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allowed by the Church, Paul himself circumcised Timothy, whose father was a Greek, and who, though brought up by a pious Jewish mother in the knowledge of God, yet had continued uncircumcised. The reason
was that he wished Timothy “to go forth with him: and he circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those parts; for they all knew that his father was a Greek,” and might therefore be prejudiced against him, and refuse to associate with him. St. Paul's principle in both cases was the same, first, that“ in Christ neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision ;” then that in all matters of indifference the true Christian rule is, “Let us follow after things that make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another." And is not much that is called consistency too often nothing else than a neglect of this fundamental law of the Christian life? Ought I not to be on my guard, lest either through my own self-will, or perhaps merely through the desire to maintain a reputation for consistency amongst men, I should, in the sight of God, not be steadfast in regard to that which is the highest and most important end of witnessing for the truth?
(2) The other circumstances to which I refer in St. Paul's history are instructive as indicating how entirely his own purposes as to his work were subordinate to the intimations of God's will. Not unfrequently men are admired for persistence in some particular work, as if this were in itself a virtue; and without doubt perseverance in God's work in spite of discouragements and difficulties is a virtue most necessary. Nothing can be more fatal than to be dissatisfied with that work which God provides for me, and ever seeking some new sphere which to my own judgment seems more hopeful. But St. Paul teaches us that there is a higher principle still, namely, to be guided by the will of God.
It seems that, for at least eight or nine years after the time when Paul, together with Barnabas, had been consecrated to his apostolic work, he regarded as his own proper sphere of labour that part of the continent of Asia which is generally known as Asia Minor. He not only confined himself, in preaching the Gospel, to countries within these limits, but he repeatedly visited the churches he had founded there to confirm them in the faith. It is evident that so far as his own purposes were concerned, he contemplated no other sphere of labour, * and it was for this work that he took Timothy with him. But God had another sphere for His servant which he neither sought himself nor anticipated. As the apostle proceeded to extend the work in these Asiatic countries, intimations (we know not of what nature) were given by the Spirit “forbidding” him. While they were at Troas, apparently awaiting further direction, there appeared to Paul by night the vision of the man of Macedonia, beseeching him to come over and help them. “And straightway,” the historian adds, “we sought to go forth into Macedonia, concluding thai God had called us for to preach the Gospel unto them.”
We, of course, are not in the present day to look for supernatural intimations to direct us in our work for God; yet it is none the less certain that every one who seeks the guidance of the Spirit of Christ, and is sincerely desirous of following God's will and not his own judgment, will always find indications sufficient to direct him. We are assured by our Divine Lord that He will be ever present with His Church in its work even to the end of the world; and this implies that we shall now be as surely guided in that work as the first apostles were ; and though the intimations given by what we call “ the leadings of God's Providence ” may be less distinct, and may require more wisdom and more faith to interpret them, they come no less certainly from God. The true rule of consistency and steadfastness in my work for God is given me by Solomon, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths” (Prov. iii. 5, 6).
WORK AND PRAYER.
It has been said by one of old, and, without doubt, the saying contains a very deep and precious truth, Qui laborat orat. And yet the converse of this is truer still ; and in an age of much external activity, it is far more necessary for us to be reminded that Qui orat laborat : that “Prayer is itself work for God.” And by prayer I mean here that of which St. Paul speaks (Phil. iv. 6), "In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” There may, indeed, often be very
prayer in the spirit,- what the Psalmist calls being silent upon God—without the understanding forming the desires into any form of speech or even of thought. If the counsel to pray without ceasing” is to be understood literally, it must be in the sense of the inward spirit of