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Title: Expositions of Holy Scripture: Romans Corinthians (To II Corinthians, Chap. V)
Author: Maclaren, Alexander, 1826-1910
Language: English
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EXPOSITIONS OF HOLY SCRIPTURE

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

ROMANS
CORINTHIANS _(To II Corinthians, Chap. V)_



EXPOSITIONS OF HOLY SCRIPTURE

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

ROMANS



CONTENTS

THE WITNESS OF THE RESURRECTION (Romans i. 4, R.V.)

PRIVILEGE AND OBLIGATION (Romans i. 7)

PAUL'S LONGING (Romans i. 11, 12)

DEBTORS TO ALL MEN (Romans i. 14)

THE GOSPEL THE POWER OF GOD (Romans i. 16)

WORLD-WIDE SIN AND WORLD-WIDE REDEMPTION (Romans iii. 19-26)

NO DIFFERENCE (Romans iii. 22)

'LET US HAVE PEACE' (Romans v. 1, R.V.)

ACCESS INTO GRACE (Romans v. 2)

THE SOURCES OF HOPE (Romans v. 2-4)

A THREEFOLD CORD (Romans v. 5)

WHAT PROVES GOD'S LOVE (Romans v. 8)

THE WARRING QUEENS (Romans v. 21)

'THE FORM OF TEACHING' (Romans vi. 17)

'THY FREE SPIRIT' (Romans viii. 2)

CHRIST CONDEMNING SIN (Romans viii. 8)

THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT (Romans viii. 16)

SONS AND HEIRS (Romans viii. 17)

SUFFERING WITH CHRIST, A CONDITION OF GLORY WITH CHRIST
   (Romans viii. 17)

THE REVELATION OF SONS (Romans viii. 19)

THE REDEMPTION OF THE BODY (Romans viii. 23)

THE INTERCEDING SPIRIT (Romans viii. 26)

THE GIFT THAT BRINGS ALL GIFTS (Romans viii. 32)

MORE THAN CONQUERORS (Romans viii. 37)

LOVE'S TRIUMPH (Romans viii. 38, 39)

THE SACRIFICE OF THE BODY (Romans xii. 1)

TRANSFIGURATION (Romans xii. 2)

SOBER THINKING (Romans xii. 3)

MANY AND ONE (Romans xii. 4, 5)

GRACE AND GRACES (Romans xii. 6-8)

LOVE THAT CAN HATE (Romans xii. 9, 10, R.V.)

A TRIPLET OF GRACES (Romans xii. 11)

ANOTHER TRIPLET OF GRACES (Romans xii. 12)

STILL ANOTHER TRIPLET (Romans xii. 13-15)

STILL ANOTHER TRIPLET (Romans xii. 16, R.V.)

STILL ANOTHER TRIPLET (Romans xii. 17, 18, R.V.)

STILL ANOTHER TRIPLET (Romans xii. 19-21)

LOVE AND THE DAY (Romans xiii. 8-14)

SALVATION NEARER (Romans xiii. 11)

THE SOLDIER'S MORNING-CALL (Romans xiii. 12)

THE LIMITS OF LIBERTY (Romans xiv. 12-23)

TWO FOUNTAINS, ONE STREAM (Romans xv. 4, 13)

JOY AND PEACE IN BELIEVING (Romans xv. 13)

PHOEBE (Romans xvi. 1, 2, R.V.)

PRISCILLA AND AQUILA (Romans xvi. 3-5)

TWO HOUSEHOLDS (Romans xvi. 10,11)

TRYPHENA AND TRYPHOSA (Romans xvi. 12)

PERSIS (Romans xvi. 12)

A CRUSHED SNAKE (Romans xvi. 20)

TERTIUS (Romans xvi. 22, R.V.)

QUARTUS A BROTHER (Romans xvi. 23)



THE WITNESS OF THE RESURRECTION

   'Declared to be the Son of God with power, ... by the
   resurrection of the dead.'--ROMANS i. 4 (R.V.).


It is a great mistake to treat Paul's writings, and especially this
Epistle, as mere theology. They are the transcript of his life's
experience. As has been well said, the gospel of Paul is an
interpretation of the significance of the life and work of Jesus
based upon the revelation to him of Jesus as the risen Christ. He
believed that he had seen Jesus on the road to Damascus, and it was
that appearance which revolutionised his life, turned him from a
persecutor into a disciple, and united him with the Apostles as
ordained to be a witness with them of the Resurrection. To them all
the Resurrection of Jesus was first of all a historical fact
appreciated chiefly in its bearing on Him. By degrees they discerned
that so transcendent a fact bore in itself a revelation of what would
become the experience of all His followers beyond the grave, and a
symbol of the present life possible for them. All three of these
aspects are plainly declared in Paul's writings. In our text it is
chiefly the first which is made prominent. All that distinguishes
Christianity; and makes it worth believing, or mighty, is inseparably
connected with the Resurrection.

I. The Resurrection of Christ declares His Sonship.

Resurrection and Ascension are inseparably connected. Jesus does not
rise to share again in the ills and weariness of humanity. Risen, 'He
dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him.' 'He died unto
sin once'; and His risen humanity had nothing in it on which physical
death could lay hold. That He should from some secluded dimple on
Olivet ascend before the gazing disciples until the bright cloud,
which was the symbol of the Divine Presence, received Him out of
their sight, was but the end of the process which began unseen in
morning twilight. He laid aside the garments of the grave and passed
out of the sepulchre which was made sure by the great stone rolled
against its mouth. The grand avowal of faith in His Resurrection
loses meaning, unless it is completed as Paul completed his 'yea
rather that was raised from the dead,' with the triumphant 'who is at
the right hand of God.' Both are supernatural, and the Virgin Birth
corresponds at the beginning to the supernatural Resurrection and
Ascension at the close. Both such an entrance into the world and such
a departure from it, proclaim at once His true humanity, and that
'this is the Son of God.'

Still further, the Resurrection is God's solemn 'Amen' to the
tremendous claims which Christ had made. The fact of His
Resurrection, indeed, would not declare His divinity; but the
Resurrection of One who had spoken such words does. If the Cross and
a nameless grave had been the end, what a _reductio ad absurdum_
that would have been to the claims of Jesus to have ever been with
the Father and to be doing always the things that pleased Him. The
Resurrection is God's last and loudest proclamation, 'This is My
beloved Son: hear ye Him.' The Psalmist of old had learned to trust
that his sonship and consecration to the Father made it impossible
that that Father should leave his soul in Sheol, or suffer one who
was knit to Him by such sacred bonds to see corruption; and the
unique Sonship and perfect self-consecration of Jesus went down into
the grave in the assured confidence, as He Himself declared, that the
third day He would rise again. The old alternative seems to retain
all its sharp points: Either Christ rose again from the dead, or His
claims are a series of blasphemous arrogances and His character
irremediably stained.

But we may also remember that Scripture not only represents Christ's
Resurrection as a divine act but also as the act of Christ's own
power. In His earthly life He asserted that His relation both to
physical death and to resurrection was an entirely unique one. 'I
have power,' said He, 'to lay down my life, and I have power to take
it again'; and yet, even in this tremendous instance of
self-assertion, He remains the obedient Son, for He goes on to say,
'This commandment have I received of My Father.' If these claims are
just, then it is vain to stumble at the miracles which Jesus did in
His earthly life. If He could strip it off and resume it, then
obviously it was not a life like other men's. The whole phenomenon is
supernatural, and we shall not be in the true position to understand
and appreciate it and Him until, like the doubting Thomas, we fall at
the feet of the risen Son, and breathe out loyalty and worship in
that rapturous exclamation, 'My Lord and my God.'

II. The Resurrection interprets Christ's Death.

There is no more striking contrast than that between the absolute
non-receptivity of the disciples in regard to all Christ's plain
teachings about His death and their clear perception after Pentecost
of the mighty power that lay in it. The very fact that they continued
disciples at all, and that there continued to be such a community as
the Church, demands their belief in the Resurrection as the only
cause which can account for it. If He did not rise from the dead, and
if His followers did not know that He did so by the plainest
teachings of common-sense, they ought to have scattered, and borne in
isolated hearts the bitter memories of disappointed hopes; for if He
lay in a nameless grave, and they were not sure that He was risen
from the dead, His death would have been a conclusive showing up of
the falsity of His claims. In it there would have been no atoning
power, no triumph over sin. If the death of Christ were not followed
by His Resurrection and Ascension, the whole fabric of Christianity
falls to pieces. As the Apostle puts it in his great chapter on
resurrection, 'Ye are yet in your sins.' The forgiveness which the
Gospel holds forth to men does not depend on the mercy of God or on
the mere penitence of man, but upon the offering of the one sacrifice
for sins in His death, which is justified by His Resurrection as
being accepted by God. If we cannot triumphantly proclaim 'Christ is
risen indeed,' we have nothing worth preaching.

We are told now that the ethics of Christianity are its vital centre,
which will stand out more plainly when purified from these mystical
doctrines of a Death as the sin-offering for the world, and a
Resurrection as the great token that that offering avails. Paul did
not think so. To him the morality of the Gospel was all deduced from
the life of Christ the Son of God as our Example, and from His death
for us which touches men's hearts and makes obedience to Him our
joyful answer to what He has done for us. Christianity is a new thing
in the world, not as moral teaching, but as moral power to obey that
teaching, and that depends on the Cross interpreted by the
Resurrection. If we have only a dead Christ, we have not a living
Christianity.

III. Resurrection points onwards to Christ's coming again.

Paul at Athens declared in the hearing of supercilious Greek
philosophers, that the Jesus, whom he proclaimed to them, was 'the
Man whom God had ordained to judge the world in righteousness,' and
that 'He had given assurance thereof unto all men, in that He raised
Him from the dead.' The Resurrection was the beginning of the process
which, from the human point of view, culminated in the Ascension.
Beyond the Ascension stretches the supernatural life of the glorified
Son of God. Olivet cannot be the end, and the words of the two men in
white apparel who stood amongst the little group of the upward gazing
friends, remain as the hope of the Church: 'This same Jesus shall so
come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.' That great
assurance implies a visible corporeal return locally defined, and
having for its purpose to complete the work which Incarnation, Death,
Resurrection, and Ascension, each advanced a stage. The Resurrection
is the corner-stone of the whole Christian faith. It seals the truths
that Jesus is the Son of God with power, that He died for us, that He
has ascended on high to prepare a place for us, that He will come
again and take us to Himself. If we, by faith in Him, take for ours
the women's greeting on that Easter morning, 'The Lord hath risen
indeed,' He will come to us with His own greeting, 'Peace be unto
you.'



PRIVILEGE AND OBLIGATION

   'To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be
   saints.'--ROMANS i. 7.


This is the address of the Epistle. The first thing to be noticed
about it, by way of introduction, is the universality of this
designation of Christians. Paul had never been in Rome, and knew very
little about the religious stature of the converts there. But he has
no hesitation in declaring that they are all 'beloved of God' and
'saints.' There were plenty of imperfect Christians amongst them;
many things to rebuke; much deadness, coldness, inconsistency, and
yet none of these in the slightest degree interfered with the
application of these great designations to them. So, then, 'beloved
of God' and 'saints' are not distinctions of classes within the pale
of Christianity, but belong to the whole community, and to each
member of the body.

The next thing to note, I think, is how these two great terms,
'beloved of God' and 'saints,' cover almost the whole ground of the
Christian life. They are connected with each other very closely, as I
shall have occasion to show presently, but in the meantime it may be
sufficient to mark how the one carries us deep into the heart of God
and the other extends over the whole ground of our relation to Him.
The one is a statement of a universal prerogative, the other an
enforcement of a universal obligation. Let us look, then, at these
two points, the universal privilege and the universal obligation of
the Christian life.

I. The universal privilege of the Christian life.

'Beloved of God.' Now we are so familiar with the juxtaposition of
the two ideas, 'love' and 'God,' that we cease to feel the
wonderfulness of their union. But until Jesus Christ had done His
work no man believed that the two thoughts could be brought together.

Does God love any one? We think the question too plain to need to be
put, and the answer instinctive. But it is not by any means
instinctive, and the fact is that until Christ answered it for us,
the world stood dumb before the question that its own heart raised,
and when tortured spirits asked, 'Is there care in heaven, and is
there love?' there was 'no voice, nor answer, nor any that regarded.'
Think of the facts of life; think of the facts of nature. Think of
sorrows and miseries and pains, and sins, and wasted lives and
storms, and tempests, and diseases, and convulsions; and let us feel
how true the grim saying is, that

  'Nature, red in tooth and claw,
  With rapine, shrieks against the creed'

that God is love.

And think of what the world has worshipped, and of all the varieties
of monstrosity, not the less monstrous because sometimes beautiful,
before which men have bowed. Cruel, lustful, rapacious, capricious,
selfish, indifferent deities they have adored. And then, 'God hath
established,' proved, demonstrated 'His love to us in that while we
were yet sinners Christ died for us.'

Oh, brethren, do not let us kick down the ladder by which we have
climbed; or, in the name of a loving God, put away the Christian
teaching which has begotten the conception in humanity of a God that
loves. There are men to-day who would never have come within sight
of that sunlight truth, even as a glimmering star, away down upon
the horizon, if it had not been for the Gospel; and who now turn
round upon that very Gospel which has given them the conception,
and accuse it of narrow and hard thoughts of the love of God.

One of the Scripture truths against which the assailant often turns
his sharpest weapons is that which is involved in my text, the
Scripture answer to the other question, 'Does not God love all?' Yes!
yes! a thousand times, yes! But there is another question, Does the
love of God, to all, make His special designation of Christian men as
His beloved the least unlikely? Surely there is no kind of
contradiction between the broadest proclamation of the universality
of the love of God and Paul's decisive declaration that, in a very
deep and real manner, they who are in Christ are the beloved of God.
Surely special affection is not in its nature, inconsistent with
universal beneficence and benevolence. Surely it is no exaltation,
but rather a degradation of the conception of the divine love, if we
proclaim its utter indifference to men's characters. Surely you are
not honouring God when you say, 'It is all the same to Him whether a
man loves Him and serves Him, or lifts himself up in rebellion
against Him, and makes himself his own centre, and earth his aim and
his all.' Surely to imagine a God who not only makes His sun to shine
and His rains and dews to fall on the unthankful and the evil, that
He may draw them to love Him, but who also is conceived as taking the
sinful creature who yet cleaves to his sins to His heart, as He does
the penitent soul that longs for His image to be produced in it, is
to blaspheme, and not to honour the love, the universal love of God.

God forbid that any words that ever drop from my lips should seem to
cast the smallest shadow of doubt on that great truth, 'God so loved
the world that He gave His Son!' But God forbid, equally, that any
words of mine should seem to favour the, to me, repellent idea that
the infinite love of God disregards the character of the man on whom
it falls. There are manifestations of that loving heart which any man
can receive; and each man gets as much of the love of God as it is
possible to pour upon him. But granite rock does not drink in the dew
as a flower does; and the nature of the man on whom God's love falls
determines how much, and what manner of its manifestations shall pass
into his true possession, and what shall remain without.

So, on the whole, we have to answer the questions, 'Does God love
any? Does not God love all? Does God specially love some?' with the
one monosyllable, 'Yes.'

And so, dear brethren, let us learn the path by which we can pass
into that blessed community of those on whom the fullness and
sweetness and tenderest tenderness of the Father's heart will fall.
'If a man love Me, he will keep My words; and My Father will love
him.' Myths tell us that the light which, at the beginning, had been
diffused through a nebulous mass, was next gathered into a sun. So
the universal love of God is concentrated in Jesus Christ; and if we
have Him we have it; and if we have faith we have Him, and can say,
'Neither life, nor death, nor things present, nor things to come, nor
height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate
us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.'

II. Then, secondly, mark the universal obligation of the Christian
life.

'Called to be saints,' says my text. Now you will observe that the
two little words 'to be' are inserted here as a supplement. They may
be correct enough, but they are open to the possibility of
misunderstanding, as if the saintship, to which all Christian people
are 'called' was something future, and not realised at the moment.
Now, in the context, the Apostle employs the same form of expression
with regard to himself in a clause which illuminates the meaning of
my text. 'Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ' says he, in the first
verse, 'called to be an Apostle' or, more correctly, 'a called
Apostle.' The apostleship coincided in time with the call, was
contemporaneous with that which was its cause. And if Paul was an
Apostle since he was called, saints are saints since _they_ are
called. 'The beloved of God' are 'the called saints.'

I need only observe, further, that the word 'called' here does not
mean 'named' or 'designated' but 'summoned.' It describes not the
name by which Christian men are known, but the thing which they are
invited, summoned, 'called' by God to be. It is their vocation, not
their designation. Now, then, I need not, I suppose, remind you that
'saint' and 'holy' convey precisely the same idea: the one expressing
it in a word of Teutonic, and the other in one of classic derivation.

We notice that the true idea of this universal holiness which, _ipso
facto_, belongs to all Christian people, is consecration to God. In
the old days temple, altars, sacrifices, sacrificial vessels, persons
such as priests, periods like Sabbaths and feasts, were called
'holy.' The common idea running through all these uses of the word is
_belonging to God_, and that is the root notion of the New Testament
'saint' a man who is God's. God has claimed us for Himself when He
gave us Jesus Christ. We respond to the claim when we accept Christ.
Henceforth we are not our own, but 'consecrated'--that is, 'saints.'

Now the next step is purity, which is the ordinary idea of sanctity.
Purity will follow consecration, and would not be worth much without
it, even if it was possible to be attained. Now, look what a far
deeper and nobler idea of the service and conditions of moral
goodness this derivation of it from surrender to God gives, than does
a God-ignoring morality which talks and talks about acts and
dispositions, and never goes down to the root of the whole matter;
and how much nobler it is than a shallow religion which in like
manner is ever straining after acts of righteousness, and forgets
that in order to be right there must be prior surrender to God. Get a
man to yield himself up to God and no fear about the righteousness.
Virtue, goodness, purity, righteousness, all these synonyms express
very noble things; but deep down below them all lies the New
Testament idea of holiness, consecration of myself to God, which is
the parent of them all.

And then the next thing to remind you of is that this consecration is
to be applied all through a man's nature. Yielding yourselves to God
is the talismanic secret of all righteousness, as I have said; and
every part of our complex, manifold being is capable of such
consecration. I hallow my heart if its love twines round His heart. I
hallow my thoughts if I take His truth for my guide, and ever seek to
be led thereby in practice and in belief. I hallow my will when it
bows and says, 'Speak, Lord! Thy servant heareth!' I hallow my senses
when I use them as from Him, with recognition of Him and for Him. In
fact, there are two ways of living in the world; and, narrow as it
sounds, I venture to say there are only two. Either God is my centre,
and that is holiness; or self is my centre, in more or less subtle
forms, and that is sin.

Then the next step is that this consecration, which will issue in all
purity, and will cover the whole ground of a human life, is only
possible when we have drunk in the blessed thought 'beloved of God.'
My yielding of myself to Him can only be the echo of His giving of
Himself to me. He must be the first to love. You cannot argue a man
into loving God, any more than you can hammer a rosebud open. If you
do you spoil its petals. But He can love us into loving Him, and the
sunshine, falling on the closed flower, will expand it, and it will
grow by its reception of the light, and grow sunlike in its measure
and according to its nature. So a God who has only claims upon us
will never be a God to whom we yield ourselves. A God who has love
for us will be a God to whom it is blessed that we should be
consecrated, and so saints.

Then, still further, this consecration, thus built upon the reception
of the divine love, and influencing our whole nature, and leading to
all purity, is a universal characteristic of Christians. There is no
faith which does not lead to surrender. There is no aristocracy in
the Christian Church which deserves to have the family name given
especially to it. 'Saint' this, and 'Saint' that, and 'Saint' the
other--these titles cannot be used without darkening the truth that
this honour and obligation of being saints belong equally to all that
love Jesus Christ. All the men whom thus God has drawn to Himself, by
His love in His Son, they are all, if I may so say, objectively holy;
they belong to God. But consecration may be cultivated, and must be
cultivated and increased. There is a solemn obligation laid upon
every one of us who call ourselves Christians, to be saints, in the
sense that we have consciously yielded up our whole lives to Him; and
are trying, body, soul, and spirit, 'to perfect holiness in the fear
of the Lord.'

Paul's letter, addressed to the 'beloved in God,' the 'called saints'
that are in Rome, found its way to the people for whom it was meant.
If a letter so addressed were dropped in our streets, do you think
anybody would bring it to you, or to any Christian society as a
whole, recognising that we were the people for whom it was meant? The
world has taunted us often enough with the name of saints; and
laughed at the profession which they thought was included in the
word. Would that their taunts had been undeserved, and that it were
not true that 'saints' in the Church sometimes means less than 'good
men' out of the Church! 'Seeing that we have these promises, dearly
beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and
spirit; perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.'



PAUL'S LONGING[1]

   'I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some
    spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
    12. That is, that I may be comforted together with
    you, by the mutual faith both of you and me.'--ROMANS i. 11, 12.


I am not wont to indulge in personal references in the pulpit, but I
cannot but yield to the impulse to make an exception now, and to let
our happy circumstances mould my remarks. I speak mainly to mine own
people, and I must trust that other friends who may hear or read my
words will forgive my doing so.

In taking such a text as this, I desire to shelter myself behind
Paul, and in expounding his feelings to express my own, and to draw
such lessons as may be helpful and profitable to us all. And so there
are three things in this text that I desire to note: the manly
expression of Christian affection; the lofty consciousness of the
purpose of their meeting; and the lowly sense that there was much to
be received as well as much to be given. A word or two about each of
these things is all on which I can venture.

I. First, then, notice the manly expression of Christian affection
which the Apostle allows himself here.

Very few Christian teachers could or should venture to talk so much
about themselves as Paul did. The strong infusion of the personal
element in all his letters is so transparently simple, so obviously
sincere, so free from any jarring note of affectation or unctuous
sentiment that it attracts rather than repels. If I might venture
upon a paradox, his personal references are instances of
self-oblivion in the midst of self-consciousness.

He had never been in Rome when he wrote these words; he had no
personal relations with the believers there; he had never looked them
in the face; there were no sympathy and confidence between them, as
the growth of years. But still his heart went out towards them, and
he was not ashamed to show it. 'I _long_ to see you,'--in the
original the word expresses a very intense amount of yearning blended
with something of regret that he had been so long kept from them.

Now it is not a good thing for people to make many professions of
affection, and I think a public teacher has something better to do
than to parade such feelings before his audiences. But there are
exceptions to all rules, and I suppose I may venture to let my heart
speak, and to say how gladly I come back to the old place, dear to me
by so many sacred memories and associations, and how gladly I reknit
the bonds of an affection which has been unbroken, and deepening on
both sides through thirty long years.

Dear friends! let us together thank God to-day if He has knit our
hearts together in mutual affection; and if you and I can look each
other, as I believe we can, in the eyes, with the assurance that I
see only the faces of friends, and that you see the face of one who
gladly resumes the old work and associations.

But now, dear brethren, let us draw one lesson. Unless there be this
manly, honest, though oftenest silent, Christian affection, the
sooner you and I part the better. Unless it be in my heart I can do
you no good. No man ever touched another with the sweet constraining
forces that lie in Christ's Gospel unless the heart of the speaker
went out to grapple the hearts of the hearers. And no audience ever
listen with any profit to a man when they come in the spirit of
carping criticism, or of cold admiration, or of stolid indifference.
There must be for this simple relationship which alone binds a
Nonconformist preacher to his congregation, as a _sine qua non_ of
all higher things and of all spiritual good, a real, though oftenest
it be a concealed, mutual affection and regard. We have to thank God
for much of it; let us try to get more. That is all I want to say
about the first point here.

II. Note the lofty consciousness of the purpose of their meeting.

'I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift.'
Paul knew that he had something which he could give to these people,
and he calls it by a very comprehensive term, 'some spiritual
gift'--a gift of some sort which, coming from the Divine Spirit, was
to be received into the human spirit.

Now that expression--a spiritual gift--in the New Testament has a
variety of applications. Sometimes it refers to what we call
miraculous endowments, sometimes it refers to what we may call
official capacity; but here it is evidently neither the one nor the
other of these more limited and special things, but the general idea
of a divine operation upon the human spirit which fills it with
Christian graces--knowledge, faith, love. Or, in simpler words, what
Paul wanted to give them was a firmer grasp and fuller possession of
Jesus Christ, His love and power, which would secure a deepening and
strengthening of their whole Christian life. He was quite sure he had
this to give, and that he could impart it, if they would listen to
what he would say to them. But whilst thus he rises into the lofty
conception of the purpose and possible result of his meeting the
Roman Christians, he is just as conscious of the limitations of his
power in the matter as he is of the greatness of his function. These
are indicated plainly. The word which he employs here, 'gift' is
never used in the New Testament for a thing that one man can give to
another, but is always employed for the concrete results of the grace
of God bestowed upon men. The very expression, then, shows that Paul
thought of himself, not as the original giver, but simply as a
channel through which was communicated what God had given. In the
same direction points the adjective which accompanies the noun--a
'_spiritual_ gift'--which probably describes the origin of the gift
as being the Spirit of God, rather than defines the seat of it when
received as being the spirit of the receiver. Notice, too, as bearing
on the limits of Paul's part in the gift, the propriety and delicacy
of the language in his statement of the ultimate purpose of the gift.
He does not say 'that I may strengthen you,' which might have sounded
too egotistical, and would have assumed too much to himself, but he
says 'that ye may be strengthened,' for the true strengthener is not
Paul, but the Spirit of God.

So, on the one hand, the Christian teacher is bound to rise to the
height of the consciousness of his lofty vocation as having in
possession a gift that he can bestow; on the other hand, he is bound
ever to remember the limitations within which that is true--viz. that
the gift is not his, but God's, and that the Spirit of the Lord is
the true Giver of all the graces which may blossom when His word,
ministered by human agents, is received into human hearts.

And, now, what are the lessons that I take from this? Two very simple
ones. First, no Christian teacher has any business to open his mouth,
unless he is sure that he has received something to impart to men as
a gift from the Divine Spirit. To preach our doubts, to preach our
own opinions, to preach poor platitudes, to talk about politics and
morals and taste and literature and the like in the pulpit, is
profanation and blasphemy. Let no man open his lips unless he can
say: 'The Lord hath showed me this; and this I bring to you as His
word.' Nor has a Christian organisation any right to exist, unless it
recognises the communication and reception and further spreading of
this spiritual gift as its great function. Churches which have lost
that consciousness, and, instead of a divine gift, have little more
to offer than formal worship, or music, or entertainments, or mere
intellectual discourse, whether orthodox or 'advanced,' have no right
to be; and by the law of the survival of the fittest will not long
be. The one thing that warrants such a relationship as subsists
between you and me is this, my consciousness that I have a message
from God, and your belief that you hear such from my lips. Unless
that be our bond the sooner these walls crumble, and this voice
ceases, and these pews are emptied, the better. 'I have,' says, Paul,
'a gift to impart; and I long to see you that I may impart it to
you.' Oh! for more, in all our pulpits, of that burdened
consciousness of a divine message which needs the relief of speech,
and longs with a longing caught from Christ to impart its richest
treasures.

That is the one lesson. And the other one is this. Have you, dear
friends, received the gift that I have, under the limitations already
spoken of, to bestow? There are some of you who have listened to my
voice ever since you were children--some of you, though not many,
have heard it for well on to thirty years. Have you taken the thing
that all these years I have been--God knows how poorly, but God knows
how honestly--trying to bring to you? That is, have you taken Christ,
and have you faith in Him? And, as for those of you who say that
you are Christians, many blessings have passed between you and me
through all these years; but, dear friends, has the chief blessing
been attained? Are you being strengthened day by day for the burdens
and the annoyances and the sorrows of life by your coming here? Do I
do you any good in that way; are you better men than when we first
met together? Is Christ dearer, and more real and nearer to you; and
are your lives more transparently consecrated, more manifestly the
result of a hidden union with Him? Do you walk in the world like the
Master, because you are members of this congregation? If so, its
purpose has been accomplished. If not, it has miserably failed.

I have said that I have to thank God for the unbroken affection that
has knit us together. But what is the use of such love if it does not
lead onwards to this? I have had enough, and more than enough, of
what you call popularity and appreciation, undeserved enough, but
rendered unstintedly by you. I do not care the snap of a finger for
it by comparison with this other thing. And oh, dear brethren! if all
that comes of our meeting here Sunday after Sunday is either praise
or criticism of my poor words and ways, our relationship is a curse,
and not a blessing, and we come together for the worse and not for
the better. The purpose of the Church, and the purpose of the
ministry, and the meaning of our assembling are, that spiritual gifts
may be imparted, not by me alone, but by you, too, and by me in my
place and measure, and if that purpose be not accomplished, all other
purposes, that are accomplished, are of no account, and worse than
nothing.

III. And now, lastly, note the lowly consciousness that much was to
be received as well as much to be given.

The Apostle corrects himself after he has said 'that I may impart
unto you some spiritual gift,' by adding, 'that is, that I may be
comforted (or rather, encouraged) together with you by the mutual
faith both of you and me.' If his language were not so transparently
sincere, and springing from deep interest in the relationship between
himself and these people, we should say that it was exquisite
courtesy and beautiful delicacy. But it moves in a region far more
real than the region of courtesy, and it speaks the inmost truth
about the conditions on which the Roman Christians should
receive--viz. that they should also give. There is only one Giver who
is only a Giver, and that is God. All other givers are also
receivers. Paul desired to see his Roman brethren that he might be
encouraged; and when he did see them, as he marched along the Appian
Way, a shipwrecked prisoner, the Acts of the Apostles tells us, 'He
thanked God and took courage.' The sight of them strengthened him and
prepared him for what lay before him.

Paul's was a richly complicated nature--firm as a rock in its will,
tremulously sensitive in its sympathies; like some strongly-rooted
tree with its stable stem and a green cloud of fluttering foliage
that moves in the lightest air. So his spirit rose and fell according
to the reception that he met from his brethren, and the manifestation
of their faith quickened and strengthened his.

And he is but one instance of a universal law. All teachers, the more
genuine they are, the more sympathetic they are, are the more
sensitive of their environment. The very oratorical temperament
places a man at the mercy of surroundings. All earnest work has ever
travelling with it as its shadow seasons of deep depression; and the
Christian teacher does not escape these. I am not going to speak
about myself, but this is unquestionably true, that every Elijah,
after the mightiest effort of prophecy, is apt to cover his head in
his mantle and to say, 'Take me away; I am not better than my
fathers.' And when a man for thirty years, amidst all the changes
incident to a great city congregation in that time, has to stand up
Sunday after Sunday before the same people, and mark how some of them
are stolidly indifferent, and note how others are dropping away
from their faithfulness, and see empty places where loving forms used
to sit--no wonder that the mood comes ever and anon, 'Then, said I,
surely I have laboured in vain and spent my strength for nought.' The
hearer reacts on the speaker quite as much as the speaker does on the
hearer. If you have ice in the pews, that brings down the temperature
up here. It is hard to be fervid amidst people that are all but dead.
It is difficult to keep a fire alight when it is kindled on the top
of an iceberg. And the unbelief and low-toned religion of a
congregation are always pulling down the faith and the fervour of
their minister, if he be better and holier, as they expect him to be,
than they are.

'He did not many works because of their unbelief.' Christ knew the
hampering and the restrictions of His power which came from being
surrounded by a chill, unsympathetic environment. My strength and my
weakness are largely due to you. And if you want your minister to
preach better, and in all ways to do his work more joyfully and
faithfully, the means lie largely in your own hands. Icy
indifference, ill-natured interpretations, carping criticisms, swift
forgetfulness of one's words, all these things kill the fervour of
the pulpit.

On the other hand, the true encouragement to give a man when he is
trying to do God's will, to preach Christ's Gospel, is not to pat him
on the back and say, 'What a remarkable sermon that was of yours!
what a genius! what an orator!' not to go about praising it, but to
come and say, 'Thy words have led me to Christ, and from thee I have
taken the gift of gifts.'

Dear brethren, the encouragement of the minister is in the conversion
and the growth of the hearers. And I pray that in this new lease of
united fellowship which we have taken out, be it longer or
shorter--and advancing years tell me that at the longest it must be
comparatively short--I may come to you ever more and more with the
lofty and humbling consciousness that I have a message which Christ
has given to me, and that you may come more and more receptive--not
of _my_ words, God forbid--but of Christ's truth; and that so we
may be helpers one of another, and encourage each other in the
warfare and work to which we all are called and consecrated.

[Footnote 1: Preached after long absence on account of illness.]



DEBTORS TO ALL MEN

  'I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians,
   both to the wise and to the unwise.'--ROMANS i. 14.


No doubt Paul is here referring to the special obligation laid upon
him by his divine call to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. He was
entrusted with the Gospel as a steward, and was therefore bound to
carry it to all sorts and conditions of men. But the principle
underlying the statement applies to all Christians. The indebtedness
referred to is no peculiarity of the Apostolic order, but attaches to
every believer. Every servant of Jesus Christ, who has received the
truth for himself, has received it as a steward, and is, as such,
indebted to God, from whom he got the trust, and to the men for whom
he got it. The only limit to the obligation is, as Paul says in the
context, 'as much as in me is.' Capacity, determined by faculties,
opportunities, and circumstances, prescribes the kind and the degree
of the work to be done in discharge of the obligation; but the
obligation is universal. We are not at liberty to choose whether we
shall do our part in spreading the name of Jesus Christ. It is a debt
that we owe to God and to men. Is that the view of duty which the
average Christian man takes? I am afraid it is not. If it were, our
treasuries would be full, and great would be the multitude of them
that preached the Word.

It is no very exalted degree of virtue to pay our debts. We do not
expect to be praised for that; and we do not consider that we are at
liberty to choose whether we shall do it or not. We are dishonest if
we do not. It is no merit in us to be honest. Would that all
Christian people applied that principle to their religion. The world
would be different, and the Church would be different, if they did.

Let me try, then, to enforce this thought of indebtedness and of
common honesty in discharging the indebtedness, which underlies these
words. Paul thought that he went a long way to pay his debts to
humanity by carrying to everybody whom he could reach the 'Name that
is above every name.'

I. Now, first, let me say that we Christians are debtors to all men
by our common manhood.

It is not the least of the gifts which Christianity has brought to
the world, that it has introduced the new thought of the brotherhood
of mankind. The very word 'humanity' is a Christian coinage, and it
was coined to express the new thought that began to throb in men's
hearts, as soon as they accepted the message that Jesus Christ came
to give, the message of the Fatherhood of God. For it is on that
belief of God's Fatherhood that the belief of man's brotherhood
rests, and on it alone can it be secured and permanently based.

Here is a Jew writing to Latins in the Greek language. The phenomenon
itself is a sign of a new order of things, of the rising of a flood
that had surged over, and in the course of ages would sap away and
dissolve, the barriers between men. The Apostle points to two of the
widest gulfs that separated men, in the words of my text. 'Greeks and
Barbarians' divides mankind, according to race and language. 'Wise
and unwise' divides them according to culture and intellectual
capacity. Both gulfs exist still, though they have been wonderfully
filled up by the influence, direct and indirect, of the Gospel of
Jesus Christ. The fiercest antagonisms of race which still subsist
are felt to belong to a decaying order, and to be sure, sooner or
later, to pass away. I suppose that the gulf made by the increased
culture of modern society between civilised and the savage peoples,
and, within the limits of our own land, the gulf made by education
between the higher and the lower layers of our community--I speak not
of higher and lower in regard to wealth or station, but in regard to
intellectual acquirement and capacity--are greater than, perhaps,
they ever were in the past. But yet over the gulf a bridge is thrown,
and the gulf itself is being filled up. High above all the
superficial distinctions which separate Jew and Gentile, Greek and
Barbarian, educated and illiterate, scientific and unscientific, wise
and unwise, there stretches the great rainbow of the truth that all
are one in Christ Jesus. Fraternity without Fatherhood is a ghastly
mockery that ended a hundred years ago in the guillotine, and to-day
will end in disappointment; and it is little more than cant. But when
Christianity comes and tells us that we have one Father and one
Redeemer, then the unity of the race is secured.

And that oneness which makes us debtors to all men is shown to be
real by the fact that, beneath all superficial distinctions of
culture, race, age, or station, there are the primal necessities and
yearnings and possibilities that lie in every human soul. All men,
savage or cultivated, breathe the same air, see by the same light,
are fed by the same food and drink, have the same yearning hearts,
the same lofty aspirations that unfulfilled are torture; the same
experience of the same guilt, and, blessed be God! the same Saviour
and the same salvation.

Because, then, we are all members of the one family, every man is
bound to regard all that he possesses, and is, and can do, as
committed to him in stewardship to be imparted to his fellows. We are
not sponges to absorb, but we are pipes placed in the spring, that we
may give forth the precious water of life.

Cain is not a very good model, but his question is the world's
question, and it implies the expectation of a negative answer--'Am I
my brother's keeper?' Surely, the very language answers itself, and,
although Cain thinks that the only answer is 'No,' wisdom sees that
the only answer is 'Yes.' For if I am my brother's brother, then
surely I am my brother's keeper. We have a better example. There is
another Elder Brother who has come to give to His brethren all that
Himself possessed, and we but poorly follow our Master's pattern
unless we feel that the mystic tie which binds us in brotherhood to
every man makes us every man's debtor to the extent of our
possessions. That is the Christian truth that underlies the modern
Socialistic idea, and, whatever the form in which it is ultimately
brought into practice as the rule of mankind, the principle will
triumph one day; and we are bound, as Christian men, to hasten the
coming of its victory. We are debtors by reason of our common
humanity.

II. We are debtors by our possession of the universal salvation.

The principle which I have already been laying down applies all
round, to everything that we have, are, or can do. But its most
stringent obligation, and the noblest field for its operations, are
found in reference to the Christian man's possession of the Gospel
for the joy of his own heart, and to the duties that are therein
involved. Christ draws men to Himself for their own sakes, blessed be
His name! but not for their own sakes only. He draws them to Himself,
that they, in their turn, may draw others with whose hands theirs are
linked, and so may swell the numbers of the flock that gathers round
the one Shepherd. He puts the dew of His blessing into the chalice of
the tiniest flower, that it may 'share its dewdrop with another
near.' Just as every particle of inert dough as it is leavened
becomes in its turn leaven, and the medium for leavening the particle
contiguous to it, so every Christian is bound, or, to use the
metaphor of my text, is a debtor to God and man, to impart the Gospel
of Jesus Christ. 'Greek and Barbarian,' says Paul, 'wise or unwise';
all distinctions vanish. If I can get at a man, no matter what
colour, his race, his language, his capacity, his acquirements,
he is my creditor, and I am defrauding him of what he has a right to
expect from me if I do not do my best to bring him to Jesus Christ.

This obligation receives additional weight from the proved adaptation
of the Gospel to all sorts and conditions of men. Alone of all
religions has Christianity proved itself capable of dominating every
type of character, of influencing every stage of civilisation, of
assuming the speech of every tongue, and of wearing the garb of every
race. There are other religions which are evidently destined only to
a narrow field of operations, and are rigidly limited by geographical
conditions, or by stages of civilisation. There are wines that are
ruined by a sea voyage, and can only be drunk in the land where the
vintage was gathered; and that is the condition of all the ethnic
religions. Christianity alone passes through the whole earth, and
influences all men. The history of missions shows us that. There has
yet to be found the race that is incapable of receiving, or is beyond
the need of possessing, or cannot be elevated by the operation of,
the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So to all men we are bound, as much as in us is, to carry the Gospel.
The distinction that is drawn so often by the people who never move a
finger to help the heathen either at home or abroad, between the home
and the foreign field of work, vanishes altogether when we stand at
the true Christian standpoint. Here is a man who wants the Gospel; I
have it; I can give it to him. That constitutes a summons as
imperative as if we were called by name from Heaven, and bade to go,
and as much as in us is to preach the Gospel. Brethren! we do not
obey the command, 'Owe no man anything,' unless, to the extent of our
ability, or over the whole field which we can influence at home or
abroad, we seek to spread the name of Christ and the salvation that
is in Him.

III. We are debtors by benefits received.

I am speaking to men and women a very large proportion of whom get
their living, and some of whom amass their wealth, by trade with
lands that need the Gospel. It is not for nothing that England has
won the great empire that she possesses--won it, alas! far too often
by deeds that will not bear investigation in the light of Christian
principle, but won it.

What do we owe to the lands that we call 'heathen'? The very speech
by which we communicate with one another; the beginning of our
civilisation; wide fields for expanding population and emigration;
treasures of wisdom of many kinds; an empire about which we are too
fond of crowing and too reluctant to recognise its
responsibilities--and Manchester its commerce and prosperity! Did God
put us where we are as a nation only in order that we might carry the
gifts of our literature, great as that is; of our science, great as
that is; of our law, blessed as that is; of our manufactures, to
those distant lands? The best thing that we can give is the thing
that all of us can help to give--the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 'Who
knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as
this?'

IV. Lastly, we are debtors by injuries inflicted.

Many subject-races seem destined to fade away by contact with our
race; and if we think of the nameless cruelties, and the iliad of
woes which England's possession of this great Colonial Empire has had
accompanying it, we may feel that the harm in many aspects outweighs
the good, and that it had been better for these men to be left
suckled in creeds outworn, and ignorant of our civilisation, than to
receive from us the fatal gifts that they often have received. I do
not wish to exaggerate, but if you will take the facts of the case as
brought out by people that have no Christian prejudices to serve, I
think you will acknowledge that we as a nation owe a debt of
reparation to the barbarians and the unwise.

What about killing African tribes by the thousand with the vile stuff
that we call rum, and send to them in exchange for their poor
commodities? What about introducing new diseases, the offspring of
vice, into the South Sea Islands, decimating and all but destroying
the population? Is it not true that, as the prophet wailed of old
about a degenerate Israel, we may wail about the beach-combers and
other loafers that go amongst savage lands from England--'Through you
the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles.' A Hindoo once said
to a missionary, 'Your Book is very good. If you were as good as your
Book you would conquer India in five years.' That may be true or it
may not, but it gives us the impression that is produced by godless
Englishmen on heathen peoples. We are taking away their religion from
them, necessarily, as the result of education and contact with
European thought. And if we do not substitute for it the one faith
that elevates and saves, the last state of that man will be worse
than the first.

We can almost hear the rattle of the guns on the north-west frontier
of India to-day. There is another specimen of the injuries inflicted.
This is not the place to talk politics, but I feel that this is the
place to ask this question, 'Are Christian principles to have
anything to do in determining national actions?' Is it Christian to
impose our yoke on unwilling tribes who have as deep a love for
independence as the proudest Englishmen of us all, and as good a
right to it? Are punitive expeditions and Maxim guns instalments of
our debt to all men? I wonder what Jesus Christ, who died for Afridis
and Orakzais and all the rest of them, thinks about such conduct?

Brethren, we are debtors to all men. Let us do our best to influence
national action in accordance with the brotherhood which has been
revealed to us by the Elder Brother of us all; and let us, at least
for our own parts, recognise, and, as much as in us is, discharge the
debt which, by our common humanity, and by our possession of the
universal Gospel we owe to all men, and which is made more weighty by
the benefits we receive from many, and by the injuries which England
has inflicted on not a few. Else shall we hear rise above all the
voices that palliate crime, on the plea of 'State necessity,' the
stern words of the Master, 'In thy skirts is found the blood of the
souls of poor innocents.' We are debtors; let us pay our debts.



THE GOSPEL THE POWER OF GOD[1]

   'I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is
   the power of God unto salvation to every one that
   believeth.'--ROMANS i. 16.


To preach the Gospel in Rome had long been the goal of Paul's hopes.
He wished to do in the centre of power what he had done in Athens,
the home of wisdom; and with superb confidence, not in himself, but
in his message, to try conclusions with the strongest thing in the
world. He knew its power well, and was not appalled. The danger was
an attraction to his chivalrous spirit. He believed in flying at
the head when you are fighting with a serpent, and he knew that
influence exerted in Rome would thrill through the Empire. If we
would understand the magnificent audacity of these words of my text
we must try to listen to them with the ears of a Roman. Here was a
poor little insignificant Jew, like hundreds of his countrymen down
in the Ghetto, one who had his head full of some fantastic nonsense
about a young visionary whom the procurator of Syria had very wisely
put an end to a while ago in order to quiet down the turbulent
province; and he was going into Rome with the notion that his word
would shake the throne of the Cæsars. What proud contempt would have
curled their lips if they had been told that the travel-stained
prisoner, trudging wearily up the Appian Way, had the mightiest thing
in the world entrusted to his care! Romans did not believe much in
ideas. Their notion of power was sharp swords and iron yokes on the
necks of subject peoples. But the history of Christianity, whatever
else it has been, has been the history of the supremacy and the
revolutionary force of ideas. Thought is mightier than all visible
forces. Thought dissolves and reconstructs. Empires and institutions
melt before it like the carbon rods in an electric lamp; and the
little hillock of Calvary is higher than the Palatine with its regal
homes and the Capitoline with its temples: 'I am not ashamed of the
Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation.'

Now, dear friends, I have ventured to take these great words for my
text, though I know, better than any of you can tell me, how sure my
treatment of them is to enfeeble rather than enforce them, because I,
for my poor part, feel that there are few things which we, all of us,
people and ministers, need more than to catch some of the infection
of this courageous confidence, and to be fired with some spark of
Paul's enthusiasm for, and glorying in, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I ask you, then, to consider three things: (1) what Paul thought was
the Gospel? (2) what Paul thought the Gospel was? and (3) what he
felt about the Gospel?

I. What Paul thought was the Gospel?

He has given to us in his own rapid way a summary statement,
abbreviated to the very bone, and reduced to the barest elements, of
what he meant by the Gospel. What was the irreducible minimum? The
facts of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as you will find
written in the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the
Corinthians. So, then, to begin with, the Gospel is not a statement
of principles, but a record of facts, things that have happened in
this world of ours. But the least part of a fact is the visible part
of it, and it is of no significance unless it has explanation, and so
Paul goes on to bind up with the facts an explanation of them. The
mere fact that Jesus, a young Nazarene, was executed is no more a
gospel than the other one, that two brigands were crucified beside
Him. But the fact that could be seen, plus the explanation which
underlies and interprets it, turns the chronicle into a gospel, and
the explanation begins with the name of the Sufferer; for if you want
to understand His death you must understand who it was that died. His
death is a thought pathetic in all aspects, and very precious in
many. But when we hear 'Christ died according to the Scriptures,' the
whole symbolism of the ancient ritual and all the glowing
anticipations of the prophets rise up before us, and that death
assumes an altogether different aspect. If we stop with 'Jesus died,'
then that death may be a beautiful example of heroism, a sweet,
pathetic instance of innocent suffering, a conspicuous example of the
world's wages to the world's teachers, but it is little more. If,
however, we take Paul's words upon our lips, 'Brethren, I declare
unto you the Gospel which I preached ... how that Christ died ...
according to the Scriptures,' the fact flashes up into solid beauty,
and becomes the Gospel of our salvation. And the explanation goes on,
'How that Christ died for our sins.' Now, I may be very blind, but I
venture to say that I, for my part, cannot see in what intelligible
sense the Death of Christ can be held to have been for, or on behalf
of, our sins--that is, that they may be swept away and we delivered
from them--unless you admit the atoning nature of His sacrifice for
sins. I cannot stop to enlarge, but I venture to say that any
narrower interpretation evacuates Paul's words of their deepest
significance. The explanation goes on, 'And that He was buried.' Why
that trivial detail? Partly because it guarantees the fact of His
Death, partly because of its bearing on the evidences of His
Resurrection. 'And that He rose from the dead according to the
Scriptures.' Great fact, without which Christ is a shattered prop,
and 'ye are yet in your sins.'

But, further, notice that my text is also Paul's text for this
Epistle, and that it differs from the condensed summary of which I
have been speaking only as a bud with its petals closed differs from
one with them expanded in their beauty. And now, if you will take the
words of my text as being the keynote of this letter, and read over
its first eight chapters, what is the Apostle talking about when he
in them fulfils his purpose and preaches 'the Gospel' to them that
are at Rome also? Here is, in the briefest possible words, his
summary--the universality of sin, the awful burden of guilt, the
tremendous outlook of penalty, the impossibility of man rescuing
himself or living righteously, the Incarnation, and Life, and Death
of Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, the hand of
faith grasping the offered blessing, the indwelling in believing
souls of the Divine Spirit, and the consequent admission of man into
a life of sonship, power, peace, victory, glory, the child's place in
the love of the Father from which nothing can separate. These are the
teachings which make the staple of this Epistle. These are the
explanations of the weighty phrases of my text. These are at least
the essential elements of the Gospel according to Paul.

But he was not alone in this construction of his message. We hear a
great deal to-day about Pauline Christianity, with the implication,
and sometimes with the assertion, that he was the inventor of what,
for the sake of using a brief and easily intelligible term, I may
call Evangelical Christianity. Now, it is a very illuminating thought
for the reading of the New Testament that there are the three sets of
teaching, roughly, the Pauline, Petrine, and Johannine, and you
cannot find the distinctions between these three in any difference as
to the fundamental contents of the Gospel; for if Paul rings out,
'God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners
Christ died for us,' Peter declares, 'Who His own self bare our sins
in His own body on the tree,' and John, from his island solitude,
sends across the waters the hymn of praise, 'Unto Him that loved us
and washed us from our sins in His own blood.' And so the proud
declaration of the Apostle, which he dared not have ventured upon in
the face of the acrid criticism he had to front unless he had known
he was perfectly sure of his ground, is natural and
warranted--'Therefore, whether it were I or they, so we preach.'

We are told that we must go back to the Christ of the Gospels, the
historical Christ, and that He spoke nothing concerning all these
important points that I have mentioned as being Paul's conception of
the Gospel. Back to the Christ of the Gospels by all means, if you
will go to the Christ of all the Gospels and of the whole of each
Gospel. And if you do, you will go back to the Christ who said, 'The
Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to
give His life a ransom for many.' You will go back to the Christ who
said, 'And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men
unto Me.' You will go back to the Christ who said, 'The bread that I
will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.'
You will go back to the Christ who bade His followers hold in
everlasting memory, not the tranquil beauty of His life, not the
persuasive sweetness of His gracious words, not the might of His
miracles of blessing, but the mysterious agonies of His last hours,
by which He would have us learn that there lie the secret of His
power, the foundation of our hopes, the stimulus of our service.

Now, brethren, I have ventured to dwell so long upon this matter,
because it is no use talking about the Gospel unless we understand
what we mean by it, and I, for my part, venture to say that that is
what Paul meant by it, and that is what I mean by it. I plead for no
narrow interpretation of the phrases of my text. I would not that
they should be used to check in the smallest degree the diversities
of representation which, according to the differences of individual
character, must ever prevail in the conceptions which we form and
which we preach of this Gospel of Jesus Christ. I want no parrot-like
repetition of a certain set of phrases embodied, however great may be
their meanings, in every sermon. And I would that the people to whom
those truths are true would make more allowance than they sometimes
do for the differences to which I have referred, and would show a
great deal more sympathy than they often do to those, especially
those young men, who, with their faces toward Christ, have not yet
grown to the full acceptance of all that is implied in those gracious
words. There is room for a whole world of thought in the Gospel of
Christ as Paul conceived it, with all the deep foundations of
implication and presupposition on which it rests, and with all the,
as yet, undiscovered range of conclusions to which it may lead.
Remember that the Cross of Christ is the key to the universe, and
sends its influence into every region of human thought.

II. What Paul thought the Gospel was.

'The power of God unto salvation.' There was in the background of the
Apostle's mind a kind of tacit reference to the antithetical power
that he was going up to meet, the power of Rome, and we may trace
that in the words of my text. Rome, as I have said, was the
embodiment of physical force, with no great faith in ideas. And over
against this carnal might Paul lifts the undissembled weakness of the
Cross, and declares that it is stronger than man, 'the power of God
unto salvation.' Rome is high in force; Athens is higher; the Cross
is highest of all, and it comes shrouded in weakness having a poor
Man hanging dying there. That is a strange embodiment of divine
power. Yes, and because so strange, it is so touching, and so
conquering. The power that is draped in weakness is power indeed.
Though Rome's power did make for righteousness sometimes, yet its
stream of tendency was on the whole a power to destruction and
grasped the nations of the earth as some rude hand might do rich
clusters of grapes and squeeze them into a formless mass. The tramp
of the legionary meant death, and it was true in many respects of
them what was afterwards said of later invaders of Europe, that where
their horses' hoofs had once stamped no grass ever grew. Over against
this terrific engine of destruction Paul lifts up the meek forces of
love which have for their sole object the salvation of man.

Then we come to another of the keywords about which it is very
needful that people should have deeper and wider notions than they
often seem to cherish. What is salvation? Negatively, the removal and
sweeping away of all evil, physical and moral, as the schools speak.
Positively, the inclusion of all good for every part of the composite
nature of a man which the man can receive and which God can bestow.
And that is the task that the Gospel sets to itself. Now, I need not
remind you how, for the execution of such a purpose, it is plain that
something else than man's power is absolutely essential. It is only
God who can alter my relation to His government. It is only God who
can trammel up the inward consequences of my sins and prevent them
from scourging me. It is only God who can bestow upon my death a new
life, which shall grow up into righteousness and beauty,
caught of, and kindred to, His own. But if this be the aim of the
Gospel, then its diagnosis of man's sickness is a very much graver
one than that which finds favour amongst so many of us now. Salvation
is a bigger word than any of the little gospels that we hear
clamouring round about us are able to utter. It means something a
great deal more than either social or intellectual, or still more,
material or political betterment of man's condition. The disease lies
so deep, and so great are the destruction and loss partly
experienced, and still more awfully impending over every soul of us,
that something else than tinkering at the outsides, or dealing, as
self-culture does, with man's understanding or, as social gospels do,
with man's economical and civic condition, should be brought to bear.
Dear brethren, especially you Christian ministers, preach a social
Christianity by all means, an applied Christianity, for there does
lie in the Gospel of Jesus Christ a key to all the problems that
afflict our social condition. But be sure first that there is a
Christianity before you talk about applying it. And remember that the
process of salvation begins in the deep heart of the individual and
transforms him first and foremost. The power is 'to every one that
believeth.' It is power in its most universal sweep. Rome's Empire
was wellnigh ubiquitous, but, blessed be God, the dove of Christ
flies farther than the Roman eagle with beak and claw ready for
rapine, and wherever there are men here is a Gospel for them. The
limitation is no limitation of its universality. It is no limitation
of the claim of a medicine to be a panacea that it will only do good
to the man who swallows it. And that is the only limitation of which
the Gospel is susceptible, for we have all the same deep needs, the
same longings; we are fed by the same bread, we are nourished by the
same draughts of water, we breathe the same air, we have the same
sins, and, thanks be to God, we have the same Saviour. 'The power of
God unto salvation to every one that believeth.'

Now before I pass from this part of my subject there is only one
thing more that I want to say, and that is, that you cannot apply
that glowing language about 'the power of God unto salvation' to
anything but the Gospel that Paul preached. Forms of Christianity
which have lost the significance of the Incarnation and Death of
Jesus Christ, and which have struck out or obscured the central facts
with which I have been dealing, are not, never were, and, I may
presumptuously venture to say, never will be, forces of large account
in this world. Here is a clock, beautiful, chased on the back, with a
very artistic dial-plate, and works modelled according to the most
approved fashion, but, somehow or other, the thing won't go. Perhaps
the mainspring is broken. And so it is only the Gospel, as Paul
expounds it and expands it in this Epistle, that is 'the power of God
unto salvation.' Dear brethren, in the course of a sermon like this,
of course, one must lay himself open to the charge of dogmatising.
That cannot be helped under the conditions of my space. But let me
say as my own solemn conviction--I know that that is not worth much
to you, but it is my justification for speaking in such a
fashion--let me say as my solemn conviction that you may as well take
the keystone out of an arch, with nothing to hold the other stones
together or keep them from toppling in hideous ruin on your
unfortunate head, as take the doctrine that Paul summed up in that
one word out of your conception of Christianity and expect it to
work. And be sure of this, that there is only one Name that lords it
over the demons of afflicted humanity, and that if a man goes and
tries to eject them with any less potent charm than Paul's Gospel,
they will turn upon him with 'Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who
are you?'

III. What Paul felt about this Gospel.

His restrained expression, 'I am not ashamed,' is the stronger for
its very moderation. It witnesses to the fixed purpose of his heart
and attitude of his mind, whilst it suggests that he was well aware
of all the temptations in Rome to being ashamed of it there. Think of
what was arrayed against him--venerable religion, systematised
philosophies, bitter hatred and prejudice, material power and wealth.
These were the brazen armour of Goliath, and this little David went
cheerily down into the valley with five pebble stones in a leathern
wallet, and was quite sure how it was going to end. And it ended as
he expected. His Gospel shook the kingdom of the Roman, and cast it
in another mould.

And there are temptations, plenty of them, for us, dear friends,
to-day, to bate our confidence. The drift of what calls itself
influential opinion is anti-supernatural, and we all are conscious of
the presence of that element all round about us. It tells with
special force upon our younger men, but it affects us all. In this
day, when a large portion of the periodical press, which does the
thinking for most of us, looks askance at these truths, and when, on
the principle that in the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed man is
the king, popular novelists become our theological tutors, and when
every new publishing season brings out a new conclusive destruction
of Christianity, which supersedes last season's equally complete
destruction, it is hard for some of us to keep our flags flying. The
ice round about us will either bring down the temperature, or, if it
stimulates us to put more fuel on the fire, perhaps the fire may melt
it. And so the more we feel ourselves encompassed by these
temptations, the louder is the call to Christian men to cast
themselves back on the central verities, and to draw at first hand
from them the inspiration which shall be their safety. And how is
that to be done? Well, there are many ways by which thoughtful, and
cultivated, students may do it. But may I venture to deal here rather
with ways which all Christian people have open before them? And I am
bold to say that the way to be sure of 'the power of God unto
salvation' is to submit ourselves continually to its cleansing and
renewing influence. This certitude, brethren, may be contributed to
by books of apologetics, and by other sources of investigation and
study which I should be sorry indeed to be supposed in any degree to
depreciate. But the true way to get it is, by deep communion with the
living God, to realise the personality of Jesus Christ as present
with us, our Friend, our Saviour, our Sanctifier by His Holy Spirit.
Why, Paul's Gospel was, I was going to say, altogether--that would be
an exaggeration--but it was to a very large extent simply the
generalisation of his own experience. That is what all of us will
find to be the Gospel that we have to preach. 'We speak that we do
know and testify that we have seen.' And it was because this man
could say so assuredly--because the depths of his own conscience and
the witness within him bore testimony to it--'He loved me and gave
Himself for me,' that he could also say, 'The power of God unto
salvation to every one that believeth.' Go down into the depths,
brother and friend; cry to Him out of the depths. Then you will feel
His strong, gentle grip lifting you to the heights, and that will
give power that nothing else will, and you will be able to say, 'I
have heard Him myself, and I know that this is the Christ, the
Saviour of the world.'

But there is yet another source of certitude open to us all, and that
is the history of the centuries. Our modern sceptics, attacking the
truth of Christianity mostly from the physical side, are strangely
blind to the worth of history. It is a limitation of faculty that
besets them in a good many directions, but it does not work anywhere
more fatally than it does in their attitude towards the Gospel. After
all, Jesus Christ spoke the ultimate word when He said, 'By their
fruits ye shall know them.' And it is so, because just as what is
morally wrong cannot be politically right, so what is intellectually
false cannot be morally good. Truth, goodness, beauty, they are but
three names for various aspects of one thing, and if it be that the
difference between B.C. and A.D. has come from a Gospel which is not
the truth of God, then all I can say is, that the richest vintage
that ever the world saw, and the noblest wine of which it ever drank,
did grow upon a thorn. I know that the Christian Church has sinfully
and tragically failed to present Christ adequately to the world. But
for all that, 'Ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord'; and nobler
manners and purer laws have come in the wake of this Gospel of Jesus
Christ. And as I look round about upon what Christianity has done in
the world, I venture to say, 'Show us any system of religion or of no
religion that has done that or anything the least like it, and then
we will discuss with you the other evidences of the Gospel.'

In closing these words, may I venture relying on the melancholy
privilege of seniority, to drop for a minute or two into a tone of
advice? I would say, do not be frightened out of your confidence
either by the premature paean of victory from the opposite camp, or
by timid voices in our own ranks. And that you may not be so
frightened, be sure to keep clear in your mind the distinction
between the things that can be shaken and the kingdom that cannot be
moved. It is bad strategy to defend an elongated line. It is
cowardice to treat the capture of an outpost as involving the
evacuation of the key of the position. It is a mistake, to which many
good Christian people are sorely tempted in this day, to assert such
a connection between the eternal Gospel and our deductions from the
principles of that Gospel as that the refutation of the one must be
the overthrow of the other. And if it turns out to be so in any case,
a large part of the blame lies upon those good and mistaken people
who insist that everything must be held or all must be abandoned. The
burning questions of this day about the genuineness of the books of
Scripture, inspiration, inerrancy, and the like, are not so
associated with this word, 'God so loved the world ... that whosoever
believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,' as
that the discovery of errors in the Second Book of Chronicles shakes
the foundations of the Christian certitude. In a day like this truth
must change its vesture. Who believes that the Dissenting Churches of
England are the highest, perfect embodiment of the Kingdom of God?
And who believes that any creed of man's making has in it all and has
in it only the everlasting Gospel? So do not be frightened, and do
not think that when the things that can be shaken are removed, the
things that cannot be shaken are at all less likely to remain. Depend
upon it, the Gospel, whose outline I have imperfectly tried to set
before you now, will last as long as men on earth know they are
sinners and need a Saviour. Did you ever see some mean buildings that
have by degrees been gathered round the sides of some majestic
cathedral, and do you suppose that the sweeping away of those
shanties would touch the solemn majesty of the mediæval glories of
the building that rises above them? Take them away if need be, and
it, in its proportion, beauty, strength, and heavenward aspiration,
will stand more glorious for the sweeping away. Preach positive
truth. Do not preach doubts. You remember Mr. Kingsley's book
_Yeast_. Its title was its condemnation. Yeast is not meant to be
drunk; it is meant to be kept in the dark till the process of
fermentation goes on and it works itself clear, and then you may
bring it out. Do not be always arguing with the enemy. It is a great
deal better to preach the truth. Remember what Jesus said: 'Let them
alone, they are blind leaders of the blind, they will fall into the
ditch.' It is not given to every one of us to conduct controversial
arguments in the pulpit. There are some much wiser and abler brethren
amongst us than you or I who can do it. Let us be contented with, not
the humbler but the more glorious, office of telling what we have
known, leaving it, as it will do, to prove itself. You remember what
the old woman, who had been favoured by her pastor with an elaborate
sermon to demonstrate the existence of God, said when he had
finished; 'Well, I believe there is a God, for all the gentleman
says.'

As one who sees the lengthening shadows falling over the darkening
field, may I say one word to my junior brethren, with all whose
struggles and doubts and difficulties I, for one, do most tenderly
sympathise? I beseech them--though, alas! the advice condemns the
giver of it as he looks back over long years of his ministry--to be
faithful to the Gospel how that 'Jesus Christ died for our sins
according to the Scriptures.' Dear young friends, if you only go
where Paul went, and catch the inspiration that he caught there, your
path will be clear. It was in contact with Christ, whose passion for
soul-winning brought Him from heaven, that Paul learned his passion
for soul-winning. And if you and I are touched with the divine
enthusiasm, and have that aim clear before us, we shall soon find out
that there is only one power, one name given under heaven among men
whereby we can accomplish what we desire--the name of 'Jesus Christ
that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right
hand of God, and also maketh intercession for us.' If our aim is
clear before us it will prescribe our methods, and if the inspiration
of our ministry is, 'I determine not to know anything among you save
Jesus Christ and Him crucified,' then, whether men will hear or
whether they will forbear, they shall know that there hath been a
Prophet among them.

[Footnote 1: Preached before Baptist Union.]


WORLD-WIDE SIN AND WORLD-WIDE REDEMPTION

   'Now we know, that what things soever the law saith, it
   saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth
   may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty
   before God. 20. Therefore by the deeds of the law there
   shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the
   law is the knowledge of sin. 21. But now the
   righteousness of God without the law is manifested,
   being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22. Even
   the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus
   Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for
   there is no difference: 23. For all have sinned, and
   come short of the glory of God: 24. Being justified
   freely by His grace, through the redemption that is
   in Christ Jesus; 25. Whom God hath set forth to be a
   propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His
   righteousness for the remission of sins that are past,
   through the forbearance of God; 26. To declare, I say,
   at this time His righteousness; that He might be just,
   and the justifier of him which believeth in
   Jesus.'--ROMANS iii. 19-26.


Let us note in general terms the large truths which this passage
contains. We may mass these under four heads:

I. Paul's view of the purpose of the law.

He has been quoting a mosaic of Old Testament passages from the
Psalms and Isaiah. He regards these as part of 'the law,' which term,
therefore, in his view, here includes the whole previous revelation,
considered as making known God's will as to man's conduct. Every word
of God, whether promise, or doctrine, or specific command, has in it
some element bearing on conduct. God reveals nothing only in order
that we may know, but all that, knowing, we may do and be what is
pleasing in His sight. All His words are law.

But Paul sets forth another view of its purpose here; namely, to
drive home to men's consciences the conviction of sin. That is not
the only purpose, for God reveals duty primarily in order that men
may do it, and His law is meant to be obeyed. But, failing obedience,
this second purpose comes into action, and His law is a swift witness
against sin. The more clearly we know our duty, the more poignant
will be our consciousness of failure. The light which shines to show
the path of right, shines to show our deviations from it. And that
conviction of sin, which it was the very purpose of all the previous
Revelation to produce, is a merciful gift; for, as the Apostle
implies, it is the prerequisite to the faith which saves.

As a matter of fact, there was a far profounder and more inward
conviction of sin among the Jews than in any heathen nation. Contrast
the wailings of many a psalm with the tone in Greek or Roman
literature. No doubt there is a law written on men's hearts which
evokes a lower measure of the same consciousness of sin. There are
prayers among the Assyrian and Babylonian tablets which might almost
stand beside the Fifty-first Psalm; but, on the whole, the deep sense
of sin was the product of the revealed law. The best use of our
consciousness of what we ought to be, is when it rouses conscience to
feel the discordance with it of what we are, and so drives us to
Christ. Law, whether in the Old Testament, or as written in our
hearts by their very make, is the slave whose task is to bring us to
Christ, who will give us power to keep God's commandments.

Another purpose of the law is stated in verse 21, as being to bear
witness, in conjunction with the prophets, to a future more perfect
revelation of God's righteousness. Much of the law was symbolic and
prophetic. The ideal it set forth could not always remain
unfulfilled. The whole attitude of that system was one of
forward-looking expectancy. There is much danger lest, in modern
investigations as to the authorship, date, and genesis of the Old
Testament revelation, its central characteristic should be lost sight
of; namely, its pointing onwards to a more perfect revelation which
should supersede it.

II. Paul's view of universal sinfulness.

He states that twice in this passage (vs. 20 to 24), and it underlies
his view of the purpose of law. In verse 20 he asserts that 'by the
works of the law shall no flesh be justified,' and in verses 23 and
24 he advances from that negative statement to the positive assertion
that all have sinned. The impossibility of justification by the works
of the law may be shown from two considerations: one, that, as a
matter of fact, no flesh has ever done them all with absolute
completeness and purity; and, second, that, even if they had ever
been so done, they would not have availed to secure acquittal at a
tribunal where motive counts for more than deed. The former is the
main point with Paul.

In verse 23 the same fact of universal experience is contemplated as
both positive sin and negative falling short of the 'glory' (which
here seems to mean, as in John v. 44, xii. 43, approbation from God).
'There is no distinction,' but all varieties of condition, character,
attainment, are alike in this, that the fatal taint is upon them all.
'We have, all of us, one human heart.' We are alike in physical
necessities, in primal instincts, and, most tragically of all, in the
common experience of sinfulness.

Paul does not mean to bring all varieties of character down to one
dead level, but he does mean to assert that none is free from the
taint. A man need only be honest in self-examination to endorse the
statement, so far as he himself is concerned. The Gospel would be
better understood if the fact of universal sinfulness were more
deeply felt. Its superiority to all schemes for making everybody
happy by rearrangements of property, or increase of culture, would be
seen through; and the only cure for human misery would be discerned
to be what cures universal sinfulness.

III. So we have next Paul's view of the remedy for man's sin. That is
stated in general terms in verses 21, 22. Into a world of sinful men
comes streaming the light of a 'righteousness of God.' That
expression is here used to mean a moral state of conformity with
God's will, imparted by God. The great, joyful message, which Paul
felt himself sent to proclaim, is that the true way to reach the
state of conformity which law requires, and which the
unsophisticated, universal conscience acknowledges not to have been
reached, is the way of faith.

The message is so familiar to us that we may easily fail to realise
its essential greatness and wonderfulness when first proclaimed. That
God should give righteousness, that it should be 'of God,' not only
as coming from Him, but as, in some real way, being kindred with His
own perfection; that it should be brought to men by Jesus Christ, as
ancient legends told that a beneficent Titan brought from heaven, in
a hollow cane, the gift of fire; and that it should become ours by
the simple process of trusting in Jesus Christ, are truths which
custom has largely robbed of their wonderfulness. Let us meditate
more on them till they regain, by our own experience of their power,
some of the celestial light which belongs to them.

Observe that in verse 22 the universality of the redemption which is
in Christ is deduced from the universality of sin. The remedy must
reach as far as the disease. If there is no difference in regard to
sin, there can be none in regard to the sweep of redemption. The
doleful universality of the covering spread over all nations, has
corresponding to it the blessed universality of the light which is
sent forth to flood them all. Sin's empire cannot stretch farther
than Christ's kingdom.

IV. Paul's view of what makes the Gospel the remedy.

In verses 21 and 22 it was stated generally that Christ was the
channel, and faith the condition, of righteousness. The personal
object of faith was declared, but not the special thing in Christ
which was to be trusted in. That is fully set forth in verses 24-26.
We cannot attempt to discuss the great words in these verses, each of
which would want a volume. But we may note that 'justified' here
means to be accounted or declared righteous, as a judicial act; and
that justification is traced in its ultimate source to God's
'grace,'--His own loving disposition--which bends to unworthy and
lowly creatures, and is regarded as having for the medium of its
bestowal the 'redemption' that is in Christ Jesus. That is the
channel through which grace comes from God.

'Redemption' implies captivity, liberation, and a price paid. The
metaphor of slaves set free by ransom is exchanged in verse 25 for a
sacrificial reference. A propitiatory sacrifice averts punishment
from the offerer. The death of the victim procures the life of the
worshipper. So, a propitiatory or atoning sacrifice is offered by
Christ's blood, or death. That sacrifice is the ransom-price through
which our captivity is ended, and our liberty assured. As His
redemption is the channel 'through' which God's grace comes to men,
so faith is the condition 'through' which (ver. 25) we make that
grace ours.

Note, then, that Paul does not merely point to Jesus Christ as
Saviour, but to His death as the saving power. We are to have faith
in Jesus Christ (ver. 22). But that is not a complete statement. It
must be faith in His propitiation, if it is to bring us into living
contact with His redemption. A gospel which says much of Christ, but
little of His Cross, or which dilates on the beauty of His life, but
stammers when it begins to speak of the sacrifice in His death, is
not Paul's Gospel, and it will have little power to deal with the
universal sickness of sin.

The last verses of the passage set forth another purpose attained by
Christ's sacrifice; namely, the vindication of God's righteousness in
forbearing to inflict punishment on sins committed before the advent
of Jesus. That Cross rayed out its power in all directions--to the
heights of the heavens; to the depths of Hades (Col. i. 20); to the
ages that were to come, and to those that were past. The suspension
of punishment through all generations, from the beginning till that
day when the Cross was reared on Calvary, was due to that Cross
having been present to the divine mind from the beginning. 'The judge
is condemned when the guilty is acquitted,' or left unpunished. There
would be a blot on God's government, not because it was so severe,
but because it was so forbearing, unless His justice was vindicated,
and the fatal consequences of sin shown in the sacrifice of Christ.
God could not have shown Himself just, in view either of age-long
forbearance, or of now justifying the sinner, unless the Cross had
shown that He was not immorally indulgent toward sin.



NO DIFFERENCE

   'There is no difference.'--ROMANS iii. 22.

The things in which all men are alike are far more important than
those in which they differ. The diversities are superficial, the
identities are deep as life. Physical processes and wants are the
same for everybody. All men, be they kings or beggars, civilised or
savage, rich or poor, wise or foolish, cultured or illiterate,
breathe the same breath, hunger and thirst, eat and drink, sleep, are
smitten by the same diseases, and die at last the same death. We have
all of us one human heart. Tears and grief, gladness and smiles, move
us all. Hope, fear, love, play the same music upon all heart-strings.
The same great law of duty over-arches every man, and the same heaven
of God bends above him.

Religion has to do with the deep-seated identities and not with the
superficial differences. And though there have been many aristocratic
religions in the world, it is the great glory of Christianity that it
goes straight to the central similarities, and brushes aside, as of
altogether secondary importance, all the subordinate diversities,
grappling with the great facts which are common to humanity, and with
the large hopes which all may inherit.

Paul here, in his grand way, triumphs and rises above all these small
differences between man and man, more pure or less pure, Jew or
Gentile, wise or foolish, and avers that, in regard of the deepest
and most important things, 'there is no difference,' and so his
Gospel is a Gospel for the world, because it deals with all men on
the same level. Now I wish to work out this great glory and
characteristic of the Gospel system in a few remarks, and to point
out to you the more important of these things in which all men, be
they what or who they may, stand in one category and have identical
experiences and interests.

I. First, there is no difference in the fact of sin.

Now let us understand that the Gospel does not assert that there is
no difference in the degrees of sin. Christianity does not teach,
howsoever some of its apostles may seem to have taught, or
unconsciously lent themselves to representations which imply the view
that there was no difference between a man who 'did by nature the
things contained in the law,' as Paul says, and the man who set
himself to violate law. There is no such monstrous teaching in the
New Testament as that all blacks are the same shade, all sin of the
same gravity, no such teaching as that a man that tries according to
his light to do what is right stands on exactly the same level as the
man who flouts all such obligations, and has driven the chariots of
his lusts and passions through every law that may stand in his way.

But even whilst we have to insist upon that, that the teaching of my
text is not of an absolute identity of criminality, but only an
universal participation in criminality, do not let us forget that, if
you take the two extremes, and suppose it possible that there were a
best man in all the world, and a worst man in all the world, the
difference between these two is not perhaps so great as at first
sight it looks. For we have to remember that motives make actions,
and that you cannot judge of these by considering those, that 'as a
man thinketh in his heart,' and not as a man does with his hands, 'so
is he.' We have to remember, also, that there may be lives,
sedulously and immaculately respectable and pure, which are white
rather with the unwholesome leprosy of disease than with the
wholesome purity of health.

In Queen Elizabeth's time, the way in which they cleaned the hall of
a castle, the floor of which might be covered with remnants of food
and all manner of abominations, was to strew another layer of rushes
over the top of the filth, and then they thought themselves quite
neat and respectable. And that is what a great many of you do, cover
the filth well up with a sweet smelling layer of conventional
proprieties, and think yourselves clean, and the pinks of perfection.
God forbid that I should say one word that would seem to cast any
kind of slur upon the effort that any man makes to do what he knows
to be right, but this I proclaim, or rather my text proclaims for me,
that, giving full weight and value to all that, and admitting the
existence of variations in degree, the identity is deeper than the
diversity; and there is 'not a just man upon earth that doeth good
and sinneth not.'

Oh, dear friends! it is not a question of degree, but of direction;
not how far the ship has gone on her voyage, but how she heads. Good
and evil are the same in essence, whatever be their intensity and
whatever be their magnitude. Arsenic is arsenic, whether you have a
ton of it or a grain; and a very small dose will be enough to poison.
The Gospel starts with the assertion that there is no difference in
the fact of sin. The assertion is abundantly confirmed. Does not
conscience assent? We all admit 'faults,' do we not? We all
acknowledge 'imperfections.' It is that little word 'sin' which seems
to bring in another order of considerations, and to command the
assent of conscience less readily. But sin is nothing except fault
considered in reference to God's law. Bring the notion of God into
the life, and 'faults' and 'slips' and 'weaknesses,' and all the
other names by which we try to smooth down the ugliness of the ugly
thing, start up at once into their tone, magnitude, and importance,
and stand avowed as _sins_.

Well now, if there be, therefore, this universal consciousness of
imperfection, and if that consciousness of imperfection has only need
to be brought into contact with God, as it were, to flame thus, let
me remind you, too, that this fact of universal sinfulness puts us
all in one class, no matter what may be the superficial difference.
Shakespeare and the Australian savage, the biggest brain and the
smallest, the loftiest and the lowest of us, the purest and the
foulest of us, we all come into the same order. It is a question of
classification. 'The Scripture hath concluded all under sin,' that is
to say, has shut all men up as in a prison. You remember in the
French Revolution, all manner of people were huddled indiscriminately
into the same dungeon of the Paris prisons. You would find a princess
and some daughter of shame from the gutters; a boor from the country
and a landlord, a count, a marquis, a _savant_, a philosopher
and an illiterate workman, all together in the dungeons. They kept up
the distinctions of society and of class with a ghastly mockery, even
to the very moment when the tumbrils came for them. And so here are
we all, in some sense inclosed within the solemn cells of this great
prison-house, and whether we be wise or foolish, we are prisoners,
whether we have titles or not, we are prisoners. You may be a
student, but you are a sinner: you may be a rich Manchester merchant,
but you are a sinner; you may be a man of rank, but you are a sinner.
Naaman went to Elisha and was very much offended because Elisha
treated him as a leper who happened to be a nobleman. He wanted to be
treated as a nobleman who happened to be a leper. And that is the way
with a great many of us; we do not like to be driven into one class
with all the crowd of evildoers. But, my friend, 'there is no
difference.' 'All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.'

II. Again, there is no difference in the fact of God's love to us.

God does not love men because of what they are, therefore He does not
cease to love them because of what they are. His love to the sons of
men is not drawn out by their goodness, their morality, their
obedience, but it wells up from the depths of His own heart, because
'it is His nature and property,' and if I may so say, He cannot help
loving. You do not need to pump up that great affection by any
machinery of obedience and of merits; it rises like the water in an
Artesian well, of its own impulse, with ebullient power from the
central heat, and spreads its great streams everywhere. And
therefore, though our sin may awfully disturb our relations with God,
and may hurt and harm us in a hundred ways, there is one thing it
cannot do, it cannot stop Him from loving us. It cannot dam back His
great love, which flows out for ever towards all His creatures, and
laves them all in its gentle, strong flood, from which nothing can
draw them away. 'In Him we live, and move, and have our being,' and
to live in Him, whatever else it may mean--and it means a great deal
more--is most certainly to live in His love. A man can as soon pass
out of the atmosphere in which he breathes as he can pass out of the
love of God. We can no more travel beyond that great over-arching
firmament of everlasting love which spans all the universe than a
star set in the blue heavens can transcend the liquid arch and get
beyond its range. 'There is no difference' in the fact that all men,
unthankful and evil as they are, are grasped and held in the love of
God.

But there _is_ a difference. Sin cannot dam God's love back, but sin
has a terrible power in reference to the love of God. Two things it
can do. It can make us incapable of receiving the highest blessings
of that love. There are many mercies which God pours 'upon the
unthankful and the evil.' These are His least gifts; His highest and
best cannot be given to the unthankful and the evil. They would if
they could, but they cannot, because they cannot be received by them.
You can shut the shutters against the light; you can close the vase
against the stream. You cannot prevent its shining, you cannot
prevent its flowing, but you can prevent yourself from receiving its
loftiest and best blessings.

And another awful power that my sin has in reference to God's love
is, that it can modify the form which God's love takes in its
dealings with me. We may force Him to do 'His work,' 'His strange
work,' as Isaiah calls it, and to punish when He would fain only
succour and comfort and bless. Just as a fog in the sky does not
touch the sun, but turns it to our eyes into a fiery ball, red and
lurid, so the mist of my sin coming between me and God, may, to my
apprehension and to my capacity of reception, solemnly make different
that great love of His. But yet there is no difference in the fact of
God's love to us.

III. Thirdly, there is no difference in the purpose and power of
Christ's Cross for us all.

'He died for all.' The area over which the purpose and the power of
Christ's death extend is precisely conterminous with the area over
which the power of sin extends. It cannot be--blessed be God!--that
the raven Sin shall fly further than the dove with the olive branch
in its mouth. It cannot be that the disease shall go wider than the
cure. And so, dear friends, I have to come to you now with this
message. No matter what a man is, how far he has gone, how sinful he
has been, how long he has stayed away from the sweetness and grace of
that great sacrifice on the Cross, that death was for him. The power
of Christ's sacrifice makes possible the forgiveness of all the sins
of all the world, past, present, and to come. The worth of that
sacrifice, which was made by the willing surrender of the Incarnate
Son of God to the death of the Cross, is sufficient for the ransom
price of all the sins of all men.

Nor is it only the power of the Cross which is all embracing, but its
purpose also. In the very hour of Christ's death, there stood, clear
and distinct, before His divine omniscience, each man, woman, and
child of the race. And for them all, grasping them all in the
tenderness of His sympathy and in the clearness of His knowledge, in
the design of His sufferings for them all, He died, so that every
human being may lay his hand on the head of the sacrifice, and _know_
'his guilt was there,' and may say, with as triumphant and
appropriating faith as Paul did, 'He loved _me_,' and in that hour of
agony and love 'gave Himself for _me_.'

To go back to a metaphor already employed, the prisoners are gathered
together in the prison, not that they may be slain, but 'God hath
included them all,' shut them all up, 'that He might have mercy upon
all.' And so, as it was in the days of Christ's life upon earth, so
is it now, and so will it be for ever. All the crowd may come to Him,
and whosoever comes 'is made whole of whatsoever disease he had.'
There are no incurables nor outcasts. 'There is no difference.'

IV. Lastly, there is no difference in the way which we must take for
salvation. The only thing that unites men to Jesus Christ is faith.
You must trust Him, you must trust the power of His sacrifice, you
must trust the might of His living love. You must trust Him with a
trust which is self-distrust. You must trust Him out and out. The
people with whom Paul is fighting, in this chapter, were quite
willing to admit that faith was the thing that made Christians, but
they wanted to tack on something besides. They wanted to tack on the
rites of Judaism and obedience to the moral law. And ever since men
have been going on in that erroneous rut. Sometimes it has been that
people have sought to add a little of their own morality; sometimes
to add ceremonies and sacraments. Sometimes it has been one thing and
sometimes it has been another; but there are not two ways to the
Cross of Christ, and to the salvation which He gives. There is only
one road, and all sorts of men have to come by it. You cannot lean
half upon Christ and half upon yourselves, like the timid cripple
that is not quite sure of the support of the friendly arm. You cannot
eke out the robe with which He will clothe you with a little bit of
stuff of your own weaving. It is an insult to a host to offer to pay
for entertainment. The Gospel feast that Christ provides is not a
social meal to which every guest brings a dish. Our part is simple
reception, we have to bring empty hands if we would receive the
blessing.

We must put away superficial differences. The Gospel is for the
world, therefore the act by which we receive it must be one which all
men can perform, not one which only some can do. Not wisdom, nor
righteousness, but faith joins us to Christ. And, therefore, people
who fancy themselves wise or righteous are offended that 'special
terms' are not made with them. They would prefer to have a private
portion for themselves. It grates against the pride of the
aristocratic class, whether it be aristocratic by culture--and that
is the most aristocratic of all--or by position, or anything else--it
grates against their pride to be told: 'You have to go in by that
same door that the beggar is going in at'; and 'there is no
difference.' Therefore, the very width of the doorway, that is wide
enough for all the world, gets to be thought narrowness, and becomes
a hindrance to our entering. As Naaman's servant put a common-sense
question to him, so may I to you. 'If the prophet had bid thee do
some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it?' Ay! that you
would! 'How much more when He says "Wash and be clean!"' There is
only one way of getting dirt off, and that is by water. There is only
one way of getting sin off, and that is by the blood of Jesus Christ.
There is only one way of having that blood applied to your heart, and
that is trusting Him. 'The common salvation' becomes ours when we
exercise 'the common faith.' 'There is no difference' in our sins.
Thank God! 'there is no difference' in the fact that He grasps us
with His love. There is no difference in the fact that Jesus Christ
has died for us all. Let there be no difference in our faith, or
there will be a difference, deep as the difference between Heaven and
Hell; the difference between them that believe and them that believe
not, which will darken and widen into the difference between them
that are saved and them that perish.



LET US HAVE PEACE

   'Let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus
   Christ.'--ROMANS v. 1. (R.V.).


In the rendering of the Revised Version, 'Let us have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ,' the alteration is very slight, being
that of one letter in one word, the substitution of a long 'o' for a
short one. The majority of manuscripts of authority read 'let us
have,' making the clause an exhortation and not a statement. I
suppose the reason why, in some inferior MSS., the statement takes
the place of the exhortation is because it was felt to be somewhat of
a difficulty to understand the Apostle's course of thought. But I
shall hope to show you that the true understanding of the context, as
well as of the words I have taken for my text, requires the
exhortation and not the affirmation.

One more remark of an introductory character: is it not very
beautiful to see how the Apostle here identifies himself, in all
humility, with the Christians whom he is addressing, and feels that
he, Apostle as he is, has the same need for the same counsel and
stimulus that the weakest of those to whom he is writing have? It
would have been so easy for him to isolate himself, and say, 'Now you
have peace with God; see that you keep it.' But he puts himself into
the same class as those whom he is exhorting, and that is what all of
us have to do who would give advice that will be worth anything or of
any effect. He does not stand upon a little molehill of superiority,
and look down upon the Roman Christians, and imply that they have
needs that he has not, but he exhorts himself too, saying, 'Let all
of us who have obtained like precious faith, which is alike in an
Apostle and in the humblest believer, have peace with God.'

Now a word, first, about the meaning of this somewhat singular
exhortation.

There is a theory of man and his relation to God underlying it, which
is very unfashionable at present, but which corresponds to the
deepest things in human nature, and the deepest mysteries in human
history, and that is, that something has come in to produce the
totally unnatural and monstrous fact that between God and man there
is not amity or harmony. Men, on their side, are alienated, because
their wills are rebellious and their aims diverse from God's purpose
concerning them. And--although it is an awful thing to have to say,
and one from which the sentimentalism of much modern Christianity
weakly recoils--on God's side, too, the relation has been disturbed,
and 'we are by nature the children of wrath, even as others'; not of
a wrath which is unloving, not of a wrath which is impetuous and
passionate, not of a wrath which seeks the hurt of its objects, but
of a wrath which is the necessary antagonism and recoil of pure love
from such creatures as we have made ourselves to be. To speak as if
the New Testament taught that 'reconciliation' was lop-sided--which
would be a contradiction in terms, for reconciliation needs two to
make it--to talk as if the New Testament taught that reconciliation
was only man's putting away his false relation to God, is, as I
humbly think, to be blind to its plainest teaching. So, there being
this antagonism and separation between God and man, the Gospel comes
to deal with it, and proclaims that Jesus Christ has abolished the
enmity, and by His death on the Cross has become our peace; and that
we, by faith in that Christ, and grasping in faith His death, pass
from out of the condition of hostility into the condition of
reconciliation.

With this by way of basis, let us come back to my text. It sounds
strange; 'Therefore, being justified by faith, let up have peace.'
'Well,' you will say, 'but is not all that you have been saying just
this, that to be justified by faith, to be declared righteous by
reason of faith in Him who makes us righteous, is to have peace with
God? Is not your exhortation an entirely superfluous one?' No doubt
that is what the old scribe thought who originated the reading which
has crept into our Authorised Version. The two things do seem to be
entirely parallel. To be justified by faith is a certain process, to
have peace with God is the inseparable and simultaneous result of
that process itself. But that is going rather too fast. 'Being
justified by faith let us have peace with God,' really is just
this--see that you abide where you are; keep what you have. The
exhortation is not to attain peace, but retain it. 'Hold fast that
thou hast; let no man take thy crown.' 'Being justified by faith'
cling to your treasure and let nothing rob you of it--'let us have
peace with God.'

Now a word, in the next place, as to the necessity and importance of
this exhortation.

There underlies it, this solemn thought, which Christian people, and
especially some types of Christian doctrine, do need to have hammered
into them over and over again, that we hold the blessed life itself,
and all its blessings, only on condition of our own cooperation in
keeping them; and that just as physical life dies, unless by
reception of food we nourish and continue it, so a man that is in
this condition of being justified by faith, and having peace with
God, needs, in order to the permanence of that condition, to give his
utmost effort and diligence. It will all go if he do not. All the old
state will come back again if we are slothful and negligent. We
cannot keep the treasure unless we guard it. And just because we have
it, we need to put all our mind, the earnestness of our will, and the
concentration of our efforts, into the specific work of retaining it.

For, consider how manifold and strong are the forces which are always
working against our continual possession of this justification by
faith, and consequent peace with God. There are all the ordinary
cares and duties and avocations and fortunes of our daily life,
which, indeed, may be so hallowed in their motives and in their
activities, as that they may be turned into helps instead of
hindrances, but which require a great deal of diligence and effort in
order that they should not work like grains of dust that come between
the parts of some nicely-fitting engine, and so cause friction and
disaster. There are all the daily tasks that tempt us to forget the
things that we only know by faith, and to be absorbed in the things
that we can touch and taste and handle. If a man is upon an inclined
plane, unless he is straining his muscles to go upwards, gravitation
will make short work of him, and bring him down. And unless Christian
men grip hard and continually that sense of having fellowship and
peace with God, as sure as they are living they will lose the
clearness of that consciousness, and the calm that comes from it. For
we cannot go into the world and do the work that is laid upon us all
without there being possible hostility to the Christian life in
everything that we meet. Thank God there is possible help, too, and
whether our daily calling is an enemy or a friend to our religion
depends upon the earnestness and continuousness of our own efforts.
But there is a worse force than these external distractions working
to draw us away, one that we carry within, in our own vacillating
wills and wayward hearts and treacherous affections and passions that
usually lie dormant, but wake up sometimes at the most inopportune
periods. Unless we keep a very tight hand upon ourselves, certainly
these will rob us of this consciousness of being justified by faith
which brings with it peace with God that passes understanding.

In the Isle of Wight massive cliffs rise hundreds of feet above the
sea, and seem as if they were as solid as the framework of the earth
itself. But they rest upon a sharply inclined plane of clay, and the
moisture trickles through the rifts in the majestic cliffs above, and
gets down to that slippery substance and makes it like the greased
ways down which they launch a ship; and away goes the cliff one day,
with its hundreds of feet of buttresses that have fronted the tempest
for centuries, and it lies toppled in hideous ruin on the beach
below. We have all a layer of 'blue slipper' in ourselves, and unless
we take care that no storm-water finds its way down through the
chinks in the rocks above they will slide into awful ruin. 'Being
justified, let us have peace with God,' and remember that the
exhortation is enforced not only by a consideration of the many
strong forces which tend to deprive us of this peace, but also by a
consideration of the hideous disaster that comes upon a man's whole
nature if he loses peace with God. For there is no peace with
ourselves, and there is no peace with man, and there is no peace in
face of the warfare of life and the calamities that are certainly
before us all, unless, in the deepest sanctuary of our being, there
is the peace of God because in our consciences there is peace with
God. If I desire to be at rest--and there is no blessedness but
rest--if I desire to know the sovereign joy of tranquillity,
undisturbed by my own stormy passions or by any human enmity, and to
have even the 'beasts of the field at peace with' me, and all things
my helpers and allies, there is but one way to realise the desire,
and that is the retention of peace with God that comes with being
justified by faith.

Lastly, a word or two as to the ways by which this exhortation can be
carried into effect.

I have tried to explain how the peace of which my text speaks comes
originally through Christ's work laid hold of by my faith, and now I
would say only three things.

Retain the peace by the exercise of that same faith which at first
brought it. Next, retain it by union with that same Lord from whom
you at first received it. Very significantly, in the immediate
context, we have the Apostle drawing a broad distinction between the
benefits which we have received from Christ's death, and those which
we shall receive through His life. And that is the best commentary on
the words of my text. 'If when we were enemies, we were reconciled to
God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be
saved by His life.' So let our faith grasp firmly the great twin
facts of the Christ who died that He might abolish the enmity, and
bring us peace; and of the Christ who lives in order that He may pour
into our hearts more and more of His own life, and so make us more
and more in His own image. And the last word that I would say, in
addition to these two plain, practical precepts is, let your conduct
be such as will not disturb your peace with God. For if a man lets
his own will rise up in rebellion against God's, whether that divine
will command duty or impose suffering, away goes all his peace. There
is no possibility of the tranquil sense of union and communion with
my Father in heaven lasting when I am in rebellion against Him. The
smallest sin destroys, for the time being, our sense of forgiveness
and our peace with God. The blue surface of the lake, mirroring in
its unmoved tranquillity the sky and the bright sun, or the solemn
stars, loses all that reflected heaven in its heart when a cat's paw
of wind ruffles its surface. If we would keep our hearts as mirrors,
in their peace, of the peace in the heavens that shine down on them,
we must fence them from the winds of evil passions and rebellious
wills. 'Oh! that thou wouldest hearken unto Me, then had thy peace
been like a river.'



ACCESS INTO GRACE

   'By whom also we have access by faith into this grace
   wherein we stand.'--ROMANS v. 2.


I may be allowed to begin with a word or two of explanation of the
terms of this passage. Note then, especially, that _also_ which
sends us back to the previous clause, and tells us that our text adds
something to what was spoken of there. What was spoken of there?
'The peace of God' which comes to a man by Jesus Christ through faith,
the removal of enmity, and the declaration of righteousness. But that
peace with God, which is the beginning of everything in the Christian
view, is only the beginning, and there is much to follow. While,
then, there is a progress clearly marked in the words of our text,
and 'access into this grace wherein we stand' is something more than,
and after, the 'peace with God,' mark next the similarity of the text
and the preceding verse. The two great truths in the latter, Christ's
mediation or intervention, and our faith as the condition by which we
receive the blessings which are brought to us in and through Him, are
both repeated, with no unmeaning tautology, but with profound
significance in our text--'By whom also we have access'--as well
as--'the peace of God'--'access _by faith_ into this grace.' So then,
for the initial blessing, and for all the subsequent blessings of the
Christian life, the way is the same. The medium and channel is one,
and the act by which we avail ourselves of the blessings coming
through that one medium is the same. Now the language of my text,
with its talking about access, faith, and grace, sounds to a great
many of us, I am afraid, very hard and remote and technical. And
there are not wanting people who tell us that all that terminology in
the New Testament is like a dying brand in the fire, where the little
kernel of glowing heat is getting covered thicker and thicker with
grey ashes. Yes; but if you blow the ashes off, the fire is there all
the same. Let us try if we can blow the ashes off.

This text seems to me in its archaic phraseology, only to need to be
pondered in order to flash up into wonderful beauty. It carries in it
a magnificent ideal of the Christian life, in three things: the
Christian place, 'access into grace'; the Christian attitude,
'wherein we stand'; and the Christian means of realising that ideal,
'through Christ' and 'by faith.' Now let us look at these three
points.

I. The Christian Place.

There is clearly a metaphor here, both in the word 'access' and in
that other one 'stand.' 'The grace' is supposed as some ample space
into which a man is led, and where he can continue, stand, and
expatiate. Or, we may say, it is regarded as a palace or
treasure-house into which we can enter. Now, if we take that great
New Testament word 'grace,' and ponder its meanings, we find that
they run something in this fashion. The central thought, grand and
marvellous, which is enshrined in it, and which often is buried for
careless ears, is that of the active love of God poured out upon
inferiors who deserve something very different. Then there follows a
second meaning, which covers a great part of the ground of the use of
the phrase in the New Testament, and that is the communication of
that love to men, the specific and individualised gifts which come
out of that great reservoir of patient, pardoning, condescending, and
bestowing love. Then there may be taken into view a meaning which is
less prominent in Scripture but not absent, namely, the resulting
beauty of character. A gracious soul ought to be, and is, a graceful
soul; a supreme loveliness is imparted to human nature by the
communication to it of the gifts which are the results of the
undeserved, free, and infinite love of God.

Now if we take all these three thoughts as blended together in the
grand metaphor of the Apostle, of the ample space into which the
Christian man passes, we get such lessons as this. A Christian life
may, and therefore should, be suffused with a continual consciousness
of the love of God. That would change everything in it. Here is some
great sweep of rolling country, perhaps a Highland moor: the little
tarns on it are grey and cold, the vegetation is gloomy and dark,
dreariness is over all the scene, because there is a great pall of
cloud drawn beneath the blue. But the sun pierces with his lances
through the grey, and crumples up the mists, and sends them flying
beneath the horizon. Then what a change in the landscape! All the
tarns that looked black and wicked are now infantile in their
innocent blue and sunny gladness, and every dimple in the heights
shows, and all the heather burns with the sunshine that falls upon
it. So my lonely doleful life, if that light from God, the beam of
His love, shines down upon it, rises into nobility, and flashes into
beauty, and is calm and fair and great, as nothing else can make it.
You may dwell in love by dwelling in God, and then your lives will be
fair. You have access into the grace; see that you go there. They
tell us that nightingales sing by the wayside by preference, and we
may have in our lives, singing a quiet tune, the continual thought of
the love of God, even whilst life's highway is dusty and rough, and
our feet are often weary in treading it. A Christian life may be, and
therefore should be, suffused with the sense of the abiding love of
God.

Take the other meaning of the word, the secondary and derived
meaning, the communication of that love to us, and that leads us to
say that a Christian life may, and therefore should, be enriched with
continual gifts from God's fullness. I said that the Apostle was
using a metaphor here, regarding the grace as being an ample
space into which a man was admitted, or we may say that he is
thinking of it as a great treasure-house. We have the right of
entrance there, where on every side, as it were, lie ingots of
uncoined gold, and masses of treasure, and we may have just as much
or as little as we choose. It is entirely in our own determination
how much of the wealth of God we shall possess. We have access to the
treasure-house; and this permit is put into our hands: 'Be it unto
thee even as thou wilt.' The size of the sack that the man brings, in
the old story, determined the amount of wealth that he carried away.
Some of you bring very tiny baskets and expect little and desire
little; you get no more than you desired and expected.

That wealth, the fullness of God, takes the shape of, as well as is
determined in its measure by the magnitude of, the vessel into which
it is put. It is multiform, and we get whatever we desire, and
whatever either our characters or our circumstances require. The one
gift assumes all forms, just as water poured into a vase takes the
shape of the vase into which it is poured. The same gift unfolds
itself in an infinite variety of manners, according to the needs of
the man to whom it is given; just as the writer's pen, the
carpenter's hammer, the farmer's ploughshare, are all made out of the
same metal. So God's grace comes to you in a different shape from
that in which it comes to me, according to our different callings and
needs, as fixed by our circumstances, our duties, our sorrows, our
temptations.

So, brethren, how shameful it is that, having the possibility of so
much, we should have the actuality of so little. There is an old
story about one of our generals in India long ago, who, when he came
home, was accused of rapacity because he had brought away so much
treasure from the Rajahs whom he had conquered, and his answer to the
charge was, 'I was surprised at my own moderation.' Ah! there are a
great many Christian people who ought to be ashamed of their
moderation. They have gone into the treasure-house; stacks of jewels,
jars of gold on all sides of them--and they have been content to come
away with some one poor little coin, when they might have been 'rich
beyond the dreams of avarice.' Brethren, you have 'access' to the
fullness of God. Whose fault is it if you are empty?

Then, further, I said there was another meaning in these great words.
The love which may suffuse our lives, the gifts, the consequence of
that love, which may enrich our lives, should, and in the measure in
which they are received will, adorn and make beautiful our lives. For
'grace' means loveliness as well as goodness, and the God who is the
fountain of it all is the fountain of 'whatsoever things are fair,'
as well as of whatsoever things are good. That suggests two
considerations on which I have no time to dwell. One is that the
highest beauty is goodness, and unless the art of a nation learns
that, its art will become filthy and a minister of sin. They talk
about 'Art for Art's sake.' Would that all these poets and painters
who are trying to find beauty in corruption--and there is a
phosphorescent glimmer in rotting wood, and a prismatic colouring on
the scum of a stagnant pond--would that all those men who are seeking
to find beauty apart from goodness, and so are turning a divine
instinct into a servant of evil, would learn that the true
gracefulness comes from the grace which is the fullness of God given
unto men.

But there is another lesson, and that is that Christian people who
say that they have their lives irradiated by the love of God, and who
profess to be receiving gifts from His full hand, are bound to take
care that their goodness is not 'harsh and crabbed,' as not only
'dull fools suppose' it to be, but as it sometimes is, but is musical
and fair. You are bound to make your goodness attractive, and to show
that the things that are 'of good report' are likewise the 'things
that are lovely.'

II. And so, now, turn to the second point here, viz. the Christian
attitude.

'The grace wherein ye _stand_'; that word is very emphatic here,
and does not merely mean 'continue,' but it suggests what I have put
into that phrase, the Christian attitude.

Two things are implied. One is that a life thus suffused by the love,
and enriched by the gifts, and adorned by the loveliness that come
from God, will be stable and steadfast. Resistance and stability are
implied in the words. One very important item in determining a man's
power of resistance, and of standing firm against whatever assaults
may be hurled against him, is the sort of footing that he has. If you
stand on slippery mud, or on the ice of a glacier, you will find it
hard to stand firm; but if you plant your foot on the grace of God,
then you will be able to 'withstand in the evil day, and having done
all to stand.' And how does a man plant his foot on the grace of God?
simply by trusting in God, and not in himself. So that the secret of
all steadfastness of life, and of all successful resistance to the
whirling onrush of temptations and of difficulties, is to set your
foot upon that rock, and then your 'goings' will be established.

Jesus Christ brings to us, in the gift of life in Him, stability
which will check the vacillations of our own hearts. We go up and
down, we yield when pressure is brought to bear against us, we are
carried off our feet often by the sudden swirl of the stream, and the
fitful blast of the wind. But His grace comes in, and will make us
able to stand against all assaults. Our poor natures, necessarily
changeable, and sinfully vacillating and weak, will be uniform, in
the measure in which the grace of God comes into our hearts. Just as
in these so-called petrifying wells, they take a bit of cloth, a
bird's nest, a billet of wood, and plunge it into the water, and the
mineral held in solution there infiltrates into the substance of the
thing plunged in, and makes it firm and inflexible: so let us plunge
our poor, changeful, vacillating resolutions, our wayward, wandering
hearts, our passions, so easily excited by temptation, into that
great fountain, and there will filter into our flexibility what will
make it firm, and into our changefulness what will give in us some
faint copy of the divine immutability, and we shall stand fast in the
Lord and in the power of His might.

Further, in regard to this attitude, which is the result of the
possession of grace, we may say that it indicates not only stability
and steadfastness, but erectness, as in opposition to crouching or
bowing. A man's independence is guaranteed by his dependence upon,
and his possession of, that communicated grace of God. And so you
have the fact that the phase of the Christian teaching which has laid
most stress on the decrees and sovereign will of God, on divine grace
in fact, and too little upon the human side--the phase which is
roughly described as Calvinism--has underlain the liberties of
Europe, and has stiffened men into the rejection of all priestly and
civic domination. 'Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is
liberty,' and if a man has in his heart the grace of God, then he
stands erect as a man. 'Ye are bought with a price; be ye not the
servants of men.' The Christian democracy, the Christian rejection of
all sacerdotal and other domination, flows from the access of each
individual Christian to the fountain of all wisdom, the only source
of law and command, the inspirer of all strength, the giver of all
grace. By faith ye stand. 'Stand fast therefore in the liberty
wherewith Christ has made you free.'

III. Lastly, and only a word; we have here the Christian way of
entrance into grace.

I have already remarked on the emphasis with which, both in my text
and in the preceding clause, there are laid down the two conditions
of possessing this grace, or the peace which precedes it: 'By
Christ--through faith.' Notice, too, that Jesus Christ gives us
'access.' Now that expression is but an imperfect rendering of the
original. If it were not for its trivial associations, one might read
instead of 'access,' introduction, 'by whom we have introduction into
this grace wherein we stand.' The thought is that Jesus Christ
secures us entry into this ample space, this treasure-house, as some
court officer might take by the hand a poor rustic, standing on the
threshold of the palace, and lead him through all the glittering
series of unfamiliar splendour, and present him at last in the
central ring around the king. The reality that underlies the metaphor
is plain. We sinners can never pass into that central glory, nor ever
possess those gifts of grace, unless the barrier that stands between
us and God, between us and His highest gifts of love, is swept away.

I recall an old legend where two knights are represented as seeking
to enter a palace, where there is a mysterious fire burning in the
middle of the portal. One of them tries to pass through, and recoils
scorched; but when the other essays an entrance the fierce fire
sinks, and the path is cleared. Jesus Christ has died, and I say it
with all reverence, as His blood touches the fire it flickers down
and the way is opened 'into the holiest of all, whither the
Forerunner is for us entered.' He both brings the grace and makes it
possible that we should go in where the grace is.

But Jesus Christ's work is nothing to you unless your personal faith
comes in, and so that is pointed to in the second of the clauses
here: '_By faith_ we have access.' That is no arbitrary appointment.
It lies in the very nature of the gift and of the recipient. How can
God give access into that grace to a man who shrinks from being near
Him; who does not want 'access,' and who could not use the grace if
he had it? How can God bestow inward and spiritual gifts upon any man
who closes his heart against them, and will not have them? My faith
is the condition; Christ is the Giver. If I ally myself to Him by my
faith, He gives to me. If I do not, with all the will to do it, He
cannot bestow His best gifts any more than a man who stretches out
his hand to another sinking in the flood can lift him out, and set
him on the safe shore, if the drowning man's hand is not stretched
out to grasp the rescuer's outstretched hand.

Brethren, God is infinitely willing to give the choicest gifts of His
love to us all, to gladden, to enrich, to adorn, to make stable and
erect. But He cannot give them unless you will trust Him. 'It pleased
the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.' That alabaster box
is brought to earth. It was broken on the Cross that 'the house'
might be 'filled with the odour of the ointment.' Our faith is the
only condition; it is only the condition, but it is the indispensable
condition, of our being anointed with that fragrant anointing. He,
and He only, can give us the fullness of God.



THE SOURCES OF HOPE

   'We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3. And not only
   so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that
   tribulation worketh patience; 4. And patience, experience;
   and experience, hope.'--ROMANS v. 2-4.


We have seen in a previous sermon that the Apostle in the foregoing
context is sketching a grand outline of the ideal Christian life, as
all rooted in 'being justified by faith,' and flowering into 'peace
with God,' 'access into grace,' and a firm stand against all
antagonists and would-be masters. In our text he advances to complete
the outline by sketching the true Christian attitude towards the
future. I have ventured to take so pregnant and large a text, because
there is a very striking and close connection throughout the verses,
which is lost unless we take them together. Note, then, 'we rejoice
in hope,' 'we glory in tribulation.' Now, it is one word in the
original which is diversely rendered in these two clauses by
'rejoice' and 'glory.' The latter is a better rendering than the
former, because the original expression designates not only the
emotion of joy, but the expression of it, especially in words. So it
is frequently rendered in the New Testament by the word 'boast,'
which, of course, has unpleasant associations, which scarcely fit it
for use here. So then you see Paul regards it as possible for, and
more than possibly characteristic of, a Christian, that the very same
emotion should he excited by that great bright future hope, and by
the blackness of present sorrow. That is strong meat; and so he goes
on to explain how he thinks it can and must be so, and points out
that trouble, through a series of results, arrives at last at this,
that if it is rightly borne, it flashes up into greater brightness
the hope which has grasped the glory of God. So then we have here,
not only a wonderful designation of the object around which Christian
hope twines its tendrils, but of the double source from which that
hope may come, and of the one emotion with which Christian people
should front the darkness of the present and the brightness of the
future. Ah! how different our lives would be if that ideal of a
steadfast hope and an untroubled joy were realised by each of us. It
may be. It should be. So I ask you to look at these three points
which I have suggested.

I. That wonderful designation of the one object of Christian hope
which should fill, with an uncoruscating and unflickering light, all
that dark future.

'We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.' Now, I suppose I need not
remind you that that phrase 'the glory of God' is, in the Old
Testament, used especially to mean the light that dwelt between the
cherubim above the mercy-seat; the symbol of the divine perfections
and the token of the Divine Presence. The reality of which it was a
symbol is the total splendour, so to speak, of that divine nature, as
it rays itself out into all the universe. And, says Paul, the true
hope of the Christian man is nothing less than that of that glory he
shall be, in some true sense, and in an eternally growing degree, the
real possessor. It is a tremendous claim, and one which leads us into
deep places that I dare not venture into now, as to the resemblance
between the human person and the Divine Person, notwithstanding all
the differences which of course exist, and which only a presumptuous
form of religion has ventured to treat as transitory or
insignificant. Let me use a technical word, and say that it is no
pantheistic absorption in an impersonal Light, no Nirvana of union
with a vague whole, which the Apostle holds out here, but it is the
closest possible union, personality being saved and individual
consciousness being intensified. It is the clothing of humanity with
so much of that glory as can be imparted to a finite creature. That
means perfect knowledge, perfect purity, perfect love, and that means
the dropping away of all weaknesses and the access of strange new
powers, and that means the end of the schism between 'will' and
'ought,' and of the other schism between 'will' and 'can.' It means
what this Apostle says: 'Whom He justified them He also glorified,'
and what He says again, 'We all, beholding as in a glass'--or rather,
perhaps, mirroring as a glass does--'the glory, are changed into the
same image.'

The very heart of Christianity is that the Divine Light of which that
Shekinah was but a poor and transitory symbol has 'tabernacled'
amongst men in the Christ, and has from Him been communicated, and is
being communicated in such measure as earthly limitations and
conditions permit, and that these do point on assuredly to perfect
impartation hereafter, when 'we shall be like Him, for we shall see
Him as He is.' The Three could walk in the furnace of fire, because
there was One with them, 'like unto the Son of God.' 'Who among us
shall dwell with the everlasting fire,' the fire of that divine
perfection? They who have had introduction by Christ into the grace,
and who will be led by Him into the glory.

Now, brethren, it seems to me to be of great importance that this,
the loftiest of conceptions of that future life, should be the main
aspect under which we think of it. It is well to speak of rest from
toil; it is well to speak of all the negations of present
unfavourable, afflictive conditions which that future presents to us.
And perhaps there is none of the aspects of it which appeals to
deeper feelings in ourselves, than those which say 'there shall be no
night there,' 'there shall be no tears there, neither sorrow nor
sighing'; 'there shall be no toil there.' But we must rise above all
that, for our heaven is to live in God, and to be possessors of His
glory. Do not let us dwell upon the symbols instead of the realities.
Do not let us dwell only on the oppositions and contradictions to
earth. Let us rather rise high above symbols, high above negations,
to the positive truth, and not contented with saying 'We shall be
full of blessedness; we shall be full of purity; we shall be full of
knowledge,' let us rather think of that which embraces them all--we
shall be full of God.

So much, then, for the one object of Christian hope. We have here--

II. The double source of that hope.

Observe that the first clause of my text comes as the last term in a
sequence. It began with 'being justified by faith.' The second round
of the ladder was, 'we have peace with God.' The third, 'we have
access into this grace.' The fourth, 'we stand,' and then comes, 'we
rejoice in hope of the glory of God.' That is to say, to put it into
general words, and, of course, presupposing the revelation in Jesus
Christ as the basis of all, without which there is no assured hope of
a future beyond the grave, then the facts of a Christian man's life
are for him the best brighteners of the hope beyond. Of course, that
is so. 'Justified by faith'--'peace with God'--'access into grace';
what, in the name of common-sense, can death do with these things?
How can its blunted sword cut the bond that unites a soul that has
had such experiences as these with the source of them all? Nothing
can be more grotesque, nothing more incongruous, than to think that
that subordinate and accidental fact, whose region is the physical,
has anything whatever to do with this higher region of consciousness.

And, further than that, it is absolutely unthinkable to a man in the
possession of these spiritual gifts, that they should ever come to a
close; and the fact that in the precise degree in which we realise as
our very own possession, here and now, these Christian emotions and
blessings, we instinctively rise to the belief that they are 'not for
an age, but for all time,' and not for all time, but for eternity, is
itself, if not a proof, yet a very strong presumption, if you believe
in God, that a man who thus 'feels he was not made to die' because he
has grasped the Eternal, is right in so feeling. If, too, we look at
the experiences themselves, they all have the stamp of
incompleteness, and suggest completeness by their own incompleteness.
The new moon with its ragged edge not more surely prophesies its
completed silver round, than do the experiences of the Christian life
here, in their greatness and in their smallness, declare that there
come a time and an order of things in which what was thwarted
tendency shall be accomplished result. The tender green spikelet,
pushing up through the brown clods, does not more surely prophesy the
waving yellow ear, nor the broad highway on which a man comes in the
wilderness more surely declare that there is a village at the end of
it, than do the facts of the Christian life, here and now, attest the
validity of the hope of the glory of God.

And so, brethren, if you wish to brighten that great light that fills
the future, see to it that your present Christianity is fuller of
'peace with God,' 'access into grace,' and the firm, erect standing
which flows from these. When the springs in the mountains dry up, the
river in the valley shrinks; and when they are full, it glides along
level with the top of its banks. So when our Christian life in the
present is richest, our Christian hope of the future will be the
brighter. Look into yourselves. Is there anything there that
witnesses to that great future; anything there that is obviously
incipient, and destined to greater power; anything there which is
like a tropical plant up here in 45 degrees of north latitude,
managing to grow, but with dwarfed leaves and scanty flowers and half
shrivelled and sourish fruit, and that in the cold dreams of the warm
native land? Reflecting telescopes show the stars in a mirror, and
the observer looks down to see the heavens. Look into yourselves, and
see whether, on the polished plate within, there are any images of
the stars that move around the Throne of God.

But let us turn for a moment to the second source to which the
Apostle traces the Christian hope here. I must not be tempted to more
than just a word of explanation, but perhaps you will tolerate that.
Paul says that trouble works patience, that is to say, not only
passive endurance, but brave persistence in a course, in spite of
antagonisms. That is what trouble does to a man when it is rightly
borne. Of course the Apostle is speaking here of its ideal operation,
and not of the reality which alas! often is seen when our
tribulations lash us into impatience, or paralyse our efforts.
Tribulation worketh patience, 'and patience _experience_.' That is a
difficult word to put into English. There underlies it the frequent
thought which is familiar in Scripture, of trouble of all kinds as
testing a man, whether as the refiner's fire or the winnower's fan.
It tests a man, and if he bears the trouble with patient persistence,
then he has passed the test and is approved. Patient perseverance
thus works approval, or proof of the man's Christianity, and, still
more, proof of the reality and power of the Christ whom his
Christianity grasps. And so from out of that approval or proof which
comes, through perseverance, from tribulation, there rises, of
course, in that heart that has been tested and has stood, a calm hope
that the future will be as the past, and that, having fought through
six troubles, by God's help the seventh will be vanquished also, till
at last troubles will end, and heaven be won.

Brethren, there is the true point of view from which to look, not
only at tribulations, but at all the trials, for they too bring
trials, that lie in duty and in enjoyment, and in earthly things.
They are meant to work in us a conviction, by our experience of
having been able to meet them aright, of the reality of our grasp of
God, and of the reality and power of the God whom we grasp. If we
took that point of view in regard to all the changes of this
changeful life, we should not so often be bewildered and upset by the
darkest of our sorrows. The shining lancets and cruel cutting
instruments that the surgeon lays out on his table before he begins
the operation are very dreadful. But the way to think of them is that
they are there in order to remove from a man what it does him harm to
keep, and what, if it is not taken away, will kill him. So life, with
its troubles, great and small, is all meant for this, to make us
surer of, and bring us closer to, our God, and to brace and
strengthen us in our own personal character. And if it does that,
then blessed be everything that produces these results, and leads us
thereby to glorying in the troubles by which shines out on us a
brighter hope.

So there are the two sources, you see: the one is the blessedness of
the Christian life, the other the sorrows of the outward life, and
both may converge upon the brightening of our Christian hope. Our
rainbow is the child of the marriage of the sun and the rain. The
Christian hope comes from being 'justified by faith, having peace
with God ... and access into grace,' and it comes from tribulation,
which 'worketh patience,' and patience which 'worketh approval.' The
one spark is struck from the hard flint by the cold steel, and the
other is kindled by the sun itself, but they are both fire.

And so, lastly, we have here--

III. The one emotion with which the Christian should front all the
facts, inward and outward, of his earthly life.

'We glory in the hope,' 'we glory in tribulation,' I need not dwell
upon the lesson which is taught us here by the fact that the Apostle
puts as one in a series of Christian characteristics this of a
steadfast and all-embracing joy. I do not believe that we Christian
people half enough realise how imperative a Christian duty, as well
as how great a Christian privilege, it is to be glad always. You have
no right to be anxious; you are wrong to be hypochondriac and
depressed, and weary and melancholy. True; there are a great many
occasions in our Christian life which minister sadness. True; the
Christian joy looks very gloomy to a worldly eye. But there are far
more occasions which, if we were right, would make joy instinctive,
and which, whether we are right or not, make it obligatory upon us. I
need not speak of how, if that hope were brighter than it commonly is
with us, and if it were more constantly present to our minds and
hearts, we should sing with gladness. I need not dwell upon that
great and wonderful paradox by which the co-existence of sorrow and
of joy is possible. The sorrows are on the surface; beneath there may
be rest. All the winds of heaven may rave across the breast of ocean,
and fret it into clouds of spume against a storm-swept sky. But deep
down there is stillness, and yet not stagnation, because there is the
great motion that brings life and freshness; and so, though there
will be wind-vexed surfaces on our too-often agitated spirits, there
ought to be deeper than these the calm setting of the whole ocean of
our nature towards God Himself. It is possible, as this Apostle has
it, to be 'sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.' It is possible, as his
brother Apostle has it, to 'rejoice greatly, though now for a season
we are in sorrow through manifold temptations.' Look back upon your
lives from the point of view that your tribulation is an instrument
to produce hope, and you will be able to thank God for all the way by
which He has led you.

Now, brethren, the plain lesson of all this is just that we have
here, in these texts, a linked chain, one end of which is wrapped
around our sinful hearts, and the other is fastened to the Throne of
God. You cannot drop any of the links, and you must begin at the
beginning, if you are to be carried on to the end. If we are to have
a joy immovable, we must have a 'steadfast hope.' If we are to have a
'steadfast hope,' we must have a present 'grace.' If we are to have a
present 'grace,' and 'access' to the fullness of God, we must have
'peace with God.' If we are to have 'peace with God,' we must have
the condemnation and the guilt taken away. If we are to have the
condemnation and the guilt taken away, Jesus Christ must take them.
If Jesus Christ is to take them away, we must have faith in Him. Then
you can work it backward, and begin at your own end, and say, 'If I
have faith in Jesus Christ, then every link of the chain in due
succession will pass through my hand, and I shall have justifying,
peace, access, the grace, erectness, hope, and exultation, and at
last He will lead me by the hand into the glory for which I dare to
hope, the glory which the Father gave to Him before the foundation of
the world, and which He will give to me when the world has passed
away in fervent heat.'



A THREEFOLD CORD

   'And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is
   shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is
   given unto us.'--ROMANS v. 5.


We have seen in former sermons that, in the previous context, the
Apostle traces Christian hope to two sources: one, the series of
experiences which follow 'being justified by faith' and the other,
those which follow on trouble rightly borne. Those two golden chains
together hold up the precious jewel of hope. But a chain that is to
bear a weight must have a staple, or it will fall to the ground. And
so Paul here turns to yet another thought, and, going behind both our
inward experiences and our outward discipline, falls back on that
which precedes all. After all is said and done, the love of God,
eternal, self-originated, the source of all Christian experiences
because of the work of Christ which originates them all, is the root
fact of the universe, and the guarantee that our highest
anticipations and desires are not unsubstantial visions, but morning
dreams, which are proverbially sure to be fulfilled. God is love;
therefore the man who trusts Him shall not be put to shame.

But you will notice that here the Apostle not only adduces the love
of God as the staple, so to speak, from which these golden chains
hang, but that he traces the heart's being suffused with that love to
its source, and as, of course, is always the case in the order of
analysis, that which was last in time comes first in statement. We
begin at the surface, and go down and down and down from effect to
cause, and yet again to the cause of that cause which is itself
effect. We strip off, as it were, layer after layer, until we get to
the living centre--hope comes from the love, the love comes from the
Spirit in the heart. And so to get at the order of time and of
manifestation, we must reverse the order of analysis in my text, and
begin where it ends. So we have here three things--the Spirit given,
the love shed abroad by that Spirit, and the hope established by that
love. Now just look at them for a moment.

I. The Spirit given.

Now, the first point to notice here is that the Revised Version
presents the meaning of our text more accurately than the Authorised
Version, because, instead of reading 'is given,' it correctly reads
'was given.' And any of you that can consult the original will see
that the form of the language implies that the Apostle is thinking,
not so much of a continuous bestowment, as of a definite moment when
this great gift was bestowed upon the man to whom he is speaking.

So the first question is, when was that Spirit given to these Roman
Christians? The Christian Church has been split in two by its answers
to that question. One influential part, which has taken a new lease
of life amongst us to-day, says 'in baptism,' and the other says 'at
the moment of faith.' I am not going to be tempted into controversial
paths now, for my purpose is a very different one, but I cannot help
just a word about the former of these two answers. 'Given in
baptism,' say our friends, and I venture to think that they thereby
degrade Christianity into a system of magic, bringing together two
entirely disparate things, an external physical act and a spiritual
change. I do not say anything about the disastrous effects that have
followed from such a conception of the medium by which this greatest
of all Christian gifts is effected upon men. Since the Spirit who is
given is life, the result of the gift of that Spirit is a new life,
and we all know what disastrous and debasing consequences have
followed from that dogma of regeneration by baptism. No doubt it is
perfectly true that normally, in the early Church, the Divine Spirit
was given at baptism; but for one thing, that general rule had
exceptions, as in the case of Cornelius, and, for another thing,
though it was given _at_ baptism, it was not given _in_
baptism, but it was given through faith, of which in those days
baptism was the sequel and the sign.

But I pass altogether from this, and fall back on the great words
which, to me at least, if there were no other, would determine the
whole answer to this question as to when the Spirit was given: 'This
spake He of the Holy Ghost, which they that _believe_ on Him
should receive'; and I would ask the modern upholders of the other
theory the indignant question which the Apostle Paul fired off out of
his heavy artillery at their ancient analogues, the circumcisers in
the Galatian Church: 'This only would I know of you: Received ye the
Holy Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?'

The answer which the evangelical Christian gives to this ancient
question suggested by my text, 'When was that Divine Spirit
bestowed?' is congruous with the spirituality of the Christian faith,
and is eminently reasonable. For the condition required is the
opening of the whole nature in willing welcome to the entrance of the
Divine Spirit, and as surely as, wherever there is an indentation of
the land, and a concavity of a receptive bay, the ocean will pour
into it and fill it, so surely where a heart is open for God, God in
His Divine Spirit will enter into that heart, and there will shed His
blessed influences.

So, dear brethren, and this is the main point to which I wish to
direct your attention, the Apostle here takes it for granted that all
these Roman Christians knew in themselves the truth of what he was
saying, and had an experience which confirmed his assertion that the
Divine Spirit of God was given to them when they believed. Ah! I
wonder if that is true about us professing Christians; if we are
aware in any measure of a higher life than our own having been
breathed into us; if we are aware in any measure of a Divine Spirit
dwelling in our spirits, moulding, lifting, enlightening, guiding,
constraining, and yet not coercing? We ought to be, 'Know ye not that
the Spirit dwelleth in you, except ye be rejected?' Brethren, it
seems to me to be of the very last importance, in this period of the
Church's history, that the proportion between the Church's teaching
as to the work of Christ on the Cross, and as to the consequent work
of the Spirit of Christ in our hearts and spirits, should be changed.
We must become more mystical if we are not to become less Christian.
And the fact that so many of us seem to imagine that the whole Gospel
lies in this, that 'He died for our sins according to the
Scriptures,' and have relegated the teaching that He, by His Spirit,
lives in us, if we are His disciples, to a less prominent place, has
done enormous harm, not only to the type of Christian life, but to
the conception of what Christianity is, both amongst those who
receive it, and amongst those who do not accept it, making it out to
be nothing more than a means of escape from the consequences of our
transgression, instead of recognising it for what it is, the
impartation of a new life which will flower into all beauty, and bear
fruit in all goodness.

There was a question put once to a group of disciples, in
astonishment and incredulity, by this Apostle, when he said to the
twelve disciples in Ephesus, 'Did you receive the Holy Ghost when you
believed?' The question might well be put to a multitude of
professing Christians amongst us, and I am afraid a great many of
them, if they answered truly, would answer as those disciples did,
'We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.'

And now for the second point in my text--

II. The love which is shed abroad by that Spirit.

Now, I suppose I do not need to do more than point out that 'the love
of God' here means His to us, and not ours to Him, and that the
metaphor employed is but partially represented by that rendering
'shed abroad.' 'Poured out' would better convey Paul's image, which
is that of a flood sent coursing through the heart, or, perhaps,
rather lying there, as a calm deep lake on whose unruffled surface
the heavens, with all their stars, are reflected. Of course, if God's
love to us thus suffuses a heart, then there follows the
consciousness of that love; though it is not the consciousness of the
love that the Apostle is primarily speaking of, but that which lies
behind it, the actual flowing into the human heart of that sweet and
all-satisfying Love. This Divine Spirit that dwells in us, if we are
trusting in Christ, will pour it in full streams into our else empty
hearts. Surely there is nothing incongruous with the nature either of
God or of man, in believing that thus a real communication is
possible between them, and that by thoughts the occasions of which we
cannot trace, by moments of elevation, by swift, piercing
convictions, by sudden clear illuminations, God may speak, and will
speak, in our waiting hearts.

  'Such rebounds the inmost ear
    Catches often from afar.
  Listen, prize them, hold them dear;
    For of God, of God, they are.'

But we must not forget, too, that, according to the whole strain of
New Testament thinking, the means by which that Divine Spirit does
pour out the flashing flood of the love of God into a man's heart is,
as Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, by taking the things of Christ
and showing them to us.

Now, as I said about a former point of my sermon,
that the Apostle was taking for granted that this gift of the Spirit
belonged to all Christian people; so here again he takes for granted
that in every Christian heart there is, by a divine operation, the
presence of the love, and of the consciousness of the love, of God.
And, again, the question comes to some of us stunningly, to all of us
warningly, Is that a transcript of our experience? It is the ideal of
a Christian life; it is meant that it should be so, and should be so
continuously. The stream that is poured out is intended to run summer
and winter, not to be dried up in drought, nor made turbid and noisy
in flood, but with equable flow throughout. I fear me that the
experience of most good people is rather like one of those tropical
wadies, or nullahs in Eastern lands, where there alternate times of
spate and times of drought; and instead of a flashing stream, pouring
life everywhere, and full to the top of its banks, there is for long
periods a dismal stretch of white sun-baked stones, and a chaos of
tumbled rocks with not a drop of water in the channel. The Spirit
pours God's love into men's spirits, but there may be dams and
barriers, so that no drop of the water comes into the empty heart.

Our Quaker friends have a great deal to say about 'waiting for the
springing of the life within us.' Never mind about the phraseology:
what is meant is profoundly true, that no Christian man will realise
this blessing unless he knows how to sit still and meditate, and let
the gracious influence soak into him. Thus being quiet, he may, he
will, find rising in his heart the consciousness of the love of God.
You will not, if you give only broken momentary sidelong glances; you
will not, if you do not lie still. If you hold up a cup in a shaking
hand beneath a fountain, and often twitch it aside, you will get
little water in it; and unless we 'wait on the Lord,' we shall not
'renew our strength.' You can build a dam as they do in Holland that
will keep out, not only the waters of a river, but the waters of an
ocean, and not a drop will come through the dike. Brethren, we must
keep ourselves in the love of God.

Lastly, we have here--

III. The hope that is established by the love poured out.

I need not dwell at any length upon this point, because, to a large
extent, it has been anticipated in former sermons, but just a word or
two may be permitted me. That love, you may be very sure, is not
going to lose its objects in the dust. The old Psalmist who knew so
much less than we do as to the love of God, and knew nothing of the
whispers of a Divine Spirit within his heart charged with the message
of the love as it was manifested in Jesus Christ, had risen to a
height of confidence, the beauty of the expression of which is often
lost sight of, because we insist upon dealing with it as merely being
a Messianic prophecy, which it is, but not merely: 'Thou wilt not
leave my soul in Sheol, neither wilt Thou suffer Thy beloved' (for
that is the real meaning of the word translated 'thy Holy
One')--'Thou wilt not suffer the child of Thy love to see
corruption.' Death's bony fingers can untie all true lover's knots
but one; and they fumble at that one in vain. God will not lose His
child in the grave.

That love, we may be very sure, will not foster in us hopes that are
to be disappointed. Now, it is a fact that the more a man feels that
God loves him, the less is it possible for him to believe that that
love will ever terminate, or that he shall 'all die.' In the lock of
a canal, as the water pours in, the vessel rises. In our hearts, as
the flood of the full love of God pours in, our hopes are borne up
and up, nearer and nearer to the heavens. Since it is so, we must
find in the fact that the constant and necessary result of communion
with Him here on earth is a conviction of the immortality of that
communion, a very, very strong guarantee for ourselves that the hope
is not in vain. And if you say that that is all merely subjective,
yet I think that the universality of the experience is a fact to be
taken into account even by those who doubt the reality of the hope,
and for ourselves, at all events, is a sufficient ground on which to
rest. We have the historical fact of the Resurrection of Jesus
Christ. We have the fact that wherever there has been earthly
experience of true communion with God, there, and in the measure in
which it has been realised, the thermometer of our hopes of
immortality, so to speak, has risen. 'God is love,' and God will not
bring the man that trusts Him to confusion.

And may we not venture to say that, contemplating the analogous
earthly love, we are permitted to believe that that divine Lover of
our souls desires to have His beloved with Him, and desires that
there be no separation between Him and them, either, if I might so
say, in place or in disposition? As certainly as husband and wife,
lover and friend, long to be together, and need it for perfection and
for rest, so surely will that divine love not be satisfied until it
has gathered all its children to its breast and made them partakers
of itself.

There are many, many hopes that put the men who cherish them to
shame, partly because they are never fulfilled, partly because,
though fulfilled, they are disappointed, since the reality is so much
less than the anticipation. Who does not know that the spray of
blossom on the tree looks far more lovely hanging above our heads
than when it is grasped by us? Who does not know that the fish
struggling on the hook seems heavier than it turns out to be when
lying on the bank? We go to the rainbow's end, and we find, not a pot
of gold, but a huddle of cold, wet mist. There is one man that is
entitled to say: 'To-morrow shall be as this day, and much more
abundant.' Who is he? Only the man whose hope is in the Lord his God.
If we open our hearts by faith, then these three lines of sequence of
which we have been speaking will converge, and we shall have the hope
that is the shining apex of 'being justified by faith,' and the hope
that is the calm result of trouble and agitation, and the hope that,
travelling further and higher than anything in our inward experience
or our outward discipline, grasps the key-word of the universe, 'God
is love,' and triumphantly makes sure that 'neither death nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor
things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall
be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus
our Lord.'



WHAT PROVES GOD'S LOVE

   'God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we
   were yet sinners, Christ died for us.'--ROMANS v. 8.


We have seen in previous sermons on the preceding context that the
Apostle has been tracing various lines of sequence, all of which
converge upon Christian hope. The last of these pointed to the fact
that the love of God, poured into a heart like oil into a lamp,
brightened that flame; and having thus mentioned the great Christian
revelation of God as love, Paul at once passes to emphasise the
historical fact on which the conviction of that love rests, and goes
on to say that 'the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the
Holy Ghost which is given to us, _for_ when we were yet without
strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.' Then there rises
before him the thought of how transcendent and unparalleled a love is
that which pours its whole preciousness on unworthy and unresponsive
hearts. He thinks to himself--'We are all ungodly; without
strength--yet, He died for us. Would any man do that? No! for,' says
he, 'it will be a hard thing to find any one ready to die for a
righteous man--a man rigidly just and upright, and because rigidly
just, a trifle hard, and therefore not likely to touch a heart to
sacrifice; and even for a good man, in whom austere righteousness has
been softened and made attractive, and become graciousness and
beneficence, well! it is just within the limits of possibility that
somebody might be found even to die for a man that had laid such a
strong hand upon his affections. But God commendeth His love in that
while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.' Now, when Paul says
'commend,' he uses a very significant word which is employed in two
ways in the New Testament. It sometimes means to establish, or to
prove, or to make certain. But 'prove' is a cold word, and the
expression also means to recommend, to set forth in such a way as to
appeal to the heart, and God does both in that great act. He
establishes the fact, and He, as it were, sweeps it into a man's
heart, on the bosom of that full tide of self-sacrifice.

So there are two or three points that arise from these words, on
which I desire to dwell now--to lay them upon our hearts, and not
only upon our understandings. For it is a poor thing to prove the
love of God, and we need that not only shall we be sure of it, but
that we shall be softened by it. So now let me ask you to look with
me, first, at this question--

I. What Paul thought Jesus Christ died for.

'Died _for_ us.' Now that expression plainly implies two things:
first, that Christ died of His own accord, and being impelled by a
great motive, beneficence; and, second, that that voluntary death,
somehow or other, is for our behoof and advantage. The word in the
original, 'for,' does not define in what way that death ministers to
our advantage, but it does assert that for those Roman Christians who
had never seen Jesus Christ, and by consequence for you and me
nineteen centuries off the Cross, there is benefit in the fact of
that death. Now, suppose we quote an incident in the story of
missionary martyrdom. There was a young lady, whom some of us knew
and loved, in a Chinese mission station, who, with the rest of the
missionary band, was flying. Her life was safe. She looked back, and
saw a Chinese boy that her heart twined round, in danger. She
returned to save him; they laid hold of her and flung her into the
burning house, and her charred remains have never been found. That
was a death for another, but 'Jesus died for us' in a deeper sense
than that. Take another case. A man sets himself to some great cause,
not his own, and he sees that in order to bless humanity, either by
the proclamation of some truth, or by the origination of some great
movement, or in some other way, if he is to carry out his purpose,
he must give his life. He does so, and dies a martyr. What he aimed
at could only be done by the sacrifice of his life. The death was a
means to his end, and he died for his fellows. That is not the depth
of the sense in which Paul meant that Jesus Christ died for us. It
was not that He was true to His message, and, like many another
martyr, died. There is only one way, as it seems to me, in which any
beneficial relation can be established between the Death of Christ
and us, and it is that when He died He died for us, because 'He bare
our sins in His own body on the tree.'

Dear brethren, I dare say some of you do not take that view, but I
know not how justice can be done to the plain words of Scripture
unless this is the point of view from which we look at the Cross of
Calvary--that there the Lamb of Sacrifice was bearing, and bearing
away, the sins of the whole world. I know that Christian men who
unite in the belief that Christ's death was a sacrifice and an
atonement diverge from one another in their interpretations of the
way in which that came to be a fact, and I believe, for my part, that
the divergent interpretations are like the divergent beams of light
that fall upon men who stand round the same great luminary, and that
all of them take their origin in, and are part of the manifestation
of, the one transcendent fact, which passes all understanding, and
gathers into itself all the diverse conceptions of it which are
formed by limited minds. He died for us because, in His death, our
sins are taken away and we are restored to the divine favour.

I know that Jesus Christ is said to have made far less of that aspect
of His work in the Gospels than His disciples have done in the
Epistles, and that we are told that, if we go back to Jesus, we shall
not find the doctrine which for some of us is the first form in which
the Gospel finds its way into the hearts of men. I admit that the
fully-developed teaching followed the fact, as was necessarily the
case. I do not admit that Jesus Christ 'spake nothing concerning
Himself' as the sacrifice for the world's sins. For I hear from His
lips--not to dwell upon other sayings which I could quote--I hear
from His lips, 'The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to
minister'--that is only half His purpose--'and to give His life a
ransom instead of the many.' You cannot strike the atoning aspect of
His death out of that expression by any fair handling of the words.

And what does the Lord's Supper mean? Why did Jesus Christ select
that one point of His life as the point to be remembered? Why did He
institute the double memorial, the body parted from the blood being a
sign of a violent death? I know of no explanation that makes that
Lord's Supper an intelligible rite except the explanation which says
that He came, to live indeed, and in that life to be a sacrifice, but
to make the sacrifice complete by Himself bearing the consequences of
transgression, and making atonement for the sins of the world.

Brethren, that is the only aspect of Christ's death which makes it of
any consequence to us. Strip it of that, and what does it matter to
me that He died, any more than it matters to me that any
philanthropist, any great teacher, any hero or martyr or saint,
should have died? As it seems to me, nothing. Christ's death is
surrounded by tenderly pathetic and beautiful accompaniments. As a
story it moves the hearts of men, and 'purges them, by pity and by
terror.' But the death of many a hero of tragedy does all that.
And if you want to have the Cross of Christ held upright in its place
as the Throne of Christ and the attractive power for the whole world,
you must not tamper with that great truth, but say, 'He died for our
sins, according to the Scriptures.'

Now, there is a second question that I wish to ask, and that is--

II. How does Christ's death 'commend' God's love?

That is a strange expression, if you will think about it, that
'_God_ commendeth His love towards us in that _Christ_
died.' If you take the interpretation of Christ's death of which I
have already been speaking, one could have understood the Apostle if
he had said, 'Christ commendeth His love towards us in that Christ
died.' But where is the force of the fact of a _man's_ death to
prove _God's_ love? Do you not see that underlying that swift
sentence of the Apostle there is a presupposition, which he takes for
granted? It is so obvious that I do not need to dwell upon it to
vindicate his change of persons, viz. that 'God was in Christ,' in
such fashion as that whatsoever Christ did was the revelation of God.
You cannot suppose, at least I cannot see how you can, that there is
any force of proof in the words of my text, unless you come up to the
full belief, 'God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.'

Suppose some great martyr who dies for his fellows. Well, all honour
to him, and the race will come to his tomb for a while, and bring
their wreaths and their sorrow. But what bearing has his death upon
our knowledge of God's love towards us? None whatever, or at most a
very indirect and shadowy one. We have to dig deeper down than that.
'God commends His love ... in that Christ died.' 'He that hath seen
Me hath seen the Father.' And we have the right and the obligation to
argue back from all that is manifest in the tender Christ to the
heart of God, and say, not only, 'God so loved the world that He'
sent His Son, but to see that the love that was in Christ is the
manifestation of the love of God Himself.

So there stands the Cross, the revelation to us, not only of a
Brother's sacrifice, but of a Father's love; and that because Jesus
Christ is the revelation of God as being the 'eradiation of His
glory, and the express image of His person.' Friends! light does pour
out from that Cross, whatever view men take of it. But the omnipotent
beam, the all-illuminating radiance, the transforming light, the heat
that melts, are all dependent on our looking at it--I do not only
say, as Paul looked at it, nor do I even say as Christ looked at it,
but as the deep necessities of humanity require that the world should
look at it, as the altar whereon is laid the sacrifice for our sins,
the very Son of God Himself. To me the great truths of the
Incarnation and the Atonement of Jesus Christ are not points in a
mere speculative theology; they are the pulsating vital centre of
religion. And every man needs them in his own experience.

I was going to have said a word or two here--but it is not
necessary--about the need that the love of God should be irrefragably
established, by some plain and undeniable and conspicuous fact. I
need not dwell upon the ambiguous oracles which--

  'Nature, red in tooth and claw,
  With rapine'

gives forth, nor on how the facts of human life, our own sorrows, and
the world's miseries, the tears that swathe the earth, as it rolls on
its orbit, like a misty atmosphere, war against the creed that God is
love. I need not remind you, either, of how deep, in our own hearts,
when the conscience begins to speak its _not_ ambiguous oracles,
there does rise the conviction that there is much in us which it is
impossible should be the object of God's love. Nor need I remind you
how all these difficulties in believing in a God who is love, based
on the contradictory aspects of nature, and the mysteries of
providence, and the whisperings of our own consciousness, are proved
to have been insuperable by the history of the world, where we find
mythologies and religions of all types and gods of every sort, but
nowhere in all the pantheon a God who is Love.

Only let me press upon you that that conviction of the love of God,
which is found now far beyond the limits of Christian faith, and
amongst many of us who, in the name of that conviction itself, reject
Christianity, because of its sterner aspects, is historically the
child of the evangelical doctrine of the Incarnation and sacrifice of
Jesus Christ. And if it still subsists, as I know it does, especially
in this generation, amongst many men who reject what seems to me to
be the very kernel of Christianity--subsists like the stream cut off
from its source, but still running, that only shows that men hold
many convictions the origin of which they do not know. God is love.
You will not permanently sustain that belief against the pressure of
outward mysteries and inward sorrows, unless you grasp the other
conviction that Christ died for our sins. The two are inseparable.

And now lastly--

III. What kind of love does Christ's death declare to us as existing
in God?

A love that is turned away by no sin--that is the thing that strikes
the Apostle here, as I have already pointed out. The utmost reach of
human affection might be that a man would die for the good--he would
scarcely die for the righteous. But God sends His Son, and comes
Himself in His Son, and His Son died for the ungodly and the sinner.
That death reveals a love which is its own origin and motive. We love
because we discern, or fancy we do, something lovable in the object.
God loves under the impulse, so to speak, of His own welling-up
heart.

And yet it is a love which, though not turned away by any sin, is
witnessed by that death to be rigidly righteous. It is no mere
flaccid, flabby laxity of a loose-girt affection, no mere foolish
indulgence like that whereby earthly parents spoil their children.
God's love is not lazy good-nature, as a great many of us think it to
be and so drag it in the mud, but it is rigidly righteous, and
therefore Christ died. That Death witnesses that it is a love which
shrinks from no sacrifices. This Isaac was not 'spared.' God gave up
His Son. Love has its very speech in surrender, and God's love speaks
as ours does. It is a love which, turned away by no sin, and yet
rigidly righteous and shrinking from no sacrifices, embraces all ages
and lands. 'God commendeth'--not 'commended.' The majestic present
tense suggests that time and space are nothing to the swift and
all-filling rays of that great Light. That love is 'towards us,' you
and me and all our fellows. The Death is an historical fact,
occurring in one short hour. The Cross is an eternal power, raying
out light and love over all humanity and through all ages.

God lays siege to all hearts in that great sacrifice. Do you believe
that Jesus Christ died for _your_ sins 'according to the Scriptures'?
Do you see there the assurance of a love which will lift you up above
all the cross-currents of earthly life, and the mysteries of
providence, into the clear ether where the sunshine is unobscured?
And above all, do you fling back the reverberating ray from the
mirror of your own heart that directs again towards heaven
the beam of love which heaven has shot down upon you? 'Herein is
love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and gave His Son
to be the propitiation for our sins.' Is it true of us that we love
God because He first loved us?



THE WARRING QUEENS

   'As sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace
   reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus
   Christ our Lord.'--ROMANS v. 21.


I am afraid this text will sound to some of you rather unpromising.
It is full of well-worn terms, 'sin,' 'death,' 'grace,'
'righteousness,' 'eternal life,' which suggest dry theology, if they
suggest anything. When they welled up from the Apostle's glowing
heart they were like a fiery lava-stream. But the stream has cooled,
and, to a good many of us, they seem as barren and sterile as the
long ago cast out coils of lava on the sides of a quiescent volcano.
They are so well-worn and familiar to our ears that they create but
vague conceptions in our minds, and they seem to many of us to be far
away from a bearing upon our daily lives. But you much mistake Paul
if you take him to be a mere theological writer. He is an earnest
evangelist, trying to draw men to love and trust in Jesus Christ. And
his writings, however old-fashioned and doctrinally hard they may
seem to you, are all throbbing with life--instinct with truths that
belong to all ages and places, and which fit close to every one of
us.

I do not know if I can give any kind of freshness to these words, but
I wish to try. To begin with, I notice the highly-imaginative and
picturesque form into which the Apostle casts his thoughts here. He,
as it were, draws back a curtain, and lets us see two royal figures,
which are eternally opposed and dividing the dominion between them.
Then he shows us the issues to which these two rulers respectively
conduct their subjects; and the question that is trembling on his
lips is 'Under which of them do you stand?' Surely that is not fossil
theology, but truths that are of the highest importance, and ought to
be of the deepest interest, to every one of us. They are to you the
former, whether they are the latter or not.

I. So, first, look at the two Queens who rule over human life.

Sin and Grace are both personified; and they are both conceived of as
female figures, and both as exercising dominion. They stand face to
face, and each recognises as her enemy the other. The one has
established her dominion: 'Sin _hath_ reigned.' The other is
fighting to establish hers: 'That Grace _might_ reign.' And the
struggle is going on between them, not only on the wide field of the
world; but in the narrow lists of the heart of each of us.

Sin reigns. The truths that underlie that solemn picture are plain
enough, however unwelcome they may be to some of us, and however
remote from the construction of the universe which many of us are
disposed to take.

Now, let us understand our terms. Suppose a man commits a theft. You
may describe it from three different points of view. He has thereby
broken the law of the land; and when we are thinking about that we
call it crime. He has also broken the law of 'morality,' as we call
it; and when we are looking at his deed from that point of view, we
call it vice. Is that all? He has broken something else. He has
broken the law of God; and when we look at it from that point of view
we call it sin. Now, there are a great many things which are sins
that are not crimes; and, with due limitations, I might venture to
say that there are some things which are sins that are not to be
qualified as vices. Sin implies God. The Psalmist was quite right
when he said; 'Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned'; although he
was confessing a foul injury he had done to Bathsheba, and a glaring
crime that he had committed against Uriah. It was as to God, and in
reference to Him only, that his crime and his vice darkened and
solidified into sin.

And what is it, in our actions or in ourselves considered in
reference to God, that makes our actions sins and ourselves sinners?
Remember the prodigal son. 'Father! Give me the portion of goods that
falleth to me.' There you have it all. He went away, and 'wasted his
substance in riotous living.' To claim myself for my own; to act
independently of, or contrary to, the will of God; to try to shake
myself clear of Him; to have nothing to do with Him, even though it
be by mere forgetfulness and negligence, and, in all my ways to
comport myself as if I had no relations of dependence on and
submission to him--that is sin. And there may be that oblivion or
rebellion, not only in the gross vulgar acts which the law calls
crimes, or in those which conscience declares to be vices, but also
in many things which, looked at from a lower point of view, may be
fair and pure and noble. If there is this assertion of self in them,
or oblivion of God and His will in them, I know not how we are to
escape the conclusion that even these fall under the class of sins.
For there can be no act or thought, truly worthy of a man, situated
and circumstanced as we are, which has not, for the very core and
animating motive of it, a reference to God.

Now, when I come and say, as my Bible teaches me to say, that this is
the deepest view of the state of humanity that sin reigns, I do not
wish to fall into the exaggerations by which sometimes that statement
has been darkened and discredited; but I do want to press upon you,
dear brethren, this, as a matter of _personal_ experience, that
wherever there is a heart that loves, and leaves God out, and
wherever there is a will that resolves, determines, impels to action,
and does not bow itself before Him, and wherever there are hands that
labour, or feet that run, at tasks and in paths self-chosen and
unconsecrated by reference to our Father in heaven, no matter how
great and beautiful subsidiary lustres may light up their deeds, the
very heart of them all is transgression of the law of God. For this,
and nothing else or less, is His law: 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy
God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy
strength, and with all thy mind.' I do not charge you with crimes.
You know how far it would be right to charge you with vices. _I_
do not charge you with anything; but I pray you to come with me and
confess: 'We all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.'

I suppose I need not dwell upon the difficulty of getting a lodgment
for this conviction in men's hearts. There is no sadder, and no more
conclusive proof, of the tremendous power of sin over us, than that
it has lulled us into unconsciousness, hard to be broken, of its own
presence and existence. You remember the old stories--I suppose there
is no truth in them, but they will do for an illustration--about some
kind of a blood-sucking animal that perched upon a sleeping man, and
with its leathern wings fanned him into deeper drowsiness whilst it
drew from him his life-blood. That is what this hideous Queen does
for men. She robes herself in a dark cloud, and sends out her behests
from obscurity. And men fancy that they are free whilst all the while
they are her servants. Oh, dear brethren! you may call this theology,
but it is a simple statement of the facts of our condition. 'Sin hath
reigned.'

And now turn to the other picture, 'Grace might reign.' Then there is
an antagonistic power that rises up to confront the widespread
dominion of this anarch of old. And this Queen comes with twenty
thousand to war against her that has but ten thousand on her side.

Again I say, let us understand our terms. I suppose, there are few of
the keywords of the New Testament which have lost more of their
radiance, like quicksilver, by exposure in the air during the
centuries than that great word Grace, which is always on the lips of
this Apostle, and to him had music in its sound, and which to us is a
piece of dead doctrine, associated with certain high Calvinistic
theories which we enlightened people have long ago grown beyond, and
got rid of. Perhaps Paul was more right than we when his heart leaped
up within him at the very thought of all which he saw to lie
palpitating and throbbing with eager desire to bless men, in that
great word. What does he mean by it? Let me put it into the shortest
possible terms. This antagonist Queen is nothing but the love of God
raying out for ever to us inferior creatures, who, by reason of our
sinfulness, have deserved something widely different. Sin stands
there, a hideous hag, though a queen; Grace stands here, 'in all her
gestures dignity and love,' fair and self-communicative, though a
sovereign. The love of God in exercise to sinful men: that is what
the New Testament means by grace. And is it not a great thought?

Notice, for further elucidation of the Apostle's conception, how he
sacrifices the verbal correctness of his antithesis in order to get
to the real opposition. What is the opposite of Sin? Righteousness.
Why does he not say, then, that 'as Sin hath reigned unto death, even
so might Righteousness reign unto life'? Why? Because it is not man,
or anything in man, that can be the true antagonist of, and victor
over, the regnant Sin of humanity; but God Himself comes into the
field, and only He is the foe that Sin dreads. That is to say, the
only hope for a sin-tyrannised world is in the out-throb of the love
of the great heart of God. For, notice the weapon with which He
fights man's transgression, if I may vary the figure for a moment. It
is only subordinately punishment, or law, or threatening, or the
revelation of the wickedness of the transgression. All these have
their places, but they are secondary places. The thing that will
conquer a world's wickedness is nothing else but the manifested love
of God. Only the patient shining down of the sun will ever melt the
icebergs that float in all our hearts. And wonderful and blessed it
is to think that, in whatsoever aspects man's sin may have been an
interruption and a contradiction of the divine purpose, out of the
evil has come a good; that the more obdurate and universal the
rebellion, the more has it evoked a deeper and more wondrous
tenderness. The blacker the thundercloud, the brighter glows the
rainbow that is flung across it. So these two front each other, the
one settled in her established throne--

'Fierce as ten furies, terrible as hell--'

the other coming on her adventurous errand to conquer the world to
herself, and to banish the foul tyranny under which men groan. 'Sin
hath reigned.' Grace is on her way to her dominion.

II. Notice the gifts of these two Queens to their subjects.

'Sin hath reigned in death' (as the accurate translation has it);
'Grace reigns unto eternal life.' The one has established her
dominion, and its results are wrought out, her reign is, as it were,
a reign in a cemetery; and her subjects are dead. If you want a
modern instance to illustrate an ancient saw, think of Armenia. There
is a reign whose gifts to its subjects are death. Sin reigns, says
Paul, and for proof points to the fact that men die.

Now, I am not going to enter into the question here, and now, whether
physical death passes over mankind because of the fact of
transgression. I do not suppose that this is so. But I ask you to
remember that when the Bible says that 'Death passed upon all men,
for all have sinned,' it does not merely mean the physical fact of
dissolution, but it means that fact along with the accompaniments of
it, and the forerunners of it, in men's consciences. 'The sting of
death is sin,' says Paul, in another place. By which he implies,
I presume, that, if it were not for the fact of alienation from God
and opposition to His holy will, men might lie down and die as
placidly as an animal does, and might strip themselves for it 'as for
a bed, that longing they'd been sick for.' No doubt, there was death
in the world long before there were men in it. No doubt, also, the
complex whole phenomenon gets its terror from the fact of men's sin.

But it is not so much that physical fact with its accompaniments
which Paul is thinking about when he says that 'sin reigns in death,'
as it is that solemn truth which he is always reiterating, and which
I pray you, dear friends, to lay to heart, that, whatever activity
there may be in the life of a man who has rent himself away from
dependence upon God--however vigorous his brain, however active his
hand, however full charged with other interests his life, in the very
depth of it is a living death, and the right name for it is death. So
this is Sin's gift--that over our whole nature there come mortality
and decay, and that they who live as her subjects are dead whilst
they live. Dear brethren, that may be figurative, but it seems to me
that it is absurd for you to turn away from such thoughts, shrug your
shoulders, and say, 'Old-fashioned Calvinistic theology!' It is
simply putting into a vivid form the facts of your life and of your
condition in relation to God, if you are subjects of Sin.

Then, on the other hand, the other queenly figure has her hands
filled with one great gift which, like the fatal bestowment which Sin
gives to her subjects, has two aspects, a present and a future one.
Life, which is given in our redemption from Death and Sin, and in
union with God; that is the present gift that the love of God holds
out to every one of us. That life, in its very incompleteness here,
carries in itself the prophecy of its own completion hereafter, in a
higher form and world, just as truly as the bud is the prophet of the
flower and of the fruit; just as truly as a half-reared building is
the prophecy of its own completion when the roof tree is put upon it.
The men that here have, as we all may have if we choose, the gift of
life eternal in the knowledge of God through Jesus Christ His Son,
must necessarily tend onwards and upwards to a region where Death is
beneath the horizon, and Life flows and flushes the whole heaven.
Brother! do you put out your whole hand to take the poisoned gift
from the claw-like hand of that hideous Queen; or do you turn and
take the gift of life eternal from the hands of the queenly Grace?

III. How this queenly Grace gives her gifts.

You observe that the Apostle, as is his wont--I was going to
say--gets himself entangled in a couple of almost parenthetical or,
at all events, subsidiary sentences. I suppose when he began to write
he meant to say, simply, 'as Sin hath reigned unto death, so Grace
might reign unto life.' But notice that he inserts two
qualifications: 'through righteousness,' 'through Jesus Christ our
Lord.' What does he mean by these?

He means this, first, that even that great love of God, coming
throbbing straight from His heart, cannot give eternal life as a mere
matter of arbitrary will. God can make His sun to shine and His rain
to fall, 'on the unthankful and on the evil,' and if God could, God
would give eternal life to everybody, bad and good; but He cannot.
There must be righteousness if there is to be life. Just as sin's
fruit is death, the fruit of righteousness is life.

He means, in the next place, that whilst there is no life without
righteousness, there is no righteousness without God's gift. You
cannot break away from the dominion of Sin, and, as it were,
establish yourselves in a little fortress of your own, repelling her
assaults by any power of yours. Dear brethren, we cannot undo the
past; we cannot strip off the poisoned garment that clings to our
limbs; we can mend ourselves in many respects, but we cannot of our
own volition and motion clothe ourselves with that righteousness of
which the wearers shall be worthy to 'pass through the gate into the
city.' There is no righteousness without God's gift.

And the other subsidiary clause completes the thought: 'through
Christ.' In Him is all the grace, the manifest love, of God gathered
together. It is not diffused as the nebulous light in some chaotic
incipient system, but it is gathered into a sun that is set in the
centre, in order that it may pour down warmth and life upon its
circling planets. The grace of God is in Christ Jesus our Lord. In
Him is life eternal; therefore, if we desire to possess it we must
possess Him. In Him is righteousness; therefore, if we desire our own
foulness to be changed into the holiness which shall see God, we must
go to Jesus Christ. Grace reigns in life, but it is life through
righteousness, which is through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So, then, brother, my message and my petition to each of you
are--knit yourself to Him by faith in Him. Then He who is 'full of
grace and truth' will come to you; and, coming, will bring in His
hands righteousness and life eternal. If only we rest ourselves on
Him, and keep ourselves close in touch with Him; then we shall be
delivered from the tyranny of the darkness, and translated into the
Kingdom of the Son of His love.



'THE FORM OF TEACHING'

   '... Ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine
   which was delivered you.'--ROMANS vi. 17.


There is room for difference of opinion as to what Paul precisely
means by 'form' here. The word so rendered appears in English as
_type_, and has a similar variety of meaning. It signifies
originally a mark made by pressure or impact; and then, by natural
transitions, a _mould_, or more generally a _pattern_ or _example_,
and then the copy of such an example or pattern, or the cast from
such a mould. It has also the other meaning which its English
equivalent has taken on very extensively of late years, such as, for
instance, you find in expressions like 'An English type of face,'
meaning thereby the general outline which preserves the
distinguishing characteristics of a thing. Now we may choose between
these two meanings in our text. If the Apostle means type in the
latter sense of the word, then the rendering 'form' is adequate, and
he is thinking of the Christian teaching which had been given to the
Roman Christians as possessing certain well-defined characteristics
which distinguished it from other kinds of teaching--such, for
instance, as Jewish or heathen.

But if we take the other meaning, then he is, in true Pauline
fashion, bringing in a vivid and picturesque metaphor to enforce his
thought, and is thinking of the teaching which the Roman Christians
had received as being a kind of mould into which they were thrown, a
pattern to which they were to be conformed. And that that is his
meaning seems to me to be made a little more probable by the fact
that the last words of my text would be more accurate if inverted,
and instead of reading, as the Authorised Version does, 'that form of
doctrine which was delivered you,' we were to read, as the Revised
Version does, 'that form whereunto ye were delivered.'

If this be the general meaning of the words before us, there are
three thoughts arising from them to which I turn briefly. First,
Paul's Gospel was a definite body of teaching; secondly, that
teaching is a mould for conduct and character; lastly, that teaching
therefore demands obedience. Take, then, these three thoughts.

I. First, Paul's Gospel was a definite body of teaching.

Now the word 'doctrine,' which is employed in my text, has, in the
lapse of years since the Authorised Version was made, narrowed its
significance. At the date of our Authorised translation 'doctrine'
was probably equivalent to 'teaching,' of whatever sort it might be.
Since then it has become equivalent to a statement of abstract
principles, and that is not at all what Paul means. He does not mean
to say that his gospel was a form of doctrine in the sense of being a
theological system, but he means to say that it was a body of
teaching, the nature of the teaching not being defined at all by the
word. Therefore we have to notice that the great, blessed peculiarity
of the Gospel is that it is a teaching, not of abstract dry
principles, but of concrete historical facts. From these principles
in plenty may be gathered, but in its first form as it comes to men
fresh from God it is not a set of propositions, but a history of
deeds that were done upon earth. And, therefore, is it fitted to be
the food of every soul and the mould of every character.

Jesus Christ did not come and talk to men about God, and say to them
what His Apostles afterwards said, 'God is love,' but He lived and
died, and that mainly was His teaching about God. He did not come to
men and lay down a theory of atonement or a doctrine of propitiation,
or theology about sin and its relations to God, but He went to the
Cross and gave Himself for us, and that was His teaching about
sacrifice. He did not say to men 'There is a future life, and it is
of such and such a sort,' but He came out of the grave and He said
'Touch Me, and handle Me. A spirit hath not flesh and bones,' and
_therefore_ He brought life and immortality to light, by no empty
words but by the solid realities of facts. He did not lecture upon
ethics, but He lived a perfect human life out of which all moral
principles that will guide human conduct may be gathered. And so,
instead of presenting us with a _hortus siccus_, with a botanic
collection of scientifically arranged and dead propositions, He led
us into the meadow where the flowers grow, living and fair. His life
and death, with all that they imply, are the teaching.

Let us not forget, on the other hand, that the history of a fact is
not the mere statement of the outward thing that has happened.
Suppose four people, for instance, standing at the foot of Christ's
Cross; four other 'evangelists' than the four that we know. There is
a Roman soldier; there is a Pharisee; there is one of the weeping
crowd of poor women, not disciples; and there is a disciple. The
first man tells the fact as he saw it: 'A Jewish rebel was crucified
this morning.' The second man tells the fact: 'A blaspheming apostate
suffered what he deserved to-day.' The woman tells the fact: 'A poor,
gentle, fair soul was martyred to-day.' And the fourth one tells the
fact: 'Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for our sins.' The three
tell the same fact; the fourth preaches the Gospel--that is to say,
Christian teaching is the facts plus their explanation; and it is
that which differentiates it from the mere record which is of no
avail to anybody. So Paul himself in one of his other letters puts
it. This is his gospel: Jesus of Nazareth 'died for _our_ sins
according to the Scriptures, and He was buried, and rose again the
third day, according to the Scriptures.' That is what turns the bald
story of the facts into teaching, which is the mould for life.

So on the one hand, dear brethren, do not let us fall into the
superficial error of fancying that our religion is a religion of
emotion and morality only. It is a religion with a basis of divine
truth, which, being struck away, all the rest goes. There is a revolt
against dogma to-day, a revolt which in large measure is justified as
an essential of progress, and in large measure as an instance of
progress; but human nature is ever prone to extremes, and in the
revolt from man's dogma there is danger of casting away God's truth.
Christianity is not preserved when we hold by the bare facts of the
outward history, unless we take with these facts the interpretation
of them, which declares the divinity and the sacrifice of the Son of
God.

And on the other hand, let us keep very clear in our minds the broad
and impassable gulf of separation between the Christian teaching as
embodied in the Scripture and the systems which Christianity has
evolved therefrom. Men's intellects must work upon the pabulum that
is provided for them, and a theology in a systematised form is a
necessity for the intellectual and reasonable life of the Christian
Church. But there is all the difference between man's inferences from
and systematising of the Christian truth and the truth that lies
here. The one is the golden roof that is cast over us; the other is
too often but the spiders' webs that are spun across and darken its
splendour. It is a sign of a wholesome change in the whole sentiment
and attitude of the modern Christian mind that the word 'doctrine,'
which has come to mean men's inferences from God's truth, should have
been substituted as it has been in our Revised Version of my text, by
the wholesome Christian word 'teaching.' The teaching is the facts
with the inspired commentary on them.

II. Secondly, notice that this teaching is in Paul's judgment a mould
or pattern according to which men's lives are to be conformed.

There can be no question but that, in that teaching as set forth in
Scripture, there does lie the mightiest formative power for shaping
our lives, and emancipating us from our evil.

Christ is _the_ type, the mould into which men are to be cast.
The Gospel, as presented in Scripture, gives us three things. It
gives us the perfect mould; it gives us the perfect motive; it gives
us the perfect power. And in all three things appears its distinctive
glory, apart from and above all other systems that have ever tried to
affect the conduct or to mould the character of man.

In Jesus Christ we have in due combination, in perfect proportion,
all the possible excellences of humanity. As in other cases of
perfect symmetry, the very precision of the balanced proportions
detracts from the apparent magnitude of the statue or of the fair
building, so to a superficial eye there is but little beauty there
that we should desire Him, but as we learn to know Him, and live
nearer to Him, and get more familiar with all His sweetness, and with
all His power, He towers before us in ever greater and yet never
repellent or exaggerated magnitude, and never loses the reality of
His brotherhood in the completeness of His perfection. We have in the
Christ the one type, the one mould and pattern for all striving, the
'glass of form,' the perfect Man.

And that likeness is not reproduced in us by pressure or by a blow,
but by the slow and blessed process of gazing until we become like,
beholding the glory until we are changed into the glory.

It is no use having a mould and metal unless you have a fire. It is
no use having a perfect Pattern unless you have a motive to copy it.
Men do not go to the devil for want of examples; and morality is not
at a low ebb by reason of ignorance of what the true type of life is.
But nowhere but in the full-orbed teaching of the New Testament will
you find a motive strong enough to melt down all the obstinate
hardness of the 'northern iron' of the human will, and to make it
plastic to His hand. If we can say, 'He loved me and gave Himself for
me' then the sum of all morality, the old commandment that 'ye love
one another' receives a new stringency, and a fresh motive as well as
a deepened interpretation, when His love is our pattern. The one
thing that will make men willing to be like Christ is their faith
that Christ is their Sacrifice and their Saviour. And sure I am of
this, that no form of mutilated Christianity, which leaves out or
falteringly proclaims the truth that Christ died on the Cross for the
sins of the world, will ever generate heat enough to mould men's
wills, or kindle motives powerful enough to lead to a life of growing
imitation of and resemblance to Him. The dial may be all right, the
hours most accurately marked in their proper places, every minute
registered on the circle, the hands may be all right, delicately
fashioned, truly poised, but if there is no main-spring inside, dial
and hands are of little use, and a Christianity which says, 'Christ
is the Teacher; do you obey Him?' is as impotent as the dial face
with the broken main-spring. What we need, and what, thank God, in
'the teaching' we have, is the pattern brought near to us, and the
motive for imitating the pattern, set in motion by the great thought,
'He loved me and gave Himself for me.'

Still further, the teaching is a power to fashion life, inasmuch as
it brings with it a gift which secures the transformation of the
believer into the likeness of his Lord. Part of 'the teaching' is the
fact of Pentecost; part of the teaching is the fact of the Ascension;
and the consequence of the Ascension and the sure promise of the
Pentecost is that all who love Him, and wait upon Him, shall receive
into their hearts the 'Spirit of life in Christ Jesus' which shall
make them free from the law of sin and death.

So, dear friends, on the one hand, let us remember that our religion
is meant to work, that we have nothing in our creed that should not
be in our character, that all our _credenda_ are to be our _agenda_;
everything _believed_ to be something _done_; and that if we content
ourselves with the simple acceptance of the teaching, and make no
effort to translate that teaching into life, we are hypocrites or
self-deceivers.

And, on the other hand, do not let us forget that religion is the
soul of which morality is the body, and that it is impossible in the
nature of things that you shall ever get a true, lofty, moral life
which is not based upon religion. I do not say that men cannot be
sure of the outlines of their duty without Christianity, though I am
free to confess that I think it is a very maimed and shabby version
of human duty, which is supplied, minus the special revelation of
that duty which Christianity makes; but my point is, that the
knowledge will not work without the Gospel.

The Christian type of character is a distinct and manifestly separate
thing from the pagan heroism or from the virtues and the
righteousnesses of other systems. Just as the musician's ear can
tell, by half a dozen bars, whether that strain was Beethoven's, or
Handel's, or Mendelssohn's, just as the trained eye can see
Raffaelle's magic in every touch of his pencil, so Christ, the
Teacher, has a style; and all the scholars of His school carry with
them a certain mark which tells where they got their education and
who is their Master, if they are scholars indeed. And that leads me
to the last word.

III. This mould demands obedience.

By the very necessity of things it is so. If the 'teaching' was but a
teaching of abstract truths it would be enough to assent to them. I
believe that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right
angles, and I have done my duty by that proposition when I have said
'Yes! it is so.' But the 'teaching' which Jesus Christ gives and
_is_, needs a good deal more than that. By the very nature of the
teaching, assent drags after it submission. You can please yourself
whether you let Jesus Christ into your minds or not, but if you
do let Him in, He will be Master. There is no such thing as taking
Him in and not obeying.

And so the requirement of the Gospel which we call faith has in it
quite as much of the element of obedience as of the element of trust.
And the presence of that element is just what makes the difference
between a sham and a real faith. 'Faith which has not works is dead,
being alone.' A faith which is all trust and no obedience is neither
trust nor obedience.

And that is why so many of us do not care to yield ourselves to the
faith that is in Jesus Christ. If it simply came to us and said, 'If
you will trust Me you will get pardon,' I fancy there would be a good
many more of us honest Christians than are so. But Christ comes and
says, 'Trust Me, follow Me, and take Me for your Master; and be like
Me,' and one's will kicks, and one's passions recoil, and a thousand
of the devil's servants within us prick their ears up and stiffen
their backs in remonstrance and opposition. 'Submit' is Christ's
first word; submit by faith, submit in love.

That heart obedience, which is the requirement of Christianity, means
freedom. The Apostle draws a wonderful contrast in the context
between the slavery to lust and sin, and the freedom which comes from
obedience to God and to righteousness. Obey the Truth, and the Truth,
in your obeying, shall make you free, for freedom is the willing
submission to the limitations which are best. 'I will walk at liberty
for I keep Thy precepts.' Take Christ for your Master, and, being His
servants, you are your own masters, and the world's to boot. For 'all
things are yours if ye are Christ's.' Refuse to bow your necks to
that yoke which is easy, and to take upon your shoulders that burden
which is light, and you do not buy liberty, though you buy
licentiousness, for you become the slaves and downtrodden vassals of
the world and the flesh and the devil, and while you promise
yourselves liberty, you become the bondsmen of corruption. Oh! then,
let us obey from the heart that mould of teaching to which we are
delivered, and so obeying, we shall be free indeed.



'THY FREE SPIRIT'

   'The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made
   me free from the law of sin and death.'--ROMANS viii. 2.


We have to distinguish two meanings of law. In the stricter sense, it
signifies the authoritative expressions of the will of a ruler
proposed for the obedience of man; in the wider, almost figurative
sense, it means nothing more than the generalised expression of
constant similar facts. For instance, objects attract one another in
certain circumstances with a force which in the same circumstances is
always the same. When that fact is stated generally, we get the law
of gravitation. Thus the word comes to mean little more than a
regular process. In our text the word is used in a sense much nearer
the latter than the former of these two. 'The law of sin and of
death' cannot mean a series of commandments; it certainly does not
mean the Mosaic law. It must either be entirely figurative, taking
sin and death as two great tyrants who domineer over men; or it must
mean the continuous action of these powers, the process by which they
work. These two come substantially to the same idea. The law of sin
and of death describes a certain constancy of operation, uniform and
fixed, under the dominion of which men are struggling. But there is
another constancy of operation, uniform and fixed too, a mighty
antagonistic power, which frees from the dominion of the former: it
is 'the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.'

I. The bondage.

The Apostle is speaking about himself as he was, and we have our own
consciousness to verify his transcript of his own personal experience.
Paul had found that, by an inexorable iron sequence, sin
worked in himself the true death of the soul, in separation from God,
in the extinction of good and noble capacities, in the atrophying of
all that was best in himself, in the death of joy and peace. And this
iron sequence he, with an eloquent paradox, calls a 'law,' though its
very characteristic is that it is lawless transgression of the true
law of humanity. He so describes it, partly, because he would place
emphasis on its dominion over us. Sin rules with iron sway; men madly
obey it, and even when they think themselves free, are under a bitter
tyranny. Further, he desires to emphasise the fact that sin and death
are parts of one process which operates constantly and uniformly.
This dark anarchy and wild chaos of disobedience and transgression
has its laws. All happens there according to rule. Rigid and
inevitable as the courses of the stars, or the fall of the leaf from
the tree, is sin hurrying on to its natural goal in death. In this
fatal dance, sin leads in death; the one fair spoken and full of
dazzling promises, the other in the end throws off the mask, and
slays. It is true of all who listen to the tempting voice, and the
deluded victim 'knows not that the dead are there, and that her
guests are in the depth of hell.'

II. The method of deliverance.

The previous chapter sounded the depths of human impotence, and
showed the tragic impossibility of human efforts to strip off the
poisoned garment. Here the Apostle tells the wonderful story of how
he himself was delivered, in the full rejoicing confidence that what
availed for his emancipation would equally avail for every captived
soul. Because he himself has experienced a divine power which breaks
the dreadful sequence of sin and of death, he knows that every soul
may share in the experience. No mere outward means will be sufficient
to emancipate a spirit; no merely intellectual methods will avail to
set free the passions and desires which have been captured by sin. It
is vain to seek deliverance from a perverted will by any
republication, however emphatic, of a law of duty. Nothing can touch
the necessities of the case but a gift of power which becomes an
abiding influence in us, and develops a mightier energy to overcome
the evil tendencies of a sinful soul.

That communicated power must impart life. Nothing short of a Spirit
of life, quick and powerful, with an immortal and intense energy,
will avail to meet the need. Such a Spirit must give the life which
it possesses, must quicken and bring into action dormant powers in
the spirit that it would free. It must implant new energies and
directions, new motives, desires, tastes, and tendencies. It must
bring into play mightier attractions to neutralise and deaden
existing ones; as when to some chemical compound a substance is added
which has a stronger affinity for one of the elements, a new thing is
made.

Paul's experience, which he had a right to cast into general terms
and potentially to extend to all mankind, had taught him that such a
new life for such a spirit had come to him by union with Jesus
Christ. Such a union, deep and mystical as it is, is, thank God, an
experience universal in all true Christians, and constitutes the very
heart of the Gospel which Paul rejoiced to believe was entrusted to
his hands for the world. His great message of 'Christ in us' has been
wofully curtailed and mangled when his other message of 'Christ for
us' has been taken, as it too often has been, to be the whole of his
Gospel. They who take either of these inseparable elements to be the
whole, rend into two imperfect halves the perfect oneness of the
Gospel of Christ.

We are often told that Paul was the true author of Christian
doctrine, and are bidden to go back from him to Jesus. If we do so,
we hear His grave sweet voice uttering in the upper-room the deep
words, 'I am the Vine, ye are the branches'; and, surely, Paul is but
repeating, without metaphor, what Christ, once for all, set forth in
that lovely emblem, when he says that 'the law of the Spirit of life
in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.' The
branches in their multitude make the Vine in its unity, and the sap
which rises from the deep root through the brown stem, passes to
every tremulous leaf, and brings bloom and savour into every cluster.
Jesus drew His emblem from the noblest form of vegetative life; Paul,
in other places, draws his from the highest form of bodily life, when
he points to the many members in one body, and the Head which governs
all, and says, 'So also is Christ.' In another place he points to the
noblest form of earthly love and unity. The blessed fellowship and
sacred oneness of husband and wife are an emblem sweet, though
inadequate, of the fellowship in love and unity of spirit between
Christ and His Church.

And all this mysterious oneness of life has an intensely practical
side. In Jesus, and by union with Him, we receive a power that
delivers from sin and arrests the stealthy progress of sin's
follower, death. Love to Him, the result of fellowship with Him, and
the consequence of life received from Him, becomes the motive which
makes the redeemed heart delight to do His will, and takes all the
power out of every temptation. We are in Him, and He in us, on
condition, and by means, of our humble faith; and because my faith
thus knits me to Him it is 'the victory that overcomes the world' and
breaks the chains of many sins. So this communion with Jesus Christ
is the way by which we shall increase that triumphant spiritual life,
which is the only victorious antagonist of the else inevitable
consequence which declares that the 'soul that sinneth it shall die,'
and die even in sinning.

III. The process of the deliverance.

Following the R.V. we read 'made me free,' not 'hath made me.' The
reference is obviously, as the Greek more clearly shows, to a single
historical event, which some would take to be the Apostle's baptism,
but which is more properly supposed to be his conversion. His strong
bold language here does not mean that he claims to be sinless. The
emancipation is effected, although it is but begun. He holds that at
that moment when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, and
he yielded to Him as Lord, his deliverance was real, though not
complete. He was conscious of a real change of position in reference
to that law of sin and of death. Paul distinguishes between the true
self and the accumulation of selfish and sensual habits which make up
so much of ourselves. The deeper and purer self may be vitalised in
will and heart, and set free even while the emancipation is not
worked out in the life. The parable of the leaven applies in the
individual renewal; and there is no fanaticism, and no harm, in
Paul's point of view, if only it be remembered that sins by which
passion and externals overbear my better self are mine in
responsibility and in consequences. Thus guarded, we may be wholly
right in thinking of all the evils which still cleave to the
renewed Christian soul as not being part of it, but destined to drop
away.

And this bold declaration is to be vindicated as a prophetic
confidence in the supremacy and ultimate dominion of the new power
which works even through much antagonism in an imperfect Christian.
Paul, too, calls 'things that are not as though they were.' If my
spirit of life is the 'Spirit of life in Christ,' it will go on to
perfection. It is Spirit, therefore it is informing and conquering
the material; it is a divine Spirit, therefore it is omnipotent; it
is the Spirit of life, leading in and imparting life like itself,
which is kindred with it and is its source; it is the Spirit of life
in Christ, therefore leading to life like His, bringing us to
conformity with Him because the same causes produce the same effects;
it is a life in Christ having a law and regular orderly course of
development. So, just as if we have the germ we may hope for fruit,
and can see the infantile oak in the tightly-shut acorn, or in the
egg the creature which shall afterwards grow there, we have in this
gift of the Spirit, the victory. If we have the cause, we have the
effects implicitly folded in it; and we have but to wait further
development.

The Christian life is to be one long effort, partial, and gradual, to
unfold the freedom possessed. Paul knew full well that his
emancipation was not perfect. It was, probably, after this triumphant
expression of confidence that he wrote, 'Not as though I had already
attained, either were already perfect.' The first stage is the gift
of power, the appropriation and development of that power is the work
of a life; and it ought to pass through a well-marked series and
cycle of growing changes. The way to develop it is by constant
application to the source of all freedom, the life-giving Spirit, and
by constant effort to conquer sins and temptations. There is no such
thing in the Christian conflict as a painless development. We must
mortify the deeds of the body if we are to live in the Spirit. The
Christian progress has in it the nature of a crucifixion. It is to be
effort, steadily directed for the sake of Christ, and in the joy of
His Spirit, to destroy sin, and to win practical holiness. Homely
moralities are the outcome and the test of all pretensions to
spiritual communion.

We are, further, to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord, by
'waiting for the Redemption,' which is not merely passive waiting,
but active expectation, as of one who stretches out a welcoming hand
to an approaching friend. Nor must we forget that this accomplished
deliverance is but partial whilst upon earth. 'The body is dead
because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness.' But
there may be indefinite approximation to complete deliverance. The
metaphors in Scripture under which Christian progress is described,
whether drawn from a conflict or a race, or from a building, or from
the growth of a tree, all suggest the idea of constant advance
against hindrances, which yet, constant though it is, does not reach
the goal here. And this is our noblest earthly condition--not to be
pure, but to be tending towards it and conscious of impurity. Hence
our tempers should be those of humility, strenuous effort, firm hope.
We are as slaves who have escaped, but are still in the wilderness,
with the enemies' dogs baying at our feet; but we shall come to the
land of freedom, on whose sacred soil sin and death can never tread.



CHRIST CONDEMNING SIN

   'For what the law could not do, in that it was weak
   through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the
   likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin
   in the flesh.'--ROMANS viii. 3.


In the first verse of this chapter we read that 'There is no
condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.' The reason of that
is, that they are set free from the terrible sequence of cause and
effect which constitutes 'the law of sin and death'; and the reason
why they are freed from that awful sequence by the power of Christ
is, because He has 'condemned sin in the flesh.' The occurrence of
the two words 'condemnation' (ver. 1) and 'condemned' (ver. 3) should
be noted. Sin is personified as dwelling in the flesh, which
expression here means, not merely the body, but unregenerate human
nature. He has made his fortress there, and rules over it all. The
strong man keeps his house and his goods are in peace. He laughs to
scorn the attempts of laws and moralities of all sorts to cast him
out. His dominion is death to the human nature over which he
tyrannises. Condemnation is inevitable to the men over whom he rules.
They or he must perish. If he escape they die. If he could be slain
they might live. Christ comes, condemns the tyrant, and casts him
out. So, he being condemned, we are acquitted; and he being slain
there is no death for us. Let us try to elucidate a little further
this great metaphor by just pondering the two points prominent in
it--Sin tyrannising over human nature and resisting all attempts to
overcome it, and Christ's condemnation and casting out of the tyrant.

I. Sin tyrannising over human nature, and resisting all attempts to
overcome it.

Paul is generalising his own experience when he speaks of the
condemnation of an intrusive alien force that holds unregenerate
human nature in bondage. He is writing a page of his own
autobiography, and he is sure that all the rest of us have like pages
in ours. Heart answereth unto heart as in a mirror. If each man is a
unity, the poison must run through all his veins and affect his whole
nature. Will, understanding, heart, must all be affected and each in
its own way by the intruder; and if men are a collective whole, each
man's experience is repeated in his brother's.

The Apostle is equally transcribing his own experience when in the
text he sadly admits the futility of all efforts to shake the
dominion of sin. He has found in his own case that even the loftiest
revelation in the Mosaic law utterly fails in the attempt to condemn
sin. This is true not only in regard to the Mosaic law but in regard
to the law of conscience, and to moral teachings of any kind. It is
obvious that all such laws do condemn sin in the sense that they
solemnly declare God's judgment about it, and His sentence on it; but
in the sense of real condemnation, or casting out, and depriving sin
of its power, they all are impotent. The law may deter from overt
acts or lead to isolated acts of obedience; it may stir up antagonism
to sin's tyranny, but after that it has no more that it can do. It
cannot give the purity which it proclaims to be necessary, nor create
the obedience which it enjoins. Its thunders roll terrors, and no
fruitful rain follows them to soften the barren soil. There always
remains an unbridged gulf between the man and the law.

And this is what Paul points to in saying that it 'was weak through
the flesh.' It is good in itself, but it has to work through the
sinful nature. The only powers to which it can appeal are those which
are already in rebellion. A discrowned king whose only forces to
conquer his rebellious subjects are the rebels themselves, is not
likely to regain his crown. Because law brings no new element into
our humanity, its appeal to our humanity has little more effect than
that of the wind whistling through an archway. It appeals to
conscience and reason by a plain declaration of what is right; to
will and understanding by an exhibition of authority; to fears and
prudence by plainly setting forth consequences. But what is to be
done with men who know what is right but have no wish to do it, who
believe that they ought but will not, who know the consequences but
'choose rather the pleasures of sin for a season,' and shuffle the
future out of their minds altogether? This is the essential weakness
of all law. The tyrant is not afraid so long as there is no one
threatening his reign, but the unarmed herald of a discrowned king.
His citadel will not surrender to the blast of the trumpet blown from
Sinai.

II. Christ's condemnation and casting out of the tyrant.

The Apostle points to a triple condemnation.

'In the likeness of sinful flesh,' Jesus condemns sin by His own
perfect life. That phrase, 'the likeness of the flesh of sin,'
implies the real humanity of Jesus, and His perfect sinlessness; and
suggests the first way in which He condemns sin in the flesh. In His
life He repeats the law in a higher fashion. What the one spoke in
words the other realised in 'loveliness of perfect deeds'; and all men
own that example is the mightiest preacher of righteousness, and
that active goodness draws to itself reverence and sways men to
imitate. But that life lived in human nature gives a new hope of the
possibilities of that nature even in us. The dream of perfect beauty
'in the flesh' has been realised. What the Man Christ Jesus was, He
was that we may become. In the very flesh in which the tyrant rules,
Jesus shows the possibility and the loveliness of a holy life.

But this, much as it is, is not all. There is another way in which
Christ condemns sin in the flesh, and that is by His perfect
sacrifice. To this also Paul points in the phrase, 'the flesh of
sin.' The example of which we have been speaking is much, but it is
weak for the very same reason for which law is weak--that it operates
only through our nature as it is; and that is not enough. Sin's hold
on man is twofold--one that it has perverted his relation to God, and
another that it has corrupted his nature. Hence there is in him
a sense of separation from God and a sense of guilt. Both of these not
only lead to misery, but positively tend to strengthen the dominion
of sin. The leader of the mutineers keeps them true to him by
reminding them that the mutiny laws decree death without mercy. Guilt
felt may drive to desperation and hopeless continuance in wrong. The
cry, 'I am so bad that it is useless to try to be better,' is often
heard. Guilt stifled leads to hardening of heart, and sometimes to
desire and riot. Guilt slurred over by some easy process of
absolution may lead to further sin. Similarly separation from God is
the root of all evil, and thoughts of Him as hard and an enemy,
always lead to sin. So if the power of sin in the past must be
cancelled, the sense of guilt must be removed, and the wall of
partition between man and God thrown down. What can law answer to
such a demand? It is silent; it can only say, 'What is written is
written.' It has no word to speak that promises 'the blotting out of
the handwriting that is against us'; and through its silence one can
hear the mocking laugh of the tyrant that keeps his castle.

But Christ has come 'for sin'; that is to say His Incarnation and
Death had relation to, and had it for their object to remove, human
sin. He comes to blot out the evil, to bring God's pardon. The
recognition of His sacrifice supplies the adequate motive to copy His
example, and they who see in His death God's sacrifice for man's sin,
cannot but yield themselves to Him, and find in obedience a delight.
Love kindled at His love makes likeness and transmutes the outward
law into an inward 'spirit of life in Christ Jesus.'

Still another way by which God 'condemns sin in the flesh' is pointed
to by the remaining phrase of our text, 'sending His own Son.' In the
beginning of this epistle Jesus is spoken of as 'being declared to be
the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness'; and
we must connect that saying with our text, and so think of Christ's
bestowal of His perfect gift to humanity of the Spirit which
sanctifies as being part of His condemnation of sin in the flesh.
Into the very region where the tyrant rules, the Son of God
communicates a new nature which constitutes a real new power. The
Spirit operates on all our faculties, and redeems them from the
bondage of corruption. All the springs in the land are poisoned; but
a new one, limpid and pure, is opened. By the entrance of the Spirit
of holiness into a human spirit, the usurper is driven from the
central fortress: and though he may linger in the outworks and keep
up a guerilla warfare, that is all that he can do. We never truly
apprehend Christ's gift to man until we recognise that He not merely
'died for our sins,' but lives to impart the principle of holiness in
the gift of His Spirit. The dominion of that imparted Spirit is
gradual and progressive. The Canaanite may still be in the land, but
a growing power, working in and through us, is warring against all in
us that still owns allegiance to that alien power, and there can be
no end to the victorious struggle until the whole body, soul, and
spirit, be wholly under the influence of the Spirit that dwelleth in
us, and nothing shall hurt or destroy in what shall then be all God's
holy mountain.

Such is, in the most general terms, the statement of what Christ does
'for us'; and the question comes to be the all-important one for
each, Do I let Him do it for me? Remember the alternative. There must
either be condemnation for us, or for the sin that dwelleth in us.
There is no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus, because
there is condemnation for the sin that dwells in them. It must he
slain, or it will slay us. It must be cast out, or it will cast us
out from God. It must be separated from us, or it will separate us
from Him. We need not be condemned, but if it be not condemned, then
we shall be.



THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT

   'The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit,
   that we are the children of God.'--ROMANS viii. 18.


The sin of the world is a false confidence, a careless, complacent
taking for granted that a man is a Christian when he is not. The
fault, and sorrow, and weakness of the Church is a false diffidence,
an anxious fear whether a man be a Christian when he is. There are
none so far away from false confidence as those who tremble lest they
be cherishing it. There are none so inextricably caught in its toils
as those who are all unconscious of _its_ existence and of _their_
danger. The two things, the false confidence and the false
diffidence, are perhaps more akin to one another than they look at
first sight. Their opposites, at all events--the true confidence,
which is faith in Christ; and the true diffidence, which is utter
distrust of myself--are identical. But there may sometimes be, and
there often is, the combination of a real confidence and a false
diffidence, the presence of faith, and the doubt whether it be
present. Many Christians go through life with this as the prevailing
temper of their minds--a doubt sometimes arising almost to agony, and
sometimes dying down into passive patient acceptance of the condition
as inevitable--a doubt whether, after all, they be not, as they say,
'deceiving themselves'; and in the perverse ingenuity with which that
state of mind is constantly marked, they manage to distil for
themselves a bitter vinegar of self-accusation out of grand words in
the Bible, that were meant to afford them but the wine of gladness
and of consolation.

Now this great text which I have ventured to take--not with the idea
that I can exalt it or say anything worthy of it, but simply in the
hope of clearing away some misapprehensions--is one that has often
and often tortured the mind of Christians. They say of themselves, 'I
know nothing of any such evidence: I am not conscious of any Spirit
bearing witness with my spirit.' Instead of looking to other sources
to answer the question whether they are Christians or not--and then,
having answered it, thinking thus, 'That text asserts that _all_
Christians have this witness, therefore certainly I have it in some
shape or other,' they say to themselves, 'I do not feel anything that
corresponds with my idea of what such a grand, supernatural voice as
the witness of God's Spirit in my spirit must needs be; and therefore
I doubt whether I am a Christian at all.' I should be thankful if the
attempt I make now to set before you what seems to me to be the true
teaching of the passage, should be, with God's help, the means of
lifting some little part of the burden from some hearts that are
right, and that only long to know that they are, in order to be at
rest.

'The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the
children of God.' The general course of thought which I wish to leave
with you may be summed up thus: Our cry 'Father' is the witness that
we are sons. That cry is not simply ours, but it is the voice of
God's Spirit. The divine Witness in our spirits is subject to the
ordinary influences which affect our spirits.

Let us take these three thoughts, and dwell on them for a little
while.

I. Our cry 'Father' is the witness that we are sons.

Mark the terms of the passage: 'The Spirit itself beareth witness
_with_ our spirit--.' It is not so much a revelation made to my
spirit, considered as the recipient of the testimony, as a revelation
made in or with my spirit considered as co-operating in the
testimony. It is not that my spirit says one thing, bears witness
that I am a child of God; and that the Spirit of God comes in by a
distinguishable process, with a separate evidence, to say Amen to my
persuasion; but it is that there is one testimony which has a
conjoint origin--the origin from the Spirit of God as true source,
and the origin from my own soul as recipient and co-operant in that
testimony. From the teaching of this passage, or from any of the
language which Scripture uses with regard to the inner witness, it is
not to be inferred that there will rise up in a Christian's heart,
from some origin consciously beyond the sphere of his own nature, a
voice with which he has nothing to do; which at once, by its own
character, by something peculiar and distinguishable about it, by
something strange in its nature, or out of the ordinary course of
human thinking, shall certify itself to be not his voice at all, but
_God's_ voice. That is not the direction in which you are to
look for the witness of God's Spirit. It is evidence borne, indeed,
by the Spirit of God; but it is evidence borne not only to our
spirit, but through it, with it. The testimony is one, the testimony
of a man's own emotion, and own conviction, and own desire, the cry,
Abba, Father! So far, then, as the form of the evidence goes, you are
not to look for it in anything ecstatic, arbitrary, parted off
from your own experience by a broad line of demarcation; but you are
to look into the experience which at first sight you would claim most
exclusively for your own, and to try and find out whether
_there_ there be not working with your soul, working through it,
working beneath it, distinct from it but not distinguishable from it
by anything but its consequences and its fruitfulness--a deeper voice
than yours--a 'still small voice,'--no whirlwind, nor fire, nor
earthquake--but the voice of God speaking in secret, taking the voice
and tones of your own heart and your own consciousness, and saying to
you, 'Thou art my child, inasmuch as, operated by My grace, and Mine
inspiration alone, there rises, tremblingly but truly, in thine own
soul the cry, Abba, Father.'

So much, then, for the form of this evidence--my own conviction. Then
with regard to the substance of it: conviction of what? The text
itself does not tell us what is the evidence which the Spirit bears,
and by reason of which we have a right to conclude that we are the
children of God. The previous verse tells us. I have partially
anticipated what I have to say on that point, but it will bear a
little further expansion. 'Ye have not received the spirit of bondage
again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby
we cry Abba, Father.' 'The Spirit itself,' by this means of our cry,
Abba, Father, 'beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the
children of God.' The substance, then, of the conviction which is
lodged in the human spirit by the testimony of the Spirit of God is
not primarily directed to our relation or feelings to God, but to a
far grander thing than that--to God's feelings and relation to us.
Now I want you to think for one moment, before I pass on, how
entirely different the whole aspect of this witness of the Spirit of
which Christian men speak so much, and sometimes with so little
understanding, becomes according as you regard it mistakenly as being
the direct testimony to you that you are a child of God, or rightly
as being the direct testimony to you that God is your Father. The two
things seem to be the same, but they are not. In the one case, the
false case, the mistaken interpretation, we are left to this, that a
man has no deeper certainty of his condition, no better foundation
for his hope, than what is to be drawn from the presence or absence
of certain emotions within his own heart. In the other case, we are
admitted into this 'wide place,' that all which is our own is second
and not first, and that the true basis of all our confidence lies not
in the thought of what we are and feel to God, but in the thought of
what God is and feels to us. And instead, therefore, of being left to
labour for ourselves, painfully to search amongst the dust and
rubbish of our own hearts, we are taught to sweep away all that
crumbled, rotten surface, and to go down to the living rock that lies
beneath it; we are taught to say, in the words of the book of Isaiah,
'Doubtless Thou art our Father--we are all an unclean thing; our
iniquities, like the wind, have carried us away'; there is nothing
stable in us; our own resolutions, they are swept away like the chaff
of the summer threshing-floor, by the first gust of temptation; but
what of that?--'in those is continuance, and we shall be saved!' Ah,
brethren! expand this thought of the conviction that God is my
Father, as being the basis of all my confidence that I am His child,
into its widest and grandest form, and it leads us up to the blessed
old conviction, I am nothing, my holiness is nothing, my resolutions
are nothing, my faith is nothing, my energies are nothing; I stand
stripped, and barren, and naked of everything, and I fling myself out
of myself into the merciful arms of my Father in heaven! There is all
the difference in the world between searching for evidence of my
sonship, and seeking to get the conviction of God's Fatherhood. The
one is an endless, profitless, self-tormenting task; the other is the
light and liberty, the glorious liberty, of the children of God.

And so the _substance_ of the Spirit's evidence is the direct
conviction based on the revelation of God's infinite love and
fatherhood in Christ the Son, that God is my Father; from which
direct conviction I come to the conclusion, the inference, the second
thought, Then I may trust that I am His son. But why? Because of
anything in me? No: because of Him. The very emblem of fatherhood and
sonship might teach us that _that_ depends upon the Father's
will and the Father's heart. The Spirit's testimony has for form my
own conviction: and for substance my humble cry, 'Oh Thou, my Father
in heaven!' Brethren, is not that a far truer and nobler kind of
thing to preach than saying, Look into your own heart for strange,
extraordinary, distinguishable signs which shall mark you out as
God's child--and which are proved to be His Spirit's, because they
are separated from the ordinary human consciousness? Is it not far
more blessed for us, and more honouring to Him who works the sign,
when we say, that it is to be found in no out-of-rule, miraculous
evidence, but in the natural (which is in reality supernatural)
working of His Spirit in the heart which is its recipient, breeding
there the conviction that God is my Father? And oh, if I am speaking
to any to whom that text, with all its light and glory, has seemed to
lift them up into an atmosphere too rare and a height too lofty for
their heavy wings and unused feet, if I am speaking to any Christian
man to whom this word has been like the cherubim and flaming sword,
bright and beautiful, but threatening and repellent when it speaks of
a Spirit that bears witness with our spirit--I ask you simply to take
the passage for yourself, and carefully and patiently to examine it,
and see if it be not true what I have been saying, that your
trembling conviction--sister and akin as it is to your deepest
distrust and sharpest sense of sin and unworthiness--that your
trembling conviction of a love mightier than your own, everlasting
and all-faithful, is indeed the selectest sign that God can give you
that you _are_ His child. Oh, brethren and sisters! be
confident; for it is not false confidence: be confident if up from
the depths of that dark well of your own sinful heart there rises
sometimes, through all the bitter waters, unpolluted and separate, a
sweet conviction, forcing itself upward, that God hath love in His
heart, and that God is _my_ Father. Be confident; 'the Spirit
itself beareth witness with your spirit.'

II. And now, secondly, That cry is not simply ours, but it is the
voice of God's Spirit.

Our own convictions are ours because they are God's. Our own souls
possess these emotions of love and tender desire going out to
God--our own spirits possess them; but our own spirits did not
originate them. They are ours by property; they are His by source.
The spirit of a Christian man has no good thought in it, no true
thought, no perception of the grace of God's Gospel, no holy desire,
no pure resolution, which is not stamped with the sign of a higher
origin, and is not the witness of God's Spirit in his spirit. The
passage before us tells us that the sense of Fatherhood which is in
the Christian's heart, and becomes his cry, comes from God's Spirit.
This passage, and that in the Epistle to the Galatians which is
almost parallel, put this truth very forcibly, when taken in
connection. 'Ye have received,' says the text before us, 'the Spirit
of adoption, whereby _we_ cry, Abba, Father.' The variation in the
Epistle to the Galatians is this: 'Because ye are sons, God hath sent
forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, _crying_ (the Spirit
crying), Abba, Father.' So in the one text, the cry is regarded as
the voice of the believing heart; and in the other the same cry is
regarded as the voice of God's Spirit. And these two things are both
true; the one would want its foundation if it were not for the other;
the cry of the Spirit is nothing for me unless it be appropriated by
me. I do not need to plunge here into metaphysical speculation of any
sort, but simply to dwell upon the plain practical teaching of the
Bible--a teaching verified, I believe, by every Christian's
experience, if he will search into it--that everything in him which
makes the Christian life, is not his, but is God's by origin, and his
only by gift and inspiration. And the whole doctrine of my text is
built on this one thought--without the Spirit of God in your heart,
you never can recognise God as your Father. That in us which runs,
with love, and childlike faith, and reverence, to the place 'where
His honour dwelleth,' that in us which says 'Father,' is kindred with
God, and is not the simple, unhelped, unsanctified human nature.
There is no ascent of human desires above their source. And wherever
in a heart there springs up heavenward a thought, a wish, a prayer, a
trembling confidence, it is because that came down first from heaven,
and rises to seek its level again. All that is divine in man comes
from God. All that tends towards God in man is God's voice in the
human heart; and were it not for the possession and operation, the
sanctifying and quickening, of a living divine Spirit granted to us,
our souls would for ever cleave to the dust and dwell upon earth, nor
ever rise to God and live in the light of His presence. Every
Christian, then, may be sure of this, that howsoever feeble may be
the thought and conviction in his heart of God's Fatherhood, _he_ did
not work it, he received it only, cherished it, thought of it,
watched over it, was careful not to quench it; but in origin it was
God's, and it is now and ever the voice of the Divine Spirit in the
child's heart.

But, my friends, if this principle be true, it does not apply only to
this one single attitude of the believing soul when it cries, Abba,
Father; it must be widened out to comprehend the whole of a
Christian's life, outward and inward, which is not sinful and
darkened with actual transgression. To all the rest of his being, to
everything in heart and life which is right and pure, the same truth
applies. 'The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit' in every
perception of God's word which is granted, in every revelation of His
counsel which dawns upon our darkness, in every aspiration after Him
which lifts us above the smoke and dust of this dim spot, in every
holy resolution, in every thrill and throb of love and desire. Each
of these is mine--inasmuch as in my heart it is experienced and
transacted; it is mine, inasmuch as I am not a mere dead piece of
matter, the passive recipient of a magical and supernatural grace;
but it is God's; and therefore, and therefore only, has it come to be
mine!

And if it be objected, that this opens a wide door to all manner of
delusion, and that there is no more dangerous thing than for a man to
confound his own thoughts with the operations of God's Spirit, let me
just give you (following the context before us) the one guarantee and
test which the Apostle lays down. He says, 'There is a witness from
God in your spirits.' You may say, That witness, if it come in the
form of these convictions in my own heart, I may mistake and falsely
read. Well, then, here is an outward guarantee. 'As many as are led
by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God'; and so, on the
regions both of heart and of life the consecrating thought,--God's
work, and God's Spirit's work--is stamped. The heart with its love,
the head with its understanding, the conscience with its quick
response to the law of duty, the will with its resolutions,--these
are all, as sanctified by Him, the witness of His Spirit; and the
life with its strenuous obedience, with its struggles against sin and
temptation, with its patient persistence in the quiet path of
ordinary duty, as well as with the times when it rises into heroic
stature of resignation or allegiance, the martyrdom of death and the
martyrdom of life, this too is all (in so far as it is pure and
right) the work of that same Spirit. The test of the inward
conviction is the outward life; and they that have the witness of the
Spirit within them have the light of their life lit by the Spirit of
God, whereby they may read the handwriting on the heart, and be sure
that it is God's and not their own.

III. And now, lastly, this divine Witness in our spirits is subject
to the ordinary influences which affect our spirits.

The notion often prevails that if there be in the heart this divine
witness of God's Spirit, it must needs be perfect, clearly indicating
its origin by an exemption from all that besets ordinary human
feelings, that it must be a strong, uniform, never flickering, never
darkening, and perpetual light, a kind of vestal fire burning always
on the altar of the heart! The passage before us, and all others that
speak about the matter, give us the directly opposite notion. The
Divine Spirit, when it enters into the narrow room of the human
spirit, condescends to submit itself, not wholly, but to such an
extent as practically for our present purpose _is_ wholly to submit
itself to the ordinary laws and conditions and contingencies which
befall and regulate our own human nature. Christ came into the world
divine: He was 'found in fashion as a man,' in form a servant; the
humanity that He wore limited (if you like), regulated, modified, the
manifestation of the divinity that dwelt in it. And not otherwise is
the operation of God's Holy Spirit when it comes to dwell in a human
heart. There too, working through man, _it_ 'is found in fashion as a
man'; and though the origin of the conviction be of God, and though
the voice in my heart be not only my voice, but God's voice there, it
will obey those same laws which make human thoughts and emotions
vary, and fluctuate, flicker and flame up again, burn bright and burn
low, according to a thousand circumstances. The witness of the
Spirit, if it were yonder in heaven, would shine like a perpetual
star; the witness of the Spirit, here in the heart on earth, burns
like a flickering flame, never to be extinguished, but still not
always bright, wanting to be trimmed, and needing to be guarded from
rude blasts. Else, brother, what does an Apostle mean when he says to
you and me, 'Quench not the Spirit'? what does he mean when he says
to us, 'Grieve not the Spirit'? What does the whole teaching which
enjoins on us, 'Let your loins be girded about, and your lights
burning,' and 'What I say to you, I say to all, Watch!' mean, unless
it means this, that God-given as (God be thanked!) that conviction of
Fatherhood is, it is not given in such a way as that, irrespective of
our carefulness, irrespective of our watching, it shall burn on--the
same and unchangeable? The Spirit's witness comes from God, therefore
it is veracious, divine, omnipotent; but the Spirit's witness from
God is in man, therefore it may be wrongly read, it may be checked,
it may for a time be kept down, and prevented from showing itself to
be what it is.

And the practical conclusion that comes from all this, is just the
simple advice to you all: Do not wonder, in the first place, if that
evidence of which we speak, vary and change in its clearness and
force in your own hearts. 'The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and
the spirit against the flesh.' Do not think that it cannot be
genuine, because it is changeful. There is a sun in the heavens, but
there are heavenly lights too that wax and wane; they _are_ lights,
they _are_ in the heavens though they change. You have no reason,
Christian man, to be discouraged, cast down, still less despondent,
because you find that the witness of the Spirit changes and varies in
your heart. Do not despond because it does; watch it, and guard it,
lest it do; live in the contemplation of the Person and the fact that
calls it forth, that it may not. You will never 'brighten your
evidences' by polishing at them. To polish the mirror ever so
assiduously does not secure the image of the sun on its surface. The
only way to do that is to carry the poor bit of glass out into the
sunshine. It will shine then, never fear. It is weary work to labour
at self-improvement with the hope of drawing from our own characters
evidences that we are the sons of God. To have the heart filled with
the light of Christ's love to us is the only way to have the whole
being full of light. If you would have clear and irrefragable, for a
perpetual joy, a glory and a defence, the unwavering confidence, 'I
am Thy child,' go to God's throne, and lie down at the foot of it,
and let the first thought be, 'My Father in heaven,' and _that_
will brighten, that will stablish, that will make omnipotent in your
life the witness of the Spirit that you are the child of God.



SONS AND HEIRS

   'If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and
   joint-heirs with Christ.'--ROMANS viii. 17.


God Himself is His greatest gift. The loftiest blessing which we can
receive is that we should be heirs, possessors of God. There is a
sublime and wonderful mutual possession of which Scripture speaks
much wherein the Lord is the inheritance of Israel, and Israel is the
inheritance of the Lord. 'The Lord hath taken you to be to Him a
people of inheritance,' says Moses; 'Ye are a people for a
possession,' says Peter. And, on the other hand, 'The Lord is the
portion of my inheritance,' says David; 'Ye are heirs of God,' echoes
Paul. On earth and in heaven the heritage of the children of the Lord
is God Himself, inasmuch as He is with them for their delight, in
them to make them 'partakers of the divine nature,' and for them in
all His attributes and actions.

This being clearly understood at the outset, we shall be prepared to
follow the Apostle's course of thought while he points out the
conditions upon which the possession of that inheritance depends. It
is children of God who are heirs of God. It is by union with Christ
Jesus, the Son, to whom the inheritance belongs, that they who
believe on His name receive power to become the sons of God, and with
that power the possession of the inheritance. Thus, then, in this
condensed utterance of the text there appear a series of thoughts
which may perhaps be more fully unfolded in some such manner as the
following, that there is no inheritance without sonship, that there
is no sonship without a spiritual birth, that there is no spiritual
birth without Christ, and that there is no Christ for us without
faith.

I. First, then, the text tells us, no inheritance without sonship.

In general terms, spiritual blessings can only be given to those who
are in a certain spiritual condition. Always and necessarily the
capacity or organ of reception precedes and determines the bestowment
of blessings. The light falls everywhere, but only the eye drinks it
in. The lower orders of creatures are shut out from all participation
in the gifts which belong to the higher forms of life, simply because
they are so made and organised as that these cannot find entrance
into their nature. They are, as it were, walled up all round; and the
only door they have to communicate with the outer world is the door
of sense. Man has higher gifts simply because he has higher
capacities. All creatures are plunged in the same boundless ocean of
divine beneficence and bestowment, and into each there flows just
that, and no more, which each, by the make and constitution that God
has given it, is capable of receiving. In the man there are more
windows and doors opened out than in the animal He is capable of
receiving intellectual impulses, spiritual emotions; he can think,
and feel, and desire, and will, and resolve: and so he stands on a
higher level than the beast below him.

Not otherwise is it in regard to God's kingdom, 'which is
righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.' The gift and
blessing of salvation is primarily a spiritual gift, and only
involves outward consequences secondarily and subordinately. It
mainly consists in the heart being at peace with God, in the whole
soul being filled with divine affections, in the weight and bondage
of transgression being taken away, and substituted by the impulse and
the life of the new love. Therefore, neither God can give, nor man
can receive, that gift upon any other terms, than just this, that the
heart and nature be fitted and adapted for it. Spiritual blessings
require a spiritual capacity for the reception of them; or, as my
text says, you cannot have the inheritance unless you are sons. If
salvation consisted simply in a change of place; if it were merely
that by some expedient or arrangement, an outward penalty, which was
to fall or not to fall at the will of an arbitrary judge, were
prevented from coming down, why then, it would be open to Him who
held the power of letting the sword fall, to decide on what terms He
might choose to suspend its infliction. But inasmuch as God's
deliverance is not a deliverance from a mere arbitrary and outward
punishment: inasmuch as God's salvation, though it be deliverance
from the penalty as well as from the guilt of sin, is by no means
chiefly a deliverance from outward consequences, but mainly a
removal of the nature and disposition that makes these outward
consequences certain,--therefore a man cannot be saved, God's love
cannot save him, God's justice will not save him, God's power stands
back from saving him, upon any other condition than this that his
soul shall be adapted and prepared for the reception and enjoyment of
the blessing of a spiritual salvation.

But the inheritance which my text speaks about is also that which a
Christian hopes to receive and enter upon in heaven. The same
principle precisely applies there. There is no inheritance of heaven
without sonship; because all the blessings of that future life are of
a spiritual character. The joy and the rapture and the glory of that
higher and better life have, of course, connected with them certain
changes of bodily form, certain changes of local dwelling, certain
changes which could perhaps be granted equally to a man, of whatever
sort he was. But, friends, it is not the golden harps, not the
pavement of 'glass mingled with fire,' not the cessation from work,
not the still composure, and changeless indwelling, not the society
even, that makes the heaven of heaven. All these are but the
embodiments and rendering visible of the inward facts, a soul at
peace with God in the depths of its being, an eye which gazes upon
the Father, and a heart which wraps itself in His arms. Heaven is no
heaven except in so far as it is the possession of God. That saying
of the Psalmist is not an exaggeration, nor even a forgetting of the
other elements of future blessedness, but it is a simple statement of
the literal fact of the case, 'I have none in heaven but Thee!' God
is the heritage of His people. To dwell in His love, and to be filled
with His light, and to walk for ever in the glory of His
sunlit face, to do His will, and to bear His character stamped upon
our foreheads--_that_ is the glory and the perfectness to which
we are aspiring. Do not then rest in the symbols that show us, darkly
and far off, what that future glory is. Do not forget that the
picture is a shadow. Get beneath all these figurative expressions,
and feel that whilst it may be true that for us in our present
earthly state, there can be no higher, no purer, no more spiritual
nor any truer representations of the blessedness which is to come,
than those which couch it in the forms of earthly experience, and
appeal to sense as the minister of delight--yet that all these things
are representations, and not adequate presentations. The inheritance
of the servants of the Lord is the Lord Himself, and they dwell in
Him, and _there_ is their joy.

Well then, if that be even partially true--admitting all that you may
say about circumstances which go to make some portion of the
blessedness of that future life--if it be true that God is the true
blessing given by His Gospel upon earth, that He Himself is the
greatest gift that can be bestowed, and that He is the true Heaven of
heaven--what a flood of light does it cast upon that statement of my
text, 'If children, then heirs'; no inheritance without sonship! For
who can possess God but they who love Him? who can love, but they who
know His love? who can have Him working in their hearts a blessed and
sanctifying change, except the souls that lie thankfully quiet
beneath the forming touch of His invisible hand, and like flowers
drink in the light of His face in their still joy? How can God dwell
in any heart except a heart which has in it a love of purity? Where
can He make His temple except in the 'upright heart and pure'? How
can there be fellowship betwixt Him and any one except the man who is
a son because he hath received of the divine nature, and in whom that
divine nature is growing up into a divine likeness? 'What fellowship
hath Christ with Belial?' is not only applicable as a guide for our
practical life, but points to the principle on which God's
inheritance belongs to God's sons alone. 'Blessed are the pure in
heart, for they shall see God'; and those only who love, and are
children, to them alone does the Father come and does the Father
belong.

So much, then, for the first principle: No inheritance without
sonship.

II. Secondly, the text leads us to the principle that there is no
sonship without a spiritual birth.

The Apostle John in that most wonderful preface to his Gospel, where
all deepest truths concerning the Eternal Being in itself and in the
solemn march of His progressive revelations to the world are set
forth in language simple like the words of a child and inexhaustible
like the voice of a god, draws a broad distinction between the
relation to the manifestations of God which every human soul by
virtue of his humanity sustains, and that into which some, by virtue
of their faith, enter. Every man is lighted by the true light because
he is a man. They who believe in His name receive from Him the
prerogative to become the sons of God. Whatever else may be taught in
John's words, surely they do teach us this, that the sonship of which
he speaks does not belong to man as man, is not a relation into which
we are born by natural birth, that we _become_ sons after we
_are_ men, that those who become sons do not include all those
who are lighted by the Light, but consist of so many of that greater
number as receive Him, and that such become sons by a divine act, the
communication of a spiritual life, whereby they are born of God.

The same Apostle, in his Epistles, where the widest love is conjoined
with the most firmly drawn lines of moral demarcation between the
great opposites--life, light, love--death, darkness, hate--contrasts
in the most unmistakable antithesis the sons of God who are known for
such because they do righteousness, and the world which knew not
Christ, nor knows those who, dimly beholding, partially resemble Him.
Nay, he goes further, and says in strange contradiction to the
popular estimate of his character, but in true imitation of that
Incarnate love which hated iniquity, 'In this the children of God are
manifested and the children of the devil'--echoing thus the words of
Him whose pitying tenderness had sometimes to clothe itself in
sharpest words, even as His hand of powerful love had once to grasp
the scourge of small cords. 'If God were your Father, ye would love
Me: ye are of your father, the devil.'

These are but specimens of a whole cycle of Scripture statements
which in every form of necessary implication, and of direct
statement, set forth the principle that he who is born again of the
Spirit, and he only, is a son of God.

Nothing in all this contradicts the belief that all men are the
children of God, inasmuch as they are shaped by His divine hand and
He has breathed into their nostrils the breath of life. They who hold
that sonship is obtained on the condition which these passages seem
to assert, do also rejoice to believe and to preach that the Father's
love broods over every human heart as the dovelike Spirit over the
primeval chaos. They rejoice to proclaim that Christ has come that
all, that each, may receive the adoption of sons. They do not feel
that their message to, nor their hope for, the world is less blessed,
less wide, because while they call on all to come and take the things
that are freely given to them of God, they believe that those only
who do come and take possess the blessing. Every man may become a son
and heir of God by faith in Jesus Christ.

But notwithstanding all the mercies that belong to us all,
notwithstanding the divine beneficence, which, like the air and the
light, pervades all nature, and underlies all our lives,
notwithstanding the universal adaptation and intention of Christ's
work, notwithstanding the wooing of His tender voice and the
unceasing beckoning of His love, it still remains true that there are
men in the world, created by God, loved and cared for by Him, for
whom Christ died, who might be, but are not, sons of God.

Fatherhood! what does that word itself teach us? It speaks of the
communication of a life, and the reciprocity of love. It rests upon a
divine act, and it involves a human emotion. It involves that the
father and the child shall have kindred life--the father bestowing
and the child possessing a life which is derived; and because
derived, kindred; and because kindred, unfolding itself in likeness
to the father that gave it. And it requires that between the father's
heart and the child's heart there shall pass, in blessed interchange
and quick correspondence, answering love, flashing backwards and
forwards, like the lightning that touches the earth and rises from it
again. A simple appeal to your own consciousness will decide if that
be the condition of all men. Are you, my brother, conscious of
anything within you higher than the common life that belongs to you
because you are an immortal soul? Can you say, 'From God's hand I have
received the granting and implantation of a new and better life?' Is
your claim verified by this, that you are kindred with God in holy
affections, in like purposes, loving what He loves, hating what He
hates, doing what He wills, accepting what He sends, longing for
Himself, and blessed in His presence? Is your sonship proved by the
depth and sincerity, the simplicity and power, of your throbbing
heart of love to your Father in heaven? Or are all these emotions
empty words to you, things that are spoken in pulpits, but to which
you have nothing in your life corresponding? Oh then, my friend, what
am I to say to you? What but this? no sonship except by that
spiritual birth; and if not such sonship, then the spirit of bondage.
If not such sonship, why then, by all the tendencies of your nature,
and by all the affinities of your moral being, if you are not holding
of heaven, you are holding of hell; if you are not drawing your life,
your character, your emotions, your affections, from the sacred well
that lies up yonder, you are drawing them from the black one that
lies down there. There are heaven, hell, and the earth that lies
between, ever influenced either from above or from below. You are
sons because born again, or slaves and 'enemies by wicked works.' It
is a grim alternative, but it is a fact.

III. Thirdly, no spiritual birth without Christ.

We have seen that the sonship which gives power of possessing the
inheritance and which comes by spiritual birth, rests upon the giving
of life, spiritual life, from God; and unfolds itself in certain holy
characters, and affections, and desires, the throbbing of the whole
soul in full accord and harmony with the divine character and will.
Well then, it looks very clear that a man cannot make that new life
for himself, cannot do it because of the habit of sin, and cannot do
it because of the guilt and punishment of sin. If for sonship there
must be a birth again, why, surely, the very symbol might convince
you that such a process does not lie within our own power. There must
come down a divine leaven into the mass of human nature, before this
new being can be evolved in any one. There must be a gift of God. A
divine energy must be the source and fountain of all holy and of all
Godlike life. Christ comes, comes to make you and me live again as we
never lived before; live possessors of God's love; live tenanted and
ruled by a divine Spirit; live with affections in our hearts which
_we_ never could kindle there; live with purposes in our souls which
_we_ never could put there.

And I want to urge this thought, that the centre point of the Gospel
is this regeneration; because if we understand, as we are too much
disposed to do, that the Gospel simply comes to make men live better,
to work out a moral reformation,--why, there is no need for a Gospel
at all. If the change were a simple change of habit and action on the
part of men, we could do without a Christ. If the change simply
involved a bracing ourselves up to behave better for the future, we
could manage somehow or other about as well as or better than we have
managed in the past. But if redemption be the giving of life from
God; and if redemption be the change of position in reference to
God's love and God's law as well, neither of these two changes can a
man effect for himself. You cannot gather up the spilt water; you
cannot any more gather up and re-issue the past life. The sin
remains, the guilt remains. The inevitable law of God will go
on its crashing way in spite of all penitence, in spite of all
reformation, in spite of all desires after newness of life. There is
but one Being who can make a change in our position in regard to God,
and there is but one Being who can make the change by which man shall
become a 'new creature.' The Creative Spirit that shaped the earth
must shape its new being in my soul; and the Father against whose law
I have offended, whose love I have slighted, from whom I have turned
away, must effect the alteration that I can never effect--the
alteration in my position to His judgments and justice, and to the
whole sweep of His government. No new birth without Christ; no escape
from the old standing-place, of being 'enemies to God by wicked
works,' by anything that we can do: no hope of the inheritance unless
the Lord and the Man, the 'second Adam from heaven,' have come! He
_has_ come, and He has 'dwelt with us,' and He has worn this
life of ours, and He has walked in the midst of this world, and He
knows all about our human condition, and He has effected an actual
change in the possible aspect of the divine justice and government to
us; and He has carried in the golden urn of His humanity a new spirit
and a new life which He has set down in the midst of the race; and
the urn was broken on the cross of Calvary, and the water flowed out,
and whithersoever that water comes there is life, and whithersoever
it comes not there is death!

IV. Last of all, no Christ without faith.

It is not enough, brethren, that we should go through all these
previous steps, if we then go utterly astray at the end, by
forgetting that there is only one way by which we become partakers of
any of the benefits and blessings that Christ has wrought out. It is
much to say that for inheritance there must be sonship. It is much to
say that for sonship there must be a divine regeneration. It is much
to say that the power of this regeneration is all gathered together
in Christ Jesus. But there are plenty of people that would agree to
all that, who go off at that point, and content themselves with
_this_ kind of thinking--that in some vague mysterious way, they
know not how, in a sort of half-magical manner, the benefit of
Christ's death and work comes to all in Christian lands, whether
there be an act of faith or not! Now I am not going to talk theology
at present, at this stage of my sermon; but what I want to leave upon
all your hearts is this profound conviction,--Unless we are wedded to
Jesus Christ by the simple act of trust in His mercy and His power,
Christ is nothing to us. Do not let us, my friends, blink that
deciding test of the whole matter. We may talk about Christ for ever;
we may set forth aspects of His work, great and glorious. He may be
to us much that is very precious; but the one question, the question
of questions, on which everything else depends, is, Am I trusting to
Him as my divine Redeemer? am I resting in Him as the Son of God?
Some of us here now have a sort of nominal connection with Christ,
who have a kind of imaginative connection with Him; traditional,
ceremonial, by habit of thought, by attendance on public worship, and
by I know not what other means. Ceremonies are nothing, notions
are nothing, beliefs are nothing, formal participation in worship is
nothing. Christ is everything to him that trusts Him. Christ is
nothing but a judge and a condemnation to him who trusts Him not. And
here is the turning-point, Am I resting upon that Lord for my
salvation? If so, you can begin upon that step, the low one on which
you can put your foot, the humble act of faith, and with the foot
there, can climb up. If faith, then new birth; if new birth, then
sonship; if sonship, then an heir of God, and a joint-heir with
Christ.' But if you have not got your foot upon the lowest round of
the ladder, you will never come within sight of the blessed face of
Him who stands at the top of it, and who looks down to you at this
moment, saying to you, 'My child, _wilt_ thou not cry unto Me "Abba,
Father?"'



SUFFERING WITH CHRIST, A CONDITION OF GLORY WITH CHRIST

   '...Joint heirs with Christ: if so be that we suffer with
   Him, that we may be also glorified together.'--ROMANS viii. 17.


In the former part of this verse the Apostle tells us that in order
to be heirs of God, we must become sons through and joint-heirs with
Christ. He seems at first sight to add in these words of our text
another condition to those already specified, namely, that of
suffering with Christ.

Now, of course, whatever may be the operation of suffering in fitting
for the possession of the Christian inheritance, either here or in
another world, the sonship and the sorrows do not stand on the same
level in regard to that possession. The one is the indispensable
condition of all; the other is but the means for the operation of the
condition. The one--being sons, 'joint-heirs with Christ,'--is the
root of the whole matter; the other--the 'suffering with Him,'--is
but the various process by which from the root there come 'the blade,
and the ear, and the full corn in the ear.' Given the sonship--if it
is to be worked out into power and beauty, there must be suffering
with Christ. But unless there be sonship, there is no possibility of
inheriting God; discipline and suffering will be of no use at all.

The chief lesson which I wish to gather from this text now is that
all God's sons must suffer with Christ; and in addition to this
principle, we may complete our considerations by adding briefly, that
the inheritance must be won by suffering, and that if we suffer with
Him, we certainly shall receive the inheritance.

I. First, then, sonship with Christ necessarily involves suffering
with Him.

I think that we entirely misapprehend the force of this passage
before us, if we suppose it to refer principally or merely to the
outward calamities, what you call trials and afflictions, which
befall people, and see in it only the teaching, that the sorrows of
daily life may have in them a sign of our being children of God, and
some power to prepare us for the glory that is to come. There is a
great deal more in the thought than that, brethren. This is not
merely a text for people who are in affliction, but for all of us. It
does not merely contain a law for a certain part of life, but it
contains a law for the whole of life. It is not merely a promise that
in all our afflictions Christ will be afflicted, but it is a solemn
injunction that we seek to know 'the fellowship of His sufferings,
and be made conformable to the likeness of His death,' if we expect
to be 'found in the likeness of His Resurrection,' and to have any
share in the community of His glory. In other words, the foundation
of it is not that Christ shares in our sufferings; but that we, as
Christians, in a deep and real sense do necessarily share and
participate in Christ's. We 'suffer with Him'; _not_ He suffers
with us.

Now, do not let us misunderstand each other, or the Apostle's
teaching. Do not suppose that I am forgetting, or wishing you to
account as of small importance, the awful sense in which Christ's
suffering stands as a thing by itself and unapproachable, a solitary
pillar rising up, above the waste of time, to which all men
everywhere are to turn with the one thought, 'I can do nothing like
that; I need to do nothing like it; it has been done once, and once
for all; and what I have to do is, simply to lie down before Him, and
let the power and the blessings of that death and those sufferings
flow into my heart.' The Divine Redeemer makes eternal redemption.
The sufferings of Christ--the sufferings of His life, and the
sufferings of His death--both because of the nature which bore them,
and of the aspect which they wore in regard to us, are in their
source, in their intensity, in their character, and consequences,
unapproachable, incapable of repetition, and needing no repetition
whilst the world shall stand. But then, do not let us forget that the
very books and writers in the New Testament that preach most broadly
Christ's sole, all-sufficient, eternal redemption for the world by
His sufferings and death, turn round and say to us too, '"Be planted
together in the likeness of His death"; you are "crucified to the
world" by the Cross of Christ; you are to "fill up that which is
behind of the sufferings of Christ."' He Himself speaks of our
drinking of the cup that He drank of, and being baptized with the
baptism that He was baptized with, if we desire to sit yonder on His
throne, and share with Him in His glory.

Now what do the Apostles, and what does Christ Himself, in that
passage that I have quoted, mean, by such solemn words as these? Some
people shrink from them, and say that it is trenching upon the
central doctrine of the Gospel, when we speak about drinking of the
cup which Christ drank of. They ask, Can it be? Yes, it can be, if
you will think thus:--If a Christian has the Spirit and life of
Christ in him, his career will be moulded, imperfectly but really, by
the same Spirit that dwelt in his Lord; and similar causes will
produce corresponding effects. The life of Christ which--divine,
pure, incapable of copy and repetition--in one aspect has ended for
ever for men, remains to be lived, in another view of it, by every
Christian, who in like manner has to fight with the world; who in
like manner has to resist temptation; who in like manner has to
stand, by God's help, pure and sinless, in so far as the new nature
of him is concerned, in the midst of a world that is full of evil.
For were the sufferings of the Lord only the sufferings that were
wrought upon Calvary? Were the sufferings of the Lord only the
sufferings which came from the contradiction of sinners against
Himself? Were the sufferings of the Lord only the sufferings which
were connected with His bodily afflictions and pain, precious and
priceless as they were, and operative causes of our redemption as
they were? Oh no. Conceive of that perfect, sinless, really human
life, in the midst of a system of things that is all full of
corruption and of sin; coming ever and anon against misery, and
wrong-doing, and rebellion; and ask yourselves whether part of His
sufferings did not spring from the contact of the sinless Son of man
with a sinful world, and the apparently vain attempt to influence and
leaven that sinful world with care for itself and love for the
Father. If there had been nothing more than that, yet Christ's
sufferings as the Son of God in the midst of sinful men would have
been deep and real. 'O faithless generation, how long shall I be with
you? how long shall I suffer you?' was wrung from Him by the painful
sense of want of sympathy between His aims and theirs. 'Oh that I had
wings like a dove, for then I would fly away and be at rest,' must
often be the language of those who are like Him in spirit, and in
consequent sufferings.

And then again, another branch of the 'sufferings of Christ' is to be
found in that deep and mysterious fact on which I durst not venture
to speak beyond what the actual words of Scripture put into my
lips--the fact that Christ wrought out His perfect obedience as a
man, through temptation and by suffering. There was no sin _within_
Him, no tendency to sin, no yielding to the evil that assailed. 'The
Prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.' But yet, when
that dark Power stood by His side, and said, 'If thou be the Son of
God, cast Thyself down,' it was a real temptation and not a sham one.
There was no wish to do it, no faltering for a moment, no hesitation.
There was no rising up in that calm will of even a moment's impulse
to do the thing that was presented;--but yet it was presented, and,
when Christ triumphed, and the tempter departed for a season, there
had been a temptation and there had been a conflict. And though
obedience be a joy, and the doing of His Father's will was His
delight, as it must needs be in pure and in purified hearts; yet
obedience which is sustained in the face of temptation, and which
never fails, though its path lead to bodily pains and the
'contradiction of sinners,' may well be called suffering. We cannot
speak of our Lord's obedience as the surrender of His own will to the
Father's, with the implication that these two wills ever did or could
move except in harmony. There was no place in Christ's obedience for
that casting out of sinful self which makes our submission a
surrender joined with suffering, but He knew temptation. Flesh, and
sense, and the world, and the prince of this world, presented it to
Him; and therefore His obedience too was suffering, even though to do
the will of His Father was His meat and His drink, His sustenance and
His refreshment.

But then, let me remind you still further, that not only does the
life of Christ, as sinless in the midst of sinful men, and the life
of Christ, as sinless whilst yet there was temptation presented to
it--assume the aspect of being a life of suffering, and become, in
that respect, the model for us; but that also the Death of Christ,
besides its aspect as an atonement and sacrifice for sin, the power
by which transgression is put away and God's love flows out upon our
souls, has another power given to it in the teaching of the New
Testament. The Death of Christ is a type of the Christian's life,
which is to be one long, protracted, and daily dying to sin, to self,
to the world. The crucifixion of the old manhood is to be the life's
work of every Christian, through the power of faith in that Cross by
which 'the world is crucified unto Me, and I unto the world.' That
thought comes over and over again in all forms of earnest
presentation in the Apostle's teaching. Do not slur it over as if it
were a mere fanciful metaphor. It carries in its type a most solemn
reality. The truth is, that, if a Christian, you have a double life.
There is Christ, with His power, with His Spirit, giving you a nature
which is pure and sinless, incapable of transgression, like His
own. The new man, that which is born of God, sinneth not, cannot sin.
But side by side with it, working through it, working in it,
leavening it, indistinguishable from it to your consciousness, by
anything but this that the one works righteousness and the other
works transgression, there is the 'old man,' 'the flesh,' 'the old
Adam,' your own godless, independent, selfish, proud being. And the
one is to slay the other! Ah, let me tell you, these
words--crucifying, casting out the old man, plucking out the right
eye, maiming self of the right hand, mortifying the deeds of the
body--they are something very much deeper and more awful than
poetical symbols and metaphors. They teach us this, that there is no
growth without sore sorrow. Conflict, not progress, is the word that
defines man's path from darkness into light. No holiness is won by
any other means than this, that wickedness should be slain day by
day, and hour by hour. In long lingering agony often, with the blood
of the heart pouring out at every quivering vein, you are to cut
right through the life and being of that sinful self; to do what the
Word does, pierce to the dividing asunder of the thoughts and intents
of the heart, and get rid by crucifying and slaying--a long process,
a painful process--of your own sinful self. And not until you can
stand up and say, 'I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,' have
you accomplished that to which you are consecrated and vowed by your
sonship--'being conformed unto the likeness of His death,' and
'knowing the fellowship of His sufferings.'

It is this process, the inward strife and conflict in getting rid of
evil, which the Apostle designates here with the name of 'suffering
with Christ, that we may be also glorified together.' On this high
level, and not upon the lower one of the consideration that Christ
will help us to bear outward infirmities and afflictions, do we find
the true meaning of all that Scripture teaching which says indeed,
'Yes, our sufferings are _His_'; but lays the foundation of it in
this, 'His sufferings are _ours_.' It begins by telling us that
Christ has done a work and borne a sorrow that no second can ever do.
Then it tells us that Christ's life of obedience--which, because it
_was_ a life of obedience, was a life of suffering, and brought
Him into a condition of hostility to the men around Him--is to be
repeated in us. It sets before us the Cross of Calvary, and the
sorrows and pains that were felt there;--and it says to us, Christian
men and women, if you want the power for holy living, have fellowship
in that atoning death; and if you want the pattern of holy living,
look at that Cross and feel, 'I am crucified to the world by it; and
the life that I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of
God.'

Such considerations as these, however, do not necessarily exclude the
other one (which we may just mention and dwell on for a moment),
namely, that where there is this spiritual participation in the
sufferings of Christ, and where His death is reproduced and
perpetuated, as it were, in our daily mortifying ourselves in the
present evil world--there Christ is with us in our afflictions. God
forbid that I should try to strike away any word of consolation that
has come, as these words of my text have come, to so many sorrowing
hearts in all generations, like music in the night and like cold
waters to a thirsty soul. We need not hold that there is no reference
here to that comforting thought, 'In all our affliction He is
afflicted.' Brethren, you and I have, each of us--one in one way,
and one in another, all in some way, all in the right way, none in
too severe a way, none in too slight a way--to tread the path of
sorrow; and is it not a blessed thing, as we go along through that
dark valley of the shadow of death down into which the sunniest paths
go sometimes, to come, amidst the twilight and the gathering clouds,
upon tokens that Jesus has been on the road before us? They tell us
that in some trackless lands, when one friend passes through the
pathless forests, he breaks a twig ever and anon as he goes, that
those who come after may see the traces of his having been there, and
may know that they are not out of the road. Oh, when we are
journeying through the murky night, and the dark woods of affliction
and sorrow, it is something to find here and there a spray broken, or
a leafy stem bent down with the tread of His foot and the brush of
His hand as He passed, and to remember that the path He trod He has
hallowed, and thus to find lingering fragrances and hidden strengths
in the remembrance of Him as 'in all points tempted like as we are,'
bearing grief _for_ us, bearing grief _with_ us, bearing
grief _like_ us.

Oh, do not, do not, my brethren, keep these sacred thoughts of
Christ's companionship in sorrow, for the larger trials of life. If
the mote in the eye be large enough to annoy you, it is large enough
to bring out His sympathy; and if the grief be too small for Him to
compassionate and share, it is too small for you to be troubled by
it. If you are ashamed to apply that divine thought, 'Christ bears
this grief with me,' to those petty molehills that you sometimes
magnify into mountains, think to yourselves that then it is a shame
for you to be stumbling over them. But on the other hand, never fear
to be irreverent or too familiar in the thought that Christ is
willing to bear, and help you to bear, the pettiest, the minutest,
and most insignificant of the daily annoyances that may come to
ruffle you. Whether it be a poison from one serpent sting, or whether
it be poison from a million of buzzing tiny mosquitoes, if there be a
smart, go to Him, and He will help you to endure it. He will do more,
He will bear it with you, for if so be that we suffer with Him, He
suffers with us, and our oneness with Christ brings about a community
of possessions whereby it becomes true of each trusting soul in its
relations to Him, that 'all mine (joys and sorrows alike) are thine,
and all thine are mine.' II. There remain some other considerations
which may be briefly stated, in order to complete the lessons of this
text. In the second place, this community of suffering is a necessary
preparation for the community of glory.

I name this principally for the sake of putting in a caution. The
Apostle does not mean to tell us, of course, that if there were such
a case as that of a man becoming a son of God, and having no occasion
or opportunity afterwards, by brevity of life or other causes, for
passing through the discipline of sorrow, his inheritance would be
forfeited. We must always take such passages as this--which seem to
make the discipline of the world an essential part of the preparing
of us for glory--in conjunction with the other undeniable truth which
completes them, that when a man has the love of God in his heart,
however feebly, however newly, there and then he is fit for the
inheritance. I think that Christian people make vast mistakes
sometimes in talking about 'being made meet for the inheritance of
the saints in light,' about being 'ripe for glory,' and the like. One
thing at any rate is very certain, it is not the discipline that
fits. That which fits goes before the discipline, and the discipline
only develops the fitness. 'God hath made us meet for the inheritance
of the saints in light,' says the Apostle. That is a past act. The
preparedness for heaven comes at the moment--if it be a momentary
act--when a man turns to Christ. You may take the lowest and most
abandoned form of human character, and in one moment (it is possible,
and it is often the case) the entrance into that soul of the feeble
germ of that new affection shall at once change the whole moral
habitude of that man. Though it be true, then, that heaven is only
open to those who are capable--by holy aspirations and divine
desires--of entering into it, it is equally true that such
aspirations and desires may be the work of an instant, and may be
superinduced in a moment in a heart the most debased and the most
degraded. 'This day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise,'--_fit_ for
the inheritance!

And, therefore, let us not misunderstand such words as this text, and
fancy that the necessary discipline, which we have to go through
before we are ready for heaven, is necessary in anything like the
same sense in which it is necessary that a man should have faith in
Christ in order to be saved. The one may be dispensed with, the other
cannot. A Christian at any period of his Christian experience, if it
please God to take him, is fit for the kingdom. The life _is_ life,
whether it be the budding beauty and feebleness of childhood, or the
strength of manhood, or the maturity and calm peace of old age. But
'add to your faith,' that 'an entrance may be ministered unto you
_abundantly_.' Remember that though the root of the matter, the seed
of the kingdom, may be in you; and that though, therefore, you have a
right to feel that, at any period of your Christian experience, if it
please God to take you out of this world, you are fit for heaven--yet
in His mercy He is leaving you here, training you, disciplining you,
cleansing you, making you to be polished shafts in His quiver; and
that all the glowing furnaces of fiery trial and all the cold waters
of affliction are but the preparation through which the rough iron is
to be passed before it becomes tempered steel, a shaft in the
Master's hand.

And so learn to look upon all trial as being at once the seal of your
sonship, and the means by which God puts it within your power to win
a higher place, a loftier throne, a nobler crown, a closer fellowship
with Him 'who hath suffered, being tempted,' and who will receive
into His own blessedness and rest them that are tempted. 'The child,
though he be an heir, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be
lord of all; but is under tutors and governors.' God puts us in the
school of sorrow under that stern tutor and governor here, and gives
us the opportunity of 'suffering with Christ,' that by the daily
crucifixion of our old nature, by the lessons and blessings of
outward calamities and change, there may grow up in us a still nobler
and purer, and perfecter divine life; and that we may so be made
capable--more capable, and capable of more--of that inheritance for
which the only necessary thing is the death of Christ, and the only
fitness is faith in His name.

III. Finally, that inheritance is the necessary result of the
suffering that has gone before.

The suffering results from our union with Christ. That union must
needs culminate in glory. It is not only because the joy hereafter
seems required in order to vindicate God's love to His children, who
here reap sorrow from their sonship, that the discipline of life
cannot but end in blessedness. That ground of mere compensation is a
low one on which to rest the certainty of future bliss. But the
inheritance is sure to all who here suffer with Christ, because the
one cause--union with the Lord--produces both the present result of
fellowship in His sorrows, and the future result of joy in His joy,
of possession of His possessions. The inheritance is sure because
Christ possesses it now. The inheritance is sure because earth's
sorrows not merely require to be repaid by its peace, but because
they have an evident design to fit us for it, and it would be
destructive to all faith in God's wisdom, and God's knowledge of His
own purposes, not to believe that what He has wrought us for will be
given to us. Trials have no meaning, unless they are means to an end.
The end is the inheritance, and sorrows here, as well as the Spirit's
work here, are the earnest of the inheritance. Measure the greatness
of the glory by what has preceded it. God takes all these years of
life, and all the sore trials and afflictions that belong inevitably
to an earthly career, and works them in, into the blessedness that
_shall_ come. If a fair measure of the greatness of any result of
productive power be the length of time that was taken for getting it
ready, we can dimly conceive what that joy must be for which seventy
years of strife and pain and sorrow are but a momentary preparation;
and what must be the weight of that glory which is the counterpoise
and consequence to the afflictions of this lower world. The further
the pendulum swings on the one side, the further it goes up on the
other. The deeper God plunges the comet into the darkness out yonder,
the closer does it come to the sun at its nearest distance, and the
longer does it stand basking and glowing in the full blaze of the
glory from the central orb. So in _our_ revolution, the measure of
the distance from the farthest point of our darkest earthly sorrow,
_to_ the throne, may help us to the measure of the closeness of the
bright, perfect, perpetual glory above, when we are _on_ the throne:
for if so be that we are sons, we _must_ suffer with Him; if so be
that we suffer, we _must_ be glorified together!



THE REVELATION OF SONS

   'For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for
   the manifestation of the sons of God.'--ROMANS viii. 19.


The Apostle has been describing believers as 'sons' and 'heirs.' He
drops from these transcendent heights to contrast their present
apparent condition with their true character and their future glory.
The sad realities of suffering darken his lofty hopes, even although
these sad realities are to his faith tokens of joint-heirship with
Jesus, and pledges that if our inheritance is here manifested by
suffering with him, that very fact is a prophecy of common glory
hereafter. He describes that future as the revealing of a glory, to
which the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be
compared; and then, in our text he varies the application of that
thought of revealing and thinks of the subjects of it as being the
'sons of God.' They will be revealed when the glory which they have
as joint-heirs with Christ is revealed in them. They walk, as it
were, compassed with mist and cloud, but the splendour which will
fall on them will scatter the envious darkness, and 'when Christ who
is our life shall appear, then shall His co-heirs also appear with
Him in glory.'

We may consider--

I. The present veil over the sons of God.

There is always a difference between appearance and reality, between
the ideal and its embodiments. For all men it is true that the full
expression of oneself is impossible. Each man's deeds fall short of
disclosing the essential self in the man. Every will is hampered by
the fleshly screen of the body. 'I would that my tongue could utter
the thoughts that arise in me,' is the yearning of every heart that
is deeply moved. Contending principles successively sway every
personality and thwart each other's expression. For these, and many
other reasons, the sum-total of every life is but a shrouded
representation of the man who lives it; and we, all of us, after all
efforts at self-revelation, remain mysteries to our fellows and to
ourselves. All this is eminently true of the sons of God. They have a
life-germ hidden in their souls, which in its very nature is destined
to fill and expand their whole being, and to permeate with its
triumphant energy every corner of their nature. But it is weak and
often overborne by its opposite. The seed sown is to grow in spite of
bad weather and a poor soil and many weeds, and though it is destined
to overcome all these, it may to-day only be able to show on the
surface a little patch of pale and struggling growth. When we think
of the cost at which the life of Christ was imparted to men, and of
the divine source from which it comes, and of the sedulous and
protracted discipline through which it is being trained, we cannot
but conclude that nothing short of its universal dominion over all
the faculties of its imperfect possessors can be the goal of its
working. Hercules in his cradle is still Hercules, and strangles
snakes. Frost and sun may struggle in midwinter, and the cold may
seem to predominate, but the sun is steadily enlarging its course in
the sky, and increasing the fervour of its beams, and midsummer day
is as sure to dawn as the shortest day was.

The sons of God, even more truly than other men, have contending
principles fighting within them. It was the same Apostle who with
oaths denied that he 'knew the man,' and in a passion of clinging
love and penitence fell at His feet; but for the mere onlooker it
would be hard to say which was the true man and which would conquer.
The sons of God, like other men, have to express themselves in words
which are never closely enough fitted to their thoughts and feelings.
David's penitence has to be contented with groans which are not deep
enough; and John's calm raptures on his Saviour's breast can only be
spoken by shut eyes and silence. The sons of God never fully
correspond to their character, but always fall somewhat beneath their
desire, and must always be somewhat less than their intention. The
artist never wholly embodies his conception. It is only God who
'rests from His works' because the works fully embody His creative
design and fully receive the benediction of His own satisfaction with
them.

From all such thoughts there arises a piece of plain practical
wisdom, which warns Christian men not to despond or despair if they
do not find themselves living up to their ideal. The sons of God are
'veiled' because the world's estimate of them is untrue. The old
commonplace that the world knows nothing of its greatest men is
verified in the opinions which it holds about the sons of God. It is
not for their Christianity that they get any of the world's honours
and encomiums, if such fall to their share. They are _un_known and
yet _well_-known. They live for the most part veiled in obscurity.
'The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it
not.' They are God's hidden ones. If they are wise, they will look
for no recognition nor eulogy from the world, and will be content to
live, as unknown by the princes of this world as was the Lord of
glory, whom they slew because their dim eyes could not see the
flashing of the glory 'through the veil, that is to say, His flesh.'
But no consciousness of imperfection in our revelation of an
indwelling Christ must ever be allowed to diminish our efforts to
live out the life that is in us, and to shine as lights in the world;
nor must the consciousness that we walk as 'veiled,' lead us to add
to the thick folds the criminal one of voluntary silence and cowardly
hiding in dumb hearts the secret of our lives.

II. The unveiling of the sons of God.

That unveiling is in the text represented as coming along with the
glory which shall be revealed to usward, and as being contemporaneous
with the deliverance of the creation itself from the bondage of
corruption, and its passing into the liberty of the glory of the
children of God. It coincides with the vanishing of the pain in which
the whole creation now groans and travails, and with the
adoption--that is, the redemption of our body. Then hope will be seen
and will pass into still fruition. All this points to the time when
Jesus Christ is revealed, and His servants are revealed with Him in
glory. That revelation brings with it of necessity the manifestation
of the sons of God for what they are--the making visible in the life
of what God sees them to be.

That revelation of the sons of God is the result of the entire
dominion and transforming supremacy of the Spirit of God in them. In
the whole sweep of their consciousness there will in that day be
nothing done from other motives; there will be no sidelights flashing
in and disturbing the perfect illumination from the candle of the
Lord set on high in their being; there will be no contradictions in
the life. It will be one and simple, and therefore perfectly
intelligible. Such is the destined issue of the most imperfect
Christian life. The Christian man who has in his experience to-day
the faintest and most interrupted operation of the spirit of life in
Christ Jesus has therein a pledge of immortality, because nothing
short of an endless life of progressive and growing purity will be
adequate to receive and exemplify the power which can never terminate
until it is made like Him and perfectly seeing Him as He is.

But that unveiling further guarantees the possession of fully
adequate means of expression. The limitations and imperfections of
our present bodily life will all drop away in putting on 'the body of
glory' which shall be ours. The new tongue will perfectly utter the
new knowledge and rapture of the new life; new hands will perfectly
realise our ideals; and on every forehead will be stamped Christ's
new name.

That unveiling will be further realised by a divine act indicating
the characters of the sons of God by their position. Earth's
judgments will be reversed by that divine voice, and the great
promise, which through weary ages has shone as a far-off star,--'I
will set him on high because he hath known my name'--will then be
known for the sun near at hand. Many names loudly blown through the
world's trumpet will fall silent then. Many stars will be quenched,
but 'they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the
firmament.'

That revelation will be more surprising to no one than to those who
are its subjects, when they see themselves mirrored in that glass,
and so unlike what they are here. Their first impulse will be to
wonder at the form they see, and to ask, almost with incredulity,
'Lord, is it I?' Nor will the wonder be less when they recognise many
whom they knew not. The surprises when the family of God is gathered
together at last will be great. The Israel of Captivity lifts up her
wondering eyes as she sees the multitudes flocking to her side as the
doves to their windows, and, half-ashamed of her own narrow vision,
exclaims, 'I was left alone; these, where had they been?' Let us
rejoice that in the day when the sons of God are revealed, many
hidden ones from many dark corners will sit at the Father's table.
That revelation will be made to the whole universe; we know not how,
but we know that it shall be; and, as the text tells us, that
revelation of the sons of God is the hope for which 'the earnest
expectation of the creature waits' through the weary ages.



THE REDEMPTION OF THE BODY

   'The adoption, to wit, the redemption of our
   body.'--ROMANS viii. 23.


In a previous verse Paul has said that all true Christians have
received 'the Spirit of adoption.' They become sons of God through
Christ the Son. They receive a new spiritual and divine life from God
through Christ, and that life is like its source. In so far as that
new life vitalises and dominates their nature, believers have
received 'the Spirit of adoption,' and by it they cry 'Abba, Father.'
But the body still remains a source of weakness, the seat of sin. It
is sluggish and inapt for high purposes; it still remains subject to
'the law of sin and death'; and so is not like the Father who
breathed into it the breath of life. It remains in bondage, and has
not yet received the adoption. This text, in harmony with the
Apostle's whole teaching, looks forward to a change in the body and
in its relations to the renewed spirit, as the crown and climax of
the work of redemption, and declares that till that change is
effected, the condition of Christian men is imperfect, and is a
waiting, and often a groaning.

In dealing with some of the thoughts that arise from this text, we
note--

I. That a future bodily life is needed in order to give definiteness
and solidity to the conception of immortality.

Before the Gospel came men's belief in a future life was vague and
powerless, mainly because it had no Gospel of the Resurrection, and
so nothing tangible to lay hold on. The Gospel has made the belief in
a future state infinitely easier and more powerful, mainly because of
the emphasis with which it has proclaimed an actual resurrection and
a future bodily life. Its great proof of immortality is drawn, not
merely from ethical considerations of the manifest futility of
earthly life which has no sequel beyond the grave, nor from the
intuitions and longings of men's souls, but from the historical fact
of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and of His Ascension in bodily
form into heaven. It proclaims these two facts as parts of His
experience, and asserts that when He rose from the dead and ascended
up on high, He did so as 'the first-born among many brethren,' their
forerunner and their pattern. It is this which gives the Gospel its
power, and thus transforms a vague and shadowy conception of
immortality into a solid faith, for which we have already an
historical guarantee. Stupendous mysteries still veil the nature of
the resurrection process, though these are exaggerated into
inconceivabilities by false notions of what constitutes personal
identity; but if the choice lies between accepting the Christian
doctrine of a resurrection and the conception of a finite spirit
disembodied and yet active, there can be no doubt as to which of
these two is the more reasonable and thinkable. Body, soul, and
spirit make the complete triune man.

The thought of the future life as a bodily life satisfies the
longings of the heart. Much natural shrinking from death comes from
unwillingness to part company with an old companion and friend. As
Paul puts it in 2nd Corinthians, 'Not for that we would be unclothed,
but clothed upon.' All thoughts of the future which do not give
prominence to the idea of a bodily life open up but a ghastly and
uninviting mode of existence, which cannot but repel those who are
accustomed to the fellowship of their bodies, and they feel that they
cannot think of themselves as deprived of that which was their
servant and instrument, through all the years of their earthly
consciousness.

II. 'The body that shall be' is an emancipated body.

The varied gifts of the Spirit bestowed upon the Christian Church
served to quicken the hope of the yet greater gifts of that
indwelling Spirit which were yet to come. Chief amongst these our
text considers the transformation of the earthly into a spiritual
body. This transformation our text regards as being the participation
by the body in the redemption by which Christ has bought us with the
great price of His blood. We have to interpret the language here in
the light of the further teaching of Paul in the great Resurrection
chapter of 1st Corinthians, which distinctly lays stress, not on the
identity of the corporeal frame which is laid in the grave with 'the
body of glory,' but upon the entire contrast between the 'natural
body,' which is fit organ for the lower nature, and is informed by
it, and the 'spiritual body,' which is fit organ for the spirit. We
have to interpret 'the resurrection of the body' by the definite
apostolic declaration, 'Thou sowest not that body that shall be...
but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him'; and we have to give
full weight to the contrasts which the Apostle draws between the
characteristics of that which is 'sown' and of that which is
'raised.' The one is 'sown in corruption and raised in incorruption.'
Natural decay is contrasted with immortal youth. The one is 'sown in
dishonour,' the other is 'raised in glory.' That contrast is ethical,
and refers either to the subordinate position of the body here in
relation to the spirit, or to the natural sense of shame, or to the
ideas of degradation which are attached to the indulgence of the
appetites. The one is 'sown in weakness,' the other is 'raised in
power'; the one is 'sown a natural body,' the other is 'raised a
spiritual body.' Is not Paul in this whole series of contrasts
thinking primarily of the vision which he saw on the road to Damascus
when the risen Christ appeared before him? And had not the years
which had passed since then taught him to see in the ascended Christ
the prophecy and the pattern of what His servants should become? We
have further to keep in view Paul's other representation in 2nd
Corinthians v., where he strongly puts the contrast between the
corporeal environment of earth and 'the body of glory,' which belongs
to the future life, in his two images: 'the earthly house of this
tabernacle'--a clay hut which lasts but for a time,--and 'the
building of God, the house not made with hands and eternal.' The body
is an occasion of separation from the Lord.

These considerations may well lead us to, at least, general outlines
on which a confident and peaceful hope may fix. For example, they
lead us to the thought that that redeemed body is no more subject to
decay and death, is no more weighed upon by weakness and weariness,
has no work beyond its strength, needs no sustenance by food, and no
refreshment of sleep. 'The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne
shall feed them,' suggests strength constantly communicated by a
direct divine gift. And from all these negative characteristics there
follows that there will be in that future bodily life no epochs of
age marked by bodily changes. The two young men who were seen sitting
in the sepulchre of Jesus had lived before Adam, and would seem as
young if we saw them to-day.

Similarly the redeemed body will be a more perfect instrument for
communication with the external universe. We know that the present
body conditions our knowledge, and that our senses do not take
cognisance of all the qualities of material things. Microscopes and
telescopes have enlarged our field of vision, and have brought the
infinitely small and the infinitely distant within our range. Our ear
hears vibrations at a certain rate per second, and no doubt if it
were more delicately organised we could hear sounds where now is
silence. Sometimes the creatures whom we call 'inferior' seem to have
senses that apprehend much of which we are not aware. Balaam's ass
saw the obstructing angel before Balaam did. Nor is there any reason
to suppose that all the powers of the mind find tools to work with in
the body. It is possible that that body which is the fit instrument
of the spirit may become its means of knowing more deeply, thinking
more wisely, understanding more swiftly, comprehending more widely,
remembering more firmly and judging more soundly. It is possible that
the contrast between then and now may be like the contrast between
telegraph and slow messenger in regard to the rapidity, between
photograph and poor daub in regard to the truthfulness, between a
full-orbed circle and a fragmentary arc in regard to the completeness
of the messages which the body brings to the indwelling self.

But, once more, the body unredeemed has appetites and desires which
may lead to their own satisfaction, which do lead to sordid cares and
weary toil. 'The flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit
against the flesh.' The redeemed body will have in it nothing to
tempt and nothing to clog, but will be a helper to the spirit and a
source of strength. Glorious work of God as the body is, it has its
weaknesses, its limitations, and its tendencies to evil. We must not
be tempted into brooding over unanswered questions as to 'How do the
dead rise, and with what body do they come?' But we can lift our eyes
to the mountain-top where Jesus went up to pray. 'And as He prayed
the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment became
white and dazzling'; and He was capable of entering into the Shekinah
cloud and holding fellowship therein with the Father, who attested
His Sonship and bade us listen to His voice. And we can look to
Olivet and follow the ascending Jesus as He lets His benediction drop
on the upturned faces of His friends, until He again passes into the
Shekinah cloud, and leaving the world, goes to the Father. And from
both His momentary transfiguration and His permanent Ascension we can
draw the certain assurance that 'He 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 subdue all things
unto Himself.'

III. The redeemed body is a consequence of Christ's indwelling
Spirit.

It is no natural result of death or resurrection, but is the outcome
of the process begun on earth, by which, 'through faith and the
righteousness of faith,' the spirit is life. The context distinctly
enforces this view by its double use of 'adoption,' which in one
aspect has already been received, and is manifested by the fact that
'now are we the sons of God,' and in another aspect is still 'waited'
for. The Christian man in his regenerated spirit has been born again;
the Christian man still waits for the completion of that sonship in a
time when the regenerated spirit will no longer dwell in the clay
cottage of 'this tabernacle,' but will inhabit a congruous dwelling
in 'the building of God not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.'

Scripture is too healthy and comprehensive to be contented with a
merely spiritual regeneration, and is withal too spiritual to be
satisfied with a merely material heaven. It gives full place to both
elements, and yet decisively puts all belonging to the latter second.
It lays down the laws that for a complete humanity there must be body
as well as spirit; that there must be a correspondence between the
two, and as is the spirit so must the body be, and further, that the
process must begin at the centre and work outwards, so that the
spirit must first be transformed, and then the body must be
participant of the transformation.

All that Scripture says about 'rising in glory' is said about
believers. It is represented as a spiritual process. They who have
the Spirit of God in their spirits because they have it receive the
glorified body which is like their Saviour's. It is not enough to die
in order to 'rise glorious.' 'If the Spirit of Him that raised up
Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the
dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that
dwelleth in you.' The resurrection is promised for all mankind, but
it may be a resurrection in which there shall be endless living and
no glory, nor any beauty and no blessedness. But the body may be
'sown in weakness,' and in weakness raised; it may be 'sown in
dishonour' and in dishonour raised; it may be sown dead, and raised a
living death. 'Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall
awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting
contempt.' Does that mean nothing? 'They that have done evil to the
resurrection of condemnation.' Does that mean nothing? There are dark
mysteries in these and similar words of Scripture which should make
us all pause and solemnly reflect. The sole way which leads to the
resurrection of glory is the way of faith in Jesus Christ. If we
yield ourselves to Him, He will plant His Spirit in our spirits, will
guide and growingly sanctify us through life, will deliver us by the
indwelling of the Spirit of life in Him from the law of sin and
death. Nor will His transforming power cease till it has pervaded our
whole being with its fiery energy, and we stand at the last men like
Christ, redeemed in body, soul, and spirit, 'according to the mighty
working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.'



THE INTERCEDING SPIRIT

   'The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with
   groanings which cannot be uttered.'--ROMANS viii. 26.


Pentecost was a transitory sign of a perpetual gift. The tongues of
fire and the rushing mighty wind, which were at first the most
conspicuous results of the gifts of the Spirit, tongues, and
prophecies, and gifts of healing, which were to the early Church
itself and to onlookers palpable demonstrations of an indwelling
power, were little more lasting than the fire and the wind. Does
anything remain? This whole great chapter is Paul's triumphant answer
to such a question. The Spirit of God dwells in every believer as the
source of his true life, is for him 'the Spirit of adoption' and
witnesses with his spirit that he is a child of God, and a joint-heir
with Christ. Not only does that Spirit co-operate with the human
spirit in this witness-bearing, but the verse, of which our text is a
part, points to another form of co-operation: for the word rendered
in the earlier part of the verse 'helpeth' in the original suggests
more distinctly that the Spirit of God in His intercession for us
works in association with us.

First, then--

I. The Spirit's intercession is not carried on apart from us.

Much modern hymnology goes wrong in this point, that it represents
the Spirit's intercession as presented in heaven rather than as
taking place within the personal being of the believer. There is a
broad distinction carefully observed throughout Scripture between the
representations of the work of Christ and that of the Spirit of
Christ. The former in its character and revelation and attainment was
wrought upon earth, and in its character of intercession and
bestowment of blessings is discharged at the right hand of God in
heaven; the whole of the Spirit's work, on the other hand, is wrought
in human spirits here. The context speaks of intercession expressed
in 'groanings which cannot be uttered,' and which, unexpressed though
they are, are fully understood 'by Him who searches the heart.'
Plainly, therefore, these groanings come from human hearts, and as
plainly are the Divine Spirit's voicing them.

II. The Spirit's intercession in our spirits consists in our own
divinely-inspired longings.

The Apostle has just been speaking of another groaning within
ourselves, which is the expression of 'the earnest expectation' of
'the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body'; and he says that
that longing will be the more patient the more it is full of hope.
This, then, is Paul's conception of the normal attitude of a
Christian soul; but that attitude is hard to keep up in one's own
strength, because of the distractions of time and sense which are
ever tending to disturb the continuity and fixity of that onward
look, and to lead us rather to be satisfied with the gross, dull
present. That redemption of the body, with all which it implies and
includes, ought to be the supreme object to which each Christian
heart should ever be turning, and Christian prayers should be
directed. But our own daily experience makes us only too sure that
such elevation above, and remoteness from earthly thoughts, with all
their pettinesses and limitations, is impossible for us in our own
strength. As Paul puts it here, 'We know not what to pray for'; nor
can we fix and focus our desires, nor present them 'as we ought.' It
is to this weakness and incompleteness of our desires and prayers
that the help of the Spirit is directed. He strengthens our longings
by His own direct operation. The more vivid our anticipations and the
more steadfast our hopes, and the more our spirits reach out to that
future redemption, the more are we bound to discern something more
than human imaginings in them, and to be sure that such visions are
too good not to be true, too solid to be only the play of our own
fancy. The more we are conscious of these experiences as our own, the
more certain we shall be that in them it is not we that speak, but
'the Spirit of the Father that speaketh in us.'

III. These divinely-inspired longings are incapable of full
expression.

They are shallow feelings that can be spoken. Language breaks down in
the attempt to express our deepest emotions and our truest love. For
all the deepest things in man, inarticulate utterance is the most
self-revealing. Grief can say more in a sob and a tear than in many
weak words; love finds its tongue in the light of an eye and the
clasp of a hand. The groanings which rise from the depths of the
Christian soul cannot be forced into the narrow frame-work of human
language; and just because they are unutterable are to be recognised
as the voice of the Holy Spirit.

But where amidst the Christian experience of to-day shall we find
anything in the least like these unutterable longings after the
redemption of the body which Paul here takes it for granted are
the experience of all Christians? There is no more startling
condemnation of the average Christianity of our times than the calm
certainty with which through all this epistle the Apostle takes it
for granted that the experience of the Roman Christians will
universally endorse his statements. Look for a moment at what these
statements are. Listen to the briefest summary of them: 'We cry,
Abba, Father'; 'We are children of God'; 'We suffer with Him that we
may be glorified with Him'; 'Glory shall be revealed to usward'; 'We
have the first-fruits of the Spirit'; 'We ourselves groan within
ourselves'; 'By hope were we saved'; 'We hope for that which we see
not'; 'Then do we with patience wait for it'; 'We know that to them
that love God all things work together for good'; 'In all these
things we are more than conquerors'; 'Neither death nor life... nor
any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of
God.' He believed that in these rapturous and triumphant words he was
gathering together the experience of every Roman Christian, and would
evoke from their lips a confident 'Amen.' Where are the communities
to-day in whose hearing these words could be reiterated with the like
assurance? How few among us there are who know anything of these
'groanings which cannot be uttered!' How few among us there are whose
spirits are stretching out eager desires towards the land of
perpetual summer, like migratory birds in northern latitudes when the
autumn days are shortening and the temperature is falling!

But, however we must feel that our poor experience falls far short of
the ideal in our text, an ideal which was to some extent realised in
the early Christian Church, we must beware of taking the
imperfections of our experience as any evidence of the unreality of
our Christianity. They are a proof that we have limited and impeded
the operation of the Spirit within us. They teach us that He will not
intercede 'with groanings which cannot be uttered' unless we let Him
speak through our voices. Therefore, if we find that in our own
consciousness there is little to correspond to those unuttered
groanings, we should take the warning: 'Quench not the Spirit.'
'Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God in whom ye were sealed unto the
day of redemption.'

IV. The unuttered longings are sure to be answered.

He that searcheth the heart knows the meaning of the Spirit's
unspoken prayers; and looking into the depths of the human spirit
interprets its longings, discriminating between the mere human and
partial expression and the divinely-inspired desire which may be
unexpressed. If our prayers are weak, they are answered in the
measure in which they embody in them, though perhaps mistaken by us,
a divine longing. Apparent disappointment of our petitions may be
real answers to our real prayer. It was because Jesus loved Mary and
Martha and Lazarus that He abode still in the same place where He
was, to let Lazarus die that He might be raised again. That was the
true answer to the sisters' hope of His immediate coming. God's way
of giving to us is to breathe within us a desire, and then to answer
the desire inbreathed. So, longing is the prophecy of fulfilment when
it is longing according to the will of God. They who 'hunger and
thirst after righteousness' may ever be sure that their bread shall
be given them, and their water will be made sure. The true object of
our desires is often not clear to us, and so we err in translating it
into words. Let us be thankful that we pray to a God who can discern
the prayer within the prayer, and often gives the substance of our
petitions in the very act of refusing their form.



THE GIFT THAT BRINGS ALL GIFTS

   'He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up
   for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give
   us all things?'--ROMANS viii. 32.


We have here an allusion to, if not a distinct quotation from, the
narrative in Genesis, of Abraham's offering up of Isaac. The same
word which is employed in the Septuagint version of the Old
Testament, to translate the Hebrew word rendered in our Bible as
'withheld,' is employed here by the Apostle. And there is evidently
floating before his mind the thought that, in some profound and real
sense, there is an analogy between that wondrous and faithful act of
giving up and the transcendent and stupendous gift to the world, from
God, of His Son.

If we take that point of view, the language of my text rises into
singular force, and suggests many very deep thoughts, about which,
perhaps, silence is best. But led by that analogy, let us deal with
these words.

I. Consider this mysterious act of divine surrender.

The analogy seems to suggest to us, strange as it may be, and remote
from the cold and abstract ideas of the divine nature which it is
thought to be philosophical to cherish, that something corresponding
to the pain and loss that shadowed the patriarch's heart flitted
across the divine mind when the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour
of the world. Not merely to give, but to give up, is the highest
crown and glory of love, as we know it. And who shall venture to say
that we so fully apprehend the divine nature as to be warranted in
declaring that some analogy to that is impossible for Him? Our
language is, 'I will not offer unto God that which doth cost me
nothing.' Let us bow in silence before the dim intimation that seems
to flicker out of the words of my text, that so He says to us, 'I
will not offer unto you that which doth cost Me nothing.' 'He
_spared_ not His own Son'; withheld Him not from us.

But passing from that which, I dare say, many of you may suppose to
be fanciful and unwarranted, let us come upon the surer ground of the
other words of my text. And notice how the reality of the surrender
is emphasised by the closeness of the bond which, in the mysterious
eternity, knits together the Father and the Son. As with Abraham, so
in this lofty example, of which Abraham and Isaac were but as dim,
wavering reflections in water, the Son is His own Son. It seems to me
impossible, upon any fair interpretation of the words before us, to
refrain from giving to that epithet here its very highest and most
mysterious sense. It cannot be any mere equivalent for Messiah, it
cannot merely mean a man who was like God in purity of nature and in
closeness of communion. For the force of the analogy and the emphasis
of that word which is even more emphatic in the Greek than in the
English 'His _own_ Son,' point to a community of nature, to a
uniqueness and singleness of relation, to a closeness of intimacy, to
which no other is a parallel. And so we have to estimate the measure
of the surrender by the tenderness and awfulness of the bond. 'Having
one Son, His well-beloved, He sent Him.'

Notice, again, how the greatness of the surrender is made more
emphatic by the contemplation of it in its double negative and
positive aspect, in the two successive clauses. 'He spared not His
Son, but delivered Him up,' an absolute, positive giving of Him over
to the humiliation of the life and to the mystery of the death.

And notice how the tenderness and the beneficence that were the sole
motive of the surrender are lifted into light in the last words, 'for
us all.' The single, sole reason that bowed, if I may so say, the
divine purpose, and determined the mysterious act, was a pure desire
for our blessing. No definition is given as to the manner in which
that surrender wrought for our good. The Apostle does not need to
dwell upon that. His purpose is to emphasise the entire
unselfishness, the utter simplicity of the motive which moved the
divine will. One great throb of love to the whole of humanity led to
that transcendent surrender, before which we can only bow and say,
'Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.'

And now, notice how this mysterious act is grasped by the Apostle
here as what I may call the illuminating fact as to the whole divine
nature. From it, and from it alone, there falls a blaze of light on
the deepest things in God. We are accustomed to speak of Christ's
perfect life of unselfishness, and His death of pure beneficence, as
being the great manifestation to us all that in His heart there is an
infinite fountain of love to us. We are, further, accustomed to speak
of Christ's mission and death as being the revelation to us of the
love of God as well as of the Man Christ Jesus, because we believe
that 'God was in Christ reconciling the world,' and that He has so
manifested and revealed the very nature of divinity to us, in His
life and in His person, that, as He Himself says, 'He that hath seen
Me hath seen the Father.' And every conclusion that we draw as to the
love of Christ is, _ipso facto_, a conclusion as to the love of God.
But my text looks at the matter from rather a different point of view,
and bids us see, in Christ's mission and sacrifice, the great
demonstration of the love of God, not only because 'God was in
Christ,' but because the Father's will, conceived of as distinct
from, and yet harmonious with, the will of the Son, gives Him up for
us. And we have to say, not only that we see the love of God in the
love of Christ, but 'God so loved the world that He sent His only
begotten Son' that we might have life through Him.

These various phases of the love of Christ as manifesting the divine
love, may not be capable of perfect harmonising in our thoughts, but
they do blend into one, and by reason of them all, 'God commendeth
His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for
us.' We have to think not only of Abraham who gave up, but of the
unresisting, innocent Isaac, bearing on his shoulders the wood for
the burnt offering, as the Christ bore the Cross on His, and
suffering himself to be bound upon the pile, not only by the cords
that tied his limbs, but by the cords of obedience and submission,
and in both we have to bow before the Apocalypse of divine love.

II. So, secondly, look at the power of this divine surrender to bring
with it all other gifts.

'How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?' The
Apostle's triumphant question requires for its affirmative answer
only the belief in the unchangeableness of the Divine heart, and the
uniformity of the Divine purpose. And if these be recognised, their
conclusion inevitably follows. 'With Him He will freely give us all
things.'

It is so, because the greater gift implies the less. We do not expect
that a man who hands over a million of pounds to another, to help
him, will stick at a farthing afterwards. If you give a diamond you
may well give a box to keep it in. In God's gift the lesser will
follow the lead of the greater; and whatsoever a man can want, it is
a smaller thing for Him to bestow, than was the gift of His Son.

There is a beautiful contrast between the manners of giving the two
sets of gifts implied in words of the original, perhaps scarcely
capable of being reproduced in any translation. The expression that
is rendered 'freely give,' implies that there is a grace and a
pleasantness in the act of bestowal. God gave in Christ, what we may
reverently say it was something like pain to give. Will He not give
the lesser, whatever they may be, which it is the joy of His heart to
communicate? The greater implies the less.

Farther, this one great gift draws all other gifts after it, because
the purpose of the greater gift cannot be attained without the
bestowment of the lesser. He does not begin to build being unable to
finish; He does not miscalculate His resources, nor stultify Himself
by commencing upon a large scale, and having to stop short before the
purpose with which He began is accomplished. Men build great palaces,
and are bankrupt before the roof is put on. God lays His plans with
the knowledge of His powers, and having first of all bestowed this
large gift, is not going to have it bestowed in vain for want of some
smaller ones to follow it up. Christ puts the same argument to us,
beginning only at the other end of the process. Paul says, 'God has
laid the foundation in Christ.' Do you think He will stop before the
headstone is put on? Christ said, 'It is your Father's good pleasure
to give you the Kingdom.' Do you think He will not give you bread and
water on the road to it? Will He send out His soldiers half-equipped;
will it be found when they are on their march that they have been
started with a defective commissariat, and with insufficient
trenching tools? Shall the children of the King, on the road to their
thrones, be left to scramble along anyhow, in want of what they need
to get there? That is not God's way of doing. He that hath begun a
good work will also perfect the same, and when He gave to you and me
His Son, He bound Himself to give us every subsidiary and secondary
blessing which was needed to make that Son's work complete in each of
us.

Again, this great blessing draws after it, by necessary consequence,
all other lesser and secondary gifts, inasmuch as, in every real
sense, everything is included and possessed in the Christ when we
receive Him. 'With Him,' says Paul, as if that gift once laid
in a man's heart actually enclosed within it, and had for its
indispensable accompaniment the possession of every smaller thing
that a man can need, Jesus Christ is, as it were, a great Cornucopia,
a horn of abundance, out of which will pour, with magic affluence,
all manner of supplies according as we require. This fountain flows
with milk, wine, and water, as men need. Everything is given us when
Christ is given to us, because Christ is the Heir of all things, and
we possess all things in Him; as some poor village maiden married to
a prince in disguise, who, on the morrow of her wedding finds that
she is lady of broad lands, and mistress of a kingdom. 'He that
spared not His own Son,' not only 'with Him will give,' but in Him
has 'given us all things.'

And so, brethren, just as that great gift is the illuminating fact in
reference to the divine heart, so is it the interpreting fact in
reference to the divine dealings. Only when we keep firm hold of
Christ as the gift of God, and the Explainer of all that God does,
can we face the darkness, the perplexities, the torturing questions
that from the beginning have harassed men's minds as they looked upon
the mysteries of human misery. If we recognise that God has given us
His Son, then all things become, if not plain, at least lighted with
some gleam from that great gift; and we feel that the surrender of
Christ is the constraining fact which shapes after its own likeness,
and for its own purpose, all the rest of God's dealings with men.
That gift makes anything believable, reasonable, possible, rather
than that He should spare not His own Son, and then should
counterwork His own act by sending the world anything but good.

III. And now, lastly, take one or two practical issues
from these thoughts, in reference to our own belief and conduct.

First, I would say, Let us correct our estimates of the relative
importance of the two sets of gifts. On the one side stands the
solitary Christ; on the other side are massed all delights of sense,
all blessings of time, all the things that the vulgar estimation of
men unanimously recognises to be good. These are only makeweights.
They are all lumped together into an 'also.' They are but the golden
dust that may be filed off from the great ingot and solid block. They
are but the outward tokens of His far deeper and true preciousness.
They are secondary; He is the primary. What an inversion of our
notions of good! Do _you_ degrade all the world's wealth,
pleasantness, ease, prosperity, into an 'also?' Are you content to
put it in the secondary place, as a result, if it please Him, of
Christ? Do you live as if you did? Which do you hunger for most?
Which do you labour for hardest? 'Seek ye first the Kingdom and the
King, and all 'these things shall be added unto you.'

Let these thoughts teach us that sorrow too is one of the gifts of
the Christ. The words of my text, at first sight, might seem to be
simply a promise of abundant earthly good. But look what lies close
beside them, and is even part of the same triumphant burst. 'Shall
tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or
peril, or sword?' These are some of the 'all things' which Paul
expected that God would give him and his brethren. And looking upon
all, he says, 'They all work together for good'; and in them all we
may be more than conquerors. It would be a poor, shabby issue of such
a great gift as that of which we have been speaking, if it were only
to be followed by the sweetnesses and prosperity and wealth of this
world. But here is the point that we have to keep hold of--inasmuch
as He gives us all things, let us take all the things that come to us
as being as distinctly the gifts of His love, as is the gift of
Christ Himself. A wise physician, to an ignorant onlooker, might seem
to be acting in contradictory fashions when in the one moment he
slashes into a limb, with a sharp, gleaming knife, and in the next
sedulously binds the wounds, and closes the arteries, but the purpose
of both acts is one.

The diurnal revolution of the earth brings the joyful sunrise and the
pathetic sunset. The same annual revolution whirls us through the
balmy summer days and the biting winter ones. God's purpose is one.
His methods vary. The road goes straight to its goal; but it
sometimes runs in tunnels dank and dark and stifling, and sometimes
by sunny glades and through green pastures. God's purpose is always
love, brother. His withdrawals are gifts, and sorrow is not the least
of the benefits which come to us through the Man of Sorrows.

So again, let these thoughts teach us to live by a very quiet and
peaceful faith. We find it a great deal easier to trust God for
Heaven than for earth--for the distant blessings than for the near
ones. Many a man will venture his soul into God's hands, who would
hesitate to venture to-morrow's food there. Why? Is it not because we
do not really trust Him for the greater that we find it so hard to
trust Him for the less? Is it not because we want the less more
really than we want the greater, that we can put ourselves off with
faith for the one, and want something more solid to grasp for the
other? Live in the calm confidence that God gives all things; and
gives us for to-morrow as for eternity; for earth as for heaven.

And, last of all, make you quite sure that you have taken _the_
great gift of God. He gives it to all the world, but they only have
it who accept it by faith. Have you, my brother? I look out upon the
lives of the mass of professing Christians; and this question weighs
on my heart, judging by conduct--have they really got Christ for
their own? 'Wherefore do ye spend your money for that which is not
bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not?' Look how you
are all fighting and scrambling, and sweating and fretting, to get
hold of the goods of this present life, and here is a gift gleaming
before you all the while that you will not condescend to take. Like a
man standing in a market-place offering sovereigns for nothing, which
nobody accepts because they think the offer is too good to be true,
so God complains and wails: I have stretched out My hands all the
day, laden with gifts, and no man regarded.

  'It is only heaven may be had for the asking;
  It is only God that is given away.'

He gives His Son. Take Him by humble faith in His sacrifice and
Spirit; take Him, and with Him He freely gives you all things.



MORE THAN CONQUERORS

   'Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors
   through Him that loved us.'--ROMANS viii. 37.


In order to understand and feel the full force of this triumphant
saying of the Apostle, we must observe that it is a negative answer
to the preceding questions, 'Who shall separate us from the love of
Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or
nakedness, or peril, or sword?' A heterogeneous mass the Apostle here
brigades together as an antagonistic army. They are alike in nothing
except that they are all evils. There is no attempt at an exhaustive
enumeration, or at classification. He clashes down, as it were, a
miscellaneous mass of evil things, and then triumphs over them, and
all the genus to which they belong, as being utterly impotent to drag
men away from Jesus Christ. To ask the question is to answer it, but
the form of the answer is worth notice. Instead of directly replying,
'No! no such powerless things as these can separate us from the love
of Christ,' he says, 'No! In all these things, whilst weltering
amongst them, whilst ringed round about by them, as by encircling
enemies, "we are more than conquerors."' Thereby, he suggests that
there is something needing to be done by us, in order that the foes
may not exercise their natural effect. And so, taking the words of my
text in connection with that to which they are an answer, we have
three things--the impotent enemies of love; the abundant victory of
love; 'We are more than conquerors'; and the love that makes us
victorious. Let us look then at these three things briefly.

I. First of all, the impotent enemies of love.

There is contempt in the careless massing together of the foes which
the Apostle enumerates. He begins with the widest word that covers
everything--'affliction.' Then he specifies various forms of
it--'distress,' _straitening_, as the word might be rendered,
then he comes to evils inflicted for Christ's sake by hostile
men--'persecution,' then he names purely physical evils, 'hunger' and
'nakedness,' then he harks back again to man's antagonism, 'peril,'
and 'sword.' And thus carelessly, and without an effort at logical
order, he throws together, as specimens of their class, these salient
points, as it were, and crests of the great sea, whose billows
threaten to roll over us; and he laughs at them all, as impotent and
nought, when compared with the love of Christ, which shields us from
them all.

Now it must be noticed that here, in his triumphant question, the
Apostle means not our love to Christ but His to us; and not even our
sense of that love, but the fact itself. And his question is just
this:--Is there any evil in the world that can make Christ stop
loving a man that cleaves to Him? And, as I said, to ask the question
is to answer it. The two things belong to two different regions. They
have nothing in common. The one moves amongst the low levels of
earth; the other dwells up amidst the abysses of eternity, and to
suppose that anything that assails and afflicts us here has any
effect in making that great heart cease to love us is to fancy that
the mists can quench the sunlight, is to suppose that that which lies
down low in the earth can rise to poison and to darken the heavens.

There is no need, in order to rise to the full height of the
Christian contempt for calamity, to deny any of its terrible power.
These things can separate us from much. They can separate us from
joy, from hope, from almost all that makes life desirable. They can
strip us to the very quick, but the quick they cannot touch. The
frost comes and kills the flowers, browns the leaves, cuts off the
stems, binds the sweet music of the flowing rivers in silent chains,
casts mists and darkness over the face of the solitary grey world,
but it does not touch the life that is in the root.

And so all these outward sorrows that have power over the whole of
the outward life, and can slay joy and all but stifle hope, and can
ban men into irrevocable darkness and unalleviated solitude, they do
not touch in the smallest degree the secret bond that binds the heart
to Jesus, nor in any measure affect the flow of His love to us.
Therefore we may front them and smile at them and say:

  'Do as thou wilt, devouring time,
  With this wide world, and all its fading sweets';

'my flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart,
and my portion for ever.'

You need not be very much afraid of anything being taken from you as
long as Christ is left you. You will not be altogether hopeless so
long as Christ, who is our hope, still speaks His faithful promises
to you, nor will the world be lonely and dark to them who feel that
they are lapt in the sweet and all-pervading consciousness of the
changeless love of the heart of Christ. 'Shall tribulation, or
distress, or persecution?'--in any of these things, 'we are more than
conquerors through Him that loved us.' Brethren, that is the
Christian way of looking at all externals, not only at the dark and
the sorrowful, but at the bright and the gladsome. If the withdrawal
of external blessings does not touch the central sanctities and
sweetness of a life in communion with Jesus, the bestowal of external
blessedness does not much brighten or gladden it. We can face the
withdrawal of them all, we need not covet the possession of them all,
for we have all in Christ; and the world without His love contributes
less to our blessedness and our peace than the absence of all its
joys with His love does. So let us feel that earth, in its givings
and in its withholdings, is equally impotent to touch the one thing
that we need, the conscious possession of the love of Christ.

All these foes, as I have said, have no power over the fact of
Christ's love to us, but they have power, and a very terrible power,
over our consciousness of that love; and we may so kick against the
pricks as to lose, in the pain of our sorrows, the assurance of His
presence, or be so fascinated by the false and vulgar sweetnesses and
promises of the world as, in the eagerness of our chase after them,
to lose our sense of the all-sufficing certitude of His love.
Tribulation does not strip us of His love, but tribulation may so
darken our perceptions that we cannot see the sun. Joys need not rob
us of His heart, but joys may so fill ours, as that there shall be no
longing for His presence within us. Therefore let us not exaggerate
the impotence of these foes, but feel that there are real dangers, as
in the sorrows so in the blessings of our outward life, and that the
evil to be dreaded is that outward things, whether in their bright or
in their dark aspects, may come between us and the home of our
hearts, the love of the loving Christ.

II. So then, note next, the abundant victory of love.

Mark how the Apostle, in his lofty and enthusiastic way, is not
content here with simply saying that he and his fellows conquer. It
would be a poor thing, he seems to think, if the balance barely
inclined to our side, if the victory were but just won by a hair's
breadth and triumph were snatched, as it were, out of the very jaws
of defeat. There must be something more than that to correspond to
the power of the victorious Christ that is in us. And so, he says, we
very abundantly conquer; we not only hinder these things which he has
been enumerating from doing that which it is their aim apparently to
do, but we actually convert them into helpers or allies. The '_more_
than conquerors' seems to mean, if there is any definite idea to be
attached to it, the conversion of the enemy conquered into a friend
and a helper. The American Indians had a superstition that every foe
tomahawked sent fresh strength into the warrior's arm. And so all
afflictions and trials rightly borne, and therefore overcome, make a
man stronger, and bring him nearer to Jesus Christ.

Note then, further, that not only is this victory more than bare
victory, being the conversion of the enemy into allies, but that it
is a victory which is won even whilst we are in the midst of the
strife. It is not that we shall be conquerors in some far-off heaven,
when the noise of battle has ceased and they hang the trumpet in the
hall, but it is here now, in the hand-to-hand and foot-to-foot
death-grapple that we do overcome. No ultimate victory, in some
far-off and blessed heaven, will be ours unless moment by moment,
here, to-day,' we _are_ more than conquerors through Him that
loved us.'

So, then, about this abundant victory there are these things to
say:--You conquer the world only, then, when you make it contribute
to your conscious possession of the love of Christ. That is the real
victory, the only real victory in life. Men talk about overcoming
here on earth, and they mean thereby the accomplishment of their
designs. A man has 'victory,' as it is phrased, in the world's
strife, when he secures for himself the world's goods at which he has
aimed, but that is not the Christian idea of the conquest of
calamity. Everything that makes me feel more thrillingly in my
inmost heart the verity and the sweetness of the love of Jesus Christ
as my very own, is conquered by me and compelled to subserve my
highest good, and everything which slips a film between me and Him,
which obscures the light of His face to me, which makes me less
desirous of, and less sure of, and less happy in, and less satisfied
with, His love, is an enemy that has conquered me. And all these
evils as the world calls them, and as our bleeding hearts have often
felt them to be, are converted into allies and friends when they
drive us to Christ, and keep us close to Him, in the conscious
possession of His sweet and changeless love. That is the victory, and
the only victory. Has the world helped me to lay hold of Christ? Then
I have conquered it. Has the world loosened my grasp upon Him? Then
it has conquered me.

Note then, further, that this abundant victory depends on how we deal
with the changes of our outward lives, our sorrows or our joys. There
is nothing, _per se_, salutary in affliction, there is nothing,
_per se_, antagonistic to Christian faith in it either. No man
is made better by his sorrows, no man need be made worse by them.
That depends upon how we take the things which come storming against
us. The set of your sails, and the firmness of your grasp upon the
tiller, determine whether the wind shall carry you to the haven or
shall blow you out, a wandering waif, upon a shoreless and melancholy
sea. There are some of you that have been blown away from your
moorings by sorrow. There are some professing Christians who have
been hindered in their work, and had their peace and their faith
shattered all but irrevocably, because they have not accepted, in the
spirit in which they were sent, the trials that have come for their
good. The worst of all afflictions is a wasted affliction, and they
are all wasted unless they teach us more of the reality and the
blessedness of the love of Jesus Christ.

III. Lastly, notice the love which makes us conquerors.

The Apostle, with a wonderful instinctive sense of fitness, names
Christ here by a name congruous to the thoughts which occupy his
mind, when he speaks of Him that loved us. His question has been, Can
anything separate us from the love of Christ? And his answer is, So
far from that being the case, that very love, by occasion of sorrows
and afflictions, tightens its grasp upon us, and, by the
communication of itself to us, makes us more than conquerors. This
great love of Jesus Christ, from which nothing can separate us, will
use the very things that seem to threaten our separation as a means
of coming nearer to us in its depth and in its preciousness.

The Apostle says 'Him that loved us,' and the words in the original
distinctly point to some one fact as being the great instance of
love. That is to say they point to His death. And so we may say
Christ's love helps us to conquer because in His death He interprets
for us all possible sorrows. If it be true that love to each of us
nailed Him there, then nothing that can come to us but must be a
love-token, and a fruit of that same love. The Cross is the key to
all tribulation, and shows it to be a token and an instrument of an
unchanging love.

Further, that great love of Christ helps us to conquer, because in
His sufferings and death He becomes the Companion of all the weary.
The rough, dark, lonely road changes its look when we see His
footprints there, not without specks of blood in them,
where the thorns tore His feet. We conquer our afflictions if we
recognise that 'in all our afflictions He was afflicted,' and that
Himself has drunk to its bitterest dregs the cup which He commends to
our lips. He has left a kiss upon its margin, and we need not shrink
when He holds it out to us and says 'Drink ye all of it.' That one
thought of the companionship of the Christ in our sorrows makes us
more than conquerors.

And lastly, this dying Lover of our souls communicates to us all, if
we will, the strength whereby we may coerce all outward things into
being helps to the fuller participation of His perfect love. Our
sorrows and all the other distracting externals do seek to drag us
away from Him. Is all that happens in counteraction to that pull of
the world, that we tighten our grasp upon Him, and will not let Him
go; as some poor wretch might the horns of the altar that did not
respond to his grasp? Nay what we lay hold of is no dead thing, but
a living hand, and it grasps us more tightly than we can ever grasp
it. So because He holds us, and not because we hold Him, we shall
not be dragged away, by anything outside of our own weak and wavering
souls, and all these embattled foes may come against us, they may
shear off everything else, they cannot sever Christ from us unless
we ourselves throw Him away. 'In this thou shalt conquer.' 'They
overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of His testimony.'



LOVE'S TRIUMPH

   'Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities,
   nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor
   height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able
   to separate us from the love of God.'--ROMANS viii. 38, 39.


These rapturous words are the climax of the Apostle's long
demonstration that the Gospel is the revelation of 'the righteousness
of God from faith to faith,' and is thereby 'the power of God unto
salvation.' What a contrast there is between the beginning and the
end of his argument! It started with sombre, sad words about man's
sinfulness and aversion from the knowledge of God. It closes with
this sunny outburst of triumph; like some stream rising among black
and barren cliffs, or melancholy moorlands, and foaming through
narrow rifts in gloomy ravines, it reaches at last fertile lands, and
flows calm, the sunlight dancing on its broad surface, till it loses
itself at last in the unfathomable ocean of the love of God.

We are told that the Biblical view of human nature is too dark. Well,
the important question is not whether it is dark, but whether it is
true. But, apart from that, the doctrine of Scripture about man's
moral condition is not dark, if you will take the whole of it
together. Certainly, a part of it is very dark. The picture, for
instance, of what men are, painted at the beginning of this Epistle,
is shadowed like a canvas of Rembrandt's. The Bible is 'Nature's
sternest painter but her best.' But to get the whole doctrine of
Scripture on the subject, we have to take its confidence as to what
men may become, as well as its portrait of what they are--and then
who will say that the anthropology of Scripture is gloomy? To me it
seems that the unrelieved blackness of the view which, because it
admits no fall, can imagine no rise, which sees in all man's sins and
sorrows no token of the dominion of an alien power, and has,
therefore, no reason to believe that they can be separated from
humanity, is the true 'Gospel of despair,' and that the system which
looks steadily at all the misery and all the wickedness, and calmly
proposes to cast it all out, is really the only doctrine of human
nature which throws any gleam of light on the darkness. Christianity
begins indeed with, 'There is none that doeth good, no, not one,' but
it ends with this victorious pæan of our text.

And what a majestic close it is to the great words that have gone
before, fitly crowning even their lofty height! One might well shrink
from presuming to take such words as a text, with any idea of
exhausting or of enhancing them. My object is very much more humble.
I simply wish to bring out the remarkable order, in which Paul here
marshals, in his passionate, rhetorical amplification, all the
enemies that can be supposed to seek to wrench us away from the love
of God; and triumphs over them all. We shall best measure the
fullness of the words by simply taking these clauses as they stand in
the text.

I. The love of God is unaffected by the extremest changes of our
condition.

The Apostle begins his fervid catalogue of vanquished foes by a pair
of opposites which might seem to cover the whole ground--'neither
death nor life.' What more can be said? Surely, these two include
everything. From one point of view they do. But yet, as we shall see,
there is more to be said. And the special reason for beginning with
this pair of possible enemies is probably to be found by remembering
that they are a pair, that between them they do cover the whole
ground and represent the _extremes_ of change which can befall
us. The one stands at the one pole, the other at the other. If these
two stations, so far from each other, are equally near to God's love,
then no intermediate point can be far from it. If the most violent
change which we can experience does not in the least matter to the
grasp which the love of God has on us, or to the grasp which we may
have on it, then no less violent a change can be of any consequence.
It is the same thought in a somewhat modified form, as we find in
another word of Paul's, 'Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and
whether we die, we die unto the Lord.' Our subordination to Him is
the same, and our consecration should be the same, in all varieties
of condition, even in that greatest of all variations. His love to us
makes no account of that mightiest of changes. How should it be
affected by slighter ones?

The distance of a star is measured by the apparent change in its
position, as seen from different points of the earth's surface or
orbit. But this great Light stands steadfast in our heaven, nor moves
a hair's-breadth, nor pours a feebler ray on us, whether we look up
to it from the midsummer day of busy life, or from the midwinter of
death. These opposites are parted by a distance to which the millions
of miles of the world's path among the stars are but a point, and yet
the love of God streams down on them alike.

Of course, the confidence in immortality is implied in this thought.
Death does not, in the slightest degree, affect the essential
vitality of the soul; so it does not, in the slightest degree, affect
the outflow of God's love to that soul. It is a change of condition
and circumstance, and no more. He does not lose us in the dust of
death. The withered leaves on the pathway are trampled into mud, and
indistinguishable to human eyes; but He sees them even as when they
hung green and sunlit on the mystic tree of life.

How beautifully this thought contrasts with the saddest aspect of the
power of death in our human experience! He is Death the Separator,
who unclasps our hands from the closest, dearest grasp, and divides
asunder joints and marrow, and parts soul and body, and withdraws us
from all our habitude and associations and occupations, and loosens
every bond of society and concord, and hales us away into a lonely
land. But there is one bond which his 'abhorred shears' cannot cut.
Their edge is turned on _it_. One Hand holds us in a grasp which
the fleshless fingers of Death in vain strive to loosen. The
separator becomes the uniter; he rends us apart from the world that
He may 'bring us to God.' The love filtered by drops on us in life is
poured upon us in a flood in death; 'for I am persuaded, that neither
death nor life shall be able to separate us from the love of God.'

II. The love of God is undiverted from us by any other order of
beings.

'Nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers,' says Paul. Here we pass
from conditions affecting ourselves to living beings beyond
ourselves. Now, it is important for understanding the precise thought
of the Apostle to observe that this expression, when used without any
qualifying adjective, seems uniformly to mean good angels, the
hierarchy of blessed spirits before the throne. So that there is no
reference to 'spiritual wickedness in high places' striving to draw
men away from God. The supposition which the Apostle makes is,
indeed, an impossible one, that these ministering spirits, who are
sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation,
should so forget their mission and contradict their nature as to seek
to bar us out from the love which it is their chiefest joy to bring
to us. He knows it to be an impossible supposition, and its very
impossibility gives energy to his conclusion, just as when in the
same fashion he makes the other equally impossible supposition about
an angel from heaven preaching another gospel than that which he had
preached to them.

So we may turn the general thought of this second category of
impotent efforts in two different ways, and suggest, first, that it
implies the utter powerlessness of any third party in regard to the
relations between our souls and God.

We alone have to do with Him alone. The awful fact of individuality,
that solemn mystery of our personal being, has its most blessed or
its most dread manifestation in our relation to God. There no other
Being has any power. Counsel and stimulus, suggestion or temptation,
instruction or lies, which may tend to lead us nearer to Him or away
from Him, they may indeed give us; but after they have done their
best or their worst, all depends on the personal act of our own
innermost being. Man or angel can affect that, but from without. The
old mystics called prayer 'the flight of the lonely soul to the only
God.' It is the name for all religion. These two, God and the soul,
have to 'transact,' as our Puritan forefathers used to say, as if
there were no other beings in the universe but only they two. Angels
and principalities and powers may stand beholding with sympathetic
joy; they may minister blessing and guardianship in many ways; but
the decisive act of union between God and the soul they can neither
effect nor prevent.

And as for them, so for men around us; the limits of their power to
harm us are soon set. They may shut us out from human love by
calumnies, and dig deep gulfs of alienation between us and dear ones;
they may hurt and annoy us in a thousand ways with slanderous
tongues, and arrows dipped in poisonous hatred, but one thing they
cannot do. They may build a wall around us, and imprison us from many
a joy and many a fair prospect, but they cannot put a roof on it to
keep out the sweet influences from above, or hinder us from looking
up to the heavens. Nobody can come between us and God but ourselves.

Or, we may turn this general thought in another direction, and say,
These blessed spirits around the throne do not absorb and intercept
His love. They gather about its steps in their 'solemn troops and
sweet societies'; but close as are their ranks, and innumerable as is
their multitude, they do not prevent that love from passing beyond
them to us on the outskirts of the crowd. The planet nearest the sun
is drenched and saturated with fiery brightness, but the rays from
the centre of life pass on to each of the sister spheres in its turn,
and travel away outwards to where the remotest of them all rolls in
its far-off orbit, unknown for millenniums to dwellers closer to the
sun, but through all the ages visited by warmth and light according
to its needs. Like that poor, sickly woman who could lay her wasted
fingers on the hem of Christ's garment, notwithstanding the thronging
multitude, we can reach our hands through all the crowd, or rather He
reaches His strong hand to us and heals and blesses us. All the
guests are fed full at that great table. One's gain is not another's
loss. The multitudes sit on the green grass, and the last man of
the last fifty gets as much as the first. 'They did all eat, and were
filled'; and more remains than fed them all. So all beings are
'nourished from the King's country,' and none jostle others out of
their share. This healing fountain is not exhausted of its curative
power by the early comers. 'I will give unto this last, even as unto
thee.' 'Nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, shall be able to
separate us from the love of God.'

III. The love of God is raised above the power of time.

'Nor things present, nor things to come,' is the Apostle's next class
of powers impotent to disunite us from the love of God. The
rhythmical arrangement of the text deserves to be noticed, as bearing
not only on its music and rhetorical flow, but as affecting its
force. We had first a pair of opposites, and then a triplet; 'death
and life: angels, principalities, and powers.' We have again a pair
of opposites; 'things present, things to come,' again followed by a
triplet, 'height nor depth, nor any other creature.' The effect of
this is to divide the whole into two, and to throw the first and
second classes more closely together, as also the third and fourth.
Time and Space, these two mysterious ideas, which work so fatally on
all human love, are powerless here.

The great revelation of God, on which the whole of Judaism was built,
was that made to Moses of the name 'I Am that I Am.' And parallel to
the verbal revelation was the symbol of the Bush, burning and
unconsumed, which is so often misunderstood. It appears wholly
contrary to the usage of Scriptural visions, which are ever wont to
express in material form the same truth which accompanies them in
words, that the meaning of that vision should be, as it is frequently
taken as being, the continuance of Israel unharmed by the fiery
furnace of persecution. Not the continuance of Israel, but the
eternity of Israel's God is the teaching of that flaming wonder. The
burning Bush and the Name of the Lord proclaimed the same great truth
of self-derived, self-determined, timeless, undecaying Being. And
what better symbol than the bush burning, and yet not burning out,
could be found of that God in whose life there is no tendency to
death, whose work digs no pit of weariness into which it falls, who
gives and is none the poorer, who fears no exhaustion in His
spending, no extinction in His continual shining?

And this eternity of Being is no mere metaphysical abstraction. It is
eternity of love, for God is love. That great stream, the pouring out
of His own very inmost Being, knows no pause, nor does the deep
fountain from which it flows ever sink one hair's-breadth in its pure
basin.

We know of earthly loves which cannot die. They have entered so
deeply into the very fabric of the soul, that like some cloth dyed in
grain, as long as two threads hold together they will retain the
tint. We have to thank God for such instances of love stronger than
death, which make it easier for us to believe in the unchanging
duration of His. But we know, too, of love that can change, and we
know that all love must part. Few of us have reached middle life, who
do not, looking back, see our track strewed with the gaunt skeletons
of dead friendships, and dotted with 'oaks of weeping,' waving green
and mournful over graves, and saddened by footprints striking away
from the line of march, and leaving us the more solitary for their
departure.

How blessed then to know of a love which cannot change or die! The
past, the present, and the future are all the same to Him, to whom 'a
thousand years,' that can corrode so much of earthly love, are in
their power to change 'as one day,' and 'one day,' which can hold so
few of the expressions of our love, may be 'as a thousand years' in
the multitude and richness of the gifts which it can be expanded to
contain. The whole of what He has been to any past, He is to us
to-day. 'The God of Jacob is our refuge.' All these old-world stories
of loving care and guidance may be repeated in our lives.

So we may bring the blessedness of all the past into the present, and
calmly face the misty future, sure that it cannot rob us of His love.

Whatever may drop out of our vainly-clasping hands, it matters not,
if only our hearts are stayed on His love, which neither things
present nor things to come can alter or remove. Looking on all the
flow of ceaseless change, the waste and fading, the alienation and
cooling, the decrepitude and decay of earthly affection, we can lift
up with gladness, heightened by the contrast, the triumphant song of
the ancient Church: 'Give thanks unto the Lord: for He is good:
because His mercy endureth for ever!'

IV. The love of God is present everywhere.

The Apostle ends his catalogue with a singular trio of antagonists;
'nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,' as if he had got
impatient of the enumeration of impotencies, and having named the
outside boundaries in space of the created universe, flings, as it
were, with one rapid toss, into that large room the whole that it can
contain, and triumphs over it all.

As the former clause proclaimed the powerlessness of Time, so this
proclaims the powerlessness of that other great mystery of creatural
life which we call Space, Height or depth, it matters not. That
diffusive love diffuses itself equally in all directions. Up or down,
it is all the same. The distance from the centre is the same to
Zenith or to Nadir.

Here, we have the same process applied to that idea of Omnipresence
as was applied in the former clause to the idea of Eternity. That
thought, so hard to grasp with vividness, and not altogether a glad
one to a sinful soul, is all softened and glorified, as some solemn
Alpine cliff of bare rock is when the tender morning light glows on
it, when it is thought of as the Omnipresence of Love. 'Thou, God,
seest me,' may be a stern word, if the God who sees be but a mighty
Maker or a righteous Judge. As reasonably might we expect a prisoner
in his solitary cell to be glad when he thinks that the jailer's eye
is on him from some unseen spy-hole in the wall, as expect any
thought of God but one to make a man read that grand one hundred and
thirty-ninth Psalm with joy: 'If I ascend into heaven, Thou art
there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there.' So may a
man say shudderingly to himself, and tremble as he asks in vain,
'Whither shall I flee from Thy Presence?' But how different it all is
when we can cast over the marble whiteness of that solemn thought the
warm hue of life, and change the form of our words into this of our
text: 'Nor height, nor depth, shall be able to separate us from the
love of God.'

In that great ocean of the divine love we live and move and have our
being, floating in it like some sea flower which spreads its filmy
beauty and waves its long tresses in the depths of mid-ocean. The
sound of its waters is ever in our ears, and above, beneath, around
us, its mighty currents run evermore. We need not cower before the
fixed gaze of some stony god, looking on us unmoved like those
Egyptian deities that sit pitiless with idle hands on their laps, and
wide-open lidless eyes gazing out across the sands. We need not fear
the Omnipresence of Love, nor the Omniscience which knows us
altogether, and loves us even as it knows. Rather we shall be glad
that we are ever in His Presence, and desire, as the height of all
felicity and the power for all goodness, to walk all the day long in
the light of His countenance, till the day come when we shall receive
the crown of our perfecting in that we shall be 'ever with the Lord.'

The recognition of this triumphant sovereignty of love over all these
real and supposed antagonists makes us, too, lords over them, and
delivers us from the temptations which some of them present us to
separate ourselves from the love of God. They all become our servants
and helpers, uniting us to that love. So we are set free from the
dread of death and from the distractions incident to life. So we are
delivered from superstitious dread of an unseen world, and from
craven fear of men. So we are emancipated from absorption in the
present and from careful thought for the future. So we are at home
everywhere, and every corner of the universe is to us one of the many
mansions of our Father's house. 'All things are yours, ... and ye are
Christ's; and Christ is God's.'

I do not forget the closing words of this great text. I have not
ventured to include them in our present subject, because they would
have introduced another wide region of thought to be laid down on our
already too narrow canvas.

But remember, I beseech you, that this love of God is explained by
our Apostle to be 'in Christ Jesus our Lord.' Love illimitable,
all-pervasive, eternal; yes, but a love which has a channel and a
course; love which has a method and a process by which it pours
itself over the world. It is not, as some representations would make
it, a vague, nebulous light diffused through space as in a chaotic
half-made universe, but all gathered in that great Light which rules
the day--even in Him who said: 'I am the Light of the world.' In
Christ the love of God is all centred and embodied, that it may be
imparted to all sinful and hungry hearts, even as burning coals are
gathered on a hearth that they may give warmth to all that are in the
house. 'God _so_ loved the world'--not merely _so much_, but in _such
a fashion_--'that'--that what? Many people would leap at once from
the first to the last clause of the verse, and regard eternal life
for all and sundry as the only adequate expression of the universal
love of God. Not so does Christ speak. Between that universal love
and its ultimate purpose and desire for every man He inserts two
conditions, one on God's part, one on man's. God's love reaches its
end, namely, the bestowal of eternal life, by means of a divine act
and a human response. 'God _so_ loved the world, that He _gave_ His
only begotten Son, that whosoever _believeth_ in Him should not
perish, but have everlasting life.' So all the universal love of God
for you and me and for all our brethren is 'in Christ Jesus our
Lord,' and faith in Him unites us to it by bonds which no foe can
break, no shock of change can snap, no time can rot, no distance can
stretch to breaking. 'For I am persuaded, that neither death nor
life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present,
nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ
Jesus our Lord.'



THE SACRIFICE OF THE BODY

   'I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of
   God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice,
   holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable
   service.'--ROMANS xii. 1.


In the former part of this letter the Apostle has been building up a
massive fabric of doctrine, which has stood the waste of centuries,
and the assaults of enemies, and has been the home of devout souls.
He now passes to speak of practice, and he binds the two halves of
his letter indissolubly together by that significant 'therefore,'
which does not only look back to the thing last said, but to the
whole of the preceding portion of the letter. 'What God hath joined
together let no man put asunder.' Christian living is inseparably
connected with Christian believing. Possibly the error of our
forefathers was in cutting faith too much loose from practice, and
supposing that an orthodox creed was sufficient, though I think the
extent to which they did suppose that has been very much exaggerated.
The temptation of this day is precisely the opposite. 'Conduct is
three-fourths of life,' says one of our teachers. Yes. But what about
the _fourth_ fourth which underlies conduct? Paul's way is the
right way. Lay broad and deep the foundations of God's facts revealed
to us, and then build upon that the fabric of a noble life. This
generation superficially tends to cut practice loose from faith, and
so to look for grapes from thorns and figs from thistles. Wrong
thinking will not lead to right doing. 'I beseech you, _therefore_,
brethren, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice.'

The Apostle, in beginning his practical exhortations, lays as the
foundations of them all two companion precepts: one, with which we
have to deal, affecting mainly the outward life; its twin sister,
which follows in the next verse, affecting mainly the inward life. He
who has drunk in the spirit of Paul's doctrinal teaching will present
his body a living sacrifice, and be renewed in the spirit of his
mind; and thus, outwardly and inwardly, will be approximating to
God's ideal, and all specific virtues will be his in germ. Those two
precepts lay down the broad outline, and all that follow in the way
of specific commandments is but filling in its details.

I. We observe that we have here, first, an all-inclusive directory
for the outward life.

Now, it is to be noticed that the metaphor of sacrifice runs through
the whole of the phraseology of my text. The word rendered 'present'
is a technical expression for the sacerdotal action of offering. A
tacit contrast is drawn between the sacrificial ritual, which was
familiar to Romans as well as Jews, and the true Christian sacrifice
and service. In the former a large portion of the sacrifices
consisted of animals which were slain. Ours is to be 'a living
sacrifice.' In the former the offering was presented to the Deity,
and became His property. In the Christian service, the gift passes,
in like manner, from the possession of the worshipper, and is set
apart for the uses of God, for that is the proper meaning of the word
'holy.' The outward sacrifice gave an odour of a sweet smell, which,
by a strong metaphor, was declared to be fragrant in the nostrils of
Deity. In like manner, the Christian sacrifice is 'acceptable unto
God.' These other sacrifices were purely outward, and derived no
efficacy from the disposition of the worshipper. Our sacrifice,
though the material of the offering be corporeal, is the act of the
inner man, and so is called 'rational' rather than 'reasonable,' as
our Version has it, or as in other parts of Scripture, 'spiritual.'
And the last word of my text, 'service,' retains the sacerdotal
allusion, because it does not mean the service of a slave or
domestic, but that of a priest.

And so the sum of the whole is that the master-word for the outward
life of a Christian is sacrifice. That, again, includes two
things--self-surrender and surrender to God.

Now, Paul was not such a superficial moralist as to begin at the
wrong end, and talk about the surrender of the outward life, unless
as the result of the prior surrender of the inward, and that priority
of the consecration of the man to his offering of the body is
contained in the very metaphor. For a priest needs to be consecrated
before he can offer, and we in our innermost wills, in the depths of
our nature, must be surrendered and set apart to God ere any of our
outward activities can be laid upon His altar. The Apostle, then,
does not make the mistake of substituting external for
internal surrender, but he presupposes that the latter has preceded.
He puts the sequence more fully in the parallel passage in this very
letter: 'Yield yourselves unto God, and your bodies as instruments of
righteousness unto Him.' So, then, first of all, we must be priests
by our inward consecration, and then, since 'a priest must have
somewhat to offer,' we must bring the outward life and lay it upon
His altar.

Now, of the two thoughts which I have said are involved in this great
keyword, the former is common to Christianity, with all noble systems
of morality, whether religious or irreligious. It is a commonplace,
on which I do not need to dwell, that every man who will live a man's
life, and not that of a beast, must sacrifice the flesh, and rigidly
keep it down. But that commonplace is lifted into an altogether new
region, assumes a new solemnity, and finds new power for its
fulfilment when we add to the moralist's duty of control of the
animal and outward nature the other thought, that the surrender must
be to God.

There is no need for my dwelling at any length on the various
practical directions in which this great exhortation must be wrought
out. It is of more importance, by far, to have well fixed in our
minds and hearts the one dominant thought that sacrifice is the
keyword of the Christian life than to explain the directions in which
it applies. But still, just a word or two about these. There are
three ways in which we may look at the body, which the Apostle here
says is to be yielded up unto God.

It is the recipient of impressions from without. _There_ is a field
for consecration. The eye that looks upon evil, and by the look has
rebellious, lustful, sensuous, foul desires excited in the heart,
breaks this solemn law. The eye that among the things seen dwells
with complacency on the pure, and turns from the impure as if a hot
iron had been thrust into its pupil; that in the things seen discerns
shimmering behind them, and manifested through them, the things
unseen and eternal, is the consecrated eye. 'Art for Art's sake,' to
quote the cant of the day, has too often meant art for the flesh's
sake. And there are pictures and books, and sights of various sorts,
flashed before the eyes of you young men and women which it is
pollution to dwell upon, and should be pain to remember. I beseech
you all to have guard over these gates of the heart, and to pray,
'Turn away mine eyes from viewing vanity.' And the other senses, in
like manner, have need to be closely connected with God if they are
not to rush us down to the devil.

The body is not only the recipient of impressions. It is the
possessor of appetites and necessities. See to it that these are
indulged, with constant reference to God. It is no small attainment
of the Christian life 'to eat our meat with gladness and singleness
of heart, praising God.' In a hundred directions this characteristic
of our corporeal lives tends to lead us all away from supreme
consecration to Him. There is the senseless luxury of this
generation. There is the exaggerated care for physical strength and
completeness amongst the young; there is the intemperance in eating
and drinking, which is the curse and the shame of England. There is
the provision for the flesh, the absorbing care for the procuring of
material comforts, which drowns the spirit in miserable anxieties,
and makes men bond-slaves. There is the corruption which comes from
drunkenness and from lust. There is the indolence which checks lofty
aspirations and stops a man in the middle of noble work. And there
are many other forms of evil on which I need not dwell, all of which
are swept clean out of the way when we lay to heart this injunction:
'I beseech you present your bodies a living sacrifice,' and let
appetites and tastes and corporeal needs be kept in rigid
subordination and in conscious connection with Him. I remember a
quaint old saying of a German schoolmaster, who apostrophised his
body thus: 'I go with you three times a day to eat; you must come
with me three times a day to pray.' Subjugate the body, and let it be
the servant and companion of the devout spirit.

It is also, besides being the recipient of impressions, and the
possessor of needs and appetites, our instrument for working in the
world. And so the exhortation of my text comes to include this, that
all our activities done by means of brain and eye and tongue and hand
and foot shall be consciously devoted to Him, and laid as a sacrifice
upon His altar. That pervasive, universally diffused reference to
God, in all the details of daily life, is the thing that Christian
men and women need most of all to try to cultivate. 'Pray without
ceasing,' says the Apostle. This exhortation can only be obeyed if
our work is indeed worship, being done by God's help, for God's sake,
in communion with God.

So, dear friends, sacrifice is the keynote--meaning thereby
surrender, control, and stimulus of the corporeal frame, surrender to
God, in regard to the impressions which we allow to be made upon our
senses, to the indulgence which we grant to our appetites, and the
satisfaction which we seek for our needs, and to the activities which
we engage in by means of this wondrous instrument with which God has
trusted us. These are the plain principles involved in the
exhortation of my text. 'He that soweth to the flesh, shall of the
flesh reap corruption.' 'I keep under my body, and bring it into
subjection.' It is a good servant; it is a bad master.

II. Note, secondly, the relation between this priestly service and
other kinds of worship.

I need only say a word about that. Paul is not meaning to depreciate
the sacrificial ritual, from which he drew his emblem. But he is
meaning to assert that the devotion of a life, manifested through
bodily activity, is higher in its nature than the symbolical worship
of any altar and of any sacrifice. And that falls in with prevailing
tendencies in this day, which has laid such a firm hold on the
principle that daily conduct is better than formal worship, that it
has forgotten to ask the question whether the daily conduct is likely
to be satisfactory if the formal worship is altogether neglected. I
believe, as profoundly as any man can, that the true worship is
distinguishable from and higher than the more sensuous forms of the
Catholic or other sacramentarian churches, or the more simple of the
Puritan and Nonconformist, or the altogether formless of the Quaker.
I believe that the best worship is the manifold activities of daily
life laid upon God's altar, so that the division between things
secular and things sacred is to a large extent misleading and
irrelevant. But at the same time I believe that you have very little
chance of getting this diffused and all-pervasive reference of all a
man's doings to God unless there are, all through his life, recurring
with daily regularity, reservoirs of power, stations where he may
rest, kneeling-places where the attitude of service is exchanged for
the attitude of supplication; times of quiet communion with God which
shall feed the worshipper's activities as the white snowfields on the
high summits feed the brooks that sparkle by the way, and bring
fertility wherever they run. So, dear brethren, remember that whilst
life is the field of worship there must be the inward worship within
the shrine if there is to be the outward service.

III. Lastly, note the equally comprehensive motive and ground of this
all-inclusive directory for conduct.

'I beseech you, by the mercies of God.' That plural does not mean
that the Apostle is extending his view over the whole wide field of
the divine beneficence, but rather that he is contemplating the one
all-inclusive mercy about which the former part of his letter has
been eloquent--viz. the gift of Christ--and contemplating it in the
manifoldness of the blessings which flow from it. The mercies of God
which move a man to yield himself as a sacrifice are not the diffused
beneficences of His providence, but the concentrated love that lies
in the person and work of His Son.

And there, as I believe, is the one motive to which we can appeal
with any prospect of its being powerful enough to give the needful
impetus all through a life. The sacrifice of Christ is the ground on
which our sacrifices can be offered and accepted, for it was the
sacrifice of a death propitiatory and cleansing, and on it, as the
ancient ritual taught us, may be reared the enthusiastic sacrifice of
a life--a thankoffering for it.

Nor is it only the ground on which our sacrifice is accepted, but it
is the great motive by which our sacrifice is impelled. _There_
is the difference between the Christian teaching, 'present your
bodies a sacrifice,' and the highest and noblest of similar teaching
elsewhere. One of the purest and loftiest of the ancient moralists
was a contemporary of Paul's. He would have re-echoed from his heart
the Apostle's directory, but he knew nothing of the Apostle's motive.
So his exhortations were powerless. He had no spell to work on men's
hearts, and his lofty teachings were as the voice of one crying in
the wilderness. Whilst Seneca taught, Rome was a cesspool of moral
putridity and Nero butchered. So it always is. There may be noble
teachings about self-control, purity, and the like, but an evil and
adulterous generation is slow to dance to such piping.

Our poet has bid us--

  'Move upwards, casting out the beast,
  And let the ape and tiger die.'

But how is this heavy bulk of ours to 'move upwards'; how is the
beast to be 'cast out'; how are the 'ape and tiger' in us to be
slain? Paul has told us, 'By the mercies of God.' Christ's gift,
meditated on, accepted, introduced into will and heart, is the one
power that will melt our obstinacy, the one magnet that will draw us
after it.

Nothing else, brethren, as your own experience has taught you, and as
the experience of the world confirms, nothing else will bind
Behemoth, and put a hook in his nose. Apart from the constraining
motive of the love of Christ, all the cords of prudence, conscience,
advantage, by which men try to bind their unruly passions and manacle
the insisting flesh, are like the chains on the demoniac's
wrists--'And he had oftentimes been bound by chains, and the chains
were snapped asunder.' But the silken leash with which the fair Una
in the poem leads the lion, the silken leash of love will bind the
strong man, and enable us to rule ourselves. If we will open our
hearts to the sacrifice of Christ, we shall be able to offer
ourselves as thankofferings. If we will let His love sway our wills
and consciences, He will give our wills and consciences power to
master and to offer up our flesh. And the great change, according to
which He will one day change the body of our humiliation into the
likeness of the body of His glory, will be begun in us, if we live
under the influence of the motive and the commandment which this
Apostle bound together in our text and in his other great words, 'Ye
are not your own; ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God
in your body and spirit, which are His.'



TRANSFIGURATION

   'Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by
   the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that
   good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.'--ROMANS xii. 2.


I had occasion to point out, in a sermon on the preceding verse, that
the Apostle is, in this context, making the transition from the
doctrinal to the practical part of his letter, and that he lays down
broad principles, of which all his subsequent injunctions and
exhortations are simply the filling up of the details. One master
word, for the whole Christian life, as we then saw, is sacrifice,
self-surrender, and that to God. In like manner, Paul here brackets,
with that great conception of the Christian life, another equally
dominant and equally comprehensive. In one aspect, it is
self-surrender; in another, it is growing transformation. And, just
as in the former verse we found that an inward surrender preceded the
outward sacrifice, and that the inner man, having been consecrated as
a priest, by this yielding of himself to God, was then called upon to
manifest inward consecration by outward sacrifice, so in this further
exhortation, an inward 'renewing of the mind' is regarded as the
necessary antecedent of transformation of outward life.

So we have here another comprehensive view of what the Christian life
ought to be, and that not only grasped, as it were, in its very
centre and essence, but traced out in two directions--as to that
which must precede it within, and as to that which follows it as
consequence. An outline of the possibilities, and therefore the
duties, of the Christian, is set forth here, in these three thoughts
of my text, the renewed mind issuing in a transfigured life, crowned
and rewarded by a clearer and ever clearer insight into what we ought
to be and do.

I. Note, then, that the foundation of all transformation of character
and conduct is laid deep in a renewed mind.

Now it is a matter of world-wide experience, verified by each of us
in our own case, if we have ever been honest in the attempt, that the
power of self-improvement is limited by very narrow bounds. Any man
that has ever tried to cure himself of the most trivial habit which
he desires to get rid of, or to alter in the slightest degree the set
of some strong taste or current of his being, knows how little he can
do, even by the most determined effort. Something may be effected,
but, alas! as the proverbs of all nations and all lands have taught
us, it is very little indeed. 'You cannot expel nature with a fork,'
said the Roman. 'What's bred in the bone won't come out of the
flesh,' says the Englishman. 'Can the Ethiopian change his skin or
the leopard his spots?' says the Hebrew. And we all know what the
answer to that question is. The problem that is set before a man when
you tell him to effect self-improvement is something like that
which confronted that poor paralytic lying in the porch at the pool:
'If you can walk you will be able to get to the pool that will make
you able to walk. But you have got to be cured before you can do what
you need to do in order to be cured.' Only one knife can cut the
knot. The Gospel of Jesus Christ presents itself, not as a mere
republication of morality, not as merely a new stimulus and motive to
do what is right, but as an actual communication to men of a new
power to work in them, a strong hand laid upon our poor, feeble hand
with which we try to put on the brake or to apply the stimulus. It is
a new gift of a life which will unfold itself after its own nature,
as the bud into flower, and the flower into fruit; giving new
desires, tastes, directions, and renewing the whole nature. And so,
says Paul, the beginning of transformation of character is the
renovation in the very centre of the being, and the communication of
a new impulse and power to the inward self.

Now, I suppose that in my text the word 'mind' is not so much
employed in the widest sense, including all the affections and will,
and the other faculties of our nature, as in the narrower sense of
the perceptive power, or that faculty in our nature by which we
recognise, and make our own, certain truths. 'The renewing of the
mind,' then, is only, in such an interpretation, a theological way of
putting the simpler English thought, a change of estimates, a new set
of views; or if that word be too shallow, as indeed it is, a new set
of convictions. It is profoundly true that 'As a man thinketh, so
is he.' Our characters are largely made by our estimates of what is
good or bad, desirable or undesirable. And what the Apostle is
thinking about here is, as I take it, principally how the body of
Christian truth, if it effects a lodgment in, not merely the brain of
a man, but his whole nature, will modify and alter it all. Why, we
all know how often a whole life has been revolutionised by the sudden
dawning or rising in its sky, of some starry new truth, formerly
hidden and undreamed of. And if we should translate the somewhat
archaic phraseology of our text into the plainest of modern English,
it just comes to this: If you want to change your characters, and God
knows they all need it, change the deep convictions of your mind; and
get hold, as living realities, of the great truths of Christ's
Gospel. If you and I really believed what we say we believe, that
Jesus Christ has died for us, and lives for us, and is ready to pour
out upon us the gift of His Divine Spirit, and wills that we should
be like Him, and holds out to us the great and wonderful hopes and
prospects of an absolutely eternal life of supreme and serene
blessedness at His right hand, should we be, could we be, the sort of
people that most of us are? It is not the much that you say you
believe that shapes your character; it is the little that you
habitually realise. Truth professed has no transforming power; truth
received and fed upon can revolutionise a man's whole character.

So, dear brethren, remember that my text, though it is an analysis of
the methods of Christian progress, and though it is a wonderful
setting forth of the possibilities open to the poorest, dwarfed,
blinded, corrupted nature, is also all commandment. And if it is true
that the principles of the Gospel exercise transforming power upon
men's lives, and that in order for these principles to effect their
natural results there must be honest dealing with them, on our parts,
take this as the practical outcome of all this first part of my
sermon--let us all see to it that we keep ourselves in touch with the
truths which we say we believe; and that we thorough-goingly apply
these truths in all their searching, revealing, quickening, curbing
power, to every action of our daily lives. If for one day we could
bring everything that we do into touch with the creed that we
profess, we should be different men and women. Make of your every
thought an action; link every action with a thought. Or, to put it
more Christianlike, let there be nothing in your creed which is not
in your commandments; and let nothing be in your life which is not
moulded by these. The beginning of all transformation is the
revolutionised conviction of a mind that has accepted the truths of
the Gospel.

II. Well then, secondly, note the transfigured life.

The Apostle uses in his positive commandment, 'Be ye transformed,'
the same word which is employed by two of the Evangelists in their
account of our Lord's transfiguration. And although I suppose it
would be going too far to assert that there is a distinct reference
intended to that event, it may be permissible to look back to it as
being a lovely illustration of the possibilities that open to an
honest Christian life--the possibility of a change, coming from
within upwards, and shedding a strange radiance on the face, whilst
yet the identity remains. So by the rippling up from within of the
renewed mind will come into our lives a transformation not altogether
unlike that which passed on Him when His garments did shine 'so as no
fuller on earth could white them'; and His face was as the sun in his
strength.

The life is to be transfigured, yet it remains the same, not only in
the consciousness of personal identity, but in the main trend and
drift of the character. There is nothing in the Gospel of Jesus
Christ which is meant to obliterate the lines of the strongly marked
individuality which each of us receives by nature. Rather the Gospel
is meant to heighten and deepen these, and to make each man more
intensely himself, more thoroughly individual and unlike anybody
else. The perfection of our nature is found in the pursuit, to the
furthest point, of the characteristics of our nature, and so, by
reason of diversity, there is the greater harmony, and, all taken
together, will reflect less inadequately the infinite glories of
which they are all partakers. But whilst the individuality remains,
and ought to be heightened by Christian consecration, yet a change
should pass over our lives, like the change that passes over the
winter landscape when the summer sun draws out the green leaves from
the hard black boughs, and flashes a fresh colour over all the brown
pastures. There should be such a change as when a drop or two of ruby
wine falls into a cup, and so diffuses a gradual warmth of tint over
all the whiteness of the water. Christ in us, if we are true to Him,
will make us more ourselves, and yet new creatures in Christ Jesus.

And the transformation is to be into His likeness who is the pattern
of all perfection. We must be moulded after the same type. There are
two types possible for us: this world; Jesus Christ. We have to make
our choice which is to be the headline after which we are to try to
write. 'They that make them are like unto them.' Men resemble their
gods; men become more or less like their idols. What you conceive to
be desirable you will more and more assimilate yourselves to. Christ
is the Christian man's pattern; is He not better than the blind,
corrupt world?

That transformation is no sudden thing, though the revolution which
underlies it may be instantaneous. The working _out_ of the new
motives, the working _in_ of the new power, is no mere work of a
moment. It is a lifelong task till the lump be leavened. Michael
Angelo, in his mystical way, used to say that sculpture effected its
aim by the removal of parts; as if the statue lay somehow hid in the
marble block. We have, day by day, to work at the task of removing
the superfluities that mask its outlines. Sometimes with a heavy
mallet, and a hard blow, and a broad chisel, we have to take away
huge masses; sometimes, with fine tools and delicate touches, to
remove a grain or two of powdered dust from the sparkling block, but
always to seek more and more, by slow, patient toil, to conform
ourselves to that serene type of all perfectness that we have learned
to love in Jesus Christ.

And remember, brethren, this transformation is no magic change
effected whilst men sleep. It is a commandment which we have to brace
ourselves to perform, day by day to set ourselves to the task of more
completely assimilating ourselves to our Lord. It comes to be a
solemn question for each of us whether we can say, 'To-day I am liker
Jesus Christ than I was yesterday; to-day the truth which renews the
mind has a deeper hold upon me than it ever had before.'

But this positive commandment is only one side of the transfiguration
that is to be effected. It is clear enough that if a new likeness is
being stamped upon a man, the process may be looked at from the other
side; and that in proportion as we become liker Jesus Christ, we
shall become more unlike the old type to which we were previously
conformed. And so, says Paul, 'Be not conformed to this world, but be
ye transformed.' He does not mean to say that the nonconformity
precedes the transformation. They are two sides of one process; both
arising from the renewing of the mind within.

Now, I do not wish to do more than just touch most lightly upon the
thoughts that are here, but I dare not pass them by altogether. 'This
world' here, in my text, is more properly 'this age,' which means
substantially the same thing as John's favourite word 'world,' viz.
the sum total of godless men and things conceived of as separated
from God, only that by this expression the essentially fleeting
nature of that type is more distinctly set forth. Now the world is
the world to-day just as much as it was in Paul's time. No doubt the
Gospel has sweetened society; no doubt the average of godless life in
England is a better thing than the average of godless life in the
Roman Empire. No doubt there is a great deal of Christianity diffused
through the average opinion and ways of looking at things, that
prevail around us. But the World is the world still. There are maxims
and ways of living, and so on, characteristic of the Christian life,
which are in as complete antagonism to the ideas and maxims and
practices that prevail amongst men who are outside of the influences
of this Christian truth in their own hearts, as ever they were.

And although it can only be a word, I want to put in here a very
earnest word which the tendencies of this generation do very
specially require. It seems to be thought, by a great many people,
who call themselves Christians nowadays, that the nearer they can
come in life, in ways of looking at things, in estimates of
literature, for instance, in customs of society, in politics, in
trade, and especially in amusements--the nearer they can come to the
un-Christian world, the more 'broad' (save the mark!) and 'superior
to prejudice' they are. 'Puritanism,' not only in theology, but in
life and conduct, has come to be at a discount in these days. And it
seems to be by a great many professing Christians thought to be a
great feat to walk as the mules on the Alps do, with one foot over
the path and the precipice down below. Keep away from the edge. You
are safer so. Although, of course, I am not talking about mere
conventional dissimilarities; and though I know and believe and feel
all that can be said about the insufficiency, and even insincerity,
of such, yet there is a broad gulf between the man who believes in
Jesus Christ and His Gospel and the man who does not, and the
resulting conducts cannot be the same unless the Christian man is
insincere.

III. And now lastly, and only a word, note the great reward and crown
of this transfigured life.

Paul puts it in words which, if I had time, would require some
commenting upon. The issue of such a life is, to put it into plain
English, an increased power of perceiving, instinctively and surely,
what it is God's will that we should do. And that is the reward. Just
as when you take away disturbing masses of metal from near a compass,
it trembles to its true point, so when, by the discipline of which I
have been speaking, there are swept away from either side of us the
things that would perturb our judgment, there comes, as blessing and
reward, a clear insight into that which it is our duty to do.

There may be many difficulties left, many perplexities. There is no
promise here, nor is there anything in the tendencies of Christ-like
living, to lead us to anticipate that guidance in regard to matters
of prudence or expediency or temporal advantage will follow from such
a transfigured life. All such matters are still to be determined in
the proper fashion, by the exercise of our own best judgment and
common-sense. But in the higher region, the knowledge of good and
evil, surely it is a blessed reward, and one of the highest that can
be given to a man, that there shall be in him so complete a harmony
with God that, like God's Son, he 'does always the things that please
Him,' and that the Father will show him whatsoever things Himself
doeth; and that these also will the son do likewise. To know beyond
doubt what I ought to do, and knowing, to have no hesitation or
reluctance in doing it, seems to me to be heaven upon earth, and the
man that has it needs but little more. This, then, is the reward.
Each peak we climb opens wider and clearer prospects into the
untravelled land before us.

And so, brethren, here is the way, the only way, by which we can
change ourselves, first let us have our minds renewed by contact with
the truth, then we shall be able to transform our lives into the
likeness of Jesus Christ, and our faces too will shine, and our lives
will be ennobled, by a serene beauty which men cannot but admire,
though it may rebuke them. And as the issue of all we shall have
clearer and deeper insight into that will, which to know is life, in
keeping of which there is great reward. And thus our apostle's
promise may be fulfilled for each of us. 'We all with unveiled faces
reflecting'--as a mirror does--'the glory of the Lord, are changed
... into the same image.'



SOBER THINKING

   'For I say, through the grace that is given unto me, to
   every man that is among you, not to think of himself more
   highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly,
   according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of
   faith.'--ROMANS xii. 3.


It is hard to give advice without seeming to assume superiority; it
is hard to take it, unless the giver identifies himself with the
receiver, and shows that his counsel to others is a law for himself.
Paul does so here, led by the delicate perception which comes from a
loving heart, compared with which deliberate 'tact' is cold and
clumsy. He wishes, as the first of the specific duties to which he
invites the Roman Christians, an estimate of themselves based upon
the recognition of God as the Giver of all capacities and graces, and
leading to a faithful use for the general good of the 'gifts
differing according to the grace given to us.' In the first words of
our text, he enforces his counsel by an appeal to his apostolic
authority; but he so presents it that, instead of separating himself
from the Roman Christians by it, he unites himself with them. He
speaks of 'the grace given to _me_,' and in verse 6 of 'the grace
given to _us_.' He was made an Apostle by the same giving God who has
bestowed varying gifts on each of _them_. He knows what is the grace
which he possesses as he would have them know; and in these counsels
he is assuming no superiority, but is simply using the special gift
bestowed on him for the good of all. With this delicate turn of what
might else have sounded harshly authoritative, putting prominently
forward the divine gift and letting the man Paul to whom it was given
fall into the background, he counsels as the first of the social
duties which Christian men owe to one another, a sober and just
estimate of themselves. This sober estimate is here regarded as being
important chiefly as an aid to right service. It is immediately
followed by counsels to the patient and faithful exercise of
differing gifts. For thus we may know what our gifts are; and the
acquisition of such knowledge is the aim of our text.

I. What determines our gifts.

Paul here gives a precise standard, or 'measure' as he calls it,
according to which we are to estimate ourselves. 'Faith' is the
measure of our gifts, and is itself a gift from God. The strength of
a Christian man's faith determines his whole Christian character.
Faith is trust, the attitude of receptivity. There are in it a
consciousness of need, a yearning desire and a confidence of
expectation. It is the open empty hand held up with the assurance
that it will be filled; it is the empty pitcher let down into the
well with the assurance that it will be drawn up filled. It is the
precise opposite of the self-dependent isolation which shuts us out
from God. The law of the Christian life is ever, 'according to your
faith be it unto you'; 'believe that ye receive and ye have them.' So
then the more faith a man exercises the more of God and Christ he
has. It is the measure of our capacity, hence there may be indefinite
increase in the gifts which God bestows on faithful souls. Each of us
will have as much as he desires and is capable of containing. The
walls of the heart are elastic, and desire expands them.

The grace given by faith works in the line of its possessor's natural
faculties; but these are supernaturally reinforced and strengthened
while, at the same time, they are curbed and controlled, by the
divine gift, and the natural gifts thus dealt with become what Paul
calls _charisms_. The whole nature of a Christian should be ennobled,
elevated, made more delicate and intense, when the 'Spirit of life
that is in Christ Jesus' abides in and inspires it. Just as a sunless
landscape is smitten into sudden beauty by a burst of sunshine which
heightens the colouring of the flowers on the river's bank, and is
flashed back from every silvery ripple on the stream, so the faith
which brings the life of Christ into the life of the Christian makes
him more of a man than he was before. So, there will be infinite
variety in the resulting characters. It is the same force in various
forms that rolls in the thunder or gleams in the dewdrops, that
paints the butterfly's feathers or flashes in a star. All individual
idiosyncrasies should be developed in the Christian Church, and will
be when its members yield themselves fully to the indwelling Spirit,
and can truly declare that the lives which they live in the flesh
they live by the faith of the Son of God.

But Paul here regards the measure of faith as itself 'dealt to every
man'; and however we may construe the grammar of this sentence there
is a deep sense in which our faith is God's gift to us. We have to
give equal emphasis to the two conceptions of faith as a human act
and as a divine bestowal, which have so often been pitted against
each other as contradictory when really they are complementary. The
apparent antagonism between them is but one instance of the great
antithesis to which we come to at last in reference to all human
thought on the relations of man to God. 'It is He that worketh in us
both to will and to do of His own good pleasure'; and all our
goodness is God-given goodness, and yet it is our goodness. Every
devout heart has a consciousness that the faith which knits it to God
is God's work in it, and that left to itself it would have remained
alienated and faithless. The consciousness that his faith was his own
act blended in full harmony with the twin consciousness that it was
Christ's gift, in the agonised father's prayer, 'Lord, I believe,
help Thou mine unbelief.'

II. What is a just estimate of our gifts.

The Apostle tells us, negatively, that we are not to think more
highly than we ought to think, and positively that we are to 'think
soberly.'

To arrive at a just estimate of ourselves the estimate must ever be
accompanied with a distinct consciousness that all is God's gift.
That will keep us from anything in the nature of pride or
over-weening self-importance. It will lead to true humility, which is
not ignorance of what we can do, but recognition that we, the doers,
are of ourselves but poor creatures. We are less likely to fancy that
we are greater than we are when we feel that, whatever we are, God
made us so. 'What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now, if thou
didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received
it?'

Further, it is to be noted that the estimate of gifts which Paul
enjoins is an estimate with a view to service. Much
self-investigation is morbid, because it is self-absorbed; and much
is morbid because it is undertaken only for the purpose of
ascertaining one's 'spiritual condition.' Such self-examination is
good enough in its way, and may sometimes be very necessary; but a
testing of one's own capacities for the purpose of ascertaining what
we are fit for, and what therefore it is our duty to do, is far more
wholesome. Gifts are God's summons to work, and our first response to
the summons should be our scrutiny of our gifts with a distinct
purpose of using them for the great end for which we received them.
It is well to take stock of the loaves that we have, if the result be
that we bring our poor provisions to Him, and put them in His hands,
that He may give them back to us so multiplied as to be more than
adequate to the needs of the thousands. Such just estimate of our
gifts is to be attained mainly by noting ourselves at work. Patient
self-observation may be important, but is apt to be mistaken; and the
true test of what we can do is what we _do_ do.

The just estimate of our gifts which Paul enjoins is needful in order
that we may ascertain what God has meant us to be and do, and may
neither waste our strength in trying to be some one else, nor hide
our talent in the napkin of ignorance or false humility. There is
quite as much harm done to Christian character and Christian service
by our failure to recognise what is in our power, as by ambitious or
ostentatious attempts at what is above our power. We have to be
ourselves as God has made us in our natural faculties, and as the new
life of Christ operating on these has made us new creatures in Him
not by changing but by enlarging our old natures. It matters nothing
what the special form of a Christian man's service may be; the
smallest and the greatest are alike to the Lord of all, and He
appoints His servants' work. Whether the servant be a cup-bearer or a
counsellor is of little moment. 'He that is faithful in that which is
least, is faithful also in much.'

The positive aspect of this right estimate of one's gifts is, if we
fully render the Apostle's words, as the Revised Version does, 'so to
think as to think soberly.' There is to be self-knowledge in order to
'sobriety,' which includes not only what we mean by sober-mindedness,
but self-government; and this aspect of the apostolic exhortation
opens out into the thought that the gifts, which a just estimate of
ourselves pronounces us to possess, need to be kept bright by the
continual suppression of the mind of the flesh, by putting down
earthly desires, by guarding against a selfish use of them, by
preventing them by rigid control from becoming disproportioned and
our masters. All the gifts which Christ bestows upon His people He
bestows on condition that they bind them together by the golden chain
of self-control.



MANY AND ONE

   'For we have many members in one body, and all members have
   not the same office: 5. So we, being many, are one body in
   Christ, and every one members one of another.'--ROMANS xii. 4, 5.


To Paul there was the closest and most vital connection between the
profoundest experiences of the Christian life and its plainest and
most superficial duties. Here he lays one of his most mystical
conceptions as the very foundation on which to rear the great
structure of Christian conduct, and links on to one of his
profoundest thoughts, the unity of all Christians in Christ, a
comprehensive series of practical exhortations. We are accustomed to
hear from many lips: 'I have no use for these dogmas that Paul
delights in. Give me his practical teaching. You may keep the Epistle
to the Romans, I hold by the thirteenth of First Corinthians.' But
such an unnatural severance between the doctrine and the ethics of
the Epistle cannot be effected without the destruction of both. The
very principle of this Epistle to the Romans is that the difference
between the law and the Gospel is, that the one preaches conduct
without a basis for it, and that the other says, First believe in
Christ, and in the strength of that belief, do the right and be like
Him. Here, then, in the very laying of the foundation for conduct in
these verses we have in concrete example the secret of the Christian
way of making good men.

I. The first point to notice here is, the unity of the derived life.
Many are one, because they are each in Christ, and the individual
relationship and derivation of life from Him makes them one whilst
continuing to be many. That great metaphor, and nowadays much
forgotten and neglected truth, is to Paul's mind the fact which ought
to mould the whole life and conduct of individual Christians and to
be manifested therein. There are three most significant and
instructive symbols by which the unity of believers in Christ Jesus
is set forth in the New Testament. Our Lord Himself gives us the one
of the vine and its branches, and that symbol suggests the silent,
effortless process by which the life-giving sap rises and finds its
way from the deep root to the furthest tendril and the far-extended
growth. The same symbol loses indeed in one respect its value if we
transfer it to growths more congenial to our northern climate, and
instead of the vine with its rich clusters, think of some great elm,
deeply rooted, and with its firm bole and massive branches, through
all of which the mystery of a common life penetrates and makes every
leaf in the cloud of foliage through which we look up participant of
itself. But, profound and beautiful as our Lord's metaphor is, the
vegetative uniformity of parts and the absence of individual
characteristics make it, if taken alone, insufficient. In the tree
one leaf is like another; it 'grows green and broad and takes no
care.' Hence, to express the whole truth of the union between Christ
and us we must bring in other figures. Thus we find the Apostle
adducing the marriage tie, the highest earthly example of union,
founded on choice and affection. But even that sacred bond leaves a
gap between those who are knit together by it; and so we have the
conception of our text, the unity of the body as representing for us
the unity of believers with Jesus. This is a unity of life. He is not
only head as chief and sovereign, but He is soul or life, which has
its seat, not in this or that organ as old physics teach, but
pervades the whole and 'filleth all in all.' The mystery which
concerns the union of soul and body, and enshrouds the nature of
physical life, is part of the felicity of this symbol in its
Christian application. That commonest of all things, the mysterious
force which makes matter live and glow under spiritual emotion, and
changes the vibrations of a nerve, or the undulations of the grey
brain, into hope and love and faith, eludes the scalpel and the
microscope. Of man in his complex nature it is true that 'clouds and
darkness are round about him,' and we may expect an equally solemn
mystery to rest upon that which makes out of separate individuals one
living body, animated with the life and moved by the Spirit of the
indwelling Christ. We can get no further back, and dig no deeper
down, than His own words, 'I am ... the life.'

But, though this unity is mysterious, it is most real. Every
Christian soul receives from Christ the life of Christ. There is a
real implantation of a higher nature which has nothing to do with sin
and is alien from death. There is a true regeneration which is
supernatural, and which makes all who possess it one, in the measure
of their possession, as truly as all the leaves on a tree are one
because fed by the same sap, or all the members in the natural body
are one, because nourished by the same blood. So the true bond of
Christian unity lies in the common participation of the one Lord, and
the real Christian unity is a unity of derived life.

The misery and sin of the Christian Church have been, and are, that
it has sought to substitute other bonds of unity. The whole weary
history of the divisions and alienations between Christians has
surely sufficiently, and more than sufficiently, shown the failure of
the attempts to base Christian oneness upon uniformity of opinion, or
of ritual, or of purpose. The difference between the real unity, and
these spurious attempts after it, is the difference between bundles
of faggots, dead and held together by a cord, and a living tree
lifting its multitudinous foliage towards the heavens. The bundle of
faggots may be held together in some sort of imperfect union, but is
no exhibition of unity. If visible churches must be based on some
kind of agreement, they can never cover the same ground as that of
'the body of Christ.'

That oneness is independent of our organisations, and even of our
will, since it comes from the common possession of a common life. Its
enemies are not divergent opinions or forms, but the evil tempers and
dispositions which impede, or prevent, the flow into each Christian
soul of the uniting 'Spirit of life in Christ Jesus' which makes the
many who may be gathered into separate folds one flock clustered
around the one Shepherd. And if that unity be thus a fundamental fact
in the Christian life and entirely apart from external organisation,
the true way to increase it in each individual is, plainly, the
drawing nearer to Him, and the opening of our spirits so as to
receive fuller, deeper, and more continuous inflows from His own
inexhaustible fullness. In the old Temple stood the seven-branched
candlestick, an emblem of a formal unity; in the new the seven
candlesticks are one, because Christ stands in the midst. He makes
the body one; without Him it is a carcase.

II. The diversity.

'We have many members in one body, but all members have not the same
office.' Life has different functions in different organs. It is
light in the eye, force in the arm, music on the tongue, swiftness in
the foot; so also is Christ. The higher a creature rises in the scale
of life, the more are the parts differentiated. The lowest is a mere
sac, which performs all the functions that the creature requires; the
highest is a man with a multitude of organs, each of which is
definitely limited to one office. In like manner the division of
labour in society measures its advance; and in like manner in the
Church there is to be the widest diversity. What the Apostle
designates as 'gifts' are natural characteristics heightened by the
Spirit of Christ; the effect of the common life in each ought to be
the intensifying and manifestation of individuality of character. In
the Christian ideal of humanity there is place for every variety of
gifts. The flora of the Mountain of God yields an endless
multiplicity of growths on its ascending slopes which pass through
every climate. There ought to be a richer diversity in the Church
than anywhere besides; that tree should 'bear twelve manner of
fruits, yielding its fruit every month for the healing of the
nations.' 'All flesh is not the same flesh.' 'Star differeth from
star in glory.'

The average Christian life of to-day sorely fails in two things: in
being true to itself, and in tolerance of diversities. We are all so
afraid of being ticketed as 'eccentric,' 'odd,' that we oftentimes
stifle the genuine impulses of the Spirit of Christ leading us to the
development of unfamiliar types of goodness, and the undertaking of
unrecognised forms of service. If we trusted in Christ in ourselves
more, and took our laws from His whispers, we should often reach
heights of goodness which tower above us now, and discover in
ourselves capacities which slumber undiscerned. There is a dreary
monotony and uniformity amongst us which impoverishes us, and weakens
the testimony that we bear to the quickening influence of the Spirit
that is in Christ Jesus; and we all tend to look very suspiciously at
any man who 'puts all the others out' by being himself, and letting
the life that he draws from the Lord dictate its own manner of
expression. It would breathe a new life into all our Christian
communities if we allowed full scope to the diversities of operation,
and realised that in them all there was the one Spirit. The world
condemns originality: the Church should have learned to prize it.
'One after this fashion, and one after that,' is the only wholesome
law of the development of the manifold graces of the Christian life.

III. The harmony.

'We being many are one body in Christ, and every one members one of
another.' That expression is remarkable, for we might have expected
to read rather members _of the body_, than _of each other_;
but the bringing in of such an idea suggests most emphatically that
thought of the mutual relation of each part of the great whole, and
that each has offices to discharge for the benefit of each. In the
Christian community, as in an organised body, the active co-operation
of all the parts is the condition of health. All the rays into which
the spectrum breaks up the pure white light must be gathered together
again in order to produce it; just as every instrument in the great
orchestra contributes to the volume of sound. The Lancashire
hand-bell ringers may illustrate this point for us. Each man picks up
his own bell from the table and sounds his own note at the moment
prescribed by the score, and so the whole of the composer's idea is
reproduced. To suppress diversities results in monotony; to combine
them is the only sure way to secure harmony. Nor must we forget that
the indwelling life of the Church can only be manifested by the full
exhibition and freest possible play of all the forms which that life
assumes in individual character. It needs all, and more than all, the
types of mental characteristics that can be found in humanity to
mirror the infinite beauty of the indwelling Lord. 'There are
diversities of operations,' and all those diversities but partially
represent that same Lord 'who worketh all in all,' and Himself is
more than all, and, after all manifestation through human characters,
remains hinted at rather than declared, suggested but not revealed.

Still further, only by the exercise of possible diversities is the
one body nourished, for each member, drawing life directly and
without the intervention of any other from Christ the Source, draws
also from his fellow-Christian some form of the common life that to
himself is unfamiliar, and needs human intervention in order to its
reception. Such dependence upon one's brethren is not inconsistent
with a primal dependence on Christ alone, and is a safeguard against
the cultivating of one's own idiosyncrasies till they become diseased
and disproportionate. The most slenderly endowed Christian soul has
the double charge of giving to, and receiving from, its brethren. We
have all something which we can contribute to the general stock. We
have all need to supplement our own peculiar gifts by brotherly
ministration. The prime condition of Christian vitality has been set
forth for ever by the gracious invitation, which is also an
imperative command, 'Abide in Me and I in you'; but they who by such
abiding are recipients of a communicated life are not thereby
isolated, but united to all who like them have received 'the
manifestation of the Spirit to do good with.'



GRACE AND GRACES

   'Having then gifts, differing according to the grace that
   is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according
   to the proportion of faith; 7. Or ministry, let us wait on
   our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8. Or he
   that exhorteth, on exhortation; he that giveth, let him do
   it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that
   showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.'--ROMANS xii. 6-8.


The Apostle here proceeds to build upon the great thought of the
unity of believers in the one body a series of practical
exhortations. In the first words of our text, he, with characteristic
delicacy, identifies himself with the Roman Christians as a
recipient, like them, of 'the grace that is given to us,' and as,
therefore, subject to the same precepts which he commends to them. He
does not stand isolated by the grace that is given to him; nor does
he look down as from the height of his apostleship on the multitude
below, saying to them,--Go. As one of themselves he stands amongst
them, and with brotherly exhortation says,--Come. If that had been
the spirit in which all Christian teachers had besought men, their
exhortations would less frequently have been breath spent in vain.
We may note

I. The grace that gives the gifts.

The connection between these two is more emphatically suggested by
the original Greek, in which the word for 'gifts' is a derivative of
that for 'grace.' The relation between these two can scarcely be
verbally reproduced in English; but it may be, though imperfectly,
suggested by reading 'graces' instead of 'gifts.' The gifts are
represented as being the direct product of, and cognate with, the
grace bestowed. As we have had already occasion to remark, they are
in Paul's language a designation of natural capacities strengthened
by the access of the life of the Spirit of Christ. As a candle
plunged in a vase of oxygen leaps up into more brilliant flame, so
all the faculties of the human soul are made a hundred times
themselves when the quickening power of the life of Christ enters
into them.

It is to be observed that the Apostle here assumes that every
Christian possesses, in some form, that grace which gives graces. To
him a believing soul without Christ-given gifts is a monstrosity. No
one is without some graces, and therefore no one is without some
duties. No one who considers the multitude of professing Christians
who hamper all our churches to-day, and reflects on the modern need
to urge on the multitude of idlers forms of Christian activity, will
fail to recognise signs of terribly weakened vitality. The humility,
which in response to all invitations to work for Christ pleads
unfitness is, if true, more tragical than it at first seems, for it
is a confession that the man who alleges it has no real hold of the
Christ in whom he professes to trust. If a Christian man is fit for
no Christian work, it is time that he gravely ask himself whether he
has any Christian life. 'Having gifts' is the basis of all the
Apostle's exhortations. It is to him inconceivable that any Christian
should not possess, and be conscious of possessing, some endowment
from the life of Christ which will fit him for, and bind him to, a
course of active service.

The universality of this possession is affirmed, if we note that,
according to the Greek, it was 'given' at a special time in the
experience of each of these Roman Christians. The rendering 'was
given' might be more accurately exchanged for 'has been given,' and
that expression is best taken as referring to a definite moment in
the history of each believer namely, his conversion. When we 'yield
ourselves to God,' as Paul exhorts us to do in the beginning of this
chapter, as the commencement of all true life of conformity to His
will, Christ yields Himself to us. The possession of these gifts of
grace is no prerogative of officials; and, indeed, in all the
exhortations which follow there is no reference to officials, though
of course such were in existence in the Roman Church. They had their
special functions and special qualifications for these. But what Paul
is dealing with now is the grace that is inseparable from individual
surrender to Christ, and has been bestowed upon all who are His. To
limit the gifts to officials, and to suppose that the universal gifts
in any degree militate against the recognition of officials in the
Church, are equally mistakes, and confound essentially different
subjects.

II. The graces that flow from the grace.

The Apostle's catalogue of these is not exhaustive, nor logically
arranged; but yet a certain loose order may be noted, which may be
profitable for us to trace. They are in number seven--the sacred
number; and are capable of being divided, as so many of the series of
sevens are, into two portions, one containing four and the other
three. The former include more public works, to each of which a man
might be specially devoted as his life work for and in the Church.
Three are more private, and may be conceived to have a wider relation
to the world. There are some difficulties of construction and
rendering in the list, which need not concern us here; and we may
substantially follow the Authorised Version.

The first group of four seems to fall into two pairs, the first of
which, 'prophecy' and 'ministry,' seem to be bracketed together by
reason of the difference between them. Prophecy is a very high form
of special inspiration, and implies a direct reception of special
revelation, but not necessarily of future events. The prophet is
usually coupled in Paul's writings with the apostle, and was
obviously amongst those to whom was given one of the highest forms of
the gifts of Christ. It is very beautiful to note that by natural
contrast the Apostle at once passes to one of the forms of
service which a vulgar estimate would regard as remotest from the
special revelation of the prophet, and is confined to lowly service.
Side by side with the exalted gift of prophecy Paul puts the lowly
gift of ministry. Very significant is the juxtaposition of these two
extremes. It teaches us that the lowliest office is as truly allotted
by Jesus as the most sacred, and that His highest gifts find an
adequate field for manifestation in him who is servant of all.
Ministry to be rightly discharged needs spiritual character. The
original seven were men 'full of faith and of the Holy Ghost,' though
all they had to do was to hand their pittances to poor widows. It may
be difficult to decide for what reason other than the emphasising of
this contrast the Apostle links together ministry and prophecy, and
so breaks a natural sequence which would have connected the second
pair of graces with the first member of the first pair. We should
have expected that here, as elsewhere, 'prophet,' 'teacher,'
'exhorter,' would have been closely connected, and there seems no
reason why they should not have been so, except that which we have
suggested, namely, the wish to bring together the highest and
the lowest forms of service.

The second pair seem to be linked together by likeness. The 'teacher'
probably had for his function, primarily, the narration of the facts
of the Gospel, and the setting forth in a form addressed chiefly to
the understanding the truths thereby revealed; whilst the 'exhorter'
rather addressed himself to the will, presenting the same truth, but
in forms more intended to influence the emotions. The word here
rendered 'exhort' is found in Paul's writings as bearing special
meanings, such as consoling, stimulating, encouraging, rebuking and
others. Of course these two forms of service would often be
associated, and each would be imperfect when alone; but it would
appear that in the early Church there were persons in whom the one or
the other of these two elements was so preponderant that their office
was thereby designated. Each received a special gift from the one
Source. The man who could only say to his brother, 'Be of good
cheer,' was as much the recipient of the Spirit as the man who could
connect and elaborate a systematic presentation of the truths of the
Gospel.

These four graces are followed by a group of three, which may be
regarded as being more private, as not pointing to permanent offices
so much as to individual acts. They are 'giving,' 'ruling,' 'showing
pity,' concerning which we need only note that the second of these
can hardly be the ecclesiastical office, and that it stands between
two which are closely related, as if it were of the same kind. The
gifts of money, or of direction, or of pity, are one in kind. The
right use of wealth comes from the gift of God's grace; so does the
right use of any sway which any of us have over any of our brethren;
and so does the glow of compassion, the exercise of the natural human
sympathy which belongs to all, and is deepened and made tenderer and
intenser by the gift of the Spirit. It would be a very different
Church, and a very different world, if Christians, who were not
conscious of possessing gifts which made them fit to be either
prophets, or teachers, or exhorters, and were scarcely endowed even
for any special form of ministry, felt that a gift from their hands,
or a wave of pity from their hearts, was a true token of the movement
of God's Spirit on their spirits. The fruit of the Spirit is to be
found in the wide fields of everyday life, and the vine bears many
clusters for the thirsty lips of wearied men who may little know what
gives them their bloom and sweetness. It would be better for both
giver and receiver if Christian beneficence were more clearly
recognised as one of the manifestations of spiritual life.

III. The exercise of the graces.

There are some difficulties in reference to the grammatical
construction of the words of our text, into which it is not necessary
that we should enter here. We may substantially follow the Authorised
and Revised Versions in supplying verbs in the various clauses, so as
to make of the text a series of exhortations. The first of these is
to 'prophesy according to the proportion of faith'; a commandment
which is best explained by remembering that in the preceding verse
'the measure of faith' has been stated as being the measure of the
gifts. The prophet then is to exercise his gifts in proportion to his
faith. He is to speak his convictions fully and openly, and to let
his utterances be shaped by the indwelling life. This exhortation may
well sink into the heart of preachers in this day. It is but the echo
of Jeremiah's strong words: 'He that hath my word, let him speak my
word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord. Is
not my word like as fire, saith the Lord, and like a hammer that
breaketh the rock in pieces?' The ancient prophet's woe falls with
double weight on those who use their words as a veil to obscure their
real beliefs, and who prophesy, not 'according to the proportion of
faith,' but according to the expectations of the hearers, whose faith
is as vague as theirs.

In the original, the next three exhortations are alike in grammatical
construction, which is represented in the Authorised Version by the
supplement 'let us wait on,' and in the Revised Version by 'let us
give ourselves to'; we might with advantage substitute for either the
still more simple form 'be in,' after the example of Paul's
exhortation to Timothy 'be in these things'; that is, as our Version
has it, 'give thyself wholly to them.' The various gifts are each
represented as a sphere within which its possessor is to move, for
the opportunities for the exercise of which he is carefully to watch,
and within the limits of which he is humbly to keep. That general law
applies equally to ministry, and teaching and exhorting. We are to
seek to discern our spheres; we are to be occupied with, if not
absorbed in, them. At the least we are diligently to use the gift
which we discover ourselves to possess, and thus filling our several
spheres, we are to keep within them, recognising that each is sacred
as the manifestation of God's will for each of us. The divergence of
forms is unimportant, and it matters nothing whether 'the Giver of
all' grants less or more. The main thing is that each be faithful in
the administration of what he has received, and not seek to imitate
his brother who is diversely endowed, or to monopolise for himself
another's gifts. To insist that our brethren's gifts should be like
ours, and to try to make ours like theirs, are equally sins against
the great truth, of which the Church as a whole is the example, that
there are 'diversities of operations but the same Spirit.'

The remaining three exhortations are in like manner thrown together
by a similarity of construction in which the personality of the doer
is put in the foreground, and the emphasis of the commandment is
rested on the manner in which the grace is exercised. The reason for
that may be that in these three especially the manner will show the
grace. 'Giving' is to be 'with simplicity.' There are to be no
sidelong looks to self-interest; no flinging of a gift from a height,
as a bone might be flung to a dog; no seeking for gratitude; no
ostentation in the gift. Any taint of such mixed motives as these
infuses poison into our gifts, and makes them taste bitter to the
receiver, and recoil in hurt upon ourselves. To 'give with
simplicity' is to give as God gives.

'Diligence' is the characteristic prescribed for the man that rules.
We have already pointed out that this exhortation includes a much
wider area than that of any ecclesiastical officials. It points to
another kind of rule, and the natural gifts needed for any kind of
rule are diligence and zeal. Slackly-held reins make stumbling
steeds; and any man on whose shoulders is laid the weight of
government is bound to feel it as a weight. The history of many a
nation, and of many a family, teaches that where the rule is slothful
all evils grow apace; and it is that natural energy and earnestness,
deepened and hallowed by the Christian life, which here is enjoined
as the true Christian way of discharging the function of ruling,
which, in some form or another, devolves on almost all of us.

'He that showeth mercy with cheerfulness.' The glow of natural human
sympathy is heightened so as to become a 'gift,' and the way in which
it is exercised is defined as being 'with cheerfulness.' That
injunction is but partially understood if it is taken to mean no more
than that sympathy is not to be rendered grudgingly, or as by
necessity. No sympathy is indeed possible on such terms; unless the
heart is in it, it is nought. And that it should thus flow forth
spontaneously wherever sorrow and desolation evoke it, there must be
a continual repression of self, and a heart disengaged from the
entanglements of its own circumstances, and at leisure to make a
brother's burden its very own. But the exhortation may, perhaps,
rather mean that the truest sympathy carries a bright face into
darkness, and comes like sunshine in a shady place.



LOVE THAT CAN HATE

   'Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil;
   cleave to that which is good. 10. In love of the brethren
   be tenderly affectioned one to another; in honour
   preferring one another.'--ROMANS xii. 9-10 (R.V.).


Thus far the Apostle has been laying down very general precepts and
principles of Christian morals. Starting with the one
all-comprehensive thought of self-sacrifice as the very foundation of
all goodness, of transformation as its method, and of the clear
knowledge of our several powers and faithful stewardship of these, as
its conditions, he here proceeds to a series of more specific
exhortations, which at first sight seem to be very unconnected, but
through which there may be discerned a sequence of thought.

The clauses of our text seem at first sight strangely disconnected.
The first and the last belong to the same subject, but the
intervening clause strikes a careless reader as out of place and
heterogeneous. I think that we shall see it is not so; but for the
present we but note that here are three sets of precepts which
enjoin, first, honest love; then, next, a healthy vehemence against
evil and for good; and finally, a brotherly affection and mutual
respect.

I. Let love be honest.

Love stands at the head, and is the fontal source of all separate
individualised duties. Here Paul is not so much prescribing love as
describing the kind of love which he recognises as genuine, and the
main point on which he insists is sincerity. The 'dissimulation' of
the Authorised Version only covers half the ground. It means, hiding
what one is; but there is simulation, or pretending to be what one is
not. There are words of love which are like the iridescent scum on
the surface veiling the black depths of a pool of hatred. A Psalmist
complains of having to meet men whose words were 'smoother than
butter' and whose true feelings were as 'drawn swords'; but, short of
such consciously lying love, we must all recognise as a real danger
besetting us all, and especially those of us who are naturally
inclined to kindly relations with our fellows, the tendency to use
language just a little in excess of our feelings. The glove is
slightly stretched, and the hand in it is not quite large enough to
fill it. There is such a thing, not altogether unknown in Christian
circles, as benevolence, which is largely cant, and words of
conventional love about individuals which do not represent any
corresponding emotion. Such effusive love pours itself in words, and
is most generally the token of intense selfishness. Any man who seeks
to make his words a true picture of his emotions must be aware that
few harder precepts have ever been given than this brief one of the
Apostle's, 'Let love be without hypocrisy.'

But the place where this exhortation comes in the apostolic sequence
here may suggest to us the discipline through which obedience to it
is made possible. There is little to be done by the way of directly
increasing either the fervour of love or the honesty of its
expression. The true method of securing both is to be growingly
transformed by 'the renewing of our minds,' and growingly to bring
our whole old selves under the melting and softening influence of
'the mercies of God.' It is swollen self-love, 'thinking more highly
of ourselves than we ought to think,' which impedes the flow of love
to others, and it is in the measure in which we receive into our
minds 'the mind that was in Christ Jesus,' and look at men as He did,
that we shall come to love them all honestly and purely. When we are
delivered from the monstrous oppression and tyranny of self, we have
hearts capable of a Christlike and Christ-giving love to all men, and
only they who have cleansed their hearts by union with Him, and by
receiving into them the purging influence of His own Spirit, will be
able to love without hypocrisy.

II. Let love abhor what is evil, and cleave to what is good.

If we carefully consider this apparently irrelevant interruption in
the sequence of the apostolic exhortations, we shall, I think, see at
once that the irrelevance is only apparent, and that the healthy
vehemence against evil and resolute clinging to good is as essential
to the noblest forms of Christian love as is the sincerity enjoined
in the previous clause. To detest the one and hold fast by the other
are essential to the purity and depth of our love. Evil is to be
loathed, and good to be clung to in our own moral conduct, and
wherever we see them. These two precepts are not mere tautology, but
the second of them is the ground of the first. The force of our
recoil from the bad will be measured by the firmness of our grasp
of the good; and yet, though inseparably connected, the one is apt to
be easier to obey than is the other. There are types of Christian men
to whom it is more natural to abhor the evil than to cleave to the
good; and there are types of character of which the converse is true.
We often see men very earnest and entirely sincere in their
detestation of meanness and wickedness, but very tepid in their
appreciation of goodness. To hate is, unfortunately, more congenial
with ordinary characters than to love; and it is more facile to look
down on badness than to look up at goodness.

But it needs ever to be insisted upon, and never more than in this
day of spurious charity and unprincipled toleration, that a healthy
hatred of moral evil and of sin, wherever found and however garbed,
ought to be the continual accompaniment of all vigorous and manly
cleaving to that which is good. Unless we shudderingly recoil from
contact with the bad in our own lives, and refuse to christen it with
deceptive euphemisms when we meet it in social and civil life, we
shall but feebly grasp, and slackly hold, that which is good. Such
energy of moral recoil from evil is perfectly consistent with honest
love, for it is things, not men, that we are to hate; and it is
needful as the completion and guardian of love itself. There is
always danger that love shall weaken the condemnation of wrong, and
modern liberality, both in the field of opinion and in regard to
practical life, has so far condoned evil as largely to have lost its
hold upon good. The criminal is pitied rather than blamed, and a
multitude of agencies are so occupied in elevating the wrong-doers
that they lose sight of the need of punishing.

Nor is it only in reference to society that this tendency works harm.
The effect of it is abundantly manifest in the fashionable ideas of
God and His character. There are whole schools of opinion which
practically strike out of their ideal of the Divine Nature abhorrence
of evil, and, little as they think it, are thereby fatally
impoverishing their ideal of God, and making it impossible to
understand His government of the world. As always, so in this matter,
the authentic revelation of the Divine Nature, and the perfect
pattern for the human are to be found in Jesus Christ. We recall that
wonderful incident, when on His last approach to Jerusalem, rounding
the shoulder of the Mount of Olives, He beheld the city, gleaming in
the morning sunshine across the valley, and forgetting His own
sorrow, shed tears over its approaching desolation, which yet He
steadfastly pronounced. His loathing of evil was whole-souled and
absolute, and equally intense and complete was His cleaving to that
which is good. In both, and in the harmony between them, He makes God
known, and prescribes and holds forth the ideal of perfect humanity
to men.

III. Let sincere and discriminating love be concentrated on Christian
men.

In the final exhortation of our text 'the love of the brethren' takes
the place of the more diffused and general love enjoined in the first
clause. The expression 'kindly affectioned' is the rendering of a
very eloquent word in the original in which the instinctive love of a
mother to her child, or the strange mystical ties which unite members
of a family together, irrespective of their differences of character
and temperament, are taken as an example after which Christian men
are to mould their relations to one another. The love which is
without hypocrisy, and is to be diffused on all sides, is also to be
gathered together and concentrated with special energy on all who
'call upon Jesus Christ as Lord, both their Lord and ours.' The more
general precept and the more particular are in perfect harmony,
however our human weakness sometimes confuses them. It is obvious
that this final precept of our text will be the direct result of the
two preceding, for the love which has learned to be moral, hating
evil, and clinging to good as necessary, when directed to possessors
of like precious faith will thrill with the consciousness of a deep
mystical bond of union, and will effloresce in all brotherly love and
kindly affections. They who are like one another in the depths of
their moral life, who are touched by like aspirations after like holy
things, and who instinctively recoil with similar revulsion from like
abominations, will necessarily feel the drawing of a unity far deeper
and sacreder than any superficial likenesses of race, or
circumstance, or opinion. Two men who share, however imperfectly, in
Christ's Spirit are more akin in the realities of their nature,
however they may differ on the surface, than either of them is to
another, however like he may seem, who is not a partaker in the life
of Christ.

This instinctive, Christian love, like all true and pure love, is to
manifest itself by 'preferring one another in honour'; or as the word
might possibly be rendered, 'anticipating one another.' We are not to
wait to have our place assigned before we give our brother his. There
will be no squabbling for the chief seat in the synagogue, or the
uppermost rooms at the feast, where brotherly love marshals the
guests. The one cure for petty jealousies and the miserable strife
for recognition, which we are all tempted to engage in, lies in a
heart filled with love of the brethren because of its love to the
Elder Brother of them all, and to the Father who is His Father as
well as ours. What a contrast is presented between the practice of
Christians and these precepts of Paul! We may well bow ourselves in
shame and contrition when we read these clear-drawn lines indicating
what we ought to be, and set by the side of them the blurred and
blotted pictures of what we are. It is a painful but profitable task
to measure ourselves against Paul's ideal of Christ's commandment;
but it will only be profitable if it brings us to remember that
Christ gives before He commands, and that conformity with His ideal
must begin, not with details of conduct, or with emotion, however
pure, but with yielding ourselves to the God who moves us by His
mercies, and being 'transformed by the renewing of our minds' and
'the indwelling of Christ in our hearts by faith.'



A TRIPLET OF GRACES

   'Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit;
   serving the Lord.'--ROMANS xii. 11.


Paul believed that Christian doctrine was meant to influence
Christian practice; and therefore, after the fundamental and profound
exhibition of the central truths of Christianity which occupies the
earlier portion of this great Epistle, he tacks on, with a
'therefore' to his theological exposition, a series of plain,
practical teachings. The place where conduct comes in the letter is
profoundly significant, and, if the significance of it had been
observed and the spirit of it carried into practice, there would have
been less of a barren orthodoxy, and fewer attempts at producing
righteous conduct without faith.

But not only is the place where this series of exhortations occur
very significant, but the order in which they appear is also
instructive. The great principle which covers all conduct, and may be
broken up into all the minutenesses of practical directions is
self-surrender. Give yourselves up to God; that is the Alpha and the
Omega of all goodness, and wherever that foundation is really laid,
on it will rise the fair building of a life which is a temple,
adorned with whatever things are lovely and of good report. So after
Paul has laid deep and broad the foundation of all Christian virtue
in his exhortation to present ourselves as living sacrifices, he goes
on to point out the several virtues in which such self-surrender will
manifest itself. There runs through the most of these exhortations an
arrangement in triplets--three sister Graces linked together
hand-in-hand as it were--and my text presents an example of that
threefoldness in grouping. 'Not slothful in business; fervent in
spirit; serving the Lord.'

I. We have, first, the prime grace of Christian diligence.

'Not slothful in business' suggests, by reason of our modern
restriction of that word 'business' to a man's daily occupation, a
much more limited range to this exhortation than the Apostle meant to
give it. The idea which is generally drawn from these words by
English readers is that they are to do their ordinary work
diligently, and, all the while, notwithstanding the cooling or
distracting influences of their daily avocations, are to keep
themselves 'fervent in spirit.' That is a noble and needful
conception of the command, but it does not express what is in the
Apostle's mind. He does not mean by 'business' a trade or profession,
or daily occupation. But the word means 'zeal' or 'earnestness.' And
what Paul says is just this--'In regard to your earnestness in all
directions, see that you are not slothful.'

The force and drift of the whole precept is just the exhortation to
exercise the very homely virtue of diligence, which is as much a
condition of growth and maturity in the Christian as it is in any
other life. The very homeliness and obviousness of the duty causes us
often to lose sight of its imperativeness and necessity.

Many of us, if we would sit quietly down and think of how we go about
our 'business,' as we call it, and of how we go about our Christian
life, which ought to be our highest business, would have great cause
for being ashamed. We begin the one early in the morning, we keep
hard at it all day, our eyes are wide open to see any opening where
money is to be made; that is all right. We give our whole selves to
our work whilst we are at it; that is as it should be. But why are
there not the same concentration, the same wide-awakeness, the same
open-eyed eagerness to find out ways of advancement, the same
resolved and continuous and all-comprehending and dominating
enthusiasm about our Christianity as there is about our shop, or our
mill, or our success as students? Why are we all fire in the one case
and all ice in the other? Why do we think that it is enough to lift
the burden that Christ lays upon us with one languid finger, and to
put our whole hand, or rather, as the prophet says, 'both hands
earnestly,' to the task of lifting the load of daily work? 'In your
earnestness be not slothful.'

Brethren, that is a very homely exhortation. I wonder how many of us
can say, 'Lord! I have heard, and I have obeyed Thy precept.'

II. Diligence must be fed by a fervent spirit.

The word translated 'fervent' is literally boiling. The metaphor is
very plain and intelligible. The spirit brought into contact with
Christian truth and with the fire of the Holy Spirit will naturally
have its temperature raised, and will be moved by the warm touch as
heat makes water in a pot hung above a fire boil. Such emotion,
produced by the touch of the fiery Spirit of God, is what Paul
desires for, and enjoins on, all Christians; for such emotion is the
only way by which the diligence, without which no Christian progress
will be made, can be kept up.

No man will work long at a task that his heart is not in; or if he
does, because he is obliged, the work will be slavery. In order,
then, that diligence may neither languish and become slothfulness,
nor be felt to be a heavy weight and an unwelcome necessity, Paul
here bids us see to it that our hearts are moved because there is a
fire below which makes 'the soul's depths boil in earnest.'

Now, of course, I know that, as a great teacher has told us, 'The
gods approve the depth and not the tumult of the soul,' and I know
that there is a great deal of emotional Christianity which is worth
nothing. But it is not that kind of fervour that the Apostle is
enjoining here. Whilst it is perfectly true that mere emotion often
does co-exist with, and very often leads to, entire negligence as to
possessing and manifesting practical excellence, the true relation
between these is just the opposite--viz. that this fervour of which I
speak, this wide-awakeness and enthusiasm of a spirit all quickened
into rapidity of action by the warmth which it has felt from God in
Christ, should drive the wheels of life. Boiling water makes steam,
does it not? And what is to be done with the steam that comes off the
'boiling' spirit? You may either let it go roaring through a
waste-pipe and do nothing but make a noise and be idly dissipated in
the air, or you may lead it into a cylinder and make it lift a
piston, and then you will get work out of it. That is what the
Apostle desires us to do with our emotion. The lightning goes
careering through the sky, but we have harnessed it to tram-cars
nowadays, and made it 'work for its living,' to carry our letters and
light our rooms. Fervour of a Christian spirit is all right when it
is yoked to Christian work, and made to draw what else is a heavy
chariot. It is not emotion, but it is indolent emotion, that is the
curse of much of our 'fervent' Christianity.

There cannot be too much fervour. There may be too little outlet
provided for the fervour to work in. It may all go off in comfortable
feeling, in enthusiastic prayers and 'Amens!' and 'So be it, Lords!'
and the like, or it may come with us into our daily tasks, and make
us buckle to with more earnestness, and more continuity. Diligence
driven by earnestness, and fervour that works, are the true things.

And surely, surely there cannot be any genuine
Christianity--certainly there cannot be any deep Christianity--which
is not fervent.

We hear from certain quarters of the Church a great deal about the
virtue of moderation. But it seems to me that, if you take into
account what Christianity tells us, the 'sober' feeling is fervent
feeling, and tepid feeling is imperfect feeling. I cannot understand
any man believing as plain matter-of-fact the truths on which the
whole New Testament insists, and keeping himself 'cool,' or, as our
friends call it, 'moderate.' Brethren, enthusiasm--which properly
means the condition of being dwelt in by a god--is the wise, the
reasonable attitude of Christian men, if they believe their own
Christianity and are really serving Jesus Christ. They should be
'diligent in business, fervent'--boiling--in spirit.

III. The diligence and the fervency are both to be animated by the
thought, 'Serving the Lord!'

Some critics, as many of you know, no doubt, would prefer to read
this verse in its last clause 'serving the time.' But that seems to
me a very lame and incomplete climax for the Apostle's thought, and
it breaks entirely the sequence which, as I think, is discernible in
it. Much rather, he here, in the closing member of the triplet,
suggests a thought which will be stimulus to the diligence and fuel
to the fire that makes the spirit boil.

In effect he says, 'Think, when your hands begin to droop, and when
your spirits begin to be cold and indifferent, and languor to steal
over you, and the paralysing influences of the commonplace and the
familiar, and the small begin to assert themselves--think that you
are serving the Lord.' Will that not freshen you up? Will that not
set you boiling again? Will it not be easy to be diligent when we
feel that we are 'ever in the great Taskmaster's eye'? There are many
reasons for diligence--the greatness of the work, for it is no small
matter for us to get the whole lump of our nature leavened with the
good leaven; the continual operation of antagonistic forces which are
all round us, and are working night-shifts as well as day ones,
whether we as Christians are on short time or not, the brevity of the
period during which we have to work, and the tremendous issues which
depend upon the completeness of our service here--all these things
are reasons for our diligence. But _the_ reason is: 'Thou Christ
hast died for me, and livest for me; truly I am Thy slave.' That is
the thought that will make a man bend his back to his work, whatever
it be, and bend his will to his work, too, however unwelcome it may
be; and that is the thought that will stir his whole spirit to
fervour and earnestness, and thus will deliver him from the
temptations to languid and perfunctory work that ever creep over us.

You can carry that motive--as we all know, and as we all forget when
the pinch comes--into your shop, your study, your office, your mill,
your kitchen, or wherever you go. 'On the bells of the horses there
shall be written, Holiness to the Lord,' said the prophet, and 'every
bowl in Jerusalem' may be sacred as the vessels of the altar. All
life may flash into beauty, and tower into greatness, and be smoothed
out into easiness, and the crooked things may be made straight and
the rough places plain, and the familiar and the trite be invested
with freshness and wonder as of a dream, if only we write over them,
'For the sake of the Master.' Then, whatever we do or bear, be it
common, insignificant, or unpleasant, will change its aspect, and all
will be sweet. Here is the secret of diligence and of fervency, 'I
set the Lord always before me.'



ANOTHER TRIPLET OF GRACES

   'Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing
   instant in prayer.'--ROMANS xii. 12.


These three closely connected clauses occur, as you all know, in the
midst of that outline of the Christian life with which the Apostle
begins the practical part of this Epistle. Now, what he omits in this
sketch of Christian duty seems to me quite as significant as what he
inserts. It is very remarkable that in the twenty verses devoted to
this subject, this is the only one which refers to the inner secrets
of the Christian life. Paul's notion of 'deepening the spiritual
life' was 'Behave yourself better in your relation to other people.'
So all the rest of this chapter is devoted to inculcating our duties
to one another. Conduct is all-important. An orthodox creed is
valuable if it influences action, but not otherwise. Devout emotion
is valuable, if it drives the wheels of life, but not otherwise.
Christians should make efforts to attain to clear views and warm
feelings, but the outcome and final test of both is a daily life of
visible imitation of Jesus. The deepening of spiritual life should be
manifested by completer, practical righteousness in the market-place
and the street and the house, which non-Christians will acknowledge.

But now, with regard to these three specific exhortations here, I
wish to try to bring out their connection as well as the force of
each of them.

I. So I remark first, that the Christian life ought to be joyful
because it is hopeful.

Now, I do not suppose that many of us habitually recognise it as a
Christian duty to be joyful. We think that it is a matter of
temperament and partly a matter of circumstance. We are glad when
things go well with us. If we have a sunny disposition, and are
naturally light-hearted, all the better; if we have a melancholy or
morose one, all the worse. But do we recognise this, that a Christian
who is not joyful is not living up to his duty; and that there is no
excuse, either in temperament or in circumstances, for our not being
so, and always being so? 'Rejoice in the Lord alway,' says Paul; and
then, as if he thought, 'Some of you will be thinking that that is a
very rash commandment, to aim at a condition quite impossible to make
constant,' he goes on--'and, to convince you that I do not say it
hastily, I will repeat it--"and again I say, rejoice."' Brethren, we
shall have to alter our conceptions of what true gladness is before
we can come to understand the full depth of the great thought that
joy is a Christian duty. The true joy is not the kind of joy that a
saying in the Old Testament compares to the 'crackling of thorns
under a pot,' but something very much calmer, with no crackle in it;
and very much deeper, and very much more in alliance with 'whatsoever
things are lovely and of good report,' than that foolish,
short-lived, and empty mirth that burns down so soon into black
ashes.

To be glad is a Christian duty. Many of us have as much religion as
makes us sombre, and impels us often to look upon the more solemn and
awful aspects of Christian truth, but we have not enough to make us
glad. I do not need to dwell upon all the sources in Christian faith
and belief, of that lofty and imperatively obligatory gladness, but I
confine myself to the one in my text, 'Rejoicing in hope.'

Now, we all know--from the boy that is expecting to go home for his
holidays in a week, up to the old man to whose eye the time-veil is
wearing thin--that hope, if it is certain, is a source of gladness.
How lightly one's bosom's lord sits upon its throne, when a great
hope comes to animate us! how everybody is pleasant, and all things
are easy, and the world looks different! Hope, if it is certain, will
gladden, and if our Christianity grasps, as it ought to do, the only
hope that is absolutely certain, and as sure as if it were in the
past and had been experienced, then our hearts, too, will sing for
joy. True joy is _not_ a matter of temperament, so much as a matter
of faith. It is _not_ a matter of circumstances. All the surface
drainage may be dry, but there is a well in the courtyard deep and
cool and full and exhaustless, and a Christian who rightly
understands and cherishes the Christian hope is lifted above
temperament, and is not dependent upon conditions for his joys.

The Apostle, in an earlier part of this same letter, defines for us
what that hope is, which thus is the secret of perpetual gladness,
when he speaks about 'rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.' Yes, it
is that great, supreme, calm, far off, absolutely certain prospect of
being gathered into the divine glory, and walking there, like the
three in the fiery furnace, unconsumed and at ease; it is that hope
that will triumph over temperament, and over all occasions for
melancholy, and will breathe into our life a perpetual gladness.
Brethren, is it not strange and sad that with such a treasure by our
sides we should consent to live such poor lives as we do?

But remember, although I cannot say to myself, 'Now I will be glad,'
and cannot attain to joy by a movement of the will or direct effort,
although it is of no use to say to a man--which is all that the world
can ever say to him--'Cheer up and be glad,' whilst you do not alter
the facts that make him sad, there is a way by which we can bring
about feelings of gladness or of gloom. It is just this--we can
choose what we will look at. If you prefer to occupy your mind with
the troubles, losses, disappointments, hard work, blighted hopes of
this poor sin-ridden world, of course sadness will come over you
often, and a general grey tone will be the usual tone of your lives,
as it is of the lives of many of us, broken only by occasional bursts
of foolish mirth and empty laughter. But if you choose to turn away
from all these, and instead of the dim, dismal, hard present, to sun
yourselves in the light of the yet unrisen sun, which you can do,
then, having rightly chosen the subjects to think about, the feeling
will come as a matter of course. You cannot make yourselves glad by,
as it were, laying hold of yourselves and lifting yourselves into
gladness, but you can rule the direction of your thoughts, and so can
bring around you summer in the midst of winter, by steadily
contemplating the facts--and they are present facts, though we talk
about them collectively as 'the future'--the facts on which all
Christian gladness ought to be based. We can carry our own atmosphere
with us; like the people in Italy, who in frosty weather will be seen
sitting in the market-place by their stalls with a dish of embers,
which they grasp in their hands, and so make themselves comfortably
warm on the bitterest day. You can bring a reasonable degree of
warmth into the coldest weather, if you will lay hold of the vessel
in which the fire is, and keep it in your hand and close to your
heart. Choose what you think about, and feelings will follow
thoughts.

But it needs very distinct and continuous effort for a man to keep
this great source of Christian joy clear before him. We are like the
dwellers in some island of the sea, who, in some conditions of the
atmosphere, can catch sight of the gleaming mountain-tops on the
mainland across the stormy channel between. But thick days, with a
heavy atmosphere and much mist, are very frequent in our latitude,
and then all the distant hills are blotted out, and we see nothing
but the cold grey sea, breaking on the cold, grey stones. Still, you
can scatter the mist if you will. You can make the atmosphere bright;
and it is worth an effort to bring clear before us, and to keep high
above the mists that cling to the low levels, the great vision which
will make us glad. Brethren, I believe that one great source of the
weakness of average Christianity amongst us to-day is the dimness
into which so many of us have let the hope of the glory of God pass
in our hearts. So I beg you to lay to heart this first commandment,
and to rejoice in hope.

II. Now, secondly, here is the thought that life, if full of joyful
hope, will be patient.

I have been saying that the gladness of which my text speaks is
independent of circumstances, and may persist and be continuous even
when externals occasion sadness. It is possible--I do not say it is
easy, God knows it is hard--I do not say it is frequently attained,
but I do say it is possible--to realise that wonderful ideal of the
Apostle's 'As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.' The surface of the
ocean may be tossed and fretted by the winds, and churned into foam,
but the great central depths 'hear not the loud winds when they
call,' and are still in the midst of tempest. And we, dear brethren,
ought to have an inner depth of spirit, down to the disturbance of
which no surface-trouble can ever reach. That is the height of
attainment of Christian faith, but it is a possible attainment for
every one of us.

And if there be that burning of the light under the water, like
'Greek fire,' as it was called, which many waters could not
quench--if there be that persistence of gladness beneath the
surface-sorrow, as you find a running stream coming out below a
glacier, then the joy and the hope, which co-exist with the sorrow,
will make life patient.

Now, the Apostle means by these great words, 'patient' and
'patience,' which are often upon his lips, something more than simple
endurance. That endurance is as much as many of us can often muster
up strength to exercise. It sometimes takes all our faith and all our
submission simply to say, 'I opened not my mouth, because thou didst
it; and I will bear what thine hand lays upon me.' But that is not
all that the idea of Christian 'patience' includes, for it also takes
in the thought of active work, and it is _perseverance_ as much
as _patience_.

Now, if my heart is filled with a calm gladness because my eye is
fixed upon a celestial hope, then both the passive and active sides
of Christian 'patience' will be realised by me. If my hope burns
bright, and occupies a large space in my thoughts, then it will not
be hard to take the homely consolation of good John Newton's hymn and
say--

  'Though painful at present,
    'Twill cease before long;
  And then, oh, how pleasant
    The conqueror's song!'

A man who is sailing to America, and knows that he will be in New
York in a week, does not mind, although his cabin is contracted, and
he has a great many discomforts, and though he has a bout of
sea-sickness. The disagreeables are only going to last for a day or
two. So our hope will make us bear trouble, and not make much of it.

And our hope will strengthen us, if it is strong, for all the work
that is to be done. Persistence in the path of duty, though my heart
be beating like a smith's hammer on the anvil, is what Christian men
should aim at, and possess. If we have within our hearts that fire of
a certain hope, it will impel us to diligence in doing the humblest
duty, whether circumstances be for or against us; as some great
steamer is driven right on its course, through the ocean, whatever
storms may blow in the teeth of its progress, because, deep down in
it, there are furnaces and boilers which supply the steam that drives
the engines. So a life that is joyful because it is hopeful will be
full of calm endurance and strenuous work. 'Rejoicing in hope;
patient,' persevering in tribulation.

III. Lastly, our lives will be joyful, hopeful, and patient, in
proportion as they are prayerful.

'Continuing instant'--which, of course, just means steadfast--'in
prayer.' Paul uttered a paradox when he said, 'Rejoice in the Lord
alway,' as he said long before this verse, in the very first letter
that he ever wrote, or at least the first which has come down to us.
There he bracketed it along with two other equally paradoxical
sayings. 'Rejoice evermore; pray without ceasing; in everything give
thanks.' If you pray without ceasing you can rejoice without ceasing.

But can I pray without ceasing? Not if by prayer you mean only words
of supplication and petition, but if by prayer you mean also a mental
attitude of devotion, and a kind of sub-conscious reference to God in
all that you do, such unceasing prayer is possible. Do not let us
blunt the edge of this commandment, and weaken our own consciousness
of having failed to obey it, by getting entangled in the cobwebs of
mere curious discussions as to whether the absolute ideal of
perfectly unbroken communion with God is possible in this life. At
all events it is possible to us to approximate to that ideal a great
deal more closely than our consciences tell us that we ever yet have
done. If we are trying to keep our hearts in the midst of daily duty
in contact with God, and if, ever and anon in the press of our work,
we cast a thought towards Him and a prayer, then joy and hope and
patience will come to us, in a degree that we do not know much about
yet, but might have known all about long, long ago.

There is a verse in the Old Testament which we may well lay to heart:
'They cried unto God in the battle, and He was entreated of them.'
Well, what sort of a prayer do you think that would be? Suppose that
you were standing in the thick of battle with the sword of an enemy
at your throat, there would not be much time for many words of
prayer, would there? But the cry could go up, and the thought could
go up, and as they went up, down would come the strong buckler which
God puts between His servants and all evil. That is the sort of
prayer that you, in the battle of business, in your shops and
counting-houses and warehouses and mills, we students in our studies,
and you mothers in your families and your kitchens, can send up to
heaven. If thus we 'pray without ceasing,' then we shall 'rejoice
evermore,' and our souls will be kept in patience and filled with the
peace of God.



STILL ANOTHER TRIPLET

   'Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to
   hospitality. 14. Bless them which persecute you: bless,
   and curse not. 15. Rejoice with them that do rejoice,
   and weep with them that weep.'--ROMANS xii. 13-15.


In these verses we pass from the innermost region of communion with
God into the wide field of duties in relation to men. The solitary
secrecies of rejoicing hope, endurance, and prayer unbroken, are
exchanged for the publicities of benevolence and sympathy. In the
former verses the Christian soul is in 'the secret place of the Most
High'; in those of our text he comes forth with the light of God on
his face, and hands laden with blessings. The juxtaposition of the
two suggests the great principles to which the morality of the New
Testament is ever true--that devotion to God is the basis of all
practical helpfulness to man, and that practical helpfulness to man
is the expression and manifestation of devotion to God.

The three sets of injunctions in our text, dissimilar though they
appear, have a common basis. They are varying forms of one
fundamental disposition--love; which varies in its forms according to
the necessities of its objects, bringing temporal help to the needy,
meeting hostility with blessing, and rendering sympathy to both the
glad and the sorrowful. There is, further, a noteworthy connection,
not in sense but in sound, between the first and second clauses of
our text, which is lost in our English Version. 'Given to
hospitality' is, as the Revised margin shows, literally, pursuing
hospitality. Now the Greek, like the English word, has the special
meaning of following with a hostile intent, and the use of it in the
one sense suggests its other meaning to Paul, whose habit of 'going
off at a word,' as it has been called, is a notable feature of his
style. Hence, this second injunction, of blessing the persecutors,
comes as a kind of play upon words, and is obviously occasioned by
the verbal association. It would come more appropriately at a later
part of the chapter, but its occurrence here is characteristic of
Paul's idiosyncrasy. We may represent the connection of these two
clauses by such a rendering as: Pursue hospitality, and as for those
who pursue you, bless, and curse not.

We may look at these three flowers from the one root of love.

I. Love that speaks in material help.

We have here two special applications of that love which Paul regards
as 'the bond of perfectness,' knitting all Christians together. The
former of these two is love that expresses itself by tangible
material aid. The persons to be helped are 'saints,' and it is their
'needs' that are to be aided. There is no trace in the Pauline
Epistles of the community of goods which for a short time prevailed
in the Church of Jerusalem and which was one of the causes that led
to the need for the contribution for the poor saints in that city
which occupied so much of Paul's attention at Corinth and elsewhere.
But, whilst Christian love leaves the rights of property intact, it
charges them with the duty of supplying the needs of the brethren.
They are not absolute and unconditioned rights, but are subject to
the highest principles of stewardship for God, trusteeship for men,
and sacrifice for Christ. These three great thoughts condition and
limit the Christian man's possession of the wealth, which, in a
modified sense, it is allowable for him to call his own. His
brother's need constitutes a first charge on all that belongs to him,
and ought to precede the gratification of his own desires for
superfluities and luxuries. If we 'see our brother have need and shut
up our bowels of compassion against him' and use our possessions for
the gratification of our own whims and fancies, 'how dwelleth the
love of God in us?' There are few things in which Christian men of
this day have more need for the vigorous exercise of conscience, and
for enlightenment, than in their getting, and spending, and keeping
money. In that region lies the main sphere of usefulness for many of
us; and if we have not been 'faithful in that which is least,' our
unfaithfulness there makes it all but impossible that we should be
faithful in that which is greatest. The honest and rigid
contemplation of our own faults in the administration of our worldly
goods, might well invest with a terrible meaning the Lord's
tremendous question, 'If ye have not been faithful in that which is
another's, who shall give you that which is your own?'

The hospitality which is here enjoined is another shape which
Christian love naturally took in the early days. When believers were
a body of aliens, dispersed through the world, and when, as they went
from one place to another, they could find homes only amongst their
own brethren, the special circumstances of the time necessarily
attached special importance to this duty; and as a matter of fact, we
find it recognised in all the Epistles of the New Testament as one of
the most imperative of Christian duties. 'It was the unity and
strength which this intercourse gave that formed one of the great
forces which supported Christianity.' But whilst hospitality was a
special duty for the early Christians, it still remains a duty for
us, and its habitual exercise would go far to break down the frowning
walls which diversities of social position and of culture have reared
between Christians.

II. The love that meets hostility with blessing.

There are perhaps few words in Scripture which have been more
fruitful of the highest graces than this commandment. What a train of
martyrs, from primitive times to the Chinese Christians in recent
years, have remembered these words, and left their legacy of blessing
as they laid their heads on the block or stood circled by fire at the
stake! For us, in our quieter generation, actual persecution is rare,
but hostility of ill-will more or less may well dog our steps, and
the great principle here commended to us is that we are to meet
enmity with its opposite, and to conquer by love. The diamond is cut
with sharp knives, and each stroke brings out flashing beauty. There
are kinds of wood which are fragrant when they burn; and there are
kinds which show their veining under the plane. It is a poor thing if
a Christian character only gives back like a mirror the expression of
the face that looks at it. To meet hate with hate, and scorn with
scorn, is not the way to turn hate into love and scorn into sympathy.
Indifferent equilibrium in the presence of active antagonism is not
possible for us. As long as we are sensitive we shall wince from a
blow, or a sarcasm, or a sneer. We must bless in order to keep
ourselves from cursing. The lesson is very hard, and the only way of
obeying it fully is to keep near Christ and drink in His spirit who
prayed 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'

III. Love that flows in wide sympathy.

Of the two forms of sympathy which are here enjoined, the former is
the harder. To 'rejoice with them that do rejoice' makes a greater
demand on unselfish love than to 'weep with them that weep.' Those
who are glad feel less need of sympathy than do the sorrowful, and
envy is apt to creep in and mar the completeness of sympathetic joy.
But even the latter of the two injunctions is not altogether easy.
The cynic has said that there is 'something not wholly displeasing in
the misfortunes of our best friends'; and, though that is an utterly
worldly and unchristian remark, it must be confessed not to be
altogether wanting in truth.

But for obedience to both of these injunctions, a heart at leisure
from itself is needed to sympathise; and not less needed is a
sedulous cultivation of the power of sympathy. No doubt temperament
has much to do with the degree of our obedience; but this whole
context goes on the assumption that the grace of God working on
temperament strengthens natural endowments by turning them into
'gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us.' Though
we live in that awful individuality of ours, and are each, as it
were, is landed in ourselves 'with echoing straits between us thrown,'
it is possible for us, as the result of close communion with Jesus
Christ, to bridge the chasms, and to enter into the joy of a
brother's joy. He who groaned in Himself as He drew near to the grave
of Lazarus, and was moved to weep with the weeping sisters, will help
us, in the measure in which we dwell in Him and He in us, that we too
may look 'not every man on his own things, but every man also on the
things of others.'

On the whole, love to Jesus is the basis of love to man, and love to
man is the practical worship of Christianity. As in all things, so in
the exhortations which we have now been considering, Jesus is our
pattern and power. He Himself communicates with our necessities, and
opens His heart to give us hospitable welcome there. He Himself has
shown us how to meet and overcome hatred with love, and hurt with
blessing. He shares our griefs, and by sharing lessens them. He
shares our joys, and by sharing hallows them. The summing up of all
these specific injunctions is, 'Let that mind be in you which was
also in Christ Jesus.'



STILL ANOTHER TRIPLET

   'Be of the same mind one toward another. Set not your
   mind on high things, but condescend to things that are
   lowly. Be not wise in your own conceits.'--Romans xii. 16 (R.V.).


We have here again the same triple arrangement which has prevailed
through a considerable portion of the context. These three
exhortations are linked together by a verbal resemblance which can
scarcely be preserved in translation. In the two former the same verb
is employed: and in the third the word for 'wise' is cognate with the
verb found in the other two clauses. If we are to seek for any closer
connection of thought we may find it first in this--that all the
three clauses deal with mental attitudes, whilst the preceding ones
dealt with the expression of such; and second in this--that the first
of the three is a general precept, and the second and third are
warnings against faults which are most likely to interfere with it.

I. We note, the bond of peace.

'Be of the same mind one toward another.' It is interesting to notice
how frequently the Apostle in many of his letters exhorts to mutual
harmonious relations. For instance, in this very Epistle he invokes
'the God of patience and of comfort' to grant to the Roman Christians
'to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus,'
and to the Corinthians, who had their full share of Greek
divisiveness, he writes, 'Be of the same mind, live in peace,' and
assures them that, if so, 'the God of love and peace will be with
them'; to his beloved Philippians he pours out his heart in
beseeching them by 'the consolation that is in Christ Jesus, and the
comfort of love, and the fellowship of the Spirit--' that they would
'fulfil his joy, that they be of the same mind, having the same love,
being of one accord, of one mind'; whilst to the two women in that
Church who were at variance with one another he sends the earnest
exhortation 'to be of the same mind in the Lord,' and prays one whom
we only know by his loving designation of 'a true yokefellow,' to
help them in what would apparently put a strain upon their Christian
principle. For communities and for individuals the cherishing of the
spirit of amity and concord is a condition without which there will
be little progress in the Christian life.

But it is to be carefully noted that such a spirit may co-exist with
great differences about other matters. It is not opposed to wide
divergence of opinion, though in our imperfect sanctification it is
hard for us to differ and yet to be in concord. We all know the
hopelessness of attempting to make half a dozen good men think alike
on any of the greater themes of the Christian religion; and if we
could succeed in such a vain attempt, there would still be many an
unguarded door through which could come the spirit of discord, and
the half-dozen might have divergence of heart even whilst they
profess identity of opinion. The true hindrances to our having 'the
same mind one toward another' lie very much deeper in our nature than
the region in which we keep our creeds. The self-regard and
self-absorption, petulant dislike of fellow-Christians'
peculiarities, the indifference which comes from lack of imaginative
sympathy, and which ministers to the ignorance which causes it, and a
thousand other weaknesses in Christian character bring about the
deplorable alienation which but too plainly marks the relation of
Christian communities and of individual Christians to one another in
this day. When one thinks of the actual facts in every corner of
Christendom, and probes one's own feelings, the contrast between the
apostolic ideal and the Church's realisation of it presents a
contradiction so glaring that one wonders if Christian people at all
believe that it is their duty 'to be of the same mind one toward
another.'

The attainment of this spirit of amity and concord ought to be a
distinct object of effort, and especially in times like ours, when
there is no hostile pressure driving Christian people together, but
when our great social differences are free to produce a certain
inevitable divergence and to check the flow of our sympathy, and when
there are deep clefts of opinion, growing deeper every day, and
seeming to part off Christians into camps which have little
understanding of, and less sympathy with, one another. Even the
strong individualism, which it is the glory of true Christian faith
to foster in character, and which some forms of Christian fellowship
do distinctly promote, works harm in this matter; and those who pride
themselves on belonging to 'Free churches,' and standing apart from
creed-bound and clergy-led communities, are specially called upon to
see to it that they keep this exhortation, and cultivate 'the unity
of the Spirit in the bond of peace.'

It should not be necessary to insist that the closest mutual concord
amongst all believers is but an imperfect manifestation, as all
manifestations in life of the deepest principles must be, of the true
oneness which binds together in the most sacred unity, and should
bind together in closest friendship, all partakers of the one life.
And assuredly the more that one life flows into our spirits, the less
power will all the enemies of Christian concord have over us. It is
the Christ in us which makes us kindred with all others in whom He
is. It is self, in some form or other, that separates us from the
possessors of like precious faith. When the tide is out, the little
rock-pools on the shore lie separated by stretches of slimy weeds,
but the great sea, when it rushes up, buries the divisions, and
unites them all. Our Christian unity is unity in Christ, and the only
sure way 'to be of the same mind one toward another' is, that 'the
mind which was in Christ Jesus be in us also.'

II. The divisive power of selfish ambition.

'Set not your mind on high things, but condescend to things that are
lowly.' The contrast here drawn between the high and the lowly makes
it probable that the latter as well as the former is to be taken as
referring to 'things' rather than persons. The margin of the Revised
Version gives the literal rendering of the word translated
'condescend.' 'To be carried away with,' is metaphorically equivalent
to surrendering one's self to; and the two clauses present two sides
of one disposition, which seeks not for personal advancement or
conspicuous work which may minister to self-gratulation, but
contentedly fills the lowly sphere, and 'the humblest duties on
herself doth lay.' We need not pause to point out that such an ideal
is dead against the fashionable maxims of this generation. Personal
ambition is glorified as an element in progress, and to a world which
believes in such a proverb as 'devil take the hindmost,' these two
exhortations can only seem fanatical absurdity. And yet, perhaps, if
we fairly take into account how the seeking after personal
advancement and conspicuous work festers the soul, and how the flower
of heart's-ease grows, as Bunyan's shepherd-boy found out, in the
lowly valley, these exhortations to a quiet performance of lowly
duties and a contented filling of lowly spheres, may seem touched
with a higher wisdom than is to be found in the arenas where men
trample over each other in their pursuit of a fame 'which appeareth
for a little time, and then vanisheth away.' What a peaceful world it
would be, and what peaceful souls they would have, if Christian
people really adopted as their own these two simple maxims. They are
easy to understand, but how hard they are to follow.

It needs scarcely be noted that the temper condemned here destroys
all the concord and amity which the Apostle has been urging in the
previous clause. Where every man is eagerly seeking to force himself
in front of his neighbour, any community will become a struggling
mob; and they who are trying to outrun one another and who grasp at
'high things,' will never be 'of the same mind one toward another.'
But, we may observe that the surest way to keep in check the natural
selfish tendency to desire conspicuous things for ourselves is
honestly, and with rigid self-control, to let ourselves be carried
away by enthusiasm for humble tasks. If we would not disturb our
lives and fret our hearts by ambitions that, even when gratified,
bring no satisfaction, we must yield ourselves to the impulse of the
continuous stream of lowly duties which runs through every life.

But, plainly as this exhortation is needful, it is too
heavy a strain to be ever carried out except by the power of Christ
formed in the heart. It is in His earthly life that we find the great
example of the highest stooping to the lowest duties, and elevating
them by taking them upon Himself. He did not 'strive nor cry, nor
cause His voice to be heard in the streets.' Thirty years of that
perfect life were spent in a little village folded away in the
Galilean hills, with rude peasants for the only spectators, and the
narrow sphere of a carpenter's shop for its theatre. For the rest,
the publicity possible would have been obscurity to an ambitious
soul. To speak comforting words to a few weeping hearts; to lay His
hands on a few sick folk and heal them; to go about in a despised
land doing good, loved indeed by outcasts and sinners, unknown by
all the dispensers of renown, and consciously despised by all whom
the world honoured--that was the perfect life of the Incarnate God.
And that is an example which His followers seem with one consent to
set aside in their eager race after distinction and work that may
glorify their names. The difficulty of a faithful following of these
precepts, and the only means by which that difficulty can be
overcome, are touchingly taught us in another of Paul's Epistles by
the accumulation of motives which he brings to bear upon his
commandment, when he exhorts by the tender motives of 'comfort in
Christ, consolation of love, fellowship of the Spirit, and tender
mercies and compassions, that ye fulfil my joy, being of the same
mind, of one accord; doing nothing through faction or vainglory, but
in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself.' As the
pattern for each of us in our narrow sphere, he holds forth the mind
that was in Christ Jesus, and the great self-emptying which he shrank
not from, 'but being in the form of God counted it not a prize to be
on an equality with God, but, being found in fashion as a man, He
humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death.'

III. The divisive power of intellectual self-conceit.

In this final clause the Apostle, in some sense, repeats the maxim
with which he began the series of special exhortations in this
chapter. He there enjoined 'every one among you not to think of
himself more highly than he ought to think'; here he deals with one
especial form of such too lofty thinking, viz. intellectual conceit.
He is possibly quoting the Book of Proverbs (iii. 7), where we read,
'Be not wise in thine own eyes,' which is preceded by, 'Lean not to
thine own understanding; in all thy ways acknowledge Him'; and is
followed by, 'Fear the Lord and depart from evil'; thus pointing to
the acknowledgment and fear of the Lord as the great antagonist of
such over-estimate of one's own wisdom as of all other faults of mind
and life. It needs not to point out how such a disposition breaks
Christian unity of spirit. There is something especially isolating in
that form of self-conceit. There are few greater curses in the Church
than little coteries of superior persons who cannot feed on ordinary
food, whose enlightened intelligence makes them too fastidious to
soil their dainty fingers with rough, vulgar work, and whose
supercilious criticism of the unenlightened souls that are content to
condescend to lowly Christian duties, is like an iceberg that brings
down the temperature wherever it floats. That temper indulged in,
breaks the unity, reduces to inactivity the work, and puts an end to
the progress, of any Christian community in which it is found; and
just as its predominance is harmful, so the obedience to the
exhortation against it is inseparable from the fulfilling of its
sister precepts. To know ourselves for the foolish creatures that we
are, is a mighty help to being 'of the same mind one toward another.'
Who thinks of himself soberly and according to the measure of faith
which God hath dealt to him will not hunger after high things, but
rather prefer the lowly ones that are on a level with his lowly self.

The exhortations of our text were preceded with injunctions to
distribute material help, and to bestow helpful sympathy. The tempers
enjoined in our present text are the inward source and fountain of
such external bestowments. The rendering of material help and of
sympathetic emotion are right and valuable only as they are the
outcome of this unanimity and lowliness. It is possible to
'distribute to the necessity of saints' in such a way as that the
gift pains more than a blow; it is possible to proffer sympathy so
that the sensitive heart shrinks from it. It was 'when the multitude
of them that believed were of one heart and one soul' that it became
natural to have all things common. As in the aurora borealis,
quivering beams from different centres stream out and at each throb
approach each other till they touch and make an arch of light that
glorifies the winter's night, so, if Christian men were 'of the same
mind toward one another,' did not 'set their minds on high things,
but condescended to things that were lowly, and were not wise in
their own conceits,' the Church of Christ would shine forth in the
darkness of a selfish world and would witness to Him who came down
'from the highest throne in glory' to the lowliest place in this
lowly world, that He might lift us to His own height of glory
everlasting.



STILL ANOTHER TRIPLET

   'Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for
   things honourable in the light of all men. 18. If it
   be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace
   with all men.'--ROMANS xii. 17, 18 (R.V.).


The closing words of this chapter have a certain unity in that they
deal principally with a Christian's duty in the face of hostility and
antagonism. A previous injunction touched on the same subject in the
exhortation to bless the persecutors; but with that exception, all
the preceding verses have dealt with duties owing to those with whom
we stand in friendly relations. Such exhortations take no cognisance
of the special circumstances of the primitive Christians as 'lambs in
the midst of wolves'; and a large tract of Christian duty would be
undealt with, if we had not such directions for feelings and actions
in the face of hate and hurt. The general precept in our text is
expanded in a more complete form in the verses which follow the text,
and we may postpone its consideration until we have to deal with
them. It is one form of the application of the 'love without
hypocrisy' which has been previously recommended. The second of these
three precepts seems quite heterogeneous, but it may be noticed that
the word for 'evil' in the former and that for 'honourable,' in these
closely resemble each other in sound, and the connection of the two
clauses may be partially owing to that verbal resemblance; whilst we
may also discern a real link between the thoughts in the
consideration that we owe even to our enemies the exhibition of a
life which a prejudiced hostility will be forced to recognise as
good. The third of these exhortations prescribes unmoved persistence
in friendly regard to all men.

Dealing then, in this sermon only, with the second and third of these
precepts, and postponing the consideration of the first to the
following discourse, we have here the counsel that

I. Hostility is to be met with a holy and beautiful life.

The Authorised Version inadequately translates the significant word
in this exhortation by 'honest.' The Apostle is not simply enjoining
honesty in our modern, narrow sense of the word, which limits it to
the rendering to every man his own. It is a remarkable thing that
'honest,' like many other words expressing various types of goodness,
has steadily narrowed in signification, and it is very characteristic
of England that probity as to money and material goods should be its
main meaning. Here the word is used in the full breadth of its
ancient use, and is equivalent to that which is fair with the moral
beauty of goodness.

A Christian man then is bound to live a life which all men will
acknowledge to be good. In that precept is implied the recognition of
even bad men's notions of morality as correct. The Gospel is not a
new system of ethics, though in some points it brings old virtues
into new prominence, and alters their perspective. It is further
implied that the world's standard of what Christians ought to be may
be roughly taken as a true one. Christian men would learn a great
deal about themselves, and might in many respects heighten their
ideal, if they would try to satisfy the expectations of the most
degraded among them as to what they ought to be. The worst of men has
a rude sense of duty which tops the attainments of the best.
Christian people ought to seek for the good opinion of those around
them. They are not to take that opinion as the motive for their
conduct, nor should they do good in order to be praised or admired
for it; but they are to 'adorn the doctrine,' and to let their light
shine that men seeing their good may be led to think more loftily of
its source, and so to 'glorify their Father which is in heaven.' That
is one way of preaching the Gospel. The world knows goodness when it
sees it, though it often hates it, and has no better ground for its
dislike of a man than that his purity and beauty of character make
the lives of others seem base indeed. Bats feel the light to be
light, though they flap against it, and the winnowing of their
leathery wings and their blundering flight are witnesses to that
against which they strike. Jesus had to say, 'The world hateth Me
because I testify of it that the deeds thereof are evil.' That
witness was the result of His being 'the Light of the world'; and if
His followers are illuminated from Him, they will have the same
effect, and must be prepared for the same response. But none the less
is it incumbent upon them to 'take thought for things honourable in
the sight of all men.'

This duty involves the others of taking care that we have goodness to
show, and that we do not make our goodness repulsive by our additions
to it. There are good people who comfort themselves when men dislike
them, or scoff at them, by thinking that their religion is the cause,
when it is only their own roughness and harshness of character. It is
not enough that we present an austere and repellent virtue; the fair
food should be set on a fair platter. This duty is especially owing
to our enemies. They are our keenest critics. They watch for our
halting. The thought of their hostile scrutiny should ever stimulate
us, and the consciousness that Argus-eyes are watching us, with a
keenness sharpened by dislike, should lead us not only to vigilance
over our own steps, but also to the prayer, 'Lead me in a plain path,
because of those who watch me.' To 'provide things honest in the
sight of all men' is a possible way of disarming some hostility,
conciliating some prejudice, and commending to some hearts the Lord
whom we seek to imitate.

II. Be sure that, if there is to be enmity, it is all on one side.

'As much as in you lieth, be at peace with all.' These words are, I
think, unduly limited when they are supposed to imply that there are
circumstances in which a Christian has a right to be at strife. As if
they meant: Be peaceable as far as you can; but if it be impossible,
then quarrel. The real meaning goes far deeper than that. 'It takes
two to make a quarrel,' says the old proverb; it takes two to make
peace also, does it not? We cannot determine whether our relations
with men will be peaceful or no; we are only answerable for our part,
and for that we are answerable. 'As much as lieth in you' is the
explanation of 'if it be possible.' Your part is to be at peace; it
is not your part up to a certain point and no further, but always,
and in all circumstances, it is your part. It may not be possible to
be at peace with all men; there may be some who _will_ quarrel with
you. You are not to blame for that, but their part and yours are
separate, and your part is the same whatever they do. Be you at peace
with all men whether they are at peace with you or not. Don't you
quarrel with them even if they will quarrel with you. That seems to
me to be plainly the meaning of the words. It would be contrary to
the tenor of the context and the teaching of the New Testament to
suppose that here we had that favourite principle, 'There is a point
beyond which forbearance cannot go,' where it becomes right to
cherish hostile sentiments or to try to injure a man. If there be such
a point, it is very remarkable that there is no attempt made in the
New Testament to define it. The nearest approach to such definition
is 'till seventy times seven,' the two perfect numbers multiplied
into themselves. So I think that this injunction absolutely
prescribes persistent, patient peacefulness, and absolutely
proscribes our taking up the position of antagonism, and under no
circumstances meeting hate with hate. It does not follow that there
is never to be opposition. It may be necessary for the good of the
opponent himself, and for the good of society, that he should be
hindered in his actions of hostility, but there is never to be
bitterness; and we must take care that none of the devil's leaven
mingles with our zeal against evil.

There is no need for enlarging on the enormous difficulty of carrying
out such a commandment in our daily lives. We all know too well how
hard it is; but we may reflect for a moment on the absolute necessity
of obeying this precept to the full. For their own souls' sakes
Christian men are to avoid all bitterness, strife, and malice. Let us
try to remember, and to bring to bear on our daily lives, the solemn
things which Jesus said about God's forgiveness being measured by our
forgiveness. The faithful, even though imperfect, following of this
exhortation would revolutionise our lives. Nothing that we can only
win by fighting with our fellows is worth fighting for. Men will
weary of antagonism which is met only by the imperturbable calm of a
heart at peace with God, and seeking peace with all men. The hot fire
of hatred dies down, like burning coals scattered on a glacier, when
laid against the crystal coldness of a patient, peaceful spirit.
Watch-dogs in farmhouses will bark half the night through because
they hear another barking a mile off. It takes two to make a quarrel;
let me be sure that I am never one of the two!



STILL ANOTHER TRIPLET

   'Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give
   place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine;
   I will repay, saith the Lord. 20. Therefore if thine
   enemy hunger, feed him: if he thirst, give him drink;
   for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his
   head. 21. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil
   with good.'--ROMANS xii. 19-21.


The natural instinct is to answer enmity with enmity, and kindliness
with kindliness. There are many people of whom we think well and
like, for no other reason than because we believe that they think
well of and like us. Such a love is really selfishness. In the same
fashion, dislike, and alienation on the part of another naturally
reproduce themselves in our own minds. A dog will stretch its neck to
be patted, and snap at a stick raised to strike it. It requires a
strong effort to master this instinctive tendency, and that effort
the plainest principles of Christian morality require from us all.
The precepts in our text are in twofold form, negative and positive;
and they are closed with a general principle, which includes both
these forms, and much more besides. There are two pillars, and a
great lintel coping them, like the trilithons of Stonehenge.

I. We deal with the negative precept.

'Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto wrath.' Do not
take the law into your own hands, but leave God's way of retribution
to work itself out. By avenging, the Apostle means a passionate
redress of private wrongs at the bidding of personal resentment. We
must note how deep this precept goes. It prohibits not merely
external acts which, in civilised times are restrained by law, but,
as with Christian morality, it deals with thoughts and feelings, and
not only with deeds. It forbids such natural and common thoughts as
'I owe him an ill turn for that'; 'I should like to pay him off.' A
great deal of what is popularly called 'a proper spirit' becomes
extremely improper if tested by this precept. There is an eloquent
word in German which we can only clumsily reproduce, which christens
the ugly pleasure at seeing misfortune and calls it 'joy in others'
disasters.' We have not the word; would that we had not the thing!

A solemn reason is added for the difficult precept, in that
frequently misunderstood saying, 'Give place unto wrath.' The
question is, Whose wrath? And, plainly, the subsequent words of the
section show that it is God's. That quotation comes from Deuteronomy
xxxii. 35. It is possibly unfortunate that 'vengeance' is ascribed to
God; for hasty readers lay hold of the idea of passionate resentment,
and transfer it to Him, whereas His retributive action has in it no
resentment and no passion. Nor are we to suppose that the thought
here is only the base one, _they are sure to be punished, so we
need not trouble_. The Apostle points to the solemn fact of
retribution as an element in the Divine government. It is not merely
automatically working laws which recompense evil by evil,
but it is the face of the Lord which is inexorably and inevitably set
'against them that do evil.' That recompense is not hidden away in
the future behind the curtain of death, but is realised in the
present, as every evil-doer too surely and bitterly experiences.

'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.' God only has the
right to recompense the ungodly and the sinner as well as the
righteous. Dwelling in such a system as we do, how dares any one take
that work into his hands? It requires perfect knowledge of the true
evil of an action, which no one has who cannot read the heart; it
requires perfect freedom from passion; it requires perfect immunity
from evil desert on the part of the avenger; in a word, it belongs to
God, and to Him alone. We have nothing to do with apportioning
retribution to desert, either in private actions or in the treatment
of so-called criminals. In the latter our objects should be
reformation and the safety of society. If we add to these
retribution, we transcend our functions.

II. Take the positive,--Follow God's way of meeting hostility with
beneficence.

The hungry enemy is to be fed, the thirsty to be given drink; and the
reason is, that such beneficence will 'heap coals of fire upon his
head.' The negative is not enough. To abstain from vengeance will
leave the heart unaffected, and may simply issue in the cessation of
all intercourse. The reason assigned sounds at first strange. It is
clear that the 'coals of fire' which are to be heaped on the head are
meant to melt and soften the heart, and cause it to glow with love.
There may be also included the burning pangs of shame felt by a man
whose evil is answered by good. But these are secondary and auxiliary
to the true end of kindling the fire of love in his alienated heart.
The great object which every Christian man is bound to have in view
is to win over the enemy and melt away misconceptions and hostility.
It is not from any selfish regard to one's own personal ease that we
are so to act, but because of the sacred regard which Christ has
taught us to cherish for the blessing of peace amongst men, and in
order that we may deliver a brother from the snare, and make him
share in the joys of fellowship with God. The only way to burn up the
evil in his heart is by heaping coals of kindness and beneficence on
his head. And for such an end it becomes us to watch for
opportunities. We have to mark the right moment, and make sure that
we time our offer for food when he is hungry and of drink when he
thirsts; for often _mal-a-propos_ offers of kindness make things
worse. Such is God's way. His thunderbolts we cannot grasp, His love
we can copy. Of the two weapons mercy and judgment which He holds in
His hand, the latter is emphatically His own; the former should be
ours too.

III. In all life meet and conquer evil with good.

This last precept, 'Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with
good,' is cast into a form which covers not only relations to
enemies, but all contact with evil of every kind. It involves many
great thoughts which can here be only touched. It implies that in all
our lives we have to fight evil, and that it conquers, and we are
beaten when we are led to do it. It is only conquered by being
transformed into good. We overcome our foes when we win them to be
lovers. We overcome our temptations to doing wrong when we make them
occasions for developing virtues; we overcome the evil of sorrow when
we use it to bring us nearer to God; we overcome the men around us
when we are not seduced by their example to evil, but attract them to
goodness by ours.

Evil is only thus transformed by the positive exercise of goodness on
our part. We have seen this in regard to enemies in the preceding
remarks. In regard to other forms of evil, it is often better not to
fight them directly, but to occupy the mind and heart with positive
truth and goodness, and the will and hands with active service. A
rusty knife shall not be cleaned so effectually by much scouring as
by strenuous use. Our lives are to be moulded after the great example
of Him, who at almost the last moment of His earthly course said, 'Be
of good cheer: I have overcome the world.' Jesus seeks to conquer
evil in us all, and counts that He has conquered it when He has
changed it into love.



LOVE AND THE DAY

   'Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that
   loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 9. For this, Thou
   shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt
   not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not
   covet; and if there be any other commandment it is briefly
   comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy
   neighbour as thyself. 10. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour:
   therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. 11. And that,
   knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of
   sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
   12. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us
   therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put
   on the armour of light, 13. Let us walk honestly, as in
   the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering
   and wantonness, not in strife and envying: 14. But put ye
   on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the
   flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.'--ROMANS xiii. 8-14.


The two paragraphs of this passage are but slightly connected. The
first inculcates the obligation of universal love; and the second
begins by suggesting, as a motive for the discharge of that duty, the
near approach of 'the day.' The light of that dawn draws Paul's eyes
and leads him to wider exhortations on Christian purity as befitting
the children of light.

I. Verses 8-10 set forth the obligation of a love which embraces all
men, and comprehends all duties to them. The Apostle has just been
laying down the general exhortation, 'Pay every man his due' and
applying it especially to the Christian's relation to civic rulers.
He repeats it in a negative form, and bases on it the obligation of
loving every man. That love is further represented as the sum and
substance of the law. Thus Paul brings together two thoughts which
are often dealt with as mutually exclusive,--namely, love and law. He
does not talk sentimentalisms about the beauty of charity and the
like, but lays it down, as a 'hard and fast rule,' that we are bound
to love every man with whom we come in contact; or, as the Greek has
it, 'the other.'

That is the first plain truth taught here. Love is not an emotion
which we may indulge or not, as we please. It is not to select its
objects according to our estimate of their lovableness or goodness.
But we are bound to love, and that all round, without distinction of
beautiful or ugly, good or bad. 'A hard saying; who can hear it?'
Every man is our creditor for that debt. He does not get his due from
us unless he gets love. Note, further, that the debt of love is never
discharged. After all payments it still remains owing. There is no
paying in full of all demands, and, as Bengel says, it is an undying
debt. We are apt to weary of expending love, especially on unworthy
recipients, and to think that we have wiped off all claims, and it
may often be true that our obligations to others compel us to cease
helping one; but if we laid Paul's words to heart, our patience would
be longer-breathed, and we should not be so soon ready to shut hearts
and purses against even unthankful suitors.

Further, Paul here teaches us that this debt (_debitum_, 'duty') of
love includes all duties. It is the fulfilling of the law, inasmuch
as it will secure the conduct which the law prescribes. The Mosaic
law itself indicates this, since it recapitulates the various
commandments of the second table, in the one precept of love to our
neighbour (Lev. xix. 18). Law enjoins but has no power to get its
injunctions executed. Love enables and inclines to do all that law
prescribes, and to avoid all that it prohibits. The multiplicity of
duties is melted into unity; and that unity, when it comes into act,
unfolds into whatsoever things are lovely and of good report. Love is
the mother tincture which, variously diluted and manipulated, yields
all potent and fragrant draughts. It is the white light which the
prism of daily life resolves into its component colours.

But Paul seems to limit the action of love here to negative doing no
ill. That is simply because the commandments are mostly negative, and
that they are is a sad token of the lovelessness natural to us all.
But do we love ourselves only negatively, or are we satisfied with
doing ourselves no harm? That stringent pattern of love to others not
only prescribes degree, but manner. It teaches that true love to men
is not weak indulgence, but must sometimes chastise, and thwart, and
always must seek their good, and not merely their gratification.

Whoever will honestly seek to apply that negative precept of working
no ill to others, will find it positive enough. We harm men when we
fail to help them. If we can do them a kindness, and do it not, we do
them ill. Non-activity for good is activity for evil. Surely, nothing
can be plainer than the bearing of this teaching on the Christian
duty as to intoxicants. If by using these a Christian puts a
stumbling-block in the way of a weak will, then he is working ill to
his neighbour, and that argues absence of love, and that is
dishonest, shirking payment of a plain debt.

II. The great stimulus to love and to all purity is set forth as
being the near approach--of the day (verses 11-14). 'The day,' in
Paul's writing, has usually the sense of the great day of the Lord's
return, and may have that meaning here; for, as Jesus has told us,
'it is not for' even inspired Apostles 'to know the times or the
seasons,' and it is no dishonour to apostolic inspiration to assign
to it the limits which the Lord has assigned.

But, whether we take this as the meaning of the phrase, or regard it
simply as pointing to the time of death as the dawning of heaven's
day, the weight of the motive is unaffected. The language is vividly
picturesque. The darkness is thinning, and the blackness turning
grey. Light begins to stir and whisper. A band of soldiers lies
asleep, and, as the twilight begins to dawn, the bugle call summons
them to awake, to throw off their night-gear,--namely, the works
congenial to darkness,--and to brace on their armour of light. Light
may here be regarded as the material of which the glistering armour
is made; but, more probably, the expression means weapons appropriate
to the light.

Such being the general picture, we note the fact which underlies the
whole representation; namely, that every life is a definite whole
which has a fixed end. Jesus said, 'We must work the works of Him
that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh.' Paul uses the
opposite metaphors in these verses. But, though the two sayings are
opposite in form, they are identical in substance. In both, the
predominant thought is that of the rapidly diminishing space of
earthly life, and the complete unlikeness to it of the future. We
stand like men on a sandbank with an incoming tide, and every wash of
the waves eats away its edges, and presently it will yield below our
feet. We forget this for the most part, and perhaps it is not well
that it should be ever present; but that it should never be present
is madness and sore loss.

Paul, in his intense moral earnestness, in verse 13, bids us regard
ourselves as already in 'the day,' and shape our conduct as if it
shone around us and all things were made manifest by its light. The
sins to be put off are very gross and palpable. They are for the most
part sins of flesh, such as even these Roman Christians had to be
warned against, and such as need to be manifested by the light even
now among many professing Christian communities.

But Paul has one more word to say. If he stopped without it, he would
have said little to help men who are crying out, 'How am I to strip
off this clinging evil, which seems my skin rather than my clothing?
How am I to put on that flashing panoply?' There is but one way,--put
on the Lord Jesus Christ. If we commit ourselves to Him by faith, and
front our temptations in His strength, and thus, as it were, wrap
ourselves in Him, He will be to us dress and armour, strength and
righteousness. Our old self will fall away, and we shall take no
forethought for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.



SALVATION NEARER

   '... Now is our salvation nearer than
   when we believed.'--ROMANS xiii. 11.


There is no doubt, I suppose, that the Apostle, in common with the
whole of the early Church, entertained more or less consistently the
expectation of living to witness the second coming of Jesus Christ.
There are in Paul's letters passages which look both in the direction
of that anticipation, and in the other one of expecting to taste
death. 'We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord,'
he says twice in one chapter. 'I am ready to be offered, and the hour
of my departure is at hand,' he says in his last letter.

Now this contrariety of anticipation is but the natural result of
what our Lord Himself said, 'It is not for you to know the times and
the seasons,' and no one, who is content to form his doctrine of the
knowledge resulting from inspiration from the words of Jesus Christ
Himself, need stumble in the least degree in recognising the plain
fact that Paul and his brother Apostles did not know when the Master
was to come. Christ Himself had told them that there was a chamber
locked against their entrance, and therefore we do not need to think
that it militates against the authoritative inspiration of these
early teachers of the Church, if they, too, searched 'what manner of
time the Spirit which was in them did signify when it testified
beforehand ... the glory that should follow.'

Now, my text is evidently the result of the former of these two
anticipations, viz. that Paul and his generation were probably to see
the coming of the Lord from heaven. And to him the thought that' the
night was far spent,' as the context says, 'and the day was at hand,'
underlay his most buoyant hope, and was the inspiration and
motive-spring of his most strenuous effort.

Now, our relation to the closing moments of our own earthly lives, to
the fact of death, is precisely the same as that of the Apostle and
his brethren to the coming of the Lord. We, too, stand in that
position of partial ignorance, and for us practically the words of my
text, and all their parallel words, point to how we should think of,
and how we should be affected by, the end to which we are coming. And
this is the grand characteristic of the Christian view of that last
solemn moment. 'Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.'
So I would note, first of all, what these words teach us should be
the Christian view of our own end; and, second, to what conduct that
view should lead us.

I. The Christian view of death.

'Now is our salvation nearer.' We have to think away by faith and
hope all the grim externals of death, and to get to the heart of the
thing. And then everything that is repulsive, everything that makes
flesh and blood shrink, disappears and is evaporated, and beneath the
folds of his black garment, there is revealed God's last, sweetest,
most triumphant angel-messenger to Christian souls, the great,
strong, silent Angel of Death, and he carries in his hand the gift of
a full salvation. That is what our Apostle rose to the rapture of
beholding, when he knew that the thought of his surviving till Christ
came again must be put away, and when close to the last moment of his
life, he said, 'The Lord shall deliver me, and save me into His
everlasting kingdom.' What was the deliverance and being saved that
he expected and expresses in these words? Immunity from punishment?
Escape from the headsman's axe? Being 'delivered from the mouth of
the lion,' the persecuting fangs of the bloody Nero? By no means. He
knew that death was at hand, and he said, 'He will save me'--not from
it, but through it--'into His everlasting kingdom.' And so in the
words of my text we may say--though Paul did not mean them so--as we
see the distance between us, and that certain close, dwindling,
dwindling, dwindling: 'Now,' as moment after moment ticks itself into
the past, 'now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.'
Children, when they are getting near their holidays, take strips of
paper, and tear off a piece as each day passes. And as we tear off
the days let us feel that we are drawing closer to our home, and that
the blessedness laid up for us in it is drawing nearer to us. 'Our
salvation,' not our destruction, our fuller life, not in any true
sense of the word our 'death,' is 'nearer than when we believed.'

But some one may say, 'Is a man not saved till after he is dead?' Is
salvation future, not coming till after the grave? No, certainly not.
There are three aspects of that word in Scripture. Sometimes the New
Testament writers treat salvation as past, and represent a Christian
as being invested with the possession of it all at the very moment of
his first faith. That is true, that whatever is yet to be evolved
from what is given to the poorest and foulest sinner, in the moment
of his initial faith in Christ, there is nothing to be added to it.
The salvation which the penitent thief received on the cross is all
the salvation that he was ever to get. But out of it there came
welling and welling and welling, when he had passed into the region
'where beyond these voices there is peace'--there came welling out
from that inexhaustible fountain which was opened in him all the
fullnesses of an eternal progress in the heavens. And so it is with
us. Salvation is a past gift which we received when we believed.

But in another aspect, which is also emphatically stated in
Scripture, it is a progressive process, and not merely a gift
bestowed once for all in the past. I do not dwell upon that thought,
but just remind you of a turn of expression which occurs in various
connections more than once. 'The Lord added to the Church daily such
as were being saved,' says Luke. Still more emphatically in the
Epistle to the Corinthians, the Apostle puts into antithesis the two
progressive processes, and speaks of the Gospel as being preached,
and being a savour of life unto life 'to them that are being saved,'
and a savour of destruction 'to them that are being lost.' No moral
or spiritual condition is stereotyped or stagnant. It is all
progressive. And so the salvation that is given once for all is ever
being unfolded, and the Christian life on earth is the unfolding of
it.

But in another aspect still, such as is presented in my text, and in
other parallel passages, that salvation is regarded as lying on the
other side of the flood, because the manifestations of it there, the
evolving there of what is in it, and the great gifts that come then,
are so transcendently above all even of our selectest experiences
here, that they are, as it were, new, though still their roots are in
the old. The salvation which culminates in the absolute removal from
our whole being of all manner of evil, whether it be sorrow or sin,
and in the conclusive bestowal upon us of all manner of good, whether
it be righteousness or joy, and which has for its seal 'the adoption,
to wit, the redemption of the body,' so that body, soul, and spirit
'make one music as before, but vaster,' is so far beyond the germs of
itself which here we experience that my text and its like are amply
vindicated. And the man who is most fully persuaded and conscious
that he possesses the salvation of God, and most fully and blessedly
aware that that salvation is gradually gaining power in his life, is
the very man who will most feel that between its highest
manifestation on earth, and its lowest in the heavens there is such a
gulf as that the wine that he will drink there at the Father's table
is indeed new wine. And so 'is our salvation nearer,' though we
already possess it, 'than when we believed.'

Dear brethren, if these things be true, and if to die is to be saved
into the kingdom, do not two thoughts result? The one is that that
blessed consummation should occupy more of our thoughts than I am
afraid it does. As life goes on, and the space dwindles between us
and it, we older people naturally fall into the way, unless we are
fools, of more seriously and frequently turning our thoughts to the
end. I suppose the last week of a voyage to Australia has far more
thoughts in it about the landing next week than the two or three
first days of beating down the English Channel had. I do not want to
put old heads on young shoulders in this or in any other respect. But
sure I am that it does belong very intimately to the strength of our
Christian characters that we should, as the Psalmist says, be 'wise'
to 'consider our latter end.'

The other thought that follows is as plain, viz. that that
anticipation should always be buoyant, hopeful, joyous. We have
nothing to do with the sad aspects of parting from earth. They are
all but non-existent for the Christian consciousness, when it is as
vigorous and God-directed as it ought to be. They drop into the
background, and sometimes are lost to sight altogether. Remember how
this Apostle, when he does think about death, looks at it with--I was
going to quote words which may strike you as being inappropriate--'a
frolic welcome'; how, at all events, he is neither a bit afraid of
it, nor does he see in it anything from which to shrink. He speaks of
being with Christ, which is far better; 'absent from the body,
present with the Lord'; 'the dissolution of the earthly house of this
tabernacle'--the tumbling down of the old clay cottage in order that
a stately palace of marble and precious stones may be reared upon its
site; 'the hour of my departure is at hand; I have finished the
fight.' Peter, too, chimes in with his words: 'My exodus; my
departure,' and both of the two are looking, if not longingly, at all
events without a tremor of the eyelid, into the very eyeballs of the
messenger whom most men feel so hideous. Is it not a wonderful gift
to Christian souls that by faith in Jesus Christ, the realm in which
their hope can expatiate is more than doubled, and annexes the dim
lands beyond the frontier of death? Dear friends, if we are living in
Christ, the thought of the end and that here we are absent from home,
ought to be infinitely sweet, of whatever superficial terrors this
poor, shrinking flesh may still be conscious. And I am sure that the
nearer we get to our Saviour, and the more we realise the joyous
possession of salvation as already ours, and the more we are
conscious of the expanding of that gift in our hearts, the more we
shall be delivered from that fear of death which makes men all their
'lifetime subject to bondage.' So I beseech you to aim at this, that,
when you look forward, the furthest thing you see on the horizon of
earth may be that great Angel of Death coming to save you into the
everlasting kingdom.

Now, just a word about

II. The conduct to which such a hope should incite.

The Apostle puts it very plainly in the context, and we need but
expand in a word or two what he teaches us there. 'And that knowing
the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now is
our salvation nearer than when we believed.' To what does he refer by
'that'? The whole of the practical exhortations to a Christian life
which have been given before. Everything that is duty becomes tenfold
more stringent and imperative when we apprehend the true meaning of
that last moment. They tell us that it is unwholesome to be thinking
about death and the beyond, because to do so takes away interest from
much of our present occupations and weakens energy. If there is
anything from which a man is wrenched away because he steadily
contemplates the fact of being wrenched away altogether from
everything before long, it is something that he had better be
wrenched from. And if there be any occupations which dwindle into
nothingness, and into which a man cannot for the life of him fling
himself with any thoroughgoing enthusiasm or interest, if once the
thought of death stirs in him, depend upon it they are occupations
which are in themselves contemptible and unworthy. All good aims will
gain greater power over us; we shall have a saner estimate of what is
worth living for; we shall have a new standard of what is the
relative importance of things; and if some that looked very great
turn out to be very small when we let that searching light in upon
them, and others which seemed very insignificant spring suddenly up
into dominating magnitude--that new and truer perspective will be all
clear gain. The more we feel that our salvation is sweeping towards
us, as it were, from the throne of God through the blue abysses, the
more diligently we shall 'work while it is called day,' and the more
earnestly we shall seek, when the Saviour and His salvation come, to
be found with loins girt for all strenuous work, and lamps burning in
all the brightness of the light of a Christian character.

Further, says Paul, this hopeful, cheerful contemplation of
approaching salvation should lead us to cast off the evil, and to put
on the good. You will remember the heart-stirring imagery which the
Apostle employs in the context, where he says, 'The day is at hand;
let us therefore fling off the works of darkness'--as men in the
morning, when the daylight comes through the window, and makes them
lift their eyelids, fling off their night-gear--'and let us put on
the armour of light.' We are soldiers, and must be clad in what will
be bullet-proof, and will turn a sword's edge. And where shall steel
of celestial temper be found that can resist the fiery darts shot at
the Christian soldier? His armour must be 'of light.' Clad in the
radiance of Christian character he will be invulnerable. And how can
we, who have robed ourselves in the works of darkness, either cast
them off or array ourselves in sparkling armour of light? Paul tells
us, 'Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the
flesh.' The picture is of a camp of sleeping soldiers; the night
wears thin, the streaks of saffron are coming in the dawning east.
One after another the sleepers awake; they cast aside their
night-gear, and they brace on the armour that sparkles in the beams
of the morning sun. So they are ready when the trumpet sounds the
reveille, and with the morning comes the Captain of the Lord's host,
and with the Captain comes the perfecting of the salvation which is
drawing nearer and nearer to us, as our moments glide through our
fingers like the beads of a rosary. Many men think of death and fear;
the Christian should think of death--and hope.



THE SOLDIER'S MORNING-CALL

   'Let us put on the armour of light.'--ROMANS xiii. 12.


It is interesting to notice that the metaphor of the Christian armour
occurs in Paul's letters throughout his whole course. It first
appears, in a very rudimentary form, in the earliest of the Epistles,
that to the Thessalonians. It appears here in a letter which belongs
to the middle of his career, and it appears finally in the Epistle to
the Ephesians, in its fully developed and drawn-out shape, at almost
the end of his work. So we may fairly suppose that it was one of his
familiar thoughts. Here it has a very picturesque addition, for the
picture that is floating before his vivid imagination is that of a
company of soldiers, roused by the morning bugle, casting off their
night-gear because the day is beginning to dawn, and bracing on the
armour that sparkles in the light of the rising sun. 'That,' says
Paul, 'is what you Christian people ought to be. Can you not hear the
notes of the reveille? The night is far spent; the day is at hand;
therefore let us put off the works of darkness--the night-gear that
was fit for those hours of slumber. Toss it away, and put on the
armour that belongs to the day.'

Now, I am not going to ask or try to answer the question of how far
this Apostolic exhortation is based upon the Apostle's expectation
that the world was drawing near its end. That does not matter at all
for us at present, for the fact which he expresses as the foundation
of this exhortation is true about us all, and about our position in
the midst of these fleeting shadows round us. We are hastening to the
dawning of the true day. And so let me try to emphasise the
exhortation here, old and threadbare and commonplace as it is,
because we all need it, at whatever point of life's journey we have
arrived.

Now, the first thing that strikes me is that the garb for the man
expectant of the day is armour.

We might have anticipated something very different in accordance with
the thoughts that Paul's imagery here suggests, about the difference
between the night which is so swiftly passing, and is full of enemies
and dangers, and the day which is going to dawn, and is full of light
and peace and joy. We might have expected that he would have said,
'Let us put on the festal robes.' But no! 'The night is far spent;
the day is at hand.' But the dress that befits the expectant of the
day is not yet the robe of the feast, but it is 'the armour' which,
put into plain words, means just this, that there is fighting, always
fighting, to be done. If you are ever to belong to the day, you have
to equip yourselves _now_ with armour and weapons. I do not need
to dwell upon that, but I do wish to insist upon this fact, that
after all that may be truly said about growth in grace, and the
peaceful approximation towards perfection in the Christian character,
we cannot dispense with the other element in progress, and that is
fighting. We have to struggle for every step. _Growth_ is not enough
to define completely the process by which men become conformed to the
image of the Father, and are 'made meet to be partakers of the
inheritance of the saints in light.' Growth does express part of it,
but only a part. Conflict is needed to come in, before you have the
whole aspect of Christian progress before your minds. For there will
always be antagonism without and traitors within. There will always
be recalcitrant horses that need to be whipped up, and jibbing horses
that need to be dragged forward, and shying ones that need to be
violently coerced and kept in the traces. Conflict is the law,
because of the enemies, and because of the conspiracy between the
weakness within and the things without that appeal to it.

We hear a great deal to-day about being 'sanctified by faith.' I
believe that as much as any man, but the office of faith is to bring
us the power that cleanses, and the application of that power
requires our work, and it requires our fighting. So it is not enough
to say, 'Trust for your sanctifying as you have trusted for your
justifying and acceptance,' but you have to work out what you get by
your faith, and you will never work it out unless you fight against
your unworthy self, and the temptations of the world. The garb of the
candidate for the day is armour.

And there is another side to that same thought, and that is, the more
vivid our expectations of that blessed dawn the more complete should
be our bracing on of the armour. The anticipation of that future, in
very many instances, in the Christian Church, has led to precisely
the opposite state of mind. It has induced people to drop into mere
fantastic sentiment, or to ignore this contemptible present, and
think that they have nothing to do with it, and are only 'waiting for
the coming of the Lord,' and the like. Paul says, 'Just because, on
your eastern horizon, you can see the pink flush that tells that the
night is gone, and the day is coming, therefore do not be a
sentimentalist, do not be idle, do not be negligent or contemptuous
of the daily tasks; but because you see it, put on the armour of
light, and whether the time between the rising of the whole orb of
the sun on the horizon be long or short, fill the hours with
triumphant conflict. Put on the whole armour of light.'

Again, note here what the armour is. Of course that phrase, 'the
armour of light,' may be nothing more than a little bit of colour put
in by a picturesque imagination, and may suggest simply how the
burnished steel would shine and glitter when the sunbeams smote it,
and the glistening armour, like that of Spenser's Red Cross Knight,
would make a kind of light in the dark cave, into which he went. Or
it may mean 'the armour that befits the light'; as is perhaps
suggested by the antithesis 'the works of darkness,' which are to be
'put off.' These are works that match the darkness, and similarly the
armour is to be the armour that befits the light, and that can flash
back its beams. But I think there is more than that in the
expression. I would rather take the phrase to be parallel to another
of this Apostle's, who speaks in 2nd Corinthians of the 'armour of
righteousness on the right hand and on the left.' 'Light' makes the
armour, 'righteousness' makes the armour. The two phrases say the
same thing, the one in plain English, the other in figure, which
being brought down to daily life is just this, that the true armour
and weapon of a Christian man is Christian character. 'Whatsoever
things are true, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are
of good report,' these are the pieces of armour, and these are the
weapons which we are to wield. A Christian man fights against evil in
himself by putting on good. The true way to empty the heart of sin is
to fill the heart with righteousness. The lances of the light,
according to the significant old Greek myth, slew pythons. The armour
is 'righteousness on the right hand and on the left.' Stick to plain,
simple, homely duties, and you will find that they will defend your
heart against many a temptation. A flask that is full of rich wine
may be plunged into the saltest ocean, and not a drop will find its
way in. Fill your heart with righteousness; your lives--let them
glisten in the light, and the light will be your armour. God is
light, wherefore God cannot be tempted with evil. 'Walk in the light,
as He is in the light' ... and 'the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth
from all sin.'

But there is another side to that thought, for if you will look, at
your leisure, to the closing words of the chapter, you will find the
Apostle's own exposition of what putting on the armour of light
means. 'Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ'--that is his explanation of
putting on 'the armour of light.' For 'once ye were darkness, but now
are ye light in the Lord,' and it is in the measure in which we are
united to Him, by the faith which binds us to Him, and by the love
which works obedience and conformity, that we wear the invulnerable
armour of light. Christ Himself is, and He supplies to all, the
separate graces which Christian men can wear. We may say that He is
'the panoply of God,' as Paul calls it in Ephesians, and when we wear
Him, and only in the measure in which we do wear Him, in that measure
are we clothed with it. And so the last thing that I would point out
here is that the obedience to these commands requires continual
effort.

The Christians in Rome, to whom Paul was writing, were no novices in
the Christian life. Long ago many of them had been brought to Him.
But the oldest Christian amongst them needed the exhortation as much
as the rawest recruit in the ranks. Continual renewal day by day is
what we need, and it will not be secured without a great deal of
work. Seeing that there is a 'putting off' to go along with the
'putting on,' the process is a very long one. ''Tis a lifelong task
till the lump be leavened.' It is a lifelong task till we strip off
all the rags of this old self; and 'being clothed,' are not 'found
naked.' It takes a lifetime to fathom Jesus; it takes a lifetime to
appropriate Jesus, it takes a lifetime to be clothed with Jesus. And
the question comes to each of us, have we 'put off the old man with
his deeds'? Are we daily, as sure as we put on our clothes in the
morning, putting on Christ the Lord?

For notice with what solemnity the Apostle gives the master His full,
official, formal title here, 'put ye on the _Lord Jesus Christ_.' Do
we put Him on as _Lord_; bowing our whole wills to Him, and accepting
Him, His commandments, promises, providences, with glad submission?
Do we put on _Jesus_, recognising in His manhood as our Brother not
only the pattern of our lives, but the pledge that the pattern, by
His help and love, is capable of reproduction in ourselves? Do we put
Him on as 'the Lord Jesus _Christ_,' who was anointed with the Divine
Spirit, that from the head it might flow, even to the skirts of the
garments, and every one of us might partake of that unction and be
made pure and clean thereby? 'Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ,' and
do it day by day, and then you have 'put on the whole armour of God.'

And when the day that is dawning has risen to its full, then, not
till then, may we put off the armour and put on the white robe, lay
aside the helmet, and have our brows wreathed with the laurel,
sheathe the sword, and grasp the palm, being 'more than conquerors
through Him who loved us,' and fights in us, as well as for us.



THE LIMITS OF LIBERTY

   'So then every one of us shall give account of himself
   to God. 13. Let us not therefore judge one another any
   more: but judge this rather, that no man put a
   stumblingblock, or an occasion to fall, in his brother's
   way. 14. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus,
   that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that
   esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
   15. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now
   walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy
   meat, for whom Christ died. 16. Let not then your good
   be evil spoken of: 17. For the kingdom of God is not
   meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy
   in the Holy Ghost. 18. For he that in these things
   serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of
   men. 19. Let us therefore follow after the things which
   make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify
   another. 20. For meat destroy not the work of God. All
   things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man
   who eateth with offence. 21. It is good neither to eat
   flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy
   brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
   22. Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God.
   Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing
   which he alloweth. 23. And he that doubteth is damned
   if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for
   whatsoever is not of faith is sin.'--ROMANS xiv. 12-23.


The special case in view, in the section of which this passage is
part, is the difference of opinion as to the lawfulness of eating
certain meats. It is of little consequence, so far as the principles
involved are concerned, whether these were the food which the Mosaic
ordinances made unclean, or, as in Corinth, meats offered to idols.
The latter is the more probable, and would be the more important in
Rome. The two opinions on the point represented two tendencies of
mind, which always exist; one more scrupulous, and one more liberal.
Paul has been giving the former class the lesson they needed in the
former part of this chapter; and he now turns to the 'stronger'
brethren, and lays down the law for their conduct. We may, perhaps,
best simply follow him, verse by verse.

We note then, first, the great thought with which he starts, that of
the final judgment, in which each man shall give account of himself.
What has that to do with the question in hand? This, that it ought to
keep us from premature and censorious judging. We have something more
pressing to do than to criticise each other. Ourselves are enough to
keep our hands full, without taking a lift of our fellows' conduct.
And this, further, that, in view of the final judgment, we should
hold a preliminary investigation on our own principles of action, and
'decide' to adopt as the overruling law for ourselves, that we shall
do nothing which will make duty harder for our brethren. Paul
habitually settled small matters on large principles, and brought the
solemnities of the final account to bear on the marketplace and the
meal.

In verse 13 he lays down the supreme principle for settling the case
in hand. No Christian is blameless if he voluntarily acts so as to
lay a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in another's path. Are
these two things the same? Possibly, but a man may stumble, and not
fall, and that which makes him stumble may possibly indicate a
temptation to a less grave evil than that which makes him fall does.
It may be noticed that in the sequel we hear of a brother's being
'grieved' first, and then of his being 'overthrown.' In any case,
there is no mistake about the principle laid down and repeated in
verse 21. It is a hard saying for some of us. Is my liberty to be
restricted by the narrow scruples of 'strait-laced' Christians? Yes.
Does not that make them masters, and attach too much importance to
their narrowness? No. It recognises Christ as Master, and all His
servants as brethren. If the scrupulous ones go so far as to say to
the more liberal, 'You cannot be Christians if you do not do as we
do' then the limits of concession have been reached, and we are to do
as Paul did, when he flatly refused to yield one hair's-breadth to
the Judaisers. If a man says, You must adopt this, that, or the other
limitation in conduct, or else you shall be unchurched, the only
answer is, I will not. We are to be flexible as long as possible, and
let weak brethren's scruples restrain our action. But if they insist
on things indifferent as essential, a yet higher duty than that of
regard to their weak consciences comes in, and faithfulness to Christ
limits concession to His servants.

But, short of that extreme case, Paul lays down the law of curbing
liberty in deference to 'narrowness.' In verse 14 he states with
equal breadth the extreme principle of the liberal party, that
nothing is unclean of itself. He has learned that 'in the Lord
Jesus.' Before he was 'in Him,' he had been entangled in cobwebs of
legal cleanness and uncleanness; but now he is free. But he adds an
exception, which must be kept in mind by the liberal-minded
section--namely, that a clean thing is unclean to a man who thinks it
is. Of course, these principles do not affect the eternal
distinctions of right and wrong. Paul is not playing fast and loose
with the solemn, divine law which makes sin and righteousness
independent of men's notions. He is speaking of things
indifferent--ceremonial observances and the like; and the modern
analogies of these are conventional pieces of conduct, in regard to
amusements and the like, which, in themselves, a Christian man can do
or abstain from without sin.

Verse 15 is difficult to understand, if the 'for' at the beginning is
taken strictly. Some commentators would read instead of it a simple
'but' which smooths the flow of thought. But possibly the verse
assigns a reason for the law in verse 13, rather than for the
statements in verse 14. And surely there is no stronger reason for
tender consideration for even the narrowest scruples of Christians
than the obligation to walk in love. Our common brotherhood binds us
to do nothing that would even grieve one of the family. For instance,
Christian men have different views of the obligations of Sunday
observance. It is conceivable that a very 'broad' Christian might see
no harm in playing lawn-tennis in his garden on a Sunday; but if his
doing so scandalised, or, as Paul says, 'grieved' Christian people of
less advanced views, he would be sinning against the law of love if
he did it.

There are many other applications of the principle readily suggested.
The principle is the thing to keep clearly in view. It has a wide
field for its exercise in our times, and when the Christian
brotherhood includes such diversities of culture and social
condition. And that is a solemn deepening of it, 'Destroy not with
thy meat him for whom Christ died.' Note the almost bitter emphasis
on 'thy,' which brings out not only the smallness of the
gratification for which the mischief is done, but the selfishness of
the man who will not yield up so small a thing to shield from evil
which may prove fatal, a brother for whom Christ did not shrink from
yielding up life. If He is our pattern, any sacrifice of tastes and
liberties for our brother's sake is plain duty, and cannot be
neglected without selfish sin. One great reason, then, for the
conduct enjoined, is set forth in verse 15. It is the clear dictate
of Christian love.

Another reason is urged in verses 16 to 18. It displays the true
character of Christianity, and so reflects honour on the doer. 'Your
good' is an expression for the whole sum of the blessings obtained by
becoming Christians, and is closely connected with what is here meant
by the 'kingdom of God.' That latter phrase seems here to be
substantially equivalent to the inward condition in which they are
who have submitted to the dominion of the will of God. It is 'the
kingdom within us' which is 'righteousness, peace, and joy in the
Holy Ghost.' What have you won by your Christianity? the Apostle in
effect says, Do you think that its purpose is mainly to give you
greater licence in regard to these matters in question? If the most
obvious thing in your conduct is your 'eating and drinking,' your
whole Christian standing will be misconceived, and men will fancy
that your religion permits laxity of life. But if, on the other hand,
you show that you are Christ's servants by righteousness, peace, and
joy, you will be pleasing to God, and men will recognise that your
religion is from Him, and that you are consistent professors of it.

Modern liberal-minded brethren can easily translate all this for
to-day's use. Take care that you do not give the impression that your
Christianity has its main operation in permitting you to do what your
weaker brethren have scruples about. If you do not yield to them, but
flaunt your liberty in their and the world's faces, your advanced
enlightenment will be taken by rough-and-ready observers as mainly
cherished because it procures you these immunities. Show by your life
that you have the true spiritual gifts. Think more about them than
about your 'breadth,' and superiority to 'narrow prejudices.' Realise
the purpose of the Gospel as concerns your own moral perfecting, and
the questions in hand will fall into their right place.

In verses 19 and 20 two more reasons are given for restricting
liberty in deference to others' scruples. Such conduct contributes to
peace. If truth is imperilled, or Christ's name in danger of being
tarnished, counsels of peace are counsels of treachery; but there are
not many things worth buying at the price of Christian concord. Such
conduct tends to build up our own and others' Christian character.
Concessions to the 'weak' may help them to become strong, but flying
in the face of their scruples is sure to hurt them, in one way or
another.

In verse 15, the case was supposed of a brother's being grieved by
what he felt to be laxity. That case corresponded to the
stumbling-block of verse 13. A worse result seems contemplated in
verse 20,--that of the weak brother, still believing that laxity was
wrong, and yet being tempted by the example of the stronger to
indulge in it. In that event, the responsibility of overthrowing what
God had built lies at the door of the tempter. The metaphor of
'overthrowing' is suggested by the previous one of 'edifying.'
Christian duty is mutual building up of character; inconsiderate
exercise of 'liberty' may lead to pulling down, by inducing to
imitation which conscience condemns.

From this point onwards, the Apostle first reiterates in inverse
order his two broad principles, that clean things are unclean to the
man who thinks them so, and that Christian obligation requires
abstinence from permitted things if our indulgence tends to a
brother's hurt. The application of the latter principle to the
duty of total abstinence from intoxicants for the sake of others is
perfectly legitimate, but it is an application, not the direct
purpose of the Apostle's injunctions.

In verses 22 and 23, the section is closed by two exhortations, in
which both parties, the strong and the weak, are addressed. The
former is spoken to in verse 22, the latter in verse 23. The strong
brother is bid to be content with having his wider views, or
'faith'--that is, certainty that his liberty is in accordance with
Christ's will. It is enough that he should enjoy that conviction,
only let him make sure that he can hold it as in God's sight, and do
not let him flourish it in the faces of brethren whom it would
grieve, or might lead to imitating his practice, without having risen
to his conviction. And let him be quite sure that his conscience is
entirely convinced, and not bribed by inclination; for many a man
condemns himself by letting wishes dictate to conscience.

On the other hand, there is a danger that those who have scruples
should, by the example of those who have not, be tempted to do what
they are not quite sure is right. If you have any doubts, says Paul,
the safe course is to abstain from the conduct in question. Perhaps a
brother can go to the theatre without harm, if he believes it right
to do so; but if you have any hesitation as to the propriety of
going, you will be condemned as sinning if you do. You must not
measure your corn by another man's bushel. Your convictions, not his,
are to be your guides. 'Faith' is used here in a somewhat unusual
sense. It means certitude of judgment. The last words of verse 23
have no such meaning as is sometimes extracted from them; namely,
that actions, however pure and good, done by unbelievers, are of the
nature of sin. They simply mean that whatever a Christian man does
without clear warrant of his judgment and conscience is sin to him,
whatever it is to others.



TWO FOUNTAINS, ONE STREAM

   'That we, through patience and comfort of the
   Scriptures, might have hope.... 13. The God of
   hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
   that ye may abound in hope.'--ROMANS xv. 4, 13.


There is a river in Switzerland fed by two uniting streams, bearing
the same name, one of them called the 'white,' one of them the
'grey,' or dark. One comes down from the glaciers, and bears
half-melted snow in its white ripple; the other flows through a
lovely valley, and is discoloured by its earth. They unite in one
common current. So in these two verses we have two streams, a white
and a black, and they both blend together and flow out into a common
hope. In the former of them we have the dark stream--'through
patience and comfort,' which implies affliction and effort. The issue
and outcome of all difficulty, trial, sorrow, ought to be hope. And
in the other verse we have the other valley, down which the light
stream comes: 'The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in
believing, that ye may abound in hope.'

So both halves of the possible human experience are meant to end in
the same blessed result; and whether you go round on the one side of
the sphere of human life, or whether you take the other hemisphere,
you come to the same point, if you have travelled with God's hand in
yours, and with Him for your Guide.

Let us look, then, at these two contrasted origins of the same
blessed gift, the Christian hope.

I. We have, first of all, the hope that is the child of the night,
and born in the dark.

'Whatsoever things,' says the Apostle, 'were written aforetime, were
written for our learning, that we, through patience,'--or rather
_the brave perseverance_--'and consolation'--or rather perhaps
_encouragement_--'of the Scriptures might have hope.' The written
word is conceived as the source of patient endurance which acts as
well as suffers. This grace Scripture works in us through the
encouragement which it ministers in manifold ways, and the result of
both is hope.

So, you see, our sorrows and difficulties are not connected with, nor
do they issue in, bright hopefulness, except by reason of this
connecting link. There is nothing in a man's troubles to make him
hopeful. Sometimes, rather, they drive him into despair; but at all
events, they seldom drive him to hopefulness, except where this link
comes in. We cannot pass from the black frowning cliffs on one side
of the gorge to the sunny tablelands on the other without a
bridge--and the bridge for a poor soul from the blackness of sorrow,
and the sharp grim rocks of despair, to the smiling pastures of hope,
with all their half-open blossoms, is builded in that Book, which
tells us the meaning and purpose of them all; and is full of the
histories of those who have fought and overcome, have hoped and not
been ashamed.

Scripture is given for this among other reasons, that it may
encourage us, and so may produce in us this great grace of active
patience, if we may call it so.

The first thing to notice is, how Scripture gives encouragement--for
such rather than consolation is the meaning of the word. It is much
to dry tears, but it is more to stir the heart as with a trumpet
call. Consolation is precious, but we need more for well-being than
only to be comforted. And, surely, the whole tone of Scripture in its
dealing with the great mystery of pain and sorrow, has a loftier
scope than even to minister assuagement to grief, and to stay our
weeping. It seeks to make us strong and brave to face and to master
our sorrows, and to infuse into us a high-hearted courage, which
shall not merely be able to accept the biting blasts, but shall feel
that they bring a glow to the cheek and oxygen to the blood, while
wrestling with them builds up our strength, and trains us for higher
service. It would be a poor aim to comfort only; but to encourage--to
make strong in heart, resolved in will, and incapable of being
overborne or crushed in spirit by any sorrows--that is a purpose
worthy of the Book, and of the God who speaks through it.

This purpose, we may say, is effected by Scripture in two ways. It
encourages us by its records, and by its revelation of principles.

Who can tell how many struggling souls have taken heart again, as
they pondered over the sweet stories of sorrow subdued which stud its
pages, like stars in its firmament? The tears shed long ago which God
has put 'in His bottle,' and recorded in 'His book,' have truly been
turned into pearls. That long gallery of portraits of sufferers, who
have all trodden the same rough road, and been sustained by the same
hand, and reached the same home, speaks cheer to all who follow them.
Hearts wrung by cruel partings from those dearer to them than their
own souls, turn to the pages which tell how Abraham, with calm
sorrow, laid his Sarah in the cave at Macpelah; or how, when Jacob's
eyes were dim that he could not see, his memory still turned to the
hour of agony when Rachael died by him, and he sees clear in its
light her lonely grave, where so much of himself was laid; or to the
still more sacred page which records the struggle of grief and faith
in the hearts of the sisters of Bethany. All who are anyways
afflicted in mind, body, or estate find in the Psalms men speaking
their deepest experiences before them; and the grand majesty of
sorrow that marks 'the patience of Job,' and the flood of sunshine
that bathes him, revealing the 'end of the Lord,' have strengthened
countless sufferers to bear and to hold fast, and to hope. We are all
enough of children to be more affected by living examples than by
dissertations, however true, and so Scripture is mainly history,
revealing God by the record of His acts, and disclosing the secret of
human life by telling us the experiences of living men.

But Scripture has another method of ministering encouragement to our
often fainting and faithless hearts. It cuts down through all the
complications of human affairs, and lays bare the innermost motive
power. It not only shows us in its narratives the working of sorrow,
and the power of faith, but it distinctly lays down the source and
the purpose, the whence and the whither of all suffering. No man need
quail or faint before the most torturing pains or most disastrous
strokes of evil, who holds firmly the plain teaching of Scripture on
these two points. They all come _from_ my Father, and they all
come _for_ my good. It is a short and simple creed, easily
apprehended. It pretends to no recondite wisdom. It is a homely
philosophy which common intellects can grasp, which children can
understand, and hearts half paralysed by sorrow can take in. So much
the better. Grief and pain are so common that their cure had need to
be easily obtained. Ignorant and stupid people have to writhe in
agony as well as wise and clever ones, and until grief is the portion
only of the cultivated classes, its healing must come from something
more universal than philosophy; or else the nettle would be more
plentiful than the dock; and many a poor heart would be stung to
death. Blessed be God! the Christian view of sorrow, while it leaves
much unexplained, focuses a steady light on these two points; its
origin and its end. 'He for our profit, that we may be partakers of
His holiness,' is enough to calm all agitation, and to make the
faintest heart take fresh courage. With that double certitude clear
before us, we can face anything. The slings and arrows which strike
are no more flung blindly by an 'outrageous fortune,' but each bears
an inscription, like the fabled bolts, which tells what hand drew the
bow, and they come with His love.

Then, further, the courage thus born of the Scriptures produces
another grand thing--patience, or rather perseverance. By that word
is meant more than simply the passive endurance which is the main
element in patience, properly so called. Such passive endurance is a
large part of our duty in regard to difficulties and sorrows, but is
never the whole of it. It is something to endure and even while the
heart is breaking, to submit unmurmuring, but, transcendent as that
is, it is but half of the lesson which we have to learn and to put in
practice. For if all our sorrows have a disciplinary and educational
purpose, we shall not have received them aright, unless we have tried
to make that purpose effectual, by appropriating whatsoever moral and
spiritual teaching they each have for us. Nor does our duty stop
there. For while one high purpose of sorrow is to deaden our hearts
to earthly objects, and to lift us above earthly affections, no
sorrow can ever relax the bonds which oblige us to duty. The solemn
pressure of 'I ought,' is as heavy on the sorrowful as on the happy
heart. We have still to toil, to press forward, in the sweat of our
brow, to gain our bread, whether it be food for our bodies, or
sustenance for our hearts and minds. Our responsibilities to others
do not cease because our lives are darkened. Therefore, heavy or
light of heart, we have still to stick to our work, and though we may
never more be able to do it with the old buoyancy, still to do it
with our might.

It is that dogged persistence in plain duty, that tenacious
continuance in our course, which is here set forth as the result of
the encouragement which Scripture gives. Many of us have all our
strength exhausted in mere endurance, and have let obvious duties
slip from our hands, as if we had done all that we could do when we
had forced ourselves to submit. Submission would come easier if you
took up some of those neglected duties, and you would be stronger for
patience, if you used more of your strength for service. You do well
if you do not sink under your burden, but you would do better if,
with it on your shoulders, you would plod steadily along the road;
and if you did, you would feel the weight less. It seems heaviest
when you stand still doing nothing. Do not cease to toil because you
suffer. You will feel your pain more if you do. Take the
encouragement which Scripture gives, that it may animate you to bate
no jot of heart or hope, but still bear up and steer right onward.

And let the Scripture directly minister to you perseverance as well
as indirectly supply it through the encouragement which it gives. It
abounds with exhortations, patterns, and motives of such patient
continuance in well-doing. It teaches us a solemn scorn of ills. It,
angel-like, bears us up on soft, strong hands, lest we bruise
ourselves on, or stumble over, the rough places on our roads. It
summons us to diligence by the visions of the prize, and glimpses of
the dread fate of the slothful, by all that is blessed in hope, and
terrible in foreboding, by appeals to an enlightened self-regard, and
by authoritative commands to conscience, by the pattern of the
Master, and by the tender motives of love to Him to which He,
Himself, has given voice. All these call on us to be followers of
them who, through faith and perseverance, inherit the promises.

But we have yet another step to take. These two, the encouragement
and perseverance produced by the right use of Scripture, will lead to
hope.

It depends on how sorrow and trial are borne, whether they produce a
dreary hopelessness which sometimes darkens into despair, or a
brighter, firmer hope than more joyous days knew. We cannot say that
sorrow produces hope. It does not, unless we have this connecting
link--the experience in sorrow of a God-given courage which falters
not in the onward course, nor shrinks from any duty. But if, in the
very press and agony, I am able, by God's grace, to endure nor cease
to toil, I have, in myself, a living proof of His power, which
entitles me to look forward with the sure confidence that, through
all the uproar of the storm, He will bring me to my harbour of rest
where there is peace. The lion once slain houses a swarm of bees who
lay up honey in its carcase. The trial borne with brave persistence
yields a store of sweet hopes. If we can look back and say, 'Thou
hast been with me in six troubles,' it is good logic to look forward
and say, 'and in seven Thou wilt not forsake me.' When the first wave
breaks over the ship, as she clears the heads and heels over before
the full power of the open sea, inexperienced landsmen think they are
all going to the bottom, but they soon learn that there is a long way
between rolling and foundering, and get to watch the highest waves
towering above the bows in full confidence that these also will slip
quietly beneath the keel as the others have done, and be left
harmless astern.

The Apostle, in this very same letter, has another word parallel to
this, in which he describes the issues of rightly-borne suffering
when he says, 'Tribulation worketh perseverance'--the same word that
is used here--'and perseverance worketh' the proof in our experience
of a sustaining God; and the proof in our experience of a sustaining
God works hope. We know that of ourselves we could not have met
tribulation, and therefore the fact that we have been able to meet
and overcome it is demonstration of a mightier power than our own,
working in us, which we know to be from God, and therefore
inexhaustible and ever ready to help. That is foundation firm enough
to build solid fabrics of hope upon, whose bases go down to the
centre of all things, the purpose of God, and whose summits, like the
upward shooting spire of some cathedral, aspire to, and seem almost
to touch, the heavens.

So hope is born of sorrow, when these other things come between. The
darkness gives birth to the light, and every grief blazes up a
witness to a future glory. Each drop that hangs on the wet leaves
twinkles into rainbow light that proclaims the sun. The garish
splendours of the prosperous day hide the stars, and through the
night of our sorrow there shine, thickly sown and steadfast, the
constellations of eternal hopes. The darker the midnight, the surer,
and perhaps the nearer, the coming of the day. Sorrow has not had its
perfect work unless it has led us by the way of courage and
perseverance to a stable hope. Hope has not pierced to the rock, and
builds only 'things that can be shaken,' unless it rests on sorrows
borne by God's help.

II. So much then for the genealogy of one form of the Christian hope.
But we have also a hope that is born of the day, the child of
sunshine and gladness; and that is set before us in the second of the
two verses which we are considering, 'The God of hope fill you with
all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope.'

So then, 'the darkness and the light are both alike' to our hope, in
so far as each may become the occasion for its exercise. It is not
only to be the sweet juice expressed from our hearts by the winepress
of calamities, but that which flows of itself from hearts ripened and
mellowed under the sunshine of God-given blessedness.

We have seen that the bridge by which sorrow led to hope, is
perseverance and courage; in this second analysis of the origin of
hope, joy and peace are the bridge by which Faith passes over into
it. Observe the difference: there is no direct connection between
affliction and hope, but there is between joy and hope. We have no
right to say, 'Because I suffer, I shall possess good in the future';
but we have a right to say, 'Because I rejoice'--of course with a joy
in God--'I shall never cease to rejoice in Him.' Such joy is the
prophet of its own immortality and completion. And, on the other
hand, the joy and peace which are naturally the direct progenitors of
Christian hope, are the children of faith. So that we have here two
generations, as it were, of hope's ancestors;--Faith produces joy and
peace, and these again produce hope.

Faith leads to joy and peace. Paul has found, and if we only put it
to the proof, we shall also find, that the simple exercise of simple
faith fills the soul with '_all_ joy and peace.' Gladness in all
its variety and in full measure, calm repose in every kind and
abundant in its still depth, will pour into my heart as water does
into a vessel, on condition of my taking away the barrier and opening
my heart through faith. Trust and thou shalt be glad. Trust, and thou
shalt be calm. In the measure of thy trust shall be the measure of
thy joy and peace.

Notice, further, how indissolubly connected the present exercise of
faith is with the present experience of joy and peace. The exuberant
language of this text seems a world too wide for anything that many
professing Christians ever know even in the moments of highest
elevation, and certainly far beyond the ordinary tenor of their
lives. But it is no wonder that these should have so little joy, when
they have so little faith. It is only while we are looking to Jesus
that we can expect to have joy and peace. There is no flashing light
on the surface of the mirror, but when it is turned full to the sun.
Any interruption in the electric current is registered accurately by
an interruption in the continuous line perforated on the telegraph
ribbon; and so every diversion of heart and faith from Jesus Christ
is recorded by the fading of the sunshine out of the heart, and the
silencing of all the song-birds. Yesterday's faith will not bring joy
to-day; you cannot live upon past experience, nor feed your souls
with the memory of former exercises of Christian faith. It must be
like the manna, gathered fresh every day, else it will rot and smell
foul. A present faith, and a present faith only, produces a present
joy and peace. Is there, then, any wonder that so much of the
ordinary experience of ordinary Christians should present a sadly
broken line--a bright point here and there, separated by long
stretches of darkness? The gaps in the continuity of their joy are
the tell-tale indicators of the interruptions in their faith. If the
latter were continuous, the former would be unbroken. Always believe,
and you will always be glad and calm.

It is easy to see that this is the natural result of faith. The very
act of confident reliance on another for all my safety and well-being
has a charm to make me restful, so long as my reliance is not put to
shame. There is no more blessed emotion than the tranquil happiness
which, in the measure of its trust, fills every trustful soul. Even
when its objects are poor, fallible, weak, ignorant dying men and
women, trust brings a breath of more than earthly peace into the
heart. But when it grasps the omnipotent, all-wise, immortal Christ,
there are no bounds but its own capacity to the blessedness which it
brings into the soul, because there is none to the all-sufficient
grace of which it lays hold.

Observe again how accurately the Apostle defines for us the
conditions on which Christian experience will be joyful and tranquil.
It is 'in believing,' not in certain other exercises of mind, that
these blessings are to be realised. And the forgetfulness of that
plain fact leads to many good people's religion being very much more
gloomy and disturbed than God meant it to be. For a large part of it
consists in sadly testing their spiritual state, and gazing at their
failures and imperfections. There is nothing cheerful or
tranquillising in grubbing among the evils of your own heart, and it
is quite possible to do that too much and too exclusively. If your
favourite subject of contemplation in your religious thinking is
yourself, no wonder that you do not get much joy and peace out of
that. If you do, it will be of a false kind. If you are thinking more
about your own imperfections than about Christ's pardon, more about
the defects of your own love to Him than about the perfection of His
love to you, if instead of practising faith you are absorbed in
self-examination, and instead of saying to yourself, 'I know how foul
and unworthy I am, but I look away from myself to my Saviour,' you
are bewailing your sins and doubting whether you are a Christian, you
need not expect God's angels of joy and peace to nestle in your
heart. It is 'in believing,' and not in other forms of religious
contemplation, however needful these may in their places be, that
these fair twin sisters come to us and make their abode with us.

Then, the second step in this tracing of the origin of the hope which
has the brighter source is the consideration that the joy and peace
which spring from faith, in their turn produce that confident
anticipation of future and progressive good.

Herein lies the distinguishing blessedness of the Christian joy and
peace, in that they carry in themselves the pledge of their own
eternity. Here, and here only, the mad boast which is doomed to be so
miserably falsified when applied to earthly gladness is simple truth.
Here 'to-morrow _shall_ be as this day and much more abundant.'
Such joy has nothing in itself which betokens exhaustion, as all the
less pure joys of earth have. It is manifestly not born for death, as
are they. It is not fated, like all earthly emotions or passions, to
expire in the moment of its completeness, or even by sudden revulsion
to be succeeded by its opposite. Its sweetness has no after pang of
bitterness. It is not true of this gladness, that 'Hereof cometh in
the end despondency and madness,' but its destiny is to 'remain' as
long as the soul in which it unfolds shall exist, and 'to be full' as
long as the source from which it flows does not run dry.

So that the more we experience the present blessedness, which faith
in Christ brings us, the more shall we be sure that nothing in the
future, either in or beyond time, can put an end to it; and hence a
hope that looks with confident eyes across the gorge of death, to the
'shining tablelands' on the other side, and is as calm as certitude,
shall be ours. To the Christian soul, rejoicing in the conscious
exercise of faith and the conscious possession of its blessed
results, the termination of a communion with Christ, so real and
spiritual, by such a trivial accident as death, seems wildly absurd
and therefore utterly impossible. Just as Christ's Resurrection seems
inevitable as soon as we grasp the truth of His divine nature, and it
becomes manifestly impossible that He, being such as He is--should
be holden of death,' being such as it is, so for His children, when
once they come to know the realities of fellowship with their Lord,
they feel the entire dissimilarity of these to anything in the realm
which is subjected to the power of death, and to know it to be as
impossible that these purely spiritual experiences should be reduced
to inactivity, or meddled with by it, as that a thought should be
bound with a cord or a feeling fastened with fetters. They, and
death, belong to two different regions. It can work its will on 'this
wide world, and all its fading sweets'--but is powerless in the still
place where the soul and Jesus hold converse, and all His joy passes
into His servant's heart. I saw, not long since, in a wood a mass of
blue wild hyacinths, that looked like a little bit of heaven dropped
down upon earth. You and I may have such a tiny bit of heaven itself
lying amidst all the tangle of our daily lives, if only we put our
trust in Christ, and so get into our hearts some little portion of
that joy that is unspeakable, and that peace that passeth
understanding.

Thus, then, the sorrows of the earthly experience and the joys of the
Christian life will blend together to produce the one blessed result
of a hope that is full of certainty, and is the assurance of
immortality. There is no rainbow in the sky unless there be both a
black cloud and bright sunshine. So, on the blackest, thickest
thunder-mass of our sorrows, if smitten into moist light by the
sunshine of joy and peace drawn from Jesus Christ by faith, there may
be painted the rainbow of hope, the many-coloured, steadfast token of
the faithful covenant of the faithful God.



JOY AND PEACE IN BELIEVING

   'The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in
   believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the
   power of the Holy Ghost.'--ROMANS xv. 13.


With this comprehensive and lofty petition the Apostle closes his
exhortation to the factions in the Roman Church to be at unity. The
form of the prayer is moulded by the last words of a quotation which
he has just made, which says that in the coming Messiah 'shall the
Gentiles hope.' But the prayer itself is not an instance of being led
away by a word--in form, indeed, it is shaped by verbal resemblance;
in substance it points to the true remedy for religious controversy.
Fill the contending parties with a fuller spiritual life, and the
ground of their differences will begin to dwindle, and look very
contemptible. When the tide rises, the little pools on the rocks are
all merged into one.

But we may pass beyond the immediate application of these words, and
see in them the wish, which is also a promise, and like the
exhibition of every ideal is a command. This is Paul's conception of
the Christian life as it might and should be, in one aspect. You
notice that there is not a word in it about conduct. It goes far
deeper than action. It deals with the springs of action in the
individual life. It is the depths of spiritual experience here set
forth which will result in actions that become a Christian. And in
these days, when all around us we see a shallow conception of
Christianity, as if it were concerned principally with conduct and
men's relations with one another, it is well to go down into the
depths, and to remember that whilst 'Do, do, do!' is very important,
'Be, be, be!' is the primary commandment. Conduct is a making visible
of personality, and the Scripture teaching which says first faith and
then works is profoundly philosophical as well as Christian. So we
turn away here from externals altogether, and regard the effect of
Christianity on the inward life.

I. I wish to notice man's faith and God's filling as connected, and
as the foundation of everything.

'The God of hope fill you ...'--let us leave out the intervening
words for a moment--'in believing.' Now, you notice that Paul does
not stay to tell us what or whom we are to believe in, or on. He
takes that for granted, and his thought is fastened, for the moment,
not on the object but on the act of faith. And he wishes to drive
home to us this, that the attitude of trust is the necessary
prerequisite condition of God's being able to fill a man's soul, and
that God's being able to fill a man's soul is the necessary
consequence of a man's trust. Ah, brethren, we cannot altogether shut
God out from our spirits. There are loving and gracious gifts that,
as our Lord tells us, He makes to 'fall on the unthankful and the
evil.' His rain is not like the summer showers that we sometimes see,
that fall in one spot and leave another dry; nor like the destructive
thunderstorms, that come down bringing ruin upon one cane-brake and
leave the plants in the next standing upright. But the best, the
highest, the truly divine gifts which He is yearning to give to us
all, cannot be given except there be consent, trust, and desire for
them. You can shut your hearts or you can open them. And just as the
wind will sigh round some hermetically closed chamber in vain search
for a cranny, and the man within may be asphyxiated though the
atmosphere is surging up its waves all round his closed domicile, so
by lack of our faith, which is at once trust, consent, and desire, we
shut out the gift with which God would fain fill our spirits. You can
take a porous pottery vessel, wrap it up in waxcloth, pitch it all
over, and then drop it into mid-Atlantic, and not a drop will find
its way in. And that is what we can do with ourselves, so that
although in Him 'we live and move and have our being,' and are like
the earthen vessel in the ocean, no drop of the blessed moisture will
ever find its way into the heart. There must be man's faith before
there can be God's filling.

Further, this relation of the two things suggests to us that a
consequence of a Christian man's faith is the direct action of God
upon him. Notice how the Apostle puts that truth in a double form
here, in order that he may emphasise it, using one form of
expression, involving the divine, direct activity, at the beginning
of his prayer, and another at the end, and so enclosing, as it were,
within a great casket of the divine action, all the blessings, the
flashing jewels, which he desires his Roman friends to possess. 'The
God of hope fill you ... through the power of the Holy Ghost.' I wish
I could find words by which I could bear in upon the ordinary type of
the Evangelical Christianity of this generation anything like the
depth and earnestness of my own conviction that, for lack of a
proportionate development of that great truth, of the direct action
of the giving God on the believing heart, it is weakened and harmed
in many ways. Surely He that made my spirit can touch my spirit;
surely He who filleth all things according to their capacity can
Himself enter into and fill the spirit which is opened for Him by
simple faith. We do not need wires for the telegraphy between heaven
and the believing soul, but He comes directly to, and speaks in, and
moves upon, and moulds and blesses, the waiting heart. And until you
know, by your own experience rightly interpreted, that there is such
a direct communion between the giving God and the recipient believing
spirit, you have yet to learn the deepest depth, and the most blessed
blessedness, of Christian faith and experience. For lack of it a
hundred evils beset modern Christianity. For lack of it men fix their
faith so exclusively as that the faith is itself harmed thereby, on
the past act of Christ's death on the Cross. You will not suspect me
of minimising that, but I beseech you remember one climax of the
Apostle's which, though not bearing the same message as my text, is
in harmony with it, 'Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen
again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh
intercession for us.' And remember that Christ Himself bestows the
gift of His Divine Spirit as the result of the humiliation and the
agony of His Cross. Faith brings the direct action of the giving God.

And one more word about this first part of my text: the result of
that direct action is complete--'the God of hope fill you' with no
shrunken stream, no painful trickle out of a narrow rift in the rock,
but a great exuberance which will pass into a man's nature in the
measure of his capacity, which is the measure of his trust and
desire. There are two limits to God's gifts to men: the one is the
limitless limit of God's infinitude, the other is the working
limit--our capacity--and that capacity is precisely measured, as the
capacity of some built-in vessel might be measured by a little gauge
on the outside, by our faith. 'The God of hope' fills you in
'believing,' and 'according to thy faith shall it be unto thee.'

II. Notice the joy and peace which come from the direct action of the
God of hope on the believer's soul.

Now, it is not only towards God that we exercise trust, but wherever
it is exercised, to some extent, and in the measure in which the
object on which it rests is discovered by experience to be worthy, it
produces precisely these results. Whoever trusts is at peace, just as
much as he trusts. His confidence may be mistaken, and there will
come a tremendous awakening if it is, and the peace will be shattered
like some crystal vessel dashed upon an iron pavement, but so long as
a man's mind and heart are in the attitude of dependence upon
another, conceived to be dependable, one knows that there are few
phases of tranquillity and blessedness which are sweeter and deeper
than that. 'The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her'--that
is one illustration, and a hundred more might be given. And if you
will take that attitude of trust which, even when it twines round
some earthly prop, is upheld for a time, and bears bright flowers--if
you take it and twine it round the steadfast foundations of the
Throne of God, what can shake that sure repose? 'Joy and peace' will
come when the Christian heart closes with its trust, which is God in
Christ.

He that believes has found the short, sure road to joy and peace,
because his relations are set right with God. For these relations are
the disturbing elements in all earthly tranquillity, and like the
skeleton at the feast in all earthly joy, and a man can never, down
to the roots of his being, be at rest until he is quite sure that
there is nothing wrong between him and God. And so believing, we come
to that root of all real gladness which is anything better than a
crackling of thorns under a pot, and to that beginning of all true
tranquillity. Joy in the Lord and peace with God are the parents of
all joy and peace that are worthy of the name.

And that same faith will again bring these two bright-winged angels
into the most saddened and troubled lives, because that faith brings
right relations with ourselves. For our inward strifes stuff thorns
into the pillow of our repose, and mingle bitterness with the
sweetest, foaming draughts of our earthly joys. If a man's conscience
and inclinations pull him two different ways, he is torn asunder as
by wild horses. If a man has a hungry heart, for ever yearning after
unattained and impossible blessings, then there is no rest there. If
a man's little kingdom within him is all anarchical, and each passion
and appetite setting up for itself, then there is no tranquillity.
But if by faith we let the God of hope come in, then hungry hearts
are satisfied, and warring dispositions are harmonised, and the
conscience becomes quieted, and fair imaginations fill the chamber of
the spirit, and the man is at rest, because he himself is unified by
the faith and fear of God.

And the same faith brings joy and peace because it sets right our
relations with other people, and with all externals. If I am living
in an atmosphere of trust, then sorrow will never be absolute, nor
have exclusive monopoly and possession of my spirit. But there will
be the paradox, and the blessedness, of Christian experience, 'as
sorrowful yet always rejoicing.' For the joy of the Christian life
has its source far away beyond the swamps from which the sour drops
of sorrow may trickle, and it is possible that, like the fabled fire
that burned under water, the joy of the Lord may be bright in my
heart, even when it is drenched in floods of calamity and distress.

And so, brethren, the joy and peace that come from faith will fill
the heart which trusts. Only remember how emphatically the Apostle
here puts these two things together, 'joy and peace in believing.' As
long as, and not a moment longer than, you are exercising the
Christian act of trust, will you be experiencing the Christian
blessedness of 'joy and peace.' Unscrew the pipe, and in an instant
the water ceases to flow. Touch the button and switch off, and out
goes the light. Some Christian people fancy they can live upon past
faith. You will get no present joy and peace out of past faith. The
rain of this day twelve months will not moisten the parched ground of
to-day. Yesterday's religion was all used up yesterday. And if you
would have a continuous flow of joy and peace through your lives,
keep up a uniform habit and attitude of trust in God. You will get it
then; you will get it in no other way.

III. Lastly, note the hope which springs from this experience of joy
and peace.

'The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that
ye may abound in hope.' Here, again, the Apostle does not trouble
himself to define the object of the hope. In this, as in the former
clause, his attention is fixed upon the emotion, not upon that
towards which it goes out. And just as there was no need to say in
whom it was that the Christian man was to believe, so there is no
room to define what it is that the Christian man has a right to hope
for. For his hope is intended to cover all the future, the next
moment, or to-morrow, or the dimmest distance where time has ceased
to be, and eternity stands unmoved. The attitude of the Christian
mind ought to be a cheery optimism, an unconquerable hope. 'The best
has yet to be' is the true Christian thought in contemplating the
future for myself, for my dear ones, for God's Church, and for God's
universe.

And the truest basis on which that hope can rest is the experience
granted to us, on condition of our faith, of a present, abundant
possession of the joy and peace which God gives. The gladder you are
to-day, if the gladness comes from the right source, the surer you
may be that that gladness will never end. That is not what befalls
men who live by earthly joys. For the more poignant, precious, and,
as we faithlessly think, indispensable some of these are to us, the
more into their sweetest sweetness creeps the dread thought: 'This is
too good to last; this must pass.' We never need to think that about
the peace and joy that come to us through believing. For they, in
their sweetness, prophesy perpetuity. I need not dwell upon the
thought that the firmest, most personally precious convictions of an
eternity of future blessedness, rise and fall in a Christian
consciousness with the purity and the depth of its own experience of
the peace and joy of the Gospel. The more you have of Jesus Christ in
your lives and hearts to-day, the surer you will be that whatever
death may do, it cannot touch that, and the more ludicrously
impossible it will seem that anything that befalls this poor body can
touch the bond that knits us to Jesus Christ. Death can separate us
from a great deal. Its sharp scythe cuts through all other bonds, but
its edge is turned when it is tried against the golden chain that
binds the believing soul to the Christ in whom he has believed.

So, brethren, there is the ladder--begin at the bottom step, with
faith in Jesus Christ. That will bring God's direct action into your
spirit, through His Holy Spirit, and that one gift will break up into
an endless multiplicity of blessings, just as a beam of light spilt
upon the surface of the ocean breaks into diamonds in every wave, and
that 'joy and peace' will kindle in your hearts a hope fed by the
great words of the Lord: 'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give
unto you,' 'My joy shall remain in you, and your joy shall be full,'
'He that liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.'



PHOEBE

   'I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant
   of the Church that is at Cenchrea: 2. That ye receive her
   in the Lord, worthily of the Saints, and that ye assist
   her in whatsover matter she may have need of you: for she
   herself hath been a succourer of many, and of mine own
   self.'--ROMANS xvi. 1, 2 (R.V.).


This is an outline picture of an else wholly unknown person. She,
like most of the other names mentioned in the salutations in this
chapter, has had a singular fate. Every name, shadowy and unreal as
it is to us, belonged to a human life filled with hopes and fears,
plunged sometimes in the depths of sorrows, struggling with anxieties
and difficulties; and all the agitations have sunk into forgetfulness
and calm. There is left to the world an immortal remembrance, and
scarcely a single fact associated with the undying names.

Note the person here disclosed.

A little rent is made in the dark curtain through which we see as
with an incandescent light concentrated for a moment upon her, one of
the many good women who helped Paul, as their sisters had helped
Paul's Master, and who thereby have won, little as either Paul or she
thought it, an eternal commemoration. Her name is a purely idolatrous
one, and stamps her as a Greek, and by birth probably a worshipper of
Apollo. Her Christian associations were with the Church at Cenchrea,
the port of Corinth, of which little Christian community nothing
further is known. But if we take into account the hideous
immoralities of Corinth, we shall deem it probable that the port,
with its shifting maritime population, was, like most seaports, a
soil in which goodness was hard put to it to grow, and a church had
much against which to struggle. To be a Christian at Cenchrea can
have been no light task. Travellers in Egypt are told that Port Said
is the wickedest place on the face of the earth; and in Phoebe's home
there would be a like drift of disreputables of both sexes and of all
nationalities. It was fitting that one good woman should be recorded
as redeeming womanhood there. We learn of her that she was a
'servant,' or, as the margin preferably reads, a 'deaconess of the
Church which is at Cenchrea'; and in that capacity, by gentle
ministrations and the exhibition of purity and patient love, as well
as by the gracious administration of material help, had been a
'succourer of many.' There is a whole world of unmentioned kindnesses
and a life of self-devotion hidden away under these few words.
Possibly the succour which she administered was her own gift. She may
have been rich and influential, or perhaps she but distributed the
Church's bounty; but in any case the gift was sweetened by the
giver's hand, and the succour was the impartation of a woman's
sympathy more than the bestowment of a donor's gift. Sometime or
other, and somehow or other, she had had the honour and joy of
helping Paul, and no doubt that opportunity would be to her a crown
of service. She was now on the point of taking the long journey to
Rome on her own business, and the Apostle bespeaks for her help from
the Roman Church 'in whatsoever matter she may have need of you,' as
if she had some difficult affair on hand, and had no other friends in
the city. Possibly then she was a widow, and perhaps had had some
lawsuit or business with government authorities, with whom a word
from some of her brethren in Rome might stand her in good stead.
Apparently she was the bearer of this epistle, which would give her a
standing at once in the Roman Church, and she came among them with a
halo round her from the whole-hearted commendation of the Apostle.

Mark the lessons from this little picture.

We note first the remarkable illustration here given of the power of
the new bond of a common faith. The world was then broken up into
sections, which were sometimes bitterly antagonistic and at others
merely rigidly exclusive. The only bond of union was the iron fetter
of Rome, which crushed the people, but did not knit them together.
But here are Paul the Jew, Phoebe the Greek, and the Roman readers of
the epistle, all fused together by the power of the divine love that
melted their hearts, and the common faith that unified their lives.
The list of names in this chapter, comprising as it does men and
women of many nationalities, and some slaves as well as freemen, is
itself a wonderful testimony of the truth of Paul's triumphant
exclamation in another epistle, that in Christ there is 'neither Jew
nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female.'

The clefts have closed, and the very line of demarcation is
obliterated; and these clefts were deeper than any of which we
moderns have had experience. It remains something like a miracle that
the members of Paul's churches could ever be brought together, and
that their consciousness of oneness could ever overpower the
tremendous divisive forces. We sometimes wonder at their bickerings;
we ought rather to wonder at their unity, and be ashamed of the
importance which we attach to our infinitely slighter mutual
disagreements. The bond that was sufficient to make the early
Christians all one in Christ Jesus seems to have lost its binding
power to-day, and, like an used-up elastic band, to have no clasping
grip left in it.

Another thought which we may connect with the name of Phoebe is the
characteristic place of women in Christianity.

The place of woman amongst the Jews was indeed free and honourable as
compared with her position either in Greece or Rome, but in none of
them was she placed on the level of man, nor regarded mainly in the
aspect of an equal possessor of the same life of the Spirit. But a
religion which admits her to precisely the same position of a
supernatural life as is granted to man, necessarily relegates to a
subordinate position all differences of sex as it does all other
natural distinctions. The women who ministered to Jesus of their
substance, the two sisters of Bethany, the mourners at Calvary, the
three who went through the morning twilight to the tomb, were but the
foremost conspicuous figures in a great company through all the ages
who have owed to Jesus their redemption, not only from the slavery of
sin, but from the stigma of inferiority as man's drudge or toy. To
the world in which Paul lived it was a strange, new thought that
women could share with man in his loftiest emotions. Historically the
emancipation of one half of the human race is the direct result of
the Christian principle that all are one in Christ Jesus. In modern
life the emancipation has been too often divorced from its one sure
basis, and we have become familiar with the sight of the 'advanced'
women who have advanced so far as to have lost sight of the Christ to
whom they owe their freedom. The picture of Phoebe in our text might
well be commended to all such as setting forth the most womanlike
ideal. She was 'a succourer of many.' Her ministry was a ministry of
help; and surely such gentle ministry is that which most befits the
woman's heart and comes most graciously to the woman's fingers.

Phoebe then may well represent to us the ministry of succour in this
world of woe and need. There is ever a cry, even in apparently
successful lives, for help and a helper. Man's clumsy hand is but too
apt to hurt where it strives to soothe, and nature itself seems to
devolve on the swifter sympathies and more delicate perceptions of
woman the joy of binding up wounded spirits. In the verses
immediately following our text we read of another woman to whom was
entrusted a more conspicuous and direct form of service. Priscilla
'taught Apollos the way of God more perfectly,' and is traditionally
represented as being united with her husband in evangelistic work.
But it is not merely prejudice which takes Phoebe rather than
Priscilla as the characteristic type of woman's special ministry. We
must remember our Lord's teaching, that the giver of 'a cup of cold
water in the name of a prophet' in some measure shares in the
prophet's work, and will surely share in the prophet's reward. She
who helped Paul must have entered into the spirit of Paul's labours;
and He to whom all service that is done from the same motive is one
in essence, makes no difference between him whose thirsty lips drink
and her whose loving hand presents the cup of cold water. 'Small
service is true service while it lasts.' Paul and Phoebe were one in
ministry and one in its recompense.

We may further see in her a foreshadowing of the reward of lowly
service, though it be only the service of help. Little did Phoebe
dream that her name would have an eternal commemoration of her
unnoticed deeds of kindness and aid, standing forth to later
generations and peoples of whom she knew nothing, as worthy of
eternal remembrance. For those of us who have to serve unnoticed and
unknown, here is an instance and a prophecy which may stimulate and
encourage. 'Surely I will never forget any of their works' is a
gracious promise which the most obscure and humble of us may take to
heart, and sustained by which, we may patiently pursue a way on which
there are 'none to praise and very few to love.' It matters little
whether our work be noticed or recorded by men, so long as we know
that it is written in the Lamb's book of life and that He will one
day proclaim it 'before the Father in heaven and His angels.'



PRISCILLA AND AQUILA

   'Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus;
   4. (Who have for my life laid down their own necks:
   unto whom not only I give thanks, but so all the churches
   of the Gentiles:) 5. Likewise greet the church that is
   in their house.'--ROMANS xvi. 3-5.


It has struck me that this wedded couple present, even in the scanty
notices that we have of them, some interesting points which may be
worth while gathering together.

Now, to begin with, we are told that Aquila was a Jew. We are not
told whether Priscilla was a Jewess or no. So far as her name is
concerned, she may have been, and very probably was, a Roman, and, if
so, we have in their case a 'mixed marriage' such as was not uncommon
then, and of which Timothy's parents give another example. She is
sometimes called Prisca, which was her proper name, and sometimes
Priscilla, an affectionate diminutive. The two had been living in
Rome, and had been banished under the decree of the Emperor, just as
Jews have been banished from England and from every country in Europe
again and again. They came from Rome to Corinth, and were, perhaps,
intending to go back to Aquila's native place, Pontus, when Paul met
them in the latter city, and changed their whole lives. His
association with them began in a purely commercial partnership. But
as they abode together and worked at their trade, there would be many
earnest talks about the Christ, and these ended in both husband and
wife becoming disciples. The bond thus knit was too close to be
easily severed, and so, when Paul sailed across the Ægean for
Ephesus, his two new friends kept with him, which they would be the
more ready to do, as they had no settled home. They remained with him
during his somewhat lengthened stay in the great Asiatic city; for we
find in the first Epistle to the Corinthians which was written from
Ephesus about that time, that the Apostle sends greetings from
'Priscilla and Aquila and the Church which is in their house.' But
when Paul left Ephesus they seem to have stayed behind, and
afterwards to have gone their own way.

About a year after the first Epistle to the Corinthians was sent from
Ephesus, the Epistle to the Romans was written, and we find there the
salutation to Priscilla and Aquila which is my text. So this
wandering couple were back again in Rome by that time, and settled
down there for a while. They are then lost sight of for some time,
but probably they returned to Ephesus. Once more we catch a glimpse
of them in Paul's last letter, written some seven or eight years
after that to the Romans. The Apostle knows that death is near, and,
at that supreme moment, his heart goes out to these two faithful
companions, and he sends them a parting token of his undying love.
There are only two messages to friends in the second Epistle to
Timothy, and one of these is to Prisca and Aquila. At the mouth of
the valley of the shadow of death he remembered the old days in
Corinth, and the, to us, unknown instance of devotion which these two
had shown, when, for his life, they laid down their own necks.

Such is all that we know of Priscilla and Aquila. Can we gather any
lessons from these scattered notices thus thrown together?

I. Here is an object lesson as to the hallowing effect of
Christianity on domestic life and love.

Did you ever notice that in the majority of the places where these
two are named, if we adopt the better readings, Priscilla's name
comes first? She seems to have been 'the better man of the two'; and
Aquila drops comparatively into the background. Now, such a couple,
and a couple in which the wife took the foremost place, was an
absolute impossibility in heathenism. They are a specimen of what
Christianity did in the primitive age, all over the Empire, and is
doing to-day, everywhere--lifting woman to her proper place. These
two, yoked together in 'all exercise of noble end,' and helping one
another in Christian work, and bracketed together by the Apostle, who
puts the wife first, as his fellow-helpers in Christ Jesus, stands
before us as a living picture of what our sweet and sacred family
life and earthly loves may be glorified into, if the light from
heaven shines down upon them, and is thankfully received into them.

Such a house as the house of Prisca and Aquila is the product of
Christianity, and such ought to be the house of every professing
Christian. For we should all make our homes as 'tabernacles of the
righteous,' in which the voice of joy and rejoicing is ever heard.
Not only wedded love, but family love, and all earthly love, are then
most precious, when into them there flows the ennobling, the calming,
the transfiguring thought of Christ and His love to us.

Again, notice that, even in these scanty references to our two
friends, there twice occurs that remarkable expression 'the church
that is in their house.' Now, I suppose that that gives us a little
glimpse into the rudimentary condition of public worship in the
primitive church. It was centuries after the time of Priscilla and
Aquila before circumstances permitted Christians to have buildings
devoted exclusively to public worship. Up to a very much later period
than that which is covered by the New Testament, they gathered
together wherever was most convenient. And, I suppose, that both in
Rome and Ephesus, this husband and wife had some room--perhaps the
workshop where they made their tents, spacious enough for some of the
Christians of the city to meet together in. One would like people who
talk so much about 'the Church,' and refuse the name to individual
societies of Christians, and even to an aggregate of these, unless it
has 'bishops,' to explain how the little gathering of twenty or
thirty people in the workshop attached to Aquila's house, is called
by the Apostle without hesitation 'the church which is in their
house.' It was a part of the Holy Catholic Church, but it was also 'a
Church,' complete in itself, though small in numbers. We have here
not only a glimpse into the manner of public worship in early times,
but we may learn something of far more consequence for us, and find
here a suggestion of what our homes ought to be. 'The Church that is
in thy house'--fathers and mothers that are responsible for your
homes and their religious atmosphere, ask yourselves if any one would
say that about your houses, and if they could not, why not?

II. We may get here another object lesson as to the hallowing of
common life, trade, and travel.

It does not appear that, after their stay in Ephesus, Aquila and his
wife were closely attached to Paul's person, and certainly they did
not take any part as members of what we may call his evangelistic
staff. They seem to have gone their own way, and as far as the scanty
notices carry us, they did not meet Paul again, after the time when
they parted in Ephesus. Their gipsy life was probably occasioned by
Aquila's going about--as was the custom in old days when there were
no trades-unions or organised centres of a special industry--to look
for work where he could find it. When he had made tents in Ephesus
for a while, he would go on somewhere else, and take temporary
lodgings there. Thus he wandered about as a working man. Yet Paul
calls him his 'fellow worker in Christ Jesus'; and he had, as we saw,
a Church in his house. A roving life of that sort is not generally
supposed to be conducive to depth of spiritual life. But their
wandering course did not hurt these two. They took their religion
with them. It did not depend on locality, as does that of a great
many people who are very religious in the town where they live, and,
when they go away for a holiday, seem to leave their religion, along
with their silver plate, at home. But no matter whether they were in
Corinth or Ephesus or Rome, Aquila and Priscilla took their Lord and
Master with them, and while working at their camel's-hair tents, they
were serving God.

Dear brethren, what we want is not half so much preachers such as my
brethren and I, as Christian tradesmen and merchants and travellers,
like Aquila and Priscilla.

III. Again, we may see here a suggestion of the unexpected issues of
our lives.

Think of that complicated chain of circumstances, one end of which
was round Aquila and the other round the young Pharisee in Jerusalem.
It steadily drew them together until they met in that lodging at
Corinth. Claudius, in the fullness of his absolute power, said, 'Turn
all these wretched Jews out of my city. I will not have it polluted
with them any more. Get rid of them!' So these two were uprooted, and
drifted to Corinth. We do not know why they chose to go thither;
perhaps they themselves did not know why; but God knew. And while
they were coming thither from the west, Paul was coming thither from
the east and north. He was 'prevented by the Spirit from speaking in
Asia,' and driven across the sea against his intention to Neapolis,
and hounded out of Philippi and Thessalonica and Beræa; and turned
superciliously away from Athens; and so at last found himself in
Corinth, face to face with the tentmaker from Rome and his wife. Then
one of the two men said, 'Let us join partnership together, and set
up here as tent-makers for a time.' What came out of this unintended
and apparently chance meeting?

The first thing was the conversion of Aquila and his wife; and the
effects of that are being realised by them in heaven at this moment,
and will go on to all eternity.

So, in the infinite complexity of events, do not let us worry
ourselves by forecasting, but let us trust, and be sure that the Hand
which is pushing us is pushing us in the right direction, and that He
will bring us, by a right, though a roundabout way, to the City of
Habitation. It seems to me that we poor, blind creatures in this
world are somewhat like a man in a prison, groping with his hand in
the dark along the wall, and all unawares touching a spring which
moves a stone, disclosing an aperture that lets in a breath of purer
air, and opens the way to freedom. So we go on as if stumbling in the
dark, and presently, without our knowing what we do, by some trivial
act we originate a train of events which influences our whole future.

Again, when Aquila and Priscilla reached Ephesus they formed another
chance acquaintance in the person of a brilliant young Alexandrian,
whose name was Apollos. They found that he had good intentions and a
good heart, but a head very scantily furnished with the knowledge of
the Gospel. So they took him in hand, just as Paul had taken them. If
I may use such a phrase, they did not know how large a fish they had
caught. They had no idea what a mighty power for Christ was lying
dormant in that young man from Alexandria who knew so much less than
they did. They instructed Apollos, and Apollos became second only to
Paul in the power of preaching the Gospel. So the circle widens and
widens. God's grace fructifies from one man to another, spreading
onward and outward. And all Apollos' converts, and _their_
converts, and _theirs_ again, right away down the ages, we may
trace back to Priscilla and Aquila.

So do not let us be anxious about the further end of our deeds--viz.
their results; but be careful about the nearer end of them--viz.
their motives; and God will look after the other end. Seeing that
'thou knowest not which shall prosper, whether this or that,' or how
much any of them will prosper, let us grasp _all_ opportunities
to do His will and glorify His name.

IV. Further, here we have an instance of the heroic self-devotion
which love to Christ kindles.

'For my sake they laid down their own necks.' We do not know to what
Paul is referring: perhaps to that tumult in Ephesus, where he
certainly was in danger. But the language seems rather more emphatic
than such danger would warrant. Probably it was at some perilous
juncture of which we know nothing (for we know very little, after
all, of the details of the Apostle's life), in which Aquila and
Priscilla had said, 'Take us and let him go. He can do a great deal
more for God than we can do. We will put our heads on the block, if
he may still live.' That magnanimous self-surrender was a wonderful
token of the passionate admiration and love which the Apostle
inspired, but its deepest motive was love to Christ and not to Paul
only.

Faith in Christ and love to Him ought to turn cowards into heroes, to
destroy thoughts of self, and to make the utmost self-sacrifice
natural, blessed, and easy. We are not called upon to exercise
heroism like Priscilla's and Aquila's, but there is as much heroism
needed for persistently Christian life, in our prosaic daily
circumstances, as has carried many a martyr to the block, and many a
tremulous woman to the pyre. We can all be heroes; and if the love of
Christ is in us, as it should be, we shall all be ready to 'yield
ourselves living sacrifices, which is our reasonable service.'

Long years after, the Apostle, on the further edge of life, looked
back over it all; and, whilst much had become dim, and some trusted
friends had dropped away, like Demas, he saw these two, and waved
them his last greeting before he turned to the executioner--'Salute
Prisca and Aquila.' Paul's Master is not less mindful of His friends'
love, or less eloquent in the praise of their faithfulness, or less
sure to reward them with the crown of glory. 'Whoso confesseth Me
before men, him will I also confess before the angels in heaven.'



TWO HOUSEHOLDS

   '... Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household.
   11. ... Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus,
   which are in the Lord.'--ROMANS xvi. 10, 11.


There does not seem much to be got out of these two sets of
salutations to two households in Rome; but if we look at them with
eyes in our heads, and some sympathy in our hearts, I think we shall
get lessons worth the treasuring.

In the first place, here are two sets of people, members of two
different households, and that means mainly, if not exclusively,
slaves. In the next place, in each case there was but a section of
the household which was Christian. In the third place, in neither
household is the master included in the greeting. So in neither case
was _he_ a Christian.

We do not know anything about these two persons, men of position
evidently, who had large households. But the most learned of our
living English commentators of the New Testament has advanced a very
reasonable conjecture in regard to each of them. As to the first of
them, Aristobulus: that wicked old King Herod, in whose life Christ
was born, had a grandson of the name, who spent all his life in Rome,
and was in close relations with the Emperor of that day. He had died
some little time before the writing of this letter. As to the second
of them, there is a very notorious Narcissus, who plays a great part
in the history of Rome just a little while before Paul's period
there, and he, too, was dead. And it is more than probable that the
slaves and retainers of these two men were transferred in both cases
to the emperor's household and held together in it, being known as
Aristobulus' men and Narcissus' men. And so probably the Christians
among them are the brethren to whom these salutations are sent.

Be that as it may, I think that if we look at the two groups, we
shall get out of them some lessons.

I. The first of them is this: the penetrating power of Christian
truth. Think of the sort of man that the master of the first
household was, if the identification suggested be accepted. He is one
of that foul Herodian brood, in all of whom the bad Idumæan blood ran
corruptly. The grandson of the old Herod, the brother of Agrippa of
the Acts of the Apostles, the hanger-on of the Imperial Court, with
Roman vices veneered on his native wickedness, was not the man to
welcome the entrance of a revolutionary ferment into his household;
and yet through his barred doors had crept quietly, he knowing
nothing about it, that great message of a loving God, and a Master
whose service was freedom. And in thousands of like cases the Gospel
was finding its way underground, undreamed of by the great and wise,
but steadily pressing onwards, and undermining all the towering
grandeur that was so contemptuous of it. So Christ's truth spread at
first; and I believe that is the way it always spreads. Intellectual
revolutions begin at the top and filter down; religious revolutions
begin at the bottom and rise; and it is always the 'lower orders'
that are laid hold of first. 'Ye see your calling, brethren, how that
not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble
are called,' but a handful of slaves in Aristobulus' household, with
this living truth lodged in their hearts, were the bearers and the
witnesses and the organs of the power which was going to shatter all
that towered above it and despised it. And so it always is.

Do not let us be ashamed of a Gospel that has not laid hold of the
upper and the educated classes, but let us feel sure of this, that
there is no greater sign of defective education and of superficial
culture and of inborn vulgarity than despising the day of small
things, and estimating truth by the position or the intellectual
attainments of the men that are its witnesses and its lovers. The
Gospel penetrated at first, and penetrates still, in the fashion that
is suggested here.

II. Secondly, these two households teach us very touchingly and
beautifully the uniting power of Christian sympathy.

A considerable proportion of the first of these two households would
probably be Jews--if Aristobulus were indeed Herod's grandson. The
probability that he was is increased by the greeting interposed
between those to the two households--'Salute Herodion.' The name
suggests some connection with Herod, and whether we suppose the
designation of 'my kinsman,' which Paul gives him, to mean 'blood
relation' or 'fellow countryman,' Herodion, at all events, was a Jew
by birth. As to the other members of these households, Paul may have
met some of them in his many travels, but he had never been in Rome,
and his greetings are more probably sent to them as conspicuous
sections, numerically, of the Roman Church, and as tokens of his
affection, though he had never seen them. The possession of a common
faith has bridged the gulf between him and them. Slaves in those days
were outside the pale of human sympathy, and almost outside the pale
of human rights. And here the foremost of Christian teachers, who was
a freeman born, separated from these poor people by a tremendous
chasm, stretches a brother's hand across it and grasps theirs. The
Gospel that came into the world to rend old associations and to split
up society, and to make a deep cleft between fathers and children and
husband and wife, came also to more than counterbalance its dividing
effects by its uniting power. And in that old world that was
separated into classes by gulfs deeper than any of which we have any
experience, it, and it alone, threw a bridge across the abysses and
bound men together. Think of what a revolution it must have been,
when a master and his slave could sit down together at the table of
the Lord and look each other in the face and say 'Brother' and for
the moment forget the difference of bond and free. Think of what a
revolution it must have been when Jew and Gentile could sit down
together at the table of the Lord, and forget circumcision and
uncircumcision, and feel that they were all one in Jesus Christ. And
as for the third of the great clefts--that, alas! which made so much
of the tragedy and the wickedness of ancient life--viz. the
separation between the sexes--think of what a revolution it was when
men and women, in all purity of the new bond of Christian affection,
could sit down together at the same table, and feel that they were
brethren and sisters in Jesus Christ.

The uniting power of the common faith and the common love to the one
Lord marked Christianity as altogether supernatural and new, unique
in the world's experience, and obviously requiring something more
than a human force to produce it. Will anybody say that the
Christianity of this day has preserved and exhibits that primitive
demonstration of its superhuman source? Is there anything obviously
beyond the power of earthly motives in the unselfish, expansive love
of modern Christians? Alas! alas! to ask the question is to answer
it, and everybody knows the answer, and nobody sorrows over it. Is
any duty more pressingly laid upon Christian churches of this
generation than that, forgetting their doctrinal janglings for a
while, and putting away their sectarianisms and narrowness, they
should show the world that their faith has still the power to do what
it did in the old times, bridge over the gulf that separates class
from class, and bring all men together in the unity of the faith and
of the love of Jesus Christ? Depend upon it, unless the modern
organisations of Christianity which call themselves 'churches' show
themselves, in the next twenty years, a great deal more alive to the
necessity, and a great deal more able to cope with the problem, of
uniting the classes of our modern complex civilisation, the term of
life of these churches is comparatively brief. And the form of
Christianity which another century will see will be one which
reproduces the old miracle of the early days, and reaches across the
deepest clefts that separate modern society, and makes all one in
Jesus Christ. It is all very well for us to glorify the ancient love
of the early Christians, but there is a vast deal of false
sentimentality about our eulogistic talk of it. It were better to
praise it less and imitate it more. Translate it into present life,
and you will find that to-day it requires what it nineteen hundred
years ago was recognised as manifesting, the presence of something
more than human motive, and something more than man discovers of
truth. The cement must be divine that binds men thus together.

Again, these two households suggest for us the tranquillising power
of Christian resignation.

They were mostly slaves, and they continued to be slaves when they
were Christians. Paul recognised their continuance in the servile
position, and did not say a word to them to induce them to break
their bonds. The Epistle to the Corinthians treats the whole subject
of slavery in a very remarkable fashion. It says to the slave: 'If
you were a slave when you became a Christian, stop where you are. If
you have an opportunity of being free, avail yourself of it; if you
have not, never mind.' And then it adds this great principle: 'He
that is called in the Lord, being a slave, is Christ's freeman.
Likewise he that is called, being free, is Christ's slave.' The
Apostle applies the very same principle, in the adjoining verses, to
the distinction between circumcision and uncircumcision. From all
which there comes just the same lesson that is taught us by these two
households of slaves left intact by Christianity--viz. that where a
man is conscious of a direct, individual relation to Jesus Christ,
that makes all outward circumstances infinitely insignificant. Let us
get up to the height, and they all become very small. Of course, the
principles of Christianity killed slavery, but it took eighteen
hundred years to do it. Of course, there is no blinking the fact that
slavery was an essentially immoral and unchristian institution. But
it is one thing to lay down principles and leave them to be worked in
and then to be worked out, and it is another thing to go blindly
charging at existing institutions and throwing them down by violence,
before men have grown up to feel that they are wicked. And so the New
Testament takes the wise course, and leaves the foolish one to
foolish people. It makes the tree good, and then its fruit will be
good.

But the main point that I want to insist upon is this: what was good
for these slaves in Rome is good for you and me. Let us get near to
Jesus Christ, and feel that we have got hold of His hand for our own
selves, and we shall not mind very much about the possible varieties
of human condition. Rich or poor, happy or sad, surrounded by
companions or treading a solitary path, failures or successes as the
world has it, strong or broken and weak and wearied--all these
varieties, important as they are, come to be very small when we can
say, 'We are the Lord's.' That amulet makes all things tolerable; and
the Christian submission which is the expression of our love to, and
confidence in, His infinite sweetness and unerring goodness, raises
us to a height from which the varieties of earthly condition seem to
blend and melt into one. When we are down amongst the low hills, it
seems a long way from the foot of one of them to the top of it; but
when we are on the top they all melt into one dead level, and you
cannot tell which is top and which is bottom. And so, if we only can
rise high enough up the hill, the possible diversities of our
condition will seem to be very small variations in the level.
III. Lastly, these two groups suggest to us the conquering power of
Christian faithfulness.

The household of Herod's grandson was not a very likely place to find
Christian people in, was it? Such flowers do not often grow, or at
least do not easily grow, on such dunghills. And in both these cases
it was only a handful of the people, a portion of each household,
that was Christian. So they had beside them, closely identified with
them--working, perhaps, at the same tasks, I might almost say,
chained with the same chains--men who had no share in their faith or
in their love. It would not be easy to pray and love and trust God
and do His will, and keep clear of complicity with idolatry and
immorality and sin, in such a pigsty as that; would it? But these men
did it. And nobody need ever say, 'I am in such circumstances that I
cannot live a Christian life.' There are no such circumstances, at
least none of God's appointing. There are often such that we bring
upon ourselves, and then the best thing is to get out of them as soon
as we can. But as far as He is concerned, He never puts anybody
anywhere where he cannot live a holy life.

There were no difficulties too great for these men to overcome; there
are no difficulties too great for us to overcome. And wherever you
and I may be, we cannot be in any place where it is so hard to live a
consistent life as these people were. Young men in warehouses, people
in business here in Manchester, some of us with unfortunate domestic
or relative associations, and so on--we may all feel as if it would
be so much easier for us if this, that, and the other thing were
changed. No, it would not be any easier; and perhaps the harder the
easier, because the more obviously the atmosphere is poisonous, the
more we shall put some cloth over our mouths to prevent it from
getting into our lungs. The dangerous place is the place where the
vapours that poison are scentless as well as invisible. But whatever
be the difficulties, there is strength waiting for us, and we may all
win the praise which the Apostle gives to another of these Roman
brethren, whom he salutes as 'Apelles, approved in Christ'--a man
that had been 'tried' and had stood his trial. So in our various
spheres of difficulty and of temptation we may feel that the greeting
from heaven, like Paul's message to the slaves in Rome, comes to us
with good cheer, and that the Master Himself sees us, sympathises
with us, salutes us, and stretches out His hand to help and to keep
us.



TRYPHENA AND TRYPHOSA

   'Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour
   in the Lord.'--ROMANS xvi. 12.


The number of salutations to members of the Roman Church is
remarkable when we take into account that Paul had never visited it.
The capital drew all sorts of people to it, and probably there had
been personal intercourse between most of the persons here mentioned
and the Apostle in some part of his wandering life. He not only
displays his intimate knowledge of the persons saluted, but his
beautiful delicacy and ingenuity in the varying epithets applied to
them shows how in his great heart and tenacious memory individuals
had a place. These shadowy saints live for ever by Paul's brief
characterisation of them, and stand out to us almost as clearly and
as sharply distinguished as they did to him.

These two, Tryphena and Tryphosa, were probably sisters. That is
rendered likely by their being coupled together here, as well as by
the similarity of their names. These names mean luxurious, or
delicate, and no doubt expressed the ideal for their daughters which
the parents had had, and possibly indicate the kind of life from
which these two women had come. We can scarcely fail to note the
contrast between the meaning of their names and the Christian lives
they had lived. Two dainty women, probably belonging to a class in
which a delicate withdrawal from effort and toil was thought to be
the woman's distinctive mark, had fled from luxury, which often
tended to be voluptuous, and was always self-indulgent, and had
chosen the better part of 'labour in the Lord.' They had become
untrue to their names, because they must be true to their Master and
themselves. We may well take the lesson that lies here, and is
eminently needful to-day amidst the senseless, and often sinful, tide
of luxury which runs so strongly as to threaten the great and eternal
Christian principle of self-denial.

The first thing that strikes us in looking at these salutations is
the illustration which it gives of the uniting power of a common
faith. Tryphena and Tryphosa were probably Roman ladies of some
social standing, and their names may indicate that they at least
inherited a tendency to exclusiveness; yet here they occur
immediately after the household of Narcissus and in close connection
with that of Aristobulus, both of which are groups of slaves.
Aristobulus was a grandson of Herod the Great, and Narcissus was a
well-known freedman, whose slaves at his death would probably become
the property of the Emperor. Other common slave names are those of
Ampliatus and Urbanus; and here in these lists they stand side by
side with persons of some distinction in the Roman world, and with
men and women of widely differing nationalities. The Church of Rome
would have seemed to any non-Christian observer a motley crowd in
which racial distinctions, sex, and social conditions had all been
swept away by the rising tide of a common fanaticism. In it was
exemplified in actual operation Paul's great principle that in Christ
Jesus 'there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, bond nor
free, but in Him all are one.' Roman society in that day, as Juvenal
shows us, was familiar with the levelling and uniting power of common
vice and immorality, and the few sternly patriotic Romans who were
left lamented that 'the Orontes flowed into the Tiber'; but such
common wallowing in filth led to no real unity, whereas, in the
obscure corner of the great city where there were members of the
infant Church gathered together, there was the beginning of a common
life in the one Lord which lifted each participant of it out of the
dreary solitude of individuality, and imparted to each heart the
tingling consciousness of oneness with all who held the one faith in
the one Lord and had received the one baptism in the one Name. That
fair dawn has been shadowed by many clouds, and the churches of
to-day, however they may have developed doctrine, may look back with
reproach and shame to the example of Rome, where Tryphena and
Tryphosa, with all their inherited, fastidious delicacy, recognised
in the household of Aristobulus and the household of Narcissus
'brethren in the Lord,' and were as glad to welcome Jews, Asiatics,
Persians, and Greeks, as Romans of the bluest blood, into the family
of Christ. The Romish Church of our day has lost its early grace of
welcoming all who love the one Lord into its fellowship; and we of
the Protestant churches have been but too swift to learn the bad
lesson of forbidding all who follow not with us.

Another thought which may be suggested by Tryphena and Tryphosa is
the blessed hallowing of natural family relations by common faith.
They were probably sisters, or, at all events, as their names
indicate, near relatives, and to them that faith must have been
doubly precious because they shared it with each other. None of the
trials to which the early Christians were exposed was more severe
than the necessity which their Christianity so often imposed upon
them of breaking the sacred family ties. It saddened even Christ's
heart to think that He had come to rend families in sunder, and to
make 'a man's foes them of his own household'; and we can little
imagine how bitter the pang must have been when family love had to be
cast aside at the bidding of allegiance to Him.

But though the stress of that separation between those most nearly
related in blood by reason of unshared faith is alleviated in this
day, it still remains; and that is but a feeble Christian life which
does not feel that it is drawing a heart from closest human embraces
and constituting a barrier between it and the dearest of earth. There
is still need in these days of relaxed Christian sentiment for the
stern austerity of the law, 'He that loveth father or mother more
than Me is not worthy of Me'; and there are many Christian souls who
would be infinitely stronger and more mature, if they did not yield
to the seductions of family affections which are not rooted in Jesus
Christ. But still, though our faith ought to be far more than it
often is, the determining element in our affections and associations,
its noblest work is not to separate but to unite; and whilst it often
must divide, it is meant to draw more closely together hearts that
are already knit by earthly love. Its legitimate effect is to make
all earthly sweetnesses sweeter, all holy bonds more holy and more
binding, to infuse a new constraint and preciousness into all earthly
relationships, to make brothers tenfold more brotherly and sisters
more sisterly. The heart, in which the deepest devotion is yielded to
Jesus Christ, has its capacity for devotion infinitely increased, and
they who, looking into each other's faces, see reflected there
something of the Lord whom they both love, love each other all the
more because they love Him most, and in their love to Him, and His to
them, have found a new measure for all their affection. They who,
looking on their dear ones, can 'trust they live in God,' will there
find them 'worthier to be loved,' and will there find a power of
loving them. Tryphena and Tryphosa were more sisterly than ever when
they clung to their Elder Brother. 'There is no man that hath left
brethren, or sisters, or mother, or father, for My sake, but he shall
receive a hundredfold more in this time, brethren, and sisters, and
mothers, and in the world to come eternal life.'

The contrast between the names of these two Roman ladies and the
characterisation of their 'labour in the Lord' may suggest to us the
most formidable foe of Christian earnestness. Their names, as we have
already noticed, point to a state of society in which the parents
ideal for their daughters was dainty luxuriousness and a withdrawal
from the rough and tumble of common life; but these two women,
magnetised by the love of Jesus, had turned their backs on the
parental ideal, and had cast themselves earnestly into a life of
toil. That ideal was never more formidably antagonistic to the vigour
of Christian life than it is to-day. Rome, in Paul's time, was not
more completely honeycombed with worldliness than England is to-day;
and the English churches are not far behind the English 'world' in
their paralysing love of luxury and self-indulgence. In all ages,
earnest Christians have had to take up the same vehement remonstrance
against the tendency of the average Christian to let his religious
life be weakened by the love of the world and the things of the
world. The protests against growing luxury have been a commonplace in
all ages of the Church; but, surely, there has never been a time when
it has reached a more senseless, sinful, and destroying height than
in our day. The rapid growth of wealth, with no capacity of using it
nobly, which modern commerce has brought, has immensely influenced
all our churches for evil. It is so hard for us, aggregated in great
cities, to live our own lives, and the example of our class has such
immense power over us that it is very hard to pursue the path of
'plain living and high thinking' in communities, all classes of which
are more and more yielding to the temptation to ostentation,
so-called comfort, and extravagant expenditure; and that this is a
danger--we are tempted to say _the_ danger--to the purity, loftiness,
and vigour of religious life among us, he must be blind who cannot
see, and he must be strangely ignorant of his own life who cannot
feel that it is the danger for him. I believe that for one professing
Christian whose earnestness is lost by reason of intellectual doubts,
or by some grave sin, there are a hundred from whom it simply oozes
away unnoticed, like wind out of a bladder, so that what was once
round and full becomes limp and flaccid. If Demas begins with loving
the present world, it will not be long before he finds a reason for
departing from Paul.

We may take these two sisters, finally, as pointing for us the true
victory over this formidable enemy. They had turned resolutely away
from the heathen ideal enshrined in their names to a life of real
hard toil, as is distinctly implied by the word used by the Apostle.
What that toil consisted in we do not know, and need not inquire; but
the main point to be noted is that their 'labour' was 'in the Lord.'
That union with Christ makes labour for Him a necessity, and makes it
possible. 'The labour we delight in physics pain'; and if we are in
Him, we shall not only 'live in Him,' but all our work begun,
continued, and ended in Him, will in Him and by Him be accepted.
There is no victorious antagonist of worldly ease and self-indulgence
comparable to the living consciousness of union with Jesus and His
life in us. To dwell in the swamps at the bottom of the mountain is
to live in a region where effort is impossible and malaria weakens
vitality; to climb the heights brings bracing to the limbs and a
purer air into the expanding lungs, and makes work delightsome that
would have been labour down below. If we are 'in the Lord,' He is our
atmosphere, and we can draw from Him full draughts of a noble life in
which we shall not need the stimulus of self-interest or worldly
success to use it to the utmost in acts of service to Him. They who
live in the Lord will labour in the Lord, and they who labour in the
Lord will rest in the Lord.



PERSIS

   'Salute the beloved Persis, who laboured much in
   the Lord.'--ROMANS xvi. 12.


There are a great number of otherwise unknown Christians who pass for
a moment before our view in this chapter. Their characterisations are
like the slight outlines in the background of some great artist's
canvas: a touch of the brush is all that is spared for each, and yet,
if we like to look sympathetically, they live before us. Now, this
good woman, about whom we never hear again, and for whom these few
words are all her epitaph--was apparently, judging by her name, of
Persian descent, and possibly had been brought to Rome as a slave. At
all events, finding herself there, she had somehow or other become
connected with the Church in that city, and had there distinguished
herself by continuous and faithful Christian toil which had won the
affection of the Apostle, though he had never seen her, and knew no
more about her. That is all. She comes into the foreground for a
moment, and then she vanishes. What does she say to us?

First of all, like the others named by Paul, she helps us to
understand, by her living example, that wonderful, new, uniting
process that was carried on by means of Christianity. The simple fact
of a Persian woman getting a loving message from a Jew, the woman
being in Rome and the Jew in Corinth, and the message being written
in Greek, brings before us a whole group of nationalities all fused
together. They had been hammered together, or, if you like it better,
chained together, by Roman power, but they were melted together by
Christ's Gospel. This Eastern woman and this Jewish man, and the many
others whose names and different nationalities pass in a flash before
us in this chapter, were all brought together in Jesus Christ.

If we run our eye over these salutations, what strikes one, even at
the first sight, is the very small number of Jewish names; only one
certain, and another doubtful. Four or five names are Latin, and then
all the rest are Greek, but this woman seemingly came from further
east than any of them. There they all were, forgetting the hostile
nationalities to which they belonged, because they had found One who
had brought them into one great community. We talk about the uniting
influence of Christianity, but when we see the process going on
before us, in a case like this, we begin to understand it better.

But another point may be noticed in regard to this uniting
process--how it brought into action the purest and truest love as a
bond that linked men. There are four or five of the people commended
in this chapter of whom the Apostle has nothing to say but that they
are beloved. This is the only woman to whom he applies that term. And
notice his instinctive delicacy: when he is speaking of men he says,
'_My_ beloved'; when he is greeting Persis he says, '_the_ beloved,'
that there may be no misunderstanding about the 'my'--'the beloved
Persis which laboured much in the Lord'--indicating, by one delicate
touch, the loftiness, the purity, and truly Christian character of
the bond that held them together. And that is no true Church, where
anything but that is the bond--the love that knits us to one another,
because we believe that each is knit to the dear Lord and fountain of
all love.

What more does this good woman say to us? She is an example living
and breathing there before us, of what a woman may be in God's
Church. Paul had never been in Rome; no Apostle, so far as we know,
had had anything to do with the founding of the Church. The most
important Church in the Roman Empire, and the Church which afterwards
became the curse of Christendom, was founded by some anonymous
Christians, with no commission, with no supervision, with no
officials amongst them, but who just had the grace of God in their
hearts, and found themselves in Rome, and could not help speaking
about Jesus Christ. God helped them, and a little Church sprang into
being. And the great abundance of salutations here, and the
honourable titles which the Apostle gives to the Christians of whom
he speaks, and many of whom he signalises as having done great
service, are a kind of certificate on his part to the vigorous life
which, without any apostolic supervision or official direction, had
developed itself there in that Church.

Now, it is to be noticed that this striking form of eulogium which is
attached to our Persis she shares in common with others in the group.
And it is to be further noticed that all those who are, as it were,
decorated with this medal--on whom Paul bestows this honour of saying
that they had 'laboured,' or 'laboured much in the Lord,' are women
that stand alone in the list. There are several other women in it,
but they are all coupled with men--husbands or brothers, or some kind
of relative. But there are three sets of women, I do not say single
women, but three sets of women, standing singly in the list, and it
is about them, and them only, that Paul says they 'laboured,' or
'laboured much.' There is a Mary who stands alone, and she 'bestowed
much labour on' Paul and others. Then there are, in the same verse as
my text, two sisters, Tryphena and Tryphosa, whose names mean 'the
luxurious.' And the Apostle seems to think, as he writes the two
names that spoke of self-indulgence: 'Perhaps these rightly described
these two women once, but they do not now. In the bad old days,
before they were Christians, they may have been rightly named
luxurious-living. But here is their name now, the luxurious is turned
into the self-sacrificing worker, and the two sisters "labour in the
Lord."' Then comes our friend Persis, who also stands alone, and she
shares in the honour that only these other two companies of women
share with her. She 'laboured much in the Lord.' In that little
community, without any direction from Apostles and authorised
teachers, the brethren and sisters had every one found their tasks;
and these solitary women, with nobody to say to them, 'Go and do this
or that,' had found out for themselves, or rather had been taught by
the Spirit of Jesus, what they had to do, and they worked at it with
a will. There are many things that Christian women can do a great
deal better than men, and we are not to forget that this modern talk
about the emancipation of women has its roots here in the New
Testament. We are not to forget either that prerogative means
obligation, and that the elevation of woman means the laying upon her
of solemn duties to perform. I wonder how many of the women members
of our Churches and congregations deserve such a designation as that?
We hear a great deal about 'women's rights' nowadays. I wish some of
my friends would lay a little more to heart than they do, 'women's
duties.'

And now, lastly, the final lesson that I draw from this eulogium of an
otherwise altogether unknown woman is that she is a model of
Christian service.

First, in regard to its measure. She 'laboured much in the Lord.'
Now, both these two words, 'laboured' and 'much,' are extremely
emphatic. The word rightly translated 'laboured' will appear in its
full force if I recall to you a couple of other places in which it is
employed in the New Testament. You remember that touching incident
about our Lord when, being '_wearied_ with His journey, He sat
thus on the well.' 'Wearied' is the same word as is here used. Then,
you remember how the Apostle, after he had been hauling empty nets
all night in the little, wet, dirty fishing-boat, said, perhaps with
a yawn, 'Master, we have _toiled_ all the night and caught
nothing.' He uses the same word as is employed here. Such is the sort
of work that these women had done--work carried to the point of
exhaustion, work up to the very edge of their powers, work unsparing
and continuous, and not done once in some flash of evanescent
enthusiasm, but all through a dreary night, in spite of apparent
failures.

_There_ is the measure of service. Many of us seem to think that
if we say 'I am tired,' that is a reason for not doing anything.
Sometimes it is, no doubt; and no man has a right so to labour as to
impair his capacity for future labour, but subject to that condition
I do not know that the plea of fatigue is a sufficient reason for
idleness. And I am quite sure that the true example for us is the
example of Him who, when He was most wearied, sitting on the well,
was so invigorated and refreshed by the opportunity of winning
another soul that, when His disciples came back to Him, they looked
at His fresh strength with astonishment, and said to themselves, 'Has
any man brought Him anything to eat?' Ay, what He had to eat was work
that He finished for the Father, and some of us know that the truest
refreshment in toil is a change of toil. It is almost as good to
shift the load on to the other shoulder, or to take a stick into the
other hand, as it is to put away the load altogether. Oh, the careful
limits which Christian people nowadays set to their work for Jesus!
They are not afraid of being tired in their pursuit of business or
pleasure, but in regard to Christ's work they will let anything go to
wrack and ruin rather than that they should turn a hair, by
persevering efforts to prevent it. Work to the limit of power if you
live in the light of blessedness.

She 'laboured much in the Lord,' or, as Jesus Christ said about the
other woman who was blamed by the people that did not love enough to
understand the blessedness of self-sacrifice, 'she had done what she
could.' It was an apology for the form of Mary's service, but it was
a stringent demand as to its amount. 'What she could'--not _half_ of
what she could; not what she _conveniently_ could. That is the
measure of acceptable service.

Then, still further, may we not learn from Persis the spring of all
true Christian work? She 'laboured much in the Lord,' because she
_was_ 'in Him,' and in union with Him there came to her power
and desire to do things which, without that close fellowship, she
neither would have desired nor been able to do. It is vain to try to
whip up Christian people to forms of service by appealing to lower
motives. There is only one motive that will last, and bring out from
us all that is in us to do, and that is the appeal to our sense of
union and communion with Jesus Christ, and the exhortation to live in
Him, and then we shall work in Him. If you link the spindles in your
mill, or the looms in your weaving-shed, with the engine, they will
go. It is of no use to try to turn them by hand. You will only spoil
the machinery, and it will be poor work that you will get off them.

So, dear brethren, be 'in the Lord.' That is the secret of service,
and the closer we come to Him, and the more continuously, moment by
moment, we realise our individual dependence upon Him, and our union
with Him, the more will our lives effloresce and blossom into all
manner of excellence and joyful service, and nothing else that
Christian people are whipped up to do, from lower and more vulgar
motives than that, will. It may be of a certain kind of
inferior value, but it is far beneath the highest beauty of Christian
service, nor will its issues reach the loftiest point of usefulness
to which even our poor service may attain.

Persis seems to me to suggest, too, the safeguard of work. Ah, if she
had not 'laboured in the Lord,' and been 'in the Lord' whilst she was
labouring, she would very soon have stopped work. Our Christian work,
however pure its motive when we begin it, has in itself the tendency
to become mechanical, and to be done from lower motives than those
from which it was begun. That is true about a man in my position. It
is true about all of us, in our several ways of trying to serve our
dear Lord and Master. Unless we make a conscience of continually
renewing our communion with Him, and getting our feet once more
firmly upon the rock, we shall certainly in our Christian work,
having begun in the spirit, continue in the flesh, and before we know
where we are, we shall be doing work from habit, because we did it
yesterday at this hour, because people expect it of us, because A, B,
or C does it, or for a hundred other reasons, all of which are but
too familiar to us by experience. They are sure to slip in; they
change the whole character of the work, and they harm the workers.
The only way by which we can keep the garland fresh is by continually
dipping it in the fountain. The only way by which we can keep our
Christian work pure, useful, worthy of the Master, is by seeing to it
that our work itself does not draw us away from our fellowship with
Him. And the more we have to do, the more needful is it that we
should listen to Christ's voice when He says to us, 'Come ye
yourselves apart with Me into a solitary place, and there renew your
communion with Me.'

The last lesson about our work which I draw from Persis is the
unexpected immortality of true Christian service. How Persis would
have opened her eyes if anybody had told her that nearly 1900 years
after she lived, people in a far-away barbarous island would be
sitting thinking about her, as you and I are doing now! How
astonished she would have been if it had been said to her, 'Now,
Persis, wheresoever in the whole world the Gospel is preached, your
name and your work and your epitaph will go with it, and as long
as men know about Jesus Christ, your and their Master, they will know
about you, His humble servant.' Well, we shall not have our names in
that fashion in men's memories, but Jesus will have your name and
mine, if we do His work as this woman did it, in _His_ memory. 'I
will never forget any of their works.' And if we--self-forgetful to
the limit of our power, and as the joyful result of our personal
union with that Saviour who has done everything for us--try to live
for His praise and glory in any fashion, then be sure of this, that
our poor deeds are as immortal as Him for whom they are done, and
that we may take to ourselves the great word which He has spoken,
when He has declared that at the last He will confess His confessors'
names before the angels in heaven. Blessed are the living that 'live
in the Lord'; blessed are the workers that work 'in the Lord,' for
when they come to be the dead that 'die in the Lord' and rest from
their labours, their works shall follow them.



A CRUSHED SNAKE

   'The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your
   feet shortly.'--ROMANS xvi. 20.


There are three other Scriptural sayings which may have been floating
in the Apostle's mind when he penned this triumphant assurance. 'Thou
shalt bruise his head'; the great first Evangel--we are to be endowed
with Christ's power; 'The lion and the adder thou shalt trample under
foot'--all the strength that was given to ancient saints is ours;
'Behold! I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and
over all the power of the enemy'--the charter of the seventy is the
perennial gift to the Church. Echoing all these great words, Paul
promises the Roman Christians that 'the God of peace shall bruise
Satan under your feet shortly.' Now, when any special characteristic
is thus ascribed to God, as when He is called 'the God of patience'
or 'the God of hope,' in the preceding chapter, the characteristic
selected has some bearing on the prayer or promise following. For
example, this same designation, 'the God of peace,' united with the
other, 'that brought again from the dead the Lord Jesus, that great
Shepherd of the sheep,' is laid as the foundation of the prayer for
the perfecting of the readers of the Epistle to the Hebrews in every
good work. It is, then, because of that great name that the Apostle
is sure, and would have his Roman brethren to be sure, that Satan
shall shortly be bruised under their feet. No doubt there may have
been some reference in Paul's mind to what he had just said about
those who caused divisions in the Church; but, if there is such
reference, it is of secondary importance. Paul is gazing on all the
great things in God which make Him the God of peace, and in them all
he sees ground for the confident hope that His power will be exerted
to crush all the sin that breaks His children's peace.

Now the first thought suggested by these words is the solemn glimpse
given of the struggle that goes on in every Christian soul.

Two antagonists are at hand-grips in every one of us. On the one
hand, the 'God of peace,' on the other, 'Satan.' If you believe in
the personality of the One, do not part with the belief in the
personality of the other. If you believe that a divine power and
Spirit is ready to help and strengthen you, do not think so lightly
of the enemies that are arrayed against you as to falter in the
belief that there _is_ a great personal Power, rooted in evil,
who is warring against each of us. Ah, brethren! we live far too much
on the surface, and we neither go down deep enough to the dark source
of the Evil, nor rise high enough to the radiant Fountain of the
Good. It is a shallow life that strikes that antagonism of God and
Satan out of itself. And though the belief in a personal tempter has
got to be very unfashionable nowadays, I am going to venture to say
that you may measure accurately the vitality and depth of a man's
religion by the emphasis with which he grasps the thought of that
great antagonism. There is a star of light, and there is a star of
darkness; and they revolve, as it were, round one centre.

But whilst, on the one hand, our Christianity is made shallow in
proportion as we ignore this solemn reality, on the other hand, it is
sometimes paralysed and perverted by our misunderstanding of it. For,
notice, 'the God of peace shall bruise Satan _under your feet_.'
Yes, it is God that bruises, but He uses our feet to do it. It is God
from whom the power comes, but the power works through us, and we are
neither merely the field, nor merely the prize, of the conflict
between these two, but we ourselves have to put all our pith into the
task of keeping down the flat, speckled head that has the poison
gland in it. 'The God of peace'--blessed be His Name--'shall bruise
Satan under your feet,' but it will need the tension of your muscles,
and the downward force of your heel, if the wriggling reptile is to
be kept under.

Turn, now, to the other thought that is here, the promise and pledge
of victory in the name, the God of peace. I have already referred to
two similar designations of God in the previous chapter, and if we
take them in union with this one in our text, what a wonderfully
beautiful and strengthening threefold view of that divine nature do
we get! 'The God of patience and consolation' is the first of the
linked three. It heads the list, and blessed is it that it does,
because, after all, sorrow makes up a very large proportion of the
experience of us all, and what most men seem to themselves to need
most is a God that will bear their sorrows with them and help them to
bear, and a God that will comfort them. But, supposing that He has
been made known thus as the source of endurance and the God of all
consolation, He becomes 'the God of hope,' for a dark background
flings up a light foreground, and a comforted sorrow patiently
endured is mighty to produce a radiant hope. The rising of the muddy
waters of the Nile makes the heavy crops of 'corn in Egypt.' So the
name 'the God of hope' fitly follows the name 'the God of patience
and consolation.'

Then we come to the name in my text, built perhaps on the other two,
or at least reminiscent of them, and recalling them, 'the God of
peace,' who, through patience and consolation, through hope, and
through many another gift, breathes the benediction of His own great
tranquillity and unruffled calm over our agitated, distracted, sinful
hearts. In connection with one of those previous designations to
which I have referred, the Apostle has a prayer very different in
form from this, but identical in substance, when he says 'the God of
hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.' Is not that
closely allied to the promise of my text, 'The God of peace shall
bruise Satan under your feet shortly'? Is there any surer way of
'bruising Satan' under a man's feet than filling him 'with joy and
peace in believing'? What can the Devil do to that man? If his soul
is saturated, and his capacities filled, with that pure honey of
divine joy, will he have any taste for the coarse dainties, the leeks
and the garlic, that the Devil offers him? Is there any surer way of
delivering a man from the temptations of his own baser nature, and
the solicitations of this busy intrusive world round about him, than
to make him satisfied with the goodness of the Lord, and conscious in
his daily experience of 'all joy and peace'? Fill the vessel with
wine, and there is no room for baser liquors or for poison. I suppose
that the way by which you and I, dear friends, will most effectually
conquer any temptations, is by falling back on the superior sweetness
of divine joys. When we live upon manna we do not crave onions. So He
'will bruise Satan under your feet' by giving that which will arm
your hearts against all his temptations and all his weapons. Blessed
be God for the way of conquest, which is the possession of a supremer
good!

But then, notice how beautifully too this name, 'the God of peace,'
comes in to suggest that even in the strife there may be
tranquillity. I remember in an old church in Italy a painting of an
Archangel with his foot on the dragon's neck, and his sword thrust
through its scaly armour. It is perhaps the feebleness of the
artist's hand, but I think rather it is the clearness of his insight,
which has led him to represent the victorious angel, in the moment in
which he is slaying the dragon, as with a smile on his face, and not
the least trace of effort in the arm, which is so easily smiting the
fatal blow. Perhaps if the painter could have used his brush better
he would have put more expression into the attitude and the face, but
I think it is better as it is. We, too, may achieve a conquest over
the dragon which, although it requires effort, does not disturb
peace. There is a possibility of bruising that slippery head under my
foot, and yet not having to strain myself in the process. We may have
'peace subsisting at the heart of endless agitation.' Do you remember
how the Apostle, in another place, gives us the same
beautiful--though at first sight contradictory--combination when he
says, 'The peace of God shall garrison your heart'?

  'My soul! there is a country
    Far, far beyond the stars,
  Where stands an armed sentry,
    All skilful in the wars.'

And her name is Peace, as the poet goes on to tell us. Ah, brethren!
if we lived nearer the Lord, we should find it more possible to
'fight the good fight of faith,' and yet to have 'our feet shod with
the preparedness of the gospel of peace.'

'The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet'; and in
bruising He will give you His peace to do it, and His peace in doing
it, and in still greater measure after doing it. For every struggle
of the Christian soul adds something to the subsequent depth of
its tranquillity. And so the name of the God of peace is our pledge of
victory in, and of deepened peace after, our warfare with sin and
temptation.

Lastly, note the swiftness with which Paul expects that this process
shall he accomplished.

I dare say that he was thinking about the coming of the Lord, when
all the fighting and struggle would be over, and that when he said
'God shall bruise him under your feet shortly,' there lay in the back
of his mind the thought, 'the Lord is at hand.' But be that as it
may, there is another way of looking at the words. They are not in
the least like our experience, are they? 'Shortly!'--and here am I, a
Christian man for the last half century perhaps; and have I got much
further on in my course? Have I brought the sin that used to trouble
me much down, and is my character much more noble, Christ-like, than
it was long years ago? Would other people say that it is? Instead of
'shortly' we ought to put 'slowly' for the most of us. But, dear
friend, the ideal is swift conquest, and it is our fault and our
loss, if the reality is sadly different.

There are a great many evils that, unless they are conquered
suddenly, have very small chance of ever being conquered at all. You
never heard of a man being cured of his love of intoxicating drink,
for instance, by a gradual process. The serpent's life is not crushed
out of it by gradual pressure, but by one vigorous stamp of a nervous
heel.

But if my experience as a Christian man does not enable me to set to
my seal that this text is true, the text itself will tell me why. It
is 'the God of peace' that is going to 'bruise Satan.' Do you keep
yourself in touch with Him, dear friend? And do you let His powers
come uninterruptedly and continuously into your spirit and life? It
is sheer folly and self-delusion to wonder that the medicine does not
work as quickly as was promised, if you do not take the medicine. The
slow process by which, at the best, many Christian people 'bruise
Satan under their feet,' during which he hurts their heels more than
they hurt his head, is mainly due to their breaking the closeness and
the continuity of their communion with God in Jesus Christ.

But, after all, it is Heaven's chronology that we have to do with
here. 'Shortly,' and it will be 'shortly,' if we reckon by heavenly
scales of duration. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in
the morning. 'The Lord will help her, and that right early.' 'The
Lord is at hand.' When we get yonder, ah! how all the long years of
fighting will have dwindled down, and we shall say 'the Lord did help
me, and that right early,' and though there may have been more than
threescore years and ten of fighting, that, while we were in the
thick of it, did not seem to come to much, we shall then look back
and say: 'Yes, Lord, it was but for a moment, and it has brought me
to the undying day of Eternal Peace.'



TERTIUS

   'I, Tertius, who write the epistle, salute you in the
   Lord.'--ROMANS xvi. 22 (R.V.).


One sometimes sees in old religious pictures, in some obscure corner,
a tiny kneeling figure, the portrait of the artist. So Tertius here
gets leave to hold the pen for a moment on his own account, and from
Corinth sends his greeting to his unknown brethren in Rome.
Apparently he was a stranger to them, and needed to introduce
himself. He is never heard of before or since. For one brief moment
he is visible, like a star of a low magnitude, shining out for a
moment between two banks of darkness and then swallowed up. Judging
by his name, he was probably a Roman, and possibly had some
connection with Italy, but clearly was a stranger to the Church in
Rome. We do not know whether he was a resident in Corinth, where he
wrote this epistle, or one of Paul's travelling companions. Probably
he was the former, as his name never recurs in any of Paul's letters.
One can understand the impulse which led him for one moment to come
out of obscurity and to take up personal relations with those who had
so long enjoyed his pen. He would fain float across the deep gulf of
alienation a thread of love which looked like gossamer, but has
proved to be stronger than centuries and revolutions.

This humble and modest greeting is an expression of a sentiment which
the world may smile at, but which, being 'in the Lord,' partakes of
immortality. No doubt the world's hate drove more closely together
all the disciples in primitive times; but the yearning of Tertius for
some little corner in the love of his Roman brethren might well
influence us to-day. There ought to be an effort of imagination going
out towards unknown brethren. Christian love is not meant to be kept
within the limits of sight and personal knowledge; it should overleap
the narrow bounds of the communities to which we belong, and
expatiate over the whole wide field. The great Shepherd has
prescribed for us the limits to the very edge of which our Christian
love should consciously go forth, and has rebuked the narrowness to
which we are prone, when He has said, 'Other sheep I have which are
not of this fold.' We are all too prone to let identities of opinion
and of polity, or even the accident of locality, set bounds to our
consciousness of brotherhood; and the example of this little gush of
affection, that reaches out a hand across the ocean and grasps the
hands of unknown partakers in the common life of the one Lord, may
well shame us out of our narrowness, and quicken us into a wide
perception and deepened feeling towards all who in every place call
up Jesus Christ as their Lord--'both their Lord and ours.'

Another lesson which we may learn from Tertius' characterisation of
himself is the dignity of subordinate work towards a great end. His
office as amanuensis was very humble, but it was quite as necessary
as Paul's inspired fervour. It is to him that we owe our possession
of the Epistle; it is to him that Paul owed it that he was able to
record in imperishable words the thoughts that welled up in his mind,
and would have been lost if Tertius had not been at his side. The
power generated in the boilers does its work through machines of
which each little cog-wheel is as indispensable as the great shafts.
Members of the body which seem to be 'more feeble, are necessary.'
Every note in a great concerted piece of music, and every instrument,
down to the triangle and the little drum in the great orchestra, is
necessary. This lesson of the dignity of subordinate work needs to be
laid to heart both by those who think themselves to be capable of
more important service, and by those who have to recognise that the
less honourable tasks are all for which they are fit. To the former
it may preach humility, the latter it may encourage. We are all very
ignorant of what is great and what is small in the matter of our
Christian service, and we have sometimes to look very closely and to
clear away a great many vulgar misconceptions before we can
clearly discriminate between mites and talents. 'We know not which
may prosper, whether this or that'; and in our ignorance of what it
may please God to bring out of any service faithfully rendered to
Him, we had better not be too sure that true service is ever small,
or that the work that attracts attention and is christened by men
'great' is really so in His eyes. It is well to have the noble
ambition to 'desire earnestly the greater gifts,' but it is better to
'follow the more excellent way,' and to seek after the love which
knows nothing of great or small, and without which prophecy and the
knowledge of all mysteries, and all conspicuous and all the shining
qualities profit nothing.

We can discern in Tertius' words a little touch of what we may call
pride in his work. No doubt he knew it to be subordinate, but he also
knew it to be needful; and no doubt he had put all his strength into
doing it well. No man will put his best into any task which he does
not undertake in such a spirit. It is a very plain piece of homely
wisdom that 'what is worth doing at all is worth doing well.' Without
a lavish expenditure of the utmost care and effort, our work will
tend to be slovenly and unpleasing to God, and man, and to ourselves.
We may be sure there were no blots and bits of careless writing in
Tertius' manuscript, and that he would not have claimed the friendly
feelings of his Roman brethren, if he had not felt that he had put
his best into the writing of this epistle. The great word of King
David has a very wide application. 'I will not take that which is
thine for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings without cost.'

Tertius' salutation may suggest to us the best thing by which to be
remembered. All his life before and after the hours spent at Paul's
side has sunk in oblivion. He wished to be known only as having
written the Epistle. Christian souls ought to desire to live chiefly
in the remembrance of those to whom they have been known as having
done some little bit of work for Jesus Christ. We may well ask
ourselves whether there is anything in our lives by which we should
thus wish to be remembered. All our many activities will sink into
silence; but if the stream of our life, which has borne along down
its course so much mud and sand, has brought some grains of gold in
the form of faithful and loving service to Christ and men--these will
not be lost in the ocean, but treasured by Him. What we do for Jesus
and to spread the knowledge of His name is the immortal part of our
mortal lives, and abides in His memory and in blessed results in our
own characters, when all the rest that made our busy and often stormy
days has passed into oblivion. All that we know of Tertius who wrote
this Epistle is that he wrote it. Well will it be for us if the
summary of our lives be something like that of his!



QUARTUS A BROTHER

   'Quartus a brother.'--ROMANS xvi. 23.


I am afraid very few of us read often, or with much interest, those
long lists of names at the end of Paul's letters. And yet there are
plenty of lessons in them, if anybody will look at them lovingly and
carefully. There does not seem much in these three words; but I am
very much mistaken if they will not prove to be full of beauty and
pathos, and to open out into a wonderful revelation of what
Christianity is and does, as soon as we try to freshen them up into
some kind of human interest.

It is easy for us to make a little picture of this brother Quartus.
He is evidently an entire stranger to the Church in Rome. They had
never heard his name before: none of them knew anything about him.
Further, he is evidently a man of no especial reputation or position
in the Church at Corinth, from which Paul writes. He contrasts
strikingly with the others who send salutations to Rome. 'Timotheus,
my work-fellow'--the companion and helper of the Apostle, whose name
was known everywhere among the Churches, heads the list. Then come
other prominent men of his more immediate circle. Then follows a
loving greeting from Paul's amanuensis, who, naturally, as the pen is
in his own hand, says: '_I_, Tertius, who wrote this epistle,
salute you in the Lord.' Then Paul begins again to dictate, and the
list runs on. Next comes a message from 'Gaius mine host, and of the
whole Church'--an influential man in the community, apparently rich,
and willing, as well as able, to extend to them large and loving
hospitality. Erastus, the chamberlain or treasurer of the city,
follows--a man of consequence in Corinth. And then, among all these
people of mark, comes the modest, quiet Quartus. He has no wealth
like Gaius, nor civic position like Erastus, nor wide reputation like
Timothy. He is only a good, simple, unknown Christian. He feels a
spring of love open in his heart to these brethren far across the
sea, whom he never met. He would like them to know that he thought
lovingly of them, and to be lovingly thought of by them. So he begs a
little corner in Paul's letter, and gets it; and there, in his little
niche, like some statue of a forgotten saint, scarce seen amidst the
glories of a great cathedral, 'Quartus a brother' stands to all time.

The first thing that strikes me in connection with these words is,
how deep and real they show that new bond of Christian love to have
been.

A little incident of this sort is more impressive than any amount of
mere talk about the uniting influence of the Gospel. Here we get a
glimpse of the power in actual operation in a man's heart, and if we
think of all that this simple greeting presupposes and implies, and
of all that had to be overcome before it could have been sent, we may
well see in it the sign of the greatest revolution that was ever
wrought in men's relations to one another, Quartus was an inhabitant
of Corinth, from which city this letter was written. His Roman name
may indicate Roman descent, but of that we cannot be sure. Just as
probably he may have been a Greek by birth, and so have had to
stretch his hand across a deep crevasse of national antipathy, in
order to clasp the hands of his brethren in the great city. There was
little love lost between Rome, the rough imperious conqueror, and
Corinth, prostrate and yet restive under her bonds, and nourishing
remembrances of a freedom which Rome had crushed, and of a culture
that Rome haltingly followed.

And how many other deep gulfs of separation had to be bridged before
that Christian sense of oneness could be felt! It is impossible for
us to throw ourselves completely back to the condition of things
which the Gospel found. The world then was like some great field of
cooled lava on the slopes of a volcano, all broken up by a labyrinth
of clefts and cracks, at the bottom of which one can see the flicker
of sulphurous flames. Great gulfs of national hatred, of fierce
enmities of race, language, and religion; wide separations of social
condition, far profounder than anything of the sort which we know,
split mankind into fragments. On the one side was the freeman, on the
other, the slave; on the one side, the Gentile, on the other, the
Jew; on the one side, the insolence and hard-handedness of Roman
rule, on the other, the impotent, and therefore envenomed, hatred of
conquered peoples.

And all this fabric, full of active repulsions and disintegrating
forces, was bound together into an artificial and unreal unity by the
iron clamp of Rome's power, holding up the bulging walls that were
ready to fall--the unity of the slave-gang manacled together for
easier driving. Into this hideous condition of things the Gospel
comes, and silently flings its clasping tendrils over the wide gaps,
and binds the crumbling structure of human society with a new bond,
real and living. We know well enough that that was so, but we are
helped to apprehend it by seeing, as it were, the very process going
on before our eyes, in this message from 'Quartus a brother.'

It reminds us that the very notion of humanity, and of the
brotherhood of man, is purely Christian. A world-embracing society,
held together by love, was not dreamt of before the Gospel came; and
since the Gospel came it is more than a dream. If you wrench away the
idea from its foundation, as people do who talk about fraternity, and
seek to bring it to pass without Christ, it is a mere piece of
Utopian sentiment--a fine dream. But in Christianity it worked. It
works imperfectly enough, God knows. Still there is some reality in
it, and some power. The Gospel first of all produced the thing and
the practice, and then the theory came afterwards. The Church did not
talk much about the brotherhood of man, or the unity of the race; but
simply ignored all distinctions, and gathered into the fold the slave
and his master, the Roman and his subject, fair-haired Goths and
swarthy Arabians, the worshippers of Odin and of Zeus, the Jew and
the Gentile. That actual unity, utterly irrespective of all
distinctions, which came naturally in the train of the Gospel, was
the first attempt to realise the oneness of the race, and first
taught the world that all men were brethren.

And before this simple word of greeting could have been sent, and the
unknown man in Corinth felt love to a company of unknown men in Rome,
some profound new impulse must have been given to the world;
something altogether unlike any of the forces hitherto in existence.
What was that? What should it be but the story of One who gave
Himself for the whole world, who binds men into a unity because of
His common relation to them all, and through whom the great
proclamation can be made: 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is
neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are
all one in Christ Jesus.' Brother Quartus' message, like some tiny
flower above-ground which tells of a spreading root beneath, is a
modest witness to that mighty revolution, and presupposes the
preaching of a Saviour in whom he and his unseen friends in Rome are
one.

So let us learn not to confine our sympathy and the play of our
Christian affection within the limits of our personal knowledge. We
must go further a-field than that. Like this man, let us sometimes
send our thoughts across mountains and seas. He knew nobody in the
Roman Church, and nobody knew him, but he wished to stretch out his
hand to them, and to feel, as it were, the pressure of their fingers
in his palm. That is a pattern for us.

Let me suggest another thing. Quartus was a Corinthian. The
Corinthian Church was remarkable for its quarrellings and
dissensions. One said, 'I am of Paul, and another, I of Apollos, and
I of Cephas, and I of Christ.' I wonder if our friend Quartus
belonged to any of these parties? There is nothing more likely than
that he had a much warmer glow of Christian love to the brethren over
there in Rome than to those who sat on the same bench with him in the
upper room at Corinth. For you know that sometimes it is true about
people, as well as about scenery, that 'distance lends enchantment to
the view.' A great many of us have much keener sympathies with
'brethren' who are well out of our reach, and whose peculiarities do
not jar against ours, than with those who are nearest. I do not say
Quartus was one of these, but he may very well have been one of the
wranglers in Corinth who found it much easier to love his brother
whom he had not seen than his brother whom he had seen. So take the
hint, if you need it. Do not let your Christian love go wandering
away abroad only, but keep some for home consumption.

Again, how simply, and with what unconscious beauty, the deep reason
for our Christian unity is given in that one word, a 'Brother.' As if
he had said, Never mind telling them anything about what I am, what
place I hold, or what I do. Tell them I am a brother, that will be
enough. It is the only name by which I care to be known; it is the
name which explains my love to them.

We are brethren because we are sons of one Father. So that favourite
name, by which the early Christians knew each other, rested upon and
proclaimed the deep truth that they knew themselves to be all
partakers of a common life derived from one Parent. When they said
they were brethren, they implied, 'We have been born again by the
word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.' The great Christian
truth of regeneration, the communication of a divine life from God
the Father, through Christ the Son, by the Holy Spirit, is the
foundation of Christian brotherhood. So the name is no mere piece of
effusive sentiment, but expresses a profound fact. 'To as many as
received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God,' and
therein to become the brethren of all His sons. That is the true
ground of our unity, and of our obligation to love all who are
begotten of Him. You cannot safely put them on any other footing. All
else--identity of opinion, similarity of practice and ceremonial,
local or national ties, and the like--all else is insufficient. It
may be necessary for Christian communities to require in addition a
general identity of opinion, and even some uniformity in government
and form of worship; but if ever they come to fancy that such
subordinate conditions of visible oneness are the grounds of their
spiritual unity, and to enforce these as such, they are slipping off
the real foundation, and are perilling their character as Churches of
Christ. The true ground of the unity of all Christians is here: 'Have
we not all one Father?' We possess a kindred life derived from Him.
We are a family of brethren because we are sons.

Another remark is, how strangely and unwittingly this good man has
got himself an immortality by that passing thought of his. One loving
message has won for him the prize for which men have joyfully given
life itself,--an eternal place in history. Wheresoever the Gospel is
preached there also shall this be told as a memorial of him. How much
surprised he would have been if, as he leaned forward to Tertius
hurrying to end his task and said, 'Send my love too,' anybody had
told him that that one act of his would last as long as the world,
and his name be known for ever! And how much ashamed some of the
other people in the New Testament would have been if they had known
that their passing faults--the quarrel of Euodia and Syntyche for
instance--were to be gibbeted for ever in the same fashion! How
careful they would have been, and we would be, of our behaviour if we
knew that it was to be pounced down upon and made immortal in that
style! Suppose you were to be told--Your thoughts and acts to-morrow
at twelve o'clock will be recorded for all the world to read--you
would be pretty careful how you behaved. When a speaker sees the
reporters in front of him, he weighs his words.

Well, Quartus' little message is written down here, and the world
knows it. All our words and works are getting put down too, in
another Book up there, and it is going to be read out one day. It
does seem wonderful that you and I should live as we do, knowing that
all the while that God is recording it all. If we are not ashamed to
do things, and let Him note them on His tablets that they may be for
the time to come, for ever and ever, it is strange that we should be
more careful to attitudinise and pose ourselves before one another
than before Him. Let us then keep ever in mind 'those pure eyes and
perfect witness of the all-judging' God. The eternal record of this
little message is only a symbol of the eternal life and eternal
record of all our transient and trivial thoughts and deeds before
Him. Let us live so that each act, if recorded, would shine with some
modest ray of true light like brother Quartus' greeting, and let us
seek that, like him,--all else about us being forgotten, position,
talents, wealth, buried in the dust,--we may be remembered, if we are
remembered at all, by such a biography as is condensed into these
three words. Who would not wish to be embalmed, so to speak, in such
a record? Who would not wish to have such an epitaph as this? A sweet
fate to live for ever in the world's memory by three words which tell
his name, his Christianity, and his brotherly love! So far as we are
remembered at all, may the like be our life's history and our
epitaph!



EXPOSITIONS OF HOLY SCRIPTURE

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

CORINTHIANS
(_To II Corinthians, Chap. V_)



CONTENTS

CALLING ON THE NAME (1 COR. i. 2)

PERISHING OR BEING SAVED (1 COR. i. 18)

THE APOSTLE'S THEME (1 COR. ii. 2)

GOD'S FELLOW-WORKERS (1 COR. iii. 9)

THE TESTING FIRE (1 COR. iii. 12, 13)

TEMPLES OF GOD (1 COR. iii. 16)

DEATH, THE FRIEND (1 COR. iii. 21, 22)

SERVANTS AND LORDS (1 COR. iii. 21-23)

THE THREE TRIBUNALS (1 COR. iv. 3, 4)

THE FESTAL LIFE (1 COR. v. 8)

FORMS _VERSUS_ CHARACTER
   (1 COR. vii. 19, GAL. v. 6, GAL. vi. 15, R.V.)

SLAVES AND FREE (1 COR. vii. 22)

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE (1 COR. vii. 24)

'LOVE BUILDETH UP' (1 COR. viii. 1-13)

THE SIN OF SILENCE (1 COR. ix. 16, 17)

A SERVANT OF MEN (1 COR. ix. 19-23)

HOW THE VICTOR RUNS (1 COR. ix. 24)

'CONCERNING THE CROWN' (1 COR. ix. 25)

THE LIMITS OF LIBERTY (1 COR. x. 23-33)

'IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME' (1 COR. xi. 24)

THE UNIVERSAL GIFT (1 COR. xii. 7)

WHAT LASTS (1 COR. xiii. 8, 13)

THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION (1 COR. xv. 3, 4)

REMAINING AND FALLING ASLEEP (1 COR. xv. 6)

PAUL'S ESTIMATE OF HIMSELF (1 COR. xv. 10)

THE UNITY OF APOSTOLIC TEACHING (1 COR. xv. 11)

THE CERTAINTY AND JOY OF THE RESURRECTION (1 COR. xv. 20)

THE DEATH OF DEATH (1 COR. xv. 20, 21; 50-58)

STRONG AND LOVING (1 COR. xvi. 13, 14)

ANATHEMA AND GRACE (1 COR. xvi. 21-24)

GOD'S YEA; MAN'S AMEN (2 COR. i. 20, R.V.)

ANOINTED AND STABLISHED (2 COR. i. 21)

SEAL AND EARNEST (2 COR. i. 22)

THE TRIUMPHAL PROCESSION (2 COR. ii. 14, R.V.)

TRANSFORMATION BY BEHOLDING (2 COR. iii. 18)

LOOKING AT THE UNSEEN (2 COR. iv. 18)

TENT AND BUILDING (2 COR. v. 1)

THE PATIENT WORKMAN (2 COR. v. 5)

THE OLD HOUSE AND THE NEW (2 COR. v. 8)

PLEASING CHRIST (2 COR. v. 9)

THE LOVE THAT CONSTRAINS (2 COR. v. 14)

THE ENTREATIES OF GOD (2 COR. v. 20)



I. CORINTHIANS


CALLING ON THE NAME

   'All that in every place call upon the name of Jesus
   Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.'--1 COR. i. 2.


There are some difficulties, with which I need not trouble you, about
both the translation and the connection of these words. One thing is
quite clear, that in them the Apostle associates the church at
Corinth with the whole mass of Christian believers in the world. The
question may arise whether he does so in the sense that he addresses
his letter both to the church at Corinth and to the whole of the
churches, and so makes it a catholic epistle. That is extremely
unlikely, considering how all but entirely this letter is taken up
with dealing with the especial conditions of the Corinthian church.
Rather I should suppose that he is simply intending to remind 'the
Church of God at Corinth ... sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be
saints,' that they are in real, living union with the whole body of
believers. Just as the water in a little land-locked bay, connected
with the sea by some narrow strait like that at Corinth, is yet part
of the whole ocean that rolls round the world, so that little
community of Christians had its living bond of union with all the
brethren in every place that called upon the name of Jesus Christ.

Whichever view on that detail of interpretation be taken, this
phrase, as a designation of Christians, is worth considering. It is
one of many expressions found in the New Testament as names for them,
some of which have now dropped out of general use, while some are
still retained. It is singular that the name of 'Christian,' which
has all but superseded all others, was originally invented as a jeer
by sarcastic wits at Antioch, and never appears in the New Testament,
as a name by which believers called themselves. Important lessons are
taught by these names, such as disciples, believers, brethren,
saints, those of the way, and so on, each of which embodies some
characteristic of a follower of Jesus. So this appellation in the
text, 'those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,' may
yield not unimportant lessons if it be carefully weighed, and to some
of these I would ask your attention now.

I. First, it gives us a glimpse into the worship of the primitive
Church.

To 'call on the name of the Lord' is an expression that comes
straight out of the Old Testament. It means there distinctly
adoration and invocation, and it means precisely these things when it
is referred to Jesus Christ.

We find in the Acts of the Apostles that the very first sermon that
was preached at Pentecost by Peter all turns upon this phrase. He
quotes the Old Testament saying, 'Whosoever shall call on the name of
the Lord shall be saved,' and then goes on to prove that 'the Lord,'
the 'calling on whose Name' is salvation, is Jesus Christ; and winds
up with 'Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that
God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and
Christ.'

Again we find that Ananias of Damascus, when Jesus Christ appeared to
him and told him to go to Paul and lay his hands upon him, shrank
from the perilous task because Paul had been sent to 'bind them that
call upon the name of the Lord,' and to persecute them. We find the
same phrase recurring in other connections, so that, on the whole, we
may take the expression as a recognised designation of Christians.

This was their characteristic, that they prayed to Jesus Christ. The
very first word, so far as we know, that Paul ever heard from a
Christian was, 'Lord Jesus! receive my spirit.' He heard that cry of
calm faith which, when he heard it, would sound to him as horrible
blasphemy from Stephen's dying lips. How little he dreamed that he
himself was soon to cry to the same Jesus, 'Lord, what wilt thou have
me to do?' and was in after-days to beseech Him thrice for
deliverance, and to be answered by sufficient grace. How little he
dreamed that, when his own martyrdom was near, he too would look to
Jesus as Lord and righteous Judge, from whose hands all who loved His
appearing should receive their crown! Nor only Paul directs desires
and adoration to Jesus as Lord; the last words of Scripture are a cry
to Him as Lord to come quickly, and an invocation of His 'grace' on
all believing souls.

Prayer to Christ from the very beginning of the Christian Church was,
then, the characteristic of believers, and He to whom they prayed,
thus, from the beginning, was recognised by them as being a Divine
Person, God manifest in the flesh.

The object of their worship, then, was known by the people among whom
they lived. Singing hymns to Christus as a god is nearly all that the
Roman proconsul in his well-known letter could find to tell his
master of their worship. They were the worshippers--not merely the
disciples--of one Christ. That was their peculiar distinction. Among
the worshippers of the false gods they stood erect; before Him, and
Him only, they bowed. In Corinth there was the polluted worship of
Aphrodite and of Zeus. These men called not on the name of these
lustful and stained deities, but on the name of the Lord Jesus
Christ. And everybody knew whom they worshipped, and understood whose
men they were. Is that true about us? Do we Christian men so
habitually cultivate the remembrance of Jesus Christ, and are we so
continually in the habit of invoking His aid, and of contemplating
His blessed perfections and sufficiency, that every one who knew us
would recognise us as meant by those who call on the name of the Lord
Jesus Christ?

If this be the proper designation of Christian people, alas! alas!
for so many of the professing Christians of this day, whom neither
bystanders nor themselves would think of as included in such a name!

Further, the connection here shows that the divine worship of Christ
was universal among the churches. There was no 'place' where it was
not practised, no community calling itself a church to whom He was
not the Lord to be invoked and adored. This witness to the early and
universal recognition in the Christian communities of the divinity of
our Lord is borne by an undisputedly genuine epistle of Paul's. It is
one of the four which the most thorough-going destructive criticism
accepts as genuine. It was written before the Gospels, and is a voice
from the earlier period of Paul's apostleship. Hence the importance
of its attestation to this fact that all Christians everywhere, both
Jewish, who had been trained in strict monotheism, and Gentile, who
had burned incense at many a foul shrine, were perfectly joined
together in this, that in all their need they called on the name of
Jesus Christ as Lord and brought to Him, as divine, adoration not to
be rendered to any creatures. From the day of Pentecost onwards, a
Christian was not merely a disciple, a follower, or an admirer, but a
worshipper of Christ, the Lord.

II. We may see here an unfolding of the all-sufficiency of Jesus
Christ.

Note that solemn accumulation, in the language of my text, of all the
designations by which He is called, sometimes separately and
sometimes unitedly, the name of 'our Lord Jesus Christ.' We never
find that full title given to Him in Scripture except when the
writer's mind is labouring to express the manifoldness and
completeness of our Lord's relations to men, and the largeness and
sufficiency of the blessings which He brings. In this context I find
in the first nine or ten verses of this chapter, so full is the
Apostle of the thoughts of the greatness and wonderfulness of his
dear Lord on whose name he calls, that six or seven times he employs
this solemn, full designation.

Now, if we look at the various elements of this great name we shall
get various aspects of the way in which calling on Christ is the
strength of our souls.

'Call on the name of--the Lord.' That is the Old Testament Jehovah.
There is no mistaking nor denying, if we candidly consider the
evidence of the New Testament writings, that, when we read of Jesus
Christ as 'Lord,' in the vast majority of cases, the title is not a
mere designation of human authority, but is an attribution to Him of
divine nature and dignity. We have, then, to ascribe to Him, and to
call on Him as possessing, all which that great and incommunicable
Name certified and sealed to the Jewish Church as their possession
in their God. The Jehovah of the Old Testament is our Lord of the
New. He whose being is eternal, underived, self-sufficing,
self-determining, knowing no variation, no diminution, no age, He
who is because He is and that He is, dwells in His fulness in our
Saviour. To worship Him is not to divert worship from the one God,
nor is it to have other gods besides Him. Christianity is as much
monotheistic as Judaism was, and the law of its worship is the old
law--Him only shalt thou serve. It is the divine will that all men
should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.

But what is it to call on the name of Jesus? That name implies all
the sweetness of His manhood. He is our Brother. The name 'Jesus' is
one that many a Jewish boy bore in our Lord's own time and before it;
though, afterwards, of course, abhorrence on the part of the Jew and
reverence on the part of the Christian caused it almost entirely to
disappear. But at the time when He bore it it was as undistinguished
a name as Simeon, or Judas, or any other of His followers' names. To
call upon the name of Jesus means to realise and bring near to
ourselves, for our consolation and encouragement, for our strength
and peace, the blessed thought of His manhood, so really and closely
knit to ours; to grasp the blessedness of the thought that He knows
our frame because He Himself has worn it, and understands and pities
our weakness, being Himself a man. To Him whom we adore as Lord we
draw near in tenderer, but not less humble and prostrate, adoration
as our brother when we call on the name of the Lord Jesus, and thus
embrace as harmonious, and not contradictory, both the divinity of
the Lord and the humanity of Jesus.

To call on the name of Christ is to embrace in our faith and to
beseech the exercise on our behalf of all which Jesus is as the
Messiah, anointed by God with the fulness of the Spirit. As such He
is the climax, and therefore the close of all revelation, who is the
long-expected fruition of the desire of weary hearts, the fulfilment,
and therefore the abolition, of sacrifice and temple and priesthood
and prophecy and all that witnessed for Him ere He came. We further
call on the name of Christ the Anointed, on whom the whole fulness of
the Divine Spirit dwelt in order that, calling upon Him, that fulness
may in its measure be granted to us.

So the name of the Lord Jesus Christ brings to view the divine, the
human, the Messiah, the anointed Lord of the Spirit, and Giver of the
divine life. To call on His name is to be blessed, to be made pure
and strong, joyous and immortal. 'The name of the Lord is a strong
tower, the righteous runneth into it and is safe.' Call on His name
in the day of trouble and ye shall be heard and helped.

III. Lastly, this text suggests what a Christian life should be.

We have already remarked that to call on the name of Jesus was the
distinctive peculiarity of the early believers, which marked them off
as a people by themselves. Would it be a true designation of the bulk
of so-called Christians now? You do not object to profess yourself a
Christian, or, perhaps, even to say that you are a disciple of
Christ, or even to go the length of calling yourself a follower and
imitator. But are you a worshipper of Him? In your life have you
the habit of meditating on Him as Lord, as Jesus, as Christ, and of
refreshing and gladdening dusty days and fainting strength by the
living water, drawn from the one unfailing stream from these triple
fountains? Is the invocation of His aid habitual with you?

There needs no long elaborate supplication to secure His aid. How
much has been done in the Church's history by short bursts of prayer,
as 'Lord, help me!' spoken or unspoken in the moment of extremity!
'They cried unto God in the battle.' They would not have time for
very lengthy petitions then, would they? They would not give much
heed to elegant arrangement of them or suiting them to the canons of
human eloquence. 'They cried unto God in the battle'; whilst the
enemy's swords were flashing and the arrows whistling about their
ears. These were circumstances to make a prayer a 'cry'; no composed
and stately utterance of an elegantly modulated voice, nor a languid
utterance without earnestness, but a short, sharp, loud call, such as
danger presses from panting lungs and parched throats. Therefore the
cry was answered, 'and He was entreated of them.' 'Lord, save us, we
perish!' was a very brief prayer, but it brought its answer. And so
we, in like manner, may go through our warfare and work, and day by
day as we encounter sudden bursts of temptation may meet them with
sudden jets of petition, and thus put out their fires. And the same
help avails for long-continuing as for sudden needs. Some of us may
have to carry lifelong burdens and to fight in a battle ever renewed.
It may seem as if our cry was not heard, since the enemy's assault is
not weakened, nor our power to beat it back perceptibly increased.
But the appeal is not in vain, and when the fight is over, if not
before, we shall know what reinforcements of strength to our weakness
were due to our poor cry entering into the ears of our Lord and
Brother. No other 'name' is permissible as our plea or as recipient
of our prayer. In and on the name of the Lord we must call, and if we
do, anything is possible rather than that the promise which was
claimed for the Church and referred to Jesus, in the very first
Christian preaching on Pentecost, should not be fulfilled--'Whosoever
shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'

'In every place.' We may venture to subject the words of my text to a
little gentle pressure here. The Apostle only meant to express the
universal characteristics of Christians everywhere. But we may
venture to give a different turn to the words, and learn from them
the duty of devout communion with Christ as a duty for each of us
wherever we are. If a place is not fit to pray in it is not fit to be
in. We may carry praying hearts, remembrances of the Lord, sweet,
though they may be swift and short, contemplations of His grace, His
love, His power, His sufficiency, His nearness, His punctual help,
like a hidden light in our hearts, into all the dusty ways of life,
and in every place call on His name. There is no place so dismal but
that thoughts of Him will make sunshine in it; no work so hard, so
commonplace, so prosaic, so uninteresting, but that it will become
the opposite of all these if whatever we do is done in remembrance of
our Lord. Nothing will be too hard for us to do, and nothing too
bitter for us to swallow, and nothing too sad for us to bear, if only
over all that befalls us and all that we undertake and endeavour we
make the sign of the Cross and call upon the name of the Lord. If 'in
every place' we have Him as the object of our faith and desire, and
as the Hearer of our petition, in 'every place' we shall have Him for
our help, and all will be full of His bright presence; and though we
have to journey through the wilderness we shall ever drink of that
spiritual rock that will follow us, and that Rock is Christ. In every
place call upon His name, and every place will be a house of God, and
a gate of heaven to our waiting souls.



PERISHING OR BEING SAVED

   'For the preaching of the Cross is to them that perish
   foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power
   of God.'--1 COR. i. 18.


The starting-point of my remarks is the observation that a slight
variation of rendering, which will be found in the Revised Version,
brings out the true meaning of these words. Instead of reading 'them
that perish' and 'us which are saved,' we ought to read 'them that
_are perishing_,' and 'us which _are being_ saved.' That is to say,
the Apostle represents the two contrasted conditions, not so much as
fixed states, either present or future, but rather as processes which
are going on, and are manifestly, in the present, incomplete. That
opens some very solemn and intensely practical considerations.

Then I may further note that this antithesis includes the whole of
the persons to whom the Gospel is preached. In one or other of these
two classes they all stand. Further, we have to observe that the
consideration which determines the class to which men belong, is the
attitude which they respectively take to the preaching of the Cross.
If it be, and because it is, 'foolishness' to some, they belong to
the catalogue of the perishing. If it be, and because it is, 'the
power of God' to others, they belong to the class of those who are in
process of being saved.

So, then, we have the ground cleared for two or three very simple,
but, as it seems to me, very important thoughts.

I. I desire, first, to look at the two contrasted conditions,
'perishing' and 'being saved.'

Now we shall best, I think, understand the force of the darker of
these two terms if we first ask what is the force of the brighter and
more radiant. If we understand what the Apostle means by 'saving' and
'salvation' we shall understand also what he means by 'perishing.'

If, then, we turn for a moment to Scripture analogy and teaching, we
find that that threadbare word 'salvation,' which we all take it for
granted that we understand, and which, like a well-worn coin, has
been so passed from hand to hand that it scarcely remains
legible--that well-worn word 'salvation' starts from a double
metaphorical meaning. It means either--and is used for both--being
healed or being made safe. In the one sense it is often employed in
the Gospel narratives of our Lord's miracles, and it involves the
metaphor of a sick man and his cure; in the other it involves the
metaphor of a man in peril and his deliverance and security. The
negative side, then, of the Gospel idea of salvation is the making
whole from a disease, and the making safe from a danger. Negatively,
it is the removal from each of us of the one sickness, which is sin;
and the one danger, which is the reaping of the fruits and
consequences of sin, in their variety as guilt, remorse, habit, and
slavery under it, perverted relation to God, a fearful apprehension
of penal consequences here, and, if there be a hereafter, there, too.
The sickness of soul and the perils that threaten life, flow from the
central fact of sin, and salvation consists, negatively, in the
sweeping away of all of these, whether the sin itself, or the fatal
facility with which we yield to it, or the desolation and perversion
which it brings into all the faculties and susceptibilities, or the
perversion of relation to God, and the consequent evils, here and
hereafter, which throng around the evil-doer. The sick man is healed,
and the man in peril is set in safety.

But, besides that, there is a great deal more. The cure is incomplete
till the full tide of health follows convalescence. When God saves,
He does not only bar up the iron gate through which the hosts of evil
rush out upon the defenceless soul, but He flings wide the golden
gate through which the glad troops of blessings and of graces flock
around the delivered spirit, and enrich it with all joys and with all
beauties. So the positive side of salvation is the investiture of the
saved man with throbbing health through all his veins, and the
strength that comes from a divine life. It is the bestowal upon the
delivered man of everything that he needs for blessedness and for
duty. All good conferred, and every evil banned back into its dark
den, such is the Christian conception of salvation. It is much that
the negative should be accomplished, but it is little in comparison
with the rich fulness of positive endowments, of happiness, and of
holiness which make an integral part of the salvation of God.

This, then, being the one side, what about the other? If this be
salvation, its precise opposite is the Scriptural idea of
'perishing.' Utter ruin lies in the word, the entire failure to be
what God meant a man to be. That is in it, and no contortions of
arbitrary interpretation can knock that solemn significance out of
the dreadful expression. If salvation be the cure of the sickness,
perishing is the fatal end of the unchecked disease. If salvation be
the deliverance from the outstretched claws of the harpy evils that
crowd about the trembling soul, then perishing is the fixing of their
poisoned talons into their prey, and their rending of it into
fragments.

Of course that is metaphor, but no metaphor can be half so dreadful
as the plain, prosaic fact that the exact opposite of the salvation,
which consists in the healing from sin and the deliverance from
danger, and in the endowment with all gifts good and beautiful, is
the Christian idea of the alternative 'perishing.' Then it means the
disease running its course. It means the dangers laying hold of the
man in peril. It means the withdrawal, or the non-bestowal, of all
which is good, whether it be good of holiness or good of happiness.
It does not mean, as it seems to me, the cessation of conscious
existence, any more than salvation means the bestowal of conscious
existence. But he who perishes knows that he has perished, even as he
knows the process while he is in the process of perishing. Therefore,
we have to think of the gradual fading away from consciousness, and
dying out of a life, of many things beautiful and sweet and gracious,
of the gradual increase of distance from Him, union with whom is the
condition of true life, of the gradual sinking into the pit of utter
ruin, of the gradual increase of that awful death in life and life in
death in which living consciousness
makes the conscious subject aware that he is lost; lost to God, lost
to himself.

Brethren, it is no part of my business to enlarge upon such awful
thoughts, but the brighter the light of salvation, the darker the
eclipse of ruin which rings it round. This, then, is the first
contrast.

II. Now note, secondly, the progressiveness of both members of the
alternative.

All states of heart or mind tend to increase, by the very fact of
continuance. Life is a process, and every part of a spiritual being
is in living motion and continuous action in a given direction. So
the law for the world, and for every man in it, in all regions of his
life, quite as much as in the religious, is 'To him that hath shall
be given, and he shall have abundance.'

Look, then, at this thought of the process by which these two
conditions become more and more confirmed, consolidated, and
complete. Salvation is a progressive fact. In the New Testament we
have that great idea looked at from three points of view. Sometimes
it is spoken of as having been accomplished in the past in the case
of every believing soul--'Ye have been saved' is said more than once.
Sometimes it is spoken of as being accomplished in the present--'Ye
are saved' is said more than once. And sometimes it is relegated to
the future--'Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed,' and
the like. But there are a number of New Testament passages which
coincide with this text in regarding salvation as, not the work of
any one moment, but as a continuous operation running through life,
not a point either in the past, present, or future, but a continued
life. As, for instance, 'The Lord added to the Church daily those
that were being saved.' By one offering He hath perfected for ever
them that are being sanctified. And in a passage in the Second
Epistle to the Corinthians, which, in some respects, is an exact
parallel to that of my text, we read of the preaching of the Gospel
as being a 'savour of Christ in them that are being saved, and in
them that are perishing.'

So the process of being saved is going on as long as a Christian man
lives in this world; and every one who professes to be Christ's
follower ought, day by day, to be growing more and more saved, more
fully filled with that Divine Spirit, more entirely the conqueror of
his own lusts and passions and evil, more and more invested with all
the gifts of holiness and of blessedness which Jesus Christ is ready
to bestow upon him.

Ah, brethren! that notion of a progressive salvation at work in all
true Christians has all but faded away out of the beliefs, as it has
all but disappeared from the experience, of hosts of you that call
yourselves Christ's followers, and are not a bit further on than you
were ten years ago; are no more healed of your corruptions (perhaps
less so, for relapses are dangerous) than you were then--have not
advanced any further into the depths of God than when you first got a
glimpse of Him as loving, and your Father, in Jesus Christ--are
contented to linger, like some weak band of invaders in a strange
land, on the borders and coasts, instead of pressing inwards and
making it all your own. Growing Christians--may I venture to
say?--are not the majority of professing Christians. And, on the
other side, as certainly, there are progressive deterioration and
approximation to disintegration and ruin. How many men there are
listening to me now who were far nearer being delivered from their
sins when they were lads than they have ever been since! How many in
whom the sensibility to the message of salvation has disappeared, in
whom the world has ossified their consciences and their hearts, in
whom there is a more entire and unstruggling submission to low things
and selfish things and worldly things and wicked things, than there
used to be! I am sure that there are not a few among us now who were
far better, and far happier, when they were poor and young, and could
still thrill with generous emotion and tremble at the Word of God,
than they are to-day. Why! there are some of you that could no more
bring back your former loftier impulses, and compunction of spirit
and throbs of desire towards Christ and His salvation, than you could
bring back the birds' nests or the snows of your youthful years. You
are perishing, in the very process of going down and down into the
dark.

Now, notice, that the Apostle treats these two classes as covering
the whole ground of the hearers of the Word, and as alternatives. If
not in the one class we are in the other. Ah, brethren! life is no
level plane, but a steep incline, on which there is no standing
still, and if you try to stand still, down you go. Either up or down
must be the motion. If you are not more of a Christian than you were a
year ago, you are less. If you are not more saved--for there is a
degree of comparison--if you are not more saved, you are less saved.

Now, do not let that go over your head as pulpit thunder, meaning
nothing. It means _you_, and, whether you feel or think it or
not, one or other of these two solemn developments is at this moment
going on in you. And that is not a thought to be put lightly on one
side.

Further, note what a light such considerations as these, that
salvation and perishing are vital processes--'going on all the time,'
as the Americans say--throw upon the future. Clearly the two
processes are incomplete here. You get the direction of the line, but
not its natural termination. And thus a heaven and a hell are
demanded by the phenomena of growing goodness and of growing badness
which we see round about us. The arc of the circle is partially
swept. Are the compasses going to stop at the point where the grave
comes in? By no means. Round they will go, and will complete the
circle. But that is not all. The necessity for progress will persist
after death; and all through the duration of immortal being,
goodness, blessedness, holiness, Godlikeness, will, on the one hand,
grow in brighter lustre; and on the other, alienation from God, loss
of the noble elements of the nature, and all the other doleful
darknesses which attend that conception of a lost man, will increase
likewise. And so, two people, sitting side by side here now, may
start from the same level, and by the operation of the one principle
the one may rise, and rise, and rise, till he is lost in God, and so
finds himself, and the other sink, and sink, and sink, into the
obscurity of woe and evil that lies beneath every human life as a
possibility.

III. And now, lastly, notice the determining attitude to the Cross
which settles the class to which we belong.

Paul, in my text, is explaining his reason for not preaching the
Gospel with what he calls 'the words of man's wisdom,' and he says,
in effect, 'It would be of no use if I did, because what settles
whether the Cross shall look "foolishness" to a man or not is the
man's whole moral condition, and what settles whether a man shall
find it to be "the power of God" or not is whether he has passed into
the region of those that are being saved.'

So there are two thoughts suggested which sound as if they were
illogically combined, but which yet are both true. It is true that
men perish, or are saved, because the Cross is to them respectively
'foolishness' or 'the power of God'; and the other thing is also
true, that the Cross is to them 'foolishness,' or 'the power of God'
because, respectively, they are perishing or being saved. That is not
putting the cart before the horse, but both aspects of the truth are
true.

If you see nothing in Jesus Christ, and His death for us all, except
'foolishness,' something unfit to do you any good, and unnecessary to
be taken into account in your lives--oh, my friends! _that_ is the
condemnation of your eyes, and not of the thing you look at. If a
man, gazing on the sun at twelve o'clock on a June day, says to me,
'It is not bright,' the only thing I have to say to him is, 'Friend,
you had better go to an oculist.' And if to us the Cross is
'foolishness,' it is because already a process of 'perishing' has
gone so far that it has attacked our capacity of recognising the
wisdom and love of God when we see them.

But, on the other hand, if we clasp that Cross in simple trust, we
find that it is the power which saves us out of all sins, sorrows,
and dangers, and 'shall save us' at last 'into His heavenly kingdom.'

Dear friends, that message leaves no man exactly as it found him. My
words, I feel, in this sermon, have been very poor, set by the side
of the greatness of the theme; but, poor as they have been, you will
not be exactly the same man after them, if you have listened to them,
as you were before. The difference may be very imperceptible, but it
will be real. One more, almost invisible, film, over the eyeball; one
more thin layer of wax in the ear; one more fold of insensibility
round heart and conscience--or else some yielding to the love; some
finger put out to take the salvation; some lightening of the pressure
of the sickness; some removal of the peril and the danger. The same
sun hurts diseased eyes, and gladdens sound ones. The same fire melts
wax and hardens clay. 'This Child is set for the rise and fall of
many in Israel.' 'To the one He is the savour of life unto life; to
the other He is the savour of death unto death.' _Which_ is He, for
He _is_ one of them, to you?



THE APOSTLE'S THEME

   'I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus
   Christ, and Him crucified.'--1 COR. ii. 2.


Many of you are aware that to-day I close forty years of ministry in
this city--I cannot say to this congregation, for there are very,
very few that can go back with me in memory to the beginning of these
years. You will bear me witness that I seldom intrude personal
references into the pulpit, but perhaps it would be affectation not
to do so now. Looking back over these long years, many thoughts arise
which cannot be spoken in public. But one thing I may say, and that
is, that I am grateful to God and to you, dear friends, for the
unbroken harmony, confidence, affection, and forbearance which have
brightened and lightened my work. Of its worth I cannot judge; its
imperfections I know better than the most unfavourable critic; but I
can humbly take the words of this text as expressive, not, indeed, of
my attainments, but of my aims. One of my texts, on my first Sunday
in Manchester, was 'We preach Christ and Him crucified,' and I look
back, and venture to say that the noble words of this text have been,
however imperfectly followed, my guiding star.

Now, I wish to say a word or two, less personal perhaps, and yet, as
you can well suppose, not without a personal reference in my own
consciousness.

I. Note here first, then, the Apostolic theme--Jesus Christ and Him
crucified.

Now, the Apostle, in this context, gives us a little autobiographical
glimpse which is singularly and interestingly confirmed by some
slight incidental notices in the Book of the Acts. He says, in the
context, that he was with the Corinthians 'in weakness and in fear
and in much trembling,' and, if we turn to the narrative, we find
that a singular period of silence, apparent abandonment of his work
and dejection, seems to have synchronised with his coming to the
great city of Corinth. The reasons were very plain. He had recently
come into Europe for the first time and had had to front a new
condition of things, very different from what he had found in
Palestine or in Asia Minor. His experience had not been encouraging.
He had been imprisoned in Philippi; he had been smuggled away by
night from Thessalonica; he had been hounded from Berea; he had all
but wholly failed to make any impression in Athens, and in his
solitude he came to Corinth, and lay quiet, and took stock of his
adversaries. He came to the conclusion which he records in my text;
he felt that it was not for him to argue with philosophers, or to
attempt to vie with Sophists and professional orators, but that his
only way to meet Greek civilisation, Greek philosophy, Greek
eloquence, Greek self-conceit, was to preach 'Christ and Him
crucified.' The determination was not come to in ignorance of the
conditions that were fronting him. He knew Corinth, its wealth, its
wickedness, its culture, and knowing these he said, 'I have made up
my mind that I will know nothing amongst you save Jesus Christ and
Him crucified.'

So, then, this Apostle's conception of his theme was--the biography
of a Man, with especial emphasis laid on one act in His history--His
death. Christianity is Christ, and Christ is Christianity. His
relation to the truth that He proclaimed, and to the truths that may
be deducible from the story of His life and death, is altogether
different from the relation of any other founder of a religion to the
truths that he has proclaimed. For in these you can accept the
teaching, and ignore the teacher. But you cannot do that with
Christianity; 'I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life'; and in
that revealing biography, which is the preacher's theme, the
palpitating heart and centre is the death upon the Cross. So,
whatever else Christianity comes to be--and it comes to be a great
deal else--the principle of its growth, and the germ which must
vitalise the whole, lie in the personality and the death of Jesus
Christ.

That is not all. The history of the life and the death want something
more to make them a gospel. The fact, I was going to say, is the
least part of the fact; as in some vegetable growths, there is far
more underground than above. For, unless along with, involved in, and
deducible from, but capable of being stated separately from, the
external facts, there is a certain commentary or explanation of them:
the history is a history, the biography is a biography, the story of
the Cross is a touching narrative, but it is no gospel.

And what was Paul's commentary which lifted the bare facts up into
the loftier region? This--as for the person, Jesus Christ 'declared
to be the son of God with power'--as for the fact of the death, 'died
for our sins according to the Scriptures.' Let in these two
conceptions into the facts--and they are the necessary explanation
and presupposition of the facts--the Incarnation and the Sacrifice,
and then you get what Paul calls 'my gospel,' not because it was his
invention, but because it was the trust committed to him. That is the
Gospel which alone answers to the facts which he deals with; and that
is the Gospel which, God helping me, I have for forty years tried to
preach.

We hear a great deal at present, or we did a few years ago, about
this generation having recovered Jesus Christ, and about the
necessity of going 'back to the Christ of the Gospels.' By all means,
I say, if in the process you do not lose the Christ of the Epistles,
who is the Christ of the Gospels, too. I am free to admit that a past
generation has wrapped theological cobwebs round the gracious figure
of Christ with disastrous results. For it is perfectly possible to
know the things that are said about Him, and not to know Him about
whom these things are said. But the mistake into which the present
generation is far more likely to fall than that of substituting
theology for Christ, is the converse one--that of substituting an
undefined Christ for the Christ of the Gospels and the Epistles, the
Incarnate Son of God, who died for our salvation. And that is a more
disastrous mistake than the other, for you can know nothing about Him
and He can be nothing to you, except as you grasp the Apostolic
explanation of the bare facts--seeing in Him the Word who became
flesh, the Son who died that we might receive the adoption of sons.

I would further point out that a clear conception of what the theme
is, goes a long way to determine the method in which it shall be
proclaimed. The Apostle says, in the passage which is parallel to the
present one, in the previous chapter, 'We preach Christ crucified';
with strong emphasis on the word 'preach.' 'The Jew required a sign';
he wanted a man who would do something. The Greek sought after
wisdom; he wanted a man who would perorate and argue and dissertate.
Paul says, 'No!' 'We have nothing to _do_. We do not come to
philosophise and to argue. We come with a message of fact that has
occurred, of a Person that has lived.' And, as most of you know, the
word which he uses means in its full signification, 'to proclaim as a
herald does.'

Of course, if my business were to establish a set of principles,
theological or otherwise, then argumentation would be my weapon,
proofs would be my means, and my success would be that I should win
your credence, your intellectual consent, and conviction. If I were
here to proclaim simply a morality, then the thing that I would aim
to secure would be obedience, and the method of securing it would be
to enforce the authority and reasonableness of the command. But,
seeing that my task is to proclaim a living Person and a historical
fact, then the way to do that is to do as the herald does when in the
market-place he stands, trumpet in one hand and the King's message in
the other--proclaim it loudly, confidently, not 'with bated breath
and whispering humbleness,' as if apologising, nor too much concerned
to buttress it up with argumentation out of his own head, but to say,
'Thus saith the Lord,' and to what the Lord saith conscience says,
'Amen.' Brethren, we need far more, in all our pulpits, of that
unhesitating confidence in the plain, simple proclamation, stripped,
as far as possible, of human additions and accretions, of the great
fact and the great Person on whom all our salvation depends.

II. So let me ask you to notice the exclusiveness which this theme
demands.

'Nothing but,' says Paul. I might venture to say--though perhaps the
tone of the personal allusions in this sermon may seem to contradict
it--that this exclusiveness is to be manifested in one very difficult
direction, and that that is, the herald shall efface himself. We have
to hold up the picture; and if I might take such a metaphor, like a
man in a gallery who is displaying some masterpiece to the eyes of
the beholders, we have to keep ourselves well behind it; and it will
be wise if not even a finger-tip is allowed to steal in front and
come into sight. One condition, I believe, of real power in the
ministration of the Gospel, is that people shall be convinced that
the preacher is thinking not at all about himself, but altogether
about his message. You remember that wonderfully pathetic utterance
from John the Baptist's stern lips, which derives much additional
pathos and tenderness from the character of the man from whom it
came, when they asked him, 'Who art thou?' and his answer was, 'I am
a Voice.' I am a Voice; that is all! Ah, that is the example! We
preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord. We must efface
ourselves if we would proclaim Christ.

But I turn to another direction in which this theme demands
exclusiveness, and I revert to the previous chapter where in the
parallel portion to the words of my text, we find the Apostle very
clearly conscious of the two great streams of expectation and wish
which he deliberately thwarted and set at nought. 'The Jews require a
sign--but we preach Christ crucified. The Greeks seek after wisdom,'
but again, 'we preach Christ crucified.' Now, take these two. They
are representations, in a very emphatic way, of two sets of desires
and mental characteristics, which divide the world between them.

On the one hand, there is the sensuous tendency that wants something
done for it, something to see, something that sense can grasp at; and
so, as it fancies, work itself upwards into a higher region. 'The Jew
requires a sign'--that is, not merely a miracle, but something to
look at. He wants a visible sacrifice; he wants a priest. He wants
religion to consist largely in the doing of certain acts which may be
supposed to bring, in some magical fashion, spiritual blessings. And
Paul opposes to that, 'We preach Christ crucified.' Brethren, the
tendency is strong to-day, not only in those parts of the Anglican
communion where sacramentarian theories are in favour, but amongst
all sections of the Christian Church, in which there is obvious a
drift towards more ornate ritual, and aesthetic services, as means of
attracting to church or chapel, and as more important than
proclaiming Christ. I am free to confess that possibly some of us,
with our Puritan upbringing and tendency, too much disregard that
side of human nature. Possibly it is so. But for all that I
profoundly believe that if religion is to be strong it must have a
very, very small infusion of these external aids to spiritual
worship, and that few things more weaken the power of the Gospel that
Paul preached than the lowering of the flag in conformity with
desires of men of sense, and substituting for the simple glory of the
preached Word the meretricious, and in time impotent, and always
corrupting, attractions of a sensuous worship.

Further, 'The Greeks seek after wisdom.' They wanted demonstration,
abstract principles, systematised philosophies, and the like. Paul
comes again with his 'We preach Christ and Him crucified.' The wisdom
is there, as I shall have to say in a moment, but the form that it
takes is directly antagonistic to the wishes of these wisdom-seeking
Greeks. The same thing in modern guise besets us to-day. We are
called upon, on all sides, to bring into the pulpit what they call an
ethical gospel; putting it into plain English, to preach morality,
and to leave out Christ. We are called upon, on all sides, to preach
an applied Christianity, a social gospel--that is to say, largely to
turn the pulpit into a Sunday supplement to the daily newspaper. We
are asked to deal with the intellectual difficulties which spring
from the collision of science, true or false, with religion, and the
like. All that is right enough. But I believe from my heart that the
thing to do is to copy Paul's example, and to preach Christ and Him
crucified. You may think me right or you may think me wrong, but here
and now, at the end of forty years, I should like to say that I have
for the most part ignored that class of subjects deliberately, and of
set purpose, and with a profound conviction, be it erroneous or not,
that a ministry which listens much to the cry for 'wisdom' in its
modern forms, has departed from the true perspective of Christian
teaching, and will weaken the churches which depend upon it. Let who
will turn the pulpit into a professor's chair, or a lecturer's
platform, or a concert-room stage or a politician's rostrum, I for
one determine to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and Him
crucified.

III. Lastly, observe the all-sufficient comprehensiveness which this
theme secures.

Paul says 'nothing but'; he might have said 'everything in.' For
'Jesus Christ and Him crucified' covers all the ground of men's
needs. No doubt many of you will have been saying to yourselves
whilst you have been listening, if you have been listening, to what I
have been saying, 'Ah! old-fashioned narrowness; quite out of date in
this generation.' Brethren, there are two ways of adapting one's
ministry to the times. One is falling in with the requirements of the
times, and the other is going dead against them, and both of these
methods have to be pursued by us.

But the exclusiveness of which I have been speaking, is no narrow
exclusiveness. Paul felt that, if he was to give the Corinthians what
they needed, he must refuse to give them what they wanted, and that
whilst he crossed their wishes he was consulting their necessities.
That is true yet, for the preaching that bases itself upon the life
and death of Jesus Christ, conceived as Paul had learned from Jesus
Christ to conceive them, that Gospel, whilst it brushes aside men's
superficial wishes, goes straight to the heart of their deep-lying
universal necessities, for what the Jew needs most is not a sign, and
what the Greek needs most is not wisdom, but what they both need most
is deliverance from the guilt and power of sin. And we all, scholars
and fools, poets and common-place people, artists and ploughmen, all
of us, in all conditions of life, in all varieties of culture, in all
stages of intellectual development, in all diversities of occupation
and of mental bias, what we all have in common is that human heart in
which sin abides, and what we all need most to have is that evil drop
squeezed out of it, and our souls delivered from the burden and the
bondage. Therefore, any man that comes with a sign, and does not deal
with the sin of the human heart, and any man that comes with a
philosophical system of wisdom, and does not deal with sin, does not
bring a Gospel that will meet the necessities even of the people to
whose cravings he has been aiming to adapt his message.

But, beyond that, in this message of Christ and Him crucified, there
lies in germ the satisfaction of all that is legitimate in these
desires that at first sight it seems to thwart. 'A sign?' Yes, and
where is there power like the power that dwells in Him who is the
Incarnate might of omnipotence? 'Wisdom?' Yes, and where is there
wisdom, except 'in Him in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom
and knowledge'? Let the Jew come to the Cross, and in the weak Man
hanging there, he will find a mightier revelation of the power of God
than anywhere else. Let the Greek come to the Cross, and there he
will find wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption.
The bases of all social, economical, political reform and well-being,
lie in the understanding and the application to social and national
life, of the principles that are wrapped in, and are deduced from,
the Incarnation and the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We have not
learned them all yet. They have not all been applied to national and
individual life yet. I plead for no narrow exclusiveness, but for one
consistent with the widest application of Christian principles to all
life. Paul determined to know nothing but Jesus, and to know
everything in Jesus, and Jesus in everything. Do not begin your
building at the second-floor windows. Put in your foundations first,
and be sure that they are well laid. Let the Sacrifice of Christ, in
its application to the individual and his sins, be ever the basis of
all that you say. And then, when that foundation is laid, exhibit, to
your heart's content, the applications of Christianity and its social
aspects. But be sure that the beginning of them all is the work of
Christ for the individual sinful soul, and the acceptance of that
work by personal faith.

Dear friends, ours has been a long and happy union but it is a very
solemn one. My responsibilities are great; yours are not small. Let
me beseech you to ask yourselves if, with all your kindness to the
messenger, you have given heed to the message. Have you passed beyond
the voice that speaks, to Him of whom it speaks? Have you taken the
truth--veiled and weakened as I know it has been by my words, but yet
in them--for what it is, the word of the living God? My occupancy of
this pulpit must in the nature of things, before long, come to a
close, but the message which I have brought to you will survive all
changes in the voice that speaks here. 'All flesh is grass ... the
Word of the Lord endureth for ever.' And, closing these forty years,
during a long part of which some of you have listened most lovingly
and most forbearingly, I leave with you this, which I venture to
quote, though it is my Master's word about Himself, 'I judge you not;
the word which I have spoken unto you, the same shall judge you in
the last day.'



GOD'S FELLOW-WORKERS

   'Labourers together with God.'--1 COR. iii. 9.


The characteristic Greek tendency to factions was threatening to rend
the Corinthian Church, and each faction was swearing by a favourite
teacher. Paul and his companion, Apollos, had been taken as the
figureheads of two of these parties, and so he sets himself in the
context, first of all to show that neither of the two was of any real
importance in regard to the Church's life. They were like a couple of
gardeners, one of whom did the planting, and the other the watering;
but neither the man that put the little plant into the ground, nor
the man that came after him with a watering-pot, had anything to do
with originating the mystery of the life by which the plant grew.
That was God's work, and the pair that had planted and watered were
nothing. So what was the use of fighting which of two nothings was
the greater?

But then he bethinks himself that that is not quite all. The man that
plants and the man that waters are something after all. They do not
communicate life, but they do provide for its nourishment. And more
than that, the two operations--that of the man with the dibble and
that of the man with the watering-pot--are one in issue; and so they
are partners, and in some respects may be regarded as one. Then what
is the sense of pitting them against each other?

But even that is not quite all; though united in operation, they are
separate in responsibility and activity, and will be separate in
reward. And even that is not all; for, being nothing and yet
something, being united and yet separate, they are taken into
participation and co-operation with God; and as my text puts it, in
what is almost a presumptuous phrase, they are 'labourers together
with Him.' That partnership of co-operation is not merely a
partnership of the two, but it is a partnership of the three--God and
the two who, in some senses, are one.

Now whilst this text is primarily spoken in regard to the apostolic
and evangelistic work of these early teachers, the principle which it
embodies is a very wide one, and it applies in all regions of life
and activity, intellectual, scholastic, philanthropic, social.
Where-ever men are thinking God's thoughts and trying to carry into
effect any phase or side of God's manifold purposes of good and
blessing to the world, there it is true. We claim no special or
exclusive prerogative for the Christian teacher. Every man that is
trying to make men understand God's thought, whether it is expressed
in creation, or whether it is written in history, or whether it is
carven in half-obliterated letters on the constitution of human
nature, every man who, in any region of society or life, is seeking
to effect the great designs of the universal loving Father--can take
to himself, in the measure and according to the manner of his special
activity, the great encouragement of my text, and feel that he, too,
in his little way, is a fellow-helper to the truth and a
fellow-worker with God. But then, of course, according to New
Testament teaching, and according to the realities of the case, the
highest form in which men thus can co-operate with God, and carry
into effect His purposes is that in which men devote themselves,
either directly or indirectly, to spreading throughout the whole
world the name and the power of the Saviour Jesus Christ, in whom all
God's will is gathered, and through whom all God's blessings are
communicated to mankind. So the thought of my text comes
appropriately when I have to bring before you the claims of our
missionary operations.

Now, the first way in which I desire to look at this great idea
expressed in these words, is that we find in it

I. A solemn thought.

'Labourers together with God.' Cannot He do it all Himself? No. God
needs men to carry out His purposes. True, on the Cross, Jesus spoke
the triumphant word, 'It is finished!' He did not thereby simply mean
that He had completed all His suffering; but He meant that He had
then done all which the world needed to have done in order that it
should be a redeemed world. But for the distribution and application
of that finished work God depends on men. You all know, in your own
daily businesses, how there must be a middleman between the mill and
the consumer. The question of organising a distributing agency is
quite as important as any other part of the manufacturer's business.
The great reservoir is full, but there has to be a system of
irrigating-channels by which the water is carried into every corner
of the field that is to be watered. Christian men individually, and
the Church collectively, supply--may I call it the missing
link?--between a redeeming Saviour and the world which He has
redeemed in act, but which is not actually redeemed, until it has
received the message of the great Redemption that is wrought. The
supernatural is implanted in the very heart of the mass of leaven by
the Incarnation and Sacrifice of Jesus Christ; but the spreading of
that supernatural revelation is left in the hands of men who work
through natural processes, and who thus become labourers together
with God, and enable Christ to be to single souls, in blessed
reality, what He is potentially to the world, and has been ever
since. He died upon the Cross. 'It is finished.' Yes--because it is
finished, our work begins.

Let me remind you of the profound symbolism in that incident where
our Lord for once appeared conspicuously, and almost ostentatiously,
before Israel as its true King. He had need--as He Himself said--of
the meek beast on which He rode. He cannot pass, in His coronation
procession, through the world unless He has us, by whom He may be
carried into every corner of the earth. So 'the Lord has need' of us,
and we are 'fellow-labourers with Him.'

But this same thought suggests another point. We have here a solemn
call addressed to every Christian man and woman.

Do not let us run away with the idea that, because here the Apostle
is speaking in regard to himself and Apollos, he is enunciating a
truth which applies only to Apostles and evangelists. It is true of
all Christians. My knowledge of and faith in Jesus Christ as my own
personal Saviour impose upon me the obligation, in so far as my
opportunities and capacities extend, thus to co-operate with Him in
spreading His great Name. Every Christian man, just because he is a
Christian, is invested with the power--and power to its last particle
is duty--and is, therefore, burdened with the honourable obligation
to work for God. There is such a thing as 'coming to the help of the
Lord,' though that phrase seems to reverse altogether the true
relation. It is the duty of every Christian, partly because of
loyalty to Jesus, and partly because of the responsibility which the
very constitution of society lays upon every one of us, to diffuse
what he possesses, and to be a distributing agent for the life that
he himself enjoys. Brethren! there is no possibility of Christian men
or women being fully faithful to the Saviour, unless they recognise
that the duty of being a fellow-labourer with God inevitably follows
on being a possessor of Christ's salvation; and that no Apostle, no
official, no minister, no missionary, has any more necessity laid
upon him to preach the Gospel, nor pulls down any heavier woe on
himself if he is unfaithful, than has and does each one of Christ's
servants.

So 'we are fellow-labourers with God.' Alas! alas! how poorly the
average Christian realises--I do not say discharges, but
realises--that obligation! Brethren, I do not wish to find fault, but
I do beseech you to ask yourselves whether, if you are Christians,
you are doing anything the least like what my text contemplates as
the duty of all Christians.

May I say a word or two with regard to another aspect of this solemn
call? Does not the thought of working along with God prescribe for us
the sort of work that we ought to do? We ought to work in God's
fashion, and if we wish to know what God's fashion is, we have but to
look at Jesus Christ. We ought to work in Jesus Christ's fashion. We
all know what that involved of self-sacrifice, of pain, of weariness,
of utter self-oblivious devotion, of gentleness, of tenderness,
of infinite pity, of love running over. 'The master's eye makes a good
servant.' The Master's hand working along with the servant ought to
make the servant work after the Master's fashion. 'As My Father hath
sent Me, so send I you.' If we felt that side by side with us, like
two sailors hauling on one rope, 'the Servant of the Lord' was
toiling, do you not think it would burn up all our selfishness, and
light up all our indifference, and make us spend ourselves in His
service? A fellow-labourer with God will surely never be lazy and
selfish. Thus my text has in it, to begin with, a solemn call.

It suggests

II. A signal honour.

Suppose a great painter, a Raphael or a Turner, taking a little boy
that cleaned his brushes, and saying to him, 'Come into my studio,
and I will let you do a bit of work upon my picture.' Suppose an
aspirant, an apprentice in any walk of life, honoured by being
permitted to work along with some one who was recognised all over the
world as being at the very top of that special profession. Would it
not be a feather in the boy's cap all his life? And would he not
think it the greatest honour that ever had been done him that he was
allowed to co-operate, in however inferior a fashion, with such an
one? Jesus Christ says to us, 'Come and work here side by side with
Me,' But Christian men, plenty of them, answer, 'It is a perpetual
nuisance, this continual application for money! money! money! work!
work! work! It is never-ending, and it is a burden!' Yes, it is a
burden, just because it is an honour. Do you know that the Hebrew
word which means 'glory' literally means 'weight'? There is a great
truth in that. You cannot get true honours unless you are prepared to
carry them as burdens. And the highest honour that Jesus Christ gives
to men when He says to them, not only 'Go work to-day in My
vineyard,' but 'Come, work here side by side with Me,' is a heavy
weight which can only be lightened by a cheerful heart.

Is it not the right way to look at all the various forms of Christian
activity which are made imperative upon Christian people, by their
possession of Christianity as being tokens of Christ's love to us? Do
you remember that this same Apostle said, 'Unto me who am less than
the least of all saints is this grace given, that I should preach the
unsearchable riches of Christ?' He could speak about burdens and
heavy tasks, and being 'persecuted but not forsaken,' almost crushed
down and yet not in despair, and about the weights that came upon him
daily, 'the care of all the churches,' but far beneath all the sense
of his heavy load lay the thrill of thankful wonder that to him, of
all men in the world, knowing as he did better than anybody else
could do his own imperfection and insufficiency, this distinguishing
honour had been bestowed, that he was made the Apostle to the
Gentiles. That is the way in which the true man will always look at
what the selfish man, and the half-and-half Christian, look at as
being a weight and a weariness, or a disagreeable duty, which is to
be done as perfunctorily as possible. One question that a great many
who call themselves Christians ask is, 'With how little service can I
pass muster?' Ah, it is because we have so little of the Spirit of
Christ in us that we feel burdened by His command, 'Go ye into all
the world,' as being so heavy; and that so many of us--I leave you to
judge if you are in the class--so many of us make it criminally light
if we do not ignore it altogether. I believe that, if it were
possible to conceive of the duty and privilege of spreading Christ's
name in the world being withdrawn from the Church, all His real
servants would soon be yearning to have it back again. It is a token
of His love; it is a source of infinite blessings to ourselves; 'if
the house be not worthy, your peace shall return to you again.'

And now, lastly, we have suggested by this text

III. A strong encouragement.

'Fellow-labourers with God'--then, God is a Fellow-labourer with us.
The co-operation works both ways, and no man who is seeking to spread
that great salvation, to distribute that great wealth, to irrigate
some little corner of the field by some little channel that he has
dug, needs to feel that he is labouring alone. If I am working
with God, God is working with me. Do you remember that most striking
picture which is drawn in the verses appended to Mark's Gospel, which
tells how the universe seemed parted into two halves, and up above in
the serene the Lord 'sat on the right hand of God,' while below, in
the murky and obscure, 'they went everywhere preaching the Word.' The
separation seems complete, but the two halves are brought together by
the next word--'The Lord also,' sitting up yonder, 'working with
them' the wandering preachers down here, 'confirming the words with
signs following.' Ascended on high, entered into His rest, having
finished His work, He yet is working with us, if we are labourers
together with God. If we turn to the last book of Scripture, which
draws back the curtain from the invisible world which is all filled
with the glorified Christ, and shows its relations to the earthly
militant church, we read no longer of a Christ enthroned in apparent
ease, but of a Christ walking amidst the candlesticks, and of a Lamb
standing in the midst of the Throne, and opening the seals, launching
forth into the world the sequences of the world's history, and of the
Word of God charging His enemies on His white horse, and behind Him
the armies of God following. The workers who labour with God have the
ascended Christ labouring with them.

But if God works with us, success is sure. Then comes the old
question that Gideon asked with bitterness of heart, when he was
threshing out his handful of wheat in a corner to avoid the
oppressors, 'If the Lord be with us, wherefore is all this come upon
us? Will any one say that the progress of the Gospel in the world has
been at the rate which its early believers expected, or at the rate
which its own powers warranted them to expect? Certainly not. And so
it comes to this, that whilst every true labourer has God working
with him, and therefore success is certain, the planter and the
waterer can delay the growth of the plant by their unfaithfulness, by
not expecting success, by not so working as to make it likely, or by
neutralising their evangelistic efforts by their worldly lives. When
Jesus Christ was on earth, it is recorded, 'He could there do no
mighty works because of their unbelief, save that He laid His hands
on a few sick folk and healed them.' A faithless Church, a worldly
Church, a lazy Church, an unspiritual Church, an un-Christlike
Church--which, to a large extent, is the designation of the so-called
Church of to day--can clog His chariot-wheels, can thwart the work,
can hamper the Divine Worker. If the Christians of Manchester were
revived, they could win Manchester for Jesus. If the Christians of
England lived their Christianity, they could make England what it
never has been but in name--a Christian country. If the Church
universal were revived, it could win the world. If the single
labourer, or the community of such, is labouring 'in the Lord,' their
labour will not be in vain; and if they thus plant and water, God
will give the increase.



THE TESTING FIRE

   'Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver,
   precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: 13. Every man's work
   shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it,
   because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall
   try every man's work of what sort it is.'--1 COR. iii. 12, 13.


Before I enter upon the ideas which the words suggest, my exegetical
conscience binds me to point out that the original application of the
text is not exactly that which I purpose to make of it now. The
context shows that the Apostle is thinking about the special subject
of Christian teachers and their work, and that the builders of whom
he speaks are the men in the Corinthian Church, some of them his
allies and some of them his rivals, who were superimposing upon the
foundation of the preaching of Jesus Christ other doctrines and
principles. The 'wood, hay, stubble' are the vapid and trivial
doctrines which the false teachers were introducing into the Church.
The 'gold, silver, and precious stones' are the solid and substantial
verities which Paul and his friends were proclaiming. And it is about
these, and not about the Christian life in the general, that the
tremendous metaphors of my text are uttered.

But whilst that is true, the principles involved have a much wider
range than the one case to which the Apostle applies them. And,
though I may be slightly deflecting the text from its original
direction, I am not doing violence to it, if I take it as declaring
some very plain and solemn truths applicable to all Christian people,
in their task of building up a life and character on the foundation
of Jesus Christ; truths which are a great deal too much forgotten in
our modern popular Christianity, and which it concerns us all very
clearly to keep in view. There are three things here that I wish to
say a word about--the patchwork building, the testing fire, the fate
of the builders.

I. First, the patchwork structure.

'If any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones,
wood, hay, stubble.' In the original application of the metaphor,
Paul is thinking of all these teachers in that church at Corinth as
being engaged in building the one structure--I venture to deflect
here, and to regard each of us as rearing our own structure of life
and character on the foundation of the preached and accepted Christ.

Now, what the Apostle says is that these builders were, some of them,
laying valuable things like gold and silver and costly stones--by
which he does not mean jewels, but marbles, alabasters, polished
porphyry or granite, and the like; sumptuous building materials,
which were employed in great palaces or temples--and that some of
them were bringing timber, hay, stubble, reeds gathered from the
marshes or the like, and filling in with such trash as that. That is
a picture of what a great many Christian people are doing in their
own lives--the same man building one course of squared and solid and
precious stones, and topping them with rubbish. You will see in the
walls of Jerusalem, at the base, five or six courses of those massive
blocks which are the wonders of the world yet; well jointed, well
laid, well cemented, and then on the top of them a mass of poor
stuff, heaped together anyhow; scamped work--may I use a modern
vulgarism?--'jerry-building.' You may go to some modern village, on
an ancient historic site, and you will find built into the mud walls
of the hovels in which the people are living, a marble slab with fair
carving on it, or the drum of a great column of veined marble, and on
the top of that, timber and clay mixed together.

That is the type of the sort of life that hosts of Christian people
are living. For, mark, all the builders are on the foundation. Paul
is not speaking about mere professed Christians who had no faith at
all in them, and no real union with Jesus Christ. These builders were
'on the foundation'; they were building on the foundation, there was
a principle deep down in their lives--which really lay at the bottom
of their lives--and yet had not come to such dominating power as to
mould and purify and make harmonious with itself the life that was
reared upon it. We all know that that is the condition of many men,
that they have what really are the fundamental bases of their lives,
in belief and aim and direction; and which yet are not strong enough
to master the whole of the life, and to manifest themselves through
it. Especially it is the condition of some Christian people. They
have a real faith, but it is of the feeblest and most rudimentary
kind. They are on the foundation, but their lives are interlaced with
the most heterogeneous mixty-maxty of good and evil, of lofty, high,
self-sacrificing thoughts and heavenward aspirations, of resolutions
never carried out into practice; and side by side with these there
shall be meannesses, selfishnesses, tempers, dispositions all
contradictory of the former impulses. One moment they are all fire
and love, the next moment ice and selfishness. One day they are all
for God, the next day all for the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Jacob sees the open heavens and the face of God and vows; to-morrow
he meets Laban and drops to shifty ways. Peter leaves all and follows
his Master, and in a little while the fervour has gone, and the fire
has died down into grey ashes, and a flippant servant-girl's tongue
leads him to say 'I know not the man.' 'Gold, silver, precious
stones,' and topping them, 'wood, hay, stubble!'

The inconsistencies of the Christian life are what my text, in the
application that I am venturing to make of it, suggests to us. Ah,
dear friends! we do not need to go to Jacob and Peter; let us look at
our own hearts, and if we will honestly examine one day of our lives,
I think we shall understand how it is possible for a man, on the
foundation, yet to build upon it these worthless and combustible
things, 'wood, hay, stubble.'

We are not to suppose that one man builds _only_ 'gold, silver,
precious stones.' There is none of us that does that. And we are not
to suppose that any man who _is_ on the foundations has so little
grasp of it, as that he builds _only_ 'wood, hay, stubble.'

There is none of us who has not intermingled his building, and there
is none of us, if we are Christians at all, who has not sometimes
laid a course of 'precious stones.' If your faith is doing _nothing_
for you except bringing to you a belief that you are not going to
hell when you die, then it is no faith at all. 'Faith without works
is dead.' So there is a mingling in the best, and--thank God!--there
is a mingling of good with evil, in the worst of real Christian
people.

II. Note here, the testing fire.

Paul points to two things, the day and the fire.

'The day shall declare it,' that is the day on which Jesus Christ
comes to be the Judge; and it, that is 'the day,' 'shall be revealed
in fire; and the fire shall test every man's work.' Now, it is to be
noticed that here we are moving altogether in the region of lofty
symbolism, and that the metaphor of the testing fire is suggested by
the previous enumeration of building materials, gold and silver being
capable of being assayed by flame; and 'wood, hay, stubble' being
combustible, and sure to be destroyed thereby. The fire here is not
an emblem of punishment; it is not an emblem of cleansing. There is
no reference to anything in the nature of what Roman Catholics call
purgatorial fires. The allusion is simply to some stringent and
searching means of testing the quality of a man's work, and of
revealing that quality.

So then, we come just to this, that for people 'on the foundation,'
there is a Day of revelation and testing of their life's work. It is
a great misfortune that so-called Evangelical Christianity does not
say as much as the New Testament says about the judgment that is to
be passed on 'the house of God.' People seem to think that the great
doctrine of salvation, 'not by works of righteousness which we have
done, but by His mercy,' is, somehow or other, interfered with when
we proclaim, as Paul proclaims, speaking to Christian people, 'We
must be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ,' and declares
that 'Every man will receive the things done in his body, according
to that he has done, whether it be good or bad.' Paul saw no
contradiction, and there is no contradiction. But a great many
professing Christians seem to think that the great blessing of their
salvation by faith is, that they are exempt from that future
revelation and testing and judgment of their acts. That is not the
New Testament teaching. But, on the contrary, 'Whatsoever a man
soweth that shall he also reap,' was originally said to a church of
Christian people. And here we come full front against that solemn
truth, that the Lord will 'gather together His saints, those that
have made a covenant with Him by sacrifice, that He may judge His
people.' Never mind about the drapery, the symbolism, the expression
in material forms with which that future judgment is arranged, in
order that we may the more easily grasp it. Remember that these
pictures in the New Testament of a future judgment are highly
symbolical, and not to be interpreted as if they were plain prose;
but also remember that the heart of them is this, that there comes
for Christian people as for all others, a time when the light will
shine down upon their past, and will flash its rays into the dark
chambers of memory, and when men will--to themselves if not to
others--be revealed 'in the day when the Lord shall judge the secrets
of men according to my Gospel.'

We have all experience enough of how but a few years, a change of
circumstances, or a growth into another stage of development, give us
fresh eyes with which to estimate the moral quality of our past. Many
a thing, which we thought to be all right at the time when we did it,
looks to us now very questionable and a plain mistake. And when we
shift our stations to up yonder, and get rid of all this blinding
medium of flesh and sense, and have the issues of our acts in our
possession, and before our sight--ah! we shall think very differently
of a great many things from what we think of them now. Judgment will
begin at the house of God.

And there is the other thought, that the fire which reveals and tests
has also in it a power of destruction. Gold and silver will lose no
atom of their weight, and will be brightened into greater lustre as
they flash back the beams. The timber and the stubble will go up in a
flare, and die down into black ashes. That is highly metaphorical, of
course. What does it mean? It means that some men's work will be
crumpled up and perish, and be as of none effect, leaving a great,
black sorrowful gap in the continuity of the structure, and that
other men's work will stand. Everything that we do is, in one sense,
immortal, because it is represented in our final character and
condition, just as a thin stratum of rock will represent forests of
ferns that grew for one summer millenniums ago, or clouds of insects
that danced for an hour in the sun. But whilst that is so, and
nothing human ever dies, on the other hand, deeds which have been in
accordance, as it were, with the great stream that sweeps the
universe on its bosom will float on that surface and never sink. Acts
which have gone against the rush of God's will through creation will
be like a child's go-cart that comes against the engine of an express
train--be reduced, first, to stillness, all the motion knocked out of
them, and then will be crushed to atoms. Deeds which stand the test
will abide in blessed issue for the doer, and deeds which do not will
pass away in smoke, and leave only ashes. Some of us, building on the
foundation, have built more rubbish than solid work, and that will be

  'Cast as rubbish to the void
  When God has made the pile complete.'

III. So, lastly, we have here the fate of the two builders.

The one man gets wages. That is not the bare notion of salvation, for
both builders are conceived of as on the foundation, and both are
saved. He gets wages. Yes, of course! The architect has to give his
certificate before the builder gets his cheque. The weaver, who has
been working his hand-loom at his own house, has to take his web to
the counting-house and have it overlooked before he gets his pay. And
the man who has built 'gold, silver, precious stones,' will
have--over and above the initial salvation--in himself the blessed
consequences, and unfold the large results, of his faithful service;
while the other man, inasmuch as he has not such work, cannot have
the consequences of it, and gets no wages; or at least his pay is
subject to heavy deductions for the spoiled bits in the cloth, and
for the gaps in the wall.

The Apostle employs a tremendous metaphor here, which is masked in
our Authorised Version, but is restored in the Revised. 'He shall be
saved, yet so as' (not 'by' but) 'through fire'; the picture being
that of a man surrounded by a conflagration, and making a rush
through the flames to get to a place of safety. Paul says that he
will get through, because down _below_ all inconsistency and
worldliness, there was a little of that which ought to have been
_above_ all the inconsistency and the worldliness--a true faith
in Jesus Christ. But because it was so imperfect, so feeble, so
little operative in his life as that it could not keep him from
piling up inconsistencies into his wall, therefore his salvation is
so as through the fire.

Brethren, I dare not enlarge upon that great metaphor. It is meant
for us professing Christians, real and imperfect Christians--it is
meant for us; and it just tells us that there are degrees in that
future blessedness proportioned to present faithfulness. We begin
there where we left off here. That future is not a dead level; and
they who have earnestly striven to work out their faith into their
lives shall 'summer high upon the hills of God.' One man, like Paul
in his shipwreck, shall lose ship and lading, though 'on broken
pieces of the ship' he may 'escape safe to land'; and another shall
make the harbour with full cargo of works of faith, to be turned into
gold when he lands. If we build, as we all may, 'on that foundation,
gold and silver and precious stones,' an entrance 'shall be
ministered unto us abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ'; whilst if we bring a preponderance of
'wood, hay, stubble,' we shall be 'saved, yet so as through the
fire.'



TEMPLES OF GOD

   'Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?'--1 COR. iii. 16


The great purpose of Christianity is to make men like Jesus Christ.
As He is the image of the invisible God we are to be the images of
the unseen Christ. The Scripture is very bold and emphatic in
attributing to Christ's followers likeness to Him, in nature, in
character, in relation to the world, in office, and in ultimate
destiny. Is He the anointed of God? We are anointed--Christs in Him.
Is He the Son of God? We in Him receive the adoption of sons. Is He
the Light of the world? We in Him are lights of the world too. Is He
a King? A Priest? He hath made us to be kings and priests.

Here we have the Apostle making the same solemn assertion in regard
to Christian men, 'Know ye not that ye are'--as your Master, and
because your Master is--'that ye are the temple of God, and that the
Spirit of God dwelleth in you?'

Of course the allusion in my text is to the whole aggregate of
believers--what we call the Catholic Church, as being collectively
the habitation of God. But God cannot dwell in an aggregate of men,
unless He dwells in the individuals that compose the aggregate.
And God has nothing to do with institutions except through the people
who make the institutions. And so, if the Church as a whole is a
Temple, it is only because all its members are temples of God.

Therefore, without forgetting the great blessed lesson of the unity
of the Church which is taught in these words, I want rather to deal
with them in their individual application now; and to try and lay
upon your consciences, dear brethren, the solemn obligations and the
intense practical power which this Apostle associated with the
thought that each Christian man was, in very deed, a temple of God.

It would be very easy to say eloquent things about this text, but
that is no part of my purpose.

I. Let me deal, first of all, and only for a moment or two, with the
underlying thought that is here--that every Christian is a
dwelling-place of God.

Now, do not run away with the idea that that is a metaphor. It was
the outward temple that was the metaphor. The reality is that which
you and I, if we are God's children in Jesus Christ, experience.
There was no real sense in which that Mighty One whom the Heaven of
Heavens cannot contain, dwelt in any house made with hands. But the
Temple, and all the outward worship, were but symbolical of the facts
of the Christian life, and the realities of our inward experience.
These are the truths whereof the other is the shadow. We use words to
which it is difficult for us to attach any meaning, when we talk
about God as being locally present in any material building; but we
do not use words to which it is so difficult to attach a meaning,
when we talk about the Infinite Spirit as being present and abiding
in a spirit shaped to hold Him, and made on purpose to touch Him and
be filled by Him.

All creatures have God dwelling in them in the measure of their
capacity. The stone that you kick on the road would not be there if
there were not a present God. Nothing would happen if there were not
abiding in creatures the force, at any rate, which is God. But just
as in this great atmosphere in which we all live and move and have
our being, the eye discerns undulations which make light, and the ear
catches vibrations which make sound, and the nostrils are recipient
of motions which bring fragrance, and all these are in the one
atmosphere, and the sense that apprehends one is utterly unconscious
of the other, so God's creatures, each through some little narrow
slit, and in the measure of their capacity, get a straggling beam
from Him into their being, and therefore they are.

But high above all other ways in which creatures can lie patent to
God, and open for the influx of a Divine Indweller, lies the way of
faith and love. Whosoever opens his heart in these divinely-taught
emotions, and fixes them upon the Christ in whom God dwells, receives
into the very roots of his being--as the water that trickles through
the soil to the rootlets of the tree--the very Godhead Himself. 'He
that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.'

That God shall dwell in my heart is possible only from the fact that
He dwelt in all His fulness in Christ, through whom I touch Him. That
Temple consecrates all heart-shrines; and all worshippers that keep
near to Him, partake with Him of the Father that dwelt in Him.

Only remember that in Christ God dwelt completely, all 'the fulness
of the Godhead bodily' was there, but in us it is but partially; that
in Christ, therefore, the divine indwelling was uniform and
invariable, but in us it fluctuates, and sometimes is more intimate
and blessed, and sometimes He leaves the habitation when we leave
Him; that in Christ, therefore, there was no progress in the divine
indwelling, but that in us, if there be any true inhabitation of our
souls by God, that abiding will become more and more, until every
corner of our being is hallowed and filled with the searching
effulgence of the all-pervasive Light. And let us remember that God
dwelt in Christ, but that in us it is God in Christ who dwells. So to
Him we owe it all, that our poor hearts are made the dwelling-place
of God; or, as this Apostle puts it, in other words conveying the
same idea, 'Ye are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and
prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Corner-stone; in whom
all the building fitly framed together groweth ... for a habitation
of God through the Spirit.'

II. Now then, turning from this underlying idea of the passage, let
us look, for a moment, at some of the many applications of which the
great thought is susceptible. I remark, then, in the second place,
that as temples all Christians are to be manifesters of God.

The meaning of the Temple as of all temples was, that there the
indwelling Deity should reveal Himself; and if it be true that we
Christian men and women are, in this deep and blessed reality of
which I have been speaking, the abiding places and habitations of
God, then it follows that we shall stand in the world as the great
means by which God is manifested and made known, and that in a
two-fold way; _to ourselves_ and _to other people_.

The real revelation of God to our hearts must be His abiding in our
hearts. We do not learn God until we possess God. He must fill our
souls before we know His sweetness. The answer that our Lord made to
one of His disciples is full of the deepest truth. 'How is it,' said
one of them in his blundering way, 'how is it that Thou wilt manifest
Thyself to us?' And the answer was, 'We will come and make Our abode
with him.' You do not know God until, if I might so say, He sits at
your fireside and talks with you in your hearts. Just as some wife
may have a husband whom the world knows as hero, or sage, or orator,
but she knows him as nobody else can; so the outside, and if I may so
say, the public character of God is but the surface of the revelation
that He makes to us, when in the deepest secrecy of our own hearts He
pours Himself into our waiting spirits. O brethren! it is within the
curtains of the Holiest of all that the Shekinah flashes; it is
within our own hearts, shrined and templed there, that God reveals
Himself to us, as He does not unto the world.

And then, further, Christian men, as the temples and habitations of
God, are appointed to be the great means of making Him known to the
world around. The eye that cannot look at the sun can look at the
rosy clouds that lie on either side of it, and herald its rising;
their opalescent tints and pearly lights are beautiful to dim vision,
to which the sun itself is too bright to be looked upon. Men will
believe in a gentle Christ when they see you gentle. They will
believe in a righteous love when they see it manifesting itself in
you. You are 'the secretaries of God's praise,' as George Herbert has
it. He dwells in your hearts that out of your lives He may be
revealed. The pictures in a book of travels, or the diagrams in a
mathematical work, tell a great deal more in half a dozen lines than
can be put into as many pages of dry words. And it is not books of
theology nor eloquent sermons, but it is a Church glowing with the
glory of God, and manifestly all flushed with His light and majesty,
that will have power to draw men to believe in the God whom it
reveals. When explorers land upon some untravelled island and meet
the gentle inhabitants with armlets of rough gold upon their wrists,
they say there must be many a gold-bearing rock of quartz crystal in
the interior of the land. And if you present yourselves, Christian
men and women, to the world with the likeness of your Master plain
upon you, then people will believe in the Christianity that you
profess. You have to popularise the Gospel in the fashion in which
go-betweens and middlemen between students and the populace
popularise science. You have to make it possible for men to believe
in the Christ because they see Christ in you. 'Know ye not that ye
are the temples of the living God?' Let His light shine from you.

III. I remark again that as temples all Christian lives should be
places of sacrifice.

What is the use of a temple without worship? And what kind of worship
is that in which the centre point is not an altar? That is the sort
of temple that a great many professing Christians are. They have
forgotten the altar in their spiritual architecture. Have you got one
in your heart? It is but a poor, half-furnished sanctuary that has
not. Where is yours? The key and the secret of all noble life is to
yield up one's own will, to sacrifice oneself. There never was
anything done in this world worth doing, and there never will be till
the end of time, of which sacrifice is not the centre and
inspiration. And the difference between all other and lesser
nobilities of life, and the supreme beauty of a true Christian life
is that the sacrifice of the Christian is properly a
_sacrifice_--that is, an offering to _God_, done for the sake of the
great love wherewith He has loved us. As Christ is the one true
Temple, and we become so by partaking of Him, so He is the one
Sacrifice for sins for ever, and we become sacrifices only through
Him. If there be any lesson which comes out of this great truth of
Christians as temples, it is not a lesson of pluming ourselves on our
dignity, or losing ourselves in the mysticisms which lie near this
truth, but it is the hard lesson--If a temple, then an altar; if an
altar, then a sacrifice. 'Ye are built up a spiritual house, a holy
priesthood, that ye may offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to
God'--sacrifice, priest, temple, all in one; and all for the sake and
by the might of that dear Lord who has given Himself a bleeding
Sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, that we might offer a
Eucharistic sacrifice of thanks and praise and self-surrender unto
Him, and to His Father God.

IV. And, lastly, this great truth of my text enforces the solemn
lesson of the necessary sanctity of the Christian life.

'The temple of God,' says the context, 'the temple of God is holy,
which (holy persons) ye are.' The plain first idea of the temple is a
place set apart and consecrated to God.

Hence, of course, follows the idea of purity, but the parent idea of
'holiness' is not purity, which is the consequence, but consecration
or separation to God, which is the root.

And so in very various applications, on which I have not time to
dwell now, this idea of the necessary sanctity of the Temple is put
forth in these two letters to the Corinthian Church. Corinth was a
city honeycombed with the grossest immoralities; and hence, perhaps,
to some extent the great emphasis and earnestness and even severity
of the Apostle in dealing with some forms of evil.

But without dwelling on the details, let me just point you to three
directions in which this general notion of sanctity is applied. There
is that of our context here 'Know ye not that ye are the temple of
God? If any man _destroy_ the temple of God, him shall God
destroy, for the temple of God is holy, and such ye are.'

He is thinking here mainly, I suppose, about the devastation and
destruction of this temple of God, which was caused by schismatical
and heretical teaching, and by the habit of forming parties, 'one of
Paul, one of Apollos, one of Cephas, one of Christ,' which was
rending that Corinthian Church into pieces. But we may apply it more
widely than that, and say that anything which corrupts and defiles
the Christian life and the Christian character assumes a darker tint
of evil when we think that it is sacrilege--the profanation of the
temple, the pollution of that which ought to be pure as He who dwells
in it.

Christian men and women, how that thought darkens the blackness of
all sin! How solemnly there peals out the warning, 'If any man
destroy or impair the temple,' by any form of pollution, 'him' with
retribution in kind, 'him shall God destroy.' Keep the temple clear;
keep it clean. Let Him come with His scourge of small cords and His
merciful rebuke. You Manchester men know what it is to let the
money-changers into the sanctuary. Beware lest, beginning with making
your hearts 'houses of merchandise,' you should end by making them
'dens of thieves.'

And then, still further, there is another application of this same
principle, in the second of these Epistles. 'What agreement hath the
temple of God with idols?' 'Ye are the temple of the living God.'

Christianity is intolerant. There is to be one image in the shrine.
One of the old Roman Stoic Emperors had a pantheon in his palace with
Jesus Christ upon one pedestal and Plato on the one beside Him. And
some of us are trying the same kind of thing. Christ there, and
somebody else here. Remember, Christ must be everything or nothing!
Stars may be sown by millions, but for the earth there is one sun.
And you and I are to shrine one dear Guest, and one only, in the
inmost recesses of our hearts.

And there is another application of this metaphor also in our
letter.'Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost
which is in you?' Christianity despises 'the flesh'; Christianity
reverences the body; and would teach us all that, being robed in that
most wonderful work of God's hands, which becomes a shrine for God
Himself if He dwell in our hearts, all purity, all chastisement and
subjugation of animal passion is our duty. Drunkenness, and gluttony,
lusts of every kind, impurity of conduct, and impurity of word and
look and thought, all these assume a still darker tint when they are
thought of as not only crimes against the physical constitution and
the moral law of humanity, but insults flung in the face of the God
that would inhabit the shrine.

And in regard to sins of this kind, which it is so difficult to speak
of in public, and which grow unchecked in secrecy, and are ruining
hundreds of young lives, the words of this context are grimly true,
'If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy.' I speak
now mainly in brotherly or fatherly warning to young men--did you
ever read this, 'His bones are full of the iniquities of his youth,
which shall lie down with him in the dust'? 'Know ye not that ye are
the temple of God?'

And so, brethren, our text tells us what we may all be. There is no
heart without its deity. Alas! alas! for the many listening to me now
whose spirits are like some of those Egyptian temples, which had in
the inmost shrine a coiled-up serpent, the mummy of a monkey, or some
other form as animal and obscene.

Oh! turn to Christ and cry, 'Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest, Thou and
the ark of Thy strength.' Open your hearts and let Christ come in.
And before Him, as of old, the bestial Dagon will be found, dejected
and truncated, lying on the sill there; and all the vain, cruel,
lustful gods that have held riot and carnival in your hearts will
flee away into the darkness, like some foul ghosts at cock-crow. 'If
any man hear My voice and open the door I will come in.' And the
glory of the Lord shall fill the house.



DEATH, THE FRIEND

   '... All things are yours ... death.'--1 COR. iii. 21, 22.


What Jesus Christ is to a man settles what everything else is to Him.
Our relation to Jesus determines our relation to the universe. If we
belong to Him, everything belongs to us. If we are His servants, all
things are our servants. The household of Jesus, which is the whole
Creation, is not divided against itself, and the fellow-servants do
not beat one another. Two bodies moving in the same direction, and
under the impulse of the same force, cannot come into collision, and
since 'all things work together,' according to the counsel of His
will, 'all things work together for good' to His lovers. The
triumphant words of my text are no piece of empty rhetoric, but the
plain result of two facts--Christ's rule and the Christian's
submission. 'All things are yours, and ye are Christ's,' so the stars
in their courses fight against those who fight against Him, and if we
are at peace with Him we shall 'make a league with the beasts of the
field, and the stones of the field,' which otherwise would be
hindrances and stumbling-blocks, 'shall be at peace with' us.

The Apostle carries his confidence in the subservience of all things
to Christ's servants very far, and the words of my text, in which he
dares to suggest that 'the Shadow feared of man' is, after all, a
veiled friend, are hard to believe, when we are brought face to face
with death, either when we meditate on our own end, or when our
hearts are sore and our hands are empty. Then the question comes, and
often is asked with tears of blood, Is it true that this awful force,
which we cannot command, does indeed serve us? Did it serve those
whom it dragged from our sides; and in serving them, did it serve us?
Paul rings out his 'Yes'; and if we have as firm a hold of Paul's
Lord as Paul had, our answer will be the same. Let me, then, deal
with this great thought that lies here, of the conversion of the last
enemy into a friend, the assurance that we may all have that death is
ours, though not in the sense that we can command it, yet in the
sense that it ministers to our highest good.

That thought may be true about ourselves when it comes to our turn to
die, and, thank God, has been true about all those who have departed
in His faith and fear. Some of you may have seen two very striking
engravings by a great, though somewhat unknown artist, representing
Death as the Destroyer, and Death as the Friend. In the one case he
comes into a scene of wild revelry, and there at his feet lie, stark
and stiff, corpses in their gay clothing and with garlands on their
brows, and feasters and musicians are flying in terror from the
cowled Skeleton. In the other he comes into a quiet church belfry,
where an aged saint sits with folded arms and closed eyes, and an
open Bible by his side, and endless peace upon the wearied face. The
window is flung wide to the sunrise, and on its sill perches a bird
that gives forth its morning song. The cowled figure has brought rest
to the weary, and the glad dawning of a new life to the aged, and is
a friend. The two pictures are better than all the poor words that I
can say. It depends on the people to whom he comes, whether he comes
as a destroyer or as a helper. Of course, for all of us the mere
physical facts remain the same, the pangs and the pain, the slow
torture of the loosing of the bond, or the sharp agony of its
instantaneous rending apart. But we have gone but a very little way
into life and its experiences, if we have not learnt that identity of
circumstances may cover profound difference of essentials, and that
the same experiences may have wholly different messages and meanings
to two people who are equally implicated in them. Thus, while the
physical fact remains the same for all, the whole bearing of it may
so differ that Death to one man will be a Destroyer, while to another
it is a Friend.

For, if we come to analyse the thoughts of humanity about the last
act in human life on earth, what is it that makes the dread darkness
of death, which all men know, though they so seldom think of it? I
suppose, first of all, if we seek to question our feelings, that
which makes Death a foe to the ordinary experience is, that it is
like a step off the edge of a precipice in a fog; a step into a dim
condition of which the imagination can form no conception, because it
has no experience, and all imagination's pictures are painted with
pigments drawn from our past. Because it is impossible for a man to
have any clear vision of what it is that is coming to meet him, and
he cannot tell 'in that sleep what dreams may come,' he shrinks, as
we all shrink, from a step into the vast Inane, the dim Unknown. But
the Gospel comes and says, 'It _is_ a land of great darkness,' but
'To the people that sit in darkness a great light hath shined.'

  'Our knowledge of that life is small,
  The eye of faith is dim.'

But faith has an eye, and there is light, and this we can see--One
face whose brightness scatters all the gloom, One Person who has not
ceased to be the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His beams, even
in the darkness of the grave. Therefore, one at least of the
repellent features which, to the timorous heart, makes Death a foe,
is gone, when we know that the known Christ fills the Unknown.

Then, again, another of the elements, as I suppose, which constitute
the hostile aspect that Death assumes to most of us, is that it
apparently hales us away from all the wholesome activities and
occupations of life, and bans us into a state of apparent inaction.
The thought that death is rest does sometimes attract the weary or
harassed, or they fancy it does, but that is a morbid feeling, and
much more common in sentimental epitaphs than among the usual
thoughts of men. To most of us there is no joy, but a chill, in the
anticipation that all the forms of activity which have so occupied,
and often enriched, our lives here, are to be cut off at once. 'What
am I to do if I have no books?' says the student. 'What am I to do if
I have no mill?' says the spinner. 'What am I to do if I have no
nursery or kitchen?' say the women. What are you to do? There is only
one quieting answer to such questions. It tells us that what we are
doing here is learning our trade, and that we are to be moved into
another workshop there, to practise it. Nothing can bereave us of the
force we made our own, being here; and 'there is nobler work for us
to do' when the Master of all the servants stoops from His Throne and
says: 'Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee
ruler over many things; have thou authority over ten cities.' Then
the faithfulness of the steward will be exchanged for the authority
of the ruler, and the toil of the servant for a share in the joy of
the Lord.

So another of the elements which make Death an enemy is turned into
an element which makes it a friend, and instead of the separation
from this earthly body, the organ of our activity and the medium of
our connection with the external universe being the condemnation of
the naked spirit to inaction, it is the emancipation of the spirit
into greater activity. For nothing drops away at death that does not
make a man the richer for its loss, and when the dross is purged from
the silver, there remains 'a vessel unto honour, fit for the Master's
use.' This mightier activity is the contribution to our blessedness,
which Death makes to them who use their activities here in Christ's
service.

Then, still further, another of the elements which is converted from
being a terror into a joy is that Death, the separator, becomes to
Christ's servants Death, the uniter. We all know how that function of
death is perhaps the one that makes us shrink from it the most, dread
it the most, and sometimes hate it the most. But it will be with us
as it was with those who were to be initiated into ancient religious
rites. Blindfolded, they were led by a hand that grasped theirs but
was not seen, through dark, narrow, devious passages, but they were
led into a great company in a mighty hall. Seen from this side, the
ministry of Death parts a man from dear ones, but, oh! if we could
see round the turn in the corridor, we should see that the solitude
is but for a moment, and that the true office of Death is not so much
to part from those beloved on earth as to carry to, and unite with,
Him that is best Beloved in the heavens, and in Him with all His
saints. They that are joined to Christ, as they who pass from earth
are joined, are thereby joined to all who, in like manner, are knit
to Him. Although other dear bonds are loosed by the bony fingers of
the Skeleton, his very loosing of them ties more closely the bond
that unites us to Jesus, and when the dull ear of the dying has
ceased to hear the voices of earth that used to thrill it in their
lowest whisper, I suppose it hears another Voice that says: 'When
thou passest through the fire I will be with thee, and through the
waters they shall not overflow thee.' Thus the Separator unites,
first to Jesus, and then to 'the general assembly and Church of the
first-born,' and leads into the city of the living God, the pilgrims
who long have lived, often isolated, in the desert.

There is a last element in Death which is changed for the Christian,
and that is that to men generally, when they think about it, there is
an instinctive recoil from Death, because there is an instinctive
suspicion that after Death is the Judgment, and that, somehow or
other--never mind about the drapery in which the idea may be embodied
for our weakness--when a man dies he passes to a state where he will
reap the consequences of what he has sown here. But to Christ's
servant that last thought is robbed of its sting, and all the poison
sucked out of it, for he can say: 'He that died for me makes it
possible for me to die undreading, and to pass thither, knowing that
I shall meet as my Judge Him whom I have trusted as my Saviour, and
so may have boldness before Him in the Day of Judgment.'

Knit these four contrasts together. Death as a step into a dim
unknown _versus_ Death as a step into a region lighted by Jesus;
Death as the cessation of activity _versus_ Death as the introduction
to nobler opportunities, and the endowment with nobler capacities of
service; Death as the separator and isolator _versus_ Death as
uniting to Jesus and all His lovers; Death as haling us to the
judgment-seat of the adversary _versus_ Death as bringing us to the
tribunal of the Christ; and I think we can understand how Christians
can venture to say, 'All things are ours, whether life or death'
which leads to a better life.

And now let me add one word more. All this that I have been saying,
and all the blessed strength for ourselves and calming in our sorrows
which result therefrom, stand or fall with the Resurrection of Jesus
Christ. There is nothing else that makes these things certain. There
are, of course, instincts, peradventures, hopes, fears, doubts. But
in this region, and in regard to all this cycle of truths, the same
thing applies which applies round the whole horizon of Christian
Revelation--if you want not speculations but certainties, you have to
go to Jesus Christ for them. There were many men who thought that
there were islands of the sea beyond the setting sun that dyed the
western waves, but Columbus went and came back again, and brought
their products--and then the thought became a fact. Unless you
believe that Jesus Christ has come back from 'the bourne from which
no traveller returns,' and has come laden with the gifts of 'happy
isles of Eden' far beyond the sea, there is no certitude upon which a
dying man can lay his head, or by which a bleeding heart can be
staunched. But when He draws near, alive from the dead, and says to
us, as He did to the disciples on the evening of the day of
Resurrection, 'Peace be unto you,' and shows us His hands and His
side, then we do not only speculate or think a future life possible
or probable, or hesitate to deny it, or hope or fear, as the case may
be, but we _know_, and we can say: 'All things are ours ... death'
amongst others. The fact that Jesus Christ has died changes the whole
aspect of death to His servant, inasmuch as in that great solitude he
has a companion, and in the valley of the shadow of death sees
footsteps that tell him of One that went before.

Nor need I do more than remind you how the manner of our Lord's death
shows that He is Lord not only of the dead but of the Death that
makes them dead. For His own tremendous assertion, 'I have power to
lay down My life, and I have power to take it again,' was confirmed
by His attitude and His words at the last, as is hinted at by the
very expressions with which the Evangelists record the fact of His
death: 'He yielded up His spirit,' 'He gave up the ghost,' 'He
breathed out His life.' It is confirmed to us by such words as those
remarkable ones of the Apocalypse, which speak of Him as 'the Living
One,' who, by His own will, 'became dead.' He died because He would,
and He would die because He loved you and me. And in dying, He showed
Himself to be, not the Victim, but the Conqueror, of the Death to
which He submitted. The Jewish king on the fatal field of Gilboa
called his sword-bearer, and the servant came, and Saul bade him
smite, and when his trembling hand shrank from such an act, the king
fell on his own sword. The Lord of life and death summoned His
servant Death, and He came obedient, but Jesus died not by Death's
stroke, but by His own act. So that Lord of Death, who died because
He would, is the Lord who has the keys of death and the grave. In
regard to one servant He says, 'I will that he tarry till I come,'
and that man lives through a century, and in regard to another He
says, 'Follow thou Me,' and that man dies on a cross. The dying Lord
is Lord of Death, and the living Lord is for us all the Prince of
Life.

Brethren, we have to take His yoke upon us by the act of faith which
leads to a love that issues in an obedience which will become more
and more complete, as we become more fully Christ's. Then death will
be ours, for then we shall count that the highest good for us will be
fuller union with, a fuller possession of, and a completer conformity
to, Jesus Christ our King, and that whatever brings us these, even
though it brings also pain and sorrow and much from which we shrink,
is all on our side. It is possible--may it be so with each of
us!--that for us Death may be, not an enemy that bans us into
darkness and inactivity, or hales us to a judgment-seat, but the
Angel who wakes us, at whose touch the chains fall off, and who leads
us through 'the iron gate that opens of its own accord,' and brings
us into the City.



SERVANTS AND LORDS

   'All things are yours; 22. Whether Paul, or Apollos,
   or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things
   present, or things to come; all are yours; 23. And ye
   are Christ's.'--1 COR. iii. 21-23.


The Corinthian Christians seem to have carried into the Church some
of the worst vices of Greek--and English--political life. They were
split up into wrangling factions, each swearing by the name of some
person. Paul was the battle-cry of one set; Apollos of another. Paul
and Apollos were very good friends, their admirers bitter
foes--according to a very common experience. The springs lie close
together up in the hills, the rivers may be parted by half a
continent.

These feuds were all the more detestable to the Apostle because his
name was dragged into them; and so he sets himself, in the first part
of this letter, with all his might, to shame and to argue the
Corinthian Christians out of their wrangling. This great text is one
of the considerations which he adduces with that purpose. In effect
he says, 'To pin your faith to any one teacher is a wilful narrowing
of the sources of your blessing and your wisdom. You say you are
Paul's men. Has Apollos got nothing that he could teach you? and may
you not get any good out of brave brother Cephas? Take them all; they
were all meant for your good. Let no man glory in individuals.'

That is all that his argument required him to say. But in his
impetuous way he goes on into regions far beyond. His thought, like
some swiftly revolving wheel, catches fire of its own rapid motion;
and he blazes up into this triumphant enumeration of all the things
that serve the soul which serves Jesus Christ. 'You are lords of men,
of the world of time, of death, of eternity; but you are not lords of
yourselves. You belong to Jesus, and in the measure in which you
belong to Him do all things belong to you.'

I. I think, then, that I shall best bring out the fulness of these
words by simply following them as they lie before us, and asking
you to consider, first, how Christ's servants are men's lords.

'All things are yours, Paul, Apollos, Cephas.' These three teachers
were all lights kindled at the central Light, and therefore shining.
They were fragments of His wisdom, of Him that spoke; varying, but
yet harmonious, and mutually complementary aspects of the one
infinite Truth had been committed to them. Each was but a part of the
mighty whole, a little segment of the circle

  'They are but broken lights of Thee,
  And Thou, O Lord! art more than they.'

And in the measure, therefore, in which men adhere to Christ, and
have taken Him for theirs; in that measure are they delivered from
all undue dependence on, still more from all slavish submission to,
any single individual teacher or aspect of truth. To have Christ for
ours, and to be His, which are only the opposite sides of the same
thing, mean, in brief, to take Jesus Christ for the source of all
knowledge of moral and religious truth. His Word is the Christian's
creed, His Person and the truths that lie in Him, are the fountains
of all our knowledge of God and man. To be Christ's is to take Him as
the master who has absolute authority over conduct and practice. His
commandment is the Christian's duty; His pattern the Christian's
all-sufficient example; His smile the Christian's reward. To be
Christ's is to take Him for the home of our hearts, in whose gracious
and sweet love we find all sufficiency and a rest for our seeking
affections. And so, if ye are His, Paul, Apollos, Cephas, all men are
yours; in the sense that you are delivered from all undue dependence
upon them; and in the sense that they subserve your highest good.

So the true democracy of Christianity, which abjures swearing by the
words of any teacher, is simply the result of loyal adherence to the
teaching of Jesus Christ. And that proud independence which some of
you seek to cultivate, and on the strength of which you declare that
no man is your master upon earth, is an unwholesome and dangerous
independence, unless it be conjoined with the bowing down of the
whole nature, in loyal submission, to the absolute authority of the
only lips that ever spoke truth, truth only, and truth always. If
Christ be our Master, if we take our creed from Him, if we accept His
words and His revelation of the Father as our faith and our objective
religion, then all the slavery to favourite names, all the taking of
truth second-hand from the lips that we honour, all the partisanship
for one against another which has been the shame and the ruin of the
Christian Church, and is working untold mischiefs in it to-day, are
ended at once. 'One is your Master, even Christ.' 'Call no man Rabbi!
upon earth; but bow before Him, the Incarnate and the Personal
Truth.'

And in like manner they who are Christ's are delivered from all
temptations to make men's maxims and practices and approbation the
law of their conduct. Society presses upon each of us; what we call
public opinion, which is generally the clatter of the half-dozen
people that happen to stand nearest us, rules us; and it needs to be
said very emphatically to all Christian men and women--Take your law
of conduct from His lips, and from nobody else's.

'They say. What say they? Let them say.' If we take Christ's
commandment for our absolute law, and Christ's approbation for our
highest aim and all-sufficient reward, we shall then be able to brush
aside other maxims and other people's opinions of us, safely and
humbly, and to say, 'With me it is a very small matter to be judged
of you, or of man's judgment. He that judgeth me is the Lord.'

The envoy of some foreign power cares very little what the
inhabitants of the land to which he is ambassador may think of him
and his doings; it is his sovereign's good opinion that he seeks to
secure. The soldier's reward is his commander's praise, the slave's
joy is the master's smile, and for us it ought to be the law of our
lives, and in the measure in which we really belong to Christ it will
be the law of our lives, that 'we labour that, whether present or
absent, we may be pleasing to Him.'

So, brethren, as teachers, as patterns, as objects of love which is
only too apt to be exclusive and to master us, we can only take one
another in subordination to our supreme submission to Christ, and if
we are His, our duty, as our joy, is to count no man necessary to our
wellbeing, but to hang only on the one Man, whom it is safe and
blessed to believe utterly, to obey abjectly, and to love with all
our strength, because He is more than man, even God manifest in the
flesh.

II. And now let us pass to the next idea here, secondly, Christ's
servants are the lords of 'the world.'

That phrase is used here, no doubt, as meaning the external material
universe. These creatures around us, they belong to us, if we belong
to Jesus Christ. That man owns the world who despises it. There are
plenty of rich men in Manchester who say they possess so many
thousand pounds. Turn the sentence about and it would be a great deal
truer--the thousands of pounds possess them. They are the slaves of
their own possessions, and every man who counts any material thing as
indispensable to his wellbeing, and regards it as the chiefest good,
is the slave-servant of that thing. He owns the world who turns it to
the highest use of growing his soul by it. All material things are
given, and, I was going to say, were created, for the growth of men,
or at all events their highest purpose is that men should, by them,
grow. And therefore, as the scaffolding is swept away when the
building is finished, so God will sweep away this material universe
with all its wonders of beauty and of contrivance, when men have been
grown by means of it. The material is less than the soul, and he is
master of the world, and owns it, who has got thoughts out of it,
truth out of it, impulses out of it, visions of God out of it, who
has by it been led nearer to his divine Master. If I look out upon a
fair landscape, and the man who draws the rents of it is standing by
my side, and I suck more sweetness, and deeper impulses, and larger
and loftier thoughts out of it than he does, it belongs to me far
more than it does to him. The world is his who from it has learned to
despise it, to know himself and to know God. He owns the world who
uses it as the arena, or wrestling ground, on which, by labour, he
may gain strength, and in which he may do service. Antagonism helps
to develop muscle, and the best use of the outward frame of things is
that we shall take it as the field upon which we can serve God.

And now all these three things--the contempt of earth, the use of
earth for growing souls, and the use of earth as the field of
service--all these things belong most truly to the man who belongs to
Christ. The world is His, and if we live near Him and cultivate
fellowship with Him, and see His face gleaming through all the
Material, and are led up nearer to Him by everything around us, then
we own the world and wring the sweetness to the last drop out of it,
though we may have but little of that outward relation to its goods
which short-sighted men call possessing them. We may solve the
paradox of those who, 'having nothing, yet have all,' if we belong to
Christ the Lord of all things, and so have co-possession with Him of
all His riches.

III. Further, my text tells us, in the third place, that Christian
men, who belong to Jesus Christ, are the lords and masters of 'life
and death.'

Both of these words are here used, as it seems to me, in their
simple, physical sense, natural life and natural death. You may say,
'Well, everybody is lord of life in that sense.' Yes, of course, in a
fashion we all possess it, seeing that we are all alive. But that
mysterious gift of personality, that awful gift of conscious
existence, only belongs, in the deepest sense, to the men who belong
to Jesus Christ. I do not call that man the owner of his own life who
is not the lord of his own spirit. I do not see in what, except in
the mere animal sense in which a fly, or a spider, or a toad may be
called the master of its life, that man owns himself who has not
given up himself to Jesus Christ. The only way to get a real hold of
yourselves is to yield yourselves to Him who gives you back Himself,
and yourself along with Him. The true ownership of life depends upon
self-control, and self-control depends upon letting Jesus Christ
govern us wholly. So the measure in which it is true of me that 'I
live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,' is the measure in which
the lower life of sense really belongs to us, and ministers to our
highest good.

And then turn to the other member of this wonderful antithesis,
'whether life or _death_.' Surely if there is anything over which no
man can become lord, except by sinfully taking his fate into his own
hands, it is death. And yet even death, in which we seem to be
abjectly passive, and by which so many of us are dragged away
reluctantly from everything that we care to possess, may become a
matter of consent and therefore a moral act. Animals expire; a
Christian man may yield his soul to his Saviour, who is the Lord both
of the dead and of the living. If thus we feel our dependence upon
Him, and yield up our lives to Him, and can say, 'Living or dying we
are the Lord's,' then we may be quite sure that death, too, will be
our servant, and that our wills will be concerned even in passing out
of life.

Still more, if you and I, dear brethren, belong to Jesus Christ, then
death is our fellow-servant who comes to call us out of this
ill-lighted workshop into the presence of the King. And at His magic
cold touch, cares and toils and sorrows are stiffened into silence,
like noisy streams bound in white frost; and we are lifted clean up
out of all the hubbub and the toil into eternal calm. Death is ours
because it fulfils our deepest desires, and comes as a messenger to
paupers to tell them they have a great estate. Death is ours if we be
Christ's.

IV. And lastly, Christ's servants are the lords of time and eternity,
'things present or things to come.'

Our Apostle's division, in this catalogue of his, is rhetorical
rather than logical; and we need not seek to separate the first of
this final pair from others which we have already encountered in our
study of the words, but still we may draw a distinction. The whole
mass of 'things present,' including not only that material universe
which we call the world, but all the events and circumstances of our
lives, over these we may exercise supreme control. If we are bowing
in humble submission to Jesus Christ, they will all subserve our
highest good. Every weather will be right; night and day equally
desirable; the darkness will be good for eyes that have been tired of
brightness and that need repose, the light will be good. The howling
tempests of winter and its white snows, the sharp winds of spring and
its bursting sunshine; the calm steady heat of June and the mellowing
days of August, all serve to ripen the grain. And so all 'things
present,' the light and the dark, the hopes fulfilled and the hopes
disappointed, the gains and the losses, the prayers answered and the
prayers unanswered, they will all be recognised, if we have the
wisdom that comes from submission to Jesus Christ's will, as being
ours and ministering to our highest blessing.

We shall be their lords too inasmuch as we shall be able to control
them. We need not be 'anvils but hammers.' We need not let outward
circumstances dominate and tyrannise over us. We need not be like the
mosses in the stream, that lie whichever way the current sets, nor
like some poor little sailing boat that is at the mercy of the winds
and the waves, but may carry an inward impulse like some great
ocean-going steamer, the throb of whose power shall drive us straight
forward on our course, whatever beats against us. That we may have
this inward power and mastery over things present, and not be shaped
and moulded and made by them, let us yield ourselves to Christ, and
He will help us to rule them.

And then, all 'things to come,' the dim, vague future, shall be for
each of us like some sunlit ocean stretching shoreless to the
horizon; every little ripple flashing with its own bright sunshine,
and all bearing us onwards to the great Throne that stands on the sea
of glass mingled with fire.

Then, my brother, ask yourselves what your future is if you have not
Christ for your Friend.

  'I backward cast mine eye
    On prospects drear;
  And forward though I cannot see,
    I guess and fear.'

So I beseech you, yield yourselves to Jesus Christ, He died to win
us. He bears our sins that they may be all forgiven. If we give
ourselves to Him who has given Himself to us, then we shall be lords
of men, of the world, of life and death, of time and eternity.

In the old days conquerors used to bestow upon their followers lands
and broad dominions on condition of their doing suit and service, and
bringing homage to them. Christ, the King of the universe, makes His
subjects kings, and will give us to share in His dominion, so that to
each of us may be fulfilled that boundless and almost unbelievable
promise: 'He that overcometh shall inherit all things.' 'All are
yours if ye are Christ's.'



THE THREE TRIBUNALS

   'But with me it is a very small thing that I should be
   judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not
   mine own self. 4. For I know nothing by myself; yet am
   I not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me is the
   Lord.'--1 COR. iv. 3, 4.


The Church at Corinth was honeycombed by the characteristic Greek
vice of party spirit. The three great teachers, Paul, Peter, Apollos,
were pitted against each other, and each was unduly exalted by those
who swore by him, and unduly depreciated by the other two factions.
But the men whose names were the war-cries of these sections were
themselves knit in closest friendship, and felt themselves to be
servants in common of one Master, and fellow-workers in one task.

So Paul, in the immediate context, associating Peter and Apollos with
himself, bids the Corinthians think of '_us_' as being servants
of Christ, and not therefore responsible to men; and as stewards of
the mysteries of God, that is, dispensers of truths long hidden but
now revealed, and as therefore accountable for correct accounts and
faithful dispensation only to the Lord of the household. Being
responsible to Him, they heeded very little what others thought about
them. Being responsible to Him, they could not accept vindication
by their own consciences as being final. There was a judgment beyond
these.

So here we have three tribunals--that of man's estimates, that of our
own consciences, that of Jesus Christ. An appeal lies from the first
to the second, and from the second to the third. It is base to depend
on men's judgments; it is well to attend to the decisions of
conscience, but it is not well to take it for granted that, if
conscience approve, we are absolved. The court of final appeal is
Jesus Christ, and what He thinks about each of us. So let us look
briefly at these three tribunals.

I. First, the lowest--men's judgment.

'With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you,'
enlightened Christians that you are, or by the outside world. Now,
Paul's letters give ample evidence that he was keenly alive to the
hostile and malevolent criticisms and slanders of his untiring
opponents. Many a flash of sarcasm out of the cloud like a lightning
bolt, many a burst of wounded affection like rain from summer skies,
tell us this. But I need not quote these. Such a character as his
could not but be quick to feel the surrounding atmosphere, whether it
was of love or of suspicion. So, he had to harden himself against
what naturally had a great effect upon him, the estimate which he
felt that people round him were making of him. There was nothing
brusque, rough, contemptuous in his brushing aside these popular
judgments. He gave them all due weight, and yet he felt, 'From all
that this lowest tribunal may decide, there are two appeals, one to
my own conscience, and one to my Master in heaven.'

Now, I suppose I need not say a word about the power which that
terrible court which is always sitting, and which passes judgment
upon every one of us, though we do not always hear the sentences
read, has upon us all. There is a power which it is meant to have. It
is not good for a man to stand constantly in the attitude of defying
whatever anybody else chooses to say or to think about him. But the
danger to which we are all exposed, far more than that other extreme,
is of deferring too completely and slavishly to, and being far too
subtly influenced in all that we do by, the thought of what A, B, or
C, may have to say or to think about it. 'The last infirmity of noble
minds,' says Milton about the love of fame. It is an infirmity to
love it, and long for it, and live by it. It is a weakening of
humanity, even where men are spurred to great efforts by the thought
of the reverberation of these in the ear of the world, and of the
honour and glory that may come therefrom.

But not only in these higher forms of seeking after reputation, but
in lower forms, this trembling before, and seeking to conciliate, the
tribunal of what we call 'general opinion,' which means the voices of
the half-dozen people that are beside us and know about us, besets us
all, and weakens us all in a thousand ways. How many men would lose
all the motive that they have for living reputable lives, if nobody
knew anything about it? How many of you, when you go to London, and
are strangers, frequent places that you would not be seen in in
Manchester? How many of us are hindered, in courses which we know
that we ought to pursue, because we are afraid of this or that man or
woman, and of what they may look or speak? There is a regard to man's
judgment, which is separated by the very thinnest partition from
hypocrisy. There is a very shadowy distinction between the man who,
consciously or unconsciously, does a thing with an eye to what people
may say about it, and the man who pretends to be what he is not for
the sake of the reputation that he may thereby win.

Now, the direct tendency of Christian faith and principle is to
dwindle into wholesome insignificance the multitudinous voice of
men's judgments. For, if I understand at all what Christianity means,
it means centrally and essentially this, that I am brought into
loving personal relation with Jesus Christ, and draw from Him the
power of my life, and from Him the law of my life, and from Him the
stimulus of my life, and from Him the reward of my life. If there is
a direct communication between me and Him, and if I am deriving from
Him the life that He gives, which is 'free from the law of sin and
death,' I shall have little need or desire to heed the judgment that
men, who see only the surface, may pass upon me, and upon my doings,
and I shall refer myself to Him instead of to them. Those who can go
straight to Christ, whose lives are steeped in Him, who feel that
they draw all from Him, and that their actions and character are
moulded by His touch and His Spirit, are responsible to no other
tribunal. And the less they think about what men have to say of them
the stronger, the nobler, the more Christ-like they will be.

There is no need for any contempt or roughness to blend with such a
putting aside of men's judgments. The velvet glove may be worn upon
the iron hand. All meekness and lowliness may go with this wholesome
independence, and must go with it unless that independence is false
and distorted. 'With me it is a very small thing to be judged of you,
or of man's judgment,' need not be said in such a tone as to mean 'I
do not care a rush what you think about me'; but it must be said in
such a tone as to mean 'I care supremely for one approbation, and if
I have that I can bear anything besides.'

Let me appeal to you to cultivate more distinctly, as a plain
Christian duty, this wholesome independence of men's judgment. I
suppose there never was a day when it was more needed that men should
be themselves, seeing with their own eyes what God may reveal
to them and they are capable of receiving, and walking with their own
feet on the path that fits them, whatsoever other people may say
about it. For the multiplication of daily literature, the way in
which we are all living in glass houses nowadays--everybody knowing
everything about everybody else, and delighting in the gossip which
takes the place of literature in so many quarters--and the tendency
of society to a more democratic form give the many-headed monster and
its many tongues far more power than is wholesome, in the shaping of
the lives and character and conduct of most men. The evil of
democracy is that it levels down all to one plane, and that it tends
to turn out millions of people, as like each other as if they had
been made in a machine. And so we need, I believe, even more than our
fathers did, to lay to heart this lesson, that the direct result of a
deep and strong Christian faith is the production of intensely
individual character. And if there are plenty of angles in it,
perhaps so much the better. We are apt to be rounded by being rubbed
against each other, like the stones on the beach, till there is not a
sharp corner or a point that can prick anywhere. So society becomes
utterly monotonous, and is insipid and profitless because of that.
You Christian people, be yourselves, after your own pattern. And
whilst you accept all help from surrounding suggestions and hints,
make it 'a very small thing that you be judged of men.' And you,
young men, in warehouses and shops, and you, students, and you, boys
and girls, that are budding into life, never mind what other people
say. 'Let thine eyes look right onwards,' and let all the clatter on
either side of you go on as it will. The voices are very loud, but if
we go up high enough on the hill-top, to the secret place of the Most
High, we shall look down and see, but not hear, the bustle and the
buzz; and in the great silence Christ will whisper to us, 'Well done!
good and faithful servant.' That praise is worth getting, and one way
to get it is to put aside the hindrance of anxious seeking to
conciliate the good opinion of men.

II. Note the higher court of conscience.

Our Apostle is not to be taken here as contradicting what he says in
other places. 'I judge not mine own self,'--yet in one of these same
letters to the Corinthians he says, 'If we judged ourselves we should
not be judged.' So that he does not mean here that he is entirely
without any estimate of his own character or actions. That he did in
some sense judge himself is evident from the next clause, because he
goes on to say, 'I know nothing against myself.' If he acquitted
himself, he must previously have been judging himself. But his
acquittal of himself is not to be understood as if it covered the
whole ground of his life and character, but it is to be confined to
the subject in hand--viz. his faithfulness as a steward of the
mysteries of God. But though there is nothing in that region of his
life which he can charge against himself as unfaithfulness, he goes
on to say, 'Yet am I not hereby justified?'

Our absolution by conscience is not infallible. I suppose that
conscience is more reliable when it condemns than when it acquits. It
is never safe for a man to neglect it when it says, 'You are wrong!'
It is just as unsafe for a man to accept it, without further
investigation, when it says, 'You are right!' For the only thing that
is infallible about what we call conscience is its sentence, 'It is
right to do right.' But when it proceeds to say 'This, that, and the
other thing is right; and therefore it is right for you to do it,'
there may be errors in the judgment, as everybody's own experience
tells them. The inward judge needs to be stimulated, to be
enlightened, to be corrected often. I suppose that the growth of
Christian character is very largely the discovery that things that we
thought innocent are not, for us, so innocent as we thought them.

You only need to go back to history, or to go down into your own
histories, to see how, as light has increased, dark corners have been
revealed that were invisible in the less brilliant illumination. How
long it has taken the Christian Church to find out what Christ's
Gospel teaches about slavery, about the relations of sex, about
drunkenness, about war, about a hundred other things that you and I
do not yet know, but which our successors will wonder that we failed
to see! Inquisitor and martyr have equally said, 'We are serving
God.' Surely, too, nothing is more clearly witnessed by individual
experience, than that we may do a wrong thing, and think that it is
right. 'They that kill you will think that they do God service.'

So, Christian people, accept the inward monition when it is stern and
prohibitive. Do not be too sure about it when it is placable and
permissive. 'Happy is he that condemneth not himself in the thing
which he alloweth.' There may be secret faults, lying all unseen
beneath the undergrowth in the forest, which yet do prick and sting.
The upper floors of the house where we receive company, and where we,
the tenants, generally live, may be luxurious, and sweet, and clean.
What about the cellars, where ugly things crawl and swarm, and breed,
and sting?

Ah, dear brethren! when my conscience says to me, 'You may do it,' it
is always well to go to Jesus Christ, and say to Him 'May I?' 'Search
me, O God, and ... see if there be any wicked way in me,' and show it
to me, and help me to cast it out. 'I know nothing against myself;
yet am I not hereby justified.'

III. Lastly, note the supreme court of final appeal.

'He that judgeth me is the Lord.' Now it is obvious that 'the Lord'
here is Christ, both because of the preceding context and because of
the next verse, which speaks of His coming. And it is equally
obvious, though it is often unnoticed, that the judgment of which the
Apostle is here speaking is a present and preliminary judgment. 'He
that _judgeth_ me'--not, 'will judge,' but _now_, at this very
moment. That is to say, whilst people round us are passing their
superficial estimates upon me, and whilst my conscience is excusing,
or else accusing me--and in neither case with absolute
infallibility--there is another judgment, running concurrently with
them, and going on in silence. That calm eye is fixed upon me, and
sifting me, and knowing me. _That_ judgment is not fallible, because
before Him 'the hidden things' that the darkness shelters, those
creeping things in the cellars that I was speaking about, are all
manifest; and to Him the 'counsels of the heart,' that is, the
motives from which the actions flow, are all transparent and legible.
So His judgment, the continual estimate of me which Jesus Christ, in
His supreme knowledge of me, has, at every moment of my life--_that_
is uttering the final word about me and my character.

His estimate will dwindle the sentences of the other two tribunals
into nothingness. What matter what his fellow-servants say about the
steward's accounts, and distribution of provisions, and management of
the household? He has to render his books, and to give account of his
stewardship, only to his lord.

The governor of a Crown Colony may attach some importance to colonial
opinion, but he reports home; and it is what the people in Downing
Street will say that he thinks about. We have to report home; and it
is the King whom we serve, to whom we have to give an account. The
gladiator, down in the arena, did not much mind whether the thumbs of
the populace were up or down, though the one was the signal for his
life and the other for his death. He looked to the place where,
between the purple curtains and the flashing axes of the lictors, the
emperor sate. Our Emperor once was down on the sand Himself, and
although we are 'compassed about with a cloud of witnesses,' we look
to the Christ, the supreme Arbiter, and take acquittal or
condemnation, life or death, from Him.

That judgment, persistent all through each of our lives, is
preliminary to the future tribunal and sentence. The Apostle employs
in this context two distinct words, both of which are translated in
our version 'judge.' The one which is used in these three clauses, on
which I have been commenting, means a preliminary examination, and
the one which is used in the next verse means a final decisive trial
and sentence. So, dear brethren, Christ is gathering materials for
His final sentence; and you and I are writing the depositions which
will be adduced in evidence. Oh! how little all that the world may
have said about a man will matter then! Think of a man standing
before that great white throne, and saying, 'I held a very high place
in the estimation of my neighbours. The newspapers and the reviews
blew my trumpet assiduously. My name was carved upon the plinth of a
marble statue, that my fellow-citizens set up in honour of my
many virtues,'--and the name was illegible centuries before the
statue was burned in the last fire!

Brother! seek for the praise from Him, which is praise indeed. If He
says, 'Well done, good and faithful servant,' it matters little what
censures men may pass on us. If He says, 'I never knew you,' all
their praises will not avail. 'Wherefore we labour that, whether
present or absent, we may be well-pleasing to Him.'



THE FESTAL LIFE

   'Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old
   leaven ... but with the unleavened bread of
   sincerity and truth.'--1 COR. v. 8.


There had been hideous immorality in the Corinthian Church. Paul had
struck at it with heat and force, sternly commanding the exclusion of
the sinner. He did so on the ground of the diabolical power of
infection possessed by evil, and illustrated that by the very obvious
metaphor of leaven, a morsel of which, as he says, 'will leaven the
whole lump,' or, as we say, 'batch.' But the word 'leaven' drew up
from the depths of his memory a host of sacred associations connected
with the Jewish Passover. He remembered the sedulous hunting in every
Jewish house for every scrap of leavened matter; the slaying of the
Paschal Lamb, and the following feast. Carried away by these
associations, he forgets the sin in the Corinthian Church for a
moment, and turns to set forth, in the words of the text, a very deep
and penetrating view of what the Christian life is, how it is
sustained, and what it demands. 'Wherefore,' says he, 'let us keep
the feast ... with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.'
That 'wherefore' takes us back to the words before it, And what are
these? 'Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us'; therefore--because
of that sacrifice, to us is granted the power, and on us is laid
imperatively the obligation, to make life a festival and to purge
ourselves. Now, in the notion of a feast, there are two things
included--joy and plentiful sustenance. So there are three points
here, which I have already indicated--what the Christian life is, a
festival; on what it is sustained, the Paschal Sacrifice; what it
demands, scrupulous purging out of the old leaven.

I. The Christian life ought to be a continual festival.

The Christian life a feast? It is more usually represented as a
fight, a wrestle, a race; and such metaphors correspond, as it would
appear, far more closely to the facts of our environment, and to the
experiences of our hearts, than does such a metaphor as this. But the
metaphor of the festival goes deeper than that of the fight or race,
and it does not ignore the strenuous and militant side of the
Christian life. No man ever lived a more strenuous life than Paul; no
man had heavier tasks, and did them more cheerily; no man had a
sterner fight and fought it more bravely. There is nothing soft,
Epicurean, or oblivious of the patent sad facts of humanity in the
declaration that after all, beneath all, above all, central to all,
the Christian life is a glad festival, when it is the life that it
ought to be.

But you say, 'Ah! it is all very well to call it so; but in the first
place, continual joy is impossible in the presence of the
difficulties, and often sadnesses, that meet us on our life's path;
and, in the second place, it is folly to tell us to pump up emotions,
or to ignore the occasions for much heaviness and sorrow of heart.'
True; but, still, it is possible to cultivate such a temper as makes
life habitually joyful. We can choose the aspect under which we by
preference and habitually regard our lives. All emotion follows upon
a preceding thought, or sensible experience, and we can pick the
objects of our thoughts, and determine what aspect of our lives to
look at most.

The sky is often piled with stormy, heaped-up masses of blackness,
but between them are lakes of calm blue. We can choose whether we
look at the clouds or at the blue. _These_ are in the lower
ranges; _that_ fills infinite spaces, upwards and out to the
horizon. These are transient, eating themselves away even whilst we
look, and black and thunderous as they may be, they are there but for
a moment--that is perennial. If we are wise, we shall fix our gaze
much rather on the blue than on the ugly cloud-rack that hides it,
and thus shall minister to ourselves occasions for the noble kind of
joy which is not noisy and boisterous, 'like the crackling of thorns
under a pot,' and does not foam itself away by its very ebullience,
but is calm like the grounds of it; still, like the heaven to which
it looks; eternal, like the God on whom it is fastened. If we would
only steadfastly remember that the one source of worthy and enduring
joy is God Himself, and listen to the command, 'Rejoice in the Lord,'
we should find it possible to 'rejoice always.' For that thought of
Him, His sufficiency, His nearness, His encompassing presence, His
prospering eye, His aiding hand, His gentle consolation, His enabling
help will take the sting out of even the bitterest of our sorrows,
and will brace us to sustain the heaviest, otherwise crushing
burdens, and greatly to 'rejoice, though now for a season we are in
heaviness through manifold temptations.' The Gulf Stream rushes into
the northern hemisphere, melts the icebergs and warms the Polar seas,
and so the joy of the Lord, if we set it before us as we can and
should do, will minister to us a gladness which will make our lives a
perpetual feast.

But there is another thing that we can do; that is, we can clearly
recognise the occasions for sorrow in our experience, and yet
interpret them by the truths of the Christian faith. That is to say,
we can think of them, not so much as they tend to make us sad or
glad, but as they tend to make us more assured of our possession of,
more ardent in our love towards, and more submissive in our attitude
to, the all-ordering Love which is God. Brethren, if we thought of
life, and all its incidents, even when these are darkest and most
threatening, as being what it and they indeed are, His training of us
into capacity for fuller blessedness, because fuller possession of
Himself, we should be less startled at the commandment, 'Rejoice in
the Lord always,' and should feel that it was possible, though the
figtree did not blossom, and there was no fruit in the vine, though
the flocks were cut off from the pastures, and the herds from the
stall, yet to rejoice in the God of our salvation. Rightly understood
and pondered on, all the darkest passages of life are but like the
cloud whose blackness determines the brightness of the rainbow on its
front. Rightly understood and reflected on, these will teach us that
the paradoxical commandment, 'Count it all joy that ye fall into
divers temptations,' is, after all, the voice of true wisdom speaking
at the dictation of a clear-eyed faith.

This text, since it is a commandment, implies that obedience to it,
and therefore the realisation of this continual festal aspect of
life, is very largely in our own power. Dispositions differ, some of
us are constitutionally inclined to look at the blacker, and some at
the brighter, side of our experiences. But our Christianity is worth
little unless it can modify, and to some extent change, our natural
tendencies. The joy of the Lord being our strength, the cultivation
of joy in the Lord is largely our duty. Christian people do not
sufficiently recognise that it is as incumbent on them to seek after
this continual fountain of calm and heavenly joy flowing through
their lives, as it is to cultivate some of the more recognised
virtues and graces of Christian conduct and character.

Secondly, we have here--

II. The Christian life is a continual feeding on a sacrifice.

'Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Wherefore let us keep the
feast.' It is very remarkable that this is the only place in Paul's
writings where he articulately pronounces that the Paschal Lamb is a
type of Jesus Christ. There is only one other instance in the New
Testament where that is stated with equal clearness and emphasis, and
that is in John's account of the Crucifixion, where he recognises the
fact that Christ died with limbs unbroken, as being a fulfilment, in
the New Testament sense of that word, of what was enjoined in regard
to the antitype, 'a bone of him shall not be broken.'

But whilst the definite statement which precedes my text that Christ
is 'our Passover,' and 'sacrificed for us' as such, is unique in
Paul's writings, the thought to which it gives clear and crystallised
expression runs through the whole of the New Testament. It underlies
the Lord's Supper. Did you ever think of how great was the
self-assertion of Jesus Christ when He laid His hand on that
sacredest of Jewish rites, which had been established, as the words
of the institution of it say, to be 'a perpetual memorial through all
generations,' brushed it on one side, and in effect, said: 'You do
not need to remember the Passover any more. I am the true Paschal
Lamb, whose blood sprinkled on the doorposts averts the sword of the
destroying Angel, whose flesh, partaken of, gives immortal life.
Remember Me, and this do in remembrance of Me.' The Lord's Supper
witnesses that Jesus thought Himself to be what Paul tells the
Corinthians that He is, even our Passover, sacrificed for us. But the
point to be observed is this, that just as in that ancient ritual,
the lamb slain became the food of the Israelites, so with us the
Christ who has died is to be the sustenance of our souls, and of our
Christian life. 'Therefore let us keep the feast.'

Feed upon Him; that is the essential central requirement for all
Christian life, and what does feeding on Him mean? 'How can this man
give us his flesh to eat?' said the Jews, and the answer is plain
now, though so obscure then. The flesh which He gave for the life of
the world in His death, must by us be taken for the very nourishment
of our souls, by the simple act of faith in Him. That is the feeding
which brings not only sustenance but life. Christ's death for us is
the basis, but it is only the basis, of Christ's living in us, and
His death for me is of no use at all to me unless He that died for me
lives in me. We feed on Him by faith, which not only trusts to the
Sacrifice as atoning for sin, but feeds on it as communicating and
sustaining eternal life--'Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us,
wherefore let us keep the Feast.'

Again, we keep the feast when our minds feed upon Christ by
contemplation of what He is, what He has done, what He is doing, what
He will do; when we take Him as 'the Master-light of all our seeing,'
and in Him, His words and works, His Passion, Resurrection,
Ascension, Session as Sovereign at the right hand of God, find the
perfect revelation of what God is, the perfect discovery of what man
is, the perfect disclosure of what sin is, the perfect prophecy of
what man may become, the Light of light, the answer to every question
that our spirits can put about the loftiest verities of God and man,
the universe and the future. We feed on Christ when, with lowly
submission, we habitually subject thoughts, purposes, desires, to His
authority, and when we let His will flow into, and make plastic and
supple, our wills. We nourish our wills by submitting them to Jesus,
and we feed on Him when we not only say 'Lord! Lord!' but when we do
the things that He says. We feed on Christ, when we let His great,
sacred, all-wise, all-giving, all satisfying love flow into our
restless hearts and make them still, enter into our vagrant
affections and fix them on Himself. Thus when mind and conscience and
will and heart all turn to Jesus, and in Him find their sustenance,
we shall be filled with the feast of fat things which He has prepared
for all people. With that bread we shall be satisfied, and with it
only, for the husks of the swine are no food for the Father's son,
and we 'spend our money for that which is not bread, and our labour
for that which satisfieth not,' if we look anywhere else than to the
Paschal Lamb slain for us for the food of our souls.

III. The Christian life is a continual purging out of the old leaven.

I need not remind you how vivid and profoundly significant that
emblem of leaven, as applied to all manner of evil, is. But let me
remind you how, just as in the Jewish Ritual, the cleansing from all
that was leavened was the essential pre-requisite to the
participation in the feast, feeding on Jesus Christ, as I have tried
to describe it, is absolutely impossible unless our leaven is
cleansed away. Children spoil their appetites for wholesome food by
eating sweetmeats. Men destroy their capacity for feeding on Christ
by hungry desires, and gluttonous satisfying of those desires with
the delusive sweets of this passing world. But, my brother, your
experience, if you are a Christian man at all, will tell you that in
the direct measure in which you have been drawn away into paltering
with evil, your appetite for Christ and your capacity for gazing upon
Him, contemplating Him, feeding on Him, has died out. There comes a
kind of constriction in a man's throat when he is hungering after
lesser good, especially when there is a tinge of evil in the supposed
good that he is hungering after, which incapacitates Him from eating
the bread of God, which is Jesus Christ.

But let us remember that absolute cleansing from all sin is not
essential, in order to have real participation in Jesus Christ. The
Jew had to take every scrap of leaven out of his house before he
began the Passover. If that were the condition for us, alas! for us
all; but the effort after purity, though it has not entirely attained
its aim, is enough. Sin abhorred does not prevent a man from
participating in the Bread that came down from heaven.

Then observe, too, that for this power to cleanse ourselves, we must
have had some participation in Christ, by which there is given to us
that new life that conquers evil. In the words immediately preceding
my text, the Apostle bases his injunction to purge out the old leaven
on the fact that 'ye are unleavened.' Ideally, in so far as the power
possessed by them was concerned, these Corinthians were unleavened,
even whilst they were bid to purge out the leaven. That is to say, be
what you are; realise your ideal, utilise the power you possess, and
since by your faith there has been given to you a new life that can
conquer all corruption and sin, see that you use the life that is
given. Purge out the old leaven because ye are unleavened.

One last word--this stringent exhortation, which makes Christian
effort after absolute purity a Christian duty, and the condition of
participation in the Paschal Lamb, is based upon that thought to
which I have already referred, of the diabolical power of infection
which Evil possesses. Either you must cast it out, or it will choke
the better thing in you. It spreads and grows, and propagates itself,
and works underground through and through the whole mass. A
water-weed got into some of our canals years ago, and it has all but
choked some of them. The slime on a pond spreads its green mantle
over the whole surface with rapidity. If we do not eject Evil it will
eject the good from us. Use the implanted power to cast out this
creeping, advancing evil. Sometimes a wine-grower has gone into his
cellars, and found in a cask no wine, but a monstrous fungus into
which all the wine had, in the darkness, passed unnoticed. I fear
some Christian people, though they do not know it, have something
like that going on in them.

It is possible for us all to keep this perpetual festival. To live
in, on, for, Jesus Christ will give us victory over enemies, burdens,
sorrows, sins. We may, if we will, dwell in a calm zone where no
tempests rage, hear a perpetual strain of sweet music persisting
through thunder peals of sorrow and suffering, and find a table
spread for us in the presence of our enemies, at which we shall renew
our strength for conflict, and whence we shall rise to fight the good
fight a little longer, till we sit with Him at His table in His
Kingdom, and 'eat, and live for ever.'



FORMS _VERSUS_ CHARACTER

   'Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing,
   but the keeping of the commandments of God.'--1 COR. vii. 19.

   'For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything,
   nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.'--GAL. v. 6.

   'For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision,
   but a new creature.'--GAL. vi. 16 (R.V.).


The great controversy which embittered so much of Paul's life, and
marred so much of his activity, turned upon the question whether a
heathen man could come into the Church simply by the door of faith,
or whether he must also go through the gate of circumcision. We all
know how Paul answered the question. Time, which settles all
controversies, has settled that one so thoroughly that it is
impossible to revive any kind of interest in it; and it may seem to
be a pure waste of time to talk about it. But the principles that
fought then are eternal, though the forms in which they manifest
themselves vary with every varying age.

The Ritualist--using that word in its broadest sense--on the one
hand, and the Puritan on the other, represent permanent tendencies of
human nature; and we find to-day the old foes with new faces. These
three passages, which I have read, are Paul's deliverance on the
question of the comparative value of external rites and spiritual
character. They are remarkable both for the identity in the former
part of each and for the variety in the latter. In all the three
cases he affirms, almost in the same language, that 'circumcision is
nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing,' that the Ritualist's rite
and the Puritan's protest are equally insignificant in comparison
with higher things. And then he varies the statement of what the
higher things are, in a very remarkable and instructive fashion. The
'keeping of the commandments of God,' says one of the texts, is the
all-important matter. Then, as it were, he pierces deeper, and in
another of the texts (I take the liberty of varying their order)
pronounces that 'a new creature' is the all-important thing. And then
he pierces still deeper to the bottom of all, in the third text, and
says the all-important thing is 'faith which worketh by love.'

I think I shall best bring out the force of these words by dealing
first with that emphatic threefold proclamation of the nullity of all
externalism; and then with the singular variations in the triple
statement of what is essential, viz. spiritual conduct and character.

I. First, the emphatic proclamation of the nullity of outward rites.

'Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing,' say two
texts. 'Circumcision availeth nothing, and uncircumcision availeth
nothing,' says the other. It neither is anything nor does anything.
Did Paul say that because circumcision was a Jewish rite? No. As I
believe, he said it because it was _a rite_; and because he had
learned that the one thing needful was spiritual character, and that
no external ceremonial of any sort could produce that. I think we are
perfectly warranted in taking this principle of my text, and in
extending it beyond the limits of the Jewish rite about which Paul
was speaking. For if you remember, he speaks about baptism, in the
first chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, in a precisely
similar tone and for precisely the same reason, when he says, in
effect, 'I baptized Crispus and Gaius and the household of Stephanas,
and I think these are all. I am not quite sure. I do not keep any
kind of record of such things; God did not send me to baptize, He
sent me to preach the Gospel.'

The thing that produced the spiritual result was not the rite, but
the truth, and therefore he felt that his function was to preach the
truth and leave the rite to be administered by others. Therefore we
can extend the principle here to all externalisms of worship, in all
forms, in all churches, and say that in comparison with the
essentials of an inward Christianity they are nothing and they do
nothing.

They have their value. As long as we are here on earth, living in the
flesh, we must have outward forms and symbolical rites. It is in
Heaven that the seer 'saw no temple.' Our sense-bound nature
requires, and thankfully avails itself of, the help of external rites
and ceremonials to lift us up towards the Object of our devotion. A
man prays all the better if he bow his head, shut his eyes, and bend
his knees. Forms do help us to the realisation of the realities, and
the truths which they express and embody. Music may waft our souls to
the heavens, and pictures may stir deep thoughts. That is the simple
principle on which the value of all external aids to devotion
depends. They may be helps towards the appreciation of divine truth,
and to the suffusing of the heart with devout emotions which may lead
to building up a holy character.

There is a worth, therefore--an auxiliary and subordinate worth--in
these things, and in that respect they are _not_ nothing, nor do
they 'avail nothing.' But then all external rites tend to usurp more
than belongs to them, and in our weakness we are apt to cleave to
them, and instead of using them as means to lift us higher, to stay
in them, and as a great many of us do, to mistake the mere
gratification of taste and the excitement of the sensibilities for
worship. A bit of stained glass may be glowing with angel-forms and
pictured saints, but it always keeps some of the light out, and it
always hinders us from seeing through it. And all external worship
and form have so strong a tendency to usurp more than belongs to
them, and to drag us down to their own level, even whilst we think
that we are praying, that I believe the wisest man will try to pare
down the externals of his worship to the lowest possible point. If
there be as much body as will keep a soul in, as much form as will
embody the spirit, that is all that we want. What is more is
dangerous.

All form in worship is like fire, it is a good servant but it is a
bad master, and it needs to be kept very rigidly in subordination, or
else the spirituality of Christian worship vanishes before men know;
and they are left with their dead forms which are only
evils--crutches that make people limp by the very act of using them.

Now, my dear friends, when that has happened, when men begin to say,
as the people in Paul's time were saying about circumcision, and as
people are saying in this day about Christian rites, that they are
necessary, then it is needful to take up Paul's ground and to say,
'No! they are nothing!' They are useful in a certain place, but if
you make them obligatory, if you make them essential, if you say that
grace is miraculously conveyed through them, then it is needful that
we should raise a strong note of protestation, and declare their
absolute nullity for the highest purpose, that of making that
spiritual character which alone is essential.

And I believe that this strange recrudescence--to use a modern
word--of ceremonialism and aesthetic worship which we see all round
about us, not only in the ranks of the Episcopal Church, but amongst
Nonconformists, who are sighing for a less bare service, and here and
there are turning their chapels into concert-rooms, and instead of
preaching the Gospel are having 'Services of Song' and the like--that
all this makes it as needful to-day as ever it was to say to men:
'Forms are not worship. Rites may crush the spirit. Men may yield to
the sensuous impressions which they produce, and be lapped in an
atmosphere of aesthetic emotion, without any real devotion.'

Such externals are only worth anything if they make us grasp more
firmly with our understandings and feel more profoundly with our
hearts, the great truths of the Gospel. If they do that, they help;
if they are not doing that, they hinder, and are to be fought
against. And so we have again to proclaim to-day, as Paul did,
'Circumcision is nothing,' 'but the keeping of the commandments of
God.'

Then notice with what remarkable fairness and boldness and breadth
the Apostle here adds that other clause: 'and uncircumcision is
nothing.' It is a very hard thing for a man whose life has been spent
in fighting against an error, not to exaggerate the value of his
protest. It is a very hard thing for a man who has been delivered
from the dependence upon forms, not to fancy that his formlessness is
what the other people think that their forms are. The Puritan who
does not believe that a man can be a good man because he is a
Ritualist or a Roman Catholic, is committing the very same error as
the Ritualist or the Roman Catholic who does not believe that the
Puritan can be a Christian unless he has been 'christened.' The two
people are exactly the same, only the one has hold of the stick at
one end, and the other at the other. There may be as much idolatry in
superstitious reliance upon the bare worship as in the advocacy of
the ornate; and many a Nonconformist who fancies that he has 'never
bowed the knee to Baal' is as true an idol-worshipper in his
superstitious abhorrence of the ritualism that he sees in other
communities, as are the men who trust in it the most.

It is a large attainment in Christian character to be able to say
with Paul, 'Circumcision is nothing, and my own favourite point of
uncircumcision is nothing either. Neither the one side nor the other
touches the essentials.'

II. Now let us look at the threefold variety of the designation of
these essentials here.

In our first text from the Epistle to the Corinthians we read,
'Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the
keeping of the commandments of God.' If we finished the sentence it
would be, 'but the keeping of the commandments of God is everything.'

And by that 'keeping the commandments,' of course, the Apostle does
not mean merely external obedience. He means something far deeper
than that, which I put into this plain word, that the one essential
of a Christian life is the conformity of the will with God's--not
the external obedience merely, but the entire surrender and the
submission of my will to the will of my Father in Heaven. That is the
all-important thing; that is what God wants; that is the end of all
rites and ceremonies; that is the end of all revelation and of all
utterances of the divine heart. The Bible, Christ's mission, His
passion and death, the gift of His Divine Spirit, and every part of
the divine dealings in providence, all converge upon this one aim and
goal. For this purpose the Father worketh hitherto, and Christ works,
that man's will may yield and bow itself wholly and happily and
lovingly to the great infinite will of the Father in heaven.

Brethren! that is the perfection of a man's nature, when his will
fits on to God's like one of Euclid's triangles superimposed upon
another, and line for line coincides. When his will allows a free
passage to the will of God, without resistance or deflection, as
light travels through transparent glass; when his will responds to
the touch of God's finger upon the keys, like the telegraphic needle
to the operator's hand, then man has attained all that God and
religion can do for him, all that his nature is capable of; and far
beneath his feet may be the ladders of ceremonies and forms and
outward acts, by which he climbed to that serene and blessed height,
'Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the
keeping of God's commandments is everything.'

That submission of will is the sum and the test of your Christianity.
Your Christianity does not consist only in a mere something which you
call faith in Jesus Christ. It does not consist in emotions, however
deep and blessed and genuine they may be. It does not consist in the
acceptance of a creed. All these are means to an end. They are meant
to drive the wheel of life, to build up character, to make your
deepest wish to be, 'Father! not my will, but Thine, be done.' In the
measure in which that is your heart's desire, and not one
hair's-breadth further, have you a right to call yourself a
Christian.

But, then, I can fancy a man saying: 'It is all very well to talk
about bowing the will in this fashion; how can I do that?' Well, let
us take our second text--the third in the order of their
occurrence--'For neither circumcision is anything, nor
uncircumcision, but a new creature.' That is to say, if we are ever
to keep the will of God we must be made over again. Ay! we must! Our
own consciences tell us that; the history of all the efforts that
ever we have made--and I suppose all of us have made some now and
then, more or less earnest and more or less persistent--tells us that
there needs to be a stronger hand than ours to come into the fight if
it is ever to be won by us. There is nothing more heartless and more
impotent than to preach, 'Bow your wills to God, and then you will be
happy; bow your wills to God, and then you will be good.' If that is
all the preacher has to say, his powerless words will but provoke the
answer, 'We cannot. Tell the leopard to change his spots, or the
Ethiopian his skin, as soon as tell a man to reduce this revolted
kingdom within him to obedience, and to bow his will to the will of
God. We cannot do it.' But, brethren, in that word, 'a new creature,'
lies a promise from God; for a creature implies a creator. 'It is He
that hath made us, and not we ourselves.' The very heart of what
Christ has to offer us is the gift of His own life to dwell in our
hearts, and by its mighty energy to make us free from the law of sin
and death which binds our wills. We may have our spirits moulded into
His likeness, and new tastes, and new desires, and new capacities
infused into us, so as that we shall not be left with our own poor
powers to try and force ourselves into obedience to God's will, but
that submission and holiness and love that keeps the commandments of
God, will spring up in our renewed spirits as their natural product
and growth. Oh! you men and women who have been honestly trying, half
your lifetime, to make yourselves what you know God wants you to be,
and who are obliged to confess that you have failed, hearken to the
message: 'If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things
are passed away.' The one thing needful is keeping the commandments
of God, and the only way by which we can keep the commandments of God
is that we should be formed again into the likeness of Him of whom
alone it is true that 'He did always the things that pleased' God.

And so we come to the last of these great texts: 'In Christ Jesus,
neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith
which worketh by love.' That is to say, if we are to be made over
again, we must have faith in Christ Jesus. We have got to the root
now, so far as we are concerned. We must keep the commandments of
God; if we are to keep the commandments we must be made over again,
and if our hearts ask how can we receive that new creating power into
our lives, the answer is, by 'faith which worketh by love.'

Paul did not believe that external rites could make men partakers of
a new nature, but he believed that if a man would trust in Jesus
Christ, the life of that Christ would flow into his opened heart, and
a new spirit and nature would be born in him. And, therefore, his
triple requirements come all down to this one, so far as we are
concerned, as the beginning and the condition of the other two.
'Neither circumcision does anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith
which worketh by love,' does everything. He that trusts Christ opens
his heart to Christ, who comes with His new-creating Spirit, and
makes us willing in the day of His power to keep His commandments.

But faith leads us to obedience in yet another fashion, than this
opening of the door of the heart for the entrance of the new-creating
Spirit. It leads to it in the manner which is expressed by the words
of our text, 'worketh by love.' Faith shows itself living, because it
leads us to love, and through love it produces its effects upon
conduct.

Two things are implied in this designation of faith. If you trust
Christ you will love Him. That is plain enough. And you will not love
Him unless you trust Him. Though it lies wide of my present purpose,
let us take this lesson in passing. You cannot work yourself up into
a spasm or paroxysm of religious emotion and love by resolution or by
effort. All that you can do is to go and look at the Master and get
near Him, and that will warm you up. You can love if you trust. Your
trust will make you love; unless you trust you will never love Him.

The second thing implied is, that if you love you will obey. That is
plain enough. The keeping of the commandments will be easy where
there is love in the heart. The will will bow where there is love in
the heart. Love is the only fire that is hot enough to melt the iron
obstinacy of a creature's will. The will cannot be driven. Strike it
with violence and it stiffens; touch it gently and it yields. If you
try to put an iron collar upon the will, like the demoniac in the
Gospels, the touch of the apparent restraint drives it into fury, and
it breaks the bands asunder. Fasten it with the silken leash of love,
and a 'little child' can lead it. So faith works by love, because
whom we trust we shall love, and whom we love we shall obey.

Therefore we have got to the root now, and nothing is needful but an
operative faith, out of which will come all the blessed possession of
a transforming Spirit, and all sublimities and noblenesses of an
obedient and submissive will.

My brother! Paul and James shake hands here. There is a 'faith' so
called, which does not work. It is dead! Let me beseech you, none of
you to rely upon what you choose to call your faith in Jesus Christ,
but examine it. Does it do anything? Does it help you to be like Him?
Does it open your hearts for His Spirit to come in? Does it fill them
with love to that Master, a love which proves itself by obedience?
Plain questions, questions that any man can answer; questions that go
to the root of the whole matter. If your faith does that, it is
genuine; if it does not, it is not.

And do not trust either to forms, or to your freedom from forms. They
will not save your souls, they will not make you more Christ-like.
They will not help you to pardon, purity, holiness, blessedness. In
these respects neither if we have them are we the better, nor if we
have them not are we the worse. If you are trusting to Christ, and by
that faith are having your hearts moulded and made over again into
all holy obedience, then you have all that you need. Unless you have,
though you partook of all Christian rites, though you believed all
Christian truth, though you fought against superstitious reliance on
forms, you have not the one thing needful, for 'in Christ Jesus
neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith
which worketh by love.'



SLAVES AND FREE

   'He that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the
   Lord's free man: likewise also he that is called, being
   free, is Christ's servant.'--1 COR. vii. 22.


This remarkable saying occurs in a remarkable connection, and is used
for a remarkable purpose. The Apostle has been laying down the
principle, that the effect of true Christianity is greatly to
diminish the importance of outward circumstance. And on that
principle he bases an advice, dead in the teeth of all the maxims
recognised by worldly prudence. He says, in effect, 'Mind very little
about getting on and getting up. Do God's will wherever you are, and
let the rest take care of itself.' Now, the world says, 'Struggle,
wriggle, fight, do anything to better yourself.' Paul says, 'You will
better yourself by getting nearer God, and if you secure that--art
thou a slave? care not for it; if thou mayest be free, use it rather;
art thou bound to a wife? seek not to be loosed; art thou loosed?
seek not to be bound; art thou circumcised? seek not to be
uncircumcised; art thou a Gentile? seek not to become in outward form
a Jew.' Never mind about externals: the main thing is our relation to
Jesus Christ, because in that there is what will be compensation for
all the disadvantages of any disadvantageous circumstances, and in
that there is what will take the gilt off the gingerbread of any
superficial and fleeting good, and will bring a deep-seated and
permanent blessing.

Now, I am not going to deal in this sermon with that general
principle, nor even to be drawn aside to speak of the tone in which
the Apostle here treats the great abomination of slavery, and the
singular advice that he gives to its victims; though the
consideration of the tone of Christianity to that master-evil of the
old world might yield a great many thoughts very relevant to pressing
questions of to-day. But my one object is to fix upon the combination
which he here brings out in regard to the essence of the Christian
life; how that in itself it contains both members of the antithesis,
servitude and freedom; so that the Christian man who is free
externally is Christ's slave, and the Christian man who is outwardly
in bondage is emancipated by his union with Jesus Christ.

There are two thoughts here, the application in diverse directions of
the same central idea--viz. the slavery of Christ's free men, and the
freedom of Christ's slaves. And I deal briefly with these two now.

I. First, then, note how, according to the one-half of the
antithesis, Christ's freed men are slaves.

Now, the way in which the New Testament deals with that awful
wickedness of a man held in bondage by a man is extremely remarkable.
It might seem as if such a hideous piece of immorality were
altogether incapable of yielding any lessons of good. But the
Apostles have no hesitation whatever in taking slavery as a clear
picture of the relation in which all Christian people stand to Jesus
Christ their Lord. He is the owner and we are the slaves. For you
must remember that the word most inadequately rendered here,
'servant' does not mean a hired man who has, of his own volition,
given himself for a time to do specific work and get wages for it;
but it means 'a bond-slave,' a chattel owned by another. All the ugly
associations which gather round the word are transported bodily into
the Christian region, and there, instead of being hideous, take on a
shape of beauty, and become expressions of the deepest and most
blessed truths, in reference to Christian men's dependence upon, and
submission to, and place in the household and the heart of, Jesus
Christ, their Owner.

And what is the centre idea that lies in this metaphor, if you like
to call it so? It is this: absolute authority, which has for its
correlative--for the thing in us that answers to it--unconditional
submission. Jesus Christ has the perfect right to command each of us,
and we are bound to bow ourselves, unreluctant, unmurmuring,
unhesitating, with complete submission at His feet. His authority,
and our submission, go far, far deeper than the most despotic sway of
the most tyrannous master, or than the most abject submission of the
most downtrodden slave. For no man can coerce another man's will, and
no man can require more, or can ever get more, than that outward
obedience which may be rendered with the most sullen and fixed
rebellion of a hating heart and an obstinate will. But Jesus Christ
demands that if we call ourselves Christians we shall bring, not our
members only as instruments to Him, in outward surrender and service,
but that we shall yield ourselves, with our capacities of willing and
desiring, utterly, absolutely, constantly to Him.

The founder of the Jesuits laid it down as a rule for his Order that
each member of it was to be at the master's disposal like a corpse,
or a staff in the hand of a blind man. That was horrible. But the
absolute putting of myself at the disposal of another's will, which
is expressed so tyrannously in Loyola's demand, is the simple duty of
every Christian, and as long as we have recalcitrating wills, which
recoil at anything which Christ commands or appoints, and perk up
their own inclinations in the face of His solemn commandment, or that
shrink from doing and suffering whatsoever He imposes and enjoins, we
have still to learn what it means to be Christ's disciples.

Dear brethren, absolute submission is not all that makes a disciple,
but, depend upon it, there is no discipleship worth calling by the
name without it. So I come to each of you with His message to
you:--Down on your faces before Him! Bow your obstinate will,
surrender yourselves and accept Him as absolute, dominant Lord over
your whole being! Are you Christians after that pattern? Being
freemen, are you Christ's slaves?

It does not matter what sort of work the owner sets his household of
slaves to do. One man is picked out to be his pipe-bearer, or his
shoe-cleaner; and, if the master is a sovereign, another one is sent
off, perhaps, to be governor of a province, or one of his council.
They are all slaves; and the service that each does is equally
important.

  'All service ranks the same with God:
  There is no last nor first.'

What does it matter what you and I are set to do? Nothing. And, so,
why need we struggle and wear our hearts out to get into conspicuous
places, or to do work that shall bring some revenue of praise said
glory to ourselves? 'Play well thy part; there all the honour lies,'
the world can say. Serve Christ in anything, and all His servants are
alike in His sight.

The slave-owner had absolute power of life and death over his
dependants. He could split up families; he could sell away dear ones;
he could part husband and wife, parent and child. The slave was his,
and he could do what he liked with his own, according to the cruel
logic of ancient law. And Jesus Christ, the Lord of the household,
the Lord of providence, can say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes into
the mists and the shadows of death. And He can say to those who are
most closely united, 'Loose your hands! I have need of one of you
yonder. I have need of the other one here.' And if we are wise, if we
are His servants in any real deep sense, we shall not kick against
the appointments of His supreme, autocratic, and yet most loving
Providence, but be content to leave the arbitrament of life and
death, of love united or of love parted, in His hands, and say,
'Whether we live we are the Lord's, or whether we die we are the
Lord's; living or dying we are His.'

The slave-owner owned all that the slave owned. He gave him a little
cottage, with some humble sticks of furniture in it; and a bit of
ground on which to grow his vegetables for his family. But he to whom
the owner of the vegetables and the stools belonged owned them too.
And if we are Christ's servants, our banker's book is Christ's, and
our purse is Christ's, and our investments are Christ's; and our
mills, and our warehouses, and our shops and our businesses are His.
We are not His slaves, if we arrogate to ourselves the right of doing
what we like with His possessions.

And, then, still further, there comes into our Apostle's picture here
yet another point of resemblance between slaves and the disciples of
Jesus. For the hideous abominations of the slave-market are
transferred to the Christian relation, and defecated and cleansed of
all their abominations and cruelty thereby. For what immediately
follows my text is, 'Ye are bought with a price.' Jesus Christ has
won us for Himself. There is only one price that can buy a heart, and
that is a heart. There is only one way of getting a man to be mine,
and that is by giving myself to be his. So we come to the very vital,
palpitating centre of all Christianity when we say, 'He gave Himself
for us, that He might acquire to Himself a people for His
possession.' Thus His purchase of His slave, when we remember that it
is the buying of a man in his inmost personality, changes all that
might seem harsh in the requirement of absolute submission into the
most gracious and blessed privilege. For when I am won by another,
because that other has given him or her whole self to me, then the
language of love is submission, and the conformity of the two wills
is the delight of each loving will. Whoever has truly been wooed into
relationship with Jesus, by reflection upon the love with which Jesus
grapples him to His heart, finds that there is nothing so blessed as
to yield one's self utterly and for ever to His service.

The one bright point in the hideous institution of slavery was, that
it bound the master to provide for the slave, and though that was
degrading to the inferior, it made his life a careless, child-like,
merry life, even amidst the many cruelties and abominations of the
system. But what was a good, dashed with a great deal of evil, in
that relation of man to man, comes to be a pure blessing and good in
our relation to Him. If I am Christ's slave, it is His business to
take care of His own property, and I do not need to trouble myself
much about it. If I am His slave, He will be quite sure to find me in
food and necessaries enough to get His tale of work out of me; and I
may cast all my care upon Him, for He careth for me. So, brethren,
absolute submission and the devolution of all anxiety on the Master
are what is laid upon us, if we are Christ's slaves.

II. Then there is the other side, about which I must say, secondly, a
word or two; and that is, the freedom of Christ's slaves.

As the text puts it, 'He that is called, being a servant, is the
Lord's freedman.' A freedman was one who was emancipated, and who
therefore stood in a relation of gratitude to his emancipator and
patron. So in the very word 'freedman' there is contained the idea of
submission to Him who has struck off the fetters.

But, apart from that, let me just remind you, in a sentence or two,
that whilst there are many other ways by which men have sought, and
have partially attained, deliverance from the many fetters and
bondages that attach to our earthly life, the one perfect way by
which a man can be truly, in the deepest sense of the word and in his
inmost being, a free man is by faith in Jesus Christ.

I do not for a moment forget how wisdom and truth, and noble aims and
high purposes, and culture of various kinds have, in lower degrees
and partially, emancipated men from self and flesh and sin and the
world, and all the other fetters that bind us. But sure I am that
the process is never so completely and so assuredly effected as by the
simple way of absolute submission to Jesus Christ, taking Him for the
supreme and unconditional Arbiter and Sovereign of a life.

If we do that, brethren, if we really yield ourselves to Him, in
heart and will, in life and conduct, submitting our understanding to
His infallible Word, and our wills to His authority, regulating our
conduct by His perfect pattern, and in all things seeking to serve
Him and to realise His presence, then be sure of this, that we shall
be set free from the one real bondage, and that is the bondage of our
own wicked selves. There is no such tyranny as mob tyranny; and there
is no such slavery as to be ruled by the mob of our own passions and
lusts and inclinations and other meannesses that yelp and clamour
within us, and seek to get hold of us and to sway. There is only one
way by which the brute domination of the lower part of our nature can
be surely and thoroughly put down, and that is by turning to Jesus
Christ and saying to Him, 'Lord! do Thou rule this anarchic kingdom
within me, for I cannot govern it myself. Do Thou guide and direct
and subdue.' You can only govern yourself and be free from the
compulsion of your own evil nature when you surrender the control to
the Master, and say ever, 'Speak, Lord! for Thy slave hears. Here am
I, send me.'

And that is the only way by which a man can be delivered from the
bondage of dependence upon outward things. I said at the beginning of
these remarks that my text occurred in the course of a discussion in
which the Apostle was illustrating the tendency of true Christian
faith to set man free from, and to make him largely independent of,
the varieties in external circumstances. Christian faith does so,
because it brings into a life a sufficient compensation for all
losses, limitations, and sorrows, and a good which is the reality of
which all earthly goods are but shadows. So the slave may be free in
Christ, and the poor man may be rich in Him, and the sad man may be
joyful, and the joyful man may be delivered from excess of gladness,
and the rich man be kept from the temptations and sins of wealth, and
the free man be taught to surrender his liberty to the Lord who makes
him free. Thus, if we have the all-sufficient compensation which
there is in Jesus Christ, the satisfaction for all our needs and
desires, we do not need to trouble ourselves so much as we sometimes
do about these changing things round about us. Let them come, let
them go; let the darkness veil the light, and the light illuminate
the darkness; let summer and winter alternate; let tribulation and
prosperity succeed each other; we have a source of blessedness
unaffected by these. Ice may skin the surface of the lake, but deep
beneath, the water is at the same temperature in winter and in
summer. Storms may sweep the face of the deep, but in the abyss there
is calm which is not stagnation. So he that cleaves to Christ is
delivered from the slavery that binds men to the details and
accidents of outward life.

And if we are the servants of Christ, we shall be set free, in the
measure in which we are His, from the slavery which daily becomes
more oppressive as the means of communication become more complete,
the slavery to popular opinion and to men round us. Dare to be
singular; take your beliefs at first hand from the Master. Never mind
what fellow-slaves say. It is His smile or frown that is of
importance. 'Ye are bought with a price; be not servants of men.'
And so, brethren, 'choose you this day whom ye will serve.' You are
not made to be independent. You must serve some thing or person.
Recognise the narrow limitations within which your choice lies, and
the issues which depend upon it. It is not whether you will serve
Christ or whether you will be free. It is whether you will serve
Christ or your own worst self, the world, men, and I was going to
add, the flesh and the devil. Make your choice. He has bought you.
You belong to Him by His death. Yield yourselves to Him, it is the
only way of breaking your chains. He that doeth sin is the servant of
sin. 'If the Son make you free, ye shall be free indeed,' and not
only free; for the King's slaves are princes and nobles, and 'all
things are yours, and ye are Christ's.' They who say to Him 'O Lord!
truly I am Thy servant,' receive from Him the rank of kings and
priests to God, and shall reign with Him for ever.



THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

   'Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein
   abide with God.'--1 COR. vii. 24.


You find that three times within the compass of a very few verses
this injunction is repeated. 'As God hath distributed to every man,'
says the Apostle in the seventeenth verse, 'as the Lord hath called
every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all the churches.'
Then again in the twentieth verse, 'Let every man abide in the same
calling wherein he is called.' And then finally in our text.

The reason for this emphatic reiteration is not difficult to
ascertain. There were strong temptations to restlessness besetting
the early Christians. The great change from heathenism to
Christianity would seem to loosen the joints of all life, and having
been swept from their anchorage in religion, all external things
would appear to be adrift. It was most natural that a man should seek
to alter even the circumstances of his outward life, when such a
revolution had separated him from his ancient self. Hence would tend
to come the rupture of family ties, the separation of husband and
wife, the Jewish convert seeking to become like a Gentile, the
Gentile seeking to become like a Jew; the slave trying to be free,
the freeman, in some paroxysm of disgust at his former condition,
trying to become a slave. These three cases are all referred to in
the context--marriage, circumcision, slavery. And for all three the
Apostle has the same advice to give--'Stop where you are.' In
whatever condition you were when God's invitation drew you to
Himself--for that, and not being set to a 'vocation' in life, is the
meaning of the word 'called' here--remain in it.

And then, on the other hand, there was every reason why the Apostle
and his co-workers should set themselves, by all means in their
power, to oppose this restlessness. For, if Christianity in those
early days had once degenerated into the mere instrument of social
revolution, its development would have been thrown back for
centuries, and the whole worth and power of it, for those who first
apprehended it, would have been lost. So you know Paul never said a
word to encourage any precipitate attempts to change externals. He
let slavery--he let war alone; he let the tyranny of the Roman Empire
alone--not because he was a coward, not because he thought that
these things were not worth meddling with, but because he, like all
wise men, believed in making the tree good and then its fruit good.
He believed in the diffusion of the principles which he proclaimed,
and the mighty Name which he served, as able to girdle the
poison-tree, and to take the bark off it, and the rest, the slow
dying, might be left to the work of time. And the same general idea
underlies the words of my text. 'Do not try to change,' he says, 'do
not trouble about external conditions; keep to your Christian
profession; let those alone, they will right themselves. Art thou a
slave? Seek not to be freed. Art thou circumcised? Seek not to be
uncircumcised. Get hold of the central, vivifying, transmuting
influence, and all the rest is a question of time.'

But, besides this more especial application of the words of my text
to the primitive times, it carries with it, dear brethren, a large
general principle that applies to all times--a principle, I may say,
dead in the teeth of the maxims upon which life is being ordered by
the most of us. _Our_ maxim is, 'Get on!' Paul's is, 'Never mind
about getting _on_, get _up_!' Our notion is--'Try to make the
circumstances what I would like to have them.' Paul's is--'Leave
circumstances to take care of themselves, or rather leave God to take
care of the circumstances. You get close to Him, and hold His hand,
and everything else will right itself.' Only he is not preaching
stolid acquiescence. His previous injunctions were--'Let every man
abide in the same calling wherein he was called.' He sees that that
may be misconceived and abused, and so, in his third reiteration of
the precept, he puts in a word which throws a flood of light upon the
whole thing--'Let every man wherein he is called therein abide.' Yes,
but that is not all--'therein abide _with God_!' Ay, that is it! not
an impossible stoicism; not hypocritical, fanatical contempt of the
external. But whilst that gets its due force and weight, whilst a
man yields himself in a measure to the natural tastes and
inclinations which God has given him, and with the intention that he
should find there subordinate guidance and impulse for his life,
still let him abide where he is called with God, and seek to increase
his fellowship with Him, as the main thing that he has to do.

I. Thus we are led from the words before us first to the thought that
our chief effort in life ought to be union with God.

'Abide with God,' which, being put into other words, means, I think,
mainly two things--constant communion, the occupation of all our
nature with Him, and, consequently, the recognition of His will in
all circumstances.

As to the former, we have the mind and heart and will of God revealed
to us for the light, the love, the obedience of our will and heart
and mind; and our Apostle's precept is, first, that we should try,
moment by moment, in all the bustle and stir of our daily life, to
have our whole being consciously directed to and engaged with,
fertilised and calmed by contact with, the perfect and infinite
nature of our Father in heaven.

As we go to our work again to-morrow morning, what difference would
obedience to this precept make upon my life and yours? Before all
else, and in the midst of all else, we should think of that Divine
Mind that in the heavens is waiting to illumine our darkness; we
should feel the glow of that uncreated and perfect Love, which, in
the midst of change and treachery, of coldness and of 'greetings
where no kindness is,' in the midst of masterful authority and
unloving command, is ready to fill our hearts with tenderness and
tranquillity: we should bow before that Will which is absolute and
supreme indeed, but neither arbitrary nor harsh, which is 'the
eternal purpose that He hath purposed in Himself' indeed, but is also
'the good pleasure of His goodness and the counsel of His grace.'

And with such a God near to us ever in our faithful thoughts, in our
thankful love, in our lowly obedience, with such a mind revealing
itself to us, and such a heart opening its hidden storehouses for us
as we approach, like some star that, as one gets nearer to it,
expands its disc and glows into rich colour, which at a distance was
but pallid silver, and such a will sovereign above all, energising,
even through opposition, and making obedience a delight, what room,
brethren, would there be in our lives for agitations, and
distractions, and regrets, and cares, and fears--what room for
earthly hopes or for sad remembrances? They die in the fruition of a
present God all-sufficient for mind, and heart, and will--even as the
sun when it is risen with a burning heat may scorch and wither the
weeds that grow about the base of the fruitful tree, whose deeper
roots are but warmed by the rays that ripen the rich clusters which
it bears. 'Let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide _with
God_.'

And then, as a consequence of such an occupation of the whole being
with God, there will follow that second element which is included in
the precept, namely, the recognition of God's will as operating in
and determining all circumstances. When our whole soul is occupied
with Him, we shall see Him everywhere. And this ought to be our
honest effort--to connect everything which befalls ourselves and the
world with Him. We should see that Omnipotent Will, the silent energy
which flows through all being, asserting itself through all secondary
causes, marching on towards its destined and certain goal, amidst all
the whirl and perturbation of events, bending even the antagonism of
rebels and the unconsciousness of godless men, as well as the play of
material instruments, to its own purposes, and swinging and swaying
the whole set and motion of things according to its own impulse and
by the touch of its own fingers.

Such a faith does not require us to overlook the visible occasions
for the things which befall us, nor to deny the stable laws according
to which that mighty will operates in men's lives. Secondary causes?
Yes. Men's opposition and crime? Yes. Our own follies and sins? No
doubt. Blessings and sorrows falling indiscriminately on a whole
community or a whole world? Certainly. And yet the visible agents are
not the sources, but only the vehicles of the power, the belting and
shafting which transmit a mighty impulse which they had nothing to do
in creating. And the antagonism subserves the purposes of the rule
which it opposes, as the blow of the surf may consolidate the
sea-wall that it breaks against. And our own follies and sins may
indeed sorrowfully shadow our lives, and bring on us pains of body
and disasters in fortune, and stings in spirit for which we alone are
responsible, and which we have no right to regard as inscrutable
judgments--yet even these bitter plants of which our own hands have
sowed the seed, spring by His merciful will, and _are_ to be regarded
as His loving, fatherly chastisements--sent before to warn us by a
premonitory experience that 'the wages of sin is death.' As a rule,
God does not interpose to pick a man out of the mud into which he has
been plunged by his own faults and follies, until he has learned the
lessons which he can find in plenty down in the slough, if he will
only look for them! And the fact that some great calamity or some
great joy affects a wide circle of people, does not make its having a
special lesson and meaning for each of them at all doubtful. _There_
is one of the great depths of all-moving wisdom and providence, that
in the very self-same act it is in one aspect universal, and in
another special and individual. The ordinary notion of a special
providence goes perilously near the belief that God's will is less
concerned in some parts of a man's life than in others. It is very
much like desecrating and secularising a whole land by the very act
of focussing the sanctity in some single consecrated shrine. But the
true belief is that the whole sweep of a life is under the will of
God, and that when, for instance, war ravages a nation, though the
sufferers be involved in a common ruin occasioned by murderous
ambition and measureless pride, yet for each of the sufferers the
common disaster has a special message. Let us believe in a divine
will which regards each individual caught up in the skirts of the
horrible storm, even as it regards each individual on whom the equal
rays of His universal sunshine fall. Let us believe that every single
soul has a place in the heart, and is taken into account in the
purposes of Him who moves the tempest, and makes His sun to shine
upon the unthankful and on the good. Let us, in accordance with the
counsel of the Apostle here, first of all try to anchor and rest our
own souls fast and firm in God all the day long, that, grasping His
hand, we may look out upon all the confused dance of fleeting
circumstances and say, 'Thy will is done on earth'--if not yet 'as it
is done in heaven,' still done in the issues and events of all--and
done with my cheerful obedience and thankful acceptance of its
commands and allotments in my own life.

II. The second idea which comes out of these words is this--Such
union with God will lead to contented continuance in our place,
whatever it be.

Our text is as if Paul had said, 'You have been "called" in such and
such worldly circumstances. The fact proves that these circumstances
do not obstruct the highest and richest blessings. The light of God
can shine on your souls through them. Since then you have such sacred
memorials associated with them, and know by experience that
fellowship with God is possible in them, do you remain where you are,
and keep hold of the God who has visited you in them.'

If once, in accordance with the thoughts already suggested, our minds
have, by God's help, been brought into something like real, living
fellowship with Him, and we have attained the wisdom that pierces
through the external to the Almighty will that underlies all its mazy
whirl, then why should we care about shifting our place? Why should
we trouble ourselves about altering these varying events, since each
in its turn is a manifestation of His mind and will; each in its turn
is a means of discipline for us; and through all their variety a
single purpose works, which tends to a single end--'that we should be
partakers of His holiness'?

And that is the one point of view from which we can bear to look upon
the world and not be utterly bewildered and over-mastered by it.
Calmness and central peace are ours; a true appreciation of all
outward good and a charm against the bitterest sting of outward evils
are ours; a patient continuance in the place where He has set us is
ours--when by fellowship with Him we have learned to look upon our
work as primarily doing His will, and upon all our possessions and
conditions primarily as means for making us like Himself. Most men
seem to think that they have gone to the very bottom of the thing
when they have classified the gifts of fortune as good or evil,
according as they produce pleasure or pain. But that is a poor,
superficial classification. It is like taking and arranging books by
their bindings and flowers by their colours. Instead of saying, 'We
divide life into two halves, and we put there all the joyful, and
here all the sad, for that is the ruling distinction'--let us rather
say, 'The whole is one, because it all comes from one purpose, and it
all tends towards one end. The only question worth asking in regard
to the externals of our life is--How far does each thing help me to
be a good man? how far does it open my understanding to apprehend
Him? how far does it make my spirit pliable and plastic under His
touch? how far does it make me capable of larger reception of greater
gifts from Himself? what is its effect in preparing me for that world
beyond?' Is there any other greater, more satisfying, more majestic
thought of life than this--the scaffolding by which souls are built
up into the temple of God? And to care whether a thing is painful or
pleasant is as absurd as to care whether the bricklayer's trowel is
knocking the sharp corner off a brick, or plastering mortar on the
one below it before he lays it carefully on its course. Is the
_building_ getting on? That is the one question that is worth
thinking about.

You and I write our lives as if on one of those manifold writers
which you use. A thin filmy sheet _here_, a bit of black paper
below it; but the writing goes through upon the next page, and when
the blackness that divides two worlds is swept away _there_, the
history of each life written by ourselves remains legible in
eternity. And the question is--What sort of autobiography are we
writing for the revelation of that day, and how far do our
circumstances help us to transcribe fair in our lives the will of our
God and the image of our Redeemer?

If, then, we have once got hold of that principle that all which
is--summer and winter, storm and sunshine, possession and loss,
memory and hope, work and rest, and all the other antitheses of
life--is equally the product of His will, equally the manifestation
of His mind, equally His means for our discipline, then we have the
amulet and talisman which will preserve us from the fever of desire
and the shivering fits of anxiety as to things which perish. And, as
they tell of a Christian father who, riding by one of the great lakes
of Switzerland all day long, on his journey to the Church Council
that was absorbing his thoughts, said towards evening to the deacon
who was pacing beside him, 'Where is the lake?' so you and I,
journeying along by the margin of this great flood of things when
wild storms sweep across it, or when the sunbeams glint upon its blue
waters, 'and birds of peace sit brooding on the charmed wave,' will
be careless of the changeful sea, if the eye looks beyond the visible
and beholds the unseen, the unchanging real presences that make glory
in the darkest lives, and 'sunshine in the shady place.' 'Let every
man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.'

III. Still further, another thought may be suggested from these
words, or rather from the connection in which they occur, and that
is--Such contented continuance in our place is the dictate of the
truest wisdom.

There are two or three collateral topics, partly suggested by the
various connections in which this commandment occurs in the chapter,
from which I draw the few remarks I have to make now.

And the first point I would suggest is that very old commonplace one,
so often forgotten, that after all, though you may change about as
much as you like, there is a pretty substantial equipoise and
identity in the amount of pain and pleasure in all external
conditions. The total length of day and night all the year round is
the same at the North Pole and at the Equator--half and half. Only,
in the one place, it is half and half for four-and-twenty hours at a
time, and in the other, the night lasts through gloomy months of
winter, and the day is bright for unbroken weeks of summer. But, when
you come to add them up at the year's end, the man who shivers in the
ice, and the man who pants beneath the beams from the zenith, have
had the same length of sunshine and of darkness. It does not matter
much at what degrees between the Equator and the Pole you and I live;
when the thing comes to be made up we shall be all pretty much upon
an equality. You do not get the happiness of the rich man over the
poor one by multiplying twenty shillings a week by as many figures as
will suffice to make it up to £10,000 a year. What is the use of such
eager desires to change our condition, when every condition has
disadvantages attending its advantages as certainly as a shadow; and
when all have pretty nearly the same quantity of the raw material of
pain and pleasure, and when the amount of either actually experienced
by us depends not on where we are, but on _what_ we are?

Then, still further, there is another consideration to be kept in
mind upon which I do not enlarge, as what I have already said
involves it--namely, that whilst the portion of external pain and
pleasure summed up comes pretty much to the same in everybody's life,
any condition may yield the fruit of devout fellowship with God.

Another very remarkable idea suggested by a part of the context
is--What is the need for my troubling myself about outward changes
when _in Christ_ I can get all the peculiarities which make any
given position desirable to me? For instance, hear how Paul talks to
slaves eager to be set free: 'For he that is called in the Lord,
_being_ a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that
is called, _being_ free, is Christ's servant.' If you generalise
that principle it comes to this, that in union with Jesus Christ we
possess, by our fellowship with Him, the peculiar excellences and
blessings that are derivable from external relations of every sort.
To take concrete examples--if a man is a slave, he may be free in
Christ. If free, he may have the joy of utter submission to an
absolute master in Christ. If you and I are lonely, we may feel all
the delights of society by union with Him. If surrounded and
distracted by companionship, and seeking for seclusion, we may get
all the peace of perfect privacy in fellowship with Him. If we are
rich, and sometimes think that we were in a position of less
temptation if we were poorer, we may find all the blessings for which
we sometimes covet poverty in communion with Him. If we are poor, and
fancy that, if we had a little more just to lift us above the
grinding, carking care of to-day and the anxiety of to-morrow, we
should be happier, we may find all tranquillity in Him. And so you
may run through all the variety of human conditions, and say to
yourself--What is the use of looking for blessings flowing from these
from without? Enough for us if we grasp that Lord who is all in all,
and will give us in peace the joy of conflict, in conflict the calm
of peace, in health the refinement of sickness, in sickness the
vigour and glow of health, in memory the brightness of undying hope,
in hope the calming of holy memory, in wealth the lowliness of
poverty, in poverty the ease of wealth; in life and in death being
all and more than all that dazzles us by the false gleam of created
brightness!

And so, finally--a remark which has no connection with the text
itself, but which I cannot avoid inserting here--I want you to think,
and think seriously, of the antagonism and diametrical opposition
between these principles of my text and the maxims current in the
world, and nowhere more so than in this city. Our text is a
revolutionary one. It is dead against the watchwords that you fathers
give your children--'push,' 'energy,' 'advancement,' 'get on,
whatever you do.' You have made a philosophy of it, and you say that
this restless discontent with a man's present position and eager
desire to get a little farther ahead in the scramble, underlies much
modern civilisation and progress, and leads to the diffusion of
wealth and to employment for the working classes, and to mechanical
inventions, and domestic comforts, and I don't know what besides. You
have made a religion of it; and it is thought to be blasphemy for a
man to stand up and say--'It is idolatry!' My dear brethren, I
declare I solemnly believe that, if I were to go on to the Manchester
Exchange next Tuesday, and stand up and say--'There is no God,' I
should not be thought half such a fool as if I were to go and
say--'Poverty is not an evil _per se_, and men do not come into
this world to get _on_ but to get _up_--nearer and liker to
God.' If you, by God's grace, lay hold of this principle of my text,
and honestly resolve to work it out, trusting in that dear Lord who
'though He was rich yet for our sakes became poor,' in ninety-nine
cases out of a hundred you will have to make up your minds to let the
big prizes of your trade go into other people's hands, and be
contented to say--'I live by peaceful, high, pure, Christ-like
thoughts.' 'He that needs least,' said an old heathen, 'is nearest
the gods'; but I would rather modify the statement into, 'He that
needs most, and knows it, is nearest the gods.' For surely Christ is
more than mammon; and a spirit nourished by calm desires and holy
thoughts into growing virtues and increasing Christlikeness is better
than circumstances ordered to our will, in the whirl of which we have
lost our God. 'In everything by prayer and supplication, with
thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace
of God and the God of peace shall keep your hearts and minds in
Christ Jesus.'



'LOVE BUILDETH UP'

   'Now, as touching things offered unto idols, we know that
   we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity
   edifieth. 2. And if any man think that he knoweth any
   thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. 3. But
   if any man love God, the same is known of him. 4. As
   concerning therefore the eating of those things that
   are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an
   idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none
   other God but one. 5. For though there be that are called
   gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods
   many, and lords many,) 6. But to us there is but one God,
   the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and
   one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we
   by Him. 7. Howbeit there is not in every man that
   knowledge: for some, with conscience of the idol unto
   this hour, eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and
   their conscience being weak is defiled. 8. But meat
   commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are
   we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.
   9. But take heed, lest by any means this liberty of
   yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.
   10. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit
   at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience
   of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things
   which are offered to idols; 11. And through thy knowledge
   shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
   12. But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound
   their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
   13. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend,
   I will eat no flesh while the world standeth,
   lest I make my brother to offend.'--1 COR. viii. 1-13.


It is difficult for us to realise the close connection which existed
between idol-worship and daily life. Something of the same sort is
found in all mission fields. It was almost impossible for Christians
to take any part in society and not seem to sanction idolatry. Would
that Christianity were as completely interwoven with our lives as
heathen religions are into those of their devotees! Paul seems to
have had referred to him a pressing case of conscience, which divided
the Corinthian Church, as to whether a Christian could join in the
usual feasts or sacrifices. His answer is in this passage.

The longest way round is sometimes the shortest way home. The Apostle
begins far away from the subject in hand by running a contrast
between knowledge and love, and setting the latter first. But his
contrast is very relevant to his purpose. Small questions should be
solved on great principles.

The first principle laid down by Paul is the superiority of love over
knowledge, the bearing of which on the question in hand will appear
presently. We note that there is first a distinct admission of the
Corinthians' intelligence, though there is probably a tinge of irony
in the language 'We know that we all have knowledge.' 'You
Corinthians are fully aware that you are very superior people.
Whatever else you know, you know that, and I fully recognise it.'

The admission is followed by a sudden, sharp comment, to which the
Corinthians' knowledge that they knew laid them open. Swift as the
thrust of a spear comes flashing 'Knowledge puffeth up.' Puffed-up
things are swollen by wind only, and the more they are inflated the
hollower and emptier they are; and such a sharp point as Paul's
saying shrivels them. The statement is not meant as the assertion of
a necessary or uniform result of knowledge, but it does put plainly a
very usual result of it, if it is unaccompanied by love. It is
a strange, sad result of superior intelligence or acquirements, that
it so often leads to conceit, to a false estimate of the worth and
power of knowing, to a ridiculous over-valuing of certain
acquirements, and to an insolent contempt and cruel disregard of
those who have them not. Paul's dictum has been only too well
confirmed by experience.

'Love builds up,' or 'edifies.' Probably the main direction in which
that building up is conceived of as taking effect, is in aiding the
progress of our neighbours, especially in the religious life. But the
tendency of love to rear a fair fabric of personal character is not
to be overlooked. In regard to effect on character, the palm must be
given to love, which produces solid excellence far beyond what mere
knowledge can effect. Further, that pluming one's self on knowledge
is a sure proof of ignorance. The more real our acquirements, the
more they disclose our deficiencies. All self-conceit hinders us from
growing intellectually or morally, and intellectual conceit is the
worst kind of it.

Very significantly, love to God, and not the simple emotion of love
without reference to its object, is opposed to knowledge; for love so
directed is the foundation of all excellence, and of all real love to
men. Love to God is not the antithesis of true knowledge, but it is
the only victorious antagonist of the conceit of knowing. Very
significantly, too, does Paul vary his conclusion in verse 3 by
saying that the man who loves God 'is known of Him,' instead of, as
we might have expected, 'knows Him.' The latter is true, but the
statement in the verse puts more strongly the thought of the man's
being an object of God's care. In regard, then, to their effects on
character, in producing consideration and helpfulness to others, and
in securing God's protection, love stands first, and knowledge
second.

What has all this to do with the question in hand? This, that if
looked at from the standpoint of knowledge, it may be solved in one
way, but if from that of love, it will be answered in another. So, in
verses 4-6, Paul treats the matter on the ground of knowledge. The
fundamental truth of Christianity, that there is one God, who is
revealed and works through Jesus Christ, was accepted by all the
Corinthians. Paul states it here broadly, denying that there were any
objective realities answering to the popular conceptions or poetic
fancies or fair artistic presentments of the many gods and lords of
the Greek pantheon, and asserting that all Christians recognise one
God, the Father, from whom the universe of worlds and living things
has origin, and to whom we as Christians specially belong, and one
Lord, the channel through whom all divine operations of creation,
providence, and grace flow, and by whose redeeming work we Christians
are endowed with our best life. If a believer was fully convinced of
these truths, he could partake of sacrificial feasts without danger
to himself, and without either sanctioning idolatry or being tempted
to return to it.

No doubt it was on this ground that an idol was nothing that the
laxer party defended their action in eating meat offered to idols;
and Paul fully recognises that they had a strong case, and that, if
there were no other considerations to come in, the answer to the
question of conscience submitted to him would be wholly in favour of
the less scrupulous section. But there is something better than
knowledge; namely, love. And its decision must be taken before the
whole material for a judgment is in evidence.

Therefore, in the remainder of the chapter, Paul dwells on loving
regard for brethren. In verse 7, he reminds the 'knowing' Corinthians
that new convictions do not obliterate the power of old associations.
The awful fascination of early belief still exercises influence. The
chains are not wholly broken off. Every mission field shows examples
of this. Every man knows that habits are not so suddenly overcome,
that there is no hankering after them or liability to relapse. It
would be a dangerous thing for a weak believer to risk sharing in an
idol feast; for he would be very likely to slide down to his old
level of belief, and Zeus or Pallas to seem to him real powers once
more.

The considerations in verse 7 would naturally be followed by the
further thoughts in verse 9, etc. But, before dealing with these,
Paul interposes another thought in verse 8, to the effect that
partaking of or abstinence from any kind of food will not, in itself,
either help or hinder the religious life. The bearing of that
principle on his argument seems to be to reduce the importance of the
whole question, and to suggest that, since eating of idol sacrifices
could not be called a duty or a means of spiritual progress, the way
was open to take account of others' weakness as determining our
action in regard to it. A modern application may illustrate the
point. Suppose that a Christian does not see total abstinence from
intoxicants to be obligatory on him. Well, he cannot say that
drinking is so, or that it is a religious duty, and so the way is
clear for urging regard to others' weakness as an element in the
case.

That being premised, Paul comes to his final point; namely, that
Christian men are bound to restrict their liberty so that they shall
not tempt weaker brethren on to a path on which they cannot walk
without stumbling. He has just shown the danger to such of partaking
of the sacrificial feasts. He now completes his position by showing,
in verse 10, that the stronger man's example may lead the weaker to
do what he cannot do innocently. What is harmless to us may be fatal
to others, and, if we have led them to it, their blood is on our
heads.

The terrible discordance of such conduct with our Lord's example,
which should be our law, is forcibly set forth in verse 11, which has
three strongly emphasised thoughts--the man's fate--he perishes; his
relation to his slayer--a brother; what Christ did for the man whom a
Christian has sent to destruction--died for him. These solemn
thoughts are deepened in verse 12, which reminds us of the intimate
union between the weakest and Christ, by which He so identifies
Himself with them that any blow struck on them touches Him.

There is no greater sin than to tempt weak or ignorant Christians to
thoughts or acts which their ignorance or weakness cannot entertain
or do without damage to their religion. There is much need for laying
that truth to heart in these days. Both in the field of speculation
and of conduct, Christians, who think that they know so much better
than ignorant believers, need to be reminded of it.

So Paul, in verse 13, at last answers the question. His sudden
turning to his own conduct is beautiful. He will not so much command
others, as proclaim his own determination. He does so with
characteristic vehemence and hyperbole. No doubt the liberal party in
Corinth were ready to complain against the proposal to restrict their
freedom because of others' weakness; and they would be disarmed, or
at least silenced, and might be stimulated to like noble resolution,
by Paul's example.

The principle plainly laid down here is as distinctly applicable to
the modern question of abstinence from intoxicants. No one can doubt
that 'moderation' in their use by some tempts others to use which
soon becomes fatally immoderate. The Church has been robbed of
promising members thereby, over and over again. How can a Christian
man cling to a 'moderate' use of these things, and run the risk of
destroying by his example a brother for whom Christ died?



THE SIN OF SILENCE

   'For though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory
   of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me,
   if I preach not the Gospel! 17. For if I do this thing
   willingly, I have a reward.'--1 COR. ix. 16, 17.


The original reference of these words is to the Apostle's principle
and practice of not receiving for his support money from the
churches. Gifts he did accept; pay he did not. The exposition of his
reason is interesting, ingenuous, and chivalrous. He strongly asserts
his right, even while he as strongly declares that he will waive it.
The reason for his waiving it is that he desires to have somewhat in
his service beyond the strict line of his duty. His preaching itself,
with all its toils and miseries, was but part of his day's work,
which he was bidden to do, and for doing which he deserved no thanks
nor praise. But he would like to have a little bit of glad service
over and above what he is ordered to do, that, as he ingenuously
says, he may have 'somewhat to boast of.'

In this exposition of motives we have two great principles actuating
the Apostle--one, his profound sense of obligation, and the other his
desire, if it might be, to do more than he was bound to do, because
he loved his work so much. And though he is speaking here as an
apostle, and his example is not to be unconditionally transferred to
us, yet I think that the motives which actuated his conduct are
capable of unconditional application to ourselves.

There are three things here. There is the obligation of speech, there
is the penalty of silence, and there is the glad obedience which
transcends obligation.

I. First, mark the obligation of speech.

No doubt the Apostle had, in a special sense, a 'necessity laid upon'
him, which was first laid upon him on that road to Damascus, and
repeated many a time in his life. But though he differs from us in
the direct supernatural commission which was given to him, in the
width of the sphere in which he had to work, and in the splendour of
the gifts which were entrusted to his stewardship, he does not differ
from us in the reality of the obligation which was laid upon him.
Every Christian man is as truly bound as was Paul to preach the
Gospel. The commission does not depend upon apostolic dignity. Jesus
Christ, when He said, 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the
Gospel to every creature,' was not speaking to the eleven, but to all
generations of His Church. And whilst there are many other motives on
which we may rest the Christian duty of propagating the Christian
faith, I think that we shall be all the better if we bottom it upon
this, the distinct and definite commandment of Jesus Christ, the grip
of which encloses all who for themselves have found that the Lord is
gracious.

For that commandment is permanent. It is exactly contemporaneous with
the duration of the promise which is appended to it, and whosoever
suns himself in the light of the latter is bound by the precept of
the former. 'Lo! I am with you alway, even to the end of the world,'
defines the duration of the promise, and it defines also the duration
of the duty. Nay, even the promise is made conditional upon the
discharge of the duty enjoined. For it is to the Church 'going into
all the world, and preaching the Gospel to every creature,' that the
promise of an abiding presence is made.

Let us remember, too, that, just because this commission is given to
the whole Church, it is binding on every individual member of the
Church. There is a very common fallacy, not confined to this subject,
but extending over the whole field of Christian duty, by which things
that are obligatory on the community are shuffled off the shoulders
of the individual. But we have to remember that the whole Church is
nothing more than the sum total of all its members, and that nothing
is incumbent upon it which is not in their measure incumbent upon
each of them. Whatsoever Christ says to all, He says to each, and the
community has no duties which you and I have not.

Of course, there are diversities of forms of obedience to this
commandment; of course, the restrictions of locality and the other
obligations of life, come in to modify it; and it is not every man's
duty to wander over the whole world doing this work. But the direct
work of communicating to others who know it not the sweetness and the
power of Jesus Christ belongs to every Christian man. You cannot buy
yourselves out of the ranks, as they used to be able to do out of the
militia, by paying for a substitute. Both forms of service are
obligatory upon each of us. We all, if we know anything of Christ and
His love and His power, are bound, by the fact that we do know it, to
tell it to those whom we can reach. You have all got congregations if
you would look for them. There is not a Christian man or woman in
this world who has not somebody that he or she can speak to more
efficiently than anybody else can. You have your friends, your
relations, the people with whom you are brought into daily contact,
if you have no wider congregations. You cannot all stand up and
preach in the sense in which I do so. But this is not the meaning of
the word in the New Testament. It does not imply a pulpit, nor a set
discourse, nor a gathered multitude; it simply implies a herald's
task of proclaiming. Everybody who has found Jesus Christ can say, 'I
have found the Messiah,' and everybody who knows Him can say, 'Come
and hear, and I will tell what the Lord hath done for my soul.' Since
you can do it you are bound to do it; and if you are one of 'the dumb
dogs, lying down and loving to slumber,' of whom there are such
crowds paralysing the energies and weakening the witness of every
Church upon earth, then you are criminally and suicidally oblivious
of an obligation which is a joy and a privilege as much as a duty.

Oh, brethren! I do want to lay on the consciences of all you
Christian people this, that nothing can absolve you from the
obligation of personal, direct speech to some one of Christ and His
salvation. Unless you can say, 'I have not refrained my lips, O Lord!
Thou knowest,' there frowns over against you an unfulfilled duty, the
neglect of which is laming your spiritual activity, and drying up the
sources of your spiritual strength.

But, then, besides this direct effort, there are the other indirect
methods in which this commandment can be discharged, by sympathy and
help of all sorts, about which I need say no more here.

Jesus Christ's ideal of His Church was an active propaganda, an army
in which there were no non-combatants, even although some of the
combatants might be detailed to remain in the camp and look after the
stuff, and others of them might be in the forefront of the battle.
But is that ideal ever fulfilled in any of our churches? How many
amongst us there are who do absolutely nothing in the shape of
Christian work! Some of us seem to think that the voluntary principle
on which our Nonconformist churches are largely organised means, 'I
do not need to do anything unless I like. Inclination is the guide of
duty, and if I do not care to take any active part in the work of our
church, nobody has anything to say.' No man can force me, but if
Jesus Christ says to me, 'Go!' and I say, 'I had rather not,' Jesus
Christ and I have to settle accounts between us. The less _men_
control, the more stringent ought to be the control of Christ. And if
the principle of Christian obedience is a willing heart, then the
duty of a Christian is to see that the heart is willing.

A stringent obligation, not to be shuffled off by any of the excuses
that we make, is laid upon us all. It makes very short work of a
number of excuses. There is a great deal in the tone of this
generation which tends to chill the missionary spirit. We know more
about the heathen world, and familiarity diminishes horror. We have
taken up, many of us, milder and more merciful ideas about the
condition of those who die without knowing the name of Jesus Christ.
We have taken to the study of comparative religion as a science,
forgetting sometimes that the thing that we are studying as a science
is spreading a dark cloud of ignorance and apathy over millions of
men. And all these reasons somewhat sap the strength and cool the
fervour of a good many Christian people nowadays. Jesus Christ's
commandment remains just as it was.

Then some of us say, 'I prefer working at home!' Well, if you are
doing all that you can there, and really are enthusiastically devoted
to one phase of Christian service, the great principle of division of
labour comes in to warrant your not entering upon other fields which
others cultivate. But unless you are thus casting all your energies
into the work which you say that you prefer, there is no reason in it
why you should do nothing in the other direction. Jesus Christ still
says, 'Go ye into all the world.'

Then some of you say, 'Well, I do not much believe in your missionary
societies. There is a great deal of waste of money about them. A
number of things there are that one does not approve of. I have heard
stories about missionaries being very idle, very luxurious, and
taking too much pay, and doing too little work.' Well, be it so! Very
probably it is partly true; though I do not know that the people
whose testimony is so willingly accepted, to the detriment of our
brethren in foreign lands, are precisely the kind of people that
should talk much about self-sacrifice and luxurious living, or whose
estimate of Christian work is to be relied upon. I fancy many of
them, if they walked about the streets of an English town, would have
a somewhat similar report to give, as they have when they walk about
the streets of an Indian one. But be that as it may, does that
indictment draw a wet sponge across the commandment of Jesus Christ?
or can you chisel out of the stones of Sinai one of the words
written there, by reason of the imperfections of those who are
seeking to obey them? Surely not! Christ still says, 'Go ye into all
the world!'

I sometimes venture to think that the day will come when the
condition of being received into, and retained in, the communion of a
Christian church will be obedience to that commandment. Why, even
bees have the sense at a given time of the year to turn the drones
out of the hives, and sting them to death. I do not recommend the
last part of the process, but I am not sure but that it would be a
benefit to us all, both to those ejected and to those retained, that
we should get rid of that added weight that clogs every organised
community in this and other lands--the dead weight of idlers who say
that they are Christ's disciples. Whether it is a condition of church
membership or not, sure I am that it is a condition of fellowship
with Jesus Christ, and a condition, therefore, of health in the
Christian life, that it should be a life of active obedience to this
plain, imperative, permanent, and universal command.

II. Secondly, a word as to the penalty of silence.

'Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel.' I suppose Paul is thinking
mainly of a future issue, but not exclusively of that. At all events,
let me point you, in a word or two, to the plain penalties of silence
here, and to the awful penalties of silence hereafter.

'Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel.' If you are a dumb and idle
professor of Christ's truth, depend upon it that your dumb idleness
will rob you of much communion with Jesus Christ. There are many
Christians who would be ever so much happier, more joyous, and more
assured Christians if they would go and talk about Christ to other
people. Because they have locked up God's word in their hearts it
melts away unknown, and they lose more than they suspect of the
sweetness and buoyancy and assured confidence that might mark them,
for no other reason than because they seek to keep their morsel to
themselves. Like that mist that lies white and dull over the ground
on a winter's morning, which will be blown away with the least puff
of fresh air, there lie doleful dampnesses, in their sooty folds,
over many a Christian heart, shutting out the sun from the earth, and
a little whiff of wholesome activity in Christ's cause would clear
them all away, and the sun would shine down upon men again. If you
want to be a happy Christian, work for Jesus Christ. I do not lay
that down as a specific by itself. There are other things to be taken
in conjunction with it, but yet it remains true that the woe of a
languid Christianity attaches to the men who, being professing
Christians, are silent when they should speak, and idle when they
should work.

There is, further, the woe of the loss of sympathies, and the gain of
all the discomforts and miseries of a self-absorbed life. And there
is, further, the woe of the loss of one of the best ways of
confirming one's own faith in the truth--viz. that of seeking to
impart it to others. If you want to learn a thing, teach it. If you
want to grasp the principles of any science, try to explain it to
somebody who does not understand it. If you want to know where, in
these days of jangling and controversy, the true, vital centre of the
Gospel is, and what is the essential part of the revelation of God,
go and tell sinful men about Jesus Christ who died for them; and you
will find out that it is the Cross, and Him who died thereon, as
dying for the world, that is the power which can move men's hearts.
And so you will cleave with a closer grasp, in days of difficulty and
unsettlement, to that which is able to bring light into darkness and
to harmonise the discord of a troubled and sinful soul. And, further,
there is the woe of having none that can look to you and say, 'I owe
myself to thee.' Oh, brethren! there is no greater joy accessible to
a man than that of feeling that through his poor words Christ has
entered into a brother's heart. And you are throwing away all this
because you shut your mouths and neglect the plain commandment of
your Lord.

Ay! but that is not all. There is a future to be taken into account,
and I think that Christian people do far too little realise the
solemn truth that it is not all the same _then_ whether a man
has kept his Master's commandments or neglected them. I believe that
whilst a very imperfect faith saves a man, there is such a thing as
being 'saved, yet so as through fire,' and that there is such a thing
as having 'an abundant entrance ministered unto us into the
everlasting kingdom.' He whose life has been very slightly influenced
by Christian principle, and who has neglected plain, imperative
duties, will not stand on the same level of blessedness as the man
who has more completely yielded himself in life to the constraining
power of Christ's love, and has sought to keep all His commandments.

Heaven is not a dead level. Every man there will receive as much
blessedness as he is capable of, but capacities will vary, and the
principal factor in determining the capacity, which capacity
determines the blessedness, will be the thoroughness of obedience to
all the ordinances of Christ in the course of the life upon earth.
So, though we know, and therefore dare say, little about that future,
I do beseech you to take this to heart, that he who there can stand
before God, and say, 'Behold! I and the children whom God hath given
me' will wear a crown brighter than the starless ones of those who
saved themselves, and have brought none with them.

'Some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship, they all came
safe to land.' But the place where they stand depends on their
Christian life, and of that Christian life one main element is
obedience to the commandment which makes them the apostles and
missionaries of their Lord.

III. Lastly, note the glad obedience which transcends the limits of
obligation.

'If I do this thing willingly I have a reward.' Paul desired to bring
a little more than was required, in token of his love to his Master,
and of his thankful acceptance of the obligation. The artist who
loves his work will put more work into his picture than is absolutely
needed, and will linger over it, lavishing diligence and care upon
it, because he is in love with his task. The servant who seeks to do
as little as he can scrape through with without rebuke is actuated by
no high motives. The trader who barely puts as much into the scale as
will balance the weight in the other is grudging in his dealings; but
he who, with liberal hand, gives 'shaken down, pressed together, and
running over' measure, gives because he delights in the giving.

And so it is in the Christian life. There are many of us whose
question seems to be, 'How little can I get off with? how much can I
retain?'--many of us whose effort is to find out how much of the
world is consistent with the profession of Christianity, and to find
the minimum of effort, of love, of service, of gifts which may free
us from obligation.

And what does that mean? It means that we are slaves. It means that
if we durst we would give nothing, and do nothing. And what does that
mean? It means that we do not care for the Lord, and have no joy in
our work. And what does that mean? It means that our work deserves no
praise, and will get no reward. If we love Christ we shall be
anxious, if it were possible, to do more than He commands us, in
token of our loyalty to the King, and of our delight in the service.
Of course, in the highest view, nothing can be more than necessary.
Of course He has the right to all our work; but yet there are heights
of Christian consecration and self-sacrifice which a man will not be
blamed if he has not climbed, and will be praised if he has. What we
want, if I might venture to say so, is extravagance of service. Judas
may say, 'To what purpose is this waste?' but Jesus will say, He
'hath wrought a good work on Me,' and the fragrance of the ointment
will smell sweet through the centuries.

So, dear brethren, the upshot of the whole thing is, Do not let us do
our Christian work reluctantly, else it is only slave's work, and
there is no blessing in it, and no reward will come to us from it. Do
not let us ask, 'How little may I do?' but 'How much can I do?' Thus,
asking, we shall not offer as burnt offering to the Lord that which
doth cost us nothing. On His part He has given the commandment as a
sign of His love. The stewardship is a token that He trusts us, the
duty is an honour, the burden is a grace. On our parts let us seek
for the joy of service which is not contented with the bare amount of
the tribute that is demanded, but gives something over, if it were
possible, because of our love to Him. They who thus give to Jesus
Christ their all of love and effort and service will receive it all
back a hundredfold, for the Master is not going to be in debt to any
of His servants, and He says to them all, 'I will repay it, howbeit I
say not unto thee how thou owest unto Me even thine own self
besides.'



A SERVANT OF MEN

   'For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself
   servant unto all, that I might gain the more. 20. And unto
   the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to
   them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might
   gain them that are under the law; 21. To them that are
   without law, as without law, (being not without law to
   God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them
   that are without law. 22. To the weak became I as weak,
   that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all
   men, that I might by all means save some. 23. And this I
   do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof
   with you.'--1 COR. ix. 19-23.


Paul speaks much of himself, but he is not an egotist. When he says,
'I do so and so,' it is a gracious way of enjoining the same conduct
on his readers. He will lay no burden on them which he does not
himself carry. The leader who can say 'Come' is not likely to want
followers. So, in this section, the Apostle is really enjoining on
the Corinthians the conduct which he declares is his own.

The great principle incumbent on all Christians, with a view to the
salvation of others, is to go as far as one can without
untruthfulness in the direction of finding points of resemblance and
contact with those to whom we would commend the Gospel. There is a
base counterfeit of this apostolic example, which slurs over
distinctive beliefs, and weakly tries to please everybody by
differing from nobody. That trimming to catch all winds never gains
any. Mr. Facing-both-ways is not a powerful evangelist. The motive of
becoming all things to all men must be plainly disinterested, and the
assimilation must have love for the souls concerned and eagerness to
bring the truth to them, and them to the truth, legibly stamped upon
it, or it will be regarded, and rightly so, as mere cowardice or
dishonesty. And there must be no stretching the assimilation to the
length of either concealing truth or fraternising in evil. Love to my
neighbour can never lead to my joining him in wrongdoing.

But, while the limits of this assumption of the colour of our
surroundings are plainly marked, there is ample space within these
for the exercise of this eminently Christian grace. We must get near
people if we would help them. Especially must we identify ourselves
with them in sympathy, and seek to multiply points of assimilation,
if we would draw them to Jesus Christ. He Himself had to become man
that He might gain men, and His servants have to do likewise, in
their degree. The old story of the Christian teacher who voluntarily
became a slave, that he might tell of Christ to slaves, has in spirit
to be repeated by us all.

We can do no good by standing aloof on a height and flinging down the
Gospel to the people below. They must feel that we enter into their
circumstances, prejudices, ways of thinking, and the like, if our
words are to have power. That is true about all Christian teachers,
whether of old or young. You must be a boy among boys, and try to
show that you enter into the boy's nature, or you may lecture till
doomsday and do no good.

Paul instances three cases in which he had acted, and still continued
to do so, on this principle. He was a Jew, but after his conversion
he had to 'become a Jew' by a distinct act; that is, he had receded
so far from his old self, that he, if he had had only himself to
think of, would have given up all Jewish observances. But he felt it
his duty to conciliate prejudice as far as he could, and so, though
he would have fought to the death rather than given countenance to
the belief that circumcision was necessary, he had no scruple about
circumcising Timothy; and, though he believed that for Christians the
whole ancient ritual was abolished, he was quite willing, if it would
smooth away the prejudices of the 'many thousands of Jews who
believed,' to show, by his participation in the temple worship, that
he 'walked orderly, keeping the law.' If he was told 'You must,' his
answer could only be 'I will not'; but if it was a question of
conciliating, he was ready to go all lengths for that.

The category which he names next is not composed of different persons
from the first, but of the same persons regarded from a somewhat
different point of view. 'Them that are under the law' describes
Jews, not by their race, but by their religion; and Paul was willing
to take his place among them, as we have just observed. But he will
not do that so as to be misunderstood, wherefore he protests that in
doing so he is voluntarily abridging his freedom for a specific
purpose. He is not 'under the law'; for the very pith of his view of
the Christian's position is that he has nothing to do with that
Mosaic law in any of its parts, because Christ has made him free.

The second class to whom in his wide sympathies he is able to
assimilate himself, is the opposite of the former--the Gentiles who
are 'without law.' He did not preach on Mars' Hill as he did in the
synagogues. The many-sided Gospel had aspects fitted for the Gentiles
who had never heard of Moses, and the many-sided Apostle had links of
likeness to the Greek and the barbarian. But here, too, his
assimilation of himself to those whom he seeks to win is voluntary;
wherefore he protests that he is not without law, though he
recognises no longer the obligations of Moses' law, for he is 'under
[or, rather, "in"] law to Christ.'

'The weak' are those too scrupulous-conscienced Christians of whom he
has been speaking in chapter viii. and whose narrow views he exhorted
stronger brethren to respect, and to refrain from doing what they
could do without harming their own consciences, lest by doing it they
should induce a brother to do the same, whose conscience would prick
him for it. That is a lesson needed to-day as much as, or more than,
in Paul's time, for the widely different degrees of culture and
diversities of condition, training, and associations among Christians
now necessarily result in very diverse views of Christian conduct in
many matters. The grand principle laid down here should guide us all,
both in regard to fellow-Christians and others. Make yourself as like
them as you honestly can; restrict yourself of allowable acts, in
deference to even narrow prejudices; but let the motive of your
assimilating yourself to others be clearly their highest good, that
you may 'gain' them, not for yourself but for your Master.

Verse 23 lays down Paul's ruling principle, which both impelled him
to become all things to all men, with a view to their salvation, as
he has been saying, and urged him to effort and self-discipline, with
a view to his own, as he goes on to say. 'For the Gospel's sake'
seems to point backward; 'that I may be a joint partaker thereof
points forward. We have not only to preach the Gospel to others, but
to live on it and be saved by it ourselves.



HOW THE VICTOR RUNS

   'So run, that ye may obtain.'--1 COR. ix. 24.


'_So_ run.' Does that mean 'Run so that ye obtain?' Most people,
I suppose, superficially reading the words, attach that significance
to them, but the 'so' here carries a much greater weight of meaning
than that. It is a word of comparison. The Apostle would have the
Corinthians recall the picture which he has been putting before
them--a picture of a scene that was very familiar to them; for, as
most of us know, one of the most important of the Grecian games was
celebrated at intervals in the immediate neighbourhood of Corinth.
Many of the Corinthian converts had, no doubt, seen, or even taken
part in them. The previous portion of the verse in which our text
occurs appeals to the Corinthians' familiar knowledge of the arena
and the competitors, 'Know ye not that they which run in a race run
all, but one receiveth the prize?' He would have them picture the
eager racers, with every muscle strained, and the one victor starting
to the front; and then he says, 'Look at that panting conqueror. That
is how you should run. _So_ run--'meaning thereby not, 'Run so that
you may obtain the prize,' but 'Run so' as the victor does, 'in order
that you may obtain.' So, then, this victor is to be a lesson to us,
and we are to take a leaf out of his book. Let us see what he teaches
us.

I. The first thing is, the utmost tension and energy and strenuous
effort.

It is very remarkable that Paul should pick out these Grecian games
as containing for Christian people any lesson, for they were
honeycombed, through and through, with idolatry and all sorts of
immorality, so that no Jew ventured to go near them, and it was part
of the discipline of the early Christian Church that professing
Christians should have nothing to do with them in any shape.

And yet here, as in many other parts of his letters, Paul takes these
foul things as patterns for Christians. 'There is a soul of goodness
in things evil, if we would observantly distil it out.' It is very
much as if English preachers were to refer their people to a
racecourse, and say, 'Even there you may pick out lessons, and learn
something of the way in which Christian people ought to live.'

On the same principle the New Testament deals with that diabolical
business of fighting. It is taken as an emblem for the Christian
soldier, because, with all its devilishness, there is in it this, at
least, that men give themselves up absolutely to the will of their
commander, and are ready to fling away their lives if he lifts his
finger. That at least is grand and noble, and to be imitated on a
higher plane.

In like manner Paul takes these poor racers as teaching us a lesson.
Though the thing be all full of sin, we can get one valuable thought
out of it, and it is this--If people would work half as hard to gain
the highest object that a man can set before him, as hundreds of
people are ready to do in order to gain trivial and paltry objects,
there would be fewer stunted and half-dead Christians amongst us.
'That is the way to run,' says Paul, 'if you want to obtain.'

Look at the contrast that he hints at, between the prize that stirs
these racers' energies into such tremendous operation and the prize
which Christians profess to be pursuing. 'They do it to obtain a
corruptible crown'--a twist of pine branch out of the neighbouring
grove, worth half-a-farthing, and a little passing glory not worth
much more. They do it to obtain a corruptible crown; we do _not_ do
it, though we professedly have an incorruptible one as our aim and
object. If we contrast the relative values of the objects that men
pursue so eagerly, and the objects of the Christian course, surely we
ought to be smitten down with penitent consciousness of our own
unworthiness, if not of our own hypocrisy.

It is not even there that the lesson stops, because we Christian
people may be patterns and rebukes to ourselves. For, on the one side
of our nature we show what we can do when we are really in earnest
about getting something; and on the other side we show with how
little work we can be contented, when, at bottom, we do not much care
whether we get the prize or not. If you and I really believed that
that crown of glory which Paul speaks about might be ours, and would
be all sufficing for us if it were ours, as truly as we believe that
money is a good thing, there would not be such a difference between
the way in which we clutch at the one and the apathy which scarcely
cares to put out a hand for the other. The things that are seen and
temporal do get the larger portion of the energies and thoughts of
the average Christian man, and the things that are unseen and eternal
get only what is left. Sometimes ninety per cent. of the water of a
stream is taken away to drive a milldam or do work, and only ten per
cent. can be spared to trickle down the half-dry channel and do
nothing but reflect the bright sun and help the little flowers and
the grass to grow. So, the larger portion of most lives goes to drive
the mill-wheels, and there is very little left, in the case of many
of us, in order to help us towards God, and bring us closer into
communion with our Lord. 'Run' for the crown as eagerly as you 'run'
for your incomes, or for anything that you really, in your deepest
desires, want. Take yourselves for your own patterns and your own
rebukes. Your own lives may show you how you _can_ love, hope, work,
and deny yourselves when you have sufficient inducement, and their
flame should put to shame their frost, for the warmth is directed
towards trifles and the coldness towards the crown. If you would run
for the incorruptible prize of effort in the fashion in which others
and yourselves run for the corruptible, your whole lives would be
changed. Why! if Christian people in general really took half--half?
ay! a tenth part of--the honest, persistent pains to improve their
Christian character, and become more like Jesus Christ, which a
violinist will take to master his instrument, there would be a new
life for most of our Christian communities. Hours and hours of
patient practice are not too much for the one; how many moments do we
give to the other? 'So run, that ye obtain.'

II. The victorious runner sets Christians an example of rigid
self-control.

Every man that is striving for the mastery is 'temperate in all
things.' The discipline for runners and athletes was rigid. They had
ten months of spare diet--no wine--hard gymnastic exercises every
day, until not an ounce of superfluous flesh was upon their muscles,
before they were allowed to run in the arena. And, says Paul, that is
the example for us. They practise this rigid discipline and
abstinence by way of preparation for the race, and after it was run
they might dispense with the training. You and I have to practise
rigid abstinence as part of the race, as a continuous necessity.
_They_ did not abstain only from bad things, they did not only
avoid criminal acts of sensuous indulgence; but they abstained from
many perfectly legitimate things. So for us it is not enough to say,
'I draw the line there, at this or that vice, and I will have nothing
to do with these.' You will never make a growing Christian if
abstinence from palpable sins only is your standard. You must 'lay
aside' every sin, of course, but also 'every _weight_' Many
things are 'weights' that are not 'sins'; and if we are to run fast
we must run light, and if we are to do any good in this world we have
to live by rigid control and abstain from much that is perfectly
legitimate, because, if we do not, we shall fail in accomplishing the
highest purposes for which we are here. Not only in regard to the
gross sensual indulgences which these men had to avoid, but in regard
to a great deal of the outgoings of our interests and our hearts, we
have to apply the knife very closely and cut to the quick, if we
would have leisure and sympathy and affection left for loftier
objects. It is a very easy thing to be a Christian in one aspect,
inasmuch as a Christian at bottom is a man that is trusting to Jesus
Christ, and that is not hard to do. It is a very hard thing to be a
Christian in another aspect, because a real Christian is a man who,
by reason of his trusting Jesus Christ, has set his heel upon the
neck of the animal that is in him, and keeps the flesh well down, and
not only the flesh, but the desires of the mind as well as of the
flesh, and subordinates them all to the one aim of pleasing Him. 'No
man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life' if
his object is to please Him that has called him to be a soldier.
Unless we cut off a great many of the thorns, so to speak, by which
things catch hold of us as we pass them, we shall not make much
advance in the Christian life. Rigid self-control and abstinence from
else legitimate things that draw us away from Him are needful, if we
are so to run as the poor heathen racer teaches us.

III. The last grace that is suggested here, the last leaf to take out
of these racers' book, is definiteness and concentration of aim.

'I, therefore,' says the Apostle, 'so run not as uncertainly.' If the
runner is now heading that way and now this, making all manner of
loops upon his path, of course he will be left hopelessly in the
rear. It is the old fable of the Grecian mythology transplanted into
Christian soil. The runner who turned aside to pick up the golden
apple was disappointed of his hopes of the radiant fair. The ship, at
the helm of which is a steersman who has either a feeble hand or does
not understand his business, and which therefore keeps yawing from
side to side, with the bows pointing now this way and now that, is
not holding a course that will make the harbour first in the race.
The people that to-day are marching with their faces towards Zion,
and to-morrow making a loop-line to the world, will be a long time
before they reach their terminus. I believe there are few things more
lacking in the average Christian life of to-day than resolute,
conscious concentration upon an aim which is clearly and always
before us. Do you know what you are aiming at? That is the first
question. Have you a distinct theory of life's purpose that you can
put into half a dozen words, or have you not? In the one case, there
is some chance of attaining your object; in the other one, none.
Alas! we find many Christian people who do not set before themselves,
with emphasis and constancy, as their aim the doing of God's will,
and so sometimes they do it, when it happens to be easy, and
sometimes, when temptations are strong, they do not. It needs a
strong hand on the tiller to keep it steady when the wind is blowing
in puffs and gusts, and sometimes the sail bellies full and sometimes
it is almost empty. The various strengths of the temptations that
blow us out of our course are such that we shall never keep a
straight line of direction, which is the shortest line, and the only
one on which we shall 'obtain,' unless we know very distinctly where
we want to go, and have a good strong will that has learned to say
'No!' when the temptations come. 'Whom resist steadfast in the
faith.' 'I therefore so run, not as uncertainly,' taking one course
one day and another the next.

Now, that definite aim is one that can be equally pursued in all
varieties of life. 'This one thing I do' said one who did about as
many things as most people, but the different kinds of things that
Paul did were all, at bottom, one thing. And we, in all the varieties
of our circumstances, may keep this one clear aim before us, and
whether it be in this way or in that, we may be equally and at all
times seeking the better country, and bending all circumstances and
all duty to make us more like our Master and bring us closer to Him.

The Psalmist did not offer an impossible prayer when he said: '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, to behold the
beauty of the Lord and to enquire in His temple.' Was David in 'the
house of the Lord' when he was with his sheep in the wilderness, and
when he was in Saul's palace, and when he was living with wild beasts
in dens and caves of the earth, and when he was a fugitive, hunted
like a partridge upon the mountains? Was he always in the Lord's
house? Yes! At any rate he could be. All that we do may be doing His
will, and over a life, crowded with varying circumstances and yet
simplified and made blessed by unvarying obedience, we may write,
'This one thing I do.'

But we shall not keep this one aim clear before our eyes, unless we
habituate ourselves to the contemplation of the end. The runner,
according to Paul's vivid picture in another of his letters, forgets
the things that are behind, and stretches out towards the things that
are before. And just as a man runs with his body inclining forward,
and his eager hand nearer the prize than his body, and his eyesight
and his heart travelling ahead of them both to grasp it, so if we
want to live with the one worthy aim for ours, and to put all our
effort and faith into what deserves it all--the Christian race--we
must bring clear before us continually, or at least with the utmost
frequency, the prize of our high calling, the crown of righteousness.
Then we shall run so that we may, at the last, be able to finish our
course with joy, and dying to hope with all humility that there is
laid up for us a crown of righteousness.



'CONCERNING THE CROWN'

   'They do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but
   we are incorruptible.'--1 COR. ix. 25.


One of the most famous of the Greek athletic festivals was held close
by Corinth. Its prize was a pine-wreath from the neighbouring sacred
grove. The painful abstinence and training of ten months, and the
fierce struggle of ten minutes, had for their result a twist of green
leaves, that withered in a week, and a little fading fame that was
worth scarcely more, and lasted scarcely longer. The struggle and the
discipline were noble; the end was contemptible. And so it is with
all lives whose aims are lower than the highest. They are greater in
the powers they put forth than in the objects they compass, and the
question, 'What is it for?' is like a douche of cold water from the
cart that lays the clouds of dust in the ways.

So, says Paul, praising the effort and contemning the prize, 'They do
it to obtain a corruptible crown.' And yet there was a soul of
goodness in this evil thing. Though these festivals were indissolubly
intertwined with idolatry, and besmirched with much sensuous evil,
yet he deals with them as he does with war and with slavery; points
to the disguised nobility that lay beneath the hideousness, and holds
up even these low things as a pattern for Christian men.

But I do not mean here to speak so much about the general bearing of
this text as rather to deal with its designation of the aim and
reward of Christian energy, that 'incorruptible crown' of which my
text speaks. And in doing so I desire to take into account likewise
other places in Scripture in which the same metaphor occurs.

I. The crown.

Let me recall the other places where the same metaphor is employed.
We find the Apostle, in the immediate prospect of death, rising into
a calm rapture in which imprisonment and martyrdom lose their
terrors, as he thinks of the 'crown of righteousness' which the Lord
will give to him. The Epistle of James, again, assures the man who
endures temptation that 'the Lord will give him the crown of life
which He has promised to all them that love Him.' The Lord Himself
from heaven repeats that promise to the persecuted Church at Smyrna:
'Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.'
The elders cast their crowns before the feet of Him that sitteth upon
the throne. The Apostle Peter, in his letter, stimulates the elders
upon earth to faithful discharge of their duty, by the hope that
thereby they shall 'receive a crown of righteousness that fadeth not
away.' So all these instances taken together with this of my text
enable us to gather two or three lessons.

It is extremely unlikely that all these instances of the occurrence
of the emblem carry with them reference, such as that in my text, to
the prize at the athletic festivals. For Peter and James, intense
Jews as they were, had probably never seen, and possibly never heard
of, the struggles at the Isthmus and at Olympus and elsewhere. The
Book of the Revelation draws its metaphors almost exclusively from
the circle of Jewish practices and things. So that we have to look in
other directions than the arena or the racecourse to explain these
other uses of the image. It is also extremely unlikely that in these
other passages the reference is to a crown as the emblem of
sovereignty, for that idea is expressed, as a rule, by another word
in Scripture, which we have Anglicised as 'diadem.' The 'crown' in
all these passages is a garland twisted out of some growth of the
field. In ancient usage roses were twined for revellers; pine-shoots
or olive branches for the victors in the games; while the laurel was
'the meed of mighty conquerors'; and plaited oak leaves were laid
upon the brows of citizens who had deserved well of their country,
and myrtle sprays crowned the fair locks of the bride.

And thus in these directions, and not towards the wrestling ground or
the throne of the monarch, must we look for the ideas suggested by
the emblem.

Now, if we gather together all these various uses of the word, there
emerge two broad ideas, that the 'crown' which is the Christian's aim
symbolises a state of triumphant repose and of festal enjoyment.
There are other aspects of that great and dim future which correspond
to other necessities of our nature, and I suppose some harm has been
done and some misconceptions have been induced, and some unreality
imported into the idea of the Christian future, by the too exclusive
prominence given to these two ideas--victorious rest after the
struggle, and abundant satisfaction of all desires. That future is
other and more than a festival; it is other and more than repose.
There are larger fields there for the operation of powers that have
been trained and evolved here. The faithfulness of the steward is
exchanged, according to Christ's great words, for the authority of
the ruler over many cities. But still, do we not all know enough of
the worry and turbulence and strained effort of the conflict here
below, to feel that to some of our deepest and not ignoble needs and
desires that image appeals? The helmet that pressed upon the brow
even whilst it protected the brain, and wore away the hair even
whilst it was a defence, is lifted off, and on unruffled locks the
garland is intertwined that speaks victory and befits a festival. One
of the old prophets puts the same metaphor in words imperfectly
represented by the English translation, when he promises 'a crown' or
a garland 'for ashes'--instead of the symbol of mourning, strewed
grey and gritty upon the dishevelled hair of the weepers, flowers
twined into a wreath--'the oil of joy for mourning,' and the festival
'garment of praise' to dress the once heavy spirit. So the
satisfaction of all desires, the accompaniments of a feast, in
abundance, rejoicing and companionship, and conclusive conquest over
all foes, are promised us in this great symbol.

But let us look at the passages separately, and we shall find that
they present the one thought with differences, and that if we combine
these, as in a stereoscope, the picture gains solidity.

The crown is described in three ways. It is the crown of 'life,' of
'glory' and of 'righteousness.' And I venture to think that these
three epithets describe the material, so to speak, of which the
wreath is composed. The everlasting flower of life, the radiant
blossoms of glory, the white flower of righteousness; these are its
components.

I need not enlarge upon them, nor will your time allow that I should.
Here we have the promise of life, that fuller life which men want,
'the life of which our veins are scant,' even in the fullest tide and
heyday of earthly existence. The promise sets that future over
against the present, as if then first should men know what it means
to live: so buoyant, elastic, unwearied shall be their energies, so
manifold the new outlets for activity, and the new inlets for the
surrounding glory and beauty; so incorruptible and glorious shall be
their new being. Here we live a living death; there we shall live
indeed; and that will be the crown, not only in regard to physical,
but in regard to spiritual, powers and consciousness.

But remember that all this full tide of life is Christ's gift. There
is no such thing as natural immortality; there is no such thing as
independent life. All Being, from the lowest creature up to the
loftiest created spirit, exists by one law, the continual impartation
to it of life from the fountain of life, according to its capacities.
And unless Jesus Christ, all through the eternal ages of the future,
imparted to the happy souls that sit garlanded at His board the life
by which they live, the wreaths would wither on their brows, and the
brows would melt away, and dissolve from beneath the wreaths. 'I will
give him a crown of life.'

It is a crown of 'glory,' and that means a lustrousness of character
imparted by radiation and reflection from the central light of the
glory of God. 'Then shall the righteous blaze out like the sun in the
Kingdom of My Father.' Our eyes are dim, but we can at least divine
the far-off flashing of that great light, and may ponder upon what
hidden depths and miracles of transformed perfectness and unimagined
lustre wait for us, dark and limited as we are here, in the assurance
that we all shall be changed into the 'likeness of the body of His
glory.'

It is a crown of 'righteousness.' Though that phrase may mean the
wreath that rewards righteousness, it seems more in accordance with
the other similar expressions to which I have referred to regard it,
too, as the material of which the crown is composed. It is not enough
that there should be festal gladness, not enough that there should be
calm repose, not enough that there should be flashing glory, not
enough that there should be fulness of life. To accord with the
intense moral earnestness of the Christian system there must be,
emphatically, in the Christian hope, cessation of all sin and
investiture with all purity. The word means the same thing as the
ancient promise, 'Thy people shall be all righteous.' It means the
same thing as the latest promise of the ascended Christ, 'They shall
walk with Me in white.' And it sets, I was going to say, the very
climax and culmination on the other hopes, declaring that absolute,
stainless, infallible righteousness which one day shall belong to our
weak and sinful spirits.

These, then, are the elements, and on them all is stamped the
signature of perpetuity. The victor's wreath is tossed on the ashen
heap, the reveller's flowers droop as he sits in the heat of the
banqueting-hall; the bride's myrtle blossom fades though she lay it
away in a safe place. The crown of life is incorruptible. It is
twined of amaranth, ever blossoming into new beauty and never fading.

II. Now look, secondly, at the discipline by which the crown is won.

Observe, first of all, that in more than one of the passages to which
we have already referred great emphasis is laid upon Christ as
_giving_ the crown. That is to say, that blessed future is not
won by effort, but is bestowed as a free gift. It is given from the
hands which have procured it, and, as I may say, twined it for us.
Unless His brows had been pierced with the crown of thorns, ours
would never have worn the garland of victory. Jesus provides the sole
means, by His work, by which any man can enter into that inheritance;
and Jesus, as the righteous Judge who bestows the rewards, which are
likewise the results, of our life here, gives the crown. It remains
for ever the gift of His love. 'The wages of sin is death,' but we
rise above the region of retribution and desert when we pass to the
next clause--'the gift of God is eternal life,' and that 'through
Jesus Christ.'

Whilst, then, this must be laid as the basis of all, there must also,
with equal earnestness and clearness, be set forth the other thought
that Christ's gift has conditions, which conditions these passages
plainly set forth. In the one, which I have read as a text, we have
these conditions declared as being twofold--protracted discipline and
continuous effort. The same metaphor employed by the same Apostle, in
his last dying utterance, associates his consciousness that he had
fought the good fight and run his race, like the pugilists and
runners of the arena, with the hope that he shall receive the crown
of righteousness. James declares that it is given to the man who
_endures_ temptation, not only in the sense of bearing, but of
so bearing as not thereby to be injured in Christian character and
growth in Christian life. Peter asserts that it is the reward of
self-denying discharge of duty. And the Lord from heaven lays down
the condition of faithfulness unto death as the necessary
pre-requisite of His gift of the crown of life. In two of the
passages there is included, though not precisely on the level of
these other requirements, the love of Him and the love of 'His
appearing,' as the necessary qualifications for the gift of the
crown.

So, to begin with, unless a man has such a love to Jesus Christ as
that he is happy in His presence, and longs to have Him near, as
parted loving souls do; and, especially, is looking forward to that
great judicial coming, and feeling that there is no tremor in his
heart at the prospect of meeting the Judge, but an outgoing of desire
and love at the hope of seeing his Saviour and his Friend, what right
has he to expect the crown? None. And he will never get it. There is
a test for us which may well make some of us ask ourselves, Are we
Christians, then, at all?

And then, beyond that, there are all these other conditions which I
have pointed out, which may be gathered into one--strenuous discharge
of daily duty and continual effort after following in Christ's
footsteps.

This needs to be as fully and emphatically preached as the other
doctrine that eternal life is the gift of God. All manner of
mischiefs may come, and have come, from either of these twin
thoughts, wrenched apart. But let us weave them as closely together
as the stems of the flowers that make the garlands are twined, and
feel that there is a perfect consistency of both in theory, and that
there must be a continual union of both, in our belief and in our
practice. Eternal life is the gift of God, on condition of our
diligence and earnestness. It is not all the same whether you are a
lazy Christian or not. It does make an eternal difference in our
condition whether here we 'run with patience the race that is set
before us, looking unto Jesus.' We have to receive the crown as a
gift; we have to wrestle and run, as contending for a prize.

III. And now, lastly, note the power of the reward as motive for
life.

Paul says roundly in our text that the desire to obtain the
incorruptible crown is a legitimate spring of Christian action. Now,
I do not need to waste your time and my own in defending Christian
morality from the fantastic objection that it is low and selfish,
because it encourages itself to efforts by the prospect of the crown.
If there are any men who are Christians--if such a contradiction can
be even stated in words--only because of what they hope to gain
thereby in another world, they will not get what they hope for; and
they would not like it if they did. I do not believe that there are
any such; and sure I am, if there are, that it is not Christianity
that has made them so. But a thought that we must not take as a
supreme motive, we may rightly accept as a subsidiary encouragement.
We are not Christians unless the dominant motive of our lives be the
love of the Lord Jesus Christ; and unless we feel a necessity,
because of loving Him, to aim to be like Him. But, that being so, who
shall hinder me from quickening my flagging energies, and stimulating
my torpid faith, and encouraging my cowardice, by the thought that
yonder there remain rest, victory, the fulness of life, the flashing
of glory, and the purity of perfect righteousness? If such hopes are
low and selfish as motives, would God that more of us were obedient
to such low and selfish motives!

Now it seems to me, that this spring of action is not as strong in
the Christians of this day as it used to be, and as it should be. You
do not hear much about heaven in ordinary preaching. I do not think
it occupies a very large place in the average Christian man's mind.
We have all got such a notion nowadays of the great good that the
Gospel does in society and in the present, and some of us have been
so frightened by the nonsense that has been talked about the
'other-worldliness' of Christianity--as if that was a disgrace to
it--that it seems to me that the future of glory and blessedness has
very largely faded away, as a motive for Christian men's energies,
like the fresco off a neglected convent wall.

And I want to say, dear brethren, that I believe, for my part, that
we suffer terribly by the comparative neglect into which this side of
Christian truth has fallen. Do you not think that it would make a
difference to you if you really believed, and carried always with you
in your thoughts, the thrilling consciousness that every act of the
present was registered, and would tell on the far side yonder? We do
not know much of that future, and these days are intolerant of mere
unverifiable hypotheses. But accuracy of knowledge and definiteness
of impression do not always go together, nor is there the fulness of
the one wanted for the clearness and force of the other. Though the
thread which we throw across the abyss is very slender, it is strong
enough, like the string of a boy's kite, to bear the messengers of
hope and desire that we may send up by it, and strong enough to bear
the gifts of grace that will surely come down along it.

We cannot understand to-day unless we look at it with eternity for a
background. The landscape lacks its explanation, until the mists lift
and we see the white summits of the Himalayas lying behind and
glorifying the low sandy plain. Would your life not be different;
would not the things in it that look great be wholesomely dwindled
and yet be magnified; would not sorrow be calmed, and life become 'a
solemn scorn of ills,' and energies be stimulated, and all be
different, if you really 'did it to obtain an incorruptible crown?'

Brethren, let us try to keep more clearly before us, as solemn and
blessed encouragement in our lives, these great thoughts. The garland
hangs on the goal, but 'a man is not crowned unless he strive
according to the laws' of the arena. The laws are two--No man can
enter for the conflict but by faith in Christ; no man can win in the
struggle but by faithful effort. So the first law is, 'Believe on the
Lord Jesus Christ,' and the second is, 'Hold fast that thou hast; let
no man take thy crown.'



THE LIMITS OF LIBERTY

   'All things are lawful for me, but all things are not
   expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things
   edify not. 24. Let no man seek his own, but every man
   another's wealth. 25. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles,
   that eat, asking no question for conscience sake.
   26. For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.
   27. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast,
   and ye be disposed togo, whatsoever is set before you
   eat, asking no question for conscience sake. 28. But
   if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice
   unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and
   for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's and
   the fulness thereof: 29. Conscience, I say, not thine
   own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged
   of another man's conscience? 30. For if I by grace be
   a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which
   I give thanks? 31. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink,
   or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
   32. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the
   Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33. Even as I
   please all men in all things, not seeking mine own
   profit, but the profit of many, that they may be
   saved.'--1 COR. x. 23-33.


This passage strikingly illustrates Paul's constant habit of solving
questions as to conduct by the largest principles. He did not keep
his 'theology' and his ethics in separate water-tight compartments,
having no communication with each other. The greatest truths were
used to regulate the smallest duties. Like the star that guided the
Magi, they burned high in the heavens, but yet directed to the house
in Bethlehem.

The question here in hand was one that pressed on the Corinthian
Christians, and is very far away from our experience. Idolatry had so
inextricably intertwined itself with daily life that it was hard to
keep up any intercourse with non-Christians without falling into
constructive idolatry; and one very constantly obtruding difficulty
was that much of the animal food served on private tables had been
slaughtered as sacrifices or with certain sacrificial rites. What was
a Christian to do in such a case? To eat or not to eat? Both views
had their vehement supporters in the Corinthian church, and the
importance of the question is manifest from the large space devoted
to it in this letter.

In chapter viii. we have a weighty paragraph, in which one phase of
the difficulty is dealt with--the question whether a Christian ought
to attend a feast in an idol temple, where, of course, the viands had
been offered as sacrifices. But in chapter x. Paul deals with the
case in which the meat had been bought in the flesh-market, and so
was not necessarily sacrificial. Paul's manner of handling the point
is very instructive. He envelops, as it were, the practical solution
in a wrapping of large principles; verses 23, 24 precede the specific
answer, and are general principles; verses 25-30 contain the
practical answer; verses 31-33 and verse 1 of the next chapter are
again general principles, wide and imperative enough to mould all
conduct, as well as to settle the matter immediately in hand, which,
important as it was at Corinth, has become entirely uninteresting to
us.

We need not spend time in elucidating the specific directions given
as to the particular question in hand further than to note the
immense gift of saving common-sense which Paul had, and how sanely
and moderately he dealt with his problem. His advice was--'Don't ask
where the joint set before you came from. If you do not know that it
was offered, your eating of it does not commit you to idol worship.'
No doubt there were Corinthian Christians with inflamed consciences
who did ask such questions, and rather prided themselves on their
strictness and rigidity; but Paul would have them let sleeping dogs
lie. If, however, the meat is known to have been offered to an idol,
then Paul is as rigid and strict as they are. That combination of
willingness to go as far as possible, and inflexible determination
not to go one step farther, of yieldingness wherever principle does
not come in, and of iron fixedness wherever it does, is rare indeed,
but should be aimed at by all Christians. The morality of the Gospel
would make more way in the world if its advocates always copied the
'sweet reasonableness' of Paul, which, as he tells us in this
passage, he learned from Jesus.

As to the wrapping of general principles, they may all be reduced to
one--the duty of limiting Christian liberty by consideration for
others. In the two verses preceding the practical precepts, that duty
is stated with reference entirely to the obligations flowing from our
relationship to others. We are all bound together by a mystical chain
of solidarity. Since every man is my neighbour, I am bound to think
of him and not only of myself in deciding what I may do or refrain
from doing. I must abstain from lawful things if, by doing them, I
should be likely to harm my neighbour's building up of a strong
character. I can, or I believe that I can, pursue some course of
conduct, engage in some enterprise, follow some line of life, without
damage to myself, either in regard to worldly position, or in regard
to my religious life. Be it so, but I have to take some one else into
account. Will my example call out imitation in others, to whom it may
be harmful or fatal to do as I can do with real or supposed impunity?
If so, I am guilty of something very like murder if I do not abstain.

'What harm is there in betting a shilling? I can well afford to lose
it, and I can keep myself from the feverish wish to risk more.' Yes,
and you are thereby helping to hold up that gambling habit which is
ruining thousands.

'I can take alcohol in moderation, and it does me no harm, and I can
go to a prayer-meeting after my dinner and temperate glass, and I am
within my Christian liberty in doing so.' Yes, and you take part
thereby in the greatest curse that besets our country, and are, by
countenancing the drink habit, guilty of the blood of souls. How any
Christian man can read these two verses and not abstain from all
intoxicants is a mystery. They cut clean through all the pleas for
moderate drinking, and bring into play another set of principles
which limit liberty by regard to others' good. Surely, if there was
ever a subject to which these words apply, it is the use of alcohol,
the proved cause of almost all the crime and poverty on both sides of
the Atlantic. To the Christians who plead their 'liberty' we can only
say, 'Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he
alloweth.'

The same general considerations reappear in the verses following the
specific precept, but with a difference. The neighbour's profit is
still put forth as the limiting consideration, but it is elevated to
a higher sacredness of obligation by being set in connection with the
'glory of God' and the example of Christ. 'Do all to the glory of
God.' To put the thought here into modern English--Could you ask a
blessing over a glass of spirits when you think that, though it
should do you no harm, your taking it may, as it were, tip some weak
brother over the precipice? Can you drink to God's glory when you
know that drink is slaying thousands body and soul, and that hopeless
drunkards are made by wholesale out of moderate drinkers? 'Give no
occasion of stumbling'; do not by your example tempt others into
risky courses. And remember that 'neighbour' (verse 24) resolves
itself into 'Jews' and 'Greeks' and the 'Church of God'--that is,
substantially to your own race and other races--to men with whom you
have affinities, and to men with whom you have none.

A Christian man is bound to shape his life so that no man shall be
able to say of him that he was the occasion of that one's fall. He is
so bound because every man is his neighbour. He is so bound because
he is bound to live to the glory of God, which can never be advanced
by laying stumbling-blocks in the way for feeble feet. He is so bound
because, unless Christ had limited Himself within the bound of
manhood, and had sought not His own profit or pleasure, we should
have had neither life nor hope. For all these reasons, the duty of
thinking of others, and of abstaining, for their sakes, from what one
might do, is laid on all Christians. How do they discharge that duty
who will not forswear alcohol for their neighbour's sake?



'IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME'

   'This do in remembrance of Me.'--1 COR. xi. 24.


The account of the institution of the Lord's Supper, contained in
this context, is very much the oldest extant narrative of that event.
It dates long before any of the Gospels, and goes up, probably, to
somewhere about five and twenty years after the Crucifixion. It
presupposes a previous narrative which had been orally delivered to
the Corinthians, and, as the Apostle alleges, was derived by him from
Christ Himself. It is intended to correct corruptions in the
administration of the rite which must have taken some time to develop
themselves. And so we are carried back to a period very close indeed
to the first institution of the rite, by the words before us.

No reasonable doubt can exist, then, that within a very few years of
our Lord's death, the whole body of Christian people believed that
Jesus Christ Himself appointed the Lord's Supper. I do not stay to
dwell upon the value of a rite contemporaneous with the fact which it
commemorates, and continuously lasting throughout the ages, as a
witness of the historical veracity of the alleged fact; but I want to
fix upon this thought, that Jesus Christ, who cared very little for
rites, who came to establish a religion singularly independent of any
outward form, did establish two rites, one of them to be done once in
a Christian lifetime, one of them to be repeated with indefinite
frequency, and, as it appears, at first repeated daily by the early
believers. The reason why these two, and only these two, external
ordinances were appointed by Jesus Christ was, that, taken together,
they cover the whole ground of revealed fact, and they also cover the
whole ground of Christian experience. There is no room for any other
rites, because these two, the rite of initiation, which is baptism,
and the rite of commemoration, which is the Lord's Supper, say
everything about Christianity as a revelation, and about Christianity
as a living experience.

Not only so, but in the simple primitive form of the Lord's Supper
there is contained a reference to the past, the present and the
future. It covers all time as well as all revelation and all
Christian experience. For the past, as the text shows us, it is a
memorial of one Person, and one fact in that Person's life. For the
present, it is the symbol of the Christian life, as that great sixth
chapter in John's gospel sets forth; and for the future, it is a
prophecy, as our Lord Himself said on that night in the upper
chamber, 'Till I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom,' and
as the Apostle in this context says, 'Till He come.' It is to these
three aspects of this ordinance, as the embodiment of all essential
Christian truth, and as the embodiment of all deep Christian
experience, covering the past, the present, and the future, that I
wish to turn now. I do not deal so much with the mere words of my
text as with this threefold significance of the rite which it
appoints.

I. So then, first, we have to think of it as a memorial of the past.

'Do this,' is the true meaning of the words, not 'in remembrance of
Me,' but something far more sweet and pathetic--'do this for the
_remembering_ of Me.' The former expression is equal to 'Do this
because you remember.' The real meaning of the words is, 'Do this in
case you forget'; do this in order that you may recall to memory what
the slippery memory is so apt to lose--the impression of even the
sweetest sweetness, of the most loving love, and the most
self-abnegating sacrifice, which He offered for us.

There is something to me infinitely pathetic and beautiful in looking
at the words not only as the commandment of the Lord, but as the
appeal of the Friend, who wished, as we all do, not to be utterly
forgotten by those whom He cared for and loved; and who, not only
because their remembrance was their salvation, but because their
forgetfulness pained His human heart, brings to their hearts the
plaintive appeal: 'Do not forget Me when I am gone away from you; and
even if you have no better way of remembering Me, take these poor
symbols, to which I am not too proud to entrust the care of My
memory, and do this, lest you forget Me.'

But, dear brethren, there are deeper thoughts than this, on which I
must dwell briefly. 'In remembrance of Me'--Jesus Christ, then, takes
up an altogether unique and solitary position here, and into the
sacredest hours of devotion and the loftiest moments of communion
with God, intrudes His personality, and says, 'When you are most
religious, remember Me; and let the highest act of your devout life
be a thought turned to Myself.'

Now, I want you to ask, is that thought diverted from God? And if it
is not, how comes it not to be? I want you honestly to ask yourselves
this question--what did _He_ think about Himself who, at that
moment, when all illusions were vanishing, and life was almost at its
last ebb, took the most solemn rite of His nation and laid it
solemnly aside and said: 'A greater than Moses is here; a greater
deliverance is being wrought': 'Remember Me.' Is that insisting on
His own personality, and making the remembrance of it the very apex
and shining summit of all religious aspiration--is that the work of
one about whom all that we have to say is, He was the noblest of men?
If so, then I want to know how Jesus Christ, in that upper chamber,
founding the sole continuous rite of the religion which He
established, and making its heart and centre the remembrance of His
own personality, can be cleared from the charge of diverting to
Himself what belongs to God only, and how you and I, if we obey His
commands, escape the crime of idolatry and man-worship? 'Do this in
remembrance,'--not of God--'in remembrance of Me,' 'and let memory,
with all its tendrils, clasp and cleave to My person.' What an
extraordinary demand! It is obscuring God, unless the 'Me' _is_ God
manifest in the flesh.

Then, still further, let me remind you that in the appointment of
this solitary rite as His memorial to all generations, Jesus Christ
Himself designates one part of His whole manifestation as the part
into which all its pathos, significance, and power are concentrated.
We who believe that the death of Christ is the life of the world, are
told that one formidable objection to our belief is that Jesus Christ
Himself said so little during His life about His death. I believe His
reticence upon that question is much exaggerated, but apart
altogether from that, I believe also that there was a necessity in
the order of the evolution of divine truth, for the reticence, such
as it is, because, whatsoever might be possible to Moses and Elias,
on the Mount of Transfiguration, 'His decease which He should
accomplish at Jerusalem,' could not be much spoken about in the plain
till it had been accomplished. But, apart from both of these
considerations, reflect, that whether He said much about His death or
not, He said something very much to the purpose about it when He said
'Do this in remembrance of Me.'

It is not His personality only that we are to remember. The whole of
the language of the institution of the ritual, as well as the form of
the rite, and its connection with the ancient passover, and its
connection with the new covenant into connection with which Christ
Himself brings it, all point to the significance in His eyes of His
death as the Sacrifice for the world's sin. Wherefore 'the body' and
'the blood' separately remembered, except to indicate death by
violence? Wherefore the language 'the body _broken_ for you';
'the blood _shed_ for many for the remission of sins?' Wherefore the
association with the Passover sacrifice? Wherefore the declaration
that 'this is the blood of the Covenant,' unless all tended to the
one thought--His death is the foundation of all loving relationships
possible to us with God; and the condition of the remission of
sins--the Sacrifice for the whole world?'

This is the point that He desires us to remember; this is that which
He would have live for ever in our grateful hearts.

I say nothing about the absolute exclusion of any other purpose of
this memorial rite. If it was the mysterious thing that the
superstition of later ages has made of it, how, in the name of
common-sense, does it come that not one syllable, looking in that
direction, dropped from His lips when He established it? Surely He,
in that upper chamber, knew best what He meant, and what He was doing
when He established the rite; and I, for my part, am contented to be
told that I believe in a poor, bald Zwinglianism, when I say with my
Master, that the purpose of the Lord's Supper is simply the
commemoration, and therein the proclamation, of His death. There is
no magic, no mystery, no 'sacrament' about it. It blesses us when it
makes us remember Him. It does the same thing for us which any other
means of bringing Him to mind does. It does that through a different
vehicle. A sermon does it by words, the Communion does it by symbols.
That is the difference to be found between them. And away goes the
whole fabric of superstitious Christianity, and all its mischiefs and
evils, when once you accept the simple 'Remember.' Christ told us
what He meant by the rite when He said 'Do this in remembrance of
Me.'

II. And now one word or two more about the other particulars which I
have suggested. The past, however sweet and precious, is not enough
for any soul to live upon. And so this memorial rite, just because it
is memorial, is a symbol for the present.

That is taught us in the great chapter--the sixth of John's
Gospel--which was spoken long before the institution of the Lord's
Supper, but expresses in words the same ideas which it expresses by
material forms. The Christ who died is the Christ who lives, and must
be lived upon by the Christian. If our relation to Jesus Christ were
only that 'Once in the end of the ages He appeared to put away sin by
the sacrifice of Himself'; and if we had to look back through
lengthening vistas of distance and thickening folds of oblivion,
simply to a historical past, in which He was once offered, the
retrospect would not have the sweetness in it which it now has. But
when we come to this thought that the Christ who was for us is also
the Christ in us, and that He is not the Christ for us unless He is
the Christ in us; and His death will never wash away our sins unless
we feed upon Him, here and now, by faith and meditation, then the
retrospect becomes blessedness. The Christian life is not merely the
remembrance of a historical Christ in the past, but it is the present
participation in a living Christ, with us now.

He is near each of us that we may make Him the very food of our
spirits. We are to live upon Him. He is to be incorporated within us
by our own act. This is no mysticism, it is a piece of simple
reality. There is no Christian life without it. The true life of the
believer is just the feeding of our souls upon Him,--our minds
accepting, meditating upon, digesting the truths which are incarnated
in Jesus; our hearts feeding upon the love which is so tender, warm,
stooping, and close; our wills feeding upon and nourished by the
utterance of His will in commandments which to know is joy and to
keep is liberty; our hopes feeding upon Him who is our Hope, and in
whom they find no chaff and husks of peradventures, but the pure
wheat of 'Verily! verily I say unto you'; the whole nature thus
finding its nourishment in Jesus Christ. You are Christians in the
measure in which the very strength of your spirits, and sustenance of
all your faculties, are found in loving communion with the living
Lord.

Remember, too, that all this communion, intimate, sweet, sacred, is
possible only, or at all events is in its highest forms and most
blessed reality, possible only, to those who approach Him through the
gate of His death. The feeding upon the living Christ which will be
the strength of our hearts and our portion for ever, must be a
feeding upon the whole Christ. We must not only nourish our spirits
on the fact that He was incarnated for our salvation, but also on the
truth that He was crucified for our acceptance with God. 'He that
eateth Me, even he shall live by Me,' has for its deepest
explanation, 'He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath
eternal life.'

My friends, what about the hunger of your souls? Where is it
satisfied? With the swine's husks, or with the 'Bread of God which
came down from Heaven?'

III. Now, lastly, that rite which is a memorial and a symbol is also
a prophecy.

In the original words of the institution our Lord Himself makes
reference to the future; 'till I drink it new with you in My Father's
kingdom.' And in the context here, the Apostle provides for the
perpetual continuance, and emphasises the prophetic aspect, of
the rite, by that word, 'till He come.' His death necessarily implies
His coming again. The Cross and the Throne are linked together by an
indissoluble bond. Being what it is, the death cannot be the end.
Being what He is, if He has once been offered to bear the sins of
many, so He must come the second time without sin unto salvation. The
rite, just because it is a rite, is the prophecy of a time when the
need for it, arising from weak flesh and an intrusive world, shall
cease. 'They shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord;
at that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord.' There
shall be no temple in that great city, because the Lord God Almighty
and the Lamb are the Temple thereof. So all external worship is a
prophecy of the coming of the perfect time, when that which is
perfect being come, the external helps and ladders to climb to the
loftiest shall be done away.

But more than that, the memorial and symbol is a prophecy. That upper
chamber, with its troubled thoughts, its unbidden tears, starting to
the eyes of the half-understanding listeners, who only felt that He
was going away and the sweet companionship was dissolved, may seem to
be but a blurred and a poor image of the better communion of heaven.
But though on that sad night the Master bore a burdened heart, and
the servants had but partial apprehension and a more partial love;
though He went forth to agonise and to die, and they went forth to
deny and to betray, and to leave Him alone, still it was a prophecy
of Christ's table in His kingdom. Heaven is to be a feast. That
representation promises society to the solitary, rest to the toilers,
the oil of joy for mourning, and the full satisfaction of all
desires. That heavenly feast surpasses indeed the antitype in the
upper chamber, in that there the Master Himself partook not, and
yonder we shall sup with Him and He with us, but is prophetic in
that, as there He took a towel and girded Himself and washed the
disciples' feet, so yonder He will come forth Himself and serve them.
The future is unlike the prophetic past in that 'we shall go no more
out'; there shall be no sequences of sorrow, and struggle, and
distance and ignorance; but like it in that we shall feast on Christ,
for through eternity the glorified Jesus will be the Bread of our
spirits, and the fact of His past sacrifice the foundation of our
hopes.

So, dear brethren, though our external celebration of this rite be
dashed, as it always is, with much ignorance and with feeble faith;
and though we gather round this table as the first generation of
Israelites did round the passover, of which it is the successor, with
staff in hand and loins girded, and have to eat it often with bitter
herbs mingled, and though there be at our sides empty places, yet even
in our clouded and partial apprehension, and in the imperfections of
this outward type, we may see a gracious shadow of what is waiting
for us when we shall go no more out, and all empty places shall be
filled, and the bitter herbs shall be changed for the asphodel of
Heaven and the sweet flowerage round the throne of God, and we shall
feast upon the Christ, and in the loftiest experience of the utmost
glories of the Heavens, shall remember the bitter Cross and agony as
that which has bought it all. 'This do in remembrance of Me.' May it
be a symbol of our inmost life, and the prophecy of the Heaven to
which we each shall come!



THE UNIVERSAL GIFT

   'The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man
   to profit withal.'--1 COR. xii. 7.


The great fact which to-day[1] commemorates is too often regarded as
if it were a transient gift, limited to those on whom it was first
bestowed. We sometimes hear it said that the great need of the
Christian world is a second Pentecost, a fresh outpouring of the
Spirit of God and the like. Such a way of thinking and speaking
misconceives the nature and significance of the first Pentecost,
which had a transient element in it, but in essence was permanent.
The rushing mighty wind and the cloven tongues of fire, and the
strange speech in many languages, were all equally transient. The
rushing wind swept on, and the house was no more filled with it. The
tongues flickered into invisibility and disappeared from the heads.
The hubbub of many languages was quickly silent. But that which these
things but symbolised is permanent; and we are not to think of
Pentecost as if it were a sudden gush from a great reservoir, and the
sluice was let down again after it, but as if it were the entrance
into a dry bed, of a rushing stream, whose first outgush was attended
with noise, but which thereafter flows continuous and unbroken. If
churches or individuals are scant of that gift, it is not because it
has not been bestowed, but because it has not been accepted.

My text tells us two things: it unconditionally and broadly asserts
that every Christian possesses this great gift--the manifestation is
given to every man; and then it asserts that the gift of each is
meant to be utilised for the good of all. 'The manifestation is given
to every man to profit withal.'

I. Let me, then, say a word or two, to begin with, about the
universality of this gift.

Now, that is implied in our Lord's own language, as commented upon by
the Evangelist. For Jesus Christ declared that this was the standing
law of His kingdom, to be universally applied to all its members,
that 'He that believeth on Him, out of him shall flow rivers of
living water'; and the Evangelist's comment goes on to say, 'This
spake He of the Spirit which they that believe on Him should
receive.' _There_ is the condition and the qualification. Wherever
there is faith, there the Spirit of God is bestowed, and bestowed in
the measure in which faith is exercised. So, then, in full accordance
with such fundamental principles in reference to the gift of the
Spirit of God, comes the language of my text, and of many another
text to which I cannot do more than refer. But let me just quote one
or two of them, in order that I may make more emphatic what I believe
a great many Christian people do not realise as they ought--viz. that
the gift of God's Holy Spirit is not a thing to be desired, as if it
were not possessed or confined to select individuals, or manifested
by exception