1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Watch you, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.…
There is an indissoluble connection between a man's character and his view of life. As a man is in moral quality, so will he conceive life to be. It is only the feeble and the worthless who ask, Is life worth living? The brave and the good live worthily, and so feel life full of worth. Sin produces despair. Holiness begets courage and faith. Take, as an instance, the man who writes these words. He had known hardness; his life had been a life of trouble and change, yet he had dared to brave it. And now, summing up the lesson of his life to the men he loved, he says, "Watch ye," etc. He enforces the duty. They are to watch. That duty is personal, and involves another: "stand fast in the faith." As they watch they keep the faith. As they keep the faith they quit themselves like men. As these three are together bound and realised in one character they are strong.
I. WATCH. The duty of watchfulness implies its need, and the need of watchfulness springs from the manifoldness of temptation.
1. There are three great conditions or forms under which temptations come.
(1) Social. True society is better than it was. Public life is purer and its standard higher. Education is more widely distributed, and as men say no man shall be ignorant, so they must come to say that no man shall make for us laws unless he be a moral man. Our commerce, too, has much of its ancient character of honour. But while we have ranch cause for gratitude, we have greater cause for watchfulness. Our society is sadly destitute of true economy, which means labour wisely directed and applied, the power of gathering in and reaping its abundant fruits, the skill and the will to make of these the most equal, ample distribution, so that they make wealth not simply for the few, but the whole. Our dangers grow from accumulation in the hands of the few, without distribution into the homes and for the comfort of the many. We spend their thirty millions on instruments of war, their three millions or a little more on education and the forming of men. Yet where lieth the strength of a people? Not in its arsenals, not in its army or navy, but in its men. The supreme need of a people is the forming of the people. There is something higher than the making of wealth; there is the making of men. The highest of all social necessities is the making of new men; that is possible only by the preaching and the teaching of the gospel of Christ.
(2) Moral. There are dangers when conventional standards of morality are unreal and unjust. See a banker who has for nigh a whole generation lived on the savings of the hard-working man, the store of the widow and orphan. See him hardly punished — it seems a little more than a severe rebuke; and some tempted lad, in some hour of great need, for miserable theft stamped through years a criminal. Look at the seducer fresh from his guilt, judged to be fit by mother to wed the daughter. And see the victim, by the same, cast out, a thing unclean. There is nothing more mischievous than standards of that kind.
(3) Intellectual. These are often said to rise from increased knowledge and activity. Nay, they rise from ignorance and intellectual frivolity. Newspapers to have power must be spiced. People must be tempted to read. And the result too often is that the mind grows so shallow that it cannot reflect the infinite heaven, So ruffled in its shallowness that it answers to every breeze of wind, and faileth ever to settle into an eternal calm, is a mind lost to holiest things, closed to dearest realities. Look at truth as needed by men for living, for dying, for eternity; and then dare no longer to be frivolous, come to have the truth, to seek the holy, to love the good, that is only of God.
2. All these dangers must be guarded against. Watch! Where a man carries that which is precious he ought ever to carefully guard it. Crossed you ever the mighty ocean on board a steamship that travels so stately and bears its hundreds in comfort and in joy? But, while all is lightness, there walks alone, solitary, watching in the very sunshine for sign of coming storm, the man who bears in his spirit that stately ship, these hundreds of lives, all the wealth she carries in her hold. And think you ever man went to sea, ever sailor guided across the ocean bark half so precious as you carry? Gifted with a nature so rich, a cargo so precious, the spirit ought to be all directed to the watching of evil, to the discovery of the good, and the place that is the haven of rest.
II. STAND FAST IN THE FAITH. The man that watches will stand. From him it will not be taken — faith in God our Father, yet our King; in Christ who is our Brother, yet our Priest; in that Spirit who is our Comforter, yet our Advocate. Stand fast therein. See that no man spoil you by vain deceit. See that no passion rob you by promised momentary pleasure. Keep the faith. God gave it you, and the faith cannot be kept pure without keeping pure the spirit.
III. BE MEN. What is it to be a man? It is to bear God's image. Let the young man dare to be a man, let him, face to face with temptation, look to Him who only hath the power to save. Lost in the multitude, men in the multitude lose themselves. "Quit you like men." Dare to be innocent of vice, shut up the impure book, close the paragraph that speaks the unholy thing, and to be virtuous in thought, in speech, in feeling, knowing this, that the man who keepeth his own spirit pure is the man most approved of the Father.
(Principal A. M. Fairbairn.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.