Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead.
Every Christian who has to endure what seems to him to be hardships will sooner or later fall back upon this remembrance. He is not the first and not the chief sufferer in the world. There is One who has undergone hardships, compared with which those of other men sink into nothingness; and who has expressly told those who wish to be His disciples that they must follow Him along the path of suffering. But merely to remember Jesus Christ as a Master who has suffered and who has made suffering a condition of service will not be a permanently sustaining or comforting thought if it ends there. Therefore St. Paul says to his perplexed and desponding delegate, "Remember Jesus Christ as one risen from the dead.
Jesus Christ has not only endured every kind of suffering, including its extreme form, death, but He has conquered it all by rising again. Everywhere experience seems to teach us that evil of every kind — physical, intellectual, and moral — holds the field and appears likely to hold it. To allow one's self to be mastered by this thought is to be on the road to doubting God's moral government of the world. What is the antidote to it? Remember Jesus Christ as one risen from the dead." When has evil ever been so completely triumphant over good as when it succeeded in getting the Prophet of Nazareth nailed to the tree, like some vile and noxious animal? That was the hoar of success for the malignant Jewish hierarchy and for the spiritual powers of darkness. But it was an hour to which very strict limits were placed. Very soon He who had been dismissed to the grave by a cruel and shameful death, defeated, and disgraced, rose again from it triumphant, not over Jewish priests and Roman soldiers, but over death and the cause of death; that is, over every kind of evil — pain and ignorance and sin. But to "remember Jesus Christ as one risen from the dead" does more than this. It not only shows us that the evil against which we have such a weary struggle in this life, both in others and in ourselves, is not (in spite of depressing appearances) permanently triumphant; it also assures us that there is another and a better life in which the good cause will be supreme, and supreme without the possibility of disaster, or even of contest. What the Son of Man has done, other sons of men can do and will do. The solidarity between the human race and the Second Adam, between the Church and its Head, is such that the victory of the Leader carries with it the victory of the whole band. Once more, to "remember Jesus Christ as one risen from the dead" is to remember One who claimed to be the promised Saviour of the world and who proved His claim.
And this leads St. Paul on to the second point which his downcast disciple is to remember in connection with Jesus Christ. He is to remember Him as "of the seed of David." He is not only truly God but truly Man. The Resurrection and the Incarnation — those are the two facts on which a faltering minister of the gospel is to hold fast, in order to comfort his heart and strengthen his steps. This is the meaning of "according to my gospel." These are the truths which St. Paul has habitually preached, and of the value of which he can speak from full experience. He knows what he is talking about, when he affirms that these things are worth remembering when one is in trouble. The Resurrection and the Incarnation are facts on which he has ceaselessly insisted, because in the wear, and tear of life he has found out their worth.
The high value which the apostle attributes to the bodily resurrection of the Lord, here and in other passages, is, in a remarkable way, in contrast with the spiritualistic and indifferentistic evaporisation of this chief article of the gospel, on the side of the modern speculative rationalism of our days.
DIVINE TRUTHS ARE TO BE REMEMBERED. II. REMEMBERING IS A REFLECTING OF THE EYE OF OUR MIND ON THAT WHICH BY THE SENSES OR THE UNDERSTANDING HATH BEEN PERCEIVED. In remembrance are four things to be considered.
1. The apprehension of an object by the external or internal senses.
2. A reposing of it in the memory.
3. A retaining of it there.
4. A reflecting of the eye of the understanding on it. This last act is properly called remembrance.Helps follow.
1. Get a true understanding of things..
2. Meditate much on that thou wouldst remember. Roll the thing to and fro in thy mind, look often at it, mark it well; so shall it, like a bird by struggling in the gin or lime bush, stick faster.
3. Labour for love. Will a maid forget her ornament? a bride her attire? the covetous man his coin, lad long ago in some secret corner? Wherefore, love the Word once, and then forget it if thou canst.
4. Be jealous of thy remembrance. He who carrieth a vessel in his hand may suddenly let it fall; whereas had he feared he would have held it faster. For jealousy, though a bad getter, is an excellent keeper.
5. Use repetition. Have that oft in thy tongue thou wouldst hold in thy mind. For repetition, like a mallet, will cause the piles of Divine truths to stick fast in the soil of man's memory.
6. Study for method. Things in order laid in the head will with the more facility be held. Method (say some) is the mother of memory.
III. THE CHOICEST OF DIVINE TRUTHS ARE CHIEFLY TO BE REMEMBERED. Have thy senses exercised, through long custom, to discern betwixt things that differ — good and evil.
In the words preceding this text the apostle Paul has been speaking of the labour and conflict and endurance involved in a true profession of faith in Christ. And now that he has on hand to prove the necessity of enduring hardness in Christian life, he is ready with example as well as argument. "Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead, according to my gospel." But there is more in these words than a mere confirmation of what has gone before. They are a fresh battery brought up to the siege, adapted especially for an assault upon that strong citadel, the human will. But we have not yet got to the bottom of the apostle's meaning. If we have yielded to the influence of his words they have carried our hearts beyond the subject they were first intended to illustrate. His theme was the endurance of hardship, and his object to brace up the soul of a fellow disciple to this trial; but, in doing so, by the example of the Master Himself, lie has done more; for he has reminded Timothy that Jesus Christ not only suffered, but died; and as elsewhere and often he has taught the necessity of our dying by union with Christ, he surely means no less than to put us face to face with the truth in the present passage. Christianity is the masterpiece of God, the wonderful fabric into which He has woven all Divine and eternal principles; and there is no principle or characteristic of Christianity more plain or more abundantly illustrated than the appointment and use of death for the production of a higher life than that which preceded it. It would be strange, indeed, if man, whose peculiar honour it is to be "called into the fellowship of God's Son," were an exception to this rule of death and life; or if, in his case, it were only to be known by the dissolution of his earthly body. But Scripture teaches otherwise. Christ has not merely given His life a ransom for ours. He has done this, indeed, and this is the great news of the gospel; but He has done more. He has put Himself at the head of an army which must conquer as He conquered when alone — by suffering. And thus only can we understand His words, "If any man serve Me let him follow Me!" "He that taketh not up his cross and followeth not after Me cannot be My disciple"; "He that loveth his life shall lose it, but he that loseth his life for My sake the same shall find it."
We know how one recollection, distinct and dominant in the mind, has often been the decisive force at a critical moment; how upon the battlefield, for instance, or under the almost overpowering pressure of temptation, the thought of a man's country, of his home, of his ancestral traditions, has reinforced, as with a fresh tide of strength, his faltering heart, and borne him on to victory, whether by success or death. We may recall the scene in one of our African campaigns, the scene preserved for us by a clever artist, where the thought of a man's old school, and the boyish eagerness anyhow to bring it to the front, was the impulse of a splendid courage. Yes, there are images in most men's minds which, if they rise at the right moment, will do much to make them heroes; a word, a glance, some well-known sight, some old familiar strain of music, may beckon the image out of the recesses of the memory, and if the man has in him the capacity of generous action he will use it then. It is on this characteristic of human nature that St. Paul relies as he writes to Timotheus the words of the text. He would avail himself of this; he would raise it to its highest conceivable employment; he would enlist it as a constant, ready, powerful ally on the side of duty — on the side of God. He may never see Timotheus, never write to him again; well then, he will leave dinted into his mind, by a few incisive words, one commanding and sustaining Image. For it is not, as it appears in our English version, an event of the past, however supreme in its importance, however abiding in its results, that St. Paul here fastens upon the memory of his disciple; it is not the abstract statement of a truth in history or theology, however central to the faith, however vast in its consequences; it is a living Person, whom St. Paul has seen, whose form he would have Timotheus keep ever in his mind, distinct, beloved, unrivalled, sovereign — "Bear in remembrance Jesus Christ, raised from the dead." Let us take two thoughts this Easter morning from the counsel which St. Paul thus gives. First, that he is trying to lodge at the heart of Timotheus's life and work that which has been the deepest and most effective force in his own. St. Paul was convinced that he had seen the risen Lord; and the energy, the effect, of that unfading Image throughout his subsequent life might go some way to prove that the conviction was true. Physical weight is sometimes measured by the power of displacement; and in the moral and spiritual sphere we tend, at least, to think that there must be something solid and real to account for a change so unexpected, so unworldly, so thorough, so sustained through every trial, so vast in its practical outcome, as was the conversion of St. Paul. Let St. Paul's conviction be taken in its context; let justice be done to the character it wrought in him; to the coherence and splendour of the work it animated; to the penetrating, sober insight of his practical teaching; to the consistency, not of expression, but of inmost thought and life, which is disclosed to any careful study of his writings; lastly, to the grasp which his words have laid upon the strongest minds in Christendom through all succeeding centuries, the prophetic and undying power which, amidst vast changes of methods and ideas, men widely different have felt and reverenced in these Epistles — let these distinctive notes of St. Paul's work be realised, together with its incalculable outcome in the course of history, and it will seem hard to think that the central, ruling impulse of it all was the obstinate blunder of a disordered mind. This, at least, I think, may be affirmed, that, if there were against belief in Christ's resurrection any such difficulty as the indisputable facts of St. Paul's life and work present to disbelief, we should find it treated as of crucial importance, and that, I think, not unjustly. "Bear in remembrance Jesus Christ raised from the dead." It is the form which has made him what he is, for life or for death, that St. Paul would with his last words, it may be, leave clenched for ever on the mind and heart of his disciple. The vision of that form may keep him true and steadfast when all is dark, confused, and terrible around him. May not we do well to take the bidding to ourselves? There are signs of trouble and confusion in the air, and some faint hearts begin to fail; and some of us, perhaps, "see not our tokens" — so clearly as we did. But One we may see, as we lift our eyes this Easter Day; it is He who liveth and was dead; and behold He is alive for evermore; He who cannot fail His Church, or leave even the poorest and least worthy of His servants desolate and bewildered when the darkness gathers, and the cry of need goes up.
St. Paul was a man who could have been trusted beyond perhaps any other man of his time to take a calm, clear, and accurate view of any alleged historical fact, and to estimate its practical hearings; and if, after the whole evidence for the Resurrection had been brought to bear upon his mind, he felt himself constrained to believe and proclaim it to the dire extremity of martyrdom — that fact becomes the strongest possible evidence for its truth. The testimony of St. Paul to the truth of the Resurrection has a double value. In the first place there is his personal witness, "Last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time." It is allowed on all hands that Paul at any rate asserted simply what he believed to be the truth. It is, in the judgment of his hostile critics, a case of hallucination, not of wilful perversion of the truth. Well, men are subject to hallucinations, no doubt, especially men of genius. B at the world, the hard rough world, is a great dispeller of hallucinations. No man lives and works through a long and intensely active life as the victim of hallucination: either it vanishes and leaves him in free possession of all his faculties, or it makes him incapable of taking part to any real purpose in the business of his fellow-men. It must be remembered that this statement of Paul does not stand alone. It is in harmony with many appearances of Christ after the Resurrection, which rest on the incontestable evidence of numerous disciples; and it seemed real enough to make a vital change in the character, the beliefs, the aims, the life-work of one of the very ablest, most self.controlled, most masterly men whom we meet with in the records of universal history. But there is a second point of view from which the testimony of St. Paul to the truth of the Resurrection is so deeply important. It is the testimony of one who had mastered the whole argument in its favour, and who believed it to be irresistible. We cannot examine the witnesses, and sift their evidence; all the details are beyond our reach for ever; but we have the proofs sifted for us, weighed and stamped as valid beyond shadow of doubt or question by the regal intellect of St. Paul. His evidence has, however, a value beyond this, to which I must call your attention before I close. St. Paul not only was not a disciple, but he had been the most bitter and uncompromising enemy of the truth. Nor had he been a silent opponent. Though but a youth, by his brilliant powers he had already made for himself a name of renown among his country-men. He was the coming leader of the people, the rising man, on whom the hopes of the elders were set as the future champion of the oppressed nation in the perilous times which were manifestly coming on the world. I have said that the evidence is the evidence of disciples. I have explained how that is its strength and its glory. But one longs sometimes to know what was actually said in the Sanhedrim and in chief-priestly circles against it. We have no contemporary record of this; if any was written, no note of it has reached us, but St. Paul stands forth to supply the want. His is a voice out of the hostile camp, confessing that the opposition was in hopeless collapse. The fact that a man of such keen and eager intellect, who left no objection unanswered, no nook of argument unexplored, never condescends in any of his writings to notice the counter statements of opponents, is proof absolute that there was no validity in them. They evidently had left on his mind not a shadow of question, and brought forward nothing which it was worth his while to trouble himself to refute. Then, having borne his witness lifelong to the Resurrection, he died with the testimony on his lips.
Let us CONSIDER THE BEARINGS OF THE FACT THAT JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD.
1. It is clear at the outset that the resurrection of our Lord was a tangible proof that there is another life. Have you not quoted a great many times certain lines about "That undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns"? It is not so. There was once a Traveller who said, "I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go away I will come again and receive you unto Myself; that where I am there ye may be also." He said, "A little time, and ye shall see Me, and again a little time and ye shall not see Me, because I go to the Father." His return from among the dead is a pledge to us of existence after death, and we rejoice in it. His resurrection is also a pledge that the body will surely live again and rise to a superior condition; for the body of our blessed Master was no phantom after death any more than before.
2. Christ's rising from the dead was the seal to all His claims. It was true, then, that He was sent of God, for God raised Him from the dead in confirmation of His mission. The rising of Christ from the dead proved that this man was innocent of every sin. He could not be holden by the bands of death, for there was no sin to make those bands fast. Moreover, Christ's rising from the dead proved His claim to Deity. We are told in another place that He was proved to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.
3. The resurrection of our Lord, according to Scripture, was the acceptance of His sacrifice.
4. It was a guarantee of His people's resurrection.
5. Once more, our Lord's rising from the dead is a fair picture of the new life which all believers already enjoy. There is within us already a part of the resurrection accomplished, since it is written, "And you hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins." Now, just as Christ led, after His resurrection, a life very different from that before His death, so you and I are called upon to live a high and noble spiritual and heavenly life, seeing that we have been raised from the dead to die no more.
II. LET US CONSIDER THE BEARINGS OF THIS FACT UPON THE GOSPEL; for Paul says, "Jesus Christ was raised from the dead according to my gospel."
1. The resurrection of Christ is vital, because first it tells us that the gospel is the gospel of a living Saviour. We have not to send poor penitents to the crucifix, the dead intone of a dead man. Notice next that we have a powerful Saviour in connection with the gospel that we preach; for He who had power to raise Himself from the dead has all power now that He is raised.
2. And now notice that we have the gospel of complete justification to preach to you.
3. Once again, the connection of the Resurrection and the gospel is this: it proves the safety of the saints, for if when Christ rose His people rose also, they rose to a life like that of their Lord, and therefore they can never die. I cannot stop to show you how this resurrection touches the gospel at every point, but Paul is always full of it. More than thirty times Paul talks about the resurrection, and occasionally at great length, giving whole chapters to the glorious theme.
III. THE BEARING OF THIS RESURRECTION UPON OURSELVES. Paul expressly bids us "remember" it. Now, if you will remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David rose from the dead, what will follow?
1. You will find that most of your trials will vanish. Are you tried by your sin? Jesus Christ rose again from the dead for your justification. Does Satan accuse? Jesus rose to be your advocate and intercessor. Do infirmities hinder? The living Christ will show Himself strong on your behalf. You have a living Christ, and in Him you have all things. Do you dread death? Jesus, in rising again, has vanquished the last enemy.
2. Next remember Jesus, for then you will see how your present sufferings are as nothing compared with His sufferings, and you will learn to expect victory over your sufferings even as He obtained victory.
3. We see here, in being told to remember Jesus, that there is hope even in our hopelessness. When are things most hopeless in a man? Why, when he is dead. Do you know what it is to come down to that, so far as your inward weakness is concerned? You that are near despair, let this be the strength that nerves your arm and steels your heart, "Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to Paul's gospel."
4. Lastly, this proves the futility of all opposition to Christ.
I would first say a few words on THE FACT OF THE RESURRECTION. It is a main point in our faith. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a pledge of ours.
II. I would next direct your attention to THE POSITION OF THE BELIEVER IN THIS LIFE. As connected with the risen Saviour, the believer is regarded in the Word of God as "risen with Christ." We see, then, that Paul would stir Timothy by our text to remember his privileges. He would, in effect, say to him, "Timothy, remember you have the life of Christ now; and it is His risen life which is to animate you to work and to suffer, and to 'endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.'"
III. But there is another point to which I would direct your attention, and that is, UNION. It is most important to observe that this oneness of life between Jesus and the believer is just that which constitutes union. Nothing short of this is union. It is the resurrection life of Jesus that believers are united with; and this is possible only to the "new creature," only to the "man in Christ." We see, then, a little, I trust, of the force of the text. It is a wonderful text, and we see the power there is in it to comfort the believer and to strengthen him for service; and just as he understands in his own experience these things will he realise his privileges. In Jesus Christ he will see how the doctrine of the resurrection is calculated to make him "endure hardness."
I desire to speak to you on the importance of connecting the fact of the Saviour's resurrection with two other facts, namely, first, that Christ was of the seed of David, and secondly, that the resurrection of Christ is so essential a part of the gospel of Christ that the one may be described as according with the other. There can be no dispute that it could not be needful for St. Paul to characterise Jesus as of the seed of David, in order to distinguish Him from any other being whom the name might recall to the mind of Timothy. I deny, therefore, altogether, that there is anything whatsoever of the fanciful or the far-fetched in our ascribing any particular emphasis to this casual introduction of the human lineage of Messiah. I look on the name of Jesus, and its every syllable seems to burn and blaze with divinity. I may explain and interpret it; I may expound it as promising salvation, as eloquent of deliverance to our fallen race; but in exact proportion as I magnify the wonder, I remove, as it were, the being unto whom it belongs from all kindred and companionship with the sinful tenantry of a ruined creation. The title of anointed Saviour, full though it be of magnificent mercy, consisting of attributes and principles bearing the impress of a superhuman greatness; and, however stupendous the truth, that Deity has interposed on behalf of the helpless, still the Saviour of man must be one who could hold communion and fellowship with man; He must not be separated from him by the appalling attributes which mark a Divine Creator. If there must be a celestial nature to afford the succour, there must also be a terrestrial nature to ensure the sympathy. Hence, I think it just to imagine that when the apostle sent to a beloved disciple this short compendium of Christian consolation, which he desired might be carefully borne in mind, he would not fail to interweave into such compendium a distinct reference to the complex nature of the Redeemer's person; and, not content himself with referring him to Jesus Christ, he would add some such description as this — "of the seed of David," in order to mark His real humanity. There is, however, a distinct allusion to other truths, as well as to the Redeemer's humanity, in this accurate specification. It is a wonderful thing to cast one's eye over the prophetic pages and behold how years past and years that are to come do alike burn with the deeds and triumphs of David's Son, under the name and title of a descendant from the man after God's own heart. It concerns not my argument to examine into the reasons which might induce the frequent introduction of the name of David whenever the triumphs of Messiah are the subject of discourse. I appeal simply to the fact, and demand of every student of Holy Writ whether there be any title under which prophecy tenders so vast revenue of honour as it does to the seed, or heir, or antitype of David. Truly, the more the mind ponders over the combination of ideas which are gathered into this apparently brief and superfluous message of Paul to Timothy, the more will it be struck with the beauty and consolation it conveys. Now, I have dealt at sufficient length on the first head of discourse; and much that I have advanced in illustration of the importance of the clause, "of the seed of David," applies equally to the other, "according to my gospel," which I would, in the second place, exhibit to you, as giving strength and emphasis to St. Paul's commemoration of the death and resurrection of our Saviour. You remember the strong terms in which St. Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, states the importance of the resurrection as an article of the Christian faith. He may be said to resolve the whole of our religion, all its truth, all its value, all its beauty, into the one fact that Christ Jesus had been raised from the dead. "If Christ be not raised" — thus it is he speaks — "your faith is in vain; you are yet in your sins: then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." By stating the fact that life and immortality have been brought to light by the gospel, to which I suppose St. Paul to allude when he speaks of Christ Jesus as "raised from the dead according to my gospel," I suppose him designing to remind his son Timothy, not so much of the simple truth of the Saviour's resurrection as of the colouring and character which this event gave to the whole system of Christianity.
The resurrection was far more than any mere sign, though so unique and remarkable. Like the miracles of Christ, only in a still profounder measure, it was in itself a display of mercy — an instrument of His mighty and beneficent mediation. When the apostles taught it they not only bore witness, but they preached a "gospel"; they not only announced a wonderful fact, but they presented that fact to men as in itself at the same time a measure of Divine grace. Apart from the resurrection of Christ you could not construct the faith, impart the solace, urge the appeal, or sway the inspiration of Christianity. It is not simply that there would be no sign, but there would be no power. It is, so to speak, the blood "which is the life," the blood that circulates through every vein to every limb and member of the Christian system. This is the fact I want to impress in my present discourse. Perhaps it will surprise you to hear my full belief that, but for the resurrection, you would have had in your hands no such exposition as you now possess of who and what Christ was and did for men. Christ Himself did not write any book about His life; not a line. How, then, came we to know what we do about Him? Right down to the end of His life, to the end of the Gospels, the disciples remained strangely ignorant of the great work their Master came to achieve. Dull, ignorant, confused, bewildered, they were the last men in the world to take up a forlorn cause, redeem it, and carry it to triumph. Contrast with this state of mind the speech and conduct of those self-same men in the stirring scenes with which the Acts acquaint us. You may search all literature, I believe, and you will not find a greater contrast. How did this happen? The only book that gives the history lets us into the secret. I claim, then, on the authority of this only history, to say that but for the resurrection of Jesus we had had no portraiture of Christ, no Gospels, no Acts, no Epistles, setting Him forth to the world for its salvation and joy. No other writers of the age have depicted Him; and these who have all refer their knowledge and appreciation to the illumination of that Spirit whom He sent on His exaltation to heaven. Again. It is the constant representation of the writers of the New Testament that Christ offered Himself in some way as a sacrifice for sin, and that that offering was presented in His death. But what had that sacrifice been without Christ's revival from death? With the greatest force does the letter to the Romans teach us, "He was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification." Paul does not hesitate to declare that apart from it there is no pardon: "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins." Another point of our "precious faith" at which the resurrection of Christ meets us with infinite power and solace is seen at death, when we bury our dead out of sight, or are ourselves laid in the grave. "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." None of the apostles had a higher standard of the Christian life than the Apostle Paul; none more keenly realised its contrast with the former habits of sin, or more acutely felt the struggle, fierce and constant, by which it alone was to be attained and maintained; none more clearly perceived the organic relation of one part of that life to another; and Paul strove by a most beautiful and expressive image to urge the believer to all vigilance and mortification of unworthy impulse and passion in its culture. Christ's death and resurrection furnished the image. "We are buried with Him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life," etc. If Christ be not risen from the dead, the day of judgment, as solemnly delineated in the New Testament, is denuded of many of its most sublime and thrilling features. There is no judgment-seat of Christ; for though Christ has died, He has not risen and revived that He might be Lord both of the dead and the living. Neither, for the same reason, can we look for His appearing, or expect Him from heaven, since He is not gone thither. I should have to quote a vast number of passages from all the great sections of the New Testament Scriptures were I to set forth the claims, according to their teaching, of the Lord Jesus on our worship, His power and readiness to hear our prayers and satisfy our trust. But these are obviously of no authority and service to us if He did not rise from the grave. The writer to the Hebrews has repeatedly described Him as seated at the right hand of God, but of course he is mistaken; Christ is in the grave. He has imputed illimitable efficiency to His intercession. But he is mistaken; Christ is not capable of making any intercession at all. Believers are designated by Paul as those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; but they were all deluded, for Christ was not risen nor ascended. Nor would the example of Christ as an all-perfect pattern of holiness and love in a world governed by infinite holiness and power occasion us less hopeless embarrassment, if He be not risen, than the facts just dismissed. We should, in that case, have the frightful spectacle of a righteousness, truth, goodness, and mercy that never faltered or failed expending themselves to the very uttermost, and this without Divine acknowledgment and vindication. A greater shock to all virtue could not be conceived. And in this instance it would be aggravated by the very measure with which this Great Exemplar had indulged the hope of reward. The resurrection stands to us a pledge and pattern of our own; and while our dust may await its final recovery, our spirits shall be with Him. Nay, He will even be our convoy through the gates of death, and then receive us into the mansions of His Father's house, that where He is we may be also.
The apostle is not contrasting his gospel with that of other preachers, as if he would say, "Others may teach what they please, but this is the substance of my gospel"; and is certainly mistaken if what is quoted as a remark of his is rightly assigned to him by Fabricius, to the effect that whenever St. Paul says "according to my gospel" he means the written gospel of his companion St. Luke, who had caught much of his spirit and something of his language. It would be much nearer the truth to say that St. Paul never refers to a written gospel. In every one of the passages in which the phrase occurs the context is quite against any such interpretation (Romans 2:16
; Romans 16:25
; cf. 1 Timothy 1:11
). In this place the words which follow are conclusive: "Wherein I suffer hardship unto bonds, as a malefactor." How could he be said to suffer hardship unto bonds in the Gospel of St. Luke?
We may be sure, then, that the phrase "my gospel" is not used by St. Paul in the spirit either of the Pharisee or of the bigot. He is not one who refuses to recognise the excellence in those who may not exactly agree with him, or assumes that to him alone is committed a trustworthy form of the faith. Nevertheless, the phrase has a distinct force of its own. It suggests that St. Paul looked at the gospel from his own standpoint, and that the gospel as he represented it had aspects differing somewhat from the same gospel as represented by others. We need not be afraid to admit this. If you look at any great mountain from several points of view, its parts are at once brought into varying relations to each other. Standing here you see clearly great peaks, which from another position would be hidden. Nay, if you look at the same mountain from the same standpoint at different times, it will present different aspects — now dim and mysterious in the grey morning, and now rosy with the after-glow when the sun has set. Yet it is the same mountain, presenting itself in varying guise to different spectators. So with St. Paul. When he speaks of "my gospel," it is not another gospel in the sense of being contradictory, or even deficient as compared with the gospel proclaimed by other apostles. It is the same gospel, seen, however, from his own standpoint — "the gospel according to Paul."
The West Indies are a long chain of islands, seeming to be widely and completely separated from each other, each one a lovely jewel resting on the heaving bosom of the sea. But if you look below the surface of the ocean you discover that each of these islands is bound to all the others; that they are, in fact, the topmost points of one long mountain chain which has been submerged. So that whilst each island seems to be separate, all rest upon and are a part of the vast and substantial unity which lies far below. "My gospel": each one of the Churches may correctly use the phrase, yet these are not many gospels, but in essence and substance one.
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