Romans 2:17
Most men want to have a religion of some sort. If they do not want to have it while they live, yet, recognizing the importance of eternity and the judgment, they want to have it before they die. Hence men who never think of religion in their hours of health and activity, will send for the minister when they are on a bed of sickness. Hence you have such cases as that of the great Emperor Charles V. of Germany, who had been a man of war and restless ambition almost all his days, retiring into a convent for the closing years of his life, and seeking within its cloistered walls that preparation for eternity which he had so long put off. But we want a religion not merely to die with, but to live by. After all, it is but a poor religion which a man puts on as if it were to be his shroud. What, then, is true religion? Where is it to be found? The answers are so various and so contradictory as to perplex the earnest seeker after truth. Old ecclesiastical systems contend that theirs, and theirs only, is the true religion, and in consequence of that belief, and in order to make others conform to it, they have persecuted, and imprisoned, and tortured, and burned those who differed from them. Then, in our own day, we have little companies of sincere and well-meaning people breaking away from all existing Churches, claiming for themselves that theirs only is the true religion, and excommunicating all others. But we come here as immortal souls, seeking after truth, and we turn from all human answers on the question of religion to the one infallible guide of faith and practice - the Word of God. That Word is the lamp to our feet, and the light to our path. I come, then, to this Divine Word; I come to the Father of my spirit; I come to Jesus, the Saviour and the Teacher of the world; I come to the Spirit of truth; and, as a humble and unworthy sinner, I ask this question - What is true religion? The answer to that question is given by the apostle in the verses now before us.

I. WHAT TRUE RELIGION IS NOT.

1. True religion is not observance of the sacraments. "What!" some one may say, "you tell us that the sacraments are of Divine appointment, that a sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ, and yet you tell us that religion does not consist in the observance of the sacraments!" Even so. Christ instituted the sacraments. But what for? As a means to an end. As the symbols, the outward signs, of spiritual truths. They are helps to religion. They teach us the foundation of all true religion - the death, the sufferings, the cross of Christ, as set forth in the Lord's Supper. They teach us the meaning of true religion - the cleansing and purity and change of heart, as set forth in the sacrament of baptism. But they are not in themselves true religion. If they were, would not more stress be laid upon them? St. Paul says here, "Circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the Law" (ver. 25); and again, "Neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh" (ver. 28). The outward ordinance, though it signified, did not create or cause a change of heart. Observe the attitude of our Saviour himself towards the sacraments. We read that "Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples" (John 4:2). If the sacrament of baptism had such regenerating power as is attributed to it, the Saviour would surely have used it on every possible occasion. We may notice also how St. Paul speaks of baptism in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians. "I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gains; lest any should say that I had baptized in my own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel." St. Paul did not think that religion consisted in the observance of the sacraments, or he would have put the sacraments in the very forefront of his work. Yet how many are resting entirely on the sacraments! They have been baptized. They have been regular communicants at the Lord's table, and therefore they think they are Christians. Ah! religion is something more than this. The sacraments will not save our souls. We need something more than the observance of sacraments, if we are to enter into the kingdom of God.

2. Religion does not consist in the observance of any outward forms. "He is not a Jew, who is one outwardly" (ver. 28). In the verses from the seventeenth to the twenty-fourth, the apostle shows how many who are called Jews, and make their boast in the Law, are among the chief transgressors of the Law. Through breaking the Law they had dishonoured God; so much so, that the Name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles by reason of their conduct (vers. 23, 24). Although St. Paul was a Jew himself, he was a candid and impartial observer of human life, and he found that Jews, like other men, were guilty of dishonesty and impurity and other sins. They had the Law, but instead of living up to it, they trusted to the form of religion instead of the reality. Paul shows them the uselessness of this. The form is useful along with the reality. But without the reality the form is utterly useless. "For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the Law: but if thou be a breaker of the Law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision" (ver. 25). It is just as if he said to a professing Christian, "Your profession of religion is right, is useful, if you show the spirit and obey the teachings of Christianity; but if your life is in opposition to that spirit and teaching, then your Christianity is no better than heathenism." "Faith without works is dead."

3. Religion is not to be regulated by the opinions of men. "Whose praise is not of men "(ver. 29). The religion which our Saviour found among the Jews in his time was very much a worship of human opinion. Their leaders taught for commandments the traditions of men. The Pharisees and scribes gave their alms and said their prayers to be seen of men. Their object was to have praise of men. And Christ tells us "they have their reward." Such a religion reaches its end in this life. It has no aim, and it certainly will have but poor results, in the life that is to come. It has always been an injury to true religion when it has been influenced too much by the opinions of men. It was so in the history of the Jewish religion, when the kings of Israel corrupted it by their desire of imitating heathen nations. It was so in the early Christian Church. The more the Church came under the control of the state, under the control of human authorities, the more worldly it became, the further it departed from the simplicity and spirituality of apostolic times. Thank God for the clear-headed, Christian-hearted men, who in all ages have resisted the intrusion of human authority and human opinion in matters of religion. Such men were the Waldenses in Italy, the Reformers in Germany and England, France and Spain, and the brave Covenanters of Scotland. It is a great principle, worth dying for, worth living for too, that religion is not to be regulated by the opinions of men. Human influence, human authority, human rank, are of little account in this matter. This is true as regards the Church of Christ, and it is true also as regards the individual.

II. WHAT TRUE RELIGION IS.

1. Religion is a matter of the heart and spirit. "He is a Jew, who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter" (ver. 29). Religion, therefore, is a personal matter. The outward form is useless without the internal reality. We want inward Christians - Christians in heart, Christians in spirit. All other Christians are useless, and worse than useless. They are deceiving others, and perhaps they are deceiving themselves. We want Christians whose everyday life is a song of praise, who meditate on God's Law day and night, who walk not in the company of evil-doers, who sit not in the seat of the scornful, and who commune with God in silent but earnest prayer. As I stepped one day into the office of a leading man of business in New York, I noticed over his desk a portrait of a citizen who, as he afterwards told me, had been a dear friend of his own. Beneath the portrait were words so beautiful that I got the owner's permission to copy them: "Whose face was a thanksgiving for his past life, and a love-letter to all mankind." It is Christians like that we want, who carry in their heart and on their face love and gratitude to God, and also love to men. Christians like that would soon transform the Church. Christians like that would soon transform the world. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."

2. Religion is to be regulated by the commandments of God. There is no true religion where there is not obedience to the Law of God. "Thou that makest thy boast of the Law, through breaking the Law dishonourest thou God?" (ver. 23). Whether in doctrine, or worship, or practice, God's Word is to be our guide, and to please God is to be our aim. "Whoso praise is not of men, but of God" (ver. 29). We are too much influenced, even in matters of religion, by the opinions of men. While our religion is to influence us in our dealings with our fellow-men, and while we are to influence them so far as we can by the power of true religion, we are not to permit men to dictate to our conscience, or to regulate our doctrines or our worship. That is a matter between God and our own souls. Whether men will praise us or whether they will blame us, matters very little, if we are serving God as his Word and our own conscience direct. From all the clash and conflict of human opinion, let us turn for light and guidance to him who is the Light of the world.

"Some will hate thee, some will love thee,
Some will flatter, some will slight.
Cease from man, and look above thee;
Trust in God, and do the right." May we earnestly and diligently cultivate this true religion. "For he is not a Jew, who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew, who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." - C.H.I.







Behold, thou art called a Jew.
Hitherto the apostle, in seeking to shut up the Jew unto the faith of Christ, has contented himself with an enunciation of the equitable principles on which the final judgment shall proceed, simply affirming, of both rewards and punishments, that they shall be to the Jew first, but also to the Gentile. He now proceeds, in a direct appeal to the Jew, to indicate to him the folly of any hope of escape but in the free grace of God as revealed in the gospel.

I. THE APPEAL IS MADE TO THE JEW AS TO THE PRACTICAL EFFECT OF THE RELIGION OF WHICH HE MADE HIS BOAST UPON HIS OWN CHARACTER AND CONDUCT.

1. Did it make him to become a wiser or better man? If not, of what avail could it be in the day of final account? "For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law," etc. (ver. 25). Circumcision therefore is not itself a saving rite, but the sign and seal of a salvation already secured by faith (Romans 4:10, 11). But, if a man's life proclaims his profession of faith false, then the sign becomes a falsehood, and the seal a delusion and a snare. The sign is not the thing signified; nor does the thing signified of necessity wait upon the sign. The seal is not the treasure sealed; and neither is it produced by the magic influence of the sealing; nor does it of necessity remain so long as the seal remains. Marvellous it is that men should ever have imagined that God could be bound, by this mere external rite, to deliver men from the just punishment of their sins. How different the faith and reasoning of the great Father of the faithful! With him it was not a question of circumcision, but of righteousness (Genesis 18:24, 25).

2. But if an uncircumcised Gentile should practically meet the law's requirement he should be accounted as a circumcised person, and his conduct would condemn that of the unfaithful Jew (vers. 26, etc.). The inward and spiritual character of the religion required both by the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic law had been distinctly insisted upon by all the inspired writers, and the one ever-recurring complaint was that of Stephen, "Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye" (Acts 7:51). By the testimony of Moses, and all the prophets, such circumcised ones were really and before God uncircumcised. But could an uncircumcised Gentile remaining uncircumcised, secure a position of grace equal to that which the disobedient Jew forfeited? By consenting to be circumcised he confessedly might. For that express provision had been made. But besides proselytes there were great numbers of Gentiles like the devout centurion (Luke 7:1, etc.), and devout Cornelius, who were truly godly men and accepted of God, and whose circumcision was that of the heart (Acts 10:34). And why should the reference be restricted even to these? Surely there are men, even in purely heathen lands, who turn from sin seeking for redemption. And shall it be said that because they do not possess the light of revelation, and cannot exercise an intelligent personal faith in the Saviour of men, they must therefore be cut off from all interest in His great redeeming work? But if men, under such disadvantages, should become circumcised in heart and accepted of God, their fulfilment of the law would indeed judge those who, with all the advantages of revelation, continued still to be transgressors of the law.

II. OBJECTIONS TO THE CONCLUSIVENESS OF THE ARGUMENT ARE ANSWERED (Romans 3:1, etc.).

1. If a Gentile, by keeping the law, might become, in the estimation of God, a Jew, while the Jew, through disobedience, might be reduced to the position of a sinful Gentile, then what profit could there be in circumcision? The advantage was much every way. First, indeed, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. The question to be solved was not how could a man be assured of perfect immunity from punishment, but how could he be most effectually rescued from the love and the practice of sin? For this Gentilism had no aptitude or power, but rather the contrary; while Judaism had both. In its sacred oracles, the need, the grace, the way, and the sure promise of salvation were made abundantly plain; so that, if the Jew did not secure it, he was without excuse. Then it is demanded —

2. If some of the Jews did not believe those sacred oracles, so as to secure possession of the promised salvation, would their unbelief invalidate the promise of God? Most surely not. For the fact that He had given the promise to believing and holy Israel could not be supposed to bind Him to insure salvation to every descendant of Abraham, whether believing and obedient or not. In respect to that, "Let God be true, and every man a liar." David (Psalm 51:4) would have vindicated God for excluding him from salvation, because of his sin; and he sought the restoration of the joy of that salvation only on the ground of the promise which free grace had made to the penitent. But now —

3. "If our unrighteousness (who, being Jews, fail to manifest the faith and obedience of the covenant people) commend the righteousness of God," establish and make it more conspicuous, what shall we say? "Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance" upon us whose very iniquities have served to promote His glory? "(I speak as a man) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?" If He must needs exempt from punishment all who contribute to His glory, then none can possibly be condemned. For His real glory is that He deals impartially with men according to their true characters, and not according to accidental relationship; and if it were possible for Him to depart from this rule, then the glory would also depart. "For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto His glory, why am I yet to be judged as a sinner?" Clearly because I am a sinner. If otherwise, "why should we not say, as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we do say, Let us do evil that good may come?" To that Jesuitry which carried out to its logical results would justify any crime, the apostle deigns no other reply than that the damnation of its promulgators is just.

III. AS TO ACTUAL MORAL AND RELIGIOUS CHARACTER, THE JEW MUST STAND SINE BY SIDE WITH THE GENTILE, AS A SINNER, AND EXPOSED TO JUST CONDEMNATION (ver. 9, etc.)

(W. Tyson.)

consisted in their —

I. BEARING THE NAME OF JEW, which embraces three significations — confession, praise, and thanksgiving, by which that people was distinguished from all other nations. The Jew alone had been chosen as the confessor of God, while all the rest of the world abjured His service; he alone was appointed to celebrate His praises, while by others He was blasphemed; he alone was appointed to render thanksgiving to God for multiplied benefits received, while others were passed by.

II. HAVING RECEIVED THE LAW. They had no occasion to study any other wisdom or philosophy (Deuteronomy 4:6). In this they "rested."

1. Labour was spared them of employing many years and great endeavours, and travelling to distant countries, as was the case with other nations in acquiring knowledge and certain rules of direction.

2. They had an entire confidence in the law as a heavenly and Divine rule which could not mislead them, while the Gentiles could have no reliance on their deceitful philosophy.

III. HAVING THE TRUE GOD AS THEIR GOD, while the Gentiles having only false gods were "without God in the world." They had, therefore, great reason to glory in Him, and on this account David said, that in God was his strength and his refuge (Psalm 18; Psalm 62:7, 144).

IV. KNOWING HIS WILL, and that not by a confused knowledge, such as the Gentiles had by the revelation of nature, but a distinct knowledge by the revelation of the word, which the Gentiles did not possess (Psalm 147:19, 20).

V. DISCERNING WHAT IS EVIL. They knew the will of God, and consequently what was contrary to it, i.e., what He condemns.

VI. THEIR ABILITY TO TEACH AND GUIDE OTHERS. The law not only instructed the Jews for themselves, but also for others, and in this they held that they enjoyed a great superiority over the other nations, who are here called blind, for with all the lights of their philosophy, laws, and arts, being without true religion, they had no true saving light.

(R. Haldane.)

I. THE JEWS' GROUNDS OF DEPENDENCE.

1. Their covenant relation. The Jew expected salvation because he was a Jew. Denominationalism, rather than the living personal Christ, is too often made a ground of trust. They rested in the law as their confidence, and boasted that God was their God and they His people.

2. Their superior knowledge. Divine things had been specially revealed to them; on this ground they expected special favour of God. They forgot that superior knowledge often enhances the guilt of sin, and increases the certainty, necessity, and severity of punishment. It should make us first anxious to do right ourselves and then to lead others right.

3. The fact of circumcision.

II. THE JUST PRINCIPLES OF DIVINE JUDGMENT. These are to be men's works or character, and the standard of judgment, the light we all severally enjoy. This is true both of Gentiles and Jews. The one will be judged precisely by the same principles as the other (vers. 28, 29).

(C. Higgins.)

Paul now addresses the Jew direct.

I. THE FALSE CONCEPTIONS OF THE JEWS.

1. The Jews were —(1) Overweeningly proud of their national name. To be entitled to the name of "Jew" was the highest of earthly honours. To be an Athenian, or a Roman, was a much inferior distinction. Nor without reason; yet they should not have carried it to so ridiculous an excess. Alas! how has the fine gold now become dim (Deuteronomy 28:37).(2) Boastful of their religious privileges, and vainly built upon them their confidence of final safety and present acceptance with God. He possessed the law, etc. With such distinguishing favours he gave himself wondrous airs of self-importance; and looked down upon Grecian sages and Roman legislators with contempt. As to the common people among the uncircumcised, they were mere dogs and swine.(3) Thought themselves at liberty to indulge in all manner of unrighteousness with impunity. As the special favourites of heaven, God would be tolerant of their vices, and readily sanction them in their evil propensities. What would be a damnable crime among the heathen would, in a Jew, be a small and venial offence scarcely needing forgiveness.

2. Accordingly, the apostle boldly assails their refuges of lies, and shows them that their transgressions were as abhorrent to God as the corresponding iniquities of the heathen. And here he establishes the principle, that circumcision was never meant to be a substitute for personal holiness, and can never be accepted as such, while uncircumcision will not place at a disadvantage any virtuous and well-meaning Gentile. And why? Because God regards the heart rather than the outward appearance. The sign of the covenant is of little worth unless the terms of the covenant have been apprehended and accepted by the inner man. "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly," etc.

3. All that is essential in this teaching belongs to us, as professedly a Christian people. We have the form of saving truth and knowledge as well as they; and we are in the same danger of resting in that form, and then making it an excuse for sin and a cloak to our unrighteousness. Baptism stands in the place of circumcision. Do we not need, then, to be taught that he is not a Christian who is one outwardly only (1 Peter 3:2).

4. This doctrine was, indeed, taught in the Old Testament, and the prophets severely rebuked their contemporaries for resting in the outward law, and thereby causing the name of Jehovah to be evil spoken of among the heathen, who, of course, judged of Him and His requirements by the conduct of His professing people (Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6; Ezekiel 36:16-21, 25-27).

II. THE INWARD, TRUE, AND SPIRITUAL RELIGION, on which the apostle so forcibly insists.

1. Its seat is in the heart. There is an outward form which is not to be despised; for wherever there is the power of godliness there will also be its appropriate expression, because a good tree must bring forth good fruit, and a pure fountain send forth pure streams. A piety which consists wholly of frames and feelings, and articles of belief, is a delusion and a snare. Yet, on the other hand, there may be an imitation of the form of godliness where its power is entirely absent. Sometimes there is a consciousness of hypocrisy, and a man puts on the livery of religion with the deliberate purpose of imposing on the world; but more frequently the error is the result of self-delusion. People observe the external proprieties of Christianity, while their hearts are utterly dark and dead. The difference between a formal Christian and a real one is that the one is an artificial tree, made of dead wood and wire, on whose branches oranges and apples are mechanically hung; while the other is a tree which bringeth forth his fruit in due season. The one is a painted fire, while the other is an altar on whose sacred hearth the flame truly burns.

2. It is not ours by nature, but it is the gift of God. By nature we have no religion, but we can, even if left to ourselves, easily acquire one. That which is outward is within the compass of our natural powers; but that which is inward and spiritual is like the flames which licked up Elijah's altar, which only Jehovah could flash forth. It is not enough that you read the Bible, say your prayers, etc. Are you the subject of a direct Divine working, changing your inward character? Is your circumcision, your consecration to God, that of the heart, "in the spirit and not in the letter: whose praise is not of men but of God"?

3. Let us delineate it. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant with Israel. God pledged Himself to be their King and Father. They, on the other hand, were to be willing to obey and serve Him. Our consecration is to be substantially of the same order. Let us view it as relating to —(1) The will. As God's creatures, we ought to be subject to His will. Nor should this be a hardship when we reflect on His perfect wisdom, goodness, and righteousness. Yet, man is a self-willed creature. This tendency reveals itself in earliest childhood. And then, afterwards, when our thoughts are directed to a higher quarter, when we become aware of a God whom it is our duty to honour and obey, the guilty struggle is renewed. Or, perhaps, we try to put Him off with a half-hearted and pretended service. The necessity of religion and the triumph of grace is to subdue this mutinous spirit, and make us willing and ready to say, "Father, not my will, but Thine be done." Now, this subjection of the will to God shows itself in submission to His dealings with us, and obedience to His requirements of us.(2) The motives follow the will. It is true that the will is influenced by motives; but it is also true that the will has a prior power of choosing its own motives. Now, ordinarily, men are constrained by a love of money, pleasure, power, etc. The man of God may be the subject of the same tendencies and incentives so far as they are in themselves lawful and right; but then he will not yield himself up to them blindly or absolutely; he will subordinate the whole to the supreme principle of seeking first the Divine glory and being actuated by love to God (Corinthians 10:31).(3) The affections participate in the effects of inward holiness.(a) Love is an acknowledged necessity of our existence. If carnally minded, our love will be impure, misleading, dangerous; but if spiritually minded, its great and all-satisfying object will be God Himself.(b) Closely allied to love is fear; for what we love we fear to lose. And if we love God we shall fear to offend or displease Him; and having that we need have no fear beside.(c) Where our love and fear centre thither will our desires ascend.(d) From this feeling will spring both trust and hope. We shall confide with unfaltering affiance in Him whom our soul loveth. We shall have boldness before His presence, and know that, as He liveth, we shall live also. We shall not be dismayed by the prospect of death, or tremble when we think of judgment. Conclusion: Such is spiritual religion, the "circumcision of the heart." It is produced within us by the Holy Ghost. The instrument is the Word of truth. And especially does He employ and apply to our hearts those doctrines which relate to the atoning sacrifice of Christ, to God's readiness to be a Father to us and acknowledge us as His children, and to the dread realities of the world to come. Let us again ask ourselves if we possess real, inward, and spiritual religion? If not, a mere form and profession will be found in vain.

(T. G. Horton.)

I. WHAT HE BOASTS (vers. 17-20).

II. WHAT HE DOES (vers. 21-21).

III. WHAT IS THE RESULT. He is condemned —

1. By his own principles.

2. By the upright heathen.

3. By the gospel law.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

1. His exalted privileges.

2. His honourable calling.

3. His faithless conduct.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

And approvest the things that are more excellent
The phrase is explained by Alford as "provest (in the sense of sifting and coming to a conclusion on) things which differ"; and by Vaughan as —

1. "Discernest things that differ; art able to discriminate, as by an infallible test, things true and false, right and wrong.

2. Approvest things that excel" (cf. Philippians 1:10; Romans 12:2). The boast, here, clearly refers to accuracy of judgment and to the sensitiveness of the moral sense. As the wild huntsman can hear a footfall at incredible distances; as the Indian of the prairie can track a trail, which to a dull-eyed European is invisible; as the connoisseur can distinguish the slightest shades of flavour in food and in wines of various vintages; as the artist can at a glance decide if a picture be that of a master or not; so the Jew boasted he could discern the good from the bad, the right from the wrong, and unloose all kind of casuistical knots of morality.

(C. Neil, M. A.)

And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind.
Four terms set forth the moral treatment to which the Jew, as the born physician of mankind, subjects his patients, the Gentiles, to their complete cure. "Thou art confident" describes his pretentious assurance. And, first, he takes the poor Gentile by the hand as one does "a blind man," offering to "guide" him; then he opens his eyes, dissipating his "darkness" by the "light" of revelation; then he "rears" him, as one who would bring up a being yet "without reason"; finally, when through all this care he has come to the stage of the "little child" (one who cannot speak — a designation of proselytes), he initiates him into the full knowledge of the truth, by becoming his "teacher."

(Prof. Godet.)

Now, I should like to ask a question of two or three classes, and then send you home. There are a great many of us here tonight who are teachers of others. Some of you are deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers, street preachers. I thank God that you are a busy people, and you are doing much for Christ. There is a question I want to ask of you and of myself: Are we who teach others sure that we have believed in Christ ourselves? It is well to ask that question; it is a very dangerous thing indeed for an unsaved man to begin to work for Christ, for the probabilities are that he will take for granted what he ought diligently to have proved. In many cases he never will seek to be saved; but go on, on, on, never pausing to examine himself, and so, while professing to work for God, he may be a stranger to the work of God on himself. There is an old story I recollect reading somewhere of a lunatic in an asylum, who one day saw a very lean cook. Accosting him, he said, "Cook, do you make good food?" "Yes," said the cook. "Are you sure?" "Yes." "And does anybody get fat on it?" "Yes," again was the reply. "Then," said the man, "you had better mind what you are after, or else, when the governor comes round, he will put you in along with me, for if you make good food, and yet are so thin yourself, you must be mad, for you do not eat it, or else you would get fat too!" There is some sense in that. You teach others, you say; you give them spiritual food; but why not feed on it yourselves? Master, what right hast thou to teach if thou wilt not first learn? Physician, physician, heal thyself! Brother, it will go hard with you and with me, if we are lost. What will become of us teachers of others, if, after having led others to the river, we never drink; after bringing others the heavenly food, we perish of spiritual famine ourselves?

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes.
I. HIS WORK AND OFFICE. "An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes."

1. In these words this is comprehensively described, both as respects the material upon which the teacher has to work, and the appliance which he brings to bear upon it. He has to deal with human nature in its ignorant and helpless condition: to make the naturally foolish "wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."(1) "The foolish!" According to Scripture, the natural state of mankind is one of folly, and the way of sin the way of foolishness. And right reason agrees with this; for surely it is folly to neglect the great end of a man's being, and to come short of eternal happiness. Surely it is a gross infatuation to risk that precious jewel, the soul, in seeking to grasp the pomps of the world, or to grovel in the dust of its pollutions. And this foolishness, though not so exaggerated as in more advanced years, is incident to the years of childhood. It is "bound in the heart of a child"; "childhood and youth are vanity" (Proverbs 22:15; Ecclesiastes 11:10). It is so in the very nature of things. Impressible for good as the mind of a child unquestionably is, and free as it is from the prejudices of riper age, still when left to itself it will invariably take the wrong direction, and by degrees develop its sinful tendencies. The soil of the heart, if it be not cultured for the good seed of the Divine word, will be speedily sown with evil principles, and bring forth an abundant measure of foolish and evil habits.(2) Thus "foolish," the young are mere "babes" as far as regards spiritual health and strength. This designation sufficiently expresses men's natural inability to recover themselves out of the way of folly, and advance in the true life of God (Jeremiah 10:23). And, if this is true of man in mature life, how much truer must it be of his childhood. But the Sunday school teacher has to deal literally with babes, and needing as much care, in a moral point of view, as the very babe which hangs upon its mother's breast. They are the lambs of the flock, the young and tender, who stand in need of kind assistance, of gentle leading, of suitable provision. They are those of whom the good Shepherd spake (John 21:15).

2. The office must be of the last importance. It is to "train the little ones in the way they should go"; to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." The Sunday school is a nursery for heaven. It is true that it has afforded a means of education to many a poor child; but its grand object is to make scholars in the school of Christ, This may be done now with greater ease than at any other time. The young plant may be trained to assume almost any shape, if bent and turned while it is yet flexible, To preoccupy and cultivate the ground should be the aim of the Christian philanthropist: it will not long lie fallow; for Satan and his agents will be assiduous enough in their endeavours to plant it with tares. If we do not train the foolish and helpless for God, Satan will train them for himself (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7; Psalm 78:3-7; Ephesians 6:4; Proverbs 22:6).

II. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH HE SHOULD ENGAGE IN HIS WORK.

1. Sincere desire to promote the spiritual well-being of the children. What we want is to Christianise our people, and when is this so likely to be brought about as in youth? Do not think, then, that you have done enough when you have taught them to read the letter of the Bible: you must seek to imbue them with its spirit. But here an inquiry will naturally be suggested, are you competent for this, i.e., are you a converted character, or only a professor. Here is your test. Thus, only as you are led by the Spirit of God are you fit to be "an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes."

2. Self-denial, patience, and perseverance. There will always be much to try and discourage you: the waywardness of some, the dulness of others, and the uncertainty of not a few. There is much call for gentle and cautious treatment: the variety of dispositions and capacities must be noted, and dealt with in various ways; and the difficulty of so doing will often occasion discouragement. Some require to be urged on, while others must rather be restrained (Genesis 33:13). You are sorely tried on account of the little impression which seems to be made upon your children; but little is manifest as the result of your teaching; do not despair, the seed often remains a long time in the soil before it begins to fructify: if you work in a proper spirit, "your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord" (Ecclesiastes 11:1). You cannot expect to do everything at once.

3. Unwavering dependence upon Divine aid. While on the one hand the inquiry may be made, "Who is sufficient for these things?" on the other hand, it may be confidently, though humbly, urged, "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." He whom we serve has all hearts and all things at His disposal: He can overturn or remove this or that obstacle, and make our way smooth before us, and so interpose as to leave us without excuse, if we grow weary or faint in our duty. Hence we must fervently pray for Divine enlightenment and teaching. We want wisdom as well as strength. And in seeking for the guidance of the Spirit, we are not to despise or pass by all proper human aids. We may the more confidently crave the teaching of the Spirit, when we have duly sought after available knowledge; for the Divine blessing is invariably given in the use of means.

4. A single eye to the Divine glory. When the Christian sets this before him as the end of his life, he will not regard ordinary difficulties. This will lead him to strive after the conversion of souls.

III. THE ENCOURAGEMENTS.

1. The general assurance of success. Enough is said to encourage every labourer to prosecute his work with assiduity. And not a few instances might here be recorded of pleasing results. Not only have children been instructed and converted to God, but they have proved the means of instruction and conversion to their parents and others. How many who now occupy stations of eminence and usefulness owe their all, under God, to Sunday schools.

2. Personal benefit. In many cases the instructor has been savingly taught himself, while teaching others. And where he has been truly pious, when engaged in the work, the graces of the Christian's life have been called into exercise, and their growth promoted.

3. The final reward (Matthew 25:40).

(J. S. Broad, M. A.)

Opinions may play upon the surface of a man's soul, like the moonbeams on the silver sea, without raising its temperature one degree or sending a single beam into its dark caverns. And that is the sort of Christianity that satisfies a great many of you, a Christianity of opinion, a Christianity of surface creed, a Christianity which at the best slightly modifies some of your outward actions, but leaves the whole inner man unchanged.

(A. Maclaren.)

Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?
In His conversation with Nicodemus our Saviour enunciated the principle to which all Christian usefulness must eventually be referred (John 3:11). The model Pharisee asserted for himself the most edifying orthodoxy, flawless morality and eminent devotion; he claimed extraordinary keenness in discrimination, approving only what was excellent; he could inform the ignorant, illumine the darkened, give counsel to illumined adults, and help forward untaught children. Yet with all these assumptions the apostle seems to have discovered that which led him to rate such a creature as a mere spiritual quack. This man, so earnest against thieving, had a touch of dishonesty; so stern in pressing the penalties of the seventh commandment, had some sins which would look ill under scrutiny. In a word, he was instructing others with no word for himself. And so St. Paul reiterates the grand principle of the gospel: religious instruction is to be indorsed by the living experience of the instructor. Consider: —

I. THE GREAT COMMON NEED UNDER WHICH HUMANITY LIES. It has pleased God to make men instruments of good to each other. Hence the proclamation of the gospel is necessarily experimental. "Come all ye that fear God, and I will declare what He hath done for my soul." Naaman was just the person to tell lepers of the prophet who had bidden him go wash in the Jordan. Bartimeus was just the right one to lead blind men to Jesus, who had opened his eyes. Hence, it is perfectly natural that we demand of him who teaches that he should first have felt the truth he proffers. Otherwise he lays himself open to the taunt, "Physician, heal thyself!"

II. THE AIM OF ALL RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION. The conscience must be reached, and through its monitions the entire life must be influenced, or else all teaching is wasted. Nothing is so mysterious as the forms of operation which this inner monitor chooses. Sometimes it seems to render a man harder and more violent; and yet at that very wildest moment he is nearer yielding than ever before. Sometimes it melts a man into deep emotion; and yet we painfully discover afterward that this has been mere ebullition of excited feeling. Now, we cannot grow skilful in distinguishing these external shows, without diligent study of our own experience. Conscience must be watched in its working within our hearts. "As in water, face answereth to face; so the heart of man to man." That truth is most effective which, having proved itself forceful in reaching our own consciences, goes from its success there upon the intrenchments of another.

III. THE VARIETY OF FORMS EMPLOYED IN SCRIPTURE INSTRUCTION. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine," etc. But then, how much there is of it! and what room for skill in discriminating what doctrine, principle, or precept to apply in each given case. Now, many of our Sunday school teachers are at a loss here. When the tossed vessel is drifting, and a passenger lies at the point of death, are there none who hurry to the Bible, as a sailor to the medicine chest; and yet stand appalled at the formidable array of spiritual drugs, any one of which possibly might be helpful or hurtful, if only they could know which? How can we learn what phases of truth to present? Let the Scriptures be studied experimentally. Let the Christian teacher rework every principle he offers to others, first into his own mind, and outwork it into his own life.

IV. THE POWER OF A GODLY EXAMPLE. Men are imitative, and in nothing so much as religious observance. Moreover, they insist upon identifying a moral teacher with what he teaches. They will not suffer a limping man to propose an effective cure for lameness. Hence there can be no failure more ridiculous in the eyes of the world than that of a man who urges a truth and lives a lie. But, on the other hand, whenever fully possessed of the power of the gospel, and radiant with its light, a grand life goes about doing good, that life has a majestic driving force to it almost unlimited.

V. THE LAW OF THE HOLY SPIRIT'S ACTION. Truth is propagated not by transmission through mere symbols, but by radiation through conductors in contact. The lens of a burning glass will not only suffer the free passage of the sun's rays, but will concentrate them, until what they fall upon bursts into flame; meanwhile the lens itself will remain perfectly cool. Wonderful experiments of this sort have been performed with even a lens of ice, which kindled a fire and continued unmelted. You can find nothing, however, in religious matters to which this phenomenon would answer. The torch, not the burning glass, is the emblem of spiritual life; it flames while it illumines, and is warmed as it sets on fire. He influences others most who has been nearest in contact with Christ. No religious teacher can give more than he gets. Conclusion: Whichever way we look, then, we reach the same conclusion. The heart lies behind the hand which proffers religious truth.

1. We learn here the proper use to make of the Scriptures. All religious instruction must be received experimentally. Thus the Bible becomes personal in every one of its utterances. How is it now (see Isaiah 29:11, 12)? What renders the learned and the unlearned together so at fault is not want of education, but want of experience. It may be worth knowing, as a geographical fact, that there is no water in the Kidron valley save after a shower: it may be important to learn, as a historic fact, that Capernaum was located at Khan Minyeh; but this is not what is going to save souls. We must embody truth in life, and reduce vague information to vital and available help.

2. We learn to distinguish between gift and grace. Mere intellectual gift sometimes even hinders grace. "Christ," said Legh Richmond, "may be crucified between classics and mathematics." It is not our want of aptitudes for doing good which stands in our way, half so much as it is our want of communion with God. The rule is, "Oh! taste and see that the Lord is good!" Out of this experimental acquaintance with truth grows our power fitly to offer it. Scholarship is only a means to an end. The gospel light is much like the solar light; its beauty is not its efficiency. You may divide the sunbeam into seven beautiful colours, and not one alone nor all together will imprint an image on a daguerreotype plate. Just outside the spectrum, in the dark, there is one entirely invisible ray, called the chemical ray, which does all the work. No man ever saw it, no man every felt it; and yet this it is which bleaches and blackens a dull surface into figures of loveliness and life. I care not how luminous a man's personal or intellectual qualities may be; if he lacks, amid the showy beams that are shining, this one which is viewless — this efficient but inconspicuous beam of spiritual experience — all his endeavours will surely prove inoperative for good.

3. We learn here the advantage of seasons of discipline. In all the round of God's dealing with His children, there is nothing like suffering as an educator. Anything that loosens the hold of the soul on earthly things, and shuts it up to God, is valuable; but, as a preparation for usefulness, is priceless. Any man expert in sea life could have said all that the apostle said when he came forth to quiet the sailors in the midst of a shipwreck. The force of his counsel lay not so much in the prudence of what he suggested, as in the experience which was embodied in it — that "long abstinence" in which he had received his vision. One mysterious but remembered hour there was which gave his speech all its efficiency (Acts 17:22-25). It is just this which is the element of power in any counsel. The angel of experience is sent to one, and then he is ready to say, "I believe God!"

4. We learn the secret of all success, and the explanation of all failure. It would seem at first sight that truth is efficient in itself. But now we understand that first it must pass through the teacher's experience. When the plague was raging in Ireland, the priests gave out that if any man would take from his own fire a piece of burning peat and light his neighbour's fire with it, he would deliver the family from an attack of the disease. The whole region was instantly alive with brands passing to and fro. Oh! if superstition could do this much, ought not zeal to do more? But the kindling was to come from one's own hearthstone then; and the kindling must come from one's own heart now. Calvin's seal motto was a hand holding a heart on fire, with the legend, "I give thee all, I hold back nothing!" What we need is to have our entire level of Christian experience lifted. We are too busy about appliances and places and theories.

5. We learn the last essential of preparation for teaching. We must have the presence of the Holy Ghost. You see this most evidently in the case of Paul. They called him Paullus, because he was little. He had a distemper in his sight. His bodily presence was said to be weak, and his speech contemptible. But no man ever equalled him in power as a religious teacher.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

I. Let us attempt to produce ANIMATION by an appeal to you as teachers of others. "Be not weary in well-doing"; implies that in well-doing we may be weary — though sinners are not often weary in ill-doing.

1. Fill your minds with the magnitude and importance of your work.(1) When you look upon your little charge, you are not merely to regard them as beauteous shells scattered on the shore of the ocean, but as each a pearl of incalculable value. When you are called to be "teachers of babes," you are not called to play with toys.(2) But, as an incalculable value is impressed upon them, so they are exposed to imminent danger. Though naturally depraved, this depravity is increased by indulgence, and rivetted by practice; and, if you interpose in time, you may rescue many.(3) Recollect that God calls the greater part of His people in early life.

2. Let me charge on your consciences your obligations to attend to the work.(1) Think that you are all now listening to Him who says, "Lovest thou Me? — feed My lambs." The Saviour takes a little child in His arms, and He says, "Suffer little children to come unto Me," etc. "He that receiveth one such little child in My name, receiveth Me." While others look at the Saviour, as He issues His command, and say, "Is this all? our imaginations are filled with something greater, we would be preachers, writers, missionaries, martyrs — anything but teachers of babes": — you say, "What! disdain to stoop to babes, when Christ takes the little ones up in His arms."(2) And while Christ thus aims to bind you by a sense of obligation, let me remind you what He has done for you. Has He not, as it were, washed your feet? and should you not wash the feet of His meanest disciples?

3. Recall to your grateful recollection the blessings with which God has crowned this work. "Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Some may say that they have turned out ill who were brought up well; but we may say, "Be of good cheer; for I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me." Let us then look round, and see what blessings have attended the instruction of the rising race; and, while we look around, let us inquire, "What hath God wrought?"(1) Take this school and all the children who have been instructed in it — add to them all in the metropolis — in the kingdom — in the world.(2) And such being the numbers of those collected in Sabbath schools, think how many blessings have been carried into families. Consider how the first tidings of salvation have been thus conveyed.

4. Tremble at the thought of neglecting this work. Woe to us if Sunday schools should expire! We have waked up the world so completely that it will not soon go to sleep again. We have taught this generation that they must teach the next. We must go on: we have advanced too far to recede. The great enemy of man is at work to ruin the world, by the very same means which we employ to benefit the world.

II. Attend to the EXPOSTULATION which is contained in the second part of the text, "Teachest thou not thyself?" I would expostulate with you.

1. With regard to over-enlisting. Sabbath schools are at once our glory and our shame. We should earnestly wish their extinction; it is a disgrace to us that they are needed. When the children of pious and instructed parents are sent to a Sunday school, it is a perversion of things. There should be a Sunday school in every house. There are but two exceptions to this — the first is where the parents are so ignorant that they need instruction themselves; the children of these you ought to take and instruct. The other is where the parents have small families, and can take their children with them to a Sunday school: thus they may instruct the children of the poor and their own children at the same time. No mortal living has a right to transfer the care of his children to others, while he can take care of them himself.

2. Against overworking. Overdoing is often undoing. All should be anxious to do as much as possible; but you must remember that the Lord's day was intended to be a day for the rest and edification of your own souls. Let there be no long singing, long prayers, long lessons. For the children's sakes, as well as for your own, avoid overworking. As long as you can keep the attention judiciously awake, you do good; but when you see the spirits flagging you may be certain very little will be done.

3. Beware of over-valuing. Nothing is more common than for persons to think highly of that in which they are engaged.

4. Beware of undervaluing. Do not suppose that because a man is wise to his own salvation he is therefore wise enough to teach others.(1) You should know much; you should have some time for study; and all your knowledge should be made subservient to your grand design.(2) And then there must be, also, the art of teaching. This must be acquired, or, with all your knowledge, you will not be wise to win souls.(3) There must be the art of ruling: if you have not the ability to hold sway over your own spirits, the children will soon perceive it, and will soon manage you.

(J. Bennett, D. D.)

He that giveth good precepts, and follows them by a bad example, is like a foolish man who should take great pains to kindle a fire, and, when it is kindled, throws cold water upon it to quench it.

(Abp. Secker.)

The contradiction between the two is —

1. Common.

2. Inexcusable.

3. Damnable.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

A misplaced switch or a wrong signal may send hundreds into eternity unprepared.

In how quick a time a man can take round the hands of a watch when he has the key! But who can tell the hour from that? It is a different thing when slowly, moment by moment, the machinery within works them round so that every hour and every minute is marked correctly. So a man may run the whole round of Christian doctrines in speech, but it is not half so effective as when he lives and shows them forth day by day, and as events arise, in this difficult life of ours.

I am afraid that very often the truth which we deliver from the pulpit — and doubtless it is much the same in your classes — is a thing which is extraneous and out of ourselves, like the staff which we hold in our hand but which is not a part of ourselves. We take doctrinal or practical truth as Gehazi did the staff, and we lay it upon the face of the child, but we ourselves do not agonise for its soul. We try this doctrine and that truth, this anecdote and the other illustration, this way of teaching a lesson and that manner of delivering an address; but so long as ever the truth which we deliver is a matter apart from ourselves and unconnected with our innermost being, so long it will have no more effect upon a dead soul than Elisha's staff had upon the dead Child.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?
That the Jew of Paul's time, and for generations long before, abhorred idols there can be no question. In the Babylonish captivity, the nation became so disgusted with idolatry that the hatred of it then engendered was left as a legacy to all time. But did the Jew at the same time commit sacrilege? To answer this question we must first clearly understand what we mean by sacrilege.

1. We may take the alternative reading, "Dost thou rob temples?" And then the inference would be that this hater of idolatry was none the less sometimes profiting by it, stealing the gifts of Pagans from their altars, and turning them to his own account; as we may suppose in our own time one who should inveigh fiercely against the liquor traffic, and derive a part of his income from the rental of a spirits vault.

2. Leaving this, however, and accepting the text as it stands, our idea of sacrilege is that of the profanation of sacred things. Uzziah, e.g., assuming priestly functions, or Belshazzar using the sacred vessels in the orgies of a bacchanalian revel. To speak more generally, sacrilege is diverting from its Divine purpose anything that God has given us. The undue exaltation of sacred things may be sacrilege, and herein the Jew might commit idolatry in the spirit while he vehemently protested against it in the letter. A superstitious reverence for sacred things, such as, e.g., the worship of the brazen serpent in Hezekiah's time.

3. Herein we think the integrity of the antithesis that runs through the questions from the 21st verse is sustained, "Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?...Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou — by thy foolish superstitions, by using and exalting some of thy sacred things in a way never intended by the Lord as well as in degrading them to common purposes — dost thou commit sacrilege, and so in spirit fall into that sin of idolatry against which thou criest out so loudly?" And now to turn this question to good account. Is it possible for us who have renounced idolatry to commit sacrilege in the sense of becoming idolaters in spirit, while in the letter we denounce it? I think it is —

I. "WE MAY COMMIT SACRILEGE WITH DIVINE ORDINANCES, with baptism and the Lord's Supper, e.g., by investing them with a mechanical efficacy never intended by their Author.

II. SELFISHNESS IS SACRILEGE, self-worship being one of the worst and most subtle forms idolatry can take.

1. "Know ye not, brethren, that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost, that you are not your own, but bought with a price," and, if this be so, what greater sacrilege or idolatry can any man commit than to use his God-given powers and faculties as if they were his own? Selfishness, self-worship, is a kind of sacrilege that brings with it its own most certain retribution. No leprosy may break out upon our persons as in the case of Uzziah; no handwriting may appear upon the wall as in the case of Belshazzar; but, none the less, the retribution will surely come.

2. Selfishness is sacrilege in relation to others as well as to ourselves, for what right have we to use our fellows for our own selfish ends and purposes? How dare we make capital out of other's weaknesses? Every man's person is sacred; he is an image of God. Wherefore let us honour all men, recognise the sacred uses and possibilities that are in them, lest losing reverence for the human we lose it also for the Divine.

3. Selfishness is sacrilege against God, too, for in His great house we are all of us vessels of gold, or of silver, of wood, or of stone, and if we use ourselves as for ourselves, forgetful of His sacred service, we are like servants that waste their master's goods, like priests who desecrate all sacred things, and abuse their solemn functions.

III. THE LOVE OF OTHERS, where it leaves in the soul no room for love to God, is SACRILEGE. We may degrade them, and so fall into this sin, but we may also so exalt them as to fall into the same. When we hear it said that a woman is "devoted" to her child, or that she "idolises" her husband, if we were to adhere to the letter we should say that this is sacrilege. We do not think upon the whole that we are in very much danger of loving our dear ones either unwisely or too well. We can love the Lord our God with all our hearts, and also yet love our husbands, our wives, our children, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it. We are more likely on the whole, I think, to become sacrilegious by loving them too little than too much. Yet if it should be so with any of us that these relationships come between us and our God, then indeed do we commit sacrilege against them as certainly as against Him.

IV. WORLDLINESS OF SPIRIT, the excessive love of this world's goods is SACRILEGE and idolatry. If we are the devotees of fashion or of pleasure, if the shows of this world so engross us as to leave no time nor heart for the spiritual, then we are committing sacrilege. The most common gifts, the most earthly things are amongst the "all things" that work together for our good, but they work together for our harm when, instead of using them for God, we use them for mean purposes. The silver and the gold are the Lord's, and we may be sacrilegious if we discern not this and use them not for Him. Whether we waste our money or hoard it, we are committing sacrilege with it, for money answereth all things, even the ends of grace as well as the means of ruin. Let us reverently handle even our money, using it as God Himself would have us use it, and so in things sacred or in things secular, it will be consecrated to Him in a true life service.

V. THE LOVE OF NATURE TO THE EXCLUSION OF THE LOVE OF GOD, the worship of mere material forms, is SACRILEGE. The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof; the heavens declare His glory, etc., and to see nothing beyond this state of things is to commit sacrilege. For these do as truly reveal Him as does the Bible. But just as we may be bibliolatrous, so there is a nature-worship which, while it seems to elevate, does but desecrate and degrade.

(J. W. Lance.)

i.e., temple robbery.

I. THE JEWS WERE GUILTY OF IT.

1. In reference to heathen temples (Acts 19:37).

2. In withholding or misappropriating tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8).

II. In not giving God the glory which is His due. They made the temple a den of thieves (Jeremiah 7:11; Matthew 21:13), and were charged with offering the blind and lame for sacrifice (Malachi 1:8). Thus they abhorred false gods, but robbed and dishonoured the true God.

II. WE MAY COMMIT SACRILEGE by —

1. Withholding what is God's.

2. Appropriating to our own use what properly belongs to God in regard —

(1)To property: a portion claimed for His service (Malachi 3:10).

(2)To time: the whole of the weekly Sabbath claimed as His own (Exodus 20:8). It is sacrilege, therefore, to appropriate any part of it to business or pleasure (Isaiah 58:13).Conclusion:

1. Sacrilege the climax denoting intense coveteousness.

2. Unrenewed men only substitute one idol for another.

(T. Robinson, D. D.)

For the name of God is blasphemed among the heathen through you.
If the fifth commandment be "the first with promise," the third is the first with threatening. In no point is the Almighty so sensitive as the honour of His name. Hence His Son has taught us to pray, "Hallowed be Thy name." And in no sin is God more provoked than in that which brings dishonour upon His name. Hence this charge, which we shall illustrate —

I. IN ITS APPLICATION TO ISRAEL.

1. It is essential to remember that Israel were God's chosen, peculiar, separate people, whom He had called forth in order that He might make them the lamp into which He would introduce the light of revelation for a lost world. To them He committed all the institutions of His holy worship, and all the laws of His Divine will. To the world at large, they were as Goshen in the midst of the land of Egypt in the plague of darkness. So that the whole earth borrowed what little light streaked its dark horizon from the solitary lamp lighted upon Zion; and just in proportion as that lamp east forth its beams was the moral darkness relieved, and the Gentile nations came to the brightness of the hope that was in Zion.

2. We must remember, further, that for a lengthened period the people of God were not missionaries, sent abroad to communicate their prophecies, laws, and ordinances to the Gentile lands; but rather the people from afar, hearing the fame of what God had done for Israel, came up to Jerusalem to inquire and worship, even as the Ethiopian eunuch came. And many were the proselytes that were led to join themselves to the people of the God of Israel. But in process of time God lifted up His hand to scatter them among the nations, so that long ere their final dispersion at the destruction of Jerusalem, there was scarcely a known spot where some of the wanderers of Zion were not to be found. And how did they go? They went still as the people of God. And consequently the heathen could not but regard them with deep curiosity and attention, in order that they might trace in them the character of their faith.

3. And what was the consequence? When the heathen saw that their vices were dark as their own, whilst they were puffed up with pride, because of their privileges, then it came to pass that the name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles through the people of God (Ezekiel 36:19, etc.). And the apostles had to encounter no obstacle in the progress of the truth that was more fatal than the dark misconduct of the scattered Israelites.

II. IN ITS APPLICATION TO OUR OWN FAVOURED LAND.

1. Englishmen undoubtedly stand nearest to the condition of the ancient people of God. If Israel stood in the relation of a covenant people to God, so do we. We are a baptized, as they were a circumcised, people; and if all their rebellion and inconsistency did not loose the bond of the covenant, but God spoke of them as His people, is it not so with ourselves? However deeply we may disgrace the name of Christians, that name is fastened upon us. He has taken this nation into peculiar union with His truth and His faith; He has identified us with His cause. And have not other lands looked to us as their example, and sought us for light and holy knowledge? And then God has brought us into contact with all nations. As of old the Jews were everywhere intermingled, so has it come to pass with the English. But Israel was scattered by the sword; they were exiles and wanderers, despised and cruelly entreated. But our sons are abroad through the richness of the blessing of God given to their mother land; so that her merchants visit every shore, her travellers explore every waste, her mariners are on every sea and in every haven — and over the whole world an Englishman's name constitutes a passport. And everywhere, too, our land has a mighty influence, and an empire so vast, that the sun never sets upon its limits. One fourth of the whole family of the earth acknowledges the sway of our Queen, and the other three-fourths are more or less influenced, and mightily too, by our land.

2. What ought to have been the results of such unexampled influence? It ought to have been that wherever Briton's sons went they should have carried the blessed savour of Britain's truth; and wherever they planted their feet, they should be recognised at once as witnesses for Christ. Alas! the charge brought against Israel may with equal emphasis be brought against ourselves. "The name of God hath been blasphemed among the Gentiles" through us. What has been our colonisation but, to a terrific extent, an annihilation of the tribes whose lands we have usurped, and whose homes we have ravaged? Our missionaries, one and all, concur in telling us that the most fatal and formidable obstacle in the way of the reception of Christ's gospel among the Gentiles is the blasphemy occasioned to the name of our Redeemer by those who bear it but to defile it. And until this great stumbling block be removed, the gradual progress of Divine truth must be retarded; that we could only have our mariners, merchantmen, travellers, and colonial settlers going forth as "living epistles, known and read of all" the heathen lands through which they pass, then indeed would there go forth from Britain's shore a voice which would come home to every heart — the voice of a godly life.

3. Then, if such be the application of this solemn charge against our own favoured land, it follows that there is not a more pressing or urgent claim upon Christian restitution, Christian justice as well as Christian sympathy and Christian zeal, than that every means should be used to redeem our title to the Christian name.

(Canon Stowell.)

How many sinners every year are driven away from all thought of religion by the inconsistency of professors! And have you ever noticed how the world always delights to chronicle the inconsistency of a professor! I saw only yesterday an account in the paper of a wretch who had committed lust, and it was said that "he had a very sanctified appearance." Ay, I thought, that is the way the press always likes to speak: but I very much question whether there are many editors who know what a sanctified appearance means! at least they will have to look a long time among their own class before they find many that have any excess of sanctification. However, the reporter put it down that the man had "a sanctified appearance"; and of course it was intended as a fling against all those who make a profession of religion, by making others believe that this man was a professor too. And really the world has had some grave cause for it, for we have seen professing Christians in these days who are an utter disgrace to Christianity, and there are things done in the name of Jesus Christ which it would be a shame to do in the name of Beelzebub. There are things done, too, by those who are accounted members of the Church of our Lord Jesus, so shameful that, methinks, Pandemonium itself would scarcely own them. The world has had much cause to complain of the Church. O children of God be careful. The world has a lynx eye: it will see your faults, it will be impossible to hide them; and it will magnify your faults, making much of little, and of much a boundless mass. It will slander you if you have no open faults; give it, at least, no ground to work upon; "let your garments be always white"; walk in the fear of the Lord, and let this be your daily prayer, "Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

When Brainerd was among the American Indians, he stopped at a place where he offered to instruct them in Christianity. He was met by the retort, "Why should you desire the Indians to become Christians, seeing that the Christians are so much worse than the Indians? The Christians lie, steal, and drink worse than the Indians. They first taught the Indians to be drunk. They steal to so great a degree, that their rulers are obliged to hang them for it; and even that is not enough to deter others from the practice. We mill not consent, therefore, to become Christians, lest we should be as bad as they. We will live as our fathers lived, and go where our fathers are when we die." By no influence could he change their decision.

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