Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
φιλαδελφία is enjoined, then φιλοξενία. The stranger as well as the brother must have a proper place in our consideration. Brotherliness must not lead to exclusiveness. We must go by the golden rule. If we came to a strange place at nightfall, footsore with a long day's walking, we should be very grateful to any who would open the door and give us shelter and food. The injunction to hospitality very needful in times when facilities of travel were not what they are now. Hospitable feelings are strong in many who have not yet attained to Christian virtues; let the Christian, then, be in no way behind. He will be prudent and cautious in his treatment of strangers, he will be wise as the serpent; but he will remember, too, that he is under the protection of God. Now and then he will be deceived and robbed, but this is a little matter compared with the maintenance of hospitable duties. It may seem at first as if a low motive for hospitality were here introduced; but if it be considered, we shall see that it is not so much a motive to hospitality as to unremitting watchfulness in hospitality. Let the stranger be ever in your mind. Let not one slip past your gates, or go away knocking in vain. What will it avail to admit a thousand who bring you nothing but their needs, if you let the one go who will bring you blessings far more than anything you can do for him? - Y.
I. SMALL DUTIES ARE OFTEN ENFORCED BY GREAT PROMISES. Small duties, like small mercies, are often overlooked. God has scattered His gifts over life's pathway, we mistake them for wild flowers or mere weeds; but they yield fragrance when pressed by our worn and weary feet. Life is made up, to a great extent, of small things, — they give symmetry and beauty to character, and make up the proportions of life; they are necessary to the order of the family and the harmony of the home; their absence would soon be detected in the irregular movements of the simple machinery, or in the note of dissonance which would mar the music of life. There are numerous instances in the past, in which pity to the oppressed and the captive, kindness to the stranger, and charity to man, were enforced by great promises; by the promise oftentimes of "living long in the land which the Lord their God had given them." And so in the text men are to entertain strangers because some "have entertained angels unawares."
II. OUR MINISTRATIONS MAY BE AS IMPORTANT FOR OUR SAKE AS FOR THE SAKE OF THOSE TO WHOM THEY ARE RENDERED. We get, in one sense, as much good by giving, as we confer on those who receive our gifts. We are to be merciful, that thus we may imitate God. Hospitality is of importance, because it involves a genial nature, — a large, loving heart, consideration and care for man. A man who is not a lover of hospitality is in danger of living to himself, shutting up life within himself, being separate and divided from his fellows. Man is a social being, and he who would have friends "must show himself friendly." Apparently incidental circumstances often lead to great and unexpected results. An introduction to a stranger — an act of courtesty — a few passing words, have led to results which have influenced all the future. Men have only thought of entertaining a stranger, and they have entertained an angel. We are to do life's duties; we are to be generous and hospitable if no angel ever enters our tent; we are to entertain strangers, though they may never turn out to be angels.
III. THE PRECEPT ENJOINS ON US BENEVOLENCE AND LARGENESS OF HEART. Men are too much accustomed to live with men of their own class, with men who read the same books, think the same thoughts, and live the same kind of life; they do not know men out of their circle, they do not receive the benefit which results from freshness of thought, and interchange of sentiment, and deeper and warmer feeling.
(H. J. Boris.)
1. That we do it frequently. One swallow makes not a spring. The receiving of a stranger once makes not a hospitable man. We must make a daily use and occupation of it. It was the continual practice of Lot and Abraham, as may appear by their behaviour.
2. It must be willingly. We must not tarry till strangers offer themselves. We must pull them in, as Abraham and Lot did. We must constrain them, as Lydia did St. Paul and Silas.
3. Cheerfully without grudging (1 Peter 4:9), we must not repine at it, speak hardly of them when they be gone.
4. Meekly; not receive them after a stately and lord-like manner; but after a meek manner, as if we were rather beholden to them, than they to us. They be the brethren of Christ, the sons of God; we are not worthy of such guests.
5. Abundantly; according to that ability wherewith God hath blessed us. If we have but a little, let them have a little, as the widow of Sarepta dealt with Elias. If we have a great portion of God's blessings, let them taste of them.
6. We must do it perseveringly: be not weary of well doing. Hospitality is a good thing, be not weary of it. Let thy house be open to good men all the days of thy life. But alas, this is a hard doctrine, who can abide it; we are too much wedded to the world: yea, they that make a great show of Christianity, are ready to say with Nabal," Shall I take my bread and my water, and my flesh, and give it unto men whom I know not whence they be? "Oh forget not this duty. Here he means such strangers especially as are compelled to forsake their country for the gospel's sake; but it is to be extended to all.It is an excellent duty, and we have many spurs to prick us to it.
1. God requires it (Isaiah 58:7).
2. We have many ensamples for it.
3. We ourselves may be strangers, therefore do as ye would be done to.
4. The want of it hath been grievously punished, it was the overthrow of the whole tribe (Judges 20.).
5. In receiving men that are strangers, we may receive angels. Preachers which be God's angels, nay, Christ Himself (Matthew 25:6).
6. It is gainful for this life, and that which is to come.
(W. Jones, D. D.)I. ESPECIAL SEASONS ARE DIRECTIONS, AND CONSTRAINING MOTIVES UNTO ESPECIAL DUTIES. And he who on such occasions will forget to receive strangers, will not long remember to retain anything of Christian religion.
II. OUR HEARTS ARE NOT TO BE TRUSTED UNTO IN OCCASIONAL DUTIES, IF WE PRESERVE THEM NOT IN A CONTINUAL DISPOSITION TOWARDS THEM. If that be lost, no arguments will be prevalent to engage them unto present occasions.
III. THAT THE MIND OUGHT CONTINUALLY TO BE ON ITS WATCH, AND IN A GRACIOUS DISPOSITION TOWARDS SUCH DUTIES AS ARE ATTENDED WITH DIFFICULTIES AND CHARGE. Such as that here commanded to us, without which, we shall fail in what is required of us.
IV. EXAMPLES OF PRIVILEGES ANNEXED TO DUTIES, WHEREOF THE SCRIPTURE IS FULL, ARE GREAT MOTIVES AND INCENTIVES TO THE SAME, OR THE LIKE DUTIES.
V. FAITH WILL MAKE USE OF THE HIGHEST PRIVILEGES THAT EVER WERE ENJOYED ON THE PERFORMANCE OF DUTIES, TO ENCOURAGE UNTO OBEDIENCE, THOUGH IT EXPECTS NOT ANYTHING OF THE SAME KIND ON THE PERFORMANCE OF THE SAME DUTIES.
VI. WHEN MEN DESIGNING THAT WHICH IS GOOD, DO MORE GOOD THAN THEY INTENDED, SHALL OR MAY REAP MORE BENEFIT THEREBY THAN THEY EXPECTED.
(John. Owen, D. D.)
(D. S. Patterson.)
Baxendale's Anecdotes."There is a man," said his neighbour, speaking of a village carpenter, "who has done more good, I really believe, in this community than any other person who ever lived in it. He cannot talk very well in prayer-meetings, and he doesn't very often try. He isn't worth two thousand dollars, and it's very little that he can put down on subscription papers for any good object. But a new family never moves into the village that he does not find them out, to give them a neighbourly welcome and offer any little service he can render. He is usually on the lookout to give strangers a seat in his pew at church. He is always ready to watch with a sick neighbour, and look after his affairs for him; and I've sometimes thought he and his wife keep house plants in winter just for the sake of being able to send little bouquets to invalids. He finds time for a pleasant word for every child he meets, and you'll always see them climbing into his one-horse waggon when he has no other load. He really seems to have a genius for helping folks in all sorts of common ways, and it does me good every day just to meet him on the streets."
Entertained angels unawares.
Homilist.I. Strange PERSONS may often turn out to be "angels."
1. It may be so with the "stranger" who enters our household.
2. It may be so with the "stranger" in our neighbourhood.
3. It may be so with the "stranger" in our church.
4. It may be so with the "stranger" in our country. Treat all men with generousness and goodwill, and you may perhaps find angelic things within them.
II. Strange THINGS may often turn out to be "angels."
1. A "strange" truth may turn out to be an "angel," solving difficulties, enfranchising the intellect, and making the horizon of the soul beam brightly with unearthly stars.
2. A "strange" trial may turn out to be an "angel." Adversity, disease, bereavement, may prove blessings in disguise.
3. A "strange" charity may turn out to be an "angel." "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
(H. J. Bevis.)
New Cyclopedia of Illustrations.Jupiter and Mercury once visited a village, and, disguised in human form, sought entertainment, but in vain, till they came to the thatched cottage of the aged Baucis and Philemon. Before the strangers was spread the best the place afforded, with careful attention. The unwasted wine revealed to them the gods to whom they would have sacrificed. "This inhospitable village shall pay the penalty of its impiety. You shall be free. Come with us to the top of yonder hill," said the gods. They obeyed, and beheld the country around sink into a lake, while their own house grew into a magnificent temple, in which they served as priests until transformed together.
(New Cyclopedia of Illustrations.)
Western Times.During the Prince of Wales's stay at Torquay he has walked or driven to many of the numerous points of beauty or interest with which the coast abounds. It is related that on Friday the Prince landed at Babbicombe Bay, and after exploring its charms, in company with Captain Stephcnson and Lord Hastings, the trio betook themselves to an adjacent tea garden, and ordered refreshment. The establishment, however, is chiefly frequented by visitors who bring their own provisions, and was unprovided with any but very homely fare. A lady who was taking tea with friends in an adjoining arbour, overheard the colloquy to which the request gave rise, and courteously placed at the disposal of the gentlemen a portion of her provisions, including, of course, Devonshire cream, tea and cakes. The offer was accepted, and, the lady's creature comforts having been freely partaken of, the recipients, the Prince especially, were warm in their acknowledgments of this display of courtesy to strangers. It was not until after they had departed that the lady became aware that she had entertained a prince unawares.
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