Uncalendared Saints
Romans 16:10-11
Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household.…

Asyncritus, Phlegon, and Hermas, to us are little more than empty names; but if we knew as much about them as their friend Paul did, it is quite possible that we would have given them the whole chapter. The servants of God do not write history after the fashion of the world. The sacred writer immortalises the obscure worker who sheds abroad the fragrance of a holy violet-life in the dingy alley or fever-haunted court; whilst the secular scribe reserves his greenest laurels for the man who dances on a tight rope or who floats down Niagara in a cask! The best part of the world's history is still unwritten. The profane historian would have buried Asyncritus and Phlegon in eternal oblivion; but wherever this Epistle is read, their names will be honourably mentioned.

I. THE BIBLE IS RICHLY STOCKED WITH EXAMPLES WHICH ARE WELL SUITED FOR ALL CLASSES OF SOCIETY. It is not a Book for patricians, nor for plebeians, but for all without distinction. It sets before us extraordinary men as examples to extraordinary men — Moses as an example to national leaders, Joseph as an example to prime ministers, Elijah as an example to religious reformers, etc. But when we read of Asyncritus, etc., we see that the Bible is also full of examples for ordinary people. And it is right that it should be so, for the world is almost entirely populated by very ordinary people.

II. OBSCURE MEN HAVE DONE, AND ARE STILL DOING, SPLENDID SERVICE FOR CHRIST. All our best men are not in the front. These simple men lived in a city wholly given up to heathenism; yet they bravely held their ground against crushing odds, fearlessly upheld the Christian banner, and helped to drive back the tide of Paganism, and prepare a throne for Christ in the very centre of the world's power. Gold is no less gold because hidden in the bowels of the mountains, and courage is no less courage because sometimes veiled in obscurity. Our danger is to mistake noise for power and fanaticism for zeal. All the great powers are silent powers. The bugler is more noisy than the field-marshal, but he is not so indispensable on the field of battle. God was not in the thunder nor in the wind, but in the still small voice. The great merchant is almost entirely dependent on the labours of faithful men whose names are buried in obscurity. The ablest of our cabinet ministers mainly depend upon the obscure permanent officials for their information. And in religious circles the minister frequently gets all the credit, when it should be shared with the Church officers and the Church members who assist him. In eulogising Apollos, we must not forget Priscilla and Aquila. That unknown man who keeps the lights burning in his lighthouse has been the means of saving hundreds of lives. Obscure friends, your life is worth living. Like the coral insects of the Pacific, you are building better than you know. So was Luther, when translating the Bible in the Castle of Wartburg, and the Pilgrim Fathers, when they landed on Plymouth Rock. Let us work on, for the deed will be immortal, whether the doer's name is known or not. The name of the widow who cast her mites into the temple is forgotten, but her deed will live on throughout all eternity.

III. PROMINENT MEN SHOULD BE GRATEFUL TO OBSCURE MEN FROM THE PROMINENCE WHICH THEY ENJOY. Hills would be impossible without valleys. We may be only the pedestals for the statues, but the statues should not forget the debt they owe to the pedestals. The top-stone, resting in the glad sunshine, must not forget that it owes a debt to the foundation-stone which is buried out of sight in the dark, damp earth. Of what use would Wellington have been on the field of Waterloo without his men? Johnson without his Boswell would not be the power in England that he is to-day. Samuel was a splendid man, but his unostentatious mother, Hannah, had the making of him. John Wesley gets all the credit for the Methodist revival, but his mother should be a sharer in the glory. Where would Leonidas have been but for his three hundred Spartans? Who can tell how much our prominent men in Church and State owe to some village schoolmaster or country minister? Lord Shaftesbury confessed that his life was entirely moulded by a God-fearing nursemaid. Klopstock, in the very height of his popularity, strewed flowers over the grave of his old schoolmaster. Paul never forgot his debt to Asyncritus and Phlegon, who so faithfully witnessed for Christ in that hot-bed of idolatry called Rome.

IV. OBSCURE MEN SHOULD NOT BE JEALOUS OF THEIR MORE FAVOURED BRETHREN. Asyncritus and Phlegon were not envious of Paul's power and influence. If we have only one talent, let us not be jealous of those who have five. Conspicuous people are not always happy people. The statesman may have the plaudits of his friends, but he has also the bitterest invectives of his foes. It is the loftiest tree that is exposed to the full force of the hurricane. What a pleasant thing it must be to be a Prime Minister of England or a Chief Secretary for Ireland in these times! "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." If you are only an ordinary, man, do. not grumble because you are not extraordinary. Think of a watch saying, "I will not keep time because I am not a town clock"! Think of a candle refusing to give light because it is not a Jupiter! Do not envy the five-talent men, but compensate yourself by using your one talent wisely until it becomes five. Carey could not do the work of Shakespeare, nor Luther the work of Melancthon, nor Bunyan the work of Milton. The eye cannot do the work of the ear, and the foot cannot do the work of the hand.

V. OBSCURE MEN SHOULD NOT DRIFT INTO DESPONDENCY AND INACTIVITY. "I am nothing!" Quite so. But add God to the nothing, and the total will amount to something! Like Naaman, we all want to do some great thing or nothing. There are only a few men who can do anything great. Suppose a star were to say, "I will extinguish myself, for the heavens can well do without me"; or a sand-grain, "I am only a speck of dust; the vast ocean-shore can well do without me." Ah! but what if all the stars and sand-grains were to repeat the same story? All trifles are great trifles. A spoonful of water will set in motion the hydraulic power that will lift up many tons of iron, and a drop of faithful Christian service will send a movement through all the eternities. A rod with God behind it will divide the sea. A stripling shepherd with God at his right hand will vanquish the Philistine. Do not wait for great occasions, for there are only a few men who can do anything truly great. In a church of 500 members, you will not find more than ten five-talent men, and if they double their talents the total will only amount to 100. Then suppose the remaining 490 have only one talent each, and that they double it, the total will amount to 980 talents. There you have 980 against 100. There is a tremendous quantity of unused power in the Church. The humblest acts of the humblest men often have the greatest events hinging upon them. A cordial hand-shake with a heart-throb in it may save a soul. A genial smile with a little of the angel in it may redeem a family. If you cannot handle the oar, do send a cheer to those who are battling with the breakers.

VI. OBSCURE MEN WHO FILL THEIR QUIET SPHERES EFFICIENTLY WILL BE PROMOTED BY GOD TO WIDER SPHERES. Listen to the promise: "Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things." By improving present opportunities, you open the gate for wider service. Fill well the sphere you have, and you will fit yourself for a higher one. "To him that hath shall more be given." If you are only a tract distributor, do your work thoroughly, and the King will promote you. Because David was efficient as a shepherd, God made him a king.

VII. AT THE GREAT DAY THE OBSCURE ONES WILL BECOME PROMINENT, AND MANY OF THE PROMINENT WILL BE CONSIGNED TO OBSCURITY. "Many shall be last that are first, and first that are last." If the granite does not keep your name conspicuous before the eyes of the world, God has registered it in heaven. Work on quietly in the shade, then, and your handiwork will one day be exhibited in the sunshine. Asyncritus and Phlegon may yet stand side by side with Paul and Apollos.

(J. Ossian Davies.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household.

WEB: Greet Apelles, the approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus.

Two Households
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