Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.Christian Liberty
What is 'liberty?' Obedience to oneself; obedience to a law which is written in a man's own heart. If I obey myself, and myself is not a right self, it is, indeed, 'liberty,' but, being a bad liberty, it becomes 'licentiousness'. If I obey a law outside me, and the law within me is opposed to that outer law which I obey, the act I do may be quite right, and the only right one, but my obedience is not 'liberty,' it is compulsion; it is bondage. Liberty is when the outer law and the inner law are the same, and both are good. Christ made that agreement possible by His Cross. The Holy Ghost makes that agreement a fact by His operation in the heart. Self is never liberty, because self and God are two principles which must unite before a person can be free; and a sinful life never combines the two. Let us see how Christ gives 'liberty,' and what that 'liberty' is. We will look at it from three points of view.
I. Liberty from the Past.—Every one has a past which letters him. There are things in your life which you can scarcely dare to look back upon, and when you do they shackle you. You feel that so long as those things are there, it is of little or no use to set about and try to live a better life. No future can undo them. Now, just to meet all this—the Cross of Christ having cancelled all the guilt, and paid all the penalty—the moment a man really believes, and accepts his pardon, he is cut off from all his sinful past! It is placed 'behind God's back'. It is 'cast into the depths of the sea'. It is as though it had never been. He may start quite afresh. No shadow, no fear, need come up from the years that are gone. He stands a liberated man! Now he can go—as Christ's freedman—with a spring—to better things to come. The God of his fear has been turned into the God of his love! And that is 'liberty' from the past 'wherewith Christ hath made us free'—the purchase of His cross, the gift of His throne.
II. Liberty from the Present.—Now look to the 'liberty' from the present. If I have received Christ into my heart. I am a pardoned man, I am a happy man, and I know and feel that I owe all my happiness to Him—therefore I love Him; I cannot choose but love Him; and my first desire is to please Him; to follow Him; to be like Him; to be with Him. And all the while there is a power working in me which is a great Liberator. He breaks chains for me. He opens doors for me. He emancipates me from the thraldom of the world—its habits, its opinions, its sneers, its judgments. He gives me an independence and a manliness which is my strength. And I know no other bond but His, which is the dearest to me in all the world, and that is liberty! And then see to what I am admitted. I can go into the presence of God. I can consult Him in every difficulty, and confess to Him every thought, and know it is forgiven then and there. I am free to His mercy-seat. I am free to His court. All the promises are mine. Oh, what a 'liberty' is this! What is all this earth can give, by the side of that blessed feeling? This is the present liberty wherewith Christ has made His people free.
III. Liberty from the Future.—And what of the future? A vista running up to glory! But are there no dark places? Chiefly in the anticipation. When they come they will bring their own escapes and their own balances. But my future—be it what it may—is all covenanted. Christ has told me not to be anxious about it. And I can never doubt Him. He has undertaken for me in everything. He will never leave me. He will be at my side all the way, and my path and my heart are both quite free! I am quite free from all my future. To die will be a very little thing. The grave cannot hold me. He has been through, and opened the door the other side. It is only a very short passage! quite light! all safe!
What a 'liberty' is here! The past—gone; the present—safety, peace, love; the future—sure!
References.—V. 1.—James Vaughan, Fifty Sermons (9th Series), p. 22. J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 8. E. M. Geldart, Echoes of Truth, p. 105. J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p. 406. H. Allen, Penny Pulpit, No. 1618, p. 339. B. J. Snell, The Virtue of Gladness, p. 153. H. Woodcock, Sermon Outlines (1st Series), p. 82. W. F. Taylor, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. p. 334. J. C. M. Bellew, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 274. G. A. Sowter, From Heart to Heart, p. 194. H. Wace, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. p. 338. V. 2-6.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. viii. p. 360. V. 5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No. 1228. Dinsdale T. Young, The Gospel of the Left Hand, p. 71. V. 6.—J. Iverach, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 342. R. W. Hiley, A Year's Sermons, vol. iii. p. 55. A. P. Stanley, Canterbury Sermons, p. 205. W. P. Paterson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. p. 316. Bishop Bethell, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 307. J. Iverach, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 262. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi. No. 1553; vol. xxii. No. 1280, and vol. xxix. No. 1750. J. M. Gibbon, Christian World, Pulpit, vol. lxx. p. 265. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Galatians, p. 136.
This text is a convenient motto for a sermon devoted to a discussion of some of the things that prevent and hinder men from embracing the Christian life today.
I. The Inconsistency of Christians.—There are objections raised on the score of other people; or, to put the matter quite bluntly, men find a genuine hindrance in the way of their acceptance of Christ and the Christian life in the inconsistent and unworthy lives that so many professing Christians live. Remember these two things:—
(1) If you wish to deal quite honestly by the Christian faith, you have no right to judge it by the unworthy lives of some who profess it; you must judge it by the account it gives of itself in the New Testament—you must judge it by Christ Himself.
(2) Considerations about other people ought not in any way to affect your personal relations to Jesus Christ. The relation between Christ and you is a purely personal and individual one. No third person can intervene Christ makes a certain claim upon you. What are you going to do with Christ? Are you going to do your duty? This man's sins and that man's failures are quite beside the point Religion is a personal business. Every man shall bear his own burden, whatsoever it be.
But, in addition to these difficulties caused by others, a great many people find hindrances in things personal to themselves.
II. Personal Unworthiness.—Many people find a terrible hindrance in a vivid sense of personal unworthiness. I am constantly meeting with people who, when urged to accept Christ and embrace the Christian life, object that 'they are not good enough'. If you feel, like John Bunyan, that your heart is just a sink of iniquity, if the sense of your own guilt pinches you sore, then resolve to do what he did. 'My case being desperate,' he writes, 'I thought with myself, I can but die; and if it must be so, it shall once be said that such a one died at the foot of Christ in prayer.' Yes; if your case is so desperate, then make up your mind that if die you must, you will die at the foot of Christ's cross. But no sinner has yet died there.
III. Intellectual Difficulties.—Many find intellectual difficulties about points of Christian faith an almost insuperable barrier. I meet in the course of my ministry with many such. In olden days Churches laid considerable stress upon dogma and doctrine, and many found in these things a genuine hindrance to faith. But theological difficulties need no longer be a hindrance. For the most noteworthy difference between the Christianity of today and the Christianity of fifty years ago is the change of emphasis. Fifty years ago men felt that religion was bound up with belief in certain theological doctrines; since then there has been a movement back to Christ, and men today recognise that religion consists in the personal adhesion of the sinner to the Saviour.
IV. The Responsibility of Confession.—Others make a hindrance, or rather find a hindrance, in the sense of the tremendous responsibility attaching to an open confession of Christ. People say, 'I am afraid of undertaking the Christian life. My life will be scrutinised so closely, and I shrink from the possibility of bringing discredit upon the name of Christ.' Now, up to a point, that is a legitimate and healthy feeling. We do take upon ourselves a great responsibility when we confess the name of Christ. You say it is a serious thing confessing Christ. Yes, it is; but is it not a more serious thing not to confess Him?
And remember this—Christ never calls us to a duty without giving us the needed strength. 'My grace,' He says to every one who shrinks from the responsibility, 'My grace is sufficient for thee.' Do not therefore let the thought of the solemn responsibility that will rest upon you hinder you from accepting the Christian life.
—J. D. Jones, Elims of Life, p. 107.
References.—V. 7.—F. B. Cowl, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xvii. p. 238. H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1561, p. 121. V. 8.—A. Rees, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. p. 140. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vii. p. 471. V. 10.—Ibid. (6th Series), vol. ix. p. 108.
The Offence of the Cross
One thing which marks the ministry of Paul is how he lovingly yearned over the Jews. It is when we remember that deep longing that we realise what the cross meant for Paul. For the great stumbling-block of faith to the Jews—the offence that made the Gospel of Christ smell rank to them—was, as our text indicates, the cross. Now I want to make a little plainer to you why the cross was an offence to the Jews, and to put things in such a way that you may see at once that the same causes are operative still.
I. First, then, the cross was offensive to the Jews just because it blighted all their hopes. It shattered every dream they ever dreamed; every ideal that ever glimmered on them. They had prayed for and had dreamed of their Messiah, and He was to come in power as a conqueror. Then in the place of that triumph, there comes Calvary. In place of the Christ victorious, Christ crucified. If I know anything about the ideals men cherish now, and about the hopes that are regnant in ten thousand hearts, they are as antagonistic to the cross as was the Jewish ideal of Messiah. Written across Calvary is sacrifice; written across this age of ours is pleasure.
II. The cross was an offence to the Jew b cause it swept away much that they took a pride in. If there was any meaning in Calvary at all some of their most cherished things were valueless. The Jews were pre-eminently a religious people, and this is always one peril of religious people. It is to take the things that lead to God and let the heart grow centred upon them. And today has that offence of the cross ceased? I say that this is still the offence of Calvary, that it cuts at the root of so much that we are proud of.
III. But again, the cross was an offence to the Jews because it obliterated national distinctions. It levelled at one blow those social barriers that were of such untold worth in Jewish eyes. Now I would not have you imagine for a moment that Christ disregards all personal distinctions. There is always some touch, some word, some discipline, that tells of an individual understanding. But spite of all that, and recognising that, I say that this is the 'scandal' of the cross, that there every distinction is obliterated, and men must be saved at last or not at all.
—G. H. Morrison, The Wings of the Morning, p. 277.
The Stumbling-block of the Cross
What a favourite term of Paul's was this: 'the cross!' How he revelled in that phrase! Paul's conception of 'the cross' has perhaps never been better formulated than by the great and saintly Bishop Andrewes when he said memorably, 'Christ did nail with Himself on the cross the sins of the whole world'. By 'the cross' Paul ever means nothing less than the atoning death of our Lord Jesus Christ. 'Then hath the stumbling-block of the cross been done away,' he cried. A slanderous report had been raised concerning Paul's preaching. Paul's answer to the slander is that he is still bearing the opprobrium of the man who preaches 'the cross'. The stumbling-block of the cross is not done away.
I. What is 'the stumbling-block of the cross'? A stumbling-block is something which causes difficulty, creates irritation, evokes resentment. Dr. Best translates the expression 'the snare of the cross'. Now wherein lies the supreme difficulty, the snare, the scandal, of preaching Christ crucified as the one way of salvation? (1) 'The cross' is an awful manifestation of human sin. Sin is one of the words we must not drop out of our ecclesiastical speech. (2) The cross shows the cost of human redemption. Man was in bondage. What was the price of his release? Here is the answer 'the cross'. (3) The cross is so exclusive a method of salvation. That was a great part of the stumbling-block in Paul's preaching of the cross. Salvation in its largest definition is procured only by the cross of Christ. Still that truth is resented. (4) The cross saves apart from intellectuality. It is through the strait gate of intellectual renunciation that we must come to salvation. (5) The cross saves irrespective of human merit. (6) The cross is so incredible a mode of salvation. We hear much of the science of comparative religions, and it is in many respects a valuable science; but its studies never discover such a method of salvation as 'the cross'. This is the sole prerogative of Christianity. (7) The cross makes tremendous demands. It lays a terrific moral obligation upon us.
II. When is 'the stumbling-block of the cross' done away? (1) It is done away when we maintain other ways of salvation. (2) The stumbling-block of the cross is done away when we make the cross merely a ritualistic sign. (3) When we preach the cross without the atonement we do away with the stumbling-block of the cross. (4) They do away with the stumbling-block of the cross who ignore its claims. (5) The stumbling-block of the cross is gloriously done away when we accept its appeal. Say we with the saintly Leighton: 'The whole world in comparison with the cross of Christ is one grand impertinence.
—Dinsdale T. Young, The Enthusiasm of God, p. 47.
References.—V. 11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. lxiv. No. 2594. W. M. Clow, The Cross in Christian Experience, p. 115. V. 13.—Bishop Creighton, University and Other Sermons, p. 71. V. 14.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 343; ibid. (6th Series), vol. x. p. 277.
I. The chief feature of St. Paul's teaching in reference to morality was its positiveness.
There are two ways to meet and deal with every vice: one is to set to work to destroy it; the other is to overwhelm and stifle it with its opposite virtue. The former is the negative, and the latter the positive method. There can be no doubt about St. Paul's way. To the poor Galatian, fighting with his fleshly lusts, he does not set a course of stern repression, but rather points him to a life of positive endeavour, to do something opposite: 'Walk in the Spirit, and—then—'. The Apostle laid hold on one of the noblest methods of the treatment of humanity—one that he had gained most directly from his Lord. These two methods of treatment, the negative and the positive, present themselves to us in all the other problems of life besides morality, and men choose between them. A man is beset with doubts, perhaps about the very fundamental truths of Christianity. He may attack all objections in turn, and at last succeed in proving that Christianity is not false. That is negative. Or, he may gather about him the evidences of what his religion has done, and sweep away all his doubts, with the deep and complete conviction that Christianity is true. That is positive, and that is better. If you have a friend who believes an error, for his sake, and for your own, deal with him positively and not negatively. Do not try to disprove his error; rather try to make what you know to be Truth living and convincing; force it home upon his life; let him hear it in your voice, see it in your face, feel it in your whole life. Thus make it claim its true kinship with the truth.
II. Throughout the New Testament there is nothing more beautiful than the perfectly clear way in which the positive culture of human character is adopted and employed. The God of the New Testament, whose express image and glory we behold in the face of Jesus Christ, is not a God of repression, but a God whose Fatherhood is made so real that His holiness may be reproduced in His children; a God whose symbols are everything that is stimulating, everything that encourages and helps; Who leads on His children into that new life where sin becomes impossible, on an ever-ascending pathway of growing Christliness. And this character of the New Testament, of Christianity, is not in contradiction with the best aspirations of the human heart. Man is willing to exercise repression and self-sacrifice for a certain temporary purpose, to do some certain work—the world is full of self-sacrifice, of the suppression of desires, the restraint of natural inclinations; yet all the time there is a great human sense that not suppression but expression is the true life. Seek, then, to give expression to your true, your nobler self, to strive after purity and holiness, and these lower passions will lose their hold. You will not so much have crushed the carnal as embraced the spiritual. You will be 'walking in the Spirit,' and so you will 'not fulfil the lust of the flesh'. Is not this Christ's method? 'Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin'; but 'Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free'. It is the positive attainment, not the negative surrender; the self-indulgence of the highest, and not the self-surrender of the lowest—that is the great end of the Gospel.
III. And yet there arises much in the teachings of our Lord, and in the whole spirit of Christianity, which seems to contradict this conclusion. Has not the religion of Jesus always been called the very religion of self-sacrifice? Is not self-surrender exalted into a virtue and crowned with glory, as it never was in any other faith? That certainly is true. But in Christ's teaching self-sacrifice is always temporary and provisional, merely the clearing the way for the positive culture and manifestation of those great results of spiritual life which he loved: the right hand to be cut off, the right eye to be plucked out; mortification of the flesh, that the man may 'enter into life'. The self-sacrifice of the Christian is true in proportion as it copies the perfect pattern of the self-sacrifice of Christ. The Christian's self-surrender is called a being 'crucified to the world'; when, then, we turn to Christ's crucifixion we find the key to that of the Christian man. See how the positive power shines through that, the most heroic of all sacrifices. It is not simply the giving up of something, it is the laying hold of something too. He Who suffers is conquering fear by the power of a confident hope, a triumphant certainty. It is because He is walking in the Spirit that He is able so victoriously not to fulfil the lust of the flesh. It is because He clung to His Father that He came strong out of Gethsemane. He does no sin, because of the completeness of His infinite goodness. The way to get out of self-love is to love God. 'Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.'
—Bishop Phillip Brooks.
References.—V. 16.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. v. p. 141: ibid. (6th Series), vol. x. p. 362. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Galatians, p. 153. V. 16, 17.—F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. i. p. 263. T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv. p. 54. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 189.
The Fruit of the Spirit (For Whit-Sunday)
Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:22-23
These words may well suggest to us thoughts for Whit-Sunday. We are reminded today of the spiritual life, and the Divine Author of it; we are reminded of the coming of the Holy Ghost, and of the grace, virtue, and power which He gave to those who received Him. We are reminded today that it is the abiding presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church and in the heart of each believer that makes the Christian life. The Christian life is something far more than morality: it is the planting of the Divine life—man, it is the infusion of another and spiritual nature; and St. Paul tells us here how that spiritual nature is shown and proved. He brings us to this simple test, which I wish briefly to emphasise.
I. That it is known by its fruits. It is never an easy thing to define spirituality or to say who is the spiritual man. You cannot tell how God joins Himself to the human soul and produces in what is naturally selfish, proud, pleasure-loving, greedy, and covetous the graces and feelings which are the very opposite of all these. It is of no use discussing the philosophy of it; it passeth understanding. The Apostle simply fastens us down to this: that it is known by its results. 'The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness,' and the rest. We are not on doubtful ground there. The spiritual man is one in whom the lusts of the flesh are held down by a higher power, who no longer loves with all the burning passion of his nature the things that can be seen, touched, and tasted, the things of the senses and appetite, the glitter, show, and gains of the material world, but who loves best and desires most what Christ loved—goodness, purity, soul-beauty, and likeness to God. The spiritual man has the mind of Christ.
II. Where these fruits are the Spirit of God is. We sometimes say, with our short-sighted and foolish limitations, that the Spirit of God never works except in those who have believed exactly in our way. We say, 'They must have been convicted and regenerated, and brought into the acceptance of certain articles of belief, before they can have any part in the spiritual helps which God gives'. But we only show our ignorant presumption when we talk in that way. God refuses to be bound down by our little plans and schemes. The heart of the Eternal is larger than all the creeds. And though He only gives His spirit in all its fulness and power to those who cling to Christ in earnest faith, He does not withhold it altogether from others. Where you find in men and women something that is far higher than the sensual and animal; where there is courage and self-forgetfulness, and patience in sorrow, and compassion and tenderness towards others, and pure thoughts and striving after nobler things, there you may be sure that God has not left Himself without witness. These are the gifts of His good Spirit; they cannot come from any other. No more can all these graces grow where God is not than grapes can grow on thorn-bushes and figs on thistles. The fruits of the Spirit are these, and only the Spirit can produce them—love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, and goodness.
III. It is only where these fruits of the Spirit are that there is any real understanding of Divine things. St. Paul is always claiming for the Spiritual man superior discernments, claiming for him the power of judging all things, claiming for him joys which are unknown to others. But this power is not a thing of the intellect: it is a perception of the heart. It is where love, longsuffering, and gentleness are found that the things of God are understood.
—J. G. Greenhough, The Mind of Christ in St. Paul, p. 212.
The Conflict with Sin
Whoever knows anything of the nature of his own heart would expect that the presence and the claim of good would immediately stir up the opposition and the virulence of evil. The fact is, that until there is some good, there can be no conflict at all. You, then, who feel your conflicts—you to whom the inner life is an agitation little guessed by those who see only the assumed calmness of a shallow surface—you, who wake up every morning to fight again and again the old battle of yesterday—you, who are to yourselves not as one nature, but two—not two, but many—and all arrayed against all—lift up your head out of the dust of that blinding fight, lift up your head, and rejoice! And it will be a great help to you, if you thus lay down at once, with yourself, that the conflict is not an accident, but a necessity—not exceptional in your case, but an universal rule, that it is the very condition of a Christian's calling, and a part of the Christian's inheritance; it is the badge of discipleship, it is the fellowship of Jesus.
I. In this Warfare there is, at least for a long time, a singular balance. Look, for instance, at the exact intention of the text, 'The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh'—i.e. the natural or carnal part of a renewed man puts forth strong desires against the spiritual part, and the spiritual part puts forth strong desires against the natural and carnal part—and 'these are contrary'—lie, as the original Greek word is—'lie over against the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would'. Which way? Cannot do the good things you would, because of the carnal part? Or, cannot do the evil things you would, because of the spiritual part? Which? Certainly both. Chiefly the latter. You cannot do the bad things you would, because of the resistance or the prohibition of the spiritual taste that is in you. Whether you adopt this view or not—and it would not be well to view it thus always—you will certainly be right to recognise always, very plainly and very absolutely, the two distinct natures or powers which now are in you as a regenerate man. Do not extenuate the sin because of the grace, and do not disparage the grace because of the sin.
II. A Double Danger.—Here lies a double danger, and the path runs narrow between two precipices. A few say very presumptuously, and with awful speciousness, 'Because of the grace that is in me, I am no longer a sinner; I must not pray as a sinner, I must not feel as a sinner'. Very many more, with a most unfilial timidity, and a most unscriptural reason, say, 'Because I have so much sin in me, there can be no grace; I cannot believe that, being what I find myself, I am a child of God'. Admit both, confess to both, act upon both. There is a side—oh, how dark!—all blackness. That is earth's side. Now turn the portrait, and see it under the falling of another light. 'He that is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.' Christ in me—and that Christ in me is my being, I own no other, 'Christ in me the hope of glory'. 'Know ye not, brethren, every one of you, that Christ is in you, except ye be reprobate?' And Christ in you, the kingdom of heaven is in you. Now ye are 'light in the Lord,' now ye are holy, now ye are kings and priests, now ye are complete. How strange the paradox! How wide the contrast. Do you wonder at the awfulness of the conflict that goes on in a regenerate soul? And He stands very near in whom that warfare of yours is even now accomplished, and He says, 'Be thou faithful unto the death, and I will give thee a crown of life!'
References.—V. 16-26.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 106. V. 17.—R. W. Church, Village Sermons (3rd Series), p. 184. J. Keble, Sermons for the Sundays After Trinity, p. 31. Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 369. V. 18.—H. R. Gamble, The Ten Virgins, p. 141. Bishop Bethell, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 390. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vii. p. 278. V. 18-25.—Ibid. vol. v. p. 300. V. 19.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 193.
The Spiritual Battle
Galatians 5:19; Galatians 5:22
Every human heart is a battlefield whereon at some time or other flesh and spirit are locked in mortal strife, and the issues of the conflict are of the greatest importance. We see in the Epistle what are the results—whether flesh or spirit have the mastery. What a contrast there is presented to us in these few lines! The works of the flesh against the fruit of the Spirit! From the one the higher nature of man turns in utter abhorrence, while the other commends itself to God and man.
I. Present-day Sins.—I think we must be arrested by the solemn and awful fact that some of the sins of which the Apostle speaks are with us today. We must admit that there is amongst us much idolatry, many factions and divisions, hatred, heresies, and envyings. Now that is a consideration of the gravest importance. Why is it the Church in the course of its two thousand years of existence has not done more, for although we rejoice over the triumphs of the Gospel, as we look round there must be a note of sorrow. Look at the darkness of Africa! Look at the teeming millions of Asia still in the grip of heathenism! Nay, do not look so far. Look at Christendom itself, and one must admit that there is even in the Church of Christ much that makes the brain reel and the heart turn sick.
How is this? To answer this aright we must go back beyond the foundation of the Christian Church, and look at the life of the Founder. Jesus Christ was a Jew—a member of the most abhorred nation of antiquity; He never separated Himself from the nation to which He belonged; He worshipped in the synagogue and the Temple; He never wrote a volume of philosophy or a page of theology. What was the force that He put into the world? He never originated a party; He was not a master of a system; yet He set in motion a force that has stood for two thousand years through a storm of persecution, and through all the great advancements and changes of passing ages, and still today is the greatest moral force of the world. What was the secret of it all? His life was his theology; He came bringing a higher conception of manhood and the Godhead; a new reverence for God—the God of Love.
II. Christianity in the World.—If this is truly the secret of the power of Christ, so must it be the power of Christianity in the world today. It is not in the customs of the Church; the power of the Church is in the lives of the men and women who are living as Christ did. The Church is the casket, the men and women are the jewels; the Church is the body, the individual lives of the members of the Church are the soul. That is the thing we need to be reminded of. We are over-burdened with the idea of the desirability of great organisations, but it is the life that counts; and as the life of the Christian is the power of the Church, so the lives of men and women should be the ultimate desire of the Church. Christianity is not the knowledge of Church history, but a true development of the joy and peace of the Christian spirit.
Organised Christianity has been considered better than individual Christianity. I do not say a word against organisations, but there is a danger lest we think that organisation is an end in itself instead of being only a means to an end. If I am shown a wonderful machine, and, asking what does this machine produce, am told that it does not produce anything, but it works, I should say what a wonderful waste of energy.
'They that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh.' Ah, Paul, that is a cruel word! Yes, it is a cruel process this weeding out of the flesh that the Spirit may enter. I am thankful for that word. It seems to me that it has a great meaning for us. The death on the cross was a long, lingering agony, and I believe that the death of the flesh is a long, lingering agony also. What I plead for is that we should take a definite step towards self-abnegation; put self on the cross and let it die there. If we do not do so, are we wholly yielded to Christ? That is the process which is the beginning of fruit-bearing—the fruit of the Spirit.
Bion asked an envious man that was very sad: What harm had befallen to him, or what good had befallen to another man.
Reference.—V. 21.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. x. p. 200.
Joy the Fruit of the Spirit
Here you have a rich cluster of the grapes of Eshcol, truly an earnest of our inheritance, a foretaste of heaven itself. We can but pluck one from the cluster today, for I want to speak to you upon this: the fruit of the Spirit is joy.
I. In the first place, we must insist that joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is quite true that joy is not the first-fruit of the Holy Spirit. The first-fruit of the Holy Spirit is sorrow. But this is not the ultimate end of the Holy Spirit: this is only like the cleansing of the cup before the wine is poured into it. The sorrow may endure for a night, but in the morning, the glad resurrection morning, the joy appeareth. Now many of us can witness to the truth of this. We have found out that His ways are ways of pleasantness, our religion is our recreation, our duty is our delight As an old writer has said: 'Joy is one of those birds of paradise which, when man fell, was about to fly back to its native heaven, but God caught it in the silken nets of promise, and retained it to sing in the cage of a broken and a contrite heart'.
II. How is this fruit of the Spirit to be cultivated? Because this fruit of the Spirit is a hot-house plant; it does not flourish in the biting cold of indifference, nor amidst the howling winds of unbelief. How am I to have this fruit of the Spirit? (1) It ripens under the hearing of God's Word. It has something substantial to rest upon, it is a fruit which has a root to it, it goes deep down into the revelation of God's truth. (2) But there is another way in which that joy is produced. It becomes even sweeter as you see others receiving the blessing. (3) Again, this joy is increased by prayer.
III. There are some things which hinder this joy. (1) Sometimes the Christian loses his joy because his taste has been vitiated with other joys. (2) Directly you attempt to seek your own way, you lose this joy; directly you are filled with self-ambition, self-thought, you lose this joy.
IV. Mark where this joy abides. It dwells between peace and love. You can have no joy unless you have true love to God. And there must be peace with your brother man.
V. What is the result of having this joy? In the eighth chapter of Nehemiah, and in the tenth verse, you read: 'The joy of the Lord is your strength.' (1) It is your strength in time of temptation. (2) It is a strength to you also in your work.
—E. A. Stuart, The Communion of the Holy Ghost and other Sermons, vol. x. p. 41.
References.—V. 22.—T. F. Crosse, Sermons, p. 67. B. J. Snell, The Virtue of Gladness, p. 73. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii. No. 1682, and vol. xxx. No. 1782. Bishop Winnington-Ingram, A Mission of the Spirit, pp. 31, 52, 104, 135, and 171. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 88; ibid. vol. x. pp. 120, 125; ibid. (5th Series), vol. ix. p. 221; ibid. (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 8; ibid. vol. v. p. 295.
The Fruit of the Spirit
Fruit is the spontaneous outcome of the life of the tree—its finished product Given a tree, one may confidently forecast the nature of the fruit. In like manner, the Spirit has its natural product: it yields fruit. And its fruit after its kind is in the graces of Christian character here set forth. If a man fail here, whatever else he may possess, he has no right to believe that he has the Spirit of God; and if anyone have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. On the other hand, if those qualities are being produced in him, he need not mourn the absence of the more showy and attractive gifts, or desire any further assurance of the presence of the Spirit with him.
I. But a little reflection makes clear that the Apostle's words, far from being forbidding, are actually most welcome and inspiring. This is the message they bring to us: The life of a good man is through the Gospel, within the reach of all; and that not as a more or less uncertain issue, but as a quite natural, one would say, inevitable result. We are not saying that none of these virtues are produced in the life of them who know not, or who deny Christ. The names of scores of whom we have heard or read, of some perchance whom we know, rise up as witnesses to the contrary. The great moral systems of the ancient world had profound influence. Among non-Christian peoples many virtues flourish. Their moral system lacks a dynamic.
II. Moreover, the number of the virtues recited, and their seeming contrariety, must not dismay. To possess the nine were to be a moral prodigy indeed! It is just this, however, which St. Paul says is the natural consequence of the life of the Spirit. He produces in us not one grace only, but all together. He says not 'fruits,' as of many, as though the Tree of Life bore nine manner of fruits, appearing in nine different forms; but 'fruit,' as of one, of which these nine qualities are the constituent elements. Singly they may be found elsewhere, but in union one with another they form the fruit of the Spirit, the ripe product of the Gospel of Christ.
III. Just in the manifestation of these characteristic virtues in their union does the world recognise the supremacy of the Christian religion. Do what it will, it cannot produce the like.
—F. L. Wiseman, God's Garden, p. 273.
The Christian Idea of Temperance
'Temperance' is a much misconceived term. It greatly needs re-definition. It specially requires to be expounded in the light of God. Let us engage ourselves with the distinctively Christian idea of temperance. Christian temperance is the only adequate and excellent temperance.
I. 'Temperance' is a most inclusive quality. The Greek word means literally 'self-control' or 'self-mastery'. In five New Testament instances out of six the word refers to the restraint of natural impulses. The Fathers limited the idea of the word far too much in one direction. Certainly moderns perpetrate similarly unfortunate limitation in another direction. The elders unduly restricted the reference of the word to sensual lusts; we today too much refer it to strong drink. But 'temperate in all things' is the inspired word of Paul—yes, 'in all things'. (1) This temperance must be applied to pleasures. Pleasures are choice gifts of God. But what many forget is that these are to be pruned and delimited, else they wreck the soul. (2) Duties should be subjected to the great Christian law of temperance. Self-control is required in regard to all duties. The end of life is not duty, but character. (3) So in the matter of gain. Mammonism is a nation's deadly foe, and we need the remonstrance of Ruskin, in his Crown of Wild Olives, when he says: 'Only the nation gains true territory who gains itself. (4) To temper this sublime rule of 'temperance' applies. An old Buddhist adage runs: 'One may conquer myriads of men in battle, but he who conquers himself is the greatest victor'. (5) 'Temperance' must pervade speech. (6) Food is to be brought always under this great rale. (7) 'The fruit of the Spirit is... temperance' in respect of strong drink. The great question for Christians is as to the point to which self-control in this matter must be carried. Each conscience must determine this for itself, and no man has a right to determine it for you.
II. 'Temperance' is the inspiration of God alone. 'The fruit of the Spirit' it is. God only can give man self-mastery. (1) If 'temperance' be a Divine inspiration, then it should be admired and encouraged because of its high and holy origin. (2) 'Temperance' being God's impartation, we should recognise Him whenever and wherever we see it. (3) As 'temperance' is the work of God, we should deplore its absence as a grief and dishonour to Him. (4) Seeing 'temperance' is of God and of God only, do not attempt to separate it from Him. (5) Every form of self control is 'the fruit' of the Spirit. Then of the Spirit let us seek it.
III. The 'Spirit' works 'temperance' by many agencies. (1) Not seldom He does it by our realisation of the evil of intemperance. (2) By the study of Scripture the Spirit constantly imparts this lofty grace. (3) The Spirit uses the instrumentality of general literature to create 'temperance'. (4) The pulpit is a powerful agency of the Holy Spirit in this matter. (5) How wonderfully the Spirit uses prayer for the creation and development of this 'fruit'! Private and public intercession are the greatest of all moral forces.
—Dinsdale T. Young, The Enthusiasm, of God, p. 217.
References.—V. 22, 23.—Lyman Abbott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. p. 105. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Galatians, p. 162.
Melanchthon told his students in his Postilla that his father, George Schwartzerd, was so extremely temperate that he ate of only one dish at table. Melanchthon used also to praise the temperance of his grand-uncle, the famous Reuchlin, who drank habitually in his later years not wine or beer, but a kind of grape-water called lora. He thought that Reuchlin's good health in advancing years was largely due to his moderation in food and drink.
—C. R. vol. XXIV. pp. 22 and 517.
References.—V. 23.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. X. p. 115; ibid. (6th Series), vol. xii. p. 191. V. 24.—F. J. A. Hort, Village Sermons (2nd Series), p. 108. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No. 1239. V. 25.—T. Binney, Penny Pulpit, No. 1582, p. 49. J. Keble, Sermons for the Sundays After Trinity, p. 41. E. Bayley, Sermons on the Work and Person of the Holy Spirit, p. 38. Expositor (6th Series), vol. ix. p. 43. VI. 1.—H. Woodcock, Sermon Outlines (1st Series), p. 30. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 95; ibid. (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 207; ibid. vol. viii. p. 78. VI. 1-2.—J. Berry, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p. 348. B. J. Snell, The Virtue of Gladness, p. 9. VI. 1-5.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 115.
Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.
A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.
And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.
I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.