On Living by Rule
1 Corinthians 16:1-4
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do you.…

1. St. Paul, the most disenthralled of all the apostles from the bondage of Judaism, here gives a rule on the subject of almsgiving. The wisdom of such a rule is obvious. A considerable sum would thus be gradually accumulated, which a man might hesitate to give in one lump. And then, again, such a rule ensured a gradual discipline in Christian benevolence which would be far more beneficial and a far greater test of character than one great effort. A great effort may be made in a moment of excitement; but continual little efforts can only be made on principle. Lastly, the collection would be over before the apostle's visit, and their minds would be ready to receive the spiritual benefits of his ministry.

2. Still, a rule it is. It defines the exact method and period. And it has all the narrowness inherent in the nature of rules, it is not adapted to the circumstances of all men. In the case of incomes not accruing weekly, the rule would require to be recast. And there is probably no modern Christian who thinks himself bound to its literal observance however much we may be bound to the spirit of it.

3. It is surprising, until we come to consider it, what a dearth of rules there is in the New Testament. The field of nature presents in this respect a remarkable resemblance to the field of Scripture; she furnishes materials for all the arts of life even as Scripture furnishes principles for holy living. There is stone in her quarries, clay in her soils, timber in her forests, coal in her mines, etc. The various arts of life develop these resources for the well-being of man. Without architecture we must sleep under the canopy of the sky, without the weaver's art we should be none the better for the sheep's fleece, and without the industry and ingenuity of man corn could not be converted into bread. Now just as nature furnishes all the materials of life, which art develops and makes up for use, so Holy Scripture furnishes the materials for all rules of holy living, which rules the spiritual instinct and experience of the children of God extracts and draws up in form.

4. From this very simple analogy, then, we learn the great importance as well as the subordinate position of rules. It was not the scope of the Scriptures to do anything beyond furnishing the principles of duty, just as it was not the scope of the Creator in nature to do anything beyond furnishing materials for the supply of man's various wants. Yet we cannot gather from hence that rules are not absolutely necessary for a holy life.

5. But be it observed that the adoption of rules is recommended not as a bondage but as a help to the will and as a discipline for bracing and hardening it. What Christian man can say with truth that he has risen above the necessity of all such rules? What Christian man could safely afford to dispense, e.g., with the obligation of private prayer morning and evening, and of stated public worship, although these obligations are bound upon him, not by the explicit letter of Holy Scripture, but by the godly customs and traditional usages of the Christian Church? As to almsgiving, some rule surely must be felt by all of us to be urgently needed, and here especially the form and shape which the duty will take will be almost infinitely various. Let each man only make sure of securing by his practice the principle, which is that God has a claim upon a certain fair proportion of our annual income, and that to withhold from Him such a proportion independently of the dishonour done to Him thereby, is as likely to be prejudicial to our spiritual interests as the withholding from Him a portion of our time for the exercises of devotion. Let this principle be deeply settled in the mind and then the details adjusted honestly in accordance with it.

6. In any case let our rules be such as may be easily and cheerfully observed, remembering that we are to serve God in the newness of the spirit, not in the oldness of the letter. Let the object be to make them a help, not to convert them into a penance.

(Dean Goulburn.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.

WEB: Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I commanded the assemblies of Galatia, you do likewise.

Concerning the Collection
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