1 Corinthians 12:13-20
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free…
Round about God is a universe of connections. Nothing stands single. The economy of universal administration is that of borrowing and lending. The root takes from the soil; the soil from the sun. There is no bulk of matter so large that it can stand alone by itself. The great worlds all lean on each other. Systems depend on systems, as worlds on worlds. They are "all parts of one stupendous whole." From inanimate nature turn to human society. Here we find the same law.
1. We can trace it in all the stages of man's development. What is there so dependent as a babe? What do we not all owe to mother-love and father-love? How many eyes saw for us, how many feet ran for us, etc., when we were young. Furthermore, when the babe has become a man he is more dependent than ever. For man is dependent to the extent of his wants; and as a man grows, a great crop of wants grow up with him.
2. Indeed, society is only a partnership, and is more a confession of weakness than a proof of strength. Society is only a polite system of borrowing and lending. We talk of men being the architects of their own fortunes, of being self-made. But how? Because in them was the power of absorption. Their minds had in them that imperial quality which enabled them to tax the sources of all knowledge, and compel the universe of matter and of thought to bring tribute to the feet of .their growth. But plant any man or woman rightly, i.e., give them favourable connections, and they will grow. Plant them wrongly, and their growth will be checked.
3. Consider the favourable connections in which men to-day, in this country, stand. Formerly, everything was against the individual. Government, religion, wealth robbed him. indeed, the old civilisations were organised robbery of the individual. To-day government is nothing, religion is nothing, unless they assist man. The world, in all its combinations of law and love, has become his friend. If he is ignorant, it helps him to knowledge; if rude, it teaches him the lesson of refinement; if poor, it pushes him up toward riches; if blind, it teaches him to see with his fingers; if dumb, it instructs his lips to talk without sound. The whole drift of modern civilisation is to make man's connections benevolent and helpful. Under such conditions it is a shame for one not to succeed. Knowledge, virtue, manliness, and womanliness, piety, to-day are possible to all.
4. It is through the connections which the civilisation of his age weaves around a man that he ministers benevolence unto men, rather than by any self-created channels. There is a conscious benevolence, but what a man gives by his hand is nothing compared to what he gives through his activities. It is only as we apprehend how closely we are connected with people that we become sympathetic with them. Love demands contact, and is grown by it. If you desire to love men, go among them. Why do men call so fine an instrument as human nature base, when it is only loosened in its strings and weakened in its frame? Cannot the frame be rebraced and the strings strung anew? And when this has been done, and the hand of the Maker sweeps it again, and the latent harmonies roll forth, shall it be base then? And it is only as you live in close connection with men that you can ever know how splendid they are in their possibilities. Christ took human nature in order to know it. He loved men because they were brethren. And so to-day the saviours of men are the lovers of men. To help a man's body out of a slough you must take hold of it with your hands and lift, and so to help a man's mind and soul up your mind and soul must take hold of his and lift.
5. There is no other way by which society can be held together save by the principle of mutual benevolence, ministering to mutual dependence. The strong must bear the infirmities of the weak, or the universal order of creation would become chaotic and destructive. For the universe is peopled with weakness. Look at the natural kingdom. How few are the oaks, and how many are the rushes! Yet there is not a spire of grass, a bird, nor a worm, so low and weak as to be beneath God's care. And if the strong should ignore the principle of love, the world would be swept backward and downward to the depth in which it lay when Christianity was born. Not only, however, do the strong help the weak, but the weak help the strong. The grasses give protection to the roots of the oak. And so, through all the orders of life, from trees to men, you will find that the humble things are needed by the proud and the lofty. The millionaire needs the tailor more than the tailor needs the millionaire. The branches of the tree need the soil more than the soil needs the branches. Therefore, if any of you who are poor, and have few talents, have been saying, We are of no use; if we only had talents, or money, or knowledge, or power, we might help people; say so no more, for however small and weak and lacking, you are not lacking, you are not useless. If you cannot be great trees, be grasses only, and know that grasses beautify the world.
6. The author of our religion, above all other men, recognised the responsibility of His human connections. He lived amid the weakness of the world, and did what He could to make it strength. The people were not slow to apprehend His goodness nor to love Him for it. They followed Him in throngs; and as they followed He continued to do them good. All this was done for our example.
(W. H. H. Murray.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.