« PreviousContinue »
SYMPATHY AND CONDESCENSION.
ROMANS XII. 15, 16.
Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate.
In the prosecution of a plan proposed last Sunday, SERMON we reach to-day a portion of Scripture which almost baffles us. So various are its topics, so important, so attractive, yet requiring so much of explanation, and admitting so much of enforcement, that the compass of one sermon is wholly inadequate to the task now presented to it. Let us give our whole minds, my brethren, to the work before us. And let us not, by God's help and blessing, be left altogether poor in the midst of such abundance.
We have, as before, first to sketch rapidly the meaning, and to express briefly the force, of the whole passage read as the Epistle for this Second Sunday after the Epiphany; and then, in the second place, to dwell somewhat more fully upon the two topics suggested by the text for special exhortation.
The close of last Sunday's Epistle had introduced one of St. Paul's favourite and characteristic doctrines, that of the unity in variety, the one and the many, in what he has taught us to speak of so familiarly as the Christian body, to which we all belong. As in one body we have many members, and all those members have not the same office, so we collectively are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. The human body is a whole made up of parts, each one of which parts has a different function from all the rest, and which yet form in their completeness, not a number of discordant units, but a harmonious and efficient unity. Even so is it with that community, that society, that assembly of the faithful, which Christ came upon earth, died, and rose again, to gather and to cement. The Christian congregation, whether viewed in each of its local organizations, or regarded as existing on the face of the whole earth, is a body; a body composed of members, designed to work together without jar or confusion, for a great common end, the manifestation of God's glory, and the highest, the eternal, happiness of God's creatures.
To-day the subject is further illustrated. I read from the sixth verse, slightly varying the authorized version where it appears in any respect to fall short of the sense or force of the original.
And having gifts, different according to the grace which was given to us; according to the measure of
that Divine favour and blessing which was bestowed SERMON upon each of us in the assignment of our several posts and offices. And then these are exemplified from the various duties and functions of the Church of Christ in those earliest times. Whether prophecy: a spiritual gift of which we read much in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, and especially in the fourteenth chapter of that Epistle ; from which we gather with much certainty that it was not a power of prediction, but (to express it in modern phraseology) rather of preaching; not of foretelling, but of forthtelling: and St. Paul speaks of it as the most desirable of all supernatural gifts, because, unlike the gift of tongues, it conveyed instruction, exhortation, and comfort to the congregation; was a sign, not to the unbelieving, but to the believing, hearer; was the means of disclosing to a listener the very secrets of his heart, and thus of bringing him to conviction and faith: adding, that, although exercised under a direct and special revelation, it was yet capable of control by the possessor, and might therefore be made the subject of such a caution as is here given. If prophecy be our gift, let us exercise it according to the proportion of the faith; with due regard, that is, to the proportion and, if we might so paraphrase it, the balance of the Gospel : let our instructions be so shaped, and timed, and ordered, as that each part and each side of the truth may have its turn in our hands ; let us, to use an expression found
2 Tim. ii.
Sermon in one of St. Paul's Epistles, rightly divide the word
of truth; let us have no favourite doctrines, to the exclusion or neglect of others, but let the whole counsel of God, not a few isolated fragments of it, be our study and our subject. Need I say, my brethren, how deeply important a rule is here laid down, applicable at least as much to modern preaching as to primitive prophesying? Is it not, in fact, from the disregard of this divine maxim, in this direction or in that, that all heresy, all fanaticism, all error, has
sprung? Verse 7. Or ministry. In contrast with prophecy, we shall
understand this more particularly to refer to ministrations to the poor in the distribution of the alms of the congregation; perhaps even to that office which in the original language bears the name here employed, that of the deacon, the institution of which is recorded in the sixth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. If this, then, be our office, let us, to use the forcible phrase of the Apostle's own language, be in it; let us exist in and for that office, be absorbed in and engrossed by it, as though it were the whole of life to
Or he that teacheth, he who exercises any office of teaching, whether public or private, whether for young or old, in the Christian body, let him be in his teaching, in the sense already explained ; or he that exhorteth, he whose duty it is to cheer others on to the attainment of grace or the execution of duty by
his ministry as an exhorter, let him be in that ex- Sermon horting: he that imparteth to the necessities of others, let him do it in liberality; literally, in simplicity or singleness of aim and motive, with self-forgetfulness, and therefore also with ungrudging bounty: he that ruleth, whether as the head of a congregation or the master of a family, let him do it in earnestness, with zeal, not with indifference; with exertion, not in languor of spirit: he that showeth mercy, he who exercises compassion towards the suffering, let him do it, not with distaste, not in a spirit of bondage, but in cheerfulness.
There follow several brief but comprehensive principles of Christian feeling and conduct.
Let your love be without hypocrisy; genuine, not Verse 9. affected ; according to St. John's charge in his first Epistle, My little children, let us not love in word, 1 John iii. neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth. Abhorring that which is evil; cleaving to that which is good. Do not trifle or tamper with anything wrong; do not go to the edge of temptation ; do not only refrain from sin, but abhor, hate, abominate it, because it is sin. On the other hand, do not sit loose to what is right; do not coldly and tamely practise it as a thing to which you are in heart indifferent, but cleave to it; be glued to it, is the original expression; grasp it as a thing from which nothing shall part or sever you. In brotherly love affectionate one to another ; in honour Verse 10.