« ZurückWeiter »
"polished after the similitude of a palace," and their character adorns and beautifies the temple of God, imparting to it a heavenly and divine lustre. These are God's "jewels," his peculiar people, and are precious in his sight. Yet as gold is more valuable than silver, and as some jewels are more precious than either, so there are different degrees of excellence among real Christians. Some are more eminently holy and useful than others, and reflect greater honour on the Church of God.
But some of the materials used in this metaphor are perishable and worthless in a building—" wood, hay and stubble;" and these denote hypocrites, formalists and worthless professors. Such characters impart no real value to the Church, nor contribute to its solidity and usefulness. On the contrary, they deface its beauty, impair its strength, and endanger its stability. They are as the chaff among the wheat, as rotten branches of the vine, and as thorns and briars which infest the garden of the Lord, and their end is to be burned.
Every part of the fabric is to undergo a fiery ordeal. This shall take place at a oertain period in futurity called "The day"—namely, the day of judgment. It is sometimes called "The day of the Lord," "The last day," "The day of his coining," "The judgment of the great day," "The day of God;" and here, by way of emphasis, it is "The day." The instrument employed in this searching trial is represented as " afire." There will be on the day of judgment an awful conflagration; the Scriptures repeatedly declare that the world shall be destroyed by fire. For "the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth, also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up." (2 Peter iii. 10.) It was, as we have already seen, the opinion of several of the Fathers that this fire of the general conflagration is meant by the language of St. Paul in the passage under consideration. But we do not think that any material fire is referred to as the grand instrument of trial on the day of judgment. As the other parts of the passage are metaphorical, consistency requires us to consider this also as metaphorical. Indeed, the phraseology of the passage itself implies that the word "fire" is used metaphorically; for in speaking of the narrow escape of that minister whose work is destroyed, the apostle says, "Yet he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire"—not literally by fire, but so as by fire—language which excludes a literal meaning, and denotes comparison and metaphor. Let us, then, drop the figure for a moment, and ask, What is it that shall on the day of judgment be the grand test of men's character P What shall, in fact, constitute the ordeal to which all men shall be subject on that solemn day? The answer of Scripture is, "The word of God." This is the rule of our life now, and this is the standard by which all men must be judged at the last day. We ask again, is the word of God in other parts of Scripture set forth by the image of fire? does the phraseology of the sacred writers sustain this interpretation of the figure P Let the Scripture again answer for itself. "Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" (Jeremiah xxiii. 20.) "Wherefore thus, saith the Lord God of Hosts, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them." (Jeremiah v. 14.) The fire, then, that will try every soul of man on the day of judgment will be the fire of God's holy, searching, and inflexible word. By this they will be justified, and by this will they be condemned.
In this trial there will be a true manifestation of character, and all trill receive their eternal destiny according to its issues. Some materials will stand the fiery ordeal; gold, silver and precious stones will "abide" the searching test; other materials are but fuel for the flame—wood, hay and stubble will be " burned." The application of this is obvious to every one. The truly righteous, the sincere and holy, will be found approved of God and numbered among his jewels. Judged by the faithful word, their characters will stand forth in all their sterling excellence, purity and usefulness. In the presence of an assembled world, the Judge will acknowledge them for his, vindicate their motives, roll away for ever the reproach which an ungrateful and malignant world had cast upon them, bring forth their judgment as the light, and their l'ighteousness as the noon-day, place them at his right hand, and welcome them to the eternal joys and glories of his heavenly kingdom. "Come, ye blessed of my Father, enter into the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." On the other hand, the hypocrite, the formalist, and the unsound profeseor, will be detected, exposed, and punished in that day. "For, behold, the day cometh that shall bum as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall bum them up, saith the Lord of Hosts." The fire of God's holy word trieth the hearts of men, as gold and silver are tried in the furnace. It is as severely penetrating and searching into character as fire is to any substance exposed to its action; so that on that day nothing but sterling piety will stand the test of the sacred book opened before him that sitteth on the great white throne. In this world the form may be assumed for the power; talents, and station and influence may win good opinions from men, and a painted exterior deceive the very elect; but in the day of judgment the searching scrutiny will expose every deceiver, and show him forth in his naked deformity and hypocrisy.
As fire not only tries and searches any substance exposed to its action, but inflicts the most dreadful pain upon sensitive beings, so the word of God by its holy requirements and principles not only convicts the sinner, and reveals his deformity, but condemns his character and denounces against him the most awful threatenings of wrath and indignation. This fire shall not, indeed, consume or destroy his being, as material fire destroys wood, hay and stubble, but it shall act upon his conscience as an inexcrable tormentor, inflicting inconceivable agony and pain, world without end.
In this trial ministers of the gospel will be subject to the same searching and impartial scrutiny as other men, and be rewarded according to their works. "Every man's work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built, thereupon he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by Are." The building up of the Church is more especially the work of gospel ministers, and the final character of their work will greatly affect their own reward. The minister whose faithfulness and diligent labours have instrumentally built up the Church with sterling characters—holy, devoted and useful members—shall in the day of judgment receive an especial reward. Besides the reward assigned to him as a real Christian, he shall receivo the reward promised to the faithful steward. "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy." The faithful minister's joy will be enhanced in beholding the souls saved through his instrumentality finally approved of God and rewarded with eternal life, and his own reward of honour and bliss will be increased on their account. For " they that be wise (or teachers) shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars, for ever and ever." One star differeth from another star in glory, but the faithful and successful minister who in the day of judgment shall bo surrounded with many souls saved through his tears, and prayers, and labours, shall shine like a star of the first magnitude and splendour.
On the other hand, the minister who, though on the whole a good man, yet has been so far deficient in faithfulness and zeal that he has allowed the Church under his care to be composed of unsound materials—formalists and worldly-minded professors, whose end is to be burned—" he shall suffer loss."
He shall have the mortification aud dishonour of seeing his work disapproved and rejected at the last day, and the souls of men once under his care perish in his presence. Awful event! and so far as it results from any want of diligence or fidelity on his part, he will suffer loss—a loss of that honour and happiness which are to he awarded to the more faithful and successful minister of Jesus Christ.
"But he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." That is to say, if he have, on the whole, been a good man. If he have built upon the true foundation, and continued in a state of grace, he shall be saved. He shall be saved as an ordinary Christian, though not rewarded as a minister. The case is one which may be supposed, and is, we fear, a type of such as actually exist in our own day—the case of those who, on the whole, are good men, but so deficient in the vigilant oversight of the Church that many unworthy members are allowed to enter its sacred precincts, marring its beauty, tarnishing its purity, and impairing its efficiency. Though such ministers may be saved, even amidst the awful wreck and destruction of their work, yet it shall be " so as by fire." Some interpret this to mean with extreme difficulty, just as if a man should escape from the flames of his dwelling, though his family perish in the blaze. That this is true in fact, there can be no doubt; for the minister whose work is burned as worthless must be in the utmost danger of being burned himself; yet this, we think, is not the meaning of the clause before us. We are of opinion thatthe apostle means simply that he shall be saved just in the same way as others; that is to say, that, though a minister, he shall not be saved on account of his official station and privileges. No favour shall be shown him because of his position in the Church, but, like all the rest, he must be tried by the fire; and if he stand the searching ordeal of God's word he shall be saved, but not otherwise.
Thus the entire passage affords no sanction to the papal notion of purgatory. On the contrary, it contradicts and disproves that doctrine at every step. In the clear but awful light which it sheds on man's character and destiny, we see that no Papal masses can rescue a soul from suffering, no benefactions to the Church can purchase a place in heaven, no prayers offered after death can change its destiny or character. Everyone, ministers as well as people—all are to be tried at the last day by the fire of God's truth, and their eternal doom to be fixed according to their character here. The corrupt and the unholy must perish, and the Christian alone, the truly regenerate alone, can be saved.
While this passage refutes the doctrine of purgatory, it utters a solemn admonition to all ministers and all Churches. It speaks as in the awful thunders of the last day to the careless and slumbering formalist, and summons all to self-examination, vigilance and prayer. "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; be faithful unto death; and whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest." Ministers! stewards of the Grace of God! hear the faithful and admonitory appeal of your Lord: "Who, then, is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But, and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming, and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken, the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of him; and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Mat. xxiv. 45—51.) Therefore "Take heed of yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on theface of the whole earth. Watch ye, therefore, and pray always that ye may he accounted worthy to escape all these things, and to stand before the Son of Man." (Luke xxi. 84—36.)
MISCELLANEOUS ARTICLES, ANECDOTES, &c.
THE LORD'S SUPPER.—ITS INSTITUTION, NATURE, DESIGN, AND MANNER OF OBSERVANCE.
The Lord's Supper being a Christian ordinance, and the New Testament being the law and the testimony in Christianity, it follows, as a matter of course, our judgment must be formed and our practice governed in respect to it solely by the teaching of divine truth. This remark is made in consideration that some men, alike eminent for understanding, have differed in their opinions of the nature of this ordinance, and other men, equally pious and useful, have differed in their practical observance of it. Therefore, in the few remarks we shall offer on the subject before us, no appeal will be made to men, however learned or pious; but our endeavour will be to ascertain what the teaching of the New Testament is respecting the Lord's Supper—as to its institution, nature, design, and manner of observance. In the following passages we have all the information we need : — Matt. xxvi. 26—30; Mark xiv. 22—36; Luke xxii. 15—20; 1 Cor. x. 16—18, and xi. 23—26. From these portions of divine truth, we learn—
1. The institution of this ordinance was by the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only lawgiver in Christianity. That in the same night in which he was betrayed, he sat down with his disciples to eat the Passover supper; that after they had supped (that is, after they had eaten the Paschal lamb), our Redeemer took bread, broke the bread, and distributed it to his disciples, declaring it to be his body, and commanded them to eat that bread in remembrance of him. Some time after, he, in like manner, took the cup, containing wine, stating it to be the new testament in his blood; and giving the cup to his disciples, he commanded them all to drink it, in remembrance
of him.—In the Lord's Supper we have two things visible—bread and wine; the bread, when broken, representing the immolated body of the Lord Jesus, who is emphatically The Bread of Life! the wine representing his blood, shed for the remission of sin. The ordinance therefore consists of two distinct parts. The first is, eating bread; the second is, drinking wine: but both to be in remembrance of Christ. By the translators of Matthew's Gospel, that evangelist is made to say, Christ blessed the bread; but the reader will observe, Matt. xxvi. 26, the word "it" is in italics, and thereby shows it to have been added by the translator. The Redeemer neither blessed the bread nor the wine, and the notion of consecrating the one or the other is a perfect fiction.
2. The nature of the ordinance. This is evidently twofold: First, commemorative of the means by which the Lord Jesus accomplished our redemption—his body broken for our sin, his blood shed for the remission of sin. Secondly, it is the seal of the new and better covenant, that whosoever believeth on the Son of God shall be saved. It shows us How God can be just, and yet justify him who believeth. It is a declaration on the part of the holy and the just God, that a new and living way is opened to his favour, through the vicarious sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ; and on the part of the believer, that he thankfully accepts the terms of the covenant of grace, and confides in the Lord Jesus Christ, as his atoning God and Saviour. Therefore, this ordinance is not a sacrifice, as taught by Rome; nor is it an act of worship, as many appear to regard it: but, as the Jewish Passover commemorated the deliverance of ancient Israel from Egyptian bondage, so the Lord's Supper commemorates the redemption of men (without distinction as to Jew or Gentile) from sin and destruction, to the favour and glory of God.
3. The'design of this ordinance is expressly stated by the apostle Paul to be, The showing forth of the Lord's death until he come. Christianity is the system of divine truth for the whole world; and that to the end of time. When time shall be no more, Christ shall come from heaven to receive his own unto himself. The Church, his bride (that is, all who have washed their robes, and made them white in his blood), shall then be admitted to the marriage-supper of the Lamb, with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the heavenly kingdom. The Lord's Supper, therefore, keeps up a lively remembrance of the virtue ot Christ's atoning death, and maintains the believer's hope of Christ's second coming, not as a sin-offering, but to be admired in his saints.
From this view of the design of the Lord's Supper, it necessarily follows, The ordinance is of perpetual obligation in the Christian Church. So that, however general Christianity may become, the time will never arrive when the observance of this institution may cease. This further appears from the faot, that several years after the instituting of tins ordinance, Christ gave his servant Paul a special revelation concerning it (see lCor.xi.23); also at a later period still, John wrote his First Epistle; in the eighth verse of the fifth chapter we find this apostle stating the ground of confidence believers have iu Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, and the true Messiah. John says, "There are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one." Presuming that by the "Spirit" is meant the Holy Spirit's sanctifying influence on the hearts of men; and by the "water," the ordinance of baptism; and by the " blood," the ordinance of the Lord's Supper—this Scripture is a powerful argument in favour of the perpetuity of this ordinance.
Lastly, on this part of our subject
we may remark, that what is the duty of the Church as a whole must be tho duty of the members individually. Consequently, the observance of the Lord's Supper is binding on every member of the Christian Church. "Do this in remembrance of me," was the Saviour's unqualified injunction. Any Church, or any individual member of the Church, who wilfully neglects its observance, is disobedient to Christ's command.
4. The manner of observing this ordinance is the last thing we propose considering. Here it is necessary to observe, first, the Lord's table, in the house of Christian worship, is the table of the whole Church. In Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, x. 17, we read, "We being many, are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that ono bread." Although the head of tho Church has provided that iu his Church there shall be pastors to feed the flock, and teachers to instruct the members in divine truth, as well as to call sinners to repentance; and deacons to attend to the wants of tho poor of the Redeemer's family and to the secular affairs of the Church—yet at the Lord's table the pastor and the flock, the teacher and the taught, the deacon and the private member, meet on equal terms. The practice in the Established Church of this country, and in the Wesleyan body, together with a few Methodist Churches, of separating the communion-table from the church by means of a rail, is an invention of man; as also that which exists in immediate connexion with it, namely, the person presiding at the table entering within the rail, while they are kept without. Secondly, our Lord, when he instituted his Supper, first took the bread and distributed it to all. After that, he took the cup, and all drank thereof. But the Churches above mentioned adopt a very contrary course. In them, the minister eats of the bread and drinks of the cup before the other members of the Churoh receive in either kind. Nor is that all, for the Church itself is broken up into parties; thus we see the Church going up in divisions to that table which is pre-eminently the centre of unity. One thing more