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Expositions of Holy Scripture - Second Corinthians, Galatians, and Philippians Chapter I to End. Colossians, Thessalonians, and First Timothy
by Alexander Maclaren
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Lift up your eyes and behold who made all these; the countless host of the nightly stars. What are nebulae to our eyes are blazing suns to His. 'He telleth the number of the stars; He calleth them all by name by the greatness of His power, for that He is strong in might not one faileth.' So we may nestle in the protection of His hand, sure of a separate place in His knowledge and His heart.

Deliverance and security are the results of that individualising care. In one of the Old Testament instances of the use of this metaphor, we read that in the great day of calamity and sorrow 'Thy people shall be delivered, even every one that is written in Thy Book.' So we need not dread anything if our names are there. The sleepless King will read the Book, and will never forget, nor forget to help and succour His poor servants.

But there are two other variations of this thought in the Old Testament even more tenderly suggestive of that individualising care and strong sufficient love than the emblem of my text. We read that when, in the exercise of his official functions, the high priest passed into the Tabernacle he wore, upon his breast, near the seat of personality, and the home of love—the names of the tribes graven, and that the same names were written on his shoulders, as if guiding the exercise of his power. So we may think of ourselves as lying near the beatings of His heart, and as individually the objects of the work of His almighty arm. Nor is this all. For there is yet another, and still tenderer, application of the figure, when we read of the Divine voice as saying to Israel, 'I have graven thee on the palms of My hands.' The name of each who loves and trusts and serves is written there; printed deep in the flesh of the Sovereign Christ. We bear in our bodies the marks, the stigmata that tell whose slaves we are—'the marks of the Lord Jesus.' And He bears in His body the marks that tell who His servants are.

IV. Lastly, there is suggested by this text the idea of future entrance into the land of the living.

The metaphor occurs three times in the final book of Scripture, the book which deals with the future and with the last things. And it occurs in all these instances in very remarkable connection. First we read, in the highly imaginative picture of the final judgment, that when the thrones are set two books are opened, one the Book of Life, the other the book in which are written the deeds of men, and that by these two books men are judged. There is a judgment by conduct. There is also a judgment by the Book of Life. That is to say, the question at last comes to be, 'Is this man's name written in that book?' Is he a citizen of the kingdom, and therefore capable of entering into it? Has he the life from Christ in his heart? Or, in other words, the question is, first, has the man who stands at the bar faith in Jesus Christ; and, second, has he proved that his faith is genuine and real by the course of his earthly conduct? These are the books from which the judgment is made.

Further, we read, in that blessed vision which stands at the far-off end of all the knowledge of the future which is given to humanity, the vision of the City of God 'that came down from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband,' that only they enter in there who are 'written in the Lamb's Book of Life.' Only citizens are capable of entrance into the city. Aliens are necessarily shut out. The Lord, when He writeth up His people, shall count that this man was born there, though he never trod its streets while on earth, and, therefore, can enter into his native home.

Further, in one of the letters to the seven churches our Lord gives as a promise to him that overcometh, 'I will not blot his name out of the Book of Life, but I will confess his name.'

What need we care what other people may think about us, or whether the 'hollow wraith of dying fame' that comes like a nimbus round some men may fade wholly or no, so long as we may be sure of acknowledgment and praise from Him from whom acknowledgment and praise are precious indeed.

I have but one or two more words to add. Remember that Paul had no hesitation in taking upon himself to declare that the names of these anonymous saints in Philippi were written in the Book of Life. What business had he to do that? Had he looked over the pages, and marked the entries? He had simply the right of estimating their state by their conduct. He saw their works; he knew that these works were the fruit of their faith; and he knew that, therefore, their faith had united them to Jesus Christ. So, Christian men and women, two things: show your faith by your works, and make it impossible for anybody that looks at you to doubt what King you serve, and to what city you belong. Again, do not ask, 'Is my name there?' Ask, 'Have I faith, and does my faith work the works that belong to the Kingdom of Heaven?'

Remember that names can be blotted out of the book. The metaphor has often been pressed into the service of a doctrine of unconditional and irreversible predestination. But rightly looked at, it points in the opposite direction. Remember Moses's agonised cry, 'Blot me out of Thy book'; and the Divine answer, 'Him that sinneth against Me, his name will I blot out of My book.' And remember that it is only to 'him that overcometh' that the promise is made, 'I will not blot him out.' We are made partakers of Christ if we 'hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end.'

Remember that it depends upon ourselves whether our names are there or not. John Bunyan describes the armed man who came up to the table, where the man with the book and the inkhorn was seated, and said: 'Set down my name.' And you and I may do that. If we cast ourselves on Jesus Christ and yield our wills to be guided by Him, and give our lives for His service, then He will write our names in His book. If we trust Him we shall be citizens of the City of God; shall be filled with the life of Christ; shall be objects of an individualising love and care; shall be accepted in that Day; and shall enter in through the gates into the city. 'They that forsake me shall be written on the earth'; and there wiped out as are the children's scribbles on the sand when the ocean come up. They that trust in Jesus Christ shall have their names written in the Book of Life; graven on the High Priest's breastplate, and inscribed on His mighty hand and His faithful heart.



REJOICE EVERMORE

'Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, rejoice!'—PHIL. iv. 4.

It has been well said that this whole epistle may be summed up in two short sentences: 'I rejoice'; 'Rejoice ye!' The word and the thing crop up in every chapter, like some hidden brook, ever and anon sparkling out into the sunshine from beneath the shadows. This continual refrain of gladness is all the more remarkable if we remember the Apostle's circumstances. The letter shows him to us as a prisoner, dependent on Christian charity for a living, having no man like-minded to cheer his solitude; uncertain as to 'how it shall be with me,' and obliged to contemplate the possibility of being 'offered,' or poured out as a libation, 'on the sacrifice and service of your faith.' Yet out of all the darkness his clear notes ring jubilant; and this sunny epistle comes from the pen of a prisoner who did not know but that to-morrow he might be a martyr.

The exhortation of my text, with its urgent reiteration, picks up again a dropped thread which the Apostle had first introduced in the commencement of the previous chapter. He had there evidently been intending to close his letter, for he says: 'Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord'; but he is drawn away into that precious personal digression which we could so ill spare, in which he speaks of his continual aspiration and effort towards things not yet attained. And now he comes back again, picks up the thread once more, and addresses himself to his parting counsels. The reiteration in the text becomes the more impressive if we remember that it is a repetition of a former injunction. 'Rejoice in the Lord alway'; and then he seems to hear one of his Philippian readers saying: 'Why! you told us that once before!' 'Yes,' he says, 'and you shall hear it once again; so important is my commandment that it shall be repeated a third time. So I again say, "rejoice!"' Christian gladness is an important element in Christian duty; and the difficulty and necessity of it are indicated by the urgent repetition of the injunction.

I. So, then, the first thought that suggests itself to me from these words is this, that close union with Jesus Christ is the foundation of real gladness.

Pray note that 'the Lord' here, as is usually the case in Paul's Epistles, means, not the Divine Father, but Jesus Christ. And then observe, again, that the phrase 'Rejoice in the Lord' has a deeper meaning than we sometimes attach to it. We are accustomed to speak of rejoicing in a thing or a person, which, or who, is thereby represented as being the occasion or the object of our gladness. And though that is true, in reference to our Lord, it is not the whole sweep and depth of the Apostle's meaning here. He is employing that phrase, 'in the Lord,' in the profound and comprehensive sense in which it generally appears in his letters, and especially in those almost contemporaneous with this Epistle to the Philippians. I need only refer you, in passing, without quoting passages, to the continual use of that phrase in the nearly contemporaneous letter to the Ephesians, in which you will find that 'in Christ Jesus' is the signature stamped upon all the gifts of God, and upon all the possible blessings of the Christian life. 'In Him' we have the inheritance; in Him we obtain redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins; in Him we are 'blessed with all spiritual blessings.' And the deepest description of the essential characteristic of a Christian life is, to Paul, that it is a life in Christ.

It is this close union which the Apostle here indicates as being the foundation and the source of all that gladness which he desires to see spreading its light over the Christian life. 'Rejoice in the Lord'—being in Him be glad.

Now that great thought has two aspects, one deep and mysterious, one very plain and practical. As to the former, I need not spend much time upon it. We believe, I suppose, in the superhuman character and nature of Jesus Christ. We believe in His divinity. We can therefore believe reasonably in the possibility of a union between Him and us, transcending all the forms of human association, and being really like that which the creature holds to its Creator in regard to its physical being. 'In him we live, and move, and have our being' is the very foundation truth in regard to the constitution of the universe. 'In Him we live, and move, and have our being' is the very foundation truth in regard to the relation of the Christian soul to Jesus Christ. All earthly unions are but poor adumbrations from afar of that deep, transcendent, mysterious, but most real union, by which the Christian soul is in Christ, as the branch is in the vine, the member in the body, the planet in its atmosphere, and by which Christ is in the Christian soul as the life sap is in every twig, as the mysterious vital power is in every member. Thus abiding in Him, in a manner which admits of no parallel nor of any doubt, we may, and we shall, be glad.

But then, passing from the mysterious, we come to the plain. To be 'in Christ' which is commended to us here as the basis of all true blessedness, means that the whole of our nature shall be occupied with, and fastened upon, Him; thought turning to Him, the tendrils of the heart clinging and creeping around Him, the will submitting itself in glad obedience to His beloved and supreme commandments, the aspirations, and desires feeling out after Him as the sufficient and eternal good, and all the current of our being setting towards Him in earnestness of desire, and resting in Him in tranquillity of possession. Thus 'in Christ' we may all be.

And, says Paul, in the great words of my text, such a union, reciprocal and close, is the secret of all blessedness. If thus we are wedded to that Lord, and His life is in us and ours enclosed in Him, then there is such correspondence between our necessities and our supplies as that there is no room for aching emptiness; no gnawing of unsatisfied longings, but the blessedness that comes from having found that which we seek, and in the finding being stimulated to a still closer, happier, and not restless search after fuller possession. The man that knows where to get anything and everything that he needs, and to whom desires are but the prophets of instantaneous fruition; surely that man has in his possession the talismanic secret of perpetual gladness. They who thus dwell in Christ by faith, love, obedience, imitation, aspiration, and enjoyment, are like men housed in some strong fortress, who can look out over all the fields alive with enemies, and feel that they are safe. They who thus dwell in Christ gain command over themselves; and because they can bridle passions, and subdue hot and impossible desires, and keep themselves well in hand, have stanched one chief source of unrest and sadness, and have opened one pure and sparkling fountain of unfailing gladness. To rule myself because Christ rules me is no small part of the secret of blessedness. And they who thus dwell in Christ have the purest joy, the joy of self-forgetfulness. He that is absorbed in a great cause; he whose pitiful, personal individuality has passed out of his sight; he who is swallowed up by devotion to another, by aspiration after 'something afar from the sphere of our sorrow,' has found the secret of gladness. And the man who thus can say, 'I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,' this is the man who will ever rejoice. The world may not call such a temper gladness. It is as unlike the sputtering, flaring, foul-smelling joys which it prizes—like those filthy but bright 'Lucigens' that they do night work by in great factories—it is as unlike the joy of the world as these are to the calm, pure moonlight which they insult. The one is of heaven, and the other is the foul product of earth, and smokes to extinction swiftly.

II. So, secondly, notice that this joy is capable of being continuous.

'Rejoice in the Lord always,' says Paul. That is a hard nut to crack. I can fancy a man saying, 'What is the use of giving me such exhortations as this? My gladness is largely a matter of temperament, and I cannot rule my moods. My gladness is largely a matter of circumstances, and I do not determine these. How vain it is to tell me, when my heart is bleeding, or beating like a sledge-hammer, to be glad!' Yes! Temperament has a great deal to do with joy; and circumstances have a great deal to do with it; but is not the mission of the Gospel to make us masters of temperament, and independent of circumstances? Is not the possibility of living a life that has no dependence upon externals, and that may persist permanently through all varieties of mood, the very gift that Christ Himself has come to bestow upon us—bringing us into communion with Himself, and so making us lords of our own inward nature and of externals: so that 'though the fig-tree shall not blossom, and there be no fruit in the vine,' yet we may 'rejoice in the Lord, and be glad in the God of our salvation.' If a ship has plenty of water in its casks or tanks in its hold, it does not matter whether it is sailing through fresh water or salt. And if you and I have that union with Jesus Christ of which my text speaks, then we shall be, not wholly, but with indefinite increase of approximation towards the ideal, independent of circumstances and masters of our temperaments. And so it is possible, if not absolutely to reach this fair achievement of an unbroken continuity of gladness, at least to bring the lucent points so close to one another as that the intervals of darkness between shall be scarcely visible, and the whole will seem to form one continuous ring of light.

Brother, if you and I can keep near Jesus Christ always—and I suppose we can do that in sorrow as in joy—He will take care that our keeping near Him will not want its reward in that blessed continuity of felt repose which is very near the sunniness of gladness. For, if we in the Lord sorrow, we may, then, simultaneously, in the Lord rejoice. The two things may go together, if in the one mood and the other we are in union with Him. The bitterness of the bitterest calamity is taken away from it when it does not separate us from Jesus Christ. And just as the mother is specially tender with her sick child, and just as we have often found that the sympathy of friends comes to us, when need and grief are upon us, in a fashion that would have been incredible beforehand, so it is surely true that Jesus Christ can, and does, soften His tone, and select the tokens of His presence with especial tenderness for a wounded heart; so as that sorrow in the Lord passes into joy in the Lord. And if that be so, then the pillar which was cloud in the sunshine brightens into fire as night falls on the desert.

But it is not only that this divine gladness is consistent with the sorrow that is often necessary for us, but also that the continuity of such gladness is secured, because in Christ there are open for us sources of blessedness in what is else a dry and thirsty land. If you would take this epistle at your leisure, and run over it in order to note the various occasions of joy which the Apostle expresses for himself, and commends to his brethren, you would see how beautifully they reveal to us the power of communion with Jesus Christ, to find honey in the rock, good in everything, and a reason for thankful gladness in all events.

I have not time, at this stage of my sermon, to do more than just glance at these. We find, for instance, that a very large portion of the joy which he declares fills his own heart, and which he commends to these Philippians, arises from the recognition of good in others. He speaks to them of being his 'joy and crown.' He tells them that in his sorrows and imprisonment, their 'fellowship in the Gospel, from the first day until now,' had brought a whiff of gladness into the close air of the prison cell. He begs them to be Christlike in order that they may 'fulfil his joy'; and he may lose himself in others' blessings, and therein find gladness. A large portion of his joy came from very common things. A large portion of the joy that he commends to them he contemplates as coming to them from small matters. They were to be glad because Timothy came with a message from the Apostle. He is glad because he hears of their well-being, and receives a little contribution from them for his daily necessities. A large portion of his gladness came from the spread of Christ's kingdom. 'Christ is preached,' says he, with a flash of triumph, 'and I therein do rejoice; yea, and will rejoice.' And, most beautiful of all, no small portion of his gladness came from the prospect of martyrdom. 'If I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all; and do ye joy and rejoice with me.'

Now, put all these things together and they just come to this, that a heart in union with Jesus Christ can find streams in the desert, joys blossoming as the rose, in places that to the un-Christlike eye are wilderness and solitary, and out of common things it can bring the purest gladness and draw a tribute and revenue of blessedness even from the prospect of God-sent sorrows. Dear brethren, if you and I have not learned the secret of modest and unselfish delights, we shall vainly seek for joy in the vulgar excitements and coarse titillations of appetites and desires which the world offers. 'Calm pleasures there abide' in Christ. The northern lights are weird and bright, but they belong to midwinter, and they come from electric disturbances, and portend rough weather afterwards. Sunshine is silent, steadfast, pure. Better to walk in that light than to be led astray by fantastic and perishable splendours. 'Rejoice in the Lord always.'

III. Lastly, such gladness is an important part of Christian duty.

As I have said, the urgency of the command indicates both its importance and its difficulty. It is important that professing Christians should be glad Christians (with the joy that is drawn from Jesus Christ, of course, I mean), because they thereby become walking advertisements and living witnesses for Him. A gloomy, melancholy, professing Christian is a poor recommendation of his faith. If you want to 'adorn the doctrine of Christ' you will do it a great deal more by a bright face, that speaks of a calm heart, calm because filled with Christ, than by many more ambitious efforts. This gladness is important because, without it, there will be little good work done, and little progress made. It is important, surely, for ourselves, for it can be no small matter that we should be able to have travelling with us all through the desert that mystical rock which follows with its streams of water, and ever provides for us the joys that we need. In every aspect, whether as regards men who take their notions of Christ and of Christianity, a great deal more from the concrete examples of both in human lives than from books and sermons, or from the Bible itself—or as regards the work which we have to do, or as regards our own inward life, it is all-important that we should have that close union with Jesus Christ which cannot but result in pure and holy gladness.

But the difficulty, as well as the importance, of the obligation, are expressed by the stringent repetition of the commandment, 'And again I say, Rejoice.' When objections arise, when difficulties present themselves, I repeat the commandment again, in the teeth of them all; and I know what I mean when I am saying it. Thus, thought Paul, we need to make a definite effort to keep ourselves in touch with Jesus Christ, or else gladness, and a great deal besides, will fade away from our grasp.

And there are two things that you have to do if you would obey the commandment. The one is the direct effort at fostering and making continuous your fellowship with Jesus Christ, through your life; and the other is looking out for the bright bits in your life, and making sure that you do not sullenly and foolishly, perhaps with vain regrets after vanished blessings, or perhaps with vain murmurings about unattained good, obscure to your sight the mercies that you have, and so cheat yourselves of the occasions for thankfulness and joy. There are people who, if there be ever such a little bit of a fleecy film of cloud low down on their horizon, can see nothing of the sparkling blue arch above them for looking at that, and who behave as if the whole sky was one roof of doleful grey. Do not you do that! There is always enough to be thankful for. Lay hold of Christ, and be sure that you open your eyes to His gifts.

Surely, dear friends, if there be offered to us, as there is, a gladness which is perfect in the two points in which all other gladness fails, it is wise for us to take it. The commonplace which all men believe, and most men neglect, is that nothing short of an infinite Person can fill a finite soul. And if we look for our joys anywhere but to Jesus Christ, there will always be some bit of our nature which, like the sulky elder brother in the parable, will scowl at the music and dancing, and refuse to come in. All earthly joys are transient as well as partial. Is it not better that we should have gladness that will last as long as we do, that we can hold in our dying hands, like a flower clasped in some cold palm laid in the coffin, that we shall find again when we have crossed the bar, that will grow and brighten and broaden for evermore? My joy shall remain . . . full.



HOW TO OBEY AN IMPOSSIBLE INJUNCTION

'Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.'—PHIL. iv. 6.

It is easy for prosperous people, who have nothing to trouble them, to give good advices to suffering hearts; and these are generally as futile as they are easy. But who was he who here said to the Church at Philippi, 'Be careful for nothing?' A prisoner in a Roman prison; and when Rome fixed its claws it did not usually let go without drawing blood. He was expecting his trial, which might, so far as he knew, very probably end in death. Everything in the future was entirely dark and uncertain. It was this man, with all the pressure of personal sorrows weighing upon him, who, in the very crisis of his life, turned to his brethren in Philippi, who had far fewer causes of anxiety than he had, and cheerfully bade them 'be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make their requests known unto God.' Had not that bird learned to sing when his cage was darkened? And do you not think that advice of that sort, coming not from some one perched up on a safe hillock to the strugglers in the field below, but from a man in the thick of the fight, would be like a trumpet-call to them who heard it?

Now, here are two things. There is an apparently perfectly impossible advice, and there is the only course that will make it possible.

I. An apparently impossible advice.

'Be careful for nothing.' I do not need to remind you—for I suppose that we all know it—that that word 'careful,' in a great many places in the New Testament, does not mean what, by the slow progress of change in the significance of words, it has come to mean to-day; but it means what it should still mean, 'full of care,' and 'care' meant, not prudent provision, forethought, the occupation of a man's common-sense with his duty and his work and his circumstances, but it meant the thing which of all others unfits a man most for such prudent provision, and that is, the nervous irritation of a gnawing anxiety which, as the word in the original means, tears the heart apart and makes a man quite incapable of doing the wise thing, or seeing the wise thing to do, in the circumstances. We all know that; so that I do not need to dwell upon it. 'Careful' here means neither more nor less than 'anxious.'

But I may just remind you how harm has been done, and good has been lost and missed, by people reading that modern meaning into the word. It is the same word which Christ employed in the exhortation 'Take no thought for to-morrow.' It is a great pity that Christian people sometimes get it into their heads that Christ prohibited what common-sense demands, and what everybody practises. 'Taking thought for the morrow' is not only our duty, but it is one of the distinctions which make us 'much better than' the fowls of the air, that have no barns in which to store against a day of need. But when our Lord said, 'Take no thought for the morrow,' he did not mean 'Do not lay yourselves out to provide for common necessities and duties,' but 'Do not fling yourselves into a fever of anxiety, nor be too anxious to anticipate the "fashion of uncertain evils."'

But even with that explanation, is it not like an unreachable ideal that Paul puts forward here? 'Be anxious about nothing'—how can a man who has to face the possibilities that we all have to face, and who knows himself to be as weak to deal with them as we all are: how can he help being anxious? There is no more complete waste of breath than those sage and reverend advices which people give us, not to do the things, nor to feel the emotions, which our position make absolutely inevitable and almost involuntary. Here, for instance, is a man surrounded by all manner of calamity and misfortune; and some well-meaning but foolish friend comes to him, and, without giving him a single reason for the advice, says, 'Cheer up! my friend.' Why should he cheer up? What is there in his circumstances to induce him to fall into any other mood? Or some unquestionable peril is staring him full in the face, coming nearer and nearer to him, and some well-meaning, loose-tongued friend, says to him, 'Do not be afraid!'—but he ought to be afraid. That is about all that worldly wisdom and morality have to say to us, when we are in trouble and anxiety. 'Shut your eyes very hard, and make believe very much, and you will not fear.' An impossible exhortation! Just as well bid a ship in the Bay of Biscay not to rise and fall upon the wave, but to keep an even keel. Just as well tell the willows in the river-bed that they are not to bend when the wind blows, as come to me, and say to me, 'Be careful about nothing.' Unless you have a great deal more than that to say, I must be, and I ought to be, anxious, about a great many things. Instead of anxiety being folly, it will be wisdom; and the folly will consist in not opening our eyes to facts, and in not feeling emotions that are appropriate to the facts which force themselves against our eyeballs. Threadbare maxims, stale, musty old commonplaces of unavailing consolation and impotent encouragement say to us, 'Do not be anxious.' We try to stiffen our nerves and muscles in order to bear the blow; or some of us, more basely still, get into a habit of feather-headed levity, making no forecasts, nor seeing even what is plainest before our eyes. But all that is of no use when once the hot pincers of real trouble, impending or arrived, lay hold of our hearts. Then of all idle expenditures of breath in the world there is none to the wrung heart more idle and more painful than the one that says, Be anxious about nothing.

II. So we turn to the only course that makes the apparent impossibility possible.

Paul goes on to direct to the mode of feeling and action which will give exemption from the else inevitable gnawing of anxious forethought. He introduces his positive counsel with an eloquent 'But,' which implies that what follows is the sure preservative against the temper which he deprecates; 'But in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.'

There are, then, these alternatives. If you do not like to take the one, you are sure to have to take the other. There is only one way out of the wood, and it is this which Paul expands in these last words of my text. If a man does not pray about everything, he will be worried about most things. If he does pray about everything, he will not be troubled beyond what is good for him, about anything. So there are these alternatives; and we have to make up our minds which of the two we are going to take. The heart is never empty. If not full of God, it will be full of the world, and of worldly care. Luther says somewhere that a man's heart is like a couple of millstones; if you don't put something between them to grind, they will grind each other. It is because God is not in our hearts that the two stones rub the surface off one another. So the victorious antagonist of anxiety is trust, and the only way to turn gnawing care out of my heart and life is to usher God into it, and to keep him resolutely in it.

'In everything.' If a thing is great enough to threaten to make me anxious, it is great enough for me to talk to God about. If He and I are on a friendly footing, the instinct of friendship will make me speak. If so, how irrelevant and superficial seem to be discussions whether we ought to pray about worldly things, or confine our prayers entirely to spiritual and religious matters. Why! if God and I are on terms of friendship and intimacy of communication, there will be no question as to what I am to talk about to Him; I shall not be able to keep silent as to anything that interests me. And we are not right with God unless we have come to the point that entire openness of speech marks our communications with Him, and that, as naturally as men, when they come home from business, like to tell their wives and children what has happened to them since they left home in the morning, so naturally we talk to our Friend about everything that concerns us. 'In everything let your requests be made known unto God.' That is the wise course, because a multitude of little pimples may be quite as painful and dangerous as a large ulcer. A cloud of gnats may put as much poison into a man with their many stings as will a snake with its one bite. And if we are not to get help from God by telling Him about little things, there will be very little of our lives that we shall tell Him about at all. For life is a mountain made up of minute flakes. The years are only a collection of seconds. Every man's life is an aggregate of trifles. 'In everything make your requests known.'

'By prayer'—that does not mean, as a superficial experience of religion is apt to suppose it to mean, actual petition that follows. For a great many of us, the only notion that we have of prayer is asking God to give us something that we want. But there is a far higher region of communion than that, in which the soul seeks and finds, and sits and gazes, and aspiring possesses, and possessing aspires. Where there is no spoken petition for anything affecting outward life, there may be the prayer of contemplation such as the burning seraphs before the Throne do ever glow with. The prayer of silent submission, in which the will bows itself before God; the prayer of quiet trust, in which we do not so much seek as cleave; the prayer of still fruition—these, in Paul's conception of the true order, precede 'supplication.' And if we have such union with God, by realising His presence, by aspiration after Himself, by trusting Him and submission to Him, then we have the victorious antagonist of all our anxieties, and the 'cares that infest the day shall fold their tents' and 'silently steal away.' For if a man has that union with God which is effected by such prayer as I have been speaking about, it gives him a fixed point on which to rest amidst all perturbations. It is like bringing a light into a chamber when thunder is growling outside, which prevents the flashing of the lightning from being seen.

Years ago an ingenious inventor tried to build a vessel in such a fashion as that the saloon for passengers should remain upon one level, howsoever the hull might be tossed by waves. It was a failure, if I remember rightly. But if we are thus joined to God, He will do for our inmost hearts what the inventor tried to do with the chamber within his ship. The hull may be buffeted, but the inmost chamber where the true self sits will be kept level and unmoved. Brethren! prayer in the highest sense, by which I mean the exercise of aspiration, trust, submission—prayer will fight against and overcome all anxieties.

'By prayer and supplication.' Actual petition for the supply of present wants is meant by 'supplication.' To ask for that supply will very often be to get it. To tell God what I think I need goes a long way always to bringing me the gift that I do need. If I have an anxiety which I am ashamed to speak to Him, that silence is a sign that I ought not to have it; and if I have a desire that I do not feel I can put into a prayer, that feeling is a warning to me not to cherish such a desire.

There are many vague and oppressive anxieties that come and cast a shadow over our hearts, that if we could once define, and put into plain words, we should find that we vaguely fancied them a great deal larger than they were, and that the shadow they flung was immensely longer than the thing that flung it. Put your anxieties into definite speech. It will reduce their proportions to your own apprehension very often. Speaking them, even to a man who may be able to do little to help, eases them wonderfully. Put them into definite speech to God; and there are very few of them that will survive.

'By prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.' That thanksgiving is always in place. If one only considers what he has from God, and realises that whatever he has he has received from the hands of divine love, thanksgiving is appropriate in any circumstances. Do you remember when Paul was in gaol at the very city to which this letter went, with his back bloody with the rod, and his feet fast in the stocks, how then he and Silas 'prayed and sang praises to God.' Therefore the obedient earthquake came and set them loose. Perhaps it was some reminiscence of that night which moved him to say to the Church that knew the story—of which perhaps the gaoler was still a member—'By prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make your requests known unto God.'

One aching nerve can monopolise our attention and make us unconscious of the health of all the rest of the body. So, a single sorrow or loss obscures many mercies. We are like men who live in a narrow alley in some city, with great buildings on either side, towering high above their heads, and only a strip of sky visible. If we see up in that strip a cloud, we complain and behave as if the whole heavens, right away round the three hundred and sixty degrees of the horizon, were black with tempest. But we see only a little strip, and there is a great deal of blue in the sky; however, there may be a cloud in the patch that we see above our heads, from the alley where we live. Everything, rightly understood, that God sends to men is a cause of thanksgiving; therefore, 'in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.'

'Casting all your anxieties upon him,' says Peter, 'for He'—not is anxious; that dark cloud does not rise much above the earth—but, 'He careth for you.' And that loving guardianship and tender care is the one shield, armed with which we can smile at the poisoned darts of anxiety which would else fester in our hearts and, perhaps, kill. 'Be careful for nothing'—an impossibility unless 'in everything' we make 'our requests known unto God.'



THE WARRIOR PEACE

'The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.'—PHIL. iv. 7.

The great Mosque of Constantinople was once a Christian church, dedicated to the Holy Wisdom. Over its western portal may still be read, graven on a brazen plate, the words, 'Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.' For four hundred years noisy crowds have fought, and sorrowed, and fretted, beneath the dim inscription in an unknown tongue; and no eye has looked at it, nor any heart responded. It is but too sad a symbol of the reception which Christ's offers meet amongst men, and—blessed be His name!—its prominence there, though unread and unbelieved, is a symbol of the patient forbearance with which rejected blessings are once and again pressed upon us, and He stretches out His hand though no man regards, and calls though none do hear. My text is Christ's offer of peace. The world offers excitement, Christ promises repose.

I. Mark, then, first, this peace of God.

What is it? What are its elements? Whence does it come? It is of God, as being its Source, or Origin, or Author, or Giver, but it belongs to Him in a yet deeper sense, for Himself is Peace. And in some humble but yet real fashion our restless and anxious hearts may partake in the divine tranquillity, and with a calm repose, kindred with that rest from which it is derived, may enter into His rest.

If that be too high a flight, at all events the peace that may be ours was Christ's, in the perfect and unbroken tranquillity of His perfect Manhood. What, then, are its elements? The peace of God must, first of all, be peace with God. Conscious friendship with Him is indispensable to all true tranquillity. Where that is absent there may be the ignoring of the disturbed relationship; but there will be no peace of heart. The indispensable requisite is 'a conscience like a sea at rest.' Unless we have made sure work of our relationship with God, and know that He and we are friends, there is no real repose possible for us. In the whirl of excitement we may forget, and for a time turn away from, the realities of our relation to Him, and so get such gladness as is possible to a life not rooted in conscious friendship with Him. But such lives will be like some of those sunny islands in the Eastern Pacific, extinct volcanoes, where nature smiles and all things are prodigal and life is easy and luxuriant; but some day the clouds gather, and the earth shakes, and fire pours forth, and the sea boils, and every living thing dies, and darkness and desolation come. You are living, brother, upon a volcano's side, unless the roots of your being are fixed in a God who is your friend.

Again, the peace of God is peace within ourselves. The unrest of human life comes largely from our being torn asunder by contending impulses. Conscience pulls this way, passion that. Desire says, 'Do this'; reason, judgment, prudence say, 'It is at your peril if you do!' One desire fights against another, and so the man is rent asunder. There must be the harmonising of all the Being if there is to be real rest of spirit. No longer must it be like the chaos ere the creative word was spoken, where, in gloom, contending elements strove.

Again, men have not peace, because in most of them everything is topmost that ought to be undermost, and everything undermost that ought to be uppermost. 'Beggars are on horseback' (and we know where they ride), 'and princes walking.' The more regal part of the man's nature is suppressed, and trodden under foot; and the servile parts, which ought to be under firm restraint, and guided by a wise hand, are too often supreme, and wild work comes of that. When you put the captain and the officers, and everybody on board that knows anything about navigation, into irons, and fasten down the hatches on them, and let the crew and the cabin boys take the helm and direct the ship, it is not likely that the voyage will end anywhere but on the rocks. Multitudes are living lives of unrestfulness, simply because they have set the lowest parts of their nature upon the throne, and subordinated the highest to these.

Our unrest comes from yet another source. We have not peace, because we have not found and grasped the true objects for any of our faculties. God is the only possession that brings quiet. The heart hungers until it feeds upon Him. The mind is satisfied with no truth until behind truth it finds a Person who is true. The will is enslaved and wretched until in God it recognises legitimate and absolute authority, which it is blessing to obey. Love puts out its yearnings, like the filaments that gossamer spiders send out into the air, seeking in vain for something to fasten upon, until it touches God, and clings there. There is no rest for a man until he rests in God. The reason why this world is so full of excitement is because it is so empty of peace, and the reason why it is so empty of peace is because it is so void of God. The peace of God brings peace with Him, and peace within. It unites our hearts to fear His name, and draws all the else turbulent and confusedly flowing impulses of the great deep of the spirit after itself, in a tidal wave, as the moon draws the waters of the gathered ocean. The peace of God is peace with Him, and peace within.

I need not, I suppose, do more than say one word about that descriptive clause in my text, It 'passeth understanding.' The understanding is not the faculty by which men lay hold of the peace of God any more than you can see a picture with your ears or hear music with your eyes. To everything its own organ; you cannot weigh truth in a tradesman's scales or measure thought with a yard-stick. Love is not the instrument for apprehending Euclid, nor the brain the instrument for grasping these divine and spiritual gifts. The peace of God transcends the understanding, as well as belongs to another order of things than that about which the understanding is concerned. You must experience it to know it; you must have it in order that you may feel its sweetness. It eludes the grasp of the wisest, though it yields itself to the patient and loving heart.

II. So notice, in the next place, what the peace of God does.

It 'shall keep your hearts and minds.' The Apostle here blends together, in a very remarkable manner, the conceptions of peace and of war, for he employs a purely military word to express the office of this Divine peace. That word, 'shall keep,' is the same as is translated in another of his letters kept with a garrison—and, though, perhaps, it might be going too far to insist that the military idea is prominent in his mind, it will certainly not be unsafe to recognise its presence.

So, then, this Divine peace takes upon itself warlike functions, and garrisons the heart and mind. What does he mean by 'the heart and mind'? Not, as the English reader might suppose, two different faculties, the emotional and the intellectual—which is what we usually roughly mean by our distinction between heart and mind—but, as is always the case in the Bible, the 'heart' means the whole inner man, whether considered as thinking, willing, purposing, or doing any other inward act; and the word rendered 'mind' does not mean another part of human nature, but the whole products of the operations of the heart. The Revised Version renders it by 'thoughts,' and that is correct if it be given a wide enough application, so as to include emotions, affections, purposes, as well as 'thoughts' in the narrower sense. The whole inner man, in all the extent of its manifold operations, that indwelling peace of God will garrison and guard.

So note, however profound and real that Divine peace is, it is to be enjoyed in the midst of warfare. Quiet is not quiescence. God's peace is not torpor. The man that has it has still to wage continual conflict, and day by day to brace himself anew for the fight. The highest energy of action is the result of the deepest calm of heart; just as the motion of this solid, and, as we feel it to be, immovable world, is far more rapid through the abysses of space, and on its own axis, than any of the motions of the things on its surface. So the quiet heart, 'which moveth altogether if it move at all,' rests whilst it moves, and moves the more swiftly because of its unbroken repose. That peace of God, which is peace militant, is unbroken amidst all conflicts. The wise old Greeks chose for the protectress of Athens the goddess of Wisdom, and whilst they consecrated to her the olive branch, which is the symbol of peace, they set her image on the Parthenon, helmed and spear-bearing, to defend the peace, which she brought to earth. So this heavenly Virgin, whom the Apostle personifies here, is the 'winged sentry, all skilful in the wars,' who enters into our hearts and fights for us to keep us in unbroken peace.

It is possible day by day to go out to toil and care and anxiety and change and suffering and conflict, and yet to bear within our hearts the unalterable rest of God. Deep in the bosom of the ocean, beneath the region where winds howl and billows break, there is calm, but the calm is not stagnation. Each drop from these fathomless abysses may be raised to the surface by the power of the sunbeams, expanded there by their heat, and sent on some beneficent message across the world. So, deep in our hearts, beneath the storm, beneath the raving winds and the curling waves, there may be a central repose, as unlike stagnation as it is unlike tumult; and the peace of God may, as a warrior, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

What is the plain English of that metaphor? Just this, that a man who has that peace as his conscious possession is lifted above the temptations that otherwise would drag him away. The full cup, filled with precious wine, has no room in it for the poison that otherwise might be poured in. As Jesus Christ has taught us, there is such a thing as cleansing a heart in some measure, and yet because it is 'empty,' though it is 'swept and garnished,' the demons come back again. The best way to be made strong to resist temptation, is to be lifted above feeling it to be a temptation, by reason of the sweetness of the peace possessed. Oh! if our hearts were filled, as they might be filled, with that divine repose, do you think that the vulgar, coarse-tasting baits which make our mouths water now would have any power over us? Will a man who bears in his hands jewels of priceless value, and knows them to be such, find much temptation when some imitation stone, made of coloured glass and a tinfoil backing, is presented to him? Will the world draw us away if we are rooted and grounded in the peace of God? Geologists tell us that climates are changed and creatures are killed by the slow variation of level in the earth. If you and I can only heave our lives up high enough, the foul things that live down below will find the air too pure and keen for them, and will die and disappear; and all the vermin that stung and nestled down in the flats will be gone when we get up to the heights. The peace of God will keep our hearts and thoughts.

III. Now, lastly, notice how we get the peace of God.

My text is an exuberant promise, but it is knit on to something before, by that 'and' at the beginning of the verse. It is a promise, as all God's promises are, on conditions. And here are the conditions. 'Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.' That defines the conditions in part; and the last words of the text itself complete the definition. 'In Christ Jesus' describes, not so much where we are to be kept, as a condition under which we shall be kept. How, then, can I get this peace into my turbulent, changeful life?

I answer, first, trust is peace. It is always so; even when it is misplaced we are at rest. The condition of repose for the human heart is that we shall be 'in Christ,' who has said, 'In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in Me ye shall have peace.' And how may I be 'in Him'? Simply by trusting myself to Him. That brings peace with God.

The sinless Son of God has died on the Cross, a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, for yours and for mine. Let us trust to that, and we shall have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. And 'in Him' we have, by trust, inward peace, for He, through our faith, controls our whole natures, and Faith leads the lion in a silken leash, like Spenser's Una. Trust in Christ brings peace amid outward sorrows and conflicts. When the pilot comes on board the captain does not leave the bridge, but stands by the pilot's side. His responsibility is past, but his duties are not over. And when Christ comes into my heart, my effort, my judgment, are not made unnecessary, or put on one side. Let Him take the command, and stand beside Him, and carry out His orders, and you will find rest to your souls.

Again, submission is peace. What makes our troubles is not outward circumstances, howsoever afflictive they may be, but the resistance of our spirits to the circumstances. And where a man's will bends and says, 'Not mine but Thine be done,' there is calm. Submission is like the lotion that is applied to mosquito bites—it takes away the irritation, though the puncture be left. Submission is peace, both as resignation and as obedience.

Communion is peace. You will get no quiet until you live with God. Until He is at your side you will always be moved.

So, dear friend, fix this in your minds: a life without Christ is a life without peace. Without Him you may have excitement, pleasure, gratified passions, success, accomplished hopes, but peace never! You never have had it, have you? If you live without Him, you may forget that you have not Him, and you can plunge into the world, and so lose the consciousness of the aching void, but it is there all the same. You never will have peace until you go to Him. There is only one way to get it. The Christless heart is like the troubled sea that cannot rest. There is no peace for it. But in Him you can get it for the asking. 'The chastisement of our peace was laid upon Him.' For our sakes He died on the Cross, so making peace. Trust Him as your only hope, Saviour and friend, and the God of peace will 'fill you with all joy and peace in believing.' Then bow your wills to Him in acceptance of His providence, and in obedience to His commands, and so, 'your peace shall be as a river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea.' Then keep your hearts in union and communion with Him, and so His presence will keep you in perfect peace whilst conflicts last, and, with Him at your side, you will pass through the valley of the shadow of death undisturbed, and come to the true Salem, the city of peace, where they beat their swords into ploughshares, and learn and fear war no more.



THINK ON THESE THINGS

' . . . Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.'—PHIL. iv. 8.

I am half afraid that some of you may think, as I have at times thought, that I am too old to preach to the young. You would probably listen with more attention to one less remote from you in years, and may be disposed to discount my advices as quite natural for an old man to give, and quite unnatural for a young man to take. But, dear friends, the message which I have to bring to you is meant for all ages, and for all sorts of people. And, if I may venture a personal word, I proved it, when I stood where you stand, and it is fresher and mightier to me to-day than it ever was.

You are in the plastic period of your lives, with the world before you, and the mightier world within to mould as you will; and you can be almost anything you like, I do not mean in regard to externals, or intellectual capacities, for these are only partially in our control, but in regard to the far more important and real things—viz. elevation and purity of heart and mind. You are in the period of life to which fair dreams of the future are natural. It is, as the prophet tells us, for 'the young man' to 'see visions,' and to ennoble his life thereafter by turning them into realities. Generous and noble ideas ought to belong to youth. But you are also in the period when there is a keen joy in mere living, and when some desires, which get weaker as years go on, are very strong, and may mar youthful purity. So, taking all these into account, I have thought that I could not do better than press home upon you the counsels of this magnificent text, however inadequately my time may permit of my dealing with them; for there are dozens of sermons in it, if one could expand it worthily.

But my purpose is distinctly practical, and so I wish just to cast what I have to say to you into the answer to three questions, the three questions that may be asked about everything. What? Why? How?

I. What, then, is the counsel here?

'Think on these things.' To begin with, that advice implies that we can, and, therefore, that we should, exercise a very rigid control over that part of our lives which a great many of us never think of controlling at all. There are hosts of people whose thoughts are just hooked on to one another by the slightest links of accidental connection, and who scarcely ever have put a strong hand upon them, or coerced them into order, or decided what they are going to let come into their minds, and what to keep out. Circumstances, the necessities of our daily occupations, the duties that we owe to one another, all these make certain streams of thought very necessary, and to some of us very absorbing. And for the rest—well! 'He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls'; anybody can go in, and anybody can come out. I am sure that amongst young men and women there are multitudes who have never realised how responsible they are for the flow of the waves of that great river that is always coming from the depths of their being, and have never asked whether the current is bringing down sand or gold. Exercise control, as becomes you, over the run and drift of your thoughts. I said that many of us had minds like cities broken down. Put a guard at the gate, as they do in some Continental countries, and let in no vagrant that cannot show his passport, and a clear bill of health. Now, that is a lesson that some of you very much want.

But, further, notice that company of fair guests that you may welcome into the hospitalities of your heart and mind. 'Think on these things'—and what are they? It would be absurd of me to try to exhaust the great catalogue which the Apostle gives here, but let me say a word or two about it.

'Whatsoever things are true . . . think on these things.' Let your minds be exercised, breathed, braced, lifted, filled by bringing them into contact with truth, especially with the highest of all truths, the truths affecting God and your relations to Him. Why should you, like so many of us, be living amidst the small things of daily life, the trifles that are here, and never coming into vital contact with the greatest things of all, the truths about God and Christ, and what you have to do with them, and what they have to do with you? 'Whatsoever things are true . . . think on these things.'

'Whatsoever things are honest,' or, as the word more properly and nobly means, 'Whatsoever things are reverent, or venerable'—let grave, serious, solemn thought be familiar to your minds, not frivolities, not mean things. There is an old story in Roman history about the barbarians breaking into the Capitol, and their fury being awed into silence, and struck into immobility, as they saw, round and round in the hall, the august Senators, each in his seat. Let your minds be like that, with reverent thoughts clustering on every side; and when wild passions, and animal desires, and low, mean contemplations dare to cross the threshold, they will be awed into silence and stillness. 'Whatsoever things are august . . . think on these things.'

'Whatsoever things are just'—let the great, solemn thought of duty, obligation, what I ought to be and do, be very familiar to your consideration and meditation. 'Whatsoever things are just . . . think on these things.'

'Whatsoever things are pure'—let white-robed angels haunt the place. Let there be in you a shuddering recoil from all the opposite; and entertain angels not unawares. 'Whatsoever things are pure . . . think on these things.'

Now, these characteristics of thoughts which I have already touched upon all belong to a lofty region, but the Apostle is not contented with speaking austere things. He goes now into a region tinged with emotion, and he says, 'whatsoever things are lovely'; for goodness is beautiful, and, in effect, is the only beautiful. 'Whatsoever things are lovely . . . think on these things.' And 'whatsoever things are of good report'—all the things that men speak well of, and speak good in the very naming of, let thoughts of them be in your minds.

And then he gathers all up into two words. 'If there be any virtue'—which covers the ground of the first four, that he has already spoken about—viz. true, venerable, just, pure; and 'if there be any praise'—which resumes and sums up the two last: 'lovely and of good report,' 'think on these things.'

Now, if my purpose allowed it, one would like to point out here how the Apostle accepts the non-Christian notions of the people in whose tongue he was speaking; and here, for the only time in his letters, uses the great Pagan word 'virtue,' which was a spell amongst the Greeks, and says, 'I accept the world's notion of what is virtuous and praiseworthy, and I bid you take it to your hearts.'

Dear brethren, Christianity covers all the ground that the noblest morality has ever attempted to mark out and possess, and it covers a great deal more. 'If there be any virtue, as you Greeks are fond of talking about, and if there be any praise, if there is anything in men which commends noble actions, think on these things.'

Now, you will not obey this commandment unless you obey also the negative side of it. That is to say, you will not think on these fair forms, and bring them into your hearts, unless you turn away, by resolute effort, from their opposites. There are some, and I am afraid that in a congregation as large as this there must be some representatives of the class, who seem to turn this apostolic precept right round about, and whatsoever things are illusory and vain, whatsoever things are mean, and frivolous, and contemptible, whatsoever things are unjust, and whatsoever things are impure, and whatsoever things are ugly, and whatsoever things are branded with a stigma by all men they think on these things. Like the flies that are attracted to a piece of putrid meat, there are young men who are drawn by all the lustful, the lewd, the impure thoughts; and there are young women who are too idle and uncultivated to have any pleasure in anything higher than gossip and trivial fiction. 'Whatsoever things are noble and lovely, think on these things,' and get rid of all the others.

There are plenty of occasions round about you to force the opposite upon your notice; and, unless you shut your door fast, and double-lock it, they will be sure to come in:—Popular literature, the scrappy trivialities that are put into some periodicals, what they call 'realistic fiction'; modern Art, which has come to be largely the servant of sense; the Stage, which has come—and more is the pity! for there are enormous possibilities of good in it—to be largely a minister of corruption, or if not of corruption at least of frivolity—all these things are appealing to you. And some of you young men, away from the restraints of home, and in a city, where you think nobody could see you sowing your wild oats, have got entangled with them. I beseech you, cast out all this filth, and all this meanness and pettiness from your habitual thinkings, and let the august and the lovely and the pure and the true come in instead. You have the cup in your hand, you can either press into it clusters of ripe grapes, and make mellow wine, or you can squeeze into it wormwood and gall and hemlock and poison-berries; and, as you brew, you have to drink. You have the canvas, and you are to cover it with the figures that you like best. You can either do as Fra Angelico did, who painted the white walls of every cell in his quiet convent with Madonnas and angels and risen Christs, or you can do like some of those low-toned Dutch painters, who never can get above a brass pan and a carrot, and ugly boors and women, and fill the canvas with vulgarities and deformities. Choose which you will have to keep you company.

II. Now, let me ask you to think for a moment why this counsel is pressed upon you.

Let me put the reasons very briefly. They are, first, because thought moulds action. 'As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.' One looks round the world, and all these solid-seeming realities of institutions, buildings, governments, inventions and machines, steamships and electric telegrams, laws and governments, palaces and fortresses, they are all but embodied thoughts. There was a thought at the back of each of them which took shape. So, in another sense than the one in which the saying was originally meant, but yet an august and solemn sense, 'the word is made flesh,' and our thoughts became visible, and stand round us, a ghastly company. Sooner or later what has been the drift and trend of a man's life comes out, flashes out sometimes, and dribbles out at other times, into visibility in his actions; and, just as the thunder follows on the swift passage of the lightning, so my acts are neither more nor less than the reverberation and after-clap of my thoughts.

So if you are entertaining in your hearts and minds this august company of which my text speaks, your lives will be fair and beautiful. For what does the Apostle immediately go on to add to our text? 'These things do'—as you certainly will if you think about them, and as you certainly will not unless you do.

Again, thought and work make character. We come into the world with certain dispositions and bias. But that is not character, it is only the raw material of character. It is all plastic, like the lava when it comes out of the volcano. But it hardens, and whatever else my thought may do, and whatever effects may follow upon any of my actions, the recoil of them on myself is the most important effect to me. And there is not a thought that comes into, and is entertained by a man, or rolled as a sweet morsel under his tongue, but contributes its own little but appreciable something to the making of the man's character. I wonder if there is anybody in this chapel now who has been so long accustomed to entertain these angels of whom my text speaks as that to entertain their opposites would be an impossibility. I hope there is. I wonder if there is anybody in this chapel to-night who has been so long accustomed to live amidst the thoughts that are small and trivial and frivolous, if not amongst those that are impure and abominable, as that to entertain their opposites seems almost an impossibility. I am afraid there are some. I remember hearing about a Maori woman who had come to live in one of the cities in New Zealand, in a respectable station, and after a year or two of it she left husband and children, and civilisation, and hurried back to her tribe, flung off the European garb, and donned the blanket, and was happy crouching over the embers on the clay hearth. Some of you have become so accustomed to the low, the wicked, the lustful, the impure, the frivolous, the contemptible, that you cannot, or, at any rate, have lost all disposition to rise to the lofty, the pure, and the true.

Once more; as thought makes deeds, and thought and deeds make character, so character makes destiny, here and hereafter. If you have these blessed thoughts in your hearts and minds, as your continual companions and your habitual guests, then, my friend, you will have a light within that will burn all independent of externals; and whether the world smiles or frowns on you, you will have the true wealth in yourselves; 'a better and enduring substance.' You will have peace, you will be lords of the world, and having nothing yet may have all. No harm can come to the man who has laid up in his youth, as the best treasure of old age, this possession of these thoughts enjoined in my text.

And character makes destiny hereafter. What is a man whose whole life has been one long thought about money-making, or about other objects of earthly ambition, or about the lusts of the flesh, and the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life, to do in heaven? What would one of those fishes in the sunless caverns of America, which, by long living in the dark, have lost their eyes, do, if it were brought out into the sunshine? A man will go to his own place, the place for which he is fitted, the place for which he has fitted himself by his daily life, and especially by the trend and the direction of his thoughts.

So do not be led away by talk about 'seeing both sides,' about 'seeing life,' about 'knowing what is going on.' 'I would have you simple concerning evil, and wise concerning good.' Do not be led away by talk about having your fling, and sowing your wild oats. You may make an indelible stain on your conscience, which even forgiveness will not wipe out; and you may sow your wild oats, but what will the harvest be? 'Whatsoever a man soweth that'—that—'shall he also reap.' Would you like all your low thoughts, all your foul thoughts, to return and sit down beside you, and say, 'We have come to keep you company for ever'? 'If there be any virtue . . . think on these things.'

III. Now, lastly, how is this precept best obeyed?

I have been speaking to some extent about that, and saying that there must be real, honest, continuous effort to keep out the opposite, as well as to bring in the 'things that are lovely and of good report.' But there is one more word that I must say in answer to the question how this precept can be observed, and it is just this. All these things, true, venerable, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, are not things only; they are embodied in a Person. For whatever things are fair meet in Jesus Christ, and He, in His living self, is the sum of all virtue and of all praise. So that if we link ourselves to Him by faith and love, and take Him into our hearts and minds, and abide in Him, we have them all gathered together into that One. Thinking on these things is not merely a meditating upon abstractions, but it is clutching and living in and with and by the living, loving Lord and Saviour of us all. If Christ is in my thoughts, all good things are there.

If you trust Him, and make him your Companion, He will help you, He will give you His own life, and in it will give you tastes and desires which will make all these fair thoughts congenial to you, and will deliver you from the else hopeless bondage of subjection to their very opposites.

Brethren, our souls cleave to the dust, and all our efforts will be foiled, partially or entirely, to obey this precept, unless we remember that it was spoken to people who had previously obeyed a previous commandment, and had taken Christ for their Saviour. We gravitate earthwards, alas! after all our efforts, but if we will put ourselves in His hands, then He will be as a Magnet drawing us upwards, or rather He will give us wings of love and contemplation by which we can soar above that dim spot that men call Earth, and walk in the heavenly places. The way by which this commandment can be obeyed is by obeying the other precept of the same Apostle, 'Set your minds on things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.'

I beseech you, take Christ and enthrone Him in the very sanctuary of your minds. Then you will have all these venerable, pure, blessed thoughts as the very atmosphere in which you move. 'Think on these things . . . these things do! . . . and the God of Peace shall be with you.'



HOW TO SAY 'THANK YOU'

'But I rejoice in the Lord greatly, that now at length ye have revived your thought for me; wherein ye did indeed take thought, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know also how to abound: in everything and in all things have I learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in want. I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me. Howbeit ye did well, that ye had fellowship with my affliction.'—PHIL. iv. 10-14 (R.V.).

It is very difficult to give money without hurting the recipient. It is as difficult to receive it without embarrassment and sense of inferiority. Paul here shows us how he could handle a delicate subject with a feminine fineness of instinct and a noble self-respect joined with warmest gratitude. He carries the weight of obligation, is profuse in his thanks, and yet never crosses the thin line which separates the expression of gratitude from self-abasing exaggeration, nor that other which distinguishes self-respect in the receiver of benefits from proud unwillingness to be obliged to anybody. Few words are more difficult to say rightly than 'Thank you.' Some people speak them reluctantly and some too fluently: some givers are too exacting in the acknowledgments they expect, and do not so much give as barter so much help for so much recognition of superiority.

The Philippians had sent to Paul some money help by Epaphroditus as we heard before in Chapter II., and this gift he now acknowledges in a paragraph full of autobiographical interest which may be taken as a very model of the money relations between teachers and taught in the church. It is besides an exquisite illustration of the fineness and delicacy of Paul's nature, and it includes large spiritual lessons.

The stream of the Apostle's thoughts takes three turns here. There is first the exuberant and delicate expression of his thanks, then, as fearing that they might misunderstand his joy in their affection as if it were only selfish gladness that his wants had been met, he gives utterance to his triumphant and yet humble consciousness of his Christ-given independence in, and of, all circumstances, and then feeling in a moment that such words, if they stood alone, might sound ungrateful, he again returns to thanks, but not for their gift so much as for the sympathy expressed in it. We may follow these movements of feeling now.

I. The exuberant expression of thanks, 'I rejoice in the Lord greatly.'

There is an instance of his following his own twice-given precept, 'Rejoice in the Lord always.' The Philippians' care of him was the source of the joy, and yet it was joy in the Lord. So we learn the perfect consistency of that joy in Christ with the full enjoyment of all other sources of joy, and especially of the joy that arises from Christian love and friendship. Union with Christ heightens and purifies all earthly relations. Nobody should be so tender and so sweet in these as a Christian. His faith should be like the sunshine blazing out over the meadows making them greener. It should, and does in the measure of its power, destroy selfishness and guard us against the evils which sap love and the anxieties which torment it, against the dread that it may end, and our hopeless desolation when it does. There is a false ascetic idea of Christian devotion as if it were a regard to Christ which made our hearts cold to others, which is clean against Paul's experience here. His joy went out in fuller stream towards the Philippians because it was 'joy in the Lord.'

We may just note in passing the tender metaphor by which the Philippians' renewed thought of him is likened to a tree's putting forth its buds in a gracious springtide, and may link with it the pretty fancy of an old commentator whom some people call prosaic and puritanical (Bengel), that the stormy winter had hindered communication, and that Epaphroditus and the gifts came with the opening spring.

Paul's inborn delicacy and quick considerateness comes beautifully forward in his addition, to remove any suspicion of his thinking that his friends in Philippi had been negligent or cold. Therefore he adds that he knew that they had always had the will. What had hindered them we do not know. Perhaps they had no one to send. Perhaps they had not heard that such help would be welcome, but whatever frost had kept the tree from budding, he knew that the sap was in it all the same.

We may note that trait of true friendship, confidence in a love that did not express itself. Many of us are too exacting in always wanting manifestations of our friend's affection. What cries out for these is not love so much as self-importance which has not had the attention which it thinks its due. How often there have been breaches of intimacy which have no better reason than 'He didn't come to see me often enough'; 'He hasn't written to me for ever so long'; 'He does not pay me the attention I expect.' It is a poor love which is always needing to be assured of another's. It is better to err in believing that there is a store of goodwill in our friends' hearts to us which only needs occasion to be unfolded. One often hears people say that they were quite surprised at the proofs of affection which came to them when they were in trouble. They would have been happier and more nearly right if they had believed in them when there was no need to show them.

II. Consciousness of Christ-given independence and of 'content' is scarcely Paul's whole idea here, though that, no doubt, is included. We have no word which exactly expresses the meaning. 'Self-sufficient' is a translation, but then it has acquired a bad meaning as connoting a false estimate of one's own worth and wisdom. What Paul means is that whatever be his condition he has in himself enough to meet it. He does not depend on circumstances, and he does not depend on other people for strength to face them. Many words are not needed to insist that only the man of whom these things are true is worth calling a man at all. It is a miserable thing to be hanging on externals and so to be always exposed to the possibility of having to say, 'They have taken away my Gods.' It is as wretched to be hanging on people. 'The good man shall be satisfied for himself.' The fortress that has a deep well in the yard and plenty of provisions within, is the only one that can hold out.

This independence teaches the true use of all changing circumstances. The consequence of 'learning' therewith to be content is further stated by the Apostle in terms which perhaps bear some reference to the mysteries of Greek religion, since the word rendered 'I have learned the secret' means I have been initiated. He can bear either of the two extremes of human experience, and can keep a calm and untroubled mind whichever of them he has to front. He has the same equable spirit when abased and when abounding. He is like a compensation pendulum which corrects expansions and contractions and keeps time anywhere. I remember hearing of a captain in an Arctic expedition who had been recalled from the Tropics and sent straight away to the North Pole. Sometimes God gives His children a similar experience.

It is possible for us not only to bear with equal minds both extremes, but to get the good out of both. It is a hard lesson and takes much conning, to learn to bear sorrow or suffering or want. They have great lessons to teach us all, and a character that has not been schooled by one of these dwellers in the dark is imperfect as celery is not in season till frost has touched it. But it is not less difficult to learn how to bear prosperity and abundance, though we think it a pleasanter lesson. To carry a full cup without spilling is proverbially difficult, and one sees instances enough of men who were far better men when they were poor than they have ever been since they were rich, to give a terrible significance to the assertion that it is still more difficult to live a Christian life in prosperity than in sorrow. But while both threaten, both may minister to our growth. Sorrow will drive, and joy will draw, us nearer to God. If we are not tempted by abundance to plunge our desires into it, nor tempted by sorrow to think ourselves hopelessly harmed by it, both will knit us more closely to our true and changeless good. The centrifugal and centripetal forces both keep the earth in its orbit.

It is only when we are independent of circumstances that we are able to get the full good of them. When there is a strong hand at the helm, the wind, though it be almost blowing directly against us, helps us forward, but otherwise the ship drifts and washes about in the trough. We all need the exhortation to be their master, for we can do without them and they serve us.

Paul here lets us catch a glimpse of the inmost secret of his power without which all exhortations to independence are but waste words. He is conscious of a living power flowing through him and making him fit for anything, and he is not afraid that any one who studies him will accuse him of exaggeration even when he makes the tremendous claim 'I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me.' That great word is even more emphatic in the original, not only because, as the Revised Version shows, it literally is in and not through, and so suggests again his familiar thought of a vital union with Jesus, but also because he uses a compound word which literally means 'strengthening within,' so then the power communicated is breathed into the man, and in the most literal sense he is 'strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.' This inward impartation of strength is the true and only condition of that self-sufficingness which Paul has just been claiming. Stoicism breaks down because it tries to make men apart from God sufficient for themselves, which no man is. To stand alone without Him is to be weak. Circumstances will always be too strong for me, and sins will be too strong. A Godless life has a weakness at the heart of its loneliness, but Christ and I are always in the majority, and in the face of all foes, be they ever so many and strong, we can confidently say, 'They that be with us are more than they that be with them.' The old experience will prove true in our lives, and though 'they compass us about like bees,' the worst that they can do is only to buzz angrily round our heads, and their end is in the name of the Lord to be destroyed. In ourselves we are weak, but if we are 'rooted, grounded, built' on Jesus, we partake of the security of the rock of ages to which we are united, and cannot be swept away by the storm, so long as it stands unmoved. I have seen a thin hair-stemmed flower growing on the edge of a cataract and resisting the force of its plunge, and of the wind that always lives in its depths, because its roots are in a cleft of the cliff. The secret of strength for all men is to hold fast by the 'strong Son of God,' and they only are sufficient in whatsoever state they are, to whom this loving and quickening voice has spoken the charter 'My grace is sufficient for thee.'

III. The renewed thanks for the loving sympathy expressed in the gift.

We have here again an eager anxiety not to be misunderstood as undervaluing the Philippians' gift. How beautifully the sublimity of the previous words lies side by side with the lowliness and gentleness of these.

We note here the combination of that grand independence with loving thankfulness for brotherly help. The self-sufficingness of Stoicism is essentially inhuman and isolating. It is contrary to God's plan and to the fellowship which is meant to knit men together. So we have always to take heed to blend with it a loving welcome to sympathy, and not to fancy that human help and human kindness is useless. We should be able to do without it, but that need not make it the less sweet when it comes. We may be carrying water for the march, but shall not the less prize a brook by the way. Our firm souls should be like the rocking stones in Cornwall, poised so truly that tempests cannot shake them, and yet vibrating at the touch of a little child's soft hand. That lofty independence needs to be humanised by grateful acceptance of the refreshment of human sympathy even though we can do without it.

Paul shows us here what is the true thing in a brother's help for which to be thankful. The reason why he was glad of their help was because it spoke to his heart and told him that they were making themselves sharers with him in his troubles. As he tells us in the beginning of the letter, their fellowship in his labours had been from the beginning a joy to him. It was not so much their material help as their true sympathy that he valued. The high level to which he lifts what was possibly a very modest contribution, if measured by money standards, carries with it a great lesson for all receivers and for all givers of such gifts, teaching the one that they are purely selfish if they are glad of what they get, and bidding the other remember that they may give so as to hurt by a gift more than by a blow, that they may give infinitely more by loving sympathy than by much gold, and that a L5 note does not discharge all their obligations. We have to give after His pattern who does not toss us our alms from a height, but Himself comes to bestow them, and whose gift, though it be the unspeakable gift of eternal life, is less than the love it speaks, in that He Himself has in wondrous manner become partaker of our weakness. The pattern of all sympathy, the giver of all our possessions, is God. Let us hold to Him in faith and love, and all earthly love will be sweeter and sympathy more precious. Our own hearts will be refined and purified to a delicacy of consideration and a tenderness beyond their own. Our souls will be made lords of all circumstances and strengthened according to our need. He will say to us 'My grace is sufficient for thee,' and we, as we feel His strength being made perfect in our weakness, shall be able to say with humble confidence, 'I can do all things in Christ who strengtheneth me within.'



GIFTS GIVEN, SEED SOWN

'And ye yourselves also know, ye Philippians, that in the beginning of the Gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving, but ye only; for even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my need. Not that I seek for the gift; but I seek for the fruit that increaseth to your account. But I have all things, and abound: I am filled, having received from Epaphroditus the things that came from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God. And my God shall fulfil every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.'—PHIL. iv. 15-19 (R.V.).

Paul loved the Philippians too well and was too sure of their love to be conscious of any embarrassment in expressing his thanks for money help. His thanks are profuse and long drawn out. Our present text still strikes the note of grateful acknowledgment. It gives us a little glimpse into earlier instances of their liberality, and beautifully suggests that as they had done to him so God would do to them, and that their liberality was in a fashion a prophecy, because it was in some measure an imitation, of God's liberality. He had just said 'I am full, having received the things which were sent from you,' and now he says, 'My God shall fill full all your needs.' The use of the same word in these two connections is a piece of what one would call the very ingenuity of graceful courtesy, if it were not something far deeper, even the utterance of a loving and self-forgetting heart.

I. We may note here Paul's money relations with the churches.

We know that he habitually lived by his own labour. He could call to witness the assembled elders at Ephesus, when he declared that 'these hands ministered unto my necessities,' and could propose himself as an illustration of the words of the Lord Jesus, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' He firmly holds the right of Christian teachers to be supported by the churches, and vehemently insists upon it in the First Epistle to the Corinthians. But he waives the right in his own case, and passionately insists that it were better for him rather to die than that any man should make his glorying void. He will not use to the full his right in the Gospel 'that he may make a Gospel without charge,' but when needed he gladly accepted money gifts, as he did from the Philippians. In our text he points back to an earlier instance of this. The history of that instance we may briefly recall. After his indignities and imprisonment in Philippi he went straight to Thessalonica, stayed there a short time till a riot drove him to take refuge in Berea, whence again he had to flee, and guided by brethren reached Athens. There he was left alone, and his guides went back to Macedonia to send on Silas and Timothy. From Athens he went to Corinth, and there was rejoined by them. According to our text, 'in the beginning of the Gospel,' that is, of course, its beginning in Philippi, they relieved him twice in Thessalonica, and if the words in our text which date the Philippians' gift may be read 'when I had departed from Macedonia,' we should have here another reference to the same incident mentioned in 2 Corinthians, chap. xi. 8-9, where he speaks of being in want there, and having 'the measure of my want' supplied by the brethren who came from Macedonia. The coincidence of these two incidental references hid away, as it were, confirms the historical truthfulness of both Epistles. And if we take into view the circumstances in which he was placed in Thessalonica and at the beginning of his stay in Corinth, his needing and receiving such aid is amply accounted for. Once again, after a long interval, when he was a prisoner in Rome, and probably unable to work for his maintenance, their care of him flourished again.

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