1 Thessalonians 2:7
It is very interesting to observe what a wealth of affection St. Paul poured out upon the Churches which came under his care. He was not satisfied with declaring the facts of the gospel and demonstrating the truth of them to the conviction of his hearers. He was very different from a cold philosopher who simply aims at establishing a certain thesis. Deep feeling entered into his work. A touching gentleness and affectionateness may be felt as the pervading tone of his treatment of his converts. He does not behave as a master who is ambitious to lord it over the heritage of Christ. He is like a nurse with her children. The example of the great apostle is worthy of the study of all Christian teachers.

I. THE GOSPEL IS BEST COMMENDED BY AFFECTIONATENESS IN THE CHRISTIAN PREACHER. The gospel bases its first claims on its own truth and reasonableness, and it is necessary that men should be convinced on these points if due respect for the rights of the human intellect is to be observed. Nevertheless the most persuasive power is not to be found in hard reason; nor does it reside in the splendors of eloquence. It is much more effective when it comes from simple, natural affectionate-ness. Men are more vulnerable in the heart than in the head. The Christian teacher must attack both strongholds; he will be foolish indeed if he neglect the more accessible one. It is often seen in experience that affectionateness conquers where convincing logic falls dead, and where glowing rhetoric only dazzles the hearers.

1. The influence of the preacher depends chiefly on his affectionateness. His relations with his hearers are personal. He is more than the herald. He is the shepherd of the flock, the father or brother of the family, the nurse of the babes in Christ. Thus ties of love between pastor and people not only make the association in Church life happy; they also afford the greatest aids to the work of the ministry.

2. The truth of the gospel is best revealed through affectionateness. The gospel is no dreamy dogma, no hard law, no pompous manifesto. It is a message from a father to his children, and a story of love in death. The Bible is a most human book, homely, brotherly, pathetic in its affectionate character. But this character of the Bible and of the gospel is marred and almost lost to view when harsh language and cold feelings accompany the preaching of it. The gospel of love should be offered in a kindred spirit of love.

II. A RIGHT FEELING OF THE SPIRIT OF THE GOSPEL WILL LEAD TO AFFECTIONATENESS IN THE CHRISTIAN PREACHER. It is most important that the desired affectionateness should be genuine. The pretence of it is mere hypocrisy. Affectionate language which does not spring from a heart of love is a mockery. It is better to have an honest hardness than this assumed unctuousness. It is important, also, that the affectionateness should be healthy and manly, and should not degenerate into effeminate sentimentality. The gospel itself should inspire the right affectionateness.

1. The spirit of the gospel being love, if we truly receive the gospel it will inspire love. The greatest change which it produces in men is to cast out selfishness, and to give a heart of love to God and man.

2. We best show our love to Christ by loving our brethren. We love Christ in them. He who loves Christ warmly will have the spirit which St. Paul manifested to the Churches under his care. - W.F.A.







But were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children
Were the person here meant only the stranger to whom a feeble mother, or, when the mother is no more, the sad and stricken father, entrusts their little one, still the image would express the ideas of kindness and care. But the pronoun "her own" (ἐαυτῆς) clearly shows that the picture in the apostle's eye is that of the mother herself nursing her tender offspring. And oh! what a love is hers! — how deep, how mild, how strong, how practical! Who, from his observation of the world, and from his own experience — in other stages, haply, than that of infancy — does not associate with the name of mother the idea of a gentleness the gentlest that ever, in this low world, takes up its home in a human voice, a human hand, a human heart? And what "man of woman born" may not catch the meaning, and feel the force, of the prophet's words — "As one whom his mother comforteth"?

(A. S. Patterson, D. D.)

There is a power in gentleness to subdue the mightiest opposition, and to triumph over the most gigantic difficulties. The gentle rays of the sun melt the ponderous iceberg more speedily than the rolling billows of an angry ocean; the silent action of the atmosphere wastes the rock which remains immovable under the strokes of the heaviest weapon. A look from Moses vanquished the calf idolatry of the Israelites which the fluent eloquence of Aaron had been powerless to resist; a calm, quiet word from Jesus paralyzed with fear the band of soldiers who came to arrest Him in Gethsemane. True gentleness is never weak. It is the tough, indestructible material out of which is formed the hero and the martyr. This quality was conspicuous in the preachers at Thessalonica.

I. IT WAS THE GENTLENESS OF PATIENT ENDURANCE.

1. It enabled them to bear the insult and outrage of their enemies. Their preaching roused violent opposition. They retaliated by praying for their persecutors. Against physical force they fought with moral weapons; and this attitude had a powerful influence on their adversaries. The modern preacher can adopt no better method. The offence of the Cross still stirs the enmity of the carnal mind. "And the servant of the Lord must not strive," etc. The power of a man is seen, not so much in what he can do as in what he can endure. It is only the Christian spirit that unites the utmost gentleness with the utmost strength.

2. It enabled them to bear with the weakness and imperfections of their converts — "As a nursing mother cherisheth her own children." They watched over them with the tenderest assiduity, instructed them with the most disinterested solicitude, accommodated themselves to their infant standpoint, with parental devotion. In order to successful teaching, in spiritual as in secular subjects, we must study the child nature. Take into account the influence of surroundings, early prejudices, capacity, temperament. See this illustrated in the Divine treatment of Israel under Moses, etc., and the intercourse of Jesus with the disciples.

II. IT WAS THE GENTLENESS OF SELF-SACRIFICING LOVE (ver. 8).

1. Their gentleness arose from a genuine love of souls. "Because ye were dear." Love is the power of the preacher. After this he toils with increasing earnestness as the years speed on; and it is the grace that comes latest into the soul. No amount of scholarship, exposition, or eloquence can atone for the absence of love. The fables of the ancients tell us of Amphion, who, with the music of his lyre, drew after him the huge stones with which the walls of Thebes were built; and of Orpheus, who, by his skill on the harp, could stay the course of rivers and tame the wildest animals. These are but exaggerated examples of the charm of love. "I have always been afraid," said a devoted young minister, "of driving my people away from the Saviour. I would rather err on the side of drawing them." John Fletcher once said, "Love, continual, universal, ardent love, is the soul of all the labour of a minister."

2. The intensity of their love awoke a spirit of voluntary self-sacrifice. "So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing," etc. To accomplish the salvation of their hearers they were willing to surrender life itself. This was the temper of the Divine Preacher, who "came not to be ministered unto," etc. A similar spirit imbued the apostle when he met the weeping elders of Ephesus. The love of science nerves the voyager to brave the dangers of the Arctic ice, amid which many have found a crystal tomb; but a nobler love inspires the breast of the humble worker who cheerfully sacrifices all this world holds dear, to rescue men from woe.Lessons:

1. That gentleness is power, not only in patient endurance, but also in enterprising action.

2. That gentleness is indispensable to effectiveness, either in warning or reproof. It succeeds where a rigid austerity fails.

3. That gentleness is fostered and regulated by a deep, self-sacrificing love.

(G. Barlow.)

(text in conjunction with vers. 1-11): —

I. THE TRUST REPOSED IN THE MINISTER OF CHRIST (ver. 4). Other trusts are temporary and inconsiderable; this unbounded in its consequences and spiritual in its effects. In stating the doctrines committed to him by this trust, the minister has —

1. To prepare for the gospel by teaching men their guilt and condemnation as sinners, their accountability to God, and their impotency to save themselves.

2. To tell what is properly the gospel he must explain that salvation begins in the purpose and love of God the Father, is wrought out by the incarnation and obedience unto death of God the Son, and is communicated and applied by God the Holy Ghost.

3. To show the effect of the gospel (vers. 11, 12).

II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE MINISTRY OF THE GOSPEL IS TO BE DISCHARGED. Besides the announcement of doctrines, much depends on the spirit in which they are announced.

1. Fidelity (vers. 2-5) in the discharge of a trust is the primary quality, without which subsidiary qualities do not deserve the name of virtues. The minister must not aim at pleasing men, but God. Heathen priests and false apostles were notoriously guilty of guile, deceit, impurity. To gain their ends they flattered men and concealed what was displeasing. So, alas! some professed ministers of Christ hide some part of the truth, soften the declarations of God's anger against sin, weaken, if they do not deny, the doctrines of the gospel, pass slightly over repentance, regeneration, separation from the world, etc.

2. Disinterestedness (vers. 5, 6). "Filthy lucre" is the term Scripture employs for appetite for gain in the minister of Christ. He has a right to demand that, preaching the gospel, he should live of the gospel; but the spirit of self-denial which willingly yields its strict rights, and is careful not to appear to drive a trade under the cloak of religion, and "seeks not yours, but you," is ever the distinguishing mark of the true minister.

3. Humility (ver. 6). The man that courts popularity, that frames his doctrines to the fashion of the day or the taste of his hearers, that cultivates the arts of human oratory, has his reward. But the faithful minister exhibits not himself, but Jesus Christ his Lord.

4. Mildness and gentleness of heart. What is there in nature so tender as a nursing mother? Different ministers excel in different graces. Though possessing all in a measure, yet they commonly surpass in some one or more — some in boldness, some in judgment, some in zeal, but the most useful in love.

III. THE CONDUCT OF A MINISTER OF CHRIST AS A RESULT OF THE DOCTRINES HE HAS IMBIBED AND THE SPIRIT WITH WHICH HE IS ANIMATED.

1. Laboriousness (ver. 9). The ministry is a "work."

2. Purity (ver. 10).

3. Godliness.

4. Inoffensiveness.

5. Usefulness.

(Bp. D. Wilson.)

The Apostle Paul had, in the former part of the chapter, reminded his Thessalonian brethren in what manner the gospel had been brought and preached to them, viz., "not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile." After thus stating what was not the character of his ministrations among them, he proceeds to state what it was: "But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children" (ver. 7, 8). What a beautiful description is this of the feelings and conduct of St. Paul to his Thessalonian converts! It is proper that I should first inform you that the apostle was addressing real Christians, truly converted characters: "For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain" (ver. 1). So in the first chapter, vers. 2-7. He, indeed, bears them all in his heart, but not equally so: some are closer there than others. Think you not that although our Lord had a most tender and affectionate spirit towards all the Jews, He had yet a peculiar and stronger affection for those who faithfully and closely followed Him? At the same time, of course, any unfair or undue partiality is to be carefully avoided.

1. "We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children." Gentleness, or kindness, and softness of manner, and of treatment, peculiarly characterizes a nursing mother. Her little infant is a tender, delicate plant, and will not bear rough usage. The outward frame of an infant is so very weak, that it is liable to sustain an injury even by improper handling, much more by any violent treatment; and its nerves are so very fine and tender, that any great shock would weaken them, perhaps ruin them entirely.

2. The very idea of a nursing mother is connected with the nourishment which she gives to her child. As a mother will not give her infant any strange food, so will not a faithful and judicious minister add anything to, nor take away from, what is written in the Bible.

3. Another characteristic of a nursing mother, by which she shows her gentleness towards her child, is being patient towards it — in not only waiting upon it in all the kind and affectionate offices of a parent, but waiting for it; giving it time, not hurrying it, but bearing with its infirmities, it may be, even with its petulance, and fretfulness, and oppositions. So the "servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves" (2 Timothy 2:24). We must not be disappointed if the tender plants of our spiritual nursery do not thrive as we could wish or hope. We must make allowances for their natural infirmities, as well as for their spiritual weakness.

4. The apostle goes on to say, "So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls." Here, again, the image of an affectionate mother strikingly represents the devotedness of affection which the apostle bore towards his spiritual children. Many a mother has sacrificed her life for the sake of preserving the life of her child! And is not this precisely the spirit and the conduct of St. Paul? What was his language to the Corinthians? "I will very gladly spend and be spent for you" (2 Corinthians 12:15). Would that we could feel and manifest the same devotedness to our Master's cause, and the same love for souls! There remains one point to be considered in connection with the declaration of the apostle in my text, and a very important point it is, viz., the motive or reason which he assigns for the affectionate interest which he took, and the devoted zeal which he manifested, on behalf of his Thessalonian brethren. It was this: "Because ye were dear unto us." And here, again, the image of a nursing mother will illustrate this feature in the apostle's character, and in the character of every faithful minister. What is it that impels the fond and anxious parent to cherish and nourish the child of her womb? Does she do it from any interested motives? Will she be repaid for all her care and all her labour? Not always. She does it for this simple but strong reason, because her child is dear to her. That which is a natural feeling in the bosom of the mother, by Divine grace becomes a spiritual affection in the breast of every faithful minister of the gospel. Thus the spirit of a faithful minister of Christ is an affectionate, devoted, and enlarged spirit. And why? Because it is the "Spirit of Christ." Of Him, indeed, it might be truly said, in the days of His flesh, "He was gentle among us," and was "affectionately desirous of us." Do you not remember the affecting and affectionate image under which He represented Himself as feeling for perverse Jerusalem? (Matthew 23:37).

(R. Grant.)

After all, it is only the sympathetic person who is fit for the office of nurse. There are born nurses, as there are born artists or poets — gentle, soft stepping creatures, who let in the sunshine with their very presence, just with their cheerful voices and beaming eyes, and all-embracing charity, which, Christ-like, places no blame on jangling nerves for the extorted word of impatience, when flesh and heart are fainting, and the silver cord is well nigh loosed, but with softest touch and pitying eyes soothe in place of condemning, and help the poor sufferer just as a mother's warm breast lulls her babe to forget its pain. A cheerful inflection of the voice is often worth more than a whole apothecary's shop. Your dull, silent croake is a walking hearse in a sick room. After all, in this, as in every other successful profession, intelligence must rule; but, alas! intelligence is the rarest of gifts. We may buy jellies and hothouse fruits, but who has intelligence to sell combined with kindness, though the mines of Golconda bid for it?

(Fanny Fern.)

In a church in Verona stands, or rather sits, a wooden image of St. Zeno, an ancient bishop, with knees so ludicrously short that there is no lap on which a babe could be dandled. He was not the first nor the last ecclesiastic who has been utterly incapable of being a nursing father to the Church. It were well if all ministers had a heavenly instinct for the nourishing and bringing up of the Lord's little ones. Is there not much lack in this? At the Synod of Moscow, held by King Goutran, A.D. 585, bishops were forbidden to keep dogs in their houses or birds of prey, lest the poor should be bit by these animals instead of being fed. Should not all ministers be equally concerned to chase away all morose habits, angry tempers, and repulsive manners, which might encourage the approach of inquiring souls who desire to know of us the way of salvation? Sunday school teachers may also take the hint.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

St. Anselm was a monk in the Abbey of Bec, in Normandy; and upon 's removal became his successor as abbot. No teacher ever threw a greater spirit of love into his toil. "Force your scholars to improve!" he burst out to another teacher who relied on blows and compulsion. "Did you ever see a craftsman fashion a fair image out of a golden plate by blows alone? Does he not now gently press it and strike it with his tools; now with wise art, yet more gently raise and shape it? What do your scholars turn into under this ceaseless beating? They turn only brutal," was the reply. "You have bad luck," was the keen answer, "in a training that only turns men into beasts." The worst natures softened before this tenderness and patience. Even the Conqueror, so harsh and terrible to others, became another man, gracious and easy of speech, with Anselm.

(Dean Church.)

Speaking of the temper requisite to the right discharge of ministerial duty, Payson said, "I never was fit to say a word to a sinner, except when I had a broken heart myself; when I was subdued and melted into penitency, and felt as though I had just received pardon to my own soul, and when my heart was full of tenderness and pity. No anger, no anger."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls
History cannot furnish us with a more striking instance of the love of souls than we find in St. Paul. Here he may mean —

1. That such was his affection for his converts, that he, as it were, breathed out his soul in every word. He spoke as though he would have died on the spot, through earnestness to affect them with what he said.

2. Or that so ardent was his love for them, that he was willing not only to preach to them, but to die for them. Some of the patriots of antiquity loved their country so well that they generously sacrificed their lives for it. And shall not love of souls be as heroic? (Philippians 2:17; 1 John 3:16).

I. THE HAPPY EFFECT OF THE LOVE OF SOULS ON THE OFFICE OF THE MINISTRY.

1. It will contribute to ingratiate us with mankind, and so promote our usefulness. It is not to be expected that those should receive advantage by our labours to whom we are unacceptable. The ministry of a contemptible minister will always be contemptible, and consequently useless. But when a minister in his congregation appears in a circle of friends whose affections meet in him as their common centre, his labours are likely to be at once pleasing and profitable. When the heart is open to the speaker his words will gain admission. There will be no suspicion of imposition or sinister design. Even hard things will be received as wholesome severities. Love has a language of its own which mankind can hardly fail to understand, its own look, voice, air, and manner. When dissimulation mourns and puts on airs of sorrow and compassion it is but whining and grimaces, and when she smiles it is but fawning and affectation; so hard is it to put on the face of genuine love with out being possessed of it; and so easy is it for a real friend to appear such.

2. It will enable us to affect our hearers and make deep impressions on their hearts. Love will render us sincere, and the sincerity of the speaker will have no small influence upon the hearers.

3. It will make us diligent and laborious. How indefatigable are we in pursuing a point we have at heart, and in serving those we love. Therefore, if the love of souls be our ruling passion, with what zeal shall we labour for their immortal interests! (2 Corinthians 12:15). There will then be no blanks in the page of life; all will be filled up with the offices of friendship. Ever-operating love will keep us busy (Acts 10:38; 2 Timothy 4:2). As souls are equal in worth, this love is impartial. Love will inspire our prayers with an almighty importunity, and render idleness an intolerable burden.

4. It will enable us to bear hardships and difficulties with patience, and even cheerfulness. The love of fame, of riches, of honour, etc. — what obstructions has it surmounted, what dangers dared! And shall not the nobler passion do vastly more? (Acts 20:24). Labour is delight, difficulty inviting, and peril alluring in this benevolent enterprise.

5. It will restrain from everything unworthy the ministry. If the love of men be warm in our hearts —(1) We cannot address men in a manner that looks more like a scold than a Christian orator, and which tends to exasperate rather than to reform.(2) We shall be courteous without affectation, insinuating without artifice, engaging without flattery, and honest without huffishness. It will guard us against all airs of superiority, and a distant, imperious behaviour, and render us affable, sociable, and modest (Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14).(3) It will render us patient under unkind treatment, and keep down unmanly and unministerial sallies of passion (1 Peter 2:23).(4) It will disable us from aiming at sordid ends and employing sordid measures (ver. 5; 1 Corinthians 12:14).

II. WHAT MINISTERS ARE TO EXPECT FROM THEIR PEOPLE IN RETURN.

1. To be looked upon as the friends and lovers of their souls.

2. To be treated as such. To have their instructions, warnings, etc., regarded as those of friends, and to be obeyed as such. "We live, if ye stand fast in the Lord," but it kills us to see you destroy yourselves.

3. To be loved. Since your ministers love you, they deserve to be loved in return (1 Thessalonians 5:13); and since they speak the truth in love, it should be received in love.

4. To be generously and cheerfully supported.

(S. Davies, A. M.)

One of the most beautiful of the legends of classical mythology is that of Pygmalion the sculptor, who became so passionately enamoured of a statue of his own creation that he implored Heaven to bestow upon it life. As the story goes the prayer was granted, and the beautiful image that his genius had evoked from the rude block began to show signs of vitality. The cold marble grew warm as the life blood began to course; the hueless cheeks gradually glowed with a modest blush; the dull, expressionless eye gave back an answering glance to the artist's ravished gaze; the rigid tresses relaxed into a silky softness, and waved with a golden sheen; the stony bosom heaved with deep-drawn breathing, and reciprocated the passion of that to which it was clasped until at last the fair creature stepped down from her pedestal to be the bride of him who had loved and prayed her into life. There is a lesson for us, as Christian workers, in this old world fable. We must love the souls we would quicken. Love must be the inspiration of our prayers. It is so loving and so praying, with the arms of our affection and our faith around the objects of our solicitude, that we shall sooner or later witness the result on which our hearts are set, and behold them "alive unto God."

(J. Halsey.)

Humbolt, in his travels, observes: "It seems remarkable that in the hottest as well as the coldest climates people display the same predilection for heat. On the introduction of Christianity into Iceland, the inhabitants would be baptized only in the hot springs of Hecla; and in the torrid zone, in the plains as well as on the Cordilleras, the natives flock from all parts to the thermal waters." The fact is not less noteworthy that men love spiritual warmth. Cold truth, even cold gospel truth, is never attractive. Ministers must be fervent, their spirit earnest, and their style energetic, or the many will not resort to them. Religion is a dish to be served hot; when it once becomes lukewarm it is sickening. Our baptism must be with the Holy Ghost and with fire if we would win the masses to hear the gospel.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

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