« PreviousContinue »
Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.”—2 Tim. i. 15—18.
One of the most painful trials to which we are exposed in this vale of tears, is the failure of those friends, on whose professions of attachment we had placed dependence. But it is not a rare exercise. Witness the complaints of Job, and David, and especially Paul. Paul was additionally distressed to think that those who had left him, had not only forsaken a man and a friend, but a minister, and an apostle of Christ. Hence their desertion was nothing less than an abandonment of the faith of the Gospel. Defections in religion were foretold froin the beginning. They early took place in the first churches. They frequently occur still. Many promise fair, and run well for a time; but are hindered. The blossoms are pleasing, but they are not certain pledges of fruit, Ministers can only rejoice in the day of the Lord Jesus that they have not laboured in vainunless they rejoice with trembling. The end proves and crowns all.
The defection here was awfully general ! it included "all they which were in Asia.". Two of them, Phygellus and Hermogenes, the Apostle mentions by name; doubtless because they were leaders, and had been very instrumental in the revolt. This is all we know of these men: it would have been better for them, had we known less. “ The name of the wicked shall rot.”. Only some of these sinners rot, like malefactors in irons and gibbets: they rot above ground, while others rot under it; known only by infamy; and suspended for warning and terror.
But “the memory of the just is blessed.” How honourably is Onesiphorus brought forward! What an exception to the general apostacy! He is one against two-against many—against all in Asia. We are not to follow a multitude to do evil. Numbers can never turn evil into good, or truth into error. Community in sin is no excuse, and will be no preservation : though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished. Fellowship in suffering is no alleviation: it may be a bitter enhancement. There will not only be weeping, but gnashing of teeth, among those who accuse and execrate each other. This will be the case at the meeting of the seducer and the seduced; Voltaire and his pupils; the faithless minister and his deluded hearers. But to advance without support, in the face of opposition ; to brave the torrent of example, and the influence of the crowd, concerned only to approve ourselves unto God, shows a divine nobleness and purity of principle and motive: and"them that honour me," says God, "I will honour; but they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.”
He therefore is not unrighteous to forget the work and labour of love which Onesiphorus had showed to his name, in the relief and assistance he had afforded his servant. Paul records here in the book of life, the tenderness of his liberality; his courage in owning him though a prisoner; his zealousness in searching him out in Rome; and the many things wherein he had, before this, ministered to him at Ephesus.—Was he then a man of leisure and wealth? It is probable he was not. The servants of Christ have seldom been much indebted to the rich. In a general way, the disposition for beneficence diminishes as the capacity increases; and the greater part of what is done for the Gospel and the poor, is done by people in common life. But he had a public spirit: his heart was in his work: he did what he could—and whoever does what he can, will do, not only comparatively, but really, much. And was he a loser? Was Obed-edom injured by accommodating the ark? The ark, says Henry, is a guest that always pays well for its entertainment. None ever repented that they had done too much for the cause of the Redeemer. And none ever will, while the promise remains, “ The liberal deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall be stand.” “There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or childen, for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come, life everlasting.”
Thus Onesiphorus obtained a name and a place among the worthies in the Scripture. Wheresoever the Gospel is preached, that which he did, will be told as a memorial of him. Thousands' bless him at this hour, for the part he acted. He lived in the affections of Paul; and constantly shared in his prayers. And was this a light thing, to be remembered by a man who had such power with God? “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
In this way the Apostle expressed his thankfulness. He had a very humble, and, therefore, a very grateful disposition: and the favours shown him in his straits and distresses always made a deep impression upon him. Hence he prays for "the house” of his benefactor ; that is, for his wife, children, relatives, servants, and outward estate. He prays also for his benefactor himself—"The Lord grant that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day.” What! would such a man as he, with all his good works, need mercy? This would have seemed strange to some; but it would not be surprising to Onesiphorus himself. He knew that when he had done all, he was an unprofitable servant; and that if God entered into judgment with him, on the ground of his worthiness, he could not stand. It is the conviction of every man who is perfectly acquainted with the law, or the Gospel, or hímself.' He feels his need of mercy ; mercy to the last; and, above all, mercy at the last. When he examines himself, he sees enough, not only in his sins, but even in his duties, to maké him tremble and despair. But he looks for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
And he will find it. He will be spared ; absolved ; acknowledged ; applauded ; and glorified. What inercy! How free! How rich! And how will it be prized-in that day! If we find mercy then, we are made for ever. But wo to those who will be left to the justice of God, without a Mediator! If we have not fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us; and have not a friend in the Judge, we are undone for ever. If we find not mercy then, it can never be found afterwards,
JANUARY 15.-" The gentleness of Christ.—2 Cor. x. I. Does the Apostle mean, by the gentleness of Christ, the gentleness He requires, or the gentleness He displayed ? In fact, they are the same ; not indeed in degree, but in quality. As" the precious ointment," poured upon the head of Aaron, ran down to the skirts of his garments, so Christians have an unction from the Holy One. The same mind which was in him, is in them; and so essential is this oneness, that “ if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” But let us attend to this gentleness as it was personally exemplified in Himself.
According to the prophecies going before, there was nothing by which He was to be more distinguished than by this attribute or character. To mention a few instances. It was said of Him “Behold, thy king cometh unto thee--having salvation ; lowly and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass--and he shall speak peace unto the heathen.” “He shall not cry nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench: He shall bring forth judgment unto truth.” “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd ; He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry, them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass : as showers that water the earth. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy." And if we go forward from prophecy to history, and see Him as He goes about doing good, what so constantly and strikingly shows itself as this lovely distinction? What was His emblem? 'A Lamb. How did the Holy Ghost descend upon Him? In the form of a dove. What was the angelical report of His religion? “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men." How does He employ the supernatural cnergies with which He was invested ? It is true, He once cursed a fig tree, and immediately it withered away. But it was a trce, and not a person ; and a tree unowned; and growing by the way-side; and a barren one; and the malediction was intended to be an instructive emblem and warning. It is true also that He destroyed the herd of swine belonging to the Gadarenes. But this was only an animal sacrifice; and it was in love to their souls; and it was to bring their sin to remembrance; and to rebuke them for an unlawful traffic: and what was the loss of their swine, to the benefit He conferred upon them in the restoration of two of their neighbours and relations from the most wretched estate, to the pos. session of reason and the enjoyment and usefulness of life ? All the other miracles He performed were entirely and directly acts of kindness and tenderness. Thus He made the hungry multitude to sit down on the grass, and fed them-opened the eyes of a blind beggar-raised to life the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. Where shall we end? Yea, He turned the water into wine at the marriage of Cana in Galilee, to perpetuate the innocent festivity of the scene, to save the new-married pair from mortification, and to crown them with honour.
It is true, He repeated again and again the exclamation, “Wo unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" But they were hypocrites of the vilest complexion. Under a reputation for the strictest godliness they were full of extortion and iniquity. They sinned against knowledge and conviction. They really belived His miracles, yet ascribed them to the devil: made their devotion pander to their depravity; and with their public and long prayers devoured
widows' houses. How could He avoid exposing and condemning these unprincipled wretches; and disabusing the common people of all confidence in such guides ? What should we have thought of Him if He had not? What esteem could we have felt for Him ? Does mercy require the absence of righteousness? Is meekness connivance at crime? Does gentleness renounce all the exalted feelings of wisdom, rectitude, and dignity?
But observe Him with regard to others. There was nothing censorious in his disposition; nothing distant and reserved in his manners. He was always easy of access, charitable in his constructions, mild in his rebukes, and tender in his invitations. How did He address the people at large? “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy saden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” What said He to the transgressor, exposed by a number of accusers all guilty of the same crime, and wishing to have their fellow sinner stoned ? “Neither do I condemn thee. Go, and sin no more.”. How did He express Himself towards infants? “They brought young children to him, that he should touch them; and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them." See His conduct towards his friends. At the grave of Lazarus "Jesus wept.” See his feelings in death towards his mother. "When Jesus, therefore, saw his mother, and the disciple standing by whom he loved, he said unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” How gentle was He in all his dealings with his own disciples, bearing with their mistakes, apologizing for their infirmities, loving them unto the end, and blessing them in the very act of departure into heaven! And was He wanting in this temper towards his enemies? Did He not weep over the city whose inhabitants were going to embrue their hands in his blood? Did He not heal the ear of the servant of his bitterest foe? What did He to those who came to apprehend him? He could have annihilated them with a frown, but He only impressed them with his glory, and caused them to go backward, and fall to the ground, and readily consent to the escape of his followers. He veiled the sun, and shook the earth, and rent the rocks, as he suffered; but he punished no one. Yea, he prayed, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
He has the same heart now. Though He is passed into the hearens, He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. His gentleness is now displayed in four things. First—in relieving our wants. How harshly' are many treated, when they apply to their fellow-creatures for succour! and if they succeed, how ungraciously is the relief afforded! What a difference is there between bounty,
and kindness: between giving, and the feeling of benevolence !
Here females excel. There is a tenderness and a delicacy in their doings which men can rarely reach or exemplify. So would it be with angels if they were incarnate, and lived among us. How gentle would be the manner of their beneficence! They now bear us up in their hands, lest we dash our foot against a stone: but it is so softly, that we are not suffered to be conscious of it. But the Lord of all ! how He bows down his ear, and hearkens to all our tales of distress, and gives to all liberally, and upbraideth not
Secondly-in teaching us. We usually think only of ability in a teacher ; but temper and patience are equally necessary: Without gentleness, the pupil, especially if sensible of his defects, will feel either confusion or despondency. But who could ever bear with a scholar as Christ the great Teacher bears with us? With what long-sufferings does He endure our dulnesses and mistakes ! What various expedients does He employ! How often does He repeat the lesson; year after year; line upon line; precept upon precept! Thirdly-in chastising us. He corrects us in measure. He stayeth His rough wind in the day of the east wind. “He will not always chide; neither will He keep His anger for ever. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. For He knoweth our frame ; He remembreth that we are dust.” Fourthly -in employing us !
“And will no heavy loads impose
Beyond the strength that Hc bestows." He" will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him."
Let us not abuse his gentleness-nothing would be more vile, and odious, and provoking. But let us improve it by losing every thing like dread and slavishness in dealing with Him; by confiding in Him: and admiring Him; and following Him-till we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.
JANUARY 16.-"My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.”—Psalın Ixil. 8.
Here are two acknowledgments, dissimilar in their expression ; but the second relieves the first—and the first is as evidential of godliness as the second. There are many that say, Who will show me any good ? and follow hard after the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life. But who says, “ Where is God my maker, that giveth songs in the night?" Who'stirreth up himself to take hold of God ?" Yet there always have been such, and the number is now increasing, whose souls follow hard after Him. But it may seem strange that this should have been the case with David. Few ever succeeded in life like him. He rose from great obscurity into splendour, and affluence, and power; and was even seated upon a throne, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. What, some might be ready to say, what can the indulged mortal hope and wish for more? Yet he prays to be delivered from men of the world, who have their portion in this life ; and exclaims, “ As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when l'awake