1 Thessalonians 2:3-6
For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:…
This is no less essential than courage. As the mountain turn reflects the clear light of the stars so the preacher reflects in his conduct the motives by which he is sustained.
I. SINCERITY IN MOTIVE (ver. 3). The Apostle disclaims the harbouring of evil intentions.
1. In relation to God. "Not of deceit." Having received the truth from God and about God, he transmits it in all its integrity without error or imposture.
2. In relation to himself. "Not of uncleanness." Pure in his own affection and purpose, he preached a gospel that was pure in itself, in its tendency, and in its experienced results.
3. In relation to others. "Not in guile." He sought not to propagate the gospel by fraudulent wiles or false representations. He descended not to hypocrisy to catch men. "Hypocrites," says Bernard, "desire to seem, not to be good; not to seem, but to be evil; they care not to follow or practice virtue, but to colour vice, by putting in it the painted complexion of virtue." The life of a man whose motives are sincere, will be transparent as the light. A certain king of Castile, who had only been too familiar with the duplicity of mankind, once arrogantly said, "When God made man, He left one capital defect: He ought to have set a window in his breast." The sincere man opens a window in his breast, by the whole tenor of his words and actions, so that his innermost thoughts are apparent.
II. IN SPEECH.
1. They speak under a solemn sense of responsibility. "But as we were allowed," etc. (ver. 4). To their charge, as men tested and approved of God, was committed the precious treasure of the gospel; and conscious of its riches they were solicitous to distribute them in all faithfulness and sincerity.
2. They sought chiefly the Divine approval. "Not as pleasing men," etc. There is much in the gospel distasteful to the natural man — its humiliating exposure of our depravity and helplessness, its holiness, its mysteries, the unbending severity of its law, and the absolute character of its claims. The temptation is sometimes great to temper, and modify the truth to carnal prejudice, and sacrifice faithfulness to popularity. But the apostles risked everything, so that they secured the Divine approval.
3. They practised neither adulation nor deception. "For neither at any time used we flattering words," etc. (ver. 5). "Flattery," says Plutarch, "has been the ruin of most states." But alas! who can tell the souls it has forever undone!
III. OF AIM (ver. 6). Seen —
1. In the generous suppression of the authority with which they were armed. "When we might have been burdensome," etc. Whether in foregoing their legitimate claim of maintenance, or, as restraining the exhibition of the dignity and power of their apostleship as generally admitted — it was equally honourable to the pure and disinterested character of their highest aim.
2. In the absence of all selfish ambition. "Nor of men sought we glory." They could conscientiously aver — "we seek not yours but you." "I love a serious preacher," says Fenelon, "who speaks for my sake, and not for his own: who seeks my salvation and not his own glory." It is said of one of the ancient fathers that he would weep at the applause given to his discourses. "Would to God," said he, "they had rather gone away silent and thoughtful!" It is a sorry end to preach for mere ephemeral human praise. Such a man may sink into the grave with the touching lament of Grotius — "Alas! I have lost my life in doing nothing with great labour!"Lessons —
1. Sincerity in proclaiming the truth can be acquired only by a personal experience of its power.
2. Sincerity is deepened by a conscious Divine commission.
3. Sincerity is unmistakeably evidenced in word and deed.
4. Sincerity is satisfied only in aiming at the highest results in preaching.
Parallel VersesKJV: For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: