Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. ZEAL IN CHRISTIAN BENEVOLENCE IS IN ITSELF GOOD. The languid and unemotional, the cold and calculating, however they may pride themselves upon their justice and reasonableness, are not the people who do the good, the benevolent work of the world. It is good to be zealously affected in a good cause.
II. THE CONTAGIOUSNESS OF ZEAL IS FOUNDED UPON THE SOCIAL NATURE OF MAN. We are members one of another, and it is not desirable, it is not possible, for any person, for any community, to be indifferent to the welfare of others. And the conduct of each has some influence upon the conduct of others. It is not easy to be zealous when all around are unconcerned and inactive, whilst, on the other hand, the spectacle of zealous devotion and self-denial is stimulating and encouraging.
III. THIS EMULATION MAY BE CARRIED TO A PREJUDICIAL EXTENT. It cannot but be acknowledged that emulation may lead to ostentation. Who can question that the motive of some givers to charitable and religious instutions is impure? One wishes to excel another, for the pleasure of triumphing over him, or of cutting a more important figure in the eyes of his fellow men. And thus the true motive is lost sight or, and a moral injury is wrought.
IV. YET IT IS WELL TO FEEL THE FORCE OF A GOOD EXAMPLE AS A PRACTICAL MOTIVE TO ZEALOUS SERVICE. We may learn from the case of others what may be done where there is consecration, self-denial, and prayerful effort. Our apathy may be rebuked, our flagging benevolence revived. It is when the coals are not only kindled, but put together, that the fire burns clear and bright, and gives forth its genial warmth. - T.
I. AN INDISPUTABLE FACT. Man is imitative, even in generosity. Example is often potent when appeal falls flat. Many do not see that they can afford to give until others in similar circumstances demonstrate the possibility. Men do not like to be outdone in good works; a friend's beneficence is a spur to our own.
II. A SUGGESTIVE FACT. When we give we often think only of the direct good which our contribution will effect, but much other good may follow. Our charity may be stimulative. Should lead us:
1. To give promptly. Delayed gift may be in time for the special object, but may be too late to induce others to give in time. Our charity must have time to work; some people take hints slowly. Bis dat, qui cito dat, is true in more ways than one.
2. To give liberally. We may curtail the charity of others. On the other hand, a liberal gift may draw forth liberal responses.
3. To give joyfully. If we give with evident gladness, others may desire to share our happiness. Joyful giving is more contagious than any other, since all men naturally crave for joy.
4. To give to suitable objects only. We may misdirect the charity of others. There is not a little responsibility attaching to benevolence. Some seem to think that, if they give, it is little matter how or to what they give.
III. A COMFORTING FACT. The truly liberal are often distressed because they can give so little. But small gifts may have large issues. The small rudder directs the great ship. The little weight often turns the scale. Our gift, of little value, may call forth large help from those wealthier than ourselves. This is likely if men see that, though we give little, we give as much as we can.
IV. A USEFUL FACT. To be made use of according to the example set by Paul. A legitimate instrument for moving sluggish natures. Whilst we may be silent respecting our own charity, we may often profitably speak of the charity of others. - H.
unaffected confidence never fails to elicit the Divine spark." Consider -
I. ST. PAUL'S CONFIDENCE IN THEIR GOOD HEARTEDNESS. "I know the forwardness of your "mind."
1. So far as tidings had reached him, and so far as he knew their Christian disposition and character, he felt sure that they were thinking rightly about the matter, cherishing proper sentiments concerning Christian brotherhood and charity, and the duty of the strong to bear the infirmities of the weak. This would be the matter of first importance to the apostle, for mere gifts are of no more acceptableness to God nowadays than mere sacrifices were in older days. God reads hearts and motives, and accepts the spirit of generosity and brotherly kindness which may find expression through gifts. So God could send this gracious message to David, "Thou didst well that it was in thy heart."
2. The Corinthians also planned to meet the apostle's wishes. There had been consideration and consultation and united endeavour to form good schemes for the regular devotement of gifts, for the storing and the ingathering of the moneys. In such signs of thought and care and wise arrangement St. Paul could but unfeignedly rejoice.
3. It seems that the Corinthians had actually made a good and hopeful begriming. They had been "forward" in advance of other Churches; to use a familiar figure, they had "taken time by the forelock." This the apostle could not fail to regard as a most encouraging and hopeful sign of earnestness, as well as of the preparedness to act upon principle rather than upon mere impulse and excitement.
II. ST. PAUL'S USE OF THEM FOR THE INSPIRATION OF OTHERS. "For which I boast of you to them of Macedonia." Probably St. Paul had been setting their example before the Churches of Macedonia previous to his receiving news of the trouble at Corinth over the incestuous member, and the disturbance of the Church by St. Paul's personal energies and traducers. Show that whenever a Church of Christ, or a Christian individual, affords prominent illustration of any grace or duty, they properly become, in such matters, models and examples for the inspiration of others. All who attain above an average level in Christian living ought to be used for the permanent raising of the average. It is a somewhat difficult question, how far lesser motives, such as emulation and rivalry and ambition to be topmost, may be appealed to in Christian life and work. Certainly it must be admitted that they can only be secondary motives, buttresses of a building that is well founded on the one great motive of loyalty and love to Christ.
III. ST. PAUL'S FEARS LEST THEY SHOULD COME SHORT OF HIS HOPE. "His boasting of them might be in vain in this behalf." He was very properly anxious "lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting." The ground of fear was the influence which the troubles and conflicts through which the Corinthian Church had been passing would have upon such a matter of external interest. Churches whose peace is disturbed are seldom found zealous in good works. The energy of the Church which is turned into dissension and strife is taken from its proper spheres of growth, witness, and charity. But St. Paul had further cause for his fears. Enemies at Corinth were so earnestly endeavouring to undermine his authority and destroy his influence that it seemed likely the Church would throw up this collection for the Jerusalem saints as a merely Pauline affair, with which they had better have nothing to do. The apostle opposes this malign influence by his delicate pleading, and by sending messengers who would testify that the collection was a matter of public concern, not one of personal interest to the apostle, and not one which was left in his hands. It was the united contribution of the Gentile Churches to the mother Church in her distress, and the matter was wholly under the regulation of those Churches. Impress how important is manifest clean handedness for all who have to do with Church moneys. No man must blame us concerning the gifts which we administer.
IV. ST. PAUL'S ANXIETY TO SECURE THE PRACTICAL RESULTS OF RIGHT FEELING. He had been made glad by the report which he had received concerning the more spiritually minded Corinthians. They had received his reproofs and counsels with right feeling. They had cleared themselves of all complicity with the doings of the unworthy member; and the apostle felt that now all that was needed, as a sign of their right heartedness, was the resumption of this collecting scheme. If they would earnestly take that up and carry it through, in a generous and self-denying way, it would be the all-sufficient and outward proof that they had come well through the stormy and troubled periods of their Church history. - R.T.
your bounty, and not of my claims upon your purses." The Revised Version renders, "and not of extortion," but putting the word "covetousness" in the margin. The Greek of the word "covetous," signifies "to have more," and it signifies
(1) one who has more than enough;
(2) one who desires more than enough of whatever kind; and
(3) one greedy after money.
But these do not precisely express the thought which is in the word as employed in Scripture. Covetousness is that exaggerated consideration for self which makes it possible, not only to neglect the interests of others, but even to injure others to secure a man's own ends. It is the desire to get and to hold for self, which shuts up a man's hand and heart so that he cannot give to others. We suggest for treatment -
I. THE COVETOUS SPIRIT. Distinguish between covetous acts, and the covetous spirit which may be cherished in such a way as to utterly spoil acts which men may call acts of liberality. It is "covetousness," the self-seeking spirit, concerning which St. Paul is anxious, and this is a form of spiritual evil to which we are all more exposed than we think. The most painful exemplification of it is found in Judas Iscariot. Its subtle and mischievous workings in him can be clearly traced. The examples of Achan, Demas, etc., may also be given. "It is not necessary to describe at any length the sin which the Word of God brands under the name of 'covetousness,' and always associates with whatever is most offensive and most vile, 'the root of all evil,' by bad pre-eminence, 'idolatry.' We assume its existence. It will not be denied. Its spell is upon all. It is the abuse and perversion of a great law of man's nature - the law which teaches him to aspire heavenward and Godward; or of a law not less primary - the law of self-preservation. It is the ruling passion of nearly all men, of all tastes and times. 'Take heed, and beware of covetousness,' said the All-wise; and though his Word teems with such warnings against the sin, men have not been warned. At one time men call it 'the great queen regent of the world;' at another, 'the all-consuming cancer' of the Church; at another, her 'deadly upas;' at a fourth, 'a fatal opiate;' while others assure us that, at the best, man is only the heir of a vault or the lord of a grave. Yet fain are all such exposures. Though it creeps stealthily upon man like grey hairs or dropsy, the conquests of covetousness continue far wider than those of Alexander. The monarch and the menial are alike its slaves. The phlegmatic are covetous because this freezing sin specially suits their nature; the earnest, because it stimulates; the licentious, because it can pamper; the ambitious, because it can exalt; the stupid, because it compensates for dulness. Prosperity fans it, and adversity cannot quench it; men willingly bow down before it, as the tyrant summoned them of old to bow before another idol" (W.K. Tweedie, D.D.).
II. ITS RELATION TO THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. It is always and necessarily injurious, and, wherever willingly cherished, not only imperilling the finer and more delicate features of character, but even destructive of it root and branch. For the very essence of Christian character is the love of Christ, which takes us out of ourselves, and absorbs us with concern for him; and the love of others, for Christ's sake, which sets us upon making their interests superior to our own. Covetousness may linger in the holes and caves of Mansoul while Immanuel is its King, but where covetousness reigns Christ cannot; or, to put it in other words, it is absolutely impossible to raise a Christian character upon a foundation of covetousness, and this spirit will but exert itself to daub and spoil the whole picture of the Christian graces.
III. ITS HINDRANCE TO CHRISTIAN GIVING.
1. By preventing the reception of a due impression of cases of need. Covetousness hardens, deafens, and blinds.
2. By compelling its victim to form a false estimate of his ability.
3. By deceiving a man through the presentation of unworthy excuses. - R.T.
1. As to the law of proportion. If they sowed sparingly, they reaped sparingly; if bountifully, they reaped bountifully. This was natural law. It was also spiritual law. If the law met them everywhere, addressed the senses and the soul, and enforced itself both in providence and grace, surely they could not but give very profound heed to a principle which was so amply illustrated.
2. As to the spirit of giving. The law was spontaneity of sentiment - "according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give;" and again, it was cheerfulness of feeling - not "grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver." On this aspect of giving, the apostle had delivered his mind without reservation. Freedom here was scrupulously insisted on. To be Christ-like it must be wholly self-directed. It must be born directly of the Spirit. Vast and indeed sacred as human agency is, there are seasons when the Spirit bids it retire, and he takes the soul into his solitary communion.
3. The element of recompense is stated. "God is able to make all grace abound toward you." Blessings used rightly would bring other and larger blessings. Benevolent contributions were disciplinary. The act was educative. If a man gave because of his love to Christ, if he gave willingly and cordially, if he gave freely, then he was being trained as a giver, and of course was, in this particular, a growing man. Any sort of arrested development in goodness is bad enough, but this checking of progress in charity is peculiarly harmful. Worldliness rushes back with an overwhelming current. Avarice, denied its food for a time, has a voracious appetite. And, therefore, the very urgent need of growth in this sentiment, which the apostle argues in a manner uncommonly forcible. Spiritual blessings are assured. "All grace abound toward you." Temporal blessings are promised. "Always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work." There was to be an "all sufficiency," an overflowing measure on God's part, so as to furnish the means or resources for continued and enlarged benevolence, or otherwise the growth would stop. "Every good work" has a very broad signification. We take it to mean a very wide and generous activity in kind deeds, an "enthusiasm," not for "humanity," but for Christ in humanity, and a desire and a purpose expanding in the ratio of new blessings, spiritual and temporal, to pour forth its heart in ministration to others. "God is able." Yet we must not forget that he never resigns his Divine sovereignty in a promise or to a promise, but is infinitely wise and considerately tender in the administration of providential blessings. To elucidate his meaning, St. Paul quotes from Psalm 112:9, "He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor, his righteousness endureth forever." The rule is that God gives us what we have in order that he may give us more. There is a future in everything, a future in every seed, a future in every dollar honestly made, a future in every blessing God bestows. But it is for him alone to order this future, so as to "make all grace abound" in us, and to enable us to "abound to every good work." - L.
I. THE LAW OF CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN SOWING AND REAPING IS A JUST LAW. It is an appointment of a God of righteousness. It is in harmony with the principles of his government. Its maintenance is evidently productive of the welfare of Christian society.
II. THIS LAW IS ONE THE OPERATIONS OF WHICH WE CAN IN SOME MEASURE TRACE.
1. It may be observed that illiberality stunts the spiritual stature of the giver, whilst generosity promotes his growth. There is noticeable in large-hearted and generous natures an expansion which is its own reward; a happy disposition, a constant satisfaction in the result of gifts and efforts; a width of view which removes such from the petty and miserable emotions of envy, jealousy, and suspicion.
2. In connection with this it may be remarked that the treatment of the generous by others is in itself a rich reward. The liberal man is honoured, appreciated, loved. Small services, slight tokens of respect, are offered him which are evidences of deep feeling, and which cannot be received without gratification. It may be left to observation whether the reverse of this picture is not equally just - whether the mean, selfish, and niggardly do not suffer personal deterioration, and whether they do not receive from their neighbours a merited contempt.
III. THERE ARE OPERATIONS OF THIS LAW WHICH IT IS BEYOND OUR POWER TO TRACE. If we believe that the results of earthly labour extend into the future eternity, what a solemnity does this conviction impart to the principles upon which we are accustomed to act! The labours of the evangelist, the teachings of the pastor, the gifts of the supporters of religion, all bear fruit in the world to come. The nature and the measure of the harvest are largely determined by the way in which the field is tilled and sown in time. A motive this to that diligence and devotedness which is commended in the text by the inspired apostle. Only sow liberally, and by all waters, and, even if you sow in tears, it is promised that you shall reap in joy. - T.
I. GOD HIMSELF IS A CHEERFUL GIVER. There is no grudging in his benevolence. If he shows mercy, he delights in mercy. If he gives, he gives with open hand and smiling face.
II. CHEERFULNESS IN THE GIVER ENHANCES TO THE RECIPIENT THE VALUE OF THE GIFT. "One may give with his hand and pull it back with his looks." Some benevolent characters give with such a grace that those who receive at their hands think more of the giver than of the gift. Even a trifle in such case is more welcome than a handsome donation from an unsympathizing and uninterested donor. A foreign scholar waited upon a theological professor in London, who was a man well known for his exquisite grace and suavity of manner, to lay before him his position as one of peculiar destitution. That he was assisted, and assisted generously, is certain; but as he left the house he was heard to break forth into the exclamation, "Oh, the modus, the modus, the modus! i.e. the manner of the giver in the bestowal of his liberality.
III. CHEERFULNESS IN THE GIVER REACTS UPON HIS OWN SPIRITUAL NATURE. He who gives coldly, ungraciously, and grudgingly, is none the better for the act. But the ready, liberal, and cheerful giver is a happier and a more truly Christian man, because of the spirit in which he has discharged a duty and rendered a service.
IV. THERE IS A SPECIAL RECOMPENSE ASSURED TO THE CHEERFUL GIVER. The Lord loveth him." The Lord sees his own character reflected in that of his servant; he witnesses in the generous and unselfish spirit the fruit of the redemption wrought by his Son, and of the fertilizing operation of his own gracious, free, and beneficent Spirit. - T.
I. How THE CHEERFUL GIVER GIVES.
1. Bountifully. His cheerfulness ensures liberality. It is the grudging giver who gives but little. But he who gives with gladness will desire much of that gladness. And he who sows bountifully reaps bountifully, and that without waiting, for he has at once a great harvest of joy.
2. Willingly. No compulsion is needed. He runs eagerly in the flowery and fruitful path of charity. He is not driven by the stings of conscience or by a desire to stand well with his fellows. His heart is enlisted, and the service he renders is hearty.
3. Joyfully. It is not a pain to him to give, but a pleasure. Some give their money to the needy as they give their teeth to the dentist; and often the disposition to give totally disappears on the threshold! But the cheerful giver enjoys giving. It is a delight to him. How giving is transformed in character when this is so! The same thing, how different to different natures! When we have learnt to love giving, what a pure joy we experience! Before, it was but the carcase of Samson's dead lion, but now we gather most luscious honey by handfuls. We miss a most heavenly joy if we miss the gladness of giving.
II. GOD'S REGARD FOR THE CHEERFUL GIVER. What God thinks of us is the all-important question. Now, the cheerful giver approves himself to the Most High. And not with cold approbation does God behold him. "God loveth a cheerful giver." God loves this kind of giving, and he loves the one who thus gives. A grudging giver is peculiarly offensive to God. It is so monstrous that, when God has lent us so many things, we should hesitate to return to him the few for which he asks. But when we have as much joy in returning as we had in receiving, he is well pleased. And when we rise still higher and believe truly that "it is more blessed to give than to receive," we please him the more. The cheerful giver resembles God, for God is a cheerful Giver; - how bountifully and how willingly he has endowed us! Here are incentives to cheerful giving - that we please God, secure the love of God, and become like God.
III. GOD'S PROMISE TO THE CHEERFUL GIVER. A promise of great prosperity (vers. 6, 8-10). The short-sighted always judge that giving means losing, and that saving means gaining; but "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty" (Proverbs 11:24). And our Master said, "Give, and it shall be given unto you" (Luke 6:38; see also Mark 10:29, 30). If we want to get little we must give little. The niggardly farmer gets a scanty crop. In God's providence those who are benevolent are commonly largely blessed in earthly things. Approving themselves to God, they are the subjects of his special care; "And God is able to make all grace abound" unto them (ver. 8). If those who give money do not always get more money, they always get much of what is far better than money. The distinct promise of God is that they shall be blessed and prospered. What form the blessing and prosperity shall take will be gladly left to God by the devout spirit. Often an increase of the means of charity results. God gives us more that we may give more. Having wisely used our talent, he entrusts us with further riches (see vers. 8, 10, 11).
IV. THE INFLUENCE OF THE CHEERFUL GIVER.
1. He convinces men of the reality of religion. (Ver. 13.) Men appreciate such a test of piety as this. Words they are apt to reckon at a cheap rate, but spontaneous and joyful liberality staggers them. Cheerful giving is to be ranked amongst the evidences of Christianity.
2. He causes men to thank and to glorify God. (Vers. 11-13.) What is the origin of Christian benevolence? is a question suggested to the minds of those blessed by it. And this inquiry terminates in God. As he has implanted charity in his people's hearts, he is clearly entitled to the praise: Aided believers naturally bless God that he has inclined his stewards to minister to their needs, and magnify his grace which has produced such fruitfulness in human hearts. The cheerful giver has a wider and more powerful influence than sometimes he suspects.
V. THE GIFTS OF MEN TO THE CHEERFUL GIVER.
1. Their prayers. (Ver. 14.) What is the price of prayer! What a valuable return for the expenditure of mere gold! If we secure the earnest, loving, believing prayers of those to whom we minister, we shall be greatly enriched. The "prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16). Men are willing to give much if their friend will but speak for them to the sovereign; but the cheerful giver is often spoken for to the King of kings.
2. Their love. (Ver. 14.) Love is not to be lightly estimated; it is spiritual gold, milch more precious than material. A man is rich if his treasury is well stored with the love of his fellows. The love of good men especially is a large recompense. Here we have the love of man and the love of God promised to those who delight in mercy and in helpfulness to the children of want. - H.
Proverbs 22:8, as it stands in the Greek Version: "He that soweth wicked things shall reap evils, and shall complete the penalty of his deed. God blesseth a cheerful man and a giver, and shall complete [in a good sense] the incompleteness of his works." "Cheerfulness in visits of sympathy, in the daily offices of kindness, in the life of home, in giving instruction or advice, - all come under the head of that which God approves and loves. So the greatest of Greek ethical teachers (Aristotle) had refused the title of 'liberal' to the man who gave without pleasure in the act of giving. The pain he feels proves that, if he could, he would rather have the money than do the noble action."
I. CHEERFULNESS THROUGH THE MOTIVE OF GIVING. Which is that thankfulness and love to him who was God's great saving Gift to us, which kindles in our hearts the joy unspeakable.
II. CHEERFULNESS THROUGH THE PLEASURE OF GIVING. For our Lord read human hearts aright when he said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
III. CHEERFULNESS THROUGH THE HOPE OF BLESSING BY GIVING. Our giving meets and supplies needs; it tends to lift off burdens and to soothe sorrows. It is glad work to find ourselves, in a sinful and a sorrow-stricken world, healers, comforters, and saviours. No joy is like the joy of wakening joy in others.
IV. CHEERFULNESS THROUGH THE SENSE OF DIVINE APPROVAL ON GIVING. "God loveth the cheerful giver," and when he loves, there is for us his uplifted countenance, his acceptance, and his smile. - R.T.
I. THE ABUNDANT RESOURCES GOD PUTS AT THE DISPOSAL OF THE CHRISTIAN.
1. Men are at their best estate altogether dependent, having in themselves nothing, but want, weakness, and sin.
2. All grace is in God; he has both the power and the disposition to supply every want. It is his nature to bestow; he is the God of grace.
3. His grace not only gives, it abounds to us. The gift of his Son is the proof of inexhaustible love. So with the gift of his Spirit. In fact, in the gospel there is a generosity of bestowment; no withholding and no grudging.
4. Christians, as his people, are thus partakers of Divine sufficiency. "All things are yours;" such is the deed of gift in which the heavenly Father places at the disposal of his family all the resources of his nature and liberality.
5. The liberality of God extends through every stage of individual life, and through every period of the Church's history. His bounties and favours are as the leaves of the forest, the waves of the sea, the stars of the sky - unnumbered and innumerable.
II. THE CORRESPONDING REQUIREMENTS AND EXPECTATIONS OF GOD FROM HIS PEOPLE. Religion consists of two parts - what God does for us, and what God demands from us.
1. It is taken for granted that the Christian life consists in "good works;" that the disciple of Christ is naturally a worker, whose energies and possessions are to be consecrated to God in his Son. Gifts, services, sympathy, speech, aid, - such are the manifestations of the spiritual life which the Lord of all desires and beholds.
2. Here is implied a relation between God's works and those of his people. His abounding gifts are to be regarded as
(1) the example of ours;
(2) the means of ours, for we can only give others what he has given us;
(3) the measure of ours, as liberal and generous; and
(4) the motive to ours, inasmuch as we are constrained by the love of God and by the cross of Christ. - T.
Non possumus? What says Reason? And what says Holy Writ?
I. WE ASK THE QUESTION OF REASON, AS A FAIR JUDGE OF THE NATURE OF THINGS. Physical life is maintained in us by certain natural processes which never cease from the moment of birth to the moment of death. The lungs play always, and the heart beats always. We call these automatic movements, as being not dependent on our volition. They continue when we are fast asleep. But moral and spiritual life rises above mere automatism, and requires for its continuance and growth a succession of moral volitions, a steady and well-directed purpose. Now, is this state of the will possible? Reason will answer that it is the proper habit of a healthy and vigorous mind. Weak minds are obstinate or fickle; dull minds are stolid and monotonous; but those that are strong and intelligent have a steady moral pulse, a wise tenacity of purpose, and a careful balance of temper and will. It is the most rational, healthy, and happy condition of man to believe firmly what he believes, and to maintain an even tenor of conduct in harmony with his belief. George Herbert is right to praise the man of constancy, who
"Doth still, and strongly, good pursue; II. WE ASK THE QUESTION OF HOLY SCRIPTURE. Does it admit excuses for inconstancy? or does it assume and require that men who believe in God should live to him always? David said, "I have set the Lord always before me." No doubt this is absolutely true only of the great Son of David, of whom the Spirit of prophecy spake in the sixteenth psalm, as St. Peter taught on the day of Pentecost. But of all that was most worthy in the career of the poet king of Israel this was the sustaining principle; and of his character this formed the sacred charm, that he constantly kept his eyes upon God. In great deeps of sorrow, in dens and caves of the earth, in exile, in peril by the sword, among temptations of ambition, tumults of war, cares of government; in the obscurity of his youth, in the sudden promotion and the stirring adventures of his early manhood; in all the publicity of his later years, in "that fierce light which beats upon a throne;" - always and everywhere the son of Jesse looked to God, and sought to walk in the light of his countenance. Alas! he looked off, and sinned grievously. We find no perfect example but that of the Man Christ Jesus, the Son of David, who maintained a constant obedience to, and therefore a constant communion with, God (see John 8:29; John 11:42). In the midst of incessant occupations and in the face of frequent "contradiction of sinners against himself," he found it possible to look always to the Father in heaven, and do always the Father's will. So he knew that the Father heard him always. Now, every one admits that the life of Christ is, in its principles and motives, the supreme model for the life of Christians. But the force of the admission is sadly weakened for any practical purpose by the prevailing impression that actual conformity to so perfect a Pattern is not to be expected of any one. Let us take the example of a servant of Christ. It will not be disputed that we may and should emulate the attainments and experience of St. Paul. Now, he had extraordinary vicissitudes in the course of his ministry, and does not conceal from us the changing moods of his mind - now depressed and sorrowful, now bold and enthusiastic. But as respects the main current of his life and service, Paul was, ever after his conversion, gloriously consistent. In love to God, in zeal for Jesus, in fidelity to the gospel, in care for the Churches, in abhorrence of sin, in esteem of holiness, in vigilant resistance to the devil, and in tender affection for the saints, he was always the same, and wavered not. Accordingly we find the word "always" often used in regard to his own spiritual experience and missionary life (see Acts 24:16 on conscience; 2 Corinthians 2:14 on the career of a missionary; 2 Corinthians 4:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:6 on sufferings and joyful hope). What a living sacrifice to God was this apostolic man! What singleness of purpose he had, what integrity of heart, what constancy, in serving the Lord always. Why may not similar constancy be shown by us? God is able to make all grace abound toward us. And all the injunctions for Christian life given in the Holy Book assume that we are to be always and wholly the Lord's. Our speech should be "always with grace, seasoned with salt." Our prayers should be offered up alway; and in active service we should be "always abounding in the work of the Lord." The proper season for piety is always. Labour sometimes, study sometimes, recreation sometimes, sleep sometimes; but the fear of the Lord always, and the life of faith always. No day of the week, no hour of the day, without the Lord. This is not bondage: it is the best liberty. This is not being "righteous overmuch." It is simply to order our character and conduct habitually by the highest aims and models set before us. It is the aspiration of the meek and lowly, not of the proud. It is the path of the just, which shines more and more until the perfect day. - F.
II. WE ASK THE QUESTION OF HOLY SCRIPTURE. Does it admit excuses for inconstancy? or does it assume and require that men who believe in God should live to him always? David said, "I have set the Lord always before me." No doubt this is absolutely true only of the great Son of David, of whom the Spirit of prophecy spake in the sixteenth psalm, as St. Peter taught on the day of Pentecost. But of all that was most worthy in the career of the poet king of Israel this was the sustaining principle; and of his character this formed the sacred charm, that he constantly kept his eyes upon God. In great deeps of sorrow, in dens and caves of the earth, in exile, in peril by the sword, among temptations of ambition, tumults of war, cares of government; in the obscurity of his youth, in the sudden promotion and the stirring adventures of his early manhood; in all the publicity of his later years, in "that fierce light which beats upon a throne;" - always and everywhere the son of Jesse looked to God, and sought to walk in the light of his countenance. Alas! he looked off, and sinned grievously. We find no perfect example but that of the Man Christ Jesus, the Son of David, who maintained a constant obedience to, and therefore a constant communion with, God (see John 8:29; John 11:42). In the midst of incessant occupations and in the face of frequent "contradiction of sinners against himself," he found it possible to look always to the Father in heaven, and do always the Father's will. So he knew that the Father heard him always. Now, every one admits that the life of Christ is, in its principles and motives, the supreme model for the life of Christians. But the force of the admission is sadly weakened for any practical purpose by the prevailing impression that actual conformity to so perfect a Pattern is not to be expected of any one. Let us take the example of a servant of Christ. It will not be disputed that we may and should emulate the attainments and experience of St. Paul. Now, he had extraordinary vicissitudes in the course of his ministry, and does not conceal from us the changing moods of his mind - now depressed and sorrowful, now bold and enthusiastic. But as respects the main current of his life and service, Paul was, ever after his conversion, gloriously consistent. In love to God, in zeal for Jesus, in fidelity to the gospel, in care for the Churches, in abhorrence of sin, in esteem of holiness, in vigilant resistance to the devil, and in tender affection for the saints, he was always the same, and wavered not. Accordingly we find the word "always" often used in regard to his own spiritual experience and missionary life (see Acts 24:16 on conscience; 2 Corinthians 2:14 on the career of a missionary; 2 Corinthians 4:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:6 on sufferings and joyful hope). What a living sacrifice to God was this apostolic man! What singleness of purpose he had, what integrity of heart, what constancy, in serving the Lord always. Why may not similar constancy be shown by us? God is able to make all grace abound toward us. And all the injunctions for Christian life given in the Holy Book assume that we are to be always and wholly the Lord's. Our speech should be "always with grace, seasoned with salt." Our prayers should be offered up alway; and in active service we should be "always abounding in the work of the Lord." The proper season for piety is always. Labour sometimes, study sometimes, recreation sometimes, sleep sometimes; but the fear of the Lord always, and the life of faith always. No day of the week, no hour of the day, without the Lord. This is not bondage: it is the best liberty. This is not being "righteous overmuch." It is simply to order our character and conduct habitually by the highest aims and models set before us. It is the aspiration of the meek and lowly, not of the proud. It is the path of the just, which shines more and more until the perfect day. - F.
give!" This is the first connection of the passage before us, but it broadens its reach beyond the money and the giving. It covers and hallows all the features and expressions of our religious life. Wheresoever we may be, whatsoever we may have to do, whensoever needs arise, the sound of this assurance comes to us, quieting all fears, and stilling the heart to peace and rest. There is a gracious power in the word "all," repeated as it is again and again in the verse. The word seems designed to drive away every lingering doubt. "All grace," "all sufficiency," "all good."
I. GOD'S ABILITY, AND ITS CONDITION. Nothing that is not an absurdity in the statement is beyond God's power. Much has been made of the contention that God cannot put two things into the same place at the same time, or that he cannot make the addition of two and two make five, or make two parallel lines ever meet. But, in view of the essential conditions of human thought and human language, these things are absurdities, and not impossibilities; and it is no limitation of the Divine omnipotence to say that God cannot do what is absurd in the very statement. "He is able." We feel the truth of this in the world of nature. Sky and earth and sea proclaim that he is "able." Who can listen to the wild storm, hear the mighty winds bowing the great trees, and the thunder echoes rolling from hill to hill, and the breakers plunging against the guardian cliffs, and not reverently say, "He is able"? Who can feel how the gentle spring sunshine warms the wintry air and the chilled ground, tenderly touching every life germ in bud and seed and plant, and wakening life and hope and beauty all around, and not lovingly say, "Verily thou art able "?
"O spirit of the strong things and the gentle, thou art able." But nature is outside us. We may watch the omnipotent workings, but we want to ask this: "Do we come within the all-powerful grasp?" Admit all we may about our "free will," nevertheless, of ourselves, of body, soul, circumstances, can we say, "He is able"? Yes; in him we "live, and move, and have our being." Our circumstances are his overruling. Our souls are his inbreathing. He in whom we trust can do all things. We are continually crushed by being compelled to say, "I cannot;" but the feeble limited creature steadies its tremblings by leaning on One who can. "Then Job answered the Lord, and said, I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee." But we long to know this - What can the almighty God really be to us? Can he come right into the spheres of our life and work? and is he able to make all grace abound to us there? Can he "supply all our need out of his riches in glory by Christ Jesus"? Into the shadow of his fatherhood may we run, since our "heavenly Father knoweth what things we have need of before we ask him"? That is the ability of God concerning which we need to gain such deep and satisfying impressions. As a redeemed son of his, is he able to find all the grace I need; able to meet me at every point; able to give the grace according to the day; able to adapt himself to all the changes and fluctuations of my moods and circumstances? The little child brings all her broken dolls and damaged toys to her father; she is perfectly sure that, however dreadful the damage may be, "father can mend it." And the sweet confidence dries up the tears. But the little thing never stops to consider how strong the father arms are or how skilful his fingers; she only reads his power by the light of his love; and she is quite sure that he will try, and her trust says that he will succeed. What can God do for us, his blood-bought children? He can breathe on us the spirit of a holy contentment. He can inspire us with zeal unto all good works. He can strengthen us for all noble enterprise. He can make the mountains of difficulty before us lie level as a plain. He can so prosper and bless us that very thankfulness shall urge us to generous and noble deeds. "I cannot indeed, but God can:" let us learn to say that, and then this will be our glorying - "Here, there, yonder, in this and in that, in the light and in the dark, I can, through him who strengtheneth me." There is a condition upon which the ability of God alone can come to us. We must gain and keep the receptive mood, which includes the humble, obedient, and trustful spirit. II. MAN'S ABILITY AND ITS EXPRESSION. For we also are "able to abound unto every good work." Sometimes we are deeply impressed with the feebleness, the imperfection, of the best that we can do. But when we estimate that work of grace which God, the All-merciful, is carrying on in the world - so silent, yet so mighty; so long, and yet so surely triumphant at last; so rich in long suffering patience; so quick to take up and use a thousand trifling influences, sanctifying even a passing word and a gentle look to its gracious ends, - then it seems wonderful that, in so great a matter, we should be "coworkers with God," and that the rich streams of Divine grace should even flow to others through us. With the grace of God we can do all things. In the renewed man there is ability. God makes him mighty, and uses him to "pull down the strongholds." God shows him what great things he can suffer, and what great things he can do, for his Name's sake. In full harmony with the Christian humility and dependence we may gain this sense of Christian ability. We want the inspiration of the conviction settled deeply into our souls - "I can." We need the cheer that comes to every man when God says to him, "Thou canst." We are weak, depressed, hesitating; we touch things with a trembling hand; we faint before the first difficulty, so long as we say to ourselves, "I cannot." With the "all sufficiency" we can abound to every good. work. - R.T.
II. MAN'S ABILITY AND ITS EXPRESSION. For we also are "able to abound unto every good work." Sometimes we are deeply impressed with the feebleness, the imperfection, of the best that we can do. But when we estimate that work of grace which God, the All-merciful, is carrying on in the world - so silent, yet so mighty; so long, and yet so surely triumphant at last; so rich in long suffering patience; so quick to take up and use a thousand trifling influences, sanctifying even a passing word and a gentle look to its gracious ends, - then it seems wonderful that, in so great a matter, we should be "coworkers with God," and that the rich streams of Divine grace should even flow to others through us. With the grace of God we can do all things. In the renewed man there is ability. God makes him mighty, and uses him to "pull down the strongholds." God shows him what great things he can suffer, and what great things he can do, for his Name's sake. In full harmony with the Christian humility and dependence we may gain this sense of Christian ability. We want the inspiration of the conviction settled deeply into our souls - "I can." We need the cheer that comes to every man when God says to him, "Thou canst." We are weak, depressed, hesitating; we touch things with a trembling hand; we faint before the first difficulty, so long as we say to ourselves, "I cannot." With the "all sufficiency" we can abound to every good. work. - R.T.
(1) the love of God (ver. 7);
(2) a spirit abounding to every good work (ver. 8);
(3) thanksgiving on their behalf (vers. 11, 12, 13).
A noble harvest, but all spiritual. Comprehend the meaning of it well. Give, and you will not get back again. Do not expect your money to be returned, like that of Joseph's brethren in their sacks' mouths. When you give to God, sacrifice, and know that what you give is sacrificed, and is not to be got again, even in this world; for if you give, expecting it back again, there is no sacrifice: charity is no speculation in the spiritual funds, no wise investment, to be repaid with interest either in time or eternity! No, the rewards are these: Do right, and God's recompense to you will be the power of doing more right. Give, and God's reward to you will be the spirit of giving more; a blessed Spirit, for it is the Spirit of God himself, whose life is the blessedness of giving. Love and God will pay you with the capacity of more love, for love is heaven, love is God within you." Setting out the various forms in which Divine rewards come to liberal souls, we notice -
I. TEMPORAL PROSPERITY. However true it is that this was associated with goodness only under the Old Testament economy, it is still found that the liberal soul makes friends, wins love, and so secures actual temporal advantages.
II. HUMAN LOVE. It is our best earthly treasure, and it comes in response to our power to give. The dearest relationships of human life are the rewards of them that can give. And Job reminds us how the good man, the gracious man, gets his reward in the love of the poor whom he seeks to bless (Job 29:11-17).
III. SOUL CULTURE. For it is a steadfast law of soul life, that it cannot grow by keeping; it can only grow by giving, expending. The law of receiving more grace is this - we must use up, in good generous deeds, the grace that we have.
IV. POWER TO DO MORE GOOD. See the extract from F.W. Robertson given in the introduction to this homily.
V. DIVINE FAVOUR. Which must include those rewards of the heavenly world which now escape our apprehension, because they can only be presented to us in material forms and figures. T. Binney says, "Beneficent acts, right in spirit and principle, though they may be forgotten by the doer - who may not let his 'left hand know what his right hand doeth' - are not forgotten by him to whose will they have an ultimate respect, and by whom they are received as a sacrifice. They have a relation to God, and are regarded by him long after they have been accomplished and have passed away from the memory of man. They do not terminate with their being finished and done with here, or, so to speak, with the immediate pleasurable impression on the Divine mind. That impression is retained and prolonged. He to whom they rise up as incense gives to them, as it were, a substantial embodiment in the upper world - lays them up there as valuable treasure belonging to his children, and thinks of and surveys them with satisfaction and complacency." - R.T.
I. THE HUMAN NEED OF SUCH ENRICHMENT. Impoverishment is the lot of multitudes; but whilst many are deeply sensible of their temporal needs, it is too often the case that, with regard to spiritual possessions, they boast that they are rich and increased with goods, and know not that they are poor. In fact, we have nothing which we have not received from the free bounty of him who is the Giver of all.
II. THE DIVINE AUTHOR OF SUCH ENRICHMENT. The God of nature supplies the need and relieves the poverty distinctive of our bodily and physical state. The God of grace provides liberally for the wants of the soul, saying to his child, "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine." "In everything," says
III. THE VARIETY AND PLENTITUDE OF THIS ENRICHMENT. "In everything," says the apostle. He appears to teach that, as a general rule, it is the ordinance of Providence that the way of liberality should be the way of prosperity. All have known fortunate and wealthy niggards; and all have known generous men who have come to poverty; but such cases are the exception. And if generosity is the way to temporal abundance, a liberal spirit is sure to acquire virtues and excellences. Faith, hope, and love, - all are cultivated in the exercise of liberality; progressive enrichment is the recompense of a large heart and open hands.
IV. THE HUMAN AND EARTHLY RESULT OF THIS ENRICHMENT. This is increase of liberality; the more the generous man receives from God, the more he helps his fellow men.
V. THE ULTIMATE RESULT OF THIS ENRICHMENT. Thanksgiving will be rendered to God, both by the liberal who are enriched, by the grateful recipients of their abundant bounty, and by all who witness the fruit of the Spirit and the evidences of the power of the Saviour's love. - T.
I. GOD'S GIFT TO MAN.
1. The Lord Christ is emphatically the Gift of God. He was sent by the Father, and his mission was a proof of the Father's interest and love. All gifts beside are pale and poor, by reason of the splendour and the beauty of this.
2. The Lord Christ is the unspeakable Gift of God; i.e. so rich and wonderful as not to be capable of a full description. Observe:
(1) Its intrinsic value. Could God himself give a more precious treasure than the Son of his love? He is "the Pearl of great price."
(2) Its adaptation to the needs of those to whom it is given. Christ is the Gift of bread to the hungry, of water to the thirsty, of freedom to the slave. Spiritual good was what man needed; and it was what came to man by Christ.
(3) Its infinite train of blessing. We are told that "all things" are placed at the disposal of those from whom God has not withheld his Son. And this doctrine is one which experience supports. The innumerable blessings which have come into the world with the gospel are a proof that the language of Scripture is not exaggerated.
II. MAN'S GRATITUDE TO GOD.
1. It is often wickedly withheld. Our Lord was despised and rejected of men when he was upon earth; and there are still multitudes who are insensible to his preciousness, and who take no part in the grateful praises of his Church.
2. It is offered by appreciative hearts. They who have gratefully accepted the boon, who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, - they are forward to acknowledge the liberality and the loving kindness of the great Giver above.
3. It is openly and joyfully expressed by those who feel it. Hymns of grateful praise; a loving witness to the world of the Divine pity and kindness; gifts to his cause, which are accepted as offered to himself; deeds of cheerful and holy obedience; - such are the means by which the redeemed and spiritually enriched may show forth their gratitude for the Gift which is unspeakable. - T.
I. THE GIVER. God. Who could give Christ but God? We must not forget that God gave Christ. Many do, and form the erroneous notion that, whilst Christ is their friend, God is their enemy. Redemption is of the whole Deity. "God so loved the world," etc. Note: the Giver was a God
(4) grievously sinned against,
(5) defied in the very act of giving.
It was whilst we were yet sinners that Christ came to redeem us. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the Propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10).
II. THE GIFT.
1. A gift.
(1) A free gift. Nothing was given in exchange. Men had nothing to give.
(2) A voluntary gift. Prompted by Divine compassion and love.
(3) An undeserved gift. Men deserved condemnation, not Christ.
(4) A continuous gift. Christ is not ours merely for a time.
He is ours forever and ever. He is the saint's everlasting inheritance.
2. An unspeakable gift.
(1) In value. The most costly of gifts. The pearl of great price. The treasure discovered in the fields of heaven. Who can estimate the value of such a gift as this? If God had given a thousand worlds or all the angelic hosts, he would have given less.
(2) In splendour. Consider the graces, powers, and infinite excellences of Christ. His presence made heaven glorious.
(3) In efficacy. This gift fully met our need. How fully we yet know not, for now we are looking through a darkened glass. All our known wants are supplied by the Redeemer, and the vast catalogue of wants as yet unknown to us. Through him we are pardoned, cleansed, sanctified, adopted, and through him we shall at last be brought into the great home above.
III. THE RECIPIENTS OF THE GIFT.
1. Human beings. Christ was given to the human race, not to the angelic, nor to the merely animal. How greatly honoured is mankind I If Christ was given to men, what a future must be before those who receive this gift!
2. Fallen human beings. Man, "made a little lower than the angels," soon fell much lower, and then the gift came. A marvellous return for man's apostasy! When the cry of humanity was for sternest punishment, Heaven's response was "Jesus of Nazareth." Well may we exclaim, "Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out!" (Romans 11:33).
IV. APPROPRIATE GRATITUDE. Paul cries, "Thanks be to God;" and well he may. How can we thank God enough for such a gift as this? What would be our state if this gift had not been bestowed?
"Love so amazing, so Divine, 1. Lip. Tell out our gratitude. Suppressed praise is indecent. We should desire all the world to know how thankful we are. 2. Heart. The tongue in this matter must be moved by the spirit, or it will not make sweet music in the ear of God. The gift came from the heart of God: let our thanksgiving come from the heart also. 3. Active service. What are we willing to do to show our gratitude? Paul was so subdued by the "unspeakable gift" that he loved to call himself "the slave of Jesus Christ;" and he counted no toil too severe to show his thankfulness. 4. Life. Our whole being and existence should constitute a psalm. This is the true "psalm of life." Every power should be pressed into the service. As this gift is ever the supreme blessing in our life, we should ever be praising God for it. Terrible thought! The unspeakable Gift may be rejected! What unspeakable folly, what unspeakable guilt, what unspeakable condemnation, must follow! - H.
1. Lip. Tell out our gratitude. Suppressed praise is indecent. We should desire all the world to know how thankful we are.
2. Heart. The tongue in this matter must be moved by the spirit, or it will not make sweet music in the ear of God. The gift came from the heart of God: let our thanksgiving come from the heart also.
3. Active service. What are we willing to do to show our gratitude? Paul was so subdued by the "unspeakable gift" that he loved to call himself "the slave of Jesus Christ;" and he counted no toil too severe to show his thankfulness.
4. Life. Our whole being and existence should constitute a psalm. This is the true "psalm of life." Every power should be pressed into the service. As this gift is ever the supreme blessing in our life, we should ever be praising God for it. Terrible thought! The unspeakable Gift may be rejected! What unspeakable folly, what unspeakable guilt, what unspeakable condemnation, must follow! - H.
gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water" (John 4:10). In Jesus Christ "dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." And "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son" (comp. Romans 5:15; Romans 6:23; Hebrews 6:4).
I. CHRIST IS A GIFT. This is but reminding us that salvation is altogether of grace. We in no sense can be said to have purchased Christ. Nor did any merit of ours attract him. Nor by any power of ours did we win him. God pitied us in our lost estate, and gave his Son. A priceless Gift indeed, seeing that it includes:
3. Eternal life.
II. CHRIST IS GOD'S GIFT. This reminds us that salvation is a Divine work. We read of the "grace of God" and the "gift by grace." And "when there was no eye to pity and no arm to save, his own arm brought salvation." Salvation is said to be of God to show us:
1. It is not some human scheme. This is the essential difference between Christ's salvation and all other salvations. They are human devices - philosophies or religions; this is Divine intervention, arrangement, and revelation; God's power directly working in God's way. It is indeed God himself saving men. To trust in any merely human redemption schemes is like hoping to save a drowning man with a rope that is too short.
2. To give us right views of God. Man's usual thought of God is that of an offended King or stern Judge. But the unspeakable Gift reveals the higher truth that God is love, and the gift being that of a Son unfolds the sublime fact that God is Father. So we know God through his gift.
III. CHRIST IS AN UNSPEAKABLY PRECIOUS GIFT. This reminds us that salvation is priceless. It is beyond all possibility that we could speak worthily
(1) all the glory of Christ himself;
(2) all the sorrow Christ went through;
(3) all the needs which Jesus can meet; or
(4) all the love that Jesus feels.
The apostle felt overwhelmed with the thought of it, and spoke of the "love of Christ, which passeth knowledge."
IV. CHRIST IS A GIFT OFFERED FOR OUR ACCEPTANCE. It suffices no man to know that this Gift has come; nor to know that others have received it to the joy and rejoicing of their hearts. No man can offer worthy heart thanksgiving for this Gift until he has personally accepted it, sufficiently proved it, and can speak for himself of the pricelessness of it. The law is this: "He that hath the Son hath life." And he can "thank God for his unspeakable Gift." - R.T.