1 Corinthians 12:20-25
But now are they many members, yet but one body.…
1. It is beautiful to observe what close links there are between the several classes in a community, and how the breaking of any one would go far towards dislocating the whole social system. "The king himself is served by the field"; the throne is connected with the sod; the illustrious occupant of the one depends on the tiller of the other. It is literally from the -field that all the arts and comforts of civilised life spring. When you look on a community; with its nobles, merchants, preachers, men of science, artificers, you may perhaps think little of the peasantry. Yet you have only to suppose the peasantry ceasing from their labours, and there would be an almost immediate arrest on the businesses and enjoyments of our stirring community. A land covered with palaces, but without cottages would be a land of costly sepulchres. Does not this effectually expose the preposterousness of that pride which would put a slight on the poor.
2. But let us consider this great fact under a somewhat more practical point of view. Suppose the case of a community from which was banished everything like want, so that, though gradations of rank might still exist, there should be everywhere sufficiency. This is a state of things for which many philanthropists ardently long, as the very perfection of the social system. But we know not how to join in this longing for universal affluence. The country in which it would be hardest to make progress in genuine piety would be that in whose habitations none were to be found requiring the succours of Christian benevolence. One of the most fatal tendencies in our nature is the tendency to selfishness. And who can fail to see that the having amongst us objects which continually appeal to our compassions is wonderfully adapted to the counteracting that tendency? Why, then, should we hesitate to pronounce the poor among the benefactors of a community? We can imagine such a revolution in the circumstances of this country, that many of its public structures might no longer be required for the purposes to which they were originally devoted. But it would not be the downfall of our warehouses, museums, or arsenals which could fill us with apprehension for the spiritual well-being of our people. Whilst you swept away buildings which belong to us as a rich, intelligent, and powerful people, we should feel that though there might be much in the removal that was humiliating, there might be much also that was profitable. But when you come to remove structures reared for the shelter of the miserable, we should feel the removal an indication that henceforward there would be little appeal to the sympathies of the heart, and we could therefore anticipate the rapid growth of selfishness. It may be perfectly true that the indigent cannot do without the benevolent, but it is equally true theft the benevolent cannot do without the indigent. Whensoever you give ear to a tale of distress, and you contribute according to your ability to the relief of the suppliant, you receive as well as confer benefit. The afflicted one keeps, by his appeal, the charities of your nature from growing stag, ant, and thus may be said to requite the obligation.
3. It were easy to enlarge on the utter uselessness of orders or individuals who may be likened to the more honourable members of the body, were there not other orders or individuals who may with equal fitness be likened to the less honourable. Of what avail, for example, would be the courage and skill of a general without troops to obey his commands? of what the ingenuity of the engineers, were there no labourers to employ his inventions? of what the wisdom of the legislator, without functionaries to carry his measures into force? If Christian ministers be likened to the eye or the head, they depend on the very lowest of the people as they prosecute their honourable and difficult employment. For if the presence of suffering be the great antagonist to selfishness, the poor of his flock must be a clergyman's best auxiliaries, seeing that they help to keep the rest from that moral hardness which would make them impervious to his most earnest remonstrance.
(H. Melvill, B.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But now are they many members, yet but one body.