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arise it would be dangerous to answer the fool according to his folly; but how safe in such a time to grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Thus that which would apparently alarm the soul only tends to its establishment in the sure grace of God: “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen."
Jude speaks of very evil days, denial of the Lordship of Jesus, connected with the disowning of all constituted authority, and the “ turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness.” The power of safety and of recovery is found in earnest contention for the faith once delivered to the Saints, and in building up ourselves on our most holy faith. There can be no enlargement of our creed to meet the
progress of the human mind, no human aids to attain a sanctity which results from faith alone, "our most holy faith.”
As ministers of Christ we shall best serve our generation by “preaching the word.” The Gospel survives, in its blessed simplicity, all the revolutions of empires, and all the errors and controversies of Christians, and still asserts its majesty as the only power which can effectually meet the need of man. It sternly rejects the proffered aid of human advancement. The spirit of the age would “heap teachers to itself according to its own lusts," and seek to give the tone to the Gospel, instead of receiving its impression from it. The Second Epistle of Paul to Timothy looks forward to the full-blown evil of the last perilous days. He describes his Apostleship accordingly: “ Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of eternal life which is in Christ Jesus." Eternal life was
' no where else to be found. In the earlier days of his ministry he had made this profession to the Christians at Rome: “ I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth"; and now that he is a prisoner at Rome for
the Gospel's sake, as if to appearance his labour had been in vain, he writes to Timothy: “Be not thou there- . fore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.” The gospel which was the power of God unto salvation to every one that believed in the name of Jesus, brought with it also to those who believed the power to endure. Some, indeed, thought its cause hopeless, others content to know their own personal security, shrunk from the open confession of Christ, because of the cross it involved, and turned their backs on the zealous Apostle of the Gentiles as if his mission had failed: not so Onesiphorus. Of him says the Apostle," he was not ashamed of my chain, but when he was in Rome he sought me out diligently and found me.” If men think the gospel antiquated, and not adapted to the progress of civilisation, ministers of Christ will serve their generation by not being ashamed of the testimony of the Lord. Man has need of the gospel as an instrument for his own advancement; and by this means it has lost its real character, and just in proportion as it has by this abuse elevated the world, it has degraded the church. But the gospel, as the instrument of God, is his "power unto salvation”: it is "the word of truth;" it has to do with realities. It maintains the unsurrendered holiness of God, and regards man in his truthful position of sin and helplessness; and then, through the proclamation of the cross, it adjusts the claims of God, and relieves the conscience of the sinner from the guilt of sin, and brings the sinner into peace and nearness with God. This is the truth. The shame may be greater now to "preach the word,” because man has made such progress; and it is a strong temptation for ministers of Christ to meet the craving of the age for novelty, talent and learning; but God sets his way in direct contrast with the way
of man—“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.”
The Apostle John speaks to believers generally as to the last days and many Antichrists, and we shall serve our generation by giving heed to his word: “Let that
therefore abide in you which ye have heard from the beginning; if that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son and in the Father: and this is the promise which he hath promised us, even eternal life.” *Christian progress essentially differs from the progress of the world, the leading of the Spirit of God from that of the spirit of the age. As the world runs its coursè, luxuries are turned into necessaries, new wants are created, and inventions multiplied to satisfy them. The spirit of the age so eminently utilitarian, turns science itself to the account of profit and comfort. It is truly said that you cannot arrest progress; success emboldens enterprise, and nothing seems to be withholden from the daring genius
What a contrast to this is Christian progress: " The father in Christ knows Him that is from the beginning.” He centralises everything in one object, even in Christ. The Spirit of God glorifies Christ; and taking of his things and showing them to the soul of the believer satisfies him, “ All my springs are in thee." The world leaves the established Christian to himself as one behind the age; but he is in reality before it, having his soul occupied, not with the result of human progress, but with the certain accomplishment of the divine counsel: “ All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world, and the world passeth away and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” The Christian will best serve his own generation by maintaining his own proper ground, and asserting the blessedness of the knowledge of Christ at the very moment when man is magnifying himself. It is well, indeed, to be able truthfully to say of Christ, He is “all my salvation"; but how blessed to add, He is “all my desire,” and this too in the face of all appearances, * although he maketh not to grow.”
PSALM XXXII. 8, 9. I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto tuee,
1 Corinthians xü.
THE connexion in which love is introduced in the thirteenth chapter of Corinthians, must, I suppose, have struck most who study God's word. It bears the same impress of power and of suitability which ever characterises His word. May we, therefore, led by the Spirit, the inditer, dwell upon it for a little.
The cause of all the mischief in the Corinthian Church was a remarkable one-one which testifies surely of the great goodness of God. It was the abundant grace and goodness of God acting upon unsubdued flesh. The testi mony of Christ was confirmed among them (i.6): they were in every thing enriched by (or, perhaps, in, as it is in the fourth verse) Him, in all utterance and all knowledge. But though there was much gift, grace was not in the same proportion. The seed had been cast abroad richly, but the earth had not been deeply ploughed up; consequently, it much mixed its own productions with the gift of God. The testimony which had been brought among them was estimated by some external characteristic, rather than as the testimony of God, as with the happy Thessalonians (1 Thess. ii. 13). And consequently, one was for Paul, another for Apollos, and another for Christ, shewing that in a sectarian, independent spirit we may stand even for Christ, or apparently for him.
Their moral standing too, shewed that there was not much depth of earth. In chap. iv. “they were full, they were rich, they reigned as kings” without the more faithful saints; they found themselves comparatively at ease in the world, a state which rendered them an easy prey to a doctrine which, in chap. xv., assured them that there is no resurrection of the dead; a doctrine which could not so readily suit one who had to say, “I die
daily.” Even when terrible evil came in, it did not disturb the light complacency of the flesh. Chap. v. " they were puffed up, and did not rather mourn, that he which had done the deed might be taken away from among them." The same lightness of work, too, made them bad judges about Christian liberty; for Christian liberty does not consider so much what we may do, as what will be for the glory of God, and the welfare of the brethren.
The same state of mind made them also but badly prepared for the use of the spiritual gifts which were so richly amongst them. Chap. xiv. 26. "every one of them had a psalm, had a doctrine, had a revelation,” etc., a thing which he does not check, but regulates : therefore he says, “ Let all things be done unto edifying." It is only in the Spirit that we can handle rightly the things of the Spirit.
It is, therefore, to meet this state of things that the Apostle introduces this digression in the midst of his discussion about gifts; for without it, gifts—I might say, even graces—would just split up the Church of God. He proposes it as the tempered mortar. “Though I speak," he says, “ with the tongues of men, and of angels
, and have not love, I am a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” It is that which gives fulness to the sound, like the High Priest's bells of old, the bells of the sanctuary. " And though I have prophecy, and know all mysteries, and all knowledge [a thing by the way which pretty clearly defines the gift of prophecy, so often mentioned in the New Testament], and though there be all power, too, so as to remove mountains;">
yea, though apparent grace and devotedness comes in, so that we either crumble our property into bits (see Greek) to bestow it on the poor, or give even our body to be burned, and yet have not love, we are profited nothing. What a declaration at the hands of God, that nothing external-power, devotedness, whatsoever it be-is of value before God without that love which makes it of savour to Him, and of real refreshment to others. " Love,” he says, “ beareth long, and is kind. Love envieth not: love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up;