
sometimes means the whole of the process, from the beginning to the end,
by which we are delivered from sin in all its aspects, and are set safe
and stable at the right hand of God. It sometimes means one or other of
three different parts of that process--either deliverance from the
guilt, punishment, condemnation of sin; or secondly, the gradual process
of deliverance from its power in our own hearts; or thirdly, the
completion of that process by the final and perfect deliverance from sin
and sorrow, from death and the body, from earth and all its weariness
and troubles, which is achieved when we are landed on the other side of
the river. Salvation, in one aspect, is a thing _past_ to the Christian;
in another, it is a thing _present_; in a third, it is a thing _future_.
But all these three are one; all are elements of the one
deliverance--the one mighty and perfect act which includes them all.

These three all come equally from Christ Himself. These three all depend
equally on His work and His power. These three are all given to a
Christian man in the first act of faith. But the attitude in which he
stands in reference to that _accomplished_ salvation which means
deliverance from sin as a penalty and a curse, and that in which he
stands to the continuing and progressive salvation which means
deliverance from the power of evil in his own heart, are somewhat
different. In regard to the one, he has only to take the finished
blessing. He has to exercise faith and faith alone. He has nothing to
do, nothing to add, in order to fit himself for it, but simply to
receive the gift of God, and to believe on Him whom He hath sent. But
then, though that reception involves what shall come after it, and
though every one who has and holds the first thing, the pardon of his
transgression, has and holds thereby and therein his growing sanctifying
and his final glory, yet the salvation which means our being delivered
from the evil that is in our hearts, and having our souls made like unto
Christ, is one which--free gift though it be--is not ours on the sole
condition of an initial act of faith, but is ours on the condition of
continuous faithful reception and daily effort, not in our own strength,
but in God's strength, to become like Him, and to make our own that
which God has given us, and which Christ is continually bestowing upon
us.

The two things, then, are not inconsistent--an accomplished salvation, a
full, free, perfect redemption, with which a man has nothing to do at
all, but to take it;--and, on the other hand, the injunction to them who
have received this divine gift: 'Work out your own salvation.' Work, as
well as believe, and in the daily practice of faithful obedience, in the
daily subjugation of your own spirits to His divine power, in the daily
crucifixion of your flesh with its affections and lusts, in the daily
straining after loftier heights of godliness and purer atmospheres of
devotion and love--make more thoroughly your own that which you possess.
Work into the substance of your souls that which you _have_. Apprehend
that for which you are apprehended of Christ. 'Give all diligence to
make your calling and election sure'; and remember that not a past act
of faith, but a present and continuous life of loving, faithful work in
Christ, which is His and yet yours, is the 'holding fast the beginning
of your confidence firm unto the end.'

II. In the second place, God works all in us, and yet we have to work.

There can be no mistake about the good faith and firm emphasis--as of a
man who knows his own mind, and _knows_ that his word is true--with
which the Apostle holds up here the two sides of what I venture to call
the one truth; 'Work out your own salvation--for God works in you.'
Command implies power. Command and power involve duty. The freedom of
the Christian's action, the responsibility of the believer for his
Christian growth in grace, the committal to the Christian man's own
hands of the means of sanctifying, lie in that injunction, 'Work out
your own salvation.' Is there any faltering, any paring down or cautious
guarding of the words, in order that they may not seem to clash with the
other side of the truth? No: Paul does not say, 'Work it out; _yet_ it
is God that worketh in you'; not 'Work it out _although_ it is God that
worketh in you'; not 'Work it out, but then it must always be remembered
and taken as a caution that it is God that worketh in you!' He blends
the two things together in an altogether different connection, and
sees--strangely to some people, no contradiction, nor limitation, nor
puzzle, but a ground of encouragement to cheerful obedience. Do you
work, '_for_ it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His
good pleasure.' And does the Apostle limit the divine operation? Notice
how his words seem picked out on purpose to express most emphatically
its all-pervading energy. Look how his words seem picked out on purpose
to express with the utmost possible emphasis that all which a good man
is, and does, is its fruit. It is God that _worketh in_ you. That
expresses more than bringing outward means to bear upon heart and will.
It speaks of an inward, real, and efficacious operation of the
Indwelling Spirit of all energy on the spirit in which He dwells.
'Worketh in you _to will_'; this expresses more than the presentation of
motives from without, it points to a direct action on the will, by which
impulses are originated within. God puts in you the first faint motions
of a better will. 'Worketh in you, doing as well as willing'; this
points to all practical obedience, to all external acts as flowing from
His grace in us, no less than all inward good thoughts and holy desires.

It is not that God gives men the power, and then leaves them to make the
use of it. It is not that the desire and purpose come forth from Him,
and that then we are left to ourselves to be faithful or unfaithful
stewards in carrying it out. The whole process, from the first sowing of
the seed until its last blossoming and fruiting, in the shape of an
accomplished act, of which God shall bless the springing--it is all
God's together! There is a thorough-going, absolute attribution of every
power, every action, all the thoughts words, and deeds of a Christian
soul, to God. No words could be selected which would more thoroughly cut
away the ground from every half-and-half system which attempts to deal
them out in two portions, part God's and part mine. With all emphasis
Paul attributes all to God.

And none the less strongly does he teach, by the implication contained
in his earnest injunction, that human responsibility, that human control
over the human will, and that reality of human agency which are often
thought to be annihilated by these broad views of God as originating all
good in the soul and life. The Apostle thought that this doctrine did
not absorb all our individuality in one great divine Cause which made
men mere tools and puppets. He did not believe that the inference from
it was, 'Therefore do you sit still, and feel yourselves the cyphers
that you are.' His practical conclusion is the very opposite. It is--God
does all, therefore do you work. His belief in the power of God's grace
was the foundation of the most intense conviction of the reality and
indispensableness of his own power, and was the motive which stimulated
him to vigorous action. Work, for God works in you.

Each of these truths rests firmly on its own appropriate evidence. My
own consciousness tells me that I am free, that I have power, that I am
therefore responsible and exposed to punishment for neglect of duty. I
know what I mean when I speak of the will of God, because I myself am
conscious of a will. The power of God is an object of intelligent
thought to me, because I myself am conscious of power. And on the other
hand, that belief in a God which is one of the deep and universal
beliefs of men contains in it, when it comes to be thought about, the
belief in Him as the source of all power, as the great cause of all. If
I believe in a God at all, I must believe that He whom I so call,
worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. These two
convictions are both given to us in the primitive beliefs which belong
to us all. The one rests on consciousness, and underlies all our moral
judgments. The other rests on an original belief, which belongs to man
as such. These two mighty pillars on which all morality and all
religion repose have their foundations down deep in our nature, and
tower up beyond our sight. They seem to stand opposite to each other,
but it is only as the strong piers of some tall arch are opposed.
Beneath they repose on one foundation, above they join together in the
completing keystone and bear the whole steady structure.

Wise and good men have toiled to harmonise them, in vain. The task
transcends the limits of human faculties, as exercised here, at all
events. Perhaps the time may come when we shall be lifted high enough to
see the binding arch, but here on earth we can only behold the shafts on
either side. The history of controversy on the matter surely proves
abundantly what a hopeless task they undertake who attempt to reconcile
these truths. The attempt has usually consisted in speaking the one
loudly and the other in a whisper, and then the opposite side has
thundered what had been whispered, and has whispered very softly what
had been shouted very loudly. One party lays hold of the one pole of the
ark, and the other lays hold of that on the other side. The fancied
reconciliation consists in paring down one half of the full-orbed truth
to nothing, or in admitting it in words while every principle of the
reconciler's system demands its denial. Each antagonist is strong in his
assertions, and weak in his denials, victorious when he establishes his
half of the whole, easily defeated when he tries to overthrow his
opponent's.

This apparent incompatibility is no reason for rejecting truths each
commended to our acceptance on its own proper grounds. It may be a
reason for not attempting to dogmatise about them. It may be a warning
to us that we are on ground where our limited understandings have no
firm footing, but it is no ground for suspecting the evidence which
certifies the truths. The Bible admits and enforces them both. It never
tones down the emphasis of its statement of the one for fear of clashing
against the other, but points to us the true path for thought, in a firm
grasp of both, in the abandonment of all attempts to reconcile them, and
for practical conduct, in the peaceful trust in God who hath wrought all
our works in us, and in strenuous working out of our own salvation. Let
us, as we look back on that battlefield where much wiser men than we
have fought in vain, doing little but raising up 'a little dust that is
lightly laid again,' and building trophies that are soon struck down,
learn the lesson it teaches, and be contented to say, The short cord of
my plummet does not quite go down to the bottom of the bottomless, and I
do not profess either to understand God or to understand man, both of
which I should want to do before I understood the mystery of their
conjoint action. Enough for me to believe that,

          'If any force we have, it is to ill,
           And all the power is God's, to do and eke to will.'

Enough for me to know that I have solemn duties laid upon me, a life's
task to be done, my deliverance from mine own evil to work out, and that
I shall only accomplish that work when I can say with the Apostle, 'I
live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.'

God is all, but _thou_ canst work! My brother, take this belief, that
God worketh all in you, for the ground of your confidence, and feel that
unless He do all, you can do nothing. Take this conviction, that thou
canst work, for the spur and stimulus of thy life, and think, These
desires in my soul come from a far deeper source than the little cistern
of my own individual life. They are God's gift. Let me cherish them with
the awful carefulness which their origin requires, lest I should seem to
have received the grace of God in vain. These two streams of truth are
like the rain-shower that falls upon the watershed of a country. The one
half flows down the one side of the everlasting hills, and the other
down the other. Falling into rivers that water different continents,
they at length find the sea, separated by the distance of half the
globe. But the sea into which they fall is one, in every creek and
channel. And so, the truth into which these two apparent opposites
converge, is 'the depth of the wisdom and the knowledge of God,' whose
ways are past finding out--the Author of all goodness, who, if we have
any holy thought, has given it us; if we have any true desire, has
implanted it; has given us the strength to do the right and to live in
His fear; and who yet, doing all the willing and the doing, says to us,
'Because I do everything, therefore let not _thy_ will be paralysed, or
_thy_ hand palsied; but because I do everything, therefore will _thou_
according to My will, and do _thou_ according to My commandments!'

III. Lastly: The Christian has his salvation secured, and yet he is to
fear and tremble.

'Fear and trembling.' 'But,' you may say, 'perfect love casts out fear.'
So it does. The fear which has torment it casts out. But there is
another fear in which there is no torment, brethren; a fear and
trembling which is but another shape of confidence and calm hope!
Scripture does tell us that the believing man's salvation is certain.
Scripture tells us it is certain since he believes. And your faith can
be worth nothing unless it have, bedded deep in it, that trembling
distrust of your own power which is the pre-requisite and the companion
of all thankful and faithful reception of God's infinite mercy. Your
horizon ought to be full of fear, if your gaze be limited to yourself;
but oh! above our earthly horizon with its fogs, God's infinite blue
stretches untroubled by the mist and cloud which are earth-born. I, as
working, have need to tremble and to fear, but I, as wrought upon, have
a right to confidence and hope, a hope that is full of immortality, and
an assurance which is the pledge of its own fulfilment. The worker is
nothing, the Worker in him is all. Fear and trembling, when the thoughts
turn to mine own sins and weaknesses, hope and confidence when they turn
to the happier vision of God! 'Not I'--there is the tremulous
self-distrust; 'the grace of God in me'--there is the calm assurance of
victory. Forasmuch, then, as God worketh all things, be _you_ diligent,
faithful, prayerful, confident. Forasmuch as Christ has perfected the
work for you, do _you_ 'go on unto perfection.' Let all fear and
trembling be yours, as a man; let all confidence and calm trust be yours
as a child of God. Turn your confidence and your fears alike into
prayer. 'Perfect, O Lord, that which concerneth me; forsake not the work
of Thine own hands!'--and the prayer will evoke the merciful answer, 'I
will never leave thee, nor forsake thee God is faithful, who hath called
you unto the Gospel of His Son; and _will_ keep you unto His everlasting
kingdom of glory.'



COPIES OF JESUS

          'Do all things without murmurings and disputings;
          15. That ye may be blameless and harmless,
          children of God without blemish in the midst of a
          crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are
          seen as lights in the world, 16. Holding forth the
          word of life.'--PHIL. ii. 14-16 (R.V.).


We are told by some superfine modern moralists, that to regard one's own
salvation as the great work of our lives is a kind of selfishness, and
no doubt there may be a colour of truth in the charge. At least the
meaning of the injunction to work out our own salvation may have been
sometimes so misunderstood, and there have been types of Christian
character, such as the ascetic and monastic, which have made the
representation plausible. I do not think that there is much danger of
anybody so misunderstanding the precept now. But it is worthy of notice
that there stand here side by side two paragraphs, in the former of
which the effort to work out one's own salvation is urged in the
strongest terms, and in the other of which the regard for others is
predominant. We shall see that the connection between these two is not
accidental, but that one great reason for working out our salvation is
here set forth as being the good we may thereby do to others.

I. We note the one great duty of cheerful yielding to God's will.

It is clear, I think, that the precept to do 'all things without
murmurings and disputings' stands in the closest connection with what
goes before. It is, in fact, the explanation of how salvation is to be
wrought out. It presents the human side which corresponds to the divine
activity, which has just been so earnestly insisted on. God works in us
'willing and doing,' let us on our parts do with ready submission all
the things which He so inspires to will and to do.

The 'murmurings' are not against men but against God. The 'disputings'
are not wrangling with others but the division of mind in one's
self-questionings, hesitations, and the like. So the one are more moral,
the other more intellectual, and together they represent the ways in
which Christian men may resist the action on their spirits of God's
Spirit, 'willing,' or the action of God's providence on their
circumstances, 'doing.' Have we never known what it was to have some
course manifestly prescribed to us as right, from which we have shrunk
with reluctance of will? If some course has all at once struck us as
wrong which we had been long accustomed to do without hesitation, has
there been no 'murmuring' before we yielded? A voice has said to us,
'Give up such and such a habit,' or 'such and such a pursuit is becoming
too engrossing': do we not all know what it is not only to feel
obedience an effort, but even to cherish reluctance, and to let it
stifle the voice?

There are often 'disputings' which do not get the length of
'murmurings.' The old word which tried to weaken the plain imperative of
the first command by the subtle suggestion, 'Yea, hath God said?' still
is whispered into our ears. We know what it is to answer God's commands
with a 'But, Lord.' A reluctant will is clever to drape itself with more
or less honest excuses, and the only safety is in cheerful obedience and
glad submission. The will of God ought not only to receive obedience,
but prompt obedience, and such instantaneous and whole-souled submission
is indispensable if we are to 'work out our own salvation,' and to
present an attitude of true, receptive correspondence to that of God,
who 'works in us both to will and to do of His own good pleasure.' Our
surrender of ourselves into the hands of God, in respect both to inward
and outward things, should be complete. As has been profoundly said,
that surrender consists 'in a continual forsaking and losing all self in
the will of God, willing only what God from eternity has willed,
forgetting what is past, giving up the time present to God, and leaving
to His providence that which is to come, making ourselves content in the
actual moment seeing it brings along with it the eternal order of God
concerning us' (Madame Guyon).

II. The conscious aim in all our activity.

What God works in us for is that for which we too are to yield ourselves
to His working, 'without murmurings and disputings,' and to co-operate
with glad submission and cheerful obedience. We are to have as our
distinct aim the building up of a character 'blameless and harmless,
children of God without rebuke.' The blamelessness is probably in
reference to men's judgment rather than to God's, and the difficulty of
coming untarnished from contact with the actions and criticisms of a
crooked and perverse generation is emphasised by the very fact that such
blamelessness is the first requirement for Christian conduct. It was a
feather in Daniel's cap that the president and princes were foiled in
their attempt to pick holes in his conduct, and had to confess that they
would not 'find any occasion against him, except we find it concerning
the laws of his God.' God is working in us in order that our lives
should be such that malice is dumb in their presence. Are we
co-operating with Him? We are bound to satisfy the world's requirements
of Christian character. They are sharp critics and sometimes
unreasonable, but on the whole it would not be a bad rule for Christian
people, 'Do what irreligious men expect you to do.' The worst man knows
more than the best man practises, and his conscience is quick to decide
the course for other people. Our weaknesses and compromises, and love of
the world, might receive a salutary rebuke if we would try to meet the
expectations which 'the man in the street' forms of us.

'Harmless' is more correctly pure, all of a piece, homogeneous and
entire. It expresses what the Christian life should be in itself, whilst
the former designation describes it more as it appears. The piece of
cloth is to be so evenly and carefully woven that if held up against the
light it will show no flaws nor knots. Many a professing Christian life
has a veneer of godliness nailed thinly over a solid bulk of
selfishness. There are many goods in the market finely dressed so as to
hide that the warp is cotton and only the weft silk. No Christian man
who has memory and self-knowledge can for a moment claim to have reached
the height of his ideal; the best of us, at the best, are like
Nebuchadnezzar's image, whose feet were iron and clay, but we ought to
strain after it and to remember that a stain shows most on the whitest
robe. What made David's sin glaring and memorable was its contradiction
of his habitual nobler self. One spot more matters little on a robe
already covered with many. The world is fully warranted in pointing
gleefully or contemptuously at Christians' inconsistencies, and we have
no right to find fault with their most pointed sarcasms, or their
severest judgments. It is those 'that bear the vessels of the Lord'
whose burden imposes on them the duty 'be ye clean,' and makes any
uncleanness more foul in them than in any other.

The Apostle sets forth the place and function of Christians in the
world, by bringing together in the sharpest contrast the 'children of
God' and a 'crooked and perverse generation.' He is thinking of the old
description in Deuteronomy, where the ancient Israel is charged with
forgetting 'Thy Father that hath bought thee,' and as showing by their
corruption that they are a 'perverse and crooked generation.' The
ancient Israel had been the Son of God, and yet had corrupted itself;
the Christian Israel are 'sons of God' set among a world all deformed,
twisted, perverted. 'Perverse' is a stronger word than 'crooked,' which
latter may be a metaphor for moral obliquity, like our own right and
wrong, or perhaps points to personal deformity. Be that as it may, the
position which the Apostle takes is plain enough. He regards the two
classes as broadly separated in antagonism in the very roots of their
being. Because the 'sons of God' are set in the midst of that 'crooked
and perverse generation' constant watchfulness is needed lest they
should conform, constant resort to their Father lest they should lose
the sense of sonship, and constant effort that they may witness of Him.

III. The solemn reason for this aim.

That is drawn from a consideration of the office and function of
Christian men. Their position in the midst of a 'crooked and perverse
generation' devolves on them a duty in relation to that generation. They
are to 'appear as lights in the world.' The relation between them and it
is not merely one of contrast, but on their parts one of witness and
example. The metaphor of light needs no explanation. We need only note
that the word, 'are seen' or 'appear,' is indicative, a statement of
fact, not imperative, a command. As the stars lighten the darkness with
their myriad lucid points, so in the divine ideal Christian men are to
be as twinkling lights in the abyss of darkness. Their light rays forth
without effort, being an involuntary efflux. Possibly the old paradox of
the Psalmist was in the Apostle's mind, which speaks of the eloquent
silence, in which 'there is no speech nor language, and their voice is
not heard,' but yet 'their line has gone out through all the earth, and
their words unto the end of the world.'

Christian men appear as lights by 'holding forth the word of life.' In
themselves they have no brightness but that which comes from raying out
the light that is in them. The word of life must live, giving life in
us, if we are ever to be seen as 'lights in the world.' As surely as the
electric light dies out of a lamp when the current is switched off, so
surely shall we be light only when we are 'in the Lord.' There are many
so-called Christians in this day who stand tragically unaware that their
'lamps are gone out.' When the sun rises and smites the mountain tops
they burn, when its light falls on Memnon's stony lips they breathe out
music, 'Arise, shine, for thy light has come.'

Undoubtedly one way of 'holding forth the word of life' must be to speak
the word, but silent living 'blameless and harmless' and leaving the
secret of the life very much to tell itself is perhaps the best way for
most Christian people to bear witness. Such a witness is constant,
diffused wherever the witness-bearer is seen, and free from the
difficulties that beset speech, and especially from the assumption of
superiority which often gives offence. It was the sight of 'your good
deeds' to which Jesus pointed as the strongest reason for men's
'glorifying your Father.' If we lived such lives there would be less
need for preachers. 'If any will not hear the word they may without the
word be won.' And reasonably so, for Christianity is a life and cannot
be all told in words, and the Gospel is the proclamation of freedom from
sin, and is best preached and proved by showing that we are free. The
Gospel was lived as well as spoken. Christ's life was Christ's mightiest
preaching.

          'The word was flesh and wrought
           With human hands the creed of creeds.'

If we keep near to Him we too shall witness, and if our faces shine like
Moses' as he came down from the mountain, or like Stephen's in the
council chamber, men will 'take knowledge of us that we have been with
Jesus.'



A WILLING SACRIFICE

          'That I may have whereof to glory in the day of
          Christ, that I did not run in vain neither labour
          in vain. 17. Yea, and if I am offered upon the
          sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and
          rejoice with you all. 18. And in the same manner
          do ye also joy, and rejoice with me.'--PHIL. ii.
          16-18 (R.V.).


We come here to another of the passages in which the Apostle pours out
all his heart to his beloved Church. Perhaps there never was a Christian
teacher (always excepting Christ) who spoke more about himself than
Paul. His own experience was always at hand for illustration. His
preaching was but the generalisation of his life. He had felt it all
first, before he threw it into the form of doctrine. It is very hard to
keep such a style from becoming egotism.

This paragraph is remarkable, especially if we consider that this is
introduced as a motive to their faithfulness, that thereby they will
contribute to his joy at the last great testing. There must have been a
very deep love between Paul and the Philippians to make such words as
these true and appropriate. They open the very depths of his heart in a
way from which a less noble and fervid nature would have shrunk, and
express his absolute consecration in his work, and his eager desire for
their spiritual good, with such force as would have been exaggeration in
most men.

We have here a wonderful picture of the relation between him and the
church at Philippi which may well stand as a pattern for us all. I do
not mean to parallel our relations with that between him and them, but
it is sufficiently analogous to make these words very weighty and solemn
for us.

I. The Philippians' faithfulness Paul's glory in the day of Christ.

The Apostle strikes a solemn note, which was always sounding through his
life, when he points to that great Day of Christ as the time when his
work was to be tested. The thought of that gave earnestness to all his
service, and in conjunction with the joyful thought that, however his
work might be marred by failures and flaws, he himself was 'accepted in
the beloved,' was the impulse which carried him on through a life than
which none of Christ's servants have dared, and done, and suffered more
for Him. Paul believed that, according to the results of that test, his
position would in some sort be determined. Of course he does not here
contradict the foundation principle of his whole Gospel, that salvation
is not the result of our own works, or virtues, but is the free
unmerited gift of Christ's grace. But while that is true, it is none the
less true, that the degree in which believers receive that gift depends
on their Christian character, both in their life on earth and in the day
of Christ. One element in that character is faithful work for Jesus.
Faithful work indeed is not necessarily successful work, and many who
are welcomed by Jesus, the judge, will have the memory of many
disappointments and few harvested grains. It was not a reaper, 'bringing
his sheaves with him,' who stayed himself against the experience of
failure, by the assurance, 'Though Israel be not gathered yet shall I be
glorious in the eyes of the Lord.' If our want of success, and others'
lapse, and apostasy or coldness has not been occasioned by any fault of
ours, there will be no diminution of our reward. But we can so seldom be
sure of that, and even then there will be an absence of what might have
added to gladness.

We need not do more than note that the text plainly implies, that at
that testing time men's knowledge of all that they did, and the results
of it, will be complete. Marvellous as it seems to us, with our
fragmentary memories, and the great tracts of our lives through which we
have passed mechanically, and which seem to have left no trace on the
mirror of our consciousness, we still, all of us, have experiences which
make that all-recovering memory credible. Some passing association, a
look, a touch, an odour, a sun-set sky, a chord of music will bring
before us some trivial long-forgotten incident or emotion, as the chance
thrust of a boat-hook will draw to the surface by its hair, a
long-drowned corpse. If we are, as assuredly we are, writing with
invisible ink our whole life's history on the pages of our own minds,
and if we shall have to read them all over again one day, is it not
tragic that most of us scribble the pages so hastily and carelessly, and
forget that, 'what I have written I have written,' and what I have
written I must read.

But there is another way of looking at Paul's words as being an
indication of his warm love for the Philippians. Even among the glories,
he would feel his heart filled with new gladness when he found them
there. The hunger for the good of others which cannot bear to think even
of heaven without their presence has been a master note of all true
Christian teachers, and without it there will be little of the toil, of
which Paul speaks in the context, 'running and labouring.' He that would
win men's hearts for any great cause must give his heart to them.

That Paul should have felt warranted in using such a motive with the
Philippians tells how surely he reckoned on their true and deep love. He
believes that they care enough for him to feel the power as a motive
with them, that their faithfulness will make Paul more blessed amidst
the blessings of heaven. Oh! if such love knit together all Christian
teachers and their hearers in this time, and if the 'Day of Christ'
burned before them, as it did before him, and if the vision stirred to
such running and labouring as his, teachers and taught would oftener
have to say, 'We are your rejoicing, even as ye are also ours in the Day
of our Lord Jesus.' The voice of the man who is in the true 'Apostolic
Succession' will dare to make the appeal, knowing that it will call
forth an abundant answer, 'Look to yourselves that we lose not the
things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.'

II. Paul's death an aid to the Philippians' faith.

The general meaning of the Apostle's words is, 'If I have not only to
run and labour, but to die in the discharge of my Apostolic Mission, I
joy and rejoice, and I bid you rejoice with me.' We need only note that
the Apostle here casts his language into the forms consecrated for
sacrifice. He will not speak of death by its own ugly and threadbare
name, but thinks of himself as a devoted victim, and of his death as
making the sacrifice complete. In the figure there is a solemn scorn of
death, and at the same time a joyful recognition that it is the means of
bringing him more nearly to God, with whom he would fain be. It is
interesting, as showing the persistence of these thoughts in the
Apostle's mind, that the word rendered in our text 'offered,' which
fully means 'poured out as a drink offering,' occurs again in the same
connection in the great words of the swan song in II. Timothy, 'I am
already being offered, and the time of my departure is come.' Death
looked to him, when he looked it in the eyes, and the block was close by
him, as it had done when he spoke of it to his Philippian friends.

It is to be noted, in order to bring out more vividly the force of the
figure, that Paul here speaks of the libation being poured '_on_' the
sacrifice, as was the practice in heathen ritual. The sacrifice is the
victim, 'service' is the technical word for priestly ministration, and
the general meaning is, 'If my blood is poured out as a drink offering
on the sacrifice ministered by you, which is your faith, I joy with you
all.' This man had no fear of death, and no shrinking from 'leaving the
warm precincts of the cheerful day.' He was equally ready to live or to
die as might best serve the name of Jesus, for to him 'to live was
Christ,' and therefore to him it could be nothing but 'gain' to die.
Here he seems to be treating his death as a possibility, but as a
possibility only, for almost immediately afterwards he says, that he
'trusts in the Lord that I myself will come shortly.' It is interesting
to notice the contrast between his mood of mind here and that in the
previous chapter (i. 25) where the 'desire to depart and to be with
Christ' is deliberately suppressed, because his continuous life is
regarded as essential for the Philippians' 'progress and joy in faith.'
Here he discerns that perhaps his death would do more for their faith
than would his life, and being ready for either alternative he welcomes
the possibility. May we not see in the calm heart, which is at leisure
to think of death in such a fashion, a pattern for us all? Remember how
near and real his danger was. Nero was not in the habit of letting a
man, whose head had been in the mouth of the lion, take it out unhurt.
Paul is no eloquent writer or poet playing with the idea of death, and
trying to say pretty things about it, but a man who did not know when
the blow would come, but _did_ know that it would come before long.

We may point here to the two great thoughts in Paul's words, and notice
the priesthood and sacrifice of life, and the sacrifice and libation of
death. The Philippians offered as their sacrifice their faith, and all
the works which flow therefrom. Is that our idea of life? Is it our idea
of faith? We have no gifts to bring, we come empty-handed unless we
carry in our hands the offering of our faith, which includes the
surrender of our will, and the giving away of our hearts, and is
essentially laying hold of Christ's sacrifice. When we come empty,
needy, sinful, but cleaving wholly to that perfect sacrifice of the
Great Priest, we too become priests and our poor gift is accepted.

But another possibility than that of a life of running and labour
presented itself to Paul, and it is a revelation of the tranquillity of
his heart in the midst of impending danger, all the more pathetic
because it is entirely unconscious, that he should be free to cast his
anticipations into that calm metaphor of being, 'offered upon the
sacrifice and service of your faith.' His heart beats no faster, nor
does the faintest shadow of reluctance cross his will, when he thinks of
his death. All the repulsive accompaniments of a Roman execution fade
away from his imagination. These are but negligible accidents; the
substantial reality which obscures them all is that his blood will be
poured out as a libation, and that by it his brethren's faith will be
strengthened. To this man death had finally and completely ceased to be
a terror, and had become what it should be to all Christians, a
voluntary surrender to God, an offering to Him, an act of worship, of
trust, and of thankful praise. Seneca, in his death, poured out a
libation to Jupiter the Liberator, and if we could only know beforehand
what death delivers us from, and admits us to, we should not be so prone
to call it 'the last enemy.' What Paul's death was for himself in the
process of his perfecting called forth, and warranted, the 'joy' with
which he anticipated it. It did no more for him than it will do for each
of us, and if our vision were as clear, and our faith as firm as his, we
should be more ready than, alas! we too often are, to catch up the
exulting note with which he hails the possibility of its coming.

But it is not the personal bearing only of his death that gives him joy.
He thinks of it mainly as contributing to the furtherance of the faith
of others. For that end he was spending the effort and toil of an
effortful and toilsome life, and was equally ready to meet a violent and
shameful death. He knew that 'the blood of the martyrs is the seed of
the Church,' and rejoiced, and called upon his brethren also to 'joy
and rejoice' with him in his shedding of his martyr's blood.

The Philippians might well have thought, as we all are tempted to think,
that the withdrawal of those round whom our hearts desperately cling,
and who seem to us to bring love and trust nearer to us, can only be
loss, but surely the example in our text may well speak to our hearts of
the way in which we should look at death for ourselves, and for our
dearest. Their very withdrawal may send us nearer to Christ. The holy
memories which linger in the sky, like the radiance of a sunken sun, may
clothe familiar truths with unfamiliar power and loveliness. The thought
of where the departed have gone may lift our thoughts wistfully thither
with a new feeling of home. The path that they have trodden may become
less strange to us, and the victory that they have won may prophesy that
we too shall be 'more than conquerors through Him that loveth us.' So
the mirror broken may turn us to the sun, and the passing of the dearest
that can die may draw us to the Dearer who lives.

Paul, living, rejoiced in the prospect of death. We may be sure that he
rejoiced in it no less dead than living. And we may permissibly think of
this text as suggesting how

          'The saints on earth and all the dead
           But one communion make,'

and are to be united in one joy. They rejoice for their own sakes, but
their joy is not self-absorbed, and so putting them farther away from
us. They look back upon earth, the runnings and labourings of the
unforgotten life here; and are glad to bear in their hearts the
indubitable token that they have 'not run in vain neither laboured in
vain.' But surely the depth of their own repose will not make them
indifferent to those who are still in the midst of struggle and toil,
nor the fulness of their own felicity make them forget those whom they
loved of old, and love now with the perfect love of Heaven. It is hard
for us to rise to complete sympathy with these serenely blessed spirits,
but yet we too should rejoice. Not indeed to the exclusion of sorrow,
nor to the neglect of the great purpose to be effected in us by the
withdrawal, as by the presence of dear ones, the furtherance of our
faith, but having made sure that that purpose has been effected in us,
we should then give solemn thanksgivings if it has. It is sad and
strange to think of how opposite are the feelings about their departure,
of those who have gone and of those who are left. Would it not be better
that we should try to share theirs and so bring about a true union? We
may be sure that their deepest desire is that we should. If some lips
that we shall never hear any more, till we come where they are, could
speak, would not they bring to us as their message from Heaven, Do 'ye
also joy and rejoice with me'?



PAUL AND TIMOTHY

          'But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy
          shortly unto you, that I also may be of good
          comfort, when I know your state. 20. For I have no
          man like-minded, who will care truly for your
          state. 21. For they all seek their own, not the
          things of Jesus Christ. 22. But ye know the proof
          of him, that, as a child serveth a father, so he
          served with me in furtherance of the gospel. 23.
          Him therefore I hope to send forthwith, so soon as
          I shall see how it will go with me: 24. But I
          trust in the Lord that I myself also shall come
          shortly.'--PHIL. ii. 19-24 (R.V.).


Like all great men Paul had a wonderful power of attaching followers to
himself. The mass of the planet draws in small aerolites which catch
fire as they pass through its atmosphere. There is no more beautiful
page in the history of the early Church than the story of Paul and his
companions. They gathered round him with such devotion, and followed him
with such love. They were not small men. Luke and Aquila were among
them, and they would have been prominent in most companies, but gladly
took a place second to Paul. He impressed his own personality and his
type of teaching on his followers as Luther did on his, and as many
another great teacher has done.

Among all these Timothy seems to have held a special place. Paul first
found him on his second journey either at Derbe or Lystra. His mother,
Eunice, was already a believer, his father a Greek. Timothy seems to
have been converted on Paul's first visit, for on his second he was
already a disciple well reported of, and Paul more than once calls him
his 'son in the faith.' He seems to have come in to take John Mark's
place as the Apostle's 'minister,' and from that time to have been
usually Paul's trusted attendant. We hear of him as with the Apostle on
his first visit to Philippi, and to have gone with him to Thessalonica
and Beroea, but then to have been parted until Corinth. Thence Paul
went quickly up to Jerusalem and back to Antioch, from which he set out
again to visit the churches, and made a special stay in Ephesus. While
there he planned a visit to Macedonia and Achaia, in preparation for one
to Jerusalem, and finally to Rome. So he sent Timothy and Erastus on
ahead to Macedonia, which would of course include Philippi. After that
visit to Macedonia and Greece Paul returned to Philippi, from which he
sailed with Timothy in his company. He was probably with him all the way
to Rome, and we find him mentioned as sharer in the imprisonment both
here and in Colossians.

The references made to him point to a very sweet, good, pure and
gracious character without much strength, needing to be stayed and
stiffened by the stronger character, but full of sympathy, unselfish
disregard of self, and consecrated love to Christ. He had been
surrounded with a hallowed atmosphere from his youth, and 'from a child
had known the holy Scriptures,' and 'prophecies' like fluttering doves
had gone before on him. He had 'often infirmities' and 'tears.' He
needed to be roused to 'stir up the gift that was in him,' and braced up
'not to be ashamed,' but to fight against the disabling 'spirit of
fear,' and to be 'strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.'

The bond between these two was evidently very close, and the Apostle
felt something of a paternal interest in the very weakness of character
which was in such contrast to his own strength, and which obviously
dreaded the discouragement which was likely to be produced by his own
martyrdom. This favourite companion he will now send to his favourite
church. The verses of our text express that intention, and give us a
glimpse into the Apostle's thoughts and feelings in his imprisonment.

I. The prisoner's longing and hope.

The first point which strikes us in this self-revelation of Paul's is
his conscious uncertainty as to his future. In the previous chapter
(ver. 25) he is confident that he will live. In the verses immediately
preceding our text he faces the possibility of death. Here he recognises
the uncertainty but still 'trusts' that he will be liberated, but yet he
does not know 'how it may go with' him. We think of him in his lodging
sometimes hoping and sometimes doubting. He had a tyrant's caprice to
depend on, and knew how a moment's whim might end all. Surely his way of
bearing that suspense was very noteworthy and noble. It is difficult to
keep a calm heart, and still more difficult to keep on steadily at work,
when any moment might bring the victor's axe. Suspense almost enforces
idleness, but Paul crowded these moments of his prison time with
letters, and Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon are the
fruits for which we are indebted to a period which would have been to
many men a reason for throwing aside all work.

How calmly too he speaks of the uncertain issue! Surely never was the
possibility of death more quietly spoken of than in 'so soon as I shall
see how it will go with me.' That means--'as soon as my fate is decided,
be it what it may, I will send Timothy to tell you.' What a calm pulse
he must have had! There is no attitudinising here, all is perfectly
simple and natural. Can we look, do we habitually look, into the
uncertain future with such a temper--accepting all that may be in its
grey mists, and feeling that our task is to fill the present with
strenuous loving service, leaving tomorrow with all its alternatives,
even that tremendous one of life and death, to Him who will shape it to
a perfect end?

We note, further, the purpose of Paul's love. It is beautiful to see how
he yearns over these Philippians and feels that his joy will be
increased when he hears from them. He is sure, as he believes, to hear
good, and news which will be a comfort. Among the souls whom he bore on
his heart were many in the Macedonian city, and a word from them would
be like 'cold water to a thirsty soul.'

What a noble suppression of self; how deep and strong the tie that bound
him to them must have been! Is there not a lesson here for all Christian
workers, for all teachers, preachers, parents, that no good is to be
done without loving sympathy? Unless our hearts go out to people we
shall never reach their hearts. We may talk to them for ever, but unless
we have this loving sympathy we might as well be silent. It is possible
to pelt people with the Gospel, and to produce the effect of flinging
stones at them. Much Christian work comes to nothing mainly for that
reason.

And how deep a love does he show in his depriving himself of Timothy for
their sakes, and in his reason for sending him! Those reasons would have
been for most of us the strongest reason for keeping him. It is not
everybody who will denude himself of the help of one who serves him 'as
a child serveth a father,' and will part with the only like-minded
friend he has, because his loving eye will clearly see the state of
others.

Paul's expression of his purpose to send Timothy is very much more than
a piece of emotional piety. He 'hopes in the Lord' to accomplish his
design, and that hope so rooted and conditioned is but one instance of
the all-comprehending law of his life, that, to him, to 'live is
Christ.' His whole being was so interpenetrated with Christ's that all
his thoughts and feelings were 'in the Lord Jesus.' So should our
purposes be. Our hopes should be derived from union with Him. They
should not be the play of our own fancy or imagination. They should be
held in submission to him, and ever with the limitation, 'Not as I will,
but as Thou wilt.' We should be trusting to Him to fulfil them. If thus
we hope, our hopes may lead us nearer to Jesus instead of tempting us
away from Him by delusive brightnesses. There is a religious use of hope
not only when it is directed to heavenly certainties, and 'enters within
the veil,' but even when occupied about earthly things. Spenser twice
paints for us the figure of Hope, one has always something of dread in
her blue eyes, the other, and the other only, leans on the anchor, and
'maketh not ashamed'; and her name is 'Hope in the Lord.'

II. The prisoner solitary among self-seeking men.

With wonderful self-surrender the Apostle thinks of his lack of
like-minded companions as being a reason for depriving himself of the
only like-minded one who was left with him. He felt that Timothy's
sympathetic soul would truly care for the Philippians' condition, and
would minister to it lovingly. He could rely that Timothy would have no
selfish by-ends to serve, but would seek the things of Jesus Christ. We
know too little of the circumstances of Paul's imprisonment to know how
he came to be thus lonely. In the other Epistles of the Captivity we
have mention of a considerable group of friends, many of whom would
certainly have been included in a list of the 'like-minded.' We hear,
for example, of Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, John Mark, Epaphras,
and Luke. What had become of them all we do not know. They were
evidently away on Christian service, somewhere or other, or some of them
perhaps had not yet arrived. At all events for some reason Paul was for
the time left alone but for Timothy. Not that there were no Christian
men in Rome, but of those who could have been sent on such an errand
there were none in whom love to Christ and care for His cause and flock
were strong enough to mark them as fit for it.

So then we have to take account of Paul's loneliness in addition to his
other sorrows, and we may well mark how calmly and uncomplainingly he
bears it. We are perpetually hearing complaints of isolation and the
difficulty of finding sympathy, or 'people who understand me.' That is
often the complaint of a morbid nature, or of one which has never given
itself the trouble of trying to 'understand' others, or of showing the
sympathy for which it says that it thirsts. And many of these
complaining spirits might take a lesson from the lonely Apostle. There
never was a man, except Paul's Master and ours, who cared more for human
sympathy, had his own heart fuller of it, and received less of it from
others than Paul. But he had discovered what it would be blessedness for
us all to lay to heart, that a man who has Christ for his companion can
do without others, and that a heart in which there whispers, 'Lo, I am
with you always,' can never be utterly solitary.

May we not take the further lesson that the sympathy which we should
chiefly desire is sympathy and fellow-service in Christian work? Paul
did not want like-minded people in order that he might have the luxury
of enjoying their sympathy, but what he wanted was allies in his work
for Christ. It was sympathy in his care for the Philippians that he
sought for in his messenger. And that is the noblest form of
like-mindedness that we can desire--some one to hold the ropes for us.

Note, too, that Paul does not weakly complain because he had no helpers.
Good and earnest men are very apt to say much about the half-hearted way
in which their brethren take up some cause in which they are eagerly
interested, and sometimes to abandon it altogether for that reason. May
not such faint hearts learn a lesson from him who had 'no man
like-minded,' and yet never dreamt of whimpering because of it, or of
flinging down his tools because of the indolence of his fellow-workers?

There is another point to be observed in the Apostle's words here. He
felt that their attitude to Christ determined his affinities with men.
He could have no deep and true fellowship with others, whatever their
name to live, who were daily 'seeking their own,' and at the same time
leaving unsought 'the things of Jesus Christ.' They who are not alike in
their deepest aims can have no real kindred. Must we not say that hosts
of so-called Christian people do not seem to feel, if one can judge by
the company they affect, that the deepest bond uniting men is that which
binds them to Jesus Christ? I would press the question, Do we feel that
nothing draws us so close to men as common love to Jesus, and that if we
are not alike on that cardinal point there is a deep gulf of separation
beneath a deceptive surface of union, an unfathomable gorge marked by a
quaking film of earth?

It is a solemn estimate of some professing Christians which the Apostle
gives here, if he is including the members of the Roman Church in his
judgment that they are not 'like-minded' with him, and are 'seeking
their own, not the things of Jesus Christ.' We may rather hope that he
is speaking of others around him, and that for some reason unknown to us
he was at the time secluded from the Roman Christians. He brings out
with unflinching precision the choice which determines a life. There is
always that terrible 'either--or.' To live for Christ is the antagonist,
and only antagonist of life for self. To live for self is death. To live
for Jesus is the only life. There are two centres, heliocentric and
geocentric as the scientists say. We can choose round which we shall
draw our orbit, and everything depends on the choice which we make. To
seek 'the things of Jesus Christ' is sure to lead to, and is the only
basis of, care for men. Religion is the parent of compassion, and if we
are looking for a man who will care truly for the state of others, we
must do as Paul did, look for him among those who 'seek the things of
Jesus Christ.'

III. The prisoner's joy in loving co-operation.

The Apostle's eulogium on Timothy points to his long and intimate
association with Paul and to the Philippians' knowledge of him as well
as to the Apostle's clinging to him. There is a piece of delicate beauty
in the words which we may pause for a moment to point out. Paul writes
as 'a child serveth a father,' and the natural sequence would have been
'so he served me,' but he remembers that the service was not to him,
Paul, but to another, and so he changes the words and says he 'served
_with_ me in furtherance of the Gospel.' We are both servants
alike--Christ's servants for the Gospel.

Paul's joy in Timothy's loving co-operation was so deep because Paul's
whole heart was set on 'the furtherance of the Gospel.' Help towards
that end was help indeed. We may measure the ardour and intensity of
Paul's devotion to his apostolic work by the warmth of gratitude which
he shows to his helper. They who contribute to our reaching our chief
desire win our warmest love, and the catalogue of our helpers follows
the order of the list of our aims. Timothy brought to Paul no assistance
to procure any of the common objects of human desires. Wealth,
reputation, success in any of the pursuits which attract most men might
have been held out to the Apostle and not been thought worth stooping to
take, nor would the offerer have been thanked, but any proffered service
that had the smallest bearing on that great work to which Paul's life
was given, and which his conscience told him there would be a curse on
himself if he did not fulfil, was welcomed as a priceless gift. Do we
arrange the lists of our helpers on the same fashion, and count that
they serve us best who help us to serve Christ? It should be as much the
purpose of every Christian life as it was that of Paul to spread the
salvation and glory of the 'name that is above every name.' If we lived
as continually under the influence of that truth as he did, we should
construe the circumstances of our lives, whether helpful or hindering,
very differently, and we could shake the world.

Christian unity is very good and infinitely to be desired, but the true
field on which it should display itself is that of united work for the
common Lord. The men who have marched side by side through a campaign
are knit together as nothing else would bind them. Even two horses
drawing one carriage will have ways and feelings and a common
understanding, which they would never have attained in any other way.
There is nothing like common work for clearing away mists. Much
so-called Christian sympathy and like-mindedness are something like the
penal cranks that used to be in jails, which generated immense power on
this side of the wall but ground out nothing on the other.

Let us not forget that in the field of Christian service there is room
for all manner of workers, and that they are associated, however
different their work. Paul often calls Timothy his 'fellow-labourer,'
and once gives him the eulogium, 'he worketh the work of the Lord as I
also do.' Think of the difference between the two men in age, endowment,
and sphere! Apparently Timothy at first had very subordinate work taking
John Mark's place, and is described as being one of those who
'ministered' to Paul. It is the cup of cold water over again. All work
done for the same Lord, and with the same motive is the same; 'he that
receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's
reward.' When Paul associates Timothy with himself he is copying from
afar off his Lord, who lets us think of even our poor deeds as done by
those whom He does not disdain to call His fellow-workers. It would be
worth living for if, at the last, He should acknowledge us, and say even
of us, 'he hath served with Me in the Gospel.'



PAUL AND EPAPHRODITUS

          'But I counted it necessary to send to you
          Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-worker and
          fellow-soldier, and your messenger and minister to
          my need. 26. Since he longed after you all, and
          was sore troubled, because ye had heard that he
          was sick. 27. For indeed he was sick nigh unto
          death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him
          only, but on me also, that I might not have sorrow
          upon sorrow. 28. I have sent him therefore the
          more diligently, that, when ye see him again, ye
          may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.
          29. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all
          joy; and hold such in honour: 30. Because for the
          work of Christ he came nigh unto death, hazarding
          his life to supply that which was lacking in your
          service toward me.'--PHIL. ii. 25-30 (R.V.).


Epaphroditus is one of the less known of Paul's friends. All our
information about him is contained in this context, and in a brief
reference in Chapter iv. His was a singular fate--to cross Paul's path,
and for one short period of his life to be known to all the world, and
for all the rest before and after to be utterly unknown. The ship sails
across the track of the moonlight, and then vanishes ghost-like into
darkness. Of all the inhabitants of Philippi at that time we know the
names of but three, Euodias, Syntiche, and Epaphroditus, and we owe them
all to Paul. The context gives us an interesting miniature of the last,
and pathetic glimpses into the private life of the Apostle in his
imprisonment, and it is worth our while to try to bring our historic
imagination to bear on Epaphroditus, and to make him a living man.

The first fact about him is, that he was one of the Philippian
Christians, and sent by them to Rome, with some pecuniary or material
help, such as comforts for Paul's prison-house, food, clothing, or
money. There was no reliable way of getting these to Paul but to take
them, and so Epaphroditus faced the long journey across Greece to
Brindisi and Rome, and when arrived there threw himself with ardour into
serving Paul. The Apostle's heartfelt eulogium upon him shows two phases
of his work. He was in the first place Paul's helper in the Gospel, and
his faithfulness there is set forth in a glowing climax, 'My brother and
fellow-worker and fellow-soldier.' He was in the second place the
minister to Paul's needs. There would be many ways of serving the
captive, looking after his comfort, doing his errands, procuring daily
necessaries, managing affairs, perhaps writing his letters, easing his
chain, chafing his aching wrists, and ministering in a thousand ways
which we cannot and need not specify. At all events he gladly undertook
even servile work for love of Paul.

He had an illness which was probably the consequence of his toil.
Perhaps over-exertion in travel, or perhaps his Macedonian constitution
could not bear the enervating air of Rome, or perhaps Paul's prison was
unhealthy. At any rate he worked till he made himself ill. The news
reached Philippi in some round-about way, and, as it appears, the news
of his illness only, not of his recovery. The difficulty of
communication would sufficiently account for the partial intelligence.
Then the report found its way back to Rome, and Epaphroditus got
home-sick and was restless, uneasy, 'sore troubled,' as the Apostle
says, because they had heard he had been sick. In his low, nervous
state, barely convalescent, the thought of home and of his brethren's
anxiety about him was too much for him. It is a pathetic little picture
of the Macedonian stranger in the great city--pallid looks, recent
illness, and pining for home and a breath of pure mountain air, and for
the friends he had left. So Paul with rare abnegation sent him away at
once, though Timothy was to follow shortly, and accompanied him with
this outpouring of love and praise in his long homeward journey. Let us
hope he got safe back to his friends, and as Paul bade them, they
received him in the Lord with all joy, the echoes of which we almost
hear as he passes out of our knowledge.

In the remainder of this sermon we shall simply deal with the two
figures which the text sets before us, and we may look first at the
glimpses of Paul's character which we get here.

We may note the generous heartiness of his praise in his associating
Epaphroditus with himself as on full terms of equality, as worker and
soldier, and the warm generosity of the recognition of all that he had
done for the Apostle's comfort. Paul's first burst of gratitude and
praise does not exhaust all that he has to say about Epaphroditus. He
comes back to the theme in the last words of the context, where he says
that the Philippian messenger had 'hazarded' his life, or, as we might
put it with equal accuracy and more force, had 'gambled' his life, or
'staked it on the die' for Paul's sake. No wonder that men were eager to
risk their lives for a leader who lavished such praise and such love
upon them. A man who never opens his lips but to censure or criticise,
who fastens on faults as wasps do on blemished fruit, will never be
surrounded by loyal love. Faithful service is most surely bought by
hearty praise. A caressing hand on a horse's neck is better than a whip.

We may further note the intensity of Paul's sympathy. He speaks of
Epaphroditus' recovery as a mercy to himself 'lest he should have the
sorrow of imprisonment increased by the sorrow of his friend's death.'
That attitude of mind stands in striking contrast to the heroism which
said, 'To me, to live is Christ and to die is gain,' but the two are
perfectly consistent, and it was a great soul which had room for them
both.

We must not leave unnoticed the beautiful self-abnegation which sends
off Epaphroditus as soon as he was well enough to travel, as a gift of
the Apostle's love, in order to repay them for what they had done for
him. He says nothing of his own loss or of how much more lonely he would
be when the brother whom he had praised so warmly had left him alone.
But he suns himself in the thought of the Philippians' joy, and in the
hope that some reflection of it will travel across the seas to him, and
make him, if not wholly glad, at any rate 'the less sorrowful.'

We have also to notice Paul's delicate recognition of all friendly help.
He says that Epaphroditus risked his life to 'supply that which was
lacking in your service toward me.' That implies that all which the
Philippians' ministration lacked was their personal presence, and that
Epaphroditus, in supplying that, made his work in a real sense theirs.
All the loving thoughts, and all the material expressions of them which
Epaphroditus brought to Paul were fragrant with the perfume of the
Philippians' love, 'an odour of a sweet smell, acceptable' to Paul as to
Paul's Lord.

We briefly note some general lessons which may be suggested by the
picture of Epaphroditus as he stands by the side of Paul.

The first one suggested is the very familiar one of the great uniting
principle which a common faith in Christ brought into action. Think of
the profound clefts of separation between the Macedonian and the Jew,
the antipathies of race, the differences of language, the
dissimilarities of manner, and then think of what an unheard-of new
thing it must have been that a Macedonian should 'serve' a Jew! We but
feebly echo Paul's rapture when he thought that there was 'neither
Barbarian or Scythian, bond or free, but all were one in Christ Jesus,'
and for all our talk about the unity of humanity and the like, we permit
the old gulfs of separation to gape as deeply as ever. Dreadnoughts are
a peculiar expression of the brotherhood of men after nineteen centuries
of so-called Christianity.

The terms in which the work of Epaphroditus is spoken of by Paul are
very significant. He has no hesitation in describing the work done for
himself as 'the work of Christ,' nor in using, as the name for it, the
word ('service'), which properly refers to the service rendered by
priestly hands. Work done for Paul was done for Jesus, and that, not
because of any special apostolic closeness of relation of Paul to Jesus,
but because, like all other Christians, he was one with his Lord. 'The
cup of cold water' given 'in the name of a disciple' is grateful to the
lips of the Master. We have no reason to suppose that Epaphroditus took
part with Paul in his more properly apostolic work, and the fact that
the purely material help, and pecuniary service which most probably
comprised all his 'ministering,' is honoured by Paul with these lofty
designations, carries with it large lessons as to the sanctity of common
life. All deeds done from the same motive are the same, however
different they may be in regard to the material on which they are
wrought. If our hearts are set to 'hallow all we find,' the most secular
duties will be acts of worship. It is possible for us in the ordering of
our own lives to fulfil the great prophecy with which Zechariah crowned
his vision of the Future, 'In that day shall there be on the bells of
the horses Holiness unto the Lord'; and the 'pots in the Lord's house
shall be like the bowls before the altar.'

May we not further draw from Paul's words here a lesson as to the honour
due to Christian workers? It was his brethren who were exhorted to
receive their own messenger back again 'in the Lord with all joy, and to
hold him in honour.' Possibly there were in Philippi some sharp tongues
and envious spirits, who needed the exhortation. Whether there were so
or no, the exhortation itself traces lightly but surely the lines on
which Christians should render, and their fellow-Christians can rightly
receive, even praise from men. If Epaphroditus were 'received in the
Lord,' there would be no foolish and hurtful adulation of him, nor
prostration before him, but he would be recognised as but the instrument
through which the true Helper worked, and not he, but the Grace of
Christ in him would finally receive the praise. There are very many
Christian workers who never get their due of recognition and welcome
from their brethren, and there are many who get far more of both than
belongs to them, and both they and the crowds who bring them adulation
would be freed from dangers, which can scarcely be over-stated, if the
spirit of Paul's warm-hearted praise of Epaphroditus were kept in view.

Epaphroditus but passes across the illuminated disc of the lantern for a
moment, and we have scarcely time to catch a glimpse of his face before
it is lost to us. He and all his brethren are gone, but his name lives
for ever, and Paul's praise of him and of his work outshines all else
remembered of the city, where conquerors once reigned, and outside whose
walls was fought a battle that decided for a time the fate of the world.



PREPARING TO END

          'Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To
          write the same things to you, to me indeed is not
          irksome, but for you it is safe. 2. Beware of the
          dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the
          concision: 3. For we are the circumcision, who
          worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ
          Jesus, and have no confidence in the
          flesh.'--PHIL. iii. 1-3 (R.V.).


The first words of the text show that Paul was beginning to think of
winding up his letter, and the preceding context also suggests that. The
personal references to Timothy and Epaphroditus would be in their
appropriate place near the close, and the exhortation with which our
text begins is also most fitting there, for it is really the key-note
of the letter. How then does he come to desert his purpose? The answer
is to be found in his next advice, the warning against the Judaising
teachers who were his great antagonists all his life. A reference to
them always roused him, and here the vehement exhortation to mark them
well and avoid them opens the flood-gates. Forgetting all about his
purpose to come to an end, he pours out his soul in the long and
precious passage which follows. Not till the next chapter does he get
back to his theme in the reiterated exhortation (iv. 4), 'Rejoice in the
Lord alway; again I will say, rejoice.' This outburst is very
remarkable, for its vehemence is so unlike the tone of the rest of the
letter. That is calm, joyous, bright, but this is stormy and
impassioned, full of flashing and scathing words, the sudden
thunder-storm breaks in on a mellow, autumn day, but it hurtles past and
the sun shines out again, and the air is clearer.

Another question suggested is the reference of the second half of verse
1. What are 'the same things' to write which is 'safe' for the
Philippians? Are they the injunctions preceding to 'rejoice in the
Lord,' or that following, the warning against the Judaisers? The former
explanation may be recommended by the fact that 'Rejoice' is in a sense
the key-note of the Epistle, but on the other hand, the things where
repetition would be 'safe' would most probably be warnings against some
evil that threatened the Philippians' Christian standing.

There is no attempt at unity in the words before us, and I shall not try
to force them into apparent oneness, but follow the Apostle's thoughts
as they lie. We note--

I. The crowning injunction as to the duty of Christian gladness.

A very slight glance over the Epistle will show how continually the note
of gladness is struck in it. Whatever in Paul's circumstances was 'at
enmity with joy' could not darken his sunny outlook. This bird could
sing in a darkened cage. If we brought together the expressions of his
joy in this letter, they would yield us some precious lessons as to what
were the sources of his, and what may be the sources of ours. There runs
through all the instances in the Epistle the implication which comes out
most emphatically in his earnest exhortation, 'Rejoice in the Lord
always, and again I say rejoice.' The true source of true joy lies in
our union with Jesus. To be in Him is the condition of every good, and,
just as in the former verses 'trust _in the Lord_' is set forth, so the
joy which comes from trust is traced to the same source. The joy that is
worthy, real, permanent, and the ally of lofty endeavour and noble
thoughts has its root in union with Jesus, is realised in communion with
Him, has Him for its reason or motive, and Him for its safeguard or
measure. As the passages in question in this Epistle show, such joy does
not shut out but hallows other sources of satisfaction. In our weakness
creatural love and kindness but too often draw us away from our joy in
Him. But with Paul the sources which we too often find antagonistic were
harmoniously blended, and flowed side by side in the same channel, so
that he could express them both in the one utterance, 'I rejoiced in the
Lord greatly that now at the last your care of me hath flourished
again.'

We do not sufficiently realise the Christian duty of Christian joy,
some of us even take mortified countenances and voices in a minor key as
marks of grace, and there is but little in any of us of 'the joy in the
Lord' which a saint of the Old Testament had learned was our 'strength.'
There is plenty of gladness amongst professing Christians, but a good
many of them would resent the question, is your gladness 'in the Lord'?
No doubt any deep experience in the Christian life makes us aware of
much in ourselves that saddens, and may depress, and our joy in Him must
always be shaded by penitent sorrow for ourselves. But that necessary
element of sadness in the Christian life is not the cause why so many
Christian lives have little of the buoyancy and hope and spontaneity
which should mark them. The reason rather lies in the lack of true union
with Christ, and habitual keeping of ourselves 'in the love of God.'

II. Paul's apology for reiteration.

He is going to give once more old and well-worn precepts which are often
very tedious to the hearer, and not much less so to the speaker. He can
only say that to him the repetition of familiar injunctions is not
'irksome,' and that to them it is 'safe.' The diseased craving for
'originality' in the present day tempts us all, hearers and speakers
alike, and we ever need to be reminded that the staple of Christian
teaching must be old truths reiterated, and that it is not time to stop
proclaiming them until all men have begun to practise them. But a
speaker must try to make the thousandth repetition of a truth fresh to
himself, and not a wearisome form, or a dead commonplace, by freshening
it to his own mind and by living on it in his own practice, and the
hearers must remember that it is only the completeness of their
obedience that antiquates the commandment. The most threadbare
commonplace becomes a novelty when occasions for its application arise
in our own lives, just as a prescription may lie long unnoticed in a
drawer, but when a fever attacks its possessor it will be quickly drawn
out and worth its weight in gold.

III. Paul's warning against teachers of a ceremonial religion.

It scarcely seems congruous with the tone of the rest of this letter
that the preachers whom Paul so scathingly points out here had obtained
any firm footing in the Philippian Church, but no doubt there, as
everywhere, they had dogged Paul's footsteps, and had tried as they
always did to mar his work. They had not missionary fervour or Christian
energy enough to initiate efforts amongst the Gentiles so as to make
them proselytes, but when Paul and his companions had made them
Christians, they did their best, or their worst, to insist that they
could not be truly Christians, unless they submitted to the outward sign
of being Jews. Paul points a scathing finger at them when he bids the
Philippians 'beware,' and he permits himself a bitter retort when he
lays hold of the Jewish contemptuous word for Gentiles which stigmatised
them as 'dogs,' that is profane and unclean, and hurls it back at the
givers. But he is not indulging in mere bitter retorts when he brings
against these teachers the definite charge that they are 'evil workers.'
People who believed that an outward observance was the condition of
salvation would naturally be less careful to insist upon holy living. A
religion of ceremonies is not a religion of morality. Then the Apostle
lets himself go in a contemptuous play of words, and refuses to
recognise that these sticklers for circumcision had themselves been
circumcised. 'I will not call them the circumcision, they have not been
circumcised, they have only been gashed and mutilated, it has been a
mere fleshly maiming.' His reason for denying the name to them is his
profound belief that it belonged to true Christians. His contemptuous
reference puts in a word, the principle which he definitely states in
another place, 'He is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that
circumcision which is outward in the flesh.'

The Apostle here is not only telling us who are the truly circumcised,
but at the same time he is telling us what makes a Christian, and he
states three points in which, as I take it, he begins at the end and
works backwards to the beginning. 'We are the circumcision who worship
in the Spirit of God'--that is the final result--'and glory in Christ
Jesus'--'and have no confidence in the flesh'--that is the
starting-point. The beginning of all true Christianity is distrust of
self. What does Paul mean by 'flesh'? Body? Certainly not. Animal
nature, or the passions rooted in it? Not only these, as may be seen by
noting the catalogue which follows of the things in the flesh, in which
he might have trusted. What are these? 'Circumcised the eighth day, of
the tribe of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the
Hebrews'--these belong to ritual and race; 'as touching the law a
Pharisee'--that belongs to ecclesiastical standing; 'concerning zeal
persecuting the church'--that has nothing to do with the animal nature:
'touching the righteousness which is in the law blameless'--that
concerns the moral nature. All these come under the category of the
'flesh,' which, therefore, plainly includes all that belongs to
humanity apart from God. Paul's old-fashioned language translated into
modern English just comes to this--it is vain to trust in external
connection with the sacred community of the Church, or in participation
in any of its ordinances and rites. To Paul, Christian rites and Jewish
rites were equally rites and equally insufficient as bases of
confidence. Do not let us fancy that dependence on these is peculiar to
certain forms of Christian belief. It is a very subtle all-pervasive
tendency, and there is no need to lift up Nonconformist hands in holy
horror at the corruptions of Romanism and the like. Their origin is not
solely priestly ambition, but also the desires of the so-called laity.
Demand creates a supply, and if there were not people to think, 'Now it
shall be well with me because I have a Levite for my priest,' there
would be no Levites to meet their wishes.

Notice that Paul includes amongst the things belonging to the flesh this
'touching the righteousness which is in the law blameless.' Many of us
can say the same. We do our duties so far as we know them, and are
respectable law-abiding people, but if we are trusting to that, we are
of the 'flesh.' Have we estimated what God is, and what the real worth
of our conduct is? Have we looked not at our actions but at our motives,
and seen them as they are seen from above or from the inside? How many
'blameless' lives are like the scenes in a theatre, effective and
picturesque, when seen with the artificial glory of the footlights? But
go behind the scenes and what do we find? Dirty canvas and cobwebs. If
we know ourselves we know that a life may have a fair outside, and yet
not be a thing to trust to.

The beginning of our Christianity is the consciousness that we are
'naked and poor, and blind, and in need of all things.' Men come to
Jesus Christ by many ways, thank God, and I care little by what road
they come so long as they get there, nor do I insist upon any
stereotyped order of religious experience. But of this I am very sure:
that unless we abandon confidence in ourselves, because we have seen
ourselves in the light of God's law, we have not learned all that we
need nor laid hold of all that Christ gives. Let us measure ourselves in
the light of God, and we shall learn that we have to take our places
beside Job, when the vision of God silenced his protestations of
innocence. 'I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine
eye seeth Thee; wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.'

That self-distrust should pass into glorying in Christ Jesus. If a man
has learned his emptiness he will look about for something to fill it.
Unless I know myself to be under condemnation because of my sin, and
fevered, disturbed, and made wretched, by its inward consequences which
forbid repose, the sweetest words of Gospel invitation will pass by me
like wind whistling through an archway. But if once I have been driven
from self-confidence, then like music from heaven will come the word,
'Trust in Jesus.' The seed dropped into the ground puts out a
downward-going shoot, which is the root, and an upward-growing one,
which is the stalk. The downward-going shoot is 'no confidence in the
flesh,' the upward-going is 'glorying in Christ Jesus.'

But that word suggests the blessed experience of triumph in the
possession of the Person known and felt to be all, and to give all that
life needs. A true Christian should ever be triumphant in a felt
experience, in a Name proved to be sufficient, in a power which infuses
strength into his weakness, and enables him to do the will of God. It is
for want of utter self-distrust and absolute faith in Christ that
'glorying' in Him is so far beyond the ordinary mood of the average
Christian. You say, 'I hope, sometimes I doubt, sometimes I fear,
sometimes I tremblingly trust.' Is that the kind of experience that
these words shadow? Why do we continue amidst the mist when we might
rise into the clear blue above the obscuring pall? Only because we are
still in some measure clinging to self, and still in some measure
distrusting our Lord. If our faith were firm and full our 'glorying'
would be constant. Do not be contented with the prevailing sombre type
of Christian life which is always endeavouring, and always foiled, which
is often doubting and often indifferent, but seek to live in the
sunshine, and expatiate in the light, and 'rejoice in the Lord always.'

'Glorying' not only describes an attitude of mind, but an activity of
life. Many things to-day tempt Christian people to speak of their
religion and of their Lord in an apologetic tone, in the face of strong
and educated unbelief; but if we have within us, as we all may have, and
ought to have, the triumphant assurance of His sufficiency, nearness,
and power, it will not be with bated breath that we shall speak of our
Master, or apologise for our Christianity, but we shall obey the
commandment, 'Lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not
afraid.' Ring out the name and be proud that you can ring it out, as the
Name of _your_ Lord, and _your_ Saviour, and _your_ all-sufficient
Friend. Whatever other people say, you have the experience, if you are
a Christian, which more than answers all that they can say.

We have said that the final result set forth here by Paul is, 'We
worship by the Spirit of God.' The expression translated worship is the
technical word for rendering priestly service. Just as Paul has asserted
that uncircumcised Christians, not circumcised Jews, are the true
circumcision, so he asserts that they are the true priests, and that
these officials in the outward temple at Jerusalem have forfeited the
title, and that it has passed over to the despised followers of the
despised Nazarene. If we have 'no confidence in the flesh,' and are
'glorying in Christ Jesus,' we are all priests of the most high God.
'Worship in the Spirit' is our function and privilege. The externals of
ceremonial worship dwindle into insignificance. They may be means of
helping, or they may be means of hindering, the 'worship in the Spirit,'
which I venture to think all experience shows is the more likely to be
pure and real, the less it invokes the aid of flesh and sense. To make
the senses the ladder for the soul by which to climb to God is quite as
likely to end in the soul's going down the ladder as up it. Aesthetic
aids to worship are crutches which keep a lame soul lame all its days.

Such worship is the obligation as well as the prerogative of the
Christian. We have no right to say that we have truly forsaken
confidence in ourselves, and are truly 'glorying' in Christ Jesus,
unless our daily life is communion with God, and all your work
'worshipping by the Spirit of God.' Such communion and worship are
possible for those, and for those only, who have 'no confidence in the
flesh' and who 'glory in Christ Jesus.'



THE LOSS OF ALL

          'Though I myself might have confidence even in the
          flesh: if any other man thinketh to have
          confidence in the flesh, I yet more: circumcised
          the eighth day of the stock of Israel, of the
          tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as
          touching the law, a Pharisee; as touching zeal,
          persecuting the church; as touching the
          righteousness which is in the law, found
          blameless. Howbeit what things were gain to me,
          these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea verily,
          and I count all things to be loss for the
          excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my
          Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things,
          and do count them but dung.'--PHIL. iii. 4-8
          (R.V.).


We have already noted that in the previous verses the Apostle is
beginning to prepare for closing his letter, but is carried away into
the long digression of which our text forms the beginning. The last
words of the former verse open a thought of which his mind is always
full. It is as when an excavator strikes his pickaxe unwittingly into a
hidden reservoir and the blow is followed by a rush of water, which
carries away workmen and tools. Paul has struck into the very deepest
thoughts which he has of the Gospel and out they pour. That one
antithesis, 'the loss of all, the gain of Christ,' carried in it to him
the whole truth of the Christian message. We may well ask ourselves what
are the subjects which lie so near our hearts, and so fill our thoughts,
that a chance word sets us off on them, and we cannot help talking of
them when once we begin.

The text exemplifies another characteristic of Paul's, his constant
habit of quoting his own experience as illustrating the truth. His
theology is the generalisation of his own experience, and yet that
continual autobiographical reference is not egotism, for the light in
which he delights to present himself is as the recipient of the great
grace of God in pardoning sinners. It is a result of the complete
saturation of himself with the Gospel. It was to him no mere body of
principles or thoughts, it was the very food and life of his life. And
so this characteristic reveals not only his natural fervour of
character, but the profound and penetrating hold which the Gospel had on
his whole being.

In our text he presents his own experience as the type to which ours
must on the whole be conformed. He had gone through an earthquake which
had shattered the very foundations of his life. He had come to despise
all that he had counted most precious, and to clasp as the only true
treasures all that he had despised. With him the revolution had turned
his whole life upside down. Though the change cannot be so subversive
and violent with us, the forsaking of self-confidence must be as real,
and the clinging to Jesus must be as close, if our Christianity is to be
fervid and dominant in our lives.

I. The treasures that were discovered to be worthless.

We have already had occasion in the previous sermon to refer to Paul's
catalogue of 'things that were gain' to him, but we must consider it a
little more closely here. We may repeat that it is important for
understanding Paul's point of view to note that by 'flesh' he means the
whole self considered as independent of God. The antithesis to it is
'spirit,' that is humanity regenerated and vitalised by Divine
influence. 'Flesh,' then, is humanity not so vitalised. That is to say,
it is 'self,' including both body and emotions, affections, thoughts,
and will.

As to the points enumerated, they are those which made the ideal to a
Jew, including purity of race, punctilious orthodoxy, flaming zeal,
pugnacious antagonism, and blameless morality. With reference to race,
the Jewish pride was in 'circumcision on the eighth day,' which was the
exclusive privilege of one of pure blood. Proselytes might be
circumcised in later life, but one of the 'stock of Israel' only on the
'eighth day.' Saul of Tarsus had in earlier days been proud of his
tribal genealogy, which had apparently been carefully preserved in the
Gentile home, and had shared ancestral pride in belonging to the once
royal tribe, and perhaps in thinking that the blood of the king after
whom he was named flowed in his veins. He was a 'Hebrew of the Hebrews,'
which does not mean, as it is usually taken to do, intensely,
superlatively Hebrew, but simply is equivalent to 'myself a Hebrew, and
come from pure Hebrew ancestors on both sides.' Possibly also the phrase
may have reference to purity of language and customs as well as blood.
These four items make the first group. Paul still remembers the time
when, in the blindness which he shared with his race, he believed that
these wholly irrelevant points had to do with a man's acceptance before
God. He had once agreed with the Judaisers that 'circumcision' admitted
Gentiles into the Jewish community, and so gave them a right to
participate in the blessings of the Covenant.

Then follow the items of his more properly religious character, which
seem in their three clauses to make a climax. 'As touching the law a
Pharisee,' he was of the 'straitest sect,' the champions and
representatives of the law. 'As touching zeal persecuting the Church,'
it was not only in Judaism that the mark of zeal for a cause has been
harassing its opponents. We can almost hear a tone of sad irony as Paul
recalls that past, remembering how eagerly he had taken charge of the
clothes trusted to his care by the witnesses who stoned Stephen, and how
he had 'breathed threatening and slaughter' against the disciples. 'As
touching the righteousness which is in the law found blameless,' he is
evidently speaking of the obedience of outward actions and of
blamelessness in the judgment of men.

So we get a living picture of Paul and of his confidence before he was a
Christian. All these grounds for pride and self-satisfaction were like
triple armour round the heart of the young Pharisee, who rode out of
Jerusalem on the road to Damascus. How little he thought that they would
all have been pierced and have dropped from him before he got there! The
grounds of his confidence are antiquated in form, but in substance are
modern. At bottom the things in which Paul's 'flesh' trusted are exactly
the same as those in which many of us trust. Even his pride of race
continues to influence some of us. We have got the length of separating
between our nationality and our acceptance with God, but we have still a
kind of feeling that 'God's Englishmen,' as Milton called them, have a
place of their own, which is, if not a ground of confidence before God,
at any rate a ground for carrying ourselves with very considerable
complacency before men. It is not unheard of that people should rely, if
not on 'circumcision on the eighth day,' on an outward rite which seems
to connect them with a visible Church. Strict orthodoxy takes the place
among us which Pharisaism held in Paul's mind before he was a Christian,
and it is easier to prove our zeal by pugnacity against heretics, than
by fervour of devotion. The modern analogue of Paul's, 'touching the
righteousness which is in the law blameless,' is 'I have done my best, I
have lived a decent life. My religion is to do good to other people.'
All such talk, which used to be a vague sentiment or excuse, is now put
forward in definite theoretical substitution for the Christian Truth,
and finds numerous teachers and acceptors. But how short a way all such
grounds of confidence go to satisfy a soul that has once seen the vision
that blazed in on Paul's mind on the road to Damascus!

II. The discovery of their worthlessness.

'These have I counted loss for Christ.' There is a possibility of
exaggeration in interpreting Paul's words. The things that were 'gain'
to him were in themselves better than their opposites. It is better to
to be 'blameless' than to have a life all stained with foulness and
reeking with sins. But these 'gains' were 'losses,' disadvantages, in so
far as they led him to build upon them, and trust in them as solid
wealth. The earthquake that shattered his life had two shocks: the first
turned upside down his estimate of the value of his gains, the second
robbed him of them. He first saw them to be worthless, and then, so far
as others' judgment went, he was stripped of them. Actively he 'counted
them loss,' passively he 'suffered the loss of all things.' His estimate
came, and was followed by the practical outcome of his brethren's
excommunication.

What changed his estimate? In our text he answers the question in two
forms: first he gives the simple, all-sufficient monosyllabic reason for
his whole life--'for Christ,' and then he enlarges that motive into 'the
excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.' The former carries
us back straight to the vision which revolutionised Paul's life, and
made him abjure all which he had trusted, and adore what he had
abhorred. The latter dwells a little more upon the subjective process
which followed on the vision, but the two are substantially the same,
and we need only note the solemn fulness of the name of 'Jesus Christ,'
and the intense motion of submission and of personal appropriation
contained in the designation, 'my Lord.' It was not when he found his
way blinded into Damascus that he had learned that knowledge, or could
apprehend its 'excellency.' The words are enriched and enlarged by later
experiences. The sacrifice of his earlier 'gains' had been made before
the 'excellency of the knowledge' had been discerned. It was no mere
intellectual perception which could be imparted in words, or by
eyesight, but here as always Paul by 'knowledge' means experience which
comes from possession and acquaintance, and which therefore gleams ever
before us as we move, and is capable of endless increase, in the measure
in which we are true to the estimate of 'gains' and 'losses' to which
our initial vision of Him has led us. At first we may not know that that
knowledge excels all others, but as we grow in acquaintance with Jesus,
and in experience of Him, we shall be sure that it transcends all
others, because He does and we possess Him.

The revolutionising motive may be conceived of in two ways. We have to
abandon the lower 'gains' in order to gain Christ, or to abandon these
because we have gained Him. Both are true. The discernment of Christ as
the one ground of confidence is ever followed by the casting away of all
others. Self-distrust is a part of faith. When we feel our feet upon the
rock, the crumbling sands on which we stood are left to be broken up by
the sea. They who have seen the Apollo Belvedere will set little store
by plaster of Paris casts. In all our lives there come times when the
glimpse of some loftier ideal shows up our ordinary as hollow and poor
and low. And when once Christ is seen, as Scripture shows Him, our
former self appears poor and crumbles away.

We are not to suppose that the act of renunciation must be completed
before a second act of possession is begun. That is the error of many
ascetic books. The two go together, and abandonment in order to win
merges into abandonment because we have won. The strongest power to make
renunciation possible is 'the expulsive power of a new affection.' When
the heart is filled with love to Christ there is no sense of 'loss,' but
only of 'exceeding gain,' in casting away all things for Him.

III. The continuous repetition of the discovery.

Paul compares his present self with his former Christian self, and with
a vehement 'Yea, verily,' affirms his former judgment, and reiterates it
in still more emphatic terms. It is often easy to depreciate the
treasures which we possess. They sometimes grow in value as they slip
from our hands. It is not usual for a man who has 'suffered the loss of
all things' to follow their disappearance by counting them 'but dung.'
The constant repetition through the whole Christian course of the
depreciatory estimate of grounds of confidence is plainly necessary.
There are subtle temptations to the opposite course. It is hard to keep
perfectly clear of all building on our own blamelessness or on our
connection with the Christian Church, and we have need ever to renew the
estimate which was once so epoch-making, and which 'cast down all our
imaginations and high things.' If we do not carefully watch ourselves,
the whispering tempter that was silenced will recover his breath again,
and be once more ready to drop into our ears his poisonous suggestions.
We have to take pains and 'give earnest heed' to the initial,
revolutionary estimate, and to see that it is worked out habitually in
our daily lives. It is a good exchange when we count 'all but loss for
the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord.'



THE GAIN OF CHRIST

          'That I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not
          having a righteousness of my own, even that which
          is of the law, but that which is through faith in
          Christ, the righteousness which is of God by
          faith.'--PHIL. iii. 8, 9 (R.V.).


It is not everybody who _can_ say what is his aim in life. Many of us
have never thought enough about it to have one beyond keeping alive. We
lose life in seeking for the means of living. Many of us have such a
multitude of aims, each in its turn drawing us, that no one of them is
predominant and rules the crowd. There is no strong hand at the tiller,
and so the ship washes about in the trough of the waves.

It is not everybody who _dares_ to say what is his aim in life. We are
ashamed to acknowledge even to ourselves what we are not at all ashamed
to do. Paul knew his aim, and was not afraid to speak it. It was high
and noble, and was passionately and persistently pursued. He tells us it
here, and we can see his soul kindling as he speaks. We may note how
there is here the same double reference as we found in the previous
verses, gaining Christ corresponding to the previous loss for Christ,
and the later words of our text being an expansion of the 'excellency of
the knowledge of Christ Jesus.' No man will ever succeed in any life's
purpose, unless like Paul he is enthusiastic about it. If his aim does
not rouse his fervour when he speaks of it, he will never accomplish it.
We may just remark that Paul does not suppose his aim to be wholly
unattained, even although he does not count himself to 'have
apprehended.' He knows that he has gained Christ, and is 'found in Him,'
but he knows also that there stretch before him the possibilities of
infinite increase.

I. His life's aim was to have the closest possession of, and
incorporation in, Christ.

His two expressions, 'that I may gain Christ and be found in Him,' are
substantially identical in meaning, though they put the same truth from
different sides, and with some variety of metaphor. We may deal with
them separately.

The 'gain' is of course the opposite of the 'loss.' His balance-sheet
has on one side 'all things lost,' on the other 'Christ gained,' and
that is profitable trading. But we have to go deeper than such a
metaphor, and to give full scope to the Scriptural truth, that Christ
really imparts Himself to the believing soul. There is a real
communication of His own life to us, and thereby we live, as He Himself
declared, 'He that hath the Son hath life.' The true deep sense in which
we possess Christ is not to be weakened down, as it, alas! so often is
in our shallow Christianity, which is but the echo of a shallow
experience, and a feeble hold of that possession of the Son to which
Jesus called us, as the condition of our possession of life. Christ is
thus Himself possessed by all our faculties, each after its kind; head
and heart, passions and desires, hopes and longings, may each have Him
abiding in them, guiding them with His strong and gentle hand, animating
them into nobler life, restraining and controlling, gradually
transforming and ultimately conforming them to His own likeness. Till
that Divine Indweller enters in, the shrine is empty, and unclean things
lurk in its hidden corners. To be a man full summed in all his powers,
each of us must 'gain Christ.'

The other expression in the text, 'be found in Him,' presents the same
truth from the completing point of view. We gain Christ in us when we
are 'found in Him.' We are to be incorporated as members are in the
body, or imbedded as a stone in the foundation, or to go back to the
sweetest words, which are the source of all these representations,
included as 'a branch in the vine.' We are to be in Him for safety and
shelter, as fugitives take refuge in a strong tower when an enemy swarms
over the land.

          'And lo! from sin and grief and shame,
           I hide me, Jesus, in Thy name.'

We are to be in Him that the life sap may freely flow through us. We are
to be in Him that the Divine Love may fall on us, and that in Jesus we
may receive our portion of all which is His heritage.

This mutual possession and indwelling is possible if Jesus be the Son of
God, but the language is absurd in any other interpretation of His
person. It is clearly in its very nature capable of indefinite increase,
and as containing in itself the supply of all which we need for life and
blessedness, is fitted to be what nothing else can pretend to be,
without wrecking the lives that are unwise enough to pursue it--the
sovereign aim of a human life. In following it, and only in following
it, the highest wisdom says Amen to the aspiration of the lowliest
faith. 'This one thing I do.'

II. Paul's life's aim was righteousness to be received.

He goes on to present some of the consequences which follow on his
gaining Christ and being 'found in Him,' and before all others he names
as his aim the possession of 'righteousness.' We must remember that Paul
believed that righteousness in the sense of 'justification' had been his
from the moment when Ananias came to where he was sitting in darkness,
and bid him be baptized and wash away his sins. The word here must be
taken in its full sense of moral perfectness; even if we included only
this in our thoughts of his life's aim, how high above most men would he
tower! But his statement carries him still higher above, and farther
away from, the common ideas of moral perfection, and what he means by
righteousness is widely separated from the world's conception, not only
in regard to its elements, but still more in regard to its source.

It is possible to lose oneself in a dreamy mysticism which has had much
to say of 'gaining Christ and being found in Him,' and has had too
little to say about 'having righteousness,' and so has turned out to be
an ally of indifference and sometimes of unrighteousness. Buddhism and
some forms of mystical Christianity have fallen into a pit of immorality
from which Paul's sane combination here would have saved them. There is
no danger in the most mystical interpretation of the former statement of
his aim, when it is as closely connected as it is here with the second
form in which he states it. I have just said that Paul differed from men
who were seeking for righteousness, not only because his conceptions of
what constituted it were not the same as theirs, though he in this very
letter endorses the Greek ideals of 'virtue and praise,' but also and
more emphatically because he looked for it as a gift, and not as the
result of his own efforts. To him the only righteousness which availed
was one which was not 'my own,' but had its source in, and was imparted
by, God. The world thought of righteousness as the general designation
under which were summed up a man's specific acts of conformity to law,
the sum total reached by the addition of many specific instances of
conformity to a standard of duty. Paul had learned to think of it as
preceding and producing the specific acts. The world therefore said, and
says, Do the deeds and win the character; Paul says, Receive the
character and do the deeds. The result of the one conception of
righteousness is in the average man spasmodic efforts after isolated
achievements, with long periods between in which effort subsides into
torpor. The result in Paul's case was what we know: a continuous effort
to keep his mind and heart open for the influx of the power which,
entering into him, would make him able to do the specific acts which
constitute righteousness. The one road is a weary path, hard to tread,
and, as a matter of fact, not often trodden. To pile up a righteousness
by the accumulation of individual righteous acts is an endeavour less
hopeful than that of the coral polypes slowly building up their reef out
of the depths of the Pacific, till it rises above the waves. He who
assumes to be righteous on the strength of a succession of righteous
acts, not only needs a profounder idea of what makes his acts righteous,
but should also make a catalogue of his unrighteous ones and call
himself wicked. The other course is the final deliverance of a man from
dependence upon his own struggles, and substitutes for the dreary
alternations of effort and torpor, and for the imperfect harvest of
imperfectly righteous acts, the attitude of receiving, which supersedes
painful strife and weary endeavour. To seek after a righteousness which
is 'my own,' is to seek what we shall never find, and what, if found,
would crumble beneath us. To seek the righteousness which is from God,
is to seek what He is waiting to bestow, and what the blessed receivers
blessedly know is more than they dreamed of.

But Paul looked for this great gift as a gift in Christ. It was when he
was 'found in Him' that it became his, and he was found 'blameless.'
That gift of an imparted life, which has a bias towards all goodness,
and the natural operation of which is to incline all our faculties
towards conformity with the will of God, is bestowed when we 'win
Christ.' Possessing Him, we possess it. It is not only 'imputed,' as our
fathers delighted to say, but it is 'imparted.' And because it is the
gift of God in Christ, it was in Paul's view received by faith. He
expresses that conviction in a double form in our text. It is 'through
faith' as the channel by which it passes into our happy hands. It is 'by
faith,' or, more accurately, 'upon faith,' as the foundation on which it
rests, or the condition on which it depends. Our trust in Christ does
bring His life to us to sanctify us, and the plain English of all this
blessed teaching is--if we wish to be better let us trust Christ and get
Him into the depths of our lives, and righteousness will be ours. That
transforming Presence laid up in 'the hidden man of the heart,' will be
like some pungent scent in a wardrobe which keeps away moths, and gives
out a fragrance that perfumes all that hangs near it.

But all which we have been saying is not to be understood as if there
was no effort to be made, in order to receive, and to live manifesting,
the 'righteousness which is of God.' There must be the constant
abandonment of self, and the constant utilising of the grace given. The
righteousness is bestowed whenever faith is exercised. The hand is never
stretched out and the gift not lodged in it. But it is a life's aim to
possess the 'righteousness which is of God by faith,' because that gift
is capable of indefinite increase, and will reward the most strenuous
efforts of a believing soul as long as life continues.

III. Paul's life's aim stretches beyond this life.

Shall we be chargeable with crowding too much meaning into his words, if
we fix on his remarkable expression, 'be found in Him,' as containing a
clear reference to that great day of final judgment? We recall other
instances of the use of the same expression in connections which
unmistakably point to that time. Such as 'being clothed we shall not be
found naked,' or 'the proof of your faith . . . might be found unto praise
and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ,' or 'found of
Him in peace without spot, blameless.' In the light of these and similar
passages, it does not seem unreasonable to suppose that this 'being
found' does include a reference to the Apostle's place after death,
though it is not confined to that. He thinks of the searching eye of the
Judge taking keen account, piercing through all disguises, and wistfully
as well as penetratingly scrutinising characters, till it finds that for
which it seeks. They who are 'found in Him' in that day, are there and
thus for ever. There is no further fear of falling out of union with
Him, or of being, by either gradual and unconscious stages, or by sudden
and overmastering assaults, carried out of the sacred enclosure of the
City of Refuge in which they dwell henceforth for ever. A dangerous
presumptuousness has sometimes led to the over-confident assertion,
'Once in Christ always in Christ.' But Paul teaches us that that
security of permanent dwelling in Him is to be for ever in this life the
aim of our efforts, rather than an accomplished fact. So long as we are
here, the possibility of falling away cannot be shut out, and there must
always rise before us the question, Am I in Christ? Hence there is need
for continual watchfulness, self-control, and self-distrust, and the
life's aim has to be perpetual, not only because it is capable of
indefinite expansion, but because our weakness is capable of deserting
it. It is only when at the last we are found by Him, in Him, that we are
there for ever, with all dangers of departure from Him at an end. In
that City of Refuge, and there only, 'the gates shall not be shut at
all,' not solely because no enemies shall attempt to come in, but also
because no citizens shall desire to go out.

We should ever have before us that hour, and our life's aim should ever
definitely include the final scrutiny in which many a hidden thing will
come to light, many a long-lost thing be found, and each man's ultimate
place in relation to Jesus Christ will be freed from uncertainties,
ambiguities, hypocrisies, and disguises, and made plain to all
beholders. In that great day of 'finding,' some of us will have to ask
with sinking hearts, 'Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?' and others will
break forth into the glad acclaim, 'I have found Him,' or rather 'been
found of Him.'

So we have before us the one reasonable aim for a man to have Christ, to
be found in Him, to have His righteousness. It is reasonable, it is
great enough to absorb all our energies, and to reward them. It will
last a lifetime, and run on undisturbed beyond life. Following it, all
other aims will fall into their places. Is this my aim?



SAVING KNOWLEDGE

          'That I may know Him, and the power of His
          resurrection, and the fellowship of His
          sufferings, becoming conformed unto His death; if
          by any means I may attain unto the resurrection
          from the dead.'--PHIL. iii. 10-11 (R.V.).


We have seen how the Apostle was prepared to close his letter at the
beginning of this chapter, and how that intention was swept away by the
rush of new thoughts. His fervid faith caught fire when he turned to
think of what he had lost, and how infinitely more he had gained in
Christ. His wealth is so great that it cannot be crowded into the narrow
space of one brief sentence, and after all the glowing words which
precede our text, he feels that he has not yet adequately set forth
either his present possessions or his ultimate aims. So here he
continues the theme which might have seemed most fully dealt with in the
great thoughts that occupied us in the former sermon, but which still
wait to be completed here. They are most closely connected with the
former, and the unity of the sentence is but a parallel to the oneness
of the idea. The elements of our present text constitute a part of the
Apostle's aim in life, and may be dealt with as such.

I. Paul's life's aim was the knowledge of Christ.

That sounds an anti-climax after 'Gain' and 'Be in Him.' These phrases
seem to express a much more intimate relation than this, but we must
note that it is no mere theoretical or intellectual knowledge which is
intended. Such knowledge would need no surrender or suffering 'the loss
of all things.' We can only buy the knowledge of Christ at such a rate,
but we can buy knowledge about Him very much cheaper. Such knowledge
would not be worth the price; it lies on the surface of the soul, and
does nothing. Many a man amongst us has it, and it is of no use to him.
If Paul had undergone all that he had undergone and sacrificed all that
he had given up, and for his reward had only gained accurate knowledge
about Christ, he had certainly wasted his life and made a bad bargain.
But as always, so here, to know means knowledge based upon experience.
Did Christ mean that a correct creed was eternal life when He said,
'This is life eternal to know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ
whom Thou has sent?' Did Paul mean the dry light of the understanding
when he prayed that the Ephesians might know the love of Christ which
passeth knowledge, in order to be filled with all the fulness of God?
Clearly we have to go much deeper down than that superficial
interpretation in order to reach the reality of the New Testament
conception of knowledge. It is co-extensive with life, and is built upon
inward experience. In a word, it is one aspect of winning Jesus. It is
consciousness contemplating its riches, counting its gains. As a man
knows the bliss of parental or wedded love only by having it, or as he
knows the taste of wine only by drinking it, or the glory of music only
by hearing it, and the brightness of the day only by seeing it, so we
know Christ only by winning Him. There must first be the perception and
possession by sense or emotion, and then the reflection on the
possession by understanding. This applies to all religious truth. It
must be possessed ere it be fully known. Like the new name written upon
the Apocalyptic stone, 'No one knoweth but he that receiveth it.'

The knowledge which was Paul's life's aim was knowledge of a Person:
the object determines the nature of the knowledge. The mental act of
knowing a proposition or a science or even of knowing about a person by
hearing of him is different from that of knowing people when we have
lived beside them. We need not be afraid of attaching too familiar a
meaning to this word of our text, if we say that it implies personal
acquaintance with the Christ whom we know. Of course we come to know Him
in the first instance through the medium of statements about Him, and we
cannot too strongly insist, in these days of destructive criticism, on
the absolute necessity of accepting the Gospel statements as to the life
of Jesus as the only possible method of knowing Him. But then, beyond
that acceptance of the record must come the application and
appropriation of it, and the transmutation of a historical fact into a
personal experience. We may take an illustration from any of the
Scriptural truths about Jesus:--For instance, Scripture declares Him to
be our Redeemer. One man believes Him to be so, welcomes Him into his
life as such, and finds Him to be such. Another man believes Him to be
so, but never puts His redeeming power to the proof. Is the knowledge of
these two rightly called by the same name? That which comes after
experience is surely not rightly designated by the same title as that
which has no vivification nor verification of such a sort to build on,
and is the mere product of the understanding. There is nothing which the
great mass of so-called Christians need more than to have forced into
their thoughts the difference between these two kinds of knowledge of
Christ. There are thousands of them who, if asked, are ready to profess
that they know Jesus, but to whom He has never been anything more than
a partially understood article of an uncared for creed, and has never
been in living contact with their needs, nor known for their strength in
weakness, their comforter in sorrow, 'their life in death,' their all in
all.

To deepen that experimental knowledge of Jesus is a worthy aim for the
whole life, and is a process that may go on indefinitely through it all.
To know Him more and more is to have more of heaven in us. To be
penetrating ever deeper into His fulness, and finding every day new
depths to penetrate is to have a fountain of freshness in our dusty days
that will never fail or run dry. There is only one inexhaustible person,
and that is Jesus Christ. We have all fulness in our Lord: we have
already received all when we received Him. Are we advancing in the
experience that is the parent of knowing Him? Do new discoveries meet us
every day as if we were explorers in a virgin land? To have this for our
aim is enough for satisfaction, for blessedness, and for growth. To know
Him is a liberal education.

II. That knowledge involves knowing the power of His Resurrection.

The power of His Resurrection is an expression which covers a wide
ground. There are several distinct and well-marked powers ascribed to it
in Paul's writings. It has a demonstrative force in reference to our
Lord's person and work. For He is by it 'declared to be the Son of God
with power.' That rising again from the dead, taken in conjunction with
the fact that He dieth no more, but is ascended up on high, and in
conjunction with His own words concerning Himself and His Resurrection,
sets Him forth before the world as the Son of God, and is the solemn
divine approval and acceptance of His work.

It has a revealing power in regard to the condition of humanity in
death. It is the one fact which establishes immortality, and which not
only establishes it, but casts some light on the manner of it. The
possibility of personal life after, and therefore, in death, the
unbroken continuity of being, the possibility of a resurrection, and a
glorifying of this corporeal frame, with all the far-reaching
consequences of these truths in the triumph they give over death, in the
support and substance they afford to the else-shadowy idea of
immortality, in the lofty place which they assign to the bodily frame,
and the conception which they give of man's perfection as consisting of
body, soul, and spirit--these thoughts have flashed light into all the
darkness of the grave, have narrowed to a mere strip of coast-line the
boundaries of the kingdom of death, have proclaimed love as the victor
in her contest with that shrouded horror. The basis of them all is
Christ's Resurrection; its power in this respect is the power to
illuminate, to console, to certify, to wrench the sceptre from the hands
of death, and to put it in the pierced hands of the Living One that was
dead, and is Lord both of the dead and the living.

Further, the Resurrection is treated by Paul as having a power for our
justification, in so far as the risen Lord bestows upon us by His risen
life the blessings of His righteousness. Paul also represents the
Resurrection of Christ as having the power of quickening our Spiritual
life. I need not spend time in quoting the many passages where His
rising from the dead, and His life after the Resurrection, are treated
as the type and pattern of our lives: and are not only regarded as
pattern, but are also regarded as the power by which that new life of
ours is brought about. It has the power of raising us from the death of
sin, and bringing us into a new life of the Spirit. And finally, the
Resurrection of Christ is regarded as having the power of raising His
servants from the grave to the full possession of His own glorious life,
and so it is the power of our final victory over death.

Now I do not know that we are entitled to exclude any of these powers
from view. The broad words of the text include them all, but perhaps the
two last are mainly meant, and of these chiefly the former.

The risen life of Christ quickens and raises us, and that not merely as
a pattern, but as a power. It is only if we are in Him that there is so
real a unity of life between Him and us that there enters into us some
breath of His own life.

That risen life of the Saviour which we share if we have Him, enters
into our nature as leaven into the three measures of meal; transforming
and quickening it, gives new directions, tastes, motives, impulses, and
power. It bids and inclines us to seek the things that are above, and
its great exhortation to the hearts in which it dwells, to fix
themselves there, and to forsake the things that are on the earth, is
based upon the fact that they have died, and 'their life is hid with
Christ in God.' Without that leaven the life that we live is a death,
because it is lived in the 'lusts of the flesh,' doing the desires of
the flesh and of the mind. There is no real union with Jesus Christ, of
which the direct issue is not a living experience of the power of His
Resurrection in bringing us to the likeness of itself in regard to our
freedom from the bondage to sin, and to our presenting ourselves unto
God as alive from the dead, and our members as instruments of
righteousness unto God. It is a solemn thought which we all need to
press upon our consciences, that the only infallible sign that we have
been in any measure quickened together with Christ and raised up with
Him is that we have ceased to live in the lusts of our flesh, doing the
desires of the flesh and of the mind. The risen life of Jesus may
indefinitely increase, and will do so in the measure in which we
honestly make it our life's aim to know Him and the power of His
Resurrection.

III. The experience of the power of Christ's Resurrection is inseparable
from the fellowship of His sufferings.

We must not suppose that Paul's solemn and awful words here trench in
the smallest degree on the solitary unapproachableness of Christ's
death. He would have answered, as in fact he does answer, the appeal of
the prophetic sufferer, 'Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto
my sorrow' with the strongest negative. No other human lips have ever
tasted, or can ever taste, a cup of such bitterness as He drained for us
all, and no other human lips have ever been so exquisitely sensitive to
the bitterness which they have drunk. The identification of Himself with
a sinful world, the depth and closeness of His community of feeling with
all sorrow, the consciousness of the glory which He had left, and the
perpetual sense of the hostility into which He had come, set Christ's
sufferings by themselves as surely as the effects that flow from them
declare that they need no repetition, and cannot be degraded by any
parallel whilst the world lasts.

But yet His Death, like His Resurrection, is set forth in Scripture as
being a type and power of ours. We have to die to the world by the power
of the Cross. If we truly trust in His sacrifice there will operate
upon us motives which separate and detach us from our old selves and the
old world. A fundamental, ethical, and spiritual change is effected on
us through faith. We were dead in sin, we are dead to sin. We have to
blend the two thoughts of the Christian life as being a daily dying and
a continual resurrection in order to get the whole truth of the double
aspect of it.

It may be a question whether the Apostle is here referring to outward or
inward and ethical sorrows, but perhaps we should not do justice to the
thought unless we extend it to cover both of these. Certainly if his
theology was but the generalising of his experience, he had ample
material in his daily life for knowing the fellowship of Christ's
sufferings. One of his most frequently recurring and most cherished
thoughts is, that to suffer for Christ is to suffer with Christ, and in
it he found and teaches us to find strength to endure, and patience to
outlast any sorrows that may swoop upon us like birds of prey because we
are Christians. Happy shall we be if Christ's sufferings are ours,
because it is our union with Him and our likeness to Him, not to
ourselves, our sins, or our worldliness, that is their occasion. There
is an old legend that Peter was crucified head downwards, because he
felt himself unworthy to be as his Master. We may well feel that nothing
which we can ever bear for Him is worthy to be compared with what He has
borne for us, and be the more overwhelmed with the greatness of the
condescension, and the humility of the love which reckon our light
affliction, which is but for a moment, along with the heavy weight which
He bore, and the blessed issue of which outlasts time and enriches
eternity.

But there is another sense in which it is a worthy aim of our lives that
our sufferings may be felt to be fellowship with His. That is a blessed
sorrow which brings us closer to our Lord. That is a wholesome sorrow of
which the issue is an intenser faith in Him, a fuller experience of His
sufficiency. The storm blows us well when it blows us to His breast, and
sorrow enriches us, whatever it may take away, which gives us fuller and
more assured possession of Jesus.

But when we are living in fellowship with Jesus, that union works in two
directions, and while on the one hand we may then humbly venture to feel
that our sufferings for Him are sufferings with Him, we may thankfully
feel, too, that in all our affliction He is afflicted. If His sufferings
are ours we may be sure that ours are His. And how different they all
become when we are certain of His sympathy! It is possible that we may
have a kind of common consciousness with our Lord, if our whole hearts
and wills are kept in close touch with Him, so that in our experience
there may be a repetition in a higher form of that strange experience
alleged to be familiar in hypnotism, where the bitter in one mouth is
tasted in another.

So, what we ought to make our aim is that in our lives our growing
knowledge of Christ should lead to the two results, so inexorably
intertwined, of daily death and daily resurrection, and that we may be
kept faithful to Him so that our outward sufferings may be caused by our
union with Him, and not by our own faithlessness, and may be discerned
by us to be fellowship with His. Then we shall also feel that He bears
ours with us, and sorrow itself will be calmed and beautified into a
silent bliss, as the chill peaks when the morning strikes them glow with
tender pink, and seem soft and warm, though they are grim rock and
ice-cold snow. Then some faint echo of His history 'who was acquainted
with grief' may be audible in our outward lives and we, too, may have
our Gethsemane and our Calvary. It may not be presumption in us to say
'We are able' when He asks 'Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of'?
nor terror to hear Him prophesy 'Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I
drink of,' for we shall remember 'joint-heirs in Christ, if so be that
we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.'

IV. The end attained.

The Christian life as here manifested is even in its highest forms
manifestly incomplete. It is a reflected light, and like the reflected
light in the heavens, advances by imperceptible degrees to fill the
whole silver round. It may be 'e'en in its imperfections beautiful,' but
it assuredly has 'a ragged edge.' The hypothetical form of the last
words of our text does not so much imply a doubt of the possibility of
attaining the result as the recognition of the indispensable condition
of effort on the part of him who attains it. That effort forthcoming,
the attainment is certain.

The Revised Version makes a slight correction which involves a great
matter, in reading 'the resurrection _from_ the dead.' It is necessary
to insist on this change in rendering, not because it implies that only
saints are raised, but because Paul is thinking of that first
resurrection of which the New Testament habitually speaks. 'The dead in
Christ shall rise first' as he himself declared in his earliest epistle,
and the seer in the Apocalypse shed a benediction on 'him that hath part
in the first resurrection.' Our knowledge of that solemn future is so
fragmentary that we cannot venture to draw dogmatic inferences from the
little that has been declared to us, but we cannot forget the distinct
words of Jesus in which He not only plainly declares a universal
resurrection, but as plainly proclaims that it falls into two parts, one
a 'resurrection of life,' and one a 'resurrection of judgment.' The
former may well be the final aim of a Christian life: the latter is a
fate which one would think no sane man would deliberately provoke. Each
carries in its name its dominant characteristic, the one full of
attractiveness, the other partially unveiling depths of shame and
punitive retributions which might appal the stoutest heart.

This resurrection of life is the last result of the power of Christ's
Resurrection received into and working on the human spirit. It is plain
enough that if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead
dwell in us there is no term to its operations until our mortal bodies
also are quickened by His Spirit that dwelleth in us. The ethical and
spiritual resurrection in the present life finds its completion in the
bodily resurrection in the future. It cannot be that the transformation
wrought in a human life shall be complete until it has flowed outwards
into and permeated the whole of manhood, body, soul, and spirit. The
three measures of meal have each to be influenced before 'the whole is
leavened.' If we duly consider the elements necessary to a perfect
realisation of the divine ideal of humanity, we shall discern that
redemption must have a gospel to bring to the body as well as to the
spirit. Whatever has been devastated by sin must be healed by Jesus. It
is not necessary to suppose that the body which dies is the body which
rises again, rather the Apostle's far-reaching series of antitheses
between that which is sown and that which is raised leads us to think
that the natural body, which has passed through corruption, and the
particles of which have been gathered into many different combinations,
does not become the spiritual body. The person who dies is the person
who lives through death, and who assumes the body of the resurrection,
and it is the person, not the elements which make up the personality,
who is spoken of as risen from the dead. The vesture may be different,
but the wearer is the same.

So that resurrection from the dead is the end of a supernatural life
begun here and destined to culminate hereafter. It is the last step in
the manifestation of our being in Christ, and so is being prepared for
here by every step in advance in gaining Jesus. It should ever be before
every Christian soul that participation in Christ hereafter is
conditioned by its progress in likeness to Him here. The Resurrection
from the dead is not a gift which can be bestowed apart from a man's
moral state. If he dies having had no knowledge by experience of the
power of Christ's Resurrection, there is nothing in the fact of death to
give him that knowledge, and it is impossible to bring 'any means' to
bear on him by which he will attain unto the 'resurrection from the
dead.' If God could give that gift irrespective of a man's relations to
Jesus, He would give it to all. Let us ask ourselves, then, is it not
worth making the dominant aim of our lives the same as that of Paul's?
How stands our account then? Are we not wise traders presenting a good
balance-sheet when we show entered on the one side the loss of all
things, and on the other the gaining of Christ, and the attaining the
resurrection from the dead, the perfect transformation of body, soul,
and spirit, into the perfect likeness of the perfect Lord? Does the
other balance-sheet show the man as equally solvent who enters on one
side the gain of a world, and on the other a Christless life, to be
followed by a resurrection in which is no joy, no advance, no life, but
which is a resurrection of judgment? May we all be found in Him, and
attain to the resurrection from the dead!



LAID HOLD OF AND LAYING HOLD

          'I follow after if that I may apprehend that for
          which also I was apprehended of Christ
          Jesus.'--PHIL. iii. 12.


'I was laid hold of by Jesus Christ.' That is how Paul thinks of what we
call his conversion. He would never have 'turned' unless a hand had been
laid upon him. A strong loving grasp had gripped him in the midst of his
career of persecution, and all that he had done was to yield to the
grip, and not to wriggle out of it. The strong expression suggests, as
it seems to me, the suddenness of the incident. Possibly impressions may
have been working underground, ever since the martyrdom of Stephen,
which were undermining his convictions, and the very insanity of his
zeal may have been due to an uneasy consciousness that the ground was
yielding beneath his feet. That may have been so, but, whether it were
so or not, the crisis came like a bolt out of the blue, and he was
checked in full career, as if a voice had spoken to the sea in its
wildest storm, and frozen its waves into immobility.

There is suggested in the word, too, distinctly, our Lord's personal
action in the matter. No doubt, the fact of His supernatural appearance
gives emphasis to the phrase here. But every Christian man and woman has
been, as truly as ever Paul was, laid hold of by the personal action of
Jesus Christ. He is present in His Word, and, by multitudes of inward
impulses and outward providences, He is putting out a gentle and a firm
hand, and laying it upon the shoulders of all of us. Have we yielded?
Have we resisted, when we were laid hold of? Did we try to get away? Did
we plant our feet and say, 'I will not be drawn,' or did we simply
neglect the pressure? If we have yielded, my text tells us what we have
to do next. For that hand is laid upon a man for a purpose, and that
purpose is not secured by the hand being laid upon him, unless he, in
his turn, will put out a hand and grasp. Our activity is needed; that
activity will not be put forth without very distinct effort, and that
effort has to be life-long, because our grasp at the best is incomplete.
So then, we have here, first of all, to consider--

I. What Christ has laid His grip on us for.

Now, the immediate result of that grasp, when it is yielded to, is the
sense of the removal of guilt, forgiveness of sins, acceptance with God.
But these, the immediate results, are by no means the whole results,
although a great many of us live as if we thought that the only thing
that Christianity is meant to do to us is that it bars the gates of some
future hell, and brings to us the message of forgiveness. We cannot
think too nobly or too loftily of that gift of forgiveness, the initial
gift that is laid in every Christian man's hands, but we may think too
exclusively of it, and a great many of us do think of it as if it were
all that was to be given. A painter has to clear away the old paint off
a door, or a wall, before he lays on the new. The initial gift that
comes from being laid hold of by Jesus Christ is the burning off of the
old coat of paint. But that is only the preliminary to the laying on of
the new. A man away in the backwoods will spend a couple of years after
he has got his bit of land in felling and burning the trees, and rooting
out and destroying the weeds. But is that what he got the clearing for?
That is only a preliminary to sowing the seed. My friend! If Jesus
Christ has laid hold of you, and you have let Him keep hold of you, it
is not only that you may be forgiven, not only that you may sun yourself
in the light of God's countenance, and feel that a new blessed relation
is set up between you and Him, but there are great purposes lying at the
back of that, of which all that is only the preliminary and the
preparation.

Conversion. Yes; but what is the good of turning a man round unless he
goes in the direction in which his face is turned? And so here the
Apostle having for years lived in the light of that great thought, that
God was reconciled in Jesus Christ, and that he was God's friend,
discerns far beyond that, in dim perspective, towering high above the
land in the front, the snowy sunlit summits of a great range to which he
has yet to climb, and says, 'I press on to lay hold of that for which I
was laid hold of by Jesus Christ.'

And what was that? On the road to Damascus Paul was only told one thing,
that Christ had grasped him and drawn him to Himself in order that He
might make him a chosen vessel to bear the Word far hence amongst the
Gentiles. The bearing of His conversion upon Paul himself was never
mentioned. The bearing of His conversion on the world was the only
subject that Jesus spoke of at first. But here Paul has nothing to say
about his world-wide mission. He does not think of himself as being
called to be an Apostle, but as being summoned to be a Christian. And
so, forgetting for the time all the glorious and yet burdensome
obligations which were laid upon him, and the discharge of which was the
very life of his life, he thinks only of what affects his own character,
the perfecting of which he regards as being the one thing for which he
was 'laid hold of by Christ Jesus.' The purpose is twofold. No Christian
man is made a Christian only in order that he may secure his own
salvation; there is the world to think of. No Christian man is made a
Christian only in order that he may be Christ's instrument for carrying
the Word to other people; there is himself to think of. And these two
phases of the purpose for which Jesus Christ lays hold upon us are very
hard to unite in practice, giving to each its due place and prominence,
and they are often separated, to the detriment of both the one that is
attended to, and the one that is neglected. The monastic life has not
produced the noblest Christians; and there are pitfalls lying in the
path of every man who, like me, has for his profession to preach the
Gospel, which, if they are fallen into, the inward life is utterly
wrecked.

The two sides of Christ's purpose have, in our practice, to be held
together, but for the present I only wish to say a word or two about
that which, as I have indicated, is but one hemisphere of the completed
orb, and that is our personal culture and growth in the divine life.
What did Christ lay hold of me for? Paul answers the question very
strikingly and beautifully in a previous verse. Here is his conception
of the purpose, 'that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection,
and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His
death, if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the
dead.' That is what you were forgiven for; that is what you have 'passed
from death unto life' for; that is what you have come into the sweet
fellowship of God, and can think of Him as your Friend and Helper for.

Let us take the clauses _seriatim_, and say a word about each of them.
'That I may know Him.' Ah! there is a great deal more in Jesus Christ
than a man sees when he first sees Him through his tears and his fears,
and apprehends Him as the Saviour of his soul, and the sacrifice on whom
the burden and the guilt of his sins were laid. We must begin there, as
I believe. But woe to us if we stop there. There is far more in Christ
than that; although all that is in Him is included in that, yet you have
to dig deep before you find all that is included in it. You have to live
with Him day by day, and year by year, and to learn to know Him as we
learn to know husbands and wives, by continual intercourse, by continual
experience of a sweet and unfailing love, by many a sacred hour of
interchange of affection and reception of gifts and counsels. It is only
thus that we learn to know what Jesus Christ is. When He lays hold of
us, He comes like the angel that came to Peter in the prison in the dark
and awoke him out of his sleep and said 'Rise! and follow me.' It is
only when we get out into the street, and have been with Him for awhile,
and the daylight begins to stream in, that we see clearly the face of
our Deliverer, and know Him for all that He is. This knowledge is not
the sort of knowledge that you can get by thinking, or out of a book.
It is the knowledge of experience. It is the knowledge of love, it is
the knowledge of union, and it is in order that we may know Christ that
He lays his hand upon us.

'The power of His Resurrection.' Now, by that I understand a similar
knowledge, by experience, of the risen life of Jesus Christ flowing into
us, and filling our hearts and minds with its own power. The risen life
of Jesus is the nourishment and strengthening and blessing and life of a
Christian. Our daily experience ought to be that there comes, wavelet by
wavelet, that silent, gentle, and yet omnipotent influx into our empty
hearts, the very life of Christ Himself.

I know that this generation says that that is mysticism. I do not know
whether it is mysticism or not. I am sure it is truth; and I do not
understand Christianity at all, unless there is that kind of mysticism,
perfectly wholesome and good, in it. You will never know Jesus Christ
until you know Him as pouring into your hearts the power of an endless
life, His own life. Christ for us by all means,--Christ's death the
basis of our hope, but Christ in us, and Christ's life as the true gift
to His Church. Have you got that? Do you know the power of His
Resurrection?

'The fellowship of His sufferings.' Has Paul made a mistake, and
deserted the chronological order? Why does he put the 'fellowship of the
sufferings' after the 'power of the Resurrection'? For this plain
reason, that if we get Christ's life into our hearts, in the measure in
which we get it we shall bear a similar relation to the world which He
bore to it, and in our measure will 'fill up that which is behind in the
sufferings of Christ,' and will understand how true it is that 'if they
hate Me they will hate you also.' Brethren, the test of us who have the
life of Christ in our hearts is that we shall, in some measure, suffer
with Him, because 'as He is, so are we, in this world,' and because we
must in that case look upon the world, its sins and its sorrows, with
something of the sad gaze with which He looked across the valley to the
Temple sparkling in the morning light, and wept over it. So if we know
the power of His Resurrection we shall know the fellowship of His
sufferings.

And then Paul goes on, in his definition of the purpose for which Christ
lays hold upon men, apparently to say the same thing over again, only in
the opposite order, 'that I may be conformable to His death, if by any
means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.' Both of these
clauses, I think, refer to the future, to the actual dying of the body,
and the actual future resurrection of the same. And the thought is this,
that if here, through our earthly lives, we have been recipients of the
risen life of Jesus Christ, and so have stood to the world in our degree
as He stood to it, then when the moment of death comes to us, we shall,
in so far, have our departure shaped after His as that we shall be able
to say, 'Into Thy hands I commit my spirit,' and die willingly, and at
last shall be partakers of that blessed Resurrection unto life eternal
which closes the vista of our earthly history. Stephen's death was
conformed to Christ's in outward fashion, in so far as it echoed the
Master's prayer, 'Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,'
and in so far as it echoed the Master's last words, with the significant
alteration that, whilst Jesus commended His spirit to the Father, the
first martyr commended his to Jesus Christ.

These, then, are the purposes for which Christ laid His hand upon us,
that we might know Him, the power of His Resurrection, the fellowship of
His sufferings, being made conformable to His death yet by attaining the
resurrection of the dead.

II. Notice, again, our laying hold because we have been laid hold of.

Christ's laying hold of me, blessed and powerful as it is, does not of
itself secure that I shall reach the end which He had in view in His
arresting of me. What more is wanted? My effort. 'I follow after if I
may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended.' Now, notice, in the
one case, the Apostle speaks of himself, not as passive, but certainly
not as active. 'I was laid hold of.' What did he do? As I have said, he
simply yielded to the grasp. But 'I may lay hold of' conveys the idea of
personal effort; and so these two expressions, 'I was apprehended,' and
'I apprehend,' suggest this consideration, that, for the initial
blessings of the Christian life, forgiveness, acceptance, the sense of
God's favour, and of reconciliation with him, nothing is needed but the
simple faith that yields itself altogether to the grasp of Christ's
hand, but that for my possessing what Christ means that I should possess
when He lays His hand on me, there is needed not only faith but effort.
I have to put out _my_ hand and tighten my fingers round the thing, if I
would make it my own, and keep it.

So--faith, to begin with, and work based on faith, to go on with. It is
because a man is sure that Jesus Christ has laid His hand upon him, and
meant something when He did it, that he fights on with all his might to
realise Christ's purpose, and to get and keep the thing which Christ
meant him to have. There is stimulus in the thought, I was laid hold of
by Him for a purpose. There is all the difference between striving,
however eagerly, however nobly, however strenuously, however constantly,
after self-improvement, by one's own effort only, and striving after it
because one knows that he is therein fulfilling the purpose for which
Jesus Christ drew him to Himself.

And if that be so, then the nature of the thing to be laid hold of
determines what we are to do to lay hold of it. And since to know
Christ, and the power of His Resurrection, and the fellowship of His
sufferings, is the aim and end of our conversion, the way to secure it
must be keeping in continual touch with Jesus by meditating upon Him, by
holding many a moment of still, sacred, sweet communion with Him, by
carefully avoiding whatever might come between us and our knowledge of
Him, and the influx of His life into us, and by yielding ourselves, day
by day, to the continual influence of His divine grace upon us and by
the discipline which shall make our inward natures more and more capable
of receiving more and more of that dear Lord. These being the things to
do, in regard to the inward life, there must be effort too, in regard to
the outward; for we must, if we are to lay hold of that for which we are
laid hold of by Jesus Christ, bring all the outward life under the
dominion of this inward impulse, and when the flood pours into our
hearts we must, by many a sluice and trench, guide it into every corner
of the field, that all may be irrigated. The first thing they do when
they are going to sow rice in an Eastern field is to flood it, and then
they cast in the seed, and it germinates. Flood your lives with Christ,
and then sow the seed and you will get a crop.

III. Lastly, the text suggests the incompleteness of our grasp.

'I follow that,' says Paul, 'if that I may apprehend.' This letter was
written far on in his career, in the time of his imprisonment in Rome,
which all but ended his ministerial activity; and was many years after
that day on the road to Damascus. And yet, matured Christian and
exercised Apostle as he was, with all that past behind him, he says, 'I
follow after, that I may apprehend.' Ah, brother, our experience must be
incomplete, for we have an infinite aim set before us, and there is no
end to the possibilities of plunging deeper and deeper and deeper into
the knowledge of Christ, and having larger and larger and larger
draughts of the fulness of His life. We have only been like goldseekers,
who have contented themselves as yet with washing the precious grains
out of the gravel of the river. There are great reefs filled with the
ore that we have not touched. Thank God for the necessary incompleteness
of our 'apprehending.' It is the very salt of life. To have realised our
aims, to have fulfilled our ideals, to have sucked dry the cluster of
the grapes is the death of aspiration, of hope, of blessedness; and to
have the distance beckoning, and all experience 'an arch, wherethro'
gleams the untravelled world to which we move,' is the secret of
perpetual youth and energy.

Because incomplete, our experience should be progressive; and that is a
truth that needs hammering into Christian people to-day. About how many
of us can it be said that our light 'shineth more and more unto the
noonday.' Alas! about an enormous number of us it must be said, 'When
for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you.'
All our churches have many grown babies, and cases of arrested
development--people that ought to be living on strong meat, and are
unable to masticate or digest it, and by their own fault have still need
of the milk of infancy. There is an old fable about a strange animal
that fastened itself to the keel of sailing ships, and by some uncanny
power was able to arrest them in mid-ocean, though the winds were
filling all their sails. There is a remora, as they called it, of that
sort adhering to a great many Christian people, and keeping them fixed
on one spot, instead of 'following after, if that they may apprehend.'

Dear friends--and especially you younger Christians--Christ has laid
hold of you. Well and good! that is the beginning. He has laid hold of
you for an end. That end will not be reached without your effort, and
that effort must be perpetual. It is a life-long task. Ay! and even up
yonder the apprehending will be incomplete. Like those mathematical
lines that ever approximate to a point which they never reach, we shall
through Eternity be, as it were, rising, in ascending and ever-closer
drawing spirals, to that great Throne, and to Him that sits upon it. So
that, striking out the humble 'may' from our text, the rest of it
describes the progressive blessedness of the endless life in the
heavens, as truly as it does the progressive duty of the Christian life
here, and the glorified flock that follows the Lamb in the heavenly
pastures may each say: I follow after in order to apprehend that 'for
which,' long ago and down amidst the dim shadows of earth, 'I was
apprehended of Christ Jesus.'



THE RACE AND THE GOAL

          'This one thing I do, forgetting those things
          which are behind, and reaching forth unto those
          things which are before, I press toward the mark
          for the prize.'--PHIL. iii. 13, 14.


This buoyant energy and onward looking are marvellous in 'Paul the aged,
and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.' Forgetfulness of the past and
eager anticipation for the future are, we sometimes think, the child's
prerogatives. They may be ignoble and puerile, or they may be worthy and
great. All depends on the future to which we look. If it be the creation
of our fancies, we are babies for trusting it. If it be, as Paul's was,
the revelation of God's purposes, we cannot do a wiser thing than look.

The Apostle here is letting us see the secret of his own life, and
telling us what made him the sort of Christian that he was. He counsels
wise obliviousness, wise anticipation, strenuous concentration, and
these are the things that contribute to success in any field of life.
Christianity is the perfection of common sense. Men become mature
Christians by no other means than those by which they become good
artisans, ripe scholars, or the like. But the misery is that, though
people know well enough that they cannot be good carpenters, or doctors,
or fiddlers without certain habits and practices, they seem to fancy
that they can be good Christians without them.

So the words of my text may suggest appropriate thoughts on this first
Sunday of a new year. Let us listen, then, to Paul telling us how he
came to be the sort of Christian man he was.

I. First, then, I would say, make God's aim your aim.

Paul distinguishes here between the 'mark' and the 'prize.' He aims at
the one for the sake of the other. The one is the object of effort; the
other is the sure result of successful effort. If I may so say, the
crown hangs on the winning post; and he who touches the goal clutches
the garland.

Then, mark that he regards the aim towards which he strains as being the
aim which Christ had in view in his conversion. For he says in the
preceding context, 'I labour if that I may lay hold of that for which
also I have been laid hold of by Jesus Christ.' In the words that follow
the text he speaks of the prize as being the result and purpose of the
high calling of God 'in Christ Jesus.' So then he took God's purpose in
calling, and Christ's purpose in redeeming him, as being his great
object in life. God's aims and Paul's were identical.

What, then, is the aim of God in all that He has done for us? The
production in us of God-like and God-pleasing character. For this suns
rise and set; for this seasons and times come and go; for this sorrows
and joys are experienced; for this hopes and fears and loves are
kindled. For this all the discipline of life is set in motion. For this
we were created; for this we have been redeemed. For this Jesus Christ
lived and suffered and died. For this God's Spirit is poured out upon
the world. All else is scaffolding; this is the building which it
contemplates, and when the building is reared the scaffolding may be
cleared away. God means to make us like Himself, and so pleasing to
Himself, and has no other end in all the varieties of His gifts and
bestowments but only this, the production of character.

Such is the aim that we should set before us. The acceptance of that aim
as ours will give nobleness and blessedness to our lives as nothing else
will. How different all our estimates of the meaning and true nature of
events would be, if we kept clearly before us that their intention was
not merely to make us blessed and glad, or to make us sorrowful, but
that, through the blessedness, through the sorrow, through the gift,
through the withdrawal, through all the variety of dealings, the
intention was one and the same, to mould us to the likeness of our Lord
and Saviour! There would be fewer mysteries in our lives, we should
seldomer have to stand in astonishment, in vain regret, in miserable and
weakening looking back upon vanished gifts, and saying to ourselves,
'Why has this darkness stooped upon my path?' if we looked beyond the
darkness and the light to that for which both were sent. Some plants
require frost to bring out their savour, and men need sorrow to test and
to produce their highest qualities. There would be fewer knots in the
thread of our lives, and fewer mysteries in our experience, if we made
God's aim ours, and strove through all variations of condition to
realise it.

How different all our estimate of nearer objects and aims would be, if
once we clearly recognised what we are here for! The prostitution of
powers to obviously unworthy aims and ends is the saddest thing in
humanity. It is like elephants being set to pick up pins; it is like the
lightning being harnessed to carry all the gossip and filth of one
capital of the world to the prurient readers in another. Men take these
great powers which God has given them, and use them to make money, to
cultivate their intellects, to secure the gratification of earthly
desires, to make a home for themselves here amidst the illusions of
time; and all the while the great aim which ought to stand out clear and
supreme is forgotten by them.

There is nothing that needs more careful examination by us than our
accepted schemes of life for ourselves; the roots of our errors mostly
lie in these things that we take to be axioms, and that we never examine
into. Let us begin this new year by an honest dealing with ourselves,
asking ourselves this question, 'What am I living for?' And if the
answer, first of all, be, as, of course, it will be, the accomplishment
of the nearer and necessary aims, such as the conduct of our business,
the cultivating of our understandings, the love and peace of our homes,
then let us press the investigation a little further, and say, What
then? Suppose I make a fortune, what then? Suppose I get the position I
am striving for, what then? Suppose I cultivate my understanding and win
the knowledge that I am nobly striving after, what then? Let us not
cease to ask the question until we can say, 'Thy aim, O Lord, is my aim,
and I press toward the mark,' the only mark which will make life noble,
elastic, stable, and blessed, that I 'may be found in Christ, not having
mine own righteousness, but that which is of God by faith.' For this we
have all been made, guided, redeemed. If we carry this treasure out of
life we shall carry all that is worth carrying. If we fail in this we
fail altogether, whatever be our so-called success. There is one mark,
one only, and every arrow that does not hit that target is wasted and
spent in vain.

II. Secondly, let me say, concentrate all effort on this one aim.

'This one thing I do,' says the Apostle, 'I press toward the mark.' That
aim is the one which God has in view in all circumstances and
arrangements. Therefore, obviously, it is one which may be pursued in
all of these, and may be sought whatsoever we are doing. All
occupations of life except only sin are consistent with this highest
aim. It needs not that we should seek any remote or cloistered form of
life, nor sheer off any legitimate and common interests and occupations,
but in them all we may be seeking for the one thing, the moulding of our
characters into the shapes that are pleasing to Him. 'One thing have I
desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the
house of the Lord all the days of my life'; wheresoever the outward days
of my life may be passed. Whatsoever we are doing in business, in shop,
at a study table, in the kitchen, in the nursery, by the road, in the
house, we may still have the supreme aim in view, that from all
occupations there may come growth in character and in likeness to Jesus
Christ.

Only, to keep this supreme aim clear there will require far more
frequent and resolute effort of what the old mystics used to call
'recollection' than we are accustomed to put forth. It is hard, amidst
the din of business, and whilst yielding to other lower, legitimate
impulses and motives, to set this supreme one high above them all. But
it is possible if only we will do two things: keep ourselves close to
God, and be prepared to surrender much, laying our own wills, our own
fancies, purposes, eager hopes and plans in His hands, and asking Him to
help us, that we may never lose sight of the harbour light because of
any tossing waves that rise between us and it, nor may ever be so
swallowed up in ends, which are only means after all, as to lose sight
of the only end which is an end in itself. But for the attainment of
this aim in any measure, the concentration of all our powers upon it is
absolutely needful. If you want to bore a hole you take a sharp point;
you can do nothing with a blunt one. Every flight of wild ducks in the
sky will tell you the form that is most likely to secure the maximum of
motion with the minimum of effort. The wedge is that which pierces
through all the loosely-compacted textures against which it is pressed.
The Roman strategy forced the way of the legion through the
loose-ordered ranks of barbarian foes by arraying it in that wedge-like
form. So we, if we are to advance, must gather ourselves together and
put a point upon our lives by compaction and concentration of effort and
energy on the one purpose. The conquering word is, 'This one thing I
do.' The difference between the amateur and the artist is that the one
pursues an art at intervals by spurts, as a _parergon_--a thing that is
done in the intervals of other occupations--and that the other makes it
his life's business. There are a great many amateur Christians amongst
us, who pursue the Christian life by spurts and starts. If you want to
be a Christian after God's pattern--and unless you are you are scarcely
a Christian at all--you have to make it your business, to give the same
attention, the same concentration, the same unwavering energy to it
which you do to your trade. The man of one book, the man of one idea,
the man of one aim is the formidable and the successful man. People will
call you a fanatic; never mind. Better be a fanatic and get what you aim
at, which is the highest thing, than be so broad that, like a stream
spreading itself out over miles of mud, there is no scour in it
anywhere, no current, and therefore stagnation and death. Gather
yourselves together, and amidst all the side issues and nearer aims keep
this in view as the aim to which all are to be subservient--that,
'whether I eat or drink, or whatsoever I do, I may do all to the glory
of God.' Let sorrow and joy, and trade and profession, and study and
business, and house and wife and children, and all home joys, be the
means by which you may become like the Master who has died for this end,
that we may become partakers of His holiness.

III. Pursue this end with a wise forgetfulness.

'Forgetting the things that are behind.' The art of forgetting has much
to do with the blessedness and power of every life. Of course, when the
Apostle says 'Forgetting the things that are behind,' he is thinking of
the runner, who has no time to cast his eye over his shoulder to mark
the steps already trod. He does not mean, of course, either, to tell us
that we are so to cultivate obliviousness as to let God's mercies to us
'lie forgotten in unthankfulness, or without praises die.' Nor does he
mean to tell us that we are to deny ourselves the solace of remembering
the mercies which may, perhaps, have gone from us. Memory may be like
the calm radiance that fills the western sky from a sun that has set,
sad and yet sweet, melancholy and lovely. But he means that we should so
forget as, by the oblivion, to strengthen our concentration.

So I would say, let us remember, and yet forget, our past failures and
faults. Let us remember them in order that the remembrance may cultivate
in us a wise chastening of our self-confidence. Let us remember where we
were foiled, in order that we may be the more careful of that place
hereafter. If we know that upon any road we fell into ambushes, 'not
once nor twice,' like the old king of Israel, we should guard ourselves
against passing by that road again. He who has not learned, by the
memory of his past failures, humility and wise government of his life,
and wise avoidance of places where he is weak, is an incurable fool.

But let us forget our failures in so far as these might paralyse our
hopes, or make us fancy that future success is impossible where past
failures frown. Ebenezer was a field of defeat before it rang with the
hymns of victory. And there is no place in your past life where you have
been shamefully baffled and beaten, but there, and in that, you may yet
be victorious. Never let the past limit your hopes of the possibilities
and your confidence in the certainties and victories of the future. And
if ever you are tempted to say to yourselves, 'I have tried it so often,
and so often failed, that it is no use trying it any more. I am beaten
and I throw up the sponge,' remember Paul's wise exhortation, and
'forgetting the things that are behind . . . press toward the mark.'

In like manner I would say, remember and yet forget past successes and
achievements. Remember them for thankfulness, remember them for hope,
remember them for counsel and instruction, but forget them when they
tend, as all that we accomplish does tend, to make us fancy that little
more remains to be done; and forget them when they tend, as all that we
accomplish ever does tend, to make us think that such and such things
are our line, and of other virtues and graces and achievements of
culture and of character, that these are not our line, and not to be won
by us.

'Our line!' Astronomers take a thin thread from a spider's web and
stretch it across their object glasses to measure stellar magnitudes.
Just as is the spider's line in comparison with the whole shining
surface of the sun across which it is stretched, so is what we have
already attained to the boundless might and glory of that to which we
may come. Nothing short of the full measure of the likeness of Jesus
Christ is the measure of our possibilities.

There is a mannerism in Christian life, as there is in everything else,
which is to be avoided if we would grow into perfection. There was a
great artist in the last century who never could paint a picture without
sticking a brown tree in the foreground. We have all got our 'brown
trees,' which we think we can do well, and these limit our ambition to
secure other gifts which God is ready to bestow upon us. So 'forget the
things that are behind.' Cultivate a wise obliviousness of past sorrows,
past joys, past failures, past gifts, past achievements, in so far as
these might limit the audacity of our hopes and the energy of our
efforts.

IV. So, lastly, pursue the aim with a wise, eager reaching forward.

The Apostle employs a very graphic word here, which is only very
partially expressed by that 'reaching forth.' It contains a condensed
picture which it is scarcely possible to put into any one expression.
'Reaching out over' is the full though clumsy rendering of the word, and
it gives us the picture of the runner with his whole body thrown
forward, his hand extended, and his eye reaching even further than his
hand, in eager anticipation of the mark and the prize. So we are to
live, with continual reaching out of confidence, clear recognition, and
eager desire to make our own the unattained.

What is that which gives an element of nobleness to the lives of great
idealists, whether they be poets, artists, students, thinkers, or what
not? Only this, that they see the unattained burning ever so clearly
before them that all the attained seems as nothing in their eyes. And
so life is saved from commonplace, is happily stung into fresh effort,
is redeemed from flagging, monotony, and weariness.

The measure of our attainments may be fairly estimated by the extent to
which the unattained is clear in our sight. A man down in the valley
sees the nearer shoulder of the hill, and he thinks it the top. The man
up on the shoulder sees all the heights that lie beyond rising above
him. Endeavour is better than success. It is more to see the Alpine
heights unscaled than it is to have risen so far as we have done. They
who thus have a boundless future before them have an endless source of
inspiration, of energy, of buoyancy granted to them.

No man has such an absolutely boundless vision of the future which may
be his as we have, if we are Christian people, as we ought to be. We
only can thus look forward. For all others a blank wall stretches at the
end of life, against which hopes, when they strike, fall back stunned
and dead. But for us the wall may be overleaped, and, living by the
energy of a boundless hope, we, and only we, can lay ourselves down to
die, and say then, 'Reaching forth unto the things that are before.'

So, dear friends, make God's aim your aim; concentrate your life's
efforts upon it; pursue it with a wise forgetfulness; pursue it with an
eager confidence of anticipation that shall not be put to shame.
Remember that God reaches His aim for you by giving to you Jesus Christ,
and that you can only reach it by accepting the Christ who is given and
being found in Him. Then the years will take away nothing from us which
it is not gain to lose. They will neither weaken our energy nor flatten
our hopes, nor dim our confidence, and, at the last we shall reach the
mark, and, as we touch it, we shall find dropping on our surprised and
humble heads the crown of life which they receive who have so run, not
as uncertainly, but doing this one thing, pressing towards the mark for
the prize.



THE SOUL'S PERFECTION

          'Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus
          minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded,
          God shall reveal even this unto you.'--PHIL. iii.
          15.


'As many as be perfect'; and how many may they be? Surely a very short
bede-roll would contain their names; or would there be any other but the
Name which is above every name upon it? Part of the answer to such a
question may be found in observing that the New Testament very
frequently uses the word to express not so much the idea of moral
completeness as that of physical maturity. For instance, when Paul says
that he would have his converts to be '_men_ in understanding,' and when
the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of 'them that are of full age,' the
same word is used as this 'perfect' in our text. Clearly in such cases
it means 'full grown,' as in contrast with 'babes,' and expresses not
absolute completeness, but what we may term a relative perfection, a
certain maturity of character and advanced stage of Christian
attainment, far removed from the infantile epoch of the Christian life.

Another contribution to the answer may be found in observing that in
this very context these 'perfect' people are exhorted to cultivate the
sense of not having 'already attained,' and to be constantly reaching
forth to unattained heights, so that a sense of imperfection and a
continual effort after higher life are parts of Paul's 'perfect man.'
And it is to be still further noticed that on the same testimony
'perfect' people may probably be 'otherwise minded'; by which we
understand not divergently minded from one another, but 'otherwise' than
the true norm or law of life would prescribe, and so may stand in need
of the hope that God will by degrees bring them into conformity with His
will, and show them 'this,' namely, their divergence from His Pattern
for them.

It is worth our while to look at these large thoughts thus involved in
the words before us.

I. Then there are people whom without exaggeration the judgment of truth
calls _perfect_.

The language of the New Testament has no scruple in calling men 'saints'
who had many sins, and none in calling men perfect who had many
imperfections; and it does so, not because it has any fantastic theory
about religious emotions being the measure of moral purity, but partly
for the reasons already referred to, and partly because it wisely
considers the main thing about a character to be not the degree to which
it has attained completeness in its ideal, but what that ideal is. The
distance a man has got on his journey is of less consequence than the
direction in which his face is turned. The arrow may fall short, but to
what mark was it shot? In all regions of life a wise classification of
men arranges them according to their aims rather than their
achievements. The visionary who attempts something high and accomplishes
scarcely anything of it, is often a far nobler man, and his poor,
broken, foiled, resultless life far more perfect than his who aims at
marks on the low levels and hits them full. Such lives as these, full
of yearning and aspiration, though it be for the most part vain, are

          'Like the young moon with a ragged edge
           E'en in its imperfection beautiful.'

If then it be wise to rank men and their pursuits according to their
aims rather than their accomplishments, is there one class of aims so
absolutely corresponding to man's nature and relations that to take them
for one's own, and to reach some measure of approximation to them, may
fairly be called the perfection of human nature? Is there one way of
living concerning which we may say that whosoever adopts it has, in so
far as he does adopt it, discerned and attained the purpose of his
being? The literal force of the word in our text gives pertinence to
that question, for it distinctly means 'having reached the end.' And if
that be taken as the meaning, there need be no doubt about the answer.
Grand old words have taught us long ago 'Man's chief end is to glorify
God and to enjoy Him for ever.' Yes, he who lives for God has taken that
for his aim which all his nature and all his relations prescribe, he is
doing what he was made and meant to do; and however incomplete may be
its attainments, the lowest form of a God-fearing, God-obeying life is
higher and more nearly 'perfect' than the fairest career or character
against which, as a blight on all its beauty, the damning accusation may
be brought, 'The God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy
ways, thou hast not glorified.'

People sneer at 'saints' and point at their failings. They remind us of
the foul stains in David's career, for instance, and mock as they ask,
'Is this your man after God's own heart?' Yes, he is; not because
religion has a morality of its own different from that of the world
(except as being higher), nor because 'saints' make up for adultery and
murder by making or singing psalms, but because the main set and current
of the life was evidently towards God and goodness, and these hideous
sins were glaring contradictions, eddies and backwaters, as it were,
wept over with bitter self-abasement and conquered by strenuous effort.
Better a life of Godward aspiration and straining after purity, even if
broken by such a fall, so recovered, than one of habitual earthward
grubbing, undisturbed by gross sin.

And another reason warrants the application of the word to men whose
present is full of incompleteness, namely, the fact that such men have
in them the germ of a life which has no natural end but absolute
completeness. The small seed may grow very slowly in the climate and
soil which it finds here, and be only a poor little bit of ragged green,
very shabby and inconspicuous by the side of the native flowers of earth
flaunting around it, but it has a divine germinant virtue within, and
waits but being carried to its own clime and 'planted in the house of
the Lord' above, to 'flourish in the courts of our God,' when these
others with their glorious beauty have faded away and are flung out to
rot.

II. We have set forth here very distinctly two of the characteristics of
this perfection.

The Apostle in our text exhorts the perfect to be '_thus_ minded.' How
is that? Evidently the word points back to the previous clauses, in
which he has been describing his own temper and feeling in the Christian
race. He sets that before the Philippians as their pattern, or rather
invites them to fellowship with him in the estimate of themselves and in
their efforts after higher attainments. 'Be thus minded' means, Think
as I do of yourselves, and do as I do in your daily life.

How did he think of himself? He tells us in the sentence before, 'Not as
though I were already perfect. I count not myself to have apprehended.'
So then a leading characteristic of this true Christian perfection is a
constant consciousness of imperfection. In all fields of effort, whether
intellectual, moral, or mechanical, as faculty grows, consciousness of
insufficiency grows with it. The farther we get up the hill, the more we
see how far it is to the horizon. The more we know, the more we know our
ignorance. The better we can do, the more we discern how much we cannot
do. Only people who never have done and never will do anything, or else
raw apprentices with the mercifully granted self-confidence of youth,
which gets beaten out of most of us soon enough, think that they can do
everything.

In morals and in Christian life the same thing is true. The measure of
our perfection will be the consciousness of our imperfection--a paradox,
but a great truth. It is plain enough that it will be so. Conscience
becomes more sensitive as we get nearer right. The worse a man is the
less it speaks to him, and the less he hears it. When it ought to
thunder it whispers; when we need it most it is least active. The thick
skin of a savage will not be disturbed by lying on sharp stones, while a
crumpled rose-leaf robs the Sybarite of his sleep. So the practice of
evil hardens the cuticle of conscience, and the practice of goodness
restores tenderness and sensibility; and many a man laden with crime
knows less of its tingling than some fair soul that looks almost
spotless to all eyes but its own. One little stain of rust will be
conspicuous on a brightly polished blade, but if it be all dirty and
dull, a dozen more or fewer will make little difference. As men grow
better they become like that glycerine barometer recently introduced, on
which a fall or a rise that would have been invisible with mercury to
record it takes up inches, and is glaringly conspicuous. Good people
sometimes wonder, and sometimes are made doubtful and sad about
themselves, by this abiding and even increased consciousness of sin.
There is no need to be so. The higher the temperature the more chilling
would it be to pass into an ice-house, and the more our lives are
brought into fellowship with the perfect life, the more shall we feel
our own shortcomings. Let us be thankful if our consciences speak to us
more loudly than they used to do. It is a sign of growing holiness, as
the tingling in a frost-bitten limb is of returning life. Let us seek to
cultivate and increase the sense of our own imperfection, and be sure
that the diminution of a consciousness of sin means not diminished power
of sin, but lessened horror of it, lessened perception of right,
lessened love of goodness, and is an omen of death, not a symptom of
life. Painter, scholar, craftsman all know that the condition of advance
is the recognition of an ideal not attained. Whoever has not before him
a standard to which he has not reached will grow no more. If we see no
faults in our work we shall never do any better. The condition of all
Christian, as of all other progress, is to be drawn by that fair vision
before us, and to be stung into renewed effort to reach it, by the
consciousness of present imperfection.

Another characteristic to which these perfect men are exhorted is a
constant striving after a further advance. How vigorously, almost
vehemently, that temper is put in the context--'I follow after'; 'I
press toward the mark'; and that picturesque 'reaching forth,' or, as
the Revised Version gives it, 'stretching forward.' The full force of
the latter word cannot be given in any one English equivalent, but may
be clumsily hinted by some such phrase as 'stretching oneself out over,'
as a runner might do with body thrown forward and arms extended in
front, and eagerness in every strained muscle, and eye outrunning foot,
and hope clutching the goal already. So yearning forward, and setting
all the current of his being, both faculty and desire, to the yet
unreached mark, the Christian man is to live. His glances are not to be
bent backwards, but forwards. He is not to be a 'praiser of the past,'
but a herald and expectant of a nobler future. He is the child of the
day and of the morning, forgetting the things which are behind, and ever
yearning towards the things which are before, and drawing them to
himself. To look back is to be stiffened into a living death; only with
faces set forward are we safe and well.

This buoyant energy of hope and effort is to be the result of the
consciousness of imperfection of which we have spoken. Strange to many
of us, in some moods, that a thing so bright should spring up from a
thing so dark, and that the more we feel our own shortcomings, the more
hopeful should we be of a future unlike the past, and the more earnest
in our effort to make that future the present! There is a type of
Christian experience not uncommon among devout people, in which the
consciousness of imperfection paralyses effort instead of quickening it;
men lament their evil, their slow progress and so on, and remain the
same year after year. They are stirred to no effort. There is no
straining onwards. They almost seem to lose the faith that they can ever
be any better. How different this from the grand, wholesome completeness
of Paul's view here, which embraces both elements, and even draws the
undying brightness of his forward-looking confidence from the very
darkness of his sense of present imperfection!

So should it be with us, 'as many as be perfect.' Before us stretch
indefinite possibilities of approximating to the unattainable fulness of
the divine life. We may grow in knowledge and in holiness through
endless ages and grades of advance. In a most blessed sense we may have
that for our highest joy which in another meaning is a punishment of
unfaithfulness and indocility, that we shall be 'ever learning, and
never coming to the full knowledge of the truth.' No limit can be put to
what we may receive of God, nor to the closeness, the fulness of our
communion with Him, nor to the beauty of holiness which may pass from
Him into our poor characters, and irradiate our homely faces. Then,
brethren, let us cherish a noble discontent with all that we at present
are. Let our spirits stretch out all their powers to the better things
beyond, as the plants grown in darkness will send out pale shoots that
feel blindly towards the light, or the seed sown on the top of a rock
will grope down the bare stone for the earth by which it must be fed.
Let the sense of our own weakness ever lead to a buoyant confidence in
what we, even we, may become if we will only take the grace we have. To
this touchstone let us bring all claims to higher holiness--they who are
perfect are most conscious of imperfection, and most eager in their
efforts after a further progress in the knowledge, love, and likeness of
God in Christ.

III. We have here also distinctly brought out the co-existence with
these characteristics of their opposites.

'If in anything ye are otherwise minded,' says Paul. I have already
suggested that this expression evidently refers not to difference of
opinion among themselves, but to a divergence of character from the
pattern of feeling and life which he has been proposing to them. If in
any respects ye are unconscious of your imperfections, if there be any
'witch's mark' of insensibility in some spot of your conscience to some
plain transgressions of law, if in any of you there be some complacent
illusion of your own stainlessness, if to any of you the bright vision
before you seem faint and unsubstantial, God will show you what you do
not see. Plainly then he considers that there will be found among these
perfect men states of feeling and estimates of themselves opposed to
those which he has been exhorting them to cherish. Plainly he supposes
that a good man may pass for a time under the dominion of impulses and
theories which are of another kind from those that rule his life.

He does not expect the complete and uninterrupted dominion of these
higher powers. He recognises the plain facts that the true self, the
central life of the soul, the higher nature, 'the new man,' abides in a
self which is but gradually renewed, and that there is a long distance,
so to speak, from the centre to the circumference. That higher life is
planted, but its germination is a work of time. The leaven does not
leaven the whole mass in a moment, but creeps on from particle to
particle. 'Make the tree good' and in due time its fruit will be good.
But the conditions of our human life are conflict, and these peaceful
images of growth and unimpeded natural development, 'first the blade,
then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear,' are not meant to
tell all the truth. Interruptions from external circumstances, struggles
of flesh with spirit, and of imagination and heart and will against the
better life implanted in the spirit, are the lot of all, even the most
advanced here, and however a man may be perfect, there will always be
the possibility that in something he may be 'otherwise minded.'

Such an admission does not make such interruptions less blameworthy when
they occur. The doctrine of averages does not do away with the voluntary
character of each single act. The same number of letters are yearly
posted without addresses. Does anybody dream of not scolding the errand
boy who posted them, or the servant who did not address them, because he
knows that? We are quite sure that we could have resisted each time that
we fell. That piece of sharp practice in business, or that burst of bad
temper in the household which we were last guilty of--could we have
helped it or not? Conscience must answer that question, which does not
depend at all on the law of averages. Guilt is not taken away by
asserting that sin cleaves to men, 'perfect men.'

But the feelings with which we should regard sin and contradictions of
men's truest selves in ourselves and others should be so far altered by
such thoughts that we should be very slow to pronounce that a man cannot
be a Christian because he has done so and so. Are there any sins which
are clearly _incompatible_ with a Christian character? All sins are
_inconsistent_ with it, but that is a very different matter. The uniform
direction of a man's life being godless, selfish, devoted to the objects
and pursuits of time and sense, is incompatible with his being a
Christian--but, thank God, no single act, however dark, is so, if it be
in contradiction to the main tendency impressed upon the character and
conduct. It is not for us to say that any single deed shows a man cannot
be Christ's, nor to fling ourselves down in despair saying, 'If I were a
Christian, I could not have done that.' Let us remember that 'all
unrighteousness is sin,' and the least sin is in flagrant opposition to
our Christian profession; but let us also remember, and that not to
blunt our consciences or weaken our efforts, that Paul thought it
possible for perfect men to be 'otherwise minded' from their deepest
selves and their highest pattern.

IV. The crowning hope that lies in these words is the certainty of a
gradual but complete attainment of all the Christian aspirations after
God and goodness.

The ground of that confidence lies in no natural tendencies in us, in no
effort of ours, but solely in that great name which is the anchor of all
our confidence, the name of God. Why is Paul certain that 'God will
reveal even this unto you'? Because He is God. The Apostle has learned
the infinite depth of meaning that lies in that name. He has learned
that God is not in the way of leaving off His work before He has done
His work, and that none can say of Him, that 'He began to build, and was
not able to finish.' The assurances of an unchangeable purpose in
redemption, and of inexhaustible resources to effect it; of a love that
can never fade, and of a grace that can never be exhausted--are all
treasured for us in that mighty name. And such confidence is confirmed
by the manifest tendency of the principles and motives brought to bear
on us in Christianity to lead on to a condition of absolute perfection,
as well as by the experience which we may have, if we will, of the
sanctifying and renewing power of His Spirit in our Spirit.

By the discipline of daily life, by the ministry of sorrow and joy, by
merciful chastisements dogging our steps when we stray, by duties and
cares, by the teaching of His word coming even closer to our hearts and
quickening our consciences to discern evil where we had seen none, as
well as kindling in us desires after higher and rarer goodness, by the
reward of enlarged perceptions of duty and greater love towards it, with
which He recompenses lowly obedience to the duty as yet seen, by the
secret influences of His Spirit of Power and of Love and of a sound Mind
breathed into our waiting spirits, by the touch of His own sustaining
hand and glance of His own guiding eye, He will reveal to the lowly soul
all that is yet wanting in its knowledge, and communicate all that is
lacking in character.

So for us, the true temper is confidence in His power and will, an
earnest waiting on Him, a brave forward yearning hope blended with a
lowly consciousness of imperfection, which is a spur not a clog, and
vigorous increasing efforts to bring into life and character the fulness
and beauty of God. Presumption should be as far from us as despair--the
one because we have not already attained, the other because 'God will
reveal even this unto us.' Only let us keep in mind the caution which
the Apostle, knowing the possible abuses which might gather round His
teaching, has here attached to it, 'Nevertheless'--though all which I
have been saying is true, it is only on this understanding--'Whereto we
have already attained, by the same let us walk.' God will perfect that
which concerneth you if--and only if--you go on as you have begun, if
you make your creed a life, if you show what you are. If so, then all
the rest is a question of time. A has been said, and Z will come in its
proper place. Begin with humble trust in Christ, and a process is
commenced which has no natural end short of that great hope with which
this chapter closes, that the change which begins in the deepest
recesses of our being, and struggles slowly and with many interruptions,
into partial visibility in our character, shall one day triumphantly
irradiate our whole nature out to the very finger-tips, and 'even the
body of our humiliation shall be fashioned like unto the body of
Christ's glory, according to the working whereby He is able even to
subdue all things to Himself.'



THE RULE OF THE ROAD

          'Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained,
          let us walk by the same rule.'--PHIL. iii. 16.


Paul has just been laying down a great principle--viz. that if the main
direction of a life be right, God will reveal to a man the points in
which he is wrong. But that principle is untrue and dangerous, unless
carefully guarded. It may lead to a lazy tolerance of evil, and to
drawing such inferences as, 'Well! it does not much matter about
strenuous effort, if we are right at bottom it will all come right
by-and-by,' and so it may become a pillow for indolence and a clog on
effort. This possible abuse of a great truth seems to strike the
Apostle, and so he enters here, with this 'Nevertheless,' a _caveat_
against that twist of his meaning. It is as if he said, 'Now mind! while
all that is perfectly true, it is true on conditions; and if they be not
attended to, it is not true.' God will reveal to a man the things in
which he is wrong if, and only if, he steadfastly continues in the
course which he knows and sees to be right. Present attainments, then,
are in some sense a standard of duty, and if we honestly and
conscientiously observe that standard we shall get light as we journey.
In this exhortation of the Apostle's there are many exhortations wrapped
up; and in trying to draw them out I venture to adhere to the form of
exhortation for the sake of impressiveness and point.

I. First, then, I would say the Apostle means, 'Live up to your faith
and your convictions.'

It may be a question whether 'that to which we have already attained'
means the amount of knowledge which we have won or the amount of
practical righteousness which we have made our own. But I think that,
instead of sharply dividing between these two, we shall follow more in
the course of the Apostle's thought if we unite them together, and
remember that the Bible does not make the distinct separation which we
sometimes incline to make between knowledge on the one side and practice
on the other, but regards the man as a living unity. And thus, both
aspects of our attainments come into consideration here.

So, then, there are two main thoughts--first, live out your creed, and
second, live up to your convictions.

Live out your creed. Men are meant to live, not by impulse, by accident,
by inclination, but by principle. We are not intended to live by rule,
but we _are_ intended to live by law. And unless we know _why_ we do as
well as _what_ we do, and give a rational account of our conduct, we
fall beneath the height on which God intends us to walk. Impulse is all
very well, but impulse is blind and needs a guide. The imitation of
those around us, or the acceptance of the apparent necessities of
circumstances, are, to some extent, inevitable and right. But to be
driven merely by the force of externals is to surrender the highest
prerogative of manhood. The highest part of human nature is the reason
guided by conscience, and a man's conscience is only then rightly
illuminated when it is illuminated by his creed, which is founded on the
acceptance of the revelation that God has made of Himself.

And whilst we are clearly meant to be guided by the intelligent
appropriation of God's truth, that truth is evidently all meant for
guidance. We are not told anything in the Bible in order that we may
know as an ultimate object, but we are told it all in order that,
knowing, we may be, and, being, we may do, according to His will.

Just think of the intensely practical tendency of all the greatest
truths of Christianity. The Cross is the law of life. The revelation
that was made there was made, not merely that we might cling to it as a
refuge from our sins, but that we might accept it as the rule of our
conduct. All our duties to mankind are summed up in the word 'Love one
another as I have loved you.' We say that we believe in the divinity of
Christ; we say that we believe in the great incarnation and sacrificial
death and eternal priesthood of the loving Son of God. We say that we
believe in a judgment to come and a future life. Well, then, do these
truths produce any effect upon my life? have they shaped me in any
measure into conformity with their great principles? Does there issue
from them constraining power which grasps me and moulds me as a sculptor
would a bit of clay in his hands? Am I subject to the Gospel's
authority, and is the word in which God has revealed Himself to me the
word which dominates and impels all my life? 'Whereunto we have already
attained, by the same let us walk.'

But we shall not do that without a distinct effort. For it is a great
deal easier to live from hand to mouth than to live by principle. It is
a great deal easier to accept what seems forced upon us by circumstances
than to exercise control over the circumstances, and make them bend to
God's holy will. It is a great deal easier to take counsel of
inclination, and to put the reins in the hands of impulses, passions,
desires, tastes, or even habits, than it is, at each fresh moment, to
seek for fresh impulses from a fresh illumination from the ancient and
yet ever fresh truth. The old kings of France used to be kept with all
royal state in the palace, but they were not allowed to do anything. And
there was a rough, unworshipped man that stood by their side, and who
was the real ruler of the realm. That is what a great many professing
Christians do with their creeds. They instal them in some inner chamber
that they very seldom visit, and leave them there, in dignified
idleness, and the real working ruler of their lives is found elsewhere.
Let us see to it, brethren, that all our thoughts are incarnated in our
deeds, and that all our deeds are brought into immediate connection with
the great principles of God's word. Live by that law, and we live at
liberty.

And, then, remember that this translating of creed into conduct is the
only condition of growing illumination. When we act upon a belief, the
belief grows. That is the source of a great deal of stupid obstinacy in
this world, because men have been so long accustomed to go upon certain
principles that it seems incredible to them but that these principles
should be true. But that, too, is at the bottom of a great deal of
intelligent and noble firmness of adherence to the true. A man who has
tested a principle because he has lived upon it has confidence in it
that nobody else can have.

Projectors may have beautiful specifications with attractive pictures of
their new inventions; they look very well upon paper, but we must see
them working before we are sure of their worth. And so, here is this
great body of Divine truth, which assumes to be sufficient for guidance,
for conduct, for comfort, for life. Live upon it, and thereby your grasp
of it and your confidence in it will be immensely increased. And no man
has a right to say 'I have rejected Christianity as untrue,' unless he
has put it to the test by living upon it; and if he has, he will never
say it. A Swiss traveller goes into a shop and buys a brand-new
alpenstock. Does he lean upon it with as much confidence as another man
does, who has one with the names of all the mountains that it has helped
him up branded on it from top to bottom? Take _this_ staff and lean on
it. Live your creed, and you will believe your creed as you never will
until you do. Obedience takes a man up to an elevation from which he
sees further into the deep harmonies of truth. In all regions of life
the principle holds good: 'To him that hath shall be given.' And it
holds eminently in reference to our grasp of Christian principles. Use
them and they grow; neglect them and they perish. Sometimes a man dies
in a workhouse who has a store of guineas and notes wrapped up in rags
somewhere about him; and so they have been of no use to him. If you want
your capital to increase, trade with it. As the Lord said when He gave
the servants their talents: 'Trade with them till I come.' The creed
that is utilised is the creed that grows. And that is why so many of you
Christian people have so little real intellectual grasp of the
principles of Christianity, because you have not lived upon them, nor
tried to do it.

And, in like manner, another side of this thought is, be true to your
convictions. There is no such barrier to a larger and wholesomer view of
our duty as the neglect of anything that plainly is our duty. It stands
there, an impassable cliff between us and all progress. Let us live and
be what we know we ought to be, and we shall know better what we ought
to be at the next moment.

II. Secondly, let me put the Apostle's meaning in another exhortation,
Go on as you have begun.

'Whereunto we have already attained, by the same let us walk.' The
various points to which the men have reached are all points in one
straight line; and the injunction of my text is 'Keep the road.' There
are a great many temptations to stray from it. There are nice smooth
grassy bits by the side of it where it is a great deal easier walking.
There are attractive things just a footstep or two out of the path--such
a little deviation that it can easily be recovered. And so, like
children gathering daisies in the field, we stray away from the path;
and, like men on a moor, we then look round for it, and it is gone. The
angle of divergence may be the acutest possible; the deviation when we
begin may be scarcely visible, but if you draw a line at the sharpest
angle and the least deviation from a straight line, and carry it out far
enough, there will be space between it and the line from which it
started ample to hold a universe. Then, let us take care of small
deviations from the plain straight path, and give no heed to the
seductions that lie on either side, but 'whereunto we have already
attained, by _the same_ let us walk.'

There are temptations, too, to slacken our speed. The river runs far
more slowly in its latter course than when it came babbling and leaping
down the hillside. And sometimes a Christian life seems as if it crept
rather than ran, like those sluggish streams in the Fen country, which
move so slowly that you cannot tell which way the water is flowing. Are
not there all round us, are there not amongst ourselves instances of
checked growth, of arrested development? There are people listening to
me now, calling themselves--and I do not say that they have not a right
to do so--Christians, who have not grown a bit for years, but stand at
the very same point of attainment, both in knowledge and in purity and
Christlikeness, as they were many, many days ago. I beseech you, listen
to this exhortation of my text, 'Whereunto we have already attained, by
the same let us walk,' and continue patient and persistent in the course
that is set before us.

III. The Apostle's injunction may be cast into this form, Be yourselves.

The representation which underlies my text, and precedes it in the
context, is that of the Christian community as a great body of
travellers all upon one road, all with their faces turned in one
direction, but at very different points on the path. The difference of
position necessarily involves a difference in outlook. They see their
duties, and they see the Word of God, in some respects diversely. And
the Apostle's exhortation is: 'Let each man follow his own insight, and
whereunto he has attained, by that, and not by his brother's attainment,
by that let him walk.' From the very fact of the diversity of
advancement there follows the plain duty for each of us to use our own
eyesight, and of independent faithfulness to our own measure of light,
as the guide which we are bound to follow.

There is a dreadful want, in the ordinary Christian life, of any
appearance of first-hand communication with Jesus Christ, and daring to
be myself, and to act on the insight into His will which Christ has
given _me_.

Conventional Godliness, Christian people cut after one pattern, a little
narrow round of certain statutory duties and obligations, a parrot-like
repetition of certain words, a mechanical copying of certain methods of
life, an oppressive sameness, mark so much of modern religion. What a
freshening up there would come into all Christian communities if every
man lived by his own perception of truth and duty! If a musician in an
orchestra is listening to his neighbour's note and time, he will lose
many an indication from the conductor that would have kept him far more
right, if he had attended to it. And if, instead of taking our beliefs
and our conduct from one another, or from the average of Christian men
round us, we went straight to Jesus Christ and said to Him, 'What
wouldst _Thou_ have _me_ to do?' there would be a different aspect over
Christendom from what there is to-day. The fact of individual
responsibility, according to the measure of our individual light, and
faithful following of that, wheresoever it may lead us, are the grand
and stirring principles that come from these words. 'Whereunto we have
already attained,' by that--and by no other man's attainment or
rule--let us walk.

But do not let us forget that that same faithful independence and
independent faithfulness because Christ speaks to us, and we will not
let any other voice blend with His, are quite consistent with, and,
indeed, demand, the frank recognition of our brother's equal right. If
we more often thought of all the great body of Christian people as an
army, united in its diversity, its line of march stretching for leagues,
and some in the van, and some in the main body, and some in the rear,
but all one, we should be more tolerant of divergences, more charitable
in our judgment of the laggards, more patient in waiting for them to
come up with us, and more wise and considerate in moderating our pace
sometimes to meet theirs. All who love Jesus Christ are on the same road
and bound for the same home. Let us be contented that they shall be at
different stages on the path, seeing that we know that they will all
reach the Temple above.

IV. Lastly, cherish the consciousness of imperfection and the confidence
of success.

'Whereunto we have attained' implies that that is only a partial
possession of a far greater whole. The road is not finished at the stage
where we stand. And, on the other hand, 'by the same let us walk,'
implies that beyond the present point the road runs on equally patent
and pervious to our feet. These two convictions, of my own imperfection
and of the certainty of my reaching the great perfectness beyond, are
indispensable to all Christian progress. As soon as a man begins to
think that he has realised his ideal, Good-bye! to all advance. The
artist, the student, the man of business, all must have gleaming before
them an unattained object, if they are ever to be stirred to energy and
to run with patience the race that is set before them.

The more distinctly that a man is conscious of his own imperfection in
the Christian life, the more he will be stung and stirred into
earnestness and energy of effort, if only, side by side with the
consciousness of imperfection, there springs triumphant the confidence
of success. That will give strength to the feeble knees; that will lift
a man buoyant over difficulties; that will fire desire; that will
stimulate and solidify effort; that will make the long, monotonous
stretches of the road easy, the rough places plain, the crooked things
straight. Over all reluctant, repellent duties it will bear us, in all
weariness it will re-invigorate us. We are saved by hope, and the more
brightly there burns before us, not as a tremulous hope, but as a future
certainty, the thought, 'I shall be like Him, for I shall see Him as He
is,' the more shall I set my face to the loved goal and my feet to the
dusty road, and 'press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling
of God.' Christian progress comes out of the clash and collision of
these two things, like that of flint and steel--the consciousness of
imperfection and the confidence of success. And they who thus are driven
by the one and drawn by the other, in all their consciousness of failure
are yet blessed, and are crowned at last with that which they believed
before it came.

'Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house'--the prize won is heaven. But
'blessed are they in whose hearts are the ways'--the prize desired and
strained after is heaven upon earth. We may all live a life of continual
advancement, each step leading upwards, for the road always climbs, to
purer air, grander scenery, and a wider view. And yonder, progress will
still be the law, for they who here have followed the Lamb, and sought
to make Him their pattern and Commander, will there 'follow Him
whithersoever He goeth.' If here we walk according to that 'whereunto we
have attained,' there He shall say, 'They will walk with Me in white,
for they are worthy.'



WARNINGS AND HOPES

          'Brethren, be ye imitators together of me, and
          mark them which so walk even as ye have us for an
          ensample. For many walk, of whom I told you often,
          and now tell you even weeping, that they are the
          enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is
          perdition, whose God is the belly, and whose glory
          is in their shame, who mind earthly things. For
          our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we
          wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who
          shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation,
          that it may be conformed to the body of His glory,
          according to the working whereby he is able even
          to subject all things unto Himself.'--PHIL. iii.
          17-21 (R.V.).


There is a remarkable contrast in tone between the sad warnings which
begin this section and the glowing hopes with which it closes, and that
contrast is made the more striking when we notice that the Apostle binds
the gloom of the one and the radiance of the other by 'For,' which makes
the latter the cause of the former.

The exhortation in which the Apostle begins by proposing himself as an
example sounds strange on any lips, and, most of all, on his, but we
have to note that the points in which he sets himself up as a pattern
are obviously those on which he touched in the preceding outpouring of
his heart, and which he has already commended to the Philippians in
pleading with them to be 'thus minded.' What he desires them to copy is
his self-distrust, his willingness to sacrifice all things to win
Christ, his clear sense of his own shortcomings, and his eager straining
towards as yet unreached perfection. His humility is not disproved by
such words, but what is remarkable in them is the clear consciousness of
the main direction and set of his life. We may well hesitate to take
them for ours, but every Christian man and woman ought to be able to say
this much. If we cannot in some degree declare that we are so walking,
we have need to look to our foundations. Such words are really in sharp
contrast to those in which Jesus is held forth as an example. Notice,
too, how quickly he passes to associate others with him, and to merge
the 'Me' into 'Us.' We need not ask who his companions were, since
Timothy is associated with him at the beginning of the letter.

The exhortation is enforced by pointing to others who had gone far
astray, and of whom he had warned the Philippians often, possibly by
letter. Who these unworthy disciples were remains obscure. They were
clearly not the Judaisers branded in verse 2, who were teachers seeking
to draw away the Philippians, while these others seem to have been
'enemies of the Cross of Christ,' not by open hostility nor by
theoretical errors, but by practical worldliness, and that in these
ways; they make sense their God, they are proud of what is really their
disgrace, namely, they are shaking off the restraints of morality; and,
most black though it may seem least so, they 'mind earthly things' on
which thought, feeling, and interest are concentrated. Let us lay to
heart the lesson that such direction of the current of a life to the
things of earth makes men 'enemies of the Cross of Christ,' whatever
their professions, and will surely make their end perdition, whatever
their apparent prosperity. Paul's life seemed loss and was gain; these
men's lives seemed gain and was loss.

From this dark picture charged with gloom, and in one corner showing
white waves breaking far out against an inky sky, and a vessel with torn
sails driving on the rocks, the Apostle turns with relief to the
brighter words in which he sets forth the true affinities and hopes of a
Christian. They all stand or fall with the belief in the Resurrection of
Christ and His present life in His glorified corporeal manhood.

I. Our true metropolis.

The Revised Version puts in the margin as an alternative rendering for
'citizenship' commonwealth, and there appears to be a renewed allusion
here to the fact already noted that Philippi was a 'colony,' and that
its inhabitants were Roman citizens. Paul uses a very emphatic word for
'is' here which it is difficult to reproduce in English, but which
suggests essential reality.

The reason why that heavenly citizenship is ours in no mere play of the
imagination but in most solid substance, is because He is there for whom
we look. Where Christ is, is our Mother-country, our Fatherland,
according to His own promise, 'I go to prepare a place for you.' His
being there draws our thoughts and sets our affections on Heaven.

II. The colonists looking for the King.

The Emperors sometimes made a tour of the provinces. Paul here thinks of
Christians as waiting for their Emperor to come across the seas to this
outlying corner of His dominions. The whole grand name is given here,
all the royal titles to express solemnity and dignity, and the character
in which we look for Him is that of Saviour. We still need salvation,
and though in one sense it is past, in another it will not be ours until
He comes the second time without sin unto salvation. The eagerness of
the waiting which should characterise the expectant citizens is
wonderfully described by the Apostle's expression for it, which
literally means to look away out--with emphasis on both
prepositions--like a sentry on the walls of a besieged city whose eyes
are ever fixed on the pass amongst the hills through which the relieving
forces are to come.

It may be said that Paul is here expressing an expectation which was
disappointed. No doubt the early Church looked for the speedy return of
our Lord and were mistaken. We are distinctly told that in that point
there was no revelation of the future, and no doubt they, like the
prophets of old, 'searched what manner of time the spirit of Christ
which was in them did signify.' In this very letter Paul speaks of death
as very probable for himself, so that he had precisely the same double
attitude which has been the Church's ever since, in that he looked for
Christ's coming as possible in his own time, and yet anticipated the
other alternative. It is difficult, no doubt, to cherish the vivid
anticipation of any future event, and not to have any certainty as to
its date. But if we are sure that a given event will come sometime and
do not know when it may come, surely the wise man is he who thinks to
himself it may come any time, and not he who treats it as if it would
come at no time. The two possible alternatives which Paul had before him
have in common the same certainty as to the fact and uncertainty as to
the date, and Paul had them both before his mind with the same vivid
anticipation.

The practical effect of this hope of the returning Lord on our 'walk'
will be all to bring it nearer Paul's. It will not suffer us to make
sense our God, nor to fix our affections on things above; it will
stimulate all energies in pressing towards the goal, and will turn away
our eyes from the trivialities and transiencies that press upon us, away
out toward the distance where 'far off His coming shone.'

III. The Christian sharing in Christ's glory.

The same precise distinction between 'fashion' and 'form,' which we have
had occasion to notice in Chapter II., recurs here. The 'fashion' of
the body of our humiliation is external and transient; the 'form' of the
body of His glory to which we are to be assimilated consists of
essential characteristics or properties, and may be regarded as being
almost synonymous with 'Nature.' Observing the distinction which the
Apostle draws by the use of these two words, and remembering their force
in the former instance of their occurrence, we shall not fail to give
force to the representation that in the Resurrection the fleeting
fashion of the bodily frame will be altered, and the glorified bodies of
the saints made participant of the essential qualities of His.

We further note that there is no trace of false asceticism or of gnostic
contempt for the body in its designation as 'of our humiliation.' Its
weaknesses, its limitations, its necessities, its corruption and its
death, sufficiently manifest our lowliness, while, on the other hand,
the body in which Christ's glory is manifested, and which is the
instrument for His glory, is presented in fullest contrast to it.

The great truth of Christ's continual glorified manhood is the first
which we draw from these words. The story of our Lord's Resurrection
suggests indeed that He brought the same body from the tomb as loving
hands had laid there. The invitation to Thomas to thrust his hands into
the prints of the nails, the similar invitation to the assembled
disciples, and His partaking of food in their presence, seemed to forbid
the idea of His rising changed. Nor can we suppose that the body of His
glory would be congruous with His presence on earth. But we have to
think of His ascension as gradual, and of Himself as 'changed by still
degrees' as He ascended, and so as returned to where the 'glory which He
had with the Father before the world was,' as the Shechinah cloud
received Him out of the sight of the gazers below. If this be the true
reading of His last moments on earth, He united in His own experience
both the ways of leaving it which His followers experience--the way of
sleep which is death, and the way of 'being changed.'

But at whatever point the change came, He now wears, and for ever will
wear, the body of a man. That is the dominant fact on which is built the
Christian belief in a future life, and which gives to that belief all
its solidity and force, and separates it from vague dreams of
immortality which are but a wish tremblingly turned into a hope, or a
dread shudderingly turned into an expectation. The man Christ Jesus is
the pattern and realised ideal of human life on earth, the revelation of
the divine life through a human life, and in His glorified humanity is
no less the pattern and realised ideal of what human nature may become.
The present state of the departed is incomplete in that they have not a
body by which they can act on, and be acted on by, an external universe.
We cannot indeed suppose them lapped in age-long unconsciousness, and it
may be that the 'dead in Christ' are through Him brought into some
knowledge of externals, but for the full-summed perfection of their
being, the souls under the altar have to wait for the resurrection of
the body. If resurrection is needful for completion of manhood, then
completed manhood must necessarily be set in a locality, and the
glorified manhood of Jesus must also now be in a place. To think thus of
it and of Him is not to vulgarise the Christian conception of Heaven,
but to give it a definiteness and force which it sorely lacks in popular
thinking. Nor is the continual manhood of our Lord less precious in its
influence in helping our familiar approach to Him. It tells us that He
is still and for ever the same as when on earth, glad to welcome all who
came and to help and heal all who need Him. It is one of ourselves who
'sitteth at the right hand of God.' His manhood brings Him memories
which bind Him to us sorrowing and struggling, and His glory clothes Him
with power to meet all our needs, to stanch all our wounds, to satisfy
all our desires.

Our text leads us to think of the wondrous transformation into Christ's
likeness. We know not what are the differences between the body of our
humiliation and the body of His glory, but we must not be led away by
the word Resurrection to fall into the mistake of supposing that in
death we 'sow that body which shall be.' Paul's great chapter in I.
Corinthians should have destroyed that error for ever, and it is a
singular instance of the persistency of the most unsupported mistakes
that there are still thousands of people who in spite of all that they
know of what befalls our mortal bodies, and of how their parts pass into
other forms, still hold by that crude idea. We have no material by which
to construct any, even the vaguest, outline of that body that shall be.
We can only run out the contrasts as suggested by Paul in 1st
Corinthians, and let the dazzling greatness of the positive thought
which he gives in the text lift our expectations. Weakness will become
power, corruption incorruption, liability to death immortality,
dishonour glory, and the frame which belonged and corresponded to 'that
which was natural,' shall be transformed into a body which is the organ
of that which is spiritual. These things tell us little, but they may
be all fused into the great light of likeness to the body of His glory;
and though that tells us even less, it feeds hope more and satisfies our
hearts even whilst it does not feed our curiosity. We may well be
contented to acknowledge that 'it doth not yet appear what we shall be,'
when we can go on to say, 'We know that when He shall appear we shall be
like Him.' It is enough for the disciple that he be as his Master.

But we must not forget that the Apostle regards even this overwhelming
change as but part of a mightier process, even the universal subjection
of all things unto Christ Himself. The Emperor reduces the whole world
to subjection, and the glorifying of the body as the climax of the
universal subjugation represents it as the end of the process of
assimilation begun in this mortal life. There is no possibility of a
resurrection unto life unless that life has been begun before death.
That ultimate glorious body is needed to bring men into correspondence
with the external universe. As is the locality so is the body. Flesh and
blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. This whole series of thoughts
makes our glorious resurrection the result not of death, but of Christ's
living power on His people. It is only in the measure in which He lives
in us and we in Him, and are partaking by daily participation in the
power of His Resurrection, that we shall be made subjects of the working
whereby He is able even to subject all things unto Himself, and finally
be conformed to the body of His glory.



_EXPOSITIONS OF HOLY SCRIPTURE_

ALEXANDER MACLAREN, D. D., Litt. D.

          PHILIPPIANS, COLOSSIANS, FIRST
          AND SECOND THESSALONIANS
          AND FIRST TIMOTHY



CONTENTS


PHILIPPIANS

A TENDER EXHORTATION (Phil. iv. 1)                                1

NAMES IN THE BOOK OF LIFE (Phil. iv. 3)                          11

REJOICE EVERMORE (Phil. iv. 4)                                   21

HOW TO OBEY AN IMPOSSIBLE INJUNCTION (Phil. iv. 6)               31

THE WARRIOR PEACE (Phil. iv. 7)                                  39

THINK ON THESE THINGS (Phil. iv. 8)                              48

HOW TO SAY 'THANK YOU' (Phil. iv. 10-14, R.V.)                   58

GIFTS GIVEN, SEED SOWN (Phil. iv. 15-19, R.V.)                   66

FAREWELL WORDS (Phil. iv. 20-23, R.V.)                           74


COLOSSIANS

SAINTS, BELIEVERS, BRETHREN (Col. i. 2)                          82

THE GOSPEL-HOPE (Col. i. 5)                                      92

'ALL POWER' (Col. i. 11, R.V.)                                   99

THANKFUL FOR INHERITANCE (Col. i. 12, R.V.)                     106

CHRISTIAN ENDEAVOUR (Col. i. 29)                                114

CHRISTIAN PROGRESS (Col. ii. 6, 7, R.V.)                        124

RISEN WITH CHRIST (Col. iii. 1-15)                              127

RISEN WITH CHRIST (Col. iii. 1, 2)                              134

WITHOUT AND WITHIN (Col. iv. 5)                                 143


I. THESSALONIANS

FAITH, LOVE, HOPE, AND THEIR FRUITS (1 Thess. i. 3)             155

GOD'S TRUMPET (1 Thess. i. 8)                                   164

WALKING WORTHILY (1 Thess. ii. 12)                              170

SMALL DUTIES AND THE GREAT HOPE (1 Thess. iv. 9-18; v. 1, 2)    183

SLEEPING THROUGH JESUS (1 Thess. iv. 14)                        190

THE WORK AND ARMOUR OF THE CHILDREN OF THE DAY (1 Thess. v. 8)  198

WAKING AND SLEEPING (1 Thess. v. 10)                            210

EDIFICATION (1 Thess. v. 11)                                    220

CONTINUAL PRAYER AND ITS EFFECTS (1 Thess. v. 16-18)            229

PAUL'S EARLIEST TEACHING (1 Thess. v. 27)                       237


II. THESSALONIANS

CHRIST GLORIFIED IN GLORIFIED MEN (2 Thess. i. 10)              248

WORTHY OF YOUR CALLING (2 Thess. i. 11, 12)                     256

EVERLASTING CONSOLATION AND GOOD HOPE (2 Thess. ii. 16, 17)     267

THE HEART'S HOME AND GUIDE (2 Thess. iii. 5)                    277

THE LORD OF PEACE AND THE PEACE OF THE LORD (2 Thess. iii. 16)  288


I. TIMOTHY

THE END OF THE COMMANDMENT (1 Tim. i. 5)                        298

'THE GOSPEL OF THE GLORY OF THE HAPPY GOD' (1 Tim. i. 11)       308

THE GOSPEL IN SMALL (1 Tim. i. 15)                              316

THE CHIEF OF SINNERS (1 Tim. i. 15)                             326

A TEST CASE (1 Tim. i. 16)                                      335

THE GLORY OF THE KING (1 Tim. i. 17)                            344

WHERE AND HOW TO PRAY (1 Tim. ii. 8)                            353

SPIRITUAL ATHLETICS (1 Tim. iv. 7)                              361

THE ONE WITNESS, THE MANY CONFESSORS (1 Tim. vi. 12-14)         370

THE CONDUCT THAT SECURES THE REAL LIFE (1 Tim. vi. 19)          379



A TENDER EXHORTATION

          'Therefore, my brethren, dearly beloved and longed
          for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord,
          my dearly beloved.'--PHIL. iv. 1.


The words I have chosen set forth very simply and beautifully the bond
which knit Paul and these Philippian Christians together, and the chief
desire which his Apostolic love had for them. I venture to apply them to
ourselves, and I speak now especially to the members of my own church
and congregation.

I. Let us note, then, first, the personal bond which gives force to the
teacher's words.

That Church at Philippi was, if Paul had any favourites amongst his
children, his favourite child. The circumstances of its formation may
have had something to do with that. It was planted by himself; it was
the first Church in Europe; perhaps the Philippian gaoler and Lydia were
amongst the 'beloved' and 'longed for' ones who were 'his joy and
crown.' But be that as it may, all through the letter we can feel the
throbbing of a very loving heart, and the tenderness of a strong man,
which is the most tender of all things.

Note how he addresses them. There is no assumption of Apostolic
authority, but he puts himself on their level, and speaks to them as
brethren. Then he lets his heart out, and tells them how they lived in
his love, and how, of course, when he was parted from them, he had
desired to be with them. And then he touches a deeper and a sacreder
chord when he contemplates the results of the relation between them, if
he on his side, and they on theirs, were faithful to it. It says much
for the teacher, and for the taught, if he can truly say 'My joy,'--'I
have no greater joy than to know that my children walk in the truth.'
And not only were they his joy, but they who, by their faithfulness,
have become his joy, will on that one day in the far future, be his
'crown.' That metaphor carries on the thoughts to the great Judgment
Day, and introduces a solemn element, which is as truly present, dear
friends, in our relation to one another, little of an Apostle as I am,
as it was in the relation between Paul and the Philippians. They who
'turn many to righteousness shine as the brightness of the firmament,'
because those whom they have turned, 'shine as lights in the world.' And
at that last august and awful tribunal, where you will have to give an
account for your listening, as I for my speaking, the crown of victory
laid on the locks of a faithful teacher is the characters of those whom
he has taught. 'Who is my joy and hope, and crown of rejoicing?' Are not
even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus at his coming?

Now, notice, further, how such mutual affection is needed to give force
to the teacher's exhortation. Preaching from unloved lips never does any
good. It irritates, or leaves untouched. Affection melts and opens the
heart to the entrance of the word. And preaching from unloving lips does
very little good either. So speaking, I condemn myself. There are men
who handle God's great, throbbing message of love so coldly as that they
ice even the Gospel. There are men who have a strange gift of taking all
the sap and the fervour out of the word that they proclaim, making the
very grapes of Eshcol into dried raisins. And I feel for myself that my
ministry may well have failed in this respect. For who is there that can
modulate his voice so as to reproduce the music of that great message,
or who can soften and open his heart so as that it shall be a worthy
vehicle of the infinite love of God?

But, dear brethren, though conscious of many failures in this respect, I
yet thank God that here, at the end of nearly forty years of a ministry,
I can look you in the face and believe that your look responds to mine,
and that I can take these words as the feathers for my arrow, as that
which will make words otherwise weak go further, and may help to write
the precepts upon hearts, and to bring them to bear in practice--'My
beloved and longed for'; 'my joy and my crown.'

Such feelings do not need to be always spoken. There is very little
chance of us Northerners erring on the side of letting our hearts speak
too fully and frequently. Perhaps we should be all the better if we were
a little less reticent, but at any rate you and I can surely trust each
other after so many years, and now and then, as to-day, let our hearts
speak.

II. Secondly, notice the all-sufficient precept which such love gives.
'So stand fast in the Lord.'

That is a very favourite figure of Paul's, as those of you who have any
reasonable degree of familiarity with his letters will know. Here it
carries with it, as it generally does, the idea of resistance against
antagonistic force. But the main thought of it is that of continuous
steadfastness in our union with Jesus Christ. It applies, of course, to
the intellect, but not mainly, and certainly not exclusively to
intellectual adherence to the truths spoken in the Gospel. It covers
the whole ground of the whole man; will, conscience, heart, practical
effort, as well as understanding. And it is really Paul's version, with
a characteristic dash of pugnacity in it, of our Lord's yet deeper and
calmer words, 'Abide in Me and I in you.' It is the same exhortation as
Barnabas gave to the infantile church at Antioch, when, to these men
just rescued from heathenism and profoundly ignorant of much which we
suppose it absolutely necessary that Christians should know, he had only
one thing to say, exhorting them all, that 'with purpose of heart they
should cleave to the Lord.'

Steadfast continuance of personal union with Jesus Christ, extending
through all the faculties of our nature, and into every corner of our
lives, is the kernel of this great exhortation. And he who fulfils it
has little left unfulfilled. Of course, as I said, there is a very
strong suggestion that such 'standing' is by no means an easy thing, or
accomplished without much antagonism; and it may help us if, just for a
moment, we run over the various forms of resistance which they have to
overcome who stand fast. Nothing stands where it is without effort. That
is true in the moral world, although in the physical world the law of
motion is that nothing moves without force being applied to it.

What are the things that would shake our steadfastness, and sweep us
away? Well, there are, first, the tiny, continuously acting, and
therefore all but omnipotent forces of daily life--duties, occupations,
distractions of various kinds--which tend to move us imperceptibly away,
as by the slow sliding of a glacier, from the hope of the Gospel. There
is nothing so strong as a gentle pressure, equably and unintermittently
applied. It is far mightier than thrusts and hammerings and sudden
assaults. I stood some time ago looking at the Sphinx. The hard
stone--so hard that it turns the edge of a sculptor's chisel--has been
worn away, and the solemn features all but obliterated. What by? The
continual attrition of multitudinous grains of sand from the desert. The
little things that are always at work upon us are the things that have
most power to sweep us away from our steadfastness in Jesus Christ.

Then there are, besides, the sudden assaults of strong temptations, of
sense and flesh, or of a more subtle and refined character. If a man is
standing loosely, in some careless _dégagé_ attitude, and a sudden
impact comes upon him, over he goes. The boat upon a mountain-locked
lake encounters a sudden gust when opposite the opening of a glen, and
unless there be a very strong hand and a watchful eye at the helm, is
sure to be upset. Upon us there come, in addition to that silent
continuity of imperceptible but most real pressure, sudden gusts of
temptation which are sure to throw us over, unless we are well and
always on our guard against them.

In addition to all these, there are ups and downs of our own nature, the
fluctuations which are sure to occur in any human heart, when faith
seems to ebb and falter, and love to die down almost into cold ashes.
But, dear brethren, whilst we shall always be liable to these
fluctuations of feeling, it is possible for us to have, deep down below
these, a central core of our personality, in which unchanging continuity
may abide. The depths of the ocean know nothing of the tides on the
surface that are due to the mutable moon. We can have in our inmost
hearts steadfastness, immovableness, even though the surface may be
ruffled. Make your spirits like one of those great cathedrals whose
thick walls keep out the noises of the world, and in whose still
equability there is neither excessive heat nor excessive cold, but an
approximately uniform temperature, at midsummer and at midwinter. 'Stand
fast in the Lord.'

Now, my text not only gives an exhortation, but, in the very act of
giving it, suggests how it is to be fulfilled. For that phrase 'in the
Lord' not only indicates _where_ we are to stand, but also _how_. That
is to say--it is only in proportion as we keep ourselves in union with
Christ, in heart and mind, and will, and work, that we shall stand
steadfast. The lightest substances may be made stable, if they are glued
on to something stable. You can mortice a bit of thin stone into the
living rock, and then it will stand 'four-square to every wind that
blows.' So it is only on condition of our keeping ourselves in Jesus
Christ, that we are able to keep ourselves steadfast, and to present a
front of resistance that does not yield one foot, either to
imperceptible continuous pressure, to sudden assaults, or to the
fluctuations of our own changeful dispositions and tempers. The ground
on which a man stands has a great deal to do with the firmness of his
footing. You cannot stand fast upon a bed of slime, or upon a sand-bank
which is being undermined by the tides. And if we, changeful creatures,
are to be steadfast in any region, our surest way of being so is to knit
ourselves to Him 'who is the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever,'
and from whose immortality will flow some copy and reflection of itself
into our else changeful natures.

Still further, in regard to this commandment, I would pray you to notice
that very eloquent little word which stands at the beginning of it.
'_So_ stand fast in the Lord.' 'So.' How? That throws us back to what
the Apostle has been saying in the previous context. And what has he
been saying there? The keynote of the previous chapter is progress--'I
follow after; I press toward the mark, forgetting the things that are
behind, and reaching forth to the things that are before.' To these
exhortations to progress he appends this remarkable exhortation:
'So'--that is, by progress--'stand fast in the Lord,' which being turned
into other words is just this--if you stand still, you will not stand
fast. There can be no steadfastness without advancement. If a man is not
going forward, he is going backward. The only way to ensure stability is
'pressing toward the mark.' Why, a child's top only stands straight up
as long as it is revolving. If a man on a bicycle stops, he tumbles. And
so, in the depths of a Christian life, as in all science, and all walks
of human activity, the condition of steadfastness is advance. Therefore,
dear brethren, let no man deceive himself with the notion that he can
keep at the same point of religious experience and of Christian
character. You are either more of a Christian, or less of one, than you
were at a past time. '_So_, stand fast,' and remember that to stand
_still_ is _not_ to stand _fast_.

Now, whilst all these things that I have been trying to say have
reference to Christian people at all stages of their spiritual history,
they have a very especial reference to those in the earlier part of
Christian life.

And I want to say to those who have only just begun to run the Christian
life, very lovingly and very earnestly, that this is a text for them.
For, alas! there is nothing more frequent than that, after the first
dawnings of a Christian life in a heart, there should come a period of
overclouding; or that, as John Bunyan has taught us, when Christian has
gone through the wicket-gate, he should fall very soon into the Slough
of Despond. One looks round, and sees how many professing Christians
there are who, perhaps, were nearer Jesus Christ on the day of their
conversion than they have ever been since, and how many cases of
arrested development there are amongst professing and real Christians;
so that when for the 'time they ought to be teachers, they have need' to
be taught again; and when, after the number of years that have passed,
they ought to be full-grown men, they are but babes yet. And so I say to
you, dear young friends, stand fast. Do not let the world attract you
again. Keep near to Jesus. 'Hold fast that thou hast; let no man take
thy crown.'

III. Lastly, we have here a great motive which encourages obedience to
this command.

People generally pass over that 'Therefore' which begins my text, but it
is full of significance and of importance. It links the precept which we
have been considering with the immediately preceding hope which the
Apostle has so triumphantly proclaimed, when he says that 'we look for
the Saviour from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change the
body of our humiliation that it may be fashioned like unto the body of
His glory, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue
all things to Himself.'

So there rises before us that twofold great hope; that the Master
Himself is coming to the succour of His servants, and that when He
comes, He will perfect the incomplete work which has been begun in them
by their faith and steadfastness, and will change their whole humanity
so that it shall become participant of, and conformed to, the glory of
His own triumphant manhood.

That hope is presented by the Apostle as having its natural sequel in
the 'steadfastness' of my text, and that 'steadfastness' is regarded by
the Apostle as drawing its most animating motives from the contemplation
of that great hope. Blessed be God! The effort of the Christian life is
not one which is extorted by fear, or by the cold sense of duty. There
are no taskmasters with whips to stand over the heart that responds to
Christ and to His love. But hope and joy, as well as love, are the
animating motives which make sacrifices easy, soften the yoke that is
laid upon our shoulders, and turn labour into joy and delight.

So, dear brethren, we have to set before us this great hope, that Jesus
Christ is coming, and that, therefore, our labour on ourselves is sure
not to be in vain. Work that is done hopelessly is not done long, and
there is no heart in it whilst it is being done. But if we know that
Christ will appear, 'and that when He who is our life shall appear, we
also shall appear with Him in glory,' then we may go to work in keeping
ourselves steadfast in Him, with cheery hearts, and with full assurance
that what we have been doing will have a great result.

You have read, no doubt, about some little force in North-West India,
hemmed in by enemies. They may well hold out resolutely and hopefully
when they know that three relieving armies are converging upon their
stronghold. And we, too, know that our Emperor is coming to raise the
siege. We may well stand fast with such a prospect. We may well work at
our own sanctifying when we know that our Lord Himself--like some
master-sculptor who comes to his pupil's imperfectly blocked-out work,
and takes his chisel in his hand, and with a touch or two completes
it--will come and finish what we, by His grace, imperfectly began. 'So
stand fast in the Lord,' because you have hope that the Lord is about to
come, and that when He comes you will be like Him.

One last word. That steadfastness is the condition without which we have
no right to entertain that hope.

If we keep ourselves near Christ, and if by keeping ourselves near Him,
we are becoming day by day liker Him, then we may have calm confidence
that He will perfect that which concerns us. But I, for my part, can
find nothing, either in Scripture or in the analogy of God's moral
dealings with us in the world, to warrant the holding out of the
expectation to a man that, if he has kept himself apart from Jesus
Christ and his quickening and cleansing power all his life long, Jesus
Christ will take him in hand after he dies, and change him into His
likeness. Don't you risk it! Begin by 'standing fast in the Lord.' He
will do the rest then, not else. The cloth must be dipped into the
dyer's vat, and lie there, if it is to be tinged with the colour. The
sensitive plate must be patiently kept in position for many hours, if
invisible stars are to photograph themselves upon it. The vase must be
held with a steady hand beneath the fountain, if it is to be filled.
Keep yourselves in Jesus Christ. Then here you will begin to be changed
into the same image, and when He comes He will come as your Saviour, and
complete your uncompleted work, and make you altogether like Himself.

'Therefore, my brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and
crown, so stand fast in the Lord, dearly beloved.'



NAMES IN THE BOOK OF LIFE

          'Other my fellow-labourers whose names are in the
          book of life.'--PHIL. iv. 3.


Paul was as gentle as he was strong. Winsome courtesy and delicate
considerateness lay in his character, in beautiful union with fiery
impetuosity and undaunted tenacity of conviction. We have here a
remarkable instance of his quick apprehension of the possible effects of
his words, and of his nervous anxiety not to wound even unreasonable
susceptibilities.

He had had occasion to mention three of his fellow-workers, and he
wishes to associate with them others whom he does not purpose to name.
Lest any of these should be offended by the omission, he soothes them
with this graceful, half-apologetic reminder that their names are
inscribed on a better page than his. It is as if he had said, 'Do not
mind though I do not mention you individually. You can well afford to be
anonymous in my letter since your names are inscribed in the Book of
Life.'

_There_ is a consolation for obscure good people, who need not expect to
live except in two or three loving hearts; and whose names will only be
preserved on mouldering tombstones that will convey no idea to the
reader. We may well dispense with other commemoration if we have this.

Now, this figure of the Book of Life appears in Scripture at intervals,
almost from the beginning to the very end. The first instance of its
occurrence is in that self-sacrificing, intercessory prayer of Moses,
when he expressed his willingness to be 'blotted out of Thy book' as an
atonement for the sin of Israel. Its last appearance is when the
Apocalyptic Seer is told that none enter into the City of God come down
from Heaven 'save those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of
Life.' Of course in plain English the expression is just equivalent to
being a real disciple of Jesus Christ. But then it presents that general
notion under a metaphor which, in its various aspects, has a very
distinct and stringent bearing upon our duties as well as upon our
blessings and our hopes. I, therefore, wish to work out, as well as I
can, the various thoughts suggested by this emblem.

I. The first of them is Citizenship.

The figure is, of course, originally drawn from the registers of the
tribes of Israel. In that use, though not without a glance at some
higher meaning, it appears in the Old Testament, where we read of 'those
who are written among them living in Jerusalem'; or 'are written in the
writing of the house of Israel.' The suggestion of being inscribed on
the burgess-rolls of a city is the first idea connected with the word.
In the New Testament, for instance, we find in the great passage in the
Epistle to the Hebrews the two notions of the city and the census
brought into immediate connection, where the writer says, 'Ye are come
unto the city of the living God . . . and to the church of the first-born
whose names are written in heaven.' In this very letter we have, only a
verse or two before my text, the same idea of citizenship cropping up.
'Our _citizenship_ is in Heaven, from whence also we look for the
Saviour.' That, no doubt, helped to suggest to the Apostle the words of
my text. And there is another verse in the same letter where the same
idea comes out. 'Only act the citizen as becometh the Gospel of Christ.'
Now, you will remember, possibly, that Philippi was, as the Acts of the
Apostles tells us, a Roman colony. And the reference is exquisitely
close-fitting to the circumstances of the people of that city. For a
Roman colony was a bit of Rome in another land, and the citizens of
Philippi had their names inscribed on the registers of the tribes of
Rome. The writer himself was another illustration of the same thing, of
living in a community to which he did not belong and of belonging to a
community in which he did not live. For Paul was a native of Tarsus; and
Paul, the native of the Asiatic Tarsus, was a Roman.

So, then, the first thought that comes out of this great metaphor is
that all of us, if we are Christian people, belong to another polity,
another order of things than that in which our outward lives are spent.
And the plain, practical conclusion that comes from it is, cultivate the
sense of belonging to another order. Just as it swelled the heart of a
Macedonian Philippian with pride, when he thought that he did not belong
to the semi-barbarous people round about him, but that his name was
written in the books that lay in the Capitol of Rome, so should we
cultivate that sense of belonging to another order. It will make our
work here none the worse, but it will fill our lives with the sense of
nobler affinities, and point our efforts to grander work than any that
belongs to 'the things that are seen and temporal.' Just as the little
groups of Englishmen in treaty-ports own no allegiance to the laws of
the country in which they live, but are governed by English statutes, so
we have to take our orders from headquarters to which we have to
report. Men in our colonies get their instructions from Downing Street.
The officials there, appointed by the Home Government, think more of
what they will say about them at Westminster than of what they say about
them at Melbourne. So we are citizens of another country, and have to
obey the laws of our own kingdom, and not those of the soil on which we
dwell. Never mind about the opinions of men, the babblements of the
people in the land you live in. To us, the main thing is that we be
acceptable, well-pleasing unto Him. Are you solitary? Cultivate the
sense of, in your solitude, being a member of a great community that
stretches through all the ages, and binds into one the inhabitants of
eternity and of time.

Remember that this citizenship in the heavens is the highest honour that
can be conferred upon a man. The patricians of Venice used to have their
names inscribed upon what was called the 'golden book' that was kept in
the Doge's Palace. If our names are written in the book of gold in the
heavens, then we have higher dignities than any that belong to the
fleeting chronicles of this passing, vain world. So we can accept with
equanimity evil report or good report, and can acquiesce in a wholesome
obscurity, and be careless though our names appear on no human records,
and fill no trumpet of fame blown by earthly cheeks. Intellectual power,
wealth, gratified ambition, and all the other things that men set before
them, are small indeed compared with the honour, with the blessedness,
with the repose and satisfaction that attend the conscious possession of
citizenship in the heavens. Let us lay to heart the great words of the
Master which put a cooling hand on all the feverish ambitions of earth.
'In this rejoice, not that the spirits are subject unto you, but rather
rejoice that your names are written in heaven.'

II. Then the second idea suggested by these words is the possession of
the life which is life indeed.

The 'Book of Life,' it is called in the New Testament. Its designation
in the Old might as well be translated 'the book of living' as 'the book
of life.' It is a register of the men who are truly alive.

Now, that is but an imaginative way of putting the commonplace of the
New Testament, that anything which is worth calling life comes to us,
not by creation or physical generation, but by being born again through
faith in Jesus Christ, and by receiving into our else dead spirits the
life which He bestows upon all them that trust Him.

In the New Testament 'life' is far more than 'being'; far more than
physical existence; removed by a whole world from these lower
conceptions, and finding its complete explanation only in the fact that
the soul which is knit to God by conscious surrender, love, aspiration,
and obedience, is the only soul that really lives. All else is
death--death! He 'that liveth in pleasure is dead while he liveth.' The
ghastly imagination of one of our poets, of the dead man standing on the
deck pulling at the ropes by the side of the living, is true in a very
deep sense. In spite of all the feverish activities, the manifold
vitalities of practical and intellectual life in the world, the deepest,
truest, life of every man who is parted from God by alienation of will,
by indifference, and neglect of love, lies sheeted and sepulchred in the
depths of his own heart. Brethren, there is no life worth calling life,
none to which that august name can without degradation be applied,
except the complete life of body, soul, and spirit, in lowly obedience
to God in Christ. The deepest meaning of the work of the Saviour is that
He comes into a dead world, and breathes into the bones--very many and
very dry--the breath of His own life. Christ has died for us; Christ
will live in us if we will; and, unless He does, we are twice dead.

Do not put away that thought as if it were a mere pulpit metaphor. It is
a metaphor, but yet in the metaphor there lies this deepest truth, which
concerns us all, that only he is truly himself, and lives the highest,
best, and noblest life that is possible for him, who is united to Jesus
Christ, and drawing from Christ his own life. 'He that hath the Son hath
life; he that hath not the Son hath not life.' Either my name and yours
are written in the Book of Life, or they are written in the register of
a cemetery. We have to make our choice which.

III. Another idea suggested by this emblem is experience of divine
individualising knowledge and care.

In the Old Testament the book is called 'Thy book,' in the New it is
called 'the Lamb's book.' That is of a piece with the whole relation of
the New to the Old, and of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word and
Manifestor of God, to the Jehovah revealed in former ages. For,
unconditionally, and without thought of irreverence or idolatry, the New
Testament lifts over and confers upon Jesus Christ the attributes which
the Old jealously preserved as belonging only to Jehovah. And thus
Christ the Manifestor of God, and the Mediator to us of all divine
powers and blessings, takes the Book and makes the entries in it. Each
man of us, as in your ledgers, has a page to himself. His account is
opened, and is not confused with other entries. There is
individualising love and care, and as the basis of both, individualising
knowledge. My name, the expression of my individual being, stands there.
Christ does not deal with me as one of a crowd, nor fling out blessings
broadcast, that I may grasp them in the midst of a multitude, if I
choose to put out a hand, but He deals with each of us singly, as if
there were not any beings in the world but He and I, our two selves, all
alone.

It is hard to realise the essentially individualising and isolating
character of our relation to Jesus Christ. But we shall never come to
the heart of the blessedness and the power of His Gospel unless we
translate all 'us'-es and 'every ones' and 'worlds' in Scripture into
'I' and 'me,' and can say not only He gives Himself to be 'the
propitiation for the sins of the whole world,' but 'He loved _me_ and
gave Himself for _me_.' The same individualising love which is
manifested in that mighty universal Atonement, if we rightly understand
it, is manifested in all His dealings with us. One by one we come under
His notice; the Shepherd tells His sheep singly as they pass out through
the gate or into the fold. He knows them all by name. 'I have called
thee by thy name; thou art Mine.'

Lift up your eyes and behold who made all these; the countless host of
the nightly stars. What are nebulæ to our eyes are blazing suns to His.
'He telleth the number of the stars; He calleth them all _by name_ by
the greatness of His power, for that He is strong in might not one
faileth.' So we may nestle in the protection of His hand, sure of a
separate place in His knowledge and His heart.

Deliverance and security are the results of that individualising care.
In one of the Old Testament instances of the use of this metaphor, we
read that in the great day of calamity and sorrow 'Thy people shall be
delivered, even every one that is written in Thy Book.' So we need not
dread anything if our names are there. The sleepless King will read the
Book, and will never forget, nor forget to help and succour His poor
servants.

But there are two other variations of this thought in the Old Testament
even more tenderly suggestive of that individualising care and strong
sufficient love than the emblem of my text. We read that when, in the
exercise of his official functions, the high priest passed into the
Tabernacle he wore, upon his _breast_, near the seat of personality, and
the home of love--the names of the tribes graven, and that the same
names were written on his shoulders, as if guiding the exercise of his
power. So we may think of ourselves as lying near the beatings of His
heart, and as individually the objects of the work of His almighty arm.
Nor is this all. For there is yet another, and still tenderer,
application of the figure, when we read of the Divine voice as saying to
Israel, 'I have graven thee on the palms of My hands.' The name of each
who loves and trusts and serves is written there; printed deep in the
flesh of the Sovereign Christ. We bear in our bodies the marks, the
_stigmata_ that tell whose slaves we are--'the marks of the Lord Jesus.'
And He bears in His body the marks that tell who His servants are.

IV. Lastly, there is suggested by this text the idea of future entrance
into the land of the living.

The metaphor occurs three times in the final book of Scripture, the book
which deals with the future and with the last things. And it occurs in
all these instances in very remarkable connection. First we read, in
the highly imaginative picture of the final judgment, that when the
thrones are set two books are opened, one the Book of Life, the other
the book in which are written the deeds of men, and that by these two
books men are judged. There is a judgment by conduct. There is also a
judgment by the Book of Life. That is to say, the question at last comes
to be, 'Is this man's name written in that book?' Is he a citizen of the
kingdom, and therefore capable of entering into it? Has he the life from
Christ in his heart? Or, in other words, the question is, first, has the
man who stands at the bar faith in Jesus Christ; and, second, has he
proved that his faith is genuine and real by the course of his earthly
conduct? These are the books from which the judgment is made.

Further, we read, in that blessed vision which stands at the far-off end
of all the knowledge of the future which is given to humanity, the
vision of the City of God 'that came down from heaven as a bride adorned
for her husband,' that only they enter in there who are 'written in the
Lamb's Book of Life.' Only citizens are capable of entrance into the
city. Aliens are necessarily shut out. The Lord, when He writeth up His
people, shall count that this man was born there, though he never trod
its streets while on earth, and, therefore, can enter into his native
home.

Further, in one of the letters to the seven churches our Lord gives as a
promise to him that overcometh, 'I will not blot his name out of the
Book of Life, but I will confess his name.'

What need we care what other people may think about us, or whether the
'hollow wraith of dying fame' that comes like a nimbus round some men
may fade wholly or no, so long as we may be sure of acknowledgment and
praise from Him from whom acknowledgment and praise are precious indeed.

I have but one or two more words to add. Remember that Paul had no
hesitation in taking upon himself to declare that the names of these
anonymous saints in Philippi were written in the Book of Life. What
business had he to do that? Had he looked over the pages, and marked the
entries? He had simply the right of estimating their state by their
conduct. He saw their works; he knew that these works were the fruit of
their faith; and he knew that, therefore, their faith had united them to
Jesus Christ. So, Christian men and women, two things: show your faith
by your works, and make it impossible for anybody that looks at you to
doubt what King you serve, and to what city you belong. Again, do not
ask, 'Is my name there?' Ask, 'Have I faith, and does my faith work the
works that belong to the Kingdom of Heaven?'

Remember that names can be blotted out of the book. The metaphor has
often been pressed into the service of a doctrine of unconditional and
irreversible predestination. But rightly looked at, it points in the
opposite direction. Remember Moses's agonised cry, 'Blot me out of Thy
book'; and the Divine answer, 'Him that sinneth against Me, his name
will I blot out of My book.' And remember that it is only to 'him that
overcometh' that the promise is made, 'I will not blot him out.' We are
made partakers of Christ if we 'hold fast the beginning of our
confidence firm unto the end.'

Remember that it depends upon ourselves whether our names are there or
not. John Bunyan describes the armed man who came up to the table, where
the man with the book and the inkhorn was seated, and said: 'Set down
my name.' And you and I may do that. If we cast ourselves on Jesus
Christ and yield our wills to be guided by Him, and give our lives for
His service, then He will write our names in His book. If we trust Him
we shall be citizens of the City of God; shall be filled with the life
of Christ; shall be objects of an individualising love and care; shall
be accepted in that Day; and shall enter in through the gates into the
city. 'They that forsake me shall be written on the earth'; and there
wiped out as are the children's scribbles on the sand when the ocean
come up. They that trust in Jesus Christ shall have their names written
in the Book of Life; graven on the High Priest's breastplate, and
inscribed on His mighty hand and His faithful heart.



REJOICE EVERMORE

          'Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say,
          rejoice!'--PHIL. iv. 4.


It has been well said that this whole epistle may be summed up in two
short sentences: 'I rejoice'; 'Rejoice ye!' The word and the thing crop
up in every chapter, like some hidden brook, ever and anon sparkling out
into the sunshine from beneath the shadows. This continual refrain of
gladness is all the more remarkable if we remember the Apostle's
circumstances. The letter shows him to us as a prisoner, dependent on
Christian charity for a living, having no man like-minded to cheer his
solitude; uncertain as to 'how it shall be with me,' and obliged to
contemplate the possibility of being 'offered,' or poured out as a
libation, 'on the sacrifice and service of your faith.' Yet out of all
the darkness his clear notes ring jubilant; and this sunny epistle
comes from the pen of a prisoner who did not know but that to-morrow he
might be a martyr.

The exhortation of my text, with its urgent reiteration, picks up again
a dropped thread which the Apostle had first introduced in the
commencement of the previous chapter. He had there evidently been
intending to close his letter, for he says: 'Finally, my brethren,
rejoice in the Lord'; but he is drawn away into that precious personal
digression which we could so ill spare, in which he speaks of his
continual aspiration and effort towards things not yet attained. And now
he comes back again, picks up the thread once more, and addresses
himself to his parting counsels. The reiteration in the text becomes the
more impressive if we remember that it is a repetition of a former
injunction. 'Rejoice in the Lord alway'; and then he seems to hear one
of his Philippian readers saying: 'Why! you told us that once before!'
'Yes,' he says, 'and you shall hear it once again; so important is my
commandment that it shall be repeated a third time. So I again say,
"rejoice!"' Christian gladness is an important element in Christian
duty; and the difficulty and necessity of it are indicated by the urgent
repetition of the injunction.

I. So, then, the first thought that suggests itself to me from these
words is this, that close union with Jesus Christ is the foundation of
real gladness.

Pray note that 'the Lord' here, as is usually the case in Paul's
Epistles, means, not the Divine Father, but Jesus Christ. And then
observe, again, that the phrase 'Rejoice in the Lord' has a deeper
meaning than we sometimes attach to it. We are accustomed to speak of
rejoicing in a thing or a person, which, or who, is thereby represented
as being the occasion or the object of our gladness. And though that is
true, in reference to our Lord, it is not the whole sweep and depth of
the Apostle's meaning here. He is employing that phrase, 'in the Lord,'
in the profound and comprehensive sense in which it generally appears in
his letters, and especially in those almost contemporaneous with this
Epistle to the Philippians. I need only refer you, in passing, without
quoting passages, to the continual use of that phrase in the nearly
contemporaneous letter to the Ephesians, in which you will find that 'in
Christ Jesus' is the signature stamped upon all the gifts of God, and
upon all the possible blessings of the Christian life. 'In Him' we have
the inheritance; in Him we obtain redemption through His blood, even the
forgiveness of sins; in Him we are 'blessed with all spiritual
blessings.' And the deepest description of the essential characteristic
of a Christian life is, to Paul, that it is a life in Christ.

It is this close union which the Apostle here indicates as being the
foundation and the source of all that gladness which he desires to see
spreading its light over the Christian life. 'Rejoice in the
Lord'--being in Him be glad.

Now that great thought has two aspects, one deep and mysterious, one
very plain and practical. As to the former, I need not spend much time
upon it. We believe, I suppose, in the superhuman character and nature
of Jesus Christ. We believe in His divinity. We can therefore believe
reasonably in the possibility of a union between Him and us,
transcending all the forms of human association, and being really like
that which the creature holds to its Creator in regard to its physical
being. 'In him we live, and move, and have our being' is the very
foundation truth in regard to the constitution of the universe. 'In Him
we live, and move, and have our being' is the very foundation truth in
regard to the relation of the Christian soul to Jesus Christ. All
earthly unions are but poor adumbrations from afar of that deep,
transcendent, mysterious, but most real union, by which the Christian
soul is in Christ, as the branch is in the vine, the member in the body,
the planet in its atmosphere, and by which Christ is in the Christian
soul as the life sap is in every twig, as the mysterious vital power is
in every member. Thus abiding in Him, in a manner which admits of no
parallel nor of any doubt, we may, and we shall, be glad.

But then, passing from the mysterious, we come to the plain. To be 'in
Christ' which is commended to us here as the basis of all true
blessedness, means that the whole of our nature shall be occupied with,
and fastened upon, Him; thought turning to Him, the tendrils of the
heart clinging and creeping around Him, the will submitting itself in
glad obedience to His beloved and supreme commandments, the aspirations,
and desires feeling out after Him as the sufficient and eternal good,
and all the current of our being setting towards Him in earnestness of
desire, and resting in Him in tranquillity of possession. Thus 'in
Christ' we may all be.

And, says Paul, in the great words of my text, such a union, reciprocal
and close, is the secret of all blessedness. If thus we are wedded to
that Lord, and His life is in us and ours enclosed in Him, then there is
such correspondence between our necessities and our supplies as that
there is no room for aching emptiness; no gnawing of unsatisfied
longings, but the blessedness that comes from having found that which we
seek, and in the finding being stimulated to a still closer, happier,
and not restless search after fuller possession. The man that knows
where to get anything and everything that he needs, and to whom desires
are but the prophets of instantaneous fruition; surely that man has in
his possession the talismanic secret of perpetual gladness. They who
thus dwell in Christ by faith, love, obedience, imitation, aspiration,
and enjoyment, are like men housed in some strong fortress, who can look
out over all the fields alive with enemies, and feel that they are safe.
They who thus dwell in Christ gain command over themselves; and because
they can bridle passions, and subdue hot and impossible desires, and
keep themselves well in hand, have stanched one chief source of unrest
and sadness, and have opened one pure and sparkling fountain of
unfailing gladness. To rule myself because Christ rules me is no small
part of the secret of blessedness. And they who thus dwell in Christ
have the purest joy, the joy of self-forgetfulness. He that is absorbed
in a great cause; he whose pitiful, personal individuality has passed
out of his sight; he who is swallowed up by devotion to another, by
aspiration after 'something afar from the sphere of our sorrow,' has
found the secret of gladness. And the man who thus can say, 'I live: yet
not I, but Christ liveth in me,' this is the man who will ever rejoice.
The world may not call such a temper gladness. It is as unlike the
sputtering, flaring, foul-smelling joys which it prizes--like those
filthy but bright 'Lucigens' that they do night work by in great
factories--it is as unlike the joy of the world as these are to the
calm, pure moonlight which they insult. The one is of heaven, and the
other is the foul product of earth, and smokes to extinction swiftly.

II. So, secondly, notice that this joy is capable of being continuous.

'Rejoice in the Lord _always_,' says Paul. That is a hard nut to crack.
I can fancy a man saying, 'What is the use of giving me such
exhortations as this? My gladness is largely a matter of temperament,
and I cannot rule my moods. My gladness is largely a matter of
circumstances, and I do not determine these. How vain it is to tell me,
when my heart is bleeding, or beating like a sledge-hammer, to be glad!'
Yes! Temperament has a great deal to do with joy; and circumstances have
a great deal to do with it; but is not the mission of the Gospel to make
us masters of temperament, and independent of circumstances? Is not the
possibility of living a life that has no dependence upon externals, and
that may persist permanently through all varieties of mood, the very
gift that Christ Himself has come to bestow upon us--bringing us into
communion with Himself, and so making us lords of our own inward nature
and of externals: so that 'though the fig-tree shall not blossom, and
there be no fruit in the vine,' yet we may 'rejoice in the Lord, and be
glad in the God of our salvation.' If a ship has plenty of water in its
casks or tanks in its hold, it does not matter whether it is sailing
through fresh water or salt. And if you and I have that union with Jesus
Christ of which my text speaks, then we shall be, not wholly, but with
indefinite increase of approximation towards the ideal, independent of
circumstances and masters of our temperaments. And so it is possible, if
not absolutely to reach this fair achievement of an unbroken continuity
of gladness, at least to bring the lucent points so close to one another
as that the intervals of darkness between shall be scarcely visible,
and the whole will seem to form one continuous ring of light.

Brother, if you and I can keep near Jesus Christ always--and I suppose
we can do that in sorrow as in joy--He will take care that our keeping
near Him will not want its reward in that blessed continuity of felt
repose which is very near the sunniness of gladness. For, if we in the
Lord sorrow, we may, then, simultaneously, in the Lord rejoice. The two
things may go together, if in the one mood and the other we are in union
with Him. The bitterness of the bitterest calamity is taken away from it
when it does not separate us from Jesus Christ. And just as the mother
is specially tender with her sick child, and just as we have often found
that the sympathy of friends comes to us, when need and grief are upon
us, in a fashion that would have been incredible beforehand, so it is
surely true that Jesus Christ can, and does, soften His tone, and select
the tokens of His presence with especial tenderness for a wounded heart;
so as that sorrow in the Lord passes into joy in the Lord. And if that
be so, then the pillar which was cloud in the sunshine brightens into
fire as night falls on the desert.

But it is not only that this divine gladness is consistent with the
sorrow that is often necessary for us, but also that the continuity of
such gladness is secured, because in Christ there are open for us
sources of blessedness in what is else a dry and thirsty land. If you
would take this epistle at your leisure, and run over it in order to
note the various occasions of joy which the Apostle expresses for
himself, and commends to his brethren, you would see how beautifully
they reveal to us the power of communion with Jesus Christ, to find
honey in the rock, good in everything, and a reason for thankful
gladness in all events.

I have not time, at this stage of my sermon, to do more than just glance
at these. We find, for instance, that a very large portion of the joy
which he declares fills his own heart, and which he commends to these
Philippians, arises from the recognition of good in others. He speaks to
them of being his 'joy and crown.' He tells them that in his sorrows and
imprisonment, their 'fellowship in the Gospel, from the first day until
now,' had brought a whiff of gladness into the close air of the prison
cell. He begs them to be Christlike in order that they may 'fulfil his
joy'; and he may lose himself in others' blessings, and therein find
gladness. A large portion of his joy came from very common things. A
large portion of the joy that he commends to them he contemplates as
coming to them from small matters. They were to be glad because Timothy
came with a message from the Apostle. He is glad because he hears of
their well-being, and receives a little contribution from them for his
daily necessities. A large portion of his gladness came from the spread
of Christ's kingdom. 'Christ is preached,' says he, with a flash of
triumph, 'and I therein do rejoice; yea, and will rejoice.' And, most
beautiful of all, no small portion of his gladness came from the
prospect of martyrdom. 'If I be offered upon the sacrifice and service
of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all; and do ye joy and
rejoice with me.'

Now, put all these things together and they just come to this, that a
heart in union with Jesus Christ can find streams in the desert, joys
blossoming as the rose, in places that to the un-Christlike eye are
wilderness and solitary, and out of common things it can bring the
purest gladness and draw a tribute and revenue of blessedness even from
the prospect of God-sent sorrows. Dear brethren, if you and I have not
learned the secret of modest and unselfish delights, we shall vainly
seek for joy in the vulgar excitements and coarse titillations of
appetites and desires which the world offers. 'Calm pleasures there
abide' in Christ. The northern lights are weird and bright, but they
belong to midwinter, and they come from electric disturbances, and
portend rough weather afterwards. Sunshine is silent, steadfast, pure.
Better to walk in that light than to be led astray by fantastic and
perishable splendours. 'Rejoice in the Lord always.'

III. Lastly, such gladness is an important part of Christian duty.

As I have said, the urgency of the command indicates both its importance
and its difficulty. It is important that professing Christians should be
glad Christians (with the joy that is drawn from Jesus Christ, of
course, I mean), because they thereby become walking advertisements and
living witnesses for Him. A gloomy, melancholy, professing Christian is
a poor recommendation of his faith. If you want to 'adorn the doctrine
of Christ' you will do it a great deal more by a bright face, that
speaks of a calm heart, calm because filled with Christ, than by many
more ambitious efforts. This gladness is important because, without it,
there will be little good work done, and little progress made. It is
important, surely, for ourselves, for it can be no small matter that we
should be able to have travelling with us all through the desert that
mystical rock which follows with its streams of water, and ever provides
for us the joys that we need. In every aspect, whether as regards men
who take their notions of Christ and of Christianity, a great deal more
from the concrete examples of both in human lives than from books and
sermons, or from the Bible itself--or as regards the work which we have
to do, or as regards our own inward life, it is all-important that we
should have that close union with Jesus Christ which cannot but result
in pure and holy gladness.

But the difficulty, as well as the importance, of the obligation, are
expressed by the stringent repetition of the commandment, 'And again I
say, Rejoice.' When objections arise, when difficulties present
themselves, I repeat the commandment again, in the teeth of them all;
and I know what I mean when I am saying it. Thus, thought Paul, we need
to make a definite effort to keep ourselves in touch with Jesus Christ,
or else gladness, and a great deal besides, will fade away from our
grasp.

And there are two things that you have to do if you would obey the
commandment. The one is the direct effort at fostering and making
continuous your fellowship with Jesus Christ, through your life; and the
other is looking out for the bright bits in your life, and making sure
that you do not sullenly and foolishly, perhaps with vain regrets after
vanished blessings, or perhaps with vain murmurings about unattained
good, obscure to your sight the mercies that you have, and so cheat
yourselves of the occasions for thankfulness and joy. There are people
who, if there be ever such a little bit of a fleecy film of cloud low
down on their horizon, can see nothing of the sparkling blue arch above
them for looking at that, and who behave as if the whole sky was one
roof of doleful grey. Do not you do that! There is always enough to be
thankful for. Lay hold of Christ, and be sure that you open your eyes
to His gifts.

Surely, dear friends, if there be offered to us, as there is, a gladness
which is perfect in the two points in which all other gladness fails, it
is wise for us to take it. The commonplace which all men believe, and
most men neglect, is that nothing short of an infinite Person can fill a
finite soul. And if we look for our joys anywhere but to Jesus Christ,
there will always be some bit of our nature which, like the sulky elder
brother in the parable, will scowl at the music and dancing, and refuse
to come in. All earthly joys are transient as well as partial. Is it not
better that we should have gladness that will last as long as we do,
that we can hold in our dying hands, like a flower clasped in some cold
palm laid in the coffin, that we shall find again when we have crossed
the bar, that will grow and brighten and broaden for evermore? My joy
shall remain . . . full.



HOW TO OBEY AN IMPOSSIBLE INJUNCTION

          'Be careful for nothing; but in everything by
          prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let
          your requests be made known unto God.'--PHIL. iv.
          6.


It is easy for prosperous people, who have nothing to trouble them, to
give good advices to suffering hearts; and these are generally as futile
as they are easy. But who was he who here said to the Church at
Philippi, 'Be careful for nothing?' A prisoner in a Roman prison; and
when Rome fixed its claws it did not usually let go without drawing
blood. He was expecting his trial, which might, so far as he knew, very
probably end in death. Everything in the future was entirely dark and
uncertain. It was this man, with all the pressure of personal sorrows
weighing upon him, who, in the very crisis of his life, turned to his
brethren in Philippi, who had far fewer causes of anxiety than he had,
and cheerfully bade them 'be careful for nothing, but in everything by
prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make their requests known
unto God.' Had not that bird learned to sing when his cage was darkened?
And do you not think that advice of that sort, coming not from some one
perched up on a safe hillock to the strugglers in the field below, but
from a man in the thick of the fight, would be like a trumpet-call to
them who heard it?

Now, here are two things. There is an apparently perfectly impossible
advice, and there is the only course that will make it possible.

I. An apparently impossible advice.

'Be careful for nothing.' I do not need to remind you--for I suppose
that we all know it--that that word 'careful,' in a great many places in
the New Testament, does not mean what, by the slow progress of change in
the significance of words, it has come to mean to-day; but it means what
it _should_ still mean, 'full of care,' and 'care' meant, not prudent
provision, forethought, the occupation of a man's common-sense with his
duty and his work and his circumstances, but it meant the thing which of
all others unfits a man most for such prudent provision, and that is,
the nervous irritation of a gnawing anxiety which, as the word in the
original means, tears the heart apart and makes a man quite incapable of
doing the wise thing, or seeing the wise thing to do, in the
circumstances. We all know that; so that I do not need to dwell upon it.
'Careful' here means neither more nor less than 'anxious.'

But I may just remind you how harm has been done, and good has been lost
and missed, by people reading that modern meaning into the word. It is
the same word which Christ employed in the exhortation 'Take no thought
for to-morrow.' It is a great pity that Christian people sometimes get
it into their heads that Christ prohibited what common-sense demands,
and what everybody practises. 'Taking thought for the morrow' is not
only our duty, but it is one of the distinctions which make us 'much
better than' the fowls of the air, that have no barns in which to store
against a day of need. But when our Lord said, 'Take no thought for the
morrow,' he did not mean 'Do not lay yourselves out to provide for
common necessities and duties,' but 'Do not fling yourselves into a
fever of anxiety, nor be too anxious to anticipate the "fashion of
uncertain evils."'

But even with that explanation, is it not like an unreachable ideal that
Paul puts forward here? 'Be anxious about nothing'--how can a man who
has to face the possibilities that we all have to face, and who knows
himself to be as weak to deal with them as we all are: how can he help
being anxious? There is no more complete waste of breath than those sage
and reverend advices which people give us, not to do the things, nor to
feel the emotions, which our position make absolutely inevitable and
almost involuntary. Here, for instance, is a man surrounded by all
manner of calamity and misfortune; and some well-meaning but foolish
friend comes to him, and, without giving him a single reason for the
advice, says, 'Cheer up! my friend.' Why should he cheer up? What is
there in his circumstances to induce him to fall into any other mood? Or
some unquestionable peril is staring him full in the face, coming
nearer and nearer to him, and some well-meaning, loose-tongued friend,
says to him, 'Do not be afraid!'--but he _ought_ to be afraid. That is
about all that worldly wisdom and morality have to say to us, when we
are in trouble and anxiety. 'Shut your eyes very hard, and make believe
very much, and you will not fear.' An impossible exhortation! Just as
well bid a ship in the Bay of Biscay not to rise and fall upon the wave,
but to keep an even keel. Just as well tell the willows in the river-bed
that they are not to bend when the wind blows, as come to me, and say to
me, 'Be careful about nothing.' Unless you have a great deal more than
that to say, I must be, and I ought to be, anxious, about a great many
things. Instead of anxiety being folly, it will be wisdom; and the folly
will consist in not opening our eyes to facts, and in not feeling
emotions that are appropriate to the facts which force themselves
against our eyeballs. Threadbare maxims, stale, musty old commonplaces
of unavailing consolation and impotent encouragement say to us, 'Do not
be anxious.' We try to stiffen our nerves and muscles in order to bear
the blow; or some of us, more basely still, get into a habit of
feather-headed levity, making no forecasts, nor seeing even what is
plainest before our eyes. But all that is of no use when once the hot
pincers of real trouble, impending or arrived, lay hold of our hearts.
Then of all idle expenditures of breath in the world there is none to
the wrung heart more idle and more painful than the one that says, Be
anxious about nothing.

II. So we turn to the only course that makes the apparent impossibility
possible.

Paul goes on to direct to the mode of feeling and action which will
give exemption from the else inevitable gnawing of anxious forethought.
He introduces his positive counsel with an eloquent 'But,' which implies
that what follows is the sure preservative against the temper which he
deprecates; 'But in everything by prayer and supplication, with
thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.'

There are, then, these alternatives. If you do not like to take the one,
you are sure to have to take the other. There is only one way out of the
wood, and it is this which Paul expands in these last words of my text.
If a man does not pray about everything, he will be worried about most
things. If he does pray about everything, he will not be troubled beyond
what is good for him, about anything. So there are these alternatives;
and we have to make up our minds which of the two we are going to take.
The heart is never empty. If not full of God, it will be full of the
world, and of worldly care. Luther says somewhere that a man's heart is
like a couple of millstones; if you don't put something between them to
grind, they will grind each other. It is because God is not in our
hearts that the two stones rub the surface off one another. So the
victorious antagonist of anxiety is trust, and the only way to turn
gnawing care out of my heart and life is to usher God into it, and to
keep him resolutely in it.

'In everything.' If a thing is great enough to threaten to make me
anxious, it is great enough for me to talk to God about. If He and I are
on a friendly footing, the instinct of friendship will make me speak. If
so, how irrelevant and superficial seem to be discussions whether we
ought to pray about worldly things, or confine our prayers entirely to
spiritual and religious matters. Why! if God and I are on terms of
friendship and intimacy of communication, there will be no question as
to what I am to talk about to Him; I shall not be able to keep silent as
to anything that interests me. And we are not right with God unless we
have come to the point that entire openness of speech marks our
communications with Him, and that, as naturally as men, when they come
home from business, like to tell their wives and children what has
happened to them since they left home in the morning, so naturally we
talk to our Friend about everything that concerns us. 'In _everything_
let your requests be made known unto God.' That is the wise course,
because a multitude of little pimples may be quite as painful and
dangerous as a large ulcer. A cloud of gnats may put as much poison into
a man with their many stings as will a snake with its one bite. And if
we are not to get help from God by telling Him about little things,
there will be very little of our lives that we shall tell Him about at
all. For life is a mountain made up of minute flakes. The years are only
a collection of seconds. Every man's life is an aggregate of trifles.
'In _everything_ make your requests known.'

'By prayer'--that does not mean, as a superficial experience of religion
is apt to suppose it to mean, actual petition that follows. For a great
many of us, the only notion that we have of prayer is asking God to give
us something that we want. But there is a far higher region of communion
than that, in which the soul seeks and finds, and sits and gazes, and
aspiring possesses, and possessing aspires. Where there is no spoken
petition for anything affecting outward life, there may be the prayer of
contemplation such as the burning seraphs before the Throne do ever glow
with. The prayer of silent submission, in which the will bows itself
before God; the prayer of quiet trust, in which we do not so much seek
as cleave; the prayer of still fruition--these, in Paul's conception of
the true order, precede 'supplication.' And if we have such union with
God, by realising His presence, by aspiration after Himself, by trusting
Him and submission to Him, then we have the victorious antagonist of all
our anxieties, and the 'cares that infest the day shall fold their
tents' and 'silently steal away.' For if a man has that union with God
which is effected by such prayer as I have been speaking about, it gives
him a fixed point on which to rest amidst all perturbations. It is like
bringing a light into a chamber when thunder is growling outside, which
prevents the flashing of the lightning from being seen.

Years ago an ingenious inventor tried to build a vessel in such a
fashion as that the saloon for passengers should remain upon one level,
howsoever the hull might be tossed by waves. It was a failure, if I
remember rightly. But if we are thus joined to God, He will do for our
inmost hearts what the inventor tried to do with the chamber within his
ship. The hull may be buffeted, but the inmost chamber where the true
self sits will be kept level and unmoved. Brethren! prayer in the
highest sense, by which I mean the exercise of aspiration, trust,
submission--prayer will fight against and overcome all anxieties.

'By prayer and supplication.' Actual petition for the supply of present
wants is meant by 'supplication.' To ask for that supply will very often
be to get it. To tell God what I think I need goes a long way always to
bringing me the gift that I do need. If I have an anxiety which I am
ashamed to speak to Him, that silence is a sign that I ought not to
have it; and if I have a desire that I do not feel I can put into a
prayer, that feeling is a warning to me not to cherish such a desire.

There are many vague and oppressive anxieties that come and cast a
shadow over our hearts, that if we could once define, and put into plain
words, we should find that we vaguely fancied them a great deal larger
than they were, and that the shadow they flung was immensely longer than
the thing that flung it. Put your anxieties into definite speech. It
will reduce their proportions to your own apprehension very often.
Speaking them, even to a man who may be able to do little to help, eases
them wonderfully. Put them into definite speech to God; and there are
very few of them that will survive.

'By prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.' That thanksgiving is
always in place. If one only considers what he has from God, and
realises that whatever he has he has received from the hands of divine
love, thanksgiving is appropriate in any circumstances. Do you remember
when Paul was in gaol at the very city to which this letter went, with
his back bloody with the rod, and his feet fast in the stocks, how then
he and Silas 'prayed and sang praises to God.' Therefore the obedient
earthquake came and set them loose. Perhaps it was some reminiscence of
that night which moved him to say to the Church that knew the story--of
which perhaps the gaoler was still a member--'By prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving make your requests known unto God.'

One aching nerve can monopolise our attention and make us unconscious of
the health of all the rest of the body. So, a single sorrow or loss
obscures many mercies. We are like men who live in a narrow alley in
some city, with great buildings on either side, towering high above
their heads, and only a strip of sky visible. If we see up in that strip
a cloud, we complain and behave as if the whole heavens, right away
round the three hundred and sixty degrees of the horizon, were black
with tempest. But we see only a little strip, and there is a great deal
of blue in the sky; however, there may be a cloud in the patch that we
see above our heads, from the alley where we live. Everything, rightly
understood, that God sends to men is a cause of thanksgiving; therefore,
'in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your
requests be made known unto God.'

'Casting all your _anxieties_ upon him,' says Peter, 'for He'--not _is
anxious_; that dark cloud does not rise much above the earth--but, 'He
careth for you.' And that loving guardianship and tender care is the one
shield, armed with which we can smile at the poisoned darts of anxiety
which would else fester in our hearts and, perhaps, kill. 'Be careful
for nothing'--an impossibility unless 'in everything' we make 'our
requests known unto God.'



THE WARRIOR PEACE

          'The peace of God, which passeth all
          understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds
          through Christ Jesus.'--PHIL. iv. 7.


The great Mosque of Constantinople was once a Christian church,
dedicated to the Holy Wisdom. Over its western portal may still be read,
graven on a brazen plate, the words, 'Come unto Me, all ye that labour
and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.' For four hundred years
noisy crowds have fought, and sorrowed, and fretted, beneath the dim
inscription in an unknown tongue; and no eye has looked at it, nor any
heart responded. It is but too sad a symbol of the reception which
Christ's offers meet amongst men, and--blessed be His name!--its
prominence there, though unread and unbelieved, is a symbol of the
patient forbearance with which rejected blessings are once and again
pressed upon us, and He stretches out His hand though no man regards,
and calls though none do hear. My text is Christ's offer of peace. The
world offers excitement, Christ promises repose.

I. Mark, then, first, this peace of God.

What is it? What are its elements? Whence does it come? It is of God, as
being its Source, or Origin, or Author, or Giver, but it belongs to Him
in a yet deeper sense, for Himself is Peace. And in some humble but yet
real fashion our restless and anxious hearts may partake in the divine
tranquillity, and with a calm repose, kindred with that rest from which
it is derived, may enter into His rest.

If that be too high a flight, at all events the peace that may be ours
was Christ's, in the perfect and unbroken tranquillity of His perfect
Manhood. What, then, are its elements? The peace of God must, first of
all, be peace with God. Conscious friendship with Him is indispensable
to all true tranquillity. Where that is absent there may be the ignoring
of the disturbed relationship; but there will be no peace of heart. The
indispensable requisite is 'a conscience like a sea at rest.' Unless we
have made sure work of our relationship with God, and know that He and
we are friends, there is no real repose possible for us. In the whirl of
excitement we may forget, and for a time turn away from, the realities
of our relation to Him, and so get such gladness as is possible to a
life not rooted in conscious friendship with Him. But such lives will be
like some of those sunny islands in the Eastern Pacific, extinct
volcanoes, where nature smiles and all things are prodigal and life is
easy and luxuriant; but some day the clouds gather, and the earth
shakes, and fire pours forth, and the sea boils, and every living thing
dies, and darkness and desolation come. You are living, brother, upon a
volcano's side, unless the roots of your being are fixed in a God who is
your friend.

Again, the peace of God is peace within ourselves. The unrest of human
life comes largely from our being torn asunder by contending impulses.
Conscience pulls this way, passion that. Desire says, 'Do this'; reason,
judgment, prudence say, 'It is at your peril if you do!' One desire
fights against another, and so the man is rent asunder. There must be
the harmonising of all the Being if there is to be real rest of spirit.
No longer must it be like the chaos ere the creative word was spoken,
where, in gloom, contending elements strove.

Again, men have not peace, because in most of them everything is topmost
that ought to be undermost, and everything undermost that ought to be
uppermost. 'Beggars are on horseback' (and we know where they ride),
'and princes walking.' The more regal part of the man's nature is
suppressed, and trodden under foot; and the servile parts, which ought
to be under firm restraint, and guided by a wise hand, are too often
supreme, and wild work comes of that. When you put the captain and the
officers, and everybody on board that knows anything about navigation,
into irons, and fasten down the hatches on them, and let the crew and
the cabin boys take the helm and direct the ship, it is not likely that
the voyage will end anywhere but on the rocks. Multitudes are living
lives of unrestfulness, simply because they have set the lowest parts of
their nature upon the throne, and subordinated the highest to these.

Our unrest comes from yet another source. We have not peace, because we
have not found and grasped the true objects for any of our faculties.
God is the only possession that brings quiet. The heart hungers until it
feeds upon Him. The mind is satisfied with no truth until behind truth
it finds a Person who is true. The will is enslaved and wretched until
in God it recognises legitimate and absolute authority, which it is
blessing to obey. Love puts out its yearnings, like the filaments that
gossamer spiders send out into the air, seeking in vain for something to
fasten upon, until it touches God, and clings there. There is no rest
for a man until he rests in God. The reason why this world is so full of
excitement is because it is so empty of peace, and the reason why it is
so empty of peace is because it is so void of God. The peace of God
brings peace with Him, and peace within. It unites our hearts to fear
His name, and draws all the else turbulent and confusedly flowing
impulses of the great deep of the spirit after itself, in a tidal wave,
as the moon draws the waters of the gathered ocean. The peace of God is
peace with Him, and peace within.

I need not, I suppose, do more than say one word about that descriptive
clause in my text, It 'passeth understanding.' The understanding is not
the faculty by which men lay hold of the peace of God any more than you
can see a picture with your ears or hear music with your eyes. To
everything its own organ; you cannot weigh truth in a tradesman's scales
or measure thought with a yard-stick. Love is not the instrument for
apprehending Euclid, nor the brain the instrument for grasping these
divine and spiritual gifts. The peace of God transcends the
understanding, as well as belongs to another order of things than that
about which the understanding is concerned. You must experience it to
know it; you must have it in order that you may feel its sweetness. It
eludes the grasp of the wisest, though it yields itself to the patient
and loving heart.

II. So notice, in the next place, what the peace of God does.

It 'shall keep your hearts and minds.' The Apostle here blends together,
in a very remarkable manner, the conceptions of peace and of war, for he
employs a purely military word to express the office of this Divine
peace. That word, 'shall keep,' is the same as is translated in another
of his letters _kept with a garrison_--and, though, perhaps, it might be
going too far to insist that the military idea is prominent in his mind,
it will certainly not be unsafe to recognise its presence.

So, then, this Divine peace takes upon itself warlike functions, and
garrisons the heart and mind. What does he mean by 'the heart and mind'?
Not, as the English reader might suppose, two different faculties, the
emotional and the intellectual--which is what we usually roughly mean by
our distinction between heart and mind--but, as is always the case in
the Bible, the 'heart' means the whole inner man, whether considered as
thinking, willing, purposing, or doing any other inward act; and the
word rendered 'mind' does not mean another part of human nature, but
the whole products of the operations of the heart. The Revised Version
renders it by 'thoughts,' and that is correct if it be given a wide
enough application, so as to include emotions, affections, purposes, as
well as 'thoughts' in the narrower sense. The whole inner man, in all
the extent of its manifold operations, that indwelling peace of God will
garrison and guard.

So note, however profound and real that Divine peace is, it is to be
enjoyed in the midst of warfare. Quiet is not quiescence. God's peace is
not torpor. The man that has it has still to wage continual conflict,
and day by day to brace himself anew for the fight. The highest energy
of action is the result of the deepest calm of heart; just as the motion
of this solid, and, as we feel it to be, immovable world, is far more
rapid through the abysses of space, and on its own axis, than any of the
motions of the things on its surface. So the quiet heart, 'which moveth
altogether if it move at all,' rests whilst it moves, and moves the more
swiftly because of its unbroken repose. That peace of God, which is
peace militant, is unbroken amidst all conflicts. The wise old Greeks
chose for the protectress of Athens the goddess of Wisdom, and whilst
they consecrated to her the olive branch, which is the symbol of peace,
they set her image on the Parthenon, helmed and spear-bearing, to defend
the peace, which she brought to earth. So this heavenly Virgin, whom the
Apostle personifies here, is the 'winged sentry, all skilful in the
wars,' who enters into our hearts and fights for us to keep us in
unbroken peace.

It is possible day by day to go out to toil and care and anxiety and
change and suffering and conflict, and yet to bear within our hearts
the unalterable rest of God. Deep in the bosom of the ocean, beneath the
region where winds howl and billows break, there is calm, but the calm
is not stagnation. Each drop from these fathomless abysses may be raised
to the surface by the power of the sunbeams, expanded there by their
heat, and sent on some beneficent message across the world. So, deep in
our hearts, beneath the storm, beneath the raving winds and the curling
waves, there may be a central repose, as unlike stagnation as it is
unlike tumult; and the peace of God may, as a warrior, keep our hearts
and minds in Christ Jesus.

What is the plain English of that metaphor? Just this, that a man who
has that peace as his conscious possession is lifted above the
temptations that otherwise would drag him away. The full cup, filled
with precious wine, has no room in it for the poison that otherwise
might be poured in. As Jesus Christ has taught us, there is such a thing
as cleansing a heart in some measure, and yet because it is 'empty,'
though it is 'swept and garnished,' the demons come back again. The best
way to be made strong to resist temptation, is to be lifted above
feeling it to be a temptation, by reason of the sweetness of the peace
possessed. Oh! if our hearts were filled, as they might be filled, with
that divine repose, do you think that the vulgar, coarse-tasting baits
which make our mouths water now would have any power over us? Will a man
who bears in his hands jewels of priceless value, and knows them to be
such, find much temptation when some imitation stone, made of coloured
glass and a tinfoil backing, is presented to him? Will the world draw us
away if we are rooted and grounded in the peace of God? Geologists tell
us that climates are changed and creatures are killed by the slow
variation of level in the earth. If you and I can only heave our lives
up high enough, the foul things that live down below will find the air
too pure and keen for them, and will die and disappear; and all the
vermin that stung and nestled down in the flats will be gone when we get
up to the heights. The peace of God will keep our hearts and thoughts.

III. Now, lastly, notice how we get the peace of God.

My text is an exuberant promise, but it is knit on to something before,
by that 'and' at the beginning of the verse. It is a promise, as all
God's promises are, on conditions. And here are the conditions. 'Be
careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication, with
thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.' That defines
the conditions in part; and the last words of the text itself complete
the definition. 'In Christ Jesus' describes, not so much where we are to
be kept, as a condition under which we shall be kept. How, then, can I
get this peace into my turbulent, changeful life?

I answer, first, trust is peace. It is always so; even when it is
misplaced we are at rest. The condition of repose for the human heart is
that we shall be 'in Christ,' who has said, 'In the world ye shall have
tribulation, but in Me ye shall have peace.' And how may I be 'in Him'?
Simply by trusting myself to Him. That brings peace with God.

The sinless Son of God has died on the Cross, a sacrifice for the sins
of the whole world, for yours and for mine. Let us trust to that, and we
shall have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. And 'in Him'
we have, by trust, inward peace, for He, through our faith, controls
our whole natures, and Faith leads the lion in a silken leash, like
Spenser's Una. Trust in Christ brings peace amid outward sorrows and
conflicts. When the pilot comes on board the captain does not leave the
bridge, but stands by the pilot's side. His responsibility is past, but
his duties are not over. And when Christ comes into my heart, my effort,
my judgment, are not made unnecessary, or put on one side. Let Him take
the command, and stand beside Him, and carry out His orders, and you
will find rest to your souls.

Again, submission is peace. What makes our troubles is not outward
circumstances, howsoever afflictive they may be, but the resistance of
our spirits to the circumstances. And where a man's will bends and says,
'Not mine but Thine be done,' there is calm. Submission is like the
lotion that is applied to mosquito bites--it takes away the irritation,
though the puncture be left. Submission is peace, both as resignation
and as obedience.

Communion is peace. You will get no quiet until you live with God. Until
He is at your side you will always be moved.

So, dear friend, fix this in your minds: a life without Christ is a life
without peace. Without Him you may have excitement, pleasure, gratified
passions, success, accomplished hopes, but peace never! You never have
had it, have you? If you live without Him, you may forget that you have
not Him, and you can plunge into the world, and so lose the
consciousness of the aching void, but it is there all the same. You
never will have peace until you go to Him. There is only one way to get
it. The Christless heart is like the troubled sea that cannot rest.
There is no peace for it. But in Him you can get it for the asking.
'The chastisement of our peace was laid upon Him.' For our sakes He died
on the Cross, so making peace. Trust Him as your only hope, Saviour and
friend, and the God of peace will 'fill you with all joy and peace in
believing.' Then bow your wills to Him in acceptance of His providence,
and in obedience to His commands, and so, 'your peace shall be as a
river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea.' Then keep your
hearts in union and communion with Him, and so His presence will keep
you in perfect peace whilst conflicts last, and, with Him at your side,
you will pass through the valley of the shadow of death undisturbed, and
come to the true Salem, the city of peace, where they beat their swords
into ploughshares, and learn and fear war no more.



THINK ON THESE THINGS

          ' . . . Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever
          things are honest, whatsoever things are just,
          whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are
          lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if
          there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,
          think on these things.'--PHIL. iv. 8.


I am half afraid that some of you may think, as I have at times thought,
that I am too old to preach to the young. You would probably listen with
more attention to one less remote from you in years, and may be disposed
to discount my advices as quite natural for an old man to give, and
quite unnatural for a young man to take. But, dear friends, the message
which I have to bring to you is meant for all ages, and for all sorts of
people. And, if I may venture a personal word, I proved it, when I stood
where you stand, and it is fresher and mightier to me to-day than it
ever was.

You are in the plastic period of your lives, with the world before you,
and the mightier world within to mould as you will; and you can be
almost anything you like, I do not mean in regard to externals, or
intellectual capacities, for these are only partially in our control,
but in regard to the far more important and real things--viz. elevation
and purity of heart and mind. You are in the period of life to which
fair dreams of the future are natural. It is, as the prophet tells us,
for 'the young man' to 'see visions,' and to ennoble his life thereafter
by turning them into realities. Generous and noble ideas ought to belong
to youth. But you are also in the period when there is a keen joy in
mere living, and when some desires, which get weaker as years go on, are
very strong, and may mar youthful purity. So, taking all these into
account, I have thought that I could not do better than press home upon
you the counsels of this magnificent text, however inadequately my time
may permit of my dealing with them; for there are dozens of sermons in
it, if one could expand it worthily.

But my purpose is distinctly practical, and so I wish just to cast what
I have to say to you into the answer to three questions, the three
questions that may be asked about everything. What? Why? How?

I. _What_, then, is the counsel here?

'Think on these things.' To begin with, that advice implies that we can,
and, therefore, that we should, exercise a very rigid control over that
part of our lives which a great many of us never think of controlling at
all. There are hosts of people whose thoughts are just hooked on to one
another by the slightest links of accidental connection, and who
scarcely ever have put a strong hand upon them, or coerced them into
order, or decided what they are going to let come into their minds, and
what to keep out. Circumstances, the necessities of our daily
occupations, the duties that we owe to one another, all these make
certain streams of thought very necessary, and to some of us very
absorbing. And for the rest--well! 'He that hath no rule over his own
spirit is like a city broken down, without walls'; anybody can go in,
and anybody can come out. I am sure that amongst young men and women
there are multitudes who have never realised how responsible they are
for the flow of the waves of that great river that is always coming from
the depths of their being, and have never asked whether the current is
bringing down sand or gold. Exercise control, as becomes you, over the
run and drift of your thoughts. I said that many of us had minds like
cities broken down. Put a guard at the gate, as they do in some
Continental countries, and let in no vagrant that cannot show his
passport, and a clear bill of health. Now, that is a lesson that some of
you very much want.

But, further, notice that company of fair guests that you may welcome
into the hospitalities of your heart and mind. 'Think on these
things'--and what are they? It would be absurd of me to try to exhaust
the great catalogue which the Apostle gives here, but let me say a word
or two about it.

'Whatsoever things are true . . . think on these things.' Let your minds
be exercised, breathed, braced, lifted, filled by bringing them into
contact with truth, especially with the highest of all truths, the
truths affecting God and your relations to Him. Why should you, like so
many of us, be living amidst the small things of daily life, the trifles
that are here, and never coming into vital contact with the greatest
things of all, the truths about God and Christ, and what you have to do
with them, and what they have to do with you? 'Whatsoever things are
true . . . think on these things.'

'Whatsoever things are honest,' or, as the word more properly and nobly
means, 'Whatsoever things are _reverent_, or _venerable_'--let grave,
serious, solemn thought be familiar to your minds, not frivolities, not
mean things. There is an old story in Roman history about the barbarians
breaking into the Capitol, and their fury being awed into silence, and
struck into immobility, as they saw, round and round in the hall, the
august Senators, each in his seat. Let your minds be like that, with
reverent thoughts clustering on every side; and when wild passions, and
animal desires, and low, mean contemplations dare to cross the
threshold, they will be awed into silence and stillness. 'Whatsoever
things are august . . . think on these things.'

'Whatsoever things are just'--let the great, solemn thought of duty,
obligation, what I ought to be and do, be very familiar to your
consideration and meditation. 'Whatsoever things are just . . . think on
these things.'

'Whatsoever things are pure'--let white-robed angels haunt the place.
Let there be in you a shuddering recoil from all the opposite; and
entertain angels _not_ unawares. 'Whatsoever things are pure . . . think
on these things.'

Now, these characteristics of thoughts which I have already touched upon
all belong to a lofty region, but the Apostle is not contented with
speaking austere things. He goes now into a region tinged with emotion,
and he says, 'whatsoever things are lovely'; for goodness is beautiful,
and, in effect, is the only beautiful. 'Whatsoever things are lovely . . .
think on these things.' And 'whatsoever things are of good report'--all
the things that men speak well of, and speak good in the very naming of,
let thoughts of them be in your minds.

And then he gathers all up into two words. 'If there be any
virtue'--which covers the ground of the first four, that he has already
spoken about--viz. true, venerable, just, pure; and 'if there be any
praise'--which resumes and sums up the two last: 'lovely and of good
report,' 'think on these things.'

Now, if my purpose allowed it, one would like to point out here how the
Apostle accepts the non-Christian notions of the people in whose tongue
he was speaking; and here, for the only time in his letters, uses the
great Pagan word 'virtue,' which was a spell amongst the Greeks, and
says, 'I accept the world's notion of what is virtuous and praiseworthy,
and I bid you take it to your hearts.'

Dear brethren, Christianity covers all the ground that the noblest
morality has ever attempted to mark out and possess, and it covers a
great deal more. 'If there be any virtue, as you Greeks are fond of
talking about, and if there be any praise, if there is anything in men
which commends noble actions, think on these things.'

Now, you will not obey this commandment unless you obey also the
negative side of it. That is to say, you will not think on these fair
forms, and bring them into your hearts, unless you turn away, by
resolute effort, from their opposites. There are some, and I am afraid
that in a congregation as large as this there must be some
representatives of the class, who seem to turn this apostolic precept
right round about, and whatsoever things are illusory and vain,
whatsoever things are mean, and frivolous, and contemptible, whatsoever
things are unjust, and whatsoever things are impure, and whatsoever
things are ugly, and whatsoever things are branded with a stigma by all
men they think on _these_ things. Like the flies that are attracted to a
piece of putrid meat, there are young men who are drawn by all the
lustful, the lewd, the impure thoughts; and there are young women who
are too idle and uncultivated to have any pleasure in anything higher
than gossip and trivial fiction. 'Whatsoever things are noble and
lovely, think on these things,' and get rid of all the others.

There are plenty of occasions round about you to force the opposite upon
your notice; and, unless you shut your door fast, and double-lock it,
they will be sure to come in:--Popular literature, the scrappy
trivialities that are put into some periodicals, what they call
'realistic fiction'; modern Art, which has come to be largely the
servant of sense; the Stage, which has come--and more is the pity! for
there are enormous possibilities of good in it--to be largely a minister
of corruption, or if not of corruption at least of frivolity--all these
things are appealing to you. And some of you young men, away from the
restraints of home, and in a city, where you think nobody could see you
sowing your wild oats, have got entangled with them. I beseech you, cast
out all this filth, and all this meanness and pettiness from your
habitual thinkings, and let the august and the lovely and the pure and
the true come in instead. You have the cup in your hand, you can either
press into it clusters of ripe grapes, and make mellow wine, or you can
squeeze into it wormwood and gall and hemlock and poison-berries; and,
as you brew, you have to drink. You have the canvas, and you are to
cover it with the figures that you like best. You can either do as Fra
Angelico did, who painted the white walls of every cell in his quiet
convent with Madonnas and angels and risen Christs, or you can do like
some of those low-toned Dutch painters, who never can get above a brass
pan and a carrot, and ugly boors and women, and fill the canvas with
vulgarities and deformities. Choose which you will have to keep you
company.

II. Now, let me ask you to think for a moment _why_ this counsel is
pressed upon you.

Let me put the reasons very briefly. They are, first, because thought
moulds action. 'As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.' One looks
round the world, and all these solid-seeming realities of institutions,
buildings, governments, inventions and machines, steamships and electric
telegrams, laws and governments, palaces and fortresses, they are all
but embodied thoughts. There was a thought at the back of each of them
which took shape. So, in another sense than the one in which the saying
was originally meant, but yet an august and solemn sense, 'the word is
made flesh,' and our thoughts became visible, and stand round us, a
ghastly company. Sooner or later what has been the drift and trend of a
man's life comes out, flashes out sometimes, and dribbles out at other
times, into visibility in his actions; and, just as the thunder follows
on the swift passage of the lightning, so my acts are neither more nor
less than the reverberation and after-clap of my thoughts.

So if you are entertaining in your hearts and minds this august company
of which my text speaks, your lives will be fair and beautiful. For what
does the Apostle immediately go on to add to our text? 'These things
do'--as you certainly will if you think about them, and as you certainly
will not unless you do.

Again, thought and work make character. We come into the world with
certain dispositions and bias. But that is not character, it is only the
raw material of character. It is all plastic, like the lava when it
comes out of the volcano. But it hardens, and whatever else my thought
may do, and whatever effects may follow upon any of my actions, the
recoil of them on myself is the most important effect to me. And there
is not a thought that comes into, and is entertained by a man, or rolled
as a sweet morsel under his tongue, but contributes its own little but
appreciable something to the making of the man's character. I wonder if
there is anybody in this chapel now who has been so long accustomed to
entertain these angels of whom my text speaks as that to entertain their
opposites would be an impossibility. I hope there is. I wonder if there
is anybody in this chapel to-night who has been so long accustomed to
live amidst the thoughts that are small and trivial and frivolous, if
not amongst those that are impure and abominable, as that to entertain
their opposites seems almost an impossibility. I am afraid there are
some. I remember hearing about a Maori woman who had come to live in one
of the cities in New Zealand, in a respectable station, and after a year
or two of it she left husband and children, and civilisation, and
hurried back to her tribe, flung off the European garb, and donned the
blanket, and was happy crouching over the embers on the clay hearth.
Some of you have become so accustomed to the low, the wicked, the
lustful, the impure, the frivolous, the contemptible, that you cannot,
or, at any rate, have lost all disposition to rise to the lofty, the
pure, and the true.

Once more; as thought makes deeds, and thought and deeds make character,
so character makes destiny, here and hereafter. If you have these
blessed thoughts in your hearts and minds, as your continual companions
and your habitual guests, then, my friend, you will have a light within
that will burn all independent of externals; and whether the world
smiles or frowns on you, you will have the true wealth in yourselves; 'a
better and enduring substance.' You will have peace, you will be lords
of the world, and having nothing yet may have all. No harm can come to
the man who has laid up in his youth, as the best treasure of old age,
this possession of these thoughts enjoined in my text.

And character makes destiny hereafter. What is a man whose whole life
has been one long thought about money-making, or about other objects of
earthly ambition, or about the lusts of the flesh, and the lusts of the
eye, and the pride of life, to do in heaven? What would one of those
fishes in the sunless caverns of America, which, by long living in the
dark, have lost their eyes, do, if it were brought out into the
sunshine? A man will go to his own place, the place for which he is
fitted, the place for which he has fitted himself by his daily life, and
especially by the trend and the direction of his thoughts.

So do not be led away by talk about 'seeing both sides,' about 'seeing
life,' about 'knowing what is going on.' 'I would have you simple
concerning evil, and wise concerning good.' Do not be led away by talk
about having your fling, and sowing your wild oats. You may make an
indelible stain on your conscience, which even forgiveness will not wipe
out; and you may sow your wild oats, but what will the harvest be?
'Whatsoever a man soweth that'--_that_--'shall he also reap.' Would you
like all your low thoughts, all your foul thoughts, to return and sit
down beside you, and say, 'We have come to keep you company for ever'?
'If there be any virtue . . . think on these things.'

III. Now, lastly, _how_ is this precept best obeyed?

I have been speaking to some extent about that, and saying that there
must be real, honest, continuous effort to keep out the opposite, as
well as to bring in the 'things that are lovely and of good report.' But
there is one more word that I must say in answer to the question how
this precept can be observed, and it is just this. All these things,
true, venerable, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, are not things
only; they are embodied in a Person. For whatever things are fair meet
in Jesus Christ, and He, in His living self, is the sum of all virtue
and of all praise. So that if we link ourselves to Him by faith and
love, and take Him into our hearts and minds, and abide in Him, we have
them all gathered together into that One. Thinking on these things is
not merely a meditating upon abstractions, but it is clutching and
living in and with and by the living, loving Lord and Saviour of us all.
If Christ is in my thoughts, all good things are there.

If you trust Him, and make him your Companion, He will help you, He will
give you His own life, and in it will give you tastes and desires which
will make all these fair thoughts congenial to you, and will deliver you
from the else hopeless bondage of subjection to their very opposites.

Brethren, our souls cleave to the dust, and all our efforts will be
foiled, partially or entirely, to obey this precept, unless we remember
that it was spoken to people who had previously obeyed a previous
commandment, and had taken Christ for their Saviour. We gravitate
earthwards, alas! after all our efforts, but if we will put ourselves in
His hands, then He will be as a Magnet drawing us upwards, or rather He
will give us wings of love and contemplation by which we can soar above
that dim spot that men call Earth, and walk in the heavenly places. The
way by which this commandment can be obeyed is by obeying the other
precept of the same Apostle, 'Set your minds on things which are above,
where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.'

I beseech you, take Christ and enthrone Him in the very sanctuary of
your minds. Then you will have all these venerable, pure, blessed
thoughts as the very atmosphere in which you move. 'Think on these
things . . . these things do! . . . and the God of Peace shall be with
you.'



HOW TO SAY 'THANK YOU'

          'But I rejoice in the Lord greatly, that now at
          length ye have revived your thought for me;
          wherein ye did indeed take thought, but ye lacked
          opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want:
          for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am,
          therein to be content. I know how to be abased,
          and I know also how to abound: in everything and
          in all things have I learned the secret both to be
          filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be
          in want. I can do all things in Him that
          strengtheneth me. Howbeit ye did well, that ye had
          fellowship with my affliction.'--PHIL. iv. 10-14
          (R.V.).


It is very difficult to give money without hurting the recipient. It is
as difficult to receive it without embarrassment and sense of
inferiority. Paul here shows us how he could handle a delicate subject
with a feminine fineness of instinct and a noble self-respect joined
with warmest gratitude. He carries the weight of obligation, is profuse
in his thanks, and yet never crosses the thin line which separates the
expression of gratitude from self-abasing exaggeration, nor that other
which distinguishes self-respect in the receiver of benefits from proud
unwillingness to be obliged to anybody. Few words are more difficult to
say rightly than 'Thank you.' Some people speak them reluctantly and
some too fluently: some givers are too exacting in the acknowledgments
they expect, and do not so much give as barter so much help for so much
recognition of superiority.

The Philippians had sent to Paul some money help by Epaphroditus as we
heard before in Chapter II., and this gift he now acknowledges in a
paragraph full of autobiographical interest which may be taken as a very
model of the money relations between teachers and taught in the church.
It is besides an exquisite illustration of the fineness and delicacy of
Paul's nature, and it includes large spiritual lessons.

The stream of the Apostle's thoughts takes three turns here. There is
first the exuberant and delicate expression of his thanks, then, as
fearing that they might misunderstand his joy in their affection as if
it were only selfish gladness that his wants had been met, he gives
utterance to his triumphant and yet humble consciousness of his
Christ-given independence in, and of, all circumstances, and then
feeling in a moment that such words, if they stood alone, might sound
ungrateful, he again returns to thanks, but not for their gift so much
as for the sympathy expressed in it. We may follow these movements of
feeling now.

I. The exuberant expression of thanks, 'I rejoice in the Lord greatly.'

There is an instance of his following his own twice-given precept,
'Rejoice in the Lord always.' The Philippians' care of him was the
source of the joy, and yet it was joy in the Lord. So we learn the
perfect consistency of that joy in Christ with the full enjoyment of all
other sources of joy, and especially of the joy that arises from
Christian love and friendship. Union with Christ heightens and purifies
all earthly relations. Nobody should be so tender and so sweet in these
as a Christian. His faith should be like the sunshine blazing out over
the meadows making them greener. It should, and does in the measure of
its power, destroy selfishness and guard us against the evils which sap
love and the anxieties which torment it, against the dread that it may
end, and our hopeless desolation when it does. There is a false ascetic
idea of Christian devotion as if it were a regard to Christ which made
our hearts cold to others, which is clean against Paul's experience
here. His joy went out in fuller stream towards the Philippians because
it was 'joy in the Lord.'

We may just note in passing the tender metaphor by which the
Philippians' renewed thought of him is likened to a tree's putting forth
its buds in a gracious springtide, and may link with it the pretty fancy
of an old commentator whom some people call prosaic and puritanical
(Bengel), that the stormy winter had hindered communication, and that
Epaphroditus and the gifts came with the opening spring.

Paul's inborn delicacy and quick considerateness comes beautifully
forward in his addition, to remove any suspicion of his thinking that
his friends in Philippi had been negligent or cold. Therefore he adds
that he knew that they had always had the will. What had hindered them
we do not know. Perhaps they had no one to send. Perhaps they had not
heard that such help would be welcome, but whatever frost had kept the
tree from budding, he knew that the sap was in it all the same.

We may note that trait of true friendship, confidence in a love that did
not express itself. Many of us are too exacting in always wanting
manifestations of our friend's affection. What cries out for these is
not love so much as self-importance which has not had the attention
which it thinks its due. How often there have been breaches of intimacy
which have no better reason than 'He didn't come to see me often
enough'; 'He hasn't written to me for ever so long'; 'He does not pay me
the attention I expect.' It is a poor love which is always needing to be
assured of another's. It is better to err in believing that there is a
store of goodwill in our friends' hearts to us which only needs occasion
to be unfolded. One often hears people say that they were quite
surprised at the proofs of affection which came to them when they were
in trouble. They would have been happier and more nearly right if they
had believed in them when there was no need to show them.

II. Consciousness of Christ-given independence and of 'content' is
scarcely Paul's whole idea here, though that, no doubt, is included. We
have no word which exactly expresses the meaning. 'Self-sufficient' is a
translation, but then it has acquired a bad meaning as connoting a false
estimate of one's own worth and wisdom. What Paul means is that whatever
be his condition he has in himself enough to meet it. He does not depend
on circumstances, and he does not depend on other people for strength to
face them. Many words are not needed to insist that only the man of whom
these things are true is worth calling a man at all. It is a miserable
thing to be hanging on externals and so to be always exposed to the
possibility of having to say, 'They have taken away my Gods.' It is as
wretched to be hanging on people. 'The good man shall be satisfied for
himself.' The fortress that has a deep well in the yard and plenty of
provisions within, is the only one that can hold out.

This independence teaches the true use of all changing circumstances.
The consequence of 'learning' therewith to be content is further stated
by the Apostle in terms which perhaps bear some reference to the
mysteries of Greek religion, since the word rendered 'I have learned the
secret' means I have been initiated. He can bear either of the two
extremes of human experience, and can keep a calm and untroubled mind
whichever of them he has to front. He has the same equable spirit when
abased and when abounding. He is like a compensation pendulum which
corrects expansions and contractions and keeps time anywhere. I remember
hearing of a captain in an Arctic expedition who had been recalled from
the Tropics and sent straight away to the North Pole. Sometimes God
gives His children a similar experience.

It is possible for us not only to bear with equal minds both extremes,
but to get the good out of both. It is a hard lesson and takes much
conning, to learn to bear sorrow or suffering or want. They have great
lessons to teach us all, and a character that has not been schooled by
one of these dwellers in the dark is imperfect as celery is not in
season till frost has touched it. But it is not less difficult to learn
how to bear prosperity and abundance, though we think it a pleasanter
lesson. To carry a full cup without spilling is proverbially difficult,
and one sees instances enough of men who were far better men when they
were poor than they have ever been since they were rich, to give a
terrible significance to the assertion that it is still more difficult
to live a Christian life in prosperity than in sorrow. But while both
threaten, both may minister to our growth. Sorrow will drive, and joy
will draw, us nearer to God. If we are not tempted by abundance to
plunge our desires into it, nor tempted by sorrow to think ourselves
hopelessly harmed by it, both will knit us more closely to our true and
changeless good. The centrifugal and centripetal forces both keep the
earth in its orbit.

It is only when we are independent of circumstances that we are able to
get the full good of them. When there is a strong hand at the helm, the
wind, though it be almost blowing directly against us, helps us forward,
but otherwise the ship drifts and washes about in the trough. We all
need the exhortation to be their master, for we can do without them and
they serve us.

Paul here lets us catch a glimpse of the inmost secret of his power
without which all exhortations to independence are but waste words. He
is conscious of a living power flowing through him and making him fit
for anything, and he is not afraid that any one who studies him will
accuse him of exaggeration even when he makes the tremendous claim 'I
can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me.' That great word is even
more emphatic in the original, not only because, as the Revised Version
shows, it literally is _in_ and not _through_, and so suggests again his
familiar thought of a vital union with Jesus, but also because he uses a
compound word which literally means 'strengthening within,' so then the
power communicated is breathed into the man, and in the most literal
sense he is 'strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.' This
inward impartation of strength is the true and only condition of that
self-sufficingness which Paul has just been claiming. Stoicism breaks
down because it tries to make men apart from God sufficient for
themselves, which no man is. To stand alone without Him is to be weak.
Circumstances will always be too strong for me, and sins will be too
strong. A Godless life has a weakness at the heart of its loneliness,
but Christ and I are always in the majority, and in the face of all
foes, be they ever so many and strong, we can confidently say, 'They
that be with us are more than they that be with them.' The old
experience will prove true in our lives, and though 'they compass us
about like bees,' the worst that they can do is only to buzz angrily
round our heads, and their end is in the name of the Lord to be
destroyed. In ourselves we are weak, but if we are 'rooted, grounded,
built' on Jesus, we partake of the security of the rock of ages to which
we are united, and cannot be swept away by the storm, so long as it
stands unmoved. I have seen a thin hair-stemmed flower growing on the
edge of a cataract and resisting the force of its plunge, and of the
wind that always lives in its depths, because its roots are in a cleft
of the cliff. The secret of strength for all men is to hold fast by the
'strong Son of God,' and they only are sufficient in whatsoever state
they are, to whom this loving and quickening voice has spoken the
charter 'My grace is sufficient for thee.'

III. The renewed thanks for the loving sympathy expressed in the gift.

We have here again an eager anxiety not to be misunderstood as
undervaluing the Philippians' gift. How beautifully the sublimity of the
previous words lies side by side with the lowliness and gentleness of
these.

We note here the combination of that grand independence with loving
thankfulness for brotherly help. The self-sufficingness of Stoicism is
essentially inhuman and isolating. It is contrary to God's plan and to
the fellowship which is meant to knit men together. So we have always to
take heed to blend with it a loving welcome to sympathy, and not to
fancy that human help and human kindness is useless. We should be able
to do without it, but that need not make it the less sweet when it
comes. We may be carrying water for the march, but shall not the less
prize a brook by the way. Our firm souls should be like the rocking
stones in Cornwall, poised so truly that tempests cannot shake them, and
yet vibrating at the touch of a little child's soft hand. That lofty
independence needs to be humanised by grateful acceptance of the
refreshment of human sympathy even though we can do without it.

Paul shows us here what is the true thing in a brother's help for which
to be thankful. The reason why he was glad of their help was because it
spoke to his heart and told him that they were making themselves sharers
with him in his troubles. As he tells us in the beginning of the letter,
their fellowship in his labours had been from the beginning a joy to
him. It was not so much their material help as their true sympathy that
he valued. The high level to which he lifts what was possibly a very
modest contribution, if measured by money standards, carries with it a
great lesson for all receivers and for all givers of such gifts,
teaching the one that they are purely selfish if they are glad of what
they get, and bidding the other remember that they may give so as to
hurt by a gift more than by a blow, that they may give infinitely more
by loving sympathy than by much gold, and that a £5 note does not
discharge all their obligations. We have to give after His pattern who
does not toss us our alms from a height, but Himself comes to bestow
them, and whose gift, though it be the unspeakable gift of eternal life,
is less than the love it speaks, in that He Himself has in wondrous
manner become partaker of our weakness. The pattern of all sympathy, the
giver of all our possessions, is God. Let us hold to Him in faith and
love, and all earthly love will be sweeter and sympathy more precious.
Our own hearts will be refined and purified to a delicacy of
consideration and a tenderness beyond their own. Our souls will be made
lords of all circumstances and strengthened according to our need. He
will say to us 'My grace is sufficient for thee,' and we, as we feel His
strength being made perfect in our weakness, shall be able to say with
humble confidence, 'I can do all things in Christ who strengtheneth me
within.'



GIFTS GIVEN, SEED SOWN

          'And ye yourselves also know, ye Philippians, that
          in the beginning of the Gospel, when I departed
          from Macedonia, no church had fellowship with me
          in the matter of giving and receiving, but ye
          only; for even in Thessalonica ye sent once and
          again unto my need. Not that I seek for the gift;
          but I seek for the fruit that increaseth to your
          account. But I have all things, and abound: I am
          filled, having received from Epaphroditus the
          things that came from you, an odour of a sweet
          smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to
          God. And my God shall fulfil every need of yours
          according to His riches in glory in Christ
          Jesus.'--PHIL. iv. 15-19 (R.V.).


Paul loved the Philippians too well and was too sure of their love to be
conscious of any embarrassment in expressing his thanks for money help.
His thanks are profuse and long drawn out. Our present text still
strikes the note of grateful acknowledgment. It gives us a little
glimpse into earlier instances of their liberality, and beautifully
suggests that as they had done to him so God would do to them, and that
their liberality was in a fashion a prophecy, because it was in some
measure an imitation, of God's liberality. He had just said 'I am full,
having received the things which were sent from you,' and now he says,
'My God shall fill full all your needs.' The use of the same word in
these two connections is a piece of what one would call the very
ingenuity of graceful courtesy, if it were not something far deeper,
even the utterance of a loving and self-forgetting heart.

I. We may note here Paul's money relations with the churches.

We know that he habitually lived by his own labour. He could call to
witness the assembled elders at Ephesus, when he declared that 'these
hands ministered unto my necessities,' and could propose himself as an
illustration of the words of the Lord Jesus, 'It is more blessed to give
than to receive.' He firmly holds the right of Christian teachers to be
supported by the churches, and vehemently insists upon it in the First
Epistle to the Corinthians. But he waives the right in his own case, and
passionately insists that it were better for him rather to die than that
any man should make his glorying void. He will not use to the full his
right in the Gospel 'that he may make a Gospel without charge,' but when
needed he gladly accepted money gifts, as he did from the Philippians.
In our text he points back to an earlier instance of this. The history
of that instance we may briefly recall. After his indignities and
imprisonment in Philippi he went straight to Thessalonica, stayed there
a short time till a riot drove him to take refuge in Berea, whence again
he had to flee, and guided by brethren reached Athens. There he was
left alone, and his guides went back to Macedonia to send on Silas and
Timothy. From Athens he went to Corinth, and there was rejoined by them.
According to our text, 'in the beginning of the Gospel,' that is, of
course, its beginning in Philippi, they relieved him twice in
Thessalonica, and if the words in our text which date the Philippians'
gift may be read 'when I had departed from Macedonia,' we should have
here another reference to the same incident mentioned in 2 Corinthians,
chap. xi. 8-9, where he speaks of being in want there, and having 'the
measure of my want' supplied by the brethren who came from Macedonia.
The coincidence of these two incidental references hid away, as it were,
confirms the historical truthfulness of both Epistles. And if we take
into view the circumstances in which he was placed in Thessalonica and
at the beginning of his stay in Corinth, his needing and receiving such
aid is amply accounted for. Once again, after a long interval, when he
was a prisoner in Rome, and probably unable to work for his maintenance,
their care of him flourished again.

In the present circumstances of our churches, it seems necessary that
the right which Paul so strongly asserted should, for the most part, not
be waived, but the only true way of giving and receiving as between
minister and people is when it is a matter not of payment but a gift.
When it is an expression of sympathy and affection on both sides, the
relationship is pleasant and may be blessed. When it comes to be a
business transaction, and is to be measured by the rules applicable to
such, it goes far to destroy some of the sweetest bonds, and to endanger
a preacher's best influence.

II. The lofty view here taken of such service.

It is 'the fruit that increaseth to your account.' Fruit, which as it
were is put to their credit in the account-book of heaven, but it is
called by Paul by a sacreder name as being an odour of a sweet smell, a
sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God, in which metaphor all the
sacred ideas of yielding up precious things to God and of the sacred
fire that consumed the offering or brought to bear on the prosaic
material gift.

The principle which the Apostle here lays down in reference to a money
gift has, of course, a much wider application, and is as true about all
Christian acts. We need not be staggered at the emphasis with which Paul
states the truths of their acceptableness and rewardableness, but in
order fully to understand the ground of his assurance we must remember
that in his view the root of all such fruit increasing to our account,
and of everything which can claim to be an odour of a sweet smell well
pleasing to God, is love to Christ, and the renewal of our nature by the
spirit of God dwelling in us. In us there dwells no good thing. It is
only as we abide in Him and His words abide in us that we bear much
fruit. Separate from Him we can do nothing. If our works are ever to
smell sweet to God, they must be done for Christ, and in a very profound
and real sense, done by Him.

The essential character of all work which has the right to be called
good, and which is acceptable to God, is sacrifice. The one exhortation
which takes the place and more than fills the place of all other
commandments, and is enforced by the motive which takes the place, and
more than takes the place of all other motives, is, 'I beseech you by
the mercies of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice.' It is
works which in the intention of the doer are offered to Him, and in
which therefore there is a surrender of our own wills, or tastes, or
inclinations, or passions, or possessions, that yield to Him an odour of
a sweet smell. The old condition which touched the chivalrous heart of
David has to be repeated by us in regard to any work which we can ever
hope to make well pleasing to God; 'I will not offer burnt offerings
unto the Lord my God which cost me nothing.'

There is a spurious humility which treats all the works of good men as
filthy rags, but such a false depreciation is contradicted by Christ's
'Well done, good and faithful servant.' It is true that all our deeds
are stained and imperfect, but if they are offered on the altar which He
provides, it will sanctify the giver and the gift. He is the great Aaron
who makes atonement for the iniquity of our holy things. And whilst we
are stricken silent with thankfulness for the wonderful mercy of His
gracious allowance, we may humbly hope that His 'Well done' will be
spoken of us, and may labour, not without a foretaste that we do not
labour in vain, that 'whether present or absent we may be well pleasing
to Him.'

The fruit is here supposed to be growing, that is, of course, in another
life. We need not insist that the service and sacrifice and work of
earth, if the motive be right, tell in a man's condition after death. It
is not all the same how Christian men live; some gain ten talents, some
five, and some two, and the difference between them is not always as the
parable represents it, a difference in the original endowment. An
entrance may be given into the eternal kingdom, and yet it may not be an
abundant entrance.

III. The gift that supplies the givers.

Paul has nothing to bestow, but he serves a great God who will see to it
that no man is the poorer by helping His servants. The king's honour is
concerned in not letting a poor man suffer by lodging and feeding his
retainers. The words here suggest to us the source from which our need
may be filled full, as an empty vessel might be charged to the brim with
some precious liquid, the measure or limit of the fulness, and the
channel by which we receive it.

Paul was so sure that the Philippians' needs would all be satisfied,
because he knew that his own had been; he is generalising from his own
case, and that, I think, is at all events part of the reason why he says
with much emphasis, '_My_ God. As He has done to me He will do to you,'
but even without the 'my,' the great name contains in itself a promise
and its seal. 'God will supply just because He is God'; that is what His
name means--infinite fulness and infinite self-communicativeness and
delight in giving. But is not so absolutely unlimited a promise as this
convicted of complete unreality when contrasted with the facts of any
life, even of the most truly Christian or the most outwardly happy? Its
contradiction of the grim facts of experience is not to be slurred over
by restricting it to religious needs only. The promise needs the eye of
Faith to interpret the facts of experience, and to let nothing darken
the clear vision that if any seeming need is left by God unfilled, it is
not an indispensable need. If we do not get what we want we may be quite
sure that we do not need it. The axiom of Christian faith is that
whatever we do not obtain we do not require. Very desirable things may
still not be necessary. Let us limit our notions of necessity by the
facts of God's giving, and then we, too, shall have learned, in
whatsoever state we are, therein to be content. When the Apostle says
that God shall fill all our need full up to the brim, was he
contemplating only such necessities as God could supply through outward
gifts? Surely not. God Himself is the filler and the only filler of a
human heart, and it is by this impartation of Himself and by nothing
else that He bestows upon us the supply of our needs.

Unless we have been initiated into this deepest and yet simplest secret
of life, it will be full of gnawing pain and unfulfilled longings.
Unless we have learned that our needs are like the cracks in the parched
ground, cups to hold the rain from heaven, doors by which God Himself
can come to us, we shall dwell for ever in a dry and thirsty land. God
Himself is the only satisfier of the soul. 'Whom have I in heaven but
Thee, and there is none upon earth that'--if I am not a fool--'I desire
side by side with Thee?'

But Paul here sets forth in very bold words the measure or limits of the
divine supply of our need. It is 'according to His riches in glory.'
Then, all of God belongs to me, and the whole wealth of His aggregated
perfections is available for stopping the crannies of my heart and
filling its emptiness. My emptiness corresponds with His fulness as some
concavity does with the convexity that fits into it, and the whole that
He is waits to fill and to satisfy me. There is no limit really to what
a man may have of God except the limitless limit of the infinite divine
nature, but on the other hand this great promise is not fulfilled all at
once, and whilst the actual limit is the boundlessness of God, there is
a working limit, so to speak, a variable one, but a very real one. The
whole riches of God's glory are available for us, but only so much of
the boundless store as we desire and are at present capable of taking
in will belong to us now. What is the use of owning half a continent if
the owner lives on an acre of it and grows what he wants there, and has
never seen the broad lands that yet belong to him? Nothing hinders a man
from indefinitely increased possession of a growing measure of God,
except his own arbitrarily narrowed measure of desire and capacity.
Therefore it becomes a solemn question for each of us, Am I day by day
becoming more and more fit to possess more of God, and enjoy more of the
God whom I possess? In Him we have each 'a potentiality of wealth beyond
the dreams of avarice.' Do we growingly realise that boundless
possibility?

The channel by which that boundless supply is to reach us is distinctly
set forth here. All these riches are stored up 'in Christ Jesus.' A deep
lake may be hidden away in the bosom of the hills that would pour
blessing and fertility over a barren land if it could find a channel
down into the plains, but unless there be a river flowing out of it, its
land-locked waters might as well be dried up. When Paul says 'riches in
glory,' he puts them up high above our reach, but when he adds 'in
Christ Jesus,' he brings them all down amongst us. In Him is 'infinite
riches in a narrow room.' If we are in Him then we are beside our
treasure, and have only to put out our hands and take the wealth that is
lying there. All that we need is 'in Christ,' and if we are in Christ it
is all close at our sides.

Then the question comes to be, 'Am I thus near my wealth, and can I get
at it whenever I want it, as I want it, and as much as I want of it?' We
can if we will. The path is easy to define, though our slothfulness
find it hard to tread. That man is in Christ who dwells with Him by
faith, whose heart is by love plunged in His love, who daily seeks to
hold communion with Him amid the distractions of life, and who in
practical submission obeys His will. If thus we trust, if thus we love,
if thus we hold fast to Him, and if thus we link Him with all our
activities in the world, need will cease to grow, and will only be an
occasion for God's gift. 'Delight thyself in the Lord,' and then the
heart's desires being set upon Him, 'He will give thee the desire of thy
heart.'

Paul says to us 'My God shall supply all your need.' Let us answer, 'The
Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.'



FAREWELL WORDS

          'Now unto our God and Father be the glory for ever
          and ever, Amen. Salute every saint in Christ
          Jesus. The brethren which are with me salute you.
          All the saints salute you, especially they that
          are of Cæsar's household. The grace of the Lord
          Jesus Christ be with your spirit.'--PHIL. iv.
          20-23 (R.V.).


These closing words fall into three unconnected parts, a doxology,
greetings, and a benediction. As in all his letters, the Apostle follows
the natural instinct of making his last words loving words. Even when he
had to administer a bitter draught, the last drops in the cup were
sweetened, and to the Philippians whom he loved so well, and in whose
loyal love he confided so utterly, his parting was tender as an embrace.
Taking together the three elements of this farewell, they present to us
a soul filled with desire for the glory of God and with loving yearning
for all His brethren. We shall best deal with them by simply taking them
in order.

I. The Doxology.

It is possibly evoked by the immediately preceding thought of God's
infinite supply of all human need 'according to his riches in _glory_';
but the glory which is so richly stored in Christ, and is the full
storehouse from which our emptiness is to be filled, is not the same as
the glory here ascribed to Him. The former is the sum of His divine
perfections, the light of His own infinite being: the latter is the
praise rendered to Him when we know Him for what He is, and exalt Him in
our thankful thoughts and adoration. As this doxology is the last word
of this whole letter, we may say that it gathers into one all that
precedes it. Our ascription of glory to God is the highest object of all
His self-manifestation, and should be the end of all our contemplations
of Him and of His acts. The faith that God does 'all for His glory' may
be and often has been so interpreted as to make his character repellent
and hideous, but in reality it is another way of saying that God is
love. He desires that all men should be gladdened and elevated by
knowing Him as He is. His glory is to give. That to which He has
committed the charge of interpreting Him to our dim eyes and disordered
natures is not the attributes of sovereign power, or creative wisdom, or
administrative providence, or any other elements which men lay hold of
in their conceptions of deity. When men make gods they make them in
their own image: when God reveals God, the emphasis is put on an
altogether different aspect of His nature. It is His self-communicating
and paternal love revealed to the heart of a son which will kindle the
highest aspiration of praise, and that fatherhood is not found in the
fact that God has made us, but in the higher fact that He has redeemed
us and has sent the spirit of His Son into our hearts. The doxology of
our text is a distinctively Christian doxology which Paul conceives can
only be uttered by lips which have learned to say 'Abba, Father,' 'and
have received the adoption of sons' through the eternal Son.

Mark, too, that this glad ascription of glory to God is conceived of as
sounded forth for ever and ever, or literally through 'ages and ages, as
long as successive epochs shall unfold.' It is not as if the revelation
of the divine character were in the past, and the light of it continued
to touch stony lips to music, but it fills in continuous forthcoming
every age, and in every age men receive the fulness of God, and in every
age redeemed hearts bring back their tribute of praise and love to Him.

II. The Greetings.

The Apostle's habit of closing all his letters with kindly messages is,
of course, more than a habit. It is the natural instinct to which all
true hearts have a hundred times yielded. It is remarkable that in this
letter there are no individual greetings, but that instead of such there
is the emphatic greeting to every saint in Christ Jesus. He will not
single out any where all are so near His heart, and He will have no
jealousies to be fed by His selection of more favoured persons. It may
be too, that the omission of individual messages is partly occasioned by
some incipient tendencies to alienation and faction of which we see some
traces in His earnest exhortations to stand fast in one spirit, and to
be of the same mind, having the same love, and being of one accord, as
well as in his exhortation to two Philippian women to be of the same
mind in the Lord. The all-embracing word at parting singularly links the
end of the letter with its beginning, where we find a remarkable
sequence of similar allusions to 'all' the Philippian Christians. He
has them all in His heart; they are all partakers with Him of grace; He
longs after them all.

The designation by which Paul describes the recipients of his greeting
carries in it a summons as well as a promise. They are saints, and they
are so as being 'in Christ.' That name is often used as a clumsy
sarcasm, but it goes to the very root of Christian character. The
central idea contained in it is that of consecration to God, and that
which is often taken to be its whole meaning is but a secondary one, a
result of that consecration. The true basis of all real purity of
conduct lies in devotion of heart and life to God, and for want of
discerning the connection of these two elements the world's ethics fail
in theory and in practice. A 'saint' is not a faultless monster, and the
persistence of failures and inconsistencies, whilst affording only too
sad an occasion for penitence and struggle, afford no occasion for a
man's shrinking from taking to himself the humble claim to be a saint.
Both the elements of consecration to God and of real and progressive,
though never complete perfection of personal character, are realised
only in Christ; in and only in fellowship with Him whose life was
unbroken fellowship with the Father, and whose will was completely
accordant with the Father's, do we rise to the height of belonging to
God. And only in Him who could challenge a world to convict Him of sin
shall we make even a beginning of personal righteousness. If we are in
Christ we should be saints to-day however imperfect our holiness, and
shall be 'as the angels of God' in the day that is coming--nay, rather
as the Lord of the Angels, 'not having spot or blemish or any such
thing.'

The New Testament has other names for believers, each of which expresses
some great truth in regard to them; for example, the earliest name by
which they knew themselves was the simple one of 'brethren,' which spoke
of their common relation to a Father and pledged them to the sweetness
and blessedness of a family. The sarcastic wits of Antioch called them
Christians as seeing nothing in them other than what they had many a
time seen in the adherents of some founder of a school or a party. They
called themselves disciples or believers, revealing by both names their
humble attitude and their Lord's authority, and by the latter disclosing
to seeing eyes the central bond which bound them to Him. But the name of
Saint declares something more than these in that it speaks of their
relation to God, the fulfilment of the Old Testament ideal, and carries
in it a prophecy of personal character.

The sharers in Paul's salutation call for some notice. We do not know
who 'the brethren that are with me' were. We might have supposed from
Paul's pathetic words that he had no man like-minded with him, that the
faithful band whom we find named in the other epistles of the captivity
were dispersed. But though there were none 'like-minded who will care
truly for your state,' there were some recognised as brethren who were
closely associated with him, and who, though they had no such warm
interest in the Philippians as he had, still had a real affection for
them, drawn no doubt from him. Distinct from these was the whole body of
the Roman Christians, from the mention of whom we may gather that his
imprisonment did not prevent his intercourse with them. Again, distinct
from these, though a part of them, were the saints of Cæsar's
household. He had apparently special opportunities for intercourse with
them, and probably his imprisonment brought him through the prætorian
guards into association with them, as Cæsar's household included all the
servants and retainers of Nero.

May we not see in this union of members of the most alien races a
striking illustration of the new bond which the Gospel had woven among
men? There was a Jew standing in the midst between Macedonian Greeks and
proud Roman citizens, including members of that usually most heartless
and arrogant of all classes, the lackeys of a profligate court, and they
are all clasping one another's hands in true brotherly love. Society was
falling to pieces. We know the tragic spectacle that the empire
presented then. Amidst universal decay of all that held men together,
here was a new uniting principle; everywhere else dissolution was at
work; here was again crystallising. A flower was opening its petals
though it grew on a dunghill. What was it that drew slaves and
patricians, the Pharisee of Tarsus, rude Lycaonians, the 'barbarous'
people of Melita, the Areopagite of Athens, the citizens of Rome into
one loving family? How came Lydia and her slave girl, Onesimus and his
master, the prætorian guard and his prisoner, the courtier in Nero's
golden house and the jailer at Philippi into one great fellowship of
love? They were all one in Christ Jesus.

And what lessons the saints in Cæsar's household may teach us! Think of
the abyss of lust and murder there, of the Emperor by turns a buffoon, a
sensualist, and a murderer. A strange place to find saints in that sty
of filth! Let no man say that it is impossible for a pure life to be
lived in any circumstances, or try to bribe his conscience by insisting
on the difficulties of his environment. It may be our duty to stand at
our post however foul may be our surroundings and however uncongenial
our company, and if we are sure that He has set us there, we may be sure
that He is with us there, and that there we can live the life and
witness to His name.

III. The Parting Benediction.

The form of the benediction seems to be more correctly given in the
Revised Version, which reads 'with your spirit' instead of 'with you
all.' That form reappears in Galatians and in Philemon. What Paul
especially desires of his favourite church is that they may possess 'the
grace.' Grace is love exercising itself to inferiors, and to those who
deserve something sadder and darker. The gifts of that one grace are
manifold. They comprise all blessings that man can need or receive. This
angel comes with her hands and her lap full of good. Her name is
shorthand for all that God can bestow or man can ask or think.

And it needs all the names by which Christ is known among men to
describe the encyclopædiacal Person who can bestow the encyclopædiacal
gift. Here we have them all gathered, as it were, into one great diadem,
set on His head where once the crown of thorns was twined. He is Lord,
the name which implies at least absolute authority, and is most probably
the New Testament translation of the Old Testament name of Jehovah. He
is our Lord as supreme over us, and wonderful as it is, as belonging to
us. He holds the keys of the storehouse of grace. The river of the water
of life flows where He turns it on. He is Jesus--the personal name which
He bore in the days of His flesh, and by which men who knew Him only as
one of themselves called Him. It is the token of His brotherhood and
the guarantee of the sympathy which will ever bestow 'grace for grace.'
He is the Christ, the Messiah, the name which points back to the Old
Testament ideas and declares His office, realising all the rapturous
anticipations of prophets, and the longings of psalmists, and more than
fulfilling them all by giving Himself to men.

That great gift is to be the companion of every spirit which looks to
that Jesus in the reality of His humanity, in the greatness of His
office, in the loftiness of His divinity, and finds in each of His names
an anchor for its faith and an authoritative claim for its obedience.

Such a wish as this benediction is the truest expression of human
friendship; it is the highest desire any of us can form for ourselves or
for those dearest to us. Do we keep it clear before us in our
intercourse with them so that the end of that intercourse will naturally
be such a prayer?

Our human love has its limitations. We can but wish for others the grace
which Christ can give, but neither our wishes nor His giving can make
the grace ours unless for ourselves we take the great gift that is
freely given to us of God. It is no accident that all his letters close
thus. This benediction is the last word of God's revelation to man, the
brightness in the clear west, the last strain of the great oratorio. The
last word or last book of Scripture is 'the grace of our Lord Jesus
Christ be with you all.' Let us take up the solemn Amen in our lips and
in our hearts.



COLOSSIANS



SAINTS, BELIEVERS, BRETHREN

          ' . . . The saints and faithful brethren in
          Christ.'--COL. i. 2.


'The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch,' says the Acts
of the Apostles. It was a name given by outsiders, and like most of the
instances where a sect, or school, or party is labelled with the name of
its founder, it was given in scorn. It hit and yet missed its mark. The
early believers were Christians, that is, Christ's men, but they were
not merely a group of followers of a man, like many other groups of whom
the Empire at that time was full. So they never used that name
themselves. It occurs twice only in Scripture, once when King Agrippa
was immensely amused at the audacity of Paul in thinking that he would
easily make 'a Christian' of him; and once when Peter speaks of
'suffering as a Christian,' where he is evidently quoting, as it were,
the indictment on which the early believers were tried and punished.
What did they call themselves then?

I have chosen this text not for the purpose of speaking about it only,
but because it gathers together in brief compass the three principal
designations by which the early believers knew themselves.
'Saints'--that tells their relation to God, as well as their character,
for it means 'consecrated,' set apart for Him, and therefore pure;
'faithful'--that means 'full of faith' and is substantially equivalent
to the usual 'believers,' which defines their relation to Jesus Christ
as the Revealer of God; 'brethren'--that defines their relation and
sentiment towards their fellows. These terms go a great deal deeper than
the nickname which the wits of Antioch invented. The members of the
Church were not content with the vague 'Christian,' but they called
themselves 'saints,' 'believers,' 'brethren.' One designation does not
appear here, which we must take into account for completeness: the
earliest of all--disciples. Now, I purpose to bring together these four
names, by which the early believers thought and spoke of themselves, in
order to point the lessons as to our position and our duty, which are
wrapped up in them. And I may just say that, perhaps, it is no sign of
advance that the Church, as years rolled on, accepted the world's name
for itself, and that people found it easier to call themselves
'Christians'--which did not mean very much--than to call themselves
'saints' or 'believers.'

Now then, to begin with,

I. They were 'Disciples' first of all.

The facts as to the use of that name are very plain, and as instructive
as they are plain. It is a standing designation in the Gospels, both in
the mouths of friends and of outsiders; it is sometimes, though very
sparingly, employed by Jesus Christ Himself. It persists on through the
book of the Acts of the Apostles, and then it stops dead, and we never
hear it again.

Now its existence at first, and its entire abandonment afterwards, both
seem to me to carry very valuable lessons. Let me try to work them out.
Of course, 'disciple' or 'scholar' has for its correlative--as the
logicians call it--'teacher.' And so we find that as the original
adherents of Jesus called themselves 'disciples,' they addressed Him as
'Master,' which is the equivalent of 'Rabbi.' That at once suggests the
thought that to themselves, and to the people who saw the origination of
the little Christian community, the Lord and His handful of followers
seemed just to be like John and his disciples, the Pharisees and their
disciples, and many another Rabbi and his knot of admiring adherents.
Therefore whilst the name was in one view fitting, it was conspicuously
inadequate, and as time went on, and the Church became more conscious of
the uniqueness of the bond that knit it to Jesus Christ, it
instinctively dropped the name 'disciple,' and substituted others more
intimate and worthy.

But yet it remains permanently true, that Christ's followers are
Christ's scholars, and that He is their Rabbi and Teacher. Only the
peculiarity, the absolute uniqueness, of His attitude and action as a
Teacher lies in two things: one, that His main subject was Himself, as
He said, 'I am the Truth,' and consequently His characteristic demand
from His scholars was not, as with other teachers, 'Accept this, that,
or the other doctrine which I propound,' but 'Believe in Me'; and the
other, that He seldom if ever argues, or draws conclusions from previous
premises, that He never speaks as if He Himself had learnt and fought
His way to what He is saying, or betrays uncertainty, limitation, or
growth in His opinions, and that for all confirmation of His
declarations, He appeals only to the light within and to His own
authority: 'Verily, verily, I say unto you.' No wonder that the common
people were astonished at His teaching, and felt that here was an
authority in which the wearisome citations of what Rabbi So-and-So had
said, altogether lacked.

That teaching abides still, and, as I believe, opens out into, and is
our source of, all that we know--in distinction and contrast from,
'imagine,' 'hope,' 'fear'--of God, and of ourselves, and of the future.
It casts the clearest light on morals for the individual and on politics
for the community. Whatever men may say about Christianity being effete,
it will not be effete till the world has learnt and absorbed the
teaching of Jesus Christ; and we are a good long way from that yet!

If He is thus the Teacher, the perpetual Teacher, and the only Teacher,
of mankind in regard to all these high things about God and man and the
relation between them, about life and death and the world, and about the
practice and conduct of the individual and of the community, then we, if
we are His disciples, build houses on the rock, in the degree in which
we not only hear but do the things that He commands. For this Teacher is
no theoretical handler of abstract propositions, but the authoritative
imposer of the law of life, and all His words have a direct bearing upon
conduct. Therefore it is vain for us to say: 'Lord, Lord, Thou hast
taught in our streets and we have accepted Thy teaching.' He looks down
upon us from the Throne, as He looked upon the disciples in that upper
room, and He says to each of us: 'If ye know these things, happy are ye
if ye do them.'

But the complete disappearance of the name as the development of the
Church advanced, brings with it another lesson, and that is, that
precious and great as are the gifts which Jesus Christ bestows as a
Teacher, and unique as His act and attitude in that respect are, the
name either of teacher or of disciple fails altogether to penetrate to
the essence of the relation which knits us together. It is not enough
for our needs that we shall be taught. The worst man in the world knows
a far nobler morality than the best man practises. And if it were true,
as some people superficially say is the case, that evil-doing is the
result of ignorance, there would be far less evil-doing in the world
than, alas! there is. It is not for the want of knowing, that we go
wrong, as our consciences tell us; but it is for want of something that
can conquer the evil tendencies within, and lift off the burden of a
sinful past which weighs on us. As in the carboniferous strata what was
pliant vegetation has become heavy mineral, our evil deeds lie heavy on
our souls. What we need is not to be told what we ought to be, but to be
enabled to be it. Electricity can light the road, and it can drive the
car along it; and that is what we want, a dynamic as well as an
illuminant, something that will make us able to do and to be what
conscience has told us we ought to be and do.

Teacher? Yes. But if _only_ teacher, then He is nothing more than one of
a multitude who in all generations have vainly witnessed to sinful men
of the better path. There is no reformation for the individual, and
little hope for humanity, in a Christ whom you degrade to the level of a
Rabbi, or in a Church which has not pressed nearer to Him than to feel
itself His disciples.

There was a man who came to Jesus by night, and was in the dark about
the Jesus to whom he came, and he said, 'We know that Thou art a Teacher
come from God.' But Jesus did not accept the witness, though a young
teacher fighting for recognition might have been glad to get it from an
authoritative member of the Sanhedrim. But He answered, 'Except a man be
born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.' If we need to be born
again before we see it, it is not teachers of it that will serve our
turn, but One who takes us by the hand, and translates us out of the
tyranny of the darkness into the Kingdom of the Son of God's love. So
much, then, for the first of these names and lessons.

Now turn to the second--

II. The Disciples must be Believers.

That name begins to appear almost immediately after Pentecost, and
continues throughout. It comes in two forms, one which is in my text,
'the faithful,' meaning thereby not the reliable, but the people that
are full of faith; the other, meaning the same thing, they who believe,
the 'believers.' The Church found that 'disciple' was not enough. It
went deeper; and, with a true instinct, laid hold of the unique bond
which knits men to their Lord and Saviour. That name indicates that
Jesus Christ appears to the man who has faith in a new character. He is
not any longer the Teacher who is to be listened to, but He is the
Object of trust. And that implies the recognition, first, of His
Divinity, which alone is strong enough to bear up the weight of millions
of souls leaning hard upon it; and, second, of what He has done and not
merely of what He has said. We accept the Teacher's word; we trust the
Saviour's Cross. And in the measure in which men learned that the centre
of the work of the Rabbi Jesus was the death of the Incarnate Son of
God, their docility was sublimed into faith.

That faith is the real bond that knits men to Jesus Christ. We are
united to Him, and become recipient of the gifts that He has to bestow,
by no sacraments, by no externals, by no reverential admiration of His
supreme wisdom and perfect beauty of character, not by assuming the
attitude of the disciple, but by flinging our whole selves upon Him,
because He is our Saviour. That unites us to Jesus Christ; nothing else
does. Faith is the opening of the heart, by which all His power can be
poured into us. It is the grasping of His hand, by which, even though
the cold waters be above our knees and be rising to our hearts, we are
lifted above them and they are made a solid pavement for our feet. Faith
is the door opened by ourselves, and through which will come all the
Glory that dwelt between the cherubim, and will fill the secret place in
our hearts. To be the disciple of a Rabbi is something; to be the
'faithful' dependent on the Saviour is to be His indeed.

And then there is to be remembered, further, that this bond, which is
the only vital link between a man and Christ, is therefore the basis of
all virtue, of all nobility, of all beauty of conduct, and that
'whatsoever things are lovely and of good report' are its natural
efflorescence and fruit. And so that leads us to the third point--

III. The believing Disciple is a 'Saint.'

That name does not appear in the Gospels, but it begins to show in the
Acts of the Apostles, and it becomes extremely common throughout the
Epistles of Paul. He had no hesitation in calling the very imperfect
disciples in Corinth by this great name. He was going to rebuke them for
some very great offences, not only against Christian elevation of
conduct, but against common pagan morality; but he began by calling them
'saints.'

What is a saint? First and foremost, a man who has given himself to God,
and is consecrated thereby. Whoever has cast himself on Christ, and has
taken Christ for his, therein and in the same degree as he is exercising
faith, has thus yielded himself to God. If your faith has not led you
to such a consecration of will and heart and self, you had better look
out and see whether it is faith at all. But then, because faith involves
the consecration of a man to God, and consecration necessarily implies
purity, since nothing can be laid on God's altar which is not sanctified
thereby, the name of saint comes to imply purity of character. Sanctity
is the Christian word which means the very flower and fragrant aroma of
what the world calls virtue.

But sanctity is not emotion, A man may luxuriate in devout feeling, and
sing and praise and pray, and be very far from being a saint; and there
is a great deal of the emotional Christianity of this day which has a
strange affinity for the opposite of saintship. Sanctity is not
aloofness. 'There were saints in Cæsar's household'--a very unlikely
place; they were flowers on a dunghill, and perhaps their blossoms were
all the brighter because of what they grew on, and which they could
transmute from corruption into beauty. So sanctity is no blue ribbon of
the Christian profession, to be given to a few select (and mostly
ascetic) specimens of consecration, but it is the designation of each of
us, if we are disciples who are more than disciples, that is,
'believers.' And thus, brethren, we have to see to it that, in our own
cases, our faith leads to surrender, and our self-surrender to purity of
life and conduct. Faith, if real, brings sanctity; sanctity, if real, is
progressive. Sanctity, though imperfect, may be real.

IV. The believing Saints are 'Brethren.'

That is the name that predominates over all others in the latter
portions of the New Testament, and it is very natural that it should do
so. It reposes upon and implies the three preceding. Its rapid adoption
and universal use express touchingly the wonder of the early Church at
its own unity. The then world was rent asunder by deep clefts of
misunderstanding, alienation, animosity, racial divisions of Jew and
Greek, Parthian, Scythian; by sexual divisions which flung men and
women, who ought to have been linked hand in hand, and united heart to
heart, to opposite sides of a great gulf; by divisions of culture which
made wise men look down on the unlearned, and the unlearned hate the
wise men; by clefts of social position, and mainly that diabolical one
of slave and free. All these divisive and disintegrating forces were in
active operation. The only thing except Christianity, which produced
even a semblance of union, was the iron ring of the Roman power which
compressed them all into one indeed, but crushed the life out of them in
the process. Into that disintegrating world, full of mutual repulsion,
came One who drew men to Himself and said, 'One is your Master, even
Christ, and all ye are brethren.' And to their own astonishment, male
and female, Greek and Jew, bond and free, philosopher and fool, found
themselves sitting at the same table as members of one family; and they
looked in each other's eyes and said, 'Brother!' There had never been
anything like it in the world. The name is a memorial of the unifying
power of the Christian faith.

And it is a reminder to us of our own shortcomings. Of course, in the
early days, the little band were driven together, as sheep that stray
over a pasture in the sunshine will huddle into a corner in a storm, or
when the wolves are threatening. There are many reasons to-day which
make less criminal the alienation from one another of Christian
communities and Christian individuals. I am not going to dwell on the
evident signs in this day, for which God be thanked, that Christian men
are beginning, more than they once did, to realise their unity in Jesus
Christ, and to be content to think less of the things that separate than
of the far greater things that unite. But I would lay upon your hearts,
as individual parts of that great whole, this, that whatever may be the
differences in culture, outlook, social position, or the like, between
two Christian men, they each, the rich man and the poor, the educated
man and the unlettered one, the master and the servant, ought to feel
that deep down in their true selves they are nearer one another than
they are to the men who, differing from them in regard to their faith in
Jesus Christ, are like them in all these superficial respects. Regulate
your conduct by that thought.

That name, too, speaks to us of the source from which Christian
brotherhood has come. We are brethren of each other because we have one
Father, even God, and the Fatherhood which makes us brethren is not that
which communicates the common life of humanity, but that which imparts
the new life of sonship through Jesus Christ. So the name points to the
only way by which the world's dream of a universal brotherhood can ever
be fulfilled. If there is to be fraternity there must be fatherhood, and
the life which, possessed by each, makes a family of all, is the life
which He gives, who is 'the first-born among many brethren,' and who, to
them who believe on Him, gives power to become the sons of God, and the
brethren of all the other sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty.

So, dear friends, take these names, ponder their significance and the
duties they impose. Let us make sure that they are true of us. Do not be
content with the vague, often unmeaning name of Christian, but fill it
with meaning by being a believer on Christ, a saint devoted to God, and
a brother of all who, 'by like precious faith,' have become Sons of God.



THE GOSPEL-HOPE

          'The hope of the Gospel.'--COL. i. 5.


'God never sends mouths but He sends meat to feed them,' says the old
proverb. And yet it seems as if that were scarcely true in regard to
that strange faculty called Hope. It may well be a question whether on
the whole it has given us more pleasure than pain. How seldom it has
been a true prophet! How perpetually its pictures have been too highly
coloured! It has cast illusions over the future, colouring the far-off
hills with glorious purple which, reached, are barren rocks and cold
snow. It has held out prizes never won. It has made us toil and struggle
and aspire and fed us on empty husks. Either we have not got what we
expected or have found it to be less good than it appeared from afar.

If we think of all the lies that hope has told us, of all the vain
expenditure of effort to which it has tempted us, of the little that any
of us have of what we began by thinking we should surely attain, hope
seems a questionable good, and yet how obstinate it is, living on after
all disappointments and drawing the oldest amongst us onwards. Surely
somewhere there must be a reason for this great and in some respects
awful faculty, a vindication of its existence in an adequate object for
its grasp.

The New Testament has much to say about hope. Christianity lays hold of
it and professes to supply it with its true nourishment and support. Let
us look at the characteristics of Christian hope, or, as our text calls
it, the hope of the Gospel, that is, the hope which the Gospel creates
and feeds in our souls.

I. What does it hope for?

The weakness of our earthly hopes is that they are fixed on things which
are contingent and are inadequate to make us blessed. Even when tinted
with the rainbow hues, which it lends them, they are poor and small. How
much more so when seen in the plain colourless light of common day. In
contrast with these the objects of the Christian hope are certain and
sufficient for all blessedness. In the most general terms they may be
stated as 'That blessed hope, even the appearing of the Great God and
our Saviour.' That is the specific Christian hope, precise and definite,
a real historical event, filling the future with a certain steadfast
light. Much is lost in the daily experience of all believers by the
failure to set that great and precise hope in its true place of
prominence. It is often discredited by millenarian dreams, but
altogether apart from these it has solidity and substance enough to bear
the whole weight of a world rested upon it.

That appearance of God brings with it the fulfilment of our highest
hopes in the 'grace that is to be brought to us at His appearing.' All
our blessedness of every kind is to be the result of the manifestation
of God in His unobscured glory. The mirrors that are set round the
fountain of light flash into hitherto undreamed-of brightness. It is but
a variation in terms when we describe the blessedness which is to be the
result of God's appearing as being the Hope of Salvation in its fullest
sense, or, in still other words, as being the Hope of Eternal Life.
Nothing short of the great word of the Apostle John, that when He shall
appear we shall be like Him, exhausts the greatness of the hope which
the humblest and weakest Christian is not only allowed but commanded to
cherish. And that great future is certainly capable of, and in Scripture
receives, a still more detailed specification. We hear, for example, of
the hope of Resurrection, and it is most natural that the bodily
redemption which Paul calls the adoption of the body should first emerge
into distinct consciousness as the principal object of hope in the
earliest Christian experience, and that the mighty working whereby Jesus
is able to subdue all things unto Himself, should first of all be
discerned to operate in changing the body of our humiliation into the
body of His glory.

But equally natural was it that no merely corporeal transformation
should suffice to meet the deep longings of Christian souls which had
learned to entertain the wondrous thought of likeness to God as the
certain result of the vision of Him, and so believers 'wait for the hope
of righteousness by faith.' The moral likeness to God, the perfecting of
our nature into His image, will not always be the issue of struggle and
restraint, but in its highest form will follow on sight, even as here
and now it is to be won by faith, and is more surely attained by waiting
than by effort.

The highest form which the object of our hope takes is, the Hope of the
Glory of God. This goes furthest; there is nothing beyond this. The eyes
that have been wearied by looking at many fading gleams and seen them
die away, may look undazzled into the central brightness, and we may be
sure that even we shall walk there like the men in the furnace,
unconsumed, purging our sight at the fountain of radiance, and being
ourselves glorious with the image of God. This is the crown of glory
which He has promised to them that love Him. Nothing less than this is
what our hope has to entertain, and that not as a possibility, but as a
certainty. The language of Christian hope is not perhaps this may be,
but verily it shall be. To embrace its transcendent certainties with a
tremulous faith broken by much unbelief, is sin.

II. The grounds on which the hope of the Gospel rests.

The grounds of our earthly hopes are for the most part possibilities,
or, at the best, probabilities turned by our wishes into certainties. We
moor our ships to floating islands which we resolve to think continents.
So our earthly hopes vary indefinitely in firmness and substance. They
are sometimes but wishes turned confident, and can never rise higher
than their source, or be more certain than it is. At the best they are
building on sand. At the surest there is an element of risk in them. One
singer indeed may take for his theme 'The pleasures of Hope,' but
another answers by singing of 'The fallacies of Hope.' Earth-born hopes
carry no anchor and have always a latent dread looking out of their blue
eyes.

But it is possible for us to dig down to and build on rock, to have a
future as certain as our past, to escape in our anticipations from the
region of the Contingent, and this we assuredly do when we take the hope
of the Gospel for ours, and listen to Paul proclaiming to us 'Christ
which is our Hope,' or 'Christ in you the Hope of glory.' If our faith
grasps Jesus Christ risen from the dead and for us entered into the
heavenly state as our forerunner, our hope will see in Him the pattern
and the pledge of our manhood, and will begin to experience even here
and now the first real though faint accomplishments of itself. The
Gospel sets forth the facts concerning Christ which fully warrant and
imperatively require our regarding Him as the perfect realised ideal of
manhood as God meant it to be, and as bearing in Himself the power to
make all men even as He is. He has entered into the fellowship of our
humiliation and become bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh that we
might become life of His Life and spirit of His Spirit. As certain as it
is that 'we have borne the image of the earthy,' so certain is it that
'we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.'

What cruel waste of a divine faculty it is, then, of which we are all
guilty when we allow our hopes to be frittered away and dissipated on
uncertain and transient goods which they may never secure, and which,
even if secured, would be ludicrously or rather tragically insufficient
to make us blessed, instead of withdrawing them from all these and
fixing them on Him who alone is able to satisfy our hungry souls in all
their faculties for ever!

The hope of the Gospel is firm enough to rest our all upon because in
it, by 'two immutable things in which it is impossible that God should
lie,' His counsel and His oath, He has given strong encouragement to
them who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before them.
Well may the hope for which God's own eternal character is the guarantee
be called 'sure and steadfast.' The hope of the Gospel rests at last on
the Being and Heart of God. It is that which God 'who cannot lie hath
promised before the world was' is working towards whilst the world
lasts, and will accomplish when the world is no more. He has made known
His purpose and has pledged all the energies and tendernesses of His
Being to its realisation. Surely on this rock-foundation we may rest
secure. The hopes that grow on other soils creep along the surface. The
hope of the Gospel strikes its roots deep into the heart of God.

III. What the hope of the Gospel is and does for us.

We cannot do better than to lay hold of some of the New Testament
descriptions of it. We recall first that great designation 'A good hope
through grace.' This hope is no illusion; it does not come from fumes of
fancy or the play of imagination. The wish is not father to the thought.
We do not make bricks without straw nor spin ropes of sand on the shore
of the great waste sea that waits to swallow us up. The cup of Tantalus
has had its leaks stopped; the sieve carries the treasure unspilled. The
rock can be rolled to the hill-top. All the disappointments, fallacies,
and torments of hope pass away. It never makes ashamed. We have a solid
certainty as solid as memory. The hope which is through grace is the
full assurance of hope, and that full assurance is just what every other
hope lacks. In that region and in that region only we can either say I
hope or I know.

Another designation is 'A lively hope.' It is no poor pale ghost
brightening and fading, fading and brightening, through which one can
see the stars shine, and of little power in practical life, but strong
and vigorous and not the least active amongst the many forces that make
up the sum of our lives.

It is most significantly designated as 'The blessed hope.' All others
quickly pass into sorrows. This alone gives lasting joys, for this
alone is blessed whilst it is only anticipation, and still more blessed
when its blossoms ripen into full fruition. In all earthly hopes there
is an element of unrest, but the hope of the Gospel is so remote, so
certain, and so satisfying, that it works stillness, and they who most
firmly grasp it 'do with patience wait for it.' Earthly hopes have
little moral effect and often loosen the sinews of the soul, and are
distinctly unfavourable to all strenuous effort. But 'every man that
hath this hope in Jesus purifieth himself even as He is pure,' and the
Apostle, whose keen insight most surely discerns the character-building
value of the fundamental facts of Christian experience, was not wrong
when he bid us find in the hope of the Gospel deeply rooted within us
the driving force of the most strenuous efforts after purity like His
whom it is our deepest desire and humble hope to become like.

Let us remember the double account which Scripture gives of the
discipline by which the hope of the Gospel is won for our very own. On
the one hand, we have 'joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in
hope.' Our faith breeds hope because it grasps the divine facts
concerning Jesus from which hope springs. And faith further breeds hope
because it kindles joy and peace, which are the foretastes and earnests
of the future blessedness. On the other hand, the very opposite
experiences work to the same end, for 'tribulation worketh patience, and
patience experience, and experience hope.' Sorrow rightly borne tests
for us the power of the Gospel and the reality of our faith, and so
gives us a firmer grip of hope and of Him on whom in the last result it
all depends. Out of this collision of flint and steel the spark springs.
The water churned into foam and tortured in the cataract has the fair
bow bending above it.

But this discipline will not achieve its result, therefore comes the
exhortation to us all, 'Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and
hope to the end.' The hope of the Gospel is the one thing that we need.
Without it all else is futile and frail. God alone is worthy to have the
whole weight and burden of a creature's hope fixed on Him, and it is an
everlasting truth that they who are 'without God in the world' also
'have no hope.' Saints of old held fast by an assurance, which they must
often have felt left many questions still to be asked, and because they
were sure that they were continually with Him, were also sure of His
guidance through life and of His afterwards receiving them to glory. But
for us the twilight has broadened into day, and we shall be wise if,
knowing our defencelessness, and forsaking all the lies and illusions of
this vain present, we flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before
us in the Gospel.



'ALL POWER'

          'Strengthened with all power, according to the
          might of His glory, unto all patience and
          longsuffering with joy.'--COL. i. 11 (R.V.).


There is a wonderful rush and fervour in the prayers of Paul. No parts
of his letters are so lofty, so impassioned, so full of his soul, as
when he rises from speaking of God to men to speaking to God for men. We
have him here setting forth his loving desires for the Colossian
Christians in a prayer of remarkable fulness and sweep. Broadly taken,
it is for their perfecting in religious and moral excellence, and it is
very instructive to note the idea of what a good man is which is put
forth here.

The main petition is for wisdom and spiritual understanding applied
chiefly, as is to be carefully noted, to the knowledge of God's _will_.
The thought is that what it most imports us to know is the Will of God,
a knowledge not of merely speculative points in the mysteries of the
divine nature, but of that Will which it concerns us to know because it
is our life to do it. The next element in Paul's desires, as set forth
in the ideal here, is a worthy walk, a practical life, or course of
conduct which is worthy of Jesus Christ, and in every respect pleases
Him. The highest purpose of knowledge is a good life. The surest
foundation for a good life is a full and clear knowledge of the Will of
God.

Then follow a series of clauses which seem to expand the idea of the
worthy walk and to be co-ordinate or perhaps slightly causal, and to
express the continuous condition of the soul which is walking worthily.
Let us endeavour to gather from these words some hints as to what it is
God's purpose that we should become.

I. The many-sided strength which may be ours.

The form of the word 'strengthened' here would be more fully represented
by 'being strengthened,' and suggests an unintermitted process of
bestowal and reception of God's might rendered necessary by our
continuous human weakness, and by the tear and wear of life. As in the
physical life there must be constant renewal because there is constant
waste, and as every bodily action involves destruction of tissue so that
living is a continual dying, so is it in the mental and still more in
the spiritual life. Just as there must be a perpetual oxygenation of
blood in the lungs, so there must be an uninterrupted renewal of
spiritual strength for the highest life. It is demanded by the
conditions of our human weakness. It is no less rendered necessary by
the nature of the divine strength imparted, which is ever communicating
itself, and like the ocean cannot but pour so much of its fulness as can
be received into every creek and crack on its shore.

The Apostle not merely emphasises the continuousness of this
communicated strength, but its many-sided variety, by designating it
'all power.' In this whole context that word 'all' seems to have a charm
for him. We read in this prayer of '_all_ spiritual wisdom,' of 'walking
worthily of the Lord unto _all_ pleasing,' of 'fruit in _every_ good
work,' and now of '_all_ power,' and lastly of '_all_ patience and
longsuffering.' These are not instances of being obsessed with a word,
but each of them has its own appropriate force, and here the
comprehensive completeness of the strength available for our many-sided
weakness is marvellously revealed. There is 'infinite riches in a narrow
room.' All power means every kind of power, be it bodily or mental, for
all variety of circumstances, and, Protean, to take the shape of all
exigencies. Most of us are strong only at points, and weak in others. In
all human experience there is a vulnerable spot on the heel. The most
glorious image, though it has a head of gold, ends in feet, 'part of
iron and part of clay.'

And if this ideal of many-sided power stands in contrast with the
limitations of human strength, how does it rebuke and condemn the very
partial manifestations of a very narrow and one-sided power which we who
profess to have received it set forth! We have access to a source which
can fill our whole nature, can flower into all gracious forms, can cope
with all our exigencies, and make us all-round men, complete in Jesus
Christ, and, having this, what do we make of it, what do we show for it?
Does not God say to us, 'Ye are not straitened in me, ye are straitened
in yourselves; I beseech you be ye enlarged.'

The conditions on our part requisite for possessing 'all might' are
plain enough. The earlier portion of the prayer plainly points to them.
The knowledge of God's Will and the 'walk worthy of the Lord' are the
means whereby the power which is ever eager to make its dwelling in us,
can reach its end. If _we_ keep the channel unchoked, no doubt 'the
river of the water of life which proceedeth from the throne of God and
the Lamb' will rejoice to fill it to the brim with its flashing waters.
If we do not wrench away ourselves from contact with Him, He will
'strengthen us with all might.' If we keep near Him we may have calm
confidence that power will be ours that shall equal our need and
outstrip our desires.

II. The measure of the strength.

It is 'according to the power of His glory.' The Authorised Version but
poorly represents the fulness of the Apostle's thought, which is more
adequately and accurately expressed in the Revised Version. 'His glory'
is the flashing brightness of the divine self-manifestation, and in that
Light resides the strength which is the standard or measure of the gift
to us. The tremendous force of the sunbeam which still falls so gently
on a sleeper's face as not to disturb the closed eyes is but a parable
of the strength which characterises the divine glory. And wonderful and
condemnatory as the thought is, that power is the unlimited limit of the
possibilities of our possession. His gifts are proportioned to His
resources. While He is rich, can I be poor? The only real limit to His
bestowal is His own fulness. Of course, at each moment, our capacity of
receiving is for the time being the practical limit of our possession,
but that capacity varies indefinitely, and may be, and should be,
indefinitely and continuously increasing. It is an elastic boundary, and
hence we may go on making our own as much as we will, and progressively
more and more, of God's strength. He gives it all, but there is a
tragical difference between the full cup put into our hands and the few
drops carried to our lips. The key of the treasure-chamber is in our
possession, and on each of us His gracious face smiles the permission
which His gracious lips utter in words, 'Be it unto thee even as thou
wilt.' If we are conscious of defect, if our weakness is beaten by the
assaults of temptation, or crushed by sorrows that ride it down in a
fierce attack, the fault is our own. We have, if we choose to make it
our own and to use it as ours, more than enough to make us 'more than
conquerors' over all sins and all sorrows.

But when we contrast what we have by God's gift and what we have in our
personal experience and use in our daily life, the contrast may well
bring shame, even though the contrast brings to us hope to lighten the
shame. The average experience of present-day Christians reminds one of
the great tanks that may be seen in India, that have been suffered to go
to ruin, and so an elaborate system of irrigation comes to nothing, and
the great river that should have been drawn off into them runs past
them, all but unused. Repair them and keep the sluices open, and all
will blossom again.

III. The great purpose of this strength.

'Patience and longsuffering with joyfulness' seems at first but a poor
result of such a force, but it comes from a heart that was under no
illusions as to the facts of human life, and it finds a response in us
all. It may be difficult to discriminate 'patience' from
'longsuffering,' but the general notion here is that one of the highest
uses for which divine strength is given to us, is to make us able to
meet the antagonism of evil without its shaking our souls. He who
patiently endures without despondency or the desire to 'recompense evil
for evil,' and to whom by faith even 'the night is light about him,' is
far on the way to perfection. God is always near us, but never nearer
than when our hearts are heavy and our way rough and dark. Our sorrows
make rents through which His strength flows. We can see more of heaven
when the leaves are off the trees. It is a law of the Divine dealings
that His strength is 'made perfect in weakness.' God leads us in to a
darkened room to show us His wonders.

That strength is to be manifested by us in 'patience and longsuffering,'
both of which are to have blended with them a real though apparently
antagonistic joy. True and profound grief is not opposed to such
patience, but the excess of it, the hopeless and hysterical outbursts
certainly are. We are all like the figures in some old Greek temples
which stand upright with their burdens on their heads. God's strength is
given that we may bear ours calmly, and upright like these fair forms
that hold up the heavy architecture as if it were a feather, or like
women with water-jars on their heads, which only make their carriage
more graceful and their step more firm.

How different the patience which God gives by His own imparted strength,
from the sullen submission or hysterical abandonment to sorrow, or the
angry rebellion characterising Godless grief! Many of us think that we
can get on very well in prosperity and fine weather without Him. We had
better ask ourselves what we are going to do when the storm comes, which
comes to all some time or other.

The word here rendered 'patience' is more properly 'perseverance.' It is
not merely a passive but an active virtue. We do not receive that great
gift of divine strength to bear only, but also to work, and such work is
one of the best ways of bearing and one of the best helps to doing so.
So in our sorrows and trials let us feel that God's strength is not all
given us to be expended in our own consolation, but also to be used in
our plain duties. These remain as imperative though our hearts are
beating like hammers, and there is no more unwise and cowardly surrender
to trouble than to fling away our tools and fold our hands idly on our
laps.

But Paul lays a harder duty on us even in promising a great gift to us,
when he puts before us an ideal of joy mingling with patience and
longsuffering. The command would be an impossible one if there were not
the assurance that we should be 'strengthened with all might.' We
plainly need an infusion of diviner strength than our own, if that
strange marriage of joy and sorrow should take place, and they should at
once occupy our hearts. Yet if His strength be ours we shall be strong
to submit and acquiesce, strong to look deep enough to see His will as
the foundation of all and as ever busy for our good, strong to hope,
strong to discern the love at work, strong to trust the Father even when
He chastens. And all this will make it possible to have the paradox
practically realised in our own experience, 'As sorrowful yet always
rejoicing.' One has seen potassium burning underwater. Our joy may burn
under waves of sorrow. Let us bring our weakness to Jesus Christ and
grasp Him as did the sinking Peter. He will breathe His own grace into
us, and speak to our feeble and perchance sorrowful hearts, as He had
done long before Paul's words to the Colossians, 'My grace is sufficient
for thee, and my strength is made perfect in weakness.'



THANKFUL FOR INHERITANCE

          'Giving thanks unto the Father, who made us meet
          to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints
          in light.'--COL. i. 12 (R.V.)


It is interesting to notice how much the thought of inheritance seems to
have been filling the Apostle's mind during his writing of Ephesians and
Colossians. Its recurrence is one of the points of contact between them.
For example, in Ephesians, we read, 'In whom also were made a heritage'
(i. 11); 'An earnest of our inheritance' (i. 14); 'His inheritance in
the saints' (i. 18); 'Inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ' (v. 5). We
notice too that in the address to the Elders of the Church at Ephesus,
we read of 'the inheritance among all them that are sanctified' (Acts
20-32).

In the text the climax of the Apostle's prayer is presented as
thankfulness, the perpetual recognition of the Divine hand in all that
befalls us, the perpetual confidence that all which befalls us is good,
and the perpetual gushing out towards Him of love and praise. The
highest diligence, the most strenuous fruit-bearing, and the most
submissive patience and longsuffering would be incomplete without the
consecration of a grateful heart, and the noblest beauty of a Christian
character would lack its rarest lustre. This crown of Christian
perfectness the Apostle regards as being called into action mainly by
the contemplation of that great act and continuous work of God's
Fatherly love by which he makes us fit for our portion of the
inheritance which the same love has prepared for us. That inheritance is
the great cause for Christian thankfulness; the more immediate cause is
His preparation of us for it. So we have three points here to consider;
the inheritance; God's Fatherly preparation of His children for it; the
continual temper of thankfulness which these should evoke.

I. The Inheritance.

The frequent recurrence of this idea in the Old Testament supplies Paul
with a thought which he uses to set forth the most characteristic
blessings of the New. The promised land belonged to Israel, and each
member of each tribe had his own little holding in the tribal territory.
Christians have in common the higher spiritual blessings which Christ
brings, and Himself is, and each individual has his own portion of, the
general good.

We must begin by dismissing from our minds the common idea, which a
shallow experience tends to find confirmed by the associations
ordinarily attached to the word 'inheritance,' that it is entered upon
by death. No doubt, that great change does effect an unspeakable change
in our fitness for, and consequently in our possession of, the gifts
which we receive from Christ's pierced hands, and, as the Apostle has
told us, the highest of these possessed on earth is but the 'earnest of
the inheritance'; but we must ever bear in mind that the distinction
between a Christian life on earth and one in heaven is by no means so
sharply drawn in Scripture as it generally is by us, and that death has
by no means so great importance as we faithlessly attribute to it. The
life here and hereafter is like a road which passes the frontiers of two
kingdoms divided by a bridged river, but runs on in the same direction
on both sides of the stream. The flood had to be forded until Jesus
bridged it. The elements of the future and the present are the same, as
the apostolic metaphor of the 'earnest of the inheritance' teaches us.
The handful of soil which constitutes the 'arles' is part of the broad
acres made over by it.

We should be saved from many unworthy conceptions of the future life, if
we held more steadfastly to the great truth that God Himself is the
portion of the inheritance. The human spirit is too great and too
exacting to be satisfied with anything less than Him, and the possession
of Him opens out into every blessedness, and includes all the minor joys
and privileges that can gladden and enrich the soul. We degrade the
future if we think of it only, or even chiefly, as a state in which
faculties are enlarged, and sorrows and sins are for ever ended. Neither
such negatives as 'no night there,' 'neither sorrow nor crime,' 'no more
pain,' nor such metaphors as 'white robes' and 'golden crowns' and
'seats on thrones' are enough. We are 'heirs of God,' and only as we
possess Him, and know that we are His, and He is ours, are we 'rich to
all intents of bliss.' That inheritance is here set forth as being 'in
light' and as belonging to saints. Light is the element and atmosphere
of God. He is in light. He is the fountain of all light. He is light;
perfect in wisdom, perfect in purity. The sun has its spots, but in Him
is no darkness at all. Moons wax and wane, shadows of eclipse fall,
stars have their time to set, but 'He is the Father of lights with whom
can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning.' All that
light is focussed in Jesus the Light of the world. That Light fills the
earth, but here it shineth in darkness that obstructs its rays. But
there must be a place and a time where the manifestation of God
corresponds with the reality of God, where His beams pour out and there
is nothing hid from the heat thereof, nothing which they do not bless,
nothing which does not flash them back rejoicing. There is a land
whereof the Lord God is the Light. In it is the inheritance of the
'saints,' and in its light live the nations of the saved, and have God
for their companion. All darkness of ignorance, of sorrow, and of sin
will fade away as the night flees and ceases to be, before the rising
sun.

The phrase 'to be partakers' is accurately rendered 'for the portion,'
and carries a distinct allusion to the partition of the promised land to
Israel by which each man had his lot or share in the common inheritance.
So the one word inheritance brings with it blessed thoughts of a common
possession of a happy society in which no man's gain is another's loss,
and all envyings, rivalries, and jealousies have ceased to be, and the
other word, 'the portion,' suggests the individual possession by each of
his own vision and experience. Each man's 'portion' is capable of
growth; each has as much of God as he can hold. The measure of his
desire is the measure of his capacity. There are infinite differences in
the 'portions' of the saints on earth, and heaven is robbed of one of
its chief charms unless we recognise that there are infinite differences
among the saints there. For both states the charter by which the
portion is held is 'Be it unto thee even as thou wilt,' and in both the
law holds 'To him that hath shall be given.'

II. The Fatherly preparation for the Inheritance.

It is obvious from all which we have been saying that without holiness
no man shall see the Lord. The inheritance being what it is, the
possession, the enjoyment of communion with a Holy God, it is absolutely
incapable of being entered upon by any who are unholy. That is true
about both the partial possession of the earnest of it here and of its
fulness hereafter. In the present life all tolerated sin bars us out
from enjoying God, and in the future nothing can enter that defileth nor
whatsoever worketh or maketh a lie. There are many people who think that
they would like 'to go to heaven,' but who would find it difficult to
answer such questions as these: Do you like to think of God? Do you find
any joy in holy thoughts? What do you feel about prayer? Does the name
of Christ make your heart leap? Is righteousness your passion? If you
have to answer these questions with a silence which is the saddest
negative, what do you think you would do in heaven? I remember that the
Greenlanders told the Moravian missionaries who were trying to move them
by conventional pictures of its delights, that the heaven which these
pious souls had painted would not do for them, for there were no seals
there. There are thousands of us who, if we spoke the truth, would say
the same thing, with the necessary variations arising from our
environment. There is not a spinning-mill in it all. How would some of
us like that? There is not a ledger, nor a theatre, no novels, no
amusements. Would it not be intolerable ennui to be put down in such an
order of things? You would be like the Israelites, loathing 'this light
bread' and hungering for the strong-smelling and savoury-tasting leeks
and garlic, even if in order to taste them you had to be slaves again.

Heaven would be no heaven to you if you could go there and be thus
minded. But you could not. God Himself cannot carry men thither but by
fitting them for it. It is not a place so much as a state, and the
mighty hand that works on one side of the thick curtain preparing the
inheritance in light for the saints, is equally busy on this side making
the saints meet for the inheritance.

I do not wish to enter here on grammatical niceties, but I must point
out that the form of the word which the Apostle employs to express it
points to an act in the past which still runs on.

The Revised Version's rendering, 'made us meet,' is preferable to the
Authorised Version's, because of its omission of the 'hath' which
relegates the whole process of preparation to the past. And it is of
importance to recognise that the difference between these two
representations of the divine preparation is not a piece of pedantry,
for that preparation has indeed its beginnings in the past of every
Christian soul, but is continuous throughout its whole earthly
experience. There is the great act of forgiveness and justifying which
is cotemporaneous with the earliest and most imperfect faith, and there
is the being born again, the implanting of a new life which is the life
of Christ Himself, and has no spot nor wrinkle nor any such thing. That
new life is infantile, but it is there, the real man, and it will grow
and conquer. Take an extreme case and suppose a man who has just
received forgiveness for his past and the endowment of a new nature.
Though he were to die at that moment he would still in the basis of his
being and real self be meet for the inheritance. He who truly trusts in
Jesus is passed from death unto life, though the habits of sins which
are forgiven still cling to him, and his new life has not yet exercised
a controlling power or begun to build up character. So Christians ought
not to think that, because they are conscious of much unholiness, they
are not ready for the inheritance. The wild brigand through whose
glazing eyeballs faith looked out to his fellow-sufferer on the central
cross was adjudged meet to be with him in Paradise, and if all his deeds
of violence and wild outrages on the laws of God and man did not make
him unmeet, who amongst us need write bitter things against himself? The
preparation is further effected through all the future earthly life. The
only true way to regard everything that befalls us here is to see in it
the Fatherly discipline preparing us for a fuller possession of a richer
inheritance. Gains and losses, joys and sorrows, and all the endless
variety of experiences through which we all have to pass, are an
unintelligible mystery unless we apply to them this solution, 'He for
our profit that we might be partakers of His holiness.' It is not a
blind Fate or a still blinder Chance that hurtles sorrows and changes at
us, but a loving Father; and we do not grasp the meaning of our lives
unless we feel, even about their darkest moments, that the end of them
all is to make us more capable of possessing more of Himself.

III. The thankfulness which these thoughts should evoke.

Thankfulness ought to be a sweet duty. It is a joy to cherish gratitude.
Generous hearts do not need to be told to be thankful, and they who are
only thankful to order are not thankful at all. In nothing is the
ordinary experience of the ordinary Christian more defective, and
significant of the deficiencies of their faith, than in the tepidness
and interruptedness of their gratitude. The blessings bestowed are
continuous and unspeakable. The thanks returned are grudging and scanty.
The river that flows from God is 'full of water' and pours out
unceasingly, and all that we return is a tiny trickle, often choked and
sometimes lost in the sands.

Our thankfulness ought to be constant. The fire on the altar should
never be quenched. The odour of the sweet-smelling incense should ever
ascend. Why is it that we have so little of this grace which the Apostle
in our text regards as the precious stone that binds all Christian
graces together, the sparkling crest of the wave of a Christian life?
Mainly because we have so little of the habit of regarding all things as
God's Fatherly discipline and meditating on that for which they are
making us meet. We need a far more habitual contemplation of our
inheritance, of our experience as lovingly given by God to fit us for it
and of the darkest hours which would otherwise try our faith and silence
our praise as necessary parts of that preparation. If this be our
habitual attitude of mind, and these be ever present to us, our song
will be always of His mercy and our whole lives a thank-offering.

The text is a prophecy describing the inheritance in its perfect form.
Earthly life must be ended before it is fully understood. Down in the
valleys we praised God, but tears and mysteries sometimes saddened our
songs; but now on the summit surveying all behind, and knowing by a
blessed eternity of experience to what it has led, even an inheritance
incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away, we shall praise
Him with a new song for ever.

Thankfulness is the one element of worship common to earth and heaven,
to angels and to us. Whilst they sing, 'Bless the Lord all ye His
hosts,' redeemed men have still better reason to join in the chorus and
answer, 'Bless the Lord, O my soul.'



CHRISTIAN ENDEAVOUR

          'I also labour, striving according to His working,
          which worketh in me mightily.'--COL. i. 29.


I have chosen this text principally because it brings together the two
subjects which are naturally before us to-day. All 'Western
Christendom,' as it is called, is to-day commemorating the Pentecostal
gift. My text speaks about that power that 'worketh in us mightily.'
True, the Apostle is speaking in reference to the fiery energy and
persistent toil which characterised him in proclaiming Christ, that he
might present men perfect before Him. But the same energy which he
expended on his apostolic office he expended on his individual
personality. And he would not have discharged the one unless he had
first laboured on the other. And although in a letter contemporary with
this one from which my text is taken he speaks of himself as no longer
young, but 'such an one as Paul the aged, and likewise, also a prisoner
of Jesus Christ,' the young spirit was in him, and the continual
pressing forward to unattained heights. And that is the spirit, not only
of a section of the Church divided from the rest by youth and by special
effort, but of the whole Church if it is worth calling a Church, and
unless it is thus instinct, it is a mere dead organisation.

So I hope that what few things I have to say may apply to, and be felt
to be suitable by all of us, whether we are nominally Christian
Endeavourers or not. If we are Christian people, we are such. If we are
not endeavouring, shall I venture to say we are not Christians? At any
rate, we are very poor ones.

Now here, then, are two plain things, a great universal Christian duty
and a sufficient universal Christian endowment. 'I work striving'; that
is the description of every true Christian. 'I work striving, according
to His working, who worketh in me mightily': there is the great gift
which makes the work and the striving possible. Let me briefly deal,
then, with these two.

I. The solemn universal Christian obligation.

Now the two words which the Apostle employs here are both of them very
emphatic. 'His words were half battles,' was said about Luther. It may
be as truly said about Paul. And that word 'work' which he employs,
means, not work with one hand, or with a delicate forefinger, but it
means toil up to the verge of weariness. The notion of fatigue is
almost, I might say, uppermost in the word as it is used in the New
Testament. Some people like to 'labour' so as never to turn a hair, or
bring a sweat-drop on to their foreheads. That is not Christian
Endeavour. Work that does not 'take it out of you' is not worth doing.
The other word 'striving' brings up the picture of the arena with the
combatants' strain of muscle, their set teeth, their quick, short
breathing, their deadly struggle. That is Paul's notion of Endeavour.
Now 'Endeavour,' like a great many other words, has a baser and a nobler
side to it. Some people, when they say, 'I will endeavour,' mean that
they are going to try in a half-hearted way, with no prospect of
succeeding. That is not Christian Endeavour. The meaning of the
word--for the expression in my text might just as well be rendered
'endeavouring' as 'striving'--is that of a buoyant confident effort of
all the concentrated powers, with the certainty of success. That is the
endeavour that we have to cultivate as Christian men. And there is only
one field of human effort in which that absolute confidence that it
shall not be in vain is anything but presumptuous arrogance; namely, in
the effort after making ourselves what God means us to be, what Jesus
Christ longs for us to be, what the Spirit of God is given to us in
order that we should be. 'We shall _not_ fail,' ought to be the word of
every man and woman when they set themselves to the great task of
working out, in their own characters and personalities, the Divine
intention which is made a Divine possibility by the sacrifice of Jesus
Christ and the gift of the Divine Spirit.

So then what we come to is just this, dear brethren, if we are
Christians at all, we have to make a business of our religion; to go
about it as if we meant work. Ah! what a contrast there is between the
languid way in which Christian men pursue what the Bible designates
their 'calling' and that in which men with far paltrier aims pursue
theirs! And what a still sadder contrast there is between the way in
which we Christians go about our daily business, and the way in which we
go about our Christian life! Why, a man will take more pains to learn
some ornamental art, or some game, than he will ever take to make
himself a better Christian. The one is work. What is the other? To a
very large extent dawdling and make-believe.

You remember the old story,--it may raise a smile, but there should be a
deep thought below the smile,--of the little child that said as to his
father that 'he was a Christian, but he had not been working much at it
lately.' Do not laugh. It is a great deal too true of--I will not
venture to say what percentage of--the professing Christians of this
day. Work at your religion. That is the great lesson of my text.
Endeavour with confidence of success. The Book of Proverbs says: 'He
that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster,'
and that is true. A man that does 'the work of the Lord negligently' is
scarcely to be credited with doing it at all. Dear friends, young or
old, if you name the name of Christ, be in earnest, and make earnest
work of your Christian character.

And now may I venture two or three very plain exhortations? First, I
would say--if you mean to make your Christian life a piece of genuine
work and striving, the first thing that you have to do is to endeavour
in the direction of keeping its aim very clear before you. There are
many ways in which we may state the goal of the Christian life, but let
us put it now into the all-comprehensive form of likeness to Jesus
Christ, by entire conformity to His Example and full interpretation of
His life. I do not say 'Heaven'; I say 'Christ.'

That is our aim, the loftiest idea of development that any human spirit
can grasp, and rising high above a great many others which are noble but
incomplete. The Christian ideal is the greatest in the universe. There
is no other system of thought that paints man as he is, so darkly; there
is none that paints man as he is meant to be, in such radiant colours.
The blacks upon the palette of Christianity are blacker, and the whites
are whiter, and the golden is more radiant, than any other painter has
ever mixed. And so just because the aim which lies before the least and
lowest of us, possessing the most imperfect and rudimentary
Christianity, is so transcendent and lofty, it is hard to keep it clear
before our eyes, especially when all the shabby little necessities of
daily life come in to clutter up the foreground, and hide the great
distance. Men may live up at Darjeeling there on the heights for weeks,
and never see the Himalayas towering opposite. The lower hills are
clear; the peaks are wreathed in cloud. So the little aims, the nearer
purposes, stand out distinct and obtrusive, and force themselves, as it
were, upon our eyeballs, and the solemn white Throne of the Eternal away
across the marshy levels, is often hid, and it needs an effort for us to
keep it clear before us. One of the main reasons for much that is
unsatisfactory in the spiritual condition of the average Christian of
this day is precisely that he has not burning ever before him there, the
great aim to which he ought to be tending. So he gets loose and
diffused, and vague and uncertain. That is what Paul tells you when he
proposes himself as an example: 'So run I, not as uncertainly,' The man
who knows where he is running makes a bee-line for the goal. If he is
not sure of his destination, of course he zigzags. 'So fight I, not as
one that beateth the air'--if I see my antagonist I can hit him. If I do
not see him clearly I strike like a swordsman in the dark, at random,
and my sword comes back unstained. If you want to make the harbour, keep
the harbour lights always clear before you, or you will go yawing about,
and washing here and there, in the trough of the wave, and the tempest
will be your master. If you do not know where you are going you will
have to say, like the men in the old story in the Old Book, 'Thy servant
went no whither.' If you are going to endeavour, endeavour first to keep
the goal clear before you.

And endeavour next to keep up communion with Jesus Christ, which is the
secret of all peaceful and of all noble living. And endeavour next after
concentration. And what does that mean? It means that you have to detach
yourself from hindrances. It means that you have to prosecute the
Christian aim all through the common things of Christian life. If it
were not possible to be pursuing the great aim of likeness to Jesus
Christ, in the veriest secularities of the most insignificant and
trivial occupations, then it would be no use talking about that being
our aim. If we are not making ourselves more like Jesus Christ by the
way in which we handle our books, or our pen, or our loom, or our
scalpel, or our kitchen utensils, then there is little chance of our
ever making ourselves like Jesus Christ. For it is these trifles that
make life, and to concentrate ourselves on the pursuit of the Christian
aim is, in other words, to carry that Christian aim into every
triviality of our daily lives.

There are three Scripture passages which set forth various aspects of
the aim that we have before us, and from each of these aspects deduce
the one same lesson. The Apostle says 'giving all diligence, add to your
faith virtue,' etc., 'for if ye do these things ye shall never fail.' He
also exhorts: 'Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.'
And finally he says: 'Be diligent, that ye may be found of Him in peace,
without spot, blameless.' _There_ are three aspects of the Christian
course, and the Christian aim, the addition to our faith of all the
clustering graces and virtues and powers that can be hung upon it, like
jewels on the neck of a queen; the making our calling and election sure,
and the being found at last tranquil, spotless, stainless, and being
found so by Him. These great aims are incumbent on all Christians, they
require diligence, and ennoble the diligence which they require.

So, brethren, we have all to be Endeavourers if we are Christians, and
that to the very end of our lives. For our path is the only path on
which men tread that has for its goal an object so far off that it never
can be attained, so near that it can ever be approached. This infinite
goal of the Christian Endeavour means inspiration for youth, and
freshness for old age, and that man is happy who can say: 'Not as though
I had already attained' at the end of a long life, and can say it, not
because he has failed, but because in a measure he has succeeded. Other
courses of life are like the voyages of the old mariners which were
confined within the narrow limits of the Mediterranean, and steered from
headland to headland. But the Christian passes through the jaws of the
straits, and comes out on a boundless sunlit ocean where, though he sees
no land ahead, he knows there is a peaceful shore, beyond the western
waves. 'I work striving.'

Now one word as to the other thought that is here, and that is

II. The all-sufficient Christian gift.

'According to His working, which worketh in me mightily.' I need not
discuss whether 'His' in my text refers to God or to Christ. The thing
meant is the operation upon the Christian spirit, of that Divine Spirit
whose descent the Church to-day commemorates. At this stage of my sermon
I can only remind you in a word, first of all, that the Apostle here is
arrogating to himself no special or peculiar gift, is not egotistically
setting forth something which he possessed and other Christian people
did not--that power which, 'working in him mightily,' worked in all his
brethren as well. It was his conviction and his teaching--would that it
were more operatively and vitally the conviction of all professing
Christians to-day, and would that it were more conspicuously, and in due
proportion to the rest of Christian truth, the teaching of all Christian
teachers to-day!--that that Divine power is in the very act of faith
received and implanted in every believing soul. 'Know ye not,' the
Apostle could say to his hearers, 'that ye have the Spirit of God,
except ye be reprobates.' I doubt whether the affirmative response would
spring to the lips of all professing or real Christians to-day as
swiftly as it would have done then. And I cannot help feeling, and
feeling with increasing gravity of pressure as the days go on, that the
thing that our churches, and we as individuals, perhaps need most
to-day, is the replacing of that great truth--I do not call it a
'doctrine,' that is cold, it is experience--in its proper place. They
who believe on Him do receive a new life, a supernatural communication
of the new Spirit, to be the very power that rules in their lives.

It is an inward gift. It is not like the help that men can render us,
given from without and apprehended and incorporated with ourselves
through the medium of the understanding or of the heart. There is an old
story in the history of Israel about a young king that was bid by the
prophet to bend his bow against the enemies of Israel, as a symbol; and
the old prophet put his withered, skinny brown hand on the young man's
fleshy one, and then said to him, 'Shoot.' But this Divine Spirit comes
to strengthen us in a more intimate and blessed fashion than that, for
it glides into our hearts and dwells in our spirits, and our work, as
my text says, is His working. This 'working within' is stated in the
original of my text most emphatically, for it is literally 'the
inworking which inworketh in me mightily.'

So, dear brethren, the first direct aim of all our endeavour ought to be
to receive and to keep and to increase our gift of that Divine Spirit.
The work and the striving of which my text speaks would be sheer slavery
unless we had that help. It would be impossible of accomplishment unless
we had it.

          'If any power we have, it is to ill,
           And all the power is Thine, to do and eke to will.'

Let us, then, begin our endeavour, not by working, but by receiving. Is
not that the very meaning of the doctrine that we are always talking
about, that men are saved, not by works but by faith? Does not that mean
that the first step is reception, and the first requisite is
receptiveness, and that then, and after that, second and not first, come
working and striving? To keep our hearts open by desire, to keep them
open by purity, are the essentials. The dove will not come into a fouled
nest. It is said that they forsake polluted places. But also we have to
use the power which is inwrought. Use is the way to increase all gifts,
from the muscle in your arm to the Christian life in your spirit. Use
it, and it grows. Neglect it, and it vanishes, and like the old Jewish
heroes, a man may go forth to exercise himself as of old time, and know
not that the Spirit of God hath departed from him. Dear friends, do not
bind yourselves to the slavery of Endeavour, until you come into the
liberty and wealth of receiving. He gives first, and then says to you,
'Now go to work, and keep that good thing which is committed unto
thee.'

There is but one thought more in this last part of my text, which I must
not leave untouched, and that is that this sufficient and universal gift
is not only the means by which the great universal duty can be
discharged, but it ought to be the measure in which it is discharged. 'I
work according to the working in me.' That is, all the force that came
into Paul by that Divine Spirit, came out of Paul in his Christian
conduct, and the gift was not only the source, but also the measure, of
this man's Christian Endeavour. Is that true about us? They say that the
steam-engine is a most wasteful application of power, that a great deal
of the energy which is generated goes without ever doing any work. They
tell us that one of the great difficulties in the way of economic
application of electricity is the loss which comes through using
accumulators. Is not that like a great many of us? So much power poured
into us; so little coming out from us and translated into actual work!
Such a 'rushing mighty wind,' and the air about us so heavy and stagnant
and corrupt! Such a blaze of fire, and we so cold! Such a cataract of
the river of the water of life, and our lips parched and our crops
seared and worthless! Ah, brethren! when we look at ourselves, and when
we think of the condition of so many of the churches to which we belong,
the old rebuke of the prophet comes back to us in this generation, 'Thou
that art named the House of Israel, is the Spirit of the Lord
straitened? Are these His doings?' We have an all-sufficient power. May
our working and striving be according to it, and may we work mightily,
being 'strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might!'



CHRISTIAN PROGRESS

          'As therefore ye received Christ Jesus the Lord,
          so walk in Him, rooted and builded up in
          Him.'--COL. ii. 6, 7 (R.V.).


It is characteristic of Paul that he should here use three figures
incongruous with each other to express the same idea, the figures of
walking, being rooted, and built up. They, however, have in common that
they all suggest an initial act by which we are brought into connection
with Christ, and a subsequent process flowing from and following on it.
Receiving Christ, being rooted in Him, being founded on Him, stand for
the first; walking in Him, growing up from the root in Him, being built
up on Him as foundation, stand for the second. Fully expressed then, the
text would run, 'As ye have received Christ, so walk in Him; as ye have
been rooted in Him, so grow up in Him; as ye have been founded on Him,
so be builded up.' These three clauses present the one idea in slightly
different forms. The first expresses Christian progress as the
manifestation before the world of an inward possession, the exhibition
in the outward life of a treasure hid in the heart. The second expresses
the same progress as the development by its own vital energy of the life
of Christ in the soul. The third expresses the progress as the addition,
by conscious efforts, of portion after portion to the character, which
is manifestly incomplete until the headstone crowns the structure. We
may then take the passage before us as exhibiting the principles of
Christian progress.

I. The origin of all, or how Christian progress begins.

These three figures, receiving, rooted, founded, all express a great
deal more than merely accepting certain truths about Him. The acceptance
of truths is the means by which we come to what is more than any belief
of truths. We possess Christ when we believe with a true faith in Him.
We are rooted in Him. His life flows into us. We draw nourishment from
that soil. We are built on Him, and in our compact union find a real
support to a life which is otherwise baseless and blown about like
thistledown by every breath. The union which all these metaphors
presupposes is a vital connection; the possession which is the first
step in the Christian life is a real possession.

There is no progress without that initial step. Our own experience tells
us but too plainly and loudly that we need the impartation of a new
life, and to be set on a new foundation, if we are ever to be anything
else than failures and blots.

There is sure to be progress if the initial step has been taken. If
Christ has been received, the life possessed will certainly manifest
itself. It will go on to perfection. The union effected will work on
through the whole character and nature. It is the beginning of all; it
is only the beginning.

II. The manner of Christian progress or in what it consists.

It consists in a more complete possession of Him, in a more constant
approximation to Him, and a more entire appropriation of Him. Christian
progress is not a growing up from Christ as starting-point, but into
Christ as goal. All is contained in the first act by which He is first
received; the remainder is but the working out of that. All our growth
in knowledge and wisdom consists in our knowing what we have when we
receive Christ. We grow in proportion as we learn to see in Him the
centre of all truth, as the Revealer of God, as the Teacher of man, as
the Interpreter of nature, as the meaning and end of history, as the
Lord of life and death. Morals, politics, and philosophy flow from Him.
His lips and His life and death proclaim all truth, human and divine.

As in wisdom so in character, all progress consists in coming closer to
Jesus and receiving more and more of His many-sided grace. He is the
pattern of all excellence, the living ideal of whatsoever things are
pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good
report, virtue incarnate, praise embodied. He is the power by which we
become gradually and growingly moulded into His likeness. Every part of
our nature finds its best stimulus in Jesus for individuals and for
societies. Christ and growth into Him is progress, and the only way by
which men can be presented perfect, is that they shall be presented
'perfect in Christ,' whereunto every man must labour who would that his
labour should not be in vain. That progress must follow the threefold
direction in the text. There must first be the progressive manifestation
in act and life of the Christ already possessed, 'As ye received Christ
Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.' There must also be the completer growth
in the soul of the new life already received. As the leaf grows green
and broad, so a Christlike character must grow not altogether by effort.
And there must be a continual being builded up in Him by constant
additions to the fabric of graces set on that foundation.

III. The means, or how it is accomplished.

The first words of our text tell us that 'Ye have received Christ Jesus
as Lord,' and all depends on keeping the channels of communication open
so that the reception may be continuous and progressive. We must live
near and ever nearer to the Lord, and seek that our communion with Him
may be strengthened. On the other hand, it is not only by the
spontaneous development of the implanted life, but by conscious and
continuous efforts which sometimes involve vigorous repression of the
old self that progress is realised. The two metaphors of our text have
to be united in our experience. Neither the effortless growth of the
tree nor the toilsome work of the builder suffice to represent the whole
truth. The two sides of deep and still communion, and of strenuous
effort based on that communion, must be found in the experience of every
Christian who has received Christ, and is advancing through the
imperfect manifestations of earth to the perfect union with, and perfect
assimilation to, the Lord.

To all men who are ready to despair of themselves, here is the way to
realise the grandest hopes. Nothing is too great to be attained by one
who, having received Christ Jesus as Lord, walks in Him, rooted and
builded up in Him, 'a holy temple to the Lord.'



RISEN WITH CHRIST

          'If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those
          things which are above, where Christ sitteth on
          the right hand of God. 2. Set your affection on
          things above, not on things on the earth. 3. For
          ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in
          God. 4. When Christ, who is our life, shall
          appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in
          glory. 5. Mortify therefore your members which are
          upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness,
          inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and
          covetousness, which is idolatry: 6. For which
          things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the
          children of disobedience. 7. In the which ye also
          walked sometime, when ye lived in them. 8. But now
          ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice,
          blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
          9. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put
          off the old man with his deeds; 10. And have put
          on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge
          after the image of Him that created him: 11. Where
          there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor
          uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor
          free: but Christ is all, and in all. 12. Put on
          therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved,
          bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind,
          meekness, longsuffering; 13. Forbearing one
          another, and forgiving one another, if any man
          have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave
          you, so also do ye. 14. And above all these things
          put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
          15. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts,
          to the which also ye are called in one body; and
          be ye thankful.'--COL. iii. 1-15.


The resurrection is regarded in Scripture in three aspects--as a fact
establishing our Lord's Messiahship, as a prophecy of our rising from
the dead, and as a symbol of the Christian life even now. The last is
the aspect under which Paul deals with it here.

I. Verses 1-4 set forth the wonderful but most real union of the
believer with the risen Christ. We have said that the Lord's
resurrection is regarded as a symbol, but that is an incomplete
representation of the truth here taught, for Paul believed that the
Christian is so joined to Jesus as that he has, not in symbol only, but
in truth, risen with him. Mark the emphasis and depth of the expressions
setting forth the believer's unity with his Lord: 'Ye were raised
together with Christ'; 'Ye died, and your life is hid with Christ.' And
these wonderful statements do not go to the bottom of the fact, for Paul
goes beyond even them, and does not scruple to say that Christ '_is_ our
life.'

The ground of these great declarations is found in the fact that faith
joins us in most real and close union to Jesus Christ, so that in His
death we die to sin and the world, and that, even while we live the
bodily life of men here, we have in us another life, derived from Jesus.
Unless our Christianity has grasped that great truth, it has not risen
to the height of New Testament teaching and Christian privilege. We
cannot make too much of 'Christ our sacrifice,' but some of us make too
little of 'Christ our life,' and thereby fail to understand in all its
fulness that other truth on which they fasten so exclusively. Union with
Christ in the possession of His life in us, and the consequent rooting
of our lives in Him, is a truth which much of the evangelical
Christianity of this day needs to see more clearly.

The life is 'hid,' as being united with Jesus, and consequently
withdrawn from the world, which neither comprehends nor sustains it. A
Christian man is bound to manifest to the utmost of his power what is
the motive and aim of his life; but the devout life is, like the divine
life, a mystery, unrevealed after all revelation.

The practical conclusion from this blessed union with Jesus is that we
are, as Christians, bound to be true in our conduct to the facts of our
spiritual life, and to turn away from the world, which is now not our
home, and set our mind (not only our 'affections') on things above.
Surely the Christ, 'seated on the right hand of God,' will be as a
magnet to draw our conscious being upwards to Himself. Surely union with
Him in His death will lead us to die to the world which is alien to us,
and to live in aspiration, thought, desire, love, and obedience with Him
in His calm abode, whence He rules and blesses the souls whom, through
their faith, He has made to live the new life of heaven on earth.

II. The first consequence of the risen life is negative, the death or
'putting off' of the old nature, the life which belongs to and is ruled
by earth. Verses 5-9 solemnly lay on the Christian the obligation to put
this to death. The 'therefore' in verse 5 teaches a great lesson, for it
implies that the union with Jesus by faith must precede all self-denial
which is true to the spirit of the Gospel. Asceticism of any sort which
is not built on the evangelical foundation is thereby condemned,
whether it is practised by Buddhist, or monk, or Protestant. First be
partaker of the new life, and then put off the old man with his deeds.
The withered fronds of last year are pushed off the fern by the new ones
as they uncurl. That doctrine of life in Christ is set down as mystical;
but it is mysticism of the wholesome sort, which is intensely practical,
and comes down to the level of the lowest duties,--for observe what
homely virtues are enjoined, and how the things prohibited are no
fantastic classifications of vices, but the things which all the world
owns to be ugly and wrong.

We cannot here enlarge on Paul's grim catalogue, but only point out that
it is in two parts, the former (verses 5, 6) being principally sins of
impurity and unregulated passion, to which is added 'covetousness,' as
the other great vice to which the old nature is exposed. Lust and greed
between them are the occasions of most of the sins of men. Stop these
fountains, and the streams of evil would shrink to very small trickles.
These twin vices attract the lightning of God's wrath, which 'cometh' on
their perpetrators, not only in some final future judgment, but here and
now. If we were not blind, we should see that thundercloud steadily
drawing nearer, and ready to launch its terrors on impure and greedy
men. They have set it in motion, and they are right in the path of the
avalanche which they have loosened.

The possessors of the risen life are exhorted to put off these things,
not only because of the coming wrath, but because continuance in them is
inconsistent with their present standing and life (v. 7). They do not
now 'live in them,' but in the heavenly places with the risen Lord,
therefore to walk in them is a contradiction. Our conduct should
correspond to our real affinities, and the surface of our lives should
be true to their depths and roots.

The second class of vices are those which mar our intercourse with our
fellows,--the more passionate anger and wrath and the more cold-blooded
and deadly malice, with the many sins of speech.

III. In verse 9 Paul appends the great reason for all the preceding
injunctions; namely, the fact, already enlarged on in verses 1-4, of the
Christian's death and new life by union with Jesus. He need only have
stated the one-half of the fact here, but he never can touch one member
of the antithesis without catching fire, as it were, and so he goes on
to dwell on the new life in Christ, and thus to prepare for the
transition to the exhortation to 'put on' its characteristic
excellences. We note how true to fact, though apparently illogical, his
representation is. He bases the command to put off the old man on the
fact that Christians have put it off. They are to be what they are, to
work out in daily acts what they did in its full ideal completeness when
by faith they died to self and were made alive in and to Christ. A
strong motive for a continuous Christian life is the recollection of the
initial Christian act.

But Paul's fervent spirit blazes up as he thinks of that new nature
which union with Jesus has brought, and he turns aside from his
exhortations to gaze on that great sight. He condenses volumes into a
sentence. That new man is not only new, but is perpetually being renewed
with a renovation penetrating more and more deeply, and extending more
and more widely, in the Christian's nature. It is continually advancing
in knowledge, and tending towards perfect knowledge of Christ. It is
being fashioned, by a better creation than that of Adam, into a more
perfect likeness of God than our first father bore in his sinless
freshness. The possession of it gathers all Christians into a unity in
which all distinctions of nationality, religious privilege, culture, or
social condition, are lost. Paul the Pharisee and the Colossian
brethren, Onesimus the slave and Philemon his master, are one in Jesus.
The new life is one in all its recipients, and makes them one. The
phenomena of the lowest forms of life are almost repeated in the
highest, and, just as in a coral reef the myriads of workers are not
individuals so much as parts of one living whole, 'so also is Christ.'
The union is the closest possible without destruction of our
individuality.

IV. The final, positive consequence of the risen life follows in verses
12-15. Again the Apostle reminds Christians of what they are, as the
great motive for putting on the new man. The contemplation of privileges
may tend to proud isolation and neglect of duty to our fellows, but the
true effect of knowing that we are 'God's elect, holy and beloved,' is
to soften our hearts, and to lead us to walk among men as mirrors and
embodiments of God's mercy to us. The only virtues touched on here are
the various manifestations of love, such as quick susceptibility to
others' sorrows; readiness to help by act as well as to pity in word;
lowliness in estimating one's own claims, which will lead to bearing
evils without resentment or recompensing the like; and patient
forgiveness, after the pattern and measure of the forgiveness we have
received. All these graces, which would make earth an Eden, and our
hearts temples, and our lives calm, are outcomes of love, and must
never be divorced from it. Paul uses a striking image to express this
thought of their dependence on it. He likens them to the various
articles of dress, and bids us hold them all in place with love as a
girdle, which keeps together all the various graces that make up
'perfectness.'

Thus living in love, we shall be free from the tumult of spirit which
ever attends a selfish life; for nothing is more certain to stuff a
man's pillow with thorns, and to wreck his tranquillity, than to live in
hate and suspicion, or self-absorbed. 'The peace of Christ' is ours in
the measure in which we live the risen life and put on the new man, and
that peace in our hearts will rule, that is, will sit there as umpire;
for it will instinctively draw itself into itself, as it were, like the
leaves of a sensitive plant, at the approach of evil, and, if we will
give heed to its warnings, and have nothing to do with what disturbs it,
we shall be saved from falling into many a sin. That peace gathers all
the possessors of the new life into blessed harmony. It is peace with
God, with ourselves, and with all our brethren; and the fact that all
Christians are, by their common life, members of the one body, lays on
them all the obligation to keep the unity in the bond of peace. And for
all these great blessings, especially for that union with Jesus which
gives us a share in his risen life, thankfulness should ever fill our
hearts and make all our days and deeds the sacrifice of praise unto him
continually.



RISEN WITH CHRIST

          'If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those
          things which are above, where Christ sitteth on
          the right hand of God. Set your affection on
          things above, not on things on the earth.'--COL.
          iii. 1, 2.


There are three aspects in which the New Testament treats the
Resurrection, and these three seem to have successively come into the
consciousness of the Church. First, as is natural, it was considered
mainly in its bearing on the person and work of our Lord. We may point
for illustration to the way in which the Resurrection is treated in the
earliest of the apostolic discourses, as recorded in the Acts of the
Apostles. Then it came, with further reflection and experience, to be
discerned that it had a bearing on the hope of the immortality of man.
And last of all, as the Christian life deepened, it came to be discerned
that the Resurrection was the pattern of the life of the Christian
disciples. It was regarded first as a witness, then as a prophecy, then
as a symbol. Three fragments of Scripture express these three phases:
for the first, 'Declared to be the Son of God with power by the
Resurrection from the dead'; for the second, 'Now is Christ risen from
the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept'; for the
third, 'God hath raised us up together with Him, and made us sit
together in the heavenly places.' I have considered incidentally the two
former aspects in the course of previous sermons; I wish to turn at
present to that final third one.

One more observation I must make by way of introduction, and that is,
that the way in which the Apostle here glides from 'being risen with
Christ' to where 'Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God,'
confirms what I have pointed out in former discourses, that the
Ascension of Jesus Christ is always considered in Scripture as being
nothing more than the necessary outcome and issue of the process which
began in the Resurrection. They are not separate facts, but they are two
ends of one process. And so with these thoughts, that Resurrection
develops into Ascension, and that in both Jesus Christ is the pattern
for His followers, let us turn to the words before us.

Then we have here

I. The Christian life considered as a risen life.

Now, we are all familiar with the great evangelical point of view from
which the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ are usually
contemplated. To many of us Christ's sacrifice is nothing more or less
than the means by which the world is reconciled to God, and Christ's
Resurrection nothing more than the seal which was set by Divinity upon
that work. 'Crucified for our offences, and raised again for our
justification,' as Paul has it--that is the point of view from which
most evangelical or orthodox Christian people are contented to regard
the solemn fact of the Death and the radiant fact of the Resurrection.
You cannot be too emphatic about these truths, but you may be too
exclusive in your contemplation of them. You do well when you say that
they are the Gospel; you do not well when you say, as some of you do,
that they are the whole Gospel. For there is another stream of teaching
in the New Testament, of which my text is an example, and a multitude of
other passages that I cannot refer to now are equally conspicuous
instances, in which that death and that Resurrection are regarded, not
so much in respect to the power which they exercise in the
reconciliation of the world to God, as in their aspect as the type of
all noble and true Christian life. You remember how, when our Lord
Himself touched upon the fruitful issues of His death, and said: 'Except
a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if
it die it bringeth forth much fruit,' He at once went on to say that a
man that loved his life would lose it; and that a man that lost his life
would find it, and proceeded to point, even then, and in that
connection, to His Cross as our pattern, declaring: 'If any man serve
Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be.'

          'Made like Him, like Him we rise;
           Ours the cross, the grave, the skies.'

So, then, a risen life is the type of all noble life, and before there
can be a risen life there must have been a death. True, we may say that
the spiritual facts in a man's experience, which are represented by
these two great symbols of a death and a rising, are but like the
segment of a circle which, seen from the one side is convex and from the
other is concave. But however loosely we may feel that the metaphors
represent the facts, this is plain, that unless a man dies to flesh, to
self-will, to the world, he never will live a life that is worth calling
life. The condition of all nobleness and all growth upwards is that we
shall die daily, and live a life that has sprung victorious from the
death of self. All lofty ethics teach that; and Christianity teaches it,
with redoubled emphasis, because it says to us, that the Cross and the
Resurrection are not merely imaginative emblems of the noble and the
Christian life, but are a great deal more than that. For, brethren, do
not forget--if you do, you will be hopelessly at sea as to large tracts
of blessed Christian truth--that by faith in Jesus Christ we are brought
into such a true deep union with Him as that, in no mere metaphorical or
analogous sense, but in most blessed reality, there comes into the
believing heart a spark of the life that is Christ's own, so that with
Him we do live, and from Him we do live a life cognate with His, who,
having risen from the dead, dieth no more, and over whom death hath no
dominion. So it is not a metaphor only, but a spiritual truth, when we
speak of being risen with Christ, seeing that our faith, in the measure
of its genuineness, its depth and its operative power upon our
characters, will be the gate through which there shall pass into our
deadness the life that truly is, the life that has nought to do with
death or sin. And this unity with Jesus, brought about by faith, brings
about that the depths of the Christian life are hid with Christ in God,
and that we, risen with Him, do even now sit 'at the right hand in
heavenly places,' whilst our feet, dusty and sometimes blood-stained,
are journeying along the paths of life. This is the great teaching of my
text, and of a multitude of other places; and this is the teaching which
modern Christianity, in its exclusive, or all but exclusive,
contemplation of the Cross as the sacrifice for sin, has far too much
forgotten. 'Ye are risen with Christ.'

Let me remind you that this veritable death and rising again, which
marks the Christian life, is set forth before us in the initial rite of
the Christian Church. Some of you do not agree with me in my view,
either of what is the mode or of who are the subjects of that ordinance,
but if you know anything about the question, you know that everybody
that has a right to give a judgment agrees with us Baptists in
saying--although they may not think that it carries anything obligatory
upon the practice of to-day--that the primitive Church baptized by
immersion. Now, the meaning of baptism is to symbolise these two
inseparable moments, dying to sin, to self, to the world, to the old
past, and rising again to newness of life. Our sacramentarian friends
say that, in my text, it was in baptism that these Colossian Christians
rose again with Christ. I, for my part, do not believe that, but that
baptism was the speaking sign of what lies at the gate of a true
Christian life I have no manner of doubt.

So the first thought of our text is not only taught us in words, but it
stands manifest in the ritual of the Church as it was from the
beginning. We die, and we rise again, through faith and by union through
faith, with Christ 'that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is
even at the right hand of God.'

Let me turn, secondly, to

II. The consequent aims of the Christian life.

'If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above.'
'To seek' implies the direction of the external life toward certain
objects. It is not to seek as if perhaps we might not find; it is not
even to seek in the sense of searching for, but it is to seek in the
sense of aiming at. And now do you not think that if we had burning in
our hearts, and conscious to our experiences, the sense of union with
Jesus Christ the risen Saviour, that would shape the direction and
dictate the aims of our earthly life? As surely as the elevation of the
rocket tube determines the flight of the projectile that comes from it,
so surely would the inward consciousness, if it were vivid as it ought
to be in all Christian people, of that risen life throbbing within the
heart, shape all the external conduct. It would give us wings and make
us soar. It would make us buoyant, and lift us above the creeping aims
that constitute the objects of life for so many men.

But you say, 'Things above: that is an indefinite phrase. What do you
mean by it?' I will tell you what the Bible means by it. It means Jesus
Christ. All the nebulous splendours of that firmament are gathered
together into one blazing sun. It is a vague direction to tell a man to
shoot up, into an empty heaven. It is not a vague direction to tell him
to seek the 'things above'; for they are all gathered into a person.
'Where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God,'--that is the
meaning of 'things above,' which are to be the continual aim of the man
who is conscious of a risen life. And of course they will be, for if we
feel, as we ought to feel habitually, though with varying clearness,
that we do carry within us a spark, if I might use that phrase, of the
very life of Jesus Christ, so surely as fire will spring upwards, so
surely as water will rise to the height of its source, so surely will
our outward lives be directed towards Him, who is the life of our inward
lives, and the goal therefore of our outward actions?

Jesus Christ is the summing up of 'the things that are above'; therefore
there stands out clear this one great truth, that the only aim for a
Christian soul, consistent with the facts of its Christian life, is to
be like Christ, to be with Christ, to please Christ.

Now, how does that aim--'whether present or absent we labour that we may
be well pleasing to Him'--how does that aim bear upon the multitude of
inferior and nearer aims which men pursue, and which Christians have to
pursue along with other men? How does it bear upon them?--Why thus--as
the culminating peak of a mountain-chain bears on the lower hills that
for miles and miles buttress it, and hold it up, and aspire towards it,
and find their perfection in its calm summit that touches the skies. The
more we have in view, as our aim in life, Christ who is 'at the right
hand of God,' and assimilation, communion with Him, approbation from
Him, the more will all immediate aims be ennobled and delivered from the
evils that else cleave to them. They are more when they are second than
when they are first. 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God,' and all your
other aims--as students, as thinkers, as scientists, as men of business,
as parents, as lovers, or anything else--will be greatened by being
subordinated to the conscious aim of pleasing Him. That aim should
persist, like a strain of melody, one long, holden-down, diapason note,
through all our lives. Perfume can be diffused into the air, and
dislodge no atom of that which it makes fragrant. This supreme aim can
be pursued through, and by means of, all nearer ones, and is
inconsistent with nothing but sin. 'Seek the things that are above.'

Lastly, we have here--

III. The discipline which is needed to secure the right direction of the
life.

The Apostle does not content himself with pointing out the aims. He adds
practical advice as to how these aims can be made dominant in our
individual cases, when he says, 'Set your affections on things above.'
Now, many of you will know that 'affections' is not the full sense of
the word that is here employed, and that the Revised Version gives a
more adequate rendering when it says, 'Set your _minds_ on the things
that are above.' A man cannot do with his love according to his will. He
cannot say: '_Resolved_, that I love So-and-So'; and then set himself to
do it. But though you cannot act on the emotions directly by the will,
you _can_ act directly on your understandings, on your thoughts, and
your thoughts will act on your affections. If a man wants to love Jesus
Christ he must think about Him. That is plain English. It is vain for a
man to try to coerce his wandering affections by any other course than
by concentrating his thoughts. Set your minds on the things that are
above, and that will consolidate and direct the emotions; and the
thoughts and the emotions together will shape the outward efforts.
Seeking the things that are above will come, and will only come, when
mind and heart and inward life are occupied with Him. There is no other
way by which the externals can be made right than by setting a watch on
the door of our hearts and minds, and this inward discipline must be put
in force before there will be any continuity or sureness in the outward
aim. We want, for that direction of the life of which I have been
speaking, a clear perception and a concentrated purpose, and we shall
not get either of these unless we fall back, by thought and meditation,
upon the truths which will provide them both.

Brethren, there is another aspect of the connection between these two
parts of our text, which I can only touch. Not only is the setting of
our thoughts on the things above, the way by which we can make these the
aim of our lives. They are not only aims to be reached at some future
stage of our progress, but they are possessions to be enjoyed at the
present. We may have a present Christ and a present Heaven. The
Christian life is not all aspiration; it is fruition as well. We have to
seek, but even whilst we seek, we should be conscious that we possess
what we are seeking, even whilst we seek it. Do you know anything of
that double experience of having the things that are above, here and
now, as well as reaching out towards them?

I am afraid that the Christian life of this generation suffers at a
thousand points, because it is more concerned with the ordering of the
outward life, and the manifold activities which this busy generation has
struck out for itself, than it is with the quiet setting of the mind, in
silent sunken depths of contemplation, on the things that are above. Oh,
if we would think more about them we should aim more at them; and if we
were sure that we possessed them to-day we should be more eager for a
larger possession to-morrow.

Dear brethren, we may all have the risen life for ours, if we will knit
ourselves, in humble dependence and utter self-surrender, to the Christ
who died for us that we might be dead to sin, and rose again that we
might rise to righteousness. And if we have Him, in any deep and real
sense, as the life of our lives, then we shall be blessed, amid all the
divergent and sometimes conflicting nearer aims, which we have to
pursue, by seeing clear above them that to which they all may tend, the
one aim which corresponds to a man's nature, which meets his condition,
which satisfies his needs, which can always be attained if it is
followed, and which, when secured, never disappoints. God help us all to
say, 'This one thing I do, and all else I count but dung, that I may
know Him, and the power of His Resurrection, and the fellowship of His
sufferings, being made conformable unto His death, if by any means I may
attain unto the Resurrection from the dead!'



WITHOUT AND WITHIN

          'Them that are without.'--COL. iv. 5.


That is, of course, an expression for the non-Christian world; the
outsiders who are beyond the pale of the Church. There was a very broad
line of distinction between it and the surrounding world in the early
Christian days, and the handful of Christians in a heathen country felt
a great gulf between them and the society in which they lived. That
distinction varies in form, and varies somewhat in apparent magnitude
according as Christianity has been rooted in a country for a longer or a
shorter time, but it remains, and is as real to-day as it ever was, and
there is neither wisdom nor kindness in ignoring the distinction.

The phrase of our text may sound harsh, and might be used, as it was by
the Jews, from whom it was borrowed, in a very narrow and bitter spirit.
Close corporations of any sort are apt to generate, not only a wholesome
_esprit de corps_, but a hostile contempt for outsiders, and
Christianity has too often been misrepresented by its professors, who
have looked down upon those that are without with supercilious and
unchristian self-complacency.

There is nothing of that sort in the words themselves; the very opposite
is in them. They sound to me like the expression of a man conscious of
the security and comfort and blessedness of the home where he sat, and
with his heart yearning for all the houseless wanderers that were
abiding the pelting of the pitiless storm out in the darkness there. The
spirit and attitude of Christianity to such is one of yearning pity and
urgent entreaty to come in and share in the blessings. There is deep
pathos in the words, as well as solemn earnestness, and in such a spirit
I wish to dwell upon them now for a short time.

I. I begin with the question: Who are they that are outside? And what is
it of which they are outside?

As I have already remarked, the phrase was apparently borrowed from
Judaism, where it meant, 'outside the Jewish congregation,' and its
primary application, as used here, is no doubt to those who are outside
the Christian Church. But do not let us suppose that that explanation
gets to the bottom of the meaning of the words. It may stand as a
partial answer, but only as partial. The evil tendency which attends all
externalising of truth in the concrete form of institutions works in
full force on the Church, and ever tempts us to substitute outward
connection with the institution for real possession of the truth of
which the institution is the outgrowth. Therefore I urge upon you very
emphatically--and all the more earnestly because of the superstitious
overestimate of outward connection with the outward institution of the
Church which is eagerly proclaimed all around us to-day--that connection
with any organised body of believing men is not 'being within,' and that
isolation from all these is not necessarily 'being without.' Many a man
who is within the organisation is not 'in the truth,' and, blessed be
God, a man may be outside all churches, and yet be one of God's hidden
ones, and may dwell safe and instructed in the very innermost shrine of
the secret place of the Most High. We hear from priestly lips, both
Roman Catholic and Anglican, that there is 'no safety outside the
Church.' The saying is true when rightly understood. If by the Church be
meant the whole company of those who are trusting to Jesus Christ, of
course there is no safety outside, because to trust in Jesus is the one
condition of safety, and unless we belong to those who so trust we shall
not possess the blessing. So understood, the phrase may pass, and is
only objectionable as a round-about and easily misunderstood way of
saying what is much better expressed by 'Whosoever shall call on the
name of the Lord shall be saved.'

But that is not the meaning of the phrase in the mouths of those who use
it most frequently. To them the Church is a visible corporation, and not
only so, but as one of the many organisations into which believers are
moulded, it is distinguished from the others by certain offices and
rites, bishops, priests, and sacraments, through whom and which certain
grace is supposed to flow, no drop of which can reach a community
otherwise shaped and officered!

Nor is it only Roman Catholics and Anglicans who are in danger of
externalising personal Christianity into a connection with a church. The
tendency has its roots deep in human nature, and may be found
flourishing quite as rankly in the least sacerdotal of the 'sects' as in
the Vatican itself. There is very special need at present for those who
understand that Christianity is an immensely deeper thing than
connection with any organised body of Christians, to speak out the truth
that is in them, and to protest against the vulgar and fleshly notion
which is forcing itself into prominence in this day when societies of
all sorts are gaining such undue power, and religion, like much else, is
being smothered under forms, as was the maiden in the old story, under
the weight of her ornaments. External relationships and rites cannot
determine spiritual conditions. It does not follow because you have
passed through certain forms, and stand in visible connection with any
visible community, that you are therefore within the pale and safe.
Churches are appointed by Christ. Men who believe and love naturally
draw together. The life of Christ is in them. Many spiritual blessings
are received through believing association with His people. Illumination
and stimulus, succour and sympathy pass from one to another, each in
turn experiencing the blessedness of receiving, and the greater
blessedness of giving. No wise man who has learned of Christ will
undervalue the blessings which come through union with the outward body
which is a consequence of union with the unseen Head. But men may be in
the Church and out of Christ. Not connection with it, but connection
with Him, brings us 'within.' 'Those that are without' may be either in
or out of the pale of any church.

We may put the answer to this question in another form, and going deeper
than the idea of being within a visible church, we may say, 'those that
are without' are they who are outside the Kingdom of Christ.

The Kingdom of Christ is not a visible external community. The Kingdom
of Christ, or of God, or of Heaven, is found wherever human wills obey
the Law of Christ, which is the will of God, the decrees of Heaven; as
Christ himself put it, in profound words--profound in all their
simplicity--when He said, 'Not every man that saith unto Me Lord! Lord!
shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth the will of My
Father, which is in Heaven.' 'Them that are without' are they whose
wills are not bent in loving obedience to the Lord of their spirit.

But we must go deeper than that. In the Church? Yes! In the Kingdom?
Yes! But I venture to take another Scripture phrase as being the one
satisfactory fundamental answer to the question: What is it that these
people are outside of? and I say Christ, Christ. If you will take your
New Testament as your guide, you will find that the one question upon
which all is suspended is the, Am I, or Am I not, in Jesus Christ? Am I
in Him, or Am I outside of Him? And the answer to that question is the
answer to this other: Who are they that are without?

They that are outside are not the 'non-Christian world' who are not
church members; they that are inside are not the 'Christian world' who
make an outward profession of being in the Kingdom. It is not going down
to the foundation to explain the antithesis so; but 'those that are
within' are those who have simple trust upon Jesus Christ as the sole
and all-sufficient Saviour of their sinful spirits and the life of their
life, and having entered into that great love, have plunged themselves,
as it were, into the very heart of Jesus; have found in Him
righteousness and peace, forgiveness and love, joy and salvation. Are
you in Christ because you love Him and trust your soul to Him? If not,
if not, you are amongst those 'that are without,' though you be ever so
much joined to the visible Church of the living God.

And then there is one more remark that I must drop in here before I go
on, namely, that whilst I thankfully admit, and joyfully preach, that
the most imperfect, rudimentary faith knits a man to Jesus Christ, even
if in this life it may be found covered over with a great deal that is
contradictory and inconsistent; on the other hand there are some people
who stand like the angel in the Apocalypse, with one foot on the solid
land and one upon the restless sea, half in and half out, undecided,
halting--that is, 'limping'--between two opinions. Some people of that
sort are listening to me now, who have been like that for years. Now I
want them to remember this plain piece of common-sense--half in is
altogether out! So that is my answer to the first question: Who are they
that are outside, and what is it that they are outside of?

I cannot carry round these principles and lay them upon the conscience
of each hearer, but I pray you to listen to your own inmost voice
speaking, and I am mistaken if many will not hear it saying: 'Thou art
the man!' Do not stop your ears to that voice!

II. Notice next the force of this phrase as implying the woeful
condition of those without.

I have said that it is full of pathos. It is the language of a man whose
heart yearns as, in the midst of his own security, he thinks of the
houseless wanderers in the dark and the storm. He thinks pityingly of
what they lose, and of that to which they are exposed.

There are two or three ways in which I may illustrate that condition,
but perhaps the most graphic and impressive may be just to recall for a
moment three or four of the Scripture metaphors that fit into this
representation: 'Those that are without'; and thus to gain some
different pictures of what the inside and the outside means in these
varying figures.

First, then, there is a figure drawn from the Old Testament which is
often applied, and correctly applied, to this subject--Noah's Ark.

Think of that safe abode floating across the waters, whilst all without
it was a dreary waste. Without were death and despair, but those that
were within sat warm and dry and safe and fed and living. The men that
were without, high as they might climb upon rocks and hills, strong as
they might be--when the dreary rainstorm wept itself dry, 'they were all
dead corpses.' To be in was life, to be out was death.

That is the first metaphor. Take another. That singular institution of
the old Mosaic system, in which the man who inadvertently, and therefore
without any guilt or crime of his own, had been the cause of death to
his brother, had provided for him, half on one side Jordan and half on
the other, and dotted over the land, so that it should not be too far to
run to one of them, Cities of Refuge. And when the wild vendetta of
those days stirred up the next of kin to pursue at his heels, if he
could get inside the nearest of these he was secure. They that were
within could stand at the city gates and look out upon the plain, and
see the pursuer with his hate glaring from his eyes, and almost feel his
hot breath on their cheeks, and know that though but a yard from him,
his arm durst not touch them. To be inside was to be safe, to be outside
was certain bloody death.

That is the second figure; take a third; one which our Lord Himself has
given us. Here is the picture--a palace, a table abundantly spread,
lights and music, delight and banqueting, gladness and fulness, society
and sustenance. The guests sit close and all partake. To be within means
food, shelter, warmth, festivity, society; to be without, like Lear on
the moor, is to stand the pelting of the storm, weary, stumbling in the
dark, starving, solitary, and sad. Within is brightness and good cheer;
without is darkness, hunger, death.

That is the third figure. Take a fourth, another of our Master's.
Picture a little rude, stone-built enclosure with the rough walls piled
high, and a narrow aperture at one point, big enough for one creature to
pass through at a time. Within, huddled together, are the innocent
sheep; without, the lion and the bear. Above, the vault of night with
all its stars, and watching all, the shepherd, with unslumbering eye. In
the fold is rest for the weary limbs that have been plodding through
valleys of the shadow of death, and dusty ways; peace for the panting
hearts that are trembling at every danger, real and imaginary. Inside
the fold is tranquillity, repose for the wearied frame, safety, and the
companionship of the Shepherd; and without, ravening foes and a dreary
wilderness, and flinty paths and sparse herbage and muddy pools. Inside
is life; without is death. That is the fourth figure.

In the Ark no Deluge can touch; in the City of Refuge no avenger can
smite; in the banqueting-hall no thirst nor hunger but can be satisfied;
in the fold no enemy can come and no terror can live.

Brethren! are you amongst 'them that are without,' or are you within?

III. Lastly--why is anybody outside? Why? It is no one's fault but their
own. It is not God's. He can appeal with clean hands and ask us to judge
what more could have been done for His vineyard that He has not done for
it. The great parable which represents Him as sending out His summons to
the feast in His palace puts the wonderful words in the mouth of the
master of the house, after his call by his servants had been refused.
'Go out into the highways and hedges,' beneath which the beggars squat,
'and compel them to come in, that my house may be full.' 'Nature abhors
a vacuum,' the old natural philosophers used to say. So does grace; so
does God's love. It hates to have His house empty and His provisions
unconsumed. And so He has done all that He could do to bring you and me
inside. He has sent His Son, He beckons us, He draws us by countless
mercies day by day. He appeals to our hearts, and would have us gathered
into the fold. And if we are outside it is not because He has neglected
to do anything which He can do in order to bring us in.

But why is it that any of us resist such drawing, and make the wretched
choice of perishing without, rather than find safety within? The deepest
reason is an alienated heart, a rebellious will. But the reason for
alienation and rebellion lie among the inscrutable mysteries of our
awful being. All sin is irrational. The fact is plain, the temptations
are obvious; excuses there are in plenty, but reasons there are none.
Still we may touch for a moment on some of the causes which operate with
many hearers of God's merciful call to enter in, and keep them without.

Many remain outside because they do not really believe in the danger. No
doubt there was a great deal of brilliant sarcasm launched at Noah for
his folly in thinking that there was anything coming that needed an ark.
It seemed, no doubt, food for much laughter, and altogether impossible
to think of gravely, that this flood which he talked about should ever
come. So they had their laughter out as they saw him working away at his
ludicrous task 'until the day when the flood came and swept them all
away,' and the laughter ended in gurgling sobs of despair.

If a manslayer does not believe that the next of kin is on his track, he
will not flee to the City of Refuge. If the sheep has no fear of wolves,
it will choose to be outside the fold among the succulent herbage. Did
you ever see how, in a Welsh slate-quarry, before a blast, a horn is
blown, and at its sound all along the face of the quarry the miners run
to their shelters, where they stay until the explosion is over? What do
you suppose would become of one of them who stood there after the horn
had blown, and said: 'Nonsense! There is nothing coming! I will take my
chance where I am!' Very likely a bit of slate would end him before he
had finished his speech. At any rate, do not you, dear friend, trifle
with the warning that says: 'Flee for refuge to Christ and shelter
yourself in Him.'

There are some people, too, who stop outside because they do not much
care for the entertainment that they will get within. It does not strike
them as being very desirable. They have no appetite for it. We preachers
seek to draw hearts to Jesus by many motives--and among others by
setting forth the blessings which he bestows. But if a man does not care
about pardon, does not fear judgment, does not want to be good, has no
taste for righteousness, is not attracted by the pure and calm pleasures
which Christ offers, the invitation falls flat upon his ear. Wisdom
cries aloud and invites the sons of men to her feast, but the fare she
provides is not coarse and high spiced enough, and her table is left
unfilled, while the crowd runs to the strong-flavoured meats and foaming
drinks which her rival, Folly, offers. Many of us say, like the
Israelites 'Our souls loathe this light bread,' this manna, white and
sweet, and Heaven-descended, and angels' food though it be, and we
hanker after the reeking garlic and leeks and onions of Egypt.

Some of us again, would like well enough to be inside, if that would
keep us from dangers which we believe to be real, but we do not like the
doorway. You may see in some remote parts of the country strange,
half-subterranean structures which are supposed to have been the houses
of a vanished race. They have a long, narrow, low passage, through which
a man has to creep with his face very near the ground. He has to go low
and take to his knees to get through; and at the end the passage opens
out into ampler, loftier space, where the dwellers could sit safe from
wild weather and wilder beasts and wildest men. That is like the way
into the fortress home which we have in Jesus Christ. We must stoop very
low to enter there. And some of us do not like that. We do not like to
fall on our knees and say, I am a sinful man, O Lord. We do not like to
bow ourselves in penitence. And the passage is narrow as well as low. It
is broad enough for you, but not for what some of you would fain carry
in on your back. The pack which you bear, of earthly vanities and loves,
and sinful habits, will be brushed off your shoulders in that narrow
entrance, like the hay off a cart in a country lane bordered by high
hedges. And some of us do not like that. So, because the way is narrow,
and we have to stoop, our pride kicks at the idea of having to confess
ourselves sinners, and of having to owe all our hope and salvation to
God's undeserved mercy, therefore we stay outside. And because the way
is narrow, and we have to put off some of our treasures, our
earthward-looking desires shrink from laying these aside, and therefore
we stop outside. There was room in the boat for the last man who stood
on the deck, but he could not make up his mind to leave a bag of gold.
There was no room for that. Therefore he would not leap, and went down
with the ship.

The door is open. The Master calls. The feast is spread. Dangers
threaten. The flood comes. The avenger of blood makes haste. 'Why
standest thou without?' Enter in, before the door is shut. And if you
ask, How shall I pass within?--the answer is plain: 'They could not
enter in because of unbelief. We which have believed do enter into
rest.'



I. THESSALONIANS



FAITH, LOVE, HOPE, AND THEIR FRUITS

          'Your work of faith, and labour of love, and
          patience of hope.'--1 THESS. i. 3.


This Epistle, as I suppose we all know, is Paul's first letter. He had
been hunted out of Thessalonica by the mob, made the best of his way to
Athens, stayed there for a very short time, then betook himself to
Corinth, and at some point of his somewhat protracted residence there,
this letter was written. So that we have in it his first attempt, so far
as we know, to preach the Gospel by the pen. It is interesting to notice
how, whatever changes and developments there may have been in him
thereafter, all the substantial elements of his latest faith beam out in
this earliest letter, and how even in regard to trifles we see the germs
of much that came afterwards. This same triad, you remember, 'faith,
hope, charity,' recurs in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, though
with a very significant difference in the order, which I shall have to
dwell upon presently.

The letter is interesting on another account. Remembering that it was
only a very short time since these Thessalonians had turned from idols
to serve the living God, there is something very beautiful in the
overflowing generosity of commendation, which never goes beyond
veracity, with which he salutes them. Their Christian character, like
seeds sown in some favoured tropical land, had sprung up swiftly; yet
not with the dangerous kind of swiftness which presages decay of the
growth. It was only a few days since they had been grovelling before
idols, but now he can speak of 'your work of faith, and labour of love,
and patience of hope' . . . and declare that the Gospel 'sounded out' from
them--the word which he employs is that which is technically used for
the blast of a trumpet--'so that we need not to speak anything.' Rapid
growth is possible for us all, and is not always superficial.

I desire now to consider that pair of triads--the three
foundation-stones, and the three views of the fair building that is
reared upon them.

I. The three foundation-stones.

That is a natural metaphor to use, but it is not quite correct, for
these three--faith, love, hope--are not to be conceived of as lying side
by side. Rather than three foundations we have three courses of the
building here; the lowest one, faith; the next one, love; and the top
one, hope. The order in 1 Corinthians is different, 'faith, hope,
charity,' and the alteration in the sequence is suggested by the
difference of purpose. The Apostle intended in 1 Corinthians to dwell at
some length thereafter on 'charity,' or 'love.' So he puts it last to
make the link of connection with what he is going to say. But here he is
dealing with the order of production, the natural order in which these
three evolve themselves. And his thought is that they are like the
shoots that successive springs bring upon the bough of a tree, where
each year has its own growth, and the summit of last year's becomes the
basis of next. Thus we have, first, faith; then, shooting from that,
love; and then, sustained by both, hope. Now let us look at that order.

It is a well-worn commonplace, which you may think it not needful for me
to dwell upon here, that in the Christian theory, both of salvation and
of morals, the basis of everything is trust. And that is no arbitrary
theological arrangement, but it is the only means by which the life that
is the basis both of salvation and of righteousness can be implanted in
men. There is no other way by which Jesus Christ can come into our
hearts than by what the New Testament calls 'trust,' which we have
turned into the hard, theological concept which too often glides over
people's minds without leaving any dint at all--'faith.' Distrust is
united with trust. There is no trust without, complementary to it,
self-distrust. Just as the sprouting seed sends one little radicle
downwards, and that becomes the root, and at the same time sends up
another one, white till it reaches the light, and it becomes the stem,
so the underside of faith is self-distrust, and you must empty
yourselves before you can open your hearts to be filled by Jesus. That
being so, this self-distrustful trust is the beginning of everything.
That is the _alpha_ of the whole alphabet, however glorious and manifold
may be the words into which its letters are afterwards combined. Faith
is the hand that grasps. It is the means of communication, it is the
channel through which the grace which is the life, or, rather, I should
say, the life which is the grace, comes to us. It is the open door by
which the angel of God comes in with his gifts. It is like the petals of
the flowers, opening when the sunshine kisses them, and, by opening,
laying bare the depths of their calyxes to be illuminated and coloured,
and made to grow by the sunshine which itself has opened them, and
without the presence of which, within the cup, there would have been
neither life nor beauty. So faith is the basis of everything; the first
shoot from which all the others ascend. Brethren, have you that initial
grace? I leave the question with you. If you have not that, you have
nothing else.

Then again, out of faith rises love. No man can love God unless he
believes that God loves him. I, for my part, am old-fashioned and narrow
enough not to believe that there is any deep, soul-cleansing or
soul-satisfying love of God which is not the answer to the love that
died on the Cross. But you must believe that, and more than believe it;
you must have trusted and cast yourselves on it, in the utter
abandonment of self-distrust and Christ-confidence, before there will
well up in your heart the answering love to God. First faith, then love.
My love is the reverberation of the primeval voice, the echo of God's.
The angle at which the light falls on the mirror is the same as the
angle at which it is reflected from it. And though my love at its
highest is low, at its strongest is weak: yet, like the echo that is
faint and far, feeble though it be, it is pitched on the same key, and
is the prolongation of the same note as the mother-sound. So my love
answers God's love, and it will never answer it unless faith has brought
me within the auditorium, the circle wherein the voice that proclaims 'I
love thee, my child,' can be heard.

Now, we do not need to ask ourselves whether Paul is here speaking of
love to God or love to man. He is speaking of both, because the New
Testament deals with the latter as being a part of the former, and sure
to accompany it. But there is one lesson that I wish to draw. If it be
true that love in us is thus the result of faith in the love of God, let
us learn how we grow in love. You cannot say, 'Now I will make an effort
to love.' The circulation of the blood, the pulsations of the heart, are
not within the power of the will. But you can say, 'Now I will make an
effort to trust.' For faith is in the power of the will, and when the
Master said, 'Ye will not come unto me,' He taught us that unbelief is
not a mere intellectual deficiency or perversity, but that it is the
result, in the majority of cases--I might almost say in all-of an
alienated will. Therefore, if you wish to love, do not try to work
yourself into a hysteria of affection, but take into your hearts and
minds the Christian facts, and mainly the fact of the Cross, which will
set free the frozen and imprisoned fountains of your affections, and
cause them to flow out abundantly in sweet water. First faith, then
love; and get at love through faith. That is a piece of practical wisdom
that it will do us all good to keep in mind.

Then the third of the three, the topmost shoot, is hope. Hope is faith
directed to the future. So it is clear enough that, unless I have that
trust of which I have been speaking, I have none of the hope which the
Apostle regards as flowing from it. But love has to do with hope quite
as much, though in a different way, as faith has to do with it. For in
the direct proportion in which we are taking into our hearts Christ and
His truth, and letting our hearts go out in love towards Him and
communion with Him, will the glories beyond brighten and consolidate and
magnify themselves in our eyes. The hope of the Christian man is but the
inference from his present faith, and the joy and sweetness of his
present love. For surely when we rise to the heights which are possible
to us all, and on which I suppose most Christian people have been
sometimes, though for far too brief seasons; when we rise to the heights
of communion with God, anything seems more possible to us than that
death, or anything that lies in the future, should have power over a tie
so sweet, so strong, so independent of externals, and so all-sufficing
in its sweetness. Thus we shall be sure that God is our portion for
ever, in the precise degree in which, by faith and love, we feel that
'He is the strength of our hearts,' to-day and now. So, then, we have
the three foundation-stones.

And now a word or two, in the second place, about

II. The fair building which rises on them.

I have already half apologised for using the metaphor of a foundation
and a building. I must repeat the confession that the symbol is an
inadequate one. For the Apostle does not conceive of the work and labour
and patience which are respectively allocated to these three graces as
being superimposed upon them, as it were, by effort, so much as he
thinks of them as growing out of them by their inherent nature. The work
is 'the work of faith,' that which characterises faith, that which
issues from it, that which is its garment, visible to the world, and the
token of its reality and its presence. Faith works. It is the foundation
of all true work; even in the lowest sense of the word we might almost
say that. But in the Christian scheme it is eminently the underlying
requisite for all work which God does not consider as busy idleness. I
might here make a general remark, which, however, I need not dwell upon,
that we have here the broad thought which Christian people in all
generations need to have drummed into their heads over and over again,
and that is that inward experiences and emotions, and states of mind and
heart, however good and precious, are so mainly as being the necessary
foundations of conduct. What is the good of praying and feeling
comfortable within, and having 'a blessed assurance,' a 'happy
experience,' 'sweet communion,' and so on? What is the good of it all,
if these things do not make us 'live soberly, righteously, and godly in
this present world'? What is the good of the sails of a windmill going
whirling round, if the machinery has been thrown out of gear, and the
great stones which it ought to actuate are not revolving? What is the
good of the screw of a steamer revolving, when she pitches, clean above
the waves? It does nothing then to drive the vessel onwards, but will
only damage the machinery. And Christian emotions and experiences which
do not drive conduct are of as little use, often as perilous, and as
injurious. If you want to keep your 'faith, love, hope,' sound and
beneficial, set them to work. And do not be too sure that you have them,
if they do not crave for work, whether you set them to it or not.

'Your work of faith.' There is the whole of the thorny subject of the
relation of faith and works packed into a nutshell. It is exactly what
James said and it is exactly what a better than James said. When the
Jews came to Him with their externalism, and thought that God was to be
pleased by a whole rabble of separate good actions, and so said, 'What
shall we do that we might work the works of God?' Jesus said, 'Never
mind about _works_. This is _the work_ of God, that ye believe on Him
whom He hath sent,' and out of that will come all the rest. That is the
mother-tincture; everything will flow from that. So Paul says, 'Your
work of faith.'

Does your faith work? Perhaps I should ask other people rather than you.
Do men see that your faith works; that its output is different from the
output of men who are not possessors of a 'like precious faith'? Ask
yourselves the question, and God help you to answer it.

Love labours. Labour is more than work, for it includes the notion of
toil, fatigue, difficulty, persistence, antagonism. Ah! the work of
faith will never be done unless it is the toil of love. You remember how
Milton talks about the immortal garland that is to be run for, 'not
without dust and sweat.' The Christian life is not a leisurely
promenade. The limit of our duty is not ease of work. There must be
toil. And love is the only principle that will carry us through the
fatigues, and the difficulties, and the oppositions which rise against
us from ourselves and from without. Love delights to have a hard task
set it by the beloved, and the harder the task the more poignant the
satisfaction. Loss is gain when it brings us nearer the beloved. And
whether our love be love to God, or its consequence, love to man, it is
the only foundation on which toil for either God or man will ever
permanently be rested. Do not believe in philanthropy which has not a
bottom of faith, and do not believe in work for Christ which does not
involve in toil. And be sure that you will do neither, unless you have
both these things: the faith and the love.

And then comes the last. Faith works, love toils, hope is patient. Is
that all that 'hope' is? Not if you take the word in the narrow meaning
which it has in modern English; but that was not what Paul meant. He
meant something a great deal more than passive endurance, great as that
is. It is something to be able to say, in the pelting of a pitiless
storm, 'Pour on! I will endure.' But it is a great deal more to be able,
in spite of all, not to bate one jot of heart or hope, but 'still bear
up and steer right onward'; and that is involved in the true meaning of
the word inadequately rendered 'patience' in the New Testament. For it
is no passive virtue only, but it is a virtue which, in the face of the
storm, holds its course; brave persistence, active perseverance, as well
as meek endurance and submission.

'Hope' helps us both to bear and to do. They tell us nowadays that it is
selfish for a Christian man to animate himself, either for endurance or
for activity, by the contemplation of those great glories that lie
yonder. If that is selfishness, God grant we may all become a great deal
more selfish than we are! No man labours in the Christian life, or
submits to Christian difficulty, for the sake of going to heaven. At
least, if he does, he has got on the wrong tack altogether. But if the
motive for both endurance and activity be faith and love, then hope has
a perfect right to come in as a subsidiary motive, and to give strength
to the faith and rapture to the love. We cannot afford to throw away
that hope, as so many of us do--not perhaps, intellectually, though I am
afraid there is a very considerable dimming of the clearness, and a
narrowing of the place in our thoughts, of the hope of a future
blessedness, in the average Christian of this day--but practically we
are all apt to lose sight of the recompense of the reward. And if we do,
the faith and love, and the work and toil, and the patience will suffer.
Faith will relax its grasp, love will cool down its fervour; and there
will come a film over Hope's blue eye, and she will not see the land
that is very far off. So, dear brethren, remember the sequence, 'faith,
love, hope,' and remember the issues, 'work, toil, patience.'



GOD'S TRUMPET

          'From you sounded out the word of God.'--1 THESS.
          i. 8.


This is Paul's first letter. It was written very shortly after his first
preaching of the Gospel in the great commercial city of Thessalonica.
But though the period since the formation of the Thessalonian Church was
so brief, their conversion had already become a matter of common
notoriety; and the consistency of their lives, and the marvellous change
that had taken place upon them, made them conspicuous in the midst of
the corrupt heathen community in which they dwelt. And so says Paul, in
the text, by reason of their work of faith and labour of love and
patience of hope, they had become ensamples to all that believe, and
loud proclaimers and witnesses of the Gospel which had produced this
change.

The Apostle employs a word never used anywhere else in the New Testament
to describe the conspicuous and widespread nature of this testimony of
theirs. He says, 'The word of the Lord _sounded out_' from them. That
phrase is one most naturally employed to describe the blast of a
trumpet. So clear and ringing, so loud, penetrating, melodious, rousing,
and full was their proclamation, by the silent eloquence of their lives,
of the Gospel which impelled and enabled them to lead such lives. A
grand ideal of a community of believers! If our churches to-day were
nearer its realisation there would be less unbelief, and more attraction
of wandering prodigals to the Father's house. Would that this saying
were true of every body of professing believers! Would that from each
there sounded out one clear accordant witness to Christ, in the purity
and unworldliness of their Christlike lives!

I. This metaphor suggests the great purpose of the Church.

It is God's trumpet, His means of making His voice heard through all the
uproar of the world. As the captain upon the deck in the gale will use
his speaking-trumpet, so God's voice needs your voice. The Gospel needs
to be passed through human lips in order that it may reach deaf ears.
The purpose for which we have been apprehended of Christ is not merely
our own personal salvation, whether we understand that in a narrow and
more outward, or in a broader and more spiritual sense. No man is an end
in himself, but every man, though he be partially and temporarily an
end, is also a means. And just as, according to the other metaphor, the
Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven, each particle of the dead dough, as
soon as it is leavened and vitalised, becoming the medium for
transmitting the strange, transforming, and living influence to the
particle beyond, so all of us, if we are Christian people, have received
that grace into our hearts, for our own sakes indeed, but also that
through us might be manifested to the darkened eyes beyond, and through
us might drop persuasively on the dull, cold ears that are further away
from the Divine Voice, the great message of God's mercy. The Church is
God's trumpet, and the purpose that He has in view in setting it in the
world is to make all men know the fellowship of the mystery, and that
through it there may ring out, as by some artificial means a poor human
voice will be flung to a greater distance than it would otherwise reach,
the gentle entreaties, and the glorious proclamation, and the solemn
threatenings of the Word, the Incarnate as well as the written Word, of
God.

Of course all this is true, not only about communities, but it is true
of a community, just because it is true of each individual member of it.
The Church is worse than as 'sounding brass,' it is as _silent_ brass
and an _untinkling_ cymbal, unless the individuals that belong to it
recognise God's meaning in making them His children, and do their best
to fulfil it. 'Ye are my witnesses,' saith the Lord. You are put into
the witness-box; see that you speak out when you are there.

II. Another point that this figure may suggest is, the _sort_ of sound
that should come from the trumpet.

A trumpet note is, first of all, clear. There should be no hesitation in
our witness; nothing uncertain in the sound that we give. There are
plenty of so-called Christian people whose lives, if they bear any
witness for the Master at all, are like the notes that some bungling
learner will bring out of a musical instrument: hesitating, uncertain,
so that you do not know exactly what note he wants to produce. How many
of us, calling ourselves Christian people, testify on both sides;
sometimes bearing witness for Christ; and alas! alas! oftener bearing
witness against Him. Will the trumpet, the instrument of clear, ringing,
unmistakable sounds, be the emblem of your Christian testimony? Would
not some poor scrannel-pipe, ill-blown, be nearer the mark? The note
should be clear.

The note should be penetrating. There is no instrument, I suppose, that
carries further than the ringing clarion that is often heard on the
field of battle, above all the strife; and this little church at
Thessalonica, a mere handful of people, just converted, in the very
centre of a strong, compact, organised, self-confident, supercilious
heathenism, insisted upon being heard, and got itself made audible,
simply by the purity and the consistency of the lives of its members. So
that Paul, a few weeks, or at most a few months, after the formation of
the church, could say, 'From you sounded out the word of the Lord, not
only in Macedonia and Achaia,' your own province and the one next door
to it, 'but also in every place your faith to Godward is spread abroad.'
No man knows how far his influence will go. No man can tell how far his
example may penetrate. Thessalonica was a great commercial city. So is
Manchester. Hosts of people of all sorts came into it as they come here.
There were many different circles which would be intersected by the
lives of this Christian church, and wherever its units went they carried
along with them the conviction that they had turned from idols to serve
the living God, and to wait for His Son from heaven.

And so, dear brethren, if our witness is to be worth anything it must
have this penetrating quality. There is a difference in sounds as there
is a difference in instruments. Some of them carry further than others.
A clear voice will fling words to a distance that a thick, mumbling one
never can attain. One note will travel much further than another. Do you
see to it that your notes are of the penetrating sort.

And then, again, the note should be a musical one. There is nothing to
be done for God by harshness; nothing to be done by discords and
gangling; nothing to be done by scolding and rebuke. The ordered
sequence of melodious sound will travel a great deal further than
unmusical, plain speech. You can hear a song at a distance at which a
saying would be inaudible. Which thing is an allegory, and this is its
lesson,--Music goes further than discord; and the witness that a
Christian man bears will travel in direct proportion as it is
harmonious, and gracious and gentle and beautiful.

And then, again, the note should be rousing. You do not play on a
trumpet when you want to send people to sleep; dulcimers and the like
are the things for that purpose. The trumpet means strung-up intensity,
means a call to arms, or to rejoicing; means at any rate, vigour, and is
intended to rouse. Let your witness have, for its utmost signification,
'Awake! thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead; and Christ shall
give thee light.'

III. Then, still further, take another thought that may be suggested
from this metaphor, the silence of the loudest note.

If you look at the context, you will see that all the ways in which the
word of the Lord is represented as sounding out from the Thessalonian
Church were deeds, not words. The context supplies a number of them.
Such as the following are specified in it: their work; their toil, which
is more than work; their patience; their assurance; their reception of
the word, in much affliction with joy in the Holy Ghost; their faith to
Godward; their turning to God from idols, to serve and to wait.

That is all. So far as the context goes there might not have been a man
amongst them who ever opened his mouth for Jesus Christ. We know not, of
course, how far they were a congregation of silent witnesses, but this
we know, that what Paul meant when he said, 'The whole world is ringing
with the voice of the word of God sounding from you,' was not their
going up and down the world shouting about their Christianity, but their
quiet living like Jesus Christ. That is a louder voice than any other.

Ah! dear friends! it is with God's Church as it is with God's heavens;
the 'stars in Christ's right hand' sparkle in the same fashion as the
stars that He has set in the firmament. Of them we read: 'There is
neither voice nor language, their speech is not heard'; and yet, as man
stands with bared head and hushed heart beneath the violet abysses of
the heavens, 'their line' (or chord, the metaphor being that of a
stringed instrument) 'is gone out through all the earth, and their words
to the end of the world.' Silent as they shine, they declare the glory
of God, and proclaim His handiwork. And so you may speak of Him without
speaking, and though you have no gift of tongues the night may be filled
with music, and your lives be eloquent of Christ.

I do not mean to say that Christian men and women are at liberty to lock
their lips from verbal proclamation of the Saviour they have found, but
I do mean to say that if there was less talk and more living, the
witness of God's Church would be louder and not lower; 'and men would
take knowledge of us, that we had been with Jesus'; and of Jesus, that
He had made us like Himself.

IV. And so, lastly, let me draw one other thought from this metaphor,
which I hope you will not think fanciful playing with a figure; and that
is the breath that makes the music.

If the Church is the trumpet, who blows it? God! It is by His Divine
Spirit dwelling within us, and breathing through us, that the harsh
discords of our natural lives become changed into melody of praise and
the music of witness for Him. Keep near Christ, live in communion with
God, let Him breathe through you, and when His Spirit passes through
your spirits their silence will become harmonious speech; and from you
'will sound out the word of the Lord.'

In a tropical country, when the sun goes behind a cloud, all the insect
life that was cheerily chirping is hushed. In the Christian life, when
the Son of Righteousness is obscured by the clouds born of our own
carelessness and sin, all the music in our spirit ceases, and no more
can we witness for Him. A scentless substance lying in a drawer, with a
bit of musk, will become perfumed by contact, and will bring the
fragrance wherever it is carried. Live near God, and let Him speak to
you and in you; and then He will speak through you. And if He be the
breath of your spiritual lives, and the soul of your souls, then, and
only then, will your lives be music, the music witness, and the witness
conviction. And only then will there be fulfilled what I pray there may
be more and more fulfilled in us as a Christian community, this great
word of our text, 'from you sounded out,' clear, rousing, penetrating,
melodious, 'the word of the Lord,' so that we, with our poor preaching,
need not to speak anything.



WALKING WORTHILY

          'Walk worthy of God.'--1 THESS. ii. 12.


Here we have the whole law of Christian conduct in a nutshell. There may
be many detailed commandments, but they can all be deduced from this
one. We are lifted up above the region of petty prescriptions, and
breathe a bracing mountain air. Instead of regulations, very many and
very dry, we have a principle which needs thought and sympathy in order
to apply it, and is to be carried out by the free action of our own
judgments.

Now it is to be noticed that there are a good many other passages in the
New Testament in which, in similar fashion, the whole sum of Christian
conduct is reduced to a 'walking worthy' of some certain thing or other,
and I have thought that it might aid in appreciating the many-sidedness
and all-sufficiency of the great principles into which Christianity
crystallises the law of our life, if we just gather these together and
set them before you consecutively.

They are these: we are told in our text to 'walk worthy of God.' Then
again, we are enjoined, in other places, to 'walk worthy of the Lord,'
who is Christ. Or again, 'of the Gospel of Christ.' Or again, 'of the
calling wherewith we were called.' Or again, of the name of 'saints.'
And if you put all these together, you will get many sides of one
thought, the rule of Christian life as gathered into a single
expression--correspondence with, and conformity to, a certain standard.

I. And first of all, we have this passage of my text, and the other one
to which I have referred, 'Walking worthy of the Lord,' by whom we are
to understand Christ. We may put these together and say that the whole
sum of Christian duty lies in conformity to the character of a Divine
Person with whom we have loving relations.

The Old Testament says: 'Be ye holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.'
The New Testament says: 'Be ye imitators of God, and walk in love.' So
then, whatever of flashing brightness and infinite profundity in that
divine nature is far beyond our apprehension and grasp, there are in
that divine nature elements--and those the best and divinest in
it--which it is perfectly within the power of every man to copy.

Is there anything in God that is more Godlike than righteousness and
love? And is there any difference in essence between a man's
righteousness and God's;--between a man's love and God's? The same gases
make combustion in the sun and on the earth, and the spectroscope tells
you that it is so. The same radiant brightness that flames burning in
the love, and flashes white in the purity of God, even that may be
reproduced in man.

Love is one thing, all the universe over. Other elements of the bond
that unites us to God are rather correspondent in us to what we find in
Him. Our concavity, so to speak, answers to His convexity; our
hollowness to His fulness; our emptiness to His all-sufficiency. So our
faith, for instance, lays hold upon His faithfulness, and our obedience
grasps, and bows before, His commanding will. But the love with which I
lay hold of Him is like the love with which He lays hold on me; and
righteousness and purity, howsoever different may be their
accompaniments in an Infinite and uncreated Nature from what they have
in our limited and bounded and progressive being, in essence are one.
So, 'Be ye holy, for I am holy'; 'Walk in the light as He is in the
light,' is the law available for all conduct; and the highest divine
perfections, if I may speak of pre-eminence among them, are the imitable
ones, whereby He becomes our Example and our Pattern.

Let no man say that such an injunction is vague or hopeless. You must
have a perfect ideal if you are to live at all by an ideal. There cannot
be any flaws in your pattern if the pattern is to be of any use. You aim
at the stars, and if you do not hit them you may progressively approach
them. We need absolute perfection to strain after, and one day--blessed
be His name--we shall attain it. Try to walk worthy of God and you will
find out how tight that precept grips, and how close it fits.

The love and the righteousness which are to become the law of our lives,
are revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Whatever may sound impracticable in
the injunction to imitate God assumes a more homely and possible shape
when it becomes an injunction to follow Jesus. And just as that form of
the precept tends to make the law of conformity to the divine nature
more blessed and less hopelessly above us, so it makes the law of
conformity to the ideal of goodness less cold and unsympathetic. It
makes all the difference to our joyfulness and freedom whether we are
trying to obey a law of duty, seen only too clearly to be binding, but
also above our reach, or whether we have the law in a living Person whom
we have learned to love. In the one case there stands upon a pedestal
above us a cold perfection, white, complete, marble; in the other case
there stands beside us a living law in pattern, a Brother, bone of our
bone and flesh of our flesh; whose hand we can grasp; whose heart we can
trust, and of whose help we can be sure. To say to me: 'Follow the ideal
of perfect righteousness,' is to relegate me to a dreary, endless
struggling; to say to me, 'Follow your Brother, and be like your
Father,' is to bring warmth and hope and liberty into all my effort.
The word that says, 'Walk worthy of God,' is a royal law, the perfect
law of perfect freedom.

Again, when we say, 'Walk worthy of God,' we mean two things--one, 'Do
after His example,' and the other, 'Render back to Him what He deserves
for what He has done to you.' And so this law bids us measure, by the
side of that great love that died on the Cross for us all, our poor
imperfect returns of gratitude and of service. He has lavished all His
treasure on you; what have you brought him back? He has given you the
whole wealth of His tender pity, of His forgiving mercy, of His infinite
goodness. Do you adequately repay such lavish love? Has He not 'sown
much and reaped little' in all our hearts? Has He not poured out the
fulness of His affection, and have we not answered Him with a few
grudging drops squeezed from our hearts? Oh! brethren! 'Walk worthy of
the Lord,' and neither dishonour Him by your conduct as professing
children of His, nor affront Him by the wretched refuse and remnants of
your devotion and service that you bring back to Him in response to His
love to you.

II. Now a word about the next form of this all-embracing precept. The
whole law of our Christian life may be gathered up in another
correspondence, 'Walk worthy of the Gospel' (Phil. i. 27), in a manner
conformed to that great message of God's love to us.

That covers substantially the same ground as we have already been going
over, but it presents the same ideas in a different light. It presents
the Gospel as a rule of conduct. Now people have always been apt to
think of it more as a message of deliverance than as a practical guide,
as we all need to make an effort to prevent our natural indolence and
selfishness from making us forget that the Gospel is quite as much a
rule of conduct as a message of pardon.

It is both by the same act. In the very facts on which our redemption
depends lies the law of our lives.

What was Paul's Gospel? According to Paul's own definition of it, it was
this: 'How that Jesus Christ died for our sins, according to the
Scriptures.' And the message that I desire now to bring to all you
professing Christians is this: Do not always be looking at Christ's
Cross only as your means of acceptance. Do not only be thinking of
Christ's Passion as that which has barred for you the gates of
punishment, and has opened for you the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven.
It has done all that; but if you are going to stop there you have only
got hold of a very maimed and imperfect edition of the Gospel. The Cross
is your _pattern_, as well as the anchor of your hope and the ground of
your salvation, if it is anything at all to you. And it is not the
ground of your salvation and the anchor of your hope unless it is your
pattern. It is the one in exactly the same degree in which it is the
other.

So all self-pleasing, all harsh insistence on your own claims, all
neglect of suffering and sorrow and sin around you, comes under the lash
of this condemnation: 'They are not worthy of the Gospel.' And all
unforgivingness of spirit and of temper in individuals and in nations,
in public and in private matters, that, too, is in flagrant
contradiction to the principles that are taught on the Cross to which
you say you look for your salvation. Have you got forgiveness, and are
you going out from the presence-chamber of the King to take your brother
by the throat for the beggarly coppers that he owes you, and say: 'Pay
me what thou owest!' when the Master has forgiven you all that great
mountain of indebtedness which you owe Him? Oh, my brother! if Christian
men and women would only learn to take away the scales from their eyes
and souls; not looking at Christ's Cross with less absolute
trustfulness, as that by which all their salvation comes, but also
learning to look at it as closely and habitually as yielding the pattern
to which their lives should be conformed, and would let the
heart-melting thankfulness which it evokes when gazed at as the ground
of our hope prove itself true by its leading them to an effort at
imitating that great love, and so walking worthy of the Gospel, how
their lives would be transformed! It is far easier to fetter your life
with yards of red-tape prescriptions--do this, do not do that--far
easier to out-pharisee the Pharisees in punctilious scrupulosities, than
it is honestly, and for one hour, to take the Cross of Christ as the
pattern of your lives, and to shape yourselves by that.

One looks round upon a lethargic, a luxurious, a self-indulgent, a
self-seeking, a world-besotted professing Church, and asks: 'Are these
the people on whose hearts a cross is stamped?' Do these men--or rather
let us say, do _we_ live as becometh the Gospel which proclaims the
divinity of self-sacrifice, and that the law of a perfect human life is
perfect self-forgetfulness, even as the secret of the divine nature is
perfect love? 'Walk worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.'

III. Then again, there is another form of this same general prescription
which suggests to us a kindred and yet somewhat different standard. We
are also bidden to bring our lives into conformity to, and
correspondence with, or, as the Bible has it, 'to walk worthy of the
calling wherewith we are called' (Eph. iv. 1).

God summons or invites us, and summons us to what? The words which
follow our text answer, 'Who calleth you into His own kingdom and
glory.' All you Christian people have been invited, and if you are
Christians you have accepted the invitation; and all you men and women,
whether you are Christians or not, have been and are being invited and
summoned into a state and a world (for the reference is to the future
life), in which God's will is supreme, and all wills are moulded into
conformity with that, and into a state and a world in which all
shall--because they submit to His will--partake of His glory, the
fulness of His uncreated light.

That being the aim of the summons, that being the destiny that is held
out before us all, ought not that destiny and the prospect of what we
may be in the future, to fling some beams of guiding brightness on to
the present?

Men that are called to high functions prepare themselves therefor. If
you knew that you were going away to Australia in six months, would you
not be beginning to get your outfit ready? You Christian men profess to
believe that you have been called to a condition in which you will
absolutely obey God's will, and be the loyal subjects of His kingdom,
and in which you will partake of God's glory. Well then, obey His will
here, and let some scattered sparklets of that uncreated light that is
one day going to flood your soul lie upon your face to-day. Do not go
and cut your lives into two halves, one of them all contradictory to
that which you expect in the other, but bring a harmony between the
present, in all its weakness and sinfulness, and that great hope and
certain destiny that blazes on the horizon of your hope, as the joyful
state to which you have been invited. 'Walk worthy of the calling to
which you are called.'

And again, that same thought of the destiny should feed our hope, and
make us live under its continual inspiration. A walk worthy of such a
calling and such a caller should know no despondency, nor any weary,
heartless lingering, as with tired feet on a hard road. Brave good
cheer, undimmed energy, a noble contempt of obstacles, a confidence in
our final attainment of that purity and glory which is not depressed by
consciousness of present failure--these are plainly the characteristics
which ought to mark the advance of the men in whose ears such a summons
from such lips rings as their marching orders.

And a walk worthy of our calling will turn away from earthly things. If
you believe that God has summoned you to His kingdom and glory, surely,
surely, that should deaden in your heart the love and the care for the
trifles that lie by the wayside. Surely, surely, if that great voice is
inviting, and that merciful hand is beckoning you into the light, and
showing you what you may possess there, it is not walking according to
that summons if you go with your eyes fixed upon the trifles at your
feet, and your whole heart absorbed in this present fleeting world.
Unworldliness, in its best and purest fashion--by which I mean not only
a contempt for material wealth and all that it brings, but the sitting
loose by everything that is beneath the stars--unworldliness is the only
walk that is 'worthy of the calling wherewith ye are called.'

And if you hear that voice ringing like a trumpet call, or a commander's
shout on the battlefield, into your ears, ever to stimulate you, to
rebuke your lagging indifference; if you are ever conscious in your
inmost hearts of the summons to His kingdom and glory, then, no doubt,
by a walk worthy of it, you will make your calling sure; and there shall
'an entrance be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting
kingdom.'

IV. And the last of the phases of this prescription which I have to deal
with is this. The whole Christian duty is further crystallised into the
one command, to walk in a manner conformed to, and corresponding with,
the character which is impressed upon us.

In the last chapter of the Epistle to the Romans (verse 2), we read
about a very small matter, that it is to be done 'worthily of the
saints.' It is only about the receiving of a good woman who was
travelling from Corinth to Rome, and extending hospitality to her in
such a manner as became professing Christians; but the very minuteness
of the details to which the great principle is applied points a lesson.
The biggest principle is not too big to be brought down to the narrowest
details, and that is the beauty of principles as distinguished from
regulations. Regulations try to be minute, and, however minute you make
them, some case always starts up that is not exactly provided for in
them, and so the regulations come to nothing. A principle does not try
to be minute, but it casts its net wide and it gathers various cases
into its meshes. Like the fabled tent in the old legend that could
contract so as to have room for but one man, or expand wide enough to
hold an army, so this great principle of Christian conduct can be
brought down to giving 'Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the
church at Cenchrea,' good food and a comfortable lodging, and any other
little kindnesses, when she comes to Rome. And the same principle may be
widened out to embrace and direct us in the largest tasks and most
difficult circumstances.

'Worthily of saints'--the name is an omen, and carries in it rules of
conduct. The root idea of 'saint' is 'one separated to God,' and the
secondary idea which flows from that is 'one who is pure.'

All Christians are 'saints.' They are consecrated and set apart for
God's service, and in the degree in which they are conscious of and live
out that consecration, they are pure.

So their name, or rather the great fact which their name implies, should
be ever before them, a stimulus and a law. We are bound to remember that
we are consecrated, separated as God's possession, and that therefore
purity is indispensable. The continual consciousness of this relation
and its resulting obligations would make us recoil from impurity as
instinctively as the sensitive plant shuts up its little green fingers
when anything touches it; or as the wearer of a white robe will draw it
up high above the mud on a filthy pavement. Walk 'worthily of saints' is
another way of saying, Be true to your own best selves. Work up to the
highest ideal of your character. That is far more wholesome than to be
always looking at our faults and failures, which depress and tempt us to
think that the actual is the measure of the possible, and the past or
present of the future. There is no fear of self-conceit or of a mistaken
estimate of ourselves. The more clearly we keep our best and deepest
self before our consciousness, the more shall we learn a rigid judgment
of the miserable contradictions to it in our daily outward life, and
even in our thoughts and desires. It is a wholesome exhortation, when it
follows these others of which we have been speaking (and not else),
which bids Christians remember that they are saints and live up to their
name.

A Christian's inward and deepest self is better than his outward life.
We have all convictions in our inmost hearts which we do not work out,
and beliefs that do not influence us as we know they ought to do, and
sometimes wish that they did. By our own fault our lives but imperfectly
show their real inmost principle. Friction always wastes power before
motion is produced.

So then, we may well gather together all our duties in this final form
of the all-comprehensive law, and say to ourselves, 'Walk worthily of
saints.' Be true to your name, to your best selves, to your deepest
selves. Be true to your separation for God's service, and to the purity
which comes from it. Be true to the life which God has implanted in you.
That life may be very feeble and covered by a great deal of rubbish, but
it is divine. Let it work, let it out. Do not disgrace your name.

These are the phases of the law of Christian conduct. They reach far,
they fit close, they penetrate deeper than the needle points of minute
regulations. If you will live in a manner corresponding to the
character, and worthy of the love of God, as revealed in Christ, and in
conformity with the principles that are enthroned upon His Cross, and in
obedience to the destiny held forth in your high calling, and in
faithfulness to the name that He Himself has impressed upon you, then
your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the painful and
punctilious pharisaical obedience to outward commands, and all things
lovely and of good report will spring to life in your hearts and bear
fruit in your lives.

One last word--all these exhortations go on the understanding that you
are a Christian, that you have taken Christ for your Saviour, and are
resting upon Him, and recognising in Him the revelation of God, and in
His Cross the foundation of your hope; that you have listened to, and
yielded to, the divine summons, and that you have a right to be called a
saint. Is that presumption true about you, my friend? If it is not,
Christianity thinks that it is of no use wasting time talking to you
about conduct.

It has another word to speak to you first, and after you have heard and
accepted it, there will be time enough to talk to you about rules for
living. The first message which Christ sends to you by my lips is, Trust
your sinful selves to Him as your only all-sufficient Saviour. When you
have accepted Him, and are leaning on Him with all your weight of sin
and suffering, and loving Him with your ransomed heart, then, and not
till then, will you be in a position to hear His law for your life, and
to obey it. Then, and not till then, will you appreciate the divine
simplicity and breadth of the great command to walk worthy of God, and
the divine tenderness and power of the motive which enforces it, and
prints it on yielding and obedient hearts, even the dying love and Cross
of His Son. Then, and not till then, will you know how the voice from
heaven that calls you to His kingdom stirs the heart like the sound of a
trumpet, and how the name which you bear is a perpetual spur to heroic
service and priestly purity. Till then, the word which we would plead
with you to listen to and accept is that great answer of our Lord's to
those who came to Him for a rule of conduct, instead of for the gift of
life: 'This is the work of God, that ye should believe on Him whom He
hath sent.'



SMALL DUTIES AND THE GREAT HOPE

          'But as touching brotherly love, ye need not that
          I write unto you; for ye yourselves are taught of
          God to love one another. 10. And indeed ye do it
          toward all the brethren which are in all
          Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye
          increase more and more; 11. And that ye study to
          be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work
          with your own hands, as we commanded you; 12. That
          ye may walk honestly toward them that are without,
          and that ye may have lack of nothing. 13. But I
          would not have you to be ignorant, brethren,
          concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow
          not, even as others which have no hope. 14. For if
          we believe that Jesus died, and rose again, even
          so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring
          with Him. 15. For this we say unto you by the word
          of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain
          unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent
          them which are asleep. 16. For the Lord Himself
          shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the
          voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God:
          and the dead in Christ shall rise first; 17. Then
          we which are alive and remain shall be caught up
          together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord
          in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
          18. Wherefore comfort one another with these
          words.'--1 THESS. iv. 9-18.

          'But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye
          have no need that I write unto you. 2. For
          yourselves know perfectly, that the day of the
          Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.'--1 THESS.
          v. 1-2.


This letter was written immediately on the arrival of Silas and Timothy
in Corinth (1 Thess. iii. 6, 'even now'), and is all flushed with the
gladness of relieved anxiety, and throbs with love. It gains in pathetic
interest when we remember that, while writing it, the Apostle was in the
thick of his conflict with the Corinthian synagogue. The thought of his
Thessalonian converts came to him like a waft of pure, cool air to a
heated brow.

The apparent want of connection in the counsels of the two last chapters
is probably accounted for by supposing that he takes up, as they
occurred to him, the points reported by the two messengers. But we may
note that the plain, prosaic duties enjoined in verses 7-12 lead on to
the lofty revelations of the rest of the context without any sense of a
gap, just because to Paul the greatest truths had a bearing on the
smallest duties, and the vision of future glory was meant to shape the
homely details of present work.

I. We need to make an effort to realise the startling novelty of 'love
of the brethren' when this letter was written. The ancient world was
honeycombed with rents and schisms, scarcely masked by political union.
In the midst of a world of selfishness this new faith started up, and by
some magic knit warring nationalities and hostile classes and wide
diversities of culture and position into a strange whole, transcending
all limits of race and language. The conception of brotherhood was