Chapter 11. Masters.

"And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening; knowing that your Master also is in heaven: neither is there respect of persons with him" Ephesians 6:9.

"Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven" Colossians 4:1.

"Lord, what shall I do?" was the cry of one, who in the midst of a career of mad persecution, was suddenly laid low with his mouth in the dust, smitten down from the highest round of the ladder of religious attainments, when the Lord of glory, once the despised and humble Jesus of Nazareth, laid hold of him from glory, and turned Saul, the most violent persecutor of David's son, into Paul the most devoted servant of David's Lord. A light from glory, brighter than the sun at noon-day, shone upon the man who was then in the zenith of his religious reputation. The One, Whom Paul afterwards called "the brightness of glory," and to Whom "all power is given in heaven and on earth," laid him low on the ground, and made him kiss the dust. But not only did the light from glory, shine upon and around him, and blind his eyes, for God to shine in his heart, and to give there the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ; but a voice from glory spoke to Saul those memorable words: "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" Divine light and divine life are combined. It was the voice of Him, Who, when on earth, "did not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street," but at whose commanding shout the bodies of His sleeping Saints, will come forth, and together with those of the living ones, changed in the twinkling of an eye, into His glorious likeness, will be caught up to meet Him in the air, to be for ever with the Lord. (Oh, blessed hope! to be fulfilled, perhaps this very day!) And, a thousand years later, that voice will again be heard from the "great white throne," bidding "the dead," (i.e. all the unbelievers) "small and great," to arise from their graves, and at the voice of the once despised "carpenter's son of Nazareth," the sea, and the great gaoler "death" and "hades" will give up their prisoners and say: "Here they are!" It was that voice of the "LORD OF LORDS," and "KING OF KINGS," calling out from glory: "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" that drew from the prostrate persecutor the trembling reply "Lord, who art thou?" and, after the response from. glory "I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom thou persecutest," again those words, "What shall I do, Lord?"

It was the consciousness of this supreme authority of Christ, as the Heavenly Lord and Master of each of His servants individually, which, from the moment of his conversion until he sealed his fruitful christian life, service, and testimony with his blood, so thoroughly pervaded his whole being, and characterised all his writings. Every verse, one might almost say, of Paul's epistles bears testimony to what I have just said. Suffice it to mention only a few of the more prominent passages from his epistles.

1. As to Christ's Lordship over Israel and all nations, and His riches towards them all for salvation:

"For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved" (Rom. 10:11-12).

2. As to His Lordship over every one of His servants, and our solemn responsibility, not to judge another's servant, nor to interfere between his conscience and his Heavenly Master: —

"Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.

For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.

For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living" (Rom. 14:4-9).

3. The Lordship of Christ over His Servants, as to their committing the judgment of their stewardship and service to Him, as the only competent and infallible authority: —

"But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment, yea, I judge not mine own self.

For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God" (1 Cor. 4:3-5).

4. Christ's Lordship, as to its origin and sphere: —

"The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven," (1 Cor. 15:47).

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory;

Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Cor. 2:7-8).

5. The Lordship of Christ, as regards the unity of the Spirit, in connection with faith and baptism, in their individual character, and Christ's rights over those, who thus own His Lordship.

"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are 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. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.

One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

But unto every one of as is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ (Eph. 4:1-6).

6. Christ's Lordship with regard to His second coming (for the Church), and His Sovereign power in fashioning our vile bodies like unto His glorious body, and our being for ever with our Blessed Lord.

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

Who shall change our vile body, that it may he fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself (Phil. 3:20-21).

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Wherefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thess. 4:16-18).

7. Christ's Lordship, in connection with faithfulness in walk, service and testimony, viewed in the light of His public appearing as King of kings, and Lord of lords."

I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession;

That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings; and Lord of lords;

Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen. (1 Tim. 9-11).

8. The Lordship of Christ, to be owned at the general homage of the universe, even by hell, when every knee will have to bow to the exalted Man, Who once humbled Himself, and every tongue will have to own His Lordship.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9-11)

I have given these comparatively few passages from Paul's epistles, to show, how entirely the sense of the Lordship of Jesus Christ swayed his whole inward man, and how much he resembled his Heavenly Master, Who, when He was on earth, the humble dependent and obedient Man, had said to God "Thou art my Lord." So with Paul. Christ reigned in his heart, Christ ruled over his conscience, and the thoughts of his mind had been brought into captivity to the obedience of his Heavenly Master, Whose happy bondsman and freeman he owned himself to be. Paul's service, his walk, his actions, his ministry in words and letters, were the daily practical proof of it.

And, beloved, the Lord, Who knew how to break down and bring into His blessed captivity one, who had been the "chief of sinners," the most stubborn and obstinate of all that had ever kicked against the pricks, when he, like a ravening wolf, had made havoc in the flock of God, and, increasing in rage, like a furious lion, "yet breathing out threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord," had pursued his terrible course, until arrested by divine power and grace; that blessed Saviour knew how to arrest you and me, Christian reader, in our pernicious mad course of sin and opposition against God. It was the same divine power, though in a different way, that laid you and me low before Him on our faces in the dust, it was the same God, Who shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ, and it was the same gracious voice, that spoke to us, though in a different way "I am Jesus;" and bowed our knees before Him, and made us say: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"

And when you then rose from your knees, with the happy assurance of the forgiveness of your sins, and that you had heard the voice of the Son of God, and had passed from death unto life, yea, that you had eternal life, and you had become a new man in Christ Jesus, no longer to live to yourself, and to please yourself, but Him Who died for you and rose again; was it not at that moment the sense of His Lordship that filled your soul? You knew, you had been delivered by divine power from the power of darkness, and that you had been translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son. You knew that instead of that terrible master, under whose cruel bondage you had been groaning, you had now entered into the service of a Master, Who had given His own life as a ransom for you. His divine power had made you bow your knees before Him, and His divine grace made the knees of your heart and mind bow before Him, and own His Lordship from your heart, and the thoughts of your mind had been brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. It is true, dear fellow-bondsmen of Christ, we have to confess to our deep shame, how often we have practically disowned our Master in heaven, and served ourselves instead of Him, and acted and lived, as if we were not His own peculiar people, and as if we had chosen Him to be our Master, as is the fashion of servants in our days, instead of His having chosen us. But though we have been, not only unprofitable, but unfaithful servants, He has been faithful; for He cannot deny Himself. And since we, on entering through God's sovereign grace the service of Christ, first tasted that the Lord is good and gracious, has not the kindness, goodness, and grace of our Master in heaven been ever the same towards us? Has He ever shown Himself to be an austere master to us, reaping where He had not sown, and gathering where He had not strewed? Such may be the language of an evil servant, but it is neither your experience nor mine, beloved! But it is quite another question, whether we keep in our souls the sense of His Lordship — as to our consciences — and of His goodness and grace — as to our hearts.

In the same measure as a Christian master and mistress realise in their consciences the authority, and in their hearts the goodness and kindness of their Master in heaven, they will "do the same things" to their servants that they wish their servants should do to them, and they will give to their servants "that which is just" (as a matter of conscience towards Christ); and not only that which is just, but also that which is "equal" (or "fair"), as a matter of the heart in kindness.

And if the eye of the earthly master is looking up to the eye of his Master in heaven, "Who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet like unto brass," when speaking of that cruel mistress "Jezebel," who corrupted His servants, and when announcing Himself to Thyatira as the One Who searcheth the reins and hearts, and will give unto every one according to his works; if the eye of the earthly master, I say, is up to the eye of his Master Who is in heaven, with Whom "there is no respect of persons," the language of threat will be hushed towards his earthly servant, and the voice of kindness heard instead.

The divine injunctions given by the Apostle were, as need hardly be said, of double force for the Christian masters of the times of the Apostles, their servants being slaves. And here may be the place to mention, that the Apostle Paul, when sending back a run-a-way slave, Onesimus, to his master Philemon, with a letter of commendation, never says a word to the Christian master as to whether the institution of slavery was right or wrong. Not as if the Apostle himself had had any doubt in his mind about the character of that institution. He certainly was not the man to justify slavery. But he was the Apostle to whom the Lord had revealed the mystery of the Church, with a heavenly calling, a heavenly position and character, blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ, and therefore pilgrims and strangers in this world, into which the Lord has not sent us "to set things right, but souls," as another has truly expressed it. The Christian, therefore, as a pilgrim and stranger, passing through an enemy's land on his way to his glorious home with his heavenly Master, and as a heavenly citizen, pays tribute to whom tribute, and honour to whom honour is due, as we would do in a foreign country. But just as little as we should think it to be our business to meddle with the political or social institutions of the land, where we are only strangers and sojourners, just as little can it belong to the province of a Christian, who understands and realises his heavenly calling, to interfere with the affairs of this world, and try to improve it, as if he were one of its citizens. He knows that this world, however much Christianity may have morally improved it, can never be improved God-ward, but, like a stone rolling down a steep hill, or like those two thousand swine of the Gadarenes, rushing down the hill towards the lake, is hastening downward, downward, with an ever-growing fatal speed, His business is not to meddle with the world's business, but to warn men to flee from the approaching deluge of judgment to the only ark of refuge in Christ, in Whom there is no condemnation, and to beseech them to be reconciled to God, Who commends His love towards us, in that when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. His heavenly Master has not sent him into this world to secure the election of its candidates for its councils, but to "make his own election sure," an election sure in the counsels of God, but the consciousness of which is kept fresh and sure in our souls, if we give diligence and attention to the divine injunctions given us in those all-important opening words of the Second Epistle of the Apostle Peter (2 Peter 1:5-11).

This is the reason why the Apostle, in his Epistle to Philemon, does not touch with a single word the question as to the right of a Christian to keep slaves, It was a general institution throughout the world in those times, and he was not called by His Master to interfere with the laws and institutions of this world. He therefore does not say to Philemon, "It is very wrong and utterly inconsistent for you, as a Christian, to keep slaves." On the contrary, he fully acknowledges Philemon in his legitimate position as a master of slaves, by sending back Onesimus. He does not even assert his Apostolic authority, to restrain Philemon from inflicting some punishment upon his run-away slave (the penalty of the law for such slaves was death), nor does he enjoin Philemon, as he does the Ephesian masters, to forbear threatening, "because his (Philemon's) Master also was in heaven, with whom there is no respect of persons." These Apostolic exhortations, all right and in their place as they were, being addressed to the Ephesians, would have provoked the flesh in Philemon, instead of stirring up his pure mind: and the Spirit of God, who indited this lovely little Epistle through His inspired penman, knew and knows how to supply those whom He deigns to use as His instruments with "words in season."

But whilst we all own the fact of the inspiration of Paul's Epistle to Philemon, this fact does not prevent the true spirit of the gentle and gracious Master so abounding in His servant, from appearing in all its loveliness, For the Holy Ghost in using individuals as instruments, does not efface their individuality. And if, in reading the greater Epistles of the Apostle of the Gentiles, we honour in him the chosen vessel of the Heavenly Master, the Head of the Church, in communicating to the Church the wondrous counsels of God concerning it as revealed to Paul; and if we, in reading those inspired pages, not only honour the Lord's chosen vessel, but His devoted servant, as a pattern for us in true and whole-hearted service to his and our Master in heaven (2 Cor. 10 — 12); in his smaller Epistles to Timothy and Titus, and especially in his little "commendatory note," if we may say so with reverence, to Philemon, we learn not only to esteem, but to love "the aged Paul," as he calls himself.

What true love, grace, and wisdom from above, in all tenderness and delicacy, every line of that little Epistle breathes!

Philemon was, though in a less noted and conspicuous way than Timothy, Titus, and others, a devoted servant of Christ, honoured by the Apostle himself as his "beloved and fellow-labourer," who, with Apphia and Archippus (who were probably his wife and son) appeared to have belonged to the Church at Colosse (near to Laodicea), which had its meeting in their house (comp. Col. 4:9-17).

{*To see the vast difference between the spirit of Christian brotherly kindness and courtesy (produced in the heart by divine grace) and mere natural politeness, it is interesting to compare a letter by the Roman author Pliny (famous for his epistolary style) written on a similar occasion (Lib. 9, Let. 21).

Ae. Plinius to his dear Sabinian.

Your late slave, whom you have made free, and with whom you said you were angry, has prostrated himself at my feet, and clung to them, as if they had been yours. He wept much, entreated much, and was much silent. Altogether, he gave me the impression of being penitent. I believe him truly reformed, because he feels that he has done wrong. You will be angry, I know, and rightly so, I know too. But then the special praise of your clemency will be as just as is the cause for your anger. You have loved the man, and I hope you will love him still; meanwhile, it is enough if you will permit yourself to be entreated. You may be angry with him again, if he deserves it, and your anger will then be all the more excusable, because you had granted his prayer. Put something on account of his youth, and of his tears, and of your indulgence, Thus you will not torment him, nor yourself either. For yourself must suffer if you are angry ever so little. I am afraid lest I should appear not as one who asks, but compels, by joining my prayers with his. But I do so all the more large and profusely, the more sharply and severely I have rebuked him myself, and threatened him roughly, that, after this, I should never intercede for him again; of course, this was meant for him who needed frightening, but not for you. For perhaps I shall ask and obtain again; provided it is of such a kind as it becomes me to ask and you to grant. Farewell."}

The Apostle had heard of Philemon's love and faith toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all Saints. He appears to have been a "son of consolation" to the saints at Colosse, and in the neighbourhood, for "the bowels of the saints were refreshed by him." Knowing him to be of such a loving and gracious disposition, the Apostle might have written to him with less hesitation than he would have done to others, even Christians in Philemon's position. But true grace never trespasses upon love, though it confides in it. And so Philemon's well known kindness, instead of inducing Paul to take advantage of it for Onesimus, by requesting Philemon to leave him to Paul, to minister to him in the bonds of the Gospel (a powerful plea indeed, especially if we remember that both master and slave had been converted through the Apostle's instrumentality), only makes him act all the more considerately and tenderly towards the master of Onesimus, and he sends him back, in order that his benefit "should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly." Onesimus (which means "profitable"), he writes, had formerly been unprofitable to his master (most likely even before he ran away from him), but, being now the Lord's, and a dear brother in the Lord, he would now be a real Onesimus," i.e., profitable for his master; but, the Apostle adds, "not now as a slave, but above a slave, a brother beloved, especially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh and in the Lord! If thou count me therefore as a partner, receive him as myself,"

But the Apostle does not fail to add: "If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account: I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides."

Having thus removed every appearance of showing his love, and doing good to one brother at the expense of another, he continues:

"Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord; refresh my bowels" [comp. v. 7.] "in the Lord. Having confidence in thy obedience, I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say."

And after thus having given him full credit, not only for obedience to Paul (in his double character as an Apostle, and as Philemon's father in the Gospel), but just as much for his love, he concludes by asking him to prepare him also a lodging, giving him a prospect of his visit.

I do not know of any of the Epistles of the Apostles where we meet with such a concise combination of the most powerful and noble motives of the new nature, within the narrow compass of a commendatory note as we find in Paul's Epistle to Philemon. It is a true pattern of what the Apostle Peter calls "stirring up your pure minds." May the Lord give us grace to imitate this way of "provoking one another unto love and to good works."

There is one other point to which I would call the reader's attention, if he has not noticed it already. It is the strict regard which the inspired Apostle shows in all his writings (as do all the others) to what may be called propriety in earthly relationships. The same Apostle who intreats the master of Onesimus to receive him "not as a slave, or servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved," writes to Timothy, when speaking of Christian servants "And they that have believing masters, let them [i.e., the servants] not despise them because they are brethren, but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort."

The Spirit of God, Who is a God of order, is the Spirit of wisdom as well as of truth.

From the same reason we find the same Apostle in both the Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, reminding the masters, but not the servants, that their Master also is in heaven. There is always perfect propriety in the Word of God.

If Christian masters and mistresses would keep more constantly in the memory of their hearts and consciences those words "that they also have a Master in heaven," to Whom they are responsible for their service as masters, as are their servants, no less than for any other part of their service, there would not be so many difficulties and complaints in the daily life of so many a Christian family now-a-days! I fear but few believing masters or mistresses properly appreciate and realise the high privileges and the grave responsibility of their position!

I say privileges, for God has indeed given you the great privilege, beloved brother and sister, daily to reflect in your houses the character of our Master Who is in heaven, Who "is light and "is love," in your dealings with your servants, in righteousness and kindness, in giving them not only that which is "just," but that which is "equal," or "fair."* The powerful example and influence of a godly master and mistress is not only manifested in the demeanour of their children, but still more in the conduct of the servants for the master and mistress having, now-a-days, not the same authority and power over their servants, as they have over their children, and the former not being, besides, so constantly under the influence of the master and mistress, and in a comparatively very loose and uncertain relationship to them, the appearance and conduct of the servants in a Christian household testify in this respect, even more than that of the children, to the Christian character of the master or mistress of the house. Length of service may be creditable to the servant, but not necessarily to the master, especially when the latter is rich or in a high position of life, when selfish interests, such as high wages, the honour and comfort of serving in a great house, etc., may induce servants to remain longer in service than they would have otherwise done. But if you perceive in the very look and manner of the servant or servants of such a household, the spirit of contentment and peace, coupled with cheerful obedience, and if you see the machinery of the household working without a creaking noise, "wheel within wheel," as it were, you may safely conclude, that the wheels of the domestic machinery must be well oiled, and that the light shining in that house is a light that burns without sputtering; and that the master, who is at the helm, is himself under the eye, and receives the daily orders from the Master in heaven, Who is not only the Captain of our salvation, but Who alone "Holds the helm and guides the ship."

{*Especially if there are children in the house, who often render impartiality a difficult task.}

It is evident that the master and mistress of such a household "wait upon the Lord their God," and therefore the willing "eyes of the servants look unto the hand of their masters, and the eyes of the maidens unto the hand of their mistress," not with the trembling and fearful look of slaves, under the iron yoke of a strong minded and strong willed master, but serving them heartily, and with goodwill doing service, because even the unconverted among them cannot help perceiving, and must acknowledge that their master and mistress, in giving their orders to them, only do so in obedience to a superior Master, Whose undisputed sway, though they do not see nor know Him, over the consciences and hearts of their master and mistress is so evident, and Whose Spirit of "power, and of love, and of sound mind," in all grace, meekness, and gentleness, and wisdom is so manifest in all their demeanour and conversation, ministering not only truth, but grace to the hearers, and spreading His heavenly savour and fragrance through that whole household of peace, so that even the naturally stubborn among such servants are compelled to submit to the easy yoke and light burden of such a service, and will sooner or later be brought to submit to the sway of that blessed Lord, Whose gentle and yet mighty Spirit and grace they felt ruling in the hearts of those whom they served.