So do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me, His prisoner. Instead, join me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.
I. THE MINISTER OF GOD MUST NOT BE ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL. "Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, nor of me his prisoner."
1. The testimony of the Lord is that borne concerning his doctrine, sufferings, and death; in a word, the gospel itself.
2. No Christian can be ashamed of a gospel of such power, so true, so gracious, so useful.
3. No Christian can be ashamed of its confessors. The apostle was a prisoner at Rome for its sake, not for crime of any sort. The gospel then laboured under an immense load of pagan prejudice, and Timothy needed to be reminded of his obligations to sympathize with its greatest expounder.
II. THE MINISTER OF GOD MUST SHARE IN THE AFFLICTIONS OF THE GOSPEL. "But be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God."
1. Though it is a gospel of peace, it brings a sword wherever it goes, and involves its preachers in tribulations arising out of the perverseness of men who thwart and despise it.
2. We ought to suffer hardship for the gospel, by the consideration that the God who has saved us with such a strong hand is able to succour us under all our afflictions. - T.C.
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner.
I. WE SHOULD NOT BE ASHAMED OF A TESTIMONY FOR CHRIST, BECAUSE CHRISTIANITY GIVES THE TRUE READING OF OUR MORAL NATURE. What are we? Apart from Christ, the world is just as much divided in its philosophical schools on this question as ever it was. The Utilitarian moralists enthrone the selfish instinct, and make the foundation of morals mere utility, or the greatest happiness principle; they test the morality of actions by their consequences, as if it were possible to trace them through all their sequences to their ultimate results, as if a man could thus judge, unless all the future ages were before him. But in setting up this standard, with one sharp and almost contemptuous sweep, they cut away the entire moral nature of man. Conscience has no place in their creed. "My own belief," says Mr. Mill, "is that the moral feelings are not innate, but acquired." Surely a fearful reading of human nature! "Let us make man in our image" becomes only a morbid dream of some early dramatist of creation! How this theory of human nature would, if adopted, ultimately affect society may perhaps best be understood by another sentence of Stuart Mill — "The proper limit to self-indulgence is that one shall neither hurt himself nor hurt others." Imagine this, a man is not to consult conscience, or the sense of right and wrong, he is neither to be cheered by conscience nor to be scourged by remorse, but is suffered to take his stand amongst his fellow-beings, as a mere conscience-less, calculating machine, weighing not the moral wrong, but the outward harmfulness of self. indulgence. If I turn from the school of Buckle and Mill to the modern scientific school, if captivated by the discoveries of modern science, I sit as a disciple at the feet of Huxley or Darwin, my power to realise any lofty conception even of this present life is gone! I feel like a man who has saved his purse and lost his gold, or who has kept safely the golden frame but lost the portrait it contained. Let us look at their position! We are declared to be the last and noblest form of a long series of developments; we trace these back to the elementary types of life. It may constitute a theory of physical nature, it cannot constitute a theory of human nature. It has no explanation whatever of the past of our race. Yes, the gospel makes us feel the grandeur of life as life; its rewards here are moral, its punishments the same. Instead of bidding us to think alone on consequences, it reminds us that God searcheth the heart. Its garland of victory is the well done of conscience, its scourge of woe is the agony of remorse.
II. WE SHOULD NOT BE ASHAMED OF CHRISTIANITY, BECAUSE IT GIVES THE TRUE READING OF MAN'S RELIGIOUS NATURE. Man must worship. We all admit that. History proves it. A nation without its altars is as undiscoverable as a firmament without its stars! But what says Paul to Timothy? — "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," "This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy." Yes! Yes! this was the message! Christ the Saviour of men! This it is that comes home to the heart and conscience of humanity everywhere. This is the great message we preach in the face of all modern endeavours to give the gospel only a place in the religions of the world. Yes! how that meets the soul-needs of man! Conscience is at rest beneath that cross where Christ the Lamb of God taketh away the sins of the world. Pardon, virtue, self-denial, sacrifice, peace, hope, joy, love, these are the growths of the Christian life — these blossom on no other tree but the Tree of Life.
III. WE SHOULD NOT DE ASHAMED OF CHRISTIANITY, BECAUSE IT GIVES THE TRUE READING OF MAN'S HUMAN LIFE. Whatever the old theologies may have said, human life is divine. I mean by that, that the world into which we are born finds place and play for all our varied human faculties. It is manifest that man's nature is a mistake, and the world a mistake, if a man is to move on in a region of Asceticism, or a transcendental region of Mysticism. Take this life! I say this is a beautiful world to live in. It is a world of colour! It is a world of sound! It is a world of mystery! It is a world of enterprise! It is a world of motion! It is a world of taste! It is a world, in fact, full of manifestations of adaptation to the being to be placed upon it by God. Now, if it were worldliness to touch all these things, then we are tempted to worldliness every hour, every moment, and the world is a cruel enchantress, that meets us at every step. Surely you know well that this is not worldliness, that Christ did not teach us it was worldliness. Man's nature too would be a mistake. He has not only eyes to lift to heaven and knees to bend to earth, he has hands to toil with, a home to care for, a country to serve, and a whole round of earthly duties to discharge. Still it is a charge brought against Christianity that it is indifferent to human culture and affection. Now, I do admit this, that a man's personal relation to God is the first question which the gospel of Christ deals with: he is to be brought nigh by the blood of Christ, to be a temple of the Holy Ghost, to rejoice in a spiritual sonship. But it is also true that all other duties and relationships are lifted into higher spheres, and ruled by higher motives. Christianity is not responsible for the perversion of ascetics, nor is it responsible for the abuse of worldlings. The Christians of Apostolic times must keep themselves unspotted from the world, not by avoiding the very possibility of its stains, but by a life in God which preserves them from the power of evil. And so must we: the difficulties of the case are the difficulties of moral life. Christianity consecrates the life of the family, the life of the city, the life of the state.
IV. WE SHOULD NOT BE ASHAMED OF A TESTIMONY FOR CHRIST, FOR CHRISTIANITY GIVES A TRUE READING OF LIFE, IN CHRIST HIMSELF. Christ is not only a Teacher; Christ is not only a Saviour; though He is both these. Christ is Christian life! He is His own religion alive and in action! When we study Christianity, we not only study the Evangels and the Epistles; we study Christ, Christ's life is the ideal of all Christian life! As such I ask you to mark its practical side; its human side; its relation to all the interests, physical, social, and divine of the world Christ came to ransom and to save. Christ's hours of prayer occupied much of His earthly life, but He was not one-sided in His life. How active He was — "He went about doing good." How reasonable He was — He reasoned with the Jews out of their Scriptures. How home-loving He was — He abode at the house of Martha, and her sister Mary. How life's cheerful pleasures found Him a sharer in them — His first miracle was wrought at the marriage feast of Cana in Galilee. How social He was — He dined at the house of the Pharisee. How actively compassionate He was — "He healed all their sick." How wonderfully He carried the golden thread of the heavenly through the warp and woof of the earthly life. Oh! it is something beautiful indeed to possess that life. In all your experiences of emotion, awe, reverence, tenderness, it is not enough to feel the thrill of mere sensation. As Christ was consecrated to His Father, so must we be to Him!
V. WE SHOULD NOT BE ASHAMED OF THE TESTIMONY OF CHRIST, FOR CHRISTIANITY NEGLECTED WRONGS OUR NATURE. All truth neglected wrongs our nature! I mean scientific truth, as well as religious truth. If I believe the world goes round, and if to propitiate priests, or to' provide for some supposed protection of the Church's creed, I say the world does not go round, I wrong my mind. If I reject religious truth, I wrong my mind in the worst sense; I wrong my conscience and my heart. That man is to be pitied who bears about with him the murdered body of truth! There are such men, they know the gospel, they need no further commendations of it to the conscience and the heart. I say Divine demonstration has been made to the faculty of judgment, and to the faculty of feeling. And yet as the apostle says, "They know not the truth." They perpetuate that hideous immorality of bartering their souls for ease, pleasure, and sin! "Verily he that knew his Lord's will and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes."
VI. WE SHOULD NOT BE ASHAMED OF A TESTIMONY FOR CHRIST, BECAUSE CHRISTIANITY IN ALL THESE SCENES STANDS ALONE. Its position is unique! This one thing we know, that a Saviour such as I have been speaking of, is none other but Christ. If there is, and we are to be confronted with some new Saviour, it is time that the criticisms of the day gave us a new Christ. We exhaust other subjects, but we never exhaust Christi With admiring and adoring homage we take our stand behind the Cross, and say to a world that wants a Saviour — "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world." "Produce your cause," says the Most High to all who would now declare His Anointed One! "Beside Me, there is no Saviour!"
(W. M. Statham, M. A.)you know Him?" I had to say, "No, I do not." What the sermon did not do that testimony did, and I had no peace until I found the Saviour two days afterwards. Twenty-four years have passed since then; eighteen of them I have spent amongst the poor of the East of London, and I am more persuaded than ever that what the Church of Jesus Christ needs is not mere oratory, mere eloquence, mere wealth, but men who not only bear Christ's name, but come right out for Him, so that no one in their senses can doubt their being children of God.
(A. G. Brown.)
(T. Guthrie, D. D.)
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