Sermon 3411. Joining the Church
A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, JUNE 18, 1914.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON. ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING OCTOBER 24, 1869.
"And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves unto the Lord, and unto us by the will of God." 2 Corinthians 8:5.
SOME persons are always trying to prove what is customary in the Christian Church. They are always seeking after instancesand precedents. The worst of it is that many of these people look for old things that are not old enough-the old things ofthe Church of Rome, for instance, and mediaeval customs and observances which are nothing but authentic trumpery! If theywant the real old solid things, they should go back to the Apostolic times. The best book of Church history from which togather ritual, true ritual, is the Acts of the Apostles! And when the Christian Church shall go back to that, instead of enquiringabout what the primitive Christians did in the second or third century, she will come much nearer to the knowledge of whatshe ought to do!
Now, our text tells us of one old custom in the Apostles' days. Those who became Christians first gave themselves to the Lordand then they gave themselves to the Church, according to God's will. Let us ponder these things in their order. Of coursewe shall think of the main and most important point first-that action which gives value and beauty to all that follows andis its fruit-
I. THE SOUL'S SUPREME GIFT
The first thing that the original Christians, the Christians of the old and Holy Spirit times did was, "they gave themselvesunto the Lord." This is vital, the one all-important bestowal. Have all of us who are professors that we are Christ's disciplesreally given ourselves to the Lord? Are there not in this House of Prayer some who have never thought of doing so, and evensome who would reject with contempt the idea of doing so? Oh, my Hearers, the day will come when you will look at these mattersin a very different light! And in the next world it will be seen that it would have been your highest wisdom to have givenyourselves to the Lord-and your supreme folly to have lived unto self!
When these early Christians gave themselves to the Lord, the first thing manifestly was that the giving and the gift weresincere. Should any here present have given themselves to the Lord, let them ask themselves whether their gift was sincere.These primitive Believers meant what they said. There was a deep reality about their consecration-they gave themselves overto Jesus Christ to be entirely His. Remember that in those times this meant very much more than we are ever made to suffernow. A man who gave himself to Christ in those days was put out of the synagogue if he was a Jew. He was cast out of societyif he happened to be a heathen. He was dragged up before the tribunals. He was frequently cast in prison-as frequently beatenwith many stripes-and very often he was put to death by fire, or by the sword. But these early Christians knew what was tohappen and, knowing it, yet deliberately they gave themselves up to the Lord. Oh, dear professors here present, has your giftof yourselves to Christ been as sincere as that, or did you merely come and make a profession because others did? And haveyou stuck to that profession, lie though it was, because you did not like the shame of confessing that you had made a mistake?Oh, is it sincere or not? If it is not, God make it so, for it is only that which is of the heart that will stand the trialof the Last Great Day! Lord, deliver us from having any religion in which the heart is not found!
Their gift of themselves to the Lord was, in the next place, a willing gift. All the soldiers of Christ are volunteers andyet they are all pressed men. The Grace of God constrains men to become Christians, but yet only constrains them consistentlywith the laws of their mind! The freedom of the will is as great a truth as is the Predestination of God. The Graceof God,without violating our wills, makes men willing in the day of God's power-and they give themselves to Jesus Christ. You cannotbe a Christian against your will! How could it be? A servant of God against his will? A child of God against his will? No,it never was so and it never shall be so! Here and now, you Christians, I shall ask you whether you are not cheerfully, gladly,unreservedly the servants of God! I know you are and that bond you made years ago is not irksome to you now, but if you aregenuine saints, you repeat it again tonight and you hope to repeat it in life and in death, for you are willingly and exultantlythe Lord's own!
The gift that these early Christians made was, in the next place, an intelligent one. They did not receive into the Churchin Paul's days unintelligent people. They knew that no sponsorship could avail here. They knew, as one would think all rationalpeople ought to know, that the religion of Jesus Christ cannot exist where there is no clear apprehension of the saving Truthof God.
Only where the understanding was able to grasp the Saviorship of Jesus could there be spiritual life and true conversion.No religious rite, or ceremony, or ordinance could confer this. I have heard ministers tell their congregations, "You weremade Christians in your infancy and you ought to stand to the vows then made for you." Surely every man's conscience tellshim there is not a shadow of ground for such reasoning! What have I to do with, or what do I care about vows that were madefor me when I was a child? Were they bad or were they good-they never consulted me and I have nothing to do with them, norwill I have! Whether they promised that I would serve God, or that I would serve the devil, I equally reject their responsibilityand their sponsorship! As an intelligent being, I speak for myself before God and none shall speak for me! If I had been dedicatedto Moloch, should I in my manhood accept the dedication? God forbid! And even if I were dedicated to Christ, I will not accepta dedication which I know Christ never accepted because He never asked for it. He asks my personal dedication. He asks onlyfor intelligent love, intelligent service-and I trust that many of you came to Christ knowing what you did, knowing what repentancemeant, knowing what faith meant, having counted the cost of what a life of holiness would be and then deliberately, as menand women of judgment and understanding, said, "O Prince, we enlist beneath Your banner! O Immanuel, write our names in Yourmuster-roll, for we will be Your servants from now on and forever!" It was a sincere gift, it was a willing gift and it wasan intelligent gift that these first Christians made of themselves to the Lord!
My Brothers and Sisters, it was, moreover, a complete surrender which they made. No Christian in the olden times gave himselfin part to the Lord and in part reserved himself for idols, or for himself-and had any attempted to have done so, they wouldhave been spurned, for it is of Christ's rule in the Church that He will have all or none. You must, as a Christian, be alla Christian, or nothing of a Christian! There is no such thing as dividing between God and the devil, between righteousnessand sin. The surrender must be without reserve and without limit. If you have truly given yourselves to the Lord, you havegiven Him your body-no more to be polluted with sin, but to be a Temple of the Holy Spirit. You have given Him your mind-nomore to be a free thinker after the boasted free thought of the slaves of skepticism. You have given up your faculties-tosit with them at the feet of Christ to learn of Him, to take His teaching for the Truth of God and His Word the one courtof appeal for all questions. You take Him to be your Teacher beyond all dispute and His Doctrine to be unsullied truth foryou. You have also given up to Him your tongue to speak for Him, your hands to work for Him, your feet to walk or run forHim-your every faculty of body and mind in beautiful partnership for His service!
As for your newborn, angelic, spiritual nature-that must emphatically be the Lord's-and will always be the royal and reigningpower within. You are today in the trinity of your nature-body, soul and spirit-altogether Christ's! And this includes, ifyou are a sincere Christian, all that you have-all of talents, all of time, all of property, all of influence, all of relationship,all of opportunity. You count nothing to be your own from this time forth, but you say with the spouse, "I am my Beloved'sand my Beloved is mine."
Again, the surrender which every true Christian makes is a surrender to the Lord. That, my Brothers and Sisters, is whereit must begin-with the Lord! We ought not to give ourselves up to the Church until we have given ourselves up to the Lord.And it must never be a giving of ourselves up to priests. Oh, scorn that! Of all the wretches that live, the worst are priests!Of all the curses that ever fell upon earth-I will not except even the devil-the worst is priestcraft! I care not whetherit wears the garb of the dissenting minister, or the clergyman of the Established Church, or the Roman Catholic, the Muslimor the heathen-no man can do your religion for you! If any man pretends that he can, or that hecan pardon your sin, or doanything for you before God, put him aside-he is a base impostor! Never surrender your thoughts or your mind to any man. Pinyour opinions to no man's coat sleeves. To the Lord make the surrender complete and ample-to His Truth, to His Law, to HisGospel make your surrender as complete as if you made yourselves slaves, or a stone to be carved by His hands! You shall risein dignity as you sink in selfhood. You shall become free in proportion as you wear God's bonds. You shall become great asyou become little in yourselves. Give yourselves wholly up to God. Mind it is to Him-not to any man, not to any creed, notto any sect-but wholly and entirely to the Lord who loved you from before the foundation of the world! To the Lord who boughtyou with His heart's blood! To the Lord whose Spirit sealed your adoption within your souls!
Mind this, then! Mark it as the first step in all public acts of religion-you must give yourselves first to the Lord! Youhave no right to talk about joining a Christian Church until you have done that-"first to the Lord." You have no right tobe baptized until you have done that-"first to the Lord." You have no right to sit at the Communion Table until you have donethat-"first to the Lord." Give yourselves first to the Lord with unfeigned repentance for sin and simple and hearty confidencein Jesus! And then, as a complete giving-up of yourselves to the Lord-you may come to every hallowed act of service, to everyprivilege-feast of love-but not until then! Oh, Sirs, your sacraments and your ceremonies-God abhors them until first youhave given Him your hearts! Vain are your oblations! Your incense is an abomination to Him! It is an evil, and worse thanan evil-it is a mockery of God, an insult to Him-until first your heart surrenders itself to Jesus and your manhood becomesthe rightful property of God by your willing yielding of it to
I cannot press this matter by way of questioning everyone present, but still I would like to ask of every conscience, especiallyof every professing Christian, to answer this question, "My Soul, have you given yourself up, through the Grace of God, tobelong to the Lord?" Do you mean that, or is it a farce? Have you made it real, or is it all a sham? Do you feel within yoursoul tonight a desire to make it more complete a gift? Do you pray for Grace to make it perfect in the future? Do you restalone upon the precious blood of Jesus? Then do you desire to glorify God so long as you are in this body? Oh, then 'tis wellwith you and you may go the next step with me. If not, hands off all ordinances, hands off all promises! There is nothingin the Bible and there is nothing in the Church for you until you first are reconciled to God by the death of Jesus Christ1And now let us turn to consider briefly the second giving of the soul-
II. THE GIFT THAT FOLLOWS THE SUPREME ONE.
I want to know this passage aright. I think I do. "They first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us"-that is, theygave "their own selves" unto us-by the will of God. After a true Christian has given himself or herself to the Lord, the verynext act should be to give themselves to the Christian Church. They should at once assay, as Paul did, to be united to theBrethren of Christ. Somewhere in the district where he lives, if there is a Christian Church, the newborn Believer shouldat once seek fellowship with others who love his Lord, because saved by His Grace. The right way to do this is to give himself.Not his name, his money, not his mere presence, his sympathy, his active labors-all these are part of the gift-but the soulof it all is to give himself. In the whole force and weight of his influence, personality and ability, as far as God shallhelp him, he is to give up to the Church.
What is involved in this giving up of ourselves to the Christian Church? I will repeat it, so as to refresh the memories ofmany members here who have forgotten it. It is your dutyto be united to the Christian Church. What does that mean? What dutiesspring out of it? There is, first, consistency of character If you make no profession of religion and live as you like-youshall answer for that at the Last Great Day. But if you join a Christian Church, take heed how you live, for your actionsmay become doubly watched-and will be doubly sinful if you fall into inconsistency! You are a servant in the family and amember of a Christian Church-there must be in you no eye-service! There must be about you nothing which would dishonor a goodservant of Jesus Christ! You are a husband-you have no business to be a bad-tempered, domineering tyrant to your wife! Ifyou are, you ought not to be a member of a Christian Church at all! You are a wife- you ought not to be an untidy, idle, novel-readingwoman, neglecting your family duties! If so, I do not care what classes you attend, or what Prayer Meetings-you have no businessto act like that and profess to be a Christian! You are a Christian, you say, and have joined the Church-then in your tradeyou have no business to fall into the tricks and knavery that are common on all sides! If you cannot live without being arogue, do not be a professor of religion! It will be quite as well for you to go to Hell at once, as you are, as to go therewith a millstone about your neck through having made a profession, a base and wicked profession, of godliness which you didnot carry out. No, Sirs, if you will not, in the strength and spirit of God's Grace, strive after consistency of moral conduct,you have no right to talk about giving yourselves to the Church, which you will disgrace! You will only sin yourselves intoa deeper condemnation. Therefore, stay away from it!
The next thing that is required of every member of Christ's Church is attendance upon the means of Grace. I do not mean merelySunday attendance. Any hypocrite comes on a Sunday, but they do not, to my knowledge, all of them, come on Monday to the PrayerMeeting, nor all to the weeknight service on a Thursday. I am pretty certain of this, though some of them may. Weeknight meetingsand services are a powerful test. Many cannot come, I know, and I do not ask that domestic duties be sacrificed, even forpublic worship. But there are some who ought to be present who are not and, indeed, all of you, so far as opportunity willpermit, and if you reside within reasonable distance, should come. Take care that you do not become lax in that respect.
Another duty of all Church members is to aid and comfort one another. Just as among Freemasons-give the grip and you get akindly word and a brotherly recognition-so should it be among Christians, only in a higher sense. You must comfort those thatmourn, help those who are poor and, in general, we ought to watch out for each other's interests, seeing that in the Churchwe are all members of one family. You are to "do good unto all men, especially unto such as are of the household of faith."Let your crumbs be given to the sparrows out of doors, but let your Brothers and Sisters have the most and best of what youcan give! This is the plain duty of every Christian.
Every Church member, too, is to try to give himself to the Church in the sense of doing his share in all Church work. Shameon the Church member who has no post that he can occupy, who is neither generous with his purse, nor diligent with his hands,nor earnest with his heart, nor speaking with his tongue! You cannot all do all, but each must take his place and niche, foreveryone who is doing nothing-what is he but a drone in the hive who will surely be expelled before long? I hope, my dearFriends, I can say that I did this when I joined the Church of Christ. I well remember how I joined it, for I forced myselfinto the Church of God by telling the minister-who was lax and slow-after I had called four or five times and could not seehim, that I had done my duty and if he did not see me, I would call a Church Meeting, myself, and tell them I believed inChrist and ask them if they would have me! I know when I did it, I meant it! I know there was not one among them all who moreintensely meant it, then, and I mean it now! I give myself up to Christ and to Christ's religion. I do not mind speaking uponpolitics when they touch upon Christianity. I do not mind helping on the common cause of philanthropy, or any work for thegood of my follow men-but to no work do I give myself with my whole heart and spirit but to that of spreading abroad the knowledgeof Christ's name! This, I think, ought to be to the Christian the first and last thing. Does your religion cover your drapery,or your drapery your Christianity-which, Sir? You are a politician-right enough-I am glad that there should be an honest manin such a place. Does your religion, however, cover your politics, or do your politics devour your religion? You are a workingman. Well, it is an honorable position and all honor to the hard-working man-but does your religion permeate and give qualityto your hard work? Do you love Christ with it all? Do you feel all the while that, most of all, you must be a Christian? ThenI do not care what you are, whether you are a blacksmith or a chimney-sweep, a king or a crossing-sweeper-it is of small account!First and foremost, must you be a Christian and all else must be subordinated to that-for this the Christian Church has aright to expect.
Now I know there are some who say, "Well, I hope I have given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend to give myselfto anychurch, because_." Now, why not? "Because I can be a Christian without it" Now, are you quite clearabout that? You can beas good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord's commands as by being obedient? Well, suppose everybody else did the same?Suppose all Christians in the world said, "I shall not join the Church." Why there would be no visible Church! There wouldbe no ordinances! That would be a very bad thing and yet, one doing it-what is right for one is right for all-why should notall of us do it? Then you believe that if you were to do an act which has a tendency to destroy the visible Church of God,you would be as good a Christian as if you did your best to build up that Church? I do not believe it, Sir! Nor do you, either.You have not any such a belief-it is only a trumpery excuse for something else. There is a brick-a very good one. What isthe brick made for? To help to build a house with. It is of no use for that brick to tell you that it is just as good a brickwhile it is kicking about on the ground as it would be in the house. It is a good-for-nothing brick! Until it is built intothe wall, it is no good! So you rolling-stone Christians, I donot believe that you are answering your purpose-you are livingcontrary to the life which Christ would have you live- and you are much to blame for the injury you do! "Oh," says one, "thoughI hope I love the Lord, yet if I were to join the Church, I would feel it such a bond upon me." Just what you ought to feel!Ought you not to feel that you are bound to holiness, now, and bound to Christ, now? Oh, those blessed bonds! If there isanything that could make me feel more bound to holiness than I am, I should like to feel that fetter, for it is only libertyto feel bound to godliness, uprightness and carefulness of living!
"Oh," says another, "if I were to join the Church, I am afraid that I would not be able to hold on." You expect to hold on,I suppose, out of the Church-that is to say, you feel safer in disobeying Christ than in obeying Him! Strange feeling, that!Oh, you had better come and say, "My Master, I know Your saints ought to be united together in Church fellowship, for Churcheswere instituted by Your Apostles-and I trust I have Grace to carry out the obligation. I have no strength of my own, my Master,but my strength lies in resting upon You-I will follow where You lead and leave the rest to You."
"Ah, but," says another, "I cannot join the Church-it is so imperfect." You then, are perfect, of course! If so, I adviseyou to go to Heaven and join the Church, there, for certainly you are not fit to join it on earth and would be quite out ofplace!
"Yes," says another, "but I see so much that is wrong about Christians." There is nothing wrong in yourself, I suppose? Ican only say, my Brother, that if the Church of God is not better than I am, I am sorry for it. I felt, when I joined theChurch, that I would be getting a deal more good than I should be likely to bring into it. And with all the faults I haveseen in living these 20 years or more in the Christian Church, I can say, as an honest man, that the members of the Churchare the excellent of the earth in whom is all my delight-though they are not perfect, but a long way from it! If, out of Heaven,there are to be found any who really live near to God, it is the members of the Church of Christ.
"Ah," says another, "but there are a rare lot of hypocrites." You are very sound and sincere yourself, I suppose? I trustyou are so, but then you ought to come and join the Church to add to its soundness by your own. I am sure, my dear Friends,none of you will shut up your shops tomorrow morning, or refuse to take a sovereign when a customer comes in because therehappen to be some smashers about who are dealing with bad coins! No, not you! And you do not believe the theory of some, thatbecause some professing Christians are hypocrites, therefore all are, for that would be as though you would say that becausesome sovereigns are bad, therefore all are bad-which would be clearly wrong, for if all sovereigns were counterfeits, it wouldnever pay for the counterfeiter to try to pass his counterfeits! It is the quantity of good metal that passes off the bad.There is a fine good quantity of respectable golden Christians still in the world and still in the Church-rest assured ofthat!
"Well," says one, "I do not think-though I hopeI am a servant of God-that I can join the Church. You see, it is so lookeddown upon." Oh, what a blessed look-down that is! I do think, Brothers and Sisters, there is no honor in the world equal tothat of being looked down upon by that which is called, "Society," in this country! The most of people are slaves to whatthey call, "respectability." Respectability? When a man puts on a coat on Sunday that he has paid for. When he worships Godby night or by day. Whether men see him or not-when he is an honest, straightforward man-I do not care how small his earningsare, he is a respectable man! And he need never bend his neck to the idea of Society or its artificial respectability!
These various kinds of humbug, for they are no other, keep many from joining the Christian Church because they are afraidof being looked down upon by respectable people in Society. I read in a paper only yesterday that it would be no use to createNonconformist peers, because in the next generation they would cease to be Nonconformist and become respectable in their religion-andI am afraid it is true! It is outrageous that as soon as some persons rise in social position they renounce the Church towhich they gave themselves when they gave themselves to the Lord! The day will come when the poorest Christian will be exaltedabove the proudest peer that did not fear God-when God will take out of the hovels and cottages of England a peerage of anImperial race that will put to the blush all the kings and princes of the world! And these He will set above the seraphimwhen others will be cast from His Presence!
I say to any of you who will not join this Church because doing so would lower your respectability-neither I or Jesus Christasks you to join it! If these are the gods you worship-Society and Respectability-go to your beggarly gods and worship them,but God will require it of your hands in the Day of Account. There is nothing better than the service of Christ! For my ownpart, to be despised, pointed at, hooted in the streets, called by all manner of evil names-I would accept it all, soonerthan all the stars of knighthoods and peerages if the service of Christ necessitated it, for this is the true honor of theChristian when he truly serves his Master! The day is coming when the Lord will divide between those that love Him and thosethat love Him not-and every day is getting ready for that last division. This very night the division is being made! In thepreaching of the Gospel it is being carried out. Let each man take his stand and ask himself the question-Are you with Christor with Belial? Are you with God, with Christ, with the precious blood, or do you still rank with sinful pleasures and theirdelights? As you will have to answer for it when the skies are on a blaze and the earth reels, and the Judgment trumpet summonsyou before the Great White Throne, so answer it now! And you brave spirits who have loved your Savior-if you have never yetjoined His army, come and enlist now! And you loving spirits who are tender and who have shrunk back awhile, come forwardnow-
"You that are men now serve Him
Against unnumbered foes!
Your courage rise with danger,
And strength to strength oppose." Today stand up for Jesus! Today be willing to be the off-scouring of all things for Hisname's sake. And then, when He comes in His Glory, yours shall be the reward, a reward that shall far outweigh any lossesthat you can sustain today! "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved." "He that with his heart believes and with hismouth makes confession shall be saved." Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and may His blessing rest upon you! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: 2 CORINTHIANS 8.
The Apostle is writing concerning a certain collection which was being made for the poor saints of Jerusalem. It was fromJerusalem that the Gospel had spread into Greece and, therefore, those who had received spiritual things from the poor Jewsat Jerusalem were bound by every tie of holy brotherhood to remember their benefactors in the time of famine. The Apostlestirs up the Corinthian Church about this contribution.
Verse 1. Moreover, brethren, we make known to you. Or, "we make you to know."
1, 2. Of the Grace of God bestowed on the Churches of Macedonia. How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance oftheir joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their generosity. It is good to stir one Christian up by theexample of another and Paul excites those at Corinth by the example of the Churches in Macedonia-especially, no doubt, theChurch at Philippi. He says that they were in great affliction and they were very poor, but yet they had been so filled withthe Grace of God that their very poverty had enabled them to "abound to the riches of their generosity," for what they gavebecame more in proportion because they were so poor.
3. For to theirpower, Ibearrecord, yes, and beyond theirpower they were willing of themselves. Without any pressure! Withouteven a hint-spontaneously!
4. Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to thesaints. "Take upon us the communion," for that blessed word "Koinonia" communion, is applied not only to the Lord's Supperand to such fellowship as that, but to communion with poor saints-fellowship with them by helping their necessities. And Paulsays that the Macedonian Churches pressed it upon him that he should take their money and go with it to Jerusalem and distributeit. He appears to have been very reluctant to do this, but they pressed it upon him.
5. And this they did, not as we hoped. That is, "according to our hopes."
6. But first gave their own selves to the Lord and unto us by the will of God. They first gave of themselves to God and thenasked Paul to take it that he might use it for God in the distribution of Christian charity among the poor saints at Jerusalem.
6, 7. So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same Grace also. Therefore, as you aboundin everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that you abound inthis Grace also. They were a famous Church-this Church at Corinth, having gifted men in abundance more than other Churches-tothe extent that they did not have one man for a pastor because they so abounded in brethren able to edify. And he urges them,as they were forward in all things, not to be backward in their generosity.
8. I speak not by commandment. "I do not wish to put it upon you as a law. I want it to be spontaneous on yourpart."
8, 9. But by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. For you know the Grace of ourLord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you, through His poverty, might be rich.Whata touching argument! How could he find a better? Help your Brothers and Sisters in Jerusalem that are in need, even thoughthat help should pinch you, for you know the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and what He did, and what He gave that you mightbe rich!
10. Andherein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forwarda year ago.They had begun last year-perhaps not a year ago, but some months ago in the previous year-to talk the matter overand to make promises. And they had been among the first to undertake the work, but as yet they had not done it.
11. Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance, also, outof that which you have. They had not a minister, you see, and what is everybody's business is nobody's business-and so thecontribution was not carried out. And in general, the Church at Corinth is about the worst in the New Testament, and thatfor this very reason-that it had not any oversight. It is the pattern Church of certain Brothers whom we have among us thisday-in the very example of them! And they quote this as an example, whereas it is put here as a beacon, and a very excellentbeacon, too, to warn us against any such thing! Everything was sixes and sevens, good people as they were. Seeing that theyhad no order and no discipline, nothing got done, and they wearied the Apostle's life because of that. God would have thingsdone decently and in order-and He gives to His Churches, pastors after His own heart! And when He does, then is the Churchable to carry out her desires and her activities with something like practical common-sense. But here a year ago, months ago,they had talked the matter over and made a promise-and now Paul has to say to them, "Now, therefore, perform the doing ofit." They had no deacons to look them up, I will be bound to say.
12-14. For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man has, and not according to that he hasnot. For I mean not that other men be eased and you burdened, but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance maybe a supply for their need-that their abundance may also be a supply for your need-that there may be equality It is in theChristian Church, alone, that we shall ever find liberty, equality and fraternity thoroughly represented. There, by the lifeof Christ within His people spiritually, that shall be realized, and the Apostle backs up this thought of his, which Bengelhas beautifully put when he says, "We ought to minister of our luxuries to the comfort of others, and of our comforts to thenecessities of others." So we should, to keep up a balance that when one suffers needs and another abounds, there may be anequality made.
15. As it is written, he that had gathered much.Much manna
15-17. Had nothing left over: and he that had gathered little had no lack. But thanks be to God, which put the same earnestcare into the heart of Titus for you. For, indeed, he accepted the exhortation, but being more forward, of his own accordhe went unto you. Or, "he is coming to you," for he bore this letter to them.
18. And we have sent with him the Brother whose praise is in the Gospel throughout all the churches: And what Brother wasthat? Nobody knows. And a Brother who has praise in all the Churches may be well content to have his name forgotten! Oh, itwould be a sweet thing to have praise in all the Churches anonymously, so that it all might go up to God. It may have beenLuke. Probably it was. It may not have been Luke. Probably it was not. We do not know who it was. But it is not important.What does it matter? As Mr. Whitfield used to say, "Let my name perish, but let Christ's name last forever." "And we havesent with him the Brother whose praise is in the Gospel throughout all the churches."
19. And not that only, but who was also chosen of the Churches to travel with us with this Grace, Or "with this gift."
19, 20. Which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind. Avoiding this, thatno man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us. He had other brethren associated with him lest anybodyshould even hint that Paul was benefited thereby. And, oh, in the distribution of the Lord's money, it becomes us to be exceedinglycareful! Paul adds this.
21. Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. That the thing might beso clear and transparent that while God knew that Paul was honest, everybody else might know it, too, for others had beenassociated with him.
22, 23. And we have sent with them our Brother whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligentupon the great confidence which I have in you. Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellow helper concerningyou: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the Churches, and the Glory of Christ. How beautiful to seePaul so praising his brethren-very humble, commonplace persons as compared with himself, but he admires the Grace of God inthem. How very different from the general spirit of depreciation that you find even among Christians-afraid to praise anybodylest they should be exalted above measure. You might leave that to the devil! He will take care that they are not exaltedabove measure but you need not be as particular about that. Often the best thing that can be done for God's servant is toencourage him, for, though you may not know it, he may have a multitude of depressions, heavy toil and earnest care and muchwatching which may bring him down. Paul speaks well of the Brotherhood-let us try to do the same. But what does he call thesesimple-minded men who are going with him to distribute this money? Does he call them the Glory of Christ Yes! Christ is theGlory of God and His people are the Glory of Christ! He glories whenever He is glorified by them! They are the result of thetravail of His soul and in that sense they are His Glory.