Romans 14:17
Differences of opinion respecting festivals to be observed and foods to be abstained from were certain to arise in communities composed of Jews of every sect and Gentiles of every race. And we may be thankful that these differences manifested themselves so early in the primitive Church, since they furnished an occasion for a deliverance by the apostle on such a theme. We are glad to have such a valuable weighty aphorism as that of the text. The apostle's firmness and meekness equally display themselves. He wants none to suffer bondage, nor yet does he permit their liberty in Christ to be harmful to their brethren, and thus a topic of reproach in the world outside. And he makes the position clear by distinguishing between what is fundamental in religion, and what is temporary, local, and adventitious.

I. THE NON-ESSENTIALS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. The "kingdom of God" is a comprehensive phrase, denoting the new sovereignty established by Christ in the hearts of individuals where he rules in power and grace, and likewise embracing the whole company of those throughout the globe who, by personal reception of the truth, have entered into a society with duties and privileges emanating from the Kingship of the Redeemer. The code of life lays down no hard specific rules of abstinence or conformity. "Eating and drinking" are no necessary part of Christian living. It is the spirit in which certain actions are performed or certain privtions submitted to rather than the things themselves which make men Christians. External observances do not constitute religion. They are a visible embodiment of it, but not its vital principle. Let us not set too high an estimate on rites and ceremonies and forms of worship, or we may glorify the husk to the neglect of the kernel, and the shapely bark may conceal a rotten tree. Ordinances of touching, tasting, handling, concern things that perish in the using. Discussions respecting amusements, pleasures, occupations, as to which may lawfully be enjoyed and which not, seldom advance any man's obedience to Christ; they are the fringe, not the vesture, of religion, and talk concerning them is apt to degenerate into trifling and casuistry. Let each decide for himself with prayerful meditation what his course shall be, and try to secure the best, most lasting possessions. He who is always deliberating about the necessary outworks will never reach the heart of the palace of truth.

II. WHEREIN THE KINGDOM OF GOD CONSISTS. Having dismissed the negative aspect of Christianity, the apostle proceeds to set forth the main qualities of the Christian life. These are "righteousness," just, honourable dealing, keeping the commandments of God with a pure conscience, mindful of the claims of God and our neighbours. Also "peace," the tranquillity of the child resting on the Father's bosom, unruffled by storms without, not over-anxious about daily cares, nor depressed by bereavements or affliction. And "joy," which is peace brimming over into exultation, triumphant like snow brightened by the sunlight, even made rosy by the setting rays. These are spiritual qualities. They are spiritual in source and nature, are "fruits of the indwelling Spirit," are enjoyed and perfected "in the Holy Ghost." Righteousness is not the laborious toil of the legalist; nor is peace the apathy of the stoic or the sleepy contentment of the epicurean; nor is joy the momentary excitement of the sensualist. They are pure inward feelings, springs that flow spontaneously into outward behaviour. They are very practical, dealing not with abstruse or knotty points of conduct, but with qualifications easily understood, and unambiguous as to the method of attainment. It is not holding a certain creed, but cultivating a certain disposition and character. They tend to the harmony and usefulness of the Church. Dissension is impossible where these graces prevail. Unprofitable arguing is abandoned for mutual comfort and service. Engaged upon the higher business of the kingdom, petty details sink into their rightful insignificance, minor matters settle themselves. Would that the Church had attended to this dictum of the apostle, and been ever distinguished by these amiable virtues, instead of one section quarrelling with and persecuting another, making Church history a weariness to read, and confirming rather than quieting the doubts of the sceptical! Volumes of theology are not so powerful to convince of the truth of Christianity as a holy life. Men quickly discriminate between ritualism and religion, and detect the asceticism which mortifies the body, yet nourishes the pride of the soul. - S.R.A.







For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink.
I. THE DESCRIPTION GIVEN OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

1. The import of the term. Christ's spiritual kingdom established on earth — His dominion over His redeemed people, having its seat in the soul, and extending over the entire life. This is a kingdom totally diverse from all others — one not in word or mere outward form, but in soul-subduing, life-transforming power, one that ultimately brings every thought into harmony with Christ's holy mind and will.

2. Its peculiar characteristics.(1) Negatively. It is "not meat or drink," i.e., it does not consist in the observance of distinctions between different kinds of food and drink, or in any merely external forms.(2) Positively. It is —

(a)Holy conformity to God — "righteousness."

(b)A mild and gentle demeanour — "peace."

(c)Spiritual gladness of heart — "joy."

(d)The presence and power of the Holy Spirit as producing all these.

II. THE CHARACTER OF THE TRUE SPIRITUAL SERVICE OF CHRIST (ver. 18). Observe —

1. The indispensable requisites of Christ's service. In order to serve Christ, we must possess and manifest righteousness, and peace and joy, through the power of the Spirit of God. For these things there is, there can be, no substitute. Without that, however great your knowledge and profession and zeal may be, your service is a vain oblation.

2. In what respect Christ is served by these things.(1) His authority as a Master is acknowledged. Christ has expressly enjoined these things on all His followers.

(a)"Be ye therefore perfect."

(b)"Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart."

(c)"Ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."(2) His power as a Saviour is made manifest. These are not the natural product of the human heart. The Lord Jesus is their alone Fountainspring.(3) His example as a forerunner is imitated. Was not His an example of righteousness, peace, and joy?(4) Witness is borne to the nature and design of His gospel. Serving Christ in these things, we declare plainly to the world, in a way they can far better understand than by any verbal statement, what Christ has come to do in and for man!

III. THE BLESSED RESULT OF THAT SERVICE. There will be —

1. Divine acceptance. The ground of a guilty sinner's acceptance before God is exclusively Christ's finished work; but our text speaks not of that acceptance, but of the believer's acceptance of his Heavenly Father. God's complacency and delight in a holy life.

2. Human approval. Such a life as that delineated in our text cannot but commend itself even to the world. It is, however, only men of God who can, in the fullest sense of the word, appreciate it.

(P. Morison.)

consists in —

1. Righteousness in respect to God.

2. Peace with respect to others.

3. Joy in respect to yourself.

(T. Robinson, D.D.)

A peasant boy was asked, "What is the kingdom of God?" He paused, and with an expression of seriousness and devotion which I shall never forget, placing his hand on his bosom, he said, "It is something here!" and then raising his eyes, he added, and something up yonder.

(J. Leifchild, D.D.)

I. NOT —

1. Abstinence from earthly pleasure.

2. Observance of external forms.

3. The adoption of a religious deportment.

4. Zeal for orthodoxy.

II. BUT —

1. Righteousness in faith and life.

2. Peace with God and man.

3. Joy in sorrow and reproach.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

Every kingdom is renowned for some distinctive feature. Rome was conspicuous for its warlike propensities. The Grecian States were celebrated for their love of the fine arts. France is eminent for its taste. The American States are famous for their enterprise. But the distinguishing mark of the kingdom of God is "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."

I. IN ITS PRIVILEGES. As some painters can produce a striking likeness by a few clear though rapid strokes of the pencil, so is it with this beautiful sketch of the new man.

1. The first lineament is righteousness. By this must be meant an entire justification and freedom from every charge and condemnation which sin might urge, and which God's broken commands might pass upon the Christian. This is the choicest mercy in the catalogue of mercies. It is —(1) An enriching mercy, entitling to every good.(2) A most voluminous mercy, in which there is more than can be counted or imagined.

2. Peace is another lineament. Pardoning love hath subdued enmity against God. Peace hath been made by the blood of the Cross. This is one of the most gracious, as it is one of the most blessed, fruits of the Spirit.

3. Joy. It is the privilege of God's children to rejoice, as the distinguished objects of His adopting love. And, surely, when the Spirit bears witness with the Christian's spirit that he is a child of God, he hath the elements and materials for a holy joy, which the world, with all its pleasures, can never give, and which, with all its enmity, it is impotent to take away.

II. IS ITS DUTIES.

1. It is righteousness in the Holy Ghost. Not only is the satisfaction of Christ's perfect merit imputed to the soul, but the work of his sanctification by the Holy Ghost, making the believer one with Him, is commenced within the heart. Then will conscience be made of every duty towards God and man. Faith is in the soul, as lightning in the air, which purifies; as fire in the metal, which refines. The heart, which heretofore was the thoroughfare of Satan, becomes the enclosure of God.

2. Peace also is a duty to the subjects of the Great Salem; and as wars and fightings come of the lusts of men, so will the disciples of Jesus be self-denying men, in order that they may dwell in peace with Him and with each other.

3. And how shall the Christian manifest his joy as a duty? Even by the holy delight which he takes in that service which is perfect freedom.

(R. P. Buddicom, M.A.)

These words do not infer that we may eat and drink as we please; the very opposite is implied, namely, that whether we eat or drink, righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost should determine our spirit and conduct. The doctrine is, that the kingdom of God is not founded on things outward, or any artificial arrangement of these; but on the absolute difference between right and wrong, happiness and misery; and that, accordingly, its design is to establish virtuous dispositions and holy joys. This doctrine is manifestly in direct antagonism to the tendency at Rome to indulge in disputation about the obligation of existing customs, and needs to be taught in the present day. There is a very general disregard of the spirituality of Christ's kingdom, and of the sufficiency of its truths to meet the wants of man. To make the tree good, that its fruit may be good, is a process far too slow and undemonstrative for this enterprising age. Accordingly, we are overwhelmed with "improvements," "reforms," "schemes," "societies," and "movements," to effect a speedy and decided change. Note —

I. THE DESIGN OF THE KINGDOM — viz., the diffusion of righteousness, peace, and joy.

1. Societies are formed with a leading object in view. Zeal for that object is the distinguishing mark of the members of each society. Diversity of taste and opinion is tolerated so long as it does not interfere with the interests to be promoted. There are religious communities of whose institutions distinctions of meat and drink form an essential part. Such is the general character of Hindooism and Mohammedanism. Such was the general character of Pharisaism. John the Baptist adopted similar means of distinction; he came neither eating nor drinking, nor clothing himself like other men. But Christ, instead of building up such walls of partition, removed them, and strove, by the example of loving, familiar intercourse, to overcome deep-rooted antipathies. Henceforward, "righteousness, peace, and joy," are to be the distinguishing tokens of His subjects — not any style of living or appearance peculiar to them as members of a community.

2. Tried by this test, Romanism, and all imitations of it, must stand condemned; but let us apply it to ourselves as members of a Church claiming to be scriptural. We belong to different grades of society, and have different tastes and habits, Hence there is no small risk of uncharitable judgments. Simple tastes and manners to some appear little short of barbarous, and refined tastes and manners to others voluptuous and worldly. How uncalled for these insinuations! To any disposed to make much of outward distinctions, we must ask —(1) What of righteousness? Is not the first thing desirable — a heart right with God?(2) What of peace? Is not peace Christ's great legacy to His disciples? and peacemaking the duty He has blessed, as peculiarly that of the children of God?(3) What of joy? Is it not the will of God that we should rise above anxiety and discontent, to grateful, hopeful joy? Murmuring about ourselves or our fellow-Christians is neither right nor profitable.(4) What of Divine grace as the source of all spiritual excellence? God the Holy Ghost is not to be limited by man's prescription of meats and drinks, days and times, dress and postures.

II. THE FITNESS OF THE DESIGN.

1. It accords with the extent of the kingdom. God, as the rightful sovereign of all men everywhere, commands them to return to their allegiance. The kingdom must therefore include men of all nations. How great the diversity of conditions of existence! And in His wisdom and love God has provided a system adapted to all these conditions. A religion eminently spiritual and practical, having very few and simple ordinances of worship, Christianity belongs specially to no clime, grade, or class.

2. It accords with the number and variety of the enemies to be overcome. Confessedly there is a great deal of irreligion and vice in the world; and no religion is worthy of the name that does not engage its adherents to a course of resolute opposition to these evils. But there is a great deal of sin and misery where these evils are neither seen nor heard. Seemly forms of religion and correct moral deportment have not been sufficient to satisfy the heart and purify the conscience. Churches have been rent, homes made desolate, and hearts broken, by men "touching the righteousness which is of the law blameless." We do not need more fasts, zeal for traditions and customs; we need a religion that will strike at the root of all the evil in our nature. This religion we find in Christianity, which obliges us to follow after righteousness, peace, and joy.

3. It accords with the attributes of God; for there is blasphemy in the very supposition that the Divine Being can be satisfied with a religion chiefly ceremonial or outwardly correct. He is a Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.

4. It accords with the character of Christ. How strange that His name should have been given to such systems as have borne it! So far from patronising externalism, He exposed Himself to the wrath of the Ritualists of that day; so far from affecting peculiarity of living, He exposed Himself to the calumny that He was a gluttonous man and a winebibber. Everywhere and always He proclaimed the necessity of a righteousness exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees. Were He this day amongst us, no word of sympathy would be heard from Him with those who compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and only succeed in perverting his better nature. His sympathy would be with those who assert their freedom from the commandments of men, and who joyfully own their obligation to love and obey their "Father which is in heaven."

5. It accords with the destiny of all true subjects of the kingdom. There must be a meetness, as well as a title, belonging to all the heirs of glory. A training of the soul in righteousness, peace, and joy, we can well believe to bring about a meetness for the society of the spirits of the just made perfect; but we are at a loss to conceive how a round of forms and ceremonies, or a careful conformity to usages and example, in matters wholly of this world and of this body, can constitute any such preparation.

(W. Limont.)

Why was it called a kingdom at all? Well, since a man's disposition is the fountain from which all his enjoyments that are worth having spring in this world, the condition of the soul becomes a kingdom in the sense that it represents to men the idea of felicity. The old notions were that a king was about the happiest man on earth. Hence the phrase, "Happy as a king." Therefore in the description of the disposition, which is the soul-kingdom, it is called a king's dominion, or a king-dora. But there is a more important reason — namely, that a king in his kingdom dominates, controls, governs. It is the disposition of men, their character, that controls. Their enjoyment, all their life, depends upon what they are in themselves, and inside of themselves. If a man's soul is one that works itself out in righteousness, in peace, in joy in the Holy Ghost, that is the dominating influence which controls the whole life. Now I aver that men are happy in the exact proportion in which their dispositions are qualified to make happiness. The enjoyment of men is in the ratio in which they have a right inward condition. A man who has right feelings and right dispositions, either finds happiness or makes it. It will happen to a man who is all right in himself. He either finds or makes life a blessing. A man who is in good health, who has a right temperament, all of whose dispositions are noble, and who is hopeful, courageous, and cheerful, loving God and loving men, thanks nobody for making him happy; he is happy of himself. The human soul was just as much made to produce happiness as a music-box was made to produce music. If it be in a right and normal condition, harmonised with God, with the spirit-world, for which we are being trained, and with men, then it is happy. The soul must needs produce its own happiness out of the harmony of its own condition; but men do not believe in this. You will find young men saying, "If I were as rich as Vanderbilt, would not I enjoy myself?" Do you enjoy yourself now? "No — oh, no." Then you would not then.

(H. W. Beecher.)

I. A NEGATIVE DESCRIPTION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD. "Meat and drink" includes the carnal and sensational in every shape and form. True religion is not —

1. Ceremonial observances. Godliness is at a low ebb when great importance is attached to external rites. Ceremonialism is the respirator worn by a Church when its lungs are too weak to breathe the bracing atmosphere of revealed truth. Consumption has set in, and in time it will die of exhaustion, and be decently buried in the grave of formality. This was the case with the Jewish Church. The temple services were carried on with regularity and gorgeousness, while the soul of religion was gone.

2. The gratification of the appetites. Pagan converts ran to the other extreme — religion to them was a matter of cookery, confectionery, and stimulants. Previous to their conversion they had been accustomed to associate worship with gluttony, drunkenness, and licentiousness of the lowest type. Their countrymen indulged in the wildest revelries while celebrating the festivities of Bacchus and Venus. What wonder, then, that such should come into the Church, expecting it to furnish them with fresh opportunities to pamper their carnal appetites? They even turned the Lord's Supper into a carousal.

3. AEsthetic idealism. Many minds have been so "corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" by what is called higher criticism, as to lose all relish for doing, and they spend their time in dreaming. In this state of mind they devise for themselves an ideal Christ, no more like the real Christ of the gospels than the sensitive plant that grows in the hothouse to the hardy oak whose giant arms defy the storm. To the idealist the Bible is a poetical perfumery to regale the jaded senses, and not the voice of God, saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it." The house of prayer is a floral halt, where the roll of music soothes the feelings, and the dim light plays softly on the eye, and fashion displays the contents of its costly wardrobes; and not the house of God, where sincerity agonises and devotion sheds tears of penitence and joy.

II. A POSITIVE DESCRIPTION OF TRUE RELIGION. It consists in —

1. Rightness of motive — "Righteousness." One of the old schoolmen has said that "manners make the man." That is true as far as society is concerned; but motives make the man in the sight of God; external accomplishments go for nothing if the moving springs of character are crooked and unrighteous. But how are they whose motives are wrong and character corrupt to be made right? For it is written, "There is none righteous, no not one." "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight." But, thank God, there is a way of escape — "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." "Not by works of righteousness which we have done," etc.

2. Tranquillity of mind — "peace" —(1) With God. The old enmity against the Divine character and government is slain, the hostile parties become reconciled, and the peace which passeth all understanding fills the believer's mind — "For He is our peace, who hath made both one." Tranquillity of mind is simply impossible until this reconciliation is effected. Who can be free from fear whilst the sentence of condemnation, like the sword of Damocles, hangs over his head?(2) With ourselves. Conscience gives up accusing, the passions are kept under restraint, and the little kingdom within, once in a state of insurrection, becomes quiet and subdued and loyal to the Prince of Peace. But distinguish between a state of indifference and a state of peace. The former resembles the oppressive stillness of the atmosphere before the storm, and the latter the bright sunshine and verdant soil after the storm. Many are lulled to sleep in false security, like the drunkard who slept on the beach fancying himself at home; the advancing tide rudely awoke him to a sense of his danger, but in trying to escape he only went deeper into the water and was swept away by the current. "For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them," etc.

3. Jubilation of heart — "joy in the Holy Ghost."(1) Righteousness is the lowest stage in Christian experience; peace is the middle state; joy is the crowning state. Righteousness is the foundation of the temple safe and sound; peace is the superstructures roofed in, affording shelter to the weary, heavy-laden soul; joy is the tower, with a peal of bells giving forth a clear musical expression of the incalculable advantages of a holy life. Or, to change the figure, righteousness is the "root of the matter," strong and healthy; peace is the flower, fine and fragrant; joy is the fruit, ripe and delicious.(2) Many Christians remain throughout life in a state of righteousness — are, indeed, "alive unto God through Christ our Lord" — but their spiritual life is of the lowest type. Others have advanced a step higher, and have attained to a state of peace. Sovereigns, when first minted, are rung on a sounding-iron, and those that do not give out a clear sound are reckoned "dumb," and are sent back to be melted again. The "dumb blanks" are good gold, but as they lack the ringing sound, they are not allowed to pass into the press-room to receive the last impression of the die. Even so those Christians who have reached a state of peace and never advance further; they are good gold, nevertheless they are "dumb blanks," and have need of being re-melted, so as to reach that jubilant state of feeling which breaks out into exultation.(3) The inspirer of this joy is the Holy Ghost. There is another kind of joy produced by stimulants; it rattles on the tongue, flashes in the eye, leaps in the heart, and breaks out into all kinds of riotous comicalities. All this boisterous gaiety leaves the heart sad and sorrowful, and it ends in gloom and despair. "Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful," etc. This joy in the Holy Ghost is —(a) Demonstrative in its character. The outpouring of the Divine Spirit on the day of Pentecost was a most exciting scene; and during seasons of great awakening this has been repeated.(b) Permanent. "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." To possess it is to possess the most precious of treasures, the sweetest of pleasures, and the richest of feasts; it is a constant summer in the soul, and a heaven in miniature.

(W. A. Griffiths.)

I. NEGATIVELY. Does not consist —

1. In anything of a mere external kind.

2. In orthodox opinions or right modes of worship.

3. In a system of observance that is either constrained by fear or is employed as a sort of compromise to ward off the Divine displeasure, or made a ground of claim in the way of merit to the Divine favour.

4. In mere temporary feeling, be those feelings of what kind they may.

II. POSITIVELY. It does consist in —

1. Righteousness.

(1)Justifying.

(2)Internal.

(3)Practical.

2. Peace.

(1)As opposed to hostility.

(2)As opposed to condemnation.

(3)Internal tranquillity.

3. Joy.

(1)Of faith.

(2)Of love. As implying —

(a)Gratitude.

(b)Complacency.

(3)Of hope.

(Josiah Hill.)

is —

I. THE REIGN OF GOD IS THE SOUL. The reign —

1. Of reality, in contradistinction to that of appearance.

2. Of spirit, in contradistinction to that of matter.

3. Of love, in contradistinction to that of selfishness.

4. Of the absolute, in contradistinction to the reign of the contingent and fleeting.

II. A SPIRITUAL SERVICE RENDERED TO CHRIST (ver. 18). Not in meat, drink, and mere ceremonies, but in spiritual exercises. "Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." To serve Christ is the grand end of being; to serve Christ is to serve in the highest sense your own interests, the good of the universe, and the will of God.

III. THE HIGHEST GLORY OF MAN. It ensures two things —

1. The favour of God. "Acceptable to God." To please God — what is higher than this? To have His smile, to enjoy His friendship and fellowship.

2. The favour of men. "Approved of men." Christly goodness commands the involuntary homage of all consciences.

(D. Thomas, D.D.)

Righteousness of life as the fruit of righteousness by faith. Righteousness practised as the effect of righteousness imparted. Righteousness before man as the evidence of righteousness before God. Believers are to be filled with the fruits of righteousness (Philippians 1:11). Death to sin and life to righteousness fruits of Christ's death.

The kingdom of God righteousness:

I. IT IS BASED UPON RIGHTEOUSNESS. If we trace earthly kingdoms up to their origin this will scarcely be affirmed of any of them. Whatever may be said about its present procedure, what existing throne has not been erected on the ruin of human rights and liberties? But God reigns by right. We belong to Him as His creatures and His children.

II. ITS MONARCH IS RIGHTEOUS. Many potentates are manifestly unrighteous, and of the very best it can only be affirmed that on the whole they rule righteously. Compassed by infirmity, with the best intentions, they are often betrayed into deeds which charity is compelled to cover. But that astounding fiction when otherwise applied, "the king can do no wrong," is absolutely and ever true in regard to God.

III. ITS LAWS ARE RIGHTEOUS. Of none other can this be said. The best system has some bad laws — legislation, part of which presses inequitably of some portion of the community, and which is endured because of the righteousness of the rest. But God's laws are all good, and good to all alike.

IV. IT AIMS AT THE PRODUCTION OF RIGHTEOUS CHARACTER. The best earthly governments are content if the people are contented and law-abiding, i.e., if their subjects are materially prosperous and do not break the law. But the members of God's kingdom are urged to keep His laws with a view to their own moral perfection and the ultimate moral perfection of the world. Hence the kingdom of the future is to be one wherein dwelleth righteousness, and the people thereof are to be all righteous.

(J. W. Burn.)

Peace
This is one of its notable characteristics as pourtrayed in the Bible.

I. ITS CHIEF IS THE PRINCE OF PEACE.

II. ITS RULE WAS INAUGURATED BY THE PROCLAMATION OF PEACE. "Peace on earth."

III. ITS MEASURES ARE PACIFIC. Its only wars are against the enemies of peace.

IV. ITS SUBJECTS ARE PEACEABLE. Disturbance here is disloyalty and treason.

V. ITS UNIVERSAL ESTABLISHMENT WILL SECURE WORLD-WIDE PEACE. Arbitration, treaties, alliances, etc., will only effect partial and temporary peace.

(J. W. Burn.)

And joy in the Holy Ghost.
I. IT WAS HERALDED AS SUCH. "Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy."

II. As SUCH IT PROMOTES THE JOY OF ITS SUBJECTS, "Happy are the people whose God is the Lord."

III. ITS SUBJECTS THEREFORE ARE COMMANDED TO BE JOYFUL. "Rejoice evermore."

(J. W. Burn.)

1. Not natural, but spiritual.

2. Not imaginary, but real.

3. Not dependent on external circumstances, but upon the revelations of the Spirit to faith.

4. Not transitory, but; permanent.

5. Not extinguished in death, but perfected in heaven.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

Jesus is the bringer of spiritual spring into the soul. When He comes the time of the singing of birds comes with Him. He is the Sun of Righteousness who turns January into May. Really, we ought to understand that God allows every child of His to make his own almanac. We can have warm weather, and flowers and fruits and bird-songs all the year through if we only live in the rays of Christ's countenance. The sorest sorrows of life are of our own making. We shut out God's larks from our hearts, and bring in the bats and hooting owls of miserable unbelief. These birds of evil omen disappear when the dayspring on high visits our souls.

(T. L. Cuyler.)

For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
I. THE IDEAL CHARACTER.

1. Righteousness. This is characteristic of the man who is right —(1) With God.

(a)Through justifying faith.

(b)By a sanctified experience.(2) With man through a dutiful fulfilment of the obligations of every human relationship.

(3)With both in thought, resolve, word, deed.

2. Peace. This marks the man who —

(1)Has made his peace with God.

(2)Is at peace with man.

(3)Has a peaceful mind.

3. Joy. This —

(1)Flows from the other two.

(2)Wells up from a grateful heart.

(3)Streams over in a glad and beneficent life.

II. THE IDEAL SERVICE.

1. In these things we serve Christ. Christ's work is to make us righteous, etc. "We are His workman. ship created in Christ Jesus." When we work out what He works in we are workers together with Him and so serve Him. What shall we say about the man who professes to be the servant of Christ, and is unrighteous, quarrelsome, or morose? These characteristics defeat Christ's end in the world, and bring dishonour on his Master's name and cause.

2. In these things we are —(1) Acceptable to God. Because —(a) They are conformable to His own nature. He is the righteous Father, the God of Peace, the blessed God.(b) They accomplish His design in creation, providence, and grace.(2) Approved of men, even when unacceptable in the case of bad men. The natural conscience is compelled even when depraved to silently applaud what is righteous, etc.

(J. W. Burn.)

1. For their own sakes.

2. For the sake of the Master whom we serve.

3. For our own comfort and influence. To please God the surest way to be approved of men.

(T. Robinson, D.D.)

It would not be a fair thing to test a philosophy, or a body of political, or scientific truth, by the conduct and character of the men that professed it; but it is a perfectly fair thing, under certain conditions and in certain limits, to test a system of practical morality, which professes to do certain things with people's character and conduct, by its professors. It is just as fair, when a creed comes before our notice which assumes to influence men's conduct, to say, "Well! I should like to see it working," as it is for any of you mill-owners to say, when man comes to you with a fine invention upon paper, "Have you got a working model of it? Has it ever been tried? What have been the results that have been secured by it?" Or as it would be to say to anybody that claimed to have got a "medicine that will cure consumption," to say,"Have you any cases? Can you quote any cures?" So when we Christians stand up and say, "We have a faith which is able to deaden men's minds to the world; which is able to make them unselfish; which is able to lift them up above cares and sorrows; which is able to take men and transform their whole nature, and put new desires and hopes and joys into them," it is quite fair for the world to say, "Have you? Does it? Does it do so with you? Can you produce your lives as working models of Christianity?"

(A. Maclaren, D.D.)

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