For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.
I. THE NATURE OF GOD'S KINGDOM PROVES THAT IT CANNOT BE MERELY IN WORD.
1. A kingdom implies authority exercised, obedience rendered. Although a kingdom not of this world, not maintained and supported by human means, by laws and arms, still God's empire is a reality. Christ is the King and Head; his laws are binding and stringent, although the motives that inspire obedience are gratitude and love - his subjects are willing and submissive.
2. Such a kingdom is incompatible with the reign of words. To be a subject of Christ is not
(1) to be merely by verbal assent, as by confirmation or any other form of admission to Church privileges, associated with the society of Christians; nor is it
(2) to make any kind of profession; nor
(3) to recite and maintain the great Christian creeds; nor
(4) to utter words expressive of devotion. Men may make use of many and sacred words, and be none the nearer the kingdom of heaven. A nominal and verbal kingdom is weak and despicable; such is not the spiritual kingdom of our Lord.
II. THE ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE POWER OF THE KINGDOM.
1. Words may be only from man; power is from God. All natural and physical power originates in him. But moral power is either good or evil; and the good only but always is from God. Christ is "the Power of God."
2. When we contemplate this spiritual power which pervades the new kingdom, what do we find it to be? The power of truth, the power of goodness, the power of pity and of love.
III. WHERE AND HOW THIS POWER DISPLAYS ITSELF.
1. Its seat is the soul; there it first enthrones itself, and thence it spreads until it pervades the whole nature, changing the beliefs, the feelings, the principles, and the habits. For "the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
2. The power of this kingdom manifests itself through the whole realm of human nature and life; both by the forces, obstacles, and oppositions it overcomes, and by the results it produces. We observe these effects especially in
(1) the newness of life which is characteristic of the kingdom, as emphatically in the case of the first disciples, brought out of Judaism and paganism into the marvellous light of the gospel;
(2) in the social results, which were exhibited in the cities where the gospel took root, and where the sentiment of brotherhood proved a new power in humanity, sanctifying society within and attracting elements from without.
(3) We have a proof of this power in the case of those martyrs who for Christ's sake were content to lay down their life; for here we have evidently a new spiritual force, capable of inspiring with a fortitude in the cause of an unseen Lord which surpassed the heroic devotion of a Roman to his country's good.
(4) The progress and perpetuity of this power stamps it as Divine, as the one great prevalent and successful force working in human society for its purification, its elevation, its lasting and highest welfare. - T.
For the kingdom of God is not in word, hut in power.
I. IS NOT IN WORD. It is one of the leading features of the age to make the gospel consist in phrases. It is a kind of pious fashion to formulate religious truths like the definitions of an exact science, and satisfy ourselves, and condemn others, only as they agree or not with the vernacular of party. There is a grievous lack of earnest originality, a suspicious amount of spiritual plagiarism in colloquial Christianity. Men adopt current phrases as a hypochondriac imagines the normal symptoms of a disease. Falsehoods often repeated at length impress their author with a vague belief of their veracity. And so the hypocrite or the formalist rehearse the spiritual phraseology of faith till they believe themselves believers. During the last century the besetting sin of the Church was a lifeless formality. Men have since learned to lay stress on forms of words in lieu of forms of worship.
II. IS IN POWER. But what kind of power? Not natural, nor moral, nor intellectual power. In these all men vary, but in the power of the text all who are the subjects of it are alike; for "it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." Note —
1. Its commencement in believers in Christ, to "whom gave He power to become the sons of God."
2. In its continuance in them, as they are "kept by the power of God unto salvation."
3. Its influence, so that this Divine "strength is made perfect in our weakness." When I am weak, then I am strong."
4. Its extent, including the final destiny of the body, which is "sown in weakness, but raised in power."
5. Its duration. Christ's people, like their Lord, being kings and priests after the order of Melchisedek, are "made after the power of an endless life."Conclusion:
1. By this power St. Paul would gauge the professions of his rivals. Not by their speech, though they might have had "the knowledge which puffeth up"; nor by their gifts, for they might have gifts without grace, or they might have grace without the gifts. So he would try professors now; for "the kingdom of God is not meat and drink," &c. And the solemn inquiry is, Have we "the form of godliness without the power"? If our personal religion have not power enough within us to subdue our besetments, with all its tongues of men and angels, its mysteries, and knowledge, and prophecy, and it may be, "all faith," it is the "sounding brass and tinkling cymbal." It is not the professing, but the putting on Christ, and by necessary consequence "the putting off as concerning the former conversation the old man with his deeds."
2. A day is coming when the critical inquiry will be, not what doctrinal system we professed, but what was its influence on our hearts and lives?
(J. B. Owen, M. A.)I. ITS INSTRUMENT — revealed truth. Although the word may be present without power, wherever the power is put forth it employs the word as its instrument: although the letter is sometimes dead, it is by that letter, when it lives, that all the real work is done.
II. ITS ESSENCE — Christ (1 Corinthians 1:24). Here is the fountain-head of all the force which, through the preaching of the truth, can be brought to bear upon the hearts and lives of men. The word and ordinances stand ready to convey the power, but the redemption that is in Christ is the power which must be led to men's hearts and led on.
III. ITS APPLICATION is effected by the ministry of the Spirit. Before His ascension our Lord promised this, and at Pentecost the promise was fulfilled. Then the kingdom came in power to a multitude who had previously known it in word only. From that day to this, with a ministry sometimes silent as the dew, and sometimes terrible as a tempest, the same Spirit has been working in the world.
IV. ITS EFFECTS.
1. It subdues. It seizes Saul, and in a moment Jays him prostrate on the earth. It makes him blind, and again gives him light. It strips him of his own righteousness, and forthwith clothes him in another. The soldier is compelled to change his side, and without even putting off his armour marches under another Captain to fight another foe. The conquest, as might have been expected, is more complete than any which earthly powers can achieve (2 Corinthians 10:5). Other monarchs rule men's actions; Christ is King of thoughts.
2. It comforts. It is as much the peculiar prerogative of royalty to make peace, as to declare war. "Peace I leave with you," &c. These are kingly words; only One has the right to use them.
3. It levies tribute. This is the sure mark of a real kingdom. Once the king of Britain claimed to be also king of France. In France his kingdom consisted in word only; in Britain and Ireland it came in power. Here tribute flowed into the royal treasury; there not a penny was paid. Christ's kingdom, wherever it is real, puts forth the taxing power. Tribute, bearing the image and superscription of earthly kings, flows into its treasury to maintain its machinery and extend its bounds; but the self of the subject is the coin in which the King best likes the tribute to be paid.
(W. Arnot, D. D.)
I. A GOVERNMENT OF AUTHORITY IN DISTINCTION FROM LEGISLATION AND REPRESENTATION. A government of absolute authority is characterised —
1. By certainty in the righteousness of its requirements. Human governments cannot be certain here; they arise from finite intelligence; but the government of God arises from infinite intelligence and righteousness, and hence it is absolutely certain. We are so constituted as to accept with entire confidence that condensation of the Divine government known as the Tea Commandments. If a reformer were to propose to change these laws, they could not be accepted by the human character which God has created. In this certainty we see the distinction between the Divine and a merely verbal government.
2. By certainty in the reach of its prerogative. This is not possible to human governments. There are of necessity questions of prerogatives with regard to territories and dynasties, and consequently wars arise over questions of prerogative. There can, however, be no doubt with regard to the reach of the Divine prerogatives. He is the creator of all men, and hence has the sovereign right to govern all. And the omnipresence and omniscience of the sovereign power settles the question.
3. By certainty in the execution of penalties. This is not possible of human governments, for witnesses may be incompetent, and juries may be mistaken. But there is a perfectness in the administration of the Divine justice which renders evasion and error impossible.
II. IT IS A GOVERNMENT OF ABSOLUTE AND OF AVAILABLE CONDITIONS, AND IS THEREFORE REMEDY IN DISTINCTION FROM INEXORABLE DOOM. It is one kind of power, having imposed penalties, to inflict them; it is another kind of power to maintain the authority of the government, and yet extend the grace of God. Because Jesus died and ever liveth to make intercession for us, we are called to receive the forgiveness of sins. When the pardon is announced from God, the repenting, believing sinner is able to say, "Being justified by faith, I am at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." There is man dead in trespasses and sins, but under the power of the quickening Spirit the soul is brought to life again. There are the stains which sin has made upon our souls, but "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all unrighteousness." This is the remedy. You thus see the power of God's govermnent rising above all mere nominal definitions in the great change of heart and change of life which the gospel works upon the souls of men. This is the government of remedy, and hence the government of power.
III. IT IS A LIFE IN DISTINCTION FROM A DOCTRINE. The potency of the Divine kingdom appears in the fact that it accomplishes what all other forms of power fail to achieve. It is the power not of mere creed, but the power of God within the soul; and hence springs up a life that is "hid with Christ in God." It is a new life, for it is life that flows from Jesus Christ through the faith that is operative in the soul. "Old things have passed away, and behold, all things have become new." This is a life of obedience, purity, and benevolence. Let me not be misunderstood as depreciating or undervaluing dogmatic theology; the kingdom, however, is not the doctrine whatever may be its form or its correctness. To take in the words of the Lord Jesus as He utters them is spirit and life, and inclusive of the kingdom; but the words of which we speak are the words of men having only a representative authority with regard to truth. If you ask me, Where is the kingdom? It is within you. If you ask me, What is the kingdom? I answer, It is "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost."
(Bp. J. T. Peck.)I. IT IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD. A kingdom which He hath erected in the hearts of men.
1. Of this kingdom God is the Sovereign. He hath laid the foundations of it, and He therefore of right presides over it, commanding a ready obedience to His will, taking effectual care of its real interests, and administering all its affairs with infinite wisdom and goodness.
2. As the heart is the place where He hath erected His throne, so the powers of it, the understanding, will, and affections, are the proper subjects over which He sways His sceptre.
3. Nor need we be at any loss to determine what are the means or instruments by which the soul of man, restored to the dominion of its rightful Sovereign, is ruled and governed. By the sacred Scriptures the man of religion would have his opinions, affections, and conduct directed, governed, and tried.
4. We are led to contemplate the beauty, order, and harmony of this spiritual kingdom, which is another idea the metaphor naturally conveys.
5. If such be the nature and tendency of religion, how great are the privileges and immunities annexed to this spiritual kingdom!
6. Its stability and duration. It is a kingdom that shall not be moved. The foundation of it is laid in the purpose and grace of Him who wants neither means nor inclination to support and defend it.
II. IT IS NOT IN WORD, BUT IN POWER. It is not "in word," it does not consist in notions, professions, or external forms — things wherein men are too apt to place the essence of it; but "in power," it is an inward spiritual vital principle, which takes hold of the heart and diffuses its influence through the life. It may in general be described as a principle of Divine and spiritual life. If it be considered in reference to the understanding it expresses itself in our perceptions, reasonings, and reflections about spiritual objects; if in regard to the conscience, in a lively impression of the truth and importance of Divine things; if as respecting the judgment, in an approbation of the things which are excellent; if the will, in a concurrence with whatever appears to be the pleasure of God, and in one word, if it be considered in reference to the affections, it consists in the direction of them to their proper objects. The result of all which will be such a course of behaviour as is in the general answerable to this state of the mind. And now with hew much reason may we —
1. Appeal to the judgments and consciences of all men, whether there is not a real excellency in what we have thus been describing! How much then —
2. Is it to be lamented that so little of real religion is to be found in our world!
3. Of what importance is it that we each of us seriously examine ourselves upon this question, whether God hath erected His kingdom in our hearts, and in what it consists, whether in word or in power!
(S. Stennett, D. D.)
1. In a kingdom the subjects become connected with each other and with their king. Salvation connects man with man, and man with God.
2. In a kingdom there is strength. Many kingdoms are powerful, but this is more so than the whole of them.
3. The kingdom of God is not in word; it is not in "enticing words of man's wisdom." Words pertain to the kingdom, but they are not its power — words are the clothing; power is in the body where truth lies. Fallen angels are mighty and have possession of man's fallen nature; the angels must be subdued, and man must be changed. What words are adequate for such a performance?
4. The kingdom of God is not like the kingdom of men, where the power is in the voice of the people: here the power is in the king, and of the king.
5. The power of this kingdom is exercised in the people of God. A new nature is formed in them by an almighty power. The power that will raise the dead in the last day is now exercised in raising the spiritually dead into a life of holiness. The grace received is not in word, but in power: the man does not talk of repentance merely, but departs from iniquity: he does not speak of faith merely, but believes in Christ, and gives himself to Him. The power of the kingdom makes strong the weakest.
6. The power of the kingdom is engaged on behalf of the subjects. The power of their King was engaged for the subjects here on earth, when He stood as their surety. Out of the treasures of holiness in Christ the power of God draws when engaged in the sinner's sanctification. The might and the holiness of God are alike infinite.
7. The power of God is sovereign in its exercise. A greater degree of success attended the preaching of fishermen in one day, than had been produced by the ministry of Christ Himself in three years and a half. Paul had the same gifts in preaching in every place, but not the same success.
8. The power of the kingdom is exercised against the enemies of the Church, and it reduces the creation into order. Sin and Satan are the great authors of disorder, and this kingdom is opposed to them; and its power will bring down whatever will rise up against it.
9. It will be the power of the kingdom that will appear in the great day. The Lord Jesus Christ will "judge the quick and the dead, at His appearing and His kingdom." Thenceforth the very world of perdition will be in order: then the chief author of disorder will be reduced to eternal order. Not many words will be used on the occasion, but power.
(C. H. Parkhurst, D.D.)
(C. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)1. The text does not mean that words have no place in the kingdom of God. No man made a more marvellous use of language than St. Paul. A man who has a perfect command of words has a very great command of things, because words are things in reality.
2. Yet it is true that the kingdom of God is not in words but in power, as it is that the glory of the picture is not in its frame, but in the picture itself. The gospel is in power. Men write and speak about it, some for and some against it; and in either case there is evidence of its power. Nothing in Europe to-day has such power over the minds of men as the New Testament. Millions of people believe the gospel, and are endeavouring in a manner to conform their lives to its requirements. Then people who are in trouble all love it. You have no idea what a power it has over them. What is the reason? I attribute the power of the gospel —
I. TO THE CHARM OF THE LIFE OF JESUS. You have read all manner of lives, but as a rule you do not read a man's biography twice. But how many times have you read the life of Christ? You say, "But it is in the Bible, and is inspired." You do not read it because of that. The main secret is in the charm of the history itself. There are certain elements of it that must always have a wonderful power over man.
1. Its truth and naturalness. Some men love error, but our nature loves reality, and any man that is brave enough to be natural and true will be loved, and people will gather around him. No age was ever more real than this. Everywhere men are inclined to discover the reality of things, whether in the heavens or in the earth. Look at the sorrowful earnestness of writers in the daily journals. In the New Testament you meet a man who speaks fresh from the glory of God; you come in contact with reality and truth, qualities which will always have a charm.
2. Its perfect goodness and love. All that is rich, sweet, and inspiring in the vegetable world is concentrated in the fruit of the vine. Jesus said, "I am the Vine"; and all the virtues are found in Him. It is this that gives a power and a charm to the gospel.
3. Its supernatural majesty. Take one or two instances. There arose a great storm, and He said, "Peace be still." There followed a great calm. He sees people burdened with sin and sorrow, and He says, "Come unto Me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." When sin and death came into the family of friends, He said, "Lazarus, come forth," and the man came forth from the tomb. You may write splendid essays to prove that miracles are outside experience; but as long as you have this supernaturalism mingled with goodness, and all founded upon truth and naturalness, you will have a power which will always have a charm for the minds of men.
II. TO THE MANNER IN WHICH OUR LORD MAKES GOOD HIS DOCTRINE OF THE DIVINE INTEREST IN US. Science is bringing marvellous facts to light. Why then not make a religion of science, and make thoroughly scientific men the priests of that religion, and let its disciples worship the cosmos? You cannot. Science does not touch the heart deep enough. Why not make a religion of philosophy? Why not worship the Absolute One which underlies all things? The answer again is you cannot. Philosophy does not touch the heart deep enough to cause it to worship. Splendid as it is, still it seems cold as the northern lights that play around the pole. Why has the gospel a power over us? It brings God near to the heart, and enables us to believe in, to love, and to worship Him.
III. TO ITS DOCTRINE OF ETERNAL LIFE. All that we are and all that we have are summed up in the word "life." Hence men love life so dearly. "All that a man hath will he give for his life." We say of some people that they love riches, but it is not gold the people love. It is the position, the influence, the enjoyments, the independency that wealth gives. Men love wealth because it can make their life deeper, richer, broader. These are seeking the tree of life if they only knew it, but in the wrong way, in a way in which they never can find it. The gospel has a charm over us because it speaks certainly concerning eternal life. If you could take away all desire of knowledge from man, then you might shut up all the libraries of the world, for books would have no power. Books appeal to the love of knowledge. If we could lock out this thirst for life, if we could reduce the human mind to contentment, so that it should cease to desire an endless, blessed existence, then might the gospel become a dead letter. But whilst we thirst for eternal life, the message "I give unto you eternal life" shall always be welcome.
(T. Jones, D. D.)
1. When they are employed to weaken the outward institutions of piety. Some would so refine religion as to render it unsuited for human beings. We have to worship God in spirit, but we must not forget that we have bodies. There may be the form of godliness without the power, but while we are here the power cannot be manifested without the form. Even the practical duties of life are better discharged by those who wait upon God in His appointed means. It is a dangerous delusion that leads people to the neglect of those means and forms which God, who knoweth our frame, has enjoined us to use.
2. When we fail to regulate our religion by the rule of God's Word. Impulse is good, but requires guidance. Zeal may cause our good to be evil spoken of, and even produce evil. One duty must not defraud another. There are some who would even use the text to do away with social distinctions.
II. IMPROVED by applying them —
1. To judging ourselves. Is religion a power in our lives? Does faith work by love? Professions or intentions do not make piety.
2. To judging others. Men differ in temperament. We often consider an individual who speaks much on religion as a zealous Christian, when, if we followed him through life, we should find him as zealous in worldly concerns. So also we meet with a man who shrinks from notice, and set him down as not "fervent in spirit," when it is only his natural timidity that restrains him from more active exertion.
(J. J. S. Bird, B. A.)I. IF WE WOULD FORM A JUST NOTION HOW FAR WE ARE INFLUENCED BY THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL, WE MUST PUT ASIDE EVERYTHING WHICH WE DO MERELY IN IMITATION OF OTHERS, AND NOT FROM RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLES.
1. Let a man consider the number of times he has attended public worship because others do; or the number of times he has found himself unequal to temptations when they came, which beforehand he and others made light of, and he must own that his outward conduct shapes itself unconsciously by the manners of those with whom he lives.
2. Now, I am not condemning all that we do without thinking expressly of the duty of obedience at the very time we are doing it. It is natural to a religious man to obey, and therefore he will do it naturally, i.e., without effort or deliberation. Separate acts of faith aid us only while we are unstable. As we get strength, but one extended act of faith (so to call it) influences us all through the day, and our whole day is but one act of obedience also. Our will runs parallel to God's. We are moved by God dwelling in us, and need not but act on instinct.
3. How different is this high obedience from that random unawares way of doing right, which to so many men seems to constitute a religious life! The one is obedience on habit, the other obedience on custom; the one is of the heart, the other of the lips; the one is in power, the other in word; the one cannot be acquired without much and Constant vigilance, generally not without much pain and trouble; the other is the result of a mere passive imitation of those whom we fall in with. Have we then received the kingdom of God more than externally?
II. WE MAY HAVE RECEIVED IT IN A HIGHER SENSE THAN IN WORD MERELY, AND YET IN NO REAL SENSE IN POWER. Our obedience may be in some sort religious, and yet hardly deserve the title of Christian.
1. It is possible, according to St. Peter, to fear God and work righteousness without being Christians. Is it not the way of men to dwell with satisfaction on their good deeds? They never harmed any one, they have not given in to a profligate life; they can speak of their honesty, industry, conscientiousness, &c. Now all this is really praiseworthy, and, when a man from want of opportunity knows no more, really acceptable to God; yet it determines nothing about his having received the gospel of Christ in power.
2. To be Christians, surely it is not enough to be that which we must be, even without Christ; not enough to be no better than good heathens. I am not wishing to frighten these imperfect Christians, but to lead them on; to open their minds to the greatness of the work before them, to dissipate the meagre and carnal views in which the gospel has come to them, to warn them that they must never be contented with themselves, but must go on unto perfection; that till they are much more than they are at present, they have received the kingdom of God in word, not in power.
3. What is it, then, that they lack? Read 2 Corinthians 5:14, 17; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:12-16; Galatians 4:6; Luke 9:23. Now it is plain that this is a very different mode of obedience from any which natural reason and conscience tell us of. Observe in what respect it is different from that lower degree of religion which we may possess without entering into the mind of the gospel.(1) In its faith; which is placed, not simply in God, but in God as manifested in Christ, according to His own words, "Ye believe in God, believe also in Me."(2) We must adore Christ as our Lord and Master, and love Him as our most gracious Redeemer.(3) We must, for His sake, aim at a noble and unusual strictness of life, perfecting holiness in His fear, destroying our sins, mastering our whole soul, and bringing it into captivity to His law, exercising a profound humility, and an unbounded, never-failing love, and shunning irreligious men. This is to be a Christian.
(J. H. Newman, D. D.)1. This "kingdom" is not God's government among the nations; nor the outward dispensation of the gospel, a kingdom which is "preached" unto us; nor the sphere of celestial bliss, to which we are "called." It is spiritual. "It cometh not with observation." It is "within us." We can only "see" it and "enter" it by being "born again." It is not ceremonial observance, but "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." Its "mystery" can alone be appreciated by subjection to it. It is so inestimable that we must "seek it first."
2. This kingdom is not in "word," a mere proclamation — it is in power. This is a thing very difficult to define. To tell us that it is ability, capacity, strength, is idle repetition. It will better reveal its true meaning in the facts which the text will identify.
I. RELIGION IN ITS HOLD AND OPERATION UPON THE HEART IS NOTHING LESS THAN THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
1. You must lay aside all notion of empires and thrones. You must remove all your ideas to the soul which once belonged to the kingdom of Satan. In our conversion God's reign begins. The atonement slays our enmity, and gives us our true and perfect law of liberty. We are "willing in the day of His power."
2. The kingdom of God supposes the corn stunt operation of authority, and of the sense of law. To the most sinless creatures this is the ever-present idea. There can be no excellence without such guide and commandment. In keeping such commandment is heaven's great reward. Heaven is a kingdom, and only they who do His commandments have right to its tree of life.
3. It is well known with what a graceful fervour human fealty has often borne itself. A generous devotion has sustained it. The darker the eclipse which greatness suffered, the steadier was its faith. And does not such loyalty shame our coldness, little short of treason, to Jesus our King? Where are our efforts and sacrifices for His throne? Would we die in His cause?
II. THIS KINGDOM RESTS IN A MIGHTY INFLUENCE.
1. The ultimate sanction of every government is force. But that force is indicated by pageantry and weapon. Yet is it, at a very early stage, a barren spectacle. Carried to its furthest, it can kill the body. Within the still smaller limit its command is feeble. It cannot decide opinion or fetter conscience. If benevolent, few are the blessings which it can supply; if tyrannic, as few are the ills which it can inflict. It is a narrow thing. The soul defies it. But the kingdom of God in an embodiment of august ascendency. It is not indebted to the adventitious and the external appendage. It wants not palaces, courts, armies. It is great in the greatness, it is strong in the strength, of its King.
2. Christianity made its early boast of this attribute. A signal power attended its outset. The Saviour taught as having authority. His favourite disciples did not taste of death till they had seen the kingdom of God come with power. Glorious victories were won. It was the visitation of a new life. Nothing withstood it. It grew up into a vast intellectual and moral dominion, diverse from every other government, having no local confines, brooking no selfish jealousies, converting the rebel soul and restoring it to God. it was in power.
3. We would not for a moment suppress the fact that if the gospel comes not in word only, but in power, it is because it comes in the Holy Ghost, the "Spirit of power!" But the "power" which is ascribed to the kingdom of God in the text, though always depending upon the Divine influence, is not the same with it. It belongs to the theme itself. It grows out of it, and is its legitimate due. It is a moral power. And there is power of the highest created order wherever there is mind. Knowledge is power (Proverbs 24:5). How mind acts upon mind! It is impossible to measure that impetus and confirmation which Christianity has given already to human intellect. It alone awakens man. Through its precepts he gets understanding. The entire soul is knitted into strength. The religion of Christ alone brings out the stamina of our mental and moral constitution. We can do all things through Christ Jesus strengthening us.
4. But in contending for the moral power inherent in the gospel of the kingdom, we may be asked, What can be the influence of the mere word? Let us illustrate. The great masters of antiquity have long since passed away. But their lore and eloquence have found some record. It is dead letter, it is mere word. But do they not exercise a mighty dominion over nations of which they had not heard? Paul penned his arguments and censures. "His letters, said they, are powerful." So all that belongs to our religion, even that which is most external, is m power. Its words, they are spirit and they are life.
III. THE QUALITIES OF THIS POWER.
1. It is a power of truth. "The truth" is its sublime designation. The gospel founds itself upon facts. "With great power," therefore, "gave the apostles" their "witness." "The word of the truth of the gospel" impresses its own seal upon our soul. So adapted is it, that the Spirit of truth exclusively employs it in the new birth. And it is equally operative in the growth of Christian character and experience; when we receive it "not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the Word of God," then "it worketh effectually in us who believe."
2. It is a power of authority. It is Divine obligation.(1) The authority of the gospel alone can impart confidence. It is God's provision; here is our security: it is God's will; here is our warrant: it is God's command; here is our duty.(2) It will manifest itself in our exertions to promote it. Content yourselves with the idea that Christianity would be a general blessing, that its extension is therefore desirable, and what would be the vigour of our missionary institutions? But when we feel that "the mystery is to be made known to all nations according to the commandment of the everlasting God," we cry, "Necessity is laid upon us," &c.
3. It is a .power of realisation. It affects strongly and vividly. It arouses every earnest feeling. It substantiates its own truths and places them in a distinct perceptibleness. It realises God, and we "endure as seeing Him who is invisible." It realises futurity, and "faith is the Substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
4. It is a power of intuition. Though man is grossly self-ignorant, yet he feels the truth when brought home to him. We see ourselves as in a glass. The secrets of man's heart are made manifest. He wonders at the detection and exposure: "Whence knowest thou me?" "Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did."
5. It is a power of relief. With royal liberality Christianity makes full provision for all the wants of all. There is no escape nor exemption which the sinner needs, but it secures. There is no remorse nor shame which he suffers, but it soothes. It is a feast for the hungry, a fountain to the thirsty, a wardrobe for the naked.
6. It is a power of exemplification. Sign and wonder attest it. But there is a still more decisive corroboration. A change has ever been going on in countless minds which science, legislation, moral suasion, never could achieve.
7. It is a power of absorption. It takes hold of man's soul, occupies and engrosses it. Like the leaven, it assimilates the mass into which it is thrown.
8. It is a power of courage. Christianity is the parent and nurse of the true heroic. It is great and it excites greatness. Its language is to reiteration, Be strong. It trains us to hardness; to the sacrifice of life when higher interests are at stake. Pusillanimity may be too natural to us, but it belongs not to our cause. True to it, we faint not.
9. It is the power of support. Afflictions are not held back from the Christian: but "strong consolation" only feebly expresses his support. He glories in tribulation. He is more than a conqueror. We are partakers of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.
10. It is the power of influence. The gospel clothes its believers with an incalculable ascendency. It is impossible to limit their power of doing good. Who can measure the usefulness of a thought, the efficacy of a prayer?
11. It is the power of diffusion. In Christianity there is nothing sluggish and inert, nothing cold and narrow, but all is glowing, intense, stirring, and expansive.
(R. W. Hamilton, D. D.)
(Sword and Trowel.)
S. S. Chronicle.In the city of Shanghai, a convert to the gospel kept a store for selling rice for the daily food of the purchasers. When he was received into the Church he was told he could not sell rice on the Sabbath, he must close his store on that day. This would endanger his business, as his patrons, if they could not buy at his store on the Sabbath, would go to some other one, and would not come back to him. He, however, kept the Sabbath, and, to the surprise of others as well as himself, his business increased on the other days of the week, and he prospered. As he gained some money, he determined to build a church in which to preach the gospel to those who did not believe. He built the church at his own expense; and, as he has grown in knowledge of the gospel, as well as prospered in his business, he himself preaches in this church every Sunday, and thus gives, not only his money, but his own personal labour, to the extension of the gospel of our Lord. This shows that this gospel is the power of God wherever it is preached, to the Gentile as well as the Jew, and that it everywhere brings forth fruit to the praise of Divine grace.
(S. S. Chronicle.)
I. II. 1. With love. 2. With authority. III. THE DESIGN. To produce — 1. Submission. 2. Amendment. (J. Lyth, D. D.) 2. This is sometimes needful. 3. It is a ministerial duty. 4. It was reluctantly employed by Paul, and should be spared where possible. 5. Must be administered in the spirit of love. (J. Lyth, D. D.).
II. 1. With love. 2. With authority. III. THE DESIGN. To produce — 1. Submission. 2. Amendment. (J. Lyth, D. D.) 2. This is sometimes needful. 3. It is a ministerial duty. 4. It was reluctantly employed by Paul, and should be spared where possible. 5. Must be administered in the spirit of love. (J. Lyth, D. D.).
1. With love.
2. With authority.
III. THE DESIGN. To produce —
(J. Lyth, D. D.)1. The apostle had the power of using the rod.
2. This is sometimes needful.
3. It is a ministerial duty.
4. It was reluctantly employed by Paul, and should be spared where possible.
5. Must be administered in the spirit of love.
(J. Lyth, D. D.).
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