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The Church Pulpit Commentary Church Pulpit Commentary
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ cpc/ 1-corinthians-10.html. 1876.
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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PRIVILEGE AND RESPONSIBILITY
‘I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; … But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.’
1 Corinthians 10:1-5
It is with us exactly as it was with these Israelites: we too enjoy the same privileges, we have all been baptized with one baptism, confirmed with one hope and one promise; we are in a Christian country, all enjoying the recurring privileges of Christian life.
I. How are they affecting your life?—How various are the lives of such a congregation as this! Yet all in the main equally privileged. How is it with you? Is it not strange that there should be this difference, that some of us should be so impervious to the influences that are all around us? This matter of the influences of life, who can penetrate it? You hear the voices, your hearts are stirred more or less, you know that you have these privileges, and yet how often does the life run to waste because we enjoy these privileges in the wrong spirit, we are proud of them, or we take them as a matter of course, and we give our minds to other things, and so the privileges are overlading us; some other element of our nature, that should have been rooted out of us, grows to be the strong element, and it destroys the gift of the Christian life.
II. It must be good that we should contemplate how men have wasted their privileges and how God punishes.—We are apt sometimes to think only of the mercy and the love of God; we should not forget that He does not withhold His hand to punish. It is very significant that the Apostle who preaches always and everywhere the free gift of God’s grace, should himself have lived and laboured in that spirit of fear and trembling which he has described in the ninth chapter of this Epistle; that he should utter such warnings as he utters here to these Corinthians to show them the danger lest the promised grace and the gifts of God should be nothing to them. Of all the multitude of Israel, only two; of all a congregation like this, how many at the last?
III. These things are for our admonition.—If we do not use the present moment, if we do not enjoy our privileges in humility, if we do not think less of privileges and more of duties, if we do not go on our knees day by day for more of the saving Spirit of God, why, then, it is very likely that it will be written of us also, ‘With many of them God was not well pleased,’ and our fate will be as the fate of Israel. The gifts of God are all gifts under conditions, and the conditions are what we should be often thinking of.
‘If we are to understand the Apostle’s argument clearly we should go back to the earlier part of this Epistle. We find as we read the earlier chapters that the Christians of Corinth were much enamoured of their liberty; the one Christian privilege which seems to have laid hold of their imagination was their Christian liberty. Corinth, as some of you know doubtless, was a maritime city of great licence; it was one of the most dangerous places in Greece, as maritime cities are sometimes apt to be very dangerous; and this atmosphere of licence in the midst of which this small Christian Church was living seems to have affected them in this way, that they thought far more of their liberties than of their duties. Thus we find that very soon this Christian Church of Corinth became a divided Church; they exercised their liberty in following some this teacher, some that teacher; they became very critical. But worse than all, it very soon became an immoral Church, as we see from St. Paul’s earlier chapters in this Epistle. And part of the root of the mischief, it would seem, was this exaggerated notion of their privilege of liberty as Christians. And how does St. Paul meet it? He meets it by considering his own case. Yes, he says, liberty is the foundation of the Christian life. He always claims liberty for himself, he always inculcates that every Christian man is a free man. You remember how he emphasises it in the Epistle to the Romans: “To his own master every man must stand or fall.” And so he says, “I myself am free; all things are lawful for me.” But immediately there follows the condition: “All things are not expedient.” Taking his own case, he claimed his liberty, but we see how all through his life, in directing his action, in denying himself, in doing his Master’s work, he was not thinking of his liberty, but of his personal responsibility.’
THE SPIRITUAL ROCK
‘They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.’
1 Corinthians 10:4
Observe that it followed them. God went before His people in the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire.
I. Guidance.—So He was their guide. Christ followed them in all the wanderings that the Guiding Pillar led them through. It was a great and terrible wilderness that God led them into, backwards and forwards, and into many a changing scene they were led for forty years. But wherever they went the Rock followed, them. It was always at hand. Its supplies were unfailing. So again with us. Be our needs what they may, be our lot cast where it will, change as may our spiritual requirements or our special temptations, so long as we are following the path of our probation the Rock follows us, and from It there is the never-failing stream which has an appropriate virtue of refreshment for every need. There is infinite comfort in this. It follows us everywhere, and It follows every one of us everywhere, and It has the special refreshment which each one needs. The wilderness is not exactly the same wilderness to any two of us. Our probations vary. No two of us are exactly the same in character; and no two of us are led by exactly the same track. So the wisest and the most experienced Christian cannot do more than give a general guidance to his brethren.
II. Vitality.—But the Rock follows each, and It gives more than guidance, It communicates vitality, the precise vitality required by the peculiar vocation in which we are called to follow our Guide and Leader. There is boundless comfort in this for the tried and the lonely, for those who are beset with heavy responsibilities or hard beset with difficulties where none can help them. The forms in which the Christian life is cast are infinitely various, but the essence of that life is one throughout, and the Sacramental Gift goes straight to nourishing the essence. It is not mere refreshment that our Smitten Rock communicates. We poor sinful men may oftentimes minister refreshment to one another. The Smitten Rock gives vital force. And perhaps this is what is set forth when in our Eucharistic elements we receive not water only, but the Blood of Christ. The Israelites could not receive the Blood of Christ. Our gift is greater than theirs, just as also our calling is higher. We receive the Blood, and the Blood is the Life. Be our special vocation what it may, be our place in the Mystical Body of Christ high or low, difficult or comparatively easy, whatever be the special form of Sanctity which He calls us to attain unto, the stream of the life-blood of the Smitten Rock is following us to communicate unto us of His own vitality to carry us onward to that completeness in Him which He desires us to attain. As the water from the Smitten Rock followed the Israelites through the winters and the summers of those forty years, so ‘the Water and the Blood’ follow us from our Rock smitten on the Cross. Their calling was a less lofty one than ours, but the principle was the same, an ever-present sustenance proportioned to the perpetual need of a special calling.
III. See that we fall not after their example of unbelief.—They were called to live their life in a land where it was a miracle that it should be supported, but they discerned not the miracle. For a long time it sustained their being, but at last they perished. Ours is no less a miraculous life. It is indeed a miracle that any one of us should be anything worth calling a Christian, should have any Christian vitality, any living faith at all. But we have a miraculous sustentation too. The pity is that so many do not ‘discern It.’ To ‘discern It’ is to separate It off as different in kind from all things else. We fail to ‘discern It’ when we look upon It as a mere reminiscence addressed to our human intellects, or human memories, or human sentiments and feelings. A sermon from a vivid preacher would serve that purpose. We fail to ‘discern It’ when we look upon It as what we may receive or not receive at our own pleasure or convenience. To do this is to count ‘the Blood of the Covenant’ as a mere common or unholy thing, and to do ‘despite unto the Spirit of Grace.’ From which sin may God in His great mercy deliver us for the sake of Him Who was smitten for us, Who gives us His flesh to eat, and Who ever follows us with the chalice filled with the Water and the Blood which flowed from His wounded side.
‘The Manna laid up until the morrow lost its efficacy. It was no longer endued with the property of nourishing the bodies of those who ate it. It was to be taken and eaten as often as God gave it. So, in like manner, with the Eucharist. You cannot turn away from the Eucharist, and say that you will go on depending upon the spiritual sustenance afforded you the last time you partook the Bread of Life. It must be taken and eaten as often as God gives it you. Its power of nourishing you comes from God, even as the nourishing power of the Manna came from God; and God did not choose to extend that power of nourishing beyond the time when He provided the next supply.’
THE ROCK OF AGES
The text institutes an analogy between the water which the Israelites drank in the wilderness and the saving and refreshing influences of the Gospel.
I. Water in extremity.—The rock was struck by Moses after the Israelites were likely to die of thirst in the wilderness, and were ready to stone their leader and appoint another. The water came, not only in time to preserve life, but just in time to rescue it. And so it was with the salvation of Christ. ‘When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.’ He came to seek and save that which was lost. How dreary and hopeless the world had become, and the Church as represented by the Jewish people, when Christ stood up and cried on ‘the last, the great day of the feast,’ as that sacred season also was passing away like the rest, leaving behind it utter weariness, ‘If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink!’ So, too, it is with the individual soul.
II. Water from an unlikely source.—How unlikely it was that from that rock in the wilderness the cool, sweet stream would flow! And how unlikely, or rather impossible, did it seem to the men of our Lord’s time, that all nations, or even His own kinsmen, could be blessed in Him! ‘Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?’ How slow are many of us to acknowledge obligations to Christ!
III. Water drawn forth by strokes.—Moses struck the rock, and the water gushed out. Emblem of Him Who was ‘stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted; wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities.’ Christ poured forth His soul an offering for sin. It is this solemn fact in our Lord’s history and work which has ever given alarmed souls peace and joy—
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
IV. Water an accompanying and abiding blessing.—The stream of water from the stricken rock accompanied the Israelites on their way. And so, faith in Christ is an abiding principle and power in believers’ hearts. His promise is, ‘Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.’
‘Neither murmur ye.’
1 Corinthians 10:10
Peevishness and discontent are not Christ-like. His wish for us, ‘Do all things without murmurings.’ ‘Take no anxious thought.’ ‘Fret not thyself.’ Selfishness the root of discontent.
I. Insignificant provocations.—Petty worries, crossings, injuries ruffle the spirit; yet little things are your Lord’s care.
II. Many grumblings come from troubles—
( a) Exaggerated.
( b) Imaginary.
( c) Anticipated.
Look at things as they are. ‘Your Father knoweth.’
III. If real anxieties cause fretting, then remember complainings aggravate. Israel in wilderness (Exodus 15, 16, 17).
IV. Helps to content.
( a) Rest in God.
( b) Cultivate praise.
( c) Try to lighten burdens of others.
—Rev. F. S. Legg.
THE CHRISTIAN’S WARNING
‘Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.’
1 Corinthians 10:12
At the time the Apostle wrote it was a very dangerous thing to profess oneself a Christian. It was very seldom that a Christian apostatised, but sometimes it did happen that the faith of one gave way, and whenever it did so it was generally because of this very reason St. Paul speaks of here, i.e. spiritual pride. None of us need fear being obliged by violence and torture to give up our faith.
I. What we have to fear is that we may be tempted to give it up willingly, to yield to the seductions of the world and the flesh. The world has bad customs, dishonest customs, selfish customs, and when we yield to those we fall from grace and stain our souls with sin. The body, too, has its own special temptations to greediness, to impatience, to impurity, and when we allow these to rule over us we fall from grace. We are tempted by these things constantly. Not a day passes without our being a hundred times tried by some of these things. The only safeguard against them lies in prayer and watchfulness and, above all, in constant humility of spirit. ‘Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.’ If we are presumptuous, we get tripped up by a temptation; if we are humble and look well to our conduct, then, by the grace of God, we avoid it. You know which of the two it is that stumbles—the man who holds his head high, too high to allow him to notice whither he is going and whether there is anything in his way, or the careful and modest person who looks upon the ground and takes notice where he puts his feet! Any stone or stick accidentally lying in the road will trip up the one, while the other sees each danger and avoids it.
II. Our safeguard is in being humble.—‘God resisteth the proud; but giveth grace unto the humble.’ There is surely enough to humble us in our nature and our circumstances. Sinful by nature; prone to the indulgence of all kinds of bad passions, subject to reverses of fortune, to attacks of sickness, to pain, and certain to die, there is enough to humble us surely in all these things. How should we be proud when there is not a day of our whole lives without sin? How should we be proud whom the next fever-breath of infection, coming we know not whence, may kill? Humility suits us best; humility is our safeguard.
III. We shall never indeed be able to fix the limits of God’s grace on the one hand, of man’s co-operation on the other, in the work of salvation. We cannot tell where the one begins and the other leaves off. But the less we attribute to ourselves of the work of salvation, and the more we attribute to God, the safer we shall be. God, we must never forget, provides the salvation by His Son Jesus Christ. God, we must never forget, works the work of salvation in our souls by His Holy Spirit. But yet the soul of man is a live thing, and cannot be saved without its own free will. It is like a live tree that has to be trained into the shape you wish, and not like a dead trunk that you can cut and carve into any shape you choose. It is gifted with the power of free choice and will, and the question is, in which way does that free will turn? Does the heart turn towards evil or towards good? Everything seems to depend upon that. Prayers, sacraments, ordinances, nothing will save a soul that keeps on persistently choosing evil in spite of these means of grace.
IV. The greater the pride, the surer is the destruction.—Let us ever think lowly of ourselves and our spiritual state. The more clearly we see our own sinfulness and imperfection, the more earnestly we shall cast ourselves at the foot of the Cross and trust ourselves to the merits of Our Saviour, Jesus Christ. In Him is all inspiration to a holy life; in Him all forgiveness for our transgression and sin; in Him all comfort and support when we lie upon the bed of death; by Him an abundant entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.
‘Pray very specially for those who stand in prominent positions, for it is not easy to keep a clear head when one is upon the top of a pinnacle; but when you have prayed for them, pray also for yourselves. God can keep men in safety on the tops of pinnacles if He puts them there; but the men in the valley will fall if they think they can keep themselves securely. Mr. Spurgeon was talking once to a lady, who assured him again and again that she prayed daily for him that he might be kept humble. He told her that he should pray the same prayer for her; and when she said, “Oh, I am never tempted to be proud,” he replied, “Well, dear friend, I am afraid you are very far gone in that direction already, or else you would not talk as you do.” ’
A WAY TO ESCAPE
‘God … will with the temptation also make a way to escape.’
1 Corinthians 10:13
The promise is not that we shall be not tempted, nor that our natural strength shall be the measure of the temptation permitted. We have no power of ourselves to help ourselves.
I. What God promises is the adaptation of the tempting power to the supernatural strength given; and the making with the temptation ‘a way to escape.’ This word is very remarkable; literally it means ‘the exit,’ ‘the way out.’ God promises that with the temptation, which He Himself does not make but merely controls, He will also make ‘a way out.’ It is His promise to the believer in Christ; and if He did not make this ‘exit’ He would not be true.
II. The promise is literally true.—There is a moment in every temptation, a pause between the suggestion and the execution of every wrong thing, when God provides this exit, this ‘way of escape.’ An angry retort, a profane jest, a cruel stab is upon your tongue, but it need not become articulate. A passionate impulse, a sinful desire is in your heart, but if you seek His aid you can resist that last volition which constitutes the actual doing of the sin itself. When lust conceives, it bringth forth sin. The conception and the birth are separate from each other.
III. Away then with all excuses for being what we are.—You do not stand alone in the ranks of fallen beings, that you can make your temptations a pretext for weakness, for worldliness, for self-indulgence, for lack of influence. Despise yourself till, with St. Paul, you are able to confess ‘No temptation has taken me but that which is common to man.’ But, if God adapts the temptation to the strength, you must pray. There is no promise for the strength of grace but to the praying man; and finally, when the temptation is upon you, look out for God’s way to escape.
IV. God has made the way to escape.—Take heed that you miss it not. Each act of sin is a sort of lifetime, with beginning, middle, and end. There is no room here for debate, for weighing, for judging; there is just room for a prayer. This is God’s Will—your sanctification; this is God’s will—that you should be saved. Trifle not, but buy up the opportunity, which is the life of time.
‘A German picture called “Cloud-land” hangs at the end of a long gallery; and at first sight looks like a huge, repulsive daub of confused colour. As you walk towards it, it begins to take shape, and proves to be a mass of little cherub faces, like those in Raphael’s “Madonna san Sisto.” Close to the picture, you see only an innumerable company of little angels and cherubim. How often, frightened by temptation, we see nothing but a confused and repulsive mass of broken expectations and crushed hopes. But if, instead of fleeing away into unbelief and despair, we would only draw near to God, we should soon discover that the cloud was full of angels of mercy.’
WORDS TO THE WISE
‘I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.’
1 Corinthians 10:15
We are met together not to exalt ourselves, but for the great and definite purpose of trying to build one another up in our most holy faith, and of learning how we may the better extend, both at home and abroad, the Kingdom of our Divine Lord, our beloved Master. Our object may be found in the words of St. Paul—That Christ may be magnified. Shall we not pray very earnestly for the gift of the Holy Ghost? Where He is there will be no error, for He is the Spirit of Truth. Where He is there will be no discord, for He is the Spirit of Unity. Where He is there will be no lack of Charity, for He is the Spirit of Love.
I. As Churchmen we need to define our position.—Not for trifles do we work and watch, do we pray and contend, but for the greatest and most vital realities. We maintain the supremacy of Holy Scripture as the one Rule of Faith, inspired—we ask not, we define not, how—by the Holy Spirit of God. We accept with all our hearts the blessed doctrine of the Trinity. We believe in the Fatherhood of God, in the redemption wrought out by Christ in the convincing, converting, sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost. We insist on the absolute necessity of good works and holy living. Trifles, indeed, are these things trifles? No more trifles than is the foundation-stone of a building.
II. We need to assert our Churchmanship.—We are deeply attached to our own beloved Church of England. We believe her to be the purest branch of the Catholic Church. We love with the deepest and tenderest love, with the warmest and most intense affection, our Book of Common Prayer. We value the Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself as ‘outward visible signs of inward and spiritual grace.’ We rejoice in the three orders of the Christian ministry—Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. We claim to be loyal, warm, sincere, devout. We object to any adjective at all—we are Churchmen.
III. We need to affirm that whilst we are valiant for the truth we are neither narrow nor illiberal.—We are thankful the Church of England embraces three schools of thought. We gratefully acknowledge our indebtedness to the one for brighter services and more beautiful churches; to the other for leading us to reconsider our interpretation of the Divine Word, and to question whether on some minor but not unimportant points the common may not have been the incorrect meaning; and to the third that the Evangelical fathers were instrumental in furthering personal holiness and increasing spirituality of worship and of life.
IV. We need to have knowledge of the times.—There is no reason why we should not accommodate ourselves and our services to the taste of the age, provided we do not sacrifice any principle or obscure any truth, or forget that God is Spirit and they that worship Him should worship Him in Spirit and in truth.
V. We need to be more united amongst ourselves.—There is undoubtedly great need for visible unity and cohesion amongst ourselves. Bishop Lightfoot thus closes his introduction to the Epistle to the Philippians: ‘To all ages of the Church—to our own especially—this Epistle reads a great lesson. While we are expending our strength on theological definitions or ecclesiastical rules, it recalls us from these distractions to the very heart and centre of the Gospel, the life of Christ, the life in Christ. Here is the meeting-point of all our differences, the healing of all our feuds, the true life alike of individuals and sects and churches; here doctrine and practice are wedded together, for here is the “Creed of Creeds” involved in and arising out of the work of works.’
—Rev. Henry Woffindin.
‘ “I have lived a long life,” said Bishop Harold Browne, “and have seen and known leaders of all parties. In my youth it was my privilege to know Simeon, a leader of one section at that time. I knew Keble, who led another section, and I knew F. D. Maurice, and I can say that I agreed in the main points with every one of these great and good men, and honoured and loved them. I could heartily subscribe to the chief tenet of Simeon’s school that Christ is the only way of salvation, and that no creature earthly or heavenly can intervene between the soul of the sinner and his Saviour. I can subscribe to Keble’s faith in the assured presence of Christ in His Sacraments, the communion of the individual with his Saviour, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the Communion of Saints. I can join heartily in the teaching of Maurice that the Eternal Father regards with all-embracing love those He has created and redeemed. Nay, I doubt not, in the Kingdom of our Father we shall see each of these men, unless, indeed (as Whitfield said of Wesley), they are too near the eternal brightness for us to be able to discern them.” ’
COMMUNION WITH CHRIST
‘The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?’
1 Corinthians 10:16
As those to whom this Epistle was sent read St. Paul’s argument, they might or might not agree with the conclusion to which he sought to lead them; they might feel it to be unduly strict, or, at any rate, impracticable; but it is surely clear, from the way in which St. Paul writes, that he was confident that they would grant him the hypothesis from which he sets out. He knew that none of them would deny that when they drank of the consecrated cup they had communion with the blood of the Lord, and that when they ate of the consecrated bread they had communion with the body of the Lord. The course of his argument is therefore conclusive that to him the Lord’s Supper was not a mere commemoration, not a bare memorial. Such an interpretation of this Sacrament falls short of the plain requirements of his language. We cannot so impoverish the phrases which come from him. We cannot so deny the richness of his language. His thought is essentially the same as that which underlies the familiar lines—
‘Bread of Heaven, on Thee we feed,
For Thy flesh is meat indeed.’
I. No misinterpretation of the great doctrine ought to tempt us to a denial of it.—Let us do all we can to protect it from travesty; but do not let us make the mistake of repudiating what is true and reasonable for fear of opening the door to what is false and misleading. We cannot get rid of the words of institution. We cannot escape from the teaching of this passage from the pen of the Apostle to the Gentiles. We cannot overlook the suggestiveness of the sublime discourse in St. John 6, which does not indeed refer directly to the Holy Communion, but which is built up on a conception identical with the idea underlying the Lord’s Supper. Christ did indeed speak in a figure; but can His words mean less than that in that rite He gives His own Manhood—that Manhood which was once slain for us, but which is now exalted to the throne of thrones? Through the Incarnation He, in Whom all life was then gathered up, is able to impart Himself to men. ‘The Son of Man,’ said Bishop Westcott, ‘lived for us and died for us, and communicates to us the effects of His life and death as perfect Man. Without this communication of Christ men can have “no life in themselves.” But Christ’s gift of Himself to a man becomes in the recipient a spring of life within.’
II. The Holy Communion! Do we not feel the need of the gift which comes with it?—Have we any reason to expect that gift of gifts if we stop away? Have we any right to suppose that absence from this Sacrament will involve no injury to our spiritual lives, when that absence is the outcome of insensibility, recklessness, impenitence, lovelessness? Why is it that so many of us are never found at the table of the Lord? Do we not realise how essential to us is His Presence with us? Are we not all conscious that we require to be spiritually fed by His Body and Blood? Do we not all know that without Him our souls must starve? We need Him—not merely His example or influence or teaching, but Himself.
III. There are perhaps some of us who once were regular communicants, but who have now dropped the old practice.—Do they never look back with regret upon the days when they received the blessing which this service is capable of bestowing? Do they never wish, as they reflect upon what they are now and remember what they were in that bygone period, that they had not fallen away from the highest standard of worship? If that be the case with any of us, let us make a fresh start. Let us come back again. Let us renew the old sacramental life. And there are those among us who have never come to that supper. Surely their responsibility is a very grave one. This service is based upon the direct command of Christ Himself. He Himself told us that the bread should be to us as His Body, and the wine as His Blood. Do we not believe Him? But if we do, then why do we never from year’s end to year’s end ‘draw near with faith and take this holy sacrament to our comfort’? What is it that is keeping us back? Is it a sense of sin? It is the very thing that should bring us. Perhaps there are some who are about to come for the first time. They have yet to learn what the Holy Communion can be to those who partake of it in all earnestness and sincerity. They cannot expect too much. The danger is that they may expect too little. ‘I seek,’ says a modern devotional writer, ‘much more in the Eucharist than to look at a picture and be touched by it. I seek to be fed in that holy ordinance; to be spiritually nourished, through the elements of bread and wine, with that Flesh which is meat indeed, and that Blood which is drink indeed.’ Let us also seek and find that supreme and wondrous privilege.
—Rev. the Hon. W. E. Bowen.
‘Christ the sustenance of man! Christ the nourishment of man! The Self-communication of the humanity of Christ! His Manhood the food of our manhood! The conception finds frequent expression in our Liturgy. “Wherefore it is our duty to render most humble and hearty thanks to Almighty God our heavenly Father, for that He hath given His Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, not only to die for us, but also to be our spiritual food and sustenance in that holy Sacrament.” “For then we spiritually eat the Flesh of Christ, and drink His Blood; then we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us; we are one with Christ, and Christ with us.” In that exquisitely beautiful prayer which immediately precedes the prayer of consecration, we beseech God to grant us His grace “so to eat the Flesh of Thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink His Blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by His Body, and our souls washed through His most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell in Him, and He in us.” In the prayer of consecration itself we ask that “we receiving these Thy creatures of bread and wine, according to Thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of His death and passion, may be partakers of His most blessed Body and Blood.” When the bread is given to us, we are bidden “feed on Him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving.” Again in the second of the alternative prayers for use after the actual Communion we offer up our thanks “for that Thou dost vouchsafe to feed us, who have duly received these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of Thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Our Church does not regard the rite as a simple act of commemoration. She attaches to it a deeper import, a fuller and richer meaning. Her mind is a faithful reflection of the Apostolic mind.’
‘Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.’
1 Corinthians 10:31
From the day of a man’s birth, when he became a creature of God, the whole of his service was due to his Creator. From the hour of his baptism, wherein he was adopted into the family of Christ, the whole of his service was consecrated to his Redeemer. From the moment that the Spirit of God first began to work upon his consciousness, and the fact was presented clearly to his mind, ‘You are not your own, you are bought with a price,’ it became his duty actually ‘to glorify God in his body, and his spirit, which are God’s.’
I. What is it to glorify God?—You give glory to a teacher by receiving and adopting his instruction; to a monarch by obeying his laws and upholding his authority; to a father by loving his person and living so that men praise him in you: and just as in human relations a teacher is praised or blamed according to the success or failure of his pupils; a monarch applauded or condemned according to the loyalty of his subjects; a father honoured or brought to shame according to the conduct of his children; so the actions of men bring praise or blame, honour or dishonour, glory or shame, to the God they profess to worship.
II. Since it is thus in our power to give glory to God, it is declared in the text to be our duty to do so in all things.
( a) This one principle is to direct our most important, as well as our most trivial works; all are to be done with a view to the glory of God; and you will observe that those actions are specially named which every one must do every day. The simplest, most ordinary everyday actions are mentioned, that we may gather the mind of God to be this: that whether we eat or drink, read or walk, buy or sell, whatever from morning to night, from night to morning, we are engaged in, the leading object of our whole life, and of every action in that life, should be to promote the glory of the Lord our God.
( b) This principle thus stated in the text is confirmed by all the teaching of Scripture. In almost the same words St. Paul says, ‘And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God, and the Father by Him’; where you will observe that acting in the name of the Lord Jesus is acting for the glory of God. St. Peter likewise writes: ‘If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ.’ The whole life of our Saviour was but a carrying out of this principle. His first words express it, ‘I must be about My Father’s business.’ His last prayer declares it accomplished, ‘I have glorified Thee on earth. I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.’ From the carpenter’s shop to the Cross, He was in all things and at all times seeking His Father’s glory.
( c) This principle of Christianity will be made more clear by being contrasted with that of other religions. It is the nature of false religions to consist in certain definite acts, in certain services, in certain forms, in certain pilgrimages, in certain tortures. Hence in them religious acts and secular acts are separated. So much of man’s time is religious, so much is secular. Religion in such systems comes in contact with business, as oil with water; the two do not, and cannot, unite; whereas the Christian religion mixes itself with the business of a man’s life, as wine with water; it unites itself with all and with every part, gives life and vigour and strength to all, and makes the whole spiritual.
Rev. Canon F. Morse.
‘A young infidel was one night in bed contemplating the character of his mother. “I see” (said he within himself) “two unquestionable facts. First, my mother is greatly afflicted in circumstances, body, and mind, and I see that she cheerfully bears up under all by the support she derives from constantly retiring to her closet and her Bible. Secondly, that she has a secret spring of comfort of which I know nothing, while I who give an unbounded loose to my appetites, and seek pleasure by every means, seldom or never find it. If, however, there is any such secret in religion, why may not I attain to it as well as my mother? I will immediately seek it of God.” Thus the influence of Christianity, exhibited in its beauty by a living example before him, led Richard Cecil to know Christ Himself, and to glorify Him by a life of most successful devotion to His service.’
THE PARAMOUNT CLAIM OF RELIGION
There is need, in the name of God and of God’s truth, that we assert the claim of religion to be in all things paramount and supreme. To rend asunder what God has joined together can only end in ruin and degradation. To separate this our daily life into religious and secular is to take out of it on the one hand, all that was meant to dignify and beautify it, the source of all its strength and gladness; and, on the other hand, to deprive religion of its proper sphere, and so to dwarf and paralyse its powers.
I. It is true that God intends us to reach heaven hereafter, but He also means to make this life, with all its daily toil, better, nobler, and happier by religion, by His presence here.—Will our life-work be less efficient because we submit it day by day to the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God? It is here and now that we are to fight the battle, and to face the discipline, and to bear the burdens which shall fit us hereafter for a place in a heavenly and better kingdom. What is the meaning of the Incarnation if it is not this—God with man, not hereafter, but now?
II. As the guiding principle of our life, religion will have something to say to the work of life.—It will say that idleness is contrary to the Divine law, that in honest work lies the fulfilment of the Divine purpose. Every life has its proper sphere in which it is best fitted to work out its truest and highest development. Every man has his work, his opportunity; yet are there not those who tell us that time hangs heavily on their hands, that as years go on life becomes more and more a burden? To such comes St. Paul with his great principle—‘Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.’ God has laid down lines for your life; God has ordered it. If you search out and try to find these lines, and follow them, your life will be a good one, a useful one, a life with a purpose, not a mere dragging out of years, not the miserable failure that so many lives seem. Aim, then, at acting your part well in life, for therein is the path of honour.
III. But life cannot be all work, and therefore our religion must have something to say to our play, to our amusements; and this we are apt sometimes to forget. Duty is the end of life; pleasure, recreation, amusement are only means to that end—a perfectly lawful means, to most of us a necessary means, but one, nevertheless, which needs to be carefully guided and guarded. We are therefore warned that it does not follow that because amusement is lawful and good, therefore everything that amuses is necessarily so. The influence of our amusements on ourselves, on our brethren, on the world at large—all this must be taken into account. ‘All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient.’ Whatever amusement recreates, soothes, invigorates, tends to fit you better to do your duty, and (mind that saving clause) leaves no sting behind it, this may be looked upon by Christians as safe.
IV. One more ruling principle our religion will lay down for the guidance of our life— it will call attention to the two sides of our nature.—One relates to the world around us; the other, to the unseen, but no less real, spiritual world. The body, it is true, has its claims; but the body is not all. This life is only part of the great whole; it is the threshold of eternity. Why, then, give it all our care? Why not use it as a means of preparation for the inheritance of the saints in light? Religion and daily life! Should they, can they, be separate and apart? Then each becomes valueless; bind them together by the sacred tie of God’s Presence and they become a living power to witness in the world and to ennoble all with the dignity of God Himself.
Bishop E. R. Wilberforce.
‘Sir Joshua Reynolds was one of the most distinguished painters of his day; and, in answer to the inquiry, how he attained such excellence, he replied: “By observing one simple rule, viz. to make each painting the best.” Depend upon it that the same thing is true in the service of God.’
RELIGION AND RECREATION*
We claim that the religion of Jesus Christ touches every part of our lives, and will sanctify and elevate our recreations, no less than our politics, our business, and our private life. In speaking on recreation—
I. We cannot fail to recognise its importance.—The crowds which flock to watch the ‘matches’; the large space allotted in the newspapers to athletic news; the crowd who betake themselves to race centres at certain seasons; the popularity of the theatres; the large number of novels taken from the shelves of our libraries, these facts, and many others, testify to the importance which is practically attached to recreation. It is the duty of religious teachers to point out the true ideas and principles on which our practice should be based. Recreation—the very word gives us a clue; it means to create afresh, and implies that the daily round of work is apt to waste and exhaust our nervous energy. Recreation, then, is that change of, or slackening from, work, which has the effect of supplying afresh the store of power which has been dissipated. God has given us our daily work to do, but He has also given us bodies, minds, and hearts to be trained for Him, and I do not see how we are to develop every side of our nature unless we allow a fair time for recreation. Let us make health and manly recreation a moral and Christian duty. Not only so with regard to cricket, football, etc., but with regard to more emotional or intellectual recreations: music, reading, etc. All that enriches the mind and refines the heart has its place among the innocent and useful relaxations of life.
II. We must consider the dangers connected with recreation.
( a) I would speak of those forms of physical recreation which are most popular amongst us—football, cricket, etc. Are they not too often degraded by being made occasions for betting? There can be no real healthy enjoyment when this is the case. Gambling is one of the greatest dangers of the day. I would appeal to you, my brothers, as you watch with interest the well-contested match, to let your enthusiasm be pure and healthy; let it be a manly love of the game which impels you to look on, and not a desire to make money by dishonest means.
( b) Is there not in some cases a danger lest our interest, and natural desire that our side may win, should lead us to be unfair towards our opponents? Let us always be considerate and chivalrous: scrupulously careful to deal fairly by an opponent.
( c) Again, are not the athletic sports sometimes productive of hard swearing? I know it is so. But as Christians we are forbidden to take God’s Name in vain. Swear not at all is our rule, and as sensible men we ought to despise a habit which proves that we have so little self-control. If we could divest our sports of those three dangers—betting, bitterness, and swearing—we should make our physical recreations far more useful and enjoyable.
See that your amusements are recreations and not dissipation, i.e. that they send you back to your work strengthened and not weakened.
III. Note the methods of recreation.
( a) We ought to regard future needs in our recreation. Sport is good when it strengthens the body or disciplines the mind.
( b) Do not confine your recreations to bodily exercise only. Give some of your spare time to those amusements which tend to elevate and refine the emotional and intellectual part of you. Think of the pleasures to be gained by beautiful scenery, music, painting, reading, pursuit of zoology or botany, or geology. Have a hobby: take up one or other of these forms of amusements; it will fill up many a spare hour, and enrich your life by pouring into it something of the beauty and richness of those worlds of thought and art which lie around us.
Rev. Canon C. L. Ivens.
‘An early writer tells a story concerning St. John the Evangelist. He was amusing himself one day with a tame partridge on his hand, and was asked by a huntsman how such a man as he could spend his time in so unprofitable a manner, to whom St. John replied, “Why dost thou not carry thy bow always bent?” “Because,” answered the huntsman, “if it were always bent I fear it would lose its spring, and become useless.” “Be not surprised, then,” replied the Apostle, “that I should sometimes remit a little of my close attention of spirit and to enjoy a little recreation.” We have in the story a beautiful illustration of the principle expressed in the homely proverb, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” ’