2 Corinthians 1:12
And this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in relation to you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God--not in worldly wisdom, but in the grace of God.
Sermons
Christian SimplicityArchdeacon Clagett.2 Corinthians 1:12
Christ's Tone of DecisionJ. Parker, D. D.2 Corinthians 1:12
Conscience and the Inner Life of ManD. Thomas, D. D.2 Corinthians 1:12
Handling Sincerity as a Sign of GraceA. Burgess.2 Corinthians 1:12
Hearers Reminded of the Theme of PreachersS. Martin.2 Corinthians 1:12
In Him was YeaE. Paxton Hood.2 Corinthians 1:12
Meaning What We SayJ. P. Gledstone.2 Corinthians 1:12
Now the End of the CommandmentHugh Binning2 Corinthians 1:12
On SincerityA. R. Beard.2 Corinthians 1:12
On Sincerity in ReligionC. R. Maturin.2 Corinthians 1:12
PurposeH. W. Beecher.2 Corinthians 1:12
Simplicity and SincerityA. Raleigh, D. D.2 Corinthians 1:12
The Divine YeaW. M. Statham.2 Corinthians 1:12
The Everlasting YeaJ. Leckie, D. D.2 Corinthians 1:12
The Joy of a Clear ConscienceN. Emmons, D. D.2 Corinthians 1:12
The Testimony of ConscienceJ. Vaughan, M. A.2 Corinthians 1:12
The Testimony of ConscienceF. W. Robertson, M. A.2 Corinthians 1:12
The Testimony of Our ConscienceE. Hurndall 2 Corinthians 1:12
Yea and Nay MenJ. Kennedy, D. D.2 Corinthians 1:12
The Gracious Influence of Prayerfulness and Sympathy on Suffering SoulsR. Tuck 2 Corinthians 1:11, 12
The Conscience TestimonyR. Tuck 2 Corinthians 1:12-14
Defence of Himself; Character of His PreachingC. Lipscomb 2 Corinthians 1:12-24
On our behalf were the closing words of the preceding verse, and St. Paul would now impress upon the Corinthians that he was worthy of their confidence and affection. And yet, further, if their regard had been manifested by intercessions in his behalf, he wished to assure them that he had in his own mind a blessed witness to the truth and sincerity of his apostolic work. Conscience was this witness. It testified that, "in simplicity and godly sincerity" ("godly honesty and singleness," "a plain, single mind"), and with, out any carnal wisdom that is begotten of selfish intellect, and under the control of grace determining the matter and manner of his preaching, he had shown his character and done his work at Corinth. This was his "rejoicing;" it was inward, it was from God; it applied to his "conduct in the world," and especially to his labours among the Corinthians. Were they not the witnesses of all this? How could he be charged with duplicity? They read his heart in the letters written to their Church, and acknowledged his open and frank dealing. Certain persons were sharply censorious, questioning his integrity, attributing baseness to his motives, but some had testified to his "simplicity and godly sincerity," and rejoiced in his apostleship. And they and he would be united in this bond till the end, the day of the Lord Jesus. The day was already anticipated, and even now the "rejoicing" was a foretaste of its bliss. Such was his pleasure in them that, he had been anxious to visit Corinth and confer "a second benefit," and so enlarge his usefulness in their community, and bind their hearts and his in a fellowship closer, firmer, tenderer. Two visits had been intended. Circumstances had changed his purpose. Was he, then, light-minded, fickle, irresolute? The explicit statement of the reason is delayed, but, while not assigning at the moment the cause of postponing the visit, he meets the charges of his enemies by speaking the stern, strong language of that internal authority, the conscience, to which he had just referred. Was he playing the part of a trifler and deceiver by raising expectations he never meant to fulfil? Was he carnally minded, saying, "Yea, yea, and nay, nay," so emphatically? If he had this shifting and variable intellect (so said his enemies), what dependence was to be placed in such an apostle? Then the solemn protestation breaks forth, "As God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay." It was our purpose to come to you, but it was changed in the spirit of the gospel, and just as certainly as the preaching of Christ in this gospel was "yea," just so certainly was our conduct in this matter in the "yea" of the gospel, i.e. truthful and reliable. All God's promises were made to be kept, and they are "yea" in Christ and we are "yea" in him. The response of the Church is "Amen," and it glorifies God through our instrumentality, All is in the Spirit of Christ - our preaching, promising, and living. God has made us firm and strong in Christ, has given us the unction of his Spirit, so that while Jesus of Nazareth was by distinction the Anointed, and received the Holy Ghost without measure, he has taken us, apostles and believers, unto himself, and conferred on us the gifts of grace. We are "sealed;" the mark is evident that we belong to Christ, and this "earnest" or pledge is "in our hearts." On the broad ground of his apostolic ministry and fidelity to its obligations, St. Paul makes his first defence as to sincerity and consistency. The charge of his adversaries, that he was guilty of double-dealing, is without foundation. His teaching and its results were proofs beyond question that he was anointed to his work, and these believers were the acknowledgment, the "Amen," that certified the fact. Why did he defend himself, at first, in this general way? Why not come at once to the specific reason for not visiting Corinth as he had promised? The reason is obvious. These Judaizers were striking at his apostleship, and the true issue between him and them turned on this point. What did they care about the assurance that he was coming to Corinth? This was a small matter. The main thing with his opponents, in their fiery zeal, was to overthrow the power of his ministry among the Gentiles by heaping contempt on his character and couduct. St. Paul saw this clearly, and hence his line of argument, lie appealed to his ministry, to its fruits, most of all to the fact that the "yea" here was "yea," and the "Amen" of all converted souls was the endorsement of its success. And having met these slanders precisely in the form they were designed to affect him, he proceeds to tell the Corinthians why he had failed at the time to make them a visit. Hoping that his letter would lead them to see their grievous errors and induce them to repent and amend, he bad deferred the journey to Corinth. "To spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth." The "rod" of severity (1 Corinthians 4:21) might not be needed, it would not if they administered the proper discipline in the case of the incestuous man and rectified the disorders in the Church. lind he not asked them to decide whether he should come to them "with a rod, or in love and in the spirit of meekness"? In this spirit of tender conciliation he had waited to see the issue. And now, vindicating his action in this matter, he solemnly appeals to God to be a witness against his soul if he had not spoken the truth. "I call God for a record upon my soul." Was not the case very clear? In what stronger light could it be put? There was the testimony of conscience, the seal of God, the unction and the earnest, the yea and the Amen; and here, last of all, the calling on God to testify against him if he had been untruthful. But, writing as he was under the consciousness that every word would be subjected by his adversaries to a merciless criticism, he would explain that he claimed no "dominion" over their "faith." In fact, they were steadfast in the faith, and his only wish was to be a helper of their joy. Thus ends the first chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. It is personal in an uncommon degree, a revelation of the man and the apostle in one of the critical periods of his career. Yet it is not a new revelation, but rather a fuller disclosure of what had been previously seen in part. No man can be known in one attitude and aspect, To see him in a single light and from a fixed angle of observation is impossible. Sculptors and painters, in representing men, work under this limitation. They select a characteristic expression, a dominant appearance, an historic moment. But not so with the historian, the poet, the dramatist. St. Luke in the Acts gives us St. Paul in various positions; but St. Paul is his own biographer, and, in this chapter, admits us to the privacy of his heart. Throughout the Second Epistle we shall enjoy this inner communion with him, and feel every moment the heart that throbs beneath the words. - L.







For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience.
I. WHEN CHRISTIANS HAVE THE TESTIMONY OF CONSCIENCE IN THEIR FAVOUR. When it testifies —

1. That they have done what is right.

2. That they have done right from right motives.

II. THAT THIS TESTIMONY OF CONSCIENCE IN THEIR FAVOUR AFFORDS THEM GOOD GROUND TO REJOICE. Because it assures them —

1. That they have internally, as well as externally, obeyed God.

2. That they have the approbation of God.

3. That they will sooner or later meet the approbation of all the world.

4. That they stand entitled to all the blessings of eternal life.

III. IMPROVEMENT. If Christians have the testimony of their conscience in their favour, then —

1. They may always know their gracious state.

2. They may always know their duty.

3. They live the happiest life of any men in the world.

4. They never need to be afraid to do their duty.

5. It as faithfully testifies against all their shortcomings and moral imperfections.

6. We may discover the great source of self deception in sinners.

(N. Emmons, D. D.)

I. CONSCIENCE IS, PERHAPS, THE GREATEST POWER IN THE WORLD. it is an inward knowledge, which speaks either for or against the person in whom it resides. It witnesses not only to outward things, but also to inner ones; not only to our words and actions, but to our motives, thoughts, and feelings. Hence its immense power either to comfort or to distress.

II. EVERY ONE WILL BE JUDGED ACCORDING TO HIS CONSCIENCE.

III. HOW IS THE CONSCIENCE TO RE TRAINED?

1. Pray that it may be a right one in everything, and expect it in answer to your prayers.

2. Square it with the Bible.

3. Honour it; never trifle with it in the smallest thing.

4. Disobey whatever is against it, however pleasant, advantageous and popular.

5. Do not be afraid to take its comfort when it tells you that you are right.

IV. HERE THEN ARE THE TWO QUESTIONS FOR OURSELVES, the two lines which conscience should take.

1. In worldly things, in all my dealings with my fellow-creatures, in my ways of spending my time, my expenses, amusements, family, servants, employers, etc. What must conscience say? Has it all been with a single eye? Has it been "in simplicity and godly sincerity"?

2. And in more decidedly religious points, what does conscience say? Have I been true to my Church, to my conscience, to my God? Have I loved God's house? Is any one the better because I am a Christian?(1) A condemning conscience is a dark shade thrown over the life. How will my conscience condemn me on a dying bed?(2) But there is something worse than a condemning conscience — a silent conscience. It is God going away!(3) But for a condemning or a silent conscience there is a remedy. A conscience sprinkled with the blood of Christ.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

By this Paul does not mean faultlessness. "If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves." He is not speaking of personal character but of ministry; and again not of the blamelessness of his ministry, but of its success. He had been straightforward in his ministry, and his worst enemies could be refuted if they said that he was insincere. Now this sincerity excluded —

I. SUBTLE MANOEUVRING, ALL INDIRECT MODES OF TEACHING.

II. ALL TEACHING UPON THE GROUND OF MERE AUTHORITY. Conclusion: This was the secret of the apostle's wondrous power. It was because he had used no craft, nor any threat of authority, but stood simply on the truth, evident like the sunlight to all who had eyes to see, that thousands, go where he would, "acknowledged" what he taught,

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

I. WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE SOUL CONSCIENCE OBSERVES. This is implied in its testimony.

II. WHATEVER IS GOOD IN THE SOUL CONSCIENCE APPROVES.

III. WHATEVER IS JOYOUS IN THE SOUL CONSCIENCE OCCASIONS. "Our rejoicing is this."

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

In simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God
I. THE NATURE OF CHRISTIAN SIMPLICITY AND OF FLESHLY WISDOM.

1. Christian simplicity. There are six things which we are to take for certain marks of it.

(1)Veracity in our speech.

(2)Honesty in our actions.

(3)Purity in our intentions.

(4)Uniformity of righteousness in our whole conversation,

(5)Constancy in that way of universal righteousness to the end.

(6)An impartial regard to truth and right in causes depending between men and men.

2. The fleshly wisdom to which simplicity is here opposed. Of these wise of this world there are three sorts.(1) Those who will be under the restraints of religion so far as they think is in any respect requisite for their worldly welfare.(2) Those who will take more liberty in serving their worldly designs, only still with a care to be safe from the laws of men and the punishment they inflict.(3) Those who have their full swing, and allow themselves the utmost latitude of expedients for their ends, without any check from human laws at all.

II. THE GREAT COMFORT AND JOY IT AFFORDS TO GOOD MEN, WHOSE CONSCIENCES NO WITNESS IT OF THEM. All the advantages that can be made in this world by fleshly wisdom are nothing comparable to the pleasure of simplicity and honesty, and to the joy that ariseth from the conscience of such virtue.

1. It sets a man above the opinion of the world.

2. It is a certain support to a man under all the adversity that befalls him in the world.

3. It gives him a comfortable prospect and good assurance when he is leaving the world.

(Archdeacon Clagett.)

That sincerity and uprightness of heart in our motives and ends is a sure and infallible sign of our being in the state of grace (1 John 3:21, 22).

I. For the opening of this point, LET US CONSIDER HOW UNSAFELY IT MAY BE PRESSED FOR A SIGN IN SOME PARTICULARS, AND THEN WHEREIN THE NATURE OF IT LIETH.

1. It is unwarrantably pressed when uprightness is urged to the exclusion of all respect unto any reward.

2. This sign of uprightness may be pressed unsafely when it is understood of such a perfect uprightness that hath no deceit or falsehood at all joined with it; but as other graces are but in part, we know in part, we love in part, so we are sincere and upright in part. Who can understand his error? We may abuse the sign of sincerity by going too low.(1) When we take sincerity for quietness of conscience that it doth not accuse.(2) When we limit sincerity to one particular fact, or to some passages only.(3) When we judge of sincerity by the immediate ends of actions, not at all attending to the principal and main, "Whatsover ye do, do all to the glory of God."

II. In the next place, let us consider WHAT THIS UPRIGHTNESS IS, AND SO WHEREIN IT IS A SIGN.

1. There is no sincerity but where there is a full and powerful change of the whole man by the grace of God.

2. Uprightness is a sign, and then acknowledged to be sincerity, when we do any good duty because God commands.

3. Uprightness is seen in the universality of obedience. Thus a blackamore, though he hath white teeth, yet cannot be called white, because it is in some respect only, so neither may a man be called sincere that hath only partial obedience.

4. Then is uprightness a true sign when the motives of all our actions are pure and heavenly; when all is done because of the glory of God, or for such motives that God's Word doth require.

5. Uprightness is when a man is very diligent and conscientious in internal duties or secret, to perform them, and in spiritual or heart-sins and secret lusts to avoid them. These things thus explained, observe that it is a sure and comfortable sign of grace, when a man is willing to have his soul and all within searched by God (Psalm 17:3).(1) Let us consider how God doth try, that so we may perceive our willingness therein. And the first way is by His Word, "Whatsoever doth manifest, and so reprove evil, is light" (Ephesians 5:13). As by the light of the sunbeams we see the little motes and flies in the air, so by God's Word shining into our hearts we come to see many things sinful and unlawful which we did not perceive before.(2) A second way whereby God proveth is a powerful and soul-searching ministry.(3) The work of conscience within us, that also doth prove us. God hath set up a light within us, and when this is enlightened by the Word, then it makes a man's breast full of light.(4) God trieth us by the illuminations of His Spirit and strong convictions thereby.(5) God trieth when by His Providence we are put upon many duties and commands which it may be at other times did not concern us. Thus God examined Abraham by a command to offer up his only son Isaac. Thus God tried the young man who had great confidence in himself. The vessel's soundness is tried in the fire; the mariner's skill in a storm; the trees in a windy tempest.(6) And this is the fixed way of trial, viz., when God brings us under His chastisements. This manifesteth what metal we are of (1 Peter 1:7).As God useth these several ways to prove us, and the soul of a godly man is ready herein, so in these three cases especially doth a godly man give up himself to be examined.

1. In matters of doctrine. Although heresy may be merely in matter of conscience and opinion, yet for the most part carnal principles and motives are interwoven therewith.

2. In matter of received worship and traditional service of God. Although it be worship that can plead custom from prescription many years' commendation of the universality of learned men; yet an heart truly sincere desireth to have all things examined and proved out of God's Word.

3. This is eminently discovered in matter of practice.

III. In the next place let us consider WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF SUCH A GRACIOUS TEMPER IN THE HEART.

1. Where this is it doth not excuse or mitigate sin, but takes in with God against its own self.

2. Not resting upon generals, but particularly applying matters of duty.

3. A sincere heart loveth a godly reproof and those that give it. Use of examination. Here is a touchstone and trial for yourselves. Is there love of the light, or fear of the light; are you afraid of the Word of God, a soul-searching ministry, close and particular applications

4. Then suspect all is not sound within thee.

(A. Burgess.)

These words have the charm of life in them. They tell us how a man lived: and not in smooth circumstances in sunny weather, but when beset by enemies, difficulties and sorrows; and not in conspicuous places merely, but everywhere, and not for a short time, but always. Here is the kind of life which each one of us should endeavour after as his own.

I. CONSCIENCE.

1. The supreme faculty, or something that has supreme place, in man's moral life. The moral life is higher than the intellectual, and the dignity of conscience is that it is the governing element in the moral life.

2. Every one knows what conscience is. Find one who knows that there is a right and a wrong, he knows that by his conscience. Conscience always uses the reason, as, indeed, the other powers, in forming its judgments. But the judgments formed arc higher than the deliverances of reason.

3. Conscience is not infallible; but still it is supreme. It needs instruction, but still a man must act according to the light he has, while always seeking for more. It is the only clock that points to the moral time of day. It is the only shadow that falls on the sun-dial of life. The only barometer that gives true indication of the state of the moral atmosphere within. Go by it. Do not look up at the clock, etc., which rules another man's conscience.

4. A good conscience, like a good wife or husband, deserves only faithful loyalty "as long as ye both shall live." Indeed, moral death has come when conscience has no more testimony to give, or when its witness is systematically disobeyed. But the description of life and character in this passage is yet more pacific. Conscientiousness, after all, is a general quality. In order to know a man — what he is, and how he lives — we need information in particulars. Well, here is one of the particular qualities.

II. SIMPLICITY — singleness of mind, purpose, character, life — the opposite of duplicity — doubleness in speech, behaviour, heart.

1. All who are much in the world know very well how full it is of this. Double-speaking — saying one thing and meaning another — using language to hide meaning, or, equivocally, in order to mislead. Double-dealing. "It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer; but when he is gone his way then he boasteth." Double-seeming, too. What masks men wear! Sometimes glittering, sometimes sordid! A man comes rolling home in a carriage, and enters a magnificent house, and after entertaining a splendid company, goes into his own room, brings out his bank-book, and lays it, open, beside the claims upon him which that book shows no way to meet, and sits down there for a little, in misery, under the shadow of the ghastly fact that he is, in reality, a bankrupt. Take an instance on the other side. A man comes trudging home through wet streets, enters a plain house, moderately furnished, takes a simple ordinary meal, and then receives a friend or two. One of them in leaving asks a guinea for some charity. This plain, good man expresses good-will, but shakes his head saying, "You see I am in a very humble way; you must go to the rich." Then, by-and-bye, he too looks at his balance-sheet. This man is rolling in wealth, although without any of its outward signs. Yet he can thus hide himself from his own flesh. "Our rejoicing," if we are Christians, is this, the testimony of our conscience that "in simplicity" we live, not saying what we do not mean, nor seeming what we are not.

2. Most of all should we keep this pure simplicity in the religious sphere; avoiding, on the one hand, the high phraseology which expresses for more than we believe, feel, or indeed, really mean; and, on the other, the compromising silence, or brief and hesitating speech, which expresses less than we believe, and feel, and are.

III. SINCERITY, which perhaps brings in no characteristically different element. They are almost as twin sisters. The word means, literally, translucence, clearness, of mind. When you took into a diamond you might say it is sincere! Or into a crystal well, or down to the depths of the calm and silent sea! Such is the sincerity of a devout soul. It is called, literally, "the sincerity of God," either because it is like His own, or because it comes directly from Him, and makes us partakers of the Divine nature. Now see what that is, and how it pervades —

1. Nature. Does the sun ever stay his shining? Or the gentler moon withhold her light? Do rivers ever run back to their sources, or tides begin to ebb at half-flood? Has there ever been a spring-time which went round the world to call out flower and leaf, which has not been followed by an autumn with more or less of fruit? Will wood sink? will iron swim?

2. Providence. Does God not rule the world, so that he who speaks the truth and does the right has always the best of it in the end? Yes; and in the middle also, and from the beginning.

3. The gospel, with its great revelation of love, its great donation of life, its power of redemption from sin, its promises of seasonable helps, and its grand, last promise of "eternal life." God is sincere in all. We cannot aim too high, or hope for too much. "If it were not so, He would have told us." He is sincere. Are there any to aver the contrary? Who has come to a throne of grace and been repulsed? Such is the sincerity of God; and it is of this very quality that His children partake when they live the life befitting them. They cannot but be sincere when they yield to His gracious nurture.

IV. REJOICING. This kind of life is well adapted to make men glad. Remember, he who writes these words is often weighed down with great labours, suffers much persecution, is misjudged even by his friends. And yet here he retires into his own happy consciousness as into a fortress of peace and safety! And, indeed, no moral state could be imagined so strong, so safe as this. When he has a conscience which he "keeps," or rather which keeps him — when he lives a simple life — when he breathes in the sincerity of God — let him have no fear.

V. But now we begin to long for another word that shall MAKE THIS SECURITY WHOLESOME TO US, as well as deep and assured. For is there not some possibility that this profoundly conscious satisfaction in the possession of personal righteousness may come to have some tinge of "self-righteousness" in it?

VI. The word is GRACE. "By the grace of God" we have so lived. Particularly "not by fleshly wisdom." No man can ever reach the heights of safety and purity and joy by that way. Yet that is the principle which multitudes of people are adopting for self-development. "The fleshly wisdom" is just "the wisdom of the world," with its watchings, and windings, and insincerities, with its soft speech, and fair appearance, and secret ways. Does any one think he can develop his nature, and do justice to his immortality by that? Oh, miserable mistake! Not with fleshly wisdom, "but by the grace of God" — by its cleansings, its kindlings, its renewings, its growth; by its whole drift and discipline we have "our conversation in the world." And because it is "the grace of God," those who take it, and trust in it, and put it to use, cannot fail in some measure to realise and embody, and cannot fail, ultimately, to perfect the fair ideal of Scriptural holiness.

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

Another would have said, My rejoicing is this, the testimony of the world, that by my knowledge of its ways and adroit use of circumstances, I have succeeded in my favourite projects of amassing wealth, of increasing my power, of rising to a high elevation on the steeps of ambition. Sincerity is the virtue to which I would invite your special attention; as it is not only a moral virtue, but a distinguished evangelical grace, essential to the character of every just man, and of every disciple of Christ. Hence is it so strenuously enjoined in the sacred volume. Joshua exhorts the Israelities to "fear and serve the Lord in sincerity." This virtue is inseparable from the heart and mind of all who worship the Father in spirit and in truth. It is a radical principle in the constitution of every virtuous society — the soul of union, of co-operation, of friendship, of love, of piety, of devotion. Without it there is no morality, no religion. What then, let us inquire, is the nature of this virtue, and what are its requisitions? The term sincere, in its moral application, implies a clearness and transparency of character. But though the law of sincerity imperatively forbids all deception, it does not oblige us to lay our whole hearts open to the scrutiny of every curious eye, nor loudly to divulge every unseasonable truth which may occupy our minds. There can be no violation of sincerity in maintaining a proper reserve, provided such reserve does not lead our friend or neighbour to a wrong conclusion; to trust when he shall doubt, or to lay open his bosom when he shall cover it with triple mail. We are under no obligation to give offence, or provoke enmity. There are cases in which it would be extreme cruelty to divulge all we have heard or known of a neighbour's misfortunes or misconduct, Numberless are the deceptions which are practised every day by men upon men and by men on themselves. As to the latter, it is but too notorious with what ingenuity they disguise their vices, varnish them over till they assume the semblance of virtues, or amiable weaknesses. Not less numerous are the modes in which men practise insincerity towards others, by hypocrisy and falsehood, fraud and perjury, Courtesy is a Christian virtue. It is not opposed to sincerity but to vulgarity. The insincerity of which we speak has the semblance of courtesy, but it is courtesy in excess. It is learned in the school of deceit, in the court of fashion. Custom, the continuator of many an evil practice, has given its sanction to a certain species of phraseology which is termed polite, and which, by general agreement, is understood to signify nothing; nevertheless, a regard for Christian sincerity should induce us to employ it with caution. There are also tricks and deceptions in certain transactions, which, by a similar convention, are supposed to be accompanied by no moral turpitude; nay, the dexterity with which they are conducted confers the highest praise on their agent. But is it not evident to every Christian man, that let such transactions receive whatever sanction they may from custom and the world, they are totally unauthorised by the Word of God, which is the Christian's standard of right and wrong? It has been maintained, in opposition to the godly sincerity of the apostle, that dissimulation may be lawfully practised for the establishment of some useful design — to promote a movement in politics, or confirm a doctrine in religion — and that if the end be laudable or beneficial, the means are indifferent. This opinion, founded as it is on ignorance and sin, has been productive of much evil. The impure fountain must send forth an impure stream. Even when the end in view is really to be desired, if vicious means be employed to effect it, they excite a just and natural suspicion that it has some ulterior object which is selfish. Moreover, how often are we mistaken in the nature of true good! How often is that which we contemplate as beautiful and lovely regarded by others as deformed and odious! They may foresee nothing but misery in the very project from which we anticipate happiness. Sincerity is the characteristic of a noble and magnanimous disposition, as much as its opposite vice is the indication of what is mean and ungenerous. A brave man disdains to hang out false colours, to take unfair advantage even of an enemy, to appear what he is not. As insincerity vitiates every virtue, it disappoints every hope; for it is written, "The hypocrite's hope shall perish, his trust shall be in a spider's web. He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand; he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure." The motives of a man's conduct often lie nearer the surface than he imagines, even when he deems them most profound; and hence it happens that almost every species of imposition is so easily detected. Such are the mischiefs of insincerity, its fallacy and insecurity, its suspicion and its punishment. The benefits of its opposite virtue, equally striking and numerous, are enhanced by the contrast. The sincere man is fearless and consistent. He dreads no scrutiny; he is under no apprehension of being caught in the snare of his own contradictions; he feels conscious that the more closely you inspect him, the stronger will grow your conviction of his integrity; so that, even from selfish motives, it would be wise always to act sincerely. Nothing is more abhorrent to the whole spirit of Christianity than every species of hypocrisy, whether in word, in deed, or in dumb show, from whatever motive it proceeds, or on whatsoever pretence it is practised. Hypocrisy is the most efficient agent of Antichrist, and it has done more injury to the cause of Christianity than the most decided open hostility. It works by sap, and effects its wicked purposes by manoeuvring in the dark. The apostles of Christ, as became the disciples of such a master, equally with Him, condemn hypocrisy, and are earnest in their commendation of truth, honesty, candour, sincerity. They desire us to have respect to God in all our actions, and whatsoever we do, to do it heartily unto the Lord, and not as unto men. With sincerity the apostle conjoins simplicity, its natural associate. But of this virtue it may with good reason be observed that it is more the gift of nature than of education; one of those rare endowments which she bestows only on her favourites. Generally considered, it is a quality the most pleasing to a pure and uncorrupted taste in everything with which it can be connected. We admire it in architecture, in furniture, in dress, in manners, in literary composition, and hence the matchless beauty of the sacred Scriptures, which still continue to please and never pall by repetition. So far as simplicity is a moral virture, excluding all sinister views and double-dealing, it is in every man's power, and it is every man's duty to acquire it. To the young I would more particularly recommend this virtue. In them we naturally expect to find openness and ingenuousness, and are cruelly disappointed when we discover any attempt at imposition or deceit. They are most unfavourable omens of their future worth and respectability. The distortion of the sapling grows inveterate in the tree, and a slight disease which a tiny remedy might remove becomes by neglect incurable.

(A. R. Beard.)

We all value sincerity in religion, but many overlook that the only thing which can give value to this sincerity is — that we are sincere in true religion. To suppose a man sincere in a false system is only to suppose him lulled in insensibility, or hardened in obstinacy; it is to suppose him placed almost beyond the reach of conviction. What are the evidences of that sincerity — how a man may know himself to be really in earnest in his spiritual concerns?

1. The first thing that will enable us to answer in the affirmative is, that there is no compromising spirit in our religion; that we "render unto God the things that are God's," without, what I may call, the discount of the world; that we do not deliberately suffer "one jot or tittle of the law to pass unfulfilled." This is a strong evidence of sincerity. Men who arc in their hearts slaves to the world, and yet unable wholly to throw off the yoke of conscience, generally contrive to reconcile both, by constructing a system of religion for themselves, that they believe will pacify the one and enable them to retain their hold on the other — they contrive a religion consisting of external forms, but which has not the power to extort from them the sacrifice of one beloved lust.

2. Another and scarce an inferior proof is perseverance. There are few individuals who have not at some period of life felt religious impressions; there is not a libertine whom his vices have not sometimes terrified into partial reformation; but there is no permanence.

3. I add, that in my mind a strong evidence of sincerity in religion is, that it bears the test of solitude, and does not desert or upbraid us in the hour of lonely reflection. So universal are the workings of pride, prejudice, and error, that there is great need of distinguishing between the effects they produce on professors of religion, and the operation of very dissimilar causes, that end in producing the same effects. Thus passion will produce zeal in religion, of which the outward evidences will be as radiant as if the fire was kindled from heaven. Every passion and every vice may assume the disguise of an angel of light. But the system they defend, and the consequences they suggest, will not stand the test of solitude.

4. But the greatest proof of sincerity, that before which all others fade away, and without which, indeed, not one can be an admissible evidence, is the conformity of our lives to our. principles. Other evidences may deceive us — but this never can. Not they who say unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of My Father.

(C. R. Maturin.)

When I therefore was thus minded
(sermon to the young): — Let us —

I. NOTE THE FACTS TO WHICH PAUL LINKS HIS SINGLENESS AND HONESTY OF PURPOSE,

1. Christ was not yea and nay.(1) In His personal character He was yea. He combined the gracefulness and flexibility of the willow and the strength of the oak, but He had no double-mindedness. He adapted Himself to the trembling sinner and the confident Pharisee, but He was one and the same notwithstanding.(2) So was and is His gospel. Adapted to all classes and conditions, it accommodates itself to none. It has not one set of doctrines for the favoured few and another for the world.

2. The promises of God. There is no vacillation about them. God means all He says, and He says what He means.

3. But what had these to do with the charge of trimming? The answer is in verses 21, 22. Paul's character was modelled on the character of Christ: he had not acted according to the flesh, but according to the new nature formed by the Spirit of Christ. We have here a notable example of bringing the common things of life under the powers of the world to come. The apostle had planned a journey, and to change it might seem a small matter. But not so with Paul. His purposes were formed, and could only be changed under the eye of the Great Master. And he was so imbued with His Spirit, that he could not do otherwise.

II. EXAMINE SOME VARIETIES OF YEA AND NAY MEN.

1. The wicked yea and nay men — the man who intentionally, and without regard to right or wrong, is now yea and now nay, as best suits his purpose. This man is a saint with saints, and a devil with devils. As a politician he is Whig or Tory, democrat or aristocrat, provided only he can attain his end. In religion, business, and social life he is all things unto all men in a bad sense.

2. The weak yea and nay man may not be at heart a bad man. He would not deliberately lie or drink or swear to be in keeping with his company; but within certain limits he is as variable as the wind. You never know when you have him. He is like the chameleon which has no colours of his own, but "borrows from his neighbour's hue."

3. The compound of these two. There are those in whom you find wickedness so combined that you cannot say whether the fool or the knave predominates — objects now of anger, now of pity.

4. There are also instances of yea-and-nayness in the lives of the most honest and courageous under temptation — Peter.

III. URGE THE CULTIVATION OF THE OPPOSITE CHARACTER. Be not yea and nay men —

1. In the morals of life and of business. You have just entered on life, will you surrender yourselves to the evil current or will you resist it? Yea-and-nayness may bring temporary success, but it spells ruin in the long run.

2. In the department of religion and faith. The question determined of old on Carmel should be determined by you now. Is your life to be godless or godly?

3. In the practical following out of your Christian principles.

(J. Kennedy, D. D.)

(To young men): — Paul was misjudged as to his motives and consistency. It seems that he had intended to visit Corinth both on his way to Macedonia and on his return; but something that he thought of sufficient moment led him to change his mind, and his word was not kept. Backbiters put this down to caprice. This led Paul to state upon what principle he acted in this and in every case.

I. WHEN WE SAY YES OR NO WE SHOULD MEAN IT.

1. Our words should be serious. Paul's earnest spirit dreaded a light tongue, and to be regarded as a frivolous, man, not to say insincere, was more than he could bear. And it ought not to be a shackle on speech to have regard to the reality of things. Dr. Johnson could not endure the man who could not tell a story without exaggerating. And then in the work of life we should avoid a loose way of speaking — haphazard, questionable, plausible statements which, while appearing to be true, shade off into falsehood. Every word and action should go from the mint of conscience stamped with the King's image and superscription.

2. The apostle condemns "purposing according to the flesh," i.e., according to some shifting principle of an evil nature. The apostle comes down hard upon all mental reservations, upon the amiable weakness which promises you anything and gives you nothing, as well as upon the craft which keeps while it pretends to give. He seems to have especially in view our tendency to please ourselves. If we say "yes" or "no" to avoid trouble, if we say anything out of expediency or self-seeking, or love of popularity, we rest on a carnal foundation and "purpose according to the flesh." Truth often puts us to terrible inconvenience, but a good man speaketh the truth in his heart, and will change not even though he has sworn to his hurt.

II. WE OUGHT NOT TO HOLD TO OUR YEA AND NAY STUBBORNLY AND IN SPITE OF FRESH LIGHT FROM ABOVE. We may mean our word when we speak it, and purpose it in obedience to present knowledge of the will of God; but we may not affirm that we will keep it, come what will. "A man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps." It was thus with Paul here and in Acts 16:6-9. In every case we should say, "If the Lord will." It is a sign of weakness and wickedness when any one sets himself upon his purpose, when God has warned him to forsake it. Take, e.g., Jephthah and Saul (1 Samuel 14:24-33). Do not stick to your resolution when you see that God has a different one. What does it matter about your promising when the Lord orders something else? But you say, "If I don't abide by my word, what will be thought of it?" Why, you must take your chance, which, with God on your side, will not be a bad one. Conclusion:

1. If you act on these principles you will be honourable men in all the relations of life.

2. Is it not an insult to a Christian man whose yea is yea, etc., to be asked to swear it?

3. What would England be with a truth-loving and truth-speaking people?

4. Only remember that all must be rooted in a true gospel (ver. 20).

(J. P. Gledstone.)

A man's purpose of life should be like river, which was born of a thousand little rills in the mountains; and when, at last, it has reached its manhood in the plain, though, if you watch it, you shall see little eddies that seem as if they had changed their minds, and were going back again to the mountains, yet all its mighty current flows, changeless, to the sea. If you build a dam across it, in a few hours it will go over it with a voice of victory. If tides check it at its mouth, it is only that, when they ebb, it can sweep on again to the ocean. So goes the Amazon or the Orinoco across a continent — never losing its way, or changing its direction for the thousand streams that fall into it on the right hand and on the left, but only using them to increase its force, and bearing them onward in its resistless channel.

(H. W. Beecher.)

For
I. PAUL WAS A TEACHER, BUT HE TAUGHT IN ORDER TO LEAD MEN TO THE GREAT TEACHER.

1. This is peculiar to the Christian dispensation. The prophets preached, but their direct object, with the exception of their prophecies of the Messiah, was not to lead to another. This was the case, however, with John the Baptist. He preached, not concerning his own mission, but the coming Christ, for whom he made way. So Paul never set up for being a master, which Jesus had forbidden, but taught men to sit at the feet of God's Son.

2. As a teacher, Christ surpasses all who came before Him, or have followed Him. The treasures of wisdom and of knowledge are in Him; the Spirit without measure rests upon Him; He is the Truth. God had rent His heavens to say to men, "Hear Him." Paul echoed this.

3. And the true ministers of Christ imitate Paul. They do not bring before you some ancient sage or modern teacher; why should they exhibit the portrait when they can show you the original? And if any of you be not learning of Him, learn of Him now.

II. PAUL WAS A MINISTER, AND HE MINISTERED TO BRING MEN INTO SYMPATHY WITH THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST.

1. He was no priest himself, except in the sense in which he taught that all Christians are priests. His doctrine was, that Christ had once in the end of the world put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

2. And this was the secret of his glorying in the Cross. Now, if "the Son of God, Jesus Christ," died merely as Stephen died, why should Paul glory in His death?

3. And God's true ministers follow Paul in this also. When men come to them acknowledging their sinfulness, and craving pardon and absolution, they say, "Go to God's High Priest, Christ Jesus."

III. PAUL WAS A HERALD AND AN AMBASSADOR, AND HE PROCLAIMED THE SON OF GOD, JESUS CHRIST, TO BE KING OF KINGS.

1. He taught subjection to earthly sovereigns within a certain limit, but in religious matters he was subject to no human potentate: he came into collision even with Peter. We are all equal with reference to the Saviour — "one is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren."

2. Here again God's true ministers follow Paul. They say that the government is on Christ's shoulder, and that the Son of God is the fountain of law, and of all honour. Let us crown Him Lord of all — with our love, confidence, prayers, obedience, zeal and devotedness.Conclusion:

1. God's chief gift is His Son. He has given you many precious things, but there is no gift like that.

2. You are in the keeping of Christ. By trusting in Him you have committed yourselves to Him; He has charge of your body, soul, and spirit. From His hand you can never be plucked by any foe, because it is the hand of "the Son of God, Jesus Christ."

3. How is it that you do not love Jesus Christ and trust Him more? You do not read or think enough about Him.

(S. Martin.)

In Him was yea
How much is included in the word Yes! Upon that word, waiting for it, what anxious hearts have hung! The soul cries for certainty and satisfaction, and —

I. CHRIST SOLVES THE PROBLEM OF NATURE. We are perplexed by "the burden of the mystery" around us, and yearn for its solution. This yearning has borne witness and fruit in all ages. We see this especially in Hindooism — the religion of the natural man — God without character, consciousness, will. And Hindooism is making its converts among us. The myth system of Strauss, the pantheistic absolute of Hegel, the Pantheistic substance of Schelling, the idealisation of Fichte, all these systems have their disciples among us. Nature answers no questions, resolves no doubts; she meets the inquisitive intelligence of man; and when these two marry, they make a religion. But it is a religion without motives, and without safeguards. Now upon this state of mind Christ descends, and in Him is the Divine assurance. He says, "He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father." In this personality God lifts the curtain from His eternity. "He" was and "is the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His person." As light paints likenesses, so that I may have the express image of a person I have never seen, so Christ is the portrait of God. I know God is a person and a power, a conscience and a will, when I am able to believe in Jesus. There has come no answer from nature, or to nature; but He has come, and the true light shineth.

II. CHRIST RECONCILES THE CONTRADICTIONS OF SCRIPTURE. How is it that in God is "no variableness nor shadow of turning," and yet He hears and answers prayer? How is it "the pure in heart see God, whom no man can see"? How is it that a "man is justified by faith," and yet "by grace"? How is it that God is omnipotent, and yet man is spoken to as free? Well, no doubt contradictions exist, but they are explained in Him: Contradictions may exist in God even as opposite parts exist in a circle, but it is the circle which explains. See men at work on opposite walls of a building, while it grows, opposite to each other they work; but the unity of the conception and the labour is beheld in the roof. I look on the doctrine of God's grace, and man's responsibility, they seem to be in conflict with each other; so the infinity and the eternal omnipotence of God, and the freedom and the power, and the volition of man, but these things become clearer to me as I see Jesus. Hence He is called the "corner-stone"; the corner-stone meets what otherwise would never meet, reconciles what could not be reconciled.

III. JESUS GIVES THE YES TO YOUR MOST INTENSE QUESTIONS, AS OTHER MASTERS AND CONSOLERS CANNOT GIVE IT, That which is higher than I am, and which is satisfied, should satisfy me. Christ's knowledge, experience, love, and sympathy, surely are greater than mine; He was satisfied, and this should satisfy me. This may be a low ground to occupy, but I can from this climb far higher. I am in sorrow; if I could feel that sorrow had any purpose or plan, I could bear it. I go to Him, and I say, "Lord, is there any plan in my pain?" and "in Him is yea." "The cup which My Father hath given, shall I not drink it?" But, ah! is there any life beyond this? Wast Thou satisfied? "Father, I will that they whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am." "Because I live, ye shall live also." And salvation! may I hope, may I trust Thee? "Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out." Conclusion: We read of the disciples, on one of the mornings after the resurrection, they saw Jesus standing on the shore, and knew not that it was Jesus; but at last they knew; so, after wading through seas, and fires, and fogs, may it be given to us to see Him.

(E. Paxton Hood.)

The human heart cries out to God, and can be at rest alone when its mysterious questions meet the answering Yea! Religion is not imagination, it is revelation. All is still incertitude outside the Christ.

I. THERE ARE FALSE CONCEPTIONS CONCERNING THE CHARACTER OF GOD.

1. For ages the world had worshipped gods and goddesses, whose ritual had made even vice a part of worship. The Pagan deities at the best were coarse and hard and cruel. Christ came and gave the true conception, "God is love."

2. If His lips are sealed concerning much that curiosity might like to know, His word is clear and convincing concerning all that we need to know.

II. THERE WERE MISTAKEN EFFORTS AFTER A DIVINE LIFE. Men had been for ages trying their own philosophies of goodness! Multitudes had counted not health or home, life or beauty, dear to them, that they might escape the taint of evil, and rise through self-conquest up to God. But the ascetic economy of life did not work well. Repression only drives life into uncongenial and unhallowed channels. Is this earthly life from God? Are human interests Divine? Are love and marriage from God? Does He smile on innocent joys? How perfectly all this is answered in the Redeemer's life. "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world," etc.

III. THERE WERE LONGINGS AFTER THE FULFILMENT OF DIVINE PROMISE. Would God indeed visit men and bless them? was the problem alike of philosopher and saint. But all the promises that travailed in creation and history had their birth-hour in the advent of Christ; for all the promises of God in Him are Yea, and in Him Amen. I want to know if God indeed is love? — if man is indeed made for immortality? Left to the profoundest students of philosophy, I am in a school of Yea and Nay. Now the materialist claims me as dust; now the poet permits me to make imagery out of an hereafter. It is only when I come into fellowship with Him who brought life and immortality to light that I can say, "In Him is Yea! " Concerning the Divine beneficence, God is love;and concerning immortality. "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

(W. M. Statham.)

This was Paul's answer to a charge of vacillation. Jesus Christ whom he preached was not changeful; how then could His apostle, so identified with His truth and with Himself, be changeful? It might seem to some a strange vindication, but not to those who felt in their inmost soul the Yea of Christ, and how completely Paul was absorbed in that. The very unexpectedness of the application gives it force. If there is such a connection between Jesus Christ, and adherence to a purpose as to a journey, how closely connected must the whole of a Christian's life be to Christ. Consider —

I. THE FACT OF CHRIST'S ONENESS. This is a truth not of mere speculative interest. It has an immediate practical bearing upon our faith and confidence. The conviction, or the feeling of it alone, gives rest to our souls. And yet it is precisely here that Christ seems to some encompassed with difficulty. There are great contrasts in Christ.

1. He has a side of gloom and terror, like an Alpine precipice, or some gigantic black cloud hiding sun and sky, and portending terrible storm; and a side gentle and soft and sweet, like a garden that faces the sunny south full of beauty and richest fruits are floating with all delicate and balmy odours. Hear Him as He rolls out woe after woe like peals of thunder, and then follow Him as He showers blessings where He goes. And yet, was it not because He was so loving that He was so stern? Perfect love is opposed to all that is opposed to love. He was not Yea and Nay because He showed different sides to different things. Had He done otherwise there would have been a surrendering of truth and right, and therefore of love.(1) Are not nature and life full of unities which appear to be contraries? Light and darkness, cold and heat balance each other and conduce to one result. There is a negative and a positive pole in electricity, and it is by combination of two opposite tendencies that the planets are kept in their steady course round the sun.(3) Look into the human heart and you will find the same principle in operation. Love and hatred are opposites, and yet they do not destroy unity if the soul loves what ought to be loved and .hates what ought to be hated. Hope and fear are opposites, but are both necessary. Does not imagination need its opposite of common-sense to prevent it running riot, and nothing more needs the widening influence of imagination than strong common-sense. The character of Christ embraces the like contrasts, but the oneness shines forth all the more brightly from these apparent contradictions.

2. The like is to be said of another contrast that stands out in the life of Christ — that between His humility and His self-assertion. Both are prominent, and both are equally appropriate to the God-man. His humility was human, His self-assertion was Divine, and was part of the revelation which He had to give. His is a unity not formal or studied, but natural, resulting simply from what He was. It is a unity to be felt, as all unities must be, in contemplating the whole, and in realising the aim and meaning of the whole.

II. THE WEALTH AND FULNESS OF THE YEA THAT IS IN CHRIST. Thomas Carlyle speaks finely of the everlasting Yea which the soul of man needs for rest. Can we find anywhere a word so full of substance and welcome as Yes? Christ is the everlasting Yea — the one solid, complete and availing Yes to the soul of man. The everlasting Yea cannot be an abstract truth. No truth, however sublime, can give the heart rest. The everlasting Yea must be an infinite person, and yet one that can come close and near us; must be perfect, and yet His perfection genial and tender; must bring God to us, and bring our souls to rest in God, and there is none but Christ does this.

1. Christ is God's Yes to us. Men have doubted whether the world meant Yes or No. There are times when nature seems to say Yes — and other times when man can hear nothing but a fierce No. To a whole class of powerful writers there is no real blessing anywhere. Others find a struggle between the Yea and Nay, as if the goodness at work in the universe were not able to carry out its purposes on account of the opposing element. But Christ is God's unmistakable Yes. He showed by His miracles that all the powers of nature were wielded by love, and His life and death were the translating of the Divine Yes into intelligible speech, God is love.

2. Christ is God's Yes to us by being Yes to God for us. His obedience and death was the putting of a Yea in the room of our Nay. Sin is the saying No to God. It is denial of God's wisdom and love. It is distrust of God, negation of His claims and the setting up of our will in the place of His. Hell is the development of this No. In the nature which disbonoured God by saying No, Christ uttered a sublime, uniform, intense Yes, by action, and suffering, and speech.

3. The yea of positive truth is in Him. He affirms: you find little denial in His words. The beatitudes are the most solid of all utterances. The like depth and breadth of affirmation is in the utterances. "God is a Spirit," etc. "If ye being evil know how to give good gifts to your children," etc. What substance and wealth there is in His promises and invitations. And then think of the solid grandeur He gave to the word love.

4. Jesus Christ is Yes to all the deepest longings and highest aspirations of the heart. There is not any momentous question to which Jesus has not answered Yes. And this affirmation of Christ is uttered with clearness and certainty. On all central subjects His language is luminous, reiterated and emphatic. Conclusion: Have we taken Christ's Yea to God as our own? Do we accept it and rejoice in it, and present it to God? The proof and the outcome of this will be the utterance of Yea to God.

(J. Leckie, D. D.)

Why this tone of decision and clearness? Why this pomp of definiteness? Because the Lord Christ is not a speculator but a Saviour. When the lifeboat goes out it does not go out to reason with the drowning men but to lay hold of them. When the sea is sunny, when the air is a blessing, then boats may approach one another, and talk to one another more or less merrily and kindly, and as it were on equal terms; but when the wind is alive, when the sea and sky seem to have no dividing line, and death has opened its jaws to swallow up, as if in a bottomless pit, all its prey, then the lifeboat says, "We have not come out here to reason and to conjecture and to bandy opinions with you, but to seize you and save you." That is what Christ has come for.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

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