1 Thessalonians 2:7-8
But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherishes her children:…
History cannot furnish us with a more striking instance of the love of souls than we find in St. Paul. Here he may mean —
1. That such was his affection for his converts, that he, as it were, breathed out his soul in every word. He spoke as though he would have died on the spot, through earnestness to affect them with what he said.
2. Or that so ardent was his love for them, that he was willing not only to preach to them, but to die for them. Some of the patriots of antiquity loved their country so well that they generously sacrificed their lives for it. And shall not love of souls be as heroic? (Philippians 2:17; 1 John 3:16).
I. THE HAPPY EFFECT OF THE LOVE OF SOULS ON THE OFFICE OF THE MINISTRY.
1. It will contribute to ingratiate us with mankind, and so promote our usefulness. It is not to be expected that those should receive advantage by our labours to whom we are unacceptable. The ministry of a contemptible minister will always be contemptible, and consequently useless. But when a minister in his congregation appears in a circle of friends whose affections meet in him as their common centre, his labours are likely to be at once pleasing and profitable. When the heart is open to the speaker his words will gain admission. There will be no suspicion of imposition or sinister design. Even hard things will be received as wholesome severities. Love has a language of its own which mankind can hardly fail to understand, its own look, voice, air, and manner. When dissimulation mourns and puts on airs of sorrow and compassion it is but whining and grimaces, and when she smiles it is but fawning and affectation; so hard is it to put on the face of genuine love with out being possessed of it; and so easy is it for a real friend to appear such.
2. It will enable us to affect our hearers and make deep impressions on their hearts. Love will render us sincere, and the sincerity of the speaker will have no small influence upon the hearers.
3. It will make us diligent and laborious. How indefatigable are we in pursuing a point we have at heart, and in serving those we love. Therefore, if the love of souls be our ruling passion, with what zeal shall we labour for their immortal interests! (2 Corinthians 12:15). There will then be no blanks in the page of life; all will be filled up with the offices of friendship. Ever-operating love will keep us busy (Acts 10:38; 2 Timothy 4:2). As souls are equal in worth, this love is impartial. Love will inspire our prayers with an almighty importunity, and render idleness an intolerable burden.
4. It will enable us to bear hardships and difficulties with patience, and even cheerfulness. The love of fame, of riches, of honour, etc. — what obstructions has it surmounted, what dangers dared! And shall not the nobler passion do vastly more? (Acts 20:24). Labour is delight, difficulty inviting, and peril alluring in this benevolent enterprise.
5. It will restrain from everything unworthy the ministry. If the love of men be warm in our hearts —
(1) We cannot address men in a manner that looks more like a scold than a Christian orator, and which tends to exasperate rather than to reform.
(2) We shall be courteous without affectation, insinuating without artifice, engaging without flattery, and honest without huffishness. It will guard us against all airs of superiority, and a distant, imperious behaviour, and render us affable, sociable, and modest (Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14).
(3) It will render us patient under unkind treatment, and keep down unmanly and unministerial sallies of passion (1 Peter 2:23).
(4) It will disable us from aiming at sordid ends and employing sordid measures (ver. 5; 1 Corinthians 12:14).
II. WHAT MINISTERS ARE TO EXPECT FROM THEIR PEOPLE IN RETURN.
1. To be looked upon as the friends and lovers of their souls.
2. To be treated as such. To have their instructions, warnings, etc., regarded as those of friends, and to be obeyed as such. "We live, if ye stand fast in the Lord," but it kills us to see you destroy yourselves.
3. To be loved. Since your ministers love you, they deserve to be loved in return (1 Thessalonians 5:13); and since they speak the truth in love, it should be received in love.
4. To be generously and cheerfully supported.
(S. Davies, A. M.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: