Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day.
I. WHEN HE CONSIDERS DURING HOW SMALL A PORTION OF HIS LIFE IT HAS TO BE BORNE. It is but "for a moment." Not so long as a second contrasted with a thousand years. Eternity makes time short. Our troubles are like Pharaoh's horsemen - they cannot pass the Red Sea of death. In this flash of our existence we may weep, but in the ever-continuing life of heaven we shall rejoice.
"There shall I bathe my weary soul II. WHEN HE CONTRASTS THE PRESENT BRIEF TROUBLE WITH THE ETERNAL WEIGHT OF GLORY. True thoughts of heaven prevent exaggerated views of earthly, sorrows. When the future is shut out we can easily sit down and lament, but when faith sees the "inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 1:4), our present griefs dwindle into insignificance. "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed" (Romans 8:18). Why should we be disquieted so much by these things when those are so near? Shadows hang heavily over us until the sunshine of the coming glory breaks through the clouds, and then the shadows flee away. Why should we concentrate thought upon the short present when the long future is so fair? If we think much of the home, the journey homewards will seem short, and the troubles of the way of little account. Every hour of sorrow brings us an hour nearer the land that is sorrowless. And what shall we possess there? The apostle strives in vain to find language sufficiently strong to describe even what he on earth could perceive of heaven - "more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory" (ver. 17). III. WHEN THE MEANING OF PRESENT TROUBLE IS REALIZED. To the true child of God: 1. It may mean the destruction of the outward man, but it assuredly means the renewal and development of the inward. It is not even present injury - it is present good. It is medicine, not poison. 2. It prepares us for the coming glory. The fire consumes the dross, the knife cuts away the diseased part, the chisel strikes off that which would impair the beauty of the statue. The apprenticeship of sorrow fits us for the long service of glory. Through much tribulation we enter the kingdom and are prepared top its duties. The joys of heaven are dependent on the sorrows of earth; without the latter we should not be ready for the former. "Tribulation worketh patience," etc. (Romans 5:3). 3. Whilst suffering cannot in any way merit salvation, affliction rightly endured shall not be without reward. If we fight the fight of faith, and endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, we shall receive a crown of righteousness which fadeth not away. "If we suffer we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:12). PRACTICAL. 1. Faint not. Many faint because they see no reason why they should not faint. Yet all reasons point the Christian to patient endurance. If we lose heart we lose strength. To despair is to charge our Master with unfaithfulness. Seek to be a good swimmer in the sea of trouble, and if the waves go over you, still faint not, for soon you will rise to the surface again, and see that the shore is nearer. 2. Be not much concerned about the things of this life. (Ver. 18.) These are perishing. The imperishable are our better portion. Look not at the things which are seen; they are not worth looking at. "Set your affection on things above" (Colossians 3:2.) 3. Look at things unseen by the carnal sense, but clear to faith's vision. (Ver. 18.) God, Christ, holiness, usefulness, spiritual joys, the new Paradise, - these are "eternal." - H.
II. WHEN HE CONTRASTS THE PRESENT BRIEF TROUBLE WITH THE ETERNAL WEIGHT OF GLORY. True thoughts of heaven prevent exaggerated views of earthly, sorrows. When the future is shut out we can easily sit down and lament, but when faith sees the "inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 1:4), our present griefs dwindle into insignificance. "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed" (Romans 8:18). Why should we be disquieted so much by these things when those are so near? Shadows hang heavily over us until the sunshine of the coming glory breaks through the clouds, and then the shadows flee away. Why should we concentrate thought upon the short present when the long future is so fair? If we think much of the home, the journey homewards will seem short, and the troubles of the way of little account. Every hour of sorrow brings us an hour nearer the land that is sorrowless. And what shall we possess there? The apostle strives in vain to find language sufficiently strong to describe even what he on earth could perceive of heaven - "more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory" (ver. 17).
III. WHEN THE MEANING OF PRESENT TROUBLE IS REALIZED. To the true child of God:
1. It may mean the destruction of the outward man, but it assuredly means the renewal and development of the inward. It is not even present injury - it is present good. It is medicine, not poison.
2. It prepares us for the coming glory. The fire consumes the dross, the knife cuts away the diseased part, the chisel strikes off that which would impair the beauty of the statue. The apprenticeship of sorrow fits us for the long service of glory. Through much tribulation we enter the kingdom and are prepared top its duties. The joys of heaven are dependent on the sorrows of earth; without the latter we should not be ready for the former. "Tribulation worketh patience," etc. (Romans 5:3).
3. Whilst suffering cannot in any way merit salvation, affliction rightly endured shall not be without reward. If we fight the fight of faith, and endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, we shall receive a crown of righteousness which fadeth not away. "If we suffer we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:12). PRACTICAL.
1. Faint not. Many faint because they see no reason why they should not faint. Yet all reasons point the Christian to patient endurance. If we lose heart we lose strength. To despair is to charge our Master with unfaithfulness. Seek to be a good swimmer in the sea of trouble, and if the waves go over you, still faint not, for soon you will rise to the surface again, and see that the shore is nearer.
2. Be not much concerned about the things of this life. (Ver. 18.) These are perishing. The imperishable are our better portion. Look not at the things which are seen; they are not worth looking at. "Set your affection on things above" (Colossians 3:2.)
3. Look at things unseen by the carnal sense, but clear to faith's vision. (Ver. 18.) God, Christ, holiness, usefulness, spiritual joys, the new Paradise, - these are "eternal." - H.
which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.I. THERE IS A DUALITY IN CHRISTIAN MANHOOD. The apostle was not only a great theologian, but also a great philosopher. He here speaks of an "outward" and an "inward" man, and speaks of them as distinct, though in this world they are wedded together. This outer man is part of us — is ours, but not us. I feel this body is mine, but it is not me. In the outward man there dwells an inward man, invisible to the eyes of sense; it loves, believes, hopes, etc., and accomplishes many acts which the outer man cannot do. Innumerable troubles, like an attacking army, were assailing Paul's "outward man," and at any moment it might be destroyed; but his "inward man" was calm and safe — as within the walls of a castle, and grew stronger and braver as the battle waxed hotter.
II. THE GROWTH OR DECAY OF THIS DUAL MANHOOD IS NOT NECESSARILY CO-ORDINATE. A man may grow outwardly, and his possessions may enlarge, while his mental and moral powers may dwindle away, and vice-versa. The outward man, or casket, may decay, while the inward man, or jewel, is being polished day by day, and fitted for the Redeemer's crown.
III. THESE FACTS PRESENT BLESSED HOPE AND ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE GOOD.
(F. W. Brown.)I. GOD HAS SET SOME TYPES OF THIS GREAT TRUTH OF THE TEXT IN OBJECTS THAT WE SEE.
1. There is a fruit tree. Wood, bark; leaves, make up its visible figure. Every year it changes a little for the better or the worse, and every season gives some sign that it is growing old. Does everything about the tree, then, at last, perish? No. Underneath this visible form and colour there is a mysterious power at work. This does not grow old or decay. When this particular tree has done its whole work, that secret element of life is all hidden away in some seeds that survive.
2. You pass a cornfield. Last April that ground was bare and brown. Some weeks hence and the ground will be as bare and brown as when the last snow melted from it. Yet in the granary is stored up the life of the harvest. The outward part returns to the earth as it was; the inward part is renewed, and lives on.
3. Take machinery. Those levers, wheels, rollers, blades, valves, are continually wearing out. But there is a subtle power of nature operating through it which never wears out. The fruit of our industry often, at least, remains as lasting benefit,
4. In almost all our employments there are two such elements. First, there is the external apparatus necessary to carrying on the business, and always perishing. Besides this, there is the less palpable but far more important and abiding product of the business in the man that does it.
5. A great nation, by the outlay and sacrifice of a desolating war of defence, may be replenishing all the nobler sources of permanent peace and honour. At any rate, and in all times, the individual and his contemporaries disappear, but the national character goes on forming.
II. NOW OPEN YOUR BIBLE. In what new clearness this truth is written there I Here we have the key to all these ciphers in nature, which otherwise would be but an unintelligible riddle. Here we pass beyond all faint intimations out into the broad sunshine, where life and immortality are brought completely to light.
1. Something about you is transient.(1) In this mortal part Paul includes the visible gains of labour and calculation, the surroundings of estates and furniture and dress; and, more than these, all intellectual accomplishments, social refinements, and advantages of rank and position which are not consecrated by faith and made a part of the spiritual man (1 Corinthians 13:8).(2) The "inward man" is one simple, definite thing. It is that wherein the living Christ dwells through faith. There is not only a formal belief in an atonement wrought out by Him ages ago, but a hearty and loving reception of Him as a present and personal life.
2. Day by day the true Christian soul's inner life grows deeper, stronger, and richer. It is not only a future immortality, but the heavenliness begins here. Never satisfied with the holiness attained, its large expectation is that of an unbounded faith, and according to its faith it is done, till this worn-out body is exchanged for the resurrection body, awaking in the Lord's likeness, and satisfied with it.
3. In this way and no other the believer is able to look calmly on the changes of his mortality, on the flight of time, on the advance of age, on pain and infirmity, on disorder, on death itself. The outward man perisheth. Let it perish; its perishing will only set the inward man free, in an infinite and everlasting liberty. So martyrs sing their lives away in the fire. So sufferers in our common dwellings give God thanks in the midst of agony, their eyes fixed on a continuing city and a more enduring substance.Conclusion —
1. Healthy, happy, vigorous youth! Every day your body is gaining strength. Who, then, will say that this "outward" man of yours, which maketh daily increase, is perishing? The clock says so, with every second's stroke. This growth and gain of your body are only a prelude for the inevitable decay which is close at hand. A few swift months more, and there will be some sign given that the hill-top is crossed. What will the end be? The grave? Oh, you would not have it so! Where, then, is the inward life? The soul has only one life, which is life in Christ. It has but one death. Unbelief, selfishness, sensuality, passion, vanity, the love of the world, kill it.
2. Here is comfort for old age. You have found that long-worn and tired body of yours less prompt than it used to be to do the bidding of your will. But if your old age is Christian, the maker and Father of your life will see, as He has promised, that your inward man, which is His image, shall never die. Let the earthly tabernacle crumble. You will only see more of the sky.
"'Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I saw the Lord?'Don't know, and it wouldn't do you any good if you had it. Blessedness won't keep. It is one of the all-pervading principles that the more delicate a thing is, and the more finely organised, the more directly it will decay and fall to pieces when once it has parted from the root it sprang from. Strayed or stolen — a religious experience! The hymn just quoted from is an advertisement for a lost joy. It is like hunting after the blaze of the lamp that the oil is all burnt out of. Keep the wick trimmed and the lamp filled, you will have blaze enough, without advertising for last night's blaze; you don't know where that is, and you could make nothing of it if you did. Good things have to be made over and over, and everlastingly reduplicated. The fresh river must incessantly draw on the young rivulets that incessantly trickle from the hillside. Christian joy that does not bear the stamp of this very day and date is a silurian deposit, an evangelical relic, a fossilised piety." Now I venture to think that there is underneath this somewhat remarkable form a great deal of sterling teaching. Once let a man's prevailing tone of mind be the contemplation of what he was, and not of what he is, and spiritual dotage has begun. Just as Dean Swift could read over again his early writings and say, "What a genius I was when I wrote that book!" so the Christian whose spiritual life has grown old and weak, and whose spiritual experiences have been made up again and again, cut and trimmed and dyed every colour the imagination can conceive such an one, I say, looks back on the original and now distant experiences, and derives his sole melancholy satisfaction from the contemplation of what he was. Believe me, unless the present is the greatest hour in the history of a Church, unless this passing moment is the best in the spiritual experience of the individual Christian, there is something wrong. I want to say that I do not believe we have even begun to grasp the wonder of the spirit of man. I do not believe we have begun to grasp the extent to which we make life and thought and everything, just as God made man, "after our own image." The man whose spirit is new every day lives in a new world, and does not tire of the world in which he lives; reads a new Bible, and never tires of the Bible which he reads. You do not want a new world to make heaven, but just a new soul to live in it, and to love the earth and the sea and the sky and the God that dwells in all. Here is the unrenewed man with his unrenewed soul and his weary look of ennui, tired of life, absolutely blase, and you suggest to him some change of scene. "Oh," he says, "but I've been there"; "I've done theft." He wants a change. Yes, so he does; he wants a change inside. It is the renewal of the inward man that he needs. He is just the sort of man who says, "Ah, yes, I've read the Bible; I wish you could recommend another book." He has read it, and he wants a change; and so he does, I say again — he wants a renewal of the inward man. This is what will save this heavy, wearied, bored society which has grown up to-day, and which yearns for some new thing to read and to see; a baptism of the inward man. I trust I have carried you with me in this attempt to show you that what we need, if our religious life is to become interesting, is new life — life as new as the last ray of the sun that has reached us, the last drop of dew that has trembled on the blade of grass. We want this ever-flowing, ever-growing life. We want to make contact with the source of life. There are so many people whose spiritual life is governed on the seven-day clock principle. It is effectually wound up on the Sunday, end it is effectually exhausted on the Saturday following. And the coming Sunday will find it where the last Sunday found it. There will be no real progress, no gain, no growth. The play of the living spirit of a man about and around the facts and truths of the world makes them to live anew. The play of the Divine Spirit around the spirits of men makes them to live anew. God recreates men, and by doing so recreates eternally the world that He created. Here, for instance, are the eight notes of music and the semitones, and the human spirit has played around them and blended them into infinite variations through indefinite centuries. But they are not exhausted yet. The new man will find as much music in them still as has been found in them in the past. And so with the truths of revelation. Infinite combinations, infinite interpretations, but underneath all the same great foundation of the spiritual thought. So every new man makes a new theology, and renews his own day by day. It is hardly necessary to point out to you the practical application of such a law as this. To the Apostle Paul it was the principle of his religious life. He was a very busy man; he was the greatest preacher of his age; but he had always something new to say. He spoke out of a heart that was in constant touch with Christ. On what do you depend for the renewal of your spiritual life? Do not answer it hastily, but press this question home to your own consciences: "Do I depend on men or on God? Do I find my inward life dull and sluggish if I do not hear my favourite preacher?" On what do you depend for the renewal of your spiritual life? Do you require a peculiar type of aesthetic service? On what do you depend? I can conceive of nothing so perilous as that this matter of eternal moment should be allowed to depend on persons or places that are subject to change. Renewal is from above.
(C. Silvester Horne.)
I. THE MAN — VISIBLE. Paul does not speak contemptuously of the body, nor did he encourage maceration or court martyrdom. He says, "Though the outward man perish." It might happen, he well knew, and it did happen to him, but he was ready. "For which cause we faint not," etc. Our circumstances differ widely from his, but we too are tempted in ten thousand ways. Let me therefore remark —
1. That Christians fret, but do not faint. They are still human. They fret when disappointments come, when vexatious law-suits have to be fought out — when impoverishment of the home-life comes. But the difference between them and the children of this world lies here — they do not faint — they stand. This word faint means to turn out a coward. "For which cause we are not cowards, but though our outward man," etc.
2. That Christians fail, but do not faint. Our lives are stories of failure as well as of success. "Armies," says Alexander Smith, "are not always cheering on the heights they have won." No; there are retreats, and baggage-waggon captures and desperate frays with advanced pickets, and sudden and sharp conflicts. So it is with the Christian; he does not always come off victorious. No; he fails! And then he gathers together the scattered forces of his moral life — he takes unto him "the whole armour of God," probably having neglected some part of it before, and again he renews the war.
3. That Christians die, but do not faint. Physical weakness and decay will come! "The outward man" must perish. Time is as stern an executioner as the headsman of old. "It is appointed unto all men once to die." But the Christian looks for "an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and which fadeth not away." And that inheritance is in germ already within him. "Though the outward man perishes," the great life-work is going on within; there the work of grace is meetening for the life of glory. I will ask two questions.(1) Who can wonder that worldly men so often faint? Artificial stimulants can only sustain for a time. Society, friendship, enlivening pursuits — these often hide for a time the stern realities of life. Then the dream-land of joy is broken in upon, and the man awakes to his delusions. Then comes the indescribable faintness of a soul that has no everlasting arm to rest on, no promises to console, no inheritance to anticipate. If we are worldly, we too shall faint.(2) Who else can supply what Christ provides? We have not in all history such records of consolation amid the changes of life, and in the coming of death, as we have in the Word of God. Nowhere else but in the gospel have we the power which gives spirituality to life, and solace in the hour of death, "For which cause we faint not."
II. THE MAN — INVISIBLE.
1. There is an inner man. This, indeed, has been the great teaching of Revelation from the commencement. Man is separated from all other forms of created life by this — he has a soul. The inner man asserts itself. Argue against its existence as man will, there, in the depths of consciousness, is the irresistible argument — "I am." This inner man may become weakened, debased, depraved — it is a fact of history and experience that it has become so — day by day. It is in Christ that we have life; this, too, is a fact of history and experience. It is in this inner man we must find the seat of strength, and the spring of consolation. Let that be reached, and then we shall be able to triumph over the ills to which flesh is heir. We are strengthened with all might by Christ's Spirit, says the apostle, in "our inner man."
2. This inner man is renewed. Renewal is a series of acts. Just as life is one gift, but the daily renewal of it by food, by air, by exercise, is a series of acts. Thinkers must constantly study, meditate, read; or the old stores would actually, to a large extent, die out. So yesterday's religion is a thing of yesterday. We need fresh draughts of living water, fresh breakings of the heavenly bread, fresh communings of conscience and heart with the Divine Lord.
3. This renewal is a daily one. Not a mere Sabbath one. "Give us this day our daily bread!" Day by day.
(W. M. Statham.)
I. ONLY THROUGH HABITUAL DEVOTION CAN THE FACULTIES OF THE SOUL BE PRESERVED AND PERFECTED. Darwin wrote — "Up to the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry... gave me great pleasure. Formerly pictures gave me considerable and music very great delight. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry... I have also almost lost my taste for pictures or music... My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts .... If I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week, for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have become active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature? Note here —
1. That mental faculties may be entirely extirpated by disuse. This is true touching spiritual gifts. Spiritual sensibility, imagination, sympathy, aspiration, may be starved and lost by men utterly immersed in secular life, and if the perishing of the aesthetic sense is a melancholy loss, as Darwin felt it to be, the loss of the diviner faculty, by which we appreciate the eternal beauty and glory of the moral universe, is yet infinitely more deplorable.
2. That constant culture is necessary to keep the intellectual faculties alive. And if we are to preserve the precious affinities, and energies of our deepest nature we must constantly stir up the gift that is in us — contemplating the highest beauty, listening to the music of eternity, holding loving fellowship with the perfect life and righteousness.
II. THE LINES OF DEVOTION IN WHICH WE MUST HABITUALLY EXERCISE OURSELVES.
1. "Day by day" we must instruct and elevate our mind by communion with God's Word. Goethe said that every man should, every day, see at least one fine work of art, hear one sweet strain of music, read one beautiful poem. But we not only need the daily bread of mental delight, we need also daily manna for our spirit. Here, then, we must be spiritually mindful, and eat uninterruptedly immortal bread. Observe in Psalm 119. the continuousness of the Psalmist's fellowship with the God of truth. The virtue of this continuousness is implied in the closing words of our Lord (John 15:3-7). The full beauty and fruition of the branch is dependent upon its complete and constant identification with the tree. The Orientals express the persistence of the friendship of the noble in their saying, "When the lotus is broken its fibres still remain," and whilst the frailest thread of connection remains the flower does not at once miss all its bloom; so even in the believer's declensions Christ still insinuates fresh energy into the soul by secret fibres of union; yet the full beauty and fruitfulness of life are soon missed if we permit our fellowship with the truth in Jesus to become limited and irregular. We are often deeply anxious about the outer world, its clouds, temptations, etc., but really our concern lies chiefly with the depth and force of the life within us. The authorities declare that it is not so much a matter of atmosphere with the London trees as it is of soil and draining; let the trees be right at the roots, and they will battle triumphantly with poisoned air. "Being rooted and grounded in love" and knowledge, we may defy all storms and deadly atmospheres, and put on and ever wear all the beauty of the summer (Psalm 1:3).
2. "Day by day" we must purify our soul in fellowship at God's throne. No greater mistake could be made than to allow the vigour of a church to decline with the idea that periodical revival services would recover lost ground. And in our personal life we must not expect by extraordinary devotion to recover in an hour what we have neglected in a week. Only through constant communion with God can we perfect and preserve the purity of our spirit. We must attend to our toilet every day, many times a day, if we are to continue altogether presentable. And this is equally true of our inward life, with its thousand possibilities of defilement. The housekeeper cannot afford to let the furniture be tarnished with the design of restoring all things to brightness by some energetic periodical cleansing; the house can be maintained in true purity and comeliness only through daily industry and thoroughness. Thus is it also with character. What do days of neglect mean in a garden? What do days of neglect mean on shipboard? And the days of dulness and faithlessness in our life leave results of secret flaws and failures of character which many days of humiliation and painful striving may hardly retrieve. We must meet the wear and tear of probation by constant renewal in secret intercourse with God.
3. "Day by day" we must make the best of life's opportunities.(1) We must make the best of life's opportunities in getting good. The moral wealth of life is not minted out of great occasions and extraordinary circumstances only, but through the wise economy of routine. Most people know about the gold and diamonds of Brazil; and yet the exports of sugar and coffee from that country in one year are of more value than all the gold and jewels found in it in half a century.(2) And in doing good there must be the same faithful, systematic improvement of small opportunities. As Miss Havergal writes: "The bits of wayside work are very sweet. Perhaps the odd bits, when all is done, will really come to more than the seemingly greater pieces: the chance conversations with rich and poor, the seed sown in odd five minutes." Our condemnation is that we let the days slip away despising the many simple chances they give for speaking kind words, doing little graceful acts by the wayside and the hearth. The wealth and beauty of the world spring not from the rare aloe whose scarlet splendour flames out once in twenty, fifty, or a hundred years; but from the grass which grows upon the mountain, and which is green the year round. We sometimes see a man in a comparatively small way of business; he makes the very least noise, and yet when he dies everybody is astonished by the large fortune he leaves behind him. So it is spiritually. Solomon appointed the priests to their service, the Levites, and the porters, "as the duty of every day required." And it is by accomplishing our service "as the duty of every day requires" that we become "rich toward God."
(W. L. Watkinson.)1. Man has two natures.
2. The outward nature is subject to the law of decay. The law of dissolution is operating on the body every moment. Particle after particle departs with every pulsation.
3. Whilst the outward man decays, the inner man may grow in strength. We would not depreciate the assistance which "the inner" derives from "the outer." Like the atmosphere to the seed, the body is the medium which conveys to the soul those sunbeams and showers which quicken it into life and nourish its powers. All that is taught is that the soul can grow even while the body is decaying. Note —
I. THE CONDITIONS OF THIS SOUL GROWTH.
1. There can be no growth, of course, without life. All plants and animals, however young, cease to grow the moment life departs. But the life must be healthful. What is the healthful life of a soul? Supreme sympathy with God.
2. There must be wholesome nutriment. No life can live upon itself.
3. There must be proper exercise. Christianity has a power to impart the life, supply the nourishment, and stimulate the exercise.
II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS SOUL GROWTH.
1. Beautifulness. The growth of a flower is beautiful, so is the growth of a child, so is the growth of an empire. But the growth of a soul in virtue, in usefulness, in assimilation to God, is a more beautiful object than these. That flower will wither, but the soul will advance for ever — rise from "glory unto glory."
2. Constancy. Growth is not a thing of fits and starts. The plant, the child, grow every hour; they do not grow one day of the week and pause on the others. If we are not religious always we are never religious.
3. Blessedness. A growing state is a happy state. See the lambs, the little bird, the child, etc. If you are growing in soul you are happy.
4. Endlessness. The capacity for growth in all other life under the sun is limited. The tree that grows a .thousand years finds a point at which it stops and decays; not so with the soul. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be."
5. Responsibleness. Man may not be responsible always for the growth of his body; if he has a dwarfish body, he cannot help it, but if he has a dwarfish soul he himself is to blame.We learn from this subject —
1. The necessary condition of man's well-being. It is not that your wealth should increase, your influence extend, your social circle widen, for your body decays, and with this all these things lose their worth, but it is the growth of the soul.
2. The absolute necessity of the gospel. You cannot grow without spiritual life, nourishment, and incentives to action. And nothing but the gospel can give you these.
3. The true method of using the world. It is to make it promote the growth of the soul.
4. The Christian's view of death. It is nothing but a change in the mere costume of our being. "This mortal must put on immortality!"
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
I. THAT SPIRITUAL LIFE EXISTS. The phrase, "inward man," has the same meaning as the "new man." The agent producing this life is the Spirit of God; and whilst there is great variety in the means employed to produce it, its main features are always the same, the character and habits brought into conformity with God's will.
II. THAT THIS SPIRITUAL LIFE IS SUSCEPTIBLE OF GROWTH. This growth consists —
1. In the more vivid apprehension of spiritual realities. Spirituality of mind distinguishes the sincere Christian from the formalist.
2. In the development of a holy character. The influence of truth upon the character of a good man is like that of the sun upon the blossom, which causes it to expand in fragrance and beauty.
3. In a more enlightened and comprehensive view of spiritual truth. "When I was a child," etc.
III. THAT THE GROWTH OF THIS SPIRITUAL LIFE IS BEST PROMOTED BY THE FAITHFUL AND ACTIVE DISCHARGE OF DUTY. Here were men who sought no monastic seclusion, who resigned themselves to no luxurious meditations who had no time for any lengthened seasons of retirement, and yet whose spiritual life grew. Conscientious obedience to the will of God will be followed by the advancement of the spiritual life. By this obedience we exercise its faculties and display its moral excellences. True, intercourse with the world has its dangers, but our dangers are our discipline, and it is by discipline that the spiritual life attains to maturity.
IV. THAT THE GROWTH OF THIS SPIRITUAL LIFE IS GRADUAL AS WELL AS PROGRESSIVE. "Day by day." Elsewhere we read of "the renewing of the Holy Ghost." There is, then, continuous agency on the part of God, and there are continuous efforts on the part of man.
1. This daily renewal of the inner life is needed. There is the influence of a depraved nature, and the constant presence of natural objects, and these would exhaust and enfeeble its strength.
2. Is accomplished by all the events and circumstances of our ordinary life. This was the case with the apostles, who rendered prosperity and adversity subservient to the promotion of their spiritual growth.
V. THAT THE PHYSICAL LIFE DECLINES WHILST THE SPIRITUAL LIFE ADVANCES. "The outward man perisheth." True, that body is the workmanship of God. A fitting palace for the immortal guest within, but taken from the dust it must return to that from which it was taken. Contrast with this, the immortality of the spiritual life. In the forests of South America, it is no uncommon spectacle to see the trunks of aged trees covered with the joyous blossoms of climbing plants that have twined around them, as if Nature, with her kindly hand, sought to conceal and even beautify the corruption which she could not stay. In like manner, the beauty of the spiritual life appears amidst the decrepitude of the perishing body, giving grace and dignity to that which otherwise it would be pitiable to behold. Conclusion —
1. The words of the text suggest to us that the better part of our nature is the spiritual.
2. They furnish consolation to those Christians who are advancing in life.
3. Let each examine into his spiritual condition.
I. THE TWO CONTRASTED BUT CLOSELY RELATED PROCESSES. These illustrate the law of compensation which runs through all things.
1. Often the most painful and humiliating losses have the highest kind of compensation.(1) When a man first loses his sight how irreparable the loss appears. But from the very moment of the loss a principle of compensation is at work. His hearing, by the increased strain upon it, becomes acute; his sense of touch grows keen and discriminating. But more; how often does the blind man, shut out from the visible world, retire into the world of reflection. The objects of thought grow real to him; he acquires a command over his faculties, and a power of working on without external aid.(2) When wealth is lost, life seems emptied out. But even in the first shock there is a stirring up of the man, a groping about for something to take the place of the lost wealth. And thus gradually higher qualities are called out, a determined energy to recover, if possible, what has been lost, or a falling back on the higher wealth of the soul. Have we not here an approach to the compensation of the text, as if the inward man were becoming younger, while the outer man was growing old. And this is in very truth what the compensation comes to. The renewal of the Holy Spirit is the rising and widening of the being towards its true nature, its immortal ideal.
2. This compensation is the solidest and greatest of all realities in the present. To become like God, this alone is greatness and blessedness, and this carries eternity in it. I watched once a series of dissolving views. One especially riveted my attention — a beautiful scene in Italy. On the verge stood a ruin, which lent to the scene pathos and romance; but while it faded there rose, dim at first, but ever clearer, the outline of another picture, till at last, when the old had wholly gone, there stood forth in majesty, a picture of the sea, the mountains, and the stars overhead. The eternal had taken the place of the transient. The same lesson is read to us every evening. The bright day departs; but when earth is hidden, heaven begins to unfold its treasures; when we lose this little world we gain innumerable worlds. So in the renewal of the inner man we have both a transcendent compensation in the present, and the pledge of a glorious and eternal future, which also enriches and glorifies the present.
3. Look at the special form of compensation seen in successive coverings and materials which perish and leave gain behind them. The warrior's armour is his most outward man inspired and guided by the inward man of his courage and skill. The armour is broken, but the warrior may survive many helmets and suits of armour. Dress is the ordinary outward man. It is that by which he is known to his fellows. His life is preserved and even dignified by it. But in thus adorning man apparel decays, yet the benefit it has conferred remains. The child has been growing all the while that the raiment that sheltered him has been decaying. The ship that carries the emigrant to the land of his hopes may be sorely battered on its course, and at last shivered on the rock-bound coast, but it has borne its passengers across the ocean. They escape and thrive in that new land; it perishes and sinks beneath the waves. Every book and pen which the child uses and wears out adds to his knowledge and facility. The paint and brush of the artist are used and expended by him in giving birth to that which endures, while his own faculty also is increased.
4. Human life thus yields innumerable examples of the gain remaining from materials that disappear. Shall not decay of the body, the decisive and the saddest decay, afford the highest example? If the body in its labour and decay does not work out permanent results of the best kind on the soul it accomplishes no result. It is only that which enters into the spirit that can survive death. If there is no compensation for the loss of the outward man, what an illusion are all the examples of the principle in the constitution of things. If the law fails here, what can it bring to us but sadness, however bright its manifestations elsewhere? And if there is compensation, it must be in the sphere of the inward man. When the temple falls, the priest will rise to the temple made without hands, eternal in the heavens.
II. THE POINTS OF CORRESPONDENCE THAT SHOULD EXIST BETWEEN THE TWO PROCESSES.
1. Decay is constant. Each of us may say, "I die daily." Our motion is ever onward to death. We ought then to have in this a constant stimulus to renewal of inward life. Let renewal day by day be our conviction, our task, and our. joy.
2. Decay has times of special impulse when more progress is made toward dissolution in a few days than in many years. But this has its counterbalance in floods of grace, bursts of light, accesses of love and enthusiasm, that lift up and strengthen and gladden the inward man.
3. There is a waste caused by toil and a decay that goes on in rest; so, on the other hand, renewal is furthered by exertion and by quiescence. To labour and to rest in God are both necessary. We must contend against evil, and labour earnestly to be filled with the fruits of righteousness; but often renewal comes more from keeping the soul in a right attitude toward God.
4. Extremes and sudden changes hasten the decay of the outward man, so extremes and sudden changes of condition may hasten the renewal of the inward man. Some of these extreme and sudden changes you remember well; is it not true that they shook and roused you in an altogether peculiar way, and opened up for you unknown reaches of thought and aspiration?
5. The outward man decays both by pain and pleasure; the inward man should be renewed both by sorrow and joy. Have you known the power of physical pain in bringing down the outward man, and shall you not welcome the pains of the spirit which elevate and emancipate the inward man? Are there any that have known the weakening influence of unhallowed pleasures and joy? Will not they of all others pursue the joys that strengthen the soul and heart?
6. Decay sometimes proceeds from without inwards, as in the case of external injury; sometimes it proceeds from the very heart, and slowly makes itself felt in the outer activity. Is there not a similar twofold process m the renewal of the inner man?
7. The whole outward man perishes. But the renewal of the inward man often bears a most imperfect correspondence in this respect. A man cannot exempt any particular portion of his body from decay, but he can shut out whole regions of his inward nature from renewal. How often it seems as if some parts of a man are like desert, while others are like Eden, as if a portion of a man were inhabited by Satan, and another portion by Christ. But should not men who know their whole outward nature to be decaying, and doomed to perish, be constantly reminded of the need of the whole inward nature being permeated by life?
8. Decay is sometimes accelerated by materials and means which usually strengthen or heal; so in the inward man renewal may be promoted by things whose natural influence and effect is to corrupt and destroy. Often the debilitated frame is injured by the most healthful influences. The bracing air pierces it, the genial heat of the sun oppresses it. Food turns to poison. Healing medicine kills. But over against this is the great and cheering fact in the spiritual world — that temptations to evil may be the most potent means for good; that a wholly corrupt social atmosphere may disgust a man with evil, and throw him with intensity into a spiritual sphere; that doubts may conduct straight to the clearest faith; that there is no difficulty that threatens to swallow a man which may not issue in high and lasting gain. All poisons are changed into food and medicine to him who keeps near to Christ.
9. Decay sometimes proceeds at a constantly increasing rate. But if there is a downward gravitation there is also an upward. We call it natural that a stone should fall faster and faster as it approaches the earth, it is equally natural that a soul should be renewed increasingly, should rise faster and faster as it approaches heaven.
(J. Leckie, D. D.)
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