The Twofold Issues of a Preached Gospel
2 Corinthians 2:15, 16
For we are to God a sweet smell of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:…

Heroes, in the older days of the apostle, were usually great generals, leaders of mighty armies, conquerors of other nations - men whose "glory" came from desolated cities, down-trodden races, wasted harvests, and crushed and bleeding hearts. And such heroes were permitted to have a "triumph," as it was called. A triumphal procession was arranged in their honour, and to this event the Roman generals looked as to the very goal of their ambition. Magnificent and thrilling scenes they must have been. The general was received, at the gates of the imperial city, by all that was noble and grave and venerable among the officials, and he was led from the gate through the crowded and shouting streets to the Capitol. First marched the ancient men, the grave senators of the Roman council, headed by a body of magistrates. Then came the trumpeters, making the air ring again with their prolonged and joyous blasts. Then followed a long train of carriages and frames laden with the spoils brought from battlefields or plundered from conquered cities, the articles which were most remarkable for their value, or rarity, or beauty being fully exposed to view. There might be seen models of the forts or cities which had been captured; gold and silver statues, pictures, handsome vases, and embroidered stuffs. Then came a band of players on the flute, and then white bulls and oxen destined for sacrifice; and incense bearer, waving to and fro their censers, and sending forth their sweet savour. Then were seen caged lions and tigers, or monstrous elephants, or other strange creatures, brought as specimens from the captive lands. And then the procession filled with pathos, for there followed the leaders of the conquered foe, and the long train of inferior captives, all bound and fettered, and altogether a sad and humiliating sight. At last came the great conqueror, standing in a splendid chariot, drawn by four milk-white horses, magnificently adorned, the conqueror bearing a royal sceptre, and having his brow encircled with a laurel crown. After him marched his great officers, the horse soldiers, and the vast army of foot soldiers, each one holding aloft a spear adorned with laurel boughs. And so the procession moved on through the crowded, shouting streets until it reached the Capitoline hill. There they halted, dragged some of those poor captives aside to be killed, and then offered their sacrifices and began their triumphal feast. St. Paul's mind was evidently full of such a scene as this, and he took his figures from it. He says that God permits us, as apostles and ministers, always to triumph with Christ. We are, through grace, always conquering generals. But St. Paul fixed his thoughts chiefly on those miserable, naked, fettered captives, who were going on to death. He could not help thinking - What was the sound of the clanging trumpet and the piping flute to them - poor hopeless ones? What was the savour of sweet incense in the air to them - poor agitated ones? Some among them may indeed have had the promise of life, and to them the savour of the incense would be sweet; it would be "life unto life." But so many of them knew what their fate must be; they dreaded the worst; they trembled as they came nearer to the ascent of the hill; and as the wind wafted the savour of the incense to them they could but sadly feel that it was a savour of "death unto death." And the apostle thought of his life work of preaching the gospel. It was even thus with the savour of the gospel triumph. To some it was death, to others it was life. Not, indeed, at the arbitrary will of some proud general, but as the necessary issue of the relations in which men stand to a preached gospel; for "he that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life, but the wrath of God abideth on him."

I. THE PROPER RESULT OF A PREACHED GOSPEL IS LIFE. It was God's gracious purpose that men, "dead in trespasses and sins," should have life, and have. it more abundantly. In his Son Jesus Christ life and immortality are brought to light. In the early days God set before men life and death, and, with all holy persuasions, urged them to choose life and good. This was the one absorbing purpose and endeavour of the Lord Jesus. While he was here he was ever doing one thing - quickening life, restoring life, renewing life: the life of health to those afflicted, of reason to those possessed with devils, of knowledge to ignorant disciples, and even of the body to those smitten and dead. And the apostles carried his gospel forth into all the world as the light and life of men. Dwell upon the significance and interest of the word "life," and explain the new life in Christ Jesus, which the Christian enjoys.

II. THE MOURNFUL RESULT OF A PREACHED GOSPEL OFTEN IS DEATH. Our Lord used forcible but painful figures to express the death of the impenitent and unbelieving: "outer darkness;" "wailing and gnashing of teeth;" "worm that never dies;" "fire that none may quench." We must feel the force of these things, for no man can worthily explain them. This "death" was the mournful issue of a preached gospel when the Son of man was himself the Preacher. Foolish Gadarenes besought him to depart out of their coasts, and leave them to their night and death. Hardened Capernaum, exalted even to heaven in privilege, must be thrust down to hell. St. Paul must turn from bigoted and prejudiced Jews, and go to the Gentiles, leaving the very children of the covenant in a darkness that might be felt. He who came to give life is practically found to be a Stone of stumbling and a Rock of offence. Five foolish virgins put their hands about their flickering lamps as they cry against the closed door; and this is the simple, awful ending of their story, "The darkness took them." We do see men hardened under a preached gospel now. Illustrate by the dropping well at Knaresborough. Water ought to soften and melt, but these waters, falling upon things, encrust them with stone, and even turn them into stone. Such may have been the droppings of the "water of life" upon us. There are only these two issues. The gospel must either take us by the hand and lead us up into the sunlight or it must bid us away down into the dark. Only two issues, but what issues they are! Life! As we think of that word, all joy, light, and heaven come into our view. Death! As we speak that word, all darkness, woe, and hell come into our thoughts. "Who indeed is sufficient for these things?" - even for the preaching of a gospel which must prove to be a "savour of life unto life or of death unto death." - R.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:

WEB: For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God, in those who are saved, and in those who perish;

The Two Effects of the Gospel
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