The Greetings of a Glowing Heart

A Christian who regards his own happiness will never cultivate bad tastes by either speaking or thinking evil of others - especially of those with whom he claims relationship through grace, and to whom he is united in the most endearing bonds.

The Scripture speaks reprovingly when it says, "In many things we offend all"; and, because the natural tendency with us is to act contrary to the exhortation, "Let each esteem other better than themselves" (Phil. 2:3), failure in regard to the above is not infrequent. And, as a consequence, we suffer often as evil-doers and busybodies in other men's matters. In fact, the word failure is not sufficiently strong to apply to that which may be classed with those things which are an "abomination to the Lord." (Proverbs 16:5.)

Now we read that "He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin." (1 Peter 4:1.) The suffering spoken of in this passage is altogether of a different character to that referred to above, and is both profitable and praiseworthy - as much to be desired as the other is to be dreaded. The former is promoted by means of self-indulgence, including the sin of dwelling upon the failures of others, by means of which our hands are weakened for warfare with Satan, and also for the work of God. But, by applying the cross to ourselves in a practical way, we cease from sin - suffer as a consequence, and glorify God; and by ceasing to do evil we prepare ourselves for our next lesson to "learn to do well."

In Luke 12 the Lord Jesus makes use of the word "consider" twice over, in order to call attention to two things - "the raven" and "the lily." The former may remind the children of God that they ought to be without carefulness, and the latter of what they are to be at Christ's coming. "We know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him." (1 John 3:2.) The Apostle Paul often seeks to lead us into the knowledge of what we are in Christ, and also to instruct the saints as to the privilege of looking for that which is Christ-like in one another even now. And to this end he says to the Philippians, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report … think on these things." To this he added the moral weight of his own example: "Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you." (Phil. 4:8-9.)

What they had thus learned from his lips and received through his preaching was made good in practice before their eyes, which placed the apostle in a position among the saints answering to what was seen in Gideon of old, when he said to his three hundred followers, "Look on me, and do likewise." (Judges 7:17.) The blowing of Gideon's trumpet was accompanied by the breaking of his own pitcher, and the things which his companions had "heard and seen" in their leader, they were commanded to do; and as soon as they obeyed the word, and followed his example, their enemies were put to flight and a great victory was achieved. Breaking the pitchers was just as important as blowing the trumpet, for until this was done the light contained therein was obscured, but then the light shone forth. The Apostle Paul may refer to this when he says, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." To which he adds,  - "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed," etc. (2 Cor. 4:7-8.)

"Preaching is not Christ," is said to have been one of Samuel Rutherford's sayings; neither does it savour of Christ, we may venture to add, except the pitcher be broken. Eloquence there may be on the part of the speaker, and everything that is attractive to the natural mind, but when it becomes a question of "Christ," the souls of the hungry are often ready to famish for want of food. Happy the man, therefore, that could say, "For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2), which was the outcome, so to speak, of a broken pitcher. In other words, it was the presentation of a crucified Christ, by one that knew what it was experimentally to be crucified with Him, and could likewise say, "Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." (Gal. 2:20.) Christ in glory had become the object of the apostle's heart, and was also the subject of his preaching. Difficult would it have been for his hearers to say, "Where was Christ in all we heard him say?" It would have been far easier to say, "Where was Paul?"

The Gideon-like man of whom we are speaking blew his trumpet faithfully by not shunning to declare all the counsel of God; and deliberately broke his pitcher by the manner in which he referred to himself while writing to the Corinthians: "Neither is he that planteth anything," (1 Cor. 3:7.) He stood like a warrior in the battlefield without flinching before the enemy, and victor-like could say at the close of his career, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." And yet he could write of himself as "the least of the apostles," even while he recalled the mighty acts which had been shown in connection with his service.

There are two circles represented in the Epistle to the Romans, in each of which the apostle shows himself to be "a debtor." First, he declares himself to be a debtor in the outer circle of the first chapter: "Both to the Greeks and the barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise." (v. 14.) Those that were wise in their own conceits had become fools before God, and those that were unwise had been made wise unto salvation through the apostle's preaching. They were the fruit of his labours, and he takes the place of being their debtors. The other circle is the inner one, of the last chapter, where we find the apostle busily engaged in making out a long list of debts of love which he owed to his friends and fellow-sufferers, and which he knew he could never repay. The list of names is headed with "Phoebe," who was commended by the apostle to the fellowship of the saints at Rome, and referred to as one that had succoured many, including himself. He then greets a married couple, to whom he was all the more indebted on account of their devotedness to him, even risking their lives in serving him. The assembly also in their house is remembered by the apostle, in connection with which he salutes his "well-beloved Epanetus," who was the "first-fruits of Achaia," and further acknowledges himself a debtor to Mary," saying, "Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us." (v. 6.)

We must leave the reader to trace the remainder of the names of these remarkable men and women, who, by means of their hard labour and sincere love for the Lord, had so endeared themselves to the apostle that he could not close the epistle without sending showers of salutations with greetings from his glowing heart, as he recalled them by name. And if we are humbled as we meditate upon the fervent charity which thus flowed out from the heart of Paul, let us each seek to cultivate more of the affections of Christ, that we may see every saint of God as robed in His own beauty. H. H.