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Let us follow after the things which make for peace, and things whereby one may edify another.
This was the truly charitable practice of the Apostle: "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: All things are lawful for me, (meaning no doubt things in themselves indifferent) but I will not be brought under the power of any. I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." Thus, while he conscientiously abstained from whatever might offend the weakest of his brethren, he most carefully avoided, whatever would injure his own soul.
But here the line must be distinctly drawn ; for, whilst we yield to the prejudices of weaker brethren, we must never make sinful compliances to conciliate the people of the world. Jesus said to his disciples: "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you, for so did their fathers of the false prophets."
If, then, we try to recommend religion, or to remove the prejudice of worldly persons, by departing in any instance from our proper character as professing Christians, we deceive ourselves, and discover great defect both in principle and judgment. The apostolic injunction is: "Let your conversation be as becometh the Gospel of Christ. Let your speech be alway with grace. Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." Hence our duty is plain; for though we cannot always discourse upon spiritual
things; yet, we must always speak in the spirit of the Gospel; and though we cannot always be enga ged in religious exercises, yet, our light must so shine before men, that they, seeing our good works, may glorify our Father which is in heaven.
As believing Christians, we must never conceal our principles, nor shrink from an open confession of our faith. If we call Jesus, Lord, we are bound to honour him, by a cheerful obedience to his will, whatever obloquy it may bring upon us. Sinful compliances are never blessed of God to the conviction or conversion of ungodly persons; but often end in the confusion of those who make them.
It may however be asked: did not St. Paul say: "I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some ?" He did-and his language to the Corinthian Church is peculiarly striking : Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews, I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law. To them that
are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak, became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the Gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you."
From his whole spirit and conduct, it is evident, that what he conceded either to Jews or
Gentiles, were things which did not in the slightest degree affect the fundamentals of the Gospel. Unlike the Pharisees, he would not strain at a gnat and swallow a camel; or tithe the mint, anise, and cummin, while he neglected the weightier matters of the Law.
The religion of Paul was the religion of the heart,—a religion of truth and love. Though he could bear with the infirmities of the weak, yet, with uncompromising firmness, he maintained the purity of the Gospel. Of this, he has given us two striking instances, which are highly characteristic of his charity and decision. He told the Galatians, who were drawn away by Judaizing teachers from the truth of the Gospel, that he had opposed the circumcision of Titus (he being a Gentile) lest the doctrine of justification by faith should appear to be renounced; and assured them, that if they were circumcised, Christ would profit them nothing. While, in perfect consistency with this conduct, he took Timothy, (his mother being a Jewess) and circumcised him, with the simple view of rendering him more acceptable, and his ministry more successful among the Jews. Thus he made a judicious and important distinction, between the essentials and the non-essentials of religion.
Acting on this principle, when Gentiles were converted to the faith of Christ, he could receive them as brethren, and eat and lodge with them, in opposition to the deeply-rooted prejudices of the Jewish nation. And this he did, from his comprehensive view of Christian liberty, which, whilst it delivered him from the bondage of the ceremonial
Law, led him to delight in the expansive spirit of the Gospel.
In his Epistle to the Corinthians he gives us abundant proof of his utter aversion to a party spirit, which, engendering strife and schism, rends and disfigures the body of Christ.
With enlarged heart he loved all, whether Jews or Gentiles, who loved the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity; and cheerfully conformed, for the sake of unity and peace, to any custom which compromised no Gospel principle, militated against no Gospel doctrine, and lowered no Gospel precept.
With enlightend mind he beheld the Christian dispensation in its native glory, consisting, not in meats and drinks, not in forms and ceremonies, not in human systems and opinions, but in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
With holy delight he saw the blessing of Abraham descend on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, that they, as well as the Jews might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
With fervent desire, he thus expressed himself to the church of Rome: "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost. And I myself am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able to admonish one another. Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, that I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the Gospel of God, that
the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost."
Entering fully into the design of the Gospel, which, like the leaves of the Tree of Life, is for the healing of the nations, he was ready to become all things to all men; and to seek the profit of many, that they might be saved. Few, comparatively attain to this exalted standard of Christian experience; for "All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's."
To love the Gospel for its own sake, and to love those who live under its sanctifying influence, though in minor things they differ from us, is to imbibe the catholic spirit of St. Paul. The exclusive love of our own party, which closes our hearts against those who follow not with us, even though they be the followers of Christ, is the very bane of Christian unity, and the fruitful source of evil.
Happy indeed will that period be, when the envy of Ephraim shall depart ;—when Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephriam ;-when all the tribes of the Lord shall love as brethren, and unite with one mind and heart in promoting the glory of Jehovah !
Much wisdom and love, much faithfulness and forbearance are required in the ministers of Christ. Their whole spirit and life should be a comment upon the Word which they preach.
This holy conformity to the Gospel should also be visible in all who profess to believe in Jesus. It was so with many of the Corinthians. With what joy could the Apostle declare: "Ye are our Epistle written in our hearts, known and