Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;1 Corinthians 10:2
'They were all baptised in the cloud and in the sea'; this is the register of all Christ's chosen ones.... It needs but a little consideration to perceive that devotion, self-sacrifice, all the higher moods and energies, even of natural feeling, are only possible to seasons of adversity.
—Dora Greenwell, in The Patience of Hope, p. 19 f.
1 Corinthians 10:4
The people who are referred to in this argument of the Apostle's in the tenth chapter of First Corinthians did not know what was following them. Who knows what is following him? Who can draw a true picture of his own shadow? Who can talk to the shadow which he himself throws upon the ground in the sunlight? We may in a certain limited sense be men of intelligence, and we may have reserved for our own special use divers eulogistic and comforting terms; but herein we may have been acting foolishly. Who knows the ghost that is behind him? Who can interpret the spirits that are singing above him? We cannot tell anything as it really is; we make guesses, some of the guesses are clever and almost original, and give us a kind of fading fame in the esteem of our contemporaries; but if we come to central and essential matters, we must be taught, first of all, that we know nothing of the mystery of things, except as that mystery may be revealed to us by the superlative mystery known—and no other name will fit the personality—as the Holy Ghost. We are told by some persons that we ought not to read meanings into the Divine Word; I always retort, 'And we must be equally careful not to read meanings out of it'. Our fathers did not know what that Rock meant; not for hundreds of years was the world to know why the rock moved and the name of the rock and the purpose of the moving. We must for some meanings wait until the centuries have whispered the secret in the ear of our broken heart. If our fathers did not know the name of the Rock, the personality, so to say, of the Rock, so it is with us in many providences, in many deaths, in many cold, deep, cruel, keyless graves. Some day when the century has struck the right hour we shall know names and secrets and meanings which today simply constitute an impenetrable and lowering cloud, darkening the path along which our soul-life reluctantly moves.
I. In Exodus 17:6 : 'Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink'. It was a disastrous case; all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, and the people did chide with Moses, saying, Give us water, that we may drink. The reason you and I do not possess the water we really need and thirst for is that we think that we can find a well somewhere ourselves; the Lord says, Let it be so; go forth and find it. Not until we come back, with our self-conceit burned out of us, and with a tongue that can say nothing but Lord, save me! do we find the Horeb we need, the Rock that has in it fountains of unsuspected water.
II. And this case is not solitary. If we read Exodus 33:21, we shall come upon the same thought: 'Behold, there is a place for me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock'. What is the meaning of that rock? The meaning is, outside sanctuaries, socalled unconsecrated sanctuaries. Thou dost desire a vision which may not be granted unto mortal eyes in a mortal state; not until corruption has put on incorruption can thy prayer be answered: meanwhile make the rock a standing-place, stand there, wait there, and look, and behold My glory thou shalt not see, but My goodness, the hinder parts, the back of the glowing garment, not glory now, but goodness, and goodness as a pledge of glory. That is how it stands. We want to see the glory now, and we cannot do it; we want to be perfect now, and we cannot be perfect now; but we can struggle towards perfectness, we can cry out with a strong voice, and say, Lord, show me Thy glory! and if we only get goodness instead of glory, that is enough. Aim high.
III. In Numbers 24:21 we read, 'Strong is thy dwelling-place, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock'. Secure refuges; it is not enough to have the nest, we must have the rock to put it in. There are some people that have a great nest, but they put it in the wrong bank, they put their gold in bad hands, and they never can find the gold any more. By nest, mean life, home, purpose, policy, fortune, whatever it may be that constitutes the true wealth of the soul; it is not enough to have it, thou must put thy nest in a rock. Not a strong rock only, but a high rock, right away so that the clouds are beneath it, and the stars all but stumble against it; a great strong rock.
IV. The Psalmist says, in Psalm XXVII., 'He shall set me up upon a rock'. The Psalmist had had a hard time of it, and then a joyous time. He spoke about the times of trouble, and he spoke about the time of destruction and his enemies, and he saw them in imagination all round about him; and then he said, in the midst of the whole survey, 'He shall set me up upon a rock'. Final triumphs, final deliverances. This is what it must come to in the end. Once, when Jesus Christ wanted to put His case with the greatest possible effect, He went back, as it were, to Exodus and Deuteronomy, to Numbers and the Psalms, where we have been this morning, and He said, 'Whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock'. I think we might translate the passage, His house upon the Rock. Was not the dear Saviour talking about Himself when He was talking about the Rock? Is there any other Rock but Christ? All else is sand.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. VII. p. 251.
References.—X. 4.—Basil Wilberforce, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlviii. p. 113. Expositor (5th Series), vol. ix. p. 421; ibid. (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 412. X. 6.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. i. p. 8. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 382. X. 9.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 373.
History in Perspective
1 Corinthians 10:11
St. Paul is here looking back over the long line of Hebrew history from the vantage-ground of the Cross. He knew it well, and was saturated with it, like so many other people, but formed his own opinions of it, and had been ready to hold to his estimate with a murderous tenacity which would make short work of opponents. He was at the same time no ignorant follower of the blindest Rabbinical tradition. And as he looks back over the chequered history of his race, he sees the hand of Christ in it all.
I. It is a Useful Thing for us to View History in Perspective from time to time; to look back and see how things which bulked so largely at the moment as to dwarf all else, and to shut out the true bearing of events upon our lives, take their places quite naturally in an ordered sequence tending to a due development. It is so when we find ourselves toiling along a dark road in some of those sunless days of disappointment which await us all. St. Paul himself was no stranger to the chilling influences of such times. We find him again and again moved to anger, to reproach, to scorn, to sorrow, to anything short of despair, by the broken road which, again here and there checks the progress of him who would prepare the way of Christ. In our own life, how sad it is to see around us the shattered ideals which strew the desert of unfulfilled hopes! We escaped the perils of fleshly Egypt. We have been sacramentally fed and nourished, but the Promised Land seems far off, and we are perplexed with the very monotony of our failures as we stumble on in the desert. When we doubt whether we are moving, when we seem to be slowly turning back on our own footsteps, look back and see—look across life and bring it into true perspective, and you will see by what you have passed on the march that there is some progress, and that even your falls may be written down under the head of experience.
II. We Must Never Despair.—There is one thing which the Apostle saw clearly, and we also may see in our retrospect—how much the purpose of God has been shaped by human sin. The passage to the Promised Land was not designed by God to be the gloomy thing it eventually proved to be. God's mercy prevented, that is went before, His people with a prospect of blessing, but it had also to follow them in order to adapt their life by correction and discipline to the alteration caused by their mistakes. As the Apostle looks back, what does he see as the main cause of the dark patch of failure which lies across the line of progress in which God still hastens to fulfil His promise? It is wilfulness, nothing else—wilfulness in one form or another: the wilfulness of those who find their human passions and desires too much for them. Directly an appetite is followed for its own sake apart from the purpose for which God implanted it, then there is confusion. The Promised Land is lost sight of; the desert is a desert to wander in, not a road to be passed, and here it is that the danger begins, and degradation speedily follows. Yet we know we are free.
III. Why do we go back to the Records of Rebellious Israel?—Here we have the reason. The Apostle tells us how to read these and how to read the records of all other Scripture given us by the inspiration of God. It is that we may find in them recorded on a large scale the history of our own dangers, and the remedy which God provides against them, that in learning to look back over life as a whole we may be less tempted by its dark hours, and may contemplate the resource of God in the face of man's wilfulness, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures have hope.
References.—X. 11.—F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. i. p. 21. Bishop Alexander, Verbum Crucis, p. 145. Expositor (7th Series), vol. v. p. 134.
The Weakness of Strength
1 Corinthians 10:12
Take care of your strong points. I want to speak about the weakness of strength. It is customary to say that a chain is no stronger than its weakest link. It is quite right to direct our attention along that line, but there is another and completing line. Distrust yourselves when you are most conscious of your strength. Do not make too much an exhibition of your wonderful side; be very careful about your specialties; set a double watch over the pen of your pet graces; they may ruin you, they have ruined many: be self-distrustful, and in God's strength be self-confident Paul speaks of the enabling Christ; the Christ that gives ability, and more ability, and still more ability as the days come and go until those who live nearest to Him cry by the end of the week, I can do all things through the Christ that enables me. We say in our English Version, 'Christ which strengtheneth me'; I like the other word, enableth me—feeds my ability, recruits my strength, waters the flower of my spiritual beauty, and sends all needful things to the oak of my power.
I. Let us see if we cannot establish the strange proposition that many men—not all—but many men have failed at the point of their supposed strength and fancied security. (1) You say that Moses was a man meek above all the men that dwelt on the face of the earth. It was just at the point of meekness that he became red-hot angry—the angriest man that the rocks of Sinai ever saw, and the angriest man that the rocks in the wilderness ever felt, for he lashed them as if, by some mighty thong, he could lacerate their backs and humble them to his will. Which is Moses—the meek man, so meek, so humble, so retiring; or the Moses that lifts up his arms and dashes the tables of stone to the earth, and that smites the rock, and calls in anger, as it were, for water? Whereas nature is not to be so solicited, but quite in another way, gentler, stiller, a way wholly sweeter and more obedient to the soft music of nature. You and I may fail at our meekness.
(2) How would you describe Abraham? 'The father of the faithful.' Is that his special grace? Probably so; he is called the father of the faithful, he is honoured for his faith; the word 'believed' occurs first in biblical history in connection with the name of Abraham; surely, therefore, there can be no stretch of imagination in saying that faith was Abraham's supreme virtue or grace. Well, it was just at that point that he told lies, and distrusted God, and turned his back upon the starry heavens that were meant to be an omen to him and to his seed for ever. He concocted lies, he turned his wife into his sister that he might escape a possible danger—he who held the charter of the stars and could read them into the history of his race, he indirectly, if not directly, told lies to a poor pagan hound that rebuked him for being false to his own faith and tradition. Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed at his strongest point. He may fall from the topmost pinnacle. He that is low need fear no fall, but what about him who touches the pinnacle-top gleaming in the sun? Lucifer, son of the morning—none fell so low as Lucifer, for none was ever quite so high.
(3) How would you describe Solomon? You would say that Solomon was noted for wisdom. That is so; 'As wise as Solomon' has become almost a proverbial expression. He had wisdom and understanding above all men upon the face of the earth. And what did he die of? Folly! Well for him if he had died when he had a renown for wisdom.
(4) We have heard of the patience of Job, brethren, and yet when patience does give way what can be so petulant? When the motion is in the other direction, self-accelerating every moment, who can stop the rushing wheels? Job was patient, his patience is historical; but he was the most impatient man in the world.
II. Take care of yourselves! is a voice that comes to us from all history, when you suppose you are strongest; let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall; if any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing as it ought to be known. Oh for the larger love, the diviner pity, that takes in all souls. Better be deceived than rot away in some malignant and ungenerous suspicion of others. I have to keep under, in the grace and love of Christ, my own soul, and not to set up myself as a judge concerning other souls more than I can possibly help.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. IV. p. 31.
References.—X. 12.—J. T. Bramston, Fratribus, p. 18. J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays After Trinity, pt. i. pp. 293 and 303. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i. No. 22. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 105.
1 Corinthians 10:12
While there is life there is hope and there is fear. The most inveterate habits of vice still leave a power of self-recovery in the man, if he will but exert it; the most confirmed habits of virtue still leave the liability to a fall.
—Mozley, Augustinian Doctrine of Predestination, p. 247.
1 Corinthians 10:13
I. None of our temptations exceed our powers of endurance. This does not imply that we shall always overcome whenever we are tempted, but it does imply that we always may. In other words, it conveys the assurance that we shall never be placed where to sin will be a necessary or inevitable thing. God will so adjust our surroundings that we shall always be able to serve Him and do what is right in spite of all inducements to deny Him and do what is wrong. Not that it will ever cease to be an arduous thing to live as He would have us, or that temptation will be otherwise than a dangerous foe. But further, there will not only be hindrances without the Church, stubborn and unyielding enough if we be thoroughly in earnest, but there will also be obstacles within. The dust of conflict will never be laid. Checks and harassments will never disappear. But even where these abound the most, and do their best to overbear us, they shall never acquire such obstructive strength as to make it impossible to advance beyond them, and even by means of them, to better things.
II. The second ground of support furnished by my text is, that with every temptation God will also make a way of escape that we may be able to bear it This is but an application of the general law that Christ's grace is sufficient for us, and covers the whole extent of our need. You will observe that He is said here to make the temptation as well as the way of escape. Nor is this withont a purpose. He knows precisely the strength we need, because He has prepared the occasion on which we shall be called to use it. But how is it he makes a way of escape? He does not withdraw His temptation, or divest it of its force. For this would be to defeat the very purpose for which He has sent it. And this purpose is to develop by exercise the strength we possess, and train it into greater maturity, patience, and self-restraint.
III. We come now to the third ground of encouragement on which both the others rest. God is faithful. Therefore it follows that He not only controls the strength of temptation, but will also make us equal to the effort of sustaining it. (1) He cannot be true to His purpose of grace, and yet allow us to be overcome by the sheer weight and pressure of evil without a possibility of escape. (2) But not only would it be inconsistent with His purpose of grace were God to suffer overwhelming evil to assail us; it would also place Him in contradiction to Himself. And this cannot be. Let us, therefore, be of good courage.
—C. Moinet, The Great Alternative and other Sermons, p. 105.
1 Corinthians 10:13
There are two factors in every temptation, the sinful heart within, the evil world without, and they stand to one another much in the relation of the powder-magazine and the lighted match. Temptation originates in the heart, says James, and that is absolutely true. The heart is the powder-magazine. But for the lusts raging there, the allurements of the world would be absolutely powerless for harm. Temptation comes from the sinful world, says Paul; that is also true.
I. Occasion to be Avoided.—In face of the danger arising from temptation, what are we to do? First of all, and for this we have our Lord's authority and warrant, we must avoid all possible occasion of temptation.
We want above everything else a baptism of 'godly fear'. We want courage enough to be able to say, when invited to do this or that, 'I cannot—I am afraid'. Mr. Fearing, in John Bunyan's allegory, reached the Celestial City in safety; but the last view we have of Presumption is in that valley but a little beyond Interpreter's House, where he lies fast asleep and with fetters on his heels. Wherefore 'fear' lest we too, like that foolish Presumption, for the very same reason, fail of the promised rest. Remember your own weakness, I say, and fear. There are some things you had better never touch; there are some books you had better never read; there are some pictures you had better never see; there are some places you had better never visit; there are some people you had better never know. Your wisdom is to be afraid of them; to shun them; never to come near them. Listen to this sentence: 'The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and to depart from evil'—to give it a wide berth—'is understanding'.
II. Temptation Common to Man.—But supposing, as will of necessity happen, in spite of all our efforts, we find ourselves face to face with temptation, what then?
First of all remember this, and say it to your soul again and again, that no temptation has met you but such as is common to men. There is a difference in the meanings various commentators attach to the Greek word ἀνθρώπινος in the text. Literally, it means 'of or belonging to man'. Our Revisers have translated it, 'such as man can bear'. But that seems to me to be reading into the word more than it really contains. I follow Dr. Charles Edwards, who has written, perhaps, the finest English commentary on this Epistle, and translate it 'common to men'. 'There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man.'
That is the first thing to remember. For this is one of the pleas behind which men shelter themselves when asked to account for their failure. 'There never was such a temptation as mine,' they say. Men have a trick of salving their consciences and excusing their miserable collapses, on the ground that the temptations to which they were exposed were of quite unique and extraordinary force.
III. Temptation to be Conquered.—There is no positive comfort in the assertion that our temptations are common to men. When some one tried to comfort Tennyson in his grief for Hallam by reminding him that 'loss was common to the race,' the poet's retort, you remember, was this: 'That loss is common would not make my own less bitter, rather more'. And the knowledge that others are tempted in much the same way as we are, in itself does not bring much comfort and encouragement to our souls. But there is a truth which is of unspeakable comfort to those who are in the midst of manifold temptations, viz., every temptation is to be overcome. Let me repeat it. Every temptation is to be overcome. You must make that belief your very own, if you are to emerge victorious out of your conflicts with temptation. To those who are down, who are dead beat, who are almost tempted to give up, we must say again and again, every temptation—without any exception—every temptation is to be overcome.
Henry Drummond tells, in one of his books, a story about the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular campaign. He was trying to get his troops into a place of safety, and between him and their safety ran a deep and rapid river. Neither bridge nor ford could be seen, and it was a hostile country; he sent his men up and down the side of the river to hunt for a bridge or a ford, and they found none. So the Duke himself went to the top of a hill near by, and looked through his telescope, and far away down the river-side he saw a town, and on the other side of the river he saw a straggling village, and he said, 'Now, between that town and that village there must be a bridge or a ford'. So when night came, he sent his soldiers in the silence and darkness to see, and they brought back the report: 'Yes, there is a ford'. He passed his army over that ford that night, and next morning they were all in the land of safety. The danger besetting us may be manifold and formidable, but remember this—there is always a ford! There is no occasion for despondency or despair. Every temptation is to be conquered.
IV. The Faithfulness of God.—And the ground and reason for our confidence that every temptation can be overcome is that God is faithful. 'God is faithful,' says the Apostle, 'who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation make also the way of escape that ye may be able to endure it'.
—J. D. Jones, Elims of Life, p. 92.
The Limitations of the Law of Antagonism
1 Corinthians 10:13 Very delightful is our text, showing how the Divine love tempers life's fierce tyranny. Nature is a sphere of darkness, life is a tragedy, into which revelation brings precious explanations and encouragements.
I. We observe that whilst discipline is essential to the perfecting of our nature, the struggle of life might be excessive and destructive. 'Tried above that ye are able.' How easily this might be! We see in nature that the law of antagonism may become so severe and unremitting that it makes impossible those things of beauty and joy which prevail under normal conditions. The same is true of animal life. And this applies equally to man. He is all the better for a regulated conflict with his environment, but all the worse if the conflict attain undue severity. And this is just as true of our moral as it is of our physical and intellectual nature. It is truly comforting to recognise the hand of God limiting and regulating the severities of life, so that they may serve and not destroy us.
II. Let us observe some of the limitations which God has imposed on the severity of life. 'But will with the trial also make a way of escape.' (1) There are doors of escape in the direction of nature and intellect. It is not all conflict with nature. We have all gracious hours in which the discords of life are drowned in the music of the world. The door opening into the library, the picture-gallery, the observatory, the museum—all are doors of hope and salvation. (2) The Divine government softens the severity of life by the disposition and alternation of the trials by which we are exercised. We little know how much we owe to the vast variety and unceasing change which obtain in the disciple of human life. (3) The severity of life is broken by that law of reaction which God has established within our nature. Trials without discover forces within. Says Victor Hugo, 'There are instincts for all the crises of life'. A deep perplexity awakens a flash of insight; a bitter opposition sets the soul on fire; a grave peril opens our eyes to horses and chariots of fire; a severe catastrophe evokes a heroism of which the sufferer had not thought himself capable. (4) The rigour of life is abated by the social law. What a royal gate is that of Charity! How many welcome doors Sympathy opens! What a grand door is Domesticity! (5) Life is blessedly tempered by the religious hope. Victor Hugo says truly, 'The whole of existence resembles a letter modified in the postscript.' Marvellously in all kinds of ways does the grace of God assert itself in softening the severity that threatens utterly to overwhelm us.
—W. L. Watkinson, The Transfigured Sackcloth, p. 207.
Comfort in Temptation
1 Corinthians 10:13
Temptation is our environment, as much with us as the air we breathe. They are the common lot of man, the fire through which the ore is purified from the dross. There is comfort in this thought.
I. But the comfort and strength of the thought is not that our trial is common to men and our temptations are the human temptations, but that other men have triumphed, and that we too by the same means can triumph.
II. There is this further comfort that temptation has its limits if a man be but true. 'God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.' The finest commentary I know on this passage is a great sentence from one of Johnson's 'Essays,' which Boswell says he never read without feeling his frame thrill: 'I think there is some reason for questioning whether the body and mind are not so proportioned, that the one can bear all which can be inflicted on the other; whether virtue cannot stand its ground as long as life, and whether a soul well principled will not be sooner separated than subdued'. The first step to victory is to believe that the battle need not be lost at all. A man came to Sir Andrew Clark complaining of depression, inability to do his work, and that he was tempted to rely on stimulants. Sir Andrew saw the perilous state and forbade resort to stimulants, and when the patient declared that he would be unequal to his work and would sink, he replied, 'Then sink like a man'. Strength is got through the strain.
III. When we have a glimmering of the great and inspiring thought that this is the will of God for us, even our sanctification, we see how it must be, as St. Paul asserts, that 'God is faithful, Who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able, but will with the temptation also make a way of escape that we may be able to bear it'.
Faith does not remove the temptation altogether, which has still to be borne, but it makes a man able to bear it.
'The door is open,' said the Stoic, meaning that at the worst there was always suicide by which a man could cheat misfortune when it became too hard to bear. There is in every moral conflict a way of escape other than the way of dishonour or defeat.
—Hugh Black, Edinburgh Sermons, p. 44.
References.—X. 13.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlviii. p. 142. R. W. Dale, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p. 298. W. H. Evans, Sermons for the Church's Year, p. 190. F. de W. Lushington, Sermons to Young Boys, p. 9. Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 217. C. A. J. Nibbs, Preacher's Magazine, vol x. p. 413. Spurgeon Sermons, vol. 1. No. 2912; vol. xlv. No. 2603. X. 14-21.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 437. X. 14-22.—Ibid. (5th Series), vol. i. p. 238; ibid. (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 437; ibid. vol. iii. p. 99.
The Personal Choice
1 Corinthians 10:15
St. Paul is writing to Christians at Corinth. He knows well their circumstances; he has lived in their homes; he has worked as tent-maker there for two years and six months; he knows all their dangers, their difficulties, their embarrassments; he knows that it is impossible to move about in social life in Corinth without running up against idolatry. He knows that the idolatry there has availed itself of the natural passions of mankind and entwined itself with the social institutions of the city. He knows all this, and he writes sympathetically to the Corinthian Christians. He says to them—You cannot very well avoid idolatry if you enter into society at all. You will find yourself asked to dine with people whose banquets have an idolatrous significance; they will say to you abruptly at table, 'This meat has been offered to idols'. Then you stop eating. You will find, when you move freely among your fellowmen because you have an innate sense of fellowship, that that is embarrassed very often, prejudiced by the fact that they have already claimed those instincts for idolatry. You will find, that what is animal in you is evoked, elicited, and exaggerated too by the premium set upon animal passion in Corinth. But I need not go on, he says: I am not writing rules for you; that is not part of my work as a Christian teacher. I have only to tell you the doctrinal principle upon which you have to live. As for rules, I give you none. No Christian teacher, even an Apostle, has any authority to lay down rules for you. I leave that to yourself. I am writing to sensible men; argue it out for yourself. Judge ye what I say. I cannot lay down rules; that is no part of the Christian system. For it is always a fatal proposition of mankind to demand in the sphere of religion exact rules; and in the measure in which any religion is true it refuses to give men exact rules of conduct. Our Lord always refused to give men rules when they came after Him. And for this reason—the Christian character is formed not from without but from within: no formula can imprison the "truth, no regulation can form character; and, after all, character is the chief thing. You must think for yourselves.
I. So St. Paul is a true follower of his Master when he says abruptly: But I am not going on with that matter; after all, there is no rule that will serve; I am speaking to sensible men, and you must judge for yourself; you must work it out for yourselves. You remember what St. Augustine said when some people asked for a rule of life. He replied: There is no rule of life but this, 'Love God and do what you like'. It is an extraordinary rule, and yet it is the only true one, 'Love God and do what you like'. But, you ask: Do you mean to say that if we love God it does not matter what we do? No, no; but I mean to tell you that if you love God you will not want to do what is wrong. 'Love God and do what you like,' will serve as a rule, for it means this—the love of God will purify your desires; and you will then only want to do what will please God. The love of God will illumine your understanding, will move your heart, will compel your obedience, will inspire your conduct, will shape your course. If you love God you will always will the will of God. That, after all, is the true rule or Christian conduct—to do the will of God.
II. As I move amongst business men very greatly I find that they commonly give me this verdict of their experience. They say: Well, the more I go on the more I realise that what is called my work is really my recreation; but my real work is at home; it is the formation of character, and above all things by the endurance of pains and sufferings and tribulations of this present life. When a man has got that secret he has learnt the whole secret of life—that the means by which he supports himself and family is only as it were incidental, it is by the way, that the true purpose of his being, his real work in life, is the formation of his own character as a Christian man, and the chief means to that end is the endurance of suffering and hardship and the troubles of this present life. St. Paul says that the troubles of the present life form our capacity to enjoy the glory that is eternal. He leaps to the conclusion in a moment, and he says: The troubles of the present life work out to glory; they form the capacity for attaining to the glory that is eternal.
III. So when we come to understand life aright we say the great task God has laid upon me is the formation of personal character; and if the way were cut and dried I should never form that character. The formation of character means at least independence; it means that we should weigh circumstances, realise alternatives, make a choice; that I should definitely set myself to follow a course that seems to be approved by judgment and conscience. Character is formed not from without but from within, not stamped out from a mould, but grown from a germ; and the germ of Christian character is the intense conviction, the personal faith that Jesus is God; and it has consequently that formative principle which expresses itself in the development of the Christian character. We must lay hold of the truth that there is no method can be offered to compel us into Christian conformity, but there is inspiration that can develop the Christian character. Not rules but a principle is what is given us. 'I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.'
—J. Wakeford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxix. p. 219.
References.—X. 15.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. xi. p. 146. X. 16.—H. H. Henson, Godly Union and Concord, p. 254. E. A. Stuart, His Dear Son and other Sermons, p. 177. S. Pearson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 97. R. Winterbotham, Sermons on the Holy Communion, p. 5. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliv. No. 2572. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p. 29; ibid. (5th Series), vol. viii. p. 47; ibid. (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 379. X. 16, 17.—Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. p. 225. X. 17.—Bishop Winnington-Ingram, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. p. 292. R. F. Horton, ibid. vol. lv. p. 40. Expositor (6th Series), vol. i. p. 374. X. 21.—J. Denney, Scottish Review, vol. iv. p. 161. X. 23-33.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 300. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Corinthians, p. 146. X. 24.—C. S. Horne, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. p. 115. X. 24-33.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. iii. p. 103. X. 27.—C. H. Grundy, Luncheon Lectures at St. Paul's Cathedral, p. 33. X. 29.—H. Varley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 374. Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 276.
1 Corinthians 10:31
If, instead of prescribing to ourselves indifferent Actions or Duties, we apply a good Intention to all our most indifferent Actions, we make our very existence one continued Act of Obedience, we turn our Diversions and Amusements to our eternal Advantage, and are pleasing Him (whom we are made to please) in all the Circumstances and Occurrences of life. It is this excellent Frame of Mind, this holy officiousness (if I may be allowed to call it such) which is recommended to us by the Apostle in that uncommon Precept, wherein He directs us to propose to ourselves the Glory of our Creator in all our most indifferent Actions, whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do.
—Addison, in The Spectator, 3rd November, 1711.
To be a saint is always to make God our end.
—F. W. Faber.
References.—X. 31.—G. H. Morgan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. p. 124. Bishop Westcott, The Incarnation and Common Life, p. 125. R. F. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 353. H. R. Heywood, Sermons and Addresses, p. 150. W. H. Evans, Short Sermons for the Seasons, p. 114. C. G. Finney, Penny Pulpit, No. 1581, p. 41. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vii. p. 378. X. 32.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. x. p. 203. X. 33.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. i. p. 173. XI.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 70; ibid. (5th Series), vol. x. p. 55. XI. 1.—H. Bailey, The Gospel of the Kingdom, p. 146. R. W. Church, The Gifts of Civilisation, p. 56. Expositor (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 259; ibid. vol. xi. p. 46.
And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
And did all eat the same spiritual meat;
And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?
But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.
Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.
Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth.
Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:
For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.
If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.
But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof:
Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience?
For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:
Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.