Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.…
The great aim of the gospel is to raise our views and desires above this life, and furnish us with pure and powerful principles in the direction of our words and actions, far above the will of fallen man. But while it invites us to lay up our treasure in heaven, it instructs us in everything that may best contribute to bless the life of man on earth.
I. THE DUTY HERE ENJOINED.
1. You are not to make the pleasing of men the reason or rule of your conduct in any case, for the sake of their praise, or of any reward from them. That would, indeed, be to please them rather than God, and instead of God. But you are to study, if possible, to please your neighbour as a duty which God requires, and which you must continue to do whether men praise you for it or not.
2. This pleasing our neighbour is not, in any respect, to be placed in opposition to the pleasing of God, or to be followed in anything that would be displeasing in His sight. We are not allowed to put their good, or their good-will, in place of the glory of God, but only in place of our own gratification; "not to please ourselves, but every one to please his neighbour."
3. We are called to sacrifice our own pleasure to his, whenever our doing so would tend to his good, or to the edification of others; but, when it would not be for good, we must refuse to please any of our fellow-creatures, however much it might expose us to their dislike.
4. Keeping these points in view, you will be better able to guard against two very opposite errors on this subject, which require to be considered.
(1) There is a pleasing of others which many study merely as an art, and to which young persons are trained by certain forms, as a branch of their education. This is only a seeming preference of others, which is far from real humility. This is a preference of others also only in trifles, while they would refuse to do much for the real good of those whom they seem so desirous to please. It is in itself, in short, as far as it is the invention of men, a mere tissue of hypocrisy, which the children of this world cast around them, rather for the purpose of hiding their selfish and malignant feelings than of expressing their benevolent dispositions.
(2) There is a disposition in some persons, on the other hand, not only to neglect the pleasing of others as an art, but also to despise it as a duty. They think it sufficient that they give no just cause of offence to any one; but take little care to guard against the appearance of disregarding them. They will do much for men's real welfare, but will show no indulgence to their weaknesses. The clearer your knowledge, the sounder your judgment, the stronger your faith, the more may be expected from you, in bearing the infirmities, and even the censures of others, in denying yourselves in many things for their sake, and in doing whatever you lawfully may to please them for their good.
II. THE REASON ASSIGNED FOR THIS DUTY. "Even Christ pleased not Himself."
1. Observe the force of the expression, "even Christ." The act of submission was lower, the degree of the sacrifice was greater in His case, than it ever possibly can be in ours; how shall we refuse to serve those with whom we must rank in His sight as fellow-creatures?
2. But let us contemplate more particularly the character of our Lord in the respect here specified by the apostle, namely, that "He pleased not Himself." In one sense, indeed, it may be said that He always pleased Himself, inasmuch as He never had one wish or feeling that was contrary to what He knew to be right, and conducive to the good of others. But let us consider with how much reason He might have insisted that others should please and honour Him in every iota, instead of His yielding any point to satisfy their prejudices or serve their infirmities.
Parallel VersesKJV: Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.