Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
think to be bold against some." Who were the "some"? Evidently those who impeached his motives and openly reviled his ministry. How does he describe them? By the thoughts they entertained of him as an apostle. "They think of us as if we walked according to the flesh," referring to a course of conduct "determined by the fear of men or the desire of pleasing men, and hence a personal bearing disgraced by cowardice or servility. The human nature referred to was therefore one enfeebled, not merely from the want of Divine support, but from sin" (Lange's 'Commentary'). Such an opinion respecting the apostle indicates clearly enough the evil source whence it sprang. It happens often that the judgments we pronounce on others are most true in application to ourselves, and, unawares, we have disclosed what our own hearts are in estimating outside parties. A politician who is always charging other politicians with being demagogues is generally a demagogue himself, and the man who never hesitates to apply the epithet of a liar to others is quite sure to be a liar himself. But how does St. Paul meet the charge of being carnally minded in his high office? "Though we walk in the flesh [live a corporeal life], we do not war after the flesh," or "according to the flesh," the contrast being in the words "in" and "according." And forthwith he proceeds to show the difference between walking in the flesh and warring according to the flesh. A warrior he is, an open and avowed warrior - a warrior who was to cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; a warrior too who would punish these Judaizers if they continued their disorganizing work; but a prudent and considerate warrior, deferring the avenging blow till "I am assured of your submission" (Stanley) "that I may not confound the innocent with the guilty, the dupes with the deceivers." What kind of a preacher he was he had shown long before; what kind of an apostle he was among apostles as to independence, self-support, and resignation of official rights in earthly matters, he had also shown; further yet, what kind of a sufferer and martyr he was had been portrayed. Step by step he had gone on with this faithful unfolding of himself, giving the most unique spiritual biography in the world of literature, and that too on no preconceived plan. How many aspects of his character had been sketched! The man as ambassador, representing the majesty of a glorified King, and labouring to reconcile a world to his Divine sceptre; the man as coworker with all the blessed ministries of earth and heaven; the man as philanthropist sharing the poverty of his countrymen in a far off city; and now the man as warrior, leading on his hosts to battle against alien spirits; - what a wide activity, how minute, how full, how varied, how comprehensive. At no point does this personal narrative draw its interest from self alone. Self is always subordinate. The biography interweaves with a history that infinitely transcends all private fortunes and all earthly affairs, and is nothing less than the history of providence in the development of Christian doctrine coincident with the work of the Holy Ghost in glorifying the ascended Christ of the Father. "Casting down imaginations." The reference is to reasoning or disputings of the natural man in the pride of his intellectual power. Yet they are imaginations, the products of the imaging faculty, the fond conceits of creative ingenuity. All these were religious beliefs or connected in some way with them, so that what the apostle said at Athens was true elsewhere: "I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious." Men who held these beliefs were earnest supporters of them and were always ready to defend their tenets. No matter in what province or city he preached the gospel, these disputants appeared. It was a battle on all occasions, and hence a battle figure, "casting down," or the destruction of bulwarks. Philosophy, art, manufactures, trade, husbandry, seamanship, military life, domestic life, statesmanship, were all intimately associated with these religious beliefs. Paganism occupied the ground. Or, if Judaism had found lodgment over the empire at every prominent centre of industry, it was the Judaism that had crucified Jesus of Nazareth. So then there was battle everywhere. The "wisdom of the world" and of "the princes of the world," backed by social influence and civil authority, was arrayed against the gospel. In the land of its birth, Christianity had nothing to show but a few Galilean fishermen, with a community of poor disciples, and behind these a malefactor's cross. In the lands to which it came on its mission of grace, it summoned men to repent of sin, to practise self-denial, to become new creatures, to abandon idolatries that were in league with lust and cruelty, and, in lieu thereof, accept a faith which demanded a pure heart and a holy morality. It could only make its way by "casting down imaginations," by telling men that they were deluded by sophistries, and further by destroying "every high thing" that exalted itself against the knowledge of God communicated to man by the revelation of the gospel. No compromise could be allowed; every thought was to be brought into" captivity" to the "obedience of Christ." What captivity meant they fully understood. It was a military word, and he uses such terms that they might have clear and vivid ideas of Christianity as a war, and nothing less than an exterminating war, on whatever stood opposed "to the obedience of Christ." The "weapons" he used were not "carnal." All the world knew his weapons. He made no disguise of them. Boldly, constantly, in every place, he proclaimed Christ, the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, nor had a mob occurred, nor had perils gathered about him, nor had Roman officers interfered for his protection, except on the single issue of preaching Christ crucified. No heathen would charge him with using carnal weapons. Philosophers of Athens, inhabitants of Lycaonia, Demetrius and his workmen at Ephesus, would make no such accusation against his ministry. Only the Judaizers had done this thing. Let them understand that these weapons were "mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." Neither a false Judaism nor a colossal idolatry could offer any effective resistance to the gospel. Let these Judaizers know that his weapons were "mighty through God," and that in due time he would show "a readiness to revenge all disobedience." And let the Corinthian Church look deeper than the "outward appearance." To construe his manner of "meekness and gentleness" into imbecility and cowardice was not truth, but falsehood. And whence came this evil way of judging? Not from themselves, but from some wrong teacher who professed to have external advantages in favour of his teaching. Let that conceited man know that, if he is Christ's, so also am I. - L.
(1) the anticipations of the chosen people!
(2) the heathen conceptions of deity!
I. THE MEEKNESS OF CHRIST. Illustrated in:
1. His lowly birth. The manger prefigured the whole life.
2. His humble station. Highest in heaven, lowliest on earth.
3. His obedience to Joseph and Mary. Obedience was new to him. He was the Ruler, and yet he submitted to be ruled.
4. His manual toil. The Jews looked for a conqueror and saw a carpenter.
5. His endurance of scorn and insult. Scorn and insult were much more to him than they ever can be to us. Remember he was the adored of heaven!
6. His earthly poverty. He possessed all things, and yet bad nothing - not even a place where to lay his head.
7. His bearing before the Sanhedrim, Pilate, Herod, the soldiers, etc. How little and mean they must have seemed to him! and yet he did not crush them.
8. His submission on the cross. The infinitude of meekness! Nothing could transcend this. This was the culmination of a meekness which shone throughout the marvellous earthly life.
"Ride on, ride on in majesty; 9. His burial. He went, not only to death, but to the grave. He lay in a borrowed sepulchre. II. THE GENTLENESS OF CHRIST. Exhibited in: 1. His treatment of children. How immortal have those words become! how typical they are of the Christ heart, "Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me" (Matthew 19:14)! 2. His conduct towards the poor, the sick, the bereaved, the penitent. What compassion and tenderness! "A bruised reed shall he not break" (Isaiah 42:3). 3. His words. "He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street" (Isaiah 42:2). Well might they marvel at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. 4. His forbearance towards his disciples. Few things illustrate his gentleness more strikingly than this. How much had he to bear from those nearest to him! How gentle he was to the impulsive, blundering, often almost insolent, Peter! How gentle even to Judas! 5. His dealing with sinners. Except to the hopelessly hardened, upon whom gentleness would have been thrown away, and to whom it would have been an evil rather than a good. His general attitude towards the sinful is expressed by those memorable words, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matthew 11:29). 6. His care of his mother. History has no more touching incident than that at the cross, "Woman, behold thy son!" (John 19:26). III. THOUGH SO MEEK AND GENTLE, CHRIST WAS FULL OF POWER AND MAJESTY, NO student of his life can question this; enemies and friends alike confess it. Force and noise are not synonymous. Silent forces are often mighty. To be meek is not to be weak. Simplicity, tenderness, humility, are marks of the truly great. These flowers grow upon the top of the mountain. A man who is ever anxious to "assert himself" usually shows how very little he has to assert. IV. THOSE WHO BEAR CHRIST'S NAME SHOULD PARTAKE OF CHRIST'S NATURE. It is for us to be meek and lowly followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. When the apostle would be most forceful to the Corinthians, he claimed for himself these attributes of his Master. We are strongest when we are most like Christ. We shall be better, live better, worship better, work better, if we possess the "meekness and gentleness of Christ." - H.
9. His burial. He went, not only to death, but to the grave. He lay in a borrowed sepulchre.
II. THE GENTLENESS OF CHRIST. Exhibited in:
1. His treatment of children. How immortal have those words become! how typical they are of the Christ heart, "Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me" (Matthew 19:14)!
2. His conduct towards the poor, the sick, the bereaved, the penitent. What compassion and tenderness! "A bruised reed shall he not break" (Isaiah 42:3).
3. His words. "He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street" (Isaiah 42:2). Well might they marvel at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.
4. His forbearance towards his disciples. Few things illustrate his gentleness more strikingly than this. How much had he to bear from those nearest to him! How gentle he was to the impulsive, blundering, often almost insolent, Peter! How gentle even to Judas!
5. His dealing with sinners. Except to the hopelessly hardened, upon whom gentleness would have been thrown away, and to whom it would have been an evil rather than a good. His general attitude towards the sinful is expressed by those memorable words, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matthew 11:29).
6. His care of his mother. History has no more touching incident than that at the cross, "Woman, behold thy son!" (John 19:26).
III. THOUGH SO MEEK AND GENTLE, CHRIST WAS FULL OF POWER AND MAJESTY, NO student of his life can question this; enemies and friends alike confess it. Force and noise are not synonymous. Silent forces are often mighty. To be meek is not to be weak. Simplicity, tenderness, humility, are marks of the truly great. These flowers grow upon the top of the mountain. A man who is ever anxious to "assert himself" usually shows how very little he has to assert.
IV. THOSE WHO BEAR CHRIST'S NAME SHOULD PARTAKE OF CHRIST'S NATURE. It is for us to be meek and lowly followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. When the apostle would be most forceful to the Corinthians, he claimed for himself these attributes of his Master. We are strongest when we are most like Christ. We shall be better, live better, worship better, work better, if we possess the "meekness and gentleness of Christ." - H.
Galatians 5:2; Ephesians 3:1; Philemon 1:19)." Conybeare indicates that the party with which St. Paul now deals was the Christian section of the Judaizing party - a section which, throwing off all authority, even though it was apostolic, declared that they received Christ alone as their Head, and that he alone should communicate truth directly to them. There is some ground for the supposition that "they were headed by an emissary from Palestine, who had brought letters of commendation from some members of the Church at Jerusalem, and who boasted of his pure Hebrew descent, and his especial connection with Christ himself. St. Paul calls him a false apostle, a minister of Satan disguised as a minister of righteousness, and hints that he was actuated by corrupt motives. He seems to have behaved at Corinth with extreme arrogance, and to have succeeded, by his overbearing conduct, in impressing his partisans with a conviction of his importance and of the truth of his pretensions. They contrasted his confident bearing with the timidity and self-distrust which had been shown by St. Paul. And they even extolled his personal advantages over those of their first teacher; comparing his rhetoric with Paul's inartificial speech, his commanding appearance with the insignificance of Paul's 'bodily presence.'" Conybeare gives a translation of vers. 1 and 2, which effectively expresses the spirit in which the apostle began his pleading with this malicious party. "Now I, Paul, myself exhort you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ - (I, who am mean, forsooth, and lowly in outward presence, while I am among you, yet treat you boldly when I am absent) - I beseech you (I say), that you will not force me to show, when I am present, the bold confidence in my power, wherewith! reckon to deal with some who reckon me by the standard of the flesh." Archdeacon Farrar says, "There is (in these closing chapters) none of the tender effusiveness and earnest praise which we have been hearing, but a tone of suppressed indignation, in which tenderness, struggling with bitter irony, in some places renders the language laboured and obscure, like the words of one who with difficulty restrains himself from saying all that his emotion might suggest. Yet it is deeply interesting to observe that the 'meekness and gentleness of Christ' reigns throughout all this irony, and he utters no word of malediction like those of the psalmists." By the term "meekness" we are to understand the habit of putting self aside, which was so characteristic of Moses, and the supreme grace of the Lord Jesus. By the term "gentleness" is not meant "softness of manner," but "fairness," "considerateness of the feelings of others." It indicates the habit of mind that is engendered by the practice of regarding the rights of others as well as our own. Meekness and gentleness belong to those passive graces which it was a great part of our Lord's mission to exemplify, to set in prominent place, and to commend. Bushnell speaks of the sublime efficacy of those virtues which belong to the receiving, suffering, patient side of character. They are such as meekness, gentleness, forbearance, forgiveness, the endurance of wrong without anger and resentment, contentment, quietness, peace, and unambitious love. These all belong to the more passive side of character, and are included, or may be, in the general and comprehensive term, "patience." "These are never barren virtues, as some are apt to imagine, but are often the most efficient and most operative powers that a true Christian wields; inasmuch as they carry just that kind of influence which other men are least apt and least able to resist." Considering St. Paul's naturally sensitive and impulsive temperament, it must have cost him much effort and prayer so to restrain himself that he could speak, even to such active enemies, with the "meekness and gentleness of Christ."
I. THE MEEKNESS OF CHRIST IN ST. PAUL. The word seems unsuitable for him unless we give it the proper meaning, which is - not self-assertive, willing to bear quietly, more anxious for others than for self. St. Paul was not even anxious, first of all, for his own imperilled reputation. The honour of Christ was involved in his self-vindication, and for Christ's sake he undertook it.
II. THE GENTLENESS OF CHRIST IN ST. PAUL. Save to hardened scribes and Pharisees, our Lord ever spoke softly and persuasively, or, at most, reproachfully. He, in his considerateness for others, would not break the bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax. And nothing is more striking in the Apostle Paul than the gentlemanly delicacy with which he considers the feelings of others. His hand trembles when it holds the rod, And the words of reproof and reproach break forth from a grieved and troubled heart. F.W. Robertson says, "He vindicated his authority because he had been meek, as Christ was meek; for not by menace, nor by force, did he conquer, but by the might of gentleness and the power of love. On that foundation St. Paul built; it was the example of Christ which he imitated in his moments of trial, when he was reproved and censured. Thus it happened that one of the apostle's 'mightiest weapons' was the meekness and lowliness of heart which he drew from the life of Christ. So it ever is; humility, after all, is the best defence. It disarms and conquers by the majesty of submission. To be humble and loving - that is true life." - R.T.
Romans 8:4-9). He speaks of "us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." He explains that "to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." And he firmly declares, "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you." By "living in the flesh" we are to understand, simply our possessing this fleshly, bodily nature, with its frailties, limitations, and infirmities. By "living, or warring, after the flesh," we are to understand neglecting the higher dictates of the higher spiritual nature, and living as though the desires of the body were the only ones that needed satisfying. But the precise thought of the apostle here may be that he will not be moved against the evil party at Corinth by those natural feelings of indignation which their conduct towards him had aroused, but will reprove and exhort only upon the great Christian principles, and only in the Christly spirit. Self shall not rule even his warfare with such unreasonable foes. Christ shall rule.
I. THE CHRISTIAN POSSIBILITIES OF OUR FLESHLY CONDITION. "We walk in the flesh." God is pleased to set us in this human body, to give us this vehicle of communication with other men and with the surrounding world; and it is possible for us to win this body for Christ, to possess and rule it so that all its powers shall be used, and all its relations sustained, only in Christly service. In fact, the work of human life may be spoken of as this - winning our bodies and our life spheres for Christ. Our bodies, our fleshly natures, include
(1) natural faculties, such as eating and drinking;
(2) passions, affecting the relationship of the sexes;
(3) mental emotions; and
(4) powers of acquiring knowledge.
It is possible to dominate the whole machinery of the body with the sanctified and Christly will.
II. THE LIMITATIONS OF OUR FLESHLY CONDITION. It is not a merely dead machine that we have to move by the force of the regenerate life. Nor is it a machine in full efficiency and repair. If the figure may be used, the body is a machine of too limited capacity for the work which the renewed soul wants done; and even taking it for what it is, it is sadly out of repair, rusted and worn, so that we have continually to complain that "we cannot do the things that we would." Illustrate in St. Paul's case. The body would have so affected him, if he had yielded to it, that he could not have been noble towards his traducers at Corinth. The body would have urged a passionate reply. So we find the body such a drag upon the high and holy aims, purposes, and endeavours of the soul, that we are often saying, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
III. THE CHRISTIAN MASTERY OF FLESHLY CONDITIONS. This is precisely the discipline of life. Christ wins our soul. Christ regenerates our will. Christ assures us of his own spiritual presence as our inspiration and strength; and then seems to say, "Go forth, win your flesh, your mind, your body, your associations, for me, so that henceforth no fleshly ends are sought, and no carnal, self-seeking tone rests on any of your doings and relations." It is inspiring to find how fully St. Paul could enter into Christ's thought for him, but it is comforting to observe how very near he was to failure in his endeavour to gain the mastery over self, again and again. Through much tribulation and conflict only can any one of us gain the mastery of the spirit over the flesh. - R.T.
1. THE NATURE OF THE WEAPONS CHRISTIANITY EMPLOYS AND SANCTIONS. It is evident from this and other passages that Paul did not place his main reliance upon the miraculous and supernatural powers which he possessed, and sometimes wielded.
1. Carnal weapons are disclaimed; e.g. the appeal to force of arms or of law; the appeal to the superstitious fears of men; the address to interest and selfishness, in the use of worldly policy and craft.
2. Spiritual weapons are relied upon. The truth of God, the gospel of Christ, - this was the arm in which inspired apostles were wont to trust.
3. These weapons are mighty. In fact, there are no means of combating error and sin, of promoting the cause of truth and righteousness, so powerful as those which are taken from the armoury of the New Testament. They are "mighty through God," i.e. their power is of Divine origin, the Holy Spirit accompanying them to the souls of men.
II. THE EFFICACY OF THE WEAPONS WHICH CHRISTIANITY EMPLOYS AND SANCTIONS.
1. They are mighty to demolish. As in warfare fortresses and cities are taken by a victorious army, and are then demolished, razed to the ground, so when the religion of Jesus went forth, conquering and to conquer, it attacked and brought low every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God. Thus sin, ignorance, error, superstition, vice, crime, bigotry, malice, were again and again vanquished by the victorious energy of the gospel.
2. They are mighty to subjugate. Captivity was the common lot of the conquered foe. And as thoughts are the motive power of life, the gospel attacked these; and rebellious, disobedient, indifferent, ungrateful thoughts were captured, and, by the gentle but mighty force of Divine truth, were brought into subjection to Christ, whom to obey is liberty, peace, and joy. - T.
I. THEY ARE FOR USE IN THE GREATEST OF ALL CONFLICTS
1. Not a physical conflict. These are poor, of comparative unimportance, often very contemptible, can effect little.
2. Not for the destruction of men. What labour, thought, skill, genius, are expended by man for man's destruction!
3. Not a mere mental conflict. Intellectual battles are not chief.
4. A spiritual conflict.
5. A conflict in which the honour and glory of the Eternal are contended for.
6. A conflict in which man's highest interests are sought.
7. A conflict against evil in every form.
II. THEY ARE HERE DESCRIBED.
1. Negatively. They are not carnal.
(1) They are not physical. Physical weapons have often been used in the cause of religion, but always by mistake. Peter's blunder in cutting off the ear of Malchus has had many repetitions.
(2) They are not carnal, for they are not of man. The apostle did not carry on his conflict by using
(a) cunning and trickery in order to secure converts. Some unwisely think that, if converts be obtained, it is no matter how. But Paul desired to "strive lawfully" (2 Timothy 2:5).
(b) Nor did he rely upon human eloquence. He came not with "wisdom of words" (1 Corinthians 1:17).
(c) Nor upon human reason. Philosophical subtleties he discarded. He had a revelation, and, whilst willing to demonstrate to human intelligence that this was a Divine revelation, he then employed it, and hoped for victory only as the Divine Spirit blessed his efforts. The apostle preached the gospel by his words, by his deeds, by his spirit, by his life; and using these weapons he relied pre-eminently upon that supreme weapon, Divine power, to secure the victory.
2. Positively. Carnal weapons seem strong. They impress men. Paul's weapons, which are ours, are apt to excite ridicule on the part of fleshly men, who judge by outward appearance. But the apostle contends that these weapons are mighty. They have done what all others have failed to do.
(1) They cast down strongholds. By these Satan is hurled from his seats, from his fastnesses in the hearts of men.
(2) They triumph over sceptical human philosophies and false religions (ver. 5). This is the conflict between truth and error. Truth has won. Truth will win. Though these are high things exalted against the knowledge of God (ver. 5), they find something higher and mightier in the gospel and in the accompanying power of God. They are but Dagons; before the ark they must fall.
(3) They make captive human thought (ver. 5). Illustrated in a true conversion. Thought is then dominated by Christ - no more a boastful foe, but a servant, a captive. The wise man becomes a fool that he may be truly wise (1 Corinthians 3:18). Pride, boastful and arrogant in the realm of human thought, is smitten - smitten to the death.
(4) They are mighty before God. Through God, but also before God, i.e. in his judgment. They come from his armoury. They are specially fashioned by him for this strife.
III. WE SHOULD RELY ONLY UPON THESE WEAPONS IN THE GREAT CONFLICT. Our strength is here. There are many temptations to use others. The devil loves to furnish us with weapons wherewith to attack his kingdom! With what strange weapons has the Church fought! No wonder the strife has so often gone against her. With what weapons are we fighting?
IV. WE SHOULD SEEK SKILL IS THEIR USE, 'Tis not enough to have good weapons, we must know how to employ them. The best weapons are the worst in unwise hands. We must enter the military school of Christ. - H.
I. NOT BY CARNAL WEAPONS OR ANY FORM OF PHYSICAL COACTION. Though St. Peter drew his sword to defend his heavenly Master, he was bidden at once restore it to its sheath. When Pontius Pilate interrogated our Lord about his being King of the Jews, he received for answer, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight." Extremists have inferred from this language that the followers of Christ may not, in any circumstances, wield a weapon of war; but this is mere folly. The subjects of the kingdom of Christ are also for the time subjects of an earthly kingdom also, or citizens in an earthly community, and have the same natural and civil rights as other men, and the same warrant and obligation to defend them. They may not delight in war; but even to that dire extremity they may proceed if there be no other way to keep order and secure justice and liberty. To do otherwise would be tamely to surrender the earth to the most unscrupulous and aggressive of its inhabitants. But weapons of worldly warfare do not advance that spiritual power which is the highest of all; nor is it permitted to use them for direct furtherance of Christ's kingdom of the truth. This, of course, condemns all forms of persecution; and when we say, "all forms," we mean, not merely imprisonment, pillage, and death, but the imposition of civil disabilities, or social and educational penalties, or any abridgment of political rights. On all such coercive measures the gospel frowns. Equally inadmissible is the use of misrepresentation. Those "pious frauds" which have been practised and propagated for the supposed glory of God have been very carnal weapons. So are all the misleading phrases and cajoleries by which it is still attempted to draw men into adherence to some form of religion without conviction of the understanding or real allegiance of the heart.
II. BUT BY WEAPONS THAT ARE AFTER THE MIND OF CHRIST. See the catalogue of such weapons as they had been used by St. Paul at Corinth: "In pureness, in knowledge," etc. (2 Corinthians 6:6, 7). Come honour or dishonour in this world, good report or evil, with such weapons must all the soldiers of Christ be content in the warfare to which they are called. The strongholds they assail may make a formidable resistance, but nothing is gained by changing the spiritual weapons for the carnal. They are mighty in God's sight and in God's strength. Paul knew them to be so. With them, though he was but one man and a man reproached and afflicted, he had pulled down many strongholds and won many victories. It is not a simple question of conversion. The truth has many a struggle in the heart after conversion as well as before. When Jericho fell, the holy war of Israel was well begun; but there still remained many holds and fenced cities to be taken. So, when the first opposition is surmounted, and a sinner yields to the power of the saving truth as it is in Jesus, much is gained, but not everything. The work of grace has to be pressed further ere every thought is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Little worldly stir or eclat attends the warfare of which we speak, but it awakens in heaven and through all the heavenly kingdom the liveliest interest and the noblest joy. There are shouts and Te Deums there, when evil is defeated and pulled down in the world, in the Church, in the breast of the individual man; when sinners repent; when rebels submit to God; when thoughts that were lifted up in scorn are cast down at the feet of Jesus, and affections that sin had beguiled and the pride of life enchanted, are fixed on truth, on duty, and on the things which are above. - F.
I. THE FORCES WHICH ARE BROUGHT INTO CAPTIVITY. Christianity does not contend with physical powers, does not aim at the mere regulation of outward and bodily acts. It strikes at antagonists far more powerful than any which are dealt with by the powers of this world. Thoughts, i.e. the desires and purposes of the souls of men, - these are the foes with which the spiritual religion of the Lord Jesus contends. Disobedient thoughts, selfish thoughts, worldly thoughts, murmuring thoughts, - these it is that the religion of the Lord Jesus assails. These are the source and spring of all the outward evils that afflict and curse mankind. If these can be mastered, society may be regenerated and the world may be saved.
II. THE SUBJECTION AND SUBMISSION INTO WHICH THESE FORCES ARE TO BE BROUGHT.
1. It is to the obedience of Christ, the rightful Lord of thoughts and of hearts, that the spiritual forces of humanity are to be rendered subject. A grand future is in this view opened up before humanity. The Son of man is King of man; and he will then ascend his royal throne when men's hearts bow loyally before him, acknowledge his unique spiritual authority, and offer to him their grateful and cheerful allegiance.
2. It is a willing captivity into which human thoughts will be led. In this it is utterly unlike the subjection from which the metaphor is taken. Not brute force, but the convincing authority of reason, the sweet constraint of love, the admired majesty of moral excellence, secure the submission of man's nature to the control of the Divine Lord
3. It is a lasting captivity, not temporary and brief. Whom Christ governs he governs forevermore. Time and earth cannot limit his empire. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. - T.
1. THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR THOUGHTS. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." Note:
1. The defiling power of cherished evil thought.
2. The inspiring and ennobling power of cherished good thought.
3. The relation of thought to
Right thoughts make openness to God, give graciousness to our conversation, enable us to be considerate of and helpful to others. As we must keep the fountain pure, if the stream is to run sweet and clear, we must recognize the supreme importance of taking heed to our thoughts.
II. OUR RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR THOUGHTS. On this point a sentiment prevails which greatly needs correction. It is assumed that we cannot help thoughts coming up before us, and that they may be the suggestions of our soul's spiritual enemy, and so we cannot be held responsible for them. This is one of those half truths that are oftentimes more mischievous than downright error. We are not responsible for the mere passing of thoughts, as in a panorama, before our mental vision; but we are responsible for what we select of them for consideration; we are responsible for what we cherish. We are further responsible for the materials of our thought, and for the circumstances in which we place ourselves, so far as they may suggest thought. Therefore we have the counsel so earnestly given us, "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life."
III. THE SECRET OF CONTROLLING OUR THOUGHTS. That secret is made up of parts. It includes:
1. The full surrender of our will to Christ, so that he may rule all our choices and preferences, even the very choices of our thoughts.
2. The cherished consciousness of Christ's living presence with us gives tone and harmony with him, to all cur preferences.
3. The culture of mind, disposition, and habits, which involves the resolute putting away from us of all associations and suggestions of evil.
4. The freeness of access to God in prayer for strength whenever temptation seems to have an overcoming rower.
5. The occupying of heart, thought, and life so fully with the things of Christ that there can be no room for evil. There is no more practical way of mastering doubting, sensual, corrupt thought than by turning at once to good reading or engaging at once in works of charity. While we pray to God to "cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of his Holy Spirit," we must also remember that the apostle teaches us to make personal efforts of watchfulness and good endeavour, and so "bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." In every age sincere hearts have prayed the psalmist's prayer: "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." - R.T.
I. A VERY EASY WAY OF JUDGING. A sound judgment often involves hard labour. Many jump to conclusions because the jump is so easy and so soon over. But a judgment lightly got may generally be lightly valued. Few things are more difficult than terming accurate judgments. The importance of correct judgment is, however, so all important that we should spare no pains to secure it.
II. A VERY COMMON WAY OF JUDGING. Surface judgments are popular. Many people are fatally prejudiced by appearance, whether good or bad; of the former they will hear no blame, of the latter no praise. We need remember this when we estimate human judgments generally.
III. A VERY PERILOUS WAY OF JUDGING. It leads to constant errors and evils. Note one or two.
1. Gentleness is mistaken for weakness. This was the case with the apostle. That which was kindest and best in him was esteemed a fault.
2. The physical and external are over estimated. The voice, manner, appearance, language of a preacher are unduly regarded. The "outward appearance" often goes for much more than the inward grace and power.
3. The flashy and dazzling are more esteemed than the solid and weighty. Sensational religion triumphs in the realm of shallow judgment,
4. The religious life suffers in comparison with the worldly. The deep, quiet, permanent joys of the former are unconsidered. The pleasures of the latter are thought to be as great as they seem: a fatal blunder.
5. God's dealings with us are misunderstood. He is often kindest when he seems most unkind. God's "No" is often a far greater good than God's "Yes" could be; but a hasty superficial judgment does not perceive this. We often complain most when we have most cause to bless.
6. The more striking forms of Christian worship and work eclipse other and more important. The shallow judgments of Corinth were all for speaking with tongues. "Prophecy" was little accounted of. "Giving money" is often attractive when true charity is not. The grand choral service is more popular than quiet consistent living. To be a "great preacher" is the object of ambition rather than to be a real teacher of men.
7. Christ was rejected and is today by those who judge according to the outward appearance. He is "a root out of a dry ground" to such; they have no spiritual insight. The Gospels which speak of him are full of inconsistencies to those who will not examine them. Yea, the Bible itself, which is one revelation of him, must be rejected by these weak surface judges. But what said he? "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24). - H.
I. THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE OUGHT TO EXPRESS THE INWARD FACT. Outward and inward should be in perfect harmony. They should be related as are thought and word. A man's words should clearly, precisely, worthily, express to men his thought. And so his outward appearance should exactly correspond with his inward condition. Only then can a man be "sincere." We speak of a man as being "always the same." He can only be so if he will let what be really is find due expression in his life. The consciously sincere man makes no show. Without restraint he lets the life speak freely what message it pleases. The life of the Lord Jesus Christ is so sublimely attractive, because we feel that it was through and through true; and whatever were its appearances they were but manifestations of his life.
II. THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE IS OFTEN UNTRUE TO THE INWARD FACT. Of this the familiar illustration is taken from the usual description of the fruit grown near the Dead Sea, and called "apples of Sodom." Beautiful to all appearance, but dry and unpleasant to the taste. Hypocrisy is real "part acting," representing ourselves to be other than we are. It is a very subtle form of sin, especially in what are called "civilized times," when so much depends on "keeping up appearances." Illustrate in relation to house, dress, society; and show that it may even concern personal religion. The assumption and the show of piety are not always faithful transcripts of the heart's love and devotion. But sometimes the outward appearance is untrue by being below the reality. This seems to have been the case with St. Paul. His insignificant appearance, and his modesty and considerateness of manner, gave little indication of the force that was in him, or the bold and valiant defence of the truth which he could give upon occasion. So the outward appearance may be unworthy of the inward, without being wrongfully so; unworthy by reason of infirmity, and not of hypocrisy.
III. THEREFORE WE ARE ALWAYS BOUND TO TEST THE IMPRESSIONS MADE BY OUTWARD APPEARANCES. "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." The testings can often be done
(1) by patient waiting;
(2) by observing the whole of a man's conduct;
(3) by comparing our impressions with those made on others' minds;
(4) by the standards given us in Holy Scripture;
(5) by cultivating our own sensitiveness to that which is truly Christ-like.
In order to find unworthy men out, and in order to esteem aright good men, we must go beyond their form, feature, and outward show, and we must know them. St. Paul will bear thoroughly knowing. - R.T.
- edification, building up, and that power should be used for this object. To terrify them by letters was not his aim; edification, not destruction, led him to write. By the admission of his enemies, the letters from him were "weighty and powerful." On the other hand, his "bodily presence" was "weak," and his "speech contemptible." This is the only notice we have in the New Testament of an apostle's personal appearance. Had it occurred in the case of St. Peter or St. John, we should have been surprised, but it falls in naturally with the order of events and the play of circumstances connected with St. Paul's apostleship. His call, position, and career were singular; the individuality gives a colouring to the minutest details of his life; and accordingly, as he was subjected to an exceptional kind and degree of criticism, even his bodily infirmities came under inspection and were made matters of public notoriety. By itself, this reference to his appearance would not attract more than a passing notice. Yet it has a broader meaning, since it serves to illustrate the fact that nothing about him escaped the closest scrutiny. Enemies in the Church, enemies out of the Church, officials, centurions, proconsuls, procurators, find something in the man to study, and their opinions of him come into the public thought of the day. The plan of Providence, we may infer, was that St. Paul should be well known, thoroughly well known, and that we should hear from both sides - friends and foes - all that could be known of him, even to his "presence" and "speech." He thought the matter of sufficient importance to recognize it so far as to say that, what he was in his letters, he would be in his deeds. Beyond this he has no concern about it. - L.
I. THE SOURCE OF APOSTOLIC POWER AND AUTHORITY.
1. It was not in himself, in any personal gifts and qualifications, that this power lay. Paul was indeed by nature a highly gifted man; but he laid no stress upon his abilities. He was by education a man of learning and culture; but he did not rely upon his knowledge for his influence.
2. It was not in any human commission that Paul confided. A king commissions an ambassador; a university confers a degree and right to teach; a Church licenses and authorizes a ministry. But the apostles were forward to declare that they had not received their commission from man.
3. It was by the Lord Jesus himself that the apostles were empowered and appointed to fulfil their high office. If Paul was the latest thus to be commissioned, none the less did he receive his authorization from the Divine Lord himself.
II. THE SCOPE AND PURPOSE OF APOSTOLIC POWER AND AUTHORITY,
1. As negatively described, it was not for casting down, for destruction. The power of the warrior is too often employed for this end. And even religious leaders and rulers - popes, defenders of the faith, and others - have too often bent their energies rather to destroy than to save. The apostle had occasion sometimes to threaten that he would put forth his power to silence and crush the rebellious. But he had no delight in "casting down," neither did he regard this as the ultimate end of his ministry.
2. As positively described, it was for edification. We must understand by this the rearing of the structure of Christian doctrine, and at the same time the building up of Church life. And as doctrine is intended to produce results in character, and as every true Church is built up of renewed natures and holy lives, obviously edification is a moral and personal process. APPLICATION. Apostolic power and authority give an assured basis for the faith of a Christian believer and for the teaching of a Christian minister. For the foundation is laid, not by human ignorance, but by Divine wisdom. - T.
I. ST. PAUL'S EPISTLES ABOUND IN VIGOROUS REASONING. It is sufficient to refer to the First Epistle to the Corinthians in order to establish this assertion. On a doctrinal question such as the resurrection of the dead, on a practical question such as that connected with the sacrificial feasts, he proved himself a master of argument. As Christianity is a religion appealing to the intelligence, it has been wisely ordered that in its authoritative documents there should be much reasoning which commends itself to the wisest understanding and the soundest judgment.
II. ST. PAUL'S EPISTLES ABOUND IN MANIFESTATIONS OF THE FINEST FEELING. Far from sentimental, the apostle was yet a man of tender affections, of emotional susceptibilities. Take, for example, the panegyric of charity in his First Epistle to these Corinthians. Take the personal references to his friends and fellow labourers, to be found in most of his letters. Many readers or hearers, who were not capable of appreciating his argumentative power, would feel deeply the appeals to their best and purest sentiments. If we feel thus now, at this distance of time, and when imagination is necessary in order to throw ourselves into the circumstances in which these letters were written and read, how much more must this have been the case when all was fresh and recent!
III. PAUL'S EPISTLES HAVE PROVED THEIR POWER BY THE PRACTICAL RESULTS THEY HAVE PRODUCED. They were not written to be approved and admired, but to convince, to persuade, to induce to prompt and cheerful action in compliance with their counsels. And this result followed these documents when first perused. And every age attests their moral authority, and proves that their weight and power are still undiminished. - T.
pulling down strongholds, and in demonstrating that the weapons were not carnal, but mighty through God. If he had reached Corinth as a place within the boundaries of his province, would he pause there? Was this the outer line of the vast battlefield? He hoped not. There he was only waiting till another territory had been marked out, and he should hear the signal to arise and possess the land. Was he looking across the sea of Adria and wondering when he should visit Rome? And when would that glad opportunity come? But one thing was clear to him just then, and this was that, if the faith of the Corinthians were increased, he would have his own heart enlarged, and be further endowed and qualified for apostolic labour. One moment, a glance at the Judaizers and their presumptuous occupancy of fields delegated of God to him (ver. 15), "not boasting of things without measure, that is, of other men's labours;" the next moment, a thought of new work so soon as the Church at Corinth should recover from its troubles and he should find it safe to leave them. Already his heart was burning to preach the gospel in the regions beyond Corinth, and "not to glory in another's province in regard to things ready to our hand." Observe how often this last idea recurs: ver. 13, "We will not boast of things without our measure;" ver. 14, "We stretch not ourselves beyond our measure;" ver. 15, "Not boasting of things without our measure;" ver. 16, "Not to boast in another man's line of things [see Revised Version, above] made ready to our hand." Two things here are noteworthy.
1. The apostle is willing and ready to wage the holy war in new territories. He is not tired of fighting the Lord's battles. Nor is he afraid of greater and more numerous enemies. Probably his eye was on Rome. If God will, he shall go further West. His weapons have been tried and proved. He himself has been tested. Grace has been sufficient. Cast down, he has not been destroyed. Dying, he has lived. The promises of God have been Yea and Amen to his soul, nor could any experience happen that would not bring the strength and consolation of Christ to his heart. How much he had lived and how rapidly! What years had been compressed into each year! Before the dilating eye of intellect, what vistas had spread afar in the light that brightened towards the perfect day! And then the blessed realizations, ability increasing perpetually, and capacity growing even faster so as to supply fully the expanding spheres of ability, consciousness of self enlarging as self in Christ, deep opening into deep, wonder springing afresh from wonder, and, with every victory gained by the weapons of his warfare, a larger assurance that, if he had been "mighty through God" at Ephesus and Corinth, he should be mightier still "in the regions beyond." Here is a most useful lesson to teach us what we are slow to learn, namely, that no natural endowments, no amount of culture, no inspiration of knowledge, no miracles wrought in his behalf, can set aside the necessity of Christian experience, a personal work of grace in the soul, a profound sense of that work as from the Holy Spirit, in the ease of one called to the highest office of ministration.
2. We see how we are, am Christians, "members one of another." Although St. Paul was so highly endowed and so remarkably successful in the apostleship, yet he depends on the Church at Corinth for his enlargement to the work opening before him in Europe. "We shall be enlarged by you." This was conditioned on their conduct. If their divisions were healed, their false teachers silenced, their energies set free from exhausting strife and concentrated on building up Christ's kingdom, would Corinth and Achaia be the only gainers? Nay; he himself would be liberated from restraints that clogged his feet. A fresh impulse would be given his apostleship. A new current of life would flow from their hearts into his heart, for it was not his working nor any other apostle's working, but the coworking, the hearty union of Church and apostles, the cooperation of the "diversities of gifts," the oneness of the mystical body of Christ, by which the world was to be evangelized. The schism that had been threatened between the Asiatic and European Churches was in a fair way to be arrested. Jewish and Gentile believers were getting reconciled to the peculiarities of each other; the collection for the mother Church at Jerusalem was doing much to effect this most important unity. Yet this is not before him now. Nor does he allude to the singular advantages of Corinth as to geographical location and commercial opportunities. Situated on a narrow strip of land between northern and southern Greece, and connected with two seas by its harbours of Lechaeum and Cenchreae, it was a great emporium of trade for the East and West, and hence offered extraordinary facilities for the diffusion of Christianity. No doubt St. Paul felt that it was a centre of commanding influence. But he was extremely cautious as to using local motives, and in the present case he made no allusion to them. What occupied his whole thought was the increase of grace among them as a Christian community, and to this he looked for a happy furtherance in his contemplated missionary, tour. If they were revived and consecrated anew to Christ, he knew well that, when obstacles were thrown in his future pathway, when persecutions even fiercer than those already undergone came upon him, they would afford him sympathy and assistance while getting foothold in "the regions beyond." Obviously a prevailing idea in his mind was that Christianity must have a central home in every great section of country, and thence draw its human supplies during its conquests of outlying territory. And he longed for the Corinthian brethren to attain a richer experience of grace, so that they might magnify his office. Instead of being independent of their fraternal support, the stronger he felt himself the more he leaned on their sympathies. Heaven never gets so close to a man that earth does not get closer also. How the blessed Jesus leaned on his friends in the Passion week! How he needed the chosen among them to watch with him in the garden for one hour! The weary days of the apostle had not yet come, and his soul was having glorious visions of apostolic work, but amid it all, the pressure of uncertainty was upon his hope, and he would gladly hasten away from the present scene of anxiety just as soon as Providence permitted. We can enter into his solicitudes. We can imagine how Kirke White felt when he wrote the closing lines of the 'Christiad': -
"O thou who visitest the sons of men,
I. WRONG BOASTING.
1. That we excel some others. We are very apt, like some at Corinth, to compare ourselves with certain around us. This is measuring by a false standard, and measuring by a false standard is likely to lead to enormously erroneous results. The question is not whether we excel others, but whether we have attained to the measure for which God created and endowed us. The true measuring rod is not found in the stature, physical mental, or moral, of our fellows; the true measuring rod is held in the hands of the Almighty. If a man were to judge of himself by comparing himself with a mouse or a molehill, we should say he was a fool; and the apostle says, "They themselves, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves with themselves, are without understanding" (ver. 12). It has been said, "The one-eyed is easily king among the blind."
2. That we possess what we are destitute of, and that we have done what we have not done. Wrong boasting is the twin brother of downright lying. The false teachers at Corinth boasted of gifts which they did not possess, and took to themselves the credit of other men's labours. It is astonishing what powers of appropriation the boastful spirit possesses. When a man once gets addicted to vain glory it is useless to attempt to predict to what excesses he will be led. He clears the barriers of truth as though they were straws. What he is, is what he can persuade people to think him; what he has done is what he can by any means induce them to credit. The braggart knows no restraint. His parish is the world - the worlds of fact and fiction rolled into one, and he is as much at home in the one as in the other. His domain has only one boundary - the credulity of his listeners.
3. That the praise of our good actions is to be ascribed to us. This strikes at the root of wrong boasting. A boasting which robs God must be of the devil, The man who knows himself knows that there is no good thing in him. If he finds anything good he immediately concludes that it did not spring from himself, and he looks about for the originator and owner. It is only the very bad who think themselves very good. If we are disposed to take the praise of our good actions to ourselves it is strong evidence that these actions were not really good. "Good" actions cannot be done by those who are so utterly out of true relation to God.
II. RIGHT BOASTING. This is boasting or glorying in the Lord (ver. 17). We may boast of God, and the more boastful we are in this direction the better. There will be no danger of running to excess; after we have boasted to our utmost we shall have fallen far short of the truth. Alas! few things are more uncommon than this boasting in God. Fallen human nature finds it easier and more reasonable to boast of the mud puddle than of the crystal ocean - of the dim rushlight than of the glorious sun.
1. We may well boast of the Divine perfections. Here we shall find an inexhaustible subject. The glories of our God will exhaust our powers of glorying. Whilst carnal men applaud their little gods, the saints may well extol Jehovah. "Who is a God like unto our God?" we may proudly cry. Pride becomes one of the chiefest virtues when it is centred in God. Christians are not half boastful enough in the right direction, and twice too boastful in the wrong. Shame upon us that we boast so little of our God!
2. We may well boast of the great redemptive work of God. So loud should be our boasting as to make all men hear it. Here the perfection of God finds highest and most beautiful expression. Here each Person in the adorable Trinity works a matchless work of grace and power. Upon us especially, since we are the subjects of redemption, rests the burden of boasting respecting it. This is our peculiar province of glorying. Of all creatures in the universe we are bound to this service. If we were silent, surely the stones would cry out. As God has wrought this great thing for us, we must never let men or God hear the last of it! What a subject for boast! Where is there aught that can for a moment compare with it? Boast, ye Christians, of redeeming love till all your powers of boasting fail.
3. We may well boast of God's work in us and through us.
(1) In us. When we joyfully recognize that we are growing in grace we must exult in the God of all grace. This thing is not of us, but of him. To him must all the praise be accorded. The "old man" within us is the child of our fall and our folly; the "new man" is God's special creation. Clearly should we realize this, and concentrate all our boasting in him from whom this "unspeakable Gift" (which is "Christ in us") emanates. Humility and abasement in respect of ourselves; boastfulness in respect of him who has wrought the marvel in us.
(2) Through us. To depreciate what is accomplished through us is but lying humility. Paul was not guilty of it. It is professedly abasing ourselves and really abasing God. When the work accomplished is undoubted, the only right course is to glory to our utmost in the God who has accomplished it. We must reserve no praise for ourselves, since we have deserved none; all the praise must be his. We need care, however, when glorying in God for what he has accomplished through us, lest, whilst ostensibly praising him, we should be covertly praising ourselves. There is a mouth of hell which lies near the gate of heaven. We must guard against feeding conceit by supposing that we are of ourselves instruments so fit that God could not have so well performed the work through others; or that through personal merit we are favourites of God, and that therefore he has specially wrought his will through us; or that, having been so honoured, we may now hold our heads high. Whilst extolling God we must abase ourselves; whilst boasting in him we must refuse to glory in the least in the unworthy instrument. That he has so greatly distinguished what was so greatly unworthy should but deepen and intensify our humility. - H.
Romans 15:19-24). The apostle, filled with the true missionary spirit, was longing to be free from the care of Churches already founded, so that he might be free to go again upon his journeyings, and preach the gospel in Western Greece, in Rome, and even away in distant Spain. St. Paul was first and chiefly a missionary. The genius of the missionary is a Divine restlessness, a constant impulse forward into new spheres, a passion for finding some one else to whom the gospel message might be told. The men who settle down in Churches situated in heathen districts are ministers and pastors and clergymen; they cannot properly be called missionaries, since these are men who are always hearing a call from "regions beyond," saying, "Come over and help us."
I. MISSIONARY WORK AS HERALDING A MESSAGE, The word for "preaching" properly means "heralding" - going forth to make a royal proclamation. Explain the work of the Eastern herald. He would go through the land, and, wherever he could find people, deliver the king's message. We need a fuller and worthier impression of the gospel, as the royal proclamation of the King of kings, entrusted to us for delivery to "all the world," to "every creature."
II. HERALDING WORK AS TEMPORARY. It is done when the message is declared and delivered. The herald - as a herald - has no more to do there; he must pass on his way. There is abundant work left behind for others to do; but his is over. And we are told that the gospel heralds will not have gone all over the world when the kingdom shall come. So we need fear no lack of work for missionaries and heralds.
III. HERALD'S DUTY TO FIND REGIONS BEYOND. A glance at the map of our world will show what vast masses of mankind have never heard of the true God, the redeeming Son, and the eternal life. We rejoice that, especially in Africa and China, the Christian Church is showing that it keeps the true missionary idea, and is ever reaching out to "regions beyond." - R.T.
I. MEN ARE TEMPTED TO GLORY IN THEMSELVES. What men have they are in danger of over estimating, and thus taking credit to themselves when no credit is due. Some glory in natural endowments, strength of body, or mental ability. Some in the accidents of birth or of fortune. Some in their position in society, etc.
II. FROM THIS TEMPTATION TO BOASTFULNESS SPIRITUAL LABOURERS ARE NOT FREE. Some religious teachers, preachers, writers, officials, pride themselves upon their "gifts," and the esteem in which they are held; boast of their credentials, their learning, their acceptance. If the persons to whom the apostle referred were the first, they were certainly not the last, of this order of men.
III. THE ONLY ADMISSIBLE GLORYING IS GLORYING IN THE LORD.
1. Christians may glory in the Divine grace to which they owe their spiritual position. This they do when they ask - What have we that we did not receive? Who hath made us to differ?
2. Christian ministers may glory in opportunity of service and in the Divine bestowal of ability for its fulfilment. The apostle felt that the Head of the Church had put honour upon him in commissioning him as the messenger of life to the Gentiles, and in qualifying him for a mission so sacred and glorious. Every bishop, pastor, and evangelist may well acknowledge the condescension of the Eternal in counting him faithful and putting him into the ministry.
3. All true labourers may glory in their success by attributing it to the Divine Author. Paul had abundant reason of this kind for glorying. He needed no letters of commendation; his own converts were epistles witnessing to his faithfulness and zeal, known and read of all men. Joy and thanksgiving, glorying and congratulation, may justly follow when Heaven has smiled upon the labourer's toil, and has suffered him not only to sow, but also to reap. - T.
service of boasting which may, under certain circumstances, be our most effective mode of resisting evil and witnessing for God. On the whole, however, it may be fully urged that a man's life, rather than his lips, should do all his boastings for him. These distinctions may be further elaborated and illustrated.
I. GLORYING IN WHAT WE ARE IS ALWAYS A SIGN OF CHRISTIAN WEAKNESS. A man had better not even think about himself, but put all his effort into higher attainments in the Divine life. There is danger for us when we find that we have anything in ourselves to talk about or to glory in. All the finest and most delicate Christian graces are so fragile that they break with a touch, so sensitive that they fade if we only look on them. Do not even think about what you are; fill your thoughts with what you may be, what you may become, in the grace and strength of Christ. Christian progress stops as soon as we begin to boast. He that is satisfied with his attainments falls from the Christian ideal, which is this, "Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, if so be that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12, Revised. Version). Show the peril that lies in habits of introspection and self-examination with a view to finding subjects of self-satisfaction. And also of meetings in which Christians are encouraged to boast of religious feelings and experiences. The text suggests an altogether "more excellent way." "Let him that glorieth glory in the Lord."
II. GLORYING IN WHAT WE HAVE DONE PUTS CHRISTIAN HUMILITY IN PERIL. Because it directs men's thoughts to us, sets them upon praising us, and so lifts up our minds, gives us undue notions of our own superiority and excellence. When he gains the applause of an unthinking multitude, Nebuchadnezzar can forget himself, and, in uttermost pride, cast God wholly away, and say, "Is not this great Babylon, which I have builded?" Boastfulness of our doings is always perilous. God does not need it, since he knows all about it. And man does not need it, for he can see the doings well enough without our telling. "Let thine own works praise thee." Let thine enemies praise thee. Let thy friends praise thee. But if you would keep fresh the great grace of humility, never praise yourself.
III. GLORYING IN WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US AND BY US IS ALWAYS INSPIRING AND HEALTHY. Such was the glorying of the apostle, and such are the narratives of labour given us by great missionaries. All true records of our life work should lead men to say, "What hath God wrought?" - R.T.
I. THE VANITY OF SELF-COMMENDATION ON THE PART OF CHRISTIAN LABOURERS.
1. Such a habit is a flaw in personal character. True dignity and self-respect dictate modesty in estimating one's self and reticence in speaking of one's self.
2. It has an injurious effect upon the ministry. They who commend themselves in words are not likely to commend themselves in deeds. The estimation in which others hold them is probably in inverse ratio to that in which they hold themselves.
3. It is displeasing to the Lord and Judge of all, who regards the lowly and meek and raises them up in due time.
II. THE LORD HIMSELF COMMENDS AND WILL COMMEND HIS FAITHFUL SERVANTS. He is not unjust; he is not ungenerous; he is not unmindful.
"All works are good, and each is best 1. This commendation is bestowed here and now. In the success of the labourer is evidence of the approbation of the Master. 2. Hereafter shall be a public and pronounced commendation. In the day of account those who have done their Lord's will shall be accepted. "Then shall every man have praise of God." III. IT IS NOT THE SELF-COMMENDED, BUT THE COMMENDED OF THE LORD, WHO ENDURE THE TEST AND COME OUT FROM IT APPROVED. Work is put to the proof; and not only the work, but the workman, is thus submitted to a decisive trial. If it be asked - Who stand the test, and are brought out with honour and acceptance? the answer is - Not the boastful, the self-confident, those who are loud in their own praise; but those who, by patient continuance in well doing, by diligent devotion to the service of the Lord, secure his commendation. Such shall abide in the judgment, and shall receive the recompense of reward. - T.
1. This commendation is bestowed here and now. In the success of the labourer is evidence of the approbation of the Master.
2. Hereafter shall be a public and pronounced commendation. In the day of account those who have done their Lord's will shall be accepted. "Then shall every man have praise of God."
III. IT IS NOT THE SELF-COMMENDED, BUT THE COMMENDED OF THE LORD, WHO ENDURE THE TEST AND COME OUT FROM IT APPROVED. Work is put to the proof; and not only the work, but the workman, is thus submitted to a decisive trial. If it be asked - Who stand the test, and are brought out with honour and acceptance? the answer is - Not the boastful, the self-confident, those who are loud in their own praise; but those who, by patient continuance in well doing, by diligent devotion to the service of the Lord, secure his commendation. Such shall abide in the judgment, and shall receive the recompense of reward. - T.