All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.
I. IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE A CHRISTIAN ANYWHERE.
1. Christianity is not a thing of locality but of character. There are plants which will bloom in some latitudes and die in others, but Christianity can live where man can live, because it consists in the loyalty of the heart and life to Christ. Obadiah kept his conscience in the house of Ahab, Daniel his in the court of Babylon, Nehemiah his in the Persian palace. As Jonathan Edwards says, "The grace of God can live where neither you nor I can." In the abodes of poverty humble Christians are living as near to God as Enoch. Even yet, if we care to look for it, we may find the lily among thorns.
2. What is true of places is true of occupations. Unless a man's business is sinful he may serve God in any profession. The Roman army was a very poor school of morals, yet all the centurions mentioned in the New Testament were good men. The sailor is proverbially rough, yet some of the best Christians have been sailors. What heroic godliness has been manifested by miners?
3. Now, if this be so it follows —
(1) That we must not be prejudiced against a man because of the locality he comes from. What peril Nathaniel nearly incurred because he thought Jesus came from Nazareth. Test a man by what he is, not by what he comes from.
(2) That we ought not to excuse ourselves for our lack of Christianity by pleading the force of circumstances. How often do we hear one saying, "It is no use trying to be a Christian where I am." But it is never necessary to do wrong. Sin is a voluntary thing, and no external force can constrain a man to commit it. One comes home intoxicated and pleads that he met some friends and had to go with them; another excuses his extravagance on the plea that he must keep up appearances; a third excuses his dishonourable practices because he is in danger of bankruptcy. But if you cannot help doing wrong it is not wrong, but it is the consciousness of being able to help it that makes you so eager to use the excuse.
II. IT IS HARDER TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN SOME PLACES THAN IN OTHERS. There are households in which it seems most natural for a child to grow up in the beauty of holiness, and others where loyalty to Christ is met with opposition. The surroundings of some occupations are more trying to piety than others. When the lymphatic Dutchman, who took things easily, said to his excited minister, "Dominic, restrain your temper," he was met with the pertinent reply, "Restrain my temper, sir! I restrain more temper in the course of a single day than you do in a year." That was a difference of temperament. What then?
1. The Lord knows that this is so, and He will estimate our work by our opportunity. We may be sure that if we are in a hard place He will give us strength according to our need. Each gets his own grace. "Ilka blade of grass has its ain drap o' dew," and grace is suited to the place in which one dwells.
2. We ought to be charitable in our judgment of each other. While we hold ourselves to a rigid reckoning in all circumstances, let us make allowance for the circumstances of others. The flower in the window of a poor man's cottage may be far from a perfect specimen, but it is a greater marvel than the superb specimen in a rich man's conservatory. There may be more honour to one man for the Christianity he has maintained in the face of great obstacles, though it may be marked with blemishes, than there is to another who has no such blemishes, but who has had no such conflict.
III. THE HARDER THE PLACE IN WHICH WE ARE WE SHOULD BE THE MORE EARNEST TO MAINTAIN OUR CHRISTIANITY. Here, however, it is needful to know what the hardest place is. It is not always that where there is the greatest external resistance to Christianity. An avowed antagonist the Christian meets as such; he prepares himself for the encounter, and is not taken unawares; but when the ungodly meet him as friends, then he is in real peril. The world's attentions are more deadly than its antagonisms. The Church is in the world as a boat is in the sea; it can float only by being kept above it; and if we let it become waterlogged it will be swamped.
IV. THE GREATER THE DIFFICULTY WE OVERCOME IN THE MAINTENANCE OF OUR CHRISTIANITY THE GREATER WILL BE OUR REWARD.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.