We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they show their ignorance.
pulling down strongholds, and in demonstrating that the weapons were not carnal, but mighty through God. If he had reached Corinth as a place within the boundaries of his province, would he pause there? Was this the outer line of the vast battlefield? He hoped not. There he was only waiting till another territory had been marked out, and he should hear the signal to arise and possess the land. Was he looking across the sea of Adria and wondering when he should visit Rome? And when would that glad opportunity come? But one thing was clear to him just then, and this was that, if the faith of the Corinthians were increased, he would have his own heart enlarged, and be further endowed and qualified for apostolic labour. One moment, a glance at the Judaizers and their presumptuous occupancy of fields delegated of God to him (ver. 15), "not boasting of things without measure, that is, of other men's labours;" the next moment, a thought of new work so soon as the Church at Corinth should recover from its troubles and he should find it safe to leave them. Already his heart was burning to preach the gospel in the regions beyond Corinth, and "not to glory in another's province in regard to things ready to our hand." Observe how often this last idea recurs: ver. 13, "We will not boast of things without our measure;" ver. 14, "We stretch not ourselves beyond our measure;" ver. 15, "Not boasting of things without our measure;" ver. 16, "Not to boast in another man's line of things [see Revised Version, above] made ready to our hand." Two things here are noteworthy.
1. The apostle is willing and ready to wage the holy war in new territories. He is not tired of fighting the Lord's battles. Nor is he afraid of greater and more numerous enemies. Probably his eye was on Rome. If God will, he shall go further West. His weapons have been tried and proved. He himself has been tested. Grace has been sufficient. Cast down, he has not been destroyed. Dying, he has lived. The promises of God have been Yea and Amen to his soul, nor could any experience happen that would not bring the strength and consolation of Christ to his heart. How much he had lived and how rapidly! What years had been compressed into each year! Before the dilating eye of intellect, what vistas had spread afar in the light that brightened towards the perfect day! And then the blessed realizations, ability increasing perpetually, and capacity growing even faster so as to supply fully the expanding spheres of ability, consciousness of self enlarging as self in Christ, deep opening into deep, wonder springing afresh from wonder, and, with every victory gained by the weapons of his warfare, a larger assurance that, if he had been "mighty through God" at Ephesus and Corinth, he should be mightier still "in the regions beyond." Here is a most useful lesson to teach us what we are slow to learn, namely, that no natural endowments, no amount of culture, no inspiration of knowledge, no miracles wrought in his behalf, can set aside the necessity of Christian experience, a personal work of grace in the soul, a profound sense of that work as from the Holy Spirit, in the ease of one called to the highest office of ministration.
2. We see how we are, am Christians, "members one of another." Although St. Paul was so highly endowed and so remarkably successful in the apostleship, yet he depends on the Church at Corinth for his enlargement to the work opening before him in Europe. "We shall be enlarged by you." This was conditioned on their conduct. If their divisions were healed, their false teachers silenced, their energies set free from exhausting strife and concentrated on building up Christ's kingdom, would Corinth and Achaia be the only gainers? Nay; he himself would be liberated from restraints that clogged his feet. A fresh impulse would be given his apostleship. A new current of life would flow from their hearts into his heart, for it was not his working nor any other apostle's working, but the coworking, the hearty union of Church and apostles, the cooperation of the "diversities of gifts," the oneness of the mystical body of Christ, by which the world was to be evangelized. The schism that had been threatened between the Asiatic and European Churches was in a fair way to be arrested. Jewish and Gentile believers were getting reconciled to the peculiarities of each other; the collection for the mother Church at Jerusalem was doing much to effect this most important unity. Yet this is not before him now. Nor does he allude to the singular advantages of Corinth as to geographical location and commercial opportunities. Situated on a narrow strip of land between northern and southern Greece, and connected with two seas by its harbours of Lechaeum and Cenchreae, it was a great emporium of trade for the East and West, and hence offered extraordinary facilities for the diffusion of Christianity. No doubt St. Paul felt that it was a centre of commanding influence. But he was extremely cautious as to using local motives, and in the present case he made no allusion to them. What occupied his whole thought was the increase of grace among them as a Christian community, and to this he looked for a happy furtherance in his contemplated missionary, tour. If they were revived and consecrated anew to Christ, he knew well that, when obstacles were thrown in his future pathway, when persecutions even fiercer than those already undergone came upon him, they would afford him sympathy and assistance while getting foothold in "the regions beyond." Obviously a prevailing idea in his mind was that Christianity must have a central home in every great section of country, and thence draw its human supplies during its conquests of outlying territory. And he longed for the Corinthian brethren to attain a richer experience of grace, so that they might magnify his office. Instead of being independent of their fraternal support, the stronger he felt himself the more he leaned on their sympathies. Heaven never gets so close to a man that earth does not get closer also. How the blessed Jesus leaned on his friends in the Passion week! How he needed the chosen among them to watch with him in the garden for one hour! The weary days of the apostle had not yet come, and his soul was having glorious visions of apostolic work, but amid it all, the pressure of uncertainty was upon his hope, and he would gladly hasten away from the present scene of anxiety just as soon as Providence permitted. We can enter into his solicitudes. We can imagine how Kirke White felt when he wrote the closing lines of the 'Christiad': -
"O thou who visitest the sons of men,
For we dare not... compare ourselves with some that commend themselves; but they measuring themselves by themselves... are not wise
1. It may arise from conceit. The man thinks himself perfect. Or, if not perfect — which no one says, or perhaps thinks — still sufficiently so for practical purposes. He needs no thorough remodelling; he may still be his own measure, though the measure itself may bear a little repairing to bring it up to statute and regulation. But the measuring of himself by himself may have another explanation.
2. Isolation will account for it. A man lives alone, does his own work, does not read, does not mix with others, never sees either self-denial or courage or patience or nobleness exemplified in life or action — how can he measure himself by any one or anything but himself?
3. A third account of it might be that sort of sluggishness and stupidity of the moral sense which acquiesces in the thing that is, thinks it will do, hopes all will come right. St. Paul does not "presume" or "deign" to make himself of the number. How palpably the opposite of that heroic soul which "counted not itself to have apprehended"! Self-measuring is one of the two faults, let us turn now to the other. "Comparing themselves with themselves, they are not wise." Here the singular has become plural. The standard of the individual has become the standard of a multitude. The men spoken of compare themselves with themselves after all, only the self which they make their measure is a plural self, a composite self, a self of surroundings and circumstances, an "environment" of beings just like themselves, reflections of their own thought, their own principle, and their own judgment. This is, or may be, a less unlovely person than the former. He is no solitary, and he is no pendant, and he is no misanthrope. He does not profess himself the one wise man, or the one important man, or the one perfect. He is willing to let in some light upon the self-life. But it is a limited light. It is the light of his own little world. It may be a very little world. Some people — especially among the poor — pride themselves upon their littleness. They make it a merit not to go about houses. Men bound themselves by the workshop, the office, or the counting-house — women literally by the home. Yet within this fraction of the race multitudes of individual men and women are absolutely cribbed and cabined. They think within it, they judge within it, they act within it — worse still, they aspire within it. Not one idea comes to them but from it. St. Paul says that they who are described by either of these titles, self-measurers by self, or self-comparers with each other, "are not wise." He might have put it more strongly. A man might be unwise, though applying a right standard to himself, because he was condemned by it, because he did not live up to it. But the man whose measure is self, or whose self-comparison is with other selves, as fallible and as prejudiced and as half-informed and as lazy-minded as himself, has no chance and no peradventure and no possibility of wisdom. He is on the wrong tack. "Measuring themselves by themselves, they are not wise." What is to be done? Evidently self is the inordinate, the exaggerated, the overgrown thing. Self is here the thing which must be counteracted, combated, taught its place. "Measuring themselves by themselves," they must be taught to measure themselves by something else. Almost anything will be a better standard. And now we must take the two men of the text, each by the hand, and bid them rise to a life higher for them both. We shall bid them to rest in no earthly heroism, and to acquiesce in no human example of virtue. We shall carry them on, without pause or dallying, to the contemplation of One in the presence of whose beauty and glory all such minor excellences pale and fade away.
(Dean Vaughan.)I. First, then, let us bring this question of comparison TO THE TESTING OF CHARACTER. We compare ourselves with others and say, "I am as good as ordinary Christians." What is wanted is not just "ordinary Christians." We ought each to pray with Wesley, "Lord, make me an extraordinary Christian." Average Christians comparing themselves with average Christians may think they are about right.
II. Again, how practical this is FOR TESTING THE MEASURE OF OUR SELF-SACRIFICE. Many people want to get to heaven as cheaply as they can. A man sees his neighbour do certain things on the Sabbath, therefore he claims a right to do them.
III. Once more, let this serve FOR TESTING THE MEASURE OF OUR ZEAL AND CONSECRATION IN GOD'S SERVICE. As to work. Do you compare yourself with others? Are you ever tempted to say, "I do as much as my neighbour; I do not like to push myself forward; I never like to seem to take the lead!" Such feelings are born purely of a tendency to compare ourselves among ourselves. Let us try to be of the utmost use in the world.
Homiletic Magazine.I. THE FOLLY OF ADOPTING A FALSE, WORLDLY STANDARD OF CHARACTER AND CONDUCT. The folly, viz., of —
1. Self-righteous reliance on ourselves, or our supposed excellences. See this in the parable of the Pharisee. "There is a generation pure in their own eyes, and yet are not washed from their filth." Paul was once one of these Pharisees. "I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died." The death of legal hope became the life of evangelical obedience. The true Christian rests in Christ only and wholly.
2. Dependence on the opinion of mankind. A fatal indolence is apt to creep upon the soul when once it has attained the good opinion of religious men. Pursuit is at an end when the object is in possession. If at the judgment we were to be tried by a jury of fellow mortals, it would be but common prudence to secure their favour at any price.
3. Dependence on morality without religion. Society is a gainer from the absence of vice and the presence of virtue. We are, however, careful to mark the distinction between the morality which has for its only source the motives which begin and end in time, and that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord, which has its root and origin in Christian motives and principles.
4. Dependence on religion without morality. Christianity must be received as a whole. Christianity is something more than a mere set of rules, it is a living principle of action. Faith works by love and purifies the heart. In acknowledging Christ as Redeemer we must not forget that He is Lawgiver.
II. THE WISDOM OF ADOPTING THAT STANDARD OF CHARACTER WHICH THE GOSPEL REVEALS.
1. As it regards the rule of our faith.
2. As it regards the test of practice.
(Homiletic Magazine.)Ignatius, only with a deeper insight into every word, "where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."
(J. Denney, B. D.)
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