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light to see our pain in : it blesses others. My brethren, it is a high lesson to be willing to suffer for this cause! This is the blessedness of the Suffering of Christ; it is the Law of the Cross; it is the vicarious principle pervading Life, that, voluntarily or involuntarily, we must suffer for others. If others are benefited involuntarily by our sufferings, then we do no more than the beasts who fulfil the law of their being unconsciously, who yield up their lives unwillingly, and therefore, are not blest by it. But if we are willing to bear our woe because we know that good will accrue, we know not how, or why, or when, to others, then we have indeed become partakers of Christ's Spirit, and learnt a godlike lesson. To be willing to bear in order to teach others !—to lose, in order that others may
through us noblier live "—that is to know something of the blessedness He knew.
Again, if this distress came through persecutions, then there was a signal fulfilment of the promise. For here relationships are representative only; they do but shadow out realities. Our earthly relationships typify truer spiritual ones. The father after the flesh is often not the one to whom in life we look with the most filial reverence. There is a Friend who sticketh closer than a brother. And so, in firm faith, we must move through life, nothing daunting us. On—onwards! Though the path be dark, we shall not be left lonely-none ever have been.
II. The principle of the exercise of Charity.
1. Systematic in manner :-It was to be on the first day of the week, each one was to lay by in store as God had prospered him.
That is, instead of waiting for one stirring apostolic appeal, they were to make charity the business of their lives. Week by week they were to build up a sum for St. Paul to send to Jerusalem This contribution slowly,
systematically gathered, was to be a matter of principle, and not of impulse. It is possible that one burning speech of St. Paul's might have elicited a larger sum. But St. Paul preferred the effects of steady perseverance to those of vehement emotion. For impulse is often mere luxury. I do not say that good impulses are not to be acted on, or that warm emotions are to be cooled; they are given to facilitate benevolence; yet it is quite certain that they may cost very little. To give largely, to strip off a coat to give to a shivering man, to open your purse and richly guerdon a beggar, may after all be nothing more than a relief from importunity, or a compact with conscience, or a compromise with laziness.
Now on the contrary, this systematic plan of St. Paul's costs something, and teaches something. It teaches first, the habit of a thoughtful life ; it reminds us continually that there is something which is owed to God, and therefore is not our
In this world we are recipients, the pensioners of our Father; and it is well that, by an outward system, we should train our inward spirit to the unforgetful thought of our debt to Him. It is well that we should remember this—not to wake our fear of His austerity, but to kindle our gratitude in answer to His Love.
It teaches secondly, self-denial. It gradually lays the foundation of a life of Christian economy; not that which sacrifices one pleasure for another : for this is but mere prudence; but that which abridges pleasure, in order that we may be able to give to God.
2. The measure of liberality was " as God hath prospered him.” Observe, St. Paul establishes a principle here, and not a rule. He lays down no rabbinical maxim of one-tenth or onefourth. He leaves the measure of each man's charity to his own conscience. “ Ask thyself,” he says to each,“ how much owest thou unto thy Lord ? ”
Besides a wide margin is here left necessarily for variety of Epistles to the Corinthians.
circumstances. God prospers one man in fortune; another man, in time; another, in talent; and time, talents, power of government, knowledge, keen sympathy, are often better gifts
It is a false view which limits charity to almsgiving. “Silver and gold have I none,” said St. Peter, when the lame man asked an alms, “but that which I have I give unto thee ;” and the man was healed. So now, often the greatest exercise of charity is where there is nothing given, but where the deserving are assisted to support themselves. Often the highest charity is simply to pay liberally for all things had or done for you ; because to underpay workmen, and then be bountiful, is not charity. On the other hand, to give, when by so doing you support idleness, is most pernicious. No evil prevails so much, or is so sheltered under specious pretexts, as the support of beggars. Yet you cannot refuse to give a streetalms if your charity has no other channel : you would feel that refusal in such a case was a mere pretext to save your money. But if
your wealth is wisely and systematically given, then the refusal of idle appeals does no harm to the heart.
Now, the first principle laid down by St. Paul will explain why the second is not realized. Men do not give as God hath prospered them, because they do not give systematically; that is, they who have most are not they who give most, but the
It is a fact, the more we have the less we give. Search the annals of all societies, and you will find that the large contributions are given by those whose incomes are hundreds, and not thousands. Many are the touching cases known to all clergymen where the savings of a servant, a governess, a workman, have more than equalled the munificence of the rich. So also was St. Paul's experience: The grace of God, he says, was “bestowed on the churches of Macedonia ; how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power I bear record,
yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves.”
The reason of this strange difference is, that system is easier with little than with much. The man of thousands squanders. Indulgence after indulgence presents itself to him : every impulse is satisfied immediately : he denies himself nothing: he gives as freely when he is touched by a tale of woe, as he indulges when he wants indulgence. But his luxuries and his extra expenditure grow into necessities, and he then complains of his larger liabilities and establishment. Yet withal, it would be a startling thing if well-meaning persons, who say they cannot give, were only to compute how much annually is spent in that mere waste which the slightest selfdenial would have spared.
Now let me appeal to those who really wish to do right in this thing. It is not my duty, from this chapter, to make a stirring appeal to your conscience, but simply to assist with advice that desire of liberality which is already existing, but which exists without expedients or plans of action. St. Paul's principle is the only safe or true one. Systematize your charity. Save, by surrendering superfluities first. Feel that there is a sacred fund, which will be made less by every unnecessary expense. Let us learn Christian Economy first. Next we shall, by God's grace, learn Christian Self-denial. For the Macedonians gave not out of their abundance, but out of their deep poverty.
O-DAY we close our exposition of the First Epistle to
the Corinthians by gathering together the salutations which are contained in the conclusion.
In going through this Epistle we cannot fail to have observed that it is altogether fragmentary. This was the natural result of its character, since it was a reply to various questions arising out of the peculiar state of the Corinthian Church. But the conclusion, as we might expect, is even more fragmentary than the rest. It is simply made up of certain information respecting St. Paul's movements, certain salutations, certain personal memorials, and notices—and a brief reminder of the First Principles interspersed throughout the foregoing chapters. It will therefore, be necessary for us in this place to connect them together as well as we can, not expecting to find any natural division to facilitate the making of a plan, or to assist the memory in combining this scattered Epistle into a whole.
First, we notice the information given us respecting the Apostle's movements. Now we find him telling the Corinthians that he hoped to visit them, and to winter with them, but not yet, for he was to stay at Ephesus until Pentecost. I only mention this, in order to call attention to the law of the Apostolic life. He remained there, he says, "for a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many advetsaries.” So it was not pleasure but duty which kept him there. Ephesus was his post, and at Ephesus he would stay. More