Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
I. THE LAW OF CHRISTIAN CHARITY. Where we differ from our fellow-Christians in details of doctrine, worship, or practice, we are very prone to be uncharitable in our judgments. We are inclined to doubt their Christianity because they do not just see as we do on such matters. One great fact the apostle would have us remember when we are tempted to condemn our brethren. It is the fact of the judgement to come. "Why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ" (ver. 10). "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more" (vers. 12, 13). It is not we who are to be the judges of our fellow-Christians, but God. We should not like that they would be our judges: then why should we judge them? The thought that we ourselves must stand before a higher judgment-seat, where all our sins and secret thoughts and unchristian motives shall be known, should make us more cautious in our condemnation of others. And, as regards our fellow-Christians, is it not enough for us that God will judge them? Surely we may leave their trial with confidence in his hands.
II. THE LAW OF CHRISTIAN SELF-DENIAL. There is a gradual progress in the principles here laid down. First of all, it is shown that we ought not to judge our brethren. This is a purely negative command. The next command is somewhat more positive. "But judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way" (ver. 13). The apostle enforces the exhortation to Christian self-denial by three special reasons.
1. The Christian should not injure those whom Christ has died to save. "Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died" (ver. 15). This is the true basis of total abstinence. "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak" (ver. 21).
2. The Christian has higher enjoyments than those of selfish indulgence. "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (ver. 17). The giving up of a merely bodily comfort or enjoyment should not be a great hardship to the Christian. God is able to give us much more than this.
3. The example of Christ is an example of self-denial. "For even Christ pleased not himself" (Romans 15:3). Self-denial is an essential part of truly following Christ. "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." This law of Christian self-denial covers a wide field. Not merely abstinence from meats and drinks, from bodily indulgences which do harm to others; but also to put a bridle on our tongues, lest by our words we should give offence to others; to abstain from gratifying even lawful desires and wishes where the attainment of our purpose would cause pain or injury to others; - this is self-denial, this is to follow the example of Christ. Self-pleasing is a besetting sin with most of us.
III. THE LAW OF CHRISTIAN HELPFULNESS. Here the apostle takes another forward step. Here he states a still higher principle. "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another" (ver. 19); "Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification" (Romans 15:2). Here is the truly positive principle of Christian life. The Christian life should not be merely an abstinence from evil, but a positive doing of what is good. We should not merely refrain from injuring our neighbours, but we should be actively engaged, as Christians, in rendering them all the spiritual help we can. As a rule, our Christianity is negative rather than positive. It is too selfish. Many Christians are perfectly content with attaining the salvation of their own souls, and going through the world as harmlessly as possible. This, after all, is but a low type of Christianity True Christianity, the Christianity of the sermon on the mount, is as the salt, the light, the leaven; an active, helpful, beneficent influence upon those around us. - C.H.I.
Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.
I. THE DUTY HERE ENJOINED.
1. You are not to make the pleasing of men the reason or rule of your conduct in any case, for the sake of their praise, or of any reward from them. That would, indeed, be to please them rather than God, and instead of God. But you are to study, if possible, to please your neighbour as a duty which God requires, and which you must continue to do whether men praise you for it or not.
2. This pleasing our neighbour is not, in any respect, to be placed in opposition to the pleasing of God, or to be followed in anything that would be displeasing in His sight. We are not allowed to put their good, or their good-will, in place of the glory of God, but only in place of our own gratification; "not to please ourselves, but every one to please his neighbour."
3. We are called to sacrifice our own pleasure to his, whenever our doing so would tend to his good, or to the edification of others; but, when it would not be for good, we must refuse to please any of our fellow-creatures, however much it might expose us to their dislike.
4. Keeping these points in view, you will be better able to guard against two very opposite errors on this subject, which require to be considered.(1) There is a pleasing of others which many study merely as an art, and to which young persons are trained by certain forms, as a branch of their education. This is only a seeming preference of others, which is far from real humility. This is a preference of others also only in trifles, while they would refuse to do much for the real good of those whom they seem so desirous to please. It is in itself, in short, as far as it is the invention of men, a mere tissue of hypocrisy, which the children of this world cast around them, rather for the purpose of hiding their selfish and malignant feelings than of expressing their benevolent dispositions.(2) There is a disposition in some persons, on the other hand, not only to neglect the pleasing of others as an art, but also to despise it as a duty. They think it sufficient that they give no just cause of offence to any one; but take little care to guard against the appearance of disregarding them. They will do much for men's real welfare, but will show no indulgence to their weaknesses. The clearer your knowledge, the sounder your judgment, the stronger your faith, the more may be expected from you, in bearing the infirmities, and even the censures of others, in denying yourselves in many things for their sake, and in doing whatever you lawfully may to please them for their good.
II. THE REASON ASSIGNED FOR THIS DUTY. "Even Christ pleased not Himself."
1. Observe the force of the expression, "even Christ." The act of submission was lower, the degree of the sacrifice was greater in His case, than it ever possibly can be in ours; how shall we refuse to serve those with whom we must rank in His sight as fellow-creatures?
2. But let us contemplate more particularly the character of our Lord in the respect here specified by the apostle, namely, that "He pleased not Himself." In one sense, indeed, it may be said that He always pleased Himself, inasmuch as He never had one wish or feeling that was contrary to what He knew to be right, and conducive to the good of others. But let us consider with how much reason He might have insisted that others should please and honour Him in every iota, instead of His yielding any point to satisfy their prejudices or serve their infirmities.
I. WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR?
1. He that dwells, near me.
2. He that is my countryman.
3. He that is my fellow-man.
4. He that is a follower of Christ.
II. THE SOCIAL DUTY HERE COMMENDED AND COMMANDED.
4. To be more ready to speak good of him than evil.
III. THE OBJECT TO BE HELD IN VIEW.
1. To please him for his good.
2. To please him for his edification, that his character may be built up in truth and righteousness.
IV. SOME REASONS FOR THIS.
1. The example of Christ. He pleased not Himself, but gave Himself for us all.
2. The imitation of Christ. Be ye followers of Me.
1. In this Epistle we have eleven chapters devoted to the exposition of doctrines, and five to some chief social duties.
2. Were we to realise these social duties, earth would become a place more like heaven, and make it sweeter and easier for us all to live.
(L. O. Thompson.)e.g., by education, political economy, the application of natural laws. But, except as the administrators of such forces, they have no personal relation to the work. They have no sympathy for individuals. Their pleasure is left out of the question. Then there are others who seek to do good, but without any idea of the relation of this good to the character to be formed in men. There are persons that relieve suffering without asking how the relief can build up the sufferer into permanent goodness. There are others who seek to give the most transient pleasure without any concern either for good or for edification. They please men without any consideration of whether the means which they employ are right or wrong.
2. Now, the apostle joins all three together. You are to please men; and you are to please them so that you shall do them good. But all this in such a way as to effect a permanent building of character. One man may go through a farm only to glean flowers and fruit, to find pleasure there, and to give pleasure transiently. Another may find pleasure, to be sure, and he may also here and them strive to do a little good. He may destroy some vermin, pluck up some weeds, and plant and rear a few flowers. A third may unite all these things with a comprehensive culture that shall deepen the soil, augment its crops, and develop its resources of beauty, pleasure, and profit at the same time. This is the right way, and we are to cultivate each other in the same way.
I. MEN ARE BENEFITED SIMPLY BY BEING PLEASED. Of course men would not be profited by having only pleasure in this world. That is provided for, however. Men need trouble, and they will have it. But men need pleasing as well. And the art of pleasing is an important element in moral culture. For when men are in a state of pleasedness they are more inclined to good influences than when they are not pleased. Dr. Kane said that there was no nautical skill that was so important, while wintering in the North, as one man among the crew that could play the fiddle. Why? Because it is indispensable, under such circumstances, that the men should be kept in a cheerful state of mind. And this same element of cheerfulness is necessary in all the various situations in life. It may be better to strike at deeper results; but it is not best to despise those which be near the surface. It may be that a miner, by sinking a shaft, will find more gold in the veins; but it is not best for him to despise the specks of gold that are thrown up with the soil in the process.
II. THE HABIT OF PLEASING MEN IS QUITE AS INDISPENSABLE FOR OUR OWN SAKE AS FOR THEIRS. It keeps the mind and heart on the side of benevolence. It gradually frames your character into the Divine. And a man may be earnest and conscientious; and yet, if he carries himself in such a way that the pleasing of others is no part of his daily conduct, he cannot be thought to be a perfect man.
III. THE HUMAN MIND HAS BEEN ENDOWED WITH FACULTIES WHOSE VERY END SEEMS TO BE THE MINISTRATION OF PLEASURE. People seem to think that God must be a great utilitarian, and that He always makes things for uses. But wherever you see that God has walked in the world, you see that He has had an eye to beauty. There is something on the globe besides what men can eat, drink, and wear. God made the earth beautiful that the higher feelings might be fed. We are organised for something more than the mere practical duties of life.
1. The human mind is made to act with cheerfulness. You know the difference between a rusty and a polished piece of iron. The rusty piece reflects nothing. Polish it, and how every one delights to look at it! Now, the difference between polished and rusty iron is the difference between cheerfulness and no cheerfulness. A cheerful doctor gives his medicine the moment he steps inside the room. Those sepulchral doctors — I wonder that anybody gets well under their care. A clergyman whose face glows with health, hope, and cheer has looked consolation into his friend before he has spoken a word. But a minister, whose face says, "Hark! from the tomb a doleful sound," I marvel how he should be twice sent for, unless it might be on the ground of the benefits of affliction! And in all relations of life the same is true.
2. The tendency to please is still more powerful where cheerfulness is joined to good-nature. I sometimes preach better under the influence of the flowers that stand on the desk before me. They do not know that they are helping me, whether I do or not. There are persons that are pleasant when they come into your presence, that are pleasant while they stay, and their memory is sweet when they are gone. There are other persons whom you know to be good, and who you feel assured want to do you good, but whose presence is painful to you.
3. When God put wit and humour into the human soul, He put them there to be to the soul what the hearth is to the family, whose burning wood snaps and sends up sparks, and throws light into all parts of the room, and chases darkness, and imparts pleasure to all within the reach of its influence. But such is the heathenism of public opinion, that where a man uses his conscience to urge truth, and his reason to enforce it, people think that is all right; but that where a man uses mirthfulness to illustrate it and make it acceptable, people think it is not right.
4. The same is true of imagination. You cannot conceive that the imagination should be given a man except for pleasure. The imagination is what vines and mosses are that cover hard places, and beautify things that are not lovely in their own nature.
IV. WE NOW SEE THE MISTAKE OF MAKING MORAL QUALITIES UNPLEASING, as though it was a necessity that they should be so. Men seeing that cheerfulness, fancy, etc., are concomitants of unlawful pleasure, suppose them to be wicked, and steer away from them because they see bad men employ them. But because Cleopatra wore roses, must a virtuous woman not wear one? Because orgies are carried on with music, is music defiled? Things are not defiled because they are used for bad purposes. There is an impression that moral attributes have a certain hard and rugged nature of their own, and that they are genuine in proportion as they are unlovely. Many persons want a man to speak the truth very much as a bull-dog speaks. But throughout the New Testament moral qualities are enjoined to be exercised graciously and attractively. "Let your light so shine," etc. Hence bluntness, coarseness, are not to be preferred. A disagreeable piety is impious by so much as it is disagreeable. Virtue is lovely, and you are not to slander it by acting as though to be pious was necessarily to be void of everything that is pleasure-giving.
V. THIS VIEW WILL PRESENT A MUCH HIGHER IDEA OF GOOD MANNERS THAN IS OFTEN PRESENTED. We are usually taught good manners, because they are important to our making our way in the world; but good manners stand on a Christian ground. A man is bound so to conduct himself in all the thousand usages of society, as that his presence shall be a pleasant and not a disagreeable thing, or a burden to his fellow-men. There are persons in society who diffuse an element of comfort and joy wherever they go. We say of some persons, "They are well-bred."
VI. THIS VIEW WILL GIVE A MORAL SANCTION TO ALL THOSE MINOR USAGES OF SOCIETY WHICH TEND TO MAKE MEN MORE PLEASANT. Many persons say, "What is the use of salutations? Why should I raise my hat to a lady, or say 'Good morning' when we meet, or 'Goodbye' when we part?" Well, for my part, I think that even good folks, without such little ceremonies, are like grapes packed for market without leaves between them. They will crush, and come in mashed. Even good folks need to have little courtesies Between them to keep them from attrition. And to take society and divest it of all these little civilities, would be to deteriorate it and carry it toward the savage state. And if you think that these things are of no use, it is because you never put your heart into them. When you want to manage men, do as beekeepers do. Here are two. One goes to the hive, thrusts his hand rudely into the midst of them, and very soon he has his bees all over him, and he moves himself very rapidly! Another man gets a bowl of sugar and water and washes his hands all over, and goes with the utmost quietness and serenity, and opens the hive and puts his hand in gently, and the bees find everything sweet, and they will not sting him or fly away. And people say, "Wonderful! that man has a real magnetic power with bees." So he has, when he has sugar and water on his hands. Now, when you want to manage men, wash your hands with sugar and water! Conclusion: If you carry these thoughts home, I think you will find there a great sphere for the reformation of minor morals. In the family the law of pleasing ought to extend from the highest to the lowest. You are bound to please your children, and your children each other; and you are bound to please your servants, if you expect them to please you. Some men are pleasant in the household, and nowhere else. But the opposite is apt to be the case. We expend all our politeness in places where it will be profitable — where it will bring silver and gold. My friends, our kindness should begin at home. It should not stay there; but there it should begin, and there it should be nourished.
(H. W. Beecher.)1. Undoubtedly this duty is incumbent on all — "every man"; neighbour, too, means every other man. Only as Paul says elsewhere, "If it be possible as much as lieth in you live peaceably with all men," so we are to please all men if possible. But strictly speaking it is not; but if we use our utmost diligence, let the event be what it may, we have done our duty.
2. The apostle limits this direction, otherwise it would be attended with mischievous consequences. We are to please them for their good; not barely for the sake of pleasing them or ourselves, much less to their hurt; nor for their temporal good merely, but for their edification, so as to conduce to their spiritual and eternal good. We may do this —
I. BY REMOVING HINDRANCES. We must avoid everything which tends to displease wise and good men.
1. Now cruelty, hatred, malice, etc., are displeasing, and so is that temper so prevalent in common life — ill-nature. We must, then, avoid these, and whatever resembles them, as sourness, sternness, sullenness on the one hand; peevishness and fretfulness on the other.
2. Next to these nothing is more disgustful than pride and haughtiness issuing in an assuming, arrogant, overbearing behaviour. Even great learning and shining talents will not make amends for this.
3. Almost as disgustful is a passionate temper and behaviour. Hence passionate men have seldom many friends.
4. We must "put away all lying." Addison said, "Of all vices this has never found an apologist"; but he wrote before Lord Chesterfield, whose apology for it is the best that could be made for so bad a cause. As lying can never be commendable, so neither can it be pleasing.
5. But is not flattery a species of lying, and has it not been regarded in all ages as a means of pleasing? Yes, flattery is pleasing for a while, but when the mask drops off we are pleased no longer. If a man continues to flatter after his insincerity is discovered it is disgusting.
6. Dissimulation is displeasing, and guile, subtlety, cunning, and the whole art of deceiving. Even those who practise it most are not pleased with it in others, nor fond of conversing with those who practise it on themselves.
II. BY USING THE MEANS THAT DIRECTLY TEND TO THIS END. Only remember that there are those whom we cannot expect to please. It is now as when our Lord said, "The men of this generation are like unto children sitting in the market-place," etc. But leaving these froward ones to themselves, we may hope to please others in the following way.
1. Let love not visit you as a transient guest, but be the constant temper of your soul. Let it pant in your heart, sparkle in your eyes, shine on all your actions, and speak with your tongue.
2. Study to be lowly in heart. "Be clothed with humility." Reject the favourite maxim of the old heathen, "The more you value yourself the more others will value you." Not So, Both God and man "resist the proud."
3. Pray that you may be meek. Labour to be of a calm, dispassionate temper; gentle to all men, pitiful, generous.
4. Be courteous to all, high or low, good or bad. Addison's definition of politeness is "a constant desire of pleasing all men, appearing through the whole conversation." I have seen as real courtesy in an Irish cabin as could be found in St. James's or the Louvre.
5. What is the root of that desire to please which we call courtesy? The same apostle that teaches it teaches us to honour all men, and the Master teaches us to love all men. Join all these together, and what will be the effect? When a poor wretch cries to me for an alms, I look and see him covered in rags. But through these I see an immortal spirit redeemed by Christ's blood. The courtesy, therefore, which I feel and show toward him is a mixture of the honour and love which I bear to the offspring of God, the purchase of Christ, the candidate for immortality.
6. Take all proper opportunities of declaring to others the affection you really feel for them. This may be done in such a manner as is not liable to the imputation of flattery; and experience shows that honest men are pleased by this.
7. Speak to all men the very truth in your heart. In all company and on all occasions be a man of veracity. "In simplicity and godly sincerity," etc. — "an Israelite indeed."
8. To sum up all: if you would please men, please God.
(John Wesley, M.A.)1. How far may we do this?
2. What should be our motive?
3. What are the best means of doing it?
(J. Lyth, D.D.)1 Corinthians 10:33; Galatians 1:10), unworthy trimmers, and religious weathercocks. Nor are we to try to gain popularity by pandering to the weakness or follies of others. We are, however, to lay ourselves out to please our neighbour in the manner indicated. No one ever succeeds in an undertaking unless he make it a matter of business. We must be professionals, not amateurs, in the holy practice of advancing the spiritual interests of others.
(C. Neil, M.A.)
I. FOUNDED IN THE LAW OF CHRISTIAN LOVE.
II. LIMITED BY WHAT TENDS TO EDIFICATION.
III. FULFILLED by —
1. Bearing with their infirmities.
2. Acknowledging their excellencies.
3. Seeking their good.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)I. THE RULE OF FORBEARANCE AS LAID DOWN BY THE APOSTLE.
1. There were two classes in the Roman Church who refused liberty to others. There were the men of despotic conscience, and the men of despotic intellect; and, that we may cover the whole ground of character, we may add there are men of despotic will. To one or other of these classes belongs almost every case of undue interference with Christian and social liberty. In all these cases there may be much that is good, but there is a subtle form of self-gratification at the root of it, a mistaken self-assertion, which does not leave room for other natures to develop themselves in freedom.
2. It may be asked if, in no case, we are warranted to interfere with our fellow-men. Most certainly we cannot remain indifferent to what they do and are, if we have any regard for God's truth and their welfare. But we should be very sure that it is regard to God's truth and another's welfare that actuates us, and not the mere wilfulness thai seeks its own way. We have to learn that, within the limits of what is not positively wrong, every one has the right to be himself. It is frequently very hard to allow this, especially when there are close relationships. Husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters, find it most difficult of all to make allowance for each other's variety of nature, and to remain side by side without undue interference with one another's peculiarities.
3. It is here that the further principle of this passage comes in, that we are not merely to refrain from constraining others into our way, but, as far as we can, we are to meet them in theirs. If there be a separation of taste, instead of compelling them to surrender, we are to forbear, and if the thing be harmless for us, and it will gratify them, we are to take part in their pursuits. But is there no limit to this surrender? Yes. We are to please our neighbour "for his good to edification." This is the end, and the end prescribes the limit. Such a principle saves Christian compliance from sycophancy or characterlessness. But within two limits — the indulgence of our fellow-men in sin, and the compromise of our own true nature — there is ample scope for the exercise of endless charity and compliance. The tree that has its firm-fixed root and upright stem has also its spreading branches and thousand waving twigs, which yield to the breeze and salute the gentlest movement of the surrounding air. How beautiful strength is, when it thus melts away at its extremities into kindliness and courtesy!
II. THIS FORBEARANCE IS ILLUSTRATED BY CHRIST'S EXAMPLE (ver. 3).
1. The quotation is from Psalm 69, in which the speaker is David; but the apostle takes the words as completed in Christ, which this manner of dealing with the Psalms gives us a light to read the Psalms in. Wherever a man is uttering a breathing of the Divine life, it is not merely Christ that he is implicitly looking forward to, but it is Christ that is breathing and speaking in him.
2. To prove the disinterested forbearance of Christ, he cites a passage that shows his self-devotion to God. Right action toward man flows naturally from right feeling toward God. If self-pleasing has been sacrificed on the Divine altar, it has received its death-blow in every other form. We have to show that this was a characteristic of Christ in His intercourse with men — forbearance and freedom. He presented the Divine will, and pressed it on men as the rule of all life, but He refrained carefully from crushing their nature in its flee development.(1) We see this in the variety of character which His earthly life drew around it. His disciples represent the extremes of temperament. He is careful never to stamp on them a hard uniformity, but leaves them to their own natural development, and aids them in it. Then, outside this circle, we have groups of all possible colours. How different from founders of human systems, who cannot be satisfied unless their formulas are repeated, and their minutest features reflected, by all their scholars.(2) Christ not merely refrained from interfering with free growth Himself, but He interposed to defend others when they were interfered with. What a lesson there is to contending, narrow-minded religionists, in Luke 9:49! What an admonition to those who would impose their own way of work upon every other, when Martha's complaint is so gently but firmly met! (John 12:7).(3) Turn now from His earthly life to the work He carries on by His Spirit, which is to enter into each nature by itself, and unfold it from its own germ and centre. It is for wise reasons that a visible Head is removed from the Christian Church. We can perceive how the disciples started up into stronger, broader men, under this new influence, and how their characters struck out on all sides into more marked individuality. How different are the apostles and the epistles of the same apostle, caused by the variety of development in the churches to which they were addressed! And Christ is still teaching us to look with an approving eye on every honest effort to do good and to take pleasure in the wide variety of human character and Christian grace.
III. SOME OF THE ADVANTAGES THAT WOULD RESULT FROM ACTING ON THIS PRINCIPLE.
1. If, in Christian or social intercourse, we wish to deliver any man from what we think error, we must do so by putting him in the way of convincing himself. To beat him down by unreasoning opposition, or even by an irresistible argument, may please us, but is not likely to gain him. To respect a man's freedom, never to press him so hard as to humiliate him, to give him the clue that may help him to guide himself to the right, is according to the Divine model, and would aid us in serving at the same time both our fellow-men and the truth.
2. Take the family circle. Authority must exist, but when authority makes itself felt at every turn, freedom is gone, and influence vanishes with it. Constitutional government here, as elsewhere, is the great thing to be aimed at — that is, firm law on certain great essentials, but freedom within this to grow up according to taste and temperament. If we wish those we are influencing to become valuable for anything, it must be by permitting them to be themselves. They will do very little if they turn out dead transcripts of us.
3. In pursuing such a course we shall best succeed in elevating and broadening our own nature. If we could bring all around us into our own mould, we should only have narrowed ourselves in the process of constraining others. But, if we enter into sympathy with their pursuits, we not merely grow in unselfishness, but add something to our intellectual nature which was not there before. Conclusion: In all this work there are needed two great qualities, love and wisdom. Neither will suffice alone. Love in its earnestness is often too narrow, and wisdom in its breadth may be too cold. They are the light and heat of the moral world which must go together.
(J. Ker, D.D.)1. A man's soul is like a garden belonging to an old neglected mansion. It is full of excellent things running to waste. Now a garden has no right to be dilapidated. It is made on purpose to confer pleasure and profit. So the soul of man is full of good dispositions and kind impulses; but besides these it is full of the stinging nettles of pride, and vanities flaunting coarse colours. A soul's power to produce pleasure or pain in another is very great. We are commanded, therefore, to produce pleasure. It is not left optional with us whether men shall be made happier by our going among them. And not occasionally by a gleam and a smile. It is to enter into the whole carriage of our lives.
2. This is neither a small nor an unimportant business. The making others happy is one of the best manifestations of the Christian disposition, and the closest imitation of Christ's example. Our duty as Christians is not simply to go out after men outside of morality. All about us society is full of men whose lives average but very little sweetness. And it is for us to seek to make them happier. Some men move through life as a band of music, flinging out pleasure to every one, far and near. Some men fill the air with their sweetness as orchards, in October clays, fill the air with the perfume of ripe fruit. Some women cling to their own houses like the honeysuckle over the door, yet, like it, fill all the region with the subtle fragrance of their goodness. How great a bounty and a blessing is it so to hold the royal gifts of the soul that they shall be music to some, and fragrance to others, and life to all! It would be no unworthy thing to live for to fill the atmosphere with a brightness which others cannot create for themselves.
3. Men neglect frequently these very simple and very obvious truths, because there is still a remnant of asceticism among good men. "Oh," say they, "make men better, and then their happiness will take care of itself." But much of men's selfishness and sin springs from their own unhappiness. And whatever shall take that away will tend to make them better. Again, men say, "My business is to be honest, and just, and not to make people laugh." Yet you have no business to be just and honest in such a way that those who stand next to you shall be less happy by your way of being so. No one has a better right to be a hedgehog than a hedgehog; but is he a good neighbour? A thistle belongs to the ordained economy of nature; and yet is it the model of a man? How many men there are who, rude of speech, go thrusting here, and piercing there, and treading down sensitiveness on every side, with no other excuse except this: "Well, 1 believe in a straight, out-and-out kind of man. Jack Blunt is my model!" Undoubtedly, and a very bad model very well imitated, too!
4. We are not at liberty to please by pandering to the bad elements in men's characters. We must move upon the right feelings in men, and not stir up the wrong ones, nor the evil ones. In order to this there must be a discipline in ourselves. In the free intercourse of human life you carry to men the faculties that are active in you, and tend to excite in them precisely the same feelings. If you are irritable, you tend to produce irritation. If you are proud, you tend to excite the resistance of pride. And these feelings never, in you nor in any other person, ministered to cheer. They are sand in the teeth. No man can be happy himself, or promote happiness in other men, until he has learned to put to sleep these malign faculties every day. The whole machinery of life, then, needs a great deal of oiling in you in order that you may minister to the wants of others.
5. We are not simply to carry happiness to those that are around about us. In the olden time it was thought that we should love our friends and hate our enemies. In the modern time it has been thought that we should love our own denomination, and hate those that are heretical. Therefore there has been felt to be a solemn duty incumbent on the Catholic to hate Protestants, and there has been felt to be a corresponding duty on the other side. Now, it is my business as a Protestant Christian man so to treat all Catholics that I shall please them, for their good, to edification. For a thousand years the experiment has been tried of bombarding men into love and faith; and with what luck? Is it not time to see if we cannot please men into unity; if we cannot drop the things that are disagreeable, and insist upon the things that are pleasing, for good, to edification? As it is in religious matters, so should it be in civil. There are times when men must stand in politics for principles, and at such times men cannot avoid giving pain. But this furnishes no criterion for the average of cases. Ordinarily, men who come together knowing that they are on different sides in philosophy, or in politics, or in business, if they be Christian men, should bear in mind that they are to "please one another for good to edification," and not irritate and chafe and hurt each other.
6. If these views are correct, then there is a new element of personal piety that should enter into the conception of every one. We ask men whether they are willing to leave off every known sin, etc., but how seldom do we question men as to beneficence of disposition! When, then, we are bringing men into the kingdom of God we should inspire them with heroic enterprise in doing good; but there are thousands of men who are attempting to do good, who never had it enter their minds that they were to make happiness. If I were to carry home this subject to the household, are there not many families that would bear some reformation? On the other hand, how many households are there that call themselves Christians, and have a right to, because all daylong each one is shining on the others; because each one is removing obstructions, taking away attritions, smoothing asperities, and seeking to make all amiable and all happy? When, after the long, loathsome voyage, I entered the channel, and saw, dim upon the horizon, the blue line of shore, and smelled the strange odour in the air, I said to the captain, "What is this smell?" "Bless your heart!" said he, "it is the land-smell." All the smells of the sea put together were never so sweet as that. There are persons so lovely that you cannot go near to them without perceiving that they exhale gladness and cheer and happiness. Blessed are such! I believe in revivals; but I have never known any revivals that did not need to have ether revivals in them. I have known men revived from intemperance and from wickedness, who went into churches and into neighbourhoods where they set themselves up on their orthodoxy and their propriety, and carried themselves so unsocially, so offensively, that they exerted no happiness-producing power. No person has drunk in the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ who does not make other persons happier when he comes to them.
(H. W. Beecher.)1. Life is a big bundle of littles, intended to be tied together by love. Life's joy depends on what cords bind you and what hand ties them. Bound together we must be, either by cords of silk or by iron fetters. How much our happiness is placed in the power of others! The thoughts, looks, words, and actions of others can in a moment fill us with joy or sorrow. The sensorium of our life seems sometimes like a great and beautiful spider's web, in which every thread is sensitive, we at the centre giving out and receiving back again a thousand pulsations of joy and sorrow. To change the figure, our hearts are a telephonic centre, from which we send out varied messages, and get them back, too. Messages of tenderness and of scorn, of healing and mischief. Who of us can live to ourselves?
2. How much we each have it in our power to make others happy! Surely here is a realm of Christian duty little regarded by us, and I fear less practised. How many persons in this age of keen competition, when life is a race, have pondered Christ's words about loving their neighbour as themselves? Even in family and social life how many need to ponder the sin of being constant misery-makers! If one person kills another in passion, we call that murder. But if a hard, selfish nature frets another and a loving nature to death, what do we call that? We find in our text —
I. A CENTRE. No man can please his neighbour who does not please himself. We cannot give what we have not got. Without a fixed centre there can be no circle. Now, if a Christian man is to please himself, he needs that three features shall be prominent in his experience.
1. Let him make up his mind as to what is life's true idea, and lovingly pursue it. Much of our joy in life depends on what we expect. If I expect a large gift and get a little one, or nothing, I am vexed and disappointed; but if I expect little and get much, then I am easily pleased. If I have made up my mind that the world is a workshop to make men; that God and men are the workers, circumstances the tools; each day an opportunity for new effort and new knowledge; failure only a revelation of the ideal and another chance for progress; if I have settled that love is life's one great end and prize, then, with a noble discontent, which rests ever and yet never, I may be happy in myself.
2. But this happiness will only be secure as my motive is right and my helper is ever near. To live to push myself to the front, or even to please men, will never give full pleasure to the heart. He who commands and inspires me must himself be perfect, or his imperfection will in turn become mine. Christ must be the keynote of life's song and the singer's inspiration. To please Him is to lead self to its highest ideal and aspiration and joy. Would we please self, our motto must be, "For me to live is Christ." Self lost in Christ is life's full gain.
3. Yet one thing more is needed. Every day and hour brings me a heap of failures. What am I to do with these? Carry them hourly to Christ for His loving forgiveness, which deepens penitence, heartens trust, and inspires to new and nobler service.
II. THE CIRCUMFERENCE of our text is — that no man can truly please himself unless he seeks to please his neighbour.
1. Selfish joy is a paradox. A great thinker has said, "No man has a right to all his rights"; the measure in which he determines to have them is the measure of his meanness — the measure of his willinghood to forego them is the measure of his manhood and nobleness. Where to-day men are too selfish to labour for the common weal, politics become degraded, the national conscience debased, and the poor trampled upon.
2. But what language can fully describe the holy gladness of being permitted to help and bless one's fellow-men? What a royal gift it is to carry sunshine about with you; to be like the flowers, making people happy without knowing it; to light your neighbour's candle by your own, thus losing nothing and giving much. If we could doom each man to live and labour merely for himself, then, whatever has lent any virtue to work, whatever has prompted courage and self-sacrifice, the very beauty of home life itself, must perish. I am told if you play a flute beneath a great church bell, too large for you to stir, and listen close till the right note flows forth a silver rivulet of melody, that mass of metal will respond with a myriad waves of sound in low, soft unison. So, if a man will live like Christ lived — not to please himself — then not only will he most truly please himself, but a thousand hearts will vibrate to the melody of that man's self-sacrificing love.
III. THE CONCLUSION of our text is — that no man can either truly please his neighbour or himself who does not seek to please both for a worthy reason. We must seek to please for the permanent building up of character.
1. All can please if they only try. True, some have dispositions naturally winsome and agreeable, and others as naturally acid and disagreeable; but, not the less, every man has this command laid upon him.
2. Merely to give pleasure may, unless guarded, be a snare. We may seek to please only to find opportunity for display, or to secure men's applause. We may want the partnership of others in gaiety or dissipation, and we may please them only for the sake of keeping us company. These methods, and many others, pull men down and never build them up. Our work is to build men up for good and for God.
3. All our life would be lifted to a level of nobility if our pleasure were to seek to do men good in a glad spirit. It was a noble resolve of the blacksmith who said, whatever others do, "I have resolved not to undersell but excel my neighbours." Yet all secondary efforts to either please or bless men, however laudable they may be — and they are — yet concerts, entertainments, lectures, all of them will bring us much disappointment; but the one work which will give us largest pleasure and noblest fruit is to sing to men the old, old story of Jesus and His love.
4. Nothing is more important than that men who do seek to build up others for good should do it in a pleasing way. I have no patience with good people representing God or His service in any unlovely light. Scolding seldom builds men much higher; silence is best when we cannot praise. To tell men what God has done for them, and wants to do for and in them, and to show them how glad and restful His service makes us — this is the best service we can render the truth and our fellow-men. Conclusion: Love is the great river that flows through and sweetens human life. Let us each one take care what we put into that river of love. Some carelessly throw in the broken potsherds of strife and ill-will. Some poison the stream with the miserable ambition of getting rich at any cost. Others foul the stream with grossnesses and impurity. Every man should feel that he is responsible for the fulness, and purity, and beauty of life's river of love.
(R. H. Lovell.)1. The apostle makes a special application of this principle to the conduct of the strong towards the weak. Taken by itself, it is the injunction of the comprehensive duty of courtesy. The etymology and frequent usage of the word would confine it to what is outward, i.e., polished manners. Court, courtier, courtesy, are nearly allied. But the word has a higher meaning. To court is to endeavour to please; courtesy is the desire and effort to please arising from a good motive and directed to a right end. The sycophant desires to please, but not for edification. He acts from a selfish motive for a selfish object. Every Christian, so far as his Christianity moulds and controls his character, is courteous.
2. The sum of Christian wisdom is to be Christlike (ver. 3). Nothing can exceed the courtesy of Christ and His condescension, kindness, and tenderness to the humble, poor, suffering, and penitent. "Woman, hath no man condemned thee?" etc. Many of the earlier Christians wished to expunge that paragraph. But no purer, brighter ray shines upon the life of our Lord than that which fell upon Him when He uttered these words.
I. COURTESY HAS A NEGATIVE SIDE. It is manifested by avoiding to give pain —
1. By impressing others with their inferiority, their position, knowledge, talents, force in argument, liberality. The strong among the Romans despised the narrowness and weakness of their scrupulous brethren.
2. By in any way hurting their feelings.
II. THE POSITIVE OF THIS VIRTUE is the endeavour to please, to heal wounded feelings, to inspire confidence and affection.
(C. Hodge, D.D.)I. ITS NECESSITY. All need it.
1. Some have yet to be built. Children, e.g., have unformed characters which require to be formed.
2. Some are built awry. Many young men have characters malformed, and the task is to get them into form.
3. Some have tumbled down. There are those whose character is a wreck, and the work in their case is one of reformation.
II. ITS MEANS. The builder must conform to law. The great principles on which successful building depends must be "pleased." Outrage the laws of gravitation, proportion, etc., and the builder will labour in vain.
1. For the want of "pleasing" them —(1) Some are never built at all. With the best of intentions, abundant materials, and assiduous efforts, a builder may erect a heap instead of an edifice. How much advice, instruction, etc., are expended on a child, only to be thrown away because expended in a repulsive form 1(2) Others are pulled down. When a man has gone wrong, instead of trying to put him straight in the proper way, his "friends" often take him to pieces.(3) When character has been ruined, instead of collecting and re-building the ruins, how often is it that they are scattered beyond recovery! Harsh sensures, cutting sarcasms, so-called "plain truths" never yet succeeded in reforming a broken character.
2. In each case the one thing needful is to give pleasure. Put a child, a youth, a man in good humour, give him hope, persuade him that duty is delightful, and the work of construction or reconstruction is almost half accomplished.The application is —
1. To parents.
2. To preachers.
3. To teachers.
(J. W. Burn.)
I. A STABLE FOUNDATION — Christ, the Rock of Ages.
II. SOUND MATERIALS — faith, hope, love, zeal, etc.
III. THE COMBINATION OF UTILITY AND GRACE IN THE STRUCTURE. The Christian is to be beautiful as well as useful.
IV. PERFECTION AT THE FINISH. The Christian is to be a perfect man in Christ Jesus.
(J. W. Burn)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
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