Romans 12:13
While we are to think of others, we are to think of ourselves also. Herbert Spencer has contrasted the "religion of enmity," or the religion of heathenism, with what he calls the "religion of amity," or the religion of Christianity. But he speaks as if the Christian precept was, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour better than thyself." It is not so. The command is, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

"To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man." The apostle enumerates some duties which the Christian owes to himself.

I. DILIGENCE IN BUSINESS. Each man should have some definite work or business in life. Especially should the Christian be free from the sin of idleness. Whatever our work is, let us be diligent in the performance of it. "The hand of the diligent maketh rich." "Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men."

II. EARNESTNESS OF SPIRIT. "Fervent in spirit." It is a strong phrase. Fervent means "burning," "on fire." Yes, we need more Christians who are on fire. It is the enthusiasts who have done the best and most lasting work in the world. They are usually called fanatics at first, but the day comes when their memory is blessed. St. Paul was a fanatic to Festus. Festus could not understand the fire that burned in Paul's heart and in his words. "Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning cloth make thee mad." William Wilberforce, the emancipator of the slaves; John Howard, the prisoner's friend; Samuel Plimsoll, the sailor's friend; Lord Shaftesbury, the friend of the overworked artisan; - all these men at first were sneered at and ridiculed by the multitude of indifferent and interested men. Earnestness and enthusiasm may be incomprehensible to the world, but they are indispensable to the true Christian.

III. A RELIGIOUS SPIRIT. "Serving the Lord." That spirit consecrates life, sweetens life, saves life. Serving the Lord does not lead us to the drunkard's degradation, the disgrace of the dishonest or fraudulent, the cell of the murderer or the grave of the suicide. The Christian will serve the Lord in every relationship of life - in his home, in his business, in his amusements. Can we all say as St. Paul did (Acts 27:23), "Whose I am, and whom I serve"?

IV. HOPEFULNESS AND JOY. "Rejoicing in hope." The apostle elsewhere in this Epistle uses the same phrase, "And rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:2). Dr. Chalmers has somewhere said, "That which distinguishes wisdom from folly is the power and habit of anticipation." The Saviour himself, in his earthly life, was sustained by the hope of what lay beyond. "Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:2). So it was with St. Paul. He looked forward to the crown of righteousness. Therefore the Christian should be full of joyousness. Why should we groan under life's heavy burdens when we think of the rest that remaineth to the people of God? Why should we be unduly distressed by life's trials when we remember that they that are tried shall receive the crown of life? This, too, is a duty the Christian owes to himself. Work becomes no longer a burden when it is done with hopefulness and joy.

V. PATIENCE UNDER TROUBLE. "Patient in tribulation." The true Christian will know how to suffer. He knows that trials have their meaning and their place in the discipline of the children of God. He knows that whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and that "though no chastisement for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous, nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby."

VI. PERSEVERANCE IN PRAYER. "Continuing instant in prayer." Prayer is the beginning and the end of the Christian life. We should ever go forth to the discharge of our duties, humbly asking for the Divine guidance and the Divine help. And then, when the duties are performed, we should not forget to pray that the Divine blessing should follow the work that we have done. This thought is well brought out by St. Paul in his description of the Christian's armour (Ephesians 6:11-18). Having exhorted his readers to put on the whole armour of God - the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit - he adds, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit." This is the fitting climax of the whole. It is the fitting conclusion of any exhortation about Christian warfare or Christian work. "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it." Such, then, are the Christian's duties to himself. Diligence. Earnestness. Religious spirit. Hopefulness. Patience. Prayerfulness. Let us cultivate them. - C.H.I.







Distributing to the necessity of saints.
I.Specially NEEDED.

II.Specially CLAIMED.

III.Specially REWARDED.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

I. BENEVOLENCE.

1. To the brethren.

2. To strangers.

3. To enemies.

II. SYMPATHY.

1. With the happy.

2. With the sorrowful.

III. UNITY.

1. In Christian feeling.

2. This requires humility in aim, in thought.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

Given to hospitality
I. IMPLIES —

1. Our indifferency about the world.

2. Willingness to communicate what we have to others (1 Timothy 6:17).

3. Our supplying strangers as well as others with necessaries (1 Peter 4:9).

II. REASONS.

1. A priori. We should do to others as we would have them do to us (Matthew 7:12):

2. A posteriori. Because of the good we may get by it. Some have entertained angels (Hebrews 13:2; Genesis 18:3; Genesis 19:2); and prophets (1 Kings 17:10-16; 2 Kings 5:8-34; Matthew 25:43).

(Bishop Beveridge.)

I. ITS TRIALS.

1. The whim and eccentricity of the guest. There are a great many excellent people whose temperament makes them a nuisance in any house where they stay. On short acquaintance, they will keep unseasonable hours, have all the peculiarities of the gormandiser or the dyspeptic, and in a thousand ways afflict the household which proposes to take care of them. Added to all, they stay too long. Gerrit Smith, the philanthropist, asked at his breakfast table, on the day when he hoped that the long-protracted guests would depart, "O Lord, bless this provision, and our friends who leave us to-day!" But there are alleviations. Perhaps they have not had the same refining influences about them that you have had. Perhaps it is your duty, by example, to show them a better way. Perhaps they are sent to be a trial for the development of your patience. Perhaps it is to make your home the brighter when they are gone. When our guests are cheery, and fascinating, and elegant, it is very easy to entertain them; but when we find in them that which is antagonistic to our taste and sentiment, it is a positive triumph when we can be "given to hospitality."

2. The toil and expense of exercising it. When you introduce a foreign element into the domestic machinery, though you may declare that they must take things as they find them, the Martha will break in. The ungovernable stove, the unmasticable joint, the delayed marketing, the difficulty of being presentable, etc. Yet we may serve God with plate, and cutlery, and broom, just as certainly as with psalm-book and liturgy. But you are not to toil unnecessarily. Though the fare be plain, cheerful presidency of the table and cleanliness of appointments will be good enough for anybody that ever comes to your house. I want to lift this idea of Christian entertainment out of a positive bondage into a glorious inducement. Suppose it were announced that the Lord Jesus Christ would come to town this week, what woman in this house would not be glad to wash for Him, or spread for Him a bed, or bake bread for Him? He is coming. "Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these, My brethren, ye have done it to Me."

II. ITS REWARDS.

1. The Divine benediction. When any one attends to this duty, God's blessing comes upon him, upon his companion, upon his children.

2. The good wishes and prayers of our guests. I do not think one's house ever gets over having had a good man or woman abide there. George Whitefield used to scratch a text on his window, and in one case, after he left, the whole household was converted by it. The woman of Shunem furnished a little room for Elisha, and all the ages have heard the consequences. On a winter night my father entertained Trueman Osborne, the evangelist, and that, among others, was the means of saving my soul. How many of our guests have brought to us condolence, and sympathy, and help! It is said of St. Sebald, that in his Christian rounds he used to stop for entertainment at the house of a poor cartwright. Coming there one day, he found him and his family freezing for the lack of fuel. St. Sebald ordered the man to bring some icicles and throw them on the hearth; whereupon they began to blaze immediately, and the freezing family were warmed by them. How often have our guests come in to gather up the cold, freezing sorrows of our life, kindling them into illumination, and warmth, and good cheer. He who opens his house to Christian hospitality, turns those who are strangers into friends. Some day you will be sitting in loneliness, watching a bereavement, and you will get a letter, and there you will read the story of thanks for your Christian generosity long years before, and how they have heard afar off of your trouble. When we take people into our houses as Christian guests, we take them into our sympathies for ever. In Dort a soldier stopped at a house, desiring shelter. At first he was refused admittance, but when he showed his credentials he was admitted. In the night-time two ruffians broke in, but no sooner had they come over the door-sill than the armed guest met them. There are no bandits prowling around to destroy our houses; but how often our guests become our defenders. We gave them shelter first, and afterwards they fought for our reputation, for our property, for our soul.

3. We shall have hospitality shown to us and to ours. In the upturnings of this life, who knows where we may be thrown, and how much we may need an open door? There may come no such crisis to us, but our children may be thrown into some such strait. Among the Greeks, after an entertainment they take a piece of lead and cut it in two, and the host takes one half and the guest the other as they part. These are handed down from generation to generation, and after awhile perhaps one of the families in want or in trouble go out with this one piece of lead and find the other family with the corresponding piece, and no sooner is the tally completed than the old hospitality is aroused, and eternal friendship pledged. So the memory of Christian hospitality will go down from generation to generation, and the tally will never be lost.

(T. De Witt Talmage, D.D.)

Bless them which persecute you
1. From virtues towards suffering brethren, the apostle now passes to the spirit to be maintained towards persecutors.

2. All wrongs are hard to be endured; and the Christian knows that he ought not to suffer for righteousness' sake, and that his persecutors are deserving of punishment. If, therefore, he can secure protection by an appeal to legal authority, he ought to make that appeal. But when there is no such appeal then comes in the temptation, not simply to lodge an appeal with the great supreme Judge, but to invoke His interposition to smite the persecutor with a curse. The feeling that I am wronged is strengthened by the conviction that my wrong is detrimental to God's kingdom, and therefore an injury to the race. Punishment, therefore, would be agreeable to strict justice, but would it also be good for me to invoke or for God to inflict? Not so, says the apostle. Not so, says Jesus. "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are made of," etc. Therefore "bless them which persecute you," etc.

3. The command and example of our Lord aught to be decisive for all Christians (Matthew 5:43-48). But why ought we thus to act towards persecutors?

I. THE PERSECUTOR USUALLY IS BUT RESENTING WHAT HE CONCEIVES TO BE A WRONG, not only against himself and society, but against his religion and his God. There are, no doubt, men who avail themselves of the opportunity afforded by the prevalence of the persecuting spirit to give effect to their private hatreds, or to enrich themselves by unrighteous plunder. And others are stung into persecuting activity because the Christian's holy conversation rebukes their iniquity. But real persecutors are moved by zeal for what they conceive to be religion. It may be a false religion, as idolatry or an incomplete religion, as Judaism, or a corrupted religion, as Romanism; but whatever the special character of the religion whoso interests are supposed to be in danger, it will be that which is generally regarded as being true. This it is which gives such relentless and terrible earnestness to persecutors. They verily think with themselves that they ought to do these things; and that they are doing God service. This, of course, will not avail to justify their conduct; but it furnishes one reason why we should bless those who persecute us. For they are impelled by conscience, and by their apprehension of what is due from them to society and to God.

II. THE TIME FOR THE CURSING HAS NOT YET COME, but is kept back, in order that if possible the injurious men may be brought to a better mind. God was more wronged by men than we can ever be. Yet He not only exercised a marvellous forbearance, but, out of earnest pity for the offenders, spared not His own Son in order to bring back the guilty race. We have been saved, and therefore these people who are still without hate us. But God loves them still, and His purpose is to save them, and He requires of us to do what we can to accomplish this desirable result.

III. REAL PERSECUTORS ARE USUALLY MEN WHO ARE WORTH WINNING. They are men whose force of character and power of aggressive work would be of immense service in the cause of truth and righteousness. Hence Saul is far more likely to become a chosen vessel of the Lord than his prudent master Gamaliel. And though every persecutor is not a Saul, yet if he is earnest of persecution he is a man of more than ordinary power for service in the cause of Christ. Therefore curse him not, but only bless him still.

IV. THERE IS MUCH MORE HOPE OF THE CONVERSION OF EARNEST PERSECUTORS THAN MIGHT AT FIRST APPEAR. There is small hope of those who can listen to the gospel and go away as indifferent as when they came. But the man who persecutes earnestly, feels strongly, and thinks vigorously; and when his violence has somewhat abated his wrath, and he begins to feel in what an unpleasant business he is engaged, he is almost sure to think of some other aspects of the question. The truth may then begin to scintillate within his soul, growing brighter as he pursues the meditation, till, by the grace of the Spirit of truth, his heart relents, his conscience begins its work of self-accusation, and he is won. Maintaining, as we do most firmly, the miraculous character of Saul's conversion, that does not hinder us from admitting the probability that the spirit in which Stephen died, and in which others less noted submitted to the fiery persecution, may have made a profound impression on the zealot's mind. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." Men learned to live and die in the spirit of our text, and the exhibition of such a spirit has availed to save myriads. Conclusion: Whatever the result of such self-denial here, it will not fail of its reward hereafter (Matthew 5:11, 12; Hebrews 12:2).

(W. Tyson.)

When the trial of Sir Thomas More was ended, and he was judged guilty of death, being asked if he had anything to say, he replied: " My lords, I have but to say that, like as the blessed apostle St. Paul was present at the death of the martyr Stephen, keeping their clothes that stoned him, and yet be now both saints in heaven, and there shall continue friends for ever, so I trust, and shall therefore pray, that though your lordships have been on earth my judges, yet we may hereafter meet in heaven together, to our everlasting salvation: and God preserve you all, especially my sovereign lord the king, and grant him faithful counsellors."

(H. O. Mackey.)

At Samatave (Madagascar) on the eve of the bombardment by the French, all the natives, from the governor downwards, were at a prayer-meeting, and there were no prayers for the lives of their enemies, and no cries for vengeance upon them. Prayers for a righteous vindication, for guidance, for faith to trust where they could not see, and for eventual peace and goodwill were the only petitions of the much-injured Malagasy.

(G. Shaw.)

The text teaches us —

I. HOW WE SHOULD NEVER TREAT OUR PERSECUTORS. "Curse not." The temptation to revengeful retaliation is not easy to be resisted by even the most docile. We "must be manly," and when annoyed by persecution we are extremely liable to regard manliness as the synonym of pugnacity. To turn again upon a formidable foe requires courage, but that may be moral cowardice. Much of the courage that is crowned with honours is mere animalism. To refrain from injuring one who has injured us is the highest type of manliness. To persecute persecutors —

1. Wilt-do you no good. Is revenge sweet? Yes; if the triumph of devils over a soul taken captive is sweet.

2. Will do you harm. It will only inflame those passions which Christ came to stamp out.

3. Will injure your persecutors. It will only incense them in their persecuting work.

II. HOW WE SHOULD ALWAYS TREAT OUR PERSECUTORS. "Bless them that persecute you." The word is twice used. All our treatment of persecutors must be in harmony with it. God, Christ, the Spirit, and the angels are saying to you, "Bless your persccutors!" But how?

1. With your pity, i.e., the pity which can weep over the erring ones (Luke 19:41). All who are antagonistic to Christianity need, if they do not deserve, it.

2. With your patience. They may see their folly by and by, and repent of it. Christ had patience with Saul, the champion of persecutors. And since the "chief of sinners" was converted, do not despair of any.

3. With your prayers (Matthew 5:44). In proportion as we can pray for God to bless our bitterest enemies are we Christlike (Acts 7:60).

4. With your pardon. There is no force in the universe so mighty and God-like as that of forgiving love.

5. If need be, with the blessings of your purse (ver. 20). No persecutor can stand that long (1 Peter 3:9). "It is hard," you say. Yes; but, like every other difficult thing, it becomes easy by practice and perseverance. The lesson is only to be learnt at the Cross.

(E.D. Solomon.)

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