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open thy hand wide unto him. Beware lest thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought, and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee: thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest to him. Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and thy needy, in thy land.” “If a brother has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need,” he must not “shut up his bowels of compassion from him; he must not be contented with saying, Be ye clothed, be ye fed; he must “love not in word, nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth;” he must "give him the things that are needful for the body;” and though community of property is by no means required by the Christian law, though there is no sufficient reason for thinking that it prevailed as a matter of necessity or obligation, even in the primitive times; yet where the spirit of primitive Christianity prevails, wherever “ the disciples are of one mind and of one heart," they will, in effect, have all things common, doing good to one another, and to all men as they have opportunity, and valuing worldly property chiefly as affording the means of glorifying God, and promoting the happiness of our fellow-men, and, still more, our fellow Christians.
The particular form and measure of hospitality, and other kindred offices of kindness, must depend on circumstances. It must be as God has prospered us, and as we have opportunity. It is well observed by Leighton, that “the great straitening of hands in these things is more from the straitness of hearts than of means. A large heart with a little estate will do much with cheerfulness and little noise; while hearts glued to the poor riches they possess, or rather are possessed by, can scarce part with any thing till they be pulled from all.”
In whatever measure these deeds of kindness are done, it is essential that they all possess the quality which the Apostle requires in hospitality, that they be “without grudging.” “ All things” of this kind are to be done “ without mur
murings.” “Every man, according as he hath purposed in his heart, so let him give,” so let him act; " for God loveth a cheerful giver,” a cheerful doer. Good offices reluctantly rendered lose more than half their value. It is only when they really embody love that they are acceptable to God; and it is only in the degree in which they appear to embody love, that they are gratifying to their objects. So much for the first way in which Christians are to manifest brotherly love, by employing their worldly property in performing offices of kindness to one another as men.
§ 2. Christians are to manifest brotherly love, by employing
their spiritual gifts for promoting one another's spiritual edification.
The second way in which they are to manifest their brotherly love, is to employ their spiritual gifts for promoting one another's spiritual interests as Christians: “As every man hath received the gift, even so let them minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 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."
The word “gift”? here, and generally in the Apostolic Epistles, signifies any endowment, it may be natural, or it may be miraculous, influenced and guided by the Holy Spirit. “The grace of God”3 is the same as “the gift,” only it is descriptive of the aggregate of the gifts, and the endowment and the influence are viewed in the last case as given by God, in the first as enjoyed by man. This grace is termed “manifold,” 4 to mark the varied forms which the Divine gifts, all of them expressive of grace, kindness, take in different individuals. Speaking of the supernatural spiritual gifts, the Apostle says what is true of all spiritual gifts, “ There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit ; and there are differences of administration, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God that worketh all in all, and the ministration of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” !
! 2 Cor. ix. 7.
3 Χαριτος θεου.
The church is viewed as a household, to the various members of which the Divine Master of the family has given various qualifications, by the exercise of which they are mutually to promote one another's improvement and happiness ; and thus the improvement and happiness of the whole family is to be secured. These gifts, then, are not to be considered as conferred only or chiefly for the advantage of the individual of whom they are bestowed. They are intended for the good of the whole; and the gifted person is, in the exercise of his gift, not to act as an independent proprietor, seeking his own advantage, and doing what he wills with his own, but as a good steward, turning to the best account, according to the declared will of the Great Householder, a portion of his property, which the individual entrusted with is expected to use, not only for his own good, but for the good of all his brethren.
The meaning of the passage in our version is, I apprehend, somewhat obscured by an attempt to illustrate it. You will observe, that the words, “Let him speak," and "let him do it,” are in the Italic character, indicating, as you are aware, that there are no corresponding words in the original ; but that they are, in the estimation of the translators, necessary to bring out the sense in English; and if the tenth and eleventh verses are two distinct sentences, as they obviously supposed, some such supplement is necessary to bring any sense out of the first part of the latter of the verses; though to bring distinctly out the meaning our translators supposed to be in them, would have required a still larger supplement than they have inserted.
any man speak the oracles of God, let him speak them as the oracles of God. If any man act the part of a minister or deacon, let him act the part of a minister, as of the ability
11 Cor. xii. 4-6.
which God giveth. These are good advices, and it was only by attending to them that the gifted speakers or ministers could exercise the gift bestowed on them to the advantage of their brethren, and be good stewards of that portion of the manifold grace of God committed to their care.
I apprehend, however, that the two verses are not two sentences, but one, and that no supplement is necessary to bring out the full sense of the Apostle. The words in the beginning of the eleventh verse are just an illustration, by examples, of the statement in the beginning of the tenth verse. “Speaking as the oracles of God,” “ministering as of the ability which God has given,” are just two of “the gifts” bestowed on individuals for the use of the church, two varieties of the “ manifold grace of God,” which the recipients were to employ “as good stewards.” The words may be literally rendered, “ According as every man has received the gift, let them minister the same to each other, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God; whosoever speaks as the oracles of God, whosoever ministers as of the ability which God hath given him.” One man has received the gift of speaking as the oracles of God, the faculty of being useful in teaching and exhorting; he is an inspired teacher. Another has received the gift of ministry, the faculty of being useful in the management of the affairs of the spiritual society, in preserving order, collecting and managing its funds for supporting and extending the ordinances of Christianity, and for relieving the sick, the infirm, and the poor. Whatever faculty any Christian possesses of this kind, or of any other kind, is a gift received from Christ, for the
purpose of edifying his body the church, is a portion of his “manifold grace” intrusted to the individual, to be managed faithfully and wisely for the purpose for which it is bestowed.
The passage before us receives illustration from some other passages in the apostolic epistles, which, though not in every respect parallel, obviously relate to the same subject. The first of these passages is to be found in the Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Romans : “I say, through the grace
given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having, indeed, gifts, differing according to the grace given unto us;" as in the passage before us, “ having gifts according to the manifold grace of God;" and the gifts spoken of in this passage seem to be precisely the same as those specified in our text, “ whether prophecy or ministry.” The gift of prophecy seems to be the same thing as the gift enabling a man to “speak as the oracles of God," the gift which fitted for teaching. The gift of “ ministry,” mentioned in both cases, is the gift, the qualification, or class of qualifications, which fit for administration ; the first gift being to be exercised in teaching and exhortation;" the second in “ giving, in ruling or presiding, and in showing mercy.”
The second passage I refer to as fitted to throw light on our text, is in the 1st Epistle of the same Apostle to the Corinthians. “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administration, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God who worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal,” that is, to employ for the benefit of his brethren, to use as a steward of the manifold grace of God. “For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit ; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy ; to another discerning of spirits ; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of
I Rom. xii. 3-8.