Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE CHRISTIAN'S DEPENDENCE. "None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living" (vers. 7-9). There is no such thing as absolute independence. The relation of each individual to Christ, dependence on him and responsibility to him, is here asserted.
1. We depend upon the Lord's death. In the cross is our hope of forgiveness, pardon, cleansing.
2. We depend upon the Lord's resurrection. In his resurrection is our hope and assurance of the life and immortality beyond. "Because I live, ye shall live also."
3. We depend upon the Lord's continual intercession. In his intercession is our hope and assurance of answered prayer.
4. We depend upon the Lord's continued gifts to us. The Lord's day; the Word of the Lord; the Lord's house; the Lord's Supper; - how much our spiritual life is dependent upon these precious blessings provided for us by our Lord and Master! "Whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's."
5. This dependence upon Christ brings with it corresponding obligations. "Ye are not your own, for ye are bedight with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:20).
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S INDEPENDENCE. The independence of the Christian is the correlative of his dependence. He is dependent upon Christ, and therefore he is:
1. Independent of external circumstances. "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." And again, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." Even death can bring no alarm to those who can say, "We are the Lord's;" for Christ is the Conqueror of death.
2. Independent of human criticism. "Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him" (ver. 3); "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or faileth" (ver. 4); "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind" (ver. 5). Here the apostle asserts the great principle of liberty of conscience, and inculcates the great duty of charity and toleration. Alas! how often the principle and the duty have been forgotten in the Christian Church! Christian men have excommunicated one another and treated one another as enemies because they differed on some minor detail of doctrine, of government, or of worship.. Even the Protestant Churches, and Protestant Christians, one of whose distinctive principles is liberty of conscience, have sometimes failed to extend to others that toleration which they claim for themselves. "God alone is Lord of the conscience," says the Westminster Confession of Faith, "and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men." - C.H.I.
I. THE DUTY OF THE WEAK. The weaker man had his scruples; his strong judgments as to this or that mode of outward living being right, and this or that wrong. And he was quick to condemn the man whose opinions and practices were unlike his own. Not so, says the apostle.
1. He has another Master. Certainly he has yielded himself to Christ, and Christ, not another, must measure the fidelity of his service. If faithful, he abides his servant; if unfaithful, he falls. But he shall not fall. The heart is right, and even if the freedom of outward observance were a mistaken freedom, Christ is not such a Master as to cast him off for a mistake. No; "he shall be made to stand." Is not this the determining principle of the Christian life? Not the minute observance, right or wrong, but the motive, makes the Christian man. It matters nothing comparatively whether we eat or do not eat, whether we observe days or observe them not, whether we live or die: "none of us liveth to himself, and none dieth to himself." The aim of the whole life is Christ-wards, and the aim, not the details, determines the life.
2. He has another Judge. This follows from the former. If Christ be the Master now, he shall judge the service itself at the last. And if we may not measure the fidelity of another's servant, neither may we pass sentence on his deeds. No; "the day shall declare it, and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is" (1 Corinthians 3:13). For it is true that the details of the life will be taken into account, but not by our brethren: "Each one of us shall give account of himself to God."
II. THE DUTY OF THE STRONG. So, then, the weak are warned not to judge the men of liberty; and the men of liberty, men of strength as they thought themselves, are to show their strength by gentleness, and their liberty by self-sacrifice. For the conscience of the weak, if erring, was to be respected, and neither were they to be grieved by a needless exhibition of the liberty of the strong, nor above all led to sin against their convictions by the example or ridicule of the preponderant party.
1. They were not to be grieved. Could the stronger ones ruthlessly cause pain to the scrupulous ones by their own seeming unscrupulousness? That was not walking in love. And for the sake of showing that they could eat meat! Away the thought: this was not God's kingdom. Let them rather know that, eating or not eating, to respect the rights of others, to have peace with all, and to rejoice with a common joy in God, - this was God's kingdom. So also would their spirit commend itself to men and to God. Christians then indeed; as Christ died for the weaker ones, so they sacrificing their liberty for them.
2. They were not to be made to fall. Let them know that, innocent as their eating of flesh might be, it was not innocent to the doubting man, and each one's conscience must approve his own deeds, or he is condemned. Nay, he falls! Oh, surely they were not prepared for that? For this was, not merely to destroy the weak brother's peace and charity of heart, but to overthrow the work of God in him! And all for the sake of meat! Better sacrifice all your liberty than this. Have your faith to yourself; have all tender solicitude for your weak brother's conscience. Then receive the brother, care for him, sacrifice your freedom for him. For while faith, liberty, strength, are good, the best of all is love! - T.F.L.
weak consciences, and how they are to be dealt with. For there are people painfully scrupulous, who have come, for example, to fancy that vegetarianism is the only lawful system of diet; or to fancy that holy days ought to be strictly kept; and there is a terrible temptation for strong-minded people to judge harshly the weaker brethren, and so to bring about endless friction in Church and private relations. It is with this whole practical question that the apostle here deals. Differences of opinion upon non-essentials must not break up the brotherly feeling; and Paul shows with wonderful power where the safety lies. It is in the assertion of Christ's Lordship over the conscience.
I. LET US BE CLEAR ABOUT WHO ARE THE WEAK AND WHO ARE THE STRONG. (Vers. 1-6.) We are all creatures of association, and so some of these primitive Christians came to think that meat which had been offered to an idol was thereby polluted, and so unfit for Christian use. Not knowing, therefore, where the meat offered for sale in the shambles had previously been, and naturally suspecting that it may have been in the idol's temple, they thought it prudent to become strict vegetarians, rather than run the risk of defilement. They would not touch, taste, or handle flesh-meat, but confined themselves to vegetables. Others had no such scruples, but ate whatever was laid before them, asking no questions for conscience' sake. Now, the apostle manifestly regards the scrupulous vegetarians as weaker in conscience than the Christian who allowed none of these scruples to affect him. Again, some were scrupulous about holy days. New moons and set feasts, characteristic of paganism as well as of Judaism, claimed regard from weak and uncertain consciences; while others of stronger make regarded all days as alike. The question as to the Lord's day does not seem to be here involved at all, though Robertson of Brighton has based a whole sermon on the supposition, The over-scrupulous in these instances were the weak; the others, more certain of their line of action, were the strong.
II. THERE IS A GREAT TEMPTATION IN THE STRONG TO RIDICULE THE WEAK. The strong are tempted to despise the weak, to judge and ridicule their scruples; and, if there is not watchfulness, there will be constant friction between them. Now, this is a menace to the peace of the Church; and Paul has here to guard against it. There is a great danger in the indulgence of scorn. A weak brother, if "roasted" and ridiculed by the stronger, may be made a burden to himself, and his personal peace be sacrificed on the altar of his neighbour's criticism. Hence in this passage Paul argues:
1. There should be as little controversy as possible within the Church. The weak brother is to be received, but not to doubtful disputations. He is not to be involved in profitless disputes. The Church is wise which discourages debates between brethren.
2. There should be mutual respect for conscientious difference of opinion. If each man is fully persuaded in his own mind, as Paul declares he ought to be, then let the weak brother admit that his less scrupulous brother has reached his opinion before God, and that God is the only competent Judge of his conduct, while the strong brother is to give the weak one credit for similar conscientiousness. It is a great matter gained if each lays his brother's case before the Lord, and prays and hopes that God will enable him to stand. It is a great thing gained when we are able to see guilt in contemptuous judgment.
III. IN THE RISEN SAVIOUR EACH ONE MUST RECOGNIZE THE LORD OF HIS CONSCIENCE. (Vers. 7-9.) To Jesus, our risen Saviour. and to him alone, are we responsible, and so let us live, and die unto him. Now, it is important for us to appreciate the purpose of Christ's death and resurrection. It was no less than this, to secure universal dominion over man both here and hereafter. "The Redeemer's dominion over men is forcibly declared to have been the end of his ministry on earth. The apostle's words are very express and emphatic. To this end that signifies, in language as strong as could be used to note design, that the purpose of the Passion was the attainment of universal dominion over the human race in time and in eternity. To this end, and no other; for this purpose, and nothing short of it; with this design, embracing and consummating all other designs. But we must view it under two aspects - it was a purpose aimed at before the death; in the Resurrection it was a purpose reached. He died that he might have the dominion; he lived that he might exercise it." Now, of this mighty realm of the risen Christ, the dead constitute the vast majority. "What, in comparison of the uncounted hosts, numbered only by the Infinite Mind, are the few hundreds of millions that any moment are called the living? It is in the realm of the shades that we contemplate our great family in its vastest dimensions, as it has from the first generation been gaining on the numbers of the living, and swelling onwards to the stupendous whole bound up in the federal headship of the first and second Adam." a Now, in all this vast domain, there is but one rightful Lord of the conscience; there may be other lords with dominion, and they may be many; but in the realm of conscience there is only one Lord, and he is the risen Saviour!
IV. THIS LORDSHIP OF JESUS LEADS DIRECTLY TO THE CHRISTIAN IDEA OF LIFE AS A LIFE UNTO OUR LORD. (Ver. 8.) We cannot live unto ourselves, even if we tried. We cannot coop up our life so as that it should have no relations to any but ourselves. We must live to influence others; we ought to live for the glory of our risen Lord. In the Christian idea of life "nothing is indifferent, nothing self-willed; all is consecrated to Heaven. The scruples of the weak rise from the fear of God, and are, therefore, to be considered sacred; the freedom of the strong rises from the dedication to the Lord, and is, therefore, equally sacred. Life, with its energies and purposes, is one prolonged act of consecration. Death, with its silent endurance and great transition, is a consecration too." As another has faithfully put it, "As he always exists, as a Christian, in and by his Master, so he always exists for his Master. He has, in the reality of the matter, no dissociated and independent interest. Not only in preaching and teaching, and bearing articulate witness to Jesus Christ, does he, if his life is true to its idea and its secret, 'live not unto himself;' not with aims which terminate for one moment in his own credit, for example, or his own comfort. Equally in the engagements of domestic life, of business life, of public affairs; equally (to look towards the humbler walks of duty) in the day's work of the Christian servant, or peasant, or artisan; 'whether he lives, he lives unto the Master, or whether he dies, he dies unto the Master;' whether he wakes or sleeps, whether he toils or rests, whether it be the term or the vacation of life, 'whether he eats or drinks, or whatsoever he does,' he is the Master's property for the Master's use.
"'Teach me, my God and King, "A servant with this clause V. INSTEAD OF JUDGING OTHERS, WE OUGHT TO THINK OF BEING JUDGED AT THE JUDGMENT-BAR OF JESUS OURSELVES. (Vers. 10-12.) Paul points the lesson home. He would have his readers to give up the judgment-seat and think of the judgment-bar. Better to think how we shall meet Christ's scrutiny ourselves than be contemptuously condemning weak brethren around us. Leave the weak and the strong with the Lord, who is no respecter of persons, and let us judge ourselves only, and make sure of a proper appearing at the judgment-bar of Christ. Thus, when all relations are carried up to the feet of Christ, peace is preserved and progress through self-knowledge secured! - R.M.E.
"A servant with this clause V. INSTEAD OF JUDGING OTHERS, WE OUGHT TO THINK OF BEING JUDGED AT THE JUDGMENT-BAR OF JESUS OURSELVES. (Vers. 10-12.) Paul points the lesson home. He would have his readers to give up the judgment-seat and think of the judgment-bar. Better to think how we shall meet Christ's scrutiny ourselves than be contemptuously condemning weak brethren around us. Leave the weak and the strong with the Lord, who is no respecter of persons, and let us judge ourselves only, and make sure of a proper appearing at the judgment-bar of Christ. Thus, when all relations are carried up to the feet of Christ, peace is preserved and progress through self-knowledge secured! - R.M.E.
V. INSTEAD OF JUDGING OTHERS, WE OUGHT TO THINK OF BEING JUDGED AT THE JUDGMENT-BAR OF JESUS OURSELVES. (Vers. 10-12.) Paul points the lesson home. He would have his readers to give up the judgment-seat and think of the judgment-bar. Better to think how we shall meet Christ's scrutiny ourselves than be contemptuously condemning weak brethren around us. Leave the weak and the strong with the Lord, who is no respecter of persons, and let us judge ourselves only, and make sure of a proper appearing at the judgment-bar of Christ. Thus, when all relations are carried up to the feet of Christ, peace is preserved and progress through self-knowledge secured! - R.M.E.
I. EACH HAS TO SETTLE SUCH QUESTIONS FOR HIMSELF. "Let each be assured in his own mind." Others cannot do our part in investigation and decision. No one is authorized to come between us and God in such matters; even the apostle does not intrude on the province of several judgement. We must decide what our conscience prescribes, and where our conception of Christian service requires us to draw the line. Only let each see to it that he be not satisfied with giving the least amount or rendering the slightest obedience possible. He is wrong and condemns himself who asks, "How near the dangerous cliff can I walk without peril?" or, "What is the minimum religious work I can undertake as a servant of Christ?' We need to study Scripture, to prayerfully ponder on its law of life, its principles, and the illustrations afforded by the lives and acts of the noblest heroes. Nor are we precluded from seeking the help and enlightenment which other books and companions may furnish. Yet the conclusion come to must be felt to be our own, in harmony with the dictates of our conscience, and ratified by our independent judgment. Then we may go fearlessly forward. Men differ in the conclusions they reach honestly enough, according to their breadth of intellect, their natural temperament, their surroundings, and their education, mental and experimental.
II. WE CANNOT BE ENDLESSLY ARGUING THESE QUESTIONS. He who is ever debating with himself settles nothing. He wastes his brief moments in deciding what to think and do, instead of beginning at once the discharge of his duties and the exercise of his gifts. Much in Christian doctrine and practice is unambiguous. To cultivate love, peace, godliness, to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit in activity, benevolence, holiness, - the rightness of this needs no process of reasoning. The man possessed by an idea is the man who influences his fellows; not he who is sure of nothing, who has only conundrums to propound instead of a way of salvation to proclaim and suggestions for usefulness to enforce. The ring of conviction in the voice begets assent and confidence in the hearers. "We believe, and therefore we speak," this is the preaching which is mighty unto conversion. A dainty scepticism has but negative chilling power. Doubters can hardly be fruit-bearers. Once a decision has been arrived at, the reasons on which it was founded may not be always present to the mind, but the impression remains. This does not forbid a growth of opinion, the gaining of a wider outlook and clearer penetration modifying previous conclusions. Time and experience confirm or alter views by imperceptible degrees, without the ferment that attends constant restlessness of debate.
III. WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO IMPOSE OUR PARTICULAR JUDGMENT AND EXAMPLE AS ARTICLES OF FAITH ON OUR FELLOW-MEMBERS. There must be mutual concessions. Let not the strong contemn the weak as narrow-minded, nor the scrupulous censure the liberty of others as an infraction of Christian morals. Teetotallers err when they pass strictures on non-abstainers, and the latter are equally guilty when they ridicule the former's self-denial. The good of the society, though best secured by the welfare of each unit composing the alliance, is yet of greater worth than the satisfaction and triumph of any separate section. "Follow after the things which make for peace." Divine charity, which bears long with all sorts and conditions of men, is reflected in the membership which knows how to be tolerant without laxity, and comprehensive without indefiniteness. The building up of the temple of God will take long if we are always deliberating on the right of individual stones to a place in the structure. Is the mark of the Master-mason on the stone? Has God received such? Then it is not for us to question or exclude. - S.R.A.
I. THE INFLUENCE WHICH ONE MAN MAY EXERCISE FOR GOOD. Many who would like to do good are sometimes disposed to say, "What use can I be in the world? What influence can my life have upon others? What good can I do to others? I am too young. I am too humble. I have no intellectual gifts. I have no opportunities such as some people have of exercising influence upon others." This is to underestimate the influence of the individual life. Whether we are conscious of it or not, the life of each of us, whether we are rich or poor, learned or unlearned, young or old, is exercising some influence upon others. It is not necessary that we should know another in order to exercise an influence upon him. Thousands of men are influenced by persons whom they never saw. The Reformation began at Cambridge University very early in the sixteenth century by Bilney, a solitary student, reading a Greek Testament with Latin translation and notes, which Erasmus had published. Bilney had never seen Erasmus, but the quiet work of Erasmus was the means of bringing Bilney to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. Bilney, again, influenced Latimer, who was one of the fathers of the English Reformation, and who suffered martyrdom for the truth. Thus the Reformation in England may be largely traced to the quiet work of Erasmus as he sat at his desk, and used his vast learning and intellect to make the Word of God more familiar to the people of his time. A young American student, more than seventy years ago, happened to read a printed sermon which had fallen into his hands. The sermon was entitled "The Star in the East," by Dr. Claudius Buchanan, and described the progress of the gospel in India, and the evidence there afforded of its Divine power. That sermon, by a man whom he had never seen, fell into the young student's soul like a spark into tinder, and in six months Adoniram Judson resolved to become a missionary to the heathen. That little printed sermon, preached in England, perhaps, with no apparent fruit, became, through God's blessing, the beginning of the great work of American foreign missions. You may not be an Erasmus or a Claudius Buchanan. But God may have as great a work for you to do as he had for them. What an influence for good Christian parents may exercise upon their children, with far-reaching results to the world! The faithful sabbath-school teacher may leaven with gospel truth young minds that may yet control the destinies of a nation. Young women, by the power of their own Christian character, may change for the better the muddy current of many a godless life. The great matter is for every one of us to live near to God, to cultivate a Christ-like character, and then our life is sure to be a blessing. You must walk with God if you would have weight with men. Personal holiness is the key to personal influence for good.
II. THE INFLUENCE WHICH ONE MAN MAY EXERCISE FOR EVIL, The wise man says, "One sinner destroyeth much good." Everyday experience will supply many illustrations of this truth. One bad man, one bad woman, will be a centre of corruption to the whole circle in which they move. One bad boy often corrupts a whole school. How terrible is the power of evil to propagate itself! How terrible is the guilt of those who have become the corrupters of others! The evil that we do has consequences far beyond the injury that we may do to ourselves.
Unto a loving mother oft "So, in our daily walk and life,
"So, in our daily walk and life,
I. THE LORDSHIP OF CHRIST.
1. Christian freedom is not unconditional liberty. "Ye are not your own" is the watchword of grateful service. The emancipation of a slave does not set him free from all law; he is released from degrading servitude to be useful to his country and king. Modern civilization teaches the compatibility of numerous statutes with true essential freedom. The rule of Christ is recognized and illustrated in the Acts of the Apostles, "Thou, Lord, show which of these two thou hast chosen;" "The Lord added to them daily." "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" is the first question of the new life. There would be no difficulty in any department of Church-fellowship if the authority of Christ were fully recognized. "One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren." Finances, activity, brotherly regard, all flourish where hearts are surrendered in entirety to the sway of Christ.
2. This Lordship means protection as well as government. As under Roman law' each noble patrician had his clients, whose wrongs he redressed and whose interests he promoted, so the Saviour throws the aegis of his love over his subjects, directing them by his wisdom, shielding them by his interposition. "Fear not; no man shall set on thee to harm thee." The very end of government is the welfare of the governed. Old ideas that the monarch has no duties and the people no rights have passed for ever; and we are warranted in seizing nobler conceptions of the sovereignty of God than prevailed when despotism reigned unquestioned. Let men beware lest they lop off limbs from the body of Christ, and by their divisions and excommunications rend his seamless garment.
3. The dominion of Christ may well console us as we think of the dead. He is the Lord of all worlds, has "all authority in heaven and earth." His voice comforts the bereaved, sounding amid the stillness of the sepulchre, "Fear not: I have the keys of death and of Hades." "He is not the Lord of the dead, but of the living.' The dead pass not into a dreary unillumined state; they "depart to be with Christ." And where mournful reflections on wasted lives, sudden departures, check hopeful sorrow, and memory emits little fragrance from the past; yet we may leave all in his hands who, as the supreme Architect of humanity, rejoices in restoration rather than destruction. "Shall not the Judge... do right?"
II. THE MANNER IS WHICH THIS LORDSHIP WAS WON.
1. By stooping to the condition of his subjects. He is Lord by creation, but still more by virtue of his redemptive work. Well has he earned his title who entered into our humbling nature, tasted our sorrows, and drank the cup of bitterness as our Sin Offering. He himself passed through the gloomy portals of death, and in rising again revealed both the love and the might of God. Only he can be a true Master who first subordinated himself to service. For the suffering of death is he crowned with glory and honour. He can declare, "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore." "Because I live, ye shall live also."
2. After this model, service to the Church becomes the stepping-stone to honor. Christ has furnished the pattern to his followers according to which office and rank are conferred. He who is most profitable to the body is to be most esteemed by the members. Empty sinecures are unknown in his kingdom. And if we would benefit our fellows, we must by real sympathy share their need and trouble. "He that will be greatest, let him be your minister." Christ rose as the Firstfruits, and in Christ shall all be made alive, but every man in his own rank. - S.R.A.
I. THE LAW OF CHRISTIAN CHARITY. Where we differ from our fellow-Christians in details of doctrine, worship, or practice, we are very prone to be uncharitable in our judgments. We are inclined to doubt their Christianity because they do not just see as we do on such matters. One great fact the apostle would have us remember when we are tempted to condemn our brethren. It is the fact of the judgement to come. "Why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ" (ver. 10). "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more" (vers. 12, 13). It is not we who are to be the judges of our fellow-Christians, but God. We should not like that they would be our judges: then why should we judge them? The thought that we ourselves must stand before a higher judgment-seat, where all our sins and secret thoughts and unchristian motives shall be known, should make us more cautious in our condemnation of others. And, as regards our fellow-Christians, is it not enough for us that God will judge them? Surely we may leave their trial with confidence in his hands.
II. THE LAW OF CHRISTIAN SELF-DENIAL. There is a gradual progress in the principles here laid down. First of all, it is shown that we ought not to judge our brethren. This is a purely negative command. The next command is somewhat more positive. "But judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way" (ver. 13). The apostle enforces the exhortation to Christian self-denial by three special reasons.
1. The Christian should not injure those whom Christ has died to save. "Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died" (ver. 15). This is the true basis of total abstinence. "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak" (ver. 21).
2. The Christian has higher enjoyments than those of selfish indulgence. "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (ver. 17). The giving up of a merely bodily comfort or enjoyment should not be a great hardship to the Christian. God is able to give us much more than this.
3. The example of Christ is an example of self-denial. "For even Christ pleased not himself" (Romans 15:3). Self-denial is an essential part of truly following Christ. "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." This law of Christian self-denial covers a wide field. Not merely abstinence from meats and drinks, from bodily indulgences which do harm to others; but also to put a bridle on our tongues, lest by our words we should give offence to others; to abstain from gratifying even lawful desires and wishes where the attainment of our purpose would cause pain or injury to others; - this is self-denial, this is to follow the example of Christ. Self-pleasing is a besetting sin with most of us.
III. THE LAW OF CHRISTIAN HELPFULNESS. Here the apostle takes another forward step. Here he states a still higher principle. "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another" (ver. 19); "Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification" (Romans 15:2). Here is the truly positive principle of Christian life. The Christian life should not be merely an abstinence from evil, but a positive doing of what is good. We should not merely refrain from injuring our neighbours, but we should be actively engaged, as Christians, in rendering them all the spiritual help we can. As a rule, our Christianity is negative rather than positive. It is too selfish. Many Christians are perfectly content with attaining the salvation of their own souls, and going through the world as harmlessly as possible. This, after all, is but a low type of Christianity True Christianity, the Christianity of the sermon on the mount, is as the salt, the light, the leaven; an active, helpful, beneficent influence upon those around us. - C.H.I.
I. WE ARE BOUND TO CONSIDER WHETHER OUR MANNER OF LIVING MAY NOT BE A STUMBLING-BLOCK TO OUR WEAK BROTHER. Having taken his readers to Christ's judgment-bar, he now asks them to examine themselves as to the influence of their mode of living. Is their freedom an offence to the weak? Then in the spirit of the Master, who gave his life to save the weak brother, they ought to surrender their freedom in deference to their scruples. Surely, if Jesus surrendered life for the weak brother, dying to redeem him, we ought to be ready to surrender meat or to surrender wine, if by so doing we can promote our weaker brother's welfare. Paul's position was a noble one. He knew that nothing was unclean of itself. He was none of your squeamish and scrupulous individuals. He could eat whatever was set before him; he could drink without the least excess. But he was ready to surrender both meat and wine for the weak brother's sake. And this is the very spirit of Christ. It is here that we base our temperance reformation; not on partaking being a sin, but being inexpedient in view of the weak brother's dangers.
II. DOUBT AS TO OUR DUTY SHOULD LEAD US TO ABSTAIN RATHER THAN INDULGE UNTIL WE ARE FULLY PERSUADED IN OUR OWN MINDS. The apostle wants every man to be fully persuaded in his own mind as to his course of action. One who is not, one who has no real faith in the course of action he is pursuing, is self condemned. Paul wishes to bring all such to the side of abstinence. Better abstain from meat or drink until such times as the path of duty is clear. Now, there are multitudes that act quite differently. They go on indulging themselves because they have not made up their minds. Now, this is moral indifference, and deserves reprobation.
III. THE DEATH OF CHRIST IS THE GREAT MORAL LEVER WITH CONSCIENTIOUS SOULS. The apostle bases his whole plea for the endangered brother on the death of Christ for him. If Christ died for him, we should surely abstain for him. The death of Jesus is thus seen to be the great moral leverage for the world. Into the midst of things indifferent - for "the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" - the self-sacrifice of our Master enters and compels conscientious souls to make some sacrifices for the sake of the brethren. Their edification becomes our aim, since the things are indifferent. We are not selfishly to assert our liberty, but self-denyingly we are to forego it, and bind ourselves to abstinence for whatever may be a brother's snare. If we could get such a deference to conscience practised in the Christian Church, society would very soon be regenerated. - R.M.E.
I. THE NON-ESSENTIALS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. The "kingdom of God" is a comprehensive phrase, denoting the new sovereignty established by Christ in the hearts of individuals where he rules in power and grace, and likewise embracing the whole company of those throughout the globe who, by personal reception of the truth, have entered into a society with duties and privileges emanating from the Kingship of the Redeemer. The code of life lays down no hard specific rules of abstinence or conformity. "Eating and drinking" are no necessary part of Christian living. It is the spirit in which certain actions are performed or certain privtions submitted to rather than the things themselves which make men Christians. External observances do not constitute religion. They are a visible embodiment of it, but not its vital principle. Let us not set too high an estimate on rites and ceremonies and forms of worship, or we may glorify the husk to the neglect of the kernel, and the shapely bark may conceal a rotten tree. Ordinances of touching, tasting, handling, concern things that perish in the using. Discussions respecting amusements, pleasures, occupations, as to which may lawfully be enjoyed and which not, seldom advance any man's obedience to Christ; they are the fringe, not the vesture, of religion, and talk concerning them is apt to degenerate into trifling and casuistry. Let each decide for himself with prayerful meditation what his course shall be, and try to secure the best, most lasting possessions. He who is always deliberating about the necessary outworks will never reach the heart of the palace of truth.
II. WHEREIN THE KINGDOM OF GOD CONSISTS. Having dismissed the negative aspect of Christianity, the apostle proceeds to set forth the main qualities of the Christian life. These are "righteousness," just, honourable dealing, keeping the commandments of God with a pure conscience, mindful of the claims of God and our neighbours. Also "peace," the tranquillity of the child resting on the Father's bosom, unruffled by storms without, not over-anxious about daily cares, nor depressed by bereavements or affliction. And "joy," which is peace brimming over into exultation, triumphant like snow brightened by the sunlight, even made rosy by the setting rays. These are spiritual qualities. They are spiritual in source and nature, are "fruits of the indwelling Spirit," are enjoyed and perfected "in the Holy Ghost." Righteousness is not the laborious toil of the legalist; nor is peace the apathy of the stoic or the sleepy contentment of the epicurean; nor is joy the momentary excitement of the sensualist. They are pure inward feelings, springs that flow spontaneously into outward behaviour. They are very practical, dealing not with abstruse or knotty points of conduct, but with qualifications easily understood, and unambiguous as to the method of attainment. It is not holding a certain creed, but cultivating a certain disposition and character. They tend to the harmony and usefulness of the Church. Dissension is impossible where these graces prevail. Unprofitable arguing is abandoned for mutual comfort and service. Engaged upon the higher business of the kingdom, petty details sink into their rightful insignificance, minor matters settle themselves. Would that the Church had attended to this dictum of the apostle, and been ever distinguished by these amiable virtues, instead of one section quarrelling with and persecuting another, making Church history a weariness to read, and confirming rather than quieting the doubts of the sceptical! Volumes of theology are not so powerful to convince of the truth of Christianity as a holy life. Men quickly discriminate between ritualism and religion, and detect the asceticism which mortifies the body, yet nourishes the pride of the soul. - S.R.A.
I. THE STRONGER CAN HELP THE WEAKER, AND THE HIGHER STOOP TO THE POSITION OF THE LOWER, MORE EASILY THAN VICE VERSA. It is the glory of the greater to include the less. And the man of far-reaching spiritual views can accommodate himself to his less intellectual brother more readily than the latter can lay aside his prejudices and rejoice in the removal of all restrictions. Hence those in our assemblies capable of assimilating the richest food placed before them are called upon to remember the plainer fare that suits the spiritual digestion of their brethren. Those who delight in climbing to the peaks of spiritual knowledge can learn to moderate their ardour, and sit with their fellows in happy concord in the plain, because otherwise there can be no general assembly, many being devoid of the strength and agility needful for an ascent to the summit. Our exhortation and worship must ever, though not exclusively, take account of the weaker and less educated, the children and the simple.
II. IT IS SAFER TO ERR ON THE SIDE OF SELF-REPRESSION RATHER THAN OF LIBERTY. Every man endowed by the Spirit with a clearness and amplitude of vision that discriminates between the essential and the non-essential may refuse to have his freedom compulsorily narrowed by others. But he does well, and acts in the spirit of Christ who "pleased not himself," if he spontaneously renounces part of his privileges, in order that he may remove a possible stumbling-block from his brother's path. And there is a danger of man's natural tendency to self-assertion leading him to a violation of conscience. "Happy is he that condemneth not himself in the thing which he alloweth" implies the possibility of insisting on freedom with low motives. An instructive tradition of Christ is recorded by Codex Bezae after ver. 4 in Luke 6.: "On the same day he beheld a man working on the sabbath, and said unto him, Blessed art thou if thou knowest what thou doest: but if thou knowest not, thou art cursed and a transgressor of the Law." To disregard days and unclean food without a perception of the reason found in Christ's universal cleansing and sanctification is not to justify, but to aggravate, the offence. To act against a conscientious feeling is always wrong. Many a man who boasts of his ability to pass unscathed through a fiery ordeal is being singed and maimed by his recklessness.
III. TO HARM A BROTHER IS TO WOUND CHRIST. "Destroy not thy brother, for whom Christ died." See in the weakest member of the community the face and form of thy Lord! The essence of Christianity is self-abnegation; love makes the sacrifice welcome. Christ in us is our better self. and self-love wards off self-injury. The leader of a band anxious for its prosperity end progress feels a pang when any element of discord or weakness is introduced. Jesus Christ is the sensitive Head of the Church, and the inefficiency of any member is a grief to him; the suffering of any limb impairs his joy. Could we more often place ourselves in thought in his position, we should quickly abate aught that lessens the unity and power of the body of Christ. Every pastor of a flock, every teacher of a class, has to think of the effect of his example, lest what he might enjoy without risk himself should exert a dangerous influence on others. It is more blessed to yield than to receive a concession. - S.R.A.