whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future. All of them belong to you,
I. OUR PROPERTY IN ALL THINGS. To Christians it may be said - it was said by the inspired apostle:
1. All ministries are yours; the dead and the living, the speaking and the writing, the official and the unrecognized.
(1) The ministry of doctrine and of conversion, such as that of Paul, who planted.
(2) The ministry of eloquence and of edification, such as that of Apollos, who watered.
(3) The ministry of morality and zeal, such as that of Cephas. Each has his gift, and the Church is not for the ministry, but the ministry for the Church.
2. All circumstances are yours.
(1) The world, which is ours by the gift of God and by the redemption of Christ.
(2) Life is yours, in its opportunities and its manifold blessings.
(3) Death is yours - not your master, but your servant and your friend.
3. All times are yours.
(1) The present, in enjoyment, which is more the Christian's than it is the worldling's.
(2) The future, in reversion, which has for him brightness, glory, and joy. The future can deprive the Christian of no real good; it must bring him advantages unnumbered.
II. CHRIST'S PROPERTY IN US. To Christians it may be said, "Ye are Christ's:"
1. By the purchase of his blood. For, "Ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price."
2. By his choice and ours. "I," says he, "have chosen you." And, "We love him because he first loved us."
3. By the inhabiting of his Spirit, whose gracious presence makes us his. It is not a case of mere property, but of spiritual affinity: "The Lord knoweth them that are his."
4. By our grateful and affectionate service. That Christians are his, it is their daily aim to prove, by their delight in his Word, their devotion to his cause, their obedience to his commands. - T.
I. APPRECIATE IT. What on earth so valuable as a true gospel ministry? In it you have, as a rule, the most richly cultured intellect, the highest order of genius, the most disinterested services, the most sanctified sympathies.
II. PROTECT IT from worldly cares, secular embarrassments, social slanders. Take care of it — it is more precious than gold.
III. USE IT. You have eternal treasures in these earthly vessels. Take care, and get from them the "pearl of great price."
IV. THANK GOD FOR IT. It is given to you in trust. You must give an account at last.
I. INTELLECTUAL LEVITY.
1. It was far from the intention of the apostle in this Epistle to speak slightingly of knowledge, or of those gifted men who are its mouthpieces. True, he speaks depreciatingly of a certain wisdom; but there was another wisdom, on account of which he was prepared to suffer the loss of all things. Paul knew that Christ had put us into a fresh attitude of reverence towards the whole intellectual world. Christ taught us —(1) The reality of truth. "What is truth?" asks the scoffing sceptic. It is an illusion in his view. But when Christ showed us the Father, He taught us at once the reality of truth, and the truth of reality.(2) The supremacy of truth. "Art Thou a King, then? To this end was I born... that I should bear witness unto the truth."(3) The accessibility of truth. That the search for truth is not a vain search.
2. And it was no part of Paul's purpose that the Corinthians should think lightly of their great teachers. In fact, he gives those teachers a very high place. "The world" is unquestionably a magnificent thing, and the apostle puts great teachers into the same category. "The heavens declare the glory of God," &c. Intellectual men also declare the glory of God, and with an eloquence surpassing that of the stars.(1) Let us not, then, lightly esteem our intellectual teachers. All the great thinkers, and writers, and scientists are ours. A ship at sea is directed from two points of view — there is the man with the lead taking soundings from below, and there is the man with the glass taking the bearings from above; so our race is indebted for its guidance alike to the science which concerns itself with the physical world beneath us, and to the theology which contemplates the world above and beyond us. And ours in this matter is a day of exceptionally high privilege. Our easily accessible libraries bring all the gifted teachers close to us. Do not neglect or despise this splendid privilege.(2) Let us not despise our religious teachers. It seems very probable that "the Christ party" in Corinth was in danger of doing this. This is a mistake. Each generation has its gifted teachers, and these are to be reckoned as God's choice gifts to His Church, and every lowlier teacher who speaks living words has a real value to his age. A while ago somebody suggested, with a touch of scorn, that preachers ought to be "paid by results." "Paid by results!" How the money would roll in upon us! To speak the word, at a critical moment, which shall turn a faltering young man or woman into the path of life — how much for that? To utter thoughts which widen and purify a man's soul, and which save him from lapsing into a sordid, sensual life — how much for that? To inspire with fresh hope one sinking into grief and unbelief and despair — how much for that? No, payment by results must be left to the great Paymaster.
II. INTELLECTUAL SERVILITY.
1. Whilst one party amongst the Corinthians set little store by any of the great teachers of the Church, the other three parties were in danger of paying these teachers exaggerated homage. Says the noble apostle: You do not exist for them; they exist for you. The apostle has just been remarking that the greatest sages have been guilty of the most serious errors; he then proceeds: "Therefore let no man glory in men." The most gifted men are not infallible, and consequently they are to be followed with caution. The greatest teachers are only instrumental. There is a certain respect to be paid to the husbandman who brings forth precious fruits, but we reserve our full wonder and reverence for Him who alone gives the increase. There must, then, be no servility of soul in any of the congregation of the saints. No thinker must be permitted to coerce your intellect, no theologian to dictate your creed, no ecclesiastic to bind your conscience. God endows men that they may help and not enslave one another.
2. Here is a lesson for us to-day. Intellectual men are very prone to lord it over their less-gifted or less-cultured brethren. Sometimes they turn the republic of letters into a tyranny; sometimes they set up lordship in the Church. We see this despotism in philosophy. We are soon overawed by, and accept as gospel, what Carlyle says, or Arnold, or Ruskin, or Huxley, or Spencer. And we see this despotism in religion, and in the Roman Church in a very pronounced form. Now, our text warns us against such ignoble submission. "We are Christ's, and Christ is God's." We do not stop with Paul, &c.; we are thankful for the stars, but it is still our privilege to have access to the Central Luminary; and all believers, even the humblest of them, share the illumination. It was given to tentmakers and fishermen to see truths not seen by prophets and kings; it was given to a peasant's son to find for Christendom the Divine doctrine it had lost; it was given to a tinker in Bedford to have visions of God as Isaiah and Ezekiel had; it was given to Wesley's "ragged regiment" to see truths of life hidden from the wise and prudent; it was given to a Northamptonshire cobbler to seize afresh and to give practical efficacy to the magnificent truth of the universality of salvation in Jesus Christ. Evils may arise out of an exaggerated individuality, but the right of the individual to be taught of God is too clear and too precious to be relinquished on any pretence whatever.
III. INTELLECTUAL PARTIALITY. These four sects were mutually exclusive, but Paul declares that all the great teachers belong to the whole Church. It has been said that an intellectual man ought to have preferences, but no exclusions; the Christian may have sundry preferences, but he ought to be prepared to get light from all who can give it. He must recognise the special truths insisted upon by philosophy on the one side, and by theology on the other, and joyfully concede the preciousness of the work wrought by the several denominations. Why should we shut ourselves up to one meadow, when the whole land is ours; to one tree, when the forest is ours; to one constellation, when the whole firmament is ours?
(W. L. Watkinson.)
Or the world.
I. THE CHRISTIAN'S TEMPORARY LODGING PLACE UNTIL GOD TRANSLATES AIM TO A BETTER WORLD. This is the patriarchal view; they lived as pilgrims and strangers.
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S LIBRARY. There are the books of nature — astronomy, geology, &c.; books of providence — history of nations, individuals — his own history.
III. THE CHRISTIAN'S SPIRITUAL MART. He has much to do both with earth and heaven. He is one of Christ's agents for extending His cause and kingdom in this world. A Christian cannot be talkative; he has too much to do.
IV. THE CHRISTIAN'S SCHOOL-ROOM. In this school he is taught, especially on the Lord's Day. Ministers are teachers. The Spirit instructs by the Word. Providence is a great teacher, so arc children. Christ placed a child in the midst of His disciples to teach them humility. He places sluggards under the tuition of the ant; and the ungrateful must take lessons from the ox and the ass.
V. THE CHRISTIAN'S BATTLEFIELD. No battlefield in heaven, it is a palace; no battlefield in hell, it is a prison. This world to Christ was a battlefield. It is only in this world that Christians have to "fight the good fight of faith."
VI. THE CHRISTIAN'S PLACE FOR MORAL CLEANSING AND ADORNMENT. He who has to stand in the presence of God and the Lamb, must be washed and properly dressed. Priests, Levites, washed in the laver outside the holy place, were robed and dressed before officiating in the presence of God. "Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people." There are no means of saving, justifying, and cleansing sinners, but in this world.
VII. THE CHRISTIAN'S ROAD TO HEAVEN. Two roads in this world — the broad road leading to destruction, the narrow way that leads to life everlasting. Let us fear lest we should miss the way. Alongside the Christian's way there flows the river of life; be constantly drinking its waters, and rejoicing you will go on your way to the heavenly world.
(J. Robertson, M. A.)Romans 1.). Secondly, the world is a godly man's, because everything therein is given him for his necessary use. Though he hath not everything, yet he hath as much as is needful to him. If you take a man into your house and bid him call for what he will, he may command everything in the house, though he doth not call for all things, but what is for his use — that is, as if he had all. And thus the whole world is for a godly man. What wealth, what honours, what health, is necessary and needful, he is sure to have. He that dwelleth by the ocean, he hath all the water in the sea for his use, though it is not necessary he should make use of it all. He that hath the use of anything, hath the thing. Thirdly, the world is a godly man's, as his shop and place of service. It is that wherein he works and labours for God. It is the great shop for mankind to do that work God hath appointed them. It is the great vineyard, in which God hath set every man to work. This world is for doing; the world to come for receiving. Fourthly, the world is a godly man's inn or lodging place, It is a provision God makes for a season, till they are ripe for heaven. Thus the godly are often compared to pilgrims and strangers. Fifthly, the godly have the world as the stage or artillery-yard — a place of exercise, wherein all their graces are to be drawn out by the opposition therein. To be quickened to the height of all thy graces, by how much more the combat and conflict thou hast, is exceeding great. The greatness of the tempest will discover the great art of the pilot. Sixthly, the world is a godly man's, because all things therein are sanctified and made clean to his use. The objection, then, is, why have the godly the least possession of it, if they have the sanctified use of it? Doth not David complain that wicked men have the fatness of the earth? To answer this you must know that even those wicked men, who are said to have the world at their will, yet they have net the world indeed, they have it not as the godly men. "The little that the righteous hath, is better than great treasures of the wicked" (Psalm 37:16). First, whatsoever the wicked man hath, he hath it in wrath; it cometh from God's anger. God is angry with the wicked all the day long. Secondly, wicked men have not the world, because they are overcome by it; the world hath them rather. Thirdly, wicked men have not the world, because they do not own and acknowledge God as the Giver of all; neither do they live to Him, but the things of the world are instruments to draw out their lusts, to make them the more wicked. They take the good creatures of God, and abuse them to wickedness. The very air, the very earth, is weary of them; yea, the timber in the house, and the stones of the wall do witness against them; they are, by the things of the world, made more wicked. Lastly, they have not the world, because they have not an holy contentation of mind; they are not quiet or satisfied in their condition.
(A. . Burgess.)I. THAT ONLY GODLY MEN LIVE. First, the godly man only liveth, because he is united to God and Christ, the fountain of life. David doth often style God "the fountain of life" (Psalm 36:9). And in His favour there is life. And in the New Testament, especially by John, Christ is made the Author of all life. Secondly, only the godly man liveth, because he hath a spiritual and a new life added to his animal life. Thirdly, the godly man only liveth, because he only hath the true blessedness and comfort of this life. He only hath true joy and peace of conscience, and this only the Scripture calls life. Fourthly, the godly only live, or life is theirs, because they only know how to improve the days of their life for God. Fifthly, life is only the godly man's, because he hath an interest in eternal life. He hath passed from death unto life (John 5:24). He shall never die that liveth this life. Sixthly, the godly man only liveth, because he taketh his life from God, and referreth it to His glory. "Whether we live, we live to the Lord," said Paul (Romans 14:8). Seventhly, the righteous only live, because they mortify and subdue those sins that kill our bodies, that take away our lives. Lastly, the godly man only liveth, because, even in the last breathings of this life, his hopes and comforts do most remain. "The righteous hath hope in his death" (Proverbs 14:32). And this hope is called a lively hope.
II. HOW CAN IT BE SAID THAT THE WICKED DO NOT LIVE, WHEN THEY ARE SAID TO HAVE THEIR PORTION CHIEFLY IN THIS LIFE?
1. They are dead in their sins, and hereby their faith, their religion, their Christianity is all dead.
2. They do not live, because they are in a condemned estate; they are appointed to wrath.
3. They do not live, because all their time is lost, so all the time of a man's unregeneracy is no life.
4. They make everything an instrument of death — their health, their wealth, their honours, are all deadly herbs in the pot; their tongue speaks the words of death; their hands work the works of death.
(A. Burgess.)1. It is useful as well as curious to observe under what different aspects the world is surveyed by different persons. The politician considers it as the scene of political changes; the soldier, as the field of war; the man of business, as the place for the acquisition of wealth; the gay and dissolute estimate it by its pleasures.
2. But each of these estimates is essentially erroneous. The Word of God affords the only criterion by which we can form a just judgment of the world. Instructed, therefore, by the light of Scripture, the Christian looks upon the world as fallen, and under a curse; but by the same Divine light he discovers that God, in His great mercy, has sent His Son into the world to save and raise it.
3. Every Christian, therefore, views the present world not merely as it is in itself, but as it is connected with this great plan of salvation in Jesus Christ. Its aspect is thus totally changed; it becomes a school of discipline, in which God places the heirs of salvation for their improvement and growth in grace; a theatre of instruction, in which are continually exhibited striking, examples of the truth and excellency of God's precepts, the vanity of earthly pursuits, and the folly and evil of sin; a scene for the display of the bounty and goodness of God to those whom Christ has received as His disciples.
4. Thus "the world is yours." It is intended for your use; it is adorned for your enjoyment; it was never formed to gratify the purposes of ambition, to satiate the lust of wealth, to be a scene of dissipation and unhallowed pleasure. The world is abused whenever it is used for these purposes. But yours is the world who use it for those ends for which its gracious Creator formed it; who survey its scenery, its mountains, &c.; and feel that they are yours because they were made by your Father. The world is yours who receive the bounty of Heaven with a thankful heart, and employ it, as God has intended, to your own lawful advantage and the good of ethers. The world is yours to enjoy it with moderation, thankful for the conveniences it affords you while a pilgrim and a stranger in it, in your way to a better and heavenly country. The world is yours who enjoy the blessing of God upon all your possessions and occupations in it, and possess in your souls "the peace of God which passeth all understanding."
(J. Venn, M. A.)I. LET US SEEK TO ESTABLISH THE TRUTH OF THE TEXT — THAT THE WORLD IS OURS. Many ridicule this assertion. The conception that the earth was the centre of the universe has been entirely disproved. Now, man imagines himself to be the centre of the universe of things, the end for which the whole creation has groaned and travailed through countless ages, and groans and travails still. This view is declared to be an insane egotism. Let us see.
1. The world is realised only in man. It was only a mass of dark force, a dance of atoms, a whirlpool of vibrations, until Adam came. The universe is revealed only in the sense and in the thought of humanity.
2. The world is comprehended only by man. Geology makes the world of the past ours; astronomy makes the worlds above our head ours; a score of sciences make the world at our feet ours. The world is ours, for we comprehend its laws, perceive its unity, mark its developments, rejoice in all its wonderful movements and manifestations. A thing is pre-eminently made for the mind which comprehends it.
3. The world is claimed only by man. Man instinctively acts as if the whole world belonged to him. Ages ago the Psalmist celebrated the splendid sovereignty of man: "Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet." And the fact is not less apparent to-day. Each living creature keeps within its narrow world, but men with telescope, microscope, spectroscope, go forth to claim the wide universe. If men acknowledge that the material realm has a centre, a master, an end, they are compelled to recognise that humanity alone meets the requirements of the case. If you take away man you must put what is inferior in his place.
II. LET US SHOW HOW IN CHRIST WE REALISE OUR PROPERTY IN CREATED THINGS. "We see not yet all things put under" man. He has dropped the sceptre, or it has been wrested from him. But in Christ the government of the world is being restored to us. To illustrate this, look at —
1. The Christian creed.(1) About God. In Egypt, in Greece, in Rome, the powers of nature were regarded as Divine, and the God that is above was denied (Job 31:26-28). Now, Christianity delivers us from this tyranny of superstition, by making manifest to us "the God that is above." "You are the world's," says a sceptical science, reducing us to a sad idolatry, a sad slavery. The world, like fire, is a grand servant, but a bad master. "You are God's," says Christ. He fixes our eye on the God of heaven; He tells us that God made the world for us, that He rules it for us, and just as we hold to that doctrine and serve God, so shall the world be ours, ministering to our utmost satisfaction of soul and sense.(2) About man. Some of our teachers love to exalt nature at the expense of man. They remind us of the vastness, force, and duration of the universe, as against our limitation, weakness, and mortality. And when they have done this, it is easy to add: "You are the world's; it is everything, you are nothing." But Christianity asserts with mighty emphasis the dignity of human nature. There is an element in us that is not in the universe; an element vaster, for it dreams of infinity; stronger, for it forces nature to do its bidding; more abiding, for it claims immortality. The dignity of man has been demonstrated by the fact of the Incarnation. God will see a sun go out as we see a spark, but Bethlehem and Calvary declare that the redemption of the soul is precious.
2. Christian character. What humanity has lost of authority over nature through ignorance, lust, pride, sloth, covetousness, violence, cruelty, it shall recover through Christ in humility, kindness, wisdom, earnestness, truth, and love. Through righteousness shall we become heirs of the world. More righteousness, and our dominion shall extend over the vast, wild, mysterious forces of the material universe; more righteousness, and the birds of the air, the beasts of the field shall become our loyal subjects as we do not now dream; more righteousness, and desert places shall blossom as the rose.
3. Christian civilisation.(1) How does it come to pass that science should have attained to such perfection in Christendom? Science sprang up ages ago in China, but it soon became an aborted, arrested thing; it flashed out with the Moors, only to sink again into the darkness of paganism. How is it that it is not found where Buddhism reigns, or Confucianism, or Mohammedanism? Christ has girded our scientific men, although some of them know Him not. The glorious science which is making the world ours, is ours because Christ is ours.(2) How does it come to pass that the commerce, which is realising the riches of the world, should have sprung up and come to such wonderful perfection in Christendom? It is because Christ has set up amongst us the kingdom of God and His righteousness that all things are being added unto us. Conclusion —
1. If the world is ours, let us carefully claim it. There would be less "godless science" if religious people more directly and fully put in their claim to nature. If you notice a piece of unclaimed ground anywhere, somebody will shoot his rubbish there; and so if we neglect to claim nature for God, an atheistical science will soon accumulate its rubbish there. Be sure you realise all that creation will give and teach. Enjoy all its physical fruits and treasures so far as they may be given unto you. Then, remember its intellectual ministry. It is to enrich thought, to exalt and expand the mind, to kindle the imagination and feeling. But, above and beyond all this, nature has a ministry to our spirit. Our Lord showed us this. What lessons He found in the lily and in the bird! &c. "The world is ours." It is a magazine of instruments for our service; it is a school full of diagrams for our instruction; it is a sanctuary whose grand symbols, properly interpreted, are sacraments indeed. Man was not made for the world, but the world for man, and we must be careful to realise all the wealth and blessing of our great inheritance.
2. Does any one object, "But this proprietorship is all visionary — how can a man without a foot of land say, the world is mine?" To say that the fields and hills are ours only when we have certain parchments made out in our name, and locked up in our iron safe, that is the artificial proprietorship. That is truly ours which enlarges our mind, rejoices our heart, purifies our life.
(W. L. Watkinson.)
Or life, or death.I. LIFE IS YOURS.
1. It is obvious that St. Paul does not mean that any one is supreme over the events or circumstances of his life. Save in so far as virtue conducts to health and prosperity, there is, in this sense, but one end and course to the righteous and the wicked.
2. St. John wrote in Patmos, "He hath made us kings." This royalty was untouched by transportation and imprisonment. This is a sufficient commentary upon the text. Life is yours still, whatever its condition. You are not its slave because it is adverse. The man who can say, "I have learned the great secret, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content"; "I am in the hand of God, and God is my Father" — is a king in reference to that life, and every part of it. But this empire of the man over his own life is the privilege of him alone who recognises Christ's empire over him. "Life is yours, and ye are Christ's." Give yourself to Him, and then life is yours.(1) For enjoyment. A Christian living his Christianity is a happy man. He has a sense of safety, of independence, of dignity, and of tranquility, in his life; and those two other delightful things, the sense of being cared for, and the sense of having a secret — "For the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him" — a secret of explanation, and (better still) of confidence, between himself and One "whom to know is eternal life" — which must give a joy to the most sorrowful of his experiences, and fully justify, in point of happiness, the apostle's saying to him "Life is yours."(2) For improvement. If to be conscious of growth in anything, knowledge of a language, or skill in a game, or insight into a science, &c., is one of the purest pleasures of which this human nature is capable — what must it be to know oneself the recipient of Divine grace, for illimitable progress in all that is beautiful and lovely and of good report?(3) For communication. When once the thought has entered, "I am not my own, I am Christ's, and Christ is God's," with it there comes the recollection, I am not only the recipient, I am also the transmitter of life. You can help others to live. Your very look and voice may be a help to them. Your happiness, strength, integrity, loving and holy influence, may, through grace, quicken into newness of life some dead soul.
II. DEATH IS YOURS.
1. Who shall echo this? Who that has seen death can do so with any feeling of truth? No, rather we say, as St. Paul (in a different connexion) says, Death reigns. Death is the limit of our free action, as well as the terminus of our long journey. All may be ours up to death, but not further.
2. How shall we interpret this which is here written as to our ownership of death?(1) Your own death is yours.(a) Death is the master of the fallen being, as fallen. It makes every plan precarious. How soon must this right hand lose its cunning! There is not a purchase which can be more than a few years' possession, because of this reign of death over the individual. Hence that feverish eagerness in crowding two years' work or ten years' work into one.(b) It is into existences thus circumstanced that St. Paul bears the startling explanation of the gospel, "Death is yours." Instead of thus cowering and grovelling before the grim phantom, play the man. Death is yours. Take it betimes for your possession, and it shall be great gain. Look to it as the goal and prize of your being; expect it as the admission into a presence which is the fulness of joy, and you will find its very name and nature transfigured. See it as the gate of life, and it shall be yours, not you its, while you live; and it shall be yours, not you its, when you come to die.(2) The death of others is yours.(a) We are apt, by fallen nature, to see ourselves cruelly vanquished by the onslaught of death upon those we love. Many who could face their own death with something better than fortitude, are yet conquered by death when he assails them through another.(b) Yet in Christ we still own the dead. They are ours, not in hope only of reunion, but in possession too and fruition. Our richest stores of all must surely be those which are the most safely garnered. Our most real heirlooms are the memories and the affections of the dead. Death has set his seal upon them. What they were, in faith and patience, in wisdom and beauty, in grace and love — that are they for ever, that are they to us.
I. THE FATALIST, who teaches that we are the slaves of time, place, organisation, and circumstance. Our personal life is sacrificed to the exigencies of nature and humanity; just as the Egyptian tyrant made slaves of the Israelites, and compelled them to build the pyramids, so we are simply tools in the hands of necessity, building strange structures which at last are sepulchres. In opposition to this, the apostle declares that "life is ours" — our servant, with a hundred hands, enriching us with measureless blessings. Christ liberates us from the bondage of the outside world. Science is man asserting his liberty as against nature; history is man asserting his liberty as against the despotism of climate, situation, and material fortune; and Christian life is man asserting his personal liberty as against hereditary influences and current circumstances, and using these in such a way that they build up his character in the full power and beauty of righteousness. Man apart from Christ is too often the manifest creature of circumstances — success inflates him; failure crushes him; darkness makes a worm of him; and sunshine a butterfly. But in Christ life becomes ours, and we use it towards the attainment of that ideal moral perfection which is the mark of the prize of our high calling. You are not the poor vassals of outside forces, you are not sacrificed to the type, you are not insignificant as the coral worm which builds the reef and perishes in the depths, you are free to use the world, and to be served by it in the very largest and grandest sense. The bee does not find honey in every flower, nor the diver a gem in every shell, but in Christ all things are yours, and every emotion within, every action and circumstance without, shall strengthen and refine.
II. THE PESSIMIST, who holds that life is our foe, that to live is a misfortune. It is little matter whether you are rich or poor; life is weeping; the rich man wipes his eyes with a silk, the poor man with a cotton handkerchief, and it doesn't much matter. It is little matter whether you are wise or ignorant; perhaps it is better to be ignorant, since he who increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. Froude writes of Carlyle, "Every day he told me he was weary of life, and spoke wistfully of the old Roman method. Increasing weakness only partially tamed him into patience, or reconciled him to an existence which, even at its best, he had more despised than valued." John S. Mill says his father "thought human life a poor thing at best, after the freshness of youth and of unsatisfied curiosity had gone by... He would sometimes say, that if life were made what it might be, by good government and good education, it would be worth having; but he never spoke with anything like enthusiasm even of that possibility." Miss Martineau says, "You will feel at once how earnestly I must be longing for death — I, who never loved life, and who would any day of my life have rather departed than stayed. Well! it can hardly go on very well much longer now. But I do wish it was permitted to us to judge for ourselves a little how long we ought to carry on the task which we never desired and could not refuse." That is, she wishes that suicide were permitted. "The world's winter is going, I hope, but my everlasting winter has set in." Thus sadly wrote George Eliot. Now, in opposition to all this, the text declares that in Christ "life is ours." The New Testament everywhere holds human life as a precious and blessed thing. Not that Christianity fails to recognise the sad element in human life. Yet, in face of a groaning and wailing creation, it maintains that life is the crowning benediction, to be prized by us all, to be held fast with gratitude and wonder and hope. And living in Christ we prove that life is a blessing. Christ makes man to rejoice in life —
1. By discovering a great purpose in it — the perfection of our immortal spirit, through the love of God and the keeping of His commandments. Here is something to live for.
2. By putting a great strength into it. "I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me."
3. By putting a great love into it. The great curse of life is egotism, selfishness. If our pessimists would only leave their selfish moonings and lay themselves out to help, and bless all who are about them, it would soon change their philosophy.
III. THE SENSUALIST. There is an idea abroad that life belongs to the man who lives to the end of self-indulgence. To see the world of animal indulgence is spoken of as "seeing life." One following a course of licence is said to be "fond of life." Such life is called "fast life," "gay life," and those who live it say to the Christian, "You have some advantage now, you have also great expectations beyond, but surely this life here and now is ours." This we deny. Life, here and now, is ours — it is our inheritance who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. A man who merely lives on the carnal side misses the real depth and fulness of life. You may say that the Greenlander is alive, and that he enjoys life; but what a different thing from the life of Europe! And the spiritual life of man goes still beyond. Now, the man who knows not this life, knows not the true life of man — living for meat and drink and raiment, he is dead while he liveth. To be carnally minded is death — the death even now of the finer faculties of the living soul. Christ enables us to realise life in all its fulness.
1. The life of the senses is ours in Christ. He is "the Lord of the body," and as we live to Him the sensational life becomes ours. The very restraint and moderation which the Christian creed imposes on all material enjoyment only puts us in fuller possession of that enjoyment. We lose our life to find it.
2. Christ leaves us free to expatiate through the whole intellectual world.
3. And, most of all, He brings out that Divine nature of ours in which we most truly and gloriously live. As the summer shines on the landscape, and brings green leaves out of the barren stems, full flowers from the sleeping bulbs, singing birds from the silent woods, a world of sweet smells and bright colours and rich music, so Christ acts upon human nature, realising its instincts, its faculties, its powers, making it to blossom as the rose, to stretch its wings like the eagle, to thrill with joyous feeling as the harp with many strings. Our modern poet tells that "more life and fuller" is what we most need. Surely we find this in Christ. He came that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly.
IV. THE ASCETIC, who denies to the Christian the pleasures of life; he considers that the more meagre, starved, and sad our life is, the safer and better it is, and the nearer to the true ideal. Let us remember that in Christ "life is ours" — all good, bright, glad things. And life shall be ever brighter with us to the perfect day. True life implies constant renunciation, but it implies also constant acquisition. We do not so much put away joy and gladness, as we keep changing one joy for a higher, one glory for a fuller, one gift for a more excellent gift. Christian life often involves self-denial; but every act of renunciation is followed by the acquisition of a strength and treasure, a beauty and blessedness, altogether more deep and precious.
(W. L. Watkinson.)
I. AS BRINGING A CONCLUSION TO ALL HIS SORROWS. It is, to the Christian, the Red Sea, where all pursuing enemies are arrested and perish — the confines of Canaan, where the wilderness, with all its privations and perils, terminates — the perfect sleep, in which the toils of the day are all forgotten, not a dream even, or floating reminiscence, disturbing its composure.
II. AS FORMING THE INTRODUCTION TO HIS HEAVENLY JOYS. When Hannibal was conducting his troops through Alpine heights, before deemed impassable, and they were ready to yield in despair amid the snows and crags and gulfs which surrounded them, he found it sufficient for their reinvigoration to tell them of the fertile Italy they were triumphantly to subdue. Be the boundary of life, then, ever so steep, frowning, and unproved, should not the prospect of Canaan suffice to sustain us amid all its wilds and terrors? We must not judge of what death is to the departing soul by what it is to the survivors. Elisha prayed that his servant's eyes might be opened to see the defence by which they were encompassed. Were a similar prayer to be heard on behalf of Christians lamenting the departure of friends, a sight would be exhibited superior at once in its glory and its efficacy.
III. AS ITSELF CONTRIBUTING TO HIS PRESENT AND FUTURE WELL-BEING.
1. The Greeks and Romans had an adage that no man should be accounted happy till he was dead — thus indicating that a desirable end was a chief element of happiness. But in the connection of our text we have death classed with the present possessions of the Christian, subordinated to his interests, and enhancing life itself by augmenting holiness, usefulness, and reward. Paul says (Acts 20:24), "But none of these things (trials, &c.) move me; neither count I," &c. And so the last stage, anticipated and realised, gives energy to prior stages; and life, while it lasts, is turned to account, and rendered more vital and vitalising, through that solemn change beheld in the vista (2 Peter 1:13, &c.).
2. Death is serviceable to the Christian not only in prospect, but also at the time it befalls him, in affording him occasion for the greatest of victories. There is not, indeed, always the same manifestation of triumph; but it comes effectually and seasonably. "Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory," &c. In case entrance to heaven be abundant, then indeed is grace specially magnified, and the soul in which it dwells is blessed in its commendation. We have not many accounts of death-bed scenes and experiences in the New Testament. Still examples are given us which verify the exclamation, "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace!" Nothing in all Stephen's foregoing service was so serviceable to the cause of the gospel as his martyrdom, and on the very border of sealing his testimony with his blood Paul said, "I am now ready to be offered," &c. Come, ye devotees of pleasure, and witness such spectacles; and say if all your cravings for delight can find anything to equal this transport! Welt may it extort from a very Balaam the aspiration, "Let me die the death of the righteous." It will be eternally good for the Christian to have died. He will thereby be made more like to the Saviour. Think, too, what eternal life will gain by contrast with this. Conclusion: The practical lesson of all is to make sure of death being ours. With multitudes the great aim is to secure benefits of which death will despoil them. By all their acquisitions they are only extending the ravages of the King of Terrors. Be it your aim to coerce hostility into friendship, and make the very spoiler yours.
(D. King. LL. D.)I. THE FORERUNNERS OF DEATH ARE FOR OUR ADVANTAGE. These, indeed, are often not joyous but grievous at first, but afterwards yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby. In common life we often consider those things which are attended with a very considerable degree of pain, as advantageous, because they are so in their results. For instance, a man suffers the amputation of a limb, because he hopes that the operation will be productive of good: and so it is eventually; life is spared. Now, on the same principle, but on higher grounds, we should learn to submit to those afflictions, whatever they may be, that are the precursors of death, to put us in mind that the great destroyer is on his way. "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment," &c.
II. ALL THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF DEATH ARE FOR OUR ADVANTAGE — time and place and manner. "My times are in Thy hand." And we know that God's time is the best; and the place, too, in which we shall expire, and the manner of our death — both will be of Divine appointment, and will prove to be the best. The manner of your death — whether it be natural or violent — whether it be a sudden death, or preceded by a lingering and distressing illness — all these things are ordered by the Lord.
III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF DEATH ARE FOR OUR ADVANTAGE. I do not wonder that people are unwilling to think of death who have not a good hope through grace; but the heir of eternal life can look forward beyond all the dark clouds that intervene between him and the consummation of his happiness, and "rejoice in hope of the glory of God." "Death is yours," if you are members of Christ, for your advantage —
1. Because there will then be an end of all evil — not only moral evil, or sin, but all natural, inward suffering.
2. Because as soon as it takes place, your happy spirits, disentangled from the encumbrance of these tenements of clay, enter into eternal rest.
I. AS THE MEANS OF DELIVERANCE FROM ALL THE INCONSISTENCIES AND SINFULNESS OF TIME. Select any of the people of God whose lives are recorded in the Word of God, and how often have we reason to deplore their inconsistencies! But for death this would be the eternity of their history.
II. AS THE MEANS OF DELIVERING US FROM ALL WEAKNESS AND IMPERFECTION, WHETHER OF BODY OR OF MIND.
III. AS THE MEANS OF RELIEVING US FROM THE ISOLATED POSITION WHICH WE OCCUPY IN THIS WORLD. About the angels we know nothing; we are separated from them. What do we know about the immediate presence of God; the joys of a glorious immortality; the power of the fellowship that is formed around the everlasting throne? By death we enter into the universal region of the good. Conclusion: Sinner, death is not yours — he brings you no benefit. You are his victim. He comes as the messenger of justice to lead you to the judgment seat, to hear the doom which you are to undergo, world without end. Painful as your pilgrimage on earth may be, it is your highest happiness. Your happiness must terminate with its close. You are death's, and when death seizes you, instead of delivering you from your sins and imperfections, all your sins and imperfections are confirmed for ever.
I. IN REFERENCE TO OTHERS.
1. It is so when you seriously regard its universal appointment. There are multitudes who acknowledge this mournful fact, but who derive no advantage whatever from the solemn occurrence. It is otherwise with the Christian; he beholds a number of lessons which, by Divine grace, he is enabled to learn.(1) He sees the evil and malignity of sin; for there is no rational explanation of the cause of death, but as a penalty due to the violated law of God.(2) He discovers, also, that "the creature is made subject to vanity"; for it is not the old and decrepid alone who die.
2. It is so when you are impressed by the deaths of particular characters.(1) When "the wicked is driven away in his wickedness," he is shocked to reflect on their awful doom, and makes the earnest appeal, "Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men."(2) When he hears of the righteous who have expired in the expression of a firm faith and joyful hope of immortality, he pours forth the fervent petition, "May I die the death of the righteous, and may my last end be like his." There is also something in the aspect of the death-bed experience of many a fellow-Christian which has a tendency to banish the fears and animate the holy courage of the fellow-believer.
II. IN REFERENCE TO OURSELVES. "Death is yours," as it is —
1. A complete deliverance from sin.
2. A final termination of suffering.
3. A retreat from injurious and distressing associations.
4. Secures your admission to the enjoyment of all possible good.
(J. Clayton.)2 Corinthians 5:4). We would gladly be clothed with immortality, yet to put off this mortal body is grievous; as little children cry for their new garments, and yet cry while they are putting them on. Secondly, death is a godly man's, because it putteth a period to all those miseries and troubles he was here exercised with. It is the haven, after all the tossings he had in this world. Thirdly, death is theirs, because it is the finishing of all their works and service, and by that they come for their wages. How doth the labouring man long for the end of the day, or the week, that he may come to receive his wages? Fourthly, death is the godly man's, because the meditation and thoughts of it are sanctified to him. He liveth as one that expecteth it daily. Fifthly, death is the godly man's, because he only knoweth how to die well, as we told you. Life was his, because he only could tell how to live. So death is his, because he only knoweth how to die. Simeon saith (Luke 2:29). Sixthly, the godly man hath death as an advantage, if you respect the time and season of his death. His death is not only mercy, but the time of his death is mercy. The term of every man's life is appointed by God, "To Him belong the issues of death" (Psalm 68:20). Now God in great wisdom and mercy hath determined the time of thy death. Lastly, even the violent death of martyrdom, which cometh by the cruel and bloody oppression of implacable enemies, that is theirs. It is a mercy, a gain, and honour. The apostles rejoiced that they were accounted worthy to lose what they had for Christ's sake.
Scripture Doctrines Illustrated.Mr. William Jenkyn, one of the ejected ministers in England, being imprisoned in Newgate, presented a petition to King Charles II. for a release, which was backed by an assurance from his physician that his life was in danger from his close imprisonment; but no other answer could be obtained than this: "Jenkyn shall be a prisoner as long as he lives." A nobleman hearing some time after of his death, said to the king, "May it please your majesty, Jenkyn has got his liberty." Upon which he asked, with eagerness, "Ay! who gave it him?" The nobleman replied, "A greater than your majesty — the King of kings"; with which the king seemed greatly struck, and remained silent.
(Scripture Doctrines Illustrated.)
Homiletic Monthly.Development in our life on earth is limited, as is the development of the bird in the egg. The bursting of the egg-shell is no disaster, but a relief and a profit. That breaking of the shell brings the bird into a world that is unspeakably more glorious. Death is our servant, not our master — through Christ an immeasurable blessing. Because —
I. IT RESTORES US MORE NEARLY TO OUR FRIENDS WHO HAVE GONE BEYOND.
II. IT BRINGS US NEARER TO CHRIST.
III. IT PLACES US IN A POSITION MORE FAVOURABLE FOR SOUL GROWTH.
IV. IT INCREASES OUR CAPACITY FOR USEFULNESS. Those who are faithful in this life in a few things, will be made in the life to come rulers over many things.
V. AS A CONSEQUENCE OUR HAPPINESS WILL BE GREATLY AUGMENTED.
I. AS HE GIVES US ASSURANCE OF THE LIFE BEYOND. If we consider death with the eye of the materialist we feel that we are death's. We are delivered helplessly into its cruel hands, and it strips us of everything. But Christ makes death ours by giving us the assurance of immortality.
1. Men have an instinct of immortality. It has been found in the lowest savages, and in the most intellectual races. Very strange and diversified are the manifestations of this instinct, but that it exists in the human heart is beyond question. And this instinct we are bound to respect. "But then," says Mr. Darwin, "arises the doubt, Can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?" Here he does his own theory injustice. Are not the instincts of the lower creatures on the whole marvellously correct? And, may we not ask with confidence, if the instinct of the caterpillar pointing to the butterfly, if the instinct of the swallow discerning far beyond the sea a land of sunshine and flowers, if these instincts prove no mockery, why should the instincts of human nature, pointing to a grand perfection in a world above and beyond, prove untrustworthy?
2. And reason has a powerful verdict to give on this question of our immortality. Even sceptical philosophers cannot do without this great doctrine. George Sand felt that without immortality there is a painful "deficiency of proportion." Darwin felt it "an intolerable thought" that after such long-continued and costly progress we should all be annihilated. And Edgar Quinet concludes "that, whilst the human race pursues on earth its career of perfection, the individual continues its parallel march in some place and in some form already prepared for it by Providence."
3. But whilst human instinct and reason thus declare for immortality, the subject at last is left in deep uncertainty. It may be nothing more than guess-work and illusion. But when Christ comes all is changed. He makes eternity a fact. You cannot come into contact with Him without tasting the powers of the world to come. He brought life and immortality to light. It is the same change that we witness when we see alchemy changed into chemistry, astrology into astronomy, speculation into science. In Christ the dream becomes a reality, the inference a certainty, the desire knowledge and experience. Christ has shown us that through death we find "more life and fuller," even length of days for ever and ever.
II. AS HE GIVES US FITNESS FOR THE LIFE BEYOND.
1. We are sometimes disposed to consider the question of immortality as altogether an intellectual one; we think if we can only succeed in establishing it on logical grounds, that we have nothing more to do than to surrender ourselves to the mighty comfort. But the moral element enters very largely into it. It is conscience that makes death terrible, the unknown world so dark and dreadful. This Epistle goes to the depth of the thing: "The sting of death is sin." Without sin we might view death with the uneasiness with which we might suppose a caterpillar to view a chrysalis; but a wounded conscience brings in another element, and we shrink from death with sore amazement (see also Hebrews 2:14, 15). If it had not been for sin we should have feared death only as a young bird fears to try its wings, but we fear death now as the bird fears the barbed arrow which drinks up its life.
2. It is very easy for us to see what a vast difference is made in our estimate of death whether we bring in or leave out the idea of guilt. Look at the death of a malefactor. How truly repulsive and terrible is death in such a case in all its circumstances! Consider, on the other hand, the death of a martyr. Here the material adjuncts are pretty much the same; but how different is the effect of the whole spectacle! The very same spectacle of death is a horror or a triumph according as you bring into it the idea of guilt or innocence, of infamy or glory. The consciousness of sin makes death an enemy. Because we are children of disobedience we are all our lifetime in bondage to the fear of death; we are debtors, there is an execution out against us for arrest, and we are always trembling lest the bony policeman should lay his cold grip upon us, saying, "You are my prisoner," and so shut us up in the prison till we have paid that uttermost farthing we never can pay.
3. Here once again Christ makes death ours. He changes death for us from the death of a malefactor to the death of a martyr. He takes away the guilt and power of sin. He satisfies the conscience as He does the intellect. And as He gives peace to the conscience He gives purity and life to the whole personality. Christ becomes the Resurrection and the Life, freeing us from the death of sin, awaking in us the life of righteousness, and so making us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. Christ, so far as we gather from the New Testament, never saw any one die; I do not believe that any one else could have died in His presence; death cannot come where Christ is. Let Christ, then, be with you in your last hour, and death shall be swallowed up in victory.
(W. L. Watkinson.)
Homiletic Monthly.The believer stands with his heel on the neck of the king of terrors. Death is yours as —
I. A CONQUERED FOE TRANSFORMED INTO A FRIEND. A lion's carcass with the honeycomb in it.
II. AN OPPORTUNITY TO GLORIFY GOD. The Christian's way of meeting death, not that of the Stoic glorifying his firmness, nor that of the sceptic glorifying his shame, but of the believer magnifying the grace of God. Showing forth Christ's power perfected in his weakness.
III. A REDEEMER FROM SERVITUDE to the clayey body, and subjection to the discordant, tempting, crippling influence of the physical.
IV. A CONVOY TO HEAVEN — a gateway to glory, a herald of coronation. The dawn of "Graduation Day."
V. A BOON. Rest to the tired pilgrim; harbour for the storm-tossed voyager; Sabbath eve to the working man. Conclusion: Faith in Christ is victory over death.
Or things present.
I. HIS TEMPORAL POSSESSIONS ARE HIS OWN. The ungodly man for awhile engrosses the good things of this life, but they are sent to him often in anger, and are taken away in wrath. As for you, whatever of earthly good the Lord has apportioned you, is in a most blessed manner your own; because —
1. Honestly got. The Christian owns no stolen property or unrighteous gain. Dishonest persons may be rich, but none of their riches are in truth their own; like the jackdaw in the fable, they wear borrowed plumes.
2. Acknowledged to the great Giver with becoming gratitude. Gratitude is, as it were, the quit rent to the great superior owner, and until we discharge the claim, our goods are not lawfully ours in the court of heaven.
3. The due portion which belongs to God has been conscientiously consecrated. The tithing of the substance is the true title to it. It is not altogether thine till thou hast proved thy gratitude by thy proportionate gift to the cause of the Master.
4. We seek to be graciously guided in the use of them. They are not bestowed upon us absolutely; they are ours within the lines of law and gospel, within bounds of sobriety and holiness; not as masters, but as mercies. The benediction of heaven sweetens the lawful use of earthly goods. You are not required to play the ascetic. John came neither eating nor drinking; but the Son of man, who is your master, came both sating and drinking. There is no piety whatever in your accounting the gifts of Providence as necessarily temptations; you can make them so, but that is your folly and no fault of theirs. Vain are those who sneer at nature and the lavish bounty thereof. "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof." It is no crime to enjoy the beauties of nature, but a sign of idiocy to be unaffected thereby. Fair scenes, sweet sounds, balmy odours, and fresh gales, your Father sends them to you, take them and be thankful. Let us note well, before we leave this point, that any of God's saints who have but little of this world's goods, may yet remember that all things are theirs, so that up to the measure of their necessities God will be quite sure to afford them sustenance. The Lord is your shepherd, and you shall not want.
II. TEMPORAL TRIALS.
1. Tribulations are treasures. Saints gain more by their losses than by their profits. Your present trials are yours —(1) As medicine. You need that your soul, like your body, should be dealt with by the beloved Physician.(2) As means of strength. No man becomes a veteran except by practice in arms. Experience worketh patience, and patience brings with it a train of virtues.(3) As windows, through which we get the clearest views of Christ. Do you understand what it is to come up to Christ's Cross, and to be conformed unto His death? It is only as you do this that you will have fellowship with Jesus, and understand what His love was towards you.
2. You who are cross-bearers, I would remind you for your comfort —(1) That you have to bear the cross, but not the curse. Your Lord endured both. The penal result of sin Christ has exhausted, and now the cross that comes to you is garlanded with love.(2) That your Lord sends you a cross, but not a crush. Your cross is proportioned to your strength.(3) That your cross is not a loss. It shall only be a putting out to interest that which is taken from you that it may be returned anon with usury.
III. ALL OUR CIRCUMSTANTIAL SURROUNDINGS. These are ours as subservient to our usefulness. You wish to win souls, and say, "I wish I were a minister"; but you have a family round about you, and you have to keep to that farm, to manage the shop. Now the position you occupy is, all things considered, the most advantageous for doing your utmost for the glory of God. Suppose the mole should cry, "How I could have honoured the great Creator if I could have been allowed to fly. it would be very foolish, for a mole flying would have been a very ridiculous object, while a mole fashioning its tunnels and casting up its castles is viewed with admiring wonder by the naturalist, who perceives its remarkable suitability to its sphere. The fish might say, "How could I display the wisdom of God if I could sing, or mount a tree, like a bird!" But you know a fish in a tree would be a very grotesque affair; but when the fish cuts the wave with agile fin, all who have observed it say how wonderfully it is adapted to its habitat. It is just so with you. If you begin to say, "I cannot glorify God where I am, and as I am," I answer, neither could you anywhere. "But I have a large family," says one, "what can I do?" Train them in the fear of God. "I work in a large factory with ungodly men, what can I do?" Needless inquiry! What cannot the salt do when it is cast among the meat? "I am sick," says another; "I am chained to the bed of languishing." But your patience will magnify the power of grace, and your words of experience will enrich those who listen to you. Look at the seaman out at sea! does he sit down and fret because the wind will not blow from the quarter that he would most prefer? No; he tacks about and catches every capful of wind that can be of use to him, and so reaches the haven at last. Look at a good commander, if he occupies a bad position, he turns that to account, and often makes the worse become the better.
IV. SPIRITUAL PRIVILEGES.
1. The favour of God is not for heaven only; it is ours to-day. Adoption into His family is for this present time.
2. Christ is present, and He is ours. We have a "fountain filled with blood," which puts away all sin; a mercy-seat where all prayer is prevalent; an Intercessor who takes our prayers and offers them.
3. The Holy Ghost, too, is present, and He brings you present enlightenment, guidance, strength, consolation.
4. And if there be any promise to-day written in the Word of God, any blessing to-day guaranteed to the elect family, any mindfulness of Providence, or any abundance of grace, all these are yours, and yours now.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. THAT THE FAITH OF CHRIST SECURES TO US "THINGS PRESENT." It is a common complaint of secularism that the tendency of supernatural religion is to withdraw our attention from the immediate practical world, and to waste our time and powers on mere figments of the imagination. And it is a very common thing for secular writers to point to the mediaeval age for the demonstration of their position, and to assert that civilisation was saved only by the Renaissance calling man's energies from the unknowable to the knowable, from heaven to earth. Now this is capable of a satisfactory reply.
1. We appeal from a corrupt to a pure Christianity. Surely none would compare the positive science of astronomy with the obscure divinations and horoscopes of astrology. Yet astronomy concerns itself with the distant, but the science of the firmament is a most fruitful one in regard to our present immediate worldly interests. And so if in the middle ages a corrupt theology and ecclesiasticism worked badly, that is no argument against the Christianity of Christ. The New Testament never separates earth from heaven. It brings before us, in God and Christ and heaven, great ideals which are to vivify, to enrich, to realise, to exalt, to perfect, all earthly things. Men talk of the unworldliness of Christianity, but it recognises the dignity and rights of the body, it assigns us all the wealth of nature, it leaves us free to work out our intellectual faculty, it gives its Divine sanction to all the articulations of human society. Men talk of the narrowness of Christianity, but it is wide enough for all present things so far as those things are rational and useful. If there ever was a grand protest against narrowness it is the protest of the text. Christianity is wide enough for all muscularities; it shuts out Roman amphitheatres and modern prize-rings, but thank God for the narrowness that shuts out brutality and blood. Christianity is wide enough for all art; it shuts out Pompeian chambers of obscenity, but thank God for the narrowness that shuts out beastliness and ghastliness. Christianity is wide enough for love and home; it shuts out Venus's temple and Mohammed's harem, but thank God for the narrowness that shuts out the degradation of women. Christianity is wide enough for all true commerce, wealth, pleasure; it warns us against covetousness, licentiousness, materialism, but thank God for the narrowness that prevents our taking the big barn of Dives for the supreme goal of life.
2. We appeal from the mediaeval to the modern world. Whatever a few dilettante critics may say, the faith of Christ has filled us with an energy which finds manifold and magnificent manifestations in the things present. Do you find that the faith of Christ gives men about you a distaste for, and makes them successful in, practical life? "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof," and all is yours, for "ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's."
II. THAT THE FAITH OF CHRIST MAKES "THINGS PRESENT" OURS WITH TRUEST AND FULLEST PROPRIETY. In Christ we have —
1. The richest enjoyment of things present. Things are not ours when they are ours legally, conventionally — they are ours only when we so realise them that they rejoice our heart. It is easy to have riches, &c., and yet not have the power to eat thereof. Some maintain that it is in miserable conditions that the deepest need is felt for religious truth and consolation; and they affirm that as man ceases to be miserable, so religion will be ignored as a superfluous thing. But this is far from being the case. Men are never more deeply, mysteriously miserable than they are when they have everything their soul desireth. Look at Germany to-day, brilliant in genius, flushed with power and success, and yet cankered with the philosophy of despair. And we are constant witnesses how successful opulent men are wearied of life; they remind one of bees drowning in their own honey. The fact is, you can only realise the joy of things present in the light of God's presence, in the power of His blessing. When the beautiful orb comes between the sun and the earth, it is an inky blot on the heavens. And so all beautiful things in human life become dark and disappointing the moment they come between us and God. It is only in the light of God that life shines, only in His blessing that it is rich.
2. The fullest profit of things present. A life of material success is no advantage. Maudsley, who has no bias to religion certainly, observes: "There is no more efficient cause of mental degeneracy than the mean and vulgar life of a tradesman, whose soul is entirely taken up with petty gains, who, under the sanction of the customs of the trade, practises systematic fraud and theft. The deterioration of nature which he has acquired will, unless a healthier family influence serve to counteract it, be transmitted as a family heritage to his children, and may result in some form of moral or intellectual deficiency, perhaps in outbreaks of positive insanity." Here, then, the religion of materialism and material success is nothing very grand. Now, what is to save a man from this deterioration? Romances? Politics? The theatre? 'The newspaper? Surely not. Great thoughts, great principles, great hopes — these will lift the soul of the tradesman; and these are to be found only in religion. Christ makes things present ours by making them means and instruments of our higher education. Conclusion: In this way we are told much about impressionism, about making the best of the present moment. It is said that man has always one foot in the past, the other in the future, and that he misses altogether the flowers and fruits, the delights and treasures, of the present. There is no vivid, full realisation of the moment except as we realise immortality in the moment; he who tastes the power of the present must taste the powers of the world to come. In Christ things present are ours because things to come are ours. Present joy is ours in all its depth and preciousness; and these "light afflictions, which are but for a moment," are ours also. "Whilst we look not at the things which are seen," &c.
(W. L. Watkinson.)I. WHATEVER MERCIES OR GOOD THINGS COME ABOUT, THEY ARE THE GODLY MAN'S, in these respects: First, they are for his necessary use and supply. They come as so many gifts immediately given by God for thy necessities. Secondly, these prosperous things are not only in a sanctified way to the godly, but God also requireth that with joy and gladness we should make use of them for His glory. It is lawful for them to eat and drink, and enjoy the good mercies they have with a cheerful, joyful spirit. God doth not only love a cheerful giver, but a cheerful receiver also of His mercies. So then, when prosperous things befall thee, thou mayest with great joy of heart make use of them. Thirdly, these prosperous things are not only sanctified to them, but they are also made sanctifying of them. God giveth them those good things of She body to make their souls better. Abraham had many outward mercies, but these also were helpful to his graces; he was rich in faith, as well as in cattle and great substance. Fourthly, these prosperous present things are theirs, because they know how to make the present use of them for God's glory. As life was theirs, and death theirs, because they only could live well and die well, so present riches, present death, present comforts are theirs, because they know how to make the present improvement of them. And thus it should be with every godly man; there is nothing befalls thee, no good comes to thee, but thou shouldst bethink thyself, How can this be improved for God? How may I make heavenly advantages of these things? Thus be like the bee sucking honey out of every herb. Fifthly, present good things are a godly man's, because they are accompanied with the love and favour of God, which is infinitely more than the good things themselves. That all these good things are the effects of God's favour and gracious reconciliation through Christ, this makes them ours in an eminent manner. When God gave Abraham such large worldly revenues, and withal said He Himself would be his great reward (Genesis 15:1). This was the fulness of happiness. A good conscience is a continual feast. Now no man hath a good conscience but he who is reconciled with God through Christ. Lastly, these prosperous events are theirs, because God giveth contentment of spirit. The blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it (Proverbs 10:22). Many men have these outward mercies, but then many thorns grow up with them. There is so much gall in their honey that all the sweetness is gone.
II. We come now to the second sort of present events, AND THOSE ARE TRIBULATIONS AND AFFLICTIONS. There are none of these present troubles upon thee, though grievous and burdensome, but it is for thy good. Now they may well be called ours — First, because they come from God's gracious love to us. It is the same hand that doth stroke thee and strike thee (Hebrews 12:6; Psalm 119:15). Thy tribulations are for thy advantage, as much as all the mercies thou ever enjoyedst. Go to the fountain from whence they came, and that is nothing but precious love. Secondly, they are thine for the blessed and heavenly effects they work on the godly, so that they could not be so well without them. Now of many excellent effects, consider —(1) They are to humble us for sin, to make us feel how bitter it is to go out of God's way. What profit have I of such sins that now do so wound me?(2) Another end is, to make us more vigilant for the future, to preserve us against future temptations. We have been burnt already. Thirdly, these afflictions are ours, because they are exercises to draw out our graces, our faith, our patience, our heavenly-mindedness, and thereby our crown of glory is greater.
Or things to come.I. THE BROAD FUTURE IS OURS. We are apt to wish to pry into it, but grace forbids us to indulge impertinent and foolish curiosity. My text is a crystal ball, which doth not tell thee facts and minutiae, but what it is far better for thee to know, if thou be Christ's — viz., that all future things are vested in thy name. Let that content thee.
1. We have no reason to expect that the rest of our life will be more unhappy than the years which are passed already. Life to us has its sorrows, but goodness and mercy have followed us hitherto, and they shall with equal certainty follow us all the days of our life. You who are contending against sin may anticipate the joy of conquest. You who are planning how you can serve God on a wider scale, and in a wiser manner, may expect the joy of His guidance.
2. Still, without any foolish forebodings, you may expect troubles. Changes in circumstances may arise, poverty may supplant wealth, and slander injure fame, or if not, thy friends must die. Then, sooner or later, bodily infirmities must set in. And there must come temptations and inward conflicts, in all which we shall have need to possess our souls in patience, lest we be overcome of evil. And certainly to us all there must come the valley of death-shade; "for it is appointed unto men once to die."
3. Passing on a little further, in the Word of God we have dark hints as to the grand events of the future, which concern the Church and the world. All things that shall happen, be they ever so counter to your wishes, will, nevertheless, come up, like Blucher at Waterloo, at the exact moment when they shall help on the grand old cause.
4. Amongst the things to come, there is heaven — the heaven of the separate spirit, and the perfect heaven, when soul and body in one man shall sit down at the right hand of God — all this is ours.
II. THE BRIGHT ETERNAL FUTURE IS OURS.
1. Notice that the text is not "all may be yours." According to some a Christian may have a hope of heaven, but he can never have a certainty of it.
2. Notice, too, that the text is not — "Things to come shall be yours." But how can they be ours till they have come? Because we have a title to them; and though, like nobles who are under age, we come not into our estates until we have reached our majority, yet those estates are as much ours as if we possessed them at this moment. When one of our English kings demanded of his barons where were their title deeds to their lands, a hundred swords flashed from the scabbards, as every man swore to maintain his right by his good sword. We take no sword from its scabbard, but we point to Christ, for He is both our God and our right, and we are persuaded that as our Surety and Representative, He will preserve our inheritance for us.
3. Notice, again, that in the text there is no exception — "Things to come; all are yours." Whatever may be the future glory of the saints, it all belongs to them. And as there is no exception of things, so there is no exception of persons. Not "All belongs to a few of you, and only a portion to others."
4. The text speaks without a grain of contingency as to the things to come. It does not say heaven is ours if there be a heaven; but the blessings are spoken of as though they must come. Our future glory is ordained by Divine decree. It is hastened on by every event of Providence; it is prepared by the ascension and session of our Lord; in measure, beatified saints are already partakers of it, and we may rest assured that by no means shall we be defrauded of it.
III. EXAMINE WELL YOUR TITLE DEEDS TO SEE WHETHER THEY BELONG TO YOU. Are you Christ's? Do you trust Him? Do you love Him and serve Him? If so, your title is clear, and all future things are yours. Rejoice even now in your inheritance. Conclusion:
1. All these things are yours; then —(1) Prepare for them.
2) Gratefully bless God for them.
2. If thou hast no title for these things to come, be amazed and confounded, for it will be an awful thing for heaven to come and thou no entrance into it. God grant that thou mayest lay hold on Christ by an act of faith; thus and thus only the blessings of Christ shall become yours.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)I. HUMANITY HAS A GRAND FUTURE. Consider —
1. The possibilities of nature. The scoffer speaks of all things continuing as they were from the beginning of the creation, but the scoffer is wrong. Things have changed, are changing, and will change immensely yet. You cannot look into the prophecy of Isaiah, into the argument of Paul, into the vision of John, without a deep feeling of the coming glorification of nature. "Yes," you say, "but we cannot build much on these." Very well, then, listen to a President of the Royal Society. Sir J. W. Dawson writes: "There have been, and might be again, conditions which would convert the ice-clad arctic regions into blooming paradises, and which, at the same time, would moderate the fervent heat of the tropics. We are accustomed to say that nothing is impossible with God; but how little have we known of the gigantic possibilities which lie hidden under some of the most common of His natural laws!" "How great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up, which Thou hast hidden, for them that fear Thee! "Nature is a great storehouse, whose treasures of darkness will in due time be brought into the light.
2. The possibilities of society.(1) Who shall say where the perfecting of our physical nature shall end? The coming man, according to science, is to be tall, and free, and lofty of carriage, having a godlike intelligence of countenance. And the woman of the future is to grow with and through the ages in strength and beauty.(2) Who shall say what; the intellectual force of the coming man may be? Emerson speaks of "the unexplored riches of the human constitution," and it is delightful to think of the faculties of our nature which are yet so largely undeveloped.(3) Our senses now only take in a bit of the universe, and a larger education of those senses will bring into ken new continents of wonder and wealth. We in the nineteenth century are wonderful people, but in a century or two more we shall appear to our posterity mere barbarians.(4) Who shall say what the social perfection of the future shall be? The Book of the Revelation has proved a stumbling-block to many. But George Lewes reminds us that Comte's system has its Apocalypse as full of wonderful things touching a glorified humanity as John's cities of gold. So all parties are full of expectations of progress — saints, scientists, socialists, are looking for ages of gold. Men are always asking for finality, but there is no finality in anything. We move from evil to good, from good to better, from better to better still. Every new discovery fills us with wonder and delight, and we are prone to stay with it, to rest in it, as if it were the ultimate glory; but God keeps saying to us, "Thou shalt see greater things than these." Some men talk of the world finishing; it is but commencing. This is but the first stage of our existence, and new earths and new heavens open on our sight.
II. THE GRAND FUTURE OF HUMANITY WILL BE REALISED IN CHRIST. This is the distinct teaching of the Scriptures. The Old Testament teaches that in Messiah the world, the ages, will become the possession of the faithful. In the Hebrews we are taught that Christ is Heir of all things, and that He brings many sons to share His glory; and so in Romans 8. The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the apostle declares in the Ephesians, hath set Christ at; His own right hand in the heavenly places, and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the Church, which is His body.
1. It is only in godliness that there is progress.(1) Religion, in setting the living God before us, sets before us a grand inspiring Ideal, which makes the highest perfection possible. We have only to look to China to find an illustration of the non-progressiveness of an atheistic people. It is the ]and of arrested development, of fossils, of petrifactions. If you could take religion out of our civilisation, as some desire, Europe would immediately resemble the fabled city in which every person and thing was changed into stone.(2) Now, if godliness be the life of the race, Christianity is the religion of progress, because it gives us the highest conception of godliness. Blessed is the nation that has God in Christ for its Ideal. How can it stand still? "Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee," will be its motto, its evolving force, its strength and glory. It is only in righteousness that there is progress. Moral advancement is the condition of all other advancement, and it would be utterly ruinous if our material prosperity outran our moral wealth. There is certain knowledge and a certain liberty you keep from a child, who could only abuse them; and you give him a spoon until he is fit to be trusted with knives, razors, and swords. So it is with the nations. It was necessary that there should be a fuller moral discipline in the race before we could be trusted with certain knowledge and instruments and forces. And so God will continue to enrich us as we are morally fit for fuller wealth and dominion; just as Christ sets up amongst us the righteousness of God, so shall all other things be added unto us.
2. It is only in hope that there is progress. "When the heart sinks the ship sinks," and when a people lose heart the mightiest and richest civilisation suffers wreck. Now, the religion of Christ is pre-eminently the religion of hope. Of the confusion and anguish of the world there is no mistake, but everything depends upon the interpretation of the wailing creation. Says the pessimistic philosophy, the world is in its death-throes. And herein that philosophy strikes at; the very root of civilisation and progress. No, says Christianity, it is the birth-pang of a grander world that is now coming into the light. And herein is the faith of Christ a well-spring of life and energy to our race as it struggles onward to its goal of glory. We are saved by hope — that is, by Christ.
(W. L. Watkinson.)
Homilist.Here is the three-fold cord which unites earth with heaven.
I. THE SOURCE of all things — God. He possesses all things.
1. By creation.
2. By undisputed authority. There is no other being in the world to dispute His right.
3. By practical manifestation. He regulates all we see and know.
II. THE RECIPIENTS of all things — "All things are yours."
1. In the Church — its members, their labours, graces, and efforts.
2. In the present world — that is, all its highest good.
3. In the world to come — life, death, and eternity.
III. THE MEDIUM OF CONNECTION — "Ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." Here is one Being standing between man and God. Christ's relationship to the Father renders Him proprietor of the universe. His relationship to us gives us all He possessed. We are one with Him who is one with the Father.
(Homilist.)I. ALL THINGS FOR MAN — so wide is the first inclusion. Laws and forces, beauties and sublimities, thought, invention, genius, endeavour, failure, victory — the history of them, the evolution to which they have contributed — life and death, what is, and what is to be — such is man's inheritance. "How the world is made for each of us!" — each a centre to which the streams of a thousand hills converge, the rays of a thousand stars, the sorrows and joys of ten thousand hearts. "Man is one world, and hath another to attend him." He can go the whole round of creation, selecting, appropriating what he will.
II. BUT THERE IS ANOTHER INCLUSION BY WHICH THE FIRST IS RULED AND MADE CONSONANT WITH OUR TRUE POSITION. It cannot seem that our enjoyment and use exhaust the economy of the world. Does any one go the whole round of creation and gather its gems to enrich himself? — then his wisdom is at an end. The whole would be lost, as mere unproductive expenditure, if men kept it for their own glory. There is One who claims men. The end of God's gifts is not to aggrandise a man so that he shall become a self-satisfied vanity, filled with the wind of knowledge, the pride of possession. The law is — All belongs to you, and you to Christ. It is when we are possessed by Christ, and our life is His tribute, that the wealth of nature and the bounty of providence fill our souls to their spiritual fulness.
III. And the final inclusion gives a perfect issue to the series. ALL IS FROM GOD, AND RETURNS THROUGH CHRIST TO GOD. Where else can there be an end? The world and life, the streams from a thousand springs, flow into the being of the man whose soul is opened and enlarged by his devotion to Christ. And Christ with all the men He has made His own, and all they have gathered from the generous creation, a broad, deep, rejoicing river, must flow in eternal tribute to the Father. Conclusion: We see —
1. The use of the world — to enlarge the mind, enrich the soul, and perfect the power of man.
2. The place of men with all their science, power, and experience, gathered from the vassal world — to serve Christ, to make for Him a manifold kingdom of brave, wise, earnest life.
3. Christ as mediatorial Prince, all the conquests, gains, and harvests of His patient toil and splendid sacrifice devoted to the glory of the Father, whose He is. This is the cycle which completes the Christian philosophy of being, the economy of the natural and spiritual universe, revealing the glory of the world, of man, of Christ, and of God.
(R. A. Watson, M. A.)
I. That HE OWNS THIS WORLD. If you have a large park, a grand mansion, &c., to whom will you give the first right to them? To your own children. Now this world is God's park, and while He allows those who refuse His authority the privilege of walking through, all this grandeur is the right of the Christian. He may not have the title-deed to one acre of land; but we can go up on a mountain and look off and say, "All this is mine: my Father gave it to me." Lawyers when they search into titles often find everything right for some years back; but, after a while, they come to a break in the title, a diversion of the property, and find that the man who supposed he owned it has no right to it at all. Now examine the title to all earthly possessions. Go back a little way, and men of the world think they have a right to them; but go farther back, and you will find the whole right vested in God. Now, to whom did He convey it? To His own children! And in the last days they will have it literally. "The meek shall inherit the earth." The Christian has a right to —
1. The refinements of life. He has a right to as fine apparel, to as beautiful adornments, to as elegant a residence. Show me any passage that tells the people of the world that they have privileges that are denied the Christian.
2. All the sweet sounds. When did the house of sin or the bacchanal get the right to music?
3. All artistic and literary advantage. I do not care on whose wall the picture hangs, or on whose pedestal the sculpture stands, "All are yours."
4. Full temporal support. The commissary department of an army will busy scores of people, but just think of the commissary department of a world! God spreads this table first of all for His children, and therefore it is extreme folly for them ever to fret about food or raiment. If God takes care of a wasp, will He not take care of you?
5. All the vicissitudes of this life, so far as they have any religious profit. There are a great many sharp curves in life; but if we are Christians we are on the right track, and are going to come out at the right place. In this voyage of life we often have to change our tacks. One storm blows us this way, and another that way; but He who holds the winds in His fist will bring us into the haven at the right time. One of the best things that ever happened to Paul was being thrown off his horse. One of the best things that ever happened to Joseph was being thrown into the pit. The losing of his physical eyesight helped John Milton to see the battle of the angels. All things work together for your good.
II. HE OWNS THE NEXT. Death is not a ruffian that comes to burn us out of house and home, to leave us homeless for ever. He is only a messenger who comes to tell us it is time to move from this hut into that palace. The Christian owns all heaven. He will not walk in the eternal city as a foreigner, but as a farmer walks over his own premises. "All are yours." All the mansions yours. Angels your companions. Trees of life your shade. You look up into the face of God, and say, "My Father." You look up into the face of Jesus and say, "My brother." Yours the love. Yours the acclaim. Yours the transport.
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
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