« PreviousContinue »
and inactive, but extended as far as possible, and ready to be manifested on all occasions. Christians are to love as brethren, to be pitiful or full of pity and compassion, to be courteous or kind to each other, to be of one accord, of one mind,55 having love without dissimulation ;36 for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
Some have ignorantly quoted this passage, as if it meant that charity, or alms-giving, will atone for sins against God. The pope and priesthood of Rome have turned this idea to their own advantage with great dexterity; and have long persuaded multitudes to give them their money, in return for which they grant useless and deceptive pardons and indulgences, to the eternal ruin of those who have trusted in them. But that those who imagine that the apostle referred either to almsgiving or to an atonement for sin in this passage are mistaken, will be very plain, if we refer to the place in the Old Testament from which it is quoted. The wise man observes, Hatred stirreth up strifes; but love covereth all sins; which is as much as to say, that we do not see the faults of those whom we love, but are ready to excuse their failings, when we do notice them. It is therefore said, on the other hand, He that covereth a transgression seeketh love. 57 Instead of endeavouring to depreciate or defame one another, as is the common practice of the people of the world, Christians should esteem one another highly in love, and be rather desirous of finding out each other's excellencies than their defects. This will make their intercourse pleasant. But this charity toward each other must be cemented by the love of Christ, or it will be in danger of degenerating into that which is earthly and sensual. It must be love for Christ's sake, as those who are the members of His mystical body, and not arising from any other considerations. It was this charity which the apostle Paul inculcated, when he besought the Ephesians to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they were called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.68 What a lovely appearance would the Christian world present, were this charity in general exercise.
54 1 Peteriii.8. 55 Phil. ii. 2. 56 Rom. xii.9. 57 Prov.x.12; xvii.9.
Our apostle proceeds, Use hospitality one to another without grudging. This was very needful at a time when there were no public places of resort for travellers, in which they could be accommodated. It was particularly desirable when Christian brethren were going about in different parts of the world, for the purpose of making known the glad tidings of the gospel of Christ. St. Paul connects the two subjects here united, in the like manner; Let brotherly love continue ; be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby saluteth you.
some have entertained angels unawares. 59 St. John commends Gaius for exercising this hospitality. Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren and to strangers, which have borne witness of thy charity before the church ; whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well; because that for His name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth. Of the same person St. Paul makes mention in his epistle to the Romans; Gaius, mine host, and of the whole church,
.61 What an honourable title was this. It denoted his readiness to promote the cause of God to the utmost of his power; to further the good work as opportunity was afforded him, from love to Christ and His people.
In connexion with this subject our apostle proceeds to exhort, As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. By which it is intimated, that whatever grace or gift of any kind has been vouchsafed by God to His people, is for the benefit of the church of Christ, whether it be of temporal good things, or of spiritual gifts; all are to be used by Christians for the good of their brethren. Not that any thing like a community of goods is requisite. I conceive it is quite a mistaken idea to imagine that this ever did subsist in the primitive Christian church. The exhortations to liberality to the poor which we find in the New Testament would have been unnecessary, if this had been the case. There was indeed a common stock out of which the actual wants of the poor were daily supplied, and to which those who were able gave liberally; but Christianity never required those who embraced it to be all put on a level in society, but always gave honour to whom honour was due, according to the rank and station which they occupied. Those to whom God had given temporal or spiritual blessings, were to dispense them as good stewards of the manifold grace of God; or remembering that whatever they possessed, was entrusted to them by God for an important purpose, which should not be lost
58 Eph.iv. 1-3. 59 Heb. xiii. 1,2. 603 John 5-8. 61 Rom. xvi. 23.
But what the apostle meant most especially by the gifts which were received by members of the church of Christ, he shows in the next verse, where he says, 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. Here is first the gift of utterance, to make known the gospel for the benefit of others. Those who had this gift, were to employ the means which would enable them to make a right use of it. They were, according to our Saviour's command, to search the scriptures. This is important, indeed, with respect to the ministers of Christ. They ought to be, like Apollos, mighty in the scriptures, that they may bring them forward in such a manner as may
be required for the edification and admonition and consolation of the children of God, or for the instruction of the ignorant and uninformed. The oracles of God are the standard to which the ministers of Christ are to appeal on all occasions. The church of England declares, in her sixth Article of religion, that “holy scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation, so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith; or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” These lively oracles holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.62 And since all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness,6s it must be believed in order to the saving of the soul; and they are not to be listened to as ministers of Christ, who take not these oracles of God for the rule of their faith and practice, and teach not according to them.
And while their constant appeal is to the law and to the testimony64 of God in His holy word, they
62 2 Peter i. 21.
63 2 Tim. iii. 16.
64 Isaiah viii. 20; lv. 11.