Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:
2 Corinthians 10:5
I. The power of thought. The ability to think is (1) man's great distinction, (2) the instrument of all his work, and (3) the great material with which he works.
II. For our thoughts to possess true value, we must learn to lead them. If a man does not lead his thoughts, some other power will, some power of the world, of the flesh, or of the devil, or all these powers combined. Now the central character of the power of our thoughts makes it a first necessity that we should lead them, if we are to remain in possession of ourselves. Thought determines the man. It arrests the attention, awakens feeling, inflames the passions, subdues the will, and commands action. Thoughts, therefore, unled, will be to a man what winds and waves are to a ship under canvas, but without a rudder, or what steam is to an engine without the guiding rail: a driving and destructive power.
III. But if we would lead our thoughts, we must know how to make them interesting. Thoughts wedded to the affections and carried in the congenial currents of the heart so rapidly multiply associations that the difficulty is to abstain from thinking, for thought is captivated, and captivated thought must be active.
IV. But how may we lead our thoughts into captivity? To lead our thoughts we must present to the mind that which is agreeable to its nature, and simply ask for obedience to an authority which, though it speaks without, appeals to its own Amen within us. The authority is (1) conscience; (2) the Divine word; (3) He who speaks in the word.
W. Pulsford, Trinity Church Sermons, p. 24.
Subjection of the Reason and Feelings to the Revealed Word.
The question may be asked, How is it possible to live as if the coming of Christ were not far off, when our reason tells us that it probably is distant? It may be said that we cannot hope and fear, and expect and wait, as we will, but that we must have reasons for so doing; and that if we are persuaded in our deliberate judgment that Christ's coming is not probable, we cannot make ourselves feel as if it were probable. In considering this objection, I have an opportunity of stating a great principle which obtains in Christian duty: the subjection of the whole mind to the law of God.
I. I deny, then, that our feelings and likings are commonly moved according to the dictates of what we commonly mean by reason, so far from it that nothing is more common, on the other hand, than to say that reason goes one way and our wishes another. There is nothing impossible, then, in learning to look out for the day of Christ's coming more earnestly than according to its probability in the judgment of reason. What Almighty God requires of us is to do that in one instance for His sake which we do so commonly in indulgence of our own waywardness and weakness, to hope, fear, expect our Lord's coming, more than reason warrants and in a way which His word alone warrants; that is, to trust Him above our reason.
II. Only reflect, what is faith itself but an acceptance of things unseen, from the love of them, beyond the determinations of calculation and experience? Faith outstrips argument. If there is only a fair chance that the Bible is true, that heaven is the reward of obedience and hell of wilful sin, it is worth while, it is safe, to sacrifice this world to the next. It were worth while, though Christ told us to sell all that we have and follow Him and to pass our time here in poverty and contempt—it were worth while on that chance to do it. Faith does not regard degrees of evidence. Though it is quite certain that Almighty God might have given us greater evidence than we possess, than we have in the Bible, yet, since He has given us enough, faith does not ask for more, but is satisfied and acts upon what is enough, whereas unbelief is ever asking for signs, more and greater, before it will yield to the Divine word. What is true of faith is true of hope. We may be commanded, if so be, to hope against hope, or to expect Christ's coming, in a certain sense, against reason.
III. As it is our duty to bring some things before our minds and contemplate them much more vividly than reason by itself would bid us, so, again, there are other things which it is a duty to put away from us, not to dwell upon and not to realise, though they be brought before us. Judging by mere worldly reason, the Christian ought to be self-conceited, for he is gifted; he ought to understand evil, because he sees and speaks of it; he ought to feel resentment, because he is conscious of being injured; he ought to be doubting and hesitating in his faith, because his evidence for it might be greater than it is; he ought to have no expectation of Christ's coming, because Christ has delayed so long; but not so: his mind and heart are formed on a different mould. He goes by a law which others know not, not his own wisdom or judgment, but by Christ's wisdom and the judgment of the Spirit, which is imparted to him. This it is which gives so unearthly a character to his whole life and conversation, which is "hid with Christ in God."
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. vi., p. 255.
References: 2 Corinthians 10:5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1473. 2 Corinthians 10:7.—Bishop Temple, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 237. 2 Corinthians 11:1-3.—F. W. Robertson, Lectures on Corinthians, p. 418; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. ix., p. 223.
But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ's, even so are we Christ's.
For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed:
That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters.
For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.
Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present.
For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.
For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ:
Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly,
To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand.
But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.