I. OUR UNWORTHINESS OF ANYTHING. If God were to give to us exactly what we deserve, everything of every kind being taken into account, we should receive nothing more. For, weighing in one scale all that we owe to him for everything he has been to us and wrought for us and bestowed upon us, and in the other scale what response we have made to him in gratitude, love, service, we should "be found wanting," and could claim nothing. We are not worthy the least of all his mercies. All that he gives us is so much beyond our desert.
II. OUR OBLIGATIONS TO ONE ANOTHER. It is well that we do not make these a "matter of account," as tradesmen do with the articles they supply to one another, only paying the balance now and then. For who would decide on which side that balance lay? And of how much beauty and excellence would our daily life be divested! The true and wise course is to make acknowledgment of every kindness received, the warmer gratitude for the greater favor, but some thanks for the least indebtedness, not waiting to consider who is the greater debtor of the two. We are to "owe no man anything" only in the sense that we are to be ever paying and therefore ever cancelling our debts. But we are to be constantly indebted to one another. Poor and small indeed would that human life be which did not owe much to the service of others. What we are to seek after is not a life without obligation, but a life in which we are very freely placing our neighbors in our debt by the kindness we show them, and in which we are making very free acknowledgment of all that we owe to the love and the service we receive. Every laborer should receive his hire, his duo reward, and among others the Christian workman should be rightly recompensed.
1. It is a matter of righteousness, as between man and man; faithful service should have its meet reward; and this reward should be in
(1) affectionate honor, and
(2) substantial, material support.
2. When rightly rendered, the reward received will be an incentive to fuller labor and more energetic service.
3. The payment of the reward will react beneficially on him that pays it - he will appreciate more highly the ministry he receives.
III. GOD'S GRACIOUS AND GENEROUS OFFER. Though (as said) we can claim nothing from God as our right, yet he is pleased to offer us much. Our Lord has told us
(1) that the humblest service, done in a true and loyal spirit, shall certainly be rewarded (Matthew 10:41, 42); and
(2) that the reward we shall hereafter receive will be in proportion to the fidelity of our service here (Luke 19:16-19). Our tone and spirit will be that of men who are not conscious of deserving anything (Matthew 25:37). But his spirit and action will be that of a magnanimous Master, and he will make the most of all that we have done (Matthew 25:40), and count us worthy of a large reward. - C.
The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.
1. A far more exalted idea of right and wrong than has been developed by human society.
2. A perception of character and conduct far more exalted than any that ordinary life develops.
3. A perception of the whole sphere of man. To Him life was a unit, and the life beyond was a part of it. Beyond all darkness He saw life and man in their higher relations, and in their possibilities. This higher spiritual condition, this perfectness of human nature in its aggregate emotions, now and hereafter, He called "The kingdom"; "The new kingdom"; "The kingdom of heaven"; "The kingdom of God"; and it was this that He told His disciples to preach when they went abroad. Whenever outward circumstances brought men to a place where the influences that acted upon them tended to develop their higher nature, and carry them forward along the path of perfectibility, or where their state of mind tended to make them perceptive of truths which at other times had little power with them, or where they were by outward things made sensible to things insensible, lifting them to the relation of the heavenly life, then He spoke of them as being near the kingdom of God. They were in a condition out of which should easily and naturally come spiritual development. What were some of those times?What may we gather in regard to them from a general inspection of Christ's ministry, and of His teachings to the people, and from our own experiences?
1. Times of general religious interest in communities bring the kingdom of God very near to men.
2. Any revelation to a man's consciousness of his exceeding need of change, of development, of exaltation; any influence which shall strike through a man, giving him a discriminating power by which he can separate between right and wrong, between better and worse, between good and better — any such revelation or influence brings him near to the kingdom of heaven.
3. Anything that brings to the personal consciousness and experience of a man a sense of his degraded condition may be said to bring the kingdom of God near to him.
4. Anything that reveals to a man the reality of his whole estate, and shows him a higher and supernal life, and gives him a consciousness of the stern, terrific danger that threatens him, is bringing him to the border of God's kingdom.
5. All the perceptions of concrete goodness which men gain, and which strike into their mind, bring them near to the kingdom of heaven.
6. All experiences of the unsatisfying condition of earthly life, are, or may be, instruments of bringing men to the very border of the kingdom of God.
7. Any cause of thought in ourselves, or any cause of thought in others brought to bear upon us, which opens clearly the nature of manhood, or the possibilities of the future endless development of human life, brings men not far from the kingdom of God.
(H. W. Beecher.)
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