Imagens da página

their slumber and brought to the knowledge of the truth, as Saul of Tarsus was—to use his own metaphor*—by a spiritual birth not according to God's ordinary course of working? On the contrary, in no one is the counsel given to the Philippians, of “doing nothing through faction or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself,” so remarkably exemplified as in the apostle's own character. I refer especially to his conduct at Jerusalem, described in his epistle to the Galatians. t At that time, having never before met the other apostles, “I laid before them,” he says, “the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately before them who were of repute, lest by any means I should be running or had run in vain.” When there was need of boldness for the truth, he would rebuke Peter himself; but so far as his own work was concerned, his only fear was lest through some misapprehension it might disturb the unity of Christ's body the Church. If we need any explanation of the

of Cal. ii. 2.

* 1 Cor. xv. 8.

anxiety which St. Paul here expresses, we shall find it in the prayer of our Blessed Redeemer that all that believe on Him should be one; and that in order, He adds, “that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me."

Let me then take heed, lest while I glorify God for having revealed His truth to my soul, and set it forth, with all boldness, in life and doctrine as I have received from Him, I enfeeble my witness, and “run in vain ”make my work for God almost or altogether unprofitable—by the spirit of “looking only at my own things, and judging others rather than myself. Such a spirit has been, and is to the present day, the prolific source of divisions and party-spirit in the Church of God, making it a house divided against itself, and thus disqualified for giving to the world that testimony for Christ, which can only be given by those who bear witness as one body in the unity of the same Spirit.



IN St. Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians there is a very instructive instance of the effect on his own character and conduct of his faith in the gospel which he preached. He is defending himself against the suspicion of fickleness as regards his purpose of visiting his spiritual children there; and he assures them that his word toward them was not "yea and nay.” And why was it impossible that his own word should be of this character ? Because (he says) the promises of God in the Gospel are not yea and nay, but “ Yea and Amen” in Jesus Christ. No one can in true faith receive those promises which God has confirmed to us in His only Son, and yet be in his own conduct fickle, unstable, and inconsistent with himself, saying “yea” at one time, and “ nay" at another.

But it is very necessary to bear in mind that the stability and consistency which are produced by faith in the Gospel differ not a little from the natural firmness of character which the world admires. We sometimes hear men praised, especially after their death, for their consistent adherence to some particular line of conduct or form of doctrine ; while the stability has perhaps been nothing else than self-will, or that which in a coarser and more unintelligent nature we should call obstinacy; or it means only that such an one has been unprogressive, and instead of pressing forward to larger knowledge and broader sympathies with all that is Christ's, he has been content to remain stationary, and dream that he has attained the goal of perfection. And, on the other hand, much may appear to the world inconsistency in the Christian's work for God, simply because the same truth often has, in its outward manifestation, very different forms.

This question is one of so much practical importance in “my work for God,” that it will be profitable to consider briefly some circumstances in the history of St. Paul's work in which, to those who judged him “after man's judgment," he doubtless appeared to fail in that consistency and steadfastness of purpose which he himself declares to be the result of faith in the Gospel.

(1) I refer, first of all, to that which has been often noticed, though it is not sufficiently considered in its application to our work for Godthe very different conduct of the apostle on different occasions with regard to the ordinances of the Mosaical law. For example, on the occasion to which he refers in his Epistle to the Galatians, when he went up to Jerusalem to consult the other apostles as to the circumcision of the Gentile converts, and to defend their liberty in Christ against those who would bring them under bondage to the law, he altogether rejected the proposal that his Greek companion Titus should be circumcised. He feared lest, by conceding this to the Judaizing party, he should compromise the Gospel of the grace of God, and supply the adversaries with an argument against it. Yet shortly afterwards, when the evangelical liberty of the Gentiles had been

« AnteriorContinuar »