This greeting is in my own hand--Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
I. THE AUTOGRAPH WAS TO ATTEST THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE EPISTLE.
II. THE REFERENCE TO HIS IMPRISONMENT WAS TO BESPEAK, NOT ONLY THEIR SYMPATHY, BUT THEIR INCREASED INTEREST IN THE GOSPEL. "He who is suffering for Christ has a right to speak on behalf of Christ."
III. HIS PARTING WORD IS, "GRACE BE WITH YOU." He has exalted God's grace. He prays that the Colossians should not lose the grace they had received, that it should abide with them for ever, as the spring of power, holiness, and fidelity to truth. - T.C.
The salutation of me, Paul
I. A PERSONALLY INSCRIBED SALUTATION. The rest of the Epistle was dictated by the apostle to an amanuensis. He adds his own salutation not only as an expression of his love, but also as a mark of the authenticity of the document. It were worthy of the pencil of genius to pourtray the noble prisoner, whose right hand was linked to the left of his military jailor, tracing with tremulous fingers the final words to those for whose sake he was in bonds! How would the hand-writing of such a man be prized and venerated, and with what holy eagerness would his words be read and pondered!
II. A TOUCHING REMINDER. "'Remember my bonds." The apostle was in prison, not for any offence against the laws of God or man, but for the sake of the gospel. The Church of Christ in all ages has had abundant reason to remember with gratitude and praise the bonds of the great apostle, not only for the stimulating example of holy patience and dignified submission displayed under trying circumstances, but for his unspeakably precious literary work. The Epistle begins and ends with blessing; and between these two extremes lies a body of truth which has dispensed blessings to thousands, and is destined to bless thousands more. The benediction is short, but instinct with life, and laden with Divine beneficence. Grace is inclusive of all the good God can bestow, or man receive. Lessons:
1. Praise God for a well-authenticated Bible.
2. Praise God for the teachings of a suffering life.
3. Praise God for His boundless grace.
Remember my bonds
I. HOW MANY CHAINS THERE ARE THAT NEED TO BE REMEMBERED.
1. Temperament often hinders men from being and doing what others expect of them. Some are impulsive, others slow; some are irritable, others placid; some must work spasmodically, others are dogged; some are sanguine, others despondent. You see all this in the family circle, where you make allowance. You see it in the Church; remember it there.
2. The bondage of education, i.e., the training of a lifetime, leads to misunderstandings. One man has had a rough, and another a gentle, bringing up. They meet as brethren — the one hearty, the other reserved. The one thinks the other rude; the other thinks his brother cold. Yet both are equally friendly and loyal. What they want is to remember one another's bonds.
3. Family ties are sometimes bonds. How many live in unsympathetic homes which restrain their better impulses, and act as a clog to their activities. How many have claims upon them of which others know nothing, and which make them appear parsimonious.
4. What a chain, too, is some forgiven sin. It hinders men from taking positions which others in ignorance would thrust upon them. Just such a sin barred David from building the Temple. There is a sense in which we should forget a man's past — in kindness; but there are times when we should remember it in love. It will thus account for much that is unaccountable.
II. HOW IMPORTANT IT IS THAT THESE BONDS SHOULD BE REMEMBERED. When a man is appointed to do some work in a public observatory, he is set to take some well-ascertained observations, that any deviation on his part from the average vision may be ascertained. And this deviation is called his "personal difference," and is allowed for. If forgotten it would make his work useless. Something like this should be done by Christians. Allowance should be made for each man's "personal difference." Our brother's chain should be remembered.
1. In justice to him. Otherwise we shall deem him less worthy than he is.
2. In justice to ourselves and to our faith. We cannot but believe more fully in the Saviour if we measure His influence, which we cannot do if we misjudge our brother.
3. In justice to the cause of Christ. So long as we forget our neighbour's chain we shall misunderstand him, and so be unable to co-operate with him in Christian work.
III. THERE IS A RIGHT AND A WRONG SIDE TO THIS MEMORY.
1. Remember your brother's chain and this will make you more charitable in your judgments.
2. Remember only your own and it will make you petulant and sensitive.
3. Forget your own chain, then, but never that of others.
I. THE APOSTLE'S BONDS WERE NO DISGRACE TO HIM.
1. His chain was the trophy of principle, and was more ornamental to him than the bracelets of our fashionable ladies are to them. He could not blame his own folly or wickedness for his present condition. It came to him when he was in the way of duty, and the consciousness of that was a support and solace to him all through.
2. But it is quite similar with our providential limitations. There is no disgrace in poverty or in sickness, provided only we have not brought it upon ourselves by our iniquity. The business man has no need to be ashamed of his attention to his counting-house. The mother cannot think that she is disgraced by the little ones that fill the nursery with their glee. And if there be anywhere on earth the human incarnation of that angel who ministered to our Lord in His anguish, it is to be found in the devoted nurse who tends the fevered sufferer. Let us not condemn ourselves if, because we are unavoidably called to the discharge of such duties, we cannot give ourselves to work in some department of Church activity.
3. But the tendency of much that is said nowadays is to make one dissatisfied with himself if he be not engaged in some ecclesiastical work. It is good to realize Wesley's idea, "all at work, and always at work." But I have known a gentle heart well-nigh broken because a minister as good as declared that those who did not engage in a certain kind of work, were unworthy to be called Christians. But that quiet one was every day doing a kind of service for Christ which required far more self-denial, and one which she could not have neglected without sin. But the service of suffering is as well pleasing to God as is that of working. Holiness comes out in suffering as well as in working. And so, provided we maintain holiness within the limits of our chain, it is no disgrace to us that we cannot go beyond them.
II. PAUL'S BONDS DID HOT PREVENT HIM FROM BEING USEFUL.
1. No doubt Paul was sometimes saddened by the thought that his long imprisonment had kept him from missionary work, and yet in the long run he became convinced that his chain had really advanced the cause of Christ (Philippians 1:12-13).(1) The soldier to whom he was chained was changed every four hours, so by embracing the opportunity of conversing with each of his guards Paul became instrumental in the conversion of many soldiers, and introduced the leaven of Christianity into the Roman army. "My bonds in Christ are manifest throughout the praetorian guard, and in all other places." He came into contact with the lowest and the highest of the people, and was blessed in the salvation not only of the runaway slave Onesimus, but also of some of the inmates of Caesar's household.(2) It was at this time that he wrote his letters to the Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon; and who may estimate the results these Epistles have produced and are producing. Thus Paul was laid aside from personal activity for a time, in order that, through these letters, he might work for all time.
2. There is much in all this to stimulate and encourage us. How much the business man might accomplish for the Lord, if he were only to do with those who are brought into contact with him what Paul did with his soldier guardians! And is there on this earth any sanctuary so blessed as the sick chamber, where the pulpit is a couch of suffering, and the preacher is a patient, loving, gentle one who tries to bear all for Christ? It may seem a great hardship to the mother that she is kept by family cares from taking a share in any departments of active benevolence. But wait until that bright-eyed boy has grown up to be a godly man, or it may be a useful minister, and then she will have the satisfaction of knowing that the influence of her training is telling through him upon thousands of hearts. We never lose in the long run, even in the matter of usefulness, by giving ourselves to the nearest work, and to which we seem bound by a chain we cannot and dare not break. Another person can do as well in a mission school, but who, save she, can be a mother to her children. In the day of final apocalypse few things will surprise us more than the benefits which have sprung from the labours of some humble Christian who thought that she was doing nothing. Courage, then! You may be fettered, but He whom you serve is not bound.
III. PAUL'S BONDS DID NOT MAR HIS HAPPINESS. When he was in the prison of Philippi he "sang praises unto God," and we cannot but feel that he was speaking his own experience in his injunctions to that Church (Philippians 4:4-8). Nor is this all. In the Epistles of his first imprisonment there is an elevation of thought and a gladsome spirit which we hardly discover in any other. In any case his chain had not bound his heart. In the days of superstition men wore charms about them under the belief that they would thereby ensure themselves against disease. But no mere external appliance can keep sorrow from the soul. We must have Christ within to charm misery away. He "giveth songs in the night." It is an easy thing to sing in the day of health and prosperity; but only Christ can make us sing in want and bondage.
IV. PAUL'S BONDS DID NOT LESSON HIS REWARD. Opportunity is the measure of responsibility. He who sat over against the treasury pronounced the noblest eulogy over her who had cast into it the smallest coin — because in estimating her merit He "remembered her bonds." He knew that her heart was larger than her means, and that she was lamenting all the time that she had not more to give. So He will give the same kindly consideration to the different providential hindrances with which we have to contend; and haply they, who through their lives have been regretting that they have done so little, may hear the unexpected encomium, "He hath done what he could," "He hath done more than they all." We are thoughtlessly apt to connect reward with activity; Christ has connected it with character, and that is indicated and strengthened by suffering and patience as well as work. Consciousness of limitation may make a man painfully conscious of the imperfections of the little he is able to do. "It is not all I once planned to do. It was in my heart to make it much better! Master! Remember my bonds!" And the appeal will not be made in vain, for the reply will come: "Well done! enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.).
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